Advice For Young Men: You are not the savior of the universe (or even your friends and family.)

I distinctly remember. Being in the car with my father, and feeling a sudden sense of obligation to do something about the world. We passed a homelessness, and I felt guilty, seeing his tanned gaunt face living in squalor, as not a quarter mile away million dollar homes were being built. The injustice burned, and I felt being born into a privileged life, I owed the world something, and while my intentions were noble, the scope of my pondering were dangerously broad.

This is not to say that I can’t help the world, or that I shouldn’t but the problem came when I set my intentions to help everyone. To fix the problem of __________ (insert global problem here).

32 year old me now sees the Three issues with my statement.

1. The vast overvaluing of my ability vs the scope of the problem.

2. The inconsistent judgement of what counted as enough.

3. The idea that there is a “solution” to problems at all, instead of simply a set of situations that change consistently.

As for the first, this is a common problem and it stems from a combination of many things, but primarily a lack of self knowledge, and the very human problem of overestimating our own ability, and underestimating how complex the problems of the world are.

A relatively broke college student in English might be able to volunteer on the weekends, and help quite a few people out, but alone he isn’t going to change the effects of three decades of poor public policy, the war on drugs, or human nature.

Take for example homelessness, it’s a huge problem, with many complex nuances, that stem from a variety of different factors. NGO’s and think tanks spend millions with some of the foremost thinkers in the field to come up with solutions and struggle to make a dent.

In the shadow of this revelation, it’s relatively foolish to assume that I a broke college student was going to make the final difference. (Not that I wouldn’t make any difference, but I lacked the humility to admit my own smallness.)

The problem of what counts is also an ego driven bout of perfectionism. Anything less than say the total end of homelessness would do for my hero drunk brain. This of course led me to feeling rather Impotent in the face of the problem, and feeling that my real contributions did not count. (alone they did not, but multiplied over a long time with others with similar mindset’s they would, but I couldn’t see that.)

The final issue, and the real issue, and the underlying defeat of perfectionist ideology is the realization that there is no “solution” to most problems, especially not big ones.

The idea that we can “solve” humanity is a dangerous utopian idea that often leads to the deaths of millions at it’s worst times, and dissatisfaction with life at the very least.

The problem is not that there is homelessness, the problem is that we expect it to end, and we expect ourselves to bear the burden.

To make the world better is an amazing thing, but just not making it worse is a beautiful thing as well.

I guess in all of this rambling I will say this. You cannot alone save the universe, but you can maybe save yourself, and make the world not worse. It sounds a little like a cop out, but eventually, you not making it worse, might inspire other’s to do the same.

Do not try and save the world. Save yourself first, and then if you have the energy, try and make the world suck just a little less, but you don’t have to. No one is watching. No one but you.

Advice for Young Men: Dating sites and Porn are causing you a lot of pain

This isn’t a prohibition. I don’t want you to stop using dating sites, or stop watching porn, but I want you to start doing is to be mindful of how the usage of them effects your real life relationships.

One of the problems of the current century is that dating sites fill the user’s head with ideas of massive abundance. Whereas men of ages past were limited by geographic location, dating sites allow you to expand your reach further and further.

This might be seen as over all good, but there is a paradox in this choice, in his book the paradox of choice Barry Schwartz, talks about how too much choice leads to dissatisfaction.

To summarize an amazing read, the basic premise is as follows, if you have too many choices, even if you get the optimal choice, you will be dissatisfied with the results. Meaning you aren’t going to be as happy with that girl you met online as if you met her in the day to day workings of your life.

The same goes for porn, and not just hardcore pornography, I am talking about the Hundreds of amateur pornographic websites that promote themselves online. What most men, or most people do not realize is that the bodies being presented online represent only a small percentage of real people. What this means is, that unless you consciously attempt to correct for it you will always be comparing the women you date to the perfect, make up clad, photo shopped, pictures you see online.

And that my young friends is where mindful use of these tools comes in. You have to be aware of the fantasy, and the underlying currents in your mind that seek to find satisfaction. Put aside and work through your perfectionist impulse, and find someone who makes you happy, even if he or she doesn’t stack up to what you see online…because no one can.

I know…I know…easier said than done. But were working on it together.

Advice for Young Men: How to Handle Rejection

You will face rejection.

Living is the art of facing rejection.

However, in our culture we put a premium on success, and do not talk often on how to deal with rejection.

The main problem, like most social problems, is the matter of perspective.

While most people learn to take rejection as a rejection of their core self most rejection is actually a statement of that particular individual or group’s needs or wants.

Or to put it another way, you are a flavor.

Picture now your favorite flavor of ice cream, or gum. For me it’s cinnamon gum. Which I am sure to some of you will be absolutely disgusting, but to me is the essence of flavor.

If I were to go up to you and offer you a piece of gum, even if it is one of the best brands and in mint condition, and it’s a flavor you just don’t like, you are probably going to say no.

Is there anything wrong with the Gum? No. But it’s just not your flavor.

That in a nutshell is rejection. It has very little to do with you, and everything to do with the other human.

That being said, this only really works if the gum is pretty ok in the first place. No one is going to accept a half chewed piece of gum, or gum that is covered in lint, or gum that has an exceptionally low quality.

That’s why self-care is important, in order to even have a shot at whatever you are attempting you want to give yourself the best quality product to present, and hope it’s someones flavor.

So next time you get rejected, try not to take it personally, if you are caring for yourself enough , it’s probably not you, it’s just that you aren’t their flavor.

There is no End Point

This is your life.

I know, I know, this is some Gary Vee, motivational stuff, but I don’t share his grinder philosophy, I am not saying this to motivate or move you.

I am saying this because this is reality.

I spent my life sweeping the floor hoping that it would never get dusty, but entropy happens. Energy has to be spent to reverse it, and ya know that’s ok.

The sooner you make peace with this the more you can just enjoy the process.

That sounds simple, but it isn’t, because here is the secret, you are never done.

It’s just change. All of it is change, and finishing is only temporary. That means that trying to hold onto anything can only cause pain.

So revel in your human mistakes, they will pass. Revel in your victories, they will fade, and Revel in your life, it will end. But not really. Something somewhere is always changing.

The key is to stop looking for the end point, but even in this you will fail, and that is ok. The key is to keep on keeping on.

Simpler typed than done.

Persistence

It isn’t that I dislike writing, or find it troublesome. I can write 2000 words in an hour or so. No, the problem is that life gets in the way.

That being said, I have some projects I am working on. A podcast to go with my Advice for Young Men series is slowly being assembled, and I want to write some more semi-free-flowing fiction.

Stay tuned, and thank you all who read my blog. I means a lot!

Schedules Are Important

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In the Covid World, many peoples are feeling lost, and their lives are kind of going off the wall.

I’ve worked most consistently since I was 16 and so having a good 6 months off has sent me a drift.

I realized lately that having some semblance of a schedule will help me.

So now, I’ve been trying to consistently get up at the same time even if I don’t go to bed at the same time. I’m trying to have a basic few routines that I am doing every day in order to add some normalcy.

This can be tough, especially if you struggle with self motivation.

Best bet in that case is to simply start small, and be gentle. This is a strange time, do what you can to make it work for you.

AFYM: Self-Care is not Self-ish

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You need to drink water. Go get a glass, I’ll wait. I’m going to go get one right now. Ok, now when was the last time you ate something with protein? Not sugar. Are you drinking like 5 Red-bulls a day? When did you shower last? How about exercise? Going outside?

These things might seem trivial, but they add up. The ego might disregard them but the animal brain that is most of you, the other 90% of you, takes this sort of stuff dead seriously.

All of these things, are self care, and they matter.

The brain is a complex animal with some basic needs, and if these needs are met, it’s going to be hard for you to function.

The culture seems to hold up in awe those people who work themselves to death, or are lacking in sleep. These states will lead you to a breaking point, and then you won’t be able to help anyone.

Or as a martial arts instructor put it to me years ago, if the machine is broken you can’t work, even if you want to.

Start small, just integrate a little self-care, and then slowly but surely integrate more. It might seem like a waste of time, until you realize that your mood is better, and your motivation keeps you going for longer.

Most of all, be kind to yourself when you fail to do this. You will, that’s ok, just learn, forgive and keep trying. You got this.

AFYM: Journaling Helps Free Up Space in Your Head

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The written word is a powerful thing. It allows us to put our thoughts outside our-self. Even now as you read this I am communicating to you, not in real time, but sometime from the past.

Our minds often become cluttered with various thoughts and worries, so a quick practice I like to do, as I did this morning, is to write all my thoughts down as they come. This sort of stream of consciousness writing seems simple but can take practice.

when you first begin it you might find yourself answering the voices, or challenge the thoughts, that’s normal. instead of doing this though try and instead just let the thoughts come. Let them all jumble onto the page, let them not make sense, and let them be counter intuitive. Just let them exist.

You will find the simple act of doing this will often relive stress, and then after you’ve let the thoughts sit on the page a bit, you can go back and offer advice to them.

What I often do in this case is a call and answer, where one color pen is the questioner of the thoughts and the other color is the emotionally charged thought. I don’t criticize the thoughts, but instead I ask them pointed questions.

In a way this allows me to explore the fallacies in my thinking without beating them over the head with judgement.

So next time you find yourself overwhelmed, try dumping that mess onto a page.

If you must suffer, Suffer Well

One of Monet’s works Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.

One must suffer.

This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.

Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.

However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.

Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.

Would I not simply stagnate?

How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?

To answer my own questions:

No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.

To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.

Suffering is the price of admission to life.

Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.

I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.

By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.

So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!

AFYM: If something evokes strong emotions, take a moment to question it

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As someone who suffers with OCD, the disorder has taught me a valuable skill, to question strong emotions.

Emotions aren’t wrong or bad, and I do not advise suppressing them, but when you read, watch or listen to something that raises your blood-pressure, it’s important to take a beat.

In the age of global social media warfare and government sponsored trolling, the internet is more than ever a huge minefield of misinformation, spread with the intent of creating divisions, and anger.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Anti-science / Anti-mask movement in the US has its roots in either the Chinese or Russian Government’s efforts to undermine the western world.

But this goes beyond the pandemic, in life, people will tap into your primary emotions in order to manipulate your decisions, your wallet, or your ballot.

The key to not being blustered about via the emotional whims is to practice mindfulness. When you are confronted with an emotionally charged “fact” or headline, take a moment, and question, what is this person, passage or quote trying to get from me.

You won’t be able to do this immediately, and it takes practice but eventually, you might be able to avoid being so upset all the time.