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.

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.

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.

Advice for young men (AFYM): Logic wont compel you to change, stories will

Jungian philosophy is complex and multifaceted, but one of the primary ideas behind it is the confrontation and channeling of the shadow.

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

― Carl Jung

The shadow of man dives down to hell, and yet so many people walk around as if they don’t have a choice to be good.

I read about this idea and decided to try and embrace the capacity in myself to do great evil, and focus on the choice not to do evil.

I logically understood the ideas, and yet part of me resisted truely embracing it.

Then on a chance, I watched Beastars. In the story the Main character struggles with this percise Jungian problem. Most of the show he acts as if he has no capacity to do evil, and as such is weak, and not truely a good man (wolf). However, when presented with his dark side, he confronts it, and eventually is able to channel his darkness to save those he loves.

Suddenly for me the philosophy clicked, some part of my brain was able to wholly embrace the ideas.

This is my long winded way of saying that even if you logically want to change, you will struggle to unless you have a story to attach to that logic.

Humans are Firstly Emotion Based

The old adage you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, is rightfully translated, you can teach a man anything but you can’t make him belive it.

Because there is a part of our brain that attaches information to stories. The shaman, the lore master, the priest, all of them teach through stories. What is any religious text but a story that teaches lessons?

So, my advice is if you want to truly internalize things you have to find a story that teaches it, or you might struggle.

AFYM: Sometimes Things are Just Boring, and That’s Normal

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In my life there have been plenty of times where I was actively bored. At work during a lull, at school in a mandatory class, or maybe just on a summer day when it’s too hot to ride my bike.

However, there seems to be a second type of boredom that tends to come in during otherwise pleasant parts of life, emotional boredom.

I think media, of all sorts, paints life with bright colors, vivid greens that make our trees seem dead in comparison, beautiful tans that make our own bodies seem pale, and bright blues that shame the real sky. But more sinister, media, traditional and social, posits that reality is a constant melodrama.

In writing, we learn to ask a question when writing, “is this the most exciting part of the character’s life? If not, then write about that instead.” And all media mimics this formula. It’s why we never see characters go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, eat corn flakes, or go in for a routine physical where the results are all just OK.

This is fine, as what I just described sounds like a horrible form of entertainment. The problem becomes when we stop actively reminding ourselves that all media, from Instagram posts to blockbusters is the most exciting slices of a person’s life cultivated and designed to provoke an emotion. We begin to look at our own life subconsciously as lesser, and more sisterly begin to seek drama.

This emotional boredom becomes the basis of dissatisfaction. Comparison leads the person to stimulate their lives, and many and young man has fallen prey to this.

The man might seek out partners who are not healthy, but are exciting. He might reject all sensible jobs to do something risky, not because he actually believes in it, but because the idea of his life being ordinary, happy, contented or mostly ok bores him.

Be wary of creating or joining drama.

Not that you shouldn’t get involved with things your a geuninely passionate about, what I am saying is don’t invent or seek out problems that aren’t yours.

Sometimes we hang out with our friends and they vent to us, and suddenly we find ourselves as stressed out as the person actually experiencing the situation. We might day dream solutions, or even follow the situation with bated breath. But in the end, that’s not our business.

Being a human is boring sometimes. Learn to sit with that, be ok with it, and be wary. Sometimes things are worth fighting for, but more often than not you just might be bored.

(PS: If EVERYTHING is boring, go see someone if you can, that’s a symptom of depression)

Advice For Young Men: It’s okay if you lose motivation sometimes, this is normal.

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So, today, and for the past week or so I’ve been drained. My OCD has been really acting up, and I’ve been having to deal with that.

I have been putting in the work but my heart isn’t it.

But that’s ok. You are allowed to, especially in stressful situations, lose motivation, and not want to do anything.

The key is to show up, and try your best, but don’t be to harsh. Focus on your responsibilities to others and yourself, but don’t worry if you lost all your motivation, it will recharge, it just needs time. You aren’t a machine.