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: 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)

AFYM: Just show up

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There is a strange ethic that runs through the culture like a common cold, or maybe a better comparison would be Mono. You know that disease that all the teens gave each-other when Stacy would make out with Jack and Jack with John, and John with Jill, ect. It would make you lethargic, and not want to do much of anything.

The ethic I am so haphazardly talking about is, well the idea of making up for yesterday.

“i didn’t eat well yesterday, best eat extra good today.”

“I didn’t workout hard enough yesterday and so I’d better do double today.”

and So on.

But the problem with this mentality is that it is a self replicating problem, and discourages what I think is the ultimate virtue that being Habit.

Habit, and true habit, is kind. Now some will say you must be firm, and kindness is weakness, and trivial kindness can be a sort of weakness.

After all, is it truly kind to simply let yourself become fat? No, it’s not, and it’s a trivial sort of kindness, a short term sort of kindness that is confused with genuine kindness.

Genuine Kindness is to forgive the mistakes of the past and to simply resolve to show up, and do your best today.

Notice I said, forgive, not to forget, it’s important to remove stumbling blocks in the road, and to make the journey as easy as possible.

But the key, the ultimate key is to simply show up, and frankly that’s what most people need anyhow. Many a job or task simply needs a touch of human attention to run properly.

The world you see is quite boring in it’s growth. Even the most exciting events , avalanches, birth, and volcanic eruptions, are actually the final culmination of a million, million little actions taken over a period of time.

So, the key is to simply show up, and peruse that greater kindness. Each day take note of the past, and your failings and then put them aside.

If you ate poorly yesterday, eat well today, but just as well as you intended to yesterday, no more.

If you quit early exercising, exercise as much as you intended the day before and no more.

If you do force yourself to do more, your mind will inevitably, and quite subtly begin to see the task you want it to do as a punishment, and like all punishment will seek to avoid it.

If you further push yourself with negativity, you will catch your mind between two bad options, and well that is a very bad place for a mind to be. Learned helplessness is one hell of a drug.

So, to vastly simplify complex ideas, treat yourself as you’d want a kind father, mother, coach or authority figure to treat you. You can hold yourself to high standards, but when you fail, this kind figure steps in.

He or she says, “now, listen here, you failed to meet X goal, and that’s ok, but I know you can do it. So let’s just try our best today.”

While this is simple, if you’ve been negative to yourself, it can take a long time. That’s alright, keep trying, keep forgiving yourself, and keep showing up.

AFYM:Nihilism is a crutch

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Life is a tragedy.

We are born in an arbitrary, and unjust world.

We are raised into a world, if we are lucky we are taught love, only to come finally to the realization that everything, even your body will be torn from you.

This is the first half of most existentialists’ arguments, and where many a young person stumbles. They read this and tossing aside the difficult, and often cryptic words of a philosopher decry “NOTHING MATTERS!” and so they slink into the realm of the NEET.

Ultimately this is a mistake, because it is a false wisdom predicated not on life experience but the experience told to them by a far away authority figure. (many of which are hopelessly misunderstood, and in the second half of the work that is so casually tossed away find logic to refute Nihilism.)

The truth is Nihilism is most often unearned. “Nothing matters , god is dead, there is no point to anything”, goes the Nihilist, but go to any of those saying these things, and ask, “what have you done to prove or disprove this?”

ideas you see are sticky things, and people forget that at our core we are a very advanced animal that came from a much less advanced iteration. This iteration favors laziness and ease to all things, and Nihilism fits this bill perfectly.

“If Nothing matters? Well then I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to have any responsibilities. It’s not my fault, the world is inherently meaningless so I have no motivation.” is the line of logic, and it is a terribly convenient one too.

It is much more difficult to go out and test these “truths” than it is to simple accept them, and moreover it is a vast over estimation of the cognitive power of the self.

Can anyone really know if nothing matters? Do we know without a shadow of a doubt that the heat death of the universe will happen? OR that in that strange place after it there may be some change, some dissonance that starts everything? Or that there might not be some interaction from dimensions above?

We do not. To reject Nihilism, and for that matter all dogmas is to assert one’s own humility in the face of the unknown.

To paraphrase Socrates ” all I know is that I know nothing.” And there is some beauty in that.

AFYM: Habits

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Some of you don’t take care of yourself. You might argue that you are too busy helping others or maybe you imagine yourself not worthy, but there a few simple, yet difficult things to do every day.

The key is to form the habit. It sounds silly, but more than results you want to create a consistent habit of doing things and build from there .

When I started exercising, I wanted to run full out for 3 hours, but instead I started by just putting on my running shoes and walking 10 minutes around the block. Sounds weak right?

I Just kept showing up. I made it so ridiculously easy that I’d have no excuse not to show up, and I kept showing up.

Eventually, my body was like, well if were already here, and extended the walk time to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, Then it became run time, then it slowly added in body muscle and so on.

This is how i’ve gotten anything done in my life, slowly, but surely.

There will be days you will fail, that’s normal. The key is to simply pretend like it never happened. If you try and “make it up” you foster resentment.

You’ve got to be your own coach, firm but kind, who pushes you not under duress but out of the belief that you can, and will do better. Moreover, the belief that you deserve to be healthy, happy and accomplish your goals.

It’s a cliche, but showing up is the main hurdle, and once you’ve done that and established the habit you can build off that working model and make it better.

Whats the worst that can happen? You can always go back to nothing.