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.

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.

The Hate You Love to Give

Anger is useless if it isn’t focused

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Roar as the dawn rises, in the stench of blood and rot. we dwell in cities iced in luxury but the core is soured, old milk on hot pavement, the carton looks fresh and new, but chunky truth hides in the middle.

So many rage. I see it. I feel it. Every time a shooting happens, each time a man’s neck is kneeled upon, each time a polotical scandal breaches the surface.

“Has the world ever been this bad?” Utter lips, their question rhetorical, they know in their heart it’s never been this bad.

Or has it?

I am going to say something controversial, the world is better than ever.

The world was much much worse in the past, but we didn’t know about it. If you wanted to learn about the atrocities that a black man in the south lived through you might have to actually track him down and ask him, or more likely his surviving relatives.

If you wanted to know about political corruption you had to hope the newspaper told you about it.

Now everyone is a whistle-blower, and the hot steaming truth of the horrors of the world once hidden from us is at our pocket level each day, and each night.

Moreover, we are fed this horrible info, because capitalistic systems have figured out that the best way to monetize us is to make us upset.

And so we walk around in a state of low level upsetness, each horror we consume adding to our guild and existential debts.

I ask, what value have we derived from the overflow of knowledge? What do we glean from this consistent impotent rage, checked by flare ups?

Nothing.

And why? Because Citizens of the United States are constantly allowing themselves to be distracted by the next outrage. They eschew dialog in favor of looking good to their peers, and they push agendas lazily from behind a keyboard.

This is not an indictment, Real, Long Lasting change, is difficult, messy, unsatisfactory, and slow.

The kind of change being demanded by various protest movements is one of systemic policy making, and requires organization and an effective organization requires a unified ideal.

Part of the reason many left leaning movements in the united states have fallen apart can be see in the disparate elements of the party.

Not that this is a particularly good thing, but the right wing of the united states was quick to back the president. While seemingly spineless this sort of rallying can be no means dismissed as ineffective.

Most protest movements fall apart simply because they have no unification. Factions within the movement draw lines, and preform social signaling to prove they are the most worthy.

Without a clear structure, clear goals, and a unified long-term strategy, people who want to enact change will either burn out their rage impotent or potentially more dangerously flock to utopian ideals.

One needs only look at the 20th century’s death camps, famines, wars, and police states to know how dangerous utopia can be.

Advice For Young Men: Compassion is not Weakness

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Compassion is not weakness, even though we culturally associate it with weakness.

The reason is that so much of compassion is inauthentic, and comes from a place of compulsion.

Many people are not compassionate because they choose to be compassionate, but instead they feel they must be compassionate.

Who do they this debt to? If you nailed them down and asked them to explain who they were preforming for they’d shrug. The collective default is to be compassionate, but many have never consciously chosen to be compassionate, and calculated what they are giving up .

Now there are some who will ague this is not the true spirit of compassion. That compassion should be selfless and thoughtless, but that in and of itself seems worthless.

Sacrifice is not worth anything if it is compulsive.

True compassion is the strength to think about a situation, and see the benefit in being unkind to others, and there is a benefit if you are willing to pay the cost, noting that cost, and then deciding to be compassionate anyhow.

When you choose to be compassionate not because you feel you must, but because you feel you want to, you are no longer a slave to culture, and instead are kind from a position of strength. Thus kindness stops being compulsory weakness, but instead becomes conscious strength.

Advice to Young Men: Beware The False Idol

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Rick and Morty is a great show. It’s a rather fun ride that pokes fun at our culture. However, there stands a problem in that Rick is hardly to be admired but I see many young men thinking he’s the best character in the show.

While I’ll agree that Rick is the most entertaining part of the show, but I’ll also argue he’s the least healthy member of the cast.

This is a common trope and attraction to the trope. Young men gravitate towards figures like the Joker, Dead-pool, Rick Sanchez , Bill the Butcher, and Walter White, just to name a few. These characters while fun to watch are ultimately failures in the real world, and without the constraints of fantasy are dysfunctional and deeply flawed.

Now, you might say, it’s only a show, I know it’s not real.

I agree, most people can tell reality from fiction, however, the stories we tell ourselves are important.

Humans are thinking animals however, we are also deeply emotional. This is why we can logically understand what is good for us and do something else anyway. We know eating Twinkies is bad, but we emotionally attach comfort to the food. We know dating X person is bad for us, but we are emotionally attached to them.

Thus, when we become emotionally attached , and even admire fictional characters, we risk emulating them, and the messes they are.

The truth is, you can like someone without admiring their behavior. The key is to consciously admit the parts you admire, yet keep within your mind the truth that this character is ultimately a dysfunctional real human.

It sounds silly, but the conscious choice really can have an impact.

Advice for Young Men: Handing away control

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The “nice guy” is a cultural staple. Most women I know have been on the receiving end of this phenomena, where a man (or woman, though the vast majority of these people are men), is at first overwhelmingly nice to a person only to turn upon them once it is established that the attractions they feel are one-sided.


Most men in this position respond in anger and embarrassment. Some demand recompense, and so on.


There are many problems with this, so let’s break them down.
Starting with the core of it: They are handing away control of their well being to another human. This made doubly bad when you consider that the person who is being handed this power probably didn’t want it. Societal politeness might force them to play along for a while, but there comes a time when the person will begin to resent having to be in charge of someone else’s emotional well being.


Thus they reject the advances of the “nice guy” in effect they are handing back the reigns of control to him. He, having given up agency over himself, responds to this perfectly normal situation as if he’s been judged harshly and unfairly. He responds with what he thinks is righteous anger. When his anger is rebutted his shame feeds this anger, and so a toxic feedback loop is formed.


The average “nice guy” cannot see that the pain he’s feeling is self-imposed. He’s externalized his happiness unto an object, (most nice guys see women as objects) and when the object fails to meet his high expectations, he feels slighted. Thus he avoids self-reflection and growth.


Dating, careers, and achievements are the main focus on many a human’s life, and these are exceptionally important to a healthy life, but so many people hand away their ability to be happy to others who never asked for it.
The nice guy fails to see that attraction is frankly not that romantic, though romance is important to the act of dating, the spark of attraction is largely subconscious. A smell, a face shape, how they smile or talk, these things trigger attraction, and cannot be influenced really.


More importantly, he pins his self-esteem on some external measure, and assumes, often without merit or evidence, that he’ll be successful, so when he is not he cannot tolerate the tension between what he thought the world would be like and what it is like.


So what can be done?


The first step begins with removing your worth from the external world. This isn’t easy. There are all kinds of social games we have to play to be successful, but with enough training, you begin to be able to hold in your head that the social and societal games are just that games.
When you find yourself in a moment that you find yourself upset, if you can, and it will take practice, try and take a breath, but do not try and calm down, but instead take the role of an observer. Observe where you’ve put the locus of judgment. Is it external? Are you expecting the world to give you something? What is going on here?


With time you will be able to see the partners that led to the externalization and begin making conscious choices.

How are you doing?: We need to start opening up a little

The common greeting, how are you doing, is a rhetorical question. “I’m good, ok, fine!” is the refrain, however, this needs to change.

The time has come to change that.

Mental health is at the core of many of the problems we struggle with today.

It’s my sneaking suspicion that most humans who struggle with different aliments of life if they be addiction or overeating, are at their core dealing with a mental health issue.

Somewhere along the way, we lost empathy for one another. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I think the constant erosion of community that has dominated culture since it’s inception, but especially now in the digital age.

Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit feel like connection but like junk-food only ever seem to satisfy.

Young men especially wander aimlessly in a desert that feels hopeless. Thus often their anger wells up, and they are prone to acts both big and small of violence and resentment.

Somewhere in the corporate marketing haze we lost sight that humans are not sterile emotionless creatures, but social beings that need connection and care.

Shame doesn’t work to correct the long term behavior of a human, it just forces those people who relate to the shamed further down the rabbit hole.