Self-improvement

A lot of adults go to therapy because of problems stemming from their childhood. I’m convinced this is because many people grow older and never learn to reconcile their past. They just get better at hiding from their feelings or distracting themselves with media or drowning out the pain with substances.

Acts of dysfunction like violence and abuse arise out of an inability to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings. I’d go so far as to say most people lack the self-knowledge and reflective discipline to conduct regular psycho-emotional system status checks, so they can’t tell they’re driving through life with their check healthy emotional regulation light on.

In school, they should teach us applied ethics. Teachers are so caught up with teaching facts they fail to develop well-rounded, cognizant individuals. Imagine if we had daily meditations on the relationships between social conformity, misaligned societal norms, and unrealistic media portrayals. Or the rise of industrialism in America and how Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller destroyed families and people’s health to become evil tycoons. Or how anti-trust laws are becoming weakened and the consumer protection bureau has no teeth. Or thoughtful interventions regarding the nuanced discussion that should be had about historically prejudicial race and gender relations.

Kids can’t be kids. Those high school actors are in their twenties. And I know a grandma who remembers when women were finally allowed to wear jeans in America.

What would it be like if as early as age 13 girls were welcomed to a discussion on the pressures of feminine mystique and Western culture’s sick propensity for hyper-sexualization and the selling out of our kids’ well-being through objectification?

Shocking, I know, to try to provide an anti-venom to the viral Internet.

There are no role models. There are no leaders. The moral vanguards are hidden behind the gates of academia because ethics ain’t profitable. Shout out to Matha Nussbaum and Peter Singer. There is no voice of reason, yelling from a bully pulpit the urgency that is our kids’ well-being.

But, please, accept these thoughts and prayers.

We’re so caught up in keeping up with Joneses (or Kardashians), chasing the almighty dollar, our own emotional issues, our fear of lawsuits, getting by on jobs we hate so we can afford things that don’t satisfy us, the selfishness of our neighbors, earning social media likes, becoming famous, or finding the next big thing that we never stop to consider the damage we’re doing to each other.

Here are some facts that we should be talking about probably on a weekly basis:

1. Despite the social hierarchy, we all fundamentally want the same things.

2. These things are acceptance, inclusion, belonging, and love.

3. Even though we want this love, most people expend way too much energy judging the inadequacies of others, most likely because people tend to operate on a vicious cycle of ego-tripping.

4. We’re not happy, and no one is being honest about it.

We’re letting the media decide our debates. Caravans of immigrants aren’t the problem. Political corruption is a distant issue. Instead, leaders need to be addressing the fact that:

  • The majority of the wealth being generated in the world is going to a fraction of a fraction of the global population;
  • Millions are going to die because of corporate greed destroying the earth;
  • Corporations can anonymously funnel money into campaigns;
  • Great, unbiased journalism is threatened internationally by assassination, hot takes, and pandering for views;
  • Almost 1/3 of the global population doesn’t have access to safe water;
  • And poor Americans can’t afford quality dental care or access to mental health resources.

We’re eating dinner alone. We’re lonely. We’ve stigmatized mental health but we celebrate the grotesque fakeness of pop icons. They’re packaged. They’re surgically improved. It’s all smoke and mirrors. And too many of us are eating right out of the hands of these savages.

We don’t know how to fix ourselves.

And no one is talking about it.

So talk about it.

A friend recently told me “I feel like I’m walking a tight rope of razor blades. On one side is a path of righteousness. The other is a path of evil. I feel like I can’t fully commit to the path of goodness because the good man can’t do any good. Good requires the ability to do evil, to harm if necessary.”

This is not an uncommon belief, that life is all shades of gray. This is true to a degree. There will inevitably come times in our lives that any decision will hurt someone. This dilemma has existed for thousands of years. The Hindus say that the solution is to strive for pure, good intention and eventually we will free ourselves from negative karma.

Here’s my take: goodness does not necessitate a gray area. Goodness is merely a commitment to the virtues. We can be good and still eliminate bad by following the virtue of justice. It’s a continual striving, a continual reflection, a continual battle. In times when it is hard to differentiate what is just and what is merciful, it is necessary to surround yourself with a good-natured, trusted counsel who can shed some light. These are your friends and mentors who are walking kindred paths.

It will be hard, but the mere act of striving places you on the good side of the tight rope. Learn and follow the ways of virtue, and don’t fret over the possibility of falling victim to evil. As long as you seek the good and have fellow travelers for accountability, you’re going to be fine.

You may not always get it right. That’s okay. You’re still good. You’re just in the arena.

There’s this moment as an artist. You enter a flow. You might experience a familiar flow in the work you do. In high school, I experienced it flipping burgers at Steak n’ Shake. At first, the work would be terrible, but as the tempo accelerated I went into a mode of concentration where the time just flew. In college, you experience this with papers. You dread the writing. Tap by tap you pick away in the beginning, not knowing quite what you’ll say or how you’ll get to the end of the paper. But, somehow, you enter the flow. The talent takes over. The work gets done.

As an artist, it is the same flow but way better. Brian Koppelman talks about it in his latest podcast about how to be creative. He says that he wanted to write about finance but didn’t know how, so he studied the finance game until he got it and when he finally did … boom. I experienced this for the first time before I started blogging daily by watching Jon Bellion work. Check out this video to see him in his process. Look at his pure joy. Watch as he gets into the groove and becomes captivated with his own creation. Watch, in other words, how he enters the pocket.

The pocket is this place of elation. The pocket is where we experience the greatest part of our creations. It’s where we’re living our greatest potential, and it’s revealed by ecstasy – the weightlessness of pure expression of soul or genius. I want you to be aware of it because if there’s some calling in you, you should know what you’re missing out on by not striving for it. You’re missing out, plainly, on the fullness of life.

 

Take care of yourself. You can’t help the world in the best way until you’ve helped yourself. Some might say it’s selfish, but it’s necessary. Take care of your body through exercise and a proper diet, set aside alone time to play and experience joy, and reflect on what brings you happiness.

What’s right for you
Ask yourself
I’ve read other books
And I don’t have the answers

That’s right for you
Don’t let nobody else
Trample on your visions

You’re finding hope
Don’t let it go
This world will test you

But all you need to know is…

What’s right for you
I know it’s easier said than done
You’re sad, you’re scared, you’re lonely
And you feel like “if only”
And you feel like it’s so confusing

The world seems selfish
Someone tell it
You. Are. Just. A. Kid.

It can’t help itself
We’re rolling down a mineshaft

Covered in coal
Our backs are broke
Craving a mother’s love
And a place to call home

We need more artists
Thank you, God, for kindness and Susan Sontag
Thank you, God, for good books
Campfires, snuggles, and cozy nooks
Folks who think
And movies with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio

You’re different
You’ve got this
Just trust your conscience
And find friends who think that farts are funny

That smarts are sexier than money
That a Benz is dope but would much prefer
Vision quests, pillow talks, and games on Easter

No one’s perfect
No one’s read enough books
No one has the answers
The world is far too busy
Out there working instead of living

I know, it’s really, really hard
But believe me
Just do what’s right for you

And forget money. And fame. And anything besides what you love because I promise the success isn’t worth it, and the vast majority of the fans and fair-weather friends you make along the way will not care about you.

You’re a human being, not a commodity. You’re a feeler, not a competer.

So ditch the Beamer for a beater and live a life you love.

There is a saying that goes “give so much time to improve yourself,  you don’t have time to criticize others.” This can be extended further. You could say “give so much attention to doing what’s right for you, you stop caring about societal expectations.”

If you dedicated your life to only pursuing things that matter to you, it’s likely that, eventually, you’ll notice you’ve stopped following what the crowd is doing. You’ll notice that you no longer have any idea what the cool things to say are or what the latest trend is on social media or why people give so much thought to trivial things like the Kardashians or being awkward.

A lot of folks, frankly, have too much time on their hands. They expend so much mental energy being judgemental and close-minded. They don’t think for themselves. And they tend to not be doing anything of substance besides going through the motions granted by their privilege or being selfish.

Take a look at who’s succeeded, and you will find years of hard work. You’ll find ages of failure, of torment, of showing up. Again and again and again and again.

Two of my heroes are Brene Brown and Seth Godin. Brene was a focused researcher for years before her books went mainstream (before that she was an alcoholic). Seth ran multiple failing companies. Seth has had many projects go nowhere.

You’ll find the pattern repeat over and over. It’s the way of the leader. Failure and consistency are the marks of a successful life. You must fail to win.