If we wanted to get really technical, we’d say “practice makes slightly better than before”.
This is a motto I’m coming to live life by because contrary to popular belief, practice does not make perfect. It makes slightly better than before.
Perfection is impossible.
The pursuit of such a thing will cause you only one thing, and abundantly so: suffering!
Let me repeat that… PERFECTION IS IMPOSSIBLE.
If you want to get not-as-shit-as-you-were-before at something, it won’t happen by wishing it to happen. It will happen by doing the thing. Over and over again. Failing. Getting up. Failing again. Sucking. Failing again. Sucking some more. Embarrassing yourself. Falling on your face. All that shit.
Deep contemplation (some would call it overthinking) is a blessing and a curse of mine. It’s a blessing because it allows me to gain deep understandings about the things I think about. It’s a curse because thinking too much often results in analysis paralysis (inaction) because “I need more information to make a decision!”.
Recent bouts of deep contemplation about next steps in life have caused me to experience a great deal of fear. I feel terrified. Not of failure. Well, a little of failure, but failure and I have become fairly well acquainted these days (the number of different things I’ve fucked up, and number of different occasions upon which I’ve fucked up is getting quite out of hand…). The more you do something, the less scary it becomes. So, failure, while definitely still and always scary, doesn’t quite scare me to the point of being a paralytic-sea-cucumber like it used to.
These days, I’m more paralytic-mouse than cucumber (at least I have legs, they just don’t seem to work).
The fear I’m experiencing is obviously connected to my ability to succeed in the domain I choose to focus my efforts, but even more than this it’s a fear of my ability to succeed in mastering my own domain.
This, for me, takes unbelievably hard work because…
I’m a swinger
I once participated in a gang-bang with three Sweedish midgets, a dude old enough to be my Grandad, an Ostrich, and an army of Botswanan Meerkats.
Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t swing like that.
However, I do suffer mood swings. The amount of work I can get done when I am high in mood would shock the tits off a bull. While the lack of energy and general ability to move when I am feeling down makes a slug look like a Ferrari.
While many people seem capable of banging out a 9 to 5, this impossibly structured way of living literally destroys me from the inside out.
On the flipside, without a Nine to Five to keep me in check, Seven to Eleven to the Six to the Five Eight Three, Fo O Fo, and Seven O Nine (shit, sorry been listening to too much Ludacris) can easily become my new norm… Living like this bodes for a Ludacris-ly difficult existence. Nine to five suffocates me, while Fo O Fo to the Six O Seven to the… destroys my ability to function without hauling around a permanent drool.
I’ve found setting and sticking to a regular sleep schedule is numero-uno, numero-deuce, numero-trey, and basically the most important thing to manage this mode of being. No exceptions. Period.
I’ll add to this: regular exercise, getting outside in nature, social interaction and meditation.
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. Ahh…Yes please.
I was in the USA last year for thanksgiving. Some friends and I had turkey. It was fucking delicious. My friends Matt and Juanita did a stellar job prepping the bird. And I did a stellar job dismantling it. I ate far too much, which led me to fall into a self-induced turkey-coma (no shit, I couldn’t move). Although a food coma is no big deal, other types of comas aren’t so good. Such as waking up in your bed covered in your own vomit next to an Ostrich named Felicity (this never happened only once). Hot succulent seasoned thanksgiving turkey taught me something very important about myself: hot turkey is difficult to resist.
I’ve noticed a by-product and sometimes cause of mood swings are my addictive tendencies and general lack of self-control/discipline when presented with enticing things (which to me is pretty much everything that feels good). Alcohol. Sugar. Sex. Drugs. Work. Gambling. I’ve chased them all in small doses. An Achilles heel I must battle for life. Some are seen largely as good (i.e. work). Some are seen largely as bad (i.e. drugs). Some sit in a weirdly largely misunderstood middle ground (i.e. poker, a skill-based game that falls under the veil of ‘gambling’). Of course, thinking in terms of good and bad is a fucking retarded way to live, but that’s another point for another day…
While I wouldn’t say I suffer from addiction as classically defined (“compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences”) – okay maybe a little – I would say I suffer from addictive tendencies. That is, chasing things that feel good for a little bit longer than most would consider advisable…
This may have you wondering, what’s the difference? Not much to be honest. Perhaps I’m making it a matter of semantics to make myself not feel like an ‘addict’ because this term carries such a negative stereotype. However, here are some things I’d classify under each to illustrate (forewarning: I’m NOT A DOCTOR, just some idiot):
(a) Addictive tendencies
Drinking so much alcohol that you get to the point of throwing up in your sister’s ex-BFs car, your bed, on yourself, or on an Ostrich named Felicity…
Eating so much sugar in one sitting that you turn into a sour worm as your sweat begins crystallising to the outside of your skin…
Browsing Facebook mindlessly for no reason whatsoever…
Drinking too much to the point of throwing up in your etc etc etc… on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… All the time.
Eating so much sugar that you etc etc… on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… often and always.
Browsing Facebook 24/7
I think the difference lies in frequency. Addiction is getting carried away with things all the time. Addictive tendencies is getting carried away with things every now and then.
Addictive tendencies are in my blood. Things that feel good feel REALLY GOOD to me – this feeling incentivises me to want more of the thing that feels good (whatever that ‘thing’ happens to be). This can be harmful when the thing that feels good isn’t actually good for me (which annoyingly most, but not all, things that feel good are…).
Take for example Alcohol. I’ve had many (read as: MANY) a boozy night. Alcohol feels good when I’m drinking it. I get a buzz. I feel good in the moment. BUT, through extensive trial and mostly error, I now know that once I drink a certain amount, I’ll pay dearly the next day for it in the form of a paralytic-sea-cucumber level hangover.
These days if you put me in front of Alcohol, I have enough self-awareness to know when to say no (most of the time). However, put me in front of a block of chocolate and I’ll go nek-level Rabid Werewolf on the sucker. While this is definitely not as damaging as going Rabid Werewolf on some of those other vices, it’s certainly not good either.
These addictive tendencies of mine are one very difficult beast because it’s so hard to judge what’s ‘good’ and what’s not. It’s so subjective. Truth is, most of us don’t even know what’s good for us – we just rely on what we’ve been told and go from there. There are obvious things… i.e. if we’re constantly drunk, that’s probably not good for our physical health/well-being, or if we’re losing thousands of dollars a day playing blackjack that’s not good for our financial health. These are no-brainers. But, there’s plenty of things which sit in the grey. Such as if we’re suffering from workaholism that is causing us to burn out mentally and for our social relationships to suffer (not good thing) however is also the reason why we’re first line for that promotion or pay rise (good thing)…
Point is, it can get confusing.
I think it’s important to look at things in their totality and then to make a determination as to whether the activity or thing you’re doing is having an overall net positive or net negative effect on your well-being. This self-analysis is difficult to undertake, but absolutely necessary. We’re the one’s who know what’s best for us (even if we may be too stupid to see it from time to time).
In order to combat some feel-goods that have a ‘net negative’ effect on my well-being (i.e. alcohol, sugar), as boring as it is, I’ve decided it’s in my best interests to be more boring in everyday life. No more 2am benders. No more eating seven bags of lollies in one sitting.
Ugh. I think I just shed a tear…
I have scatter-brains
You know how there are lots of people who aren’t completely satisfied with their lives (umm, everyone, everywhere?), who long to do something different, but they can’t because the one thing holding them back is that they “just need an idea…”
I can’t vibe with this. I don’t have this problem. In fact, I have the opposite problem. I have too many ideas.
This may not sound like a burden “Oh, poor you, with all your ideas, how unfortunate”, but trust me… it fucking is. Why? Take a second to think about these truths about ideas:
(a) They’re worth one million eighty-nine thousand six hundred and twenty-four thirds of fuck all. Ideas aren’t worth shit. Nothing. Zilch.
Ideas are only valuable if manifested in the world in some way, shape or form. And even then it’s basically guess work as to whether they’re going to be worth anything to anyone anywhere. Ideas don’t matter. Execution does.
(b) Execution takes courage because it’s very hard to gauge how good an idea is…
The world isn’t like University. You don’t hand in your idea to someone, and they say “wow, great idea, A+”, or “hmm, shit idea, D-”. No one grades your ideas. Actually, in the adult world for the most part no-one even looks at your ideas, because no-one really gives a fuck about your ideas (sidenote: this is one of the many reasons University sucks, as it accidentally wrongly teaches you that someone will give a fuck about what you think or have to say). Energising someone else to give a fudge-popsicle about YOUR ideas takes fucking hard work. Which means it’s pretty much always mostly up to you to do something with them. Up to you to execute!! For me, point (a) creates a serious friction which works tirelessly against me on this front.
(c) Every idea leads to another idea to another idea to another idea to the fifth level of the shores of the subconscious where the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH [*music from Inception soundtrack*].
Trying to pin down ideas is like trying to catch a squirrel.
(d) Picking one idea, feels like sacrificing the others.
If I decide to do this one thing, then what about all those other ideas I could’ve maybe tried to do instead? Do those ideas die? Do I lose the opportunity to do those things entirely? This is scary. I believe this is called having commitment issues.
These facts about ideas make it a very annoying thing to have so many of them.
Pick something. Run with it. And BE DISCIPLINED ENOUGH TO KEEP GOING WITH IT.
This blog, despite being fairly irregularly updated, and teeming with incoherent and disconnected content, is maybe, perhaps, possibly, proof I’m capable of such a feat.
While this blog makes me no money, it’s most certainly has a ‘net positive’ effect on my well-being as it provides a creative outlet for my madness. I think this is why I’ve persisted with it despite only my Mum reading it for well over a year (and counting) – thanks Mum.
Many other projects I’ve started and given up on, or let die, are proof I’m perhaps not. However, I think the reason the blog has survived is simple…writing is something I value. I absolutely froth over it. I love it. Yes, it is hard work and frustrating as hell at times, but, it also isn’t because I enjoy it so much. Other projects I’ve started and not persisted with (such as attempting to become a youtube poker sensation) were started for other reasons (hope for monetary gain, prestige, because I was bored). Maybe if I’d persisted it would have worked out. Maybe. I don’t know because I didn’t. What I do know is (for me at least) it’s fucking hard to persist without the “value” piece in play.
I’m lazy, prone to procrastinate and easily distracted
Let’s deal with these one at a time.
(a) I’m lazy
Well, not really actually. I’m not. I work fucking hard. But only after I get started. And only when something interests me (do you know how many hours it took to draw these stupid pictures in this post? Not many because they suck… never mind, bad example). This combination can both (a) incentivise the crap out of me to work my tits off; and (b) prove itself fairly lethal to productivity.
That seems a little off doesn’t it… How can I be incentivised to work my tits off by the very same trait that is also lethal to productivity? That’s contradictory.
I don’t think it is. It comes back to the value piece. If I’m working on something I value, or I’m doing something I value, I’ll work my tits off. If I don’t value something, or don’t feel challenged, I’ll struggle to so much as move my pinky toe, may become bitter/resentful, and definitely will become as bored as bat shit.
I’m beginning to view laziness as more of a symptom of the fact I’m probably channeling my energies into doing the wrong shit, rather than as a root cause or reason for poor productivity.
(b) I’m prone to procrastinate
Truthfully, this is a massive problem of mine. I like to fuck around. If I had a superhero name it would have to be The Procrastinator Dominator.
In an attempt to avoid doing whatever it is I know I should be doing but don’t do, I do something I know I should probably not do but do do. Haha. Doo-Doo. That’s poo.
(c) I’m easily distracted
See what I did there?
I procrastinate to avoid getting started, and then when I do get started, I struggle to keep going for periods any longer than two hours at a time because of Doo-Doo. In other words, I struggle to maintain focus because Doo-Doo makes me think of poo and that makes me laugh because at heart I’m still seven years old.
(Un)fortunately if you’re anything like me, a perpetual seven-year old, then you’ll know this pain / pleasure. You too will see the world with near fresh eyes. You too will understand the difficulty of living in a world with all this distracting cool shit to see and hear and do.
Through my eyes the world is a total fucking miracle. I mean, have you ever really thought about it? The absurdity of being on a crust just floating within a vast blackness that the only dude who seemed to know anything about just exited? It’s ridionkulous. It makes no fucking sense. None at all. And don’t try to convince me that it does. Because it fucking doesn’t. Despite this, I still really love to talk about it (the Universe). However, I haven’t seemed to progress any further in conversational ability than ‘seventeen-year-old-stoner-level’ “woah man, it’s soooo, like, huge and shit”. Unless you’re an Alien or Octopus (possibly the same thing), this is probably as deep as you’ve gotten with it too. That guy I was talking about earlier who recently called it quits, Stephen Hawking, he probably knew a fraction more. But I hazard only a small fraction. Something like 1/18298462187631672942. But don’t quote me on that.
This lens through which I see the world is a real joy sometimes. Like when I’m looking at a caterpillar munching away on a leaf and I begin to contemplate just how fucking remarkable it is that this slug looking thing is chomping on this green thing and all this is only made possible because of some big yellow-ball-of-fire thing thousands of miles away, and I’m standing there witnessing it all happen! But, it’s also a real pain in the ass other times when I’m meant to be doing adult-type-shit like working, paying bills, and then doo-doo makes me think of poo-poo which makes me laugh which makes me forget what it was I was meant to be doo-doo-ing…
I like Kinder surprises
This may not sound like a challenge. But, trust me, this is the hardest of them all.
Why do I like Kinder surprises? Simple:
2. You get a toy.
Seriously, what’s not to like?
In other words, you know partly what you’re getting (some chocolate), and partly not (a mystery toy not-suitable-for-three-year-old-children but definitely suitable for Seven year olds).
What’s this got to do with life? It’s two-pronged:
If I know too much of what’s going on, life is boring.
If I don’t know enough of what’s going on, life is chaos.
I desire to live life like a Kinder surprise, with a little bit of chocolate (knowing what’s going on), and a little bit of mystery toy (not knowing what is going on). Too much chocolate turns me into a fat depressed lazy fuck. Too much mystery toy turns me into an irresponsible six year old.
Kinder’s are perfectly balanced between boring and mystery. I’m not. This is why I respect and love Kinder surprises… because, striking this balance is a right fucking hard thing to do. Also because they’re delicious and you get a toy.
6. Every other person seems to have their shit together except me
Literally. Everyone. Except me. Facebook and Instagram tells me as much.
But, that’s life!
If there’s one thing that achieves one seventy fifth of fuck all its complaining about shit (you can quote me on this, I’ve run the math, it’s legit). Negative energy is as useful as tits on a bull, and as pleasant to the palate as sucking on a fat ballerina’s toes. Got no time for it. So, don’t come up in my grill with it eh? I don’t want to hear it. Go suck those toes somewhere else please.
The question remains: what to do about these challenges? How to overcome them?
I’ve always been competitive, and so I like the idea of gamification. I choose to view the challenges I’ve outlined above as Bosses within a game.
What game am I playing?
What types of bosses are there in the game?
There’s broadly two types of bosses.
The bosses you don’t get to choose
These bosses are the parts of yourself that you don’t have much say over. They are part of who you are. Although I’m cautious about believing we are born certain way, there are certainly parts and quirks of who we are that seem to come with the machinery we’ve been given (such as my propensity for swingy moods, creative vs rational brain battles, and deep feels). Certain parts aren’t easily replaceable because they seem to be welded to the chassis.
The bosses you do get to choose
These are the bosses you choose to pick fights with. Some kind of goal, or new endeavour within the game. Typically, something outside of yourself. Things within the game you can go after. Optional challenges if you will. Whether it be a new job, a new career path, a relationship, a business venture, a project, running a marathon, learning to chess-box, taming a lion, hunting for unicorns…literally anything you can think of.
I’d like to talk about the bosses you don’t get to choose because I reckon these are the most important to overcome. If you wish to move your ass into the space where you’re able to choose the bosses you wish to fight, first you’ve got to figure out how to beat, or at least subdue, the ones you don’t get any say over. Otherwise, right when you’re neck deep in a battle about to lose to an optional boss (for example attempting to write a novel) and you’re channelling your inner comic book hero to strike the winning blow right at the last second when it seems all odds are stacked against you, one of the bosses you didn’t get to choose will pop up and kick you in the ribs and laugh in your face. Then you’ll cry because you’re seven years old and it hurts to get kicked in the ribs. No one wants that.
How to fight non-chosen bosses?
This is the approach I’ve adopted toward the boss battles with non-chosen bosses:
Recognise who the most crucial bosses to battle at this very moment in life are
This is hard. You got to do a deep dive within to find this information. In my experience, this seems to be a place many of us avoid because we’re afraid monsters might be hiding in there. Truth is, they are. And that’s the whole fucking point. The monsters are the bosses. Go find them. So, you can kick their ass. If you don’t, you’ll just end up kicking around in the dark like a total fuckwit. Maybe you’ll get lucky and kick a boss in the shin, but that’s just going to piss him off. I’ll freely admit, I’m notoriously bad at this (which, by contrast means I’m good at lying to myself). Right now I reckon there’s a tonne of bosses I’m intentionally keeping myself in the dark over, intentionally choosing to fight with the admittedly poor kick-around-in-the-dark-like-a-fuckwit strategy because the prospect of confronting them makes me want to shit my pants…
Take ownership of the fight
You can’t pay someone to fight your battle. They aren’t you, which means two things: (a) they can never care as much as you do that you succeed in defeating your boss; and (b) they’re pre-occupied with their own battles against bosses you don’t even know about. This is not to say others can’t help you to fight the bosses. It is to say, others cannot take charge of the fight. You’ve got to lead yourself into battle.
Enlist an epic team of Power Rangers to help you
Or the Hulk. Or Batman. Or Pikachu. Or whoever. Someone who’s beaten the boss you’re trying to beat is always a good place to start. If you don’t know anyone who’s beaten your boss, no biggie. Other people can help, even if it is just by listening. You already know the answers. That is to say, you already know how to defeat the boss you’re battling but because you’re an idiot blinded by your own stupidity you can’t see the answers sitting under your nose. Having people (friends, family, therapist) who are willing to non-judgementally listen to you ramble incoherently will most certainly help you find the answers you’re too stupid to see.
Don’t beat yourself up for being a Backslide-Bandit
You know how above I wrote about how I’ve recently discovered the most crucial thing for me is to maintain a regular sleep schedule? Yeah… well… so… about that… Ummm. Last weekend I stayed up until 4:30am, and midnight respectively. Woke up at 10am one day, and 9:30am the next. #BackslideBanditoBaby. This literally fucked my entire week up. I felt like shit multiple days during the week because of it. And have vowed not to let it happen again (I’ve even imposed upon myself a personal penalty system as a result, committing to charging myself $25 toward paying off my student loan for every half hour after 11pm I’m not in bed). #Grandaditobaby #nomorebackslidebaby.
You’re going to shit the bed. Guarantee it. Everyone does. Some more than others. In other words, you will backslide. Personally, sometimes I feel like my diet must be 94% diuretics, 6% chocolate. I’m the king of the bed-shit. Done it professionally. Done it personally. Done it in pretty much every way imaginable. And multiple times too. And you know what? I’ll fucking do it again! So, what? When I shit the bed, all that really does is make me appreciate washing machines. Wash off the shit. Try again. Don’t lament yourself for being a Bed Shitter – that helps no one, and doesn’t help clean the sheets either.
So, what happens when you win the battle?
They make a movie about you.
Nothing happens. Nothing at all. You get to pat yourself on the back. That’s honestly about it. But, that’s not to say that a pat on the back doesn’t feel good. And if you’re the one who’s giving it, it feels a lot better than one given by someone else.
When do the bosses stop appearing?
Even if you’ve been gifted with ZERO non-chosen bosses (I don’t see how this would be possible…), you still have to deal with the ones you choose. And they’ll never stop.
Life is a never-ending procession through these mini-battles and mega-battles against Bosses. If you’re anything like me, you’ll defeat a Boss, raise both fists in the air in triumph and look to the sky. Suddenly Queen will start blasting from a stereo somewhere (probably inside your own head) “Don’t stop me now, Don’t stop me now, Because I’m having a good time…” …
And then the music slowly begins to fade away, and with it, so too do the feelings of triumph. Which leaves space to look around and see what’s going on. Of course, standing right there is another Boss smiling smugly like an ass hole. Sometimes a brand-new one you didn’t even know existed, sometimes an old one you thought you’d defeated. Always a fuck knuckle.
For me, some non-chosen mega-bosses I’ve battled I’ve mostly kicked to the curb. Binge-Drinking Boss being one of the baddest of them all. I like to think I’ve beaten his ass way down. High five to that! But I also try to live by a philosophy of not celebrating too soon… now the Sugar Boss, with its sweet tender embrace is looking me directly in the eyes, “You beat Binge Drinking Boss. But he was only a level 1 boss. I’m level 2 bitch. Got horns and shit. You can’t defeat the sweet. I’ll fuck you up Hombre.”
I wonder, is this the way it is for others too?
Do others have to fight Bosses, or is it just me?
“Life is suffering” is the common translation of the First Noble Truth of Buddhism.
I’m by no means a Buddhist, to say such a thing would offend every Buddhist everywhere who’s ever lived. But I have grown to believe in the truth of this statement. We’re all human, which is enough to convince me the first noble truth of Buddhism is true. Life is suffering.
Others everywhere are battling away. Everyone is. That’s life. Despite what the perfectly curated Instagrams and Facebooks would have you believe, it ain’t all rainbows and butterflies out there. It’s hard fucking work. When things are going well, a relative or loved one dies. When we land a new job, we lose a relationship. When you shit the bed, it just so happens you’ve got diarrhoea.
But, I believe there is a tiny element of choice involved. We choose to suffer. There exists within each of us the ability to let go, and to live in the present moment. To enjoy everything life has to offer, which includes the pain. But we struggle to find it. We struggle to find now. We push and pull against it. Clinging to pleasant feelings. Pushing away or running from negative ones. Reminiscing over the past, when we were full of youth and everything was great. Striving for future, when things will be better than they are now. All this back and forth takes us away from precisely where we need to be. It takes us away from NOW.
The thing is, I know all this to be true. Intellectually speaking. Live in the now. Yada, Yada. I know this. Deeply. I do. I get it. Yet, sometimes when I’m in the moment I can’t help but forget all about the moment (such as when in full-blown Rabid-Werewolf-mode with block of choc in hand)… know what I mean?
And so, I too battle away tirelessly.
Maybe you do the same. Maybe not with Sweet Sugary Nectar Bosses like me. Certainly, I know a lot of people who don’t seem nearly as affected by such things. Gawd damn these people make me jelly. How can you say no to that piece of brownie? Seriously? How!!?? Teach me!!!
But maybe you’re battling other things, like a Crappy Job Boss, a Debbie Downer Depression Boss, an Antsy Anthony Anxiety Boss, a Shitty Relationship Boss, a Lazy Lackadaisical Larry Boss. I don’t know. That’s your business. Whatever it is, it may have you wondering…
What’s wrong with me?
It’s called being human.
For much of my life, and admittedly sometimes still today, I’ve thought of the world as this place put here to make me feel good. I realise how fucking disgusting that may sound, but I’m just being honest. With this belief in mind, whenever the world would start to shit on me, instead of realising Life is Suffering and therefore thinking “oh, the world is shitting on me again, better get my shitcoat and saddle up”, I’d wonder “why do I feel this way? what’s wrong with me?”
LOL, well, nothing’s wrong, because…
Life is suffering
The world is here to throw Bosses at you and make you cry, not to make you feel good. It ain’t here to gratify you. It’s just here. That’s it. Nothing more. End sentence. Fulla Stoppus (Latin for: Full Stop, meaning end of sentence). [Note: that last part was Bull-Shittus, which is Latin for Bullshit, meaning I made it up].
At times the sun will be shining on you. And you’ll probably feel good. At times shit will be raining on you. And you’ll probably feel not so good.
Part of it is about understanding you’re going to get shit on a lot. Acknowledging this and still choosing to carry a positive attitude with you into battle, maybe with a shit-coat and shit-goggles to help avoid getting crap on yourself and in your eyes, but that’s about the best you can do.
Instead of doing this, my default has been the ‘something is wrong with me’ approach. This stems from the falsely held belief that the world is here to make me feel good. If you believe the world is here to make you feel good, when you feel bad you won’t attribute fault to the world, you’ll attribute fault to yourself, because the world is here to make you feel good, hencethereforth it must be your fault you feel bad.
Certainly, this is the case for myself. And with a default that tells me something must be wrong with me when I’m fighting a Boss and getting my ass kicked, my default way of dealing with the Bosses I’m fighting is to try to cover them up lest someone else see my flaws (the ‘somethings’ I perceive to be wrong with me). In other words, to suppress, ignore and/or hide my Boss battles away so other people can’t see who it is I’m fighting against. In other words, to “pretend-perfect”.
“Me, fighting a boss? Hah! No way Hombre. I’m like Superman, except without the cape” I say as I wipe my face to clear away the odd concoction of guilt and shame smeared across my face from the six milky bars, two bottles of coke and bag of lollies I’ve just engaged Rabid-Werewolf-mode on seconds earlier…
If you buy into the First Noble Truth of Buddhism, then the game of Life for each of us is actually all about Suffering through our unique battles and trying as best we can to triumph. There ain’t nothing wrong with you or me for this. Our only real fault lies in an insistence on holding onto the misguided belief that the world is here to make us feel good…
So why do we pretend perfect?
Not sure really. To me it seems to be a weird game of chicken.
You see, if one person portrays themselves as Superman or Wonder Woman on Instagram / Facebook / whatevs, it sends out the message to the world that they’ve got all their shit together. That they are totally self-reliant. That Life is Not Suffering for them. This makes others want to do the same lest they appear less “shit-togethery”, which makes others want to do the same as them, which makes others want to do the same as them… which… you get the point. And so we end up with this vicious cycle of perfection-toting, where everyone is saying they’re perfect and no one is admitting they’re suffering. This weird game of Chicken then creates this weird fucked up community of imperfect people insisting on their perfection…
But, what does this really do for us?
Two thirds of one fifth of a bull’s testicle times zero. Fuck all. That’s what.
We end up having to live up to these perfectly-curated creations of ourselves which are total and utter Bull Shittus, which in turn makes everyone else who knows they aren’t perfect feel miserable. This causes problems because when the Shittus starts to hit the Fannus (Latin for ‘fan’) – which it undoubtedly will – we begin to find that because we’ve insisted on our perfection, there’s not many people for us to turn to for help.
In other words, the propensity to perfection-tote costs us something very important: a supportive community.
Well, do you want to be part of a community of people who insist they’re perfect? Because I don’t. That sounds fucking terrible to me. Not to mention total 100% Bull-Shittus.
I know the truth of the matter is a Boss has just caused you to literally Shittus your pants and some is now trickling down your legs, so why come at me with the Bull Shittus?
Is it actually just me who’s shat his pants?
Is it actually just me who’s kicking around in the dark like a fuckwit?
Is it actually just me who admits I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing?
Is it actually just me who struggles to remain rooted in the present moment?
Is it actually just me who suffers?
Somehow, I highly doubt it.
Perhaps we choose to perfectly curate our Instagrams and Facebooks because we wish to believe we are perfect. Perhaps we want SOOOOOOOOOOOO bad for our shit to be perfect, so we can avoid admitting to ourselves that it ain’t. Or maybe more-so, to avoid having to admit to ourselves that we ain’t… OH, DEAR LORD NO… HEAVEN AND HOLY WATER FORBID, I AM PERFECT!!!
“Perfection is shallow, unreal, and fatally uninteresting” – Anne Lamott
Perfection is perfectly Bull-Shittus.
To portray ourselves as such seems to lead only to more suffering for ourselves (as we can’t keep up the ridiculous image of ourselves we’ve created) and others (who believe the ridiculous image we’ve portrayed and so by comparison feel inadequate). Who the fuck wants to see your perfectly curated Instagram or Facebook while they’ve just indulged in the ultimate backslide and are lying on the couch as a hungover paralytic-sea-cucumber with Rabid-Werewolf mode engaged on a bucket of KFC?
No one. That’s who.
So, if we accept Life is Suffering, and that Bosses are coming for us, what strategies should we employ to fight them?
Pick a strategy
Try to remain present throughout the battle
But, what strategy?
I told you mine above. It might work for you. It might not. Different strategies will work for different people. This might have you thinking “so, what then I’ve got to figure it out on my own??”. Well, yeah, to a certain extent. But, not all the way.
We live in a world that worships self-reliance. Intuitively, you’d think this would be a good strategy for fighting Bosses. I myself have tried it multiple times against multiple different Bosses. But this strategy sucks. Employing this strategy is like trying to win a game of Snap by snapping the cards with your forehead. It takes longer to snap the cards than if you used your hand, while you also risk knocking yourself out. An adherence to a strategy of stringent self-reliance is a fucking lousy strategy for fighting Bosses.
Despite my tendency to write like a drunken Moose, I do appreciate some good old-fashioned cold-hard logic. And when it comes to fighting Bosses, “1 v Boss” simply isn’t as logical a choice as “Multiple v Boss”. In other words, adopting a strategy of stringent self-reliance is silly. Logically speaking.
Recently, I’ve decided to be more open with the people around me about my struggles (read as: less perfection-toting, more Shittus toting). And I’ve found it helps a great deal. It’s amazing some of the insights people have to offer. It’s shocking to me to hear just how much other people aren’t actually self-reliant at all. Like a friend who recently bought a house, something that seems incomprehensible to me as a Millenial, but who also told me they’d received substantial financial help from their parents in order to do so. Or my other friend who once owned his own business, but admitted he was gifted a bunch of gear without which he could never have gotten started. People rely on other people for support, because it’s EFFing hard to go it alone.
The issue is, we can only help each other fight these Bosses if we know who the fudge-popsicle it is we’re all fighting. I can’t help you fight Crappy Job Boss if you don’t tell me about it, much the same as you can’t help me fight the Sugar Boss if I don’t tell you about it.
If you can somehow couple your self-reliance in terms of coming up with your own Boss-battling strategies, with a strong (and real, not perfectly Bull-Shittus) community to support your attempts to implement the strategies you’ve come up with, I’d say you’ll be giving yourself some pretty good odds of defeating your Boss. This may seem obvious. But, honestly, I don’t know that it is. Sometimes it’s hard to see past the perfectly-bullshit Facebooks and Instagrams out there.
Despite how bad this may sound, I find great comfort in knowing that other people struggle with Bosses and shit running down their legs too. Not because I wish for them to experience discomfort. But because it makes me feel less alone knowing the perfectly curated Facebooks and Instagrams are fronts. Truth is, I’m not the only one battling Bosses while shit trickles down my legs.
Or… maybe I am, and by admitting so I’ve just embarrassed myself.
Whatevs man. I don’t give a Flying Fuckapotomus.
Life for me ain’t all rainbows and butterflies. In fact, most of the time it’s a bunch of different Bosses trying to kick me in the ribs and make me cry. I do my best to remain present throughout each battle. Present in the struggle with a positive attitude. But I’ll admit, every now and again the Sugar Boss’s sweet tender embrace happens to get the better of me…
“Language…has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” – Paul Tillich
When my relationship of five years ended a feeling I’d not encountered before arose within me. The feeling screamed at me: you need time to be alone! I felt I needed time to myself. I needed solitude. I didn’t know or understand why. I just remember saying to myself “I need two years, minimum. Two years by myself. Just me. Mark-time.”
I’d literally never had any time to myself. Went from being a baby, to High School, to a relationship, to University, to a job, to another relationship, to another job, to still being a baby. But, throughout it all I’d never really been alone. Never been forced to fend for myself in life. Ever.
I won’t lie, the prospect of facing the big bad World alone scared the Beetle Juice out of me! But, I strongly felt it was something I needed to do.
Firstly, I’d like to say I’ve noticed there’s a bit of a misconception and confusion regarding the distinction between loneliness and solitude. I’ve come to appreciate a Grand Canyon’s width of separation exists between solitude and loneliness. The canyon is born from and carved by the currents of intention. Solitude is self-imposed, it is something that is chosen. Loneliness isn’t.
If someone tells you they long for solitude, they aren’t telling you they long to be alone. They are telling you they long to be with themselves (in a non-Harvey-Weinstein-in-the-corner kind of way…). They are telling you they wish to be in their own company.
The solitude I’d asked for was delivered to me in abundance. However, just because you ask for something, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for it… In my pursuit of alone-time, I moved from an environment with friends, co-workers, and family all around me to one with literally NONE of that nearby (a new country and new professional path). I’ll be the first to admit, it was a little bit of an ill-advised leap… turned out to be harder than Hugh Heffner post-20-Blue-Pills on a Saturday night at the Playboy Mansion (I was going to go with “stiffer than Hugh Heffner on his death bed”, but I thought that a little tasteless…).
The good and bad thing about life is that it works in paradoxes. When shit is hitting the fan, you better believe it sucks to get smacked in the face with crap, but it’s that same shit you’re getting pelted with that will be the exact reason why you’ve got a raincoat on hand for the next time shit gets thrown into the fan. On the other side of the coin, when life is rainbows and unicorns I guarantee you you’re probably not learning much, so you might as well have a cup of coffee and enjoy it while it lasts.
In other words, near impossibly difficult things teach you the most. Horrendously easy things teach you the least. The lessons solitude offered me were like mathematical integration (seriously, who the fuck is able to do that?). Which by connection, means it taught me a lot.
It taught me how to:
1. Tune into my inner-frequency
I have greater internal understanding. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Joy. Fear. Whatever I’m feeling inside, I’m able to tune in and listen. It’s about having an awareness of the feeling inside me, and being able to sit with it.
Let me use something we all know and loathe in ourselves and in others as an example: Anger. When I feel anger brewing inside, instead of blaming my external situation for my anger (this person, that thing, this traffic jam, whatever), I’m often able to stop and ask: Mark, why is it you are feeling angry right now?
Most of the time it’s just because I’m hungry. Or tired. In fact, I’ve run the numbers. 97.34% of the time it’s due to one of these things… that’s just a rough estimate though.
I’ve also gained a sliver of separation from my anger. I’m aware I have a choice. A silly emotion like anger is slowly losing its power over me. It’s easy to see anger in others, it’s not so easy to see it in ourselves. Especially if we are already possessed by it. How many times have you been talking to someone who you think is angry, and after mentioning this to them, they yell in your face spitting pieces of popcorn at you “WHAT!? ME?? ANGRY?? NO… I’M NOT ANGRY!!!”
Okay chief… whatever you say. I’m going to go sit over here now…
2. Be comfortable in my own company (i.e. when alone)
If I find myself sitting at home alone on a Saturday night reading a book… I’m quite okay with that. Actually, a lot of the time I’d choose this.
I enjoy myself. I enjoy my own company. I guess this is one way of saying that I’m able to be alone amongst my own thoughts without feeling lonely. In fact, I’ve learnt I actually NEED to do this – it’s part of who I am. I need more time alone than most. However, I must say being alone for too long is not a good idea…
3. Care less about stupid shit
What if I have no one to go out to dinner with? What if I’m seen eating by myself? What if I have to eat dinner alone?
Once upon a time these were real considerations for me. These thoughts might stop me from eating out, even though that’s what I wanted to do. Not anymore (most of the time). Eating out is a trivial thing of course. And I do still care very much about what people think of me in many situations… Not convinced I’ll ever totally not care about what other people think.
This caring used to take the form of what people thought about me in terms of how successful I was in their eyes – what kind of job I had, what kind of house I lived in, what kind of car I drove (actually, to be fair I never really cared about this, but the other two, for sure). I don’t really give a fuck anymore about any of that shit. My values don’t revolve around external garbage. Their internally oriented.
I value genuine humans. Honesty. Character. If you can’t be genuine with me, I’ll know it, and because of this I’ll struggle to value your company. It’s a pretty simple formula really. Life’s too short for horse shit and nonsense.
4. Appreciate the people around me
When you’re alone and the ship hits a rock, it feels like the titanic’s hitting the iceberg.
“Nooooo…. Jack!!!! Don’t die!! I love you!!”
We all need support. I thought I could go it alone.
I did for a time.
But, can’t forever.
Solitude taught me it’s stupid to try. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s rather foolish to have ever thought I could.
We all need support. We all need friends, family etc. We all need community. That last piece is something I see sorely lacking from today’s world.
To me, this means being more open in sharing my journey with others – to ask for help when I need it, and to lean on others when I’m feeling wobbly. Playing the strong independent motherfucker may make you feel tough, but it doesn’t really help much when the shiznit hits the fan and crap flies in your eyes. At that point you need someone to pass you a hanker-chief.
5. To be grateful
Solitude taught me to be grateful for what I have, rather than resentful for what I have-not.
At one point in time I had everything I thought I wanted (a “great” job, partner, house, ability to move up in career) and I was miserable. So, I blew that shit up because I’m an idiot who got his hands on some dynamite. I learnt through solitude that it is not the things we have that make us happy, but rather how we choose to perceive them.
Choosing to focus on what I have, as opposed to what I have-not, has changed my view of the world in a rather magical way. It has literally re-engineered my internal narrative. Whereas the internal narrative used to pipe on about a bunch of bullshit “you’re not doing enough, you don’t have enough, blah, blah”, it now pipes a different tune, “look at the amazing friends and family you have”.
Though to be fair, it’s very much still a work in progress. It takes a LOT of practice. I’ll admit that when I’m tired, being grateful for anything other than a bed becomes rather difficult… but it’s still possible. In order to practice, I keep a gratitude journal within which I write something each day that I’m thankful for – whether it be a friend, family member, a nice dinner, a hot shower, the sun, a McD’s McFlurry, whatever. Every day I do this. Because every day there’s something to be grateful for.
I guess you could say it’s all about moving from being a Negative-Nancy to being a Positive-Paul by choosing to adopt a different perspective.
In a job you hate? Be thankful you have a job.
Don’t have a job? Be thankful for your temporary freedom.
Flat tyre? Be thankful you didn’t crash.
Are you healthy? Because that’s enough to fill an entire journal. Be thankful for this. Very fucking thankful.
Don’t have an ice-cream at the beach? What the fuck is wrong with you? Go get one! Also… be thankful for being at the beach.
Balding? Fuck… I feel you. I’m still figuring out how to spin this one in a positive light.
And that’s that. I guess I should say, thanks for reading!
So my last post on ditching office life was mad-hectic bold and everything, truth is, as with any big change, there are two guys competing for the limelight of conscious attention:
This guy wrote the last post. He genuinely does not give a flying Fuckapotamus (a mythical creature made of the rarest substance known to man: fucks-not-given) about what people think of him. He does what he thinks is right, understands he’s often wrong, and puts his best efforts forward to deal with the consequences. He does not bow to baseless custom, contrived social construct, or arbitrary rule. This dude is a bad ass.
The Little Bitch (aka Fear)
This is the guy who sat quietly, sniggering to himself in the corner while No-Fucks-Given was banging away on the keyboard, smugly saying to himself “we’ll see… we’ll see…”. He disguises his true nature under the veil of pragmatism. Truth is, this dude is a Little Bitch. I will refer to him only as Fear from here on out. Little Bitch seems a little vulgar, even by my standards.
Let’s use a worked example to see how he (or she if you’re a female… my version is a dude, because… I’m a dude) operates. The other day I was sitting at home, staring at my mobile phone. I was gripped by nervousness, wanting to pick up the phone to contact somebody I didn’t know about something I knew nothing about but was EXTREMELY interested in. While staring at the phone, wondering whether it might dial itself, I was hit by a cataclysm of thought:
How will the conversation go? What if it goes badly? What happens if I fuck it all up? What if I say something stupid? Worse, what if this dude realises I’m stupid? Or even worse, what happens if the call is interrupted by a giant space-monkey firing laser beams from his eye-balls throwing faeces at me?
Or… what if I call the guy and say “Hey, this is Mark”. What then?
What then indeed…
Fear was the cataclysm’s mastermind. The guy pulling the strings, conspiring to wreak havoc upon any possibility of positive action. In other words, Fear was the one preventing me from picking up the phone.
He’s the guy that, when you’re about to do the thing you absolutely unequivocally must do, finds a way to make sure you don’t. My version of Fear uses misguided pragmatism and faulty rationalisation as his main weapons of choice in his personal vendetta against positive action. Unfortunately, far too often he draws blood.
Fear is the guy that when you’re about to sign up for the kickboxing class you’ve always wanted to do, comes into the room and says “do you really want to do that? what if you embarrass yourself”. He does this despite knowing full well the one thing you’ve always wanted to do is channel your inner Jean-Claude Van-Damme to learn how to kick someone in the head.
Fear is a bit of an ass hole like that, but he’s there for a reason. He’s not just some jerk who tells you not to do the crazy shit you’ve been thinking about doing – that’s called a Dad (kidding – love you Dad). Fear is there to guide you, only he does this in his own backwards-ass way. Let me explain.
Fear used to be responsible for telling us what not to do: Don’t go near that long brown thing hissing at you. Run from that big snarling cat which is clearly telling you to fuck-off right quick. Don’t touch hot stoves. Make sure Steve from Accounts doesn’t send out the report using incorrect font again. What? He already did? HOLY FUCK THE WORLD’S GOING TO BURN. SOMEONE DO SOMETHING. CALL THE COPS. NO. CALL THE PRESIDENT!
Wait… no need to grab the font by the pussy. Never mind.
Fear recently got a new job title. A promotion if you will. And with it, his job description has changed. Drastically. I know you’re as confused as I am, but don’t believe the email signature, he just forgot to update it. He’s not working his old gig anymore.
Because we’re not either.
A great many of us (Westerners) don’t need to worry about actual-real-life dangerous stuff like Snakes and Lions anymore. Instead, we have to worry about Hot Stoves and Steve’s from Accounts. Not so dangerous. Fear used to help protect us from Lions and Snakes. He was useful. These days with Lions and Snakes meta-morphing into Hot Stoves and Steve’s from Accounts he’s more of a hindrance.
We live in an overly sanitized world, where, if you don’t want to do anything scary, like fight a Lion, then you literally don’t have to. But does that mean you shouldn’t?
Well, that’s up to you I guess. I, for one, have tried this. No, not fighting a Lion. The other thing – the not doing anything scary. While not doing anything scary, I felt very safe, but at the same time mind-numbingly bored. The boredom of it drove me into a state of deep despair (true story). Boredom, as it turns out, is not so good for the soul.
“In actual fact, boredom is now causing more problems to solve than distress. And these problems are growing increasingly crucial, for progressive automation will probably lead to an enormous increase in the leisure hours available to the average worker. The pity of it is that many of these will not know what to do with all their newly acquired free time.” – Victor E. Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning
The Robots! THEY TOOK OUR JOOOOOOOOOOBS!!!
Technological advances are ripping jobs right out of our hands. These advances have forced Fear to rethink how he operates. Perhaps it’s time we did the same?
But, oh no, heaven forbid we should be afforded more free-time. What on Earth will we do with ourselves!? Talk to each other and shit? Be forced to contemplate the unfathomable beauty of nature, or a single leaf for that matter? No. Don’t. Anything but that. Give me some mind-numbing shit so I can waste my time. Please. I beg you.
Quit begging. You don’t want that.
How do I know this?
Because I recently went after some mind-numbing shit. Fear’s faulty rationalisation led me down this path. And it was not good. Not good at all. You simply cannot afford to chase mind-numbing. It will literally destroy you Snowflake.
And yes, I just called you Snowflake. Not because you’re precious and unique (you’re not), but because you’re made to float in the sky!
You see Snowflake, floating in the sky is where you are meant to be. In order to get there, you must find the thing (or things) that make you feel that way – like you’re floating in the sky. And do them. Your SOUL begs it of you.
If you don’t, a friend I know intimately may begin to settle in. His name is Despair. And he’s the real ass hole. Despair is not a guy you want to be spending your time with. Trust me on this one… I may write like a drunken-Moose, but about this, I know what I’m talking about.
If you don’t know what it is that will lift your soul to the sky, I have a handy tip to help you on your way: follow Fear.
“What you are afraid to do is a clear indication of the next thing you need to do” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Don’t worry, he’s rocking that new job title. He’s not the guy he used to be. He won’t lead you into Mr Death’s arms (unless of course your version of Fear wants to fight a Lion. I wouldn’t recommend this. The transition from dealing with Steves from Accounts to fighting lions is a bit of a jump…maybe start with a phone call you’ve been putting off instead. Baby steps baby. Baby steps.).
So… you may be wondering, who am I to tell you all this? Truthfully… No one. Just some dick head with a keyboard. You shouldn’t listen to me at all. I don’t even know my own address.
You should listen to Fear.
Fear is here to tell you what-to-do. Not what not-to-do. He’ll lead you away from Despair. So, go after him when he shows himself. And if you find his presence lacking, seek out his company. The guys a bit of a prick to be around, but he’s there to help.
Fear knows exactly what it is you need to do – it’s the opposite of what he tells you.
Putting aside the not-so-subtle #pleasecongratulatemeforexercising nature of the above statement, I’ve genuinely never done this before in my life. Ever. Mainly because:
I hate running
I hate running
I hate running
It was raining
Did I mention I hate running?
I’ve always loathed running, mainly because it seems such a purposeless thing. Running for the sake of running. Why do such a thing? It’s boring. It hurts your joints. It’s tiring. Etcetera.
I could’ve sat inside, in the warmth and eaten breakfast with a coffee. Why go outside, punish myself and get wet? I had the option to relax. Why decide to swim laps in the bath tub?
Mainly because fuck how it feels, fact is, it’s a good thing to do. Exercise = good. Good luck coming up with arguments to discredit this nugget of wisdom.
I ran to a park you could mistake for a farm (if not for the massive hill with a phallic sculpture on top) due all the sheep and cows roaming around, and did a mini-lap of one section of one part of the park. And when I say mini-lap, I mean MINI-LAP. It took me eight minutes to run to the park, five minutes to do the mini-lap, and eight minutes to run home. That’s a short-ass run. Mainly because… did I mention I hate running?
As I ran, a confused concoction of rain and sweat formed all over my body. I closed my eyes and felt it all. The rain, the ground at my feet, the sensations of my body, and my breath. It sounds a little corny doesn’t it? Well, it was.
During my mini-park loop I found myself hit a zen-like stride. I was running on a blackened tar-sealed road, green grass and trees sprawling either side, no cars anywhere in sight. I felt tired and with this feeling a thought popped into my mind to stop and walk a little. I chose to let that thought go, and with its disappearance my feet continued to hit the ground in front of me.
I just kept going. And it felt good. Deep-fried-chicken-on-waffles-smothered-in-maple-syrup style good.
In this moment I felt like I was in my own Hollywood movie montage, like Rocky Balboa overcoming adversity by smacking up a cow carcass and fist pumping at the top of some steps. The rain-run might get me a whopping half a second of montage footage, but all this means is I’ll need to go beat up some cows next time…
Just before I ran around the final corner onto my street, I encountered a real Running Man. Short fluro shorts, tight singlet, floppy baseball cap, sweat band on forearm. The kind of dude who doesn’t give a F**K whether he looks like Richard Simmons in his running attire because he eats 6:45am Saturday morning runs in the rain for breakfast, then asks, “what’s next!?”.
Running Man saw me, and without breaking stride lifted his sweat-banded arm and nodded his head as if to say “I see you, running, 6:45am in the morning, Saturday, in the rain, in your short shorts. Respect… but where’s your sweatband at?”.
Of course, he didn’t say any of these things. I interpreted such things from a single hand wave, which could’ve meant anything… for all I know, he was just stretching his arm…
Misinterpretation or not, Running Man’s gesture was, at the very least, an acknowledgement. Of me. In the rain. Saturday. 6:45am. Running. An acknowledgement by Running Man, a dude running in the rain, that I too was there, running in the rain.
I’ve never in my life claimed myself a runner. And I won’t do so now. One run in the rain at 6:45am on a Saturday morning does not make one a runner.
But… does it really matter this was the first time in my life I’ve ever run in the rain on a Saturday morning? Fuck no it doesn’t. Who cares. Everyone has to start somewhere. No one is born a Demi-God of anything (except maybe Hercules, but I think he’s dead anyway so he’s not any competition). This is especially so when it comes to running… show me a baby who can run and I’ll show you a demon-child possessed by Satan.
I waved back, then ran around the corner toward home, which is precisely when this question popped into my head:
Am I a runner?
It’s Sunday now, and an added day’s wisdom has made me realise that’s a stupid question. This one’s better:
Christmas is over. Hopefully Santa paid you a visit!
Before Santa emptied his sack all over the planet I attended a work networking-thingi (a Christmas function). One of those things where you drink a few beers, see people you haven’t seen in a while, talk about how hard Christmas shopping is, how you haven’t done it yet, how bat-shit-crazy the shopping malls will be, how you wish you’d done it earlier, how much you’re looking forward to a break, and how much fun all the amazing stuff you’re going to get up to will be.
I don’t like those topics. They’re boring. Except for maybe the last one.
I prefer to relate on a more human level. Luckily, I managed to engage in a convo or two where the subject matter didn’t revolve around the contents of Santa’s sack.
Someone I worked with a while back was at the networking-thingi-ma-jig. During our time working together, this dude proved himself a hard worker and he always seemed to shine bright in a professional sense: a star within this particular galaxy if you will… He was promoted quickly, and well respected. Let’s call him Star.
Star and I struck up a conversation at this networking-thingi-ma-jig-a-doo. It’d been a few years since I’d seen him last. Physiologically, he looked pretty much the same, maybe an added wrinkle here, a threatening grey hair there. Despite the familiarity of appearance, I’ll be totally honest, I barely recognised him. Star was missing the shine I’d come to expect from him.
I sensed instead quite the opposite emanating. His energy was flat and he wreaked of tiredness. It was a little difficult for me to be around. I like the guy but I really don’t like seeing people in such a state. Perhaps because I’m a bit too familiar with the feeling, or perhaps because in this moment I could literally feel his feeling… most likely, a little of both.
We discussed his plans (in a life sense, not a ‘haven’t done my Christmas shopping yet’ sense), and in doing so I tried to get to the bottom of his flat energy. I’m not going to go into detail, but at one point he said to me:
“If you want to get ahead, you have to play the game. It’s tiring.”
What a “fat-dude post-curry consumption” statement that is. This ‘get ahead, play the game’ style phrase is pretty common… but I don’t really understand why.
I mean, possibly it makes sense in the context of someone who’s paid to play games…say an Olympic swimmer or a professional tennis player. For these peeps, playing a game is literally part of the job description. But even for them, I think this choice of words is a little off… mainly because of the context in which the words are usually used.
Let’s stick with swimming as an example. I don’t know shit about swimming – in fact, I’m terrible at it. I’m more of a drowner. But do your best to picture yourself as a pro-swimmer – if I can do it, so can you… As a pro-swimmer, if someone was to say to you ‘to get ahead, you have to play the game’, the game they’re referring to probably isn’t what happens in the pool, but rather what happens out of it.
The ‘game’ ain’t swimming. It’s the other crap.
This, I think, is what Star was referring to. When he said ‘play the game’, he wasn’t talking about swimming (i.e. ‘do good at X job’). He was talking about what happens outside the pool. He was talking about playing the people-game.
“Oh but Jenny said x,y,z about Brad, and Brad is doing this with Bill, which I wanted to do and Brad only did it because I wanted to do it, and don’t even get me started on…”
ZZZZZZZ. Please stop.
Personally, I don’t think ‘getting ahead’ has anything to do with playing the game. Not in a long-term sense anyhow. I mean, for example, if you want to ‘get ahead’ of your competition as an Olympic swimmer… then swim! A lot. Like, A LOT A LOT! It’s that simple really. Spend time in the pool. Not out of it.
In the case of Star, a dude working in an office, I REALLY don’t get it. Ahead of what exactly are we talking about here?
Interesting question, let’s explore:
To ‘get ahead’, you must be in front of something. Which means there must be a yardstick of some kind that you can point at and say “I’m ahead of this”.
The question then is: where’s the yardstick?
We’ll come back to this. For now, I’d like to share a second conversation (two conversations, fuck me frontways, that’s got to be a record for me…) I had with someone at this networking-thingi-ma-jig-a-doo-dee-doo-da-roo. Again, I hadn’t seen this dude for a few years. Within this particular galaxy this dude right now is shining unbelievably bright. Supernova-level bright.
Supernova and I got to talking about my new job, and from here about the new Manager I was working with:
“Who do you work with there?” asked Supernova.
“I work with Manager – she’s pretty new to the gig, which is nice. In it together a little… both floundering somewhat, you know?” I said.
“Oh, yeah, she’s your year isn’t she?” said Supernova.
My year? Huh?
How old are we here? High School’s firmly in the rear-view mirror for me. I don’t give a flying fuckapotomus how old anyone is any more. Once someone hits 25, if it’s okay with you (or even if it’s not), it’s all the same to me.
Supernova and I engaged in such a way that I got the sense Supernova thought my Manager, by virtue of being the same age as me while also being my boss, was somehow ‘ahead’ of me.
I don’t see things this way…
People often give me sideways looks these days. I’m only just realising now I’m not getting sideways looks at all…it’s because I’ve got sideways vision. Linearity isn’t really my jam. While my Manager is ahead of me in a linear sense (married, kids, makes more money, has more professional responsibilities), it doesn’t feel this way to me. I don’t want her marriage, her kids, her job or her professional responsibilities. Holy Hot Tamales…I sound like a real bum don’t I? I’ve got a car… does that cut the cheese?
So what if my Manager is the same age as me? I couldn’t give a sausage in a sausage factory about it.
This second conversation to me highlights where Star’s ‘get ahead, play the game’ statement is coming from. It’s coming from a poor choice of yardstick… the yardstick he’s chosen to measure himself against is a dude named Bob (I’ll introduce Bob in more detail soon). Or more generally speaking, Star’s chosen to try to ‘get ahead’ of someone else.
I understand why Star chose to measure himself against Bob. I’ve chosen similar yardsticks many times. They’re easy. They don’t require much independent thought… all you really have to do is look around and point at someone and say “there!”
I think this way of selecting yardsticks is a knee-jerk reaction to the “I don’t know what to do” conundrum. But what you may not realise is that by pointing at someone and saying “there” you’re unconsciously implying that the person you point at knows what they’re doing.
Newsflash: Despite appearances, not many people know what the fuck they’re doing…
If you choose to adopt the “point and there!” approach to yardstick selection, you’ll eventually encounter a pretty catastrophic issue. Eventually you’ll make it to the yardstick you pointed at. That’s not the issue. The issue is you won’t have any wood in your hands.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s stick with Star and Bob to explain. Star chose Bob as his yardstick. Star at some point, if he persists, will find himself standing next to Bob – next to the yardstick he chose way back when (oh, I forgot to mention, picture this is all happening on the beach… because… I like beaches).
When Star chose Bob as his yardstick, Bob was just some dude in the distance who Star pointed at. As Bob was so far in the distance, what Star couldn’t see was that Bob was holding a piece of wood in his hands. Star also couldn’t see that Bob was busy drawing lines in the sand with said piece of wood.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been there a few times now, standing next to someone else’s lines in the sand, with nothing but sand in my hands, thinking “what the actual fuck!? how did this happen? No one told me I needed a piece of wood. Where’s my wood? Someone call the cops!”.
Something I realised, once I found myself standing next to my yardstick (i.e.Star’s Bob-equivalent) with wood-less hands, was that I had two options:
Point somewhere else and say “there!”; or
Ask Bob for his wood.
Nothing wrong with point 1. Wood is heavy.
The thing about point 2 is: once you’re standing next to Bob and politely ask him whether you can use his piece of wood, he’s going to tell you to get fucked. Truly. He will.
Because Bob doesn’t give a basket-of-monkeys if you make it to his line or not. Bob’s got the driftwood in his hands already…. once you get to his line, it’s my guess he’s just going to drag that bad-boy in a different direction. Then you’ll be all like “what the fuck Bob!? This is where you told me to go, you can’t just change your mind! I’ve worked hard for this! Let me have the wood!”
Well, actually, yes he can. Bob can do whatever the fudge-knuckle he wants. It’s his line in the sand. And he’s the one holding the wood… you’re the one who chose to try to get to it.
This approach to measure ourselves against each other seems a fairly natural phenomenon. The game (of life) it seems is currently set up in a way that we are encouraged to compete against one another. However, this to me seems incongruent with the rules.
The rules aren’t: get ‘ahead of’ (i.e. in advance of) as many other people as possible. We (and I’m going to go out on a pretty substantial limb here and speak on behalf of the species) have been playing the game (of life) that way for quite a while now – a little too long I reckon… its led to a couple World Wars, and one near-nuclear. And on this, I have to agree with Star… it’s getting a bit tiring.
I think the actual rules are more like this: THERE ARE NO RULES! YOU set the fucking rules. YOU draw the lines in the sand.
Because… Fuck Bob’s lines! The Universe doesn’t give an underwater-shitsickle about Bob… so why do you?
The game (of life) isn’t a game of snakes and ladders – in other words, it isn’t linear. Nor does it go round in circles – if you don’t pass go, if you don’t collect your $200, no one’s going to shoot you…
You can move sideways. You can move backwards. You can go forwards. Diagonal. Dimensional (not sure about this one?). Point is, you can go whatever fucking direction you want to… sometimes you might even go directions you don’t want to go… that’s fine too (even if it hurts a little)!
So then, if you’d prefer not to set other people as your yardsticks, then what?
Don’t ask that question. It’s straight-up more retarded than a blind ostrich in an eye-seeing contest.
A better question is: where’s the line in the sand?
…but this isn’t quite right either. It implies the lines already drawn. An even better question is: where should I draw this bad boy!!??
Because…Fuck Bob’s lines!
That’s the third option. Personally, I’ve felt like the blind-Ostrich a bit in this regard – how was it, that for so long, I didn’t see the thousands of other pieces of wood sitting there on the beach? How silly.
Maybe all this crap about Bob, driftwood, and lines isn’t making a lot of sense, so let’s get a little more personal with it to explain…
A month back, I set myself some new goals. In other words, I picked up a piece of wood and drew some new lines in the sand. I didn’t ask Bob for his piece of wood, because fuck Bob. There’s plenty of other pieces of wood sitting around on the beach (refer picture). I just grabbed one and started drawing.
The lines I drew have materialised into two sentences written on a piece of notepad paper blue tacked to my wall. Two goals for my eyes only … (and I guess anyone else who’s been snooping in my room).
Now…I’m sure the lines I’ve drawn look very similar to the lines of plenty others out there in the world. That’s totally fine. Uniqueness is rarer than a gold-plated unicorn in the Amazon. If someone else crosses their lines before I cross mine, kudos to them! How fun, they get the opportunity to draw some new ones! Makes no difference to me. Why would it? Those are their lines. I have zero desire to get where they’re going.
Before going on, let me be clear on something… I’m not trying to say Star and Supernova’s lines aren’t worthy lines to strive toward. They most certainly are. What I’m trying to say is, they’re only worthy insofar as they were the ones who drew them. In other words, if you’re working your way toward a line in the sand, make sure you’re the one who drew it – not Bob.
If you’d prefer to work with yardsticks, go for it… it’s bloody hard work drawing lines. But, please don’t get angry at someone else for reaching a yardstick before you, because… ZZZZZZZZZ!
[Also, I’ve got nothing against Bob. Even though he’s 100% fictitious, I’m sure he’s a good dude. Just needed a scapegoat to make a point, ya feel me?]
Again, in terms of how all this all applies to myself, well, I’m a little conflicted right now…
Despite knowing everything I’ve just written to be true, I have this weird feeling I’m still subconsciously chasing after one of Bob’s lines, specifically, by taking a job in an office… it wreaks of keeping up with the Jones’ a little… although, I must admit there is a slight difference this time around in that I didn’t take this job to prove anything – that is, I’m firmly in the pool, I’d just like to do a good job and get paid… that’s it… and maybe, on this front, in a way that’s my line in the sand?
The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is this: sitting here with the wood in my hands is more fun than bouncing on a bouncy castle.
I’m no longer trying to ‘get ahead’ of Bob’s lines. That’s impossible. He’s got the wood. Instead, I’m trying to ‘get ahead’ of me. In other words, instead of choosing to compete with others, I’ve chosen to compete against myself. In doing so, every now and then, amidst a galaxy of losses, I sometimes occasionally achieve a small victory. And when that happens, it’s a pretty damn amazing feeling. Trust me. It is.
So, what about you? …what to do? Paint? Write? Draw? Work for a promotion? Apply for that new job? Start a business? Travel? Join a class? Get married? Go on a date? Eat a McChicken? Buy a house? Build a house? Fight a bear? Wrestle a poodle? Body slam a giraffe? Fly a marathon? Run a plane? Invent the time machine?
All viable and worthwhile options… but really, I think it boils down to this:
Step 1: find a piece of driftwood.
Step 2: drag it in the sand somewhere.
It’s that simple.
There’s plenty of help out there for the ‘how to draw’ part, just don’t ask about the ‘where to draw’… because I don’t fucking know.
The wood I’ve got in my hands is hard enough to keep a hold of…
Earlier this year, a friend of mine from Portland decided to do something pretty remarkable. He bought a van (that’s not the remarkable bit). It’s a long white one with no windows down the sides. Kind of like those ones in the movies where 17 balaclava-clad dudes jump out of the back to kidnap some non-balaclava-clad dude. If this thing was parked outside your house, you’d be tempted to call the cops without any real basis whatsoever for doing so…
My buddy, let’s call him Van, spent months working on his kidnap-machine, kitting it out for living in (and kidnapping) – walls, floor, a fan, a bed, a cell, a disco ball… the works (sans cell and disco ball – I made those bits up, he’s not a kidnapper, nor is he a long-lost member of the Bee Gees).
The work he put into this kidnapping-disco-machine was immense. Then, one day he decided to quit his job as an Engineering equipment salesman to drive off in the van, taking it wherever the breeze blew him.
He’d built himself an entirely new home in more ways than one. This, I think, is the remarkable bit.
He’s been on the road for over a month now. Recently we had a Skype session and I asked him the plethora of ‘van-life’ questions I’d stockpiled: Have you had any difficulties finding places to park it overnight for sleeping? Have you felt unsafe at any point for any reason? What happens if you need to pee at night and the boogie-man is outside? How many people have you kidnapped? When’s the next disco party? Can I come? What about the boogie-man? I heard he can boogie.
We spent quite a bit of time on these questions and understandably so: his life is fucking exciting at the moment!
However, we did talk briefly about me. This is the only thing I’m an expert on and that’s definitely pushing it to say…but, it’s what I’m going to write about.
Van asked me what I was up to now I was back in New Zealand. Before we get into that, a little bit of context first…
Van met me at an interesting time in my life, when I was a travelling professional poker player. Van did not know anything of pre-USA Mark – he didn’t know anything about the suit-wearing list-ticking ninja. He met and came to know track-pant wearing, follows-a-stiff-breeze-where-it-takes-him Mark.
I told Van I’d decided to take a job in New Zealand. A twelve-month contract as I’d found poker to be a far too mentally and emotionally taxing way to earn a living/support myself. Van asked me whether I viewed my new job as a “means to an end”.
Firstly, what is a “means to an end”?
Wikipedia defines “a means to an end” as “a thing that is not valued or important in itself but is useful in achieving an aim”.
I suppose, in some respects, you could say the job I’ve taken is a means to an end. I mean, the job is great and all, but to say it’s my purpose in life would be a stretch. It’s a numbers-based job. I love excel as much as the next guy (is there really a ‘next guy’…??), but if offered a choice, I wouldn’t choose to do eight-plus hours of the shit every day. There are certain practical considerations as to why I choose to do so… well, only one really: I’m an adult. Mum no longer flies a Spoon-Air cargo ship loaded with food into my mouth.
That is to say, the job is useful in achieving an aim. The aim being to support myself: to pilot the Spoon-Air cargo ship myself. The thing about playing a card game for a living is you never know when you’ll get paid, or for that matter, how much – sometimes Spoon-Air is working round the clock, sometimes the plane sits on the runway for days on end, and on rare occasions the plane blows up.
Suffice to say, the mere fact I know exactly when the Spoon-Air cargo ship will land and what’s on board (i.e. when and how much I’ll be getting paid every month from this new job) takes a great deal of stress away… it’s a much less stressful way to support myself, in theory.
This brings me onto my second point… if I’m doing something as a “means to an end”, then I must be doing something. That is, I must be behaving in a certain way. If you’re anything like me, you might rationalise behaviour (i.e. “I went to the store because I needed food for dinner”). For something I’m doing to be considered a “means to an end”, I think it must be rationalised as such.
the action of attempting to explain or justify behaviour or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.
I guess looking at the above you could rationalise my job as a “means to an end”… I mean, I’ve taken a job I’m not overly passionate about (i.e. a thing I don’t find particularly important) in order to support myself (i.e. in order to achieve an aim).
Let’s take a step back here for a second to look over some prior rationalisations I’ve made in my life:
While studying at University, I remember saying to myself: Once I… get my University degree, then I’ll be able to get a job and then I’ll be able to contribute to the world.
While at my previous job, I remember saying to myself: Once I… get promoted, then I’ll get the respect I deserve and be able to contribute more.
After being promoted, I remember saying to myself: Once I… get married, then I’ll be able to contribute to something other than my own bank account.
Toward the end of my relationship, when the shizzle (shit) was hitting the fizzle (fan…or is it fazzle?), I remember saying the scariest thing of all to myself: Once I… have kids, then things will get better…
I call these “Once I…” rationalisations.
The basic premise of a Once I…rationalisation is an attribution of one’s dissatisfaction in life to some kind of lacking. That is, one attributes their dissatisfaction in life to something which needs to change. Or in other words, personal satisfaction is contingent upon some future occurrence.
In my case, at University for example, I was dissatisfied with University itself – I honestly found it of little value or importance. I mean, all the information was on the internet anyways, why did I need to pay all this money for it?
However, I considered it a necessary step to achieving personal satisfaction because I believed personal satisfaction would be achieved by landing a successful job. And to get a successful job, I thought I needed a degree. Hence: Once I finished University, I’d be in a position to land a successful job, and she’d all be right mate!
She wasn’t mate.
She wasn’t because the old Once I… rationalisation was replaced by a new Once I… rationalisation. And once that Once I… rationalisation ran its course (i.e. Once I became disillusioned with my job) a new Once I… rationalisation emerged to replace it (i.e. Once I get married then I’ll feel satisfied).
Different forms of Once I…rationalisations were driving my behaviour. The types of behaviours it drove were, well, I think pretty much everything really… I’ve noticed Once I…rationalisations come in two broad forms: ‘big ticket’ and ‘small time’:
Examples of ‘big ticket’ Once I… rationalisations include:
“Once I…buy a house, then I’ll feel financially secure”
“Once I…get married, then I’ll feel complete”
“Once I…get a new job, then I’ll be much happier”
Examples of ‘small time’ Once I… rationalisations include:
“Once I…get the groceries for dinner, then I’ll feel prepared”
“Once I…get my car serviced, then I won’t worry so much”
“Once I…have done the vacuuming, then I can relax”
The Once I…rationalisation is essentially a way of justifying behaviour as a “means to an end”. If you’ve ever said something along the lines of, “yeah, but it’s just a means to an end”, it’s possible you’re indulging in a form of Once I…rationalisation. The means is some kind of occurrence or happening. The end is always some form of personal satisfaction.
Do you view eating a sandwich as a means to an end? If you’re like me, probably not. You feel hungry, and so you eat. I struggle to view ‘small time’ things such as eating a sandwich as a “means to an end”, because they’re so insignificant and happen so frequently, but make no mistake, they most certainly are. Eating a sandwich is the means to satisfying your hunger.
I’ve noticed one major difference between ‘big ticket’ and ‘small time’ Once I… rationalisations. The difference lies in the expectations I’ve placed upon their respective abilities to satisfy me.
Let’s stick with the sandwich analogy to explain. If you’re anything like me, when I eat a sandwich, say for lunch, I’m aware this is only going to temporarily satisfy me – come dinner time, I’ll be hungry again. I don’t expect a ‘small time’ Once I… rationalisation, such as ‘Once I…eat this sandwich my hunger will be satisfied’, to permanently satisfy my hunger. I think we can all agree, that would be stupid.
However, I have in the past, for whatever reason, expected ‘big ticket’ Once I… rationalisations to satisfy me, and permanently so.
This is what I think my friend Van was asking me about.
His question: “did I view my new job as a means to an end” presupposes there is an end to be had. The only true ending is death. And even that’s kind of up for debate in certain circles.
I think his question was actually more this: did I think that Once I… started this job I’d be satisfied?
Well, no. No, I didn’t.
Just as I don’t expect my sandwich to permanently satisfy my hunger (if the past is anything to go by, my hunger will usually come back around 6pm), I don’t have expectations my new job is going to provide me with any form of lasting satisfaction. The job may provide some forms of regular personal satisfaction – it’s fun to work with others towards a common goal; it provides daily social interaction; I may learn some cool new stuff; it’s a new challenge. But it, sure as the Pope shits in Vatican City, can’t provide permanent satisfaction.
I don’t expect ‘small time’ things (i.e. eating a sandwich) to permanently satisfy me, so why would I expect ‘big ticket’ things (i.e. taking a new job) to be any different?
That’s plain stupid.
Personal satisfaction is not something to be derived from the outside world. That is to say, the world is not here to satisfy you. It’s here for, well, I don’t really know why it’s here…it just is.
And that being the case, why would I look to it for something it cannot provide? Why would I look to it for permanent satisfaction when it cannot provide such a thing? It’s like thinking you’ve lost the keys to your car, looking everywhere for them other than inside the car, before realising they’re sitting right there in the ignition. The whole looking for the keys part seems a bit of a pointless endeavour to me. Just drive.
In terms of this new job, well, I’m aware it will be challenging. The nature of the job is such that I’ll likely be bombarded with a list of things to do. This list is likely to be never-ending: once something is scratched off, another something will jump right back on there to replace it. It will be hard not to indulge in Once I…rationalisations in such an environment – for example, ‘Once I… finish this spreadsheet, then I’ll feel less stressed’.
But I guess that’s Future-Mark’s barrel of monkeys to deal with (poor bastard)…for now, I’ll stick to answering Van’s question: do I view this job as a “means to an end”?
If I eat a sandwich, at some point the sandwich will end. This job is the same, at some point the job will end, and to be honest at that point I don’t think I’ll really give much of a fuck.
Because I don’t really give much of a fuck when my sandwich is finished either.