Sometimes you have to work backwards.
1. Your life isn’t bad, so stop pretending like it is
If you decide that your life sucks, it probably does. Conversely, if you wake up and jump-kick your problems in their troublemaking necks, kicking as much theoretical ass as possible every day, chances are your life won’t suck. It’s honestly that simple. You ever notice that people, who complain about things constantly going wrong, constantly have things going wrong?
Buck up, asshole, life is unfair, dark, twisted, cruel, and merciless. It’s also mind-blowing, exhilarating, breathtaking, and full of adventure. Start thinking on the up, and you might find your days have a few more double rainbows and few less inner ear infections. Sometimes it’s ok to feel overwhelmed, but when you start to think every little thing is overwhelming, it might be time to compare your “hard” existence to someone in a much less socially tolerant part of the world.
In this country, we’re allowed to shave and drive and flick people off and say things like, “BAG OF COCKS” on the internet. Small liberties we surely take for granted, but that make life in our hemispherical quarter oh so sweet.
When life feels overwhelming, remember that you are going to die.
2. Shut the hell up for like, 10 minutes
Everyone seems to think that what they have to say is really important, but 99% of what I read on social networking sites, public forums, and in article comment threads is brain-rot of the highest form. Instead of rambling incoherently, try stopping, thinking, thinking if you’ve actually thought about it, and then saying. In that brief moment that your brain gets a break from your mindless word-vomit, it may speak up and timidly remind you that what you’re about to say is certifiably retarded.
If your verbal output versus time spent thinking is somewhere around 500:1, you know you’ve got a problem. Seriously, shut up. You’re that annoying guy at the party who no one likes and everyone wishes would just leave already.
Think before you speak, never the opposite.
3. You have more time than you think, you just waste a lot of time saying you have none
I hear a lot (probably over 50%) of my peers claiming they don’t have enough time to do everything they want to do. They can’t do Graduate school because there is no time to study for the GRE. They can’t cook because there is no time to go to the grocery store. They can’t work out because it would cut into allocated binge drinking time.
I ask, “Really?” Because I’ve stalked your Facebook profile and you seem pretty goddamn boring. Based on my loose, creepy analysis of your life, you go to work, post on Facebook that work sucks, go home, complain about something else, provide an expert analysis of some televised drivel, then drunkenly slur your goodnight to the world, complaining that you didn’t get anything done. Nowhere in that self-aggrandizing drool did you improve yourself or do anything worthy of merit. I submit that you had hours and hours of time in which to do things that you want to do, but instead you squandered them by telling everyone how you were squandering them.
You want to do something supremely awesome with your life? Then get off your ass and do it instead of Tweeting, Facebooking, Linkedining, Televisioning, or whatever other time waster you’ve invented. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or so I’ve been told. Take a step…and don’t feel obligated to tell the world as soon as you do.
“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin mothereffin’ Franklin.
4. Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
Rob Van Winkle said this in 1990, and 21 years later, we still can’t seem to get the message. Perhaps bad hip hop wasn’t the optimal mover of this timeless message, but the words contain wisdom nonetheless. Everyone seems too hung up on their own personal interpretation of events, so much so that they refuse to acknowledge that their response is so incredibly personalized that it couldn’t (and shouldn’t) apply to everyone.
You know when you tell a “you had to be there story” and it fizzles because your audience kind of… had to be there? Your personal interpretation of political, social, or religious tension is just like that. The person you’re talking to may have been raised by a particularly feisty bag of coffee beans and in turn may not understand or appreciate your quaint morality and opinions of the world.
This is OK. The sooner you realize that no one, not even an elaborately constructed and trained clone of yourself, can possibly understand and view the world as you do, the sooner the world can regain a sense of sanity. Difference is a good thing, and part of what separates us from raccoons and squirrels (ever notice that a squirrel’s tail is the same size as the rest of its body? Whoa.)
If you want to be a productive and awesome young person, gain some goddamn perspective.
5. Pay Attention
There is an infinite wealth of information to be had, for free, if you just switch your brain from “blow” to “suck”. Instead of constantly expelling all of the “knowledge” you have in your head like a mental machine gun, stop and take some in. Your daily work, no matter how monotonous or decidedly awful, is packed full of little tidbits of humor, advice, warnings, and stories.
If you wonder why some people are smarter, more successful, or always seem to know exactly what to do or say, it’s because they constantly pay attention. Train your brain to actually listen during a conversation, not just sit waiting for its opportunity to chime in about what you have to say. Being a thoughtful person only requires one care enough to listen to a person’s fears, concerns, joys, and goals. Remind them that you remember that conversation and BOOM; you’re the most caring person in the universe at that particular moment.
Too many people just want to talk about themselves, and get into a “me, myself, and I” syndrome that eventually degrades into a narcissistic cycle of self-indulgence. Social media and internet attention whoring only fuels this phenomenon. As cool and experienced as you think you are, there will always be something to gain from listening and paying attention to other people.
If a person can’t serve as a glowing model, let them serve as a meth-riddled warning (I’ll spare you the blind “Faces of Meth” link).
6. Lose the Comfort Blanket
We all want to be cozy and comfortable and warmed by the buzzing drunk of good, homemade liquor. Shit; Henry D. Thoreau argued that warmth - in the form of basic food and shelter – is all a man needs to live and be happy. Everything else (to him) was just superfluous waste. Unfortunately, my friends, you’ve become way too warm. Hot even. Some of you are so concerned with staying warm that you don’t even notice that it is summer and you are profusely sweating under your woolen prison. When the weather is nice, it’s OK to take the blanket off; I promise you won’t freeze. Step out and do something that you’ve never done. Move out of your parent’s house, take up sword fighting, train to run a marathon. Do something! Do anything that breaks you out of your regular habits and comfortable addictions.
I can dance all three step of an Irish reel. You know why? Because I’m super awesome at everything, but also because I said, “sure, why the hell not?” when the opportunity presented itself. I look like a dying spider monkey in my inelegance, and my bones may feel like brittle toothpicks the morning after a dance session, but damnit I accomplished something.
And don’t expect someone to do any of this for you. If you want to do it, you have to be the one to sign the check, show up for class, and become a legend* (*eventually).
Instead of finding reasons to not do things, find reasons to do all kinds of whacky shit.
7. Stop Judging so thou shalt not be Judged
This ties loosely into #4; stop assuming you’re in a position to judge someone else. I know the internet is a playground for anonymous asshattery (performed by an assdasher, in an assdashery), but before you unleash your frothing tirade on some poor stranger, stop. Slam on your ethical brakes before you rear-end someone’s ego. By projecting your hate, you are perpetuating the notion that it is somehow acceptable to hate, which in turn justifies other hate.
Acknowledge that you may not understand the whole situation, that no one gives a shit about your opinion, and that your spiteful venting may be infinitely more impactful than you think. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are literally afraid to try things (like interpretive spider monkey Irish dance) because they fear being judged by their peers and the community at large.
Do you want someone to hold you back from doing something you love and obsess over, just because they think it is “lame” or “gay” or some combination thereof? The solution does not lie in telling these people to get over their fear of being judged, but in stopping all of this ridiculous judgment. Rampant judging of other people is a huge red flag that you are projecting as a form of self defense; don’t think you’re fooling anyone.
Break the cycle and be the bigger, happier, sexier person.
8. Be Confident, not Arrogant
If you’re good at something, then by all means, do it as ferociously and passionately as you can. Be confident in your ability and strive to be a master of your art. If you truly pour your vital humors into a passion, the community will acknowledge and appreciate it.
Conversely, if you’re not very good at something, don’t go around telling people how awesome you are at said thing. An approach like this is thinly veiled, and comes off as pretentious, assholish behavior. I’ve met countless writers who don’t write, runners who don’t run, and dreamers who don’t dream. False bravado and fanciful talk will not convince people you are into something, actually being into it will.
I know that talking about being passionate and accomplished is WAY easier than actually being passionate and accomplished, but the easiest path never leads to personal satisfaction. A lot of people who don’t understand the concept of confidence mistake pomp and arrogance for assertiveness. If you feel like an asshole when you say something, you’re probably being an asshole.
You’re not an authority on something if you can be called for bullshitting by someone who really is an authority.
9. Calm Yourself
Why is everyone so freaking angry? Every time I turn around, someone is yelling at someone else, or kicking someone in the crotch, or being uppity and bitchy in the supermarket. Anger requires so much energy. You have to scrunch up your face and turn red and make all sorts of frustrated grunts. It almost always ends in apologetic whimpering, leaving you feeling worse for having gotten angry, when you could have just avoided it in the first place.
Anger is caused by a lack of self control. People get angry because a situation either scares, challenges, or threatens them, and they don’t know how to otherwise react. If you take the time to focus your mind and analyze the situation, you can often neutralize any anger that comes burning through your synapses. Being calm will let you objectively analyze any situation, and ultimately make you a more educated and logical decision maker. An added plus of this kind of stoicism is that you can psychologically analyze all of these angry people and ponder what kind of mental Nidhogg is gnawing away at their psyche.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering, suffering leads to malice, and malice leads to things like The Jersey Shore.
10. Patience, young one
I know that patience isn’t supposed to be the strong point of youth. Our impetuousness is endearing, and a normal part of growing up. But ants-in-the-pants exuberance is supposed to be reserved for those situations where your energy and fresh perspective can improve a situation. It should not be used to blow a situation out of proportion to get your own way. I find it amazing that people can’t stay on hold, wait for food, or follow a single conversational topic for more than 10 minutes without fidgeting like a goblin with psoriasis. Sometimes I feel like there is more than arsenic, birth control, fluoride, lead, and DDT in our drinking water.
In our 140-character limit world of instant gratification, getting things immediately may seem ideal. But there is a lot to be said about being able to patiently work through something, and those you are dealing with will always appreciate your peaceful demeanor.
Patience is a virtue, after all.
There, 10 things that can make you way, way more awesome. You’re welcome.