Book Review: The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy, 2010)

compound-effect-1Year: 2010
Author: Darren Hardy
Publisher: Da Capo Press (version reviewed)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 172
ISBN: 978-1-59315-724-1

No gimmicks. No hyperbole. No magic bullet. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will take you either to the life of success you desire or to disaster by default. Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine, presents The Compound Effect, a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond.

I’m always interested in self-development books, especially if they promise to be something different. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy did just that so I decided to give it a go.

It’s a good book with some practical ideas but I can’t say that it had the same sort of lasting effect that Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck did. I guess I prefer a straight-talking, cut-the-BS book that tells it like it is and forces you to realise and accept uncomfortable truths.

The premise behind The Compound Effect is sound. Hardy explains how positive, constructive actions stack up (or compound) over time and how the opposite is also true when we fill our faces with bad food, waste money on crap or slack off. Realistically, it’s all very basic stuff that we should already know but, to the book’s credit, the so-called ‘Compound Effect’ is illustrated with some particularly eye-opening examples. One that really made me sit up and pay attention was the cost of a $4.00 take-out coffee over an extended period of time. Assuming that you bought one of these on your way to work every week day (so five days), that’s $20.00 a week, $80.00 a month and almost $1,000.00 a year. Over a twenty year period? $51,833.79!

We all know that this is happening. It’s basic maths after all. But the sheer scale is pretty terrifying when it’s laid bare like that. This is Hardy’s Compound Effect in action and the point of the book is to get you to apply this to your own life in order to improve it.

This book is all about building consistency and momentum in your life in order to harness the power of the Compound Effect. It also goes into detail on adjusting the influences in your life (the people you associate with, the news you consume etc.), discovering what your “why” power is and not giving up in the face of adversity.

It’s all positive stuff but I felt that there were a few core points that were being dragged out via endless examples and figures/charts that were a little unnecessary. Also, despite the fact that this book is billed as a way to improve your overall life, it often seemed to be coming from a career/business/money-making angle, assuming that you – the reader – measure your success and self-worth by your status and bank balance. If, like me, you’ve already decided that this isn’t how you are going to define success or happiness, then it could be a deal-breaker.

Also, the book contains some worksheets at the back to use in conjunction with the different exercises that Hardy prescribes. The problem is that these aren’t the full versions and you can only obtain those by getting onto a mailing list at the book’s website. Once I did that, my email inbox was regularly spammed with advertisements for Hardy’s seminars and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the guy isn’t going to give up his time for nothing (and shouldn’t be expected to) but I would have thought that purchasing a full-price physical book was enough.

The Compound Effect is a decent book with some good ideas and messages that I will certainly take away with me. However, I don’t feel that is does a lot to dig deep into the human psyche and really help you overcome stubborn problems. It’s surface-level positivity that essentially tells you what you need to do but not necessarily how to remove existing mental roadblocks or explain why they are there in the first place.

As with all self-development books, however, this may have a greater impact on you than it did for me, depending on where you are currently at with your life and where you want to go.

 

 

Movie Talk: The Sam Raimi Spider-Man Films Re-Visited [Part 1]

spiderman-1Release Year: 2002
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons

I’ll be honest: I was expecting the first of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man movies to have aged terribly before I re-watched it yesterday. After all, this film is eighteen years-old at this point. EIGHTEEN. Where has all of THAT time gone? Since then, we have had many Spider-Man films, with the webhead played by different actors to much critical acclaim. So what was I expecting? Ropey CG? Dodgy acting? I don’t think it was unreasonable to have gone back into Spider-Man with low expectations. It had been a long time since I last watched it, for starters. Also, the movie has since gone on to inspire countless memes and inevitable criticism from a younger generation along the lines of, “Oh my God! Look how bad this looks compared to the new ones!”

Well, guess what? The film is still awesome. The end credits rolled and I was just as satisfied as when I first watched it back in 2002, as a twelve year-old. You can keep your newer Spider-Mans. I never fully bought into the whole crossover or ‘event’ thing, even in the comic books. I preferred Spider-Man to have his own self-contained adventures with his own supporting cast, as it used to be in the pre-millennium comics (guest appearances from other characters aside). That’s probably one reason why I still enjoy first Spider-Man.

Another is the casting, which was spot-on. I’ll admit that Tobey Maguire’s version of Peter Parker isn’t 100% satisfying (he occasionally comes off as just weird/creepy as opposed to nerdy and shy) but for the most part, I have no issues. Willem Dafoe is great as the billionaire industrialist, Norman Osborn, who becomes the iconic Green Goblin. I have to say that I really enjoy the look of the Goblin in this movie, especially that grinning, gargoyle-like helmet with the slide-up eye covers. Back in ’02, I was dubious but now? I’d say that I like it more than the Goblin’s classic costume from the comics. The glider is bad-ass too.

spiderman-2
Admit it: this was better than the rubber mask and messenger boy satchel from the comics.

Rosemary Harris and Cliff Robertson are perfect as Aunt May and Uncle Ben while J.K. Simmons couldn’t have done a better job portraying the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson. Seriously, it’s a pleasure whenever he’s on-screen, shouting and puffing away on a cigar. I couldn’t help but smile.

Kirsten Dunst does a pretty solid job as Mary-Jane Watson, Peter’s high-school love interest, though I wish her character had been a little more fiery and bubbly as in the comics where she was first introduced as a party girl. Here, she is softer and an unlikely sympathiser towards Peter given their respective places in the high school social hierarchy. That aside, I’ve never been able to forget that alley scene in the pouring rain where MJ’s sodden top leaves nothing to the imagination. As I said earlier, I first watched this film as a twelve year-old and I can’t count the number of times I reversed and replayed those few seconds of the DVD. If it had been the VHS version then the tape would surely have worn out! It was gold for a sheltered adolescent, and – while I didn’t indulge in any reverse/replay shenanigans this time – I still appreciated the scene as an adult. I couldn’t see it getting through the censors in today’s uber-critical, Woke world without some photoshop-like post-production magic though. Nor would I be so confident about her super low-cut top from the movie’s start making the cut.

It’s another reminder that more time has passed than I realised since Spider-Man hit cinemas, and that the world has changed a lot in those eighteen years. This DVD I have is a further reminder. It’s my original copy – the same one that I stressed so much with all that reversing/replaying – from 2002 and it was the first DVD that I ever owned. It’s a ‘Special’ 2-Disc Widescreen Edition (remember those?) that I seem to recall costing about £20! The double-discs, thick booklet and solid plastic for the casing are a stark contrast to today’s DVD’s which usually have no special features and the flimsiest of cases.

spiderman-3
Would this make it into a 12-Rated superhero movie today? Somehow, I doubt it.

Back to the movie, I was able to appreciate the origin story and scripting far more this time around. When I first watched Spider-Man (and the few times after that), I questioned why they had skipped over Gwen Stacy and gone straight to Mary-Jane; why the Goblin and not one of the other villains that Spider-Man faced off against in the comics before Osborn? Obviously, I was just being a pedantic nerd but this stuff seemed to matter to me back then. Now, well…I’m still a nerd, but a more informed nerd at least. Everything about Spider-Man seems to be more closely aligned with the ‘Ultimate’ universe which hadn’t long kicked off back then and was a modern re-telling of the Spider-Man origin story with Peter a teenager in the new Millennium. It’s a great alternate universe to the ‘normal’ Marvel one because it brought Peter Parker bang up-to-date without getting too dark or edgy. That’s what the Spider-Man movie feels like and, while some may consider the tone to now be outdated, I think it remains a perfect halfway house between the 60’s original and the more current stuff.

I really enjoyed the final showdown with the Green Goblin too. The finale apes the comics when Norman discovered Spider-Man’s identity and made things personal by killing Gwen Stacey. Here, in the movie, Osborn attacks Aunt May before kidnapping MJ and making Spider-Man/Peter choose between saving the girl he loves or a cable car full of kids. It remains an exciting climax and the final, final battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin is fucking awesome. The two really go at it, punching one another through walls and all that cool stuff.

While I don’t think Spider-Man has aged as badly as some may have you believe, there are a few things that aren’t quite so hot. The CG for instance, is largely still convincing but there are those odd moments when Spidey’s web-swinging sequences look a bit rigid and unnatural. Then there are the few scenes with the Green Goblin on his glider that don’t look quite right, especially when there is other shit going on in the background. There are also a couple of really corny “imagination” sequences where Peter is thinking about something (buying a car to impress MJ, for example) and various images are floating about, overlapping and fading out. These bits look like they belong in a TV comedy from the 90’s – at least in my mind.

spiderman-4
Shit gets real at the very end.

These are pretty minor criticisms however and, honestly, I’d expect any CG to look dated almost twenty years later. Movies use so much of it now that the age of the tech is going to be a lot harder to disguise further down the line.

One final shout-out has to go to Danny Elfman’s superb score. There are several rousing pieces of music in Spider-Man that unmistakably belong to this movie and give it its own sound – a sound that I would recognise anywhere and immediately link it back to Spider-Man.

Overall, I still got a good kick out of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man effort. Natural aging aside, the movie still does a damn good job of capturing the source material’s magic and telling an origin story. I also can’t help but like Spider-Man that little bit more for the fact that it is a film from a more innocent time and is entirely self-contained without all the MCU bullshit and associated expectation. As an added bonus, it features the best Green Goblin and the best Jonah Jameson (in my opinion of course).

Balance is everything

When I am cobbling together a post that falls beneath the umbrella of “self-development” or “life”, I frequently find myself including the word ‘Balance’ somewhere in said post. Maybe I’m exploring ways to have a balanced life, or perhaps I’m making a point then presenting the counter point in order to maintain – yep, you guessed it – a balance. After all, an actual legitimate discussion has little (if not zero) credibility if it is entirely biased with no tolerance for opposing points.

Balance has to be applied to everything in life if you wish to live it well. The Yin and Yang symbol might be a cliche to wheel out these days but it really does symbolise Balance better than anything else. It depicts two opposites in perfect harmony.

YY-1

To me, it also illustrates that you can’t have black without white; light without dark. And, to take it further, good without evil. This last one can be a particularly thorny discussion because there are millions of people in the world who believe that our ultimate goal, as a species, should be world peace – a world without war, hatred or division. It’s undeniably a good goal – a noble goal – to aim for as a race but it’s ultimately a flawed goal that will never be achieved for the simple reason that it is impossible to fully eradicate evil, just as it would impossible to cleanse the planet of good.

After all, if one “side” were to fully dominate the planet then its very identity would cease to exist due to the fact that the nature of good cannot be defined without the existence of evil as a comparison and vice versa.

Dark versus Light

More importantly, we ALL have good and bad within us, as uncomfortable as that may be for some of us to come to terms with. Nobody is a 100% saintly individual. The bad parts of said people may be buried deeply and they may rarely surface but they ARE there, just as even the most callous and evil amongst us will have some goodness somewhere, even if you may never see it. Take the London Bridge attack that occured last year (2019), for example. One of the heroes who attempted to stop Usman Khan was in fact the convicted murderer, Steve Gallant, who was serving a sentence for his part in bludgeoning, kicking and punching another man to death. Before the bridge incident, many would have looked at a man like Gallant and branded him as an irredeemable individual who should be locked away forever and not given a second chance. Now, I’m in no way excusing Gallant’s crime or trying to say that he “balanced the books” (no pun intended) for his part in stopping Usman Khan, but his actions last year show that we, as humans, aren’t simply either black or white; good or bad; light or dark.

“I saw injured people.

“Khan was stood in the foyer with two large knives in his hands.

“He was a clear danger to all, so I didn’t hesitate.”

It’s my personal view that it is healthy to be aware of our dark sides and to acknowledge them, while we are striving to be better people. Suppression or denial doesn’t solve anything. Accepting that we have these bad urges, selfish desires and perverse fantasies is the way forward. Understand and manage them because that balance needs to exist. Anybody who believes that they are a whiter than white and above it all are probably full of bullshit. It brings to mind one of my favourite snippets of philosophy from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest

It’s better to be honest. This can be difficult in a society where saying the wrong thing or making a controversial admission can make you an outsider or even land you in prison. However, you can at least be honest with yourself, in your own mind. If an unsavoury thought or dark idea pops into your mind, don’t think, “why did I just think that?!? That’s not who I am! I’m such a terrible person!” It’s better to simply be aware of the thought, acknowledge its existence and allow it to drift away of its own accord. You are a human being. You are a flawed, imperfect creature and, as such, you will have dark thoughts from time to time.

It’s acting upon bad notions and violating another person’s rights that is the real problem. There are many, many reasons why some people cross this line or believe it to be acceptable but I’m no psychologist or expert so I’m not going to delve any deeper into these reasons. All I will return to are the acts of suppression and denial. It’s my belief that denying thoughts only makes the individual more curious about them. Further, suppressing a thought draws greater attention to it because you must be consciously focusing on them in order to force them to the dark recesses of your brain. This is why letting them breathe and float about innocuously in your head is a good thing to do.

The Scales of Balance

Away from the heavy, existential exploration of Balance, we can all benefit from looking at our everyday lives and identifying areas that are not balanced. You’ve probably heard of the phrases, “Everything in moderation” or “Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” These nuggets of philosophy are thrown around all the time but they are on-point. Most things are perfectly harmless when they are consumed or enjoyed in moderation, and that includes items that are widely considered to be harmful or “bad”. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, videogames, junk food…all of these things are okay if they are enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle.

Unfortunately, a lot of us get a taste of some of these vices and throw control out of the window, indulging excessively until we are slaves to what we consume. There is a self-control epidemic in our society and it has resulted in millions of people eating themselves into obesity or watching so much extreme porn that their perception of women and sex becomes dangerously warped. In both cases, there is a major imbalance involved and it can destroy lives as well as those of others close to the person.

Worse still, it paves the way for pleasures being considered problems. Authority steps in, bans or censorship are introduced and a whole bunch of other problems then emerge as a result.

scales-1

I like to think of Balance as a set of scales. Any pleasure that we put on the scale – alcohol, unhealthy takeaway dinners, blowjob compilation videos on Pornhub – has its own unique weight. To get that healthy balance in your life, you must place an equal amount of weight on the other side of the scale. The problem is that we tend to have to do more work on the other side of the scale in order to make it balance and most of us simply aren’t prepared to do it. For example, a quick Google search reveals that it will take approximately twenty-five minutes of non-stop, moderate effort freestyle laps of a swimming pool to burn off a single Mars Bar. Most of us probably aren’t aware of this seemingly ridiculous price to pay for enjoying a quick treat. That two minutes of eating weighs a lot on the Scales of Balance, though, so it means that the other scale needs to be absolutely fucking loaded with effort in order to maintain that healthy balance on the dietry front.

It’s the same with everything. Going out on the town for a big night out involving a load of drinks is fine but do it too frequently and your life will be affected by the growing imbalance. I don’t see anything wrong with watching pornography now and again but if it gets to a point where you are binging on it every single day then there is a problem and it WILL damage your mind.

Look, I’m not making this post in order to tell people what to do or how they should live their lives. Nobody likes a preacher after all, and if there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s people telling me what to do or how to live my life. This is just my interpretation of Balance. I believe that it’s important to get to grips with and utterly essential if you want to get the most of out of life in the long term.

Imbalances inevitably come with consequences regardless of whether you agree with my views or think that I’m talking a load of old bollocks. You always reap what you sow in the end, after all.

 

Positive Practices: Doing the Right Thing

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, but it’s a new year and time for Unfiltered Opinion to rise from its festive slumber…

Zombie Hand Rising Out Of A Grave

So, let’s kick 2020 off with the first in what will hopefully become a series of posts about positive practices. In this post, I want to discuss the art of doing the right thing. It may sound patronisingly straightforward and completely undeserving of being a discussion point but, if that truly were the case, the world and the people in it wouldn’t feel so utterly fucked so much of the time, would it?

But how do I define “doing the right thing”, then?

As always, I am only sharing my personal take on life, but “doing the right thing” in my book is all about being selfless and doing right by other people regardless of whether your actions and decisions will benefit you personally or not.

It’s about treating others the way you, yourself, would wish to be treated.

It’s about putting aside greed, selfish preferences or personal gain to do what you – deep down – KNOW is the right thing to do.

It’s about being honest and virtuous, and treating other people as the ends rather than the means.

It’s about doing things that are right without trying to (consciously or subconsciously) calculate what sort of “trade” you will be doing in the process i.e. only doing somebody a favour because they will owe you down the line.

It’s about striving to protect something higher than our individual selves.

I was inspired to make this post by – of all things – an ebay transaction last week. In a nutshell, I purchased something for the approximate value of £25-£30 just before Christmas and it still hadn’t arrived nearly a week after New Year. I messaged the seller and explained that I understood that the post was sluggish around this time of year but that I was just a little concerned that the item I’d ordered wasn’t coming. I asked them if they had any tracking information and they got back to me to say that they couldn’t find said information but that, yes, I should have received the item by that point. They apologised and issued a full refund. I was content with the solution and that was that.

Two days later, the item arrived in the post. According to the post marks, it had been posted on the nineteenth of December with a “Special Delivery” next-day service.

Whoops.

At first, I thought, “Get in! I’ve got a my item plus all of my money back”. It seemed like a major score.

But then I thought about it some more and remembered one of my all-time favourite philosophies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I contacted the seller, informed them that the item had turned up and offered to reverse the refund.

They were grateful for my honesty with the situation but it wasn’t their thanks that I was seeking. I just wanted to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing. I wanted to preserve the value of honesty.

Yes, I could have easily gotten away with my free purchase, and I’m sure that many would have done just that and lost no sleep over it. It is, after all, a dog-eat-dog world at times and any unexpected bonuses we become the beneficiary of aren’t easy to relinquish. At times, we even feel that we deserve these moments of good fortune for the suffering or hardships that we’ve faced. Or as compensation for the times that we’ve been screwed over by somebody else. And that’s fine but I try to draw the line at plussing at the expense of somebody else, especially if they haven’t done anything to warrant it.

Now, I’m not trying to put myself across as a saint. After all, I did initially feel pretty fucking good about having my (very tasty) cake and eating it when it came to that particular ebay situation. That I cannot deny.

But I did question my actions and arrive at the conclusion that I’d rather do the right thing, even it meant forfeiting my small splash of fortune. I sacrificed a chance to “plus” and did right by the ebay seller because that’s how I’d like to be treated myself. After all, you can’t really roll around bitching about how people are so dishonest these days or always out to screw you over if you are going to behave the same way.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy and for a good reason: it usually means going out of your way for somebody else – or making a sacrifice – with no expectation of a reward. It means being selfless for the sake of preserving important, high-level values such as honesty and charity. There are a lot of people who will only do the right thing because they are – in effect – bartering and doing good deeds so that they can call in favours down the line or extract something from another person in exchange for their help. This doesn’t count as “doing the right thing” because you are doing something as a means to your own, personal ends.

baretering

Doing the right thing becomes doubly hard when we are surrounded by people who are only interested in themselves and think nothing of doing whatever it takes to get ahead, regardless of how their actions affect others. It is, unfortunately, an attitude that can lead to much material, superficial and financial success – you know, all those shiny things that we want in our lives – and so it becomes an attractive way of life.

And that’s why adopting high-level values and doing the right thing is such a difficult thing to do. You might not get the fat bank balance. You probably won’t get to bang all the hot girls. And you likely won’t have such an easy, comfortable time of it.

Nevertheless, I still believe that it’s a positive practice to always question yourself and your actions – so that you can analyse whether you are really doing the right thing or whether there are some selfish motives lurking beneath the surface of your consciousness. I feel that if you want to surround yourself with the best, most genuine of people, then this is one big way to move forwards in that direction.

Of course, you have to strike a balance, because there are so many people who will – consciously or not – take advantage of another’s honest, charitable nature. “Doing the right thing” doesn’t mean that you should be permanently bent over and taking it up the arse from users and those looking to use you as a stepping stone. Saying “No” and recognising where to draw a line is just as important as doing right by others.

Bear in mind that this is just my viewpoint. It is not my intention to get preachy or encourage anybody to do as I do. I’m no master of doing the “right thing” all of the time, after all. I mess up constantly and always try to remind myself that I’m likely wrong or incredibly ignorant about most things. But pausing to question what I’m doing is one of the big things that I intend to keep working on going forwards.

 

Social media isn’t reality

Against my better judgment, I often find myself scrolling through the news headlines and articles on my phone. I say “against my better judgment” because

  1. There is nothing more untrustworthy than the news.
  2. Most of what you read is hyperbole or sensationalist bullshit containing the words “allegedly” or “apparently”. Fantastic, fact-checked journalism, then.
  3. News items are often spun to maintain the us-vs-them or left-vs-right narrative and get the public wound up in order to sell papers or generate ad-revenue via clicks.
  4. Many news outlets are biased towards either the political left or right.

What I’m saying is that regularly reading or watching the news is downright harmful in my opinion. The relentless torrent of bad news can get you down and the way in which it is presented can easily warp an individual’s perception of the world. You have to be able to fish out the raw facts from an ocean of stinking sewage and arrive at your own conclusions but, even then, you may still never know the actual truth.

But this isn’t a post dedicated to bashing the news. I’ll save that for another time.

This is a post inspired by a news item that I read on the BBC’s website (after scrolling beyond the usual headlines involving Brexit, Trump and other misc. death and destruction).

The item in question is called Cuffing Season: When a Partner is just for Christmas

Summer is a time for festivals, long lazy days in the park and for some of us… being single.

But come September, as the daylight hours get shorter and temperatures drop, you might find yourself wanting someone to cuddle up with.

That is basically the premise of “cuffing season” – that’s when people who are normally happy being single decide it’s time to find a plus-one for the Christmas party.

And then swiftly dispose of them before their trip to Ibiza in the spring. Brutal.

“Cuffing Season” has even made its way into the Collins English Dictionary according to this article. It goes on to speak to a few twenty-somethings who have jumped aboard the Cuffing train and the general picture that I got is that girls want to snuggle up with you on the sofa and watch Christmas movies together during the winter, then discard you in the new year so that they can be free and single again, unburdened by the presence of a partner that they chose to invite into their life. I guess this is part of the new Woke way of living where it’s acceptable to flit between, “I don’t need no man!” to “Oh gawd, I’m like so lonely! Won’t somebody go to a Christmas market with me and cuddle in front of the fire?!?”

Speaking as a man, I can’t say I care for this Cuffing Season thing. I have nothing against consensual, casual sex or a non-binding Friends With Benefits arrangement – as long as it’s clear that that’s what it is from the off. But Cuffing Season isn’t that. It comes off as being used to fill a void during the winter season, but not necessarily being informed of it. I wouldn’t want to start dating somebody during the winter months only to find out that I was being strung along so that the girl I was seeing could post pictures and shit on Instagram and Facebook of us being “happy” and together at Christmas. I know it isn’t necessarily as callous or pre-meditated as that but, hopefully, you get where I’m coming from.

I would want to know where I stand from the start. Are we just having sex or are we dating and hoping for this to go somewhere? All of this in between crap or anything that doesn’t fall on either side of the fence isn’t for me. I don’t want the hassle or the games. I don’t want to waste my time.

And this is where I finally get to the point of this post: the reasons for the existence of Cuffing Season and why so many people are desperate to be with somebody at Christmas.

The pressure of social media.

She says there’s an “unspoken pressure” to be in a relationship at this time of year, and that social media definitely influences it.

“Whether it’s decorating the Christmas tree or going to family events – people’s partners are everywhere.”

She says there’s “so much pressure” to find someone to go on Instagram-worthy festive dates with, which isn’t helped by a bombardment of happy couples putting pictures up with cuddly toys they’ve won at Christmas fairs.

So, in a nutshell, young people are seeing pictures of others being happy and together at Christmas and feeling envious. Then, they feel left out and uninvolved if they too can’t post up selfies with a partner.

We are being bombarded by these pictures of happy, smiling, loved-up couples at Christmas and some of us simply cannot take it. If you aren’t able to post similar photos of your own, then your life must suck, right?

wrong-1

The problem with social media is that people are only uploading the positive moments from their lives. It’s just a highlight reel of their best bits and doesn’t really reflect their life. Nobody’s life is an endless rollercoaster of happy selfies and good times. Bad shit happens to everybody and the other 80-90% is simply mundane and very un-sexy. Like going to work, filling the car up with fuel or brushing your teeth.

But the likes of Instagram and Facebook have successfully brainwashed millions into believing that they are inadequate or that their life is terrible just because it looks like everybody else is having an almighty blast. They genuinely feel this unspoken pressure to live up to the standard set by the uploads of others. It’s absolutely nuts if you stop and think about it.

As Mark Manson puts it in his excellent book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck:

All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop.

This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough.

Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems. The internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt and shame.

There’s nothing wrong with uploading pictures to social media, viewing the pictures of others’ or commenting on them and all that jazz. But there IS something wrong with feeling like a failure or a loser because you can’t “compete” and add something of your own.

So some people are happy and loved-up at Christmas…so what? Good for them. It doesn’t mean that I’m somehow worthless. At the very least, it means that I’m not in a Cuffing-style relationship and destined to be dumped come spring 2020!

You need to be able to think, “fuck what everybody else is doing” and get on with your own life. At the time of typing this, I’m single so yes, I would be lying if I didn’t feel even a little bit envious of lovey-dovey couples at this time of the year. It’s human to feel that way. But it isn’t some major crisis for me. I don’t give a fuck about what Facebook is saying or what the trend is on Instagram. I don’t want my perceptions of success and happiness to be defined by what others are doing or what social media says my life needs to be like in order to be “normal”

I don’t need some sort of false, temporary relationship over Christmas. Either it’s real or it isn’t. If it’s pre-mediatated and plotted during the autumn months by a woman that simply doesn’t want to be left out of the selfie festivities come December, then that can fuck right off.

I have food. I have beer. I have family. I have a few days off work. That’s a good haul as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not going to upload any of it to Instagram because I don’t need anybody else to like or comment on it to enjoy it.

I hope everybody has a swell Christmas but I honestly don’t give a fuck about what they are doing.

New Year’s Resolutions are (still) bullshit

Almost a year ago now, I wrote about new year’s resolutions and why I believe that they are a waste of time. You can read that post HERE

It’s almost that time of year again: time to make your new year’s resolutions. Or not. It’s been nearly a year since I wrote my previous post on the fallacy of making resolutions for the upcoming year (see the link above), and I have to say that my opinion hasn’t changed. We’re still in December 2019 at the time of writing (December 17th to be precise) and I’m already hearing the rumbles of, “…that’s going to my new year’s resolution for 2020.”

newyearmeme-1

These people are, essentially, announcing that they will fail at upholding said resolutions. After all, if they haven’t got the resolve to quit something harmful RIGHT NOW, then their chances of succeeding in 2020 are slimmer than my chances of enjoying a threesome with Kate Upton and Kelly Brook. If they can’t stop doing something immediately, at the time of deciding on a resolution – because they need to get as many ‘hits’ of their particular vice(s) as possible between now and January 1st – then what realistic chance is there of suddenly ceasing in the new year and resisting for all of 2020 and beyond?

This aside, it’s also unrealistic to expect to quit something and be done with it forever. You ARE going to relapse. You ARE slip up. You ARE going to experience weakness and seek out a dosage of your chosen poison in order to satiate those insistent cravings. And as long as you are genuinely committed to changing and are tracking your progress, then there is no shame in this. It happens. If change or abstinance was as easy as making a resolution, clicking your fingers and suddenly being immune to temptation, then none of us would be facing our demons in the first place.

The problem with making a new year’s resolution is that, as soon as you slip up, you will feel like a complete failure. You were so firm about quitting whatever it was you wanted to be free of, and you proudly proclaimed your intentions to friends, family and co-workers. So when you stumble, and everybody sees it, the little set-back morphs into a major catastrophe. Friends might rib you for scoffing a chocolate bar – when you were supposed to be eating healthily – and, suddenly, your “failure” feels real and huge. You’ve failed so what’s the point in carrying on? May as well relapse back into your old ways because, evidently, you cannot succeed. There’s a monolithic neon sign, coated in flashing lights, hovering above your head that states: I HAVE FAILED. At least that’s what it feels like.

Perhaps you held out for the first few weeks of the new year or even a little while longer. Oh well, try again next January 1st, eh? Thing is, this isn’t how change works. Yes, you have to work hard at ditching bad habits and yes, you have to be truly committed to altering the aspects of your life that you aren’t happy with BUT faltering is part of the process. Pick yourself up and try again. Keep going. Analyse why you tripped up and learn from it. Were there any specific triggers or external influences that paved the way for your moment of weakness?

fall-1
An overused movie quote? 100%. Still absolute gold though.

New year’s resolutions are admirable in principle but I personally believe that they are actually counter-productive to genuine growth and change. They are an all-or-nothing desperado effort that place us under immense pressure to succeed or die trying. The new year takes on the form of a balls-hard level in one of those old-school arcade games that remorsely annihilated the player again and again, forcing them to keep feeding coins into the machine to continue playing. You are giving yourself one shot to hit that level and achieve a perfect run. Expecting to emerge victorious under such conditions is wishful thinking at best; downright foolish at worst.

And, unfortunately, this pressure we heap upon ourselves when setting our resolutions can make a small mistake feel like the absolute end. It exaggerates the reality of the situation and many will simply give up, telling themselves that they can’t do it.

Change is an ongoing, neverending process and you simply aren’t going to make it without faltering. As long as you are sincerely determined to get there and are legitimately trying, then there is no problem with “failing” every now and then. The only prerequisites I would add are:

  1. That you don’t use the inevitability of failure as an excuse or justification to intentionally plan a “day off” from your goal, purposely failing just so you can get a fix.
  2. That you learn from your slip-ups, analyse what went wrong and work on correcting behaviours or influences that may allow the same mistake to occur again.

And I can’t make a post about new year’s resolutions without mentioning those who announce their pledges via social media, purely because it’s a fashionable thing to do at this time of year, or because they want others to give them attention or ‘react’ to their status updates. Good luck with that.

If you’ve made it this far – and suffered through my waffle-y, poorly-structured post – then I’ll put you out of your misery reward you with the abridged version of the point I’m trying to make (the tl:dr edition, if you like). New year’s resolutions are bullshit because, if you are prepared to wait until a certain date to commence your efforts, then you aren’t serious about whatever it is. You don’t want it enough. Thus your chance of failure multiplies dramatically.

Don’t wait until January 1st. Start now.

 

My Christmas Message

Christmas-1

I’m often criticised for not getting into the Christmas spirit but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy Christmas; it just means that I don’t see the sense in suddenly getting all hyped up and being Mr. Positive for one month of the year. Behaving this way is – in my mind – incredibly false.

For starters, we are constantly told that Christmas is a time of forgiveness and building bridges; of charity and of reform. Do you know what I have to say to this?

Bullshit – that’s what.

Shouldn’t we behave like this all year round? We shouldn’t be selfish, negative and ignorant to the suffering of others for eleven months of the year then “make up” for it in December by imitating Ebeneezer Scrooge and initiating a total transformation. Why can’t we strive to be good, virtuous people all year round? A lot of people who only act charitable during Christmas are – I’m sorry to say – doing so because it makes them feel good. It makes them feel righteous and I’ve seen people lambasting others over the Christmas period for not following their example, before returning to their self-centred and grumbling selves come the new year.

Then there is the near-sickening level of commercialism surrounding Christmas that overshadows what this time of year is meant to be about. The marketing machine fires up months in advance and a special kind of hell arrives on earth in late November/early December: the jam-packed stores heaving with shoppers, filling their baskets and trollies with cheap, plastic crap manufactured en masse in China.

Christmas has morphed into the biggest shopping “event” of the year and businesses battle to capitalise on the season and rake in the fat profits. The irony of it is that this fierce competition between the retailers is only possible because the corporations have successfully enlisted us all in a war: the war to buy family and friends the biggest and best presents. The war to have the most decorated house or the most outrageously overblown Christmas tree. The war to lay on the most gargantuan and comprehensive spread for Christmas dinner.

All of this can go away as far as I am concerned. I want no part in it.

Christmas, for me, is about the simple things. I only get Christmas day off from my job (Boxing Day isn’t guaranteed) and so I look forward to simply having that one, isolated day off. I look forward to being with family on Christmas morning when we are all free from work. I look forward to the Christmas dinner and watching Christmas movies on the TV in the afternoon while scoffing chocolates and drinking beer.

Do I like opening presents? Sure I do, but it really is the thought that counts. I don’t care about receiving mounds of expensive gifts or the exact items that I wrote down on a list for somebody to buy. I’d much rather receive something that had some thought put into it – something that shows that the giver really knows me, listened to me throughout the year or remembered something. But even then, it isn’t all about the material items. I really don’t get my sister’s determination to spend big or ensure that she tops the previous year’s gifts, for example. It’s unnecessary and I won’t think anything less of a small, simple gift.

In short, Christmas is about togetherness. It’s about relaxing. It’s about remembering what you have as opposed to what you don’t have. It CAN be a time for change and for charity towards those less fortunate but, in that case, it needs to be a permanent change that you carry forwards into the next year and beyond. Be better ALL the time, not just when the Christmas songs and hype have you feeling merry.

In summary…

DON’T go crazy, spending thousands of pounds to “buy” smiles on faces with gifts.
DON’T get all stressed because one small, trivial detail is going to “ruin” Christmas.
DON’T buy into the commercial bullshit and be sold excessive amounts of plastic crap that you don’t need.
DON’T cave into the pressure to beat the presents of others or to outdo your efforts from last year.
DON’T adopt a temporary, false-happy personality and become Mr. Charity for the month of December only.

DO spend time with loved ones.
DO buy simple gifts with thought put into them.
DO enjoy the small pleasures i.e. time off from work, Christmas dinner, crappy Christmas TV.
DO realise what you have in your life and decide to appreciate it.
DO reflect on the year just gone and be a better you going forward.

Merry Christmas.