Sometime back, I made a post about an entirely self-inflicted (and pretty dumb) problem. I had amassed too many empty notebooks, none of which I had any concrete uses planned out for. Since then, I’ve put some of this unnecessary stash to use and in this post, I’m going to tell you about this little red notebook and what I’ve been using it for.
I decided that I would use this pocket-sized book to record any useful quotes or scraps of wisdom that I come across. Good stuff to refer back to when the going gets tough or I need reminding of a harsh truth or two. The aim is to fill it up to the point where there is a handy nugget of advice for most situations.
So far, I’ve gathered together stuff from all over the place: books, films, even videogames. If something seems useful and relevant to self-development and the direction I want to take, then I’ve jotted it down. I’ve even taken bits of general advice and condensed it down into small, focused passages that are straight to the point.
I will share some of the contents here, in this post, then periodically return to my red notebook in future posts where I will divulge some more…
“It isn’t about whether you can or can’t; it’s whether you do or don’t.”
This one was me, in full-on nerd mode, taking a quote from a videogame and running with it. I feel that this is one of most profound quotes in my notebook. It’s applicable to a great many situations and reminds me of the importance of at least attempting something – no matter the odds – instead of avoiding it because you feel that you aren’t capable. After all, it’s better to regret something you have done over something you haven’t. And you never know; perhaps you will surprise yourself and actually succeed.
“Instead of complaining about bad experiences or mistakes, look to see what lessons can be learned.”
I think this is one that a lot of us can benefit from digesting. It’s very easy to just bitch and moan about negative experiences, but the truth is that these things have already happened and can’t be reversed. It’s much more constructive to analyse what happened and see whether you can learn something from it. The most powerful lessons usually come about as a result of the biggest balls-ups, for example. You’d be a fool not to identify said lesson and take it onboard.
“Take control of a situation. Don’t let it control you.”
A very important one, this. Sometimes shit happens that we have no control over and, in these cases, we are legitimate passengers. However, we often use this as an excuse to avoid having to act when we are perfectly capable of influencing a situation or straight-up taking the controls. If we can’t gain complete control, we are still responsible for our emotions and responses to a negative event in our lives. Things may happen to us that are 100% not our fault but there comes a transitional point where we are, in fact, responsible for how we react and proceed.
“A winning attitude is one that asks itself every day, how it can get better.”
Here on this blog, I will never equate “winning” with a load of macho BS or extravagant materialism. A “winning” attitude to me is simply a positive, constructive mindset. This quote from four-time Formula 1 champion, Alain Prost, is relevant to us all because, however good we think we are, we can always improve ourselves. Asking ourselves critical questions is also an important way of getting to the truth about ourselves and thus identifying our shortcomings.
And that’s all for now. I have plenty more scrawls on plenty more pages though so I’ll be returning to the red notebook in due course.
Unfortunately, this is just how I have been feeling over the past week-and-a-bit. A small disclaimer first though. I am fully aware that living in the West is a charmed existence and just another day in paradise compared to the suffering endured by those in other parts of the world who have infinitely worse circumstances than my own. I can, for example, type this post without fear of having a bomb dropped on my head or wondering when I will have my next meal.
I feel that it’s important to make that clear before I carry on. I even have some posts on the horizon that go into the subject of remembering what we have and how good we have it instead of constantly moaning about insignificant first-world problems. So look forward to those.
Unfortunately, it’s this very same “free” (the quotation marks are imperative to note) society that can inspire the horrible feeling of being imprisoned in your own country; your own home; your own head. It isn’t the obvious kind of suppression however and it might be all the worse for it in some ways. I’ve referenced Mark Manson’s fantastic book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck, many times already on this blog and I’m certain that I have even repeated the following quoted passage before but this section of the book simply struck a real chord with me. Mark talks about visiting Russia and having to get used to the blunt honesty of the people there.
This is why it became the norm in Western cultures to smile and say polite things even when you don’t feel like it, to tell little white lies and agree with someone whom you don’t actually agree with. This is why people learn to pretend to be friends with people they don’t actually like, to buy things they don’t actually want. The economic system promotes such deception.
True, there’s nobody here holding a gun to my head and saying that I must do X or else I will be shot. Similarly, I’m not exactly in a do-or-die situation. What happens here in Western countries is that we get manipulated and herded into pens like sheep. Our society is full of liars and false imagery. Even more dangerous still, the media and those in power play us off against one another, creating a highly toxic us-versus-them environment where we are too busy despising people for their political views or lifestyle preferences to unite against the real threats. We are kept sedated by mindless consumerism, placated by that new TV or showing off our wonderful lives on social media. This is how our system wants us to be because we are easier to herd in this state.
We are forcibly pushed into this system – this established order of things – by our education systems that prepare us for lives as just another cog in the machine. We are needed, after all, to keep the big machine running and the profits coming in for those in the control room.
There is a downside to “waking up” and really questioning everything arout you though. You begin to feel trapped – trapped by having to go to work at a job that has no meaning for you because you need the money to keep the bill collectors at bay. Trapped by a judgmental society that you feel the need to please by conforming to the image of a “normal” man/woman. Trapped by this awful consumerism that makes you feel left behind if you don’t have the newest shit – the same consumerism that brainwashes you to want more, more, more of the ultimately meaningless material products.
You might come to believe that you are living in the world’s largest open prison. No, you aren’t technically incarcerated but do you actually feel free?
So you start to question rather than accept and it can result in some extremely horrible realisations. After all, it is said that if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss will stare back. What I mean by all this is that you might just see the futility in it all and it will bum you out. It’s much easier to STOP questioning and carry on being “normal”. It’s more comfortable; it’s what you know.
But once you’ve started asking questions and silently challenging the credibility of the status quo, it’s difficult to ever stop asking those questions. Especially if you hate your job. I personally don’t hate my job (that would be too strong of a description) but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. Going through the motions, the daily 7am-5pm grind, the lacklustre wages that don’t get you anywhere in life…none of it is inviting. “But work isn’t supposed to be fun!” I hear you cry and you’re right. Likewise, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that I get a different job. That could be a whole topic in itself but in general, it’s being part of a huge machine and working for thankless corporations – that really don’t care about you as an individual component in their organisation – that is beginning to bug me.
The obvious solution, then, is to become self-employed; to find something that I enjoy doing and can make a living from so that I can be my own boss. That takes energy and quality time to figure out though, let alone put into action. Not easy when the job you have to keep going to in order to collect pennies drains all of your physical AND mental reserves and leaves you feeling like an empty shell that cannot be arsed once the day is done. I’m typing this post in the evening for example and I’m just barely maintaining the motivation to keep hitting those keys.
On the subject of employment and freedom, there is a quote from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello that has resonated with me ever since I first came across it.
“America touts itself as the land of the free, but the number one freedom that you and I have is the freedom to enter into a subservient role in the workplace. Once you exercise this freedom you’ve lost all control over what you do, what is produced, and how it is produced. And in the end, the product doesn’t belong to you. The only way you can avoid bosses and jobs is if you don’t care about making a living. Which leads to the second freedom: the freedom to starve.”
Now I’m not saying that we should become lazy bums and sponge off the state while everybody else works to pay their way. I’m not even saying that I have the answers because I don’t.
The good news – the light at the end of this dark, depressing post – is that there is hope. Life can feel like a prison but the truth of it is, we willingly entered our cells. A lot of it is in our heads and the way we perceive the world around us. True, we have been groomed to be good little members of society and to go to work and to accept the way things are but we also – unwittingly of course – allowed people to do this to us. The cell door is closed but it isn’t locked.
Happiness, peace and liberation can only be achieved by asking those questions and understanding that just because something has “always been this way”, doesn’t mean that it is right or that it is the ONLY way.
Breaking out of my cage and living life on my own terms is now one of my top goals. Accordingly, I have been reading and listening to various related things and so I will have some more posts coming up where I look at some ideas and pointers designed to help one wake up and start living a better life.
It’s been some time since I made my post on the affliction of materialism and my desire to move away from it; to cut down on what I own and buy. If you’re expecting some sort of big results on my part then you might be disappointed however. On a positive note, I don’t feel as if I have accrued any more stuff. I’ve sold a hell of a lot of things since that post and managed to offset any new purchases by getting rid of other things. The “one in, one out” philosophy at work.
To give myself a bit more credit, I do feel that I own a little less stuff but because of the way my things are stored, the situation doesn’t look any different visually. I’m going to keep chipping away at this but for today, I’m going to be talking about one specific area of senseless materialism: trainers. Or sneakers if you are reading this in the US of A.
A needlessly excessive collection of footwear is a criticism usually levelled at women but men aren’t immune to this form of fashion consumerism. I have six pairs of trainers which might not seem like a huge deal to some of you but, as far as I am concerned, it’s five pairs too many.
(excuse the stains on the fronts of the grey Crosshatches – I’d just been scrubbing some brake dust stains from the material and they were still damp)
I didn’t use to be this way at all. One pair of trainers was enough for me. But then I discovered that I enjoyed collecting trainers that caught my eye, specifically bright blue ones as you can see. I didn’t pay full price for any of these, mind. We have a clothes outlet here in the UK called TK Maxx which sells designer brands at a large discount on account of the items being last season’s trends or discontinued lines that other retailers have gotten shot of. There are usually only one or two examples of most things and the stock is often completely different each time you visit which is both an upside and a downside.
I bought most of the trainers in the above picture from TK Maxx at 50% or higher discount versus the RRP which felt like a steal. Of course, I soon realised that it wasn’t really a saving when I didn’t need to spend any money on trainers in the first place. It was reality check time. I asked myself, “what the fuck are you doing?” and placed a ban on buying any new trainers – a ban I have happily stuck to.
Worse still, I was terrified to wear any of these trainers in case they got dirty or damaged – completely contradicting their purpose. I would wear them carefully then feverishly clean them up as soon as I was home, trying to preserve their new-ness. The exception are the battered grey Crosshatches in the bottom-right of the picture. I have replaced the insoles numerous times and even superglued them back together in order to get them to last as long as possible. I didn’t intend for them to ever reach this state but I have to wear something when I leave the house!
I decided that I was set for many years with this stock of trainers. As well as banning myself from buying any more, I have vowed to run them ALL in and make them go the distance, just like the grey Crosshatches (which I’m sure are on death’s door at this point). Time to kill off the obsessive perfectionism while I’m at it! Footwear is meant to be worn, not stored carefully and treated like antique collectables.
The next pair in line to become my “daily” trainers and get properly used will be the Converse All-Stars but I’ve always been wary of wearing these bastards because of the absolutely deadly lack of grip provided by the soles. These have been worn considerably more than any of my flashy blue kicks but even so, they never seem to wear in properly. I frequently find myself sliding on smooth surfaces or slipping on shiny store floors.
And as if to prove their vindictive intentions, I’ve slipped over in public for real while wearing these fucking things. It was only a slightly damp, tarmac path on a gentle slope but walking down said path felt like walking on ice. Needless to say, I stacked it and was lucky not to damage my back. Also lucky that not many people saw it!
So it was that I spent my precious time wisely and sat in front of the computer, asking Google, “why do I have no grip when wearing Converse?”. I didn’t expect a proper answer but the internet came up trumps and revealed the reason that Converse All-Stars are a one-way ticket to public humiliation and potential injury. Apparently, the soles are not 100% rubber – they come with a felt coating that doesn’t ever completely disappear and it’s this coating that causes a lack of grip. By reducing the rubber content in the soles, Converse can be imported as “slippers” and avoid a good chunk of import tax! So, to sum up: big name fashion item (that isn’t exactly cheap to buy anyway) is sold by a big name company that exploits a loophole in order to save a few pennies. I’ll put that one under the ‘Why am I not surprised?’ category in my mental filing system.
I often like to write about self-development here on this blog and discuss social issues that I think are major problems (such as people failing to take any responsibility for their own actions, for example). I suppose that doing so is one small way in which I attempt to grapple with my own development and problems. Because as much as I can sit here, typing out large posts that foolishly attempt to put the world to rights, I’m still a deeply flawed human being with a stack of my own shit to deal with.
The battle is eternal and it’s certainly true that the greatest opponent a man will ever slug it out with in his lifetime is himself.
So, for this post, I’m going to briefly talk about what I consider to be my greatest personal problem – my ultimate nemesis: direction.
I believe that most of us haven’t got a clue where we’re going in life. Of course, there are exceptions to everything, and I am well aware that there are those who have their shit well and truly together and a cast-iron will to keep forging on towards their goals. These are the individuals that people such as myself look at it in admiration. Not because of their material gain or social status (fuck that) but for their drive and dogged persistance on their quest to get to where they want (or need) to be.
The majority of us live through the same stories however:
We knew what we wanted but were denied by circumstance
We were forced from our path for financial reasons or inescapable commitments
Other people e.g. a new partner changed our life and our priorities
We became parents and had to put our dreams on hold
We’ve NEVER known what we wanted
I certainly slot into the last scenario. As a child, I never knew what I wanted but that was understandable considering my age. However, I didn’t develop any sort of direction as a teenager or a college student. I took a couple of A-Level courses in college then lost interest mid-way through the second year, probably because I subconsciously realised that I didn’t know WHY I was taking the courses or where I wanted them to get me.
Then I left education and ended up in the retail sector which is where I remain today. In short, I’ve never known what I wanted to do or which direction I should be heading in.
I know I’m not a special case at all. Also, I’m well aware that the majority of us will live average, non-extraordinary lives and that there’s nothing wrong with that.
As long as you are happy of course and feel as if you have a purpose. Can I honestly say that either apply to me? No; I wouldn’t be typing out this blog post otherwise.
Right now, I honestly don’t know where to begin with it all. Asking yourself the big questions and supplying honest answers is one recommended avenue. Here’s one that I concocted which I hoped might trigger some ideas, no matter how faint they might be.
If there were no obstacles – money, self-confidence, personal circumstance etc. – where would you like to be and what would you like to be doing?
“I don’t know”
I feel that this has always been my problem. I can’t claim to have a dream that I’ve been denied or a course that I’ve been blown from. I’m just a drifter, living from one day to the next and not in any kind of romantic sense. Obviously, I feel that there are reasons in my past that have compounded this situation and made it worse but I’m not here to tell sob stories or make excuses.
Working on a dream – something to get me motivated and fired up – has become a priority in my mind. By my understanding however, you can’t simply decide on a dream so where one must begin is a bit of a mystery to me.
If anybody has any killer tips or can point me in the direction of some good resources then please, feel free to comment below.
In recent years, there has been a big shift towards being told that we are all extraordinary people and that we can all attain greatness – that we can all become legends. Perhaps this form of self-improvement advice has always been around and is now simply being magnified by the powerful influence of social media but I don’t necessarily think so.
There is an ocean of self-help books aimed at making you financially rich for example. Then there is the legion of popular Youtube channels pumping out inspirational and motivational content, telling us that we CAN be great and that we WILL be extraordinary…if we just listen to some ten minute speeches backed up by dramatic music and imagery of people working out. And let’s not forget the feel-good content enforcing the notion that we are ALL extraordinary people.
Being average = to have failed in life – apparently. Being average is to be a nobody and that’s a bad thing…apparently.
Before I continue however, let’s remind ourselves of the dictionary’s definition of “extraordinary”, shall we?
And here lies the biggest contradiction of all because if all of us could indeed become extraordinary then, by the metric of comparison, we would all once again be the same. We would be ordinary, not extraordinary. So to peddle the idea that we can all be extraordinary achievers living the high life is an outright lie. All of the self-help gurus seem to skip over this point but it’s hardly surprising when they are trying to get you to subscribe to their Youtube channels or persuading you to pay them money to access a simple five-step programmme that will have you wiping your nose with £50 notes and drowning in pussy within the year. The irony that they are making stacks of money from your desire to make money is so delicious, it has my mouth watering.
My initial inspiration for this post was Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. It’s a book that I have referenced here numerous times (and even reviewed) and with good reason. The book contains straightforward, realistic advice centred around home truths and becoming more grounded. Mark puts the “extraordinary ordinary” contradiction like this:
Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. The worst thing you can be is in the middle of the pack, the middle of the bell curve. When a culture’s standard of success is to be “extraordinary”, it then becomes better to be at the extreme low end of the bell curve than to be in the middle, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention.
A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve, and that their life won’t matter.
This sort of thinking is dangerous. Once you accept the premise that a life is worthwhile only if it is truly notable and great, then you basically accept the fact that most of the human population (including yourself) sucks and is worthless. And this mindset can quickly turn dangerous, to both yourself and others.
The ‘dangerous’ part is actually quite relevant to a theory that I read about the other day; a theory that inspired me to finally write this post. It was a discussion on the problem of mass shootings in the United States and why there are so many shooters that appear to have lost their minds and all empathy for other human beings. Could it be that their disilluson and disatisfaction with society led them to unload on a shopping mall of innocent civilians? Could it be that they feel that they were promised extraordinary things and a certain type of life – that they are owed it – and when it didn’t materialise, they converted all of their bitterness and warped resentment into an ammunition clip before emptying said clip into a school hallway?
I’m no psychologist or expert. I’m not even American. But even so, I saw some potential truth in that searching explanation for these heart-breaking tragedies that continue to occur in the US.
Because the education system is flawed. It teaches children what the System wants them to know in order to to mould them into shiny new cogs to keep the machine running; to keep business running; to keep the rich and the powerful in rich and powerful positions. We aren’t taught the realities of life. We aren’t taught about the real battles that we will have to face as individuals. School taught us that if we work hard and make good grades on our exams then the pieces will fall into place on their own. Our grades will earn us good jobs, we will own our own spacious home and we will drive about in a nice BMW or Mercedes. We will have a beautiful wife and two beautiful kids that we love playing with in the back garden.
Except it doesn’t necessarily work that way and to lag behind on reaching that destination means that you are failing. I worked hard all through school and got great grades but I haven’t “made it” yet. I left education just as the banking crisis tanked the economy and so my grades and CV didn’t mean jack. Eventually, I took a retail/manual labour job in order to get some money coming in and to gain work experience and guess what? I’m still there. In a different role but still there in the same sector. Thing is, school and education doesn’t teach you that there are other obstacles such as personal motivation and self-confidence, both of which I admit to suffering with. After all, you can get the best grades but if you aren’t great with people then the paper they are printed on could be irrelevant. In my case, I’ve never had any real direction or firm idea of what I wanted to do.
Right now, I too could be severely disillusioned and feeling betrayed by society. In fact, I DO feel a pang of jealousy when I see a dude around with his beautiful lady and two kids, enjoying themselves in the park or at the beach. I think to myself, “damn, that’s where I should be by now.” In this situation, it’s easy to feel resentful and bitter about society. It’s easy to hate on other people. But I have to remind myself that everybody’s situation is different and that some people DO have distinct advantages or have had better opportunities. I am an average guy with an average job, an average pay, average looks and you know what? That’s okay. I have Grand Canyon-size space for improvement but it isn’t failure. I know that I’m not owed anything. It’s all down to me to work things out in my head.
Unfortunately, our lovely media is more than willing to finish the job that education systems start. We are shown a 24/7 feed of people who have achieved extraordinary things. We follow and idolise celebrities with fat bank accounts who are untouched by the “street” problems that we average folk have. We digest carefully-packaged TV shows that follow successful people and their money-making antics. We put our brains on the shelf and stare at “reality” television which, in fact, is nothing like reality at all. We forgo personal development and improvement for hours of watching our favourite Youtubers and their lives or scrolling through the social media feeds of those with more money and material wealth than us.
And all of it is force-feeding our subconscious a highly toxic message: if you aren’t like these extraordinary people then you are a nobody – you are failing at life.
If you aren’t earning wads of cash and driving about London in a supercar then you are a lower-class person who is doing life wrong. If you don’t have Kate Upton’s tits or Kim Kardashian’s arse then you aren’tattractive. If you aren’t living in an expansive, modern home then you are slumming it and are failing. If you aren’t the life and soul of the party then you are boring and irrelevant. If you are a guy and you don’t have a trouser-straining horse cock then you won’t be able to satisfy women in bed.
I could keep going but there isn’t the need – you get what I’m saying here. The message from society is clear: if you aren’t like these uber successful or beautiful people then you aren’t doing it right.
Being “extraordinary” is directly linked to success and how we elect to measure it. The problem is that we have a pretty shitty metric for success, especially here in the West. We judge the worth of others based on their bank balance, material wealth or physical looks and we are judged on the same criteria by our peers. Worse still, we compare ourselves to others – compare ourselves to the extraordinary people that we are shown by the media. We are all different and live in different situations with different backgrounds. To pit yourself against somebody else, Top Trumps style, is utterly pointless and harmful to your own personal growth.
I should point out (disclaimer-style) that we aren’t all guilty of being so shallow and misinformed. Likewise, not everybody is out to reinforce the fallacy of extraordinary = successful. But it is an undercurrent that undeniably runs through our society.
I’m also not saying that there aren’t useful things that you can take from the abundance of self-improvement videos and books out there because there certainly is. Anything relating to how the human mind works or can be utilised in a better way for example. You should also still seek improvement but it needs to be on your terms, not somebody else’s. You need to improve for yourself and for your loved ones, not for society.
Basically, focus on yourself and do what you need to do in order to feel happy in yourself and be the best version of you. Don’t do what society encourages you to do. Don’t aim to be like what you see on TV or social media. Most importantly, stop comparing yourself to others and judging your worth based on whether or not you measure up to them.
It’s okay not to be extraordinary. Being average is not failure.
A few weeks ago, I was trawling the internet and reading various blogs and website articles on the subject of personal direction. Something that has been gnawing at me for some time now is my lack of direction in life and every so often, I find myself trying to seek the answers or at least some pointers to how I can get my arse fired up and motivated to do something more fulfilling than the dreadful 9-5 (or – in my case – 7-5) grind as a servant of The System.
It was while seeking enlightenment (spoiler alert: I’m still me, for better or for worse) that I came across an analogy that did at least strike a bit of a chord with me. This analogy compared the human soul to fertile soil and reminded the reader that we could all plant seeds in our soil, nurture said seeds and watch them grow into mighty trees. The main problem for a lot of us is that the soil has been tainted and the seeds left unwatered and unfertilised thanks to invading external forces that have seen fit to turn our plot of soil into a rubbish dump.
I quite liked this analogy and thought about it some more. I saw my own patch of fertile soil enclosed within a field. Seeds labelled “Direction”, “Passion”, “Happiness” and “Purpose” were planted but I didn’t get chance to water or feed them. Y’see, the field has a gate and just as I was skipping toward my patch of sown soil – watering can in my hand – there came a loud crunching noise. It was the sound of a dump truck reversing right through the gate! The bastards! Before I could verbally assault the driver of the truck with a multitude of PG-18-rated words, he tipped the bed and unloaded his cargo of garbage all over my patch. I was too aghast to act but I caught the registration of the truck as it sped away, leaving a cloud of diesel fumes behind. It was a private plate that read “LIFE”.
We all plant seeds in the soil of our soul. Some seeds take longer than others to germinate, break the surface and bear fruit but we do plant them subconsciously, most often as children when we aren’t even aware that we’re doing it.
Or so I have been reading anyway.
You have to take any advice or points of view that you read on the internet with a pinch of salt of course; especially when it comes to the optimum way to live your life and be happy/successful. Everybody has their own philosopy or tried-and-tested ‘secret’ that worked for them but we are all different and what works for Bob won’t necessarily work for Dave. I personally believe that it is perhaps better to listen to different ideas and solutions then draw your own conclusions based on everything you have read.
However, one recurring self-help tactic that is supposed to help the individual work out what they want to do with their life, is to go back to the past and reconnect with your inner child. You know, that previous version of you that enjoyed doing certain things or making use of talents/skills without realising that they might take you somewhere. Before the fly-tipping began and you turned an unwitting blind eye to the dumping of truckloads of garbage on your precious – now poisoned – patch of soil.
Before the superficiality, materialism and greed of society poisoned our minds.
Before you graduated childhood and were inducted properly into The System, encouraged to accept a status quo and pour all of your energy into unfulfilling jobs in order to service unavoidable debt and keep a roof above your head.
Before you were trapped in that 9-5 cycle with those wonderful dreams shelved as you play the part of just another cog in the machine – a machine that works for the rich and powerful and runs on the blood of the working class.
Shit got a bit dark and gloomy there but it really is how our human society functions. Breaking out of this cage and finding a way to live happily – without being sucked dry by others who don’t have your interests at heart – is the ultimate quest in my mind. It’s not an easy quest by any means and there are a lot of boxes to be checked as you are pushing forwards but is there a more rewarding journey to embark upon?
I’ve been trying to reconnect with my inner child and cast my mind back to past. What I remembered was that I was crazy about drawing, writing and being creative in general. I would spend hours doing this sort of thing, improving my skills and simply enjoying what I was doing without feeling the pressure to turn it into a career or money. Somewhere along the way, I ran out of steam and stopped. Society, people and working a physically-demanding job left me tired and more likely to turn to mindless entertainment in my spare time rather than enjoying the arts and continuing to improve my crafts.
One of the last things I drew was this picture of the character, Blaze Fielding, from the videogame, Streets of Rage 2. That was in 2015 (according to the date on the back). I’m not proclaiming myself to be a good artist or anything like that but comparing this picture to what I was doing a few years prior shows dramatic improvement. It’s also a stark reminder of where I could be at today had I kept at it. As it is, the cubby-hole in my desk is a stack of outdated portfolios and half-finished pictures living in plastic wallets, awaiting completion.
I’m not going to blame society or other people for my lack of work. After all, it was me who allowed this to happen and it was me who chose to numb my tired brain with the likes of videogames and Youtube and lock my creativity away in a cupboard. That said, external influences and the necessities that come with living in the way that society expects you to live have had a part to play. Of course, it is my responsibility to push back and not allow external factors to affect me.
It is my responsibility to fit a stronger lock to the gate that the dump truck forced open before tipping its load all over my patch of soil (no dirty innuendos intended…). Heck, I should be investing in 24/7 security and watchtowers.
But what is done is done and now the clean-up must begin. It’s past time that I hired a skip and put in the work to clear out all of the dumped rubbish that hides that soil and the seeds that are buried deep, awaiting their oppurtunity to sprout.
And with that, I will spare you any more long-winded analogies.
Guilt gives us the heads-up that we’ve potentially done wrong, hurt somebody else or need to apologise for something we did. As humans, we are flawed beings and so we frequently speak or act before thinking and our decisions may cause us to put somebody else out or harm them in some way. That’s where guilt steps in and gives us the hint that we might need to make amends. Obviously, there will be times when we feel guilty needlessly (perhaps your mind is geared towards feeling guilty too easily) but if we don’t feel any guilt at all then that too is unhealthy.
But on the flipside, guilt is a powerful weapon in the wrong hands.
There are people out there who will seek to make a person feel guilty in order to manipulate them and get them to think/act in a way that suits them. Worse still, society, government, action groups, charities and companies are all aiming to make us feel guilty so that we buy into the bullshit that they are selling. This is what I want to talk about today.
I want to say to you, “stop feeling guilty”. After all, we have enough to feel guilty about in our personal lives – enough crosses to bear without taking on any additional guilt born of problems we cannot control. The examples of guilt I’m about to run through to illustrate my point are all things that we can categorically dismiss with the parting words of “get fucked”. This isn’t about being an arsehole or hampering progression to spite others. It’s about putting our collective feet down and saying “no more” to the people and organisations that want us to feel so guilty about something that we will dance to their tune.
Recycling and the Environment
Both of these are big subjects right now and have been for some time. Should we care about the environment and our planet? Absolutely. Should we be recycling our waste rather than burning through our resources in an incredibly ignorant fashion? One hundred percent. I don’t dispute either directive and only the selfish, closed-minded people living in their own personal bubbles would argue that recycling and looking after the Earth are stupid ideas. After all, the biggest danger to us is…us. We will likely be the authors of our own exctinction.
But with that said, it enrages me when the media or action groups try to make us feel guilty over wastage. We all have to do our bit so that all the small steps form one giant step forward in the right direction. However, the majority of us are only capable of contributing those small steps but even when we do, it’s still not good enough. Here in the UK, we are set up to recycle at home. All recyclable materials are dumped into a separate wheelie bin and taken away to be sorted and (presumably) re-used. That’s us, the little people doing our bit and recycling.
Unfortunately, I then switch on the news and see that recycling has been sent abroad and dumped in another country’s ocean. In short, we do as we are encouraged and yet those recyclable materials aren’t re-used. They don’t even get put to good use in our own country. They just get dumped in some other segment of the globe by our government and the companies running this shitshow. I see this and think, “what is the point?”. We are told that we need to recycle so we recycle. But it turns out that it’s all for nothing and rather than genuinely being green, it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind…until somebody shines a light on the dirty secret of first-world recycling.
So when people try to play the guilt card and say that we are killing the planet by using plastic straws at McDonalds or throwing millions of take-out coffee cups in landfills, I get angry. We are recycling. We are doing as we are asked but once that recycling has been taken away, it is out of our control. If it were up to me, the UK would be investing in recycling centres so that we make use of ALL our plastic, paper and glass rather than selling it off or tossing it in the sea somewhere. But it isn’t up to me. I’m just a working-class joe who actually bothers to wash tins and jars out before “recycling” them. So don’t try and make me feel guilty for thinking that a plastic drinking straw is a good idea as opposed to the nasty paper replacements that turn to mush between your lips. Maybe go after the government and their piss-poor handling of recycling. Just don’t try to send me on a guilt trip because if you do then you can fuck right off.
If the devil drives a car then he is probably driving a diesel-powered vehicle and cackling his way back to No.666 Hell Drive, Helltown, Hell County, chortling about all the kiddies he has passively gassed with his diesel fumes. I’m not sure what it’s like outside of Europe but here, diesel is the enemy right now. Research has apparently proven that diesel emissions are causing lung cancer and are generally a whole lot nastier for our health and the air quality in cities, than petrol. Again, I’m not disputing this research.
What I AM disputing is the guilt that environmental types want to lay on us motorists. Watch any news report on the situation and they will, without fail, show a close-up of a vehicle exhaust exhaling killer fumes into the atmosphere. This is so twisted, it’s unbelievable. First up, when they are showing white exhaust emissions, they are showing vapour not fumes. Secondly, they intentionally focus on an ancient vehicle which is, of course, going to look worse. You’ll never see a camera zoomed-in on a modern diesel vehicle’s exhaust for example. That’s strike one for the biased, agenda-driven bullshit machine.
Secondly, please don’t forget that we were TOLD to purchase diesel over petrol; told that it was better for the environment because diesel gave greater MPG for one. The government here in the UK even sponsored big discounts on diesel vehicles to get people to choose them. Now it is all the other way around. Yes, you can point out that new research and ‘facts’ should naturally override old ways of thinking. BUT, like recycling, the sale of diesel vehicles was once again the man in the street doing as he was advised. How can the regular bloke be blamed for buying diesel? More to the point, why should he invest hard-earned money into a diesel vehicle for business or home and then be made to feel guilty for being The Problem? Most people don’t buy specific types of vehicle to spite specific groups. They buy them based on price and long-term ownership prospects. They don’t buy them to kill kids with fumes or purposely piss off Greenpeace types so don’t demonise the owners of diesel and make them feel guilty. Likewise, don’t expect them to get shot of their automotive investment at a loss in order to please others.
Charity is a fantastic thing but it’s only “charity” when somebody donates time or money through free will. When they only donate to get rid of some pushy moron in the street demanding that they give a shit about cause X and set up a direct debit to charity Y, it isn’t charity. It’s feeling guilty and handing over cash for that reason alone. More to the point, it’s emotional blackmail. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to fall foul of this form of guilt because the causes are often genuinely distressing.
But you must try to not feel guilty.
A while ago, I was just trying to exit a store when a guy stopped me and began reeling off his spiel about a charity. I tried to say “no thanks” but got suckered in anyway. He then handed me a leaflet and I thought that if I took it, then maybe he’d let me go. But the fucker held onto the leaflet and stopped me walking away with it. By this point, I was getting a bit irate. This was one of the last times that I’d fall for the guilt trick and it was where I learnt the value in not feeling guilty. I just wanted to walk out of a shop in peace for fuck’s sake.
So I tell this guy, “Look, I’m not interested” to which he replied, “Oh…you’re not interested in blind children?”. Making me out to be the baddie. Making me out to be some sort of stone-hearted, uncaring scumbag. It isn’t that I don’t think it’s awful. It isn’t that I would dismiss another human being’s suffering off-hand like that without a second thought. What it came down to was that this particular guy was blackmailing me with guilt and being an utter arse. If I’d have relented and signed up? It would have simply been to get this guy out of my face and I don’t think that charities should be getting results in that way.
The fact is, I already donate to the British Red Cross. Additionally, if I was loaded with excessive money then yes, I probably wouldn’t mind donating a few pounds a month to various charities. But I’m just a normal guy doing a normal, crappy job with extremely average pay that doesn’t really go far enough. In my mind, I cannot be blamed for balancing my own books and prioritising that over committing to lots of charities or responding to every begging letter than lands on my doormat.
Perhaps you think that I am heartless but I am just being honest. It is more the way that charities weaponise guilt that gets my back up and puts me off engaging with them in the first place. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be the person I am and living the kind of life I do in a first-world country. But that doesn’t mean that I should feel guilty for being born where I was born. Furthermore, it is the principle of not yielding to the guilt-laden tactics that some charities employ.
Charity must come from the heart and from the genuine feeling to do something positive for somebody else – not from guilt or shame.
The bottom line in all of this is that we have enough to feel guilty about and we should reserve our capacity to feel guilty for the times that truly matter. The vast majority of guilt being beamed at us by governments, society and pressure groups is designed to manipulate our actions for somebody else’s purposes. It is born of hypocrisy (see my points on recycling) and thus requires none of our attention. If we do as we are advised or directed then we should not be made to feel guilty if higher-ups fail to follow-through on their end. We should not be made to feel guilty for being ordinary people and liking ordinary things. Guilt-peddlers: can you gladly do one please because I’m not interested and it won’t work.
It’s been a short while since I lasted posted but unfortunately, I had a small dosage of writer’s block. Additionally, I am also suffering with My-Back-Is-Fucked-itis 2: The Sequel which, let me tell you, is not enjoyable. To snatch a silver lining from a particularly black and moody stormcloud, I am now off work for a few days in order to recover and this means I have some time to get my writing back on.
So let’s fucking do this.
Today I am going to talk about materialism, specifically my determination to kick it to the gutter. It’s an affliction that one doesn’t recognise even when it’s right before their eyes and there are many reasons for this. Further, materialism is also widely classed as a negative personal value since it contributes little to your life. Obviously, a little materialism isn’t necessarily something to get freaked out about but as with all things in life, there has to be balance and moderation or else it is probable that another department in your life is out of whack.
For me, the first reason that I am materialistic is because I’m a hoarder; a magpie who loves shiny things. Even worse, I am a big geek with a large collection of videogames, books, DVDs and all that shit. With the videogames, I was once obsessed with ensuring that I picked up collector’s editions, original prints and complete (i.e boxed with all original instructions, paperwork etc.) copies with the view that I would eventually get around to playing them all “some day” (such a magical phrase!). Problem is though, I can easily spend over a hundred hours on a good role-playing game so the reality is, I am never going to get around to playing everything I have bought meaning that at least 80% of my collection sits on shelves or in storage crates, gathering dust. There’s also the question of replayability and whether I would REALLY ever revisit something I’ve already beaten.
Moving onto books, it’s pretty much the same thing. I have a burning need to make sure that I have the first edition hardback copies in excellent condition. It costs more money and those hardbacks take up a LOT of space. The main problem with a swollen bookshelf is that I am unlikely to revisit a large chunk of those books even if I enjoyed them. For as many books as I have read, there is an ocean of other good reads out there and I intend to dip my toes in that ocean rather than remaining in my literary comfort zone. Also, great books that rely on incredible plot twists or mystery tend to blow their load like a male pornstar on that first read and as a result, often sacrifice their ability to provide the same rush on a repeat reading. It’s okay to say that you enjoyed these books but not revisit them. One such example that immediately springs to mind (and has ended up in my growing stack of stuff to get shot of) is Stephen King’s The Outsider. This was a fantastic page-turner but once you know what happens then the mystery is gone.
DVD’s are another space-waster and I tend to keep what I think I would 100% watch again but as I look through my collection, I find so many that are covered in dust and haven’t been viewed in several years, despite my best intentions. Again, it’s okay to say that you enjoyed a movie but keeping copies of every single DVD around “just in case” hasn’t turned out to be a great idea.
There is a second reason that materialism has crept up on me over the years and this is where I have to simply cut the bullshit and get straight to the point in true Unfiltered Opinion style. I collect things because it distracts from my real problems. Materialism is akin to a mask or smokescreen with the items and collections providing an illusion of comfort and something to waste away your time and attention on rather than dealing with real life issues.
With this in mind, I have decided that now is the time for an utterly brutal clear-out. I want a tidier, more streamlined living space that leans more towards minimalism. There is also a lot of money tied up in some of these things, especially the videogames, some of which have appreciated in value over the years thanks to a buoyant collector’s market. And having more money is always a helpful thing. Y’see, aside from the obsessions I have already spoken about, I also collect trading cards and have an appetite for performance cars, both of which aren’t cheap interests. I would much rather have just the one type of nerdy collecting habit so that I can focus on my car and my own life. As I said, some materialism isn’t necessarily bad but it has to be moderated and if that means cashing in on several defunct hobbies/collections in order to reduce it down to just the one then so be it.
Of course, anybody who has tried to do this before knows that letting go of shit is difficult if you have developed the hoarder mentality. Sentimentality is one of the biggest hurdles but I find that guilt over throwing out gifts or old presents is the tougher obstacle. On top of these nasties, you are also dealing with the fear of not being able to acquire X item ever again once it’s gone as well as trying to break free of this detrimental mindset of running away from root problems to bury your head in material possessions.
So I scoured the internet and various blogs to find the best tips for slaying materialism and leading a more minimalist life. Here is what I have compiled thus far; the wisdom that I will continually be referring to while I attempt to let go of stuff.
Love or associated memories of a person/event are not in the items themselves. They are in us and our memories. Taking and archiving a photo of an item before getting rid of it is enough.
Worst case scenario: I can always buy something again if I really need it down the line.
Keeping useful items to save wasting them is a waste in itself. A waste because other people could be using those items.
Ask “if I didn’t have this item, how much would I pay to get it?”. If the answer is “nothing” then you can let go of it because it is worth “nothing” to you.
Does it add any value to my life? Do I feel any kind of spark when holding the item? If not then I am simply stuck holding onto the past.
Always keep your ultimate life goals and dreams in mind. If these items won’t help you get there and don’t bring any joy then they can go.
If you own too much stuff then your stuff will own YOU.
So I’m going to give this a go. At the time of typing out this post, I have already piled up a load of stuff that I never thought I would let go of and despite the fact that it is still here in the house, I honestly have no regrets about pulling these items out and have no itch to put them back before it’s “too late”. Some stuff is already listed on ebay and I have many more areas to scrutinise and collections to slim down.
I have come to firmly believe that materialism is a bad thing and one of the largest problems in Western society that is rarely spoken about in the mainstream. Probably because the mainstream is so busy trying to sell us more crap and ‘fashionable’ products that won’t really enhance our wellbeing – just keep us drugged up on entertainment and gadgets so that we remain content and believing that we are happy (we aren’t).
Tried this yourself? I would love to hear about your experiences with battling materialism and the methods you used.
Fewer people irritate quite as much as those who walk around reciting quotes from Game of Thrones, believing that they are humorous for it and not the copy/paste boxset-obsessed sheep that they actually are. There’s only so many solemn “winter is coming” warnings that you can tolerate whenever the outside temperature drops a few degrees for example. And don’t get me started on those who mimic The Hound and contribute to the oversuse of the last bastion of hard-hitting, impactful naughty words – cunt.
There is however, one quoted-to-death line that is perfectly applicable to our actual lives even if the vast majority of GOT followers probably dont realise it. That line – as you’ve no-doubt already guessed by the topic title – is Ygritte’s observation of “you know nothing, Jon Snow”
On a surface level, this was Ygritte criticising Jon for making assumptions of the wildlings based solely on what he knew or had been taught by those living in the safety of – or beyond – The Wall. But it’s here that we can delve deeper and discover that a quote from a TV show doesin fact reflect us and our society. You may not have the luxury of seeing as many perfectly-formed breasts as some of the characters in ‘Thrones and you certainly can’t expect to soar the skies on the back of a dragon but you can rest assured that you really don’t know anything.
It happens all the time on a daily basis and this humble blogger cannot excuse himself from the guilty. We go around professing to know things for certain or believing that our methods or strategies are the correct way forward. The basic truth is that by thinking like this, we close our minds off to other options and possibilities. How do we know that what we are shown on our newsfeeds is in fact the truth? How do we know for a fact that our way of working is the most efficient if we refuse to even try the suggestions of others? How do we know that somebody we are attracted to is actually interested in that way (or vice-versa)?
That’s not to say that you or I are wrong in what we do or believe but we might be. Might be. That’s the key thing to remember and take away. We might be wrong because for as much as we know for a fact, there is so much more that we don’t know. On top of that, even the few nuggets that we can hold on to as “fact” may be flipped upside down before our very eyes on the basis of new evidence or a fresh perspective that we hadn’t previously considered.
“You are not bigger than your own ignorance”
An example from my own life: a month or so ago, I mustered up the balls to ask out a girl that I had been into for some time. After past experience in mis-reading the signs and plain old delusions when it came to previous women in the past, I felt a lot more confident and assured this time. I felt fully in control of my emotions, hadn’t rushed into it and was rocking my new mindset of “if she says ‘no’ then it’s going to be shit but that’s life and I won’t waste time analysing it”. We’d been talking for a while now and it felt like positive talk: friendly yet teasing and I was sure that I could feel a spark. More importantly, I am a shit conversationalist and a bit of an introvert but even I often lost track of time and ended up chatting shit with this girl for around half an hour at a time.
In short, I ignored the advice of this very post by my future self and believed that THIS time, I was right and I was in with a chance. As you probably deciphered with scant assistance, she turned me down. Now I won’t go into her reasons or my own reaction because they have no further bearing on this topic. All I’ll say is that it is totally cool between us and despite being disappointed, I got over it quickly and did at least manage to stay true to my mindset of acknowledging that her rejection was a shit thing to happen but shit happens. I dusted myself down and carried on.
The point is, I believed that I was right and that I knew what the outcome was going to be when I was clearly wrong all along. Obviously I don’t regret sticking my balls on the line and taking the plunge and on that note I do want to say that taking what I’m saying onboard here doesn’t mean that you should fall into the trap of over-analysing a situation or being paralysed by indecision because you haven’t got all of the facts. You may never be able to access all of the facts or every side to a story. You can’t, for example, know all of the facts surrounding a big news story in a far flung part of the globe because you can’t be there to see what’s actually happening behind the veil of bullshit and propaganda that our western news outlets put up. You also can’t read another person’s mind and therefore can’t always predict how they really feel or how they view something. But you must still form an opinion or still have a go at getting that girl’s phone number or putting yourself out there in some other way.
It’s okay to be ignorant but it’s not okay to be intentionally ignorant is what I’m saying. I have come to see that it’s far healthier to always remember that you could be wrong. Don’t stop reaching for things and don’t necessarily change how you live your life but just remember that we rarely possess all of the facts and even when we do, there isn’t always the guarantee that those facts are untainted and raw. Don’t make assumptions (assume makes an ass out of u and me as Alice says in Stephen King’s book, Cell), don’t presume that your way of doing things is necessarily the best way and certainly don’t believe that you know the truth because the TV or internet told you something was so.
Knowing that you might be wrong helps keep your mind open to new ideas and information. It helps you listen to others and it makes you a much more humble person and not a closed-off “my way or the highway” individual. Don’t sacrifice your values or beliefs but be open to challenges and new perspectives.
Recently I have made a lot of posts about things such as books and cars, subjects I do intend to continue covering (because this blog is a free-for-all as far as what I feel like talking about is concerned) but now it’s time to return to some of that real talk.
Or at least my attempts to make “real” talk. I could always be wrong but being wrong is another topic for another post.
So: you don’t deserve anything. Idon’t deserve anything. Nobody deserves anything.
Obviously, the word “deserve”, its deriatives and the situations in which it is applied can cover a wide variety of scenarios and – as with pretty much everything on this mudball – there are exceptions. In this case, these exceptions are applications of the word “deserve” that I see as fair game and therefore exempt from what this post is about. Correct uses of deserving if you will. The two main exceptions that I want to define before I continue are:
Saying that somebody got “what they deserved” after acting like an arsehole, being a criminal or choosing to be reckless in the face of all warnings. I don’t believe in karma or some sort of cosmic scales but I do believe in statistical odds and the fact that nobody can get away unscathed forever. Plus there is that added human satisfaction of seeing a corrupt celebrity behind bars or a car-jacker ran over by the very vehicle he was attempting to steal – that sort of thing.
Saying that somebody deserves something more than another. The point of this post is for me to explain that nobody deserves anything but IF something fortunate or extremely positive WAS to happen to somebody then I see nothing wrong with judging who is more deserving of being the benficiary of that luck. Example: a struggling, honest working-class family is more deserving of a freak lottery win over a millionaire who still buys tickets because they still aren’t satisfied with their needlessly bloated bank balance.
What I actually want to address are all the whiny moaners with first-world problems, banging the woe-is-me drum and telling people that they “don’t deserve this” or that they DO in fact “deserve this to happen”. I should know because I used to be a whiny, entitled moaner myself before waking up a little bit more and realising some harsh truths.
It’s a problem born of negative mindsets such as entitlement, jealousy and pure ignorance. We’ve all heard people proclaiming that they deserve things and if you stop to consider their words then you may conclude that they are really fucking irritating “look at me” people who believe that their life is shit and perpetually swirling around in a shit-stained toilet bowl, destined for an appointment with the Sewer God. You may well have already reached this conclusion and elected to minimise your time around these people to try and limit the amount of unhelpful negativity that can – and will – rub off on you. We all know people like this.
There’s the unlucky-in-love guy that mopes around saying “I really deserve a girlfriend by now”
There’s the work-shy woman who does nothing to get a better job or stop blowing so much money on rubbish, all the while telling her friends that she deserves to have more money.
There’s that person we all know who is completely blind to what they DO have in their lives and eternally bleats on about how “nothing good ever happens” to them. These people also tend to come out with the old classic, “it’s about time I had some good luck”.
There are a few harsh truths and points that I’d like to make to anybody who thinks like this, some of which helped me. I’m not saying that I’m a successful or “reborn” person at all. Fucking far from it. I consider myself to still be at the beginning of my own journey of development but I do feel that I have at least woken up to these truths and driven off a lot of those unattractive, entitled misconceptions.
If you want something, you have to go out and get it. Obviously, putting this into practice is a completely different thing but the first step is to accept this truth. Yes, there is such a thing as freak luck but sitting around waiting for the chaotic element of life’s fabric to randomly toss you a bone is a fool’s game. If you want more money then you have to go and earn it. If you want to be better at flirting with girls or have more success getting laid then you have to practice, practice, practice. If you want to overcome an obstacle then you have to be prepared to tackle it.
Shit happens. Sometimes it feels like shit is happening to you more than it is to your friend or that cocky mofo at work but shit happens to everybody. The difference is that those who seem to be able to dodge the brown bullets probably aren’t walking around moaning all the time. It’s okay to feel shit or to acknowledge that something that happened to you was crappy but dwelling on it for too long, over-analysing or – worst of all – believing that life is out to trip you up at every corner really won’t help.
You are not special. What gives you the right to state that you deserve something? What have you done to earn that something? You need to realise that there is no universal force that sees an individual injustice and decides to step in and console the person with a reward for suffering it. It would be fantastic if such a thing were true but it isn’t.
The absolute worst people in my mind are those who believe their life is terrible when others, looking in from the outside, can see different. Most of us here in the western world have a roof over our heads, jobs to go to (regardless of how ‘good’ they are) and easy access to food/water. A lot of us get up every morning without fail and aren’t afflicted with diseases or horrible conditions and yet still we moan, moan, moan. I had a brief moment of relapse last week where I thought something along the lines of “my job is shit and I’ve had enough”. Then I saw a homeless man sitting in the doorway of a shop with a handmade sign telling passers by that he used to serve the country in the armed forces. I gave myself a metaphorical slap and reminded myself that there is absolutely nothing for me to be complaining about. I can only imagine what a homeless person’s reaction would be to the whining of a middle-class person with a home, car, family and job. It must sound utterly disgusting and hellishly ignorant.
The bottom line is that nobody deserves anything. Yes, there are people amongst us who deserve nice things more than others but the reality is that there are no free handouts. Complaining won’t change a thing and you will be forever miserable unless you start acknowledging the things that you do have and start working to get to where you want to be.