Feeding Destiny Vs. Demons

Featured

by Jesse Daniels

Our demons crush us when we let them.


I’m a firm believer in Christ and Christianity. I don’t necessarily live my life like a Christian, but I believe in the God of the Universe. Now this isn’t a preachy, “do you have a minute to talk about our Lord and Saviour” moment. I’m not going to pretend like I’m scholared in my faith enough to do that without making a muckery of it. But I do believe I know a thing or two about being human, and about the baggage that inevitably comes along with that. I grew up a happy lower middle class life. I was blessed with a loving and strong rooted family. I was not blessed with the comforts of life that those more fortunate than I boast of. Don’t get me wrong. That was not a complaint by any means whatsoever. I am in absolute LOVE with my world and the place I’ve found in it. I’m simply expressing that I can empathize with hardship and the struggle with the demons that tend to tag along. I don’t think I look at demons as the traditional little red guys sitting on our shoulder, convincing us to be naughty. I feel like they choose to emulate every possible temptation and weakness we possess. They try every day to stop us from following our path, and strive to keep us lost.

So as I believe in the Light, I must also acknowledge the darkness.

Evil amongst humans is no scarcity. We pillage and absorb violently until the sponge of our obsession is limp and lifeless. We find new and creative ways to consume new and creative good feelings. We get SO GOOD at doing this, that we don’t even notice when hobby turns to habit, and when pastime turns to problem. Out of South Park of all places, this idea was driven into my head recently. I know, that’s a really weird place to have an epiphany. Yet as I mentioned, I’m a Christian, and I believe God plants seeds in our head in the least expected places. I’ll paint a picture for you with a little imagery. The kids of South Park elementary have all recently started playing the Terrance and Phillip mobile game. Stan’s father, Randy Marsh, is lecturing the kids about a Stan’s unhealthy obsession with it. This game involves micro transactions, flashing lights, achievements, leaderboards, and a false sense of purpose.

Sound familiar? It should.

I was hooked on a few games like this. Actually, hooked isn’t the proper term for it. Infatuated. Enamorated. Obsessed. The very root and meaning of this word was everything I was embodying. Of course, I’d play it off like nothing was actually wrong. “I just need to spin the local Pokestop, it’ll take a second” when I’m out on a nature walk, or “There’s a bonus Mario Kart quest right now, I CAN’T miss out!” in the middle of a movie. I had control of it. It was only little pockets of my day that I would give in. Just a brief second or pause in my attention to who and what is living and breathing right in front of me. Little pauses in my devotion to my relationships. Small slips back down the mountain I’m trying to climb. They never seem detrimental on their own, but collectively…they’re a landslide. Now you may be wondering if you’ve read this far how I’ve gone from talking about God, to South Park, to cell phones. What on earth is going on in this dude’s head? Keep your knickers clear of bunches, I’m getting there. The thought I (and Randy Marsh) want to provoke is this :

These mobile minigames aren’t fun. They are little flashing dopamine inducing bright lights that we try to compensate our demons with.

The SP episode actually goes along to explore the ideas behind these games. How humans are too adept at accessing things that provide us that good pleasurable feeling in our neurons. How we’ve gotten to the point where we become addicts. That isn’t a pretty word, but it’s the best description of our obsessions with our phones. Mini games. Likes on Instagram. Followers on Tik Tok. There’s a billion different ways we are getting fed exactly what we think we’re hungry for. There’s also a reason we feel less tired and more alive when we engage the world around us, as opposed to the one inside a brick in our hand. We put these virtual platforms on such undeserved pedestals every single day. And for what? They provide fleeting moments of joy, not lasting memory. I won’t speak for the readers, but I have never felt more fulfilled writing nothing, and I have never felt less accomplished after I’ve finished everything in a game or a show.

I’ll say that again.

I never felt more than when I wrote nothing, and I never felt less than when I watched everything.

I’m gonna go on a limb here and guess what the reason may be for this. When I would spend my days staring at a screen, be it computer, television, or cellular, I was not engaging the parts of me that made me feel alive. I was putting myself on auto mode, because it was easy, and it felt good. I was feeding this addiction and compensating for my own demons. Putting off things I really want to do in my life, because this couch is comfortable, and South Park is funny. What you don’t stop to think about is that when you become consumed by the simple pleasantries of life to the point of problem, you spoon feed your soul to your own personal demons. Depression. Sloth. Procrastination. Envy. Gluttony. Anxiety. Vices. Take your pick. There’s a reason why we turn to substances and distractions. It’s easy to fall under the weight of our demons. There’s a reason in that space, we’ll look for anything else to focus on instead of the problems right in front of us.

There’s also a reason we start to eventually feel better when we sit in the darkness and figure it the fuck out.

Stop blaming the screens. I’ve seen all the articles and studies, just like you have. No need to go off on a tangent thinking I don’t know that we’ve gone from consumer to consumption. I recently started working for TELUS, and my social media feed is full of ads for everything I sell now. Almost as if I spend a lot of time on certain websites, like I need to reference them for my vocation…weird. I know that the reason I get every notification about a concert coming to town is because I’m a “like” slut for anything musically related. I know why I’ll be thinking about Panago right around dinner time and all of a sudden, there’s an ad for SkipTheDishes on Instagram. The algorithms may be smart, but they’re also kinda dumb. However, throughout all of this hypnotization that leaves us pointing the finger at the device that REQUIRES our fingers…who is the real culprit? My screen time app wasn’t reporting critically insane levels because my phone decided to go into autonomous mode by itself. My stories weren’t scrolling themselves with the occasional doubletap. Your candies aren’t being crushed on their own….or however that game works. It’s me. You. Us. Humans. We are not the victims. We are the problem.

We’re also the solution.

Facing your demons without the help of substance or distraction is the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do in life. First you have to figure out the identity of both sides: what am i hiding from, and what do I keep running to? This covers so much more than just screen time. Do you spend too much time at the gym because looking good helps you forget that you go home alone? Do you post Instagram photos half naked because the likes you get make you feel like some version of popularity and fame in your mind? Do you brag about your stocks on Facebook to prove to others that your smart idea was actually a good one? Why do you need anyone else’s validation? You’re the rich one! If I offended you with any of these examples, I apologize, but that was the point. Opening your eyes up to a personal problem is often like cleaning out a messy crawlspace. Uncomfortable, confining, and there’s usually things there you don’t want to look at. I sure didn’t like looking at my own unhealthy habits and addictions. Still don’t!

I’m trying to stop looking for the solution, and start living the solution.

I’m the one that can put the phone down. Turn the TV off. Put the computer to sleep. I’m the one that can stop the distracting, and start the healing. I recently had one of those eye opener moments in my life. I’m not proud of my actions. My distraction came before my reasoning. I let my problems reach boiling point. The woman that fills my life up with SO much beauty and happiness had met with the unforgiving sting of frying pan oil spit cooking us dinner. I should have been present and rushed to her aid, and instead I had to finish a battle against another Pokemon trainer on my phone. This resulted in a quarrel that I felt qualified to win. I used all the same excuses. “I was almost done, just a couple more clicks. It’s no big deal. I’m not putting my phone first.” I KNEW how stupid these words sounded. I knew I was digging myself a deeper pit. I felt I needed to take a pause and go do some soul searching. So I took a walk after dinner. I walked around and sat in my head with my problems. I thought about why I was trying to fix my feeling of emptiness with more emptiness. Sounds about as rational as Trump’s political campaign, right? So I deleted every game off my phone that was sucking my soul out. Profiles, purchases, levels, characters. Everything. Cancelled the $6 monthly subscription that I had rationalized to be worth it because “I enjoyed the game”. I was tired of making excuses for my addictions. I was tired of letting my virtual life be a place where I could procrastinate from my real one. Now, I’m not saying go delete your Instagram if you spend too much time on it. I’m not telling you to stop paying for that Smule subscription if you sing more karaoke than a country bar on a Friday. I had to remove the temptation from my life in order for me to be able to put my life in perspective. I have an addictive personality. I chose to own that fact and adapt to it.

I stopped letting my demons win.

Now of course, I still watch TV. I still play video games quite a bit. I’m not a monk. I believe that we need to take small steps back up our mountain, not flying leaps. Wind is a fickle bitch, and so is life…it can blow you way off course. Better to find small victories than hope for great ones sometimes. My small victory was that I no longer have a place to turn my brain off for 5-10 minutes when I want to put off life. I want to be a writer, not a professional gamer. I want to make music, not catch every Pokemon. I’m 31 years old, and by no means is my life coming to a close anytime soon (I hope), but one day it will. I don’t want to wake up one day in the twilight of my life, look back knowing my only achievements were arthritis from a lifetime of little flashing lights on my phone, and a library of television show memories and jokes in my head. I want to look back on old times from the porch of my house and smile, knowing I was good at livin’, and lovin’, to quote Matthew McConaughey. Now here’s a question from me.

If you think you aren’t any good at that thing that sets your soul on fire, first ask yourself: how much time do I give to my passion, and how much time do I give to my distraction?”

I sat here for an hour or so writing this. It paints quite the vivid picture of how my scatter brain works and creates ideas. It also made me feel more accomplished than any likes on social media or achievements in a video game ever will. It gave me the time to spend in my own head, and my own space. It allowed me to explore my feelings, and meditate on how I feel about them. There’s a difference there, you know. Having feelings, and how you feel ABOUT them. Reflecting like this on yourself is what levelling up is like in real life. After I’m done writing it, I’m gonna make some breakfast, grab my headphones, and go on a nature walk outside. My achievements earned will be personal growth, a Vitamin D bonus, and an oxygen induced dopamine buff, not a flashing light farce. It’s a beautiful day to be something more my friends. Do you wanna keep compensating? Or do you want to start cultivating.

Our destinies complete us when we let them.

Competition Vs Cooperation

February 19, 2021

I’ve been racking my brain around this concept for the last 31 years of my life; or, at the very least, as long as I can remember. Our society wrestles with some fundamentally opposing world views: that of the individual, striving to be the “Greatest of All”, alone at the “Top of the Mountain” and that of the one who works with others to create and advance a better world around him. The two really are at odds with one another just be definition: “individualism” vs “collectivism”. This is the duality at the heart of Western Society and I truly believe it is at the heart of so much mental, emotional and physical unrest. We strive to be “better” than the next person, or again, at the very least not “as bad as” this person or that person. But what an exhausting and unending race. A forever game. Now I forgot who said it, so I’ll pull up the google but a wise man said “you win the race the day you stop racing” or something to that affect.

It was Bob Marley, go figure. That man had it understood.

But back to my ramblings. Since starting this paradigm shifting journey that is the podcast and my open exploration of the distance between the heart and the mind, I have wrestled with my own roots of understanding. You see, I come from a family that has such immense pride, on both sides. Now pride isn’t such a bad thing, but it really can get in the way of ones learning and growth. The most dangerous place to be in the world is to think that you know it all. News flash: you and I will never know it all. The day you think you got it all planned out, either you begin to die or you will be humbled.

So to return to the argument and the clash between the ubermincshes of Nitechizsm and the Egalitarian Romantic Idealism of Marxism AKA being the individual soley on top of the world and working towards cultivating a shared and equitable society. One must understand the importance of balance. Without balance there is chaos and trust me when I say this, no society runs on positivity. If that were true, then we could all think ourselves to prosperity. But we can’t. There are limitations. This is known in the Western World as work. We have got to do work to get to where we want and there are two very different ways of achieving this: through cooperation or competition. Both of which result in very different outcomes.

Let’s look first at competition. All throughout University, I hated doing group projects. Why? Because the work load was never balanced, or so I felt. Someone was always doing more and that just didn’t seem fair to me. You might have someone who was so controlling that they did everything, thereby rendering me useless; or, I had to do a lot because nothing was getting done. I once did a project with another guy and we had a great time. Drinking beers and shooting the shit but ultimately we got nothing done and put together something so half-assed that all our peers laughed at how clearly aloof we appeared in our work.

For my naïve self, I saw it as a wake up call: you want something done right, you better go do it yourself.

Well, that made for a very difficult next few years of my life. As you expand in your success, be it a business or any concentrated effort, there is only so much one person can handle before they have to share the load. If you are able to handle all your endeavors single-handedly, congrats, but there is a point of critical mass or a ceiling from which you can’t move passed as a single person. You need someone to help lift the ceiling higher. This is where sharing the load comes in, now as a boss or a leader, you will by nature always(or should always) be doing more than those following you. If you are not doing more than your employees then, my dear friend whom I respect, you are a shitty leader (this is Leadership 101). Expressed simply: leaders do more than their employees to run successful companies; however, they do not do everything. They give people tasks and divide things among others. They also develop a connection to the individual on a human level and if they can’t then make sure someone is.

 Another aside, if you can’t make a human connection with your employee, than they might not be the right fit or your business is growing and you need to find someone who you can connect with and who can connect with them. I’m no genius but if I’m not mistaken, I think they call these people Supervisors or Assistant Managers…

The point is, you can’t be successful at life by yourself. You need to share the load. You need to cooperate with others and see their success as your success. Simply put (because I like keeping things simple as it has always helped me to get the information I needed): when you prosper, I prosper and when I prosper, you prosper. This is information that seems to be lost amongst our Western Society, especially places like Social Media where “influencers” poach “followers” for their own personal popularity and not the growth of a real community. It happens to me all the time, can’t you sense my bitterness? Really though, why the hell are you following me so I can follow you and then you unfollow me? That’s the most childish shit I can think of… but allow me to catch my own judgement and self-righteousness, if we are not careful, we can all be playing the silly and pointless game of competition. So I’ll stop my finger waving and redirect my focus to myself. The moral of my rantings are that we have to be careful of the community we sow and what we hate most in others is usually just a mirror’s reflection of our own insecurities and frustrations.

So rather than admonishing the shortcomings of “influencer” culture, ask yourself (as I ask myself the same thing): why are you getting caught up in the non-sense? In the game without end? There are plenty of people who are authentic and genuinely want to make the world a better place, the thing is that they aren’t always as obvious and openly visible as the misdirected “changers” among us who really just want fame and fortune so they can sip champagne on a yacht (oddly specific? It’s because I’m definitely guilty of this). It all comes back to balance. We can’t be purely cooperative, there will always be some individuals who will abuse privileges and want more, just look at how Marxism worked in practicality: not well.[1] We also have to make sure that we have a strong support network of people who truly have our backs, or else we can become jaded when we find ourselves being “used”[2]. Also, never wait around for people to do what you want to be doing, lest you wait forever. If you want to do something or want to share something with the world, fucking do it already. In the age of the Internet, there is truly an audience for everything and I mean everything. If you want to write a book about Space Exploring Giraffes, a guaren-goddamn-tee you will make a millions of dollars.[3]

And my last point, in keeping with the theme of balancing between the two fields of cooperation and competition, or, collectivism and individualism respectfully; it is okay to experience financial success for what you create and provide for the world. Just don’t make that the sole purpose of what you do. Robin Williams talked about the harms of being so successful that people just artificially goad of you and de facto not your people. Charlamagne Tha God talked about this with Kayne and how disconnected he was due to his massive success. Kayne had a paid posse of people telling him that everything he did was “amazing” and “unprecedented” that it gave him a god complex, literally.[4] Honesty is salvation and salvation is painful, so just be careful of what you reap in this world because you likely will receive it. Keep the balance, enjoy the fruits of your labor, but never live like you think you are the King of All Men because you will be humbled at some point and the worst time to be humbled is upon your death bed because you have no chance at changing the story.[5] Ultimately, there are no bad people in this world, just lost people.

In conclusion, thank you for reading this. I enjoyed writing it. To pretentiously quote a genius, Richard Bach, “we teach best what we most need to learn” and I am no exception to this truism. I need to learn, which is what I strive to do daily. It has benefited my greatly and I fundamentally believe it will help you too. So let’s stop competing to be on top of the mountain and enjoy this most precious journey called life together. Keep the balance and God bless!

Robert Grant


[1] Don’t take my word for it, read a history book on Siberian Gulags.

[2] We got to get away from this language. If you are making yourself so available that you are being taken for granted, then maybe you need to reflect upon yourself and ask why you are being taken advantage of. Don’t be an easy target unless you can handle the consequences of being vulnerable.

[3] This is hereby a record of this idea, so if this comes out, I expect royalties. Thank you.

[4] No for real, you can search this shit up. I’m not lying he has compared himself to Jesus, his sixth-studio album is called Yeezus for God’s sakes. Pun intended.

[5] Because your cocky misdirected ass is dead.

How to be an Amazing Parent

Being a parent is difficult.

I don’t think I’ll get very far in my writing career with an opening statement like that, so let me explain.

Parenting is an act of balance… On one hand you have to make your child the most important thing in your world. You do this through time spent with them. This will give them confidence, make them feel happy, and other important stuff*. On the other hand you have to be very intentional with this time so they don’t become selfish entitled little pricks who think the rules don’t apply to them. The balance of parenting is not a game of perfect, it is a game of consistence.

Rob

*Extreme simplification. You can read a Science Parenting book for the specifics.

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Hey everyone,

Means a lot to me that you could take the time out of your busy life to read my stream of consciousness. I know I took time away from mine, which is difficult. What with all the endless scrolling and being on time consuming (and often empty) apps on my phone. It was a difficult choice but alas, I choose to be creative rather than consumptive. Wait a long way of saying: thank you for your time and attention (I’m working on my long-windedness ;p).

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social media and how I use it. I find myself troubled by it to be completely honest. It seems there is something very strange taking place in our society in terms of our communication and attention. Are we losing it? Are we forgetting it? Are we evolving? Are we devolving? What is happening?

Yes, this is actually how my mind works. Be thankful it isn’t yours.

The recent pandemic certainly has not helped with this. Being pressured to stay in doors and avoid social gathers (for good reason) has resulted in us looking for connection elsewhere. Human beings are not solitary creatures, we are pack animals by nature. Tens of thousands of years ago, we survived as tribes and today we still require others or a sense of having others to survive. Tom Hanks in Castaway is a perfect example of this, with creating a friend out of a random beach volleyball. So just like a hairy Tom Hanks and our great-great-great ancestors, we too need to feel connected and in the absence of real and close social-interactions, we are finding this through our technology and in particular: social media.

What are the problems you may ask? Well, for starters, I really question how real any of what we see on Social Media is. Are the things we “post” accurate depictions of who we are? Some may say things like, ‘yes, this is me’ or ‘this is me being vulnerable!’. But for whom? Ourselves? Our family? Our friends? Or even more uniquely, our followers?

I find the concept of followers very interesting. What exactly are followers? Are they friends? Or are they something entirely unique? It seems that followers are similar to whatever it was celebrities used to have. I guess you could call them fans but now we call them followers. Or certainly people that are interested in you and what you “stand for”. But what do you stand for? What do I stand for?

I’m not exactly sure.

Herein lies the problem. Or what I think could be the problem. We are confusing our identities between our waking real-world lives and whatever it is that we are presenting through our social media accounts. I think there is something uniquely dangerous happening here, in terms of, where is the line? Who are we really or what are we becoming.

Let’s not circle the drain here. I say this because, really, I’m concerned about what I am becoming. Why else would I bring it up? I see that I am distracted by the buzzes, the beeps, the icons that take me away from what really matters: my time and what I want to be doing with it.

There is an interesting phenomenon that I have noticed in my own life. I always am chasing the moment that just passed. I love my life. I am truly blessed. But it’s almost like I don’t fully enjoy the nectar of life that is available in the moment. I am always just a fraction of something distracted. And when this happens, you miss things. You take them for granted thinking that it will be like this forever. But the reality is, it won’t. All things shall pass and all things are impermanent.

So what is the solution? I say, make the choice of which world you want to live in: the digital one or the real one. You can’t live in both simultaneously. You just can’t. One is the Matrix where things are controlled by insidious robots called Algorithms that want to drain you of your most precious resources: time and attention. They do this by distracting you with extensions based on whatever it is you seem to be interested in. The other is the real word, where you spend time and give attention towards people that you actually know, where you can hopefully be who you really are. People that you swear you think are driving you absolutely insane one moment and have you laughing uncontrollably the next. Family. Friends. People where you can speak and be heard. The choice is yours, you can alternate if you want to. But like anything, you can’t do both at the same time effectively.

Have you ever tried having a meaningful conversation with your partner while writing a diatribe against someone who made an inflammatory comment towards Beyond Meat Burgers? Probably not, but you probably have tried something similar. And my guess is that it didn’t go very well. You can only do one thing well at a time, human beings are not effective multi-taskers. Similarly, you can only live in one of these worlds, effectively, at a time.

Both take up the same resources: time and attention. And while I am not saying that you need to be a luddite and smash your internet router, I am suggesting that we need to be a little bit more present around the organic people in our lives that actually matter. And really, what I am saying is that I need to be more present around my family. Mark my words, in a world where distractions are infinite, the greatest gift you can give anyone is your time and attention.

Thank you for reading.

Robert Grant

Episode 46: An Undesired Journey Through the U.S. Prison System

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to someone who had personally experienced the U.S. prison system as an inmate. It was an emotional story about how one choice forever changed the life of an individual. His journey reveals the culture of the United States Prison system, focusing on racial and cultural segregation of communities as well as the financial investments of corporations on prison labor. It is a fantastic episode that you are sure to enjoy, providing listeners with a raw look at what life is like inside the U.S. prison system.

People Do Not Change…

Unless They Want to Change

This is an important rule in life. Remember it.

I know I haven’t written a blog post in a while and that is due in large part to focusing on further developing our podcast. However, my wonderful daughter woke up early this morning (loudly) and after cajoling her back to sleep, I decided it would be a great time to work on an article (thanks Sophia). Today’s article is about a very simple rule that will bring you a lot more freedom in your life. The rule goes as follows: people do not change, unless they want to change.

Remember Newton’s Laws of Motion? (I don’t, in fact, I had to Google it before continuing any further). In 1687, Isaac Newton (then not yet referred to as “Sir” until he was knighted in 1705, thanks Google) proposed his three laws of motion in his ground breaking work the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. His theories on motion, which eventually became laws (the highest order of the Scientific Method), revolutionized the way we see the world today. Well, some of us anyways (I won’t drop any specific names but they see the world as non-spherical).

Thanks for inventing gravity, bro!

Now, obviously, I haven’t read his book but from what I gather it can be summarized as didactically exploring the three different Laws of Motion. The three laws are as follows: #1 “without resistance: objects in motion, stay in motion”; #2 “the greater the force, the greater the acceleration”; and #3 “for every action, there is a reaction”.  I am no physics teacher (so definitely don’t quote me on the 2nd law) but for the purposes of this article we are going to extrapolate the theories of momentum and motion into human behaviour. That is that people who act a certain way are not going to change unless they either A) have to or B) want to. No amount of wishful thinking or mindforcework is going to make a person change. You can encourage change, you can even be the model of said changes but in the end: the individual is the ultimate decider, the force and the accelerator, of change in their life.

I have heard it said that a majority of the world’s mental frustration and angst is based upon trying to control things that are simply out of their control. When I work with children (and clients of all ages for that matter), I always tell them that the only person they can control is themselves. Not nature. Not animals (especially not cats). And not others. So stop trying. If there is a behavior that you do not like about someone, you have choices to make. You can either tell them about it and hope they decide to change their behavior or you stop worrying about it altogether. Notice how both of these choices are under your control.

If you have a friend who is chronologically challenged (they are late for everything, and I’m not talking 15 minutes here, I mean an hour) and/or has extremely poor communication skills (perhaps they were raised by Carthusian monks on a lifelong monastic silence) and it drives you bonkers. Stop. Reflect. Is any of this behavior yours to control? No. It isn’t. So stop trying. These people will not change unless they have to or want to. Now, that is not to say that you say nothing or do nothing with this sheepish individual. Again, go back to your self-agency. You can make choices for yourself. Ask yourself: what do I want? If you want your friend to improve on quality x,y, or z, then tell them. But do not text them. We shirk from conflict enough as it is these days and texting, being the new form of human communication that it is (even angry letters sent from Popes and contemporaries of the Middle Ages typically took time to put a level of thought into their diatribes), is simply not an effective method of having a constructive discussion. If you want people to change, you need to tell them and then they can decided whether or not they want to.

The other version of change is when people have to. But really, nobody has to do anything if they don’t want something of it. Take for example the case of the “hopeless alcoholic” (I borrow this character  from Bill W’s Alcoholic Anonymous) who can’t stop drinking. Indeed, the compulsive drinking of this reprobate seems to suggest that they are afflicted with something not dissimilar from a disease. It is killing them yet they cannot stop. They are addicted. They are powerless to the drink. Yet we hear of so many people with similar tales of addiction that are able to successfully become sober and remain that way the rest of their lives. But how? Because they want to. They want to be clean. For their families, their friends, themselves. They are proud of their success and their choices (and damn proud they should be). Even if an individual is arrested and told that they can’t, say, have a drink. They still could do it. But if they look at themselves and realize: I am not proud of the fact that I physically assaulted a newspaper box and soiled myself at a bus stop, I need to get myself together here. That is not them having to do anything, that is them wanting to do something. They want to change themselves. These are lasting changes. Not when the wife says do this or I’ll leave. Not when the police say do this or you’re going to prison. Only when the individual says, I need to do this for [insert reason, clause, ultimatum here].

I could write a lot more on this. I have decided that I will and put them into a book to be lost in the oversaturated market that is self-help books. But that is enough for right now. If you like this, then comment on it and ask for more. Share it with your friends. Print it. Frame it. Or burn it. Whatever you do, realize it is your choice. Realize that no one has control over you. That you are the most important voice and decider in your life. That is not to say you should be a selfish individual but rather that you do things because you want to. Not because you feel like you have to. If someone really cares about you, they will want you to do what you want to do. They will not pressure you, they will encourage you. So make good choices and remember that you can’t control anyone, so stop trying to force it. People do not change, unless they want to.

R.G.

Image taken from: https://en.dopl3r.com/memes/dank/how-people-fixed-lightbulbs-before-isaac-newton-invented-gravity/792013

Priority, Not Priorities

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com

I recently checked out the audiobook version of Essentialism by Greg McKeown and while I am not yet finished, there has already been much to think about. The book itself is a proposal for a better life, a self-help book of sorts but with practical application. It is not about giving you another set of rules to follow for success, romance, or finance but rather a way of decluttering your life and tailoring it to your needs, wants and interests.

In our society, we are constantly inundated with expectations that, for the most part, are not our own. We are expected to go to another board meeting despite the high chance that it will have nothing to do with us. We are expected to go to random social events because, well, the more people there the better they probably look. We don’t want to hurt peoples feelings, so we sacrifice our own. For what? To keep good social standing? So that we have that many more people at our funeral? Why are we so caught up doing the things we don’t want to be doing? This is the thesis of McKeown’s book: what is it that is of highest importance to you? And if you are not already doing it, then why not?

Early on in the book, McKeown talks about the word ‘priorities’ and why this is a corruption of the word ‘priority’. The word ‘priority’ was introduced around the 14th century and meant the most important point or goal taking place above all else. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that we pluralized this word.[1] As many of us have come to find out, we are not effective at multitasking. The human brain is not meant to take on several tasks at once, should this happen, you are doing several tasks at various degrees of effort.[2] It is said that we only have so much cognitive bandwidth and to divide this among multiple tasks means that none of the tasks will be done to our maximum capacity and efficiency. The more you divide, the less cognitive bandwidth you have to put into a separate task. Take me for example, I am currently writing this article while watching my ten month old play with toys. I simply can not do both at the same time, so I am constantly jumping between the activity of writing and watching my child. The result? Probably the formation of sentences that aren’t as clear as they could be had I only been writing this (I appreciate your understanding).

You are probably saying to yourself, well that’s great but we live in a world that is meant to multitask. Very true, which is why we need to give ourselves a long hard look and examine what needs to stay and what needs to go. We must identify our priority not our priorities. What is essential? What is the number 1 focus and let’s just stop there. Imagine your brain as a computer, on any given moment you might have several applications open: listening to music, three different social media apps, two different emails, four different word documents, whatever randomness you are searching on the internet and, just for a cherry on top, the latest “free-to-play” game that’s out.[3] All these different activities result in your computer running slowly. Your brain is no different. When you have multiple things on the go, you simply cannot think or focus clearly. While you might not be able to close all your applications down and just run one (I know I can’t stop watching my daughter), you can close down most of the other ones. With particular emphasis on the ones you don’t need.

This returns to my original point, there is so much unnecessary distraction in our lives. I say this because I used to be a willing victim of it all. I had all the social media accounts and all the time eating games out there. My life was one big distraction. I couldn’t focus on anything because I had something else burning in the back of my brain. I couldn’t enjoy the moment because there was another moment to think about or enjoy. While I am in no sense a master of the practice of essentialism, it is something that I want to incorporate and something that I truly believe will benefit you as well. So look at your life and ask yourself, what windows can I start closing down? Do I need this? Is this a good use of my time? Because time is the ultimate resource and it is not renewable. How you choose to spend your time is what makes you a free person. So choose wisely. Cut the distraction out of your life and I promise you, you will feel happier and more fulfilled.

There is a reason why people lose faith in politicians and leaders in general. Their goals are too vast, too numerous. They lack singular focus. They lack priority in favor of priorities. This is usually done to appease as many people as possible and ‘win them over’ but the results are often that everyone becomes equally dissatisfied (unless they are superheroes and able to achieve everything they promise). Perhaps this happens to you? You make so many promises but end up disappointing someone or worse yet, you spread yourself out so thin you don’t have time for you and you can’t give anything your full potential if you are not at 100 percent to begin with.

So ask yourself, right now, what is your top priority? What is the first thing you need to do today before you do anything else? Once you complete that, then you move onto your next objective. Give this one thing your most attention, effort and presence instead of completing multiple goals at once. If you can achieve this, then you are on your way to being an essentialist.

-R.G.


[1] McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (2014).

[2] See Salvucci, Dario D. & Taatgen, Niels A. The Multitasking Mind (2011) for further information and research on why the human brain can only effectively do one task well at a time.

[3] Don’t get me started on “free-to-play” games.

3 Books To Check Out

Hi everyone,

As some of you may know, I have started to become a more frequent reader this year. Since January, I have completed 14 books, which is unheard of for me (I think on average, I read half a book a year in my twenties). It won’t shock you to hear that reading is a great exercise for you. It benefits not only your mind but your body as well. The act of reading can help calm your mind. This is because you have to focus on what you are doing and actively process the information you are decoding. So it is a great way to both start your day and end your night.

These are three of the books I am currently reading that are helping me to expand my perspective:

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

This is a great book that explains the science behind sleep in a way that is easily approachable. We live in a society that is constant and full of stress. For many of us, we have to intentionally add “down time” to our lives be it meditation, exercise or reducing our screen time. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get a good night of sleep. This book goes on to provide why sleep is so important and why many of us should consider rekindling our relationship with the most ancient form of self-care. I highly recommend giving this book a read, it makes for excellent night time reading.

The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Dr. Edith Eva Eger

When I was in university, I read a book that changed my life. It was called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The book details the true story of a survivor who was imprisoned in the brutal concentration camps of Auschwitz during the Holocaust. One thing that is so incredible about this book is how the author describes his mentality behind his survival, he simply never gave up believing in a higher purpose, a deeper meaning. In Dr. Eger’s memoir, she provides a similar account of not only how she survived but why she survived. She also describes her life after surviving the camps and her process of healing. While reading this book, I could not help but draw connections to the late Frankl’s life affirming work (these connections are also mentioned throughout the book). While her experiences are unimaginable, she illustrates them in such a way that we can see ourselves in her, reminding us that no matter how difficult life is (or seems), we always have the power to choose how we see things. If we choose to feel powerless over our life’s circumstances, we will remain powerless; if we choose to heal ourselves and accept responsibility for our wellness, we will live our most full life.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Contrary to what the title may suggest, this is a book that is very insightful to the aforementioned race mentioned. Yes, white people. If you have questions about what is going on (or if you have opinions about what is going on) in terms of race relations, then I highly encourage you to give this a read. While Eddo-Lodge is British and focuses on race relations within the UK, these are but examples to a larger narrative. She explains things like White Privilege, Anti-Racism, Educational Reform and the importance of talking about race in ways that challenge the post-colonial narrative. It is not about shaming you if you are white for being white, but about rethinking how the various systems of society (political and otherwise) have constructed asymmetrical opportunities based on race. The conversation around race is a difficult one and may even make you feel uncomfortable (it probably should); however, it is one that we need to be having.

Take A Nap

No seriously. Take a nap. It is good for you.

Lately I have started reading up on the circadian rhythm which is the cycle our bodies go through during the day. This also explains what times we feel sleepy and when we should be sleeping. Have you ever noticed about midday, usually after lunch that you start to feel a little drowsy? That is connected to the circadian rhythm and is suggesting to your body that you need a rest. The problem is that our industrious society and culture doesn’t like to take breaks. Many of us Nine-to-Fivers are left to “power through” these energy doldrums and not take the rest that we need.

Showing great Cat Nap form! Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

In the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, he talks about monophasic (one concentrated bout of rest) and biphasic (a large rest with a small rest in the middle of the day) sleeping structures. He mentions how many human cultures engaged in biphasic sleep structures including the west until the early modern period (16th century onwards). Now in our industrialized societies that are constantly left alert and awake by technology, we struggle to get one good night of sleep let alone a midday rest. We need to correct this. Our very health depends on it!

As a new parent, I am quickly understanding why my father was always caught napping on the couch. He was likely exhausted by antics (I was a busy kid). I say this because I am often exhausted and my daughter isn’t even ten months old yet. Therefore, it really helps to boost my energy and my mood when I have a quick thirty minute nap. Not only do I feel refreshed but I feel happier. Sleep and hunger have a stronger connection to our well-being than we oft give credit (you’ve heard of hangry to denote someone who is irritable due to hunger, well how about tangry for tired and angry?). In our very busy lives, we need more quality rest. I believe that naps will help with this.

In conclusion, this article serves as a quick public service announcement to bring back the siesta! Doesn’t have to be long either, in fact thirty minutes is optimal (having more than this could affect the quality of your night time sleep). Not only will you feel the immediate health benefits of an improved mood and feeling refreshed but it can also help in reducing the risk of heart disease and premature death.[1] This is because sleep is the bodies way of repairing itself. So take my word for it, instead of having an afternoon latte to jolt you back up- try looking for a place to take a snooze.

Thanks for reading!

R.G.


[1] Based on a study done at Harvard University on communities that take afternoon naps versus ones that do not. Of the volunteers, those that participated in not taking naps were 37 percent more likely to develop heart disease and die than those that had naps. These numbers were even higher in individuals in labour intensive occupations. Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, Pg.71.

Perspectives with Kaamil Salojee

Yesterday evening I did a podcast with my good friend Kaamil Salojee. Kaamil is from South Africa and moved to Canada from Johannesburg in 2011. Whenever we got together, he didn’t always share much about his life back in South Africa. I attribute this mostly due to my hesitation in asking about his home country for fear of sounding nosy but also because we were usually preoccupied with parting and imbibing ourselves or snowboarding. Now with Kaamil preparing to return back to his mother country of South Africa, I decided to do a podcast with him in where he shares his experiences growing up in a different continent.

I have included the link to the podcast below. I hope you enjoy. Our conversation definitely taught me much about the interesting history of this country, from Apartheid to post-Apartheid and what the country is like today. From his sharing, I trust that there is something every listener can take from our conversation.

Thank you for listening.

R.G.