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.
*Extreme simplification. You can read a Science Parenting book for the specifics.
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.
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).
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 isthemselves. 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.
Due to the recent pandemic, a lot of people have started picking up new hobbies. Maybe you are making sourdough bread from scratch. Going for dehydrating mid-afternoon walks in the burning sun. Maybe you are binge watching extremely obscure foreign language shows on Netflix. Or perhaps you learned how to fashion some home made toilet paper (although this was probably earlier, in the initial stages of the Covid consumer hysteria). I really hope you didn’t pick this up. I also picked up a hobby: gardening. Which is very new for me.
Before all this, I probably would have been the last person to be found inside a gardening center. I used to find the places suffocating. So many colors. So many choices.Why am I even here? Isn’t there a video game for me to be playing? Well, I have been playing a lot less video games these days, thanks in no small part to being a parent. I also don’t drink as much beer (hangovers and an infant, I’ll pass). So I found myself looking for something to do. Then I heard about the mental health benefits of gardening and taking care of plants. Not only do they purify the air inside and outside our homes (they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen) but tending for them also has know health benefits. As someone who wants to incorporate more healthy stress relieving activities in their life, this seemed like a natural fit.
So I did some synoptic searching on google for what some of the easiest and best plants are to have in your home. I boiled it down to Boston ferns and peace lilies. Apparently, these two plants are great for starters due to their resiliency. Read: you shouldn’t be able to kill them. I thought this would be a great start, so I set off to my local hardware store and bought a crocodile fern and a discount peace lily.
I returned home stoked to introduce my two new sun eating friends to my spouse. She doesn’t share my excitement instead asking where they will be going. A question I hadn’t thought out. Plants apparently are supposed to go in pots. So they sit in their plastic containers for the first night.
The next day, I have the ingenious idea of putting the fern in a big coffee mug and the peace lily inside a wooden container. While this worked all fine and well for the first few weeks, I soon noticed that some of the leaves were turning brown. Not on one plant but unfortunately, both plants. It turns out that watering a plant too much is worse than underwatering a plant. Leave it to me to figure this out. I also learned that tropical plants, like the peace lily, prefer to be kept in their plastic containers because it helps with drainage. Therefore, keeping it in a wood pail is not an appropriate alternative. I guess this is because the wood absorbs the water more resulting in poor drainage. If your plants have poor drainage you get root rot.
It also didn’t help that I left both the fern and the lily sitting in a puddle of drainage water. Yea, they don’t like that. This resulted in them both getting root rot, which almost feels like an achievement considering they are both rookie level plants and yet I managed to kill them within a month. I was disheartened to say the least. I wanted to revive these two plants and work feverishly to do so. Taking them out of their pots. Drying them. Re-potting them. Adding more water. It was probably getting a bit ridiculous because my partner had to tell me that owning a plant is like dating a women. I must have had an inquisitive look on my face because she went on to explain that if you give a woman too much attention, she will feel trapped and not want to continue dating you. I believe some call this “clingy”. Well, plants are much like this in that if you give them too much attention (read: water), they will suffocate and die. My mind was blown.
So, I backed off. I stopped calling, to use the metaphor correctly. While my fern didn’t survive. The peace lily is making a comeback. So I learned an invaluable lesson that not only relates to plants but relationships in general. We all have basic needs. In the case of plants they need sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. But give them too much of something and they can die. Well, we too need various things in our relationships: closeness, gifts, fun and exciting memories, gifts, and other stuff. But get too much of this and you can actually push your loved one away. Everything requires balance. We now have several plants all over our place (much to the chagrin of my better half) that are living healthy vibrant lives. All because I learned a valuable lesson: don’t water your plants too much.
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The creative process is a frustrating one. Perhaps it is because, if you are like me, you wait for some creative genius to wash over you, be inspired and then start working. Well, guess what? It doesn’t work that way. If you want to write something, or do something. Anything for that matter. You have to physically start doing it. No amount of self-help books will self help you to action. You have to act. Now of course I am not saying that you shouldn’t be reading or expanding your knowledge. But at some point, we got to realize, we are the ones that have to do it. It is not going to come to us. It is not going to fall from the sky. We have to act.
So instead of sitting around and being a Netflix triathlete. Get up and do the work. This is the only way you are going to get things done. I don’t know what is wrong with me, and perhaps my generation, but nothing is going to come to you. With the exception of the lottery and even that requires buying a ticket. We have got to get up and do the work. So instead of thinking about all the plot points and pandering over every detail and theme. Just start.
Instead of researching the best gym routine to follow. Just go to the gym.
Instead of thinking about what products to best clean your house. Just clean your house.
Nike truly was on to something when they said, ‘just do it’. Trust me on this one. Whatever it is you want to do. Whatever goal it is you want to achieve. Stop making excuses that no one cares about because the only person it is affecting is you. But my internet is too slow and the word document for me to write this is taking too long. This is the voice I heard before writing this and honestly, it’s a piss poor excuse for not doing the work.
Hear yourself and redirect yourself. Just do it.
We live in a world of perfectionism and perfectionists. And I’m here to say that is a load of shit. Nothing is more important than the power of action and action is progress. Not perfection. So stop talking and just do it. You are more than capable.
Last Sunday I wrote about the need to reintroduce some routine and structure into my life. The current circumstances of COVID-19 has made it far too easy for me to formulate excuses to not have a rigid schedule. I can’t go to the gym because it is closed. I can’t get up early because I could wake everyone. I can’t go to be early because I have to watch one more episode on Netflix. As I write them out, I see the truth for what it is, my own laziness and my quickness to blame my situation on external factors. Yes, excuses. The reality is that I am the one who needs to adapt. So I decided to challenge myself in going to be every night at a reasonable time and getting up at 5am to start a specific morning routine.
That was last week and as promised, I thought I would share how it went. My goal is not to bore you with the details so I will try and be as succinct as possible. The purpose is for me to be honest with you so I can be more honest with myself. That night after writing the article, we had some friends over. I stayed up to late. Had too much wine. Ate too much food. So as you can imagine, when the alarm went off at 4:55AM, I hit the snooze button faster than cowboy in a wild west shootout. Off to a great start.
I eventually did find the “strength” to get out of bed quarter after six. Rather than beat myself up, I acknowledged that this was an improvement from any single day the previous week. Improvement. Success. Getting better. But not where I want to be. Now the interesting thing about my relationship with goals, is that one failure often times makes me want to quit. Maybe you are the same way. Now I could get in-depth into the psychology of this (or what I think the psychology is) but allow me to be brief: for me I associate failure with shame (I could write an entire article on the reasons why). Maybe you do too? Historically, when I can’t make a goal or deadline, I collapse and give up. Rather than regroup, restructure and try again, I just throw in the towel. But that methodology is shit and I’m tired of appealing to it. So instead of beating myself up and giving up, which I was previously a master at, I decided to learn from what went wrong.
I re-evaluated last night and looked simply at what happened without adding any emotions to it. Okay, so I had some friends over. Stayed up too late and drank wine. Clearly, I need to shut things down earlier. That’s it. No further judgements or shameful statements against myself or my decision making. Because this is what traditionally has derailed me from further pursuit of my goals. I believe that there is an inner critic in us all that keeps us from doing what we want to do. Because whenever we fail at pursuing that passion or valuable goal, the inner critic is in their glory. You suck. You knew you couldn’t do it, why did you even try? You can lie and convince them but you’re the same damn loser to me. You get the idea. The inner critic is a Bonafide prick! How do you shut it off? You just get right back to that goal. You make adjustments. So what did I do? Went to bed earlier.
The following morning? You may have guessed it. Didn’t get up at 4:55AM. Again, shoot the snooze button from the hip. I get the bullseye every time. But this time, I rolled out of bed at quarter past 5. And yes, I literally had to roll myself out of bed. While not the time I was aiming for, I saw it as another victory. I was encouraging myself. I went downstairs and did a morning routine. The only difference was that the timing was staggered by fifteen minutes. Victory. Rather than beating myself up, I kept identifying the positive and that pushed me forward. I want to clarify that acknowledging these successes is not to be confused with participation awards. You know, the ones were you go out and everyone gets a reward just for showing up. To hell with that, I still had a goal and I was going to achieve it. I just wasn’t going to succumb to the negative voices in my head.
So, that night I went to bed at a reasonable time. This allowed me to get up at 4:55 the following morning and crush my routine. I didn’t fall out of bed. I go up with purpose. Had a coffee and started reading. Then did a workout. It was the victory I had wanted. I was able to redirect myself onto the path of success and not give up on the goal because I failed the first day starting it. I call this Goal Reorienting. Imagine one day that you are lost in the woods while going for a hike. You would (hopefully) not just give up finding a way out. What you might do is stop aimlessly walking and recompose yourself by taking a breathe and thinking about where you came from and where you want to go. You would look for landmarks that would help bring you back onto the path from where you came from and eventually get yourself out of the precarious position you are in. Goal Reorienting is like this, only instead of getting lost in the woods you fail to hit your goal. The recomposing yourself is similar but rather than looking for landmarks, you look for the successes that are getting you closer to your goal. Lets say you wanted to lose ten pounds but you only lost 5, well, that’s a pretty spectacular landmark that means you are getting closer to your destination. This helped me stay on the path and carve out my first success with my goal. It felt good, but it was only one day.
Now, maybe I was too cocky because that night I did not go to bed at a reasonable time. But I made a commitment to get up at 4:55AM, which I accomplished. This goes back to the concept of Goal Reorientation. Yes, I strayed away from my path but I was able to correct myself at the nearest landmark (my wake up time). This was a success. And trust me, that night I had no troubles sleeping. I was back at it, even on the weekend! I also plan on continuing to pursue this routine- will I achieve it tomorrow? Not sure yet but I am aiming for it. That is the key to goal consistency.
The point is, if you do not want to accomplish something, aim for perfection. If you do want to achieve something, aim for and identify your progress. Once you get there, keep pursuing it. Achieving goals is all about consistency and your willingness to work for it. Not skill. Not luck. Ask yourself how bad do you want it? If you give up the first sign of difficulty then that can tell you one of two things: you either don’t really want it or you need to deal with that inner critic in your head who is keeping you down. Only you can figure this out and I challenge you to!
So how are you doing with your goals? Feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.
I don’t know about you folks, but I am really feeling the quarantine blues. I know Social Distancing is something to take seriously, which I am, but DAMN my routine and my willpower is way out of wack. I feel out of sorts and really lacking the motivation to do the things that are important to me. So I thought that this would be a good time to reflect on that and perhaps even offer some encouragement to you as well (if you find yourself in a similar state). After all, we are all in this together. I mean truly, whether we like it or not, this is happening to all of us and it is affecting all of us.
Before we were in this situation, I found myself getting up at five minutes to five in the morning. This gave me time to have some coffee, maybe even meditate, read a book, stretch and then head off to the gym before going to work. I found this routine got me pumped up and ready to go. I attribute much of this to not only going to bed at a reasonable time before but to getting some exercise before starting my day. Right there we got two major things that fuel a healthy mindset: sleep and exercise. Since quarantine, gyms have closed and I find myself working from home.
I am very thankful to be working. Unfortunately, many of us may not be as fortunate. While some of us are receiving financial support- there are others who are living under extremely stressful financial situations. My heart goes out to these individuals and their families. This is but one more major difficulty during a tumultuous time. I do wish to acknowledge these individuals. My thoughts are with you and your families at this time. I can not speak for you but my only hope is that this article may provide something useful to you.
Working from home is more difficult than I had anticipated. Not that the work itself is more difficult but rather the ability to remain focused is. At work, I find myself coming to a place where I am given a specific task: to do my job. When you are working from home, there is much more you have to do- especially if you have children. At the time of writing this, my daughter is seven months old. It is wonderful to be able to experience being around her during the day. Seeing her trying to figure out the world more than I was ever able to when I worked. However, it can make focusing on work and staying on task for extended periods of time very difficult. I can only imagine what this is like for parents of older children who are much more mobile and active.
That said, If I am being honest with myself: I am hiding my lack of productivity behind my daughter. Behind my spouse. Behind my dog. Behind my chores. All of which is rather unfair. The real reason my level of effort has decreased is because of me. I have fallen into a slump and I have chosen to use our current situation as an excuse. Yes, the gym is closed. Yes, I am not able to switch up my scenery and put myself in a “productive” environment. Yes, I can’t see friends. But these are all reasons to hide behind my lack of productivity. I can still get up early in the morning. I can still go to bed at a reasonable time. But I find myself not doing these things. Why? Because I am looking for a good reason not to. For me, blaming it on something out of my control is a great excuse. The problem: it is still an excuse and the only person who is really stopping me from accessing my potential is myself.
Sometimes it helps to pull back the layers and look at things from a distance. Detaching yourself from the immediate experience. So if I am to do that and stop and assess things, I will see that there is a habit loop starting to cultivate itself. I tell myself: “Okay, I am going to get up early tomorrow and start my day like I used to.” But I find myself staying up way passed my intended bedtime binge watching shows about a gun trotting madman with a penchant for killer cats. The result: I go to bed later and can’t get myself up in the morning. Almost always, we do things because there is a reward.
Think about your worst vice: typically you do it because you get something out of it. If you didn’t you probably wouldn’t do it. Take for example alcohol. If you have a couple drinks, you start to feel good. It relaxes you. Have to many, you feel like you were hit by a truck the next day. But often times we forgot about how bad our hangovers are and only remember the good feelings, so we find ourselves doing the same thing only a few days later. My point is that our memory and our minds are programmed to these feedback loops especially if what we get out of it is a good feeling which over time become habits. This is explained originally (and far more clearly) in Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book The Power of Habit.
So for me, staying up late with mindless entertainment was becoming a habit. Watching tv or playing video games felt good but then I would have a hard time getting up. This did not feel good. It made me feel unaccomplished and that in turn was failing my goals. This would derail my day and my mood because I felt unsuccessful which would manifest itself in, you guessed, staying up late to ward off those bad feelings. Before all this, I would get up in the morning and go to the gym. The reward was that I felt great after and in turn mentally set me up for a successful day. The problem is that the system of delivering that reward: the gym, is no longer available. So what do I need to do to get back on track and reclaim my routine? Like most things, the answer is deceivingly simple: I need to change right now. I need to stop hiding behind people and events believing they are “obstacles”. I am my only obstacle. I am the one responsible for where I am and the choices I make. So, I need to start making better ones.
The best way to get out of a slump is to acknowledge that you are in one. For me, my slump is not being productive and in not setting up some rigidity in my day. We all need this in our lives, we function best in the presence of a schedule not the absence of one. Therefore, I need to develop and stick to a routine. So starting today I will give myself a weekly schedule. If I slip up, rather than beat myself up, I will do everything to get back on that schedule. For example: if I don’t get up at 4:55, I will get up at the closest interval to that on my schedule. Most importantly, I will set an alarm at the end of the day to go to bed. This will help remind me that I have got to get up early tomorrow. Remembering that the biggest thing in aiding a positive and strong mindset is sleep! If you get a good night sleep, you will simply be more ready for whatever comes your way in the morning.
Picture 2: A rough copy of my proposed routine.
I have included a scanned copy of my schedule above. You will notice the emphasis is on the morning having a strict routine and there being a set time for bed. This leaves plenty of room for figuring out the rest of the day. To me having a regulated morning is necessary for having a productive and positive day. Maybe it is similar to yours? Or perhaps you too could benefit from having a schedule. Feel free to share your thoughts and let me know what you think. I will be posting next weekend with results in how I did with my schedule and areas for improvement. This will help keep me accountable and honest. Human beings are creatures of habit and having a routine can help promote our maximum potential. My goal is to get back to achieving just that! I would be honored if you joined me (or perhaps for me to join you)!
Thank you for reading,
 Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Canada: Random House, 2013.
 Walker, Matthew, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, New York: Scribner, 2018.
The internet is a fascinating and boundless place. It has so much content. So much culture. So much influence. It is a land of unlimited opportunities for information: on any subject, on any thing you can really imagine (always use caution when really tapping into your imagination). It is also a place for socialization albeit a very strange one. You see, part of what makes us humans so interesting is our ability to communicate. According to anthropologists, evolutionary biologists and other smart people – the ability to explicitly and implicitly communicate and thus share information, is what got us to where we are today. Therefore, language: the vessel through which we communicate, is complex. We do not just express ourselves through our literal written words or our spoken phrases. We also use body language, active listening, tone, and a lot of hidden meanings or symbolic language (things like idioms and sarcasm) among other amazing phonological things. My point is, there is more to language than the words we write in a comment box.
The problem is that the internet, for the most part isn’t really monitored by a ruling or governing body. Sure, they have all kinds of people observing what goes on in the internet but no one is really policing it. For example, say you woke up late and are starting your day off poorly. Then you get on public transit and someone on the bus is listening to music full blast without headphones. Yes, using their shitty phone to blare ear bleeding static noise for all to enjoy. It’s at this point you realize you forgot your coffee. Your body temperature increases. Frustration builds up. You feel a demon inside you starting to riff speed metal on your psyche. You are ready to snap.
But you can’t. You can’t walk up, rip that person’s phone and defenestrate them both from a moving vehicle. Social norms resist us from doing that. If you were to do that. You would probably get yourself in a lot of trouble with the law. Because you took someone else’s property and destroyed it (albeit, somewhat justly).
Is there a metaphor here? Yes. Is it super clear? Maybe not, so I’ll explain. We all have bad days. We have all likely been victims of our anger and rage at some point. If not externally, then internally. However, socially constructed systems, like laws and policing bodies, have created things to protect others and in so doing has developed social norms and expectations. Ask anyone on the street if it is normal to walk up to someone and punch them in the face and they will tell you, most likely defensively: no (on second thought, I strongly advise that you please do not do that). That is because we all have a right to be safe. So, you can’t take that goofballs phone and throw it out the window, even though he deserves it. And if you do you go to jail.
So you keep that anger in.
Something else happens. Then something more. Et cetera. Et cetera. And the fire that is your temper grows.
If you are a healthy person. You might start to do some deep breathing. Take a sip of cold water. Distract yourself. Maybe think about a herd of wild puppies jumping on you in a spring meadow and the sun is out. Just look at those puppies. Awww so cute. (Damn, that calmed me down just writing that!)
But maybe you don’t have the strategies to calm yourself down. Maybe you’ve been told all your life to keep it in or not to let it bother you. This advice isn’t very helpful because it isn’t practical. We have to let it out some way or another. And if we don’t let it out through a positive mindful practice, we will let it out through a negative one. Go ahead and name your vice: be it raging at others, road rage, porn, liquor, stealing stamps from your Grandmother’s vast collection, you name it.
Or, maybe you go on the internet. After all, the internet is for the most part, a fairly unregulated and ungoverned place. It seems, that the only way you are ever held responsible or accountable for something you say is if it causes enough social outrage that people come after you. Usually, this is reserved for the off-colour remarks that famous people make while tweeting well past midnight. But the troll is not famous and thus they log on and proceed to absolutely trash someone of status or otherwise. You go on groups and intentionally start fights. You love dwelling in comment boxes and typing things you would never say in public. But here, oh here, you’ve found the perfect place to unleash that monster inside you. Your goal in what you say is not to provide constructive criticism but to evoke the same rage demon that has been conjured up in you. All these years. These people are called Internet Trolls.
Trolls are bastards. They feed off negativity. They say things that cause emotional responses in readers arousing some of our most primitive emotions: hate, fear, anger. They desperately want you to respond. To ignite their fire. To keep that pain burning. Because they are weak. They are hurt. They are people who have been bullied all their lives. Mistreated and presumed powerless. Neglected when they needed a friend. Abandoned when they needed a place to share their heart, their passion, their spark. Trolls are also people just like you and me. They were once a child. They were once innocent and full of potential, now they get their power from antagonizing others online. See the hurt in their words. Hate is hurt and hurt people hate.
There is only one remedy to hatred.
Which brings me to my amazing mother. She has given me so much advice and care over the years that I could never repay her back, I can only pay it forward unto others. She used to say to me when I was angry at someone: If you have nothing nice to say, find something nice to say. I know. I know. The saying usually goes that if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything. But our brains are wired for connection. And when we see the positive in things, our brain develops neural networks that, from that moment on, searches for positive things. It might be difficult at first, but the more you look for the good, the easier it becomes. So instead of shooting a bunch of venom into the internets, say something kind!
For example, perhaps you have a funny comment about regarding what someone does. Do a quick checklist and ask yourself: could this person misread what I am saying? Is this comment mean spirited or is it friendly? Where is this comment coming from? Is it out of pride or jealously? I probably shouldn’t post it then. There are other questions you could ask, but these are good immediate ones to consider before posting something. I’ve made jokes and said things that after I thought, perhaps sometime later: geeze, I probably shouldn’t have said that. If you are having Post Regret. Don’t sweat it. Who you were is not who you are. Just make a conscious effort to say nicer things moving forward. Maybe go back and say something positive on that person’s page. They probably won’t notice or even care, but you will.
Going around saying nice things or comments that are intended to encourage or promote positive feelings is a really good thing. You are injecting the opposite of what the internet already has waaaaaay too much of: trolls and trolling behavior. So much so that it’s a commonplace verb nowadays. Also, you will feel good about yourself too! When you say positive things and encourage others, you feel amazing after. So be an Internet Pixie instead. Might sound super lame but it far outweighs being classified as a troll.
What is a Pixie? Well, depending on where you look, the definition of a Pixie is an entity that can be mischievous but chooses to do “good” instead of being “bad”. They are literally kind-spirited (a kind spirit) versus mean-spirited (a mean spirit). We all have a consciousness and an intuition that tells us what is right from what is wrong. We feel good when we do things that are good, like helping others; however, if we feel bad, like a troll often does, we continue to do bad. Being a troll is cyclic: you feel shitty, so you say something shitty, then you might get a rush of dopamine, but because you didn’t do anything constructive, you feel shitty and the cycle repeats itself. Wow, that’s a lot of excrement. Excrement is toxic. That’s why we get rid of it. So: break the cycle. Be kind, friendly, nice and pleasant on the internet and say things that follow these values. I guarantee that if you promote kindness by throwing some Pixie dust on the internet, then your overall mood will follow!
So be an Internet Pixie, not an Internet Troll. Start Pixing today!
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day.
 Much like operating a car or heavy machinery, don’t post things under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
 Thanks mom, I promise I’ll clean my room. Later.
 I originally considered calling it an Internet Faerie; however, I received a lot of feedback, non-verbal and otherwise, that this was probably not a good choice in wording. My intent in using this terminology was not to offend anyone or any groups. If you think it is suiting go ahead. Whatever it is, it is meant to be positive.
 Found this through a simple Wikipedia search, then got lost for half an hour in the vortex that is the internet and ended up on the climate on Kilimanjaro wondering: how did I get here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie
 It is a similar phenomenon in drug addicts called the Habit Loop. For more information, read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
I started writing these articles or excerpts- whatever you would like to call them, as a way of positively relaxing, reflecting and growing. You see the old method I previously employed, that of getting all pent up during the week and then getting smashed up with my friends, is extremely counter-intuitive to being a successful new parent. Hangovers and screaming children are a fatal cocktail. I also realized that I didn’t want to follow some of the similar missteps of others by self-medicating with alcohol as a method of stress management. The interesting thing is that alcohol increases stress levels rather than inhibits them. Therefore, I needed to find something different and fast. My relationship with my partner and my child depended on it.
Throughout my twenties, I thought it was meaningful to lose yourself in parties and the drink. To forget your values and act like an absolute idiot to attain laughs, attention and even popularity. But that was all incredibly misplaced. While I made lots of great friends throughout my travels, many of whom are still in my life, quite a few of them have subsided and gone elsewhere. The reality is that this was all very much a mask to hide my true self. I am a hurt person. A lot has happened in my life that has negatively impacted me. A lot of it was my own fault. Some of it wasn’t. Regardless, I had an option: to change my values and my lifestyle or slowly destroy my life because of my unhealthy habits. The choice was mine and no one else.
So, like any human with half a brain and a kernel of dignity, I chose to get better. To spend more time with my family and do more productive things. I chose to change. I had the humility to realize that the way I was living was not positive but rather destructive. I almost lost a great relationship and everything that came with it because I was too stubborn to get some help. Life is not easy. For anyone. And if it is easy, then who can you really relate to (it’s hard not relating to anyone)? We all experience pain and we will all at some point or another, if not already, experience immense loss. Loss and pain is part of existence. Death is what makes living real. Time is the only universal currency in all living things. Money doesn’t mean shit when you die, only what you did with the time that you were given does. So start using your time wisely. Which is precisely what I started doing: using my time wisely.
I started going to bed and getting up earlier. I spent more time with my family. I developed a bond with my baby daughter. I played less video games. I put my phone on silent and didn’t respond to people right away. I avoided group chats like the plague. I stopped caring what most people think (after all, if they didn’t respect my new way of life- why bother having them around?) I limited time spent around negative people and energy vampires. I drank less booze and ate much healthier. I mediated. I took cold showers. I journaled (kind of doing that right now). I drank more water. I went to the gym almost every morning. You get the idea: I changed my habits. I changed my life style.
Change is a choice. A choice you make daily. It is not about being perfect. It is about doing your best. Every day. That is how you fall asleep quickly and soundly every night. Knowing you did your best. So that is what I decided to do: my best. I realized that when I was partying, drinking beers, eating garbage food and feeling terrible for the next two and a half days. I was not doing my best. It was evident. I need not ask anyone for a second opinion- the proof was in how I felt: like shit. Not only did I feel gross in terms of physical body- but I also felt like garbage inside my mind. My mental wellness was getting thrashed around like a headbanger at a Slayer concert and not in a good way. The irony is that I partook in these activities because I wasn’t feeling very good about myself but it was also through these activities that continued to make myself feel worse. The fact is that I simply was not doing a very good job of being a partner, a parent and a professional (my productivity at work was struggling too). I simply had no passion. No drive. I had a house. An education. A family. But something was missing.
When I was eleven years old, I wrote a book. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t very good. The plot was the same consistency as a Michael Bay film and featured characters that didn’t really develop. I used my grade seven classmates because I really couldn’t come up with interesting characters and didn’t want to. I was more interested in telling an action packed story where me and my friends took on a demon infested island. I wrote this book in one day. I was so excited. I was having so much fun. I didn’t care about the quality of it. I just loved creating this juvenile adventure that was overflowing with gore yet lacking in philosophical exposition. I wrote it while laying in bed and when I finished, I could hardly sleep. I couldn’t wait to show it to my friends the next morning. When I got to school, I felt like I carried a treasure inside that Garfield notebook. Before I knew it, everyone was reading it. They loved it. It was such a great feeling for I had finally found something I was good at. I was terrible at sports, music or most anything that required a level of skill. But for the first time I was getting honest praise for something I accomplished.
For a long time, I forgot that feeling. Instead, I turned to a plethora of other hobbies. I reserved writing for when I would become ‘inspired’. But that never seemed to happen. I just kept putting it off. Occasionally, I would start a project but then get distracted by a friend, a girl, booze, or all of the above. I went through my undergrad and finished my masters. Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do during this time was write. But really, it probably should have been the first thing. You see, for me, writing is part of my self-care plan. When I actually do it, it really doesn’t require that much energy. Behavioral psychologists call this a flow state, when you do something that seems to escape the parameters of time and you get lost in the act of doing it. Finding something that puts you in this state can help in combating mental health disorders. Writing helped do this for me, so why did I stop.
I probably stopped because I lacked consistency. I lacked having a plan. I lacked holding myself accountable. I lacked courage. I simply wasn’t getting any reps. I kept putting it off, thinking that tomorrow would bring the inspiration I needed. Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that tomorrow never came. If you want to see change, you need to start right now. Not tomorrow. Not on New Years. Today. This very second. Now. So think of a goal. Maybe you want to get in better shape. Then stop reading this and do as many push-ups as you can do. Or do squats while you read it. Start right now. If you want to drink less booze, go buy a six pack of kombucha instead (it tastes like beer). Whatever it is that you want to change or get better at, you need to get repetitions in (I call them reps). The more daily reps you get in, the higher your chances of success. So make it something you can do relatively easily (ex. Mountaineering is not a good daily goal unless you live in Switzerland or a mountainous region; however, if you want to read more, then have books near you that you can pick up). Also, remember, you are not perfect. If you miss a day, shake it off, start again tomorrow. Do your best.
Remember, in the end, it is what we do with the time that we are given. Make the gift that is this time worth while and do what you want to do. Nobody else is going to do it for you. So go out there and get those reps!
(Semi)Pro-tip: If you want to see lasting change, make it a change that you can accomplish daily. For example: if you want to eat healthier, go to the store and buy some veggies! Then put them in your lunch and eat them. Feel good about eating them. Say: I just ate veggies. Go me! Or whatever mantra is going to make you feel good about your choice and insodoing is going to keep you making positive choices. It all comes down to you making a conscious choice. No one can make it for you. If you want change, you need to be that change.