I’m not going to claim I give perfect advice, but based on mistakes I’ve made in the past and mistakes I’ve seen others make I’d like to extend some perspective to you offering a couple things to consider when giving others advice.
(1.) Don’t Impose Your Values On Others
This one’s HUUUUGE. Recently I’ve had a friend who has continually pestered me on why I should play soccer this year. He tells me that skipping my senior year of soccer would be stupid. I respect him, and his arguments appear logical, but something he’s failed to consider is my perspective.
He’s projected his values onto my life. Skipping soccer appears stupid to him because he’s an incredible player and it’s his passion. However, what he’s failed to realize is that not everybody loves the sport to the same extent he does. It’s inconceivable to him that I’d prefer to advance my juggling career rather than hang out with the rest of the guys at practice.
In his reality nothing compares to the thrill of taking the pitch so it’s difficult for him to understand why someone would voluntarily elect not to pursue further involvement in the sport. No one can completely empathize with others, but it’s not a bad goal to shoot for.
When someone sees things differently than you it’s usually not proper to immediately lecture them on why they’re wrong. Instead, listen to their thoughts and truly try to understand their argument.
Most of us could use a lot of practice projecting ourselves into others’ circumstances rather than immediately trying to project our values onto other people.
You can still offer others perspective on what you’d do if you were in their situation, but understand that the other person may have different values than you and that you may not understand the full extent of their situation.
(2.) Don’t Give Advice Just Because You Can
This is a mistake I frequently made when I first began writing. I would give advice on things I wasn’t qualified to offer advice on. I think this is a problem many young writers experience. It’s cool to think you know it all. The thing is, you probably don’t.
You can give good advice based solely on research you’ve done. However, it’s difficult to produce anything of true significance until you’ve had firsthand experiences of whatever you’re attempting to give advice on.
Before you experience things for yourself it’s possible to give advice that’s useful on an intellectual level. I know because when I read many of my early blog posts that’s what I see. Advice that is mostly logically sound. However, there are chinks in the armor in much of my early writing and it lacks a real emotion umph. 98% of things sound good, and then I’ll see a questionable theory or statement every several posts.
That’s about as good as things can get, however, when you’re merely theorizing. A direction I’m trying to move towards in future posts is focusing my advice giving efforts on things I’ve experienced myself rather than simply read about.
I’ve already done this with many of my recent posts and videos and I’ve found that by doing so I’m able to produce work that has less chinks in the armor and is much more emotionally charged.
This is a direction I believe you may benefit from moving towards as well. Sure, you could give advice to your friend on starting a business, but would it be worth anything if you’ve never started a business yourself? Is your advice likely to be useful, meaning that it will be significantly more likely to benefit him than detract from his efforts?
Giving advice may make you feel like a good person, but if the advice you’re giving is poor you’re hurting the world more than you’re helping it. Always consider that before you offer others your opinion.
Last September I began recording a video for every blog post I published. I decided to do this because I thought doing so would be a good way to expand the community here. I’m not sure how many of you found me and the community here through my Youtube videos, but making these vlogs has been worth it nonetheless because of all the other things I’ve learned.
I’m not sure you’ll have the same experiences I’ve had, but regardless I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned from recording videos. I hope to give you some perspective on things you could conceivably learn if you decide to become a vlogger as well.
It’s Ok To Suck And Be Embarrassed
Unless you have prior speaking experience, or significant natural talent your first several vlogs are going to suck. It’s difficult to make something of quality when you have no experience talking into a camera, and you don’t know how to edit your videos yet either. That’s ok though. It’s just the way things are. Everyone has to go through the suckiness.
I remember being embarrassed of my self-improvement videos the first few months after I began recording them. Whenever we were given laptops in class I would be paranoid because I was afraid someone would search my name on google, discover my videos, and get the rest of the class to laugh at me after seeing them. I experienced anxiety every time someone was on Youtube and every time I heard someone open a video because I thought I was about to be “discovered”.
Fortunately I was only “discovered” a few times this past year at school. Every time people found my videos they were cool about it as well. Most people thought my early videos were a little over their head and that I was a poor to mediocre speaker. I’m not sure any of the people that found my videos became regular viewers, but nobody insulted me or my videos, and most people thought vlogging was a cool hobby as well.
If you experience fear around creating videos because you’re afraid of what others think you’re probably making things bigger in your head than they really are. We all think that everyone else is watching us, but in reality most people don’t care because they’re too concerned about what others think of them.
The important thing is that you don’t let any fear you experience paralyze you. It’s better to be taking action and feeling embarrassed than doing nothing at all. As your speaking skills improve and you become more comfortable with yourself you’ll also likely find that you’re not so afraid of others “discovering” you either.
Your Public Speaking Skills Will Improve (Though Not Linearly)
I believe I’m a much better writer than speaker at this point, but even having said that I’m amazed at how far my speaking skills have come. If you look at my first video and my most recent video the difference is tremendous.
My ability to articulate my thoughts, and speak improvisationally have come a long way. In the past I had to game plan exactly what I was going to say even if it was just a 1 or 2 minute video. Now, however, I can have a general idea of what I want to talk about and often give a decent 4-10 minute speech on my first attempt.
I’ve improved in using hand gestures as well. If you look at my first couple videos my arms may have seemed as if they were glued to my body. After giving 100 speeches, I’m still not perfect, but now I tend to incorporate many more hand gestures into my videos.
Most of all my vocal tonality has improved. I can still be a bit monotone at times, but things have improved significantly over the past year. I’m able to project my voice better and I’ve also diminished my tendency to end sentences with an upward inflection.
However, what’s important to realize is that much of my improvement was the result of me consciously evaluating how I could improve as a speaker and using deliberate practice to pursue that improvement.
You will become a better speaker even without evaluation or coaching if you make the commitment to consistently give speeches. However, you can greatly accelerate the process by identifying individual skills you need to improve and focusing on them.
If you notice that your videos lack emotion you can record a few speeches with a deliberate intention to improve your expressiveness. If you notice you never use hand gestures you can record a couple videos where you focus specifically on the skill of incorporating your hands into your presentation.
By doing this your videos may seem a tad uncalibrated to the viewer, but you’ll ultimately be developing the skills that spur your improvement as a speaker. Realize that improvement is rarely linear and sometimes you need to take a step back to take two steps forward.
Consistency Is King
I’ve found this to be true with both writing, and recording videos. The more often you write and record the easier it is to do so. It’s easy to record a video when you’ve got momentum and have recorded a video every day for the last two weeks.
However, it’s a lot more difficult to record when you haven’t recorded in two weeks. For that reason I recommend establishing some kind of regular production ritual. In the school year I like to dedicate Saturday and Sunday mornings to writing and recording. In the summer I try to write and record everyday (though I’ve admittedly struggled a bit this summer).
Writing and/or recording everyday is ideal, but if you’re not at a point where you can throw that much time towards creating I’d recommend establishing a habit of producing something at least once a week.
You’ll find that the more frequently you’re producing the better the whole process flows. You’re able to come up with ideas more easily and you’re better at executing on those ideas as well.
With that being said it’s important to remember…
The Resistance Never Goes Away
I’ve written about 250 blog posts in the past 1.5 years and recorded 100 videos this past year and I’m still subject to “The Resistance.” People think that at some point a writing or recording habit is going to effortlessly come together for them. They’re wrong.
I still struggle with putting things off all the time, and as long as you’re an artist you will as well. You’ll always find excuses to rationalize why writing that blog post or recording that video can be put on hold. It’s easy to give into them. Often you’ll be tired from a long day and your brain will try to convince you that you can put off producing your work until tomorrow.
How do I know? Because I’ve been in that situation countless times before. I’m in it again right now as I near the conclusion of this post and begin preparing to record tonight’s video.
I just want to shut the computer and go to sleep. I can’t though because I know how important finishing my work is. If I don’t finish this blog post there’s nothing stopping me from skipping the next one. If I don’t record tonight’s video there’s nothing preventing me from skipping the next video.
If you commit to blogging, vlogging, or any other creative pursuit I think you too will understand at some point that you’ve got to ignore the voices in your head telling you to stop. If you ever want to do something that truly matters you’ve got to continue pushing forward when others would’ve already quit.
That’s how you stand out and I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from recording day-in and day-out. A fulfilling life never reaches a point where things are easy. You can stop challenging yourself, but doing so kills your engagement and passion for life.
Life is supposed to be hard. The best thing you can do for yourself is put yourself in a position where you’re subjected to difficult challenges. Overcoming them will be excruciatingly painful, but in the end living life on your terms, living a life you can be proud of, and living a life without regrets is well worth it.
As a kid I was typically down to Earth and “low energy” when I socialized with other people. That’s not to say I was relaxed (as I certainly suffered from moderate to major social anxiety). Rather what I’m saying is that I took myself very seriously and I often had difficultly expressing myself. I was the kid who was too scared to ever let loose and allow himself to be craaaaazy.
Fast forward to the last couple years, however, and being off the wall has become my default state. It’s gotten to the point where sometimes others are overwhelmed by the intensity of my energy. I’ll dance around screaming YEAHHH WHOOOO WHOOO PARTAAAAAY, and other people will be confused or weirded out at how crazy I’m being.
Until recently I’d had a number of rationalizations for the continuation of my behavior.
“They can’t take my positive energy? Hmmm… I guess they’re beat down by life and only resonate with negativity.”
“Maybe they’re weirded out because they have success barriers around hanging out with a person at my level.”
“I guess the reason this isn’t working is that I need to be even more expressive. Maybe I’m not being intense enough.”
However, recently I’ve had a shift in the way I view things. I realized that perhaps it’s not other people that are the problem. Perhaps it’s not even the intensity of my energy that’s the problem.
Maybe the problem is the place my off the wall behavior is coming from and the inability of other people to relate to it. Maybe the problem isn’t my level of energy, but that I’ve identified with being the crazy guy and forgotten how to have a relaxed, socially calibrated conversation.
Being off the wall was outside of my comfort zone 5-6 years ago. For that reason I always tried to push myself in that direction. However, over the last couple years being crazy in social situations had actually become my comfort zone and I’d grown uncomfortable doing anything outside of it.
When your comfort zone changes the way you approach self-improvement must as well. My failure to realize this has led to the regression of some of the social progress I’d made over the last few years.
Once I’d gotten comfortable with being crazy in social situations I should have immediately taken another step outside of my comfort zone by learning to intertwine the occasional bit of craziness with socially calibrated conversations and empathizing with other people.
I’ve recently begun working on that and as my comfort zone has begun to expand again I’m beginning to see my social skills hit a new level as well. It would’ve been nice to have learned this idea earlier, but at least I can offer it to you now.
When your comfort zone changes the way you approach self-improvement must as well. Positive change can’t occur within your comfort zone because the definition of personal growth is literally the expansion of your comfort zone.
As you become a stronger person you must expand your responsibilities or take on new ones that’ll continue to challenge you. If you fail to do so you’ll grow accustomed to what you’re currently doing and your comfort zone will shrink and your self-respect will diminish.
I’ve been working a “Dead-end” job for about two weeks now. While it’s not my ideal work I’m obviously getting something out of it. If I wasn’t taking any value from the job I would’ve quit by now.
With that being said, I’d like to use this post to offer you some perspective and challenge you to consider whether getting a job (or continuing to work) will help or harm you.
Disclaimer: This post is intended mainly for teenagers whose families are financially stable. If your family needs you to get a job for financial support or you’re living alone and need one to stay afloat you’ve obviously got a lot less flexibility.
Regardless of your circumstances I can’t be held responsible for whatever you decide to do. I’ll try to offer you useful perspectives and get you thinking, but you’re going to know your situation far better than I do and ultimately it’s your responsibility to decide what’s best for you (and/or your family).
With that out of the way, here are several factors to consider.
If getting a job is going to cause you to slack in school you probably shouldn’t get one. In the past I’ve written that college is unnecessary. I still stand by that and believe that there’s alternative options for those who don’t want to follow the traditional path of graduate high school, go to college, and get a decent job.
However, as I’ve grown older my belief around this has matured. I’ve come to realize that while for some people additional schooling may not be their best option, for others it can be. If you don’t have any skills that people are willing to pay you for (or at least the self-discipline to develop them on your own time) you should probably go to college or some type of trade school.
You can talk about ‘passion’ all you want, but at the end of the day you need to put food on the table. You can continue to develop the skills you’re passionate about in the meantime, but you’ll need some type of work to sustain you until being paid for your passion is a viable option.
I’m ranting, but long story short you need to be introspective. If you have reason to believe you can work and achieve academic success; that’s fantastic! If you’re not yet at that point, however, it would be in the best interest of the majority of us to forget about work and simply maintain good grades.
(Hint: If you’re a junior or senior in high school many schools will allow you to do a “work-study.” If you elect to go this route you’d spend part of your school day taking classes and part of your day working at your job. This could be a good balance for those wanting to work, but not wanting to be overwhelmed with a full load of courses as well.)
Social Contact And Social Skills
If you’re already living in social abundance, having a job vs. not having one probably won’t affect you too much. If you’ve got great social skills and people are constantly hitting you up to hang out then you’ve got plenty of opportunities to socialize. Living in social abundance is great because to a large extent it’s a self-sustaining structure.
Constantly being hit up by people gives you many opportunities to socialize. Having many opportunities to socialize allows you to develop (or maintain) your socialize skills. Having good social skills leads to more people wanting to hang out with you and thus the upward spiral perpetuates itself. Awesome.
Unfortunately, if you’re on the other side of the spectrum you’re fucked. When nobody wants to hang out with you it causes both desperation for social contact and the erosion of your social skills. Needless to say, this combination is incredibly potent at repelling other people and opportunities to socialize. As a result your social skills become even worse and you become even more desperate for people to hang out with.
This is an incredibly debilitating downward spiral and one that requires a Herculean effort to pull yourself out of. Fortunately there’s a cure. It’s called getting a job.
The great thing about a job is it essentially guarantees you a certain amount of social contact each day (at least the majority of teenage jobs do). This doesn’t mean much when you’re already coming from a place of social abundance, but it can be huge if you’ve spent your entire life in the realm of social scarcity.
The social contact a job provides can be the thing that allows you to develop your social skills and helps you move beyond the paradigm of social neediness.
Summary: If you’re a socially adept individual getting a job may allow you develop skills in customer-service, but the degree to which you benefit socially from a job will likely be modest (especially considering the fact that work may get in the way of your other opportunities to socialize).
However, if you’re coming from a place of social scarcity getting a job could prove to be one of the best things you ever do. Being forced to interact with customers and coworkers for several hours per day may be the environment that gives you the opportunity and leverage to become a more social person.
Efficiency And Effectiveness
Getting a job may benefit your ability to be productive or take away from it depending on how much you’ve already got going on.
For example, I often find it easy to procrastinate when my only obligation for the day is to write a blog post. When I’ve only got two hours of work to do it’s easy to spend the entire day watching stupid videos or lackadaisically wandering the house and sometimes I never even get around to writing the blog post!
On the other hand, if I go on a streak of trying to write a blog post, record a video, juggle, do chores, go to work, go to soccer practice AND attend a social event everyday I get burnt out. I can sustain that level of activity for several days, but in the long-term I end up getting less done when I attempt to do too much.
This is something you need to consider in your life. How much do you already have going on? Are you lollygagging around your house restless because you need something to do? Or are you already stressed because you’ve got too much going on?
If it’s the former you’d likely benefit from getting a job. You’d begin to develop time-management skills and probably become more productive outside of work as well.
On the other hand if you’re already stressed because of how much you have to do you probably shouldn’t get a job (at least without dropping some of your other activities first).
This may sound very esoteric and “woo woo,” but something I’ve noticed is that different places tend to be enveloped in different energy fields that bring different characteristics out of people. It’s almost as if the collective consciousness of an establishment causes us to tend to gravitate to a certain level of consciousness ourselves.
Maybe we could speculate that this is caused by mirror neurons and us socially pinging off of each other to see how we should behave in different environments. That’s an educated guess, but who really knows? I think to ignore the phenomenon, however, would be completely ignorant.
You’re going to tell me that you’ve never walked into a library or spa and instantly felt calmer? You’re going to tell me that you’ve never been at a football game where the defense intercepts the ball for a 95-yard touchdown, and you can feel the energy of the stadium change?
You’ve got to understand that there’s going to be an element of this phenomenon wherever you work. The energetic field surrounding an organic family owned restaurant is going to be completely different than that of a mass-scale factory farm where workers torture the animals for fun.
This is an extreme example, but it’s something to think about. You’re the sum of both the 5 people you spend the most time with, as well as the 5 places you spend the most time at.
Dealing with a few complaining customers may be a manageable amount of bullshit that could potentially serve to strengthen your emotional immune system. However, being in a place where you’re forced to be around negative people, and low consciousness energy fields will likely result in you adopting some undesirable behaviors yourself.
You have to evaluate what other benefits you may be able to obtain from working at such a job and the degree of emotional resilience you have in not allowing negative people and energy to significantly affect you.
You probably think I went a little crazy during my explanation of different establishments being inhabited by different energetic fields. I stand by what I said, but I’ll admit that my ideas can be a bit off the wall at times so we’ll come back down to Earth again.
Money. Dolla Dolla bill yo $$ It’s something we all want. Some of us want it for shoes, some for bling, and some because we think it’s going to make us happy (it won’t).
This would appear to be a pretty obvious area. Working a job must win in this category because you either work a job and make money, or you’re unemployed and you don’t. Right? Wrong. Nothing’s that simple on my blog 😉
There’s a lot of ways to make money without a formal job. I’ve got a friend that babysits for $15/hour. She’s making more than double minimum wage and because she’s working for three different families she’s getting far more hours than most people our age as well.
I don’t care to babysit so it’s not something I’ve researched, but consider looking into it. You may or may not be able to command the same type of wage she does, but I’d imagine if you put a modest amount of effort into it you could make at LEAST minimum wage.
Don’t like babysitting? Start a grass-cutting business. Consider building websites or mobile apps for companies if that’s your kind of thing. Buy and sell shit on Ebay. Get creative!
Or, if you can’t be bothered to get out there, become a minimalist. You don’t need to be working 40 hours a week if your parents pay for your food and you don’t spend your money on stupid shit.
Ultimately, here’s the question you need to ask yourself, “Is selling my time (my most valuable resource) for cash worth the experiences and material goods that money could purchase?”
If you enjoy your work, experience significant personal growth through it, or are saving money for a particularly compelling experience the answer is probably yes. If not, you’re probably better off not getting a job.
I know we went off in a bunch of different directions in this post, but I hope the many different perspectives we considered helped you gain some insight into what may be the best decision for you.
I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. Are you going to start applying for jobs now? Are you going to quit your job? How has this blog post changed the way you think? Let me know. In the meantime I’ll be anxiously refreshing this page waiting for your comment 😉
Pictures are a bird’s nest and some flowers. Both pictures taken in Dallas during Spring Break 2014.
Earlier this month I was on a blogging streak. I wrote 10 post in 10 days (only 9 appear because I deleted a post regarding a change to my youtube channel). Today’s post, however is the first in over a week. What happened? I decided to snatch an opportunity to get some experience working in the “real world”.
I’d been applying for jobs last month and the one application that came to fruition was a gig at Dairy Queen. My brother worked there a couple years back so the owner decided to give me a shot and thus I began my training last week.
Jobs in fast-food are what people typically call “dead-end” and I’d be lying if I told you that working at Dairy Queen has been my lifelong dream. However, with this being only my second job (my first job was refereeing soccer a couple year ago), I’ve learned a lot thus far. Here are some of the biggest lessons.
(1.) A Smile Goes A Long Way
In my first week I’ve screwed up a TON. I’ve forgotten to give people their drinks, I’ve put the wrong ingredients into blizzards, and I’ve had to have people repeat their orders countless times.
Sometimes people are mildly annoyed with me and sometimes I even get frustrated with myself for not learning more quickly. However, what I’ve found is people are quick to forgive minor mistakes if you show them a smile, offer a genuine apology, and do whatever needs to be done to make things right.
(2.) The Customer is Always “Right”
If the customer orders the wrong thing out of confusion and is upset when you fulfill that order it’s not their fault. You should have used your psychic powers to intuitively understood what they really wanted. I’m only half-kidding. 😉
What I’m really trying to say is that working a job in customer-service is the exact opposite of being a referee. When you’re a ref your decision stands even if nobody else agrees with you. Even when a ref is wrong they’re still “right”. Conversely, even when a customer is wrong they’re still “right”.
This isn’t bad. It’s just how things work. Whether you’ve clearly made a mistake or the customer appears to be making something out of nothing doesn’t matter. It’s your job to fix things while wearing a smile on your face 🙂 (See lesson #1)
(3.) You’re Not Above Mopping The Floor Yet
While many people suffer from low self-esteem a problem of equal magnitude is those suffering from overinflated egos. ZOMG call me Einstein cuz I have straight A’s in my AP classes. Or, I’m the quarterback of the football team and therefore am a demigod.
Regardless of what’s inflated your ego, getting a job in fast food can be a humbling experience because it shows you just how far you have to go. It hammers you back to reality.
I can talk all I want about how many great blog posts I’ve written or how much I’ve developed as a juggler over the last few years. I could spend the entire day telling you about how amazing I am because of all the great things I’m going to accomplish.
However, what you’re going to do doesn’t matter. When it comes down to it I haven’t yet accomplished shit. Every time I have to take out the trash or wash dishes I’m forced to remember this. Fortunately…
(4.) Working A “Dead-End” Job Gives You Leverage
As I said before, working at Dairy Queen isn’t the ultimate vision I have for myself. It hasn’t even been as bad as I expected it to be, but there’s so much I want to accomplish beyond it.
Every time I’m doing something difficult and I feel like quitting I think about my coworkers in their 40’s and 50’s. I’m not ripping on them as I think the majority of them are good people, but at the same time I can’t imagine that working at Dairy Queen has been a lifelong dream for any of them either.
However, I realize that if I don’t push myself to develop skills valuable in today’s economy I’ll eventually end up in the same position as them. That scares the shit out of me and is a powerful thought I use to motivate myself. With that being said…
(5.) Even Working In Fast Food Can Be Enjoyable
Sure, there have been frustrating times, but I’ve also had some fun moments at Dairy Queen as well. Today I had a customer come in and when I asked him, “How can I help you?” he said, “You can take my order.” That little sarcastic remark made my day 😉
Another customer walked up to me today and asked, “Habla espanol? (Do you speak Spanish?)” I told him, “Voy a tratar” (I’m going to try). I took his order in Spanish, (while greatly enjoying my first opportunity to speak Spanish with a native speaker).
We had a short conversation and I was extremely happy to finally have a chance to apply some of the things I’ve learned in Spanish classes over the years. The man was clearly enthusiastic about our conversation as well and it was incredibly interesting to connect with a foreign speaker in his own language.
However, as much as I enjoyed those two conversations the best moment came during my first day of work. I apologized to a woman and her two small children because I was being slow to fulfill their orders. The kids asked me if it was my first day. I said, “Yep”.
I didn’t think much about our brief conversation until they finished their food and got up to leave. Before they left the children walked up to me, smiled, and told me I did a good job on my first day. It was such a small gesture, but it brought such a great amount of joy to me. Those kids taught me the final lesson I’ve learned in my 6 days working at Dairy Queen.
(6.) Small Gestures Can Have Big Impacts
When those kids delivered me that small sincere compliment it made my day and it took them almost no effort. When I used my limited Spanish to speak with the Hispanic man I turned his routine visit to a fast food restaurant into a fun opportunity for him to share his love for his mother tongue with me.
This is probably the most profound discovery I’ve had over the last week. Life really is what you make it. You can bitch about how you’re washing tables, or you can hum a song and try to scrub to the beat.
You can complain about an unsatisfied customer creating more work for you, or you can make a sincere attempt to see things from his perspective and do everything in your power to fix his problem and brighten his day.
One small gesture can completely turn someone’s day around and you’ll find that when you make one person’s day a little bit brighter you make the world a little brighter for yourself and everyone else as well. It feels good to do good and regardless of your occupation, this is something we should all try to remember.
In the past I had a weird hangup regarding socializing. Whenever I was in a bad mood I would elect to stay home. Even if my friends had invited me to a party or the beach I would stay home because I didn’t want them to see me in anything less than an optimal mood.
I thought that by doing this I could increase my percentage of socially successful nights, as well as improve my friends’ perception of my level of “coolness”. This approach worked relatively well in the short-term. When you start your night off socializing in a good mood it’s not particularly difficult to have a good night.
Unfortunately, it worked miserably in the long-term. I became a hermit because I always told myself that I shouldn’t go out until I’m in a better mood. In addition to that when I finally would go out I’d end up having a bad night because my social skills had gotten so rusty. This would lead to me feeling bad about myself and further feed into this downward spiral.
The lesson learned? Your ability to complete today’s task is much less important than the maintenance of your habits of success and how you’re setting yourself up for future successes. You need to set your ego aside. Take the fact that I’m still awake writing.
I’m exhausted right now, but I’m writing this blog post anyway. I’m going to give this post my best effort, but because I’m so fatigued this probably isn’t going to be one of my best posts.
However, me typing this blog post maintains writing as a habit, and will improve my ability in articulating future posts. I had to let go of my ego to realize these benefits, but the pros of doing so far outweighed the cons.
I’d encourage you to think about doing the same thing the next time you’re in a suboptimal state for something. Ask yourself, “Because of my emotional state I may not produce ideal results today in this endeavor, but would doing so anyway be worth it considering the fact it would maintain it as a habit and possibly develop my skill in it for future attempts?”
If you consistently ask yourself this question you’ll often find yourself saying yes.
We’ve all had negative social experiences. Maybe you had a night where you kept trying to make jokes, but nobody laughed at them. Maybe you went to a school dance or the club and people kept rejecting your offers to dance with them.
In either case you probably felt pretty bad afterwards. Fortunately, while you can’t eliminate bad nights entirely you can greatly limit how often they occur. This is done by transcending the need for social validation (to the best of your ability). Here’s how I came to this conclusion.
I’d always been the type of person that was extremely inconsistent in my ability to be social. When I was on I could have an incredible amount of fun, control the environment, and ensure all those around me were enjoying themselves as well.
Unfortunately, when I was struggling socially I really struggled. I would be completely unable to have fun, and the same people that could have been enamored by me a few nights earlier would brush me off and criticize me for how weird I was being.
For a long time I thought that I was just a socially “streaky” person. I thought I was like the baseball player that could get a hit in 10 consecutive games and then go 5 games without a hit.
However, one day I made an interesting observation. It seemed that if I went to a social event and was immediately validated by someone I’d then be able to draw upon my reservoir of charisma. If someone laughed at the first joke I’d said I’d feel confident in telling more jokes, I’d become more present to the moment, and it became an upward spiral.
However, if someone was mean to me, or I felt out of place in the environment I would get stuck in my head. I would logically try to come up with funny things to say rather than letting them arise out of the moment.
Unfortunately, when you try too hard people can sense the desperation and as a result they would strip more validation from me by telling me how bad my jokes were or how weird I was being.
This led me to the conclusion that the central cause of my emotional roller coasters was the fact that in social situations I sought validation. In other words, I wanted people to laugh at my jokes, tell me how great I was and more importantly, feed my ego.
When people provides me with validation this addiction was fine. However, when they didn’t or I ran out of validation to leech off of I would experience what I call “state crashes”. Moments in which negative emotions and neediness take the place of positive emotions.
Fortunately, by changing my criteria of success I was able to greatly reduce the frequency of these state crashes.
I made the decision that a victory was no longer when someone laughed at my joke, but when I found my own joke funny. It no longer mattered whether I had chemistry with someone as long as I’d made an honest attempt at trying to vibe with them.
I decided that if I was going to experience negative emotions it was going to be because I failed to take action rather than because someone reacted negatively to me. This put more responsibility in my hands, however, it’s also provided me with much greater control of my own emotions.
I’m far from perfect in this regard, and it was difficult to articulate this concept, but I thought I’d share this post anyway because I still think value can be gleaned from it.
You may assume that juggling is just a goofy hobby. You would be wrong. Well, sort of. Juggling is a goofy hobby, but it’s also much more than that. Juggling is a spectacular teacher. It’s taught me patience (to some degree), commitment, and consistency.
Perhaps even more importantly than all of those, however, is that it has taught me the skill of getting out of my own way.
A common myth is that trying too hard doesn’t exist. That’s wrong. Try too hard to flirt with a girl and your odor of desperation will quickly chase her away. Try to hit a baseball too hard and you’ll almost certainly miss.
Perhaps the best example is trying to fall asleep. If you stress over the need to immediately fall asleep it’s almost certain you won’t. Sleeping isn’t like squatting 500 pounds.
It’s not something you can do by exerting your will. Rather, sleep is something that occurs only when you let go. It’s a process that occurs primarily on a subconscious level, and thus the best use of your conscious awareness is to get out of your own way.
The same occurs in juggling. When I’m juggling 5 balls is it my conscious awareness that’s keeping the balls in the air? Of course not. Right, left, right, left slightly higher to give time for the right to make a correction throw, right, adjust the angle of your left elbow to compensate for a fatigued forearm… I couldn’t possibly think quickly enough.
My subconsciousness is the means by which the process is facilitated. Therefore, my best bet is to keep my conscious mind quiet, and get out of the way of my subconscious mind.
Unfortunately, despite this our culture tends to glorify masculine energy while making no mention of the feminine. We recognize the exertion of our will on the world, but too often forget the ability to let go.
However, the truth is that there’s immense value in both. Something we all need to work on is taking proactive action to bring that which we want into the world, while at the same time understanding the power of letting go and getting out of our own way.
However, after a while progress in the language begins to slow. Why? Because you’re past the stage of beginner gains. To develop a higher level of fluency in the language you would have to learn complex grammar rules as well as words that may not be used very frequently.
Progress naturally slows in any pursuit once you’ve developed a solid grasp of the fundamentals. You can quickly learn the 20% of things that contribute to 80% of the results, but any further improvement requires you to develop proficiency in the 80% of things that produce 20% of your results.
Unfortunately, many people fail to remember this. As a result they become frustrated once they advance past their “beginner gains”. I was improving so quickly, what happened? Often this causes people to lose confidence in their practice routine and thus lowers their motivation to adhere to their regime.
There’s two solutions you can apply to prevent this from happening in your life.
Track Your Progress.
At this point in my career it’s difficult for me to see improvement in my juggling on a day to day basis. Thus it’s easy for me to feel as if I’m not improving. My remedy for this, however, is to watch juggling videos from several months ago and doing so always reminds me that I’m actually progressing.
I’d recommend you adopt a similar practice. If you’re trying to become a better runner record your times. If you’re trying to become a better speaker record videos of your speeches.
Tracking your progress over extended periods of time will do one of two things. It’ll remind you that you’re improving even if it’s difficult for you to perceive that improvement. Or, it’ll reveal to you that you’re not improving and need to change the way you pursue improvement.
Either is a massively beneficial insight, and thus makes tracking your progress one of the most important practices in regards to your practice and pursuit for improvement.
Change Your Expectations
I see a lot of people who try to improve their social skills getting butt hurt. I tried to talk to this girl, but she blew me off. I was hanging with my bros today and I was being a “beta male” blah blah blah.
It’s understandable because everybody wants to be “The Man” right now, but nobody wants to put in the work, and go through the challenges inevitable in becoming “The Man”.
Unfortunately, there’s no skipping ahead. You’ll never wake up one day magically transformed into the man you’ve always wanted to be, and having the social life you’ve always desired.
So, though their complaining is understandable I’d like to recommend you a different approach. Make taking action your only criteria of success. Focus on the process and you’ll find that this is what leads to making the greatest progress.
This applies especially in socializing as it’s one of the most process-oriented pursuits, but it’s also applicable to any other field as well.
Before I shoot out I just wanted to give a shout out to my buddy Huan Nguyen. His post yesterday sparked the idea for this post. If you enjoyed today’s post his blog would be right up your alley as well.
My house had been noisy today so I decided to go drive to a quiet area to type today’s blog post. I drove a few minutes from my house found a place of solitude, and settled down to write.
As I began writing I was somewhat afraid because it was dark and another car pulled into the deserted location I was typing this post. I came to the conclusion that the person in that car was about to do illegal drugs, type their own blog post, or murder me.
I was made uncomfortable by their presence so I decided to leave. My emotional discomfort encouraged me to get myself out of a potentially dangerous situation.
This experience was an example of “helpful” emotional discomfort. Other examples of helpful emotional discomfort include pain when you touch a hot pan on the stove or the fear you experience when a lion is chasing you.
Emotional discomfort is helpful when it has logical basis in reality as well as a reasonable chance at ensuring your physical well-being.
However, the other form of emotional discomfort you experience isn’t usually seen as helpful. The discomfort you experience when talking with a man/woman you perceive to be “out of your league”, fear of speaking up, or the discomfort you may experience near the end of your workout are typically seen as unhelpful.
Why? Because most people are crippled by these emotions. Most guys can talk to average girls with a reasonable amount of success, but when confronted with their dream girl they freeze up.
Most people can talk behind others’ backs, but lack the courage to confront those they have problems with. And most people can exercise, but will give up as soon as “it hurts.”
Here’s the thing, true growth lies only in discomfort. The expression “Personal Growth” literally means the expansion of your comfort zone and the expansion of it is only possible if you are to step out of it.
The problem with most people is that they misinterpret their emotions. They believe that pain or discomfort is an indication to give up. No homey! It’s the exact opposite.
The truth is that the greatest people you know actively pursue this discomfort because they know it’s what will take them to the next level.
You don’t get stronger by going to the gym and lifting the same weight each week. Likewise you don’t become a better person by doing the things you’ve always done.
It may suck to hear it, but there’s no skipping ahead. You’ll never wake up to find that you’ve been magically transformed into the person you’d like to be. You don’t get to become like your role models if you don’t force yourself to go through a similar level of challenges and adversity.
So, the next time you feel emotional discomfort don’t ask yourself, “How can I alleviate this discomfort?” rather ask, “How can I amplify it?”
Not sure today’s vlog is as on point as yesterday’s but it’s alright. I’ll keep striving for improvement on the videos.