Not spinning out of control

Because, like you, like seemingly everybody, I have also felt as though the world is spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m exhausted from all the stories of shootings and attacks and bombs and the constant stream of awful stuff that is happening out there. I, too, feel desensitized and dejected from the seemingly constant carnage raging across the planet.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/crazy-world

There was a period of time when I felt that the world was spinning out of control. It is not.

Over a couple decades, as I spent less time on dysfunctional social networks, less time on instant gratification, less time on consuming mindless media, less time on bite-sized tripe posing as information, less time on pre-digested opinions… Well, over a couple decades I’ve come to realize that humanity is awesome. Sure, we progress in fits and starts, with setbacks small and large scattered about. But progress we do none the less!

If you see an issue that you think needs addressing, then please do set about affecting change. But do so sans hysteria, sans hyperbole, sans click-baity mindless louder-just-to-get-attention fluff.

The way you make the whole world better is to make one piece of it better; Then repeat.

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40 knots in the freezing Atlantic

The point is, you’re basically this walking, lumbering habit machine. And these habits — a.k.a. your identity — have been built up over the course of decades of living and breathing, laughing and loving, succeeding and failing, and through the years, they have built up a cruising speed of 40 knots or so in the freezing Atlantic. And if you want to change them — that is, change your identity, how you perceive yourself or how you adapt to the world — well you better slam that steering wheel to the side and be ready to hit a couple icebergs, because ships this big don’t turn so well.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/be-patient

I’ve been saying, “big ship, little rudder,” for a long time about my own attempts to change course. I’m certain I’m right about myself, but it’s reassuring to hear other people say they see this about themselves too. Wether or not Manson is your cup ‘o tea, it’s nice to hear things that confirm your assessment. “That looks like a shark, right? That’s a shark; we should get out of the water, right?”

The reason—not “one of the reasons”, but the actual, single, I’m-not-kidding, this is really why, reason—I tell the truth is that it helps other people form a good model of their world. Sound bonkers? …try this:

You know what it looks like, and/or sounds like, when a car is approaching along a roadway. You have a model of your world that, I hope, predicts that being struck by said car would be Very Bad. So you instinctively adjust your actions—get out of the way that is—when you see or hear a car approaching. That’s you using a model of reality; in this case a really good model that almost always works. Your model isn’t perfect: The driver could swerve to avoid you, and end up hitting you. In which case your model of the world has failed; you should have stood stationary, in the street to avoid being hit.

Where did you get that model?

What if I had arranged it so that every car you encountered as a child was driven by a confidant of mine. I had them all swerve to avoid you, and I taught you that cars will avoid you. You’d have a very different model! …and you’d agree I had done some SERIOUS lying to you!

Does my definition of True make sense now? I’ll say something if it will help you build a better model of the world. One can try this test on everything; it always works perfectly to tell you what is morally correct [in the context of speaking]. Anyway, I digress.

So I’ve been saying to myself, “big ship, small rudder,” and here I have an external bit of evidence from Manson that my model is correct. *shrugs* Sorry, this is what happens when you peek into my head.

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What do I control?

Nothing has all of the ingredients for the emotional breakdown recipe quite like a pandemic-induced global shutdown. Lack of face-to-face socializing and general social isolation? Check. Financial uncertainty and mass unemployment? Check. Lack of regular exercise, sunlight, and access to basic necessities? Check. High uncertainty of one’s safety and security in the near future? Check. Tons of free-time to refresh news feeds five thousand times per day? Double check.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/coronavirus-mental-health-crisis

If ever there was a yawning opportunity to backslide on all the things I’ve changed in recent years—setting aside time for reflection, reading, boundaries with television and food, habits of movement and exercise, how I use the Internet (it no longer uses me,) writing, recording podcasts, … If ever there was a yawning opportunity to backslide, this current shift is it.

I still have people I care about. I make decisions about my health. I make choices using my mind by applying reason. I balance conflicting demands for my time and resources. Certainly, most of the day-to-day details of life writ large are different. But all the things which begin this paragraph remain unchanged for me.

WAIT. Why did I start with pointing out there’s a yawning opportunity to backslide, if I’m saying nothing has changed?

…because the rest of world has relaxed what it expects from me.

Think about that. If I veered and: stayed up late binge-watching Netflix, didn’t get up at the time I normally do, didn’t shower and shave when I have video calls, didn’t act professionally, etc., people would let it slide. Right? The world is facing a global crisis, so it’s ok to relax the standards.

Instead, I’m raising my standards for myself. Now, just when everyone else would be happy to give me more slack, I’m renewing my efforts; Do I really want to do this (whatever-it-is), or is there a better way I can spend my time right now? What relationships do I nurture, and which do I sever? What have I been reading? What have I been creating; does what I create build the world up or tear it down?

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Been there. Done that.

Which I guess is what the paradox resolves into: a devaluing of superficial pleasures and a greater appreciation for simple, authentic ones. I don’t really enjoy the presents at Christmas anymore, the fireworks at Fourth of July, or even the parties on New Year’s Eve. I’ve seen bigger parties, been to more beautiful places, and already own everything I’ll ever want in this life. But unlike before, I appreciate every day spent with those who mean a lot to me. A quiet beer on a patio. Watching a basketball game together. Going to a birthday party or a barbecue. These are the events I look forward to now and get excited about, days and weeks ahead of time… And that’s probably the way it should be.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/joy-and-meaning

I really have seen bigger parties, been to more beautiful places, and already own everything I’ll ever want in this life.

The comparison I’m making is not with you. The sentence above does not contain the phrase, “than you have.”

The comparison I am making is to this moment… to this experience. There’s a reason I choose to share this moment with you. Not this exact moment as you’re reading; we’re not sharing this moment as you’re reading. I’m taking about moments in real life that we experience together, if any. There’s a reason I’m choosing to experience those moments.

Enough about me. How do you choose— …actually, wait…

Do you choose how to spend your moments?

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Have you even tried?

I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what the fuck do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.

It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”

Fuck you, have you even tried?

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/screw-finding-your-passion

…and I thought I had my irreverence dial turned to 11!

There’s also a terrific Mexican proverb: The appearance of the bull changes when you enter the ring. The matador’s point of view is different from the spectator’s.

What I’d like to draw attention to today, is skin in the game.

Have you ever had to make the decision to lay someone off? Why do you think you understand that last round of layoffs at Giant Company? Have you ever created something? Why do you think you understand the creative process of this painter? Have you ever entirely owned and operated a cafe? Why do you think your suggesting for, ‘ya know what you should have on the menu…’ has any value?

I’m not implying I’ve done any of the hypotheticals above.

But I can tell you that I long ago stopped giving unsolicited advice when I don’t have, and have never had, skin in the game I was about to advise on.

So, where do you have skin in the game? …and what are you going to do now that I’ve drawn your attention to it?

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