Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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About a Boy

Took a long walk through the woods yesterday and for no particular reason other than perhaps wanting to see a bit more life, I decided to walk back through the neighborhood. I had my walking stick and was doing my hippie thing. 

At one small corner, I came upon a house that I always notice, for this house is a ghastly house. It’s a wreck, a mess. I can only imagine the inside. 

It is a fact I live in a small mountain community at the top of the woods, where things are cheaper, and people are poor. 

So I was not surprised at the house. But it’s always drawn my attention. 

On this day, a young boy stood out front of the house, his strawberry blonde hair a mess, his clothes rumpled and dirty, and his hands on his hips. He just stood there, looking at the house. But it was the look on his face. 

He had the look of worry. The countenance of a fifty-four year old. His face was soured in angst. Almost as if his face said, “Why, why do you do this to me.”

And I was soon passing him. He took a glance at me. My long hair. My Peter Pan pants. My flannel. My walking stick.  I gave him a closed mouth smile of compassion. And then he simply looked away from me, dropped his hands from his hips and trudged inside, head down.  

Oh how this affected me. How this affected me! If only this boy of nine or ten could see into my heart, my mind. If only he knew what the sight of this wretched boy did to me. What he afforded me. How he opened me up to myself, my own past. When I was but a little wretch too. 

It was a ten second experience I can not forget. The look on his face. 

And I don’t pray often – as I prefer intent, Will – but I will pray for him. And I hope he hears his own prayers someday and answers them. 

He certainly helped me hear mine. 

But I can’t help but think that he will grow up and repeat the cycle. Nature and nurture. But for most people it’s only nature – meaning, they never learn to nurture, heal, and love themselves. 

And that’s the saddest fucking thing. Because I see it. All the time. And I had it cushy compared to many. 

I really won the lottery. In being myself and in everything I ever went through. 

Because I didn’t know it then, but one day, it would all make sense, it would all be okay. But for that boy, and more human children and adults than you can count – in the hundreds of millions, billions – it is not okay. It does not make sense. And they depart this world empty, leaving behind their link in a long chain of suffering.  

What more can I say. This was just a story about a boy, but it’s a story about life. The suffering and what goes on on this planet, and the bullshit, is unfathomable. Right now there are so many families struggling. 

And there always have been, but the disparity today is what makes it so bad. “The heaven of the rich is built on the hell of the poor.”

But we don’t care. The poor have their own neighborhoods. And one day they’ll ride the hyperloop from ghettoes in the Southwest into LA for work, where the rich will live and play. The city state will return. And the peasant, will simply be a poor person. And as Donald Trump said, “Not even poor people want to be around other poor people.”

Ironic they voted for him. He is their oppressor. Period. This is a billionaires cabinet. No healthcare and giant corporate tax breaks. But, they live in the Matrix. Fox News, and fear and stress and insecurity like you can’t fucking imagine – don’t even know how a corporation works, that it’s just a plantation, a rich man’s machine designed to leverage their income or their labor: their time. Because in their nightmare, there’s no time, none for pleasure. None for peace. And certainly none for the little boy. And it’s his nightmare too. And odds are he will not escape. Maybe into a bottle, maybe into pills. His life is just survival. 

And the worst part is the mental and emotional conditions that come out of this and that perpetuate it. 

Anyway, I could go on forever about a boy. But this is all I can write on it for now.  Because it’s just sometimes too much. But it reminds me that heaven and hell are on here on earth. And they are within us, but not all good people go to heaven on earth. Only in our society we equate success with virtue, so, they feel not only worthless but less than. Makes you wonder why some poor people can sometimes be racists. They need someone below them. They can’t be at the bottom… So their want for virtue stains their very character and allies them with a political party that is in policy against them. And having no future, they long for a golden past. But it’s a lie, like the biblical Heaven. But they like the odds, so they buy lotto tickets. And there is no fulfillment so they suffer in desire of fleeting pleasure. Opiates. Amphetamines. Alcoholism. Self-abuse. And the boy grows up in it. 

Music I am Feeling: Nahko Bear and Medicine For the The People, Trevor Hall, and some etc.

This past year, I listened to a lot of Little Peep, Travis Scott, Popcaanand a bunch of reverb + slowed songs; however, I’ve suddenly become aware that there is a much better soundtrack to my life out there. Not that I am hating on the above artists, as I will still listen to them (They are a part of my soundtrack too.), but there are seasons for things. My season for being “hooked on feeling good” – to borrow from Travis Scott – is over. As I remarked recently, “I’ve given up happy for peaceful”, which isn’t to say I am unhappy – au contraire – I am happier than ever, because I have more peace and self-awareness than I’ve ever had. And to that end, I’ve changed the channel in my brain from trap to vibes music.

Two artists have really led this change in me: Nahko and Medicine for The People and Trevor Hall.

Here are two fantastic songs from Nahko and Medicine For the People:

And from Trevor Hall, my favorite album right now: The Fruitful Darkness – a truly meaningfilled listening experience:

I can’t say enough of the above album. I always enjoyed Lime Tree, but this is on another level. This is straight soul medicine.

And lastly, I have to give a shout out to John Mayer. Not that he needs me as a fan, but his music has carried me through my adult life. From Continuum, which carried me through the big breakup with the first love at 23, to Born and Raised, which carried me through another big transition in life in my late twenties. Today his catalog remains in heavy rotation for me, along with Van Morrison’s work. Two bedrock artists for me.

While I don’t typically post music, I really wanted to share these artists (Nahko + Trevor Hall), as they have empowered me greatly and truly enhanced the quality of my days. I wish the same for you.

p.s. James Vincent McMorrow’s Post Tropical, Deluxe Edition has also been a very good friend to me. Listening to it is akin to cuddling with myself. 

Edit: Had to add I Am, by Satsang : )

 

Journal: A Chance to Live True to Yourself

In the bath, listening to Nickel Creek. It’s music I’ve listened to since I was a teenager. As is Fiona Apple ‘s ‘Tidal’ – my favorite album – another classic for bath tunes. Last night I listened to Les Miserable, RENT, and the Hamilton soundtrack. Smoking my bong, singing along, splashing in the bath. These are things you do when you live alone in the mountains and you’re me. Long hair don’t give a fuck; I am a transient coyote.

And although we mistrust the loner – unsure whether he’s a beast or a god – we know there is something authentic in him. The deep strength cultivated in elective solitude is apparent in the independent person – as is their character. They cannot hide themselves. But ‘in the end, of course, you end up becoming yourself’. I just wish someone would have told me that it would happen. That I would arrive to selfhood not only intact but stronger than most people, different in good, uncommon ways.

If you want to accuse me of egoism, go ahead. So many worse things than self-love – no matter how much of a sin they made it. I’d rather be in love with myself than not. But there are, of course, different ways to love oneself. There is a puffed-up love of self and then there is a real romance, a real appreciation of You – the person you are.

There’s a fantastic quote attributed directly to Jesus, from the Thomas Gospel that inspires pure, healthy self-love in me:

“Seek the living one while you are alive, lest you die and are unable to see him.”

And the living one is me. The living one is you. The living one is the being we have incarnated as. And the only time we have with ourselves in this form is in this life.

So, yes, I seek the living one. That’s what solitude gives you, time with yourself. As I said to Sarah, “If we ever moved back in together, we would need our own ‘wings’ of the house.”

I am proud of myself. It’s almost a miracle to be living by oneself at thirty-three – at least for me.

It’s just me and the next ten years. Me and my dreams. Naked and unafraid – touching myself, thinking of no one. Knowing that what most people care about is stupid.

The Tao is alive in me. The feminine-senex energy there is so wise and non-combative.

As the Tao says, “Stop thinking and end your problems.”

There’s a point that suffering is transcended. It’s when we realize that it is elective. That we can choose instead to feel good is not an insignificant fact.

I am a composting vegetarian. People change. Particularly those who find the suffering intolerable – these are the people who truly suffer. The melodramatic is in a far deeper level of hell than the Stoic.

But, ultimately, responsibility affords us power, which brings freedom. I am responsible for how I feel, so what others think or do is unimportant outside of what it teaches me about people. And there are all kinds of people in this world. There is, in-fact, every kind of person in this world.

But life has never been much different anthropologically for me than high school. Same people. And I’m the same person. There’s a dye that colors the fibers of people. The tiger cannot change his stripes. But as some ancient once quipped, “A bad man is nothing more than a good man’s job.” There are sides in this empire. Cheers to former CIA Director Brennan, and all others on the right side of history. America, what the actual Nixonian fuck. But people have always loved bad leaders. That’s what happens when the shadow isn’t confronted, it comes to the light where history must then reconcile with it.

And besides some very vapid, manipulative, ugly persons, the rest is really just ignorance. That and mental health. The collective neurosis that is religion. Christ, how many children did the Catholic Church molest and rape in Pennsylvania… This is the shadow. This is the problem with “goodness” over wholeness. Why do you think these Cosby, 7th Heaven Dad types turn out to be the opposite? Because that guy doesn’t exist. He’s a liability to himself. The church created these monsters. I would not go to a Christian Church to find good, whole people. It’s actually typically a warning to me that the person might be really full of shit. And I recognize these are not mild, correct, diplomatic positions to take, but I can not take any other. In good conscience, I am here to tell you that man should have never been an archetype for god, but, rather, god should be an archetype for man. He / She / They / Them / Us, were all created in our image rather than us in theirs.

The whole paradigm of the creator-god makes us, to me, almost sub-human. As a species, we should look to reason, to empirical evidence, and we should see that we are the epoch of the universe, the vanguard, the echo of the big bang. We are the universe – along with every other living thing. We evolved from fish, from the ocean – one bone, two bones, many bones – our tetrapod limbs evidence this.

We are animals. Like dolphins or James Cameron’s Na’avi people, in Avatar.

Now, as to the nature of life – whether it’s a simulation – I am outgrowing that model. I’m more of the mind of Joseph Campbell, who believed that “Energy and consciousness are the same thing, somehow.”

It is our minds that run the simulation. Our thoughts that inform our programs, our cultures that inform our software. So, to me, the value in the simulation paradigm is in the subjectivity of it. Heaven or hell are in the dreamer.

Of course, reality is very thick and it’s not easy to outgrow our situations, ourselves, but discontent does its magic work. You learn to take control of the Vanilla-Sky-esque dream again – but only after the nightmare has gotten bad enough to wake you. How I pity and love my younger self. I was such a poor, impoverished bastard. The song ‘Happy’ by Marina and The Diamonds tells the story of going from the sadness of the nightmare to the freedom of the dream.

“I found what I’ve been looking for in myself.”

That’s it.

That’s the godhead. That’s the completeness of a happy child.

Security in oneself – without comparison. As the Tao says, “By making some things beautiful we make other things ugly.” So too in making some things desirable we make other things undesirable. In this way, our values can completely rob us of what is. Gratitude is wealth experienced subjectively. The problem arises when what is beautiful, when what is desirable, is outside of us. Then we are impoverished.

To love life as it is and nothing more. Is this not bliss.

To want everything to be different is to be as unhappy as an angsty teenager again. It is only when we start to grow into ourselves that we can begin to appreciate what is. It is at this point when we start to appreciate ourselves, our lives – for better or for worse, that we stop wishing for it all to change.

Not to say we stop dreaming or become holy wanderers, but we take our place in time – as present in our lives, neither wishing for the past nor longing for the future. Like, I am here. And I’m here to follow my purpose and live my dreams, but the dream is just that – a chance to live true to yourself.

TBD

A person asks who they are,
Who might they become…
And years are lost this way,
Spent in abstact thought rather than concrete action

To declare ourselves
As hero and author of our story,
In deed rather than word,
Is to know we are not who we think we are
But what we are, as we have made ourselves.

Life As a Failed Hypothesis: Try Again.

I’ve hit a wall today. I feel like throwing up. Fact is, I’m here, where I am in life, as a result of my choices.  In a word, I made the wrong hypothesis. It’s all very complex, you see; allow me to rewind so that I may tell the story in full.

In 2010 I built a successful lead generation business that brought in monthly what many take home in a year (I tell the story here). At this same time, when I was suddenly making gobs of money, I got back together with the girl I had dated for 5 years after an approximate 24 months broken up. The conditions of the breakup where what you would call nightmarish, but I was foolish, and I suppose I sought closure.

Having gotten back together with this first love of mine, we moved to Seattle.

After 6 months, she left.

I was left alone in a condo we had spent thousands furnishing. I didn’t give a fuck about any of it. Maybe I had started the business and made the money to “win” her back. After all, my initial plan was to “randomly” pull up where she happened to be in a Lamborghini (I was 24); however, Before that ever happened, we reconnected.

Once she was gone, however, the two years of heartache, the business, all of it came crashing down. It was a house of cards. A game I had set up for someone else.

I convinced myself I hated the business and, frankly, I was in that very toxic male mode of “not giving a fuck”. Unattended to, the income dried up.

I took a 10 day trip to Hawaii, and I was every bit as lost as I had been before. Upon my return, I was facing eviction from the condo I was renting, and, suffice to say, the pain of it all was a lot. Dark days.

At about the three month mark after said ex departed, I left Seattle for Milwaukee, at the invite of a good friend whose work was taking him there.

I had no dream, no plan, no nothing. And although I had almost no money, I somehow managed to live a fairly carefree life there for a year; however, by the time I left, I was living in a motel by the airport, and only 1 friend visited me (Garry, I’ll never forget that).

When I left Milwaukee, I came to LA, where I crashed with a friend whom I had met in Santa Barbara, where we had both worked at the same bar.

LA was, in my mind, my favorite city. I felt different there.

I was also poor as a rat. I would walk to the store for a single serving of yogurt and a banana. But I was happy taking long walks through Mid-Wilshire, exploring Koreatown around sunset, headphones on. It was a calm time.

Nonetheless, I needed to feed myself, so I started building websites using the skills I had developed in my lead gen business. I hated it. You get a small deposit, you work your ass off, you get paid the balance, and then you try to find more clients (I suspect many web developers hate their work).

Around this time, while visiting my sister in San Diego, I met someone who would end up being my second love, whom I would date for three years. This is, of course, a novel in it’s own right; however, for today, I’m mainly focusing on work / career.

That said, while we dated, I at first continued building websites; however, I soon thought about entering the lead gen game again, which I did – for all of three days.

On the third day I had been running paid traffic to my landing page, I got a call from a past client (A lead reseller). I was offered a job in LA, where I would be responsible for running their marketing. And although I had already been at an approximate $300 profit for the day, I did something stupid: I took the job.

Then my girlfriend, who had been very convincing in me taking the job, backed out of moving to LA with me. What’s worse, I wasn’t even in LA, I was in Hermosa Beach, which was just a more expensive, more bro-ish version of where I grew up (Pacific Beach). I would have rather been back in Koreatown. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling empowered enough in my new job, and my efforts to communicate this – even accompanied by an offer to forgo my salary till I felt I was paying for myself – all these were met with little response.

I left the job, miserable in a city where I was so alone, and I retuned to San Diego, where I ended up moving into a little apartment in La Jolla Shores, about three blocks from the beach. Around this same time, I was offered a job consulting for another lead gen firm, located in Ohio. It was on a trip there, where I contracted blood poisoning, the result of a faulty ass piece of shit pair of tennis shoes (A story I tell here). The blood poisoning was serious, and it came to be a kind of soft turning point for me.

I was twenty-seven and working very hard to please a girl who wouldn’t even stay at my new place the first night I moved in – on my birthday!

That said, the relationship crashed and burned. We had different values.

As casual as I sound about this now, it was by no means a cakewalk; I was a fucking mess. Another multi-year relationship had ended with me being persona non-grata. These are breakups where you say and do the worst things to each other, which, of course, no matter what end of it you are on, you end up totally deflated, devoid of self-worth. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Now, at this time, I had been writing on my blog for 3 or 4 years (Since Seattle). It was also around this time that stories began to take shape in my head, novels. I knew it – I had known it all along – I was supposed to be a writer. This in mind, I began living what I imagined to be a sort of young writer’s life. I was in no way shape or form concerned one iota about the getting of money. It was like, what had all that been worth? All this chasing of money, only to end up investing in the wrong dreams, which had left me depressed and heartbroken.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the Sheriff came and let me know it was time to move out. I had simply stopped functioning. No bills had been paid. My cell phone was cut off. I simply didn’t care.

Of course, I knew all along that I wouldn’t be homeless. When I called my mom and asked if I could stay with her – something I had done before – it was an automatic yes. A friend of her’s even let me use her guest house – the main house which was occupied by various young middle-easterners, all of whom loved to smoke spliffs in the gazebo, where they had moved a TV to watch early morning soccer matches.

Again, I was doing a lot of nothing. Eventually, when a tenant came to rent the guest house, I moved back to my mom’s. I was thirty.

During this time, I had no real future plans or trajectory, other than knowing I was to be a writer. In following this, I spent my days volunteering at the library, and my nights reading everything I could get my hands on. I started to build a decent library; however, I was in my mom’s house, so the books were stacked at first along a wall, then, after, on a door, made like a desk atop two wooden folding chairs.

Not long after, I would cook down a few feet of San Pedro and have my first Mescaline experience – something that would have a profound effect on me, allowing me to see things about the world and myself I had hitherto been unawares of. There’s a reason Huxley called his book, The Doors of Perception.

I had multiple cactus tea experiences, all by myself, on a blanket near the water. Just me and my candles – two non-working cell phones for music (In case one died).

I guess I just wanted to “be”. To experience stillness and possibility.

Soon possibility would be upon me. I would fall in love again.

I remembered laying in Sarah’s bed, sleeping in one morning while she was at brunch, and saying aloud to myself, “Is this the girl you’re going to marry?”

Maybe I’ve been lucky in love. I’ve always thought so – despite things not working out in my twenties.

Sarah and I spent hours talking about what we wanted, and our values were a definite match – she even had psilocybin mushrooms in her freezer.

I soon had moved in with her, and we set up a desk we had found for me. I felt once again compelled to strike out on my own and do something.

I spent countless hours trying to build a User Experience consulting business. It failed. I tried to pivot my model to focus on the financial industry, where I felt I could make the most impact. I didn’t get a single client.

Around this same time, we were tired of apartment living in a beach town. We soon decided to move to LA; however, it would be reading Stephen King’s, On Writing, which would compel us to change our minds.

The image of Stephen King typing away in a shed for hours, living in a trailer, working in a hospital laundry, seemed almost romantic to me.

Fuck, I thought, I need to go all in on my writing. 

Besides, neither Sarah nor I was overtly materialistic, so we had no problem with a simple life – particularly one dedicated to the pursuit of my writing.

So, a plan was formed. We would move somewhere cheaper than LA. We opened the laptop and got on google maps and craigslist, zooming out from where we were.

It seemed we might be destined to move to Nor Cal, when we found a reasonably priced three bedroom on the edge of the woods, outside Big Bear, CA. Sarah left her job, working from home for a govt contractor, and I decided I would support us doing websites (It seemed fair, Sarah supported us the first six months), writing in the evenings.

Only, it wasn’t that simple. We moved to the mountains and I spent all most all of my time working, barely scraping by – despite long, often grueling hours to finish projects.

The truth is I was in a very saturated market. There are a billion front-end web people, and the price of the work you do naturally reflects this. But what drove me fucking crazy is that I had hardly written. Life up here in the mountains had become about keeping the lights on, paying the gas.

I had imagined that somehow, I could support us with my web work and write.  I had imagined that going after the money didn’t matter.

After all, I felt my writing was the only thing worth investing myself in; I didn’t want to chase money, I wanted to live simply, I wanted to write, to pursue my career as a serious novelist and screenwriter.

This was a great romanticization on my part.

I’ve come to realize plain as day that this was a failed hypothesis. In short, my writing hasn’t progressed as I’ve wanted, and I’ve struggled for months to scratch out a living doing work I loathe.

Not a recipe for happiness. In fact, it was a recipe for disaster.

Early this year, I would up having a full-blown nervous breakdown. The kind where they take you in for three days to observe you. How’s that for bragging rights? Not much.

By the time I was in the hospital, I was relieved to be there. I had had a terrible flu and hadn’t slept for a week. I was a skeleton. The first night I was there, I got up, walked down the hall, and asked the nurse for something to finally get to sleep. I was offered an injection of some sort in the buttocks, which I happily received.

My nervous breakdown over, I came home and started therapy immediately, consoled by the words of Joseph Campbell:

“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off center. He has aligned himself with a programmatic life and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.” 

I began to want to listen to myself more deeply. To avow myself not to do the thing I hate. I also realized that there was no sense in trying to live the starving artist’s life. Being a pauper is simply not for me.

So, where to from here?

Well, I’m certainly not going to continue down the same road with a failed hypothesis. I did that and surely, it’s part of what led me to have a nervous breakdown in the first place. You can’t do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

It’s become clear to me that I cannot support my writing with freelance web-work.

This is, however, still my current bread and butter, which I have no immediate way of replacing. I can, however, change my expectations.

It’s reasonable to assume I cannot expect to flourish as a writer under these circumstances. So, firstly, I need to drop my expectations of writing until I have a reasonable means of supporting myself, Sarah, the dogs lol.

In conclusion, I’ve been looking into returning to where I started: generating leads. At one time, I was earning $2k a day without much work needed to maintain it. Today, as a freelance web developer, I have to do an immense amount of work to earn the same, and it just hasn’t been practical to write, as I’ve told above.

My new hypothesis is based around the idea of security first. I’ve built a bad life for myself as a starving artist: and maybe, the days of the starving artist are done – they certainly are for me.

I feel today, that it’s my right, my duty to create a new set of circumstances for myself, one in which I am prosperous and able to write. Maybe I just lacked the imagination or the confidence to go after that in the first place. My younger self certainly would have dreamed a better dream, but after my twenties, I had such a bad taste in my mouth about the pursuit of money, I just thought it would be crazy to take that route – particularly after the defeat of two failed consulting business models. But I was never a good consultant. I was never a good employee – even when I was a successful employee I loathed the Sisyphean nature of trading time for money, day in day out.

I said something to Sarah recently, about how there are other people, who, with my knowledge and experience in the lead gen industry would have undoubtedly gone back again and gotten after it. I simply wasn’t hungry before. Now I am.

Thirty-two and starting to build a new life again. I mean, isn’t that what it takes sometimes: getting the shit kicked out of you and getting up again. And maybe there are other people who would not get back up, but I have to.

I just don’t see any other way. And really there’s not. So I have to do what I have to do.

The idea is that I’ll create a comfortable life for myself, and that I’ll once again own my time, which I will invest into my writing. It reminds me of a paradigm I wrote about a while back: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, in which I talked about how Elon Musk’s “Software” works. Essentially, we have our wants and we have reality, in between are our goals. By focusing on the right goal prioritization, we expand our reality, allowing us to attain the things we want. Elon long ago wanted to build rockets and cars. He started Zip2 / Paypal to do it. It just wasn’t possible without the capital. The same seems to be true for my writing. I need the capital to be able to commit my bandwidth to fiction, rather than web development.

And it breaks my heart to write all this today, but it’s simply the reality I now find myself in. I wanted to come here to the mountains and have a comfortable life, where I could write. I didn’t create that. I created a life of stress and struggle, and, frankly, I’ve had enough. Thankfully, I’m still young and willing to take risks, I just can’t risk continuing to live like this. It’s been hell. I had a bad hypothesis. Time to try again now.

 

My Case for the Simulation Argument

Preface / Author note:

I wrote this three years ago; however, it was never properly published, until now. 

In 2015 my world view was becoming far less ethereal and far more grounded in the pragmatic realities of science and technology; however, this suited me. I was writing a lot of code at the time (nothing too l33t, just front end stack), and I was fascinated by the singularity and futurism. Soon my new gods Sagan and Degrasse Tyson, were joined by Kurzweil and others; however, it was Nick Bostrom’s The Simulation Argument that would change my spiritual life.

Put forth in plain-speak – as I have come to understand it – the Simulation Argument is the idea (hypothesis) that we are living in a computer simulation, that reality itself is akin to a computer program.

Wait, what?

If the idea is new to you, it’s likely to sound like we are living in The Matrix — which isn’t a terrible metaphor, but it isn’t a great one either.

Allow me to explain it [my conception of the Simulation Argument] as I have to friends:

Remember the first Atari?

Image from PC World, January 2013: “Atari files for bankruptcy, but it’s not ‘game over’”

We all know how basic games like Pong and Pacman were; now, think of the newest iteration of the gaming console, the Playstation Four:

Now, I want you to imagine the gaming console in twenty or thirty more years. Full neural immersion. Not just virtual reality, but reality indistinguishable from our own.

Scientists (Bostrom, Musk, et al.) believe that it’s going to be possible to simulate reality. Based on that hypothesis, it’s more likely than not that this is also a simulation, and that there are more simulated worlds than real worlds.

This is where you, the reader, may be thinking: put the bong down man. Only, this isn’t a half-baked concept. The Simulation Argument has gained major traction, both for and against; however, my purpose isn’t to dissect something that has been better explained by those smarter than myself. I merely want to explain what gave me a sense that yes, there might be a god, a great programmer in the sky.

For, if this is a simulation, then so many things would make sense for me, which otherwise do not in a purely natural world, but I must restate that I do not wish to try and explain things outside of my expertise, which math and science certainly are; however, I find solace in the knowing that some of the world’s smartest minds can arrive at answers I cannot, but nonetheless answers which solve very important questions, because philosophically humans have always sought to understand life — to understand their place in the universe. That’s really what this is a question of: what am I? Am I a mass of nerves, or am I something that might stretch beyond the physical universe? Is my soul in the cloud?

When I learned of the Simulation Argument and interpreted it as a personal paradigm for the nature of life and as an intelligent and compelling case for the existence of a god or godlike entity, I felt changed, I felt renewed; I felt that maybe the universe wasn’t so impartial and that maybe I could influence my fate more than I previously thought. Just maybe, life wasn’t fated for us to pass from the cradle to grave with a bit of luck and suffering in-between. Maybe magical things could happen. Maybe I could design my own user-experience in life. Maybe things like love, luck, The Law of Attraction, and other concepts fewer and fewer people seem to believe in today, are real. For me, it came down to the existence of free-will, a sense of profound possibility.

It’s this sense of profound possibility that comprises my present day definition of what it means for me to be religious. For, to believe in god as I conceive of the concept, is to believe in serendipity, in happy accidents, in the things my non-belief in (prior to learning of the Simulation Argument) had prevented me from experiencing. My atheism, my lack of faith in something beyond biological organisms, excluded the possibilities of me having a soul, of me having a rich inner world. When I was an atheist, my inner world was dead: it did not exist.

Nick Bostrom wasn’t the only individual who opened up the doors to my believing in a god. Around the same time I became interested in Bostrom’s work I began delving into the work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, who believed that man needs religion, and the nature of the psyche is innately religious.

Jung had described my problem, prior to adopting a “religious outlook on life”:
…Among all my patients in the second half of life — that is to say, over thirty-five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. This of course has nothing whatever to do with a particular creed or membership of a church.

It was the Simulation Argument, an argument for the possibility of intelligent design, which made it possible for me to adopt a religious outlook on life. Once I had done this, I could believe in what Jung coined “synchronicity”.

Jung’s concept of synchronicity is the idea of meaningful coincidences and the connection between psyche and matter (the inner and the outer world). Jung called it, “An acausal connecting principle.”

Without a religious outlook on life, such a thing would be mere superstition, rather than within the realm of reality, for a religious outlook gives one a grander sense of reality — a theosophy — a belief in mystical insight into our lives and our destinies; a belief in the power of our own intuition and our own intention.

Whatever we wish to call it, however we choose to describe it, it speaks of a coordinating agency of limitless scope and finite subtlety, whereby all the coincidences and connections of the world coalesce in a grand design, within which our dreams are possible (Provided humankind does not rob us of them ex: The Holocaust, wars, murder).

Seen this way, synchronicity, serendipity, kismet, chance, divine will, all present themselves within the people, messages, signs, and lessons we can find if we are looking for them; however, if we don’t believe in them: none are possible.

Postscript: 

Elon Musk gives impossible odds for us living in “base reality“.

One Belief to Change Everything, or Not

I have not published anything here in near a month, but a lot can happen in a month – a lot can happen in a day; your days can have significance. This is true (Along with everything else you believe). 

I believe I’m fortunate beyond measure. Where there is love there is life – I have love: abundant, sweet, free, generous love. And it’s the love I have for myself that counts most and makes the rest possible. My heart is a magic kitchen; I am an alchemist; I turn shit into gold. I don’t even want to die anymore

Thirty-two is a very good year: there are no limosines but the perfumed hair comes undone and my heart beats for it. I am a man. No Christian. I am a man. A human, and I think humanness is something we must aspire to. 

But, in order to be human, we have to be whole – imperfect – and I am not talking about accepting flaws, but, rather, acknowledging our status as complex biological and psychological entities. This means listening to our bodies as much as our hearts, and – if we are brave enough – serving both without betraying one. 

That’s the thing about life: it isn’t so much important to be true to ourselves as it is to not betray ourselves. Sometimes, we make mistakes, and that’s a part of life, but I don’t want to live in the shade of the freeway, forever a pretender, trying to buy my own happiness till I die. That would be a betrayal of who I am, as would be a cookie cutter anything – or anything that resembled a normal life at all. I didn’t make it through what I’ve made it through to be bored and unhappy. Ha. 

Hell nah. To quote it for the billionth time, I would rather be whole than good (Jung). I would rather live a life  according to the dictates of my own soul than follow arbitrary mores. My own values are what count. There are many a moralist whom I would not dare break bread with. But this is life, and they fucking love Donald Trump. That’s just the world we live in. Sorry kids, but life is a macrocosm of high school. Most people still playing a game called “who’s coolest” – of course, in the adult world, we call these people boring, unimaginative, and unoriginal, which is precisely what most people are. I really do wish there were more humans I wanted to hug, but like the homie James Comey, I don’t play that. Me no conversate with the fakes

Water, however, finds its own level – as do persons. I refer here not to class, status, race or religion, but values. Unfortunately, however, xenophobia is very real in America. So is Fox News.  

But I promise you, the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps not in number – or even power – but, as far as the stuff that makes life worth living goes [love], there is plenty of it. And when you have those good people in your life, stick to them like glue – and when you meet other good people, stick to them too. 

If you are not the social type, I understand. My late twenties did a lot to incline me toward introversion, but still, sociometer theory is well and true, and being likable goes a long way toward being happy.  Being happy, of course, making you likable. 

Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. I love Lawrence Black. I love my life. 

This same life, I made a hell of at times. That’s the thing about being an alchemist – that’s the thing about perspective – you can turn shit to gold but you can also turn gold to shit. Humans are lenses. Paradise and hell, and all between – you can experience it. This we call thought. Feeling. Being. 

But few of us question it. Only, when we do – and we do discover that – gah! – we don’t fully like ourselves – this is precisely when we outgrow it. Most ideas the unconscious mind holds, which hold us in turn, are absurdly illogical. How many times have you learned something about yourself that you let go of upon discovering? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to see the error of my ways – and just the coming to truth with myself about it was enough to resolve the matter – even if it had personally gripped me for years. Realizations, therapy, mistakes, life: it takes a long time to learn about yourself. But the more you do, oh how life gets better. 

I’d keep going, but I’d like to return a few messages before bed. And I think I’ll come back here soon. I’ve got more to say. That’s for fucksure. 

My unassailable, unimpeachable confidence is almost diametrically opposed to the fact that life is delicate and I will die, but why not be strong? Far better to trust life, to trust yourself. As I wrote long ago, society is a mirror no person finds themselves likable in. Be secure. That’s my advice. And the only way to be secure is to look within. Because that’s the only way you’ll ever change. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing you’re not happy. 

Lastly, is like to say something about optimism. I brought a book from Urban Outfitters late last year called You Can Be an Optimist, and while the book taught me a lot (Specifically on optimism and locus of control) – what really hit me was a thought I had while driving the other day: optimism is nothing more than the genuine belief that things will work out – and that one belief changes everything. 

After all, whose side are you on? 

Welcome to The Woods

Four weeks and two days ago, I left the city that never loved me; for I had to leave: I had to fall deeper, further into love – and closer to a pattern of life befitting a serious writer. 

Sarah, life partner and best friend she is, naturally loved the idea of living in the woods for a year with me. It was, after all, our idea. 

But it wasn’t our first idea; we were planning to move to LA – only fate would have it otherwise, and our plans would change just a week before we were slated to take up residence in a cheap AirBNB in LA for two weeks (Giving us enough time to find a permanent residence).

It was a solid plan, but it just didn’t feel right. 

So, sitting in bed together, as we are now, Sarah doing her thing, me mine, we began to discuss the idea of somewhere not LA. 

Price was a big factor. Frankly, we wanted a home. 

A day or two before, I had looked on Craigslist at homes in a handful of rural Midwest cities. The prices made me swoon; however – besides the fact I had already done the Midwest – I knew it wasn’t in the cards. Call it inner voice. As I said to Sarah last night, all my biggest mistakes have been the result of listening to other people. Today, I listen to me. Fuck you. 

So we zoomed out on google maps in bed that evening: looking first in South LA, then east toward Nevada, then north to the Oregon border, until finally – after the longest thirty minutes of our life – we landed on a small Califonia mountain town, and then something magical happened: we got excited. 

Why? I don’t know. It was just the right place. Something inside us felt calm. Just the way it feels to be here this evening, looking out our bedroom across the deck and onto the National Forest. 

We came here from a small apartment where we had barely managed to stay together through the newness of our relationship. We truthfully were barely sure of what we were doing. 

But we did it. 

We drove up on a Friday to see the place, returning directly to pack our entire apartment on the following Saturday, and then, four Sundays ago, we towed our car behind a uhaul up here, which was an adventure in itself. 

We blew a tire. We had to stop to load a double stainless fridge into the uhaul in 110 degree heat, and we had barely slept for two days. 

Our relationship was road tested on the trip up. Lord knows it had been battle tested in the city where we met. In that tiny apartment. Those fucked up people. That city. San-dago: you fucking overhyped transplant filled millennial shithole. 

Needless to say, we are happier here. Much. 

Sarah quit her job. I got my writing room. And we both get to call the first true house we have ever lived in together, home.  

It has been an incredible experience these four weeks, full of stories I will be sharing soon in the form of a collection of non-fiction episodes published here. 

This weekend we will be hosting the first of a series of guests scheduled to visit us, and we look forward to firing up the BBQ, looking up at the stars, and thinking back on the darkest nights. Nights when moving to the woods to write novels was only a dream. Nights when we had nothing but each other and a dream. 

And LA, it will still be there. Waiting for me to arrive. Waiting for my stories. Waiting on the day when we take up part time residence – our cabin here waiting for us. Because we live in the woods now. Because this is home.