Hate how positive & fake-feeling the self-help genre can seem?
Then read this longer New Yorker article: Improving Ourselves to Death by Alexandra Schwartz. It’s an impressive survey & criticism.
Self-help advice reflects the beliefs and priorities of the era that spawned it.
In the January 15, 2018 issue, it’s fitting for those who ponder New Year’s Resolutions, which she addresses, and then she covers:
- The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
- SuperBetter, by Jane McGonigal
- Grit: the Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth
- Smarter Better Faster, by Charles Duhigg
- The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne
- Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement, by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
- The Wellness Syndrome, by Carl Cederström and André Spicer
- Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, by Tim Ferriss
- Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us, by Will Storr
- You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want, by Sarah Knight (my blog post on her TED Talk)
- Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze, by Svend Brinkmann
Ending with Stoicism, this reminds me of my buddy Jesse, and what’s surely his addition to the above:
- The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman
So what’s the answer?
There’s a lot of different ones in the article. I’m currently looking into Stoicism.
I have been bitten.
By the ‘minimalism’ bug.
Now all my paragraphs will be one-phrase sentences.
(I have a 1.5-year-old, so we borrowed Taro Gomi’s 1977 classic ‘Everyone Poops’ from the library. In it is one of the best-est two illustrated pages of human literature EVAR. “A one-hump camel makes a one-hump poop and a two-hump camel makes a two-hump poop. Only kidding!” You’re welcome.)
This is after reading ‘Simplify – 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life’, the wicked cheap e-book by Joshua Becker.
Much to my surprise, getting rid of stuff… to have less stuff… to start feeling like the toga partying Stoics of Ancient Greece… wasn’t the point.
Neigh Nay, fair horse citizen! ‘Twas for the purpose of a higher ideal. Continue reading
Why do you do what you do?
There. Don’t read the rest of this blog post. Just chew on the above for a solid minute. Five minutes, if you’re generous with yourself. Ten minutes, if you’re on a roll. Twenty minutes, if you’ve lost track of time and the thought of a growing inbox squeezed itself to the forefront. An hour, if you’re on one of those monk-like retreats where you’re on a vow of silence, and yet you’re reading blogs, like mine. A day, if you’re a fasting, silenting, enlightenmenting, non-showering, monkish type.
I mean, if you do decide to read on, you’ll see my notes on Start With Why, the book by Simon Sinek, as well as the results of what the book inspired me to do: figure out why I do what I do. Continue reading
This blog post is like green tea: it’s good for me, yet to do it right, I’m not supposed to add sugar. So, behold… a treat that doesn’t go down the smoothest, although it is healthy. I mean, I could try to make this a fun read, but I won’t because… this doesn’t need it. This post represents the culminating bloggular goodness that I’ve thought about over two years ago.
I’m still analyzing what I’ve written via how I’ve tagged my posts, and today I cover the category of ‘direction’. Below are the summary points per post with this tag, which don’t include those that were also tagged ‘path series’, which I think I’ll cover another time.
- Happiness: Become a heretic because initiative is happiness. Do something that excites me because excitement is happiness.
- My Vision Sources: Study direction-related sources and derive a method for determining vision.
- Create & Connect, Supply & Demand: Create something of value in which I am skilled, or is fully engaging, or elicits my passion, or is a combination of the three, then connect by sharing, teaching, or somehow helping others feel good.
- Bow Ties & Shoelaces: Inner changes are reflected externally.
- One Epic Thing Before You Die: Whatever this thing is for me, it’s the most cool/epic if it most aligns with my purpose / life path… now do it every day.
- Don’t Label Me, Bro: Do more and more of fewer things, but more important things, and get better and better at each of them.
- Style Over Fashion: I’m not looking for the fleeting & crowd-sourced, but the everlasting & self-sourced.
- That First Tiny Step: What is that first tiny step towards my dream, something that takes almost no time and no effort that gets me that tiniest bit closer?
- Soutata: Leverage my unique gifts and quit the rest.
- First Do Cat Food: I have to get deck-clearing capability first before being able to think at the high level.
- Always Be Outputting: Increase outputting by decreasing inputting.
- Blogging Break: All advice about success are facets of the same gem.
- Sum Of Your Parts: Grouping stories into releases per product (facets of me, each with a vision) leads to paths of punctuated evolution in each area of my life!
- Life In Your Years: In the end, it’s not the years in my life that count. It’s the life in my years.
- To Be A Better Person, Do Anything: I am defined by my ability to supply a demanded product or service, so do something, something impressive.
- You’re Allowed: That awesome life I want starts with realizing… I’m allowed to live it.
- Baconday: I’ve forgotten I enjoyed writing outlandish stories.
- ScrumOfFun or Local Drummer Boy: I want to lower the barrier to entry for performing music.
Hmm… lots of good stuff. What happens if I try to mash most of ‘em all together?
To be happy and improve my quality of life, leverage my unique gifts to do very well just a few purposeful things (everylasting, self-sourced), while quitting the rest (what I don’t do well and consuming in general), to take the initiative (aka being happy) every day and create something exciting (aka being happy), then connect with others.
I am actually allowed to be happy and live a big dream, so take a small step towards it, developing myself via one aspect of me at a time, doing low-level important things before high-level important things.
So what specifically brings me happiness? Writing outlandish stories. Lowering the barrier to entry for performing music.
Like I said. Culminating bloggular goodness. That last part is specific to me, but the rest respresents a study of how one can get some kind of life direction.
I’m sipping this slowly. It’s still hot.
You ever notice that sudden plans are usually fun? For me, sure, what’s cool is the thing that is planned, but it’s equally neat how, like, 2 hours ago, this idea of a plan wasn’t out there, and then, all of the sudden, somebody came up with it and then it was acted upon.
Wham – you blink.
Bam – you enjoy.
If I could only remember that the days were not bricks to be laid row on row, to be build into a solid house, where one might dwell in safety and peace, but only food for the fires of the heart.
- Edmund Wilson, Critic and Writer (1895-1972)
This is my way of saying that this last Sprint, I’ve had an extraordinarily large number of emergent stories, and I’ve gone along with them. Dinner here. Movie there. Oscar-watching party somewhere around the corner. Sprint Goal nowhere close to being accomplished.
Yet – and I think that as you get older you become more OK with things like this – I’m more OK with things like this. I’m trying to remember that our days are indeed meant to be gut-level exciting.