Forget About Rewards – Do Things For Their Own Sake

Forget About Rewards – Do Things For Their Own Sake

Every once in a while I get in a mood where I don't feel like doing anything. Take writing a product review for my other website for example. In those blue moments I'm thinking things like "what if no one will read it?" or "what if I get outcompeted by other more established sites?"

Those things would mean that my effort would have been for nothing. That is a very possible thing that could happen and it has been one of my greatest mental obstacles, not only in writing but in virtually everything else. 

This is just irrational - I'm basically demanding a guarantee of results before I go out and do something, when we all know that nothing in life can be guaranteed. 

I need to change my attitude on this.

I think one cure for this mental obstacle is to not care about the result in the first place. I've noticed that the people who become successful are the people who enjoy the process more than they enjoy the reward. You can see this very clearly with all NBA players - even if they didn't make any money out of it, you can tell that they'd still keep playing basketball in their free time. 

Just like them I need to learn to love the process way more than the reward. I can already see this manifested with some things in my life: playing basketball, running, blogging and other things I can't think of right now. It may be that it is not possible for me to learn to love writing product reviews, in which case I'll have to move on to something else. But I do think it's possible to learn to love even the most mundane job, you just have to get creative. 

My goal is to eventually have everything I do be something I'd do even if there was no reward. Because the more my days are filled with that, the more fulfilling a life I will have.  

Understanding My Limitations

Understanding My Limitations

I love running.

I love it because of how clear a metaphor it is for so many aspects of life. It's one of the simplest ways to teach yourself how to become a better person. For example, the experience of pushing yourself after you think you have nothing left is something you can transfer in your work or relationships. 

Running has taught me a lot about myself, including the fact that I am capable of more than I previously thought. Just when I thought I couldn't run any longer, I somehow found a way to keep going. (mostly with the help of running with other people)

It turns out that whenever I feel like stopping, I usually have more than a few miles left in me. Thinking that I couldn't keep going was all in my head. I had a self imposed limitation that wasn't reflective of reality. The cool thing is that the more you push yourself the more you realize that you don't know where your own limit is.

If this is true for running, where else is it true? That is an exciting question to wonder about.

The Case For Being An Uninformed Citizen

The Case For Being An Uninformed Citizen

How much of your time do you spend thinking about politics? 

Me? I'm ashamed to say how much time I spent listening to political podcasts and YouTube channels in the past few years. I thought it would make me a respectable person who could hold conversations at cocktail parties. But I was just kidding myself - I don't even like drinking. 

For some time I actually thought having that type of knowledge was important. I often agreed when people said that "the government affects you whether you like it or not so you better pay attention to it" and "the world would be a better place if more people got involved in politics."

I now think paying attention to politics is a waste of time and mental energy, especially when you think about the opportunity cost.

I can say for a fact that my reality would have been the same, if not a lot better, had I never payed any attention to politics. In other words, if I never knew what's going on in the Middle East or even who is my current president, my life would have been no worse. I simply don't think those facts will ever become useful in my life other than for trivial purposes. 

Sure that information may convey that something bad is going on, but it does me no good to know them. Just like it does me no good to know that a dog just got run over a couple blocks from me. It's a huge bummer, but there's nothing I can do and therefore no reason to know. In fact, it would have been better to not be aware of the k-9's tragedy because knowing such a thing only makes me depressed and unfocused. That's a net-negative for society.

Even if knowing a little bit about what's going on at the national level can be useful, shouldn't it be proportionate to your control over it? For example, spending 20% of your time learning about what's going on in politics is irrational if you have an almost-non-existent power to do something impactful with it. 

While it may be important to be aware of the government's laws and policies at a basic level, very quickly we run into diminishing returns. That point is when we watch the news like a drama show every day and keep up with the president's tweets.

I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the people that pay the most attention to politics have less control over their emotions. You can see this with the people that went out of their minds when Trump won because they thought the world was coming to an end. Their mood is beholden to the political climate.

The thought of paying attention to what Trump is up to and getting mad over it is just absurd. There's nothing the average citizen could do. Voting comes every 4 years and even then your vote has virtually no impact. So just stop wasting your time and focus on things you do have control over.

If anything, elections makes people more passive: it fools them into thinking that they're making a difference in the world just by voting. 

Young people (particularly college students) are the ones who should ignore politics the most. They still have a lot to improve about themselves before they spend (in my opinion waste) so much of their time trying to save the world through politics. As Jordan Peterson would say, "they need to sort themselves out first."

People should measure all of the time and emotional energy used on arguing and fretting over politics and compare it to the actual impact that they have had with it. I think if they did that, most would immediately give up on politics and take on a more cost effective endeavor for themselves such as bettering their immediate environment. If everyone did that I believe the world would truly be a better place. 

Why I Love Podcasts

Why I Love Podcasts

I don't mean to sound like a hipster but I got into podcasts before they were cool. I got into podcasts in 2008. I don't really remember how I stumbled upon them. I do remember thinking how awesome the medium was. I instantly saw it as a great opportunity to both entertain and educate myself. Now I welcome waiting in long lines and getting stuck in traffic.

Ever since I discovered them, you would always see me with headphones on, even during school, which was a constant nuisance to my teachers. Podcasts have basically replaced music for me. 

I not only listened to purely entertaining podcasts such as comedy and storytelling, but I also listened to educational ones. Podcasts made learning entertaining again! Ever since I discovered them, podcasts have been my main source of education. Not books and definitely not school. 

What I love about podcasts the most, other than it being free, is that it is a great way to get to know people. (usually the host)

I have loved so many different podcasts and most of them have fallen out of favor over time, much like how friends sometimes fall out of favor. 

This happens mostly because I have changed my preferences and priorities. For example, right now I'm in a period where I'm looking to improve my life, so a lot comedy and political podcasts have slowly fallen off my plate as I add more self-helpy ones.

Here are the podcasts that I'm currently listening to on a weekly basis:

There's a few more that I listen to depending whether I like the guest/topic but those are the ones I currently listen to no matter what. 

Creating My Own Success Story

Creating My Own Success Story

Yesterday I listened to Isaac Morehouse's podcast episodes were TK Coleman told his story.  In them I got to hear TK's weird professional path, which was nothing short of amazing. Other than being entertaining, there were quite a few lessons that I learned from his journey. Things like 'you don't need to plan out your whole life to be successful - you just need to treat every opportunity you take with integrity.' He also reinforced in me the importance of constantly doing something creative such as blogging. 

However inspiring TK's story was, I couldn't help but think of how little I related to him. It seemed that he had a good amount of integrity, confidence, and resolve which are things that I'm currently lacking in.

Listening to the podcast made me wonder whether those intangibles can be newly created or whether they are something you need to have from the beginning in some way.

What if all of the qualities that make a person successful - integrity, confidence, resolve, resilience, curiosity, the ability to defer gratification etc. - have been killed inside of me due to the fact that they were neglected (and sometimes outright smothered) for so long?

I'm starting with a far from ideal family history, which has fostered in me immense self-doubt and self-hatred. Right now I'm in the process of removing all that muck from my system.

To this date, I have yet to hear stories that started with my specific deficiencies and ended up with happiness and fulfillment. Maybe there's a reason for that - because most of the ones that started like me didn't succeed. That's a really scary possibility.

Even if that's true I'm not going to let it stop me from trying.

Stop Chasing Symbols

I have a distaste for when people chase the appearance of results (or symbols). Most notably is when parents make their kids say things like "please and thank you." These parents think "my kid just said the words, so that means he must be kind and considerate, right?" Wrong. While it's true that all kind people usually say please and thank you, it is not true that all people who say please and thank you are kind. 

I feel like too many people focus on symbols way too much, which in turn leads them to forget about the purpose behind them. We focus on the symbol and then mistake it for reality. 

For example:

I often see people trying to chase the former because they think it must mean the latter. I also see parents and schools trying to push kids to achieve the symbol. The funny thing is that the more they try to force the symbol the more they stray away from what they really want.

I think this is tragic.

Stop chasing symbols.

The Problem With Making Kids Say “Thank You”

The Problem With Making Kids Say “Thank You”

One big annoyance I experienced growing up was whenever my parents forced me to say "thank you" in front of other people. It was bad enough that they teased words out of me with no care for what I actually felt, but to make me say it in front of another person angered me to no end. I'd think "now that you told me to do it, they'll think I won't really mean it! Now there's no point in saying it!" But I had no choice, so, humiliated, I said the words through gritted teeth.

Back then, I understood my annoyance intuitively. Now that I have the words and awareness for it I can say that the reason I was so annoyed was that I wanted to be true to myself. Not only did my parents disrespect my need for being genuine, I was also being robbed of the experience of the feeling behind the words. That's because I was made to focus more on empty words rather than actual appreciation. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not against saying pleasantries like please and thank you. I actually do say them, but only when those words reflect my true feelings. What I am against is being coerced to say those words. I simply don't think the feeling of appreciation can be forced onto another person. In fact, this coercion often has the opposite effect. It may create people who will rarely feel appreciative, even if they do end up adopting the words that indicate it.

I think the best way to cultivate appreciative, kind and empathetic kids is to model the virtues yourself. We need to teach them that these feelings come from within and stop making them say "thank you" just because someone else told them to. In order to do that they need to be given the space to feel it.

Rekindling My Love For Reading

Rekindling My Love For Reading

I first found the joy of reading when I was about 15 years old. I know, it's a little late. Let me explain. The thing is, I didn't grow up in an environment that exemplified the fun of reading. In fact, I grew up in an environment that did the opposite. Case in point, I grew up with friends that would make fun of me if I were caught with a novel on hand. It also goes without saying that schools sucked at making reading appealing. Despite those obstacles, I ended up being gravitated towards books once. 

I remember the first time I discovered the magic of books. It was during one summer in the empty library of the small town of Rugby, North Dakota. I went in there just because I enjoyed being alone and, since it was always relatively empty, I considered it my perfect place to be just that. Since I was there I thought 'why don't I start reading?' So I did. Now that I think about it, it's hard to believe that the first book I decided to read was Stephen King's The Stand. At more than 1100 pages long, I chose this book simply because it was the biggest book I could find. I just liked the challenge of it. Since it was Summer I had all day to read. And so I did. I averaged about 100 pages a day and I thought I was so awesome for it. The book did not disappoint. Not coincidentally, this was also the beginning of my love for horror. 

After reading this book, I kept on reading. I picked up some more King books and then some James Patterson and then some Kenneth Oppel. I even got into the non-fiction world. I was loving it. But then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. And by "Fire Nation" I mean high school.  

Once high school started, I read less and less frequently due to exhaustion. With class, homework and extra curriculars, I just couldn't find the time. There were waves during the summer when I got back into it, but for some reason it stopped being as fun. I guess I shouldn't pin this all on school, since my (let's say) suboptimal home-life was also not helping. It was like the fire in me that loved books was getting smaller. When high school was over I did start some books but never finished any.

There was still a part of me that loved books though. My high school days did not completely kill my yearning for books, but they certainly tried.

Fast forward to a year ago. My main source of education and entertainment has now been in the form of podcasts. I just found them a lot easier to get into. I knew however, that I was missing a lot of valuable pieces of content that were only in the form of books, so I thought to get myself a Kindle and try this reading thing again. So far I've found it to be a success. I've read quite a few full books for the first time in a long time. I've also read countless online articles that I never would have otherwise. I'm realizing now that the inconvinience of physical books has been a small but significant barrier for me.

Maybe it's the fact that I got a Kindle or maybe it's the fact that I'm escaping my depression (or maybe both), I'm just glad that I'm picking up reading again. I hope to someday regain that feeling of joy I had that first Summer. I miss it a lot. 

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

When I was in high school, my basketball coach asked me to join the cross country team and I reluctantly said yes. At that time I hated running. I ran as a form of conditioning in basketball and track, but I viewed it as a necessary evil.

I remember, after every practice run or race, I told myself "I never want to do that again," but somehow I always found myself doing it again. Not surprisingly though, that was my first and only season of cross country.

This last summer I made the decision to start running as a way to get back into shape. Later, I ended up joining a running club. Miraculously I now enjoy running.

Back then I was barely able to run a full 3 miles without feeling like dying. Now, after five sedentary years and gaining 30 pounds, I am somehow able to run 8 miles consistently. Not only that - I went from dreading the next time I had to run to looking forward to it.

If you told me that I was capable of running 8+ miles straight back then, I would have called you crazy. Now I do those runs on a weekly basis. Also, I'm looking to increase my endurance to the point where I can do 18+ mile runs.

So What Changed?

It's not that I wasn't physically able to run 8+ miles during high school. After all, I was in way better shape back then. I would say that back then I did not have the same internal motivation. My reasons for running did not come from within. Rather, my biggest reason for why I ran was that I didn't want to disappoint my coaches. This was an external motivation, which could only take me so far.

This time around, it was solely my choice to start running. There's no external pressure to do it - I know that I can quit any day and no one would care or think less of me. It may sound counterintuitive, but this freedom is what allows me to stay motivated. That's because it lets me know that I'm doing it because I genuinely want to.

We all understand this of human nature: if you tell a person what to do, they are less likely to want to do it, even if they know it's in their own interest to do it. Also, if the person does it, they will most likely do a worse job than if it was through their own volition. 

During school (and I guess throughout my whole childhood) I got accustomed to being controlled. I was told what I should or shouldn't do and what I should or shouldn't aspire to. As a result, I lost touch with my own wants and needs - the things that wake up my internal motor. 

I think this is what happened with me and running. I felt the external pressure to run, therefore I didn't do so well. Now that I have no one telling me what to do and feel no pressure, I am more motivated than ever to be a better runner. Now, instead of having people push me, I have an internal motor that's faster and unrelenting. 

Making the transition between being internally motivated rather than externally hasn't been easy. After being externally directed for so long, it's taken me 5 years to realize that running is something I genuinely want to do. This is just one thing, but there are many other aspects of my life where I'm still lost. 

This is why I would urge parents and teachers to stop controlling children's lives so much. For about 18 years we push them towards what we want out of them and then when they're set free we expect them to suddenly become strong willed. This just doesn't make sense.

What we need to do is teach them to be in touch with and follow their own compass, because that's where they will thrive. 

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

In the professional world, we are appalled when employers abuse their power. For example, we feel it is extremely inappropriate for employers to make romantic advances on their employees. This is because the employee would be afraid to say no, since the possibility of getting fired would be in the back of his/her mind. 

As we can see, employers have to act with more respect due to the reality of this power disparity. They have to be extra careful so as to not abuse their power. The greater the power disparity, the more respectful and careful the person of power must be.

The way I see it, there is no greater power disparity than in the parent-child relationship. Children depend on their parents in every way possible. They are completely defenseless and, unlike employees, they do not have the capacity to leave. That's why I believe children deserve the most respect and compassion we could give them. Just like in the employer/employee situation, it is extremely important for parents to be careful that they don't abuse their power. Unfortunately most people do the opposite.

Most parents believe it is perfectly okay to mold their children into whatever they want them to be. They implement many tactics that often run against the child's own wishes and they disrespect the child's autonomy. This causes many problems for the child in the long-run.

Parental abuse of power is not always as clear as inflicting physical pain. It can include more subtle things such as enforcing your beliefs onto them. Even more than the employer who makes a romantic advance, it is not fair to do these things to kids because they have an immense pressure to conform to your wishes.

We need to understand that kids are afraid to say no to you because they depend on you. 

Kids need to be reassured that you wont take away their freedom for being their authentic selves. This is where the importance of unconditional love comes in. Most people say they love their children no matter what, but they have a rather flexible definition of love, which renders the word meaningless. 

Just look at how we treat our children when they do something we disapprove of: we invoke guilt and fear, we threaten them, we neglect them, we inflict physical and emotional pain, we lie to them by saying "Santa won't bring presents this year" etc. To truly love a person you must first respect them, and those type of actions clearly show a lack of respect.

By abusing your power, you are raising a person who will continue to be a submissive people-pleaser and therefore become an easy target for abusive people. Either that or you will create a person who will use their own power as an opportunity to be abusive. I can't even tell what's worse. 

Most people think disrespecting their child's autonomy is the only way to raise them right. Well, I'm here to say that it doesn't have to be that way. Not only do non-abusive methods exist, but implementing them will give you much better results.