Slow Society And Our Children

So, as we start to close the book on another year, I want to offer you a thought that might change the way we think about our society and how “evolved” we think we are.

(HINT:  We’re not that evolved at all)

I have written about “how we need to be kids again” in a previous post, but this time, I’m taking issue with our society (as a whole, think really big picture).

Society robs us of our most human traits, including the “child” within each of us.

Society “tells” us to act in certain ways, and while everything it “tells” us isn’t necessarily “bad,” if we listen to society too closely … we get robbed yet again.


 

Society defined for this article:  All of the systems, institutions, media, and even some people  who promote one (or a very limited) systematized, homogeneous, particular way of doing something for a number of human beings (in some cases, mindlessly promote).

These systems, institutions, media and people do not change their endless (and mindless) ways of promoting these ideas, even in the face of critical evidence, either “at all” or until a major revolution occurs.

In short, no critical thinking is allowed, nor are individuals who promote alternative viewpoints.  The “system” (loosely defined) simply continues to operate.

This “society” is the one that robs us of the “child” inside each of us, aiming instead to produce some ill-defined productive “member of society.”


 

The “child” within each of us is that never ending curiosity, that creativity, that imagination which allows us to define the world we live in.

Society robs us of that.

Within society, there are concepts known as “real life,” “growing up,” and becoming a “productive member of society.”

Our education system (as a whole, with certain teachers as exceptions) tells us from age 4 (or so) to “sit and behave,” “be good little boys and girls,” and to do things the same way.

It was a system that flourished in an age that needed factory workers for factories, “good little boys and girls” to punch in, do your job, clock out and go home.  Repeat the process, over and over again.

The rest of society makes us dependent on that “job,” so dependent that advancing technology that might replace those jobs freaks people out.

All of that “society” sterilizes the child right out of each and every one of us (with a few exceptions).  That society teaches us to be “good at school,” good at taking tests and checking boxes, preparing us for life’s “factory.”

(NOTE:  “factory” means different things depending on what time context you put it in)

Life goes on and on, we go to school, get a job, perhaps getting buried in debt under the illusion of “secondary education.”  We might find someone to love, have a family, get a “good job” (that we hate), and wash, rinse, repeat.

Society’s “machine” just keeps churning out product (that’s you, me, and our children).

“It’s not safe.” Society says.  “There’s a new war.” Society says.  “Sit and behave.”Society says.

Society says a lot of things…

  • “The new i-Phone 6 came out.”
  • “You could win the lottery.”
  • “Eat these enormous portions.”
  • “Take your pills.”
  • “Don’t spank your children.”
  • “It’s okay to spank your children.”
  • “Get back on the couch and watch our ads!”
  • “Get in line.”
  • “Yo.”
  • And on, and on … the list is almost endless.

Society is taking the “child” right out of our children.

Once we amass enough “experience,” enough wisdom, enough of societal influence … the homogenization is complete.  We lose that “child” in us, and few are lucky to ever find it again (usually through some traumatic life experience).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we can all run around aimlessly … without focusing our inner child in some fashions.  But I don’t think the current version of society is helping us any longer.

It’s outdated, it’s slow, and it’s too rigid, too inflexible.

It doesn’t allow our best traits as humans to shine through (enough), and it suppresses our desires.  It uses fear to herd us like life’s cattle towards a completely imaginary barn.

It dictates how we should live.  It treats us like sheep.

And we’re better than that, don’t you think?

We’re more intelligent, more connected (although we need to work on the depth of that connection), and have more tools and resources at our fingertips now than at any time in our history.

But that’s not good enough.

We need to become kids again, and we need to quit taking the “child” out of our children.

We need to explore more, become more curious, and think more critically.

We need to get our heads out of our gadgets, learn how to connect with each other on a deeper level (digital connection is superficial at best), and quit defining our lives in a binary way.

We need to think for ourselves, learn how to write better again, and quit thinking there is only one right way to do anything.

In short, we need to evolve as humans.

We only have one short experiment to conduct (civilization), and our children are our best shot at success in that experiment.

Let’s quit robbing them of that chance at success.

I Interviewed Colin Wright About His Upcoming New Book … Considerations

I recently had the opportunity to interview minimalist and co-founder of Asymmetrical Press  Colin Wright, about his upcoming book titled Considerations.

(You can pre-order this new book in Kindle format here. I highly recommend it)

I received a review copy, read it over, and it’s an exciting book.  So, I asked questions that were designed to give you a taste of what the book is about.

Let’s not waste any time, here’s Colin with his answers (my questions are in bold):

COLIN:  These are awesome questions! Let me know if you need anything else from my end.

Let’s see:

1.  First, a question that is rather cliche, what inspired you to write this thought-provoking book?

A lot of the topics in this book are things I’ve written about before, and things I tend to discuss a lot, but I hadn’t even put them together into one cohesive picture; hadn’t shown how the concept of minimalism connects to the process of developing habits or being nice or ways of looking at attractiveness.

I’ve actually been outlining this book for quite some time, so finally being able to sit down and write it, and to present all these ideas in one place, is a big weight off my shoulders.

2.  To give people who read this interview a little “taste” of Considerations, you have a chapter titled “Consider The Monk” … would you mind offering a little “sample” of what you are talking about when you are asking us to “consider the monk”?

I’m a bit reductionist in talking about monks, because there are obviously so many flavors of ‘monk’ in the world; so many beliefs, so many practices. But for the purposes of the argument I make in that chapter, a monk is someone who’s dedicated to an ideal, and in that dedication, they dampen the impact of anything that might hinder their pursuit of their ideal.

So the prototypical warrior monk would focus completely on becoming a human weapon, and anything else that doesn’t support that pursuit would fade into the background, or be re-calibrated to help them reach their goals (eating, for instance, wouldn’t just be a means of survival, it would be fine-tuned to allow for optimal muscle mass, speed, etc).

The same goes for those monks who are meditative, or who want to improve the world in some way, or whatever. The key there is that we can learn something from this single-mindedness; this focus on an ideal. We just need to know what our ideals our — what we believe — so that we might fine-tune our habits and actions to support those beliefs.

3.  In “Social Quotient” (my favorite chapter) you ask us to consider that there is more to our personalities than the binary “You’re an introvert” or “You’re an extrovert” … could you offer what inspired you to pursue this particular line of thinking?

This is actually something I struggled with for a long time, as someone who tests as an extrovert (a strong ENTJ, if you’re into the Myers-Briggs), but who has very introverted tendencies. I’ve come to realize over the years that I generally need at least 50% of my time to myself, and a lot more than that in some cases, despite also being quite into socializing and people and stereotypically extroverted things.

I don’t actually know anyone who’s purely introverted or extroverted; everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum. And those who understand what they need in terms of alone time and social time tend to be a lot happier. They’re more capable of using their time constructively, and are more able to recharge their internal batteries. They get what they need to be happy and healthy, and are able to do so without offending those who might want more of their time.

4.  Then you ask us to consider our “darker side.”  You offer the solution in the book, but could you provide us some background on the problem of the dark side of our personalities that inspired this chapter?

I really wanted to reach out to people in a very vague way because this ‘dark side’ we’ve all got will be different for every single person. A lot of people I know have something inside themselves that they don’t want to show the rest of the world, and that might be prudent in some cases, but accepting it as a part of what makes them, them, is important.

To put it in context, maybe someone sees their sexuality as a ‘darkness’ they have to conceal. Or maybe they are proactively antagonistic to other people; mistreating their coworkers or significant others. Or maybe they are inclined to steal, or hurt people or animals, or whatever.

Some of these things are inherently harmful to society (the predilection to hurt other people or animals), while others are fine, but maybe perceived to be bad because of where they come from (being gay in a conservative town), but whatever the case, it’s important for people to acknowledge and explore this facet themselves. To ignore it means not being able to act with it in mind — to either counter such impulses, or to embrace it and change their lifestyle accordingly — and means they can never really be comfortable with themselves. Which would be tragic.

5.  If there was one, over-reaching take-away you hope the reader would get out of Considerations … what would that be … and how would that help the reader live their life at a deeper level?

I would love for people to have a lot of new questions to ask themselves. Some of these questions have been asked in the book in a very straightforward fashion, while others are implied, and I think just looking at the world from this perspective — that asking these questions isn’t harmful, but actually quite productive — will be the big takeaway for most people.

I would love for people to be more comfortable in their own skin, to be happier, to be more creative, to have a much rounder set of perspectives to draw from when making decisions. That’s all a process, though, so a victory for me would be having people who read the book start along that path of personal exploration and maybe ask themselves a question they’ve never thought to ask before, or one they’ve been afraid to ask.

And then all I can hope is that they keep asking, keep looking for answers, and adjust how they live according to those answers.

– 30 –

———————–

JOE:  That’s all for the interview, I will have a book review written soon that will give you (the reader) a little more insight into what I thought about the book.

It officially releases November 1st, so pre-order your copy today (I highly recommend it).  If you pre-order, it will load into your Kindle immediately when it releases (or on your computer if you use the Kindle app for desktop or your laptop).

Pre-order your copy at this link.

You can connect with Colin at his websites below…

Colin Wright
Blog / Books / Asymmetrical
Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Tumblr

Our “Default Screens”

Do you always have to kill time, fill the void, or say something?

I’m bored at times, but is that really a bad thing?

Is that boredom something that always has to be handled? According to Nina Yau from Castles In The Air, perhaps we should re-think our need to “kill time” if we’re feeling bored… from her blog:

Suffering comes in many forms, not all of them obvious. When we start to suffer from our own boredom, which is essentially the inability and impatience to sit with yourself with absolutely nothing to do whatsoever, we seek refuge and escape. Boredom, or validation, is an unnecessary byproduct of this false illusion we have created in our minds, that unless we do or say something, we aren’t anybody.

I happen to agree with Nina.

Our obsession with “doing something” all of the time, with diving into our default screens when we’re feeling like there is nothing to do, or that nothing is happening… I think we need to evolve past the “anxiety” this builds as a society, and I think we can do so, very easily.

I’m defining a default screen as that thing you do, or that device you pick up and start poking, swiping, or watching when you get that “bored” feeling or feel you have “time to kill.”

Sometimes mindless shopping or consumerism acts in place of this default screen.

Your default screen has negative consequences… like not paying full attention and walking off of subway platforms, to staring into that screen while someone is getting killed.

Is there any viable excuse for this type of distraction?

There are thousands of examples I can point to, and others which have been pointed to by book authors like Nicholas Carr (among many otherexperts).

The evidence is overwhelming, and it will not change by ignoring the problem.

We need to shut off this behavior, the tendency, to desire such mindless tasks like staring into a smartphone screen, poking around on a tablet, or purposeless shopping just to take up time.

This means changing your “default screen” habit, just as you would any other habit:

  • Start small. Try to notice when you’re filling time with your default screen, or mindless shopping etc… Don’t change anything, just spend a few days noticing when you’re doing it.
  • Make a small change. Once a day, just try to deep breath and relax during the time you feel the urge to pick up a device and start poking or sliding (by the way, mindfulness and meditation are excellent for your overall health).
  • Transition to bigger changes once you see results. When you’re feeling bored, or looking for a distraction, replace that feeling with something else, like the meditation already mentioned or simply striking up a conversation (face to face, not online or on the phone) with someone.
  • Keep going… until you begin to develop a new habit that replaces the urge to shove your head into your default screen (usually anywhere from 30 — 90 days before a new habit is created).
  • Celebrate. Take yourself (or yourself and a loved one) out for dinner.

The above process can be modified, filled in, altered, whatever suits you. I can say that I’ve used the above process myself, and it worked for me.

I no longer have the urge to head straight to my former default screen… and while that doesn’t mean I NEVER, ever grab my tablet (a new Nokia 2520) and surf the ‘net… it means I’m much more mindful of when I do.

In the end, we are human, and that means we can always evolve. That (the ability to evolve) is a gift, and we should embrace it.

We need to evolve past letting our technology distract us from the world around us, and instead take control of that technology.

Because I for one, am tired of hearing stories of “texting while driving” accidents, people walking off of subway platforms…

… and bumping into people who are walking around, or standing around, like zombies.

We’re better than that. It takes work to evolve yourself in this way, but the rewards are numerous (better relationships, a liberating feeling, control of your technology, awareness, critical thinking etc…).

So turn off your default screens people, and enjoy the thousands of gifts that have already been given to you in your “down time.”

A Late Robin Williams Tribute … On “Genius”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Robin Williams recently passed away.

This is a late tribute to this artistic genius.

I don’t think we, as humans, respect the fact that once in awhile true genius enters our society.

And in Robin Williams case, he is one of those geniuses.

Of course there have been others … Einstein, Newton, Jobs, Turing, etc…

Mr. Williams deserves to be named with these other geniuses, people who make contributions to their field of interest at a level beyond the typical.

From his onstage performances, to Mork and Mindy, to Mrs. Doubtfire … Robin Williams is a true comedic legend.  But more than that … he was a person, sometimes giving unexpected gifts to others in their time of need.

Plenty has been said about him by others, and on YouTube you can find your own Robin Williams story … so I’ll leave this tribute at that.

We may not see the likes of him for quite some time, so please do yourself a favor and enjoy his various contributions to our human society.

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams.

Slow Down … Or Burnout

By Jack Forde at CopywritersRoundtable.com

(reprinted here with permission)

“In the realm of ideas,” the writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, “everything depends on enthusiasm.”

In fact, said Arthur Balfour — the former British Prime Minister, agreement-maker, and ex-philosopher who was, ironically, known for his dispassionate demeanor — “Enthusiasm is what moves the world.”

And had you thought to ask Churchill, during your time travels, he would have told you the same and more, in the phrase, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

Without losing any of the irony that opening today’s post with other people’s quotes is, in itself, not all that creative, I can only add… “Easy for them to say.”

Sometimes, you just can’t help it.

There you are, half way up the mountain. Or worse, at the foot, bundled up in your metaphorical sleeping bag. And you figure… meh.

What to do?

TEN CURES FOR CREATIVE BURNOUT

First, let’s acknowledge a few things.

We are, I’ll be you’ve noticed, flooded with more opportunities than ever to be distracted…

Did you know, for instance, that according to the McKinsey Global Institute, the average working person spends a whopping 2.6 hours per day sorting through email? That’s 27 days per year!

Throw in nearly two hours of researching and reading “essential” information… plus a few more hours of combined chatting, work-free web surfing, smartphone checking, and pointless meeting having, and it’s a wonder anything in the world ever gets done.

I mention the distractions because I think they do more than just help us procrastinate — they can also become a crutch for a more serious condition, creative burnout.

Dry patches do happen.

But what to do when you find yourself unable to focus… apathetic toward results… hankering for “Miller Time” on a Monday morning… subsumed by the creep of cynicism… short tempered or moody or sleepless, all over work… or any of those other things Business Insider calls a symptom of burnout?

The French would say, take a vacation. And a long one. We “no-vacation-nation” Americans don’t do that nearly enough, frankly. And when we do, we rarely do it well.

Case in point: We took a week at the beach this summer. And of course, I took my laptop. Every day, I got up 5 am and worked until 1 pm. Even saying it now makes me feel oh-so-virtuous. I also had two one-hour meetings via Skype, plus various undisclosed, work-related email exchanges.

Yep, we hit the beach in the afternoons. And yep, I got in some kid time too. But I can’t help but think I’m not doing it right. To boot, the project I worked didn’t pan out nearly as well as hoped. So there’s that.

Next week, I’ve also got deadlines. I owe better stuff than I think I’m turning out to a few people, have more than one speech to write for two different copywriting “bootcamps” to come, and there are those standing weekly meetings… but we’re going away on a laptop-free trip to the south of France anyway. I’ll let you know if it pays off.

Meanwhile, what about the non-vacation solution to creative burnout? Turns out there are quite a few.

Like these, for instance…

1) Keep a journal: Write three pages every morning. Doesn’t matter what. And carry it with you during the day, just in case.

2) Add ‘change’ to your everyday routine: Move your desk across the room. Walk a different street. Read someone else’s magazines (but ask first).

3) Chill: This might seem a little counter-intuitive, given what we’ve said so far, but once in awhile the best way to get an idea really is to STOP trying. Think about it. Have you ever gotten a great idea while driving? Or taking a walk? While in the shower?  The subconscious mind is a powerful thing.

4) Paint, Draw, Play Music: Skills that force you to think creatively, but do things alien to your routine can jump-start a slumbering mind.

5) Think in squares and circles: Put one idea in the middle of a page. Write related ideas around it. Use lines and shapes to map out the connections.

6) Practice more problem solving: Just as musical people often learn languages faster, and people who do crossword puzzles live longer and stay sharper, just spending more time trying to be a problem-solver in any capacity — outside of work — can help you get back into the habit work-wise, too. The mind, it turns out, is a muscle.

7) Pick a hero: Start by imitating the creative greats who went before you. What did they do? Pretend you’re them and do it yourself. You might get mocked, but it’s an excellent way to pick up good habits.

8) Read: This is an easy one. Anything that’s in motion needs fuel and your brain is no exception. To get more out, you’ve got to pour more in. Does it matter what you read? Of course it does. But that resource might be different for different people, depending on what you’re trying to do. Not just blocks and niche-specific websites, but history and science, good fiction, good non-fiction — you never know what’s going to surprise you by being relevant.

9) And of course, there’s going back to what you’re working on like a beginner. Imagine what you would do if you’d never seen what you were about to sell before… and if you new nothing about how to sell it. Where would you begin? Revisit the original pile of product samples, articles and news clips, testimonials, studies, and more. And revisit a basic how-to book on copywriting too. You might be surprised how squinted shut your eyes have become, and how they might re-open.

10) Talk to somebody, anybody: Get in a conversation with the people you don’t usually talk to — or haven’t talked to awhile — inside your work circles… and outside them. They’ve often thought through the things that puzzle you or have the energy you can’t seem to summon on your own. And just by getting into a good conversation, some of that can easily transfer back to you.

As for me… well… I’m actually going to take off next week from the CR too, and I’ll talk to you when I get back… hopefully, renewed, recharged, and ready to go.