How to Deal With Trolls in Real Life

Sometimes, you can’t cut harmful people out of your life. They might be the the annoying coworker at your otherwise dream job. Maybe it’s a family member.

I have one of those people in my life now. Here’s how I deal with the situation.

1. You come first.

I had to learn to put myself first. My feelings, my health, my energy had to come first. Do what’s healthy and good for you.

2. Let go of expectations.

Why do you get upset? Why does that little thing piss you off? It’s because you have expectations. You want the other person to be different. You want them to act different.

Here’s the truth: your expectations will not change them. They will sense your expectations, and they will sense that they are failing at them. They will feel hurt and that will only make them worse.

Expectations are meant to control. But they have the opposite of their intended effect. Your expectations will only squeeze them into more of what they already are.

In severe cases, you may need to lower your expectations so much, that you have negative expectations for the other person. You must expect them to act in ways that hurt and harm. If you expect it, then it won’t surprise you. This will make Step 4 much easier.

3. You can’t change them.

Create proper boundaries. You have no control over other people. You have some influence via your attitude and actions. But influence is not control.

You can’t change them. You can’t fix them. You can’t help them.

All you can do is create a better situation by your own presence and actions.

4. Be like water

Bruce Lee said this about martial arts and about life. Return to the neutral place where you can react to and overcome any obstacle.

The other person will say and do things that hurt and harm. Even if you implement the above three steps, this will still happen. So be like water.

Let the pain enter you. Let it ripple through your heart and mind. And then let it fade. Let the your emotions settle like pond after a stone has been cast.

Responding to anything in anger, with spite and venom, will feel good for a couple seconds. But then the negativity will poison you as well. Remember Step 1. Respond in a way that will energize your emotional health in the long-term.

These steps have served me well over the last 2 years. Would you add anything?

Is Motivation Unhelpful?

A friend asked me to share any thoughts I may have on motivation, because it’s something that he too struggles with. That was about a week ago. And I’ve been thinking about his question ever since.

I don’t like the word “motivation.” I think that’s why I never answered him.

When you talk about motivation, what are you even talking about? Are you talking about an emotional state? A commitment? A mindset?

I believe that when people talk about motivation, they’re really talking about the past.

We say things like, “I wasn’t really motivated today, so I only finished half the work I would’ve liked to do.”

It seems to me that motivation is something we judge after the fact. The problem is that makes motivation impossible to measure. And if you can’t measure it, then it’s really hard to improve it.

We need a new definition of motivation. Or we just need to start talking about something else.

Fear of Uncertainty

I wonder if I’m cut out for vast amounts of uncertainty.

The night before writing this, I finished a big project. I brainstormed for several days. I worked on it for several days. I enlisted the help of both my brothers for feedback and proofreading. When I finally turned it in, I felt great.

The problem is, not everything in life is so clear cut.

A lot of the work I’m interested in doing has no deadline. It has no submit button. It doesn’t even have a plan. And I worry that I won’t be able to handle it.

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek says that there are two types of people in leadership- the Vision leaders and the Doer leaders. The Vision leaders focus on answering the question, “Why?” And the Doer leaders focus on answering the question, “How?”

I have this secret fear that I’m only just a Doer kind of person. That I’m only good at carry out plans. That I can’t create something new.

I’m reading that claim, after writing it, and this voice in my head screams, “No! It’s not true.” Maybe it’s time for a new challenge to take me through the learning curve for this.

Zorba’s Folly

Does a book ever sucker punch you in the gut? Well, it’s happened to me a few times. The other day, I was looking up a quote to help explain why a particular book is one of my favorites. The book is Zorba the Greek, and the offending quote is below.

“No, you’re not free,” [Zorba] said. “The string you’re tied to is perhaps no longer than other people’s. That’s all. You’re on a long piece of string, boss; you come and go, and think you’re free, but you never cut the string in two. And when people don’t cut that string…”
“I’ll cut it some day!” I said defiantly, because Zorba’s words had touched an open wound in me and hurt.
“It’s difficult, boss, very difficult. You need a touch of folly to do that; folly, d’you see? You have to risk everything! But you’ve got such a strong head, it’ll always get the better of you. A man’s head is like a grocer; it keeps accounts: I’ve paid so much and earned so much and that means a profit of this much or a loss of that much! The head’s a careful little shopkeeper; it never risks all it has, always keeps something in reserve. It never breaks the string. Ah no! It hangs on tight to it, the bastard! If the string slips out of its grasp, the head, poor devil, is lost, finished! But if a man doesn’t break the string, tell me, what flavor is left in life?

“You understand!” he cried, as if suddenly filled with anger. “You understand, and that’s why you’ll never have any peace. If you didn’t understand, you’d be happy! What d’you lack? You’re young, you have money, health, you’re a good fellow, you lack nothing. Nothing, by thunder! Except just one thing— folly! And when that’s missing, boss, well…” He shook his big head and was silent again.
I nearly wept. All that Zorba said was true. As a child I had been full of mad impulses, superhuman desires, I was not content with the world. Gradually, as time went by, I grew calmer. I set limits, separated the possible from the impossible, the human from the divine, I held my kite tightly, so that it should not escape.
Kazantzakis, Nikos (2012-03-20). Zorba the Greek (p. 300 & 301). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

It’s not a very difficult quote to explain. The novel’s narrator is an intellectual, introverted, risk-averse young man. He hires an old, grizzled man to be his right-hand for a business venture. The old man is Zorba. He is passionate, hedonistic, and wise in his own way.

What did this book teach me? After reading it, I came away with a feeling. Remorse, perhaps. I felt remorse for all the times I let my “string” pull me back.

Feelings aren’t very actionable though. They’re more like map and less like directions.

I wrote that I’m not sure if I’ll ever want to “cut my string,” as the book describes. I honestly don’t like that brand of “folly.” However, I am willing to break my string. I like the idea of pulling so hard on it, that it tears free of its anchor.

You could say that is the same thing, only with a slightly different metaphor. I say it’s different though.

I want consistent change, growth, and progress towards my ambition. Towards my ideal self. My ideal self doesn’t really do crazy, stupid stuff. Sure, he has fun and likes to play. But he’s ambitious, persistent, unconquerable, and making a greater impact on the world than I am today.

So, I guess the book taught me to choose folly. Only, my own kind of folly. Why live someone else’s version of excitement and happiness?

Gender Problems in SAO Alfheim

My friend Andrew has the best idea that I’ve heard so far for a fan edit of the SAO Alfheim arc.

He says that he would rewrite the story so that both Asuna and Kirito are released from Aincrad. But they soon discover that Klein (and maybe Liz) is still stuck in the game along with 300 other players. The two of them quest to free their friend(s) while dealing with friendship, romance, family, and Nobuyuki Sugō (the antagonist).

A few years ago, I wouldn’t even have noticed a different between the original and Andrew’s edit.

The original story is a male, geek fantasy. Socially inept, computer genius, virtual hero dude must save his hot girlfriend from the evil hacker/business man.

Andrew’s version is immensely more pro-women. The original takes the character Asuna from a powerful warrior in the Aincrad story arc and turns her into the reward of the quest in Alfheim.

It objectifies her.

Honestly, it pisses me off that I wouldn’t have noticed this a few years ago. I can’t believe my educate and upbringing the the 20th and 21st centuries skipped these gender issues.

Worse, I think a lot of males in the geek community would probably cry foul because of these edits.

Wake up, guys. The ALfheim story is harmful to men also. Kirito is more than a savior. But he spends the entire story consumed with that one idea. Saving his hot girlfriend from the violent, raping, bad-guy. Men are more than protectors. And women are more than objects to be saved.

Yes, to a degree, there are evolutionary differences that put us those roles. But we are more than those roles.

Here’s the point. There is a difference between characterization and tropes. Aincrad had good characters. Alfheim slips into tropes. And harmful ones at that.

Gratitude vs. Daydreams

I have a dark secret. Sometimes, I don’t want to be grateful.

You know, Gratitude is the big thing now in personal development and pop psychology. It’s all over the Internet. “Gratitude is good for because of this…” “Don’t want to mediate? Try gratitude.” And so on.

I’m not at all disagreeing. I think Gratitude is amazingly helpful. I’m simply pointing out that it’s a fad.

And yet, even though I know it’s good for me. Even though everyone is talking about it. Often, I purposefully don’t do it. And here’s why: Gratitude destroys my daydreaming.

Daydreaming is an old habit of mine. I’ve mentioned it here plenty of times already. I like to imagine myself in the fantasy and sci-fi stories I enjoy (or in ones I’ve created).

Here’s what I’ve discovered though. Daydreaming has a critical weakness to Gratitude.

For example, the night before writing this, I was sitting around, trying to become tired enough to fall asleep after flying from the Pacific to the Eastern time zone. I started wondering, what if I was in that story I watched on flight? What if I happened across this character at that time?

And then I knew. 30 minutes of daydreaming would go by before I even realized it. “No,” I thought, “I don’t want to tarnish this story with my daydreaming.” And so, I practiced gratitude. I thought, “I’m thankful for this story and how it inspires me. I’m thankful for how it gave me perspective on life that I wasn’t expecting to find. I’m thankful for how that it challenges my philosophy and beliefs. I’m thankful for the characters that I connect with.”

My gratitude for the story quelled my urge to daydream.

And then, I was content. And therefore, happy.

The Two Most Important People in My Life

In my personal philosophy, two people are more important than anyone else in the whole universe. Those people are Present Me and Future Me.

I can’t say that one is more important than the other. To an observer outside of time, they’re actually the same.

To me, these people are bonded together. There is no stronger bond between two people than the present and future versions of that same individual.

As I quoted earlier, who you are and what you do today will cause change in all your tomorrows. Direct causation. There is no stronger influence on your future self than your present actions and identity.

When I think about where to invest my time and energy, I invest primarily in these people. I invest in me, right now, today. And by doing so, I will grow into a better person tomorrow and forever.

And this makes sense. I’m a twenty-something male, working to uncover my values and desires. I’m putting myself on a trajectory to make my dreams a reality. None of that will happen if I don’t keep Present Me and Future Me front and center in my mind.

Present Me is quite simply Me. Future Me is my greatest inspiration. He is the man that I chase and pursue. I create him little by little. Day by day, hour after hour. And he’s going to be great.

Who are you creating?

Thanks to Matthew McConaughey (never thought I’d say those words), for inspiring this post with his Oscar acceptance speech.

An Unlikely Motivating Mindset

A friend of mine shared an article with our accountability group a while back.

The article argues that different people respond differently to various kinds of motivation. One part in particular stuck with me.

Positive versus negative motivation.

When you have some kind of goal that you want to accomplish, you can think of the rewards in two ways. What you will gain if you succeed. What you will experience if you fail.

For example, changing careers. You can think about the additional money you’ll make. Greater fulfillment from you job. Better relationships with your colleagues. Better commute. Etc. Those are positive rewards.

Or, you can think about what will happen if you don’t act. Nothing will change. Same old job. Same people. Same paycheck. Same level of joy and excitement. You won’t have more money, more satisfaction, and all those things that a new career could offer you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m far more motivated by what I have to lose. By what my life will be like if I fail.

I can say that I want more adventure in my life. I want more awe and wonder. I want more freedom and control over my time and schedule. I want more independence in my finances. I want to live in greater alignment with these values.

But if I think about having that in my life, it doesn’t really motivate me. It actually kinda scares me.

Instead, I think about what my life will be like if I don’t pursue deeper alignment with my values. I think about what will happen if I don’t take action. If I don’t grow.

I’ll miss out on that life— my dream life. I’ll stay stalled out in my current life. The same routines, commitments, and work that drove me to shape my dreams in the first place.

I don’t want that. I don’t want to stay the same as I am today. I don’t want to settle. I’ll do anything to avoid that.

And that’s how I motivate myself. That’s how I give my actions real stakes for the future.

I’ll end with a quote and then a challenge. I found this in my 5 Minute Journal a few weeks ago: “What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” – Ralph Marston.

I have a lot to lose. You?

Overcoming Our Pettiness

Do you ever see those internet memes that pop up every few months? The pictures of the flying cars or hover boards that chide scientists for lagging behind the predictions of scientific and engineering advancement.

Get over yourselves, people. Put your hand in you pocket. Pull our your phone. That phone (smart or not) is just as powerful a computational device as the super computers that sent human beings to the moon and brought them back to Earth.

Look on the roof of your house (or a neighbors). See those metallic panels? Those panels can directly transform the energy of the sun into electricity. For millions of years, only plants could do that. Now we can too.

The human genome project. Anti-HIV research. Robotics. Quantum computing. I could go on and on. 

Today, the average lower middle class person has a higher standard of living than European royalty from the Renaissance era.

You have a better life than most royalty throughout human history. 

Sometimes, I want to rail against the pettiness that we humans fall into. But, I know that my disappointment and anger won’t make anyone feel better. 

When I see the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems, I know that people are aware of this contention. However, it seems to me that we are mostly aware of the negative side. We know that being concerned with such petty troubles is beneath us.

But what instead should we concern ourselves with?

There must be something worth our anger, our energy, our efforts, our passion. There must be dragons for us to slay. Right?

Do We Really Want to Live Forever?

Who’s to know what this life means? If we’re really here or if everything is in our minds. Descartes said that he could doubt everything in life except his doubting, and so because of that, he knew that he was alive.

When we wake up and go through our routines. When we stay within our zones of comfort and safety. Is that real life too?

What does it mean to win at life? Are there rules? Is it even possible?

They say that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Honestly, I would be cool if we could do away with both.

The Dalai Lama says that the meaning of life is happiness. And that the hard question is instead what is happiness and how do we find it. I’m inclined to agree.

But does the fact of death minimize happiness? Would we all live happier and freer if we knew that life could be everlasting? At least, if we banished the threat of old age.

Life is full of inequalities. Gender. Ethnicity. Race. Geography. Class. And more.

But death is the great equalizer. And the great injustice.

Life, consciousness, is a gift. The greatest gift. Every morning I try to thank the universe for the gift of life and the gift of a new day.

But life is a gift that came with an expiration date. 80 (Earth) years for individuals. A few million for our planet. A few trillion for our galaxy.

Sometimes I wonder what will happen to us in the future. Will we destroy ourselves? Will we destroy our planet? Will we live out among the stars? Will we learn to evade death? Will we overcome the laws of physics themselves and evade even entropy and the extinguishing of our universe?

I would he happy merely living a good life. However I define and redefine that.

But, what if… what if it were possible to live to 100, 200, 500 1000?

I don’t know if we would be much different, actually. Our brains and bodies our equipped to only handle so much fear and stress. So much risk and uncertainty.

No, wishing for eternal youth (or at least eternal middle-age adulthood) is a an illusion.

We all want the same thing. We want happiness. We want courage. We want the confidence and boldness to take the first step towards making our dreams a reality. We want to learn to deal with fear. We want to learn to learn from failures and successes. We want to savor life. Each day. Every hour. Every minute.

Who is inescapably charming? The person obsessed with goals and missions over all else? Or person who smiles, who is truly confident, who loves to be alive, and strives to savor each precious moment and leave the world a better place?

Inspired by SAO