The following post was originally issued at Ricochet.com. I advise all my readers and followers to drop by Ricochet, and consider joining if you want more excellent commentary such as this. Mark exactly offers the same advice I would give to today’s young people. His life story is instructive. Young people, HEED THIS ADVICE!
THE TRUTH ABOUT WHY YOUR LIFE SUCKS
For the Younger Ones: Millennials, Gen X, Y, Z, etc.
“The truth is something that burns –
it burns off deadwood, and people don’t like having
their deadwood burnt off often, because they’re 95% deadwood.”
Jordan Peterson, on The Joe Rogan Experience #958
You want the Truth?
Your imagination has been filled with ugly nonsense by people who want to co-opt your imagination for their own purposes, rather than letting you create your own life.
Harsh, but true.
The bad news is, you’ve been suckered. The real bad news is, you’ve been suckered by people with good and bad intentions.
How many of these things can you honestly say apply to you?
— The world has been screwed up by old people.
— I feel depressed most of the time. (Not a clinical or suicidal depressed. If one of these applies to you, my posts may not help. Or maybe they can. Only you can decide. I’m a good coach, but a lousy therapist.)
— I have massive student loans or credit card debt.
— I don’t have a good job (or any job at all).
— I hang out with angry, depressed, and cynical people.
— I smoke pot or use illegal drugs at least once per week.
— I’m addicted to social media.
— I often feel like a victim.
— I have no control over my life.
— I don’t know how to be happy.
If 3 or less of these are true, you’re only mildly sick. If 4 to 7 of these are true, you are sick. If you feel that 8 or more are true, you may want professional help. But along the way, you might find something in these posts that can help. (Use the Tag “Snap Out of It.”)
The fact is, you don’t have to be upset with the world. You don’t have to change the world. You just have to find a new way to change you. And I’m simply saying you may have been suckered out of believing that you can change yourself in fundamental and dramatic ways.
You’ve been suckered by teachers, by social media, by the news, by your “friends.” You’ve been conned by politicians, banks, and advertising. They make you think that:
— you have no control over your life
— other people owe you something
— other people have made you miserable
— you should believe what they say, and not question why
— that society is somehow responsible for everything, and all you need to do is change society to be happy (never mind that nobody can agree on what society is).
There is a reason why a committee can’t play a violin.
They want you to believe life is luck, not something that you can create for yourself.
They want your creative imagination to buy into their group vision, not for you to use your creative imagination to create your individual life.
They want you to believe that you are helpless without the group, without your peers, without “the committee” for this or that. They want you to be the host for their vampire needs.
And that’s the nub of it. The unvarnished truth.
It doesn’t matter what happens to you.
What matters is how you respond.
That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, you are 100% responsible for all you think, feel, and do.
Not anyone else. You. Unfortunately, few people embrace this fully.
Okay, I’m speaking too broadly here. Not all Millennials or Gen Zers lead a sucky life. Many can think as individuals and are good creators of their life. Hell, the words “Millennial” and “Generation Z” are media-made words just like “Baby Boomers.” You can’t box people in like that. And of course, all those groups can be suckered. Millennials aren’t experiencing anything new. Not really.
The point is, I’m a dubious authority. If you believe anything I say without having experienced it, then you could be getting unintentionally suckered by me as much as the people I claim have suckered you. But if you hang in there, I promise you’ll discover things new to you. Things no one, not your parents or teachers, have brought to your attention.
But let’s assume I may have something worth saying, that it’s time for you to burn off the gunk. To incinerate a bunch of crap that you believe to be true but isn’t. Stuff that’s been implanted in you. Harsh medicine for your sickness.
The good news? You can get better, day by day, by changing your thinking.
What do I mean by “changing your thinking”? Getting control over your feelings. Stop repeating what doesn’t work. Using your imagination in ways not thought of. Learning to recognize con artists in your life. Building resilience to change in ways that may upset people you know. And never, ever, pointing your finger, blaming others for what you are experiencing.
But who am I to say? Hell, you already have doubts about me. And you should. Yeah, I’m an old fart, a crank, a curmudgeon. You think I’m talking down to you. (Am I? Could there be something else going on here?) And I’ve lived many more years than you. So what? How can I possibly know:
— What you’re going through, and what you’re feeling?
— What it’s like in this unjust world that has been screwed up by old people like me?
— What it’s like to be a minority, discriminated against, marginalized, oppressed, etc.?
I grew up with a father and a mother. But my father didn’t want a family, so it’s no wonder he was unhappy, spending all his time watching television. In middle school, we had an electrical blackout, and all my father could say is, “It’s hell around here without a television.”
Yeah, it should be no surprise that my parents divorced by the time I was eighteen.
We moved around. A lot. It seemed we could never stay in the same rented house for more than a year. My parents never owned a home. Never had enough money. Sometimes we lived on welfare; living off other taxpayers. Sometimes not. My parents could never get a break.
We lived in four different cities in Nebraska, two different cities in Kansas, and six different cities in California. All before I was seventeen years old. I went to four different sixth-grade schools. I went to three different high schools. Imagine all the fun it was having to make new friends in a new city every year or two.
My parents never went to college. I grew up without a clue about college. Of course, they never saved for my college education. How could they? They barely had enough money to feed me and my brother. (The last time I saw him, I was holding him down for the cops to take away after beating his girlfriend, and, perhaps, my mom. She would never admit it.)
As a teen, I flipped burgers at McDonald’s for $1.65 an hour, just to have my own spending money for clothes and books and records. I later got fired as a manager making $2.20 an hour.
I got caught using drugs. A couple years later, I spent a few weeks in the county jail, including my 21st birthday.
Yep. My life sucked.
In jail, I looked at how my life was before that point.
I looked at where I was then, with other misdemeanor jailbirds.
I looked at my future.
I decided that my future wouldn’t suck!
And I knew nobody could make that happen but me. I had to think and act in new ways. Yes, we all suffer into the truth. Especially the truth about ourselves. That’s life.
My mom and new stepfather handed me a great benefit when I was finally released from jail and got a job at a 7-Eleven store. They kicked me out to live on my own and pay my own bills.
I worked 50 hours a week at that 7-Eleven, putting myself through a junior college (15 units) trying to learn something, anything, to get free of that 7-Eleven. It took eight years, three of those at a proper four-year university.
My top pay at 7-Eleven while living on my own? $6.00 an hour.
My life still sucked for years. But I was building skills.
I learned a little about computer programming. I learned how to write. Even got published in magazines. I learned history from someone who didn’t try to tell me how to “interpret” it. I learned how to expand my language skills and read Plato, Shakespeare, Booker T. Washington, and Virginia Woolf on my own.
Then after years of sucky, hard work, I got better work. Then even better work. I taught Business English, Business Math, and Legal Writing for paralegals at a business college. I reviewed research papers by cops for the California Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training. I trained workers at Intel on problem solving.
After more years of thinking differently, and taking the risk to try new things, I achieved a six-figure salary in Silicon Valley helping engineering managers from around the world learn how to set stretch goals and develop high performance thinking and innovation skills. My company sent me all around Asia and Europe.
By the time I was in my late thirties, I’d given up looking for a real relationship. Nothing had lasted even two years.
My relationships sucked.
Now, I have a wife of almost 25 years who actually likes me and laughs at my jokes. I even have a home without a mortgage. We never fight. How did I do it?
It wasn’t privilege. It wasn’t the government. It wasn’t because I expected someone else to give me something I hadn’t earned.
So, how did I do it? Yep, you’re not going to like the answer.
By taking full responsibility for my sucky life!
But before going further, how about a little humor? You need some right now, don’t you?
A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named Amal. The other goes to a family in Spain and is named Juan. Years later; Juan sends a picture of himself to his mom. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, “But they’re twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”
Okay, puns are a cheap laugh. Shakespearean, but cheap. How about this?
A dyslexic man walks into a bra…
There. Did you laugh? Even at one of them, a little?
If not, you may need to act and think in new ways. When humor dies, when everyone is walking on eggshells afraid to offend someone, everything valuable dies. The more you let go of that sucky inner gunk, the more you get your sense of humor back.
And that is the best measure of diminishing sickness.
Laughing more and more every day.
Alcoholics Anonymous and other rehab groups use a 12-step program to help addicts manage their addictions.
My wife believes in a 2-step program: 1) Get over it, 2) Stay over it.
Me? I support the 1-step program, the one you’re starting right now:
SNAP OUT OF IT!
Coming soon: Snap Out of It, Part 2.