Blog Post #3 The Game of Monopoly Called Life

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Let me be the first to tell you that life is a beautiful and glorious bitch. I don’t exactly remember with 100% confidence, but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t given an option to be born or not. It’s incredibly weird and uncomfortable to think about how I just magically came to life one day in a miniature creature’s body after growing inside an older creature; it’s also interesting how I ended up in my body, and not in the body of any of the other 100+ million babies who were born in the same year as me. I’ve put a good amount of thought into questions like these and I’ll be honest, I haven’t come up with any reasonable answers; I’ve just learned to accept how it is.

And here is how it is, I was voluntold to play a game called life. I was plopped onto this giant board game, like an extremely complicated version of Monopoly. There’s a couple major difference though: I didn’t get to choose my player piece or its starting assets, nor did I get to choose when or where I started playing on the board; certain things were chosen for me without my consent. In addition, the rules of the game were already in place before I started; I don’t remember signing a contract agreeing to any of them. The rules also left out some fairly important information like how to win, and how to actually fucking play. We’re all governed by the same set of rules in this life except for those two things. If you haven’t thought of it like this already, let another player pass you a hint: your job is to figure out for yourself what “winning” means to you, and how you’re going to get there; that’s your “how to win,” and “how to play.”

It took me a while to figure out that what I needed to do was define what winning actually meant to me; I was constantly distracted by what other people in my life told me I had to do to win. I was raised a Christian, which means I was supposed to follow a book and build a relationship with a man I’ve never seen or met before, in order to cross the finish line and celebrate in some place called “heaven” at the end. The rest of my society tried to teach me that in order to win I had to have more money and shiny shit than the other players around me. My peers growing up taught me that for me to win, everyone needs to think I’m “cool.” My father growing up, led me to believe that the only way to win would be to go to a fancy school and work my way toward having a prestigious title. (Despite what it may seem, I did not do it for him). I’ve spent my whole life listening to what other players think winning means to them and being told that’s what I need to be doing too. It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to realize that literally everyone was wrong, because they have no fucking clue what I need to do in order to win the game as my own player; they seemed to think that we all play by the same rules, but they didn’t seem to understand that the two most important ones we create for ourselves! No two players can win the game in the exact same way, but indeed, both players can win it.

I can’t tell you what you need to do in order to win, but I can share what it means to me. I believe the greatest wealth in life doesn’t have any dollar amount attached to it, nor is “winning” any specific title of achievement in a person’s life. I truly believe the greatest wealth any of us can ever attain is measured by the level of our true happiness; to me, I will have won if while lying on my deathbed old and grey, I’ll be able to look back on my life and say “you know what? I’m thankful I didn’t give up before I ever had the chance to experience what life was all about; it was worth the entire struggle in my younger years.”

So, the key is to look at life strategically in the third person as if you’re playing a board game. Simply accept the fact that the rules are what they are, and your starting assets are what they are; you never had a choice in the matter, so embrace it. What you do have a choice in is how you play the game; you can waste time bitching (like I did) about how unfair the rules are, or you can use your head to figure out how to use them to your advantage.  A lot of people waste valuable time complaining about how unfair life is, instead of doing what it takes to become a winner. If you play actively and are mindful about your player’s decisions, you just might learn how to actually enjoy playing for once; on the other hand, if you focus on fighting the rules and complaining about the game, then you will fall victim to your poor strategy.

No matter how shitty you think your player has it, it’s always possible to turn the game around a put a hotel on one of the properties. There is something to be said about the “Boardwalk” though: if you look at it the wrong way, it’ll always seem like someone else put a hotel on it first. If you actually take the time to learn who you are as a person, you might find something more valuable to you than a little plastic hotel on a blue square. Sure, someone else will always have more money and shiny shit than me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t figure out how to fulfill and live my dreams too. If money is everything, then why do so many people who have it end their lives or die of drug overdoses? I’m in no way suggesting that it isn’t important in our world, and to our quality of life; the game can be stressful when we don’t have it, but I don’t believe a specific dollar amount is what’s going to win you your game.

We alone are responsible for our happiness, and we’re also responsible for most of the negativity and suffering in our lives. If it feels like the game is working against you the same way it felt like it was to me, it’s probably because your lifestyle choices are bringing more negativity to you. These “bad” things happen as a byproduct of your metaphorical driving skills. The idea that your problems are almost entirely your fault probably won’t sit well with you because it sure as shit didn’t with me; but I’m going to venture a guess you wouldn’t be reading a motivational book on turning your life around if you were happy with your life as it currently stands. I always thought cops had it out for me in the past; the truth was I was a thug in my youth, and I deserved it. I was the one doing illegal activities, so why was it the cop’s fault that I was being a shithead? If I didn’t get offered a job after an interview, it’s probably because of the way I acted, dressed, or because of my history that I caused. If you hate your boss and think they have it out for you, it’s probably because you’re lazy, can’t show up on time, and do an overall shitty job. Granted, it’s very hard to motivate yourself when passion is severely lacking.

But this sense of entitlement people seem to have is disgusting to me; let me be clear, and if you happen to be offended by this, then your problems will remain with you until the day you die: nobody owes you jack shit, not the government, not your parents, not the people more successful than you, and not whatever god you pray to. You owe the world something, not the other way around; you were given a gift of life, it’s your responsibility to make the gift worthwhile. The sad truth is most of the world doesn’t care about your problems, the exact same way it never gave a fuck about mine. I was that same self-entitled prick once upon a time; I complained non-stop about how hard and unfair life was, and you know what? No one gave a shit. It’s easy to sit back and say, “oh woe as me, God hates me; the world is out to get me.” It’s a hell of a lot harder to say “you know what, I’m fucking up; something I’m doing isn’t working for me. I’m absolutely repulsed by the child I used to be; but the comparison from the kid back then to the man who’s typing these words to you now, is how I know there’s no excuse for why you can’t change your life around too. Picture yourself happy ten years from now, what does it look like? What is making you happy?

Two paragraphs back I wrote the word “most” in bold. Like Monopoly, the dice do play a factor in the sense of uncertainty. Life’s a bitch and will stop you dead in your tracks at times. “Sometimes there’s only one Boardwalk,” means that although I’m an advocate for giving 100% effort to completing my goals, I understand I can only control my player; I can’t control the dice or the rules, or any of the other players. The simple fact is I might not achieve exactly 100% of everything I’ve set out to accomplish; but I give you the absolute truth on one thing: you’ll achieve 0% of your dreams if you never shoot for them at all. Your chances of success drastically increase with each attempt you make.

We were already given a Ferrari, it’s our job to learn how to drive it, maintain it, and put the right fuel in it; the fuel and the trick to success is passion. We as humans simply avoid doing the things we don’t like to do; it’s in our best interest to figure out how to make a life out of doing what we do like.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”-Confucius.

Blog Post #2: What are Mental Violations?

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You’ve heard me mention the phrase numerous times, but I haven’t explained why it’s so important that I wrote an entire book in its name. Our mind is without a doubt the greatest gift we’ve ever been given. Let’s not waste valuable time contemplating the unanswerable question of who gave it to us, or why we were given the gift of consciousness; it was simply given to us and now we have to figure out what to do with it. Our mind is what makes us or breaks us, it gets us paid, gets us laid and allows us to live a fulfilling life of purpose and happiness, or it makes us so miserable that we decide to end it all. Committing suicide is about as logical as being given a Ferrari, and then lighting it on fire because we don’t know how to drive a manual transmission. Yes, there’s a learning curve we must deal with; just because we own a Ferrari doesn’t mean we know how to operate it like a Formula 1 driver.

Think of your mind as a machine, because that is pretty much what it is. Our mind is the most powerful machine that humanity has ever attempted to understand and operate. Like every other tool that exists, proper maintenance and operating procedures are absolutely crucial for proper performance. “Mental Violations” are our personal collection of hindrances standing in the way of our optimal operational capacity, or rather, the wrenches we’ve unintentionally thrown into our engines. Some of these violations include but are not limited to (and not listed in any specific order): our preconceived notions, our default camera settings of confirmation bias, our search for acceptance, bad choices, peer pressure, negative thinking, depression, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, stress, anxiety, obsession, regret, lack of confidence, laziness, lack of motivation, boredom/stagnation, poor diet, health problems, and various different kinds of addictive poisons.

We can’t fix the problem if we don’t know what’s broken. Making a real change starts by being honest with yourself; I can’t fix it for you, I can only help you help yourself. If you’re having problems in life, you need to figure out what’s causing them. As I believe I’ve adequately illustrated, I’ve had my fair share of problems in the past. They never got better on their own, in fact, they kept getting worse and worse until the day I admitted to myself I had some problems I needed to work on instead of blaming them on everyone and everything but myself.

life isn’t always progress. Motivation comes in spurts, and life’s problems sometimes feel a bit like you’re playing “Whac-A-Mole” at an arcade; when you fix one problem another pops up. Eventually you’ll find yourself taking more and more steps forward before having to take one back, but there’s always going to be bumps along the way.

I’m not promising you, nor am I claiming that I have all the answers to life’s struggles, but what I can say with confidence is that I’ve learned a lot of things that aren’t the answer. I’ve also learned quite a few things that have helped me deal with my Mental Violations; one of the most important was learning to be honest with myself. The day I took responsibility for my problems was the day I metaphorically went from riding public transportation to racing Formula One. Taking responsibility for your life is the first step to learning how to drive your new Ferrari. Eventually you’ll feel more comfortable as you work your way toward driving in the fast lane, but in order to do so safely, it requires total awareness of your surroundings; you’ve got to learn how to look over your shoulder before changing lanes to make sure your Mental Violations aren’t hiding in your blind spot. Find them and work towards conquering them, accepting the fact that they will require some routine maintenance along the way. Those who strive to better themselves will remain a work in progress until the day they die, but if we work hard enough to become the best versions of ourselves possible, our dreams start turning into reality.  

Blog Post #1: Therapeutic Writing Saved My Life

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Therapeutic Writing:

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” I’m sure you’ve been exposed to these words at some point, but have you ever given the quote any real thought as to what means? How could a pen possibly be mightier than a sword? I’d love to picture a knight in shining armor rejecting his weaponry in favor of a cut feather quill. The sword is far mightier than the pen in one specific task: taking life in battle. That is the epitome of a sword’s existence as it has few other practical purposes. How silly it seems to compare a pen and a sword at first, well, it did for me too until I realized that one of them can only take life, whereas a pen… Do you think words can be powerful enough to give a life? They can and they have, and more than once, but I can only attest to the story of one life being saved, and that is of my own.

I didn’t realize it back when I was eighteen years old (a decade ago) that my written words could not only be used as an outlet for a darker side of my mentality, but also that I was free to write whatever I wanted without recourse; it’s a powerful freedom we have to be able to speak freely. Back then, I didn’t comprehend the power of words, I hated reading and writing, I received a D in high school English, and I certainly didn’t think that my words would ever carry any weight. I had only used language at a lazy a rudimentary level, filling in many of the sentences with four letter words that had no place or necessity.

Your writing doesn’t have to communicate a single thing to anyone if you don’t want it to. It can be all yours and you can write whatever you like and hide it on a thumb drive or handwrite a journal you keep hidden from the world. Within those documents or pages, you can construct a table of contents and index for your brain for the various topics that go through your head, or a better way to think of it, is to let those pages be an extension of your mental canvas.

I’ve never written a journal entry in my life, I’ll admit, but I did publish an Amazon best-selling book on my life story in the form of a motivational memoir titled Mental Violation: One Man’s Journey from Rock Bottom to Ivy League. I wrote it all in hindsight in the first person, struggling at times to recall specific details—you can bet that I wish I had journal entries to reference during my four and a half years of creating it. Through my writing I relived each and every one of my most painful experiences over again, but in order to do so accurately, it required me to analyze the events in a way that made me feel like an aspiring reporter, trying to be the first to gather all the facts from different perspectives to form a truthful story. What once started off as a suicidal departure gift to the world for my mistakes, transformed me into everything I am today. There were no doctors who could help me at the time, I was too hard-headed to admit to them any topic of discomfort. Suicide… Yes, I now openly address such topics, even though just seeing that word may have brought on some feeling inside you. I told stories in vivid detail of the mental trauma I endured when I had to be a grown-up at age eleven, and stories of my delinquent behavior, barely graduating high-school, becoming addicted to drugs and steroids, and working in the adult entertainment industry…

I believe you can reasonably deduce from the title without further explanation that the person typing these words to you today—and perfectly comfortable doing so—Is a very different person than who I once was. Until now, I never spoke much publicly about my writing, the “when?” or the “why?” of it. I started writing back in 2013 when I was in the military, when my depression was at its peak. I concluded that suicide was the only viable option to escape the negative feedback loop that consumed me for years on end. But I wanted to leave something meaningful behind, something that could attempt to make right for my mistakes, maybe something that would go on to save others or prevent a teen from making a fatal decision unintentionally. I don’t remember exactly what my broken mind really hoped to accomplish other than to maybe soften the blow to my mother, I thought maybe I could explain it enough for her to understand. None of that is the point. At the time, I needed something to live for, and writing my story became a purpose for my existence. I couldn’t kill myself if the book wasn’t finished.

That suicide note transformed me, and as I transformed, so did the note. It transformed into a genuine motivational memoir that doesn’t end in suicide, but instead, to living a life and accomplishing things I never could have dreamed of. Not only did my therapeutic “journaling” prove to change my entire life, but my work is now out there making a difference in others’ lives, giving them strength to address topics they couldn’t previously, and encouraging them to get the help they need. I encourage you to pick up a pen or start typing out the things you struggle with, you might be blown away by how much you’ll learn about the person you thought you knew the most.