Greetings, adventurer! If you’re actually able to read this at any time in the future, that means the internet is still working and the world probably didn’t descend into chaotic apocalyptic mayhem of global proportions yet. That’s excellent news! Cheers!
Well, sit on down and rest your feet for a moment; especially if they’re sore because you’ve just got home from a full day of protesting with the BlackLivesMatter movement about police violence and the murder of George Floyd; or you noticed that you’ve been coughing a lot recently, or you’ve been running night and day from swarms of murder hornets, or you’re a bit warm from saving koalas from firestorms, or you’re a bit rattled because you’re still expecting a new World War to break out soon, along with whatever else this year is going to throw at us… maybe aliens? Maybe a supervolcano? Anything feels possible at this point.
As I write this, we’re hardly half-way through 2020 and it’s already appeared to give us more catastrophes than the last 10 years combined, so I’m sure you might be a little more winded… anxious… and jittery since my last blog post here on wforbes.net, back on January 1st. Oh what a simpler time that was. In that post, I stumbled through some thoughts on the futility of trying to predict the future and tried to express how much more important I think it is for us to put all our efforts toward making the future what we want it to be, instead.
I’m sure most people could never have predicted how this year would have turned out so far. Neither could we have really stopped it from turning out this way no matter how hard we tried. Yet, on an individual level, I’m still 100% convinced that we all have the power to keep pushing through this. Where predictions are concerned, one thing’s for sure, those doomsday preppers out there who’ve been stockpiling supplies in their underground bunkers for years preparing to outlast the end of the world have probably felt incredibly vindicated recently.
“SEE!?! WE TOLD YOU SO!! WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!”
With the economy in shambles, our work-days either disrupted or removed entirely, and the news reports pouring in daily about the new cases or deaths of this viral pandemic, the widespread collapse of entire industries, insane unemployment rates, government-mandated regulations, and now this last month of widespread American protests in almost one hundred major cities; through every media outlet available… it may seem like things are really bad. Depending on where you are, or how you make your living, they very well might be really bad. Let me make this clear: I don’t intend to downplay the state of things too drastically, the U.S. and the world at large are definitely enduring a few different critical crises.
The thing is, I’m not an expert in any field relating to any of the events related to these disastrous times. I’m an adult white male in America, and although I’ve grown up in a primarily Hispanic and African American populated area, I’ll never be able to speak with any authority on the struggle of Black people or other racial/cultural minorities in America. Instead, I simply try my best to support the fight against racism every day, and I always will. Equally, I’m not an immunologist, virologist, medical professional, or anything close… so I’m not going to comment on the COVID-19 virus, which has so far claimed over 100,000 lives and infected almost 2 million people in the US. I’m not an economist, so I can’t comment on how the job market and eventual recovery will play out. I’m not too savvy on politics and the appropriate government regulations that should be enforced during a viral infectious riot season. And for the less serious topics, I have no idea about the ‘murder’ variety of wasps, the disaster recovery of the Australian wilderness, and I’m not at liberty to comment on the current U.S./China relations. So it really wouldn’t make sense for me to try to get into the weeds and try to add my opinion on any of this or propose some huge set of solutions, or anything like that.
Instead, I’d like to take fifteen minutes of your time to help put things into perspective. I think we all could use some perspective.
Time and time again I see a constant truth with people and situations that I think is really important to dive in to for a few minutes. It’s probably more relevant now than ever before given the circumstances. It’s something I’ve personally struggled with and I’ve known so many countless people who have struggled with it too. So let’s put on our thinking caps for a minute.
Pessimism Is The Default
When it comes to just about anything in life, more often than not, it’s drastically easier to point out the negative side of things than it is to see their positive aspects. I’ve met numerous people in my own life, and I’ve seen countless people in popular culture that almost make a lifestyle out of examining and brooding on the negative points, while hand-waving the positives away. Problems and flaws are usually instantly obvious to most people, and so we will often stop there to sit and stew in them. We become obsessed with them. We turn the process of explaining and fixating on the complications and headaches about any given subject into an art form. Many of us even base our careers on it! Think: Investors that routinely short the market, movie critics that tear down everything they watch and plenty more jobs come to mind.
I’ve often wondered about this. How is it that so many people I’ve personally known, met, worked with, or otherwise observed, appear to be naturally pessimistic? Why is it so fundamentally easy to spot the problems in situations before we ever consider any bright side? When I look in the mirror and examine how I’ve talked and felt over the years, I remember doing the same thing. Why is it that I’ve been personally been more apt to regale myself in all the things that are, or could go, wrong before I celebrate the things that are right and positive throughout my life?
Like most things in human psychology, on the surface, I expect that it has to be linked to the way humans evolved over the last hundred thousand years and how we came to be at the top of the food chain with a more advanced intelligence than the rest of Earth’s species. Cause and effect. We’re so skilled at seeing the issues and problems in things because it can be a huge part of survival and staying alive.
In ancient times we had to be really careful and quick to assume the worst in many situations out in the wild because, if we didn’t, a predatory animal might sneak up on us and eat us. It’s built into our instincts, our DNA. We can see and smell the mold on a piece of fruit or the rot on a piece of meat because eating it would make us sick or kill us. In modern life too, looking at a building or vehicle and seeing that it’s not well-constructed or there’s a serious problem with it may save us from being inside it when it collapses or when the wheels fall off of it while it’s in jammin’ down the highway. When we meet people, and especially when we date them romantically, we’re quick to pick out their flaws and red flags, assuming the worst before hoping for the best. Our social lives depend on it. The drama we experience in the future is uniquely tied to our ability to see it coming, so being careful about people will often save us from frustration and complications later down the road.
That’s all pretty logical. These are the arguments and views of someone defending a more pessimistic mindset. It makes sense. I agree with the idea. It’s a defense mechanism we all share, because if you’re alive today – you were undoubtedly raised by, related to, or otherwise share some genetic link to an ancestor that made countless small safe, careful, intelligent decisions based wholly, or at least partially, in pessimism. Good job, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpa, you avoided dysentery and the plague by being really defensive and careful; thanks for surviving long enough to ensure I would eventually be born. Much appreciated!
Yet today in the 2020s, if you live in a developed western country, your life is substantially easier and more comfortable than that of your ancestors. Although things still aren’t perfect, we have the technology and infrastructure to help combat pandemics and plague outbreaks. We often have an abundance of fresh food at our disposal, we don’t commonly need to evade predatory animals in the wild, and we have more opportunities for education than ever before. We’re privileged to now know more about how our negative thinking happens, and we’re given the opportunity to logically dissect it and understand it.
Modern science tells us that often times our negative thinking and pessimism stems from the chemical balance in our brain. Apparently our brain loves Cortisol, the stress hormone. It flows freely and openly, created by our body’s adrenal glands and regulated by our hypothalamus and pituitary gland in our brains. While it does do great things for us, like managing our energy levels to cope with stress (the ‘fight or flight’ response); regulating our sleep cycle; coordinating our use of nutrients like protein, carbs, and fat; managing your immune system; keeping inflammation down in our body… it can also really wreak havoc on us and our lives if it’s not under control.
If you feel as though you’re under constant stress and that ‘fight or flight’ mode stays on, your cortisol levels will stay up, contributing to weight gain, problems sleeping, headaches, anxiety, depression, concentration problems, and eventually heart disease – the number one killer of Americans. The thing is… this excess Cortisol DOESN’T necessarily equate to being lazy and lethargic, often it seems that things are quite the opposite. So although you might feel like a ‘high energy’, driven, individual… you might be running off of stress response and being powered by Cortisol all the time, instead of Dopamine – the ‘feel-good’ reward-driven hormone that inspires action and satisfies you in a healthy and sustainable way.
You can read article after article after article about either not having enough Dopamine or having too much Cortisol in your brain and while that may give you all the information and insight into what you can do to decrease Cortisol and increase Dopamine … I don’t think it’s quite that easy. These chemicals and their battle for control of the way your brain works is caused by daily habits, and your own personal belief structures, that have been building and forming throughout your whole life. So just because we can sit down and rationalize “CORTISOL BAD”, “DOPAMINE GOOD”: That doesn’t directly fix the problems that most people have.
You can’t expect to gather up every stressed-out single mother, every stressed-out yuppie middle-manager businessman, every stressed-out impoverished inner-city gang member, and all other people that are suffering from an over-abundance of Cortisol and expect them all to suddenly dutifully do the things that induce healthy Dopamine production. Our problems don’t vanish because we start taking vitamin D and magnesium supplements, or trying to meditate 15 minutes per day, or getting a list of healthy foods we don’t want to eat. Those things COULD help, sure… but in practice, just because we know what’s wrong, and what could help, absolutely doesn’t mean we’re actually going to do anything to solve the problem.
It takes time. It takes commitment. It takes changing your outlook a little bit at a time, taking care of yourself a little bit more everyday, and relearning how to live as person who naturally thinks with a more balanced, positive brain. At the core of everything, this is how you can survive and flourish in any apocalypse that’s thrown your way. So let’s ignore the science for a while, forget the Cortisol/Dopamine/Serotonin chemicals that all struggle for dominance in our bloodstreams. Let’s think practically.
Finding A Balance
What I’ve come to know in my own life is that there’s a crucial and delicate balance that needs to be struck every day in my general outlook between pessimism and optimism. When I think back to my most troubled times, this much is perfectly clear. When life felt hopeless and I was swimming an ocean of depressive feelings every day, as though nothing could ever get better and life – reality, itself – would just keep throwing me curve-balls that I couldn’t avoid and I was powerless to do anything about; I was embroiled in pessimism. I felt bound to it. Locked in. It appeared to me that so much was going wrong that there was no way to see the bright side. There was no use in it. The bright side was a lie. It wasn’t a question of seeing a glass that was half-empty or half-full… because it didn’t look like there was any water in the glass at all. Though, in retrospect, now I see that predicting and expecting negative outcomes constantly ensured that they would always be the result. That was the trap, a cycle of expectations and reality that mutually ensured each other. I was my own doomsayer.
The only way I could break that cycle and escape that trap was to aggressively refuse that natural tendency for pessimism. Negativity is the default because it’s baked into our brains from an endless stream of past lifetimes evolving through pessimistic survival tactics in a world that’s bent on our destruction. If we don’t make every effort to not only look on the bright side of things but fight to make that bright side a reality with everything we’ve got, we’re destined to succumb to the negative events of the outside world and our own inborn tendency to destroy ourselves with negativity.
An abandoned house that sits in the desert at the whims of the elements will fall into disrepair and eventual ruin. In the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, with the winds blowing sand against its walls day after day for years at a time. In time, the wildlife will creep in and make nests, the birds will bring debris to raise their chicks in and the coyotes will bring in their kills to feast and make a mess, enjoying the temporary shelter it provides. Over enough time, if it’s not tended to by people, it’ll crumble to dust, leaving only its cement foundation as a reminder of what it once was. Like anything, a house requires care and maintenance to keep it livable – just like our own minds, our attitudes, and our outlooks on life. It takes work, effort, and thinking beyond the immediately obvious problems we face, or the ones we can imagine, to see the way we truly want things to be. No one is saying this is easy, in fact, it might be one of the most difficult challenges we have to overcome in life. You have the choice to either celebrate or curse the never-ending battle it will become throughout your entire lifetime.
Yeah, but what about…
This choice becomes absolutely clear when you sit down to actually try to solve a problem. Although any single issue or problem in our life, or in society, might have multiple possible solutions; each of those solutions might also have many more problems or shortcomings that make them arguable, or totally invalid, from a pessimistic mindset or outlook. If you often find yourself resisting ideas for solving a problem with statements like, “Yeah, but what about…”, it’s possible that you’ve been an avid participant in arguing for the problem, instead of the solution.
Here’s an example. Let’s say my life isn’t going so well because my job sucks. It definitely has before, I’ve been there. For years. I worked in thankless retail jobs and grueling warehouse jobs. I worked labor jobs that broke my back and left me exhausted at the end of every day and restaurant jobs where I had to deal with stressful difficult customers constantly. Meanwhile, I didn’t even get paid enough at any of these jobs to support myself as an adult, with no hope of ever being able to comfortably support a family. It never felt like I was getting ahead because I wasn’t. I honestly felt like I was doomed to be poor and have very little for the rest of my life. Hopeless.
(Please note, I’m not trying to attack or degrade anyone here that works a job like this, don’t take it personally – these are just examples to show that I get where you may be coming from).
So how do I solve this problem?: My job sucks and it’s holding me back from the life I want. The first solution I might consider is just finding a better job and quitting. I mean, really pounding the pavement to look for a position with better pay, doing something I enjoy more.
“Yeah, but what about…” all the time it would take for me to put my resume together, research job websites, go on interviews, and take calls or make correspondence after those interviews – if I can even get any? Alright. So this first solution already might appear to have some immutable arguments against it. If my whole day is already spent commuting, working, taking care of my kids, and tending to responsibilities I don’t feel like I can change… this solution feels pretty dead in the water, to begin with.
There are plenty more doubts where that came from, built right into the first one. “Yeah, but what about…” the fact that I don’t have anything to put on my resume for this new type of job I want, anyway? “Yeah, but what about…” how there aren’t any better jobs available no matter how hard I search job sites, ask around, or look for ones in my area? “Yeah, but what about…” the fact that the job that I want usually requires a degree, education, or some training I don’t have?
So you may spin in circles for a while with this struggle. If you aren’t immediately defeated by the first few “Yeah, but what about…” scenarios, you may resolve that instead, you have to go back to college or a trade-school to retrain for the job you want. That’s a possible solution which carries with it even more problems you can easily raise. You may even begin to fall prey to the ever-more-powerful “Yeah, but what if…“.
“Yeah, but what if…” I go back to school and I can’t get good grades, just to flunk out and be stuck with tons of student loan debt? “Yeah, but what if…” I concentrate so hard on my studies at school that I fall behind in another part of my life? “Yeah, but what if…” I start in on college only to find that the teachers aren’t very good, or I’m not any good at the new type of work I want to do, or I totally hate doing it, or I miss out on some unforeseen opportunity because I’m so busy with school?!?
What I hope is becoming painfully obvious at this point is that no matter how amazing we are at second-guessing, reconsidering, re-evaluating, and re-calculating all the ways any given solution can go wrong… each time we do, we are making a clear choice. Even though, this entire time we are using the word “Yeah”: Yeah, I should look for a new job. Yeah, I should go back to school. Yeah, this is something I want. We are reflexively making the choice to argue against it with “…but, what about… what if…”, which completely cancels out the “Yeah”. Every time you make the choice to cancel it out with doubt, you hold yourself back from what you want. So even though this decision-making process feels wise and careful, you may be so trapped in deliberation that you’d go on for years without doing anything about it. In the meantime, suffering the dead-end job and bad situation that made you start to question things, to begin with.
The truth of the matter is, even though in a situation like this it feels like you can’t make a decision. Your indecision IS a decision. Every time you argue against something using a “Yeah, but…” to doubt the situation, you are making a very clear decision to think pessimistically and avoid an optimistic outlook.
So let me give you the final “Yeah, but what if…” scenario that will end them all, one you can always return to, and the sort of reconsideration you should use instead. This is the exact place where pessimism and optimism align and you can move in a better direction.
“Yeah, but what about…” all the time I’ve already wasted thinking up more problems and second-guessing things? “Yeah, but what if…” I sit here second-guessing everything about this for months? For years? For the rest of my life?
Truthfully, this is the root of the problem. To do anything in life, you have to argue FOR the outcome you desire, not AGAINST it.
At a certain point we all must make a new choice, whether we consciously realize it or not, to replace the “But” with an “And”, and then use it to move backward out of the pessimistic dead-ends we reach.
The word ‘But’ cancels out and negates whatever came before it. The word ‘And’ adds on and extends whatever came before it.
So let’s try and reverse our example here. “Yeah, and what if…” I’ll find a bunch of new opportunities I didn’t know I would have by going back to school? And I really like doing this new type of work? And the teachers are even better than I thought they could be? “Yeah, and what if…” I find new ways to concentrate on my studies that I never realized I was capable of? “Yeah, and what if…” my manager at my current job is so happy I’m going back to school to retrain that they work with my schedule or offer to help in some way? “Yeah, and what if…” I get good grades for the first time in my life and get a whole new view of what’s possible for me to do?
The chances are just as high that good things can happen instead of bad ones. Focusing on good possibilities will leave you open to see opportunities when they’re in front of you. If you can only think about the bad possibilities, you’ll assume the worse more often and you may be totally blind to the positive opportunities when they appear.
This isn’t blind optimism, it’s productive realism. Without a doubt, you will be able to find new opportunities for personal, social and professional growth by going back to school. You’ve spent enough time stirring about it to know you probably wouldn’t hate going after this new type of work, and chances are good you would genuinely enjoy spending your time learning more about it. If you give your teachers a chance, it’s inevitable that you’ll be surprised by what you take away and observe from – both good and bad. Every challenge for concentration presents a new way to grow that you can’t fully understand until you do it, and it’s happening. Employers are often really glad to have their workers retrain, especially if it can help them fill a higher-level job role they’ve been struggling to fill by hiring – promoting from within is usually preferred. These are all rather pragmatic truisms that fly in complete opposition to the defeatist pessimistic approach we might naturally base in assumption. Let’s keep going.
“Yeah, and what about…” being the first in my family to get a degree because this new job I want requires it? “Yeah, and what about…” the job opportunities that are out there for me that I’m not even seeing because I’ve been looking in the wrong places? So what about trying to talk to people I wouldn’t normally meet if I look in different industries or areas? “Yeah, and what about…” researching ways I can train myself online so that I have something new to put on my resume? “Yeah, and what about…” all the people that seem to have enough time to do so much with their days? What are they doing? What about looking up new strategies for time management so that I can look for a job?
Replacing that one word (But with And) in our self-talk logic and forming a coherent positive/optimistic consideration with it can help you think your way out of an indecision dead-end like this, but honestly… it can be used for so much more. Where using “Yeah, but …” will always lead you down a dead-end path of more and more problems that you have to try to juggle to figure out, instead, it’s possible that moving the other direction with “Yeah, and…” can help you reconsider the initial problem altogether and move into a new realm of thinking. If your ego can handle the difficult truths it might find, you might have been wrong from the very beginning.
Let’s reconsider the initial example problem and let go of our ego for a second. My job sucks and it’s holding me back from the life I want. We take a few things for granted here with this statement. Not only that the job itself sucks, but also that it’s the only reason I’m being held back, and that I don’t already have the life I want. Maybe I should reconsider what it is that I actually want? Let me explain.
Earlier I said that I worked in retail, warehouse, labor, and restaurant jobs for years. Which I did. I said they were thankless, they left me exhausted and they stressed me out while not paying me enough to support myself or a family. Which, given my mindset at the time, was all 100% true. However, in retrospect… I see that I was just fooling myself with excuses.
“Yeah, and what about…” the fact that I didn’t always put effort into getting better at those jobs and learning more about them. I worked as a Temp worker through an agency at a couple of different warehouses, and while I worked harder than a lot of my coworkers, I definitely didn’t work up to my full potential. I clocked in and did what they asked me to do, even a little more. Like when I was an order scanner I figured out a way to scan orders using two scanning guns. I could scan boxes for shipment twice as fast, so I got a pat on the back from my supervisor. Yet I stopped there and thought I was entitled to more just because of that. There was so much more I could do if I wouldn’t have felt entitled that way. All because I accidentally lucked into a faster way to scan orders? “Yeah, and what if…” I researched the software and computer systems that logistics companies use in warehouse settings like that and made suggestions to management or found other opportunities? “Yeah, and what if…” I learned more about managing or working with people so I could provide direction in situations when we had to make decisions as a team or coordinate our work for that week? “Yeah, and what if…” I learned more about the customer companies that my employer did logistics for so that I could speak more intelligently about various subjects during meetings with management, demonstrating that I can be more valuable than just scanning orders?
If I considered just putting my all into that job and concentrating every day on becoming more valuable to the company, or learning more about the industry, or simply just trying to be hired on as a full-time employee instead of a Temp worker … the job might not have sucked, I might not have had to do such back-breaking labor every day, and I could have found a way to move up. That was all blocked from my view-point because … “Yeah, but…” society says minimum wage labor-intensive work sucks, so why try even harder if I’m not being forced to?
I’ve come to realize that having that sort of mindset is what was really holding me back. Instead of putting in the extra effort I went home to play video games and ride my skateboard with my friends. When questioned about it, I quantified that with daydreams about becoming a video game designer or working in the skateboard industry – yet, I really didn’t do anything to make moves in that direction. In truth, I was putting my concentration in having fun and relaxing in my free time rather than doing the work it would take to have the life I wanted. For many years I really did have the life I wanted, because I didn’t know how to do the ‘useful’ hard work and put my effort in the right direction to have the life I thought that I wanted.
Your situation may be completely different and this little anecdotal self-analysis I’m giving you may not shine any light into your own life; but the point I’m trying to illustrate is that before all else, it’s important to let go of predetermined assumptions, your ego, your pride, and honestly challenge your own ideas. Challenge your beliefs and put yourself to task toward what you might be capable of before you throw up your hands and just pessimistically assume defeat, only to back that up with “Yeah, but…” excuses until you’re blue in the face. There are many very real small adjustments we can all make in our lives to own up to the truth we might be blind to. In my life now, as we speak, I have many that I try my best to see every day. I’m sure I always will.
We will rarely ever have the life we want, but we will always have the life we deserve. Please understand, that doesn’t mean that things will be fair. And that doesn’t mean good people deserve a bad life, or vice-versa. When I say that I mean: in life, we’re given only our own set of circumstances that we must live within. We only have so many options, it’s up to do what we can with those options to have the best life we can have, and provide the best life we can to those around us. What we do, given our options, inevitably results in the life we deserve. I don’t want to digress on this topic because it can really open a Pandora’s box of all sorts of extra existential conundrums which would take at least a few more articles, a book, a motion picture, and a few long heart-to-heart talks to adequately describe and give justice to. Let’s get back on track here.
The Apocalypse Is The Perfect Excuse To Give Up
Given the fact that it’s hard enough for most people, myself included, to find enough optimism and energy to fight against that pessimistic voice in our head that argues against our best judgment most of the time… I can only imagine that with all that’s going on in society right now, for many of us – that voice has a huge megaphone and it’s screaming pessimism from every angle it can.
At first glance, since all the problems and struggles we had in life were difficult to deal with, even before COVID-19 went and shut down our economy… it may feel like they’re 100 times worse. Not only do you hate your job, but you’re not even allowed to go into work now. Not only is your business struggling, but now you can only get a few customers a day or worse… if you’re even allowed to be open at all. Not only were you upset with ‘this or that’ and barely getting by… now you feel like you absolutely can’t do anything!
Your rents due and you haven’t got a paycheck in weeks. Your kids are stuck in your house and it’s driving you up the walls. The sports you usually watch to relax and zone out from your problems are all cancelled. That vacation or trip you were planning for months can’t happen now. All the things you used to go out and do to relax are closed. You have to wear this silly mask everywhere you go even when you can go out to do something. Everyone is telling you it’s dangerous outside, and everyone is debating just how dangerous it actually is.
Now you’re stuck, waiting. Broke and distraught, you start trying to figure out what to do. What can you do? Sit and watch every episode of every show and movie on Netflix? Use the tiny stimulus check you got to binge buy emergency disaster supplies on Amazon? Maybe you start reflecting on how tough life has been, how you can’t get ahead, and now it’ll be years before you can make it to your goals. Your life is ruined, along with everyone else’s lives too!
It’s been several weeks, even months, now and nothings getting better. The politicians on the news are arguing about nose-swab testing rates and when to open our cities back up. According to some the infection count would skyrocket, according to others, it’s no big deal and we can’t sacrifice the economy over it. Your uncle Jim is convinced it’s all an elaborate government conspiracy and sends you messages of videos about the dangers of 5G cell-phone towers every day for some reason. And yet still, among all this, it’s very obvious that Epstein didn’t kill himself.
All this time and energy we’ve spent debating and complaining. Analyzing and criticizing. Protesting masks and speculating on the infection rates. All the nights of stressing out and binge-watching a show were meth-heads abuse tigers and plot the murder of a boomer-hippy woman who also has tigers and also might be a murderer… and what has it gotten us? More confused, detached, and resigned than ever to assume that there is absolutely nothing we can do. The “Yeah, but what about…” demons are cackling in every corner of our mind at everything that’s going on.
What The Hell Can We Do?
Now, please understand, I’ve personally been really fortunate through all this. I was lucky enough to have chosen to study computer programming for the last 7 years. So not only am I accustomed to staying at home all the time, now I can work from home to earn my living all the same. By all means, in every way possible, I have thanked God for every day as much as I can for that. I’m less financially displaced and more contained from the pandemic than many other people right now. I attend an online school that only really requires an internet connection, and most of my hobbies fit well with social distancing guidelines. Given the current state of the economy and job market in our new-found apocalypse, that makes me one of the luckier ones. Truthfully, really, I’m endlessly thankful! I mean, I haven’t even mentioned the plights of systemic racism that have coursed through our countries veins which leaves me statistically less likely to die or be incarcerated. I can’t imagine some of the very real hardships that are actively befalling people right now as I type this, and the current climate of news media and overt scientific and political speculation which will keep adding fuel to that fire for months, and years, to come probably only making things more difficult.
That’s why I think that now, more than ever, it’s important to make your best effort to replace your “but‘s” with “and‘s”, so to speak… in all our individual plans, pursuits, and hustles. We absolutely have to make the arguments for our best solutions or new unanticipated opportunities, rather than reveling in our problems. Back a few months ago I continually saw protestors out on the street corner with signs that were likening the current “stay-at-home” government restrictions to that of ‘Slavery‘, and some new form of oppression of our political rights as Americans. Then later, we saw nation-wide protests and riots that were about racial oppression linked to ACTUAL slavery. It’s all been extremely startling, to say the least.
Although I have my opinions in either direction about the current crisis and political conversation, as we all do, I think that if you feel the urge to speak out and ‘fight the powers that be’… the only clear way to make progress or accomplish anything, other than braving the crowds to get pelted by ‘non-lethal’ projectiles, is to proactively work toward a better ‘new normal’ that we will all have to share once this is over. Work hard as hell to better yourself, and your own life, with this ‘stay-at-home’ downtime. Because while it might not always feel like it, we still really do live in the most prosperous, peaceful, safe, and affluent time out of all of human history. We’re enabled by the power of the internet and these amazing hand-held touchscreen computers in our pockets to rise above the civil discourse and achieve a better understanding of the world than anyone in our lower-class demographic might have ever imagined during previous eras. It’s up to us to not only act constructively but live with a more optimistic productive mindset every chance we have. Our children and future generations depend on it in ways we can’t yet even imagine.
I was born ten days before the ‘Black Monday’ financial crisis of 1987. My adolescent years occurred throughout the 1990’s economic burst of the ‘.com’ bubble, subsequent uncertainty, and eventual recovery. I was a teenager attending high school during the 9/11 attacks and witnessed the pandemonium play out, as every news outlet broadcasted coverage of it for months and the wars of the era began… continuing on for years. I was a young adult with one of my very first full-time jobs when the housing bubble burst and those sub-prime mortgage-backed securities induced the ‘Great Recession’ of 2008. Now I’m beginning the prime of my career as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, causing the newest economic crisis. Before my lifetime there were countless national and global crises, pandemics, wars, plagues, and all manner of life-changing events; and long after I’m dead, humanity will still be experiencing events like this. In between each, there have been and will be less-noticed smaller scale societal problems, too.
We can rarely change or control the occurrence of these huge problems, and our national or municipal governments will act on them or react to them, one way or another because that’s just a major function of the government bodies in a civil society. Their action or reaction will always both help some and hurt people, it’s just the consequence of having billions of people in the population with vastly different viewpoints and needs. In some areas an attempt at the solution might be seeking to rein in and dictate what the views and needs of the people should be, reshaping the peg for the hole. In other areas an attempt at the solution might be to empower and bolster those views and needs to influence the system, reshaping the hole for the peg. Regardless of the configuration, or the confounding consequence of these series of actions and events; our own personal lives will be affected and interrupted in both noticeably salient and insignificantly invisible ways. We can’t change that, but we can change how we think so we’re less impacted.
The narrative by which we interpret any events like these and their results, large or small, global or local, public or private, I argue, is largely left up to our individual perspectives and abilities to consider our own personal truths and realities without fooling ourselves with excuses and half-true fallacies. Our freedoms are found in this very real, very important, set of choices all we have in our perspective interpretation. The closer we can get to cultivating a set of inarguable self-evident truths for ourselves in our perspective, the freer we are to act in the present for building a system of solutions, rather than spinning endlessly in the dead-end deliberation of proliferating problems. Thus, the popular culture and news media are based on providing us a narrative and framing the global chain of events and results to forecast for us a future we should expect, but it’s only when we make decisions for ourselves on what’s true, based on basic inarguable realities, that we’re ever as close to being ‘free’ as we can be.
So, the truth I know, which is inarguable in as much as I can determine right now, is that the apocalypse will come and go in each new passing form throughout the years, disrupting and changing the course of my life in different ways. I can’t control that. Each problem that it presents in each new form could easily serve as an excuse to act out more problems and confound the issue, or it can provide me an opportunity to find new solutions for myself and others so we can adapt in the best ways we can. This takes honesty and vigilance against the deception of my ego and the ego of others, and it takes integrity and humility to not only admit when I’m wrong but to seek out and clearly identify my own inaccuracies and assumptions before I doubt any conflicting logic or argument. No one can directly make my life any better or worse than I can. In what I believe, act on, and communicate with others about.
So, how do you survive the apocalypse? Don’t always believe your own bullshit, listen to the news cycle sparingly, and favor optimism over pessimism at all costs.
You Have The Power To Find Your Own Solutions
All the things you were too busy to do before the pandemic are waiting for you and now’s your chance to do them. Read the books you’ve been letting rot on your shelf, study the subject you always wished you’d known more about. Make an account on any one of the hundreds of learning websites that are out there so you can start setting yourself up for a better situation. Hustle on the things you know you’ve always wanted to do but never ‘had the time’, because whether we like it or not, we certainly have more time now than we ever normally would.
Racial and DNA-related subjects aside (race is a topic for another article), as fortunate as I am right now, it wasn’t all just an accident. I didn’t just slip and fall onto a pile of Software Development books and luck into what I know how to do now. I stayed at home and worked as hard as I possibly could, for years. I’ve read more books recently than I ever thought I could, because I’d never been a regular reader in any other point in my life. In the last year I’ve gotten through more than a dozen books and it’s vastly improved my outlook and my life… and those weren’t even about computer programming. Before this I found out what textbooks they used in programming classes and I ordered them and worked through them. I scoured the internet daily for articles and tutorials, videos and guides, demonstrations and on and on. I made it my life.
So whether you want to be an amazing musician, artist, DJ, designer, marketing pro, solar panel technician, automotive mechanic, or one of these top-paying jobs, or one of these ‘dream jobs’; it all starts with igniting your obsessive passion for studying and learning everything about it, practicing it every day, and really using this time you have. The same goes for just getting better at your current job, learning that new technique, getting that certification, or taking that online class. For instance the online school I’m going to offers degrees in a bunch of different fields. It’s all out there. Yours for the taking.
At the same time, it’s extremely important to connect with your family, get to know your kids better, call those friends you haven’t spoken to in months, and spend some quality time with your significant other. We all need people around us to fill our days with better times and to depend on for guidance or provide guidance to; especially in times like these. Stay connected to your loved ones, stay tuned in to your own personal life and what’s immediately in front of you.
Apocalypse survival depends on focusing on what you can control and casting aside everything else. Even if you’re in an incredibly limited state, you can still control your own perspective and daily actions. Take consistent action every day toward something you want or need to do, and eventually, you will be able to do it. At the end of this difficult year, or years, there will be those who used the lockdown as an excuse to curl up into inaction and there will be those who used it to improve themselves. Which one will you be?