Global Alterations

In self-improvement circles, there’s a topic that’s often skirted-around, so I want to make this point crystal-clear.

When delving into self-improvement, you’ll naturally think that only YOUR life gets better while the nastiness around you remains the same. That’s not true. As you proceed down the self-improvement path, the nature of the reality you’re experiencing transforms. When you improve, the situations and circumstances of the world improve. When YOU get better, everything gets better.

“WHAT!!?? That’s ridiculous!!” Now you realize why people don’t usually talk about this topic directly. As someone that just stepped on the self-improvement path, you can’t readily fathom such a concept — it doesn’t make sense. You simply wanted to gain a little clarity over your life or lessen your anxiety — and now all of a sudden the world as you know it is going to change as well!?? Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.

And I’m not simply talking perception-wise, I’m saying the construction of the world will be reformed. If you’re dedicated, you’ll see a dank-and-dark realm-of-misery transform into a sunshine-filled amusement-park. This might make more sense if you think of existence as a dream. When dreaming, the scenes tend to take the form of whatever mood you’re in. If you’re anxious, you’ll have worrisome dreams for example.

So when your outlook improves, your dream improves. You’ll be tuned into a whole new station of Earth-TV. It’s another plane of existence in which great things happen. If you’ve ever wondered why some people are having an awesome time despite all the nastiness you see, this is why. That nastiness doesn’t exist for them, it resides on an entirely different frequency. They could tune-in if they wanted, but that’d be dumb obviously.

That nastiness can’t be “fixed” by the way. It exists as it is for those that want to experience it. For a time, you wanted to experience it, but now you’re moving beyond that junk-food-level of existence — you’re done with using fear and frustration and pain as a source of amusement. You’re done with masochism. Now you’re on the self-improvement path. Sure it takes some discipline to get there and maintain it, but it’s worth it.

At first, the self-improvement path won’t seem worth it. From your current perspective, it’ll look like you have to climb to the top of a garbage pile. “So what! It probably smells worse at the top!” But no, that pile of garbage will transform as you climb it — it will become the hill of your dreams i.e. grassy fields filled with daisies underneath blue-skies dotted with puffy white clouds (or whatever). Note: if the world doesn’t transform before your very eyes, then you’re not applying enough discipline.

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Horrible Choices

Dear Rich, all I see are horrible things, therefore the world must be a horrible place — how can it be otherwise?

It really is true that you’re seeing and experiencing horrible things. You’re right about that. Where you’re wrong, is in the assumption that those images and circumstances constitute the totality of reality. You’re assuming that reality is an absolute condition comprised only of the things you’ve personally experienced thus far — when in fact it’s a lot larger than that, plus it’s relative and subject to interpretation.

Cheesecake to some, is a delicious treat. Whereas cheesecake to me, is a disgusting abomination, a so-called “cake” not fit for the dessert-table. But the world is all things to all people, and cheesecake lovers deserve delight too. So if I’m at a buffet and I grab a big ol’ slice of cheesecake for myself, sit down and complain about it’s awful taste and texture, you’d think I was an idiot. You’d say: “Why do you keep selecting something you don’t like!!! Just grab a brownie for goodness sake!!”

And there we have it. You keep seeing and experiencing horrible things because you keep choosing them. Just stop it already! As hard as it is to believe, some people really do enjoy things that disgust you — that’s their choice. There are entire factories dedicated to the production of cheesecake for example — how gross is that!? But hey, that’s none of my business. Yet if I spent my days reveling in the revulsion of that fact, you’d think I was a sicko. You’d say, “Find a more enjoyable hobby, ya nut!!”

Think of the world like it’s YouTube. You can find plenty of nasty videos on there that’ll ruin your day. But you can also find stuff that’ll delight you, make you laugh, and uplift your spirit. Either type will captivate and alleviate boredom — but it’s up to you to evaluate how the flashing-scenes make you feel and then select accordingly. If it’s not obvious yet, you’ll want to watch the scenes that make you feel good, not the ones that make you feel bad.

In this way, the world becomes what you make of it. Reality is relative, remember. “Bad stuff” is going to happen whether you watch it or not. And you’re only going to contribute negativity to the world if you spend all your time judging and condemning the stuff you don’t like. For instance, as of today there are over 200 Cheesecake Factory restaurants around the world, and I’m fine with that. I’ve even eaten at one — I selected Linda’s Fudge Cake for dessert and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Masochistic Delight

So I’m sitting there in the War Robots lobby looking at the scrolling chat, and this guy is complaining about something not working right. And believe me, EVERY complaint about War Robots is probably legit — there’s so much to complain about –in fact, I do it all the time. Yet we all still show up to play the game. WHY!!?? The game literally abuses us in every way possible. So I contributed to the conversation and said, “well yeah, I think you gotta love some level of abuse to play this game.”

And then it hit me, I’m a freakin masochist!!! It’s like one of those M. Night Shyamalan moments when your life flashes before your eyes and all the clues were there, but you just couldn’t recognize them at the time. It’s dead-obvious now that I’m analyzing it — but I always thought it was such a dumb concept: who the heck would purposefully seek out pain? Uh, um, well, me I guess. Please hurt me!! Thank you, may I have another!!?

I’m always playing games in which I suffer frustrating losses. Even this blog frustrates me. My relationships frustrate me. Food frustrates me. It turns out, EVERYTHING frustrates me! YET, I keep going back for more.

So then I started thinking about memorable circumstances throughout my life. Would things have gone more smoothly if I had only trusted life and stopped trying to fight at every turn — if I had simply gone with the flow? And my conclusion was: no, not really. BUT, what readily and reliably explains the circumstances of my life: I’m a masochist! It’s as if the scenes I experienced were professionally designed to evoke maximum frustration!

If you think about it though, games are typically designed to introduce frustration, that’s their underlying nature. An obstacle prevents your progress — and until you overcome it, you’re frustrated by it. And the MORE frustrating a challenge is, the MORE it draws you in. That’s why the concept of “playing hard to get” can work in the realm of romance. If it’s easy, who cares. But if it’s difficult to attain, that’s a challenge that’ll keep you interested! That’s something you can dedicate yourself to!

If you quickly get through a game, it’s over — there’s nothing left to do. Whereas if challenges continually keep you from getting to the end, you literally might play for years. Sure you’re frustrated, but you keep going and going and going. You MUST reach the end no matter what it takes!!! So that’s life in a nutshell: a series of unconquerable tasks that string you along to the end. After all these years here, I haven’t mastered ANYTHING — and apparently, I’m not supposed to.

And if I did master life’s challenges, there’d be nothing left to accomplish. It’d be: “You Win!” followed by: “Game Over”.

So the question becomes: can I participate in this game-of-life while only experiencing minimal frustration? Must I always find myself maximally frustrated? Is pain simply my preference? I honestly don’t feel like it is, but ample evidence says otherwise. I would theorize that it’s possible to give up the pain-loving lifestyle if I develop an alternate means in which to appreciate life. For example, maybe I could develop a taste for winning.

As it is, I barely care if I win. But when I lose, oh boy, I can feel that frustration brewing. That’s something real. What a thrill it is to feel dominated and defeated!! In every path of life, I’ve felt that same frustration from my inabilities. I’m nothing but a weak and worthless moron that can’t do anything right. A loser. A loser lapping up frustration like it’s the tastiest cake on Earth. Sicko.

Therefore, having recognized my masochistic tendencies AND having recognized that I do not enjoy the level of pain produced by said tendencies, I hereby declare that I will work towards developing a new way to appreciate life. I will celebrate the victories and the revelry, the camaraderie and the creativity, the gentle and the loving — I am done delighting in despair and the not-fair.

Existential Challenge

What does it take to live in the world?

The tenacity to maintain a positive attitude. I lived with a bad attitude most of my life. It sucked.

What obstacles are you faced with in your life?

Sleep is a biggie. I don’t sleep very well. In fact I actively fight it at times. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a control issue. And when I finally do fall asleep, I wake up throughout the night.

Existential boredom. I don’t know what I should do with the bulk of my time. It’s been several decades and I’ve yet to find a career path.

The occasional physical ailments: headaches, colds, minor injuries. I wrestle with that stuff like they’re major life-altering obstacles.

Pessimism. I tend to think the worst of everything. I have to actively fight against it.

What obstacles would you rather tackle instead?

Well, nothing to do with my physical body — my body should simply serve as a well-functioning vehicle for my consciousness. I’d rather my obstacles take the form of career related tasks. But like I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what that career would be.

I suppose if I had my druthers, I’d like to be an eccentric nouveau riche. I’d spend crazy amounts of money at Walt Disney World, stay at Deluxe Resorts (concierge-level of course), decorate my house with outlandishly expensive Disney memorabilia, stay current with the latest tech gadgets, ride electric scooters around town (the fun kind), go on shopping sprees, go to restaurants, collect things, and treat everyone I know to great gifts (like Santa Claus). That excites me.

I’m just kinda waiting for the fun-funds to kick in. Luckily, after several decades of existence I started believing in magic, so the certainty of this scenario is approaching one hundred percent. And if you believe in “nominative determinism”, my name is actually Rich — it’s a destiny thing.

I can also see why it wouldn’t have made sense to have money at an earlier stage of life. Because of my pessimism, it would’ve just amplified my anxiousness. Now instead of fortresses and walling myself away, I can think of more enjoyable ways to spend money. So in a sense, I’d like my career to be shopping. For pro-shoppers such as myself, shopping is like a form of hunting, it’s finding the best, most appropriate item — which takes a lot of care and effort — for those #bornToShop, it’s energizing.

So “the hunt” is where I’d face my obstacles. I need to be me, and if me is a silly guy that loves to shop, then so be it.

Any parting words?

Yes. I think selecting your preferred obstacles is a primary component of designing your life. If you don’t, life will simply hand you some default challenges. For instance, two big challenges for me are sleep and headaches — and that’s just dumb. I’m ready to move on to a more enjoyable context in which to overcome my challenges.

It’s also important to understand that challenges are relative. Everyone experiences maximum-challenge mode. What might look like nothing to you is near impossible for another — whereas what might look impossible to you, is readily handled by someone else. A pimple on the nose could bring someone’s world crashing down. You can’t judge or compare — obstacles are relative to the individual they’re applied to.

The Reality Within

Within the darkest recesses of men’s minds lies the core of reality by which existence churns-out the scenes that produce an experience known as life. What a funny thing it is, the quaint drama wrapped in a shining spectacle that constitutes a lifespan. And for each body on the stage, a role is assigned. Know your role and perform it well. But at the same time, become the audience and witness the performance as you play it.

To play it well, you must be loose and lighthearted. Never too serious, yet respecting the boundry that defines you. Watch, but never too closely for the detail blurs when scrutinized. To play yourself, allow yourself to surface by clearing off surface-thoughts — those weeds that block your essence from experiencing the sun. A chatty audience is all it is, so silence them, the show must go on and you’ve your part to perform.

Bouncer, actor, audience. Keep the crowd from getting rowdy, read the lines as they’re provided, watch with interested fascination as it all unfolds. This is the experience we come for. Fun and games, entertainment at its finest. It’s not a perfect production, sometimes the lights pop-off, costumes rip, lines are late, some characters are flat, details are left out, logic is defied — but overall it works, serving its purpose to thrill and elicit an interesting time.

Empathetic Lie

Can you read my mind? Then how do you know what I’m feeling? By interpreting my actions or expressions? What if you’re wrong? Or are you imagining how you’d feel in the same situation? But we might have drastically different reactions. For example, if I see a nice big slice of cheesecake, I might smile and nod a little. You’d think, “Wow, this guy likes what he sees!”. But what I’m really thinking is, “Ha, look how disgusting that is!! That pie-shaped-cake encrusted in crushed graham-cracker is so gross that I have to laugh!!” Or maybe you see me receiving a brand-new sweater for Christmas and think “Wow, this guy is gonna love that, I know I would!”. But it turns out that I HATE sweaters!

But Rich, what about empathy being so important, and blah blah blah? Who says? Empathy is NOT actually feeling someone else’s feelings — it’s either guesswork or projection — and either way, it’s not necessarily what the other person is feeling. I see people in my family guessing wrong all the time. I see myself guessing wrong too. And what’s worse, is that we react based on our incorrect assumptions.

As a formerly negative person, I would always interpret people’s reactions as negative. “Oh he’s upset now!”, “Oh man, she didn’t like that at all, just look at her face!”, “Yikes! That’s gotta feel bad!”. I’d project negativity onto everything. And if I imagined myself in the situation, of course that other person must be having a terrible time — just like I would. “Oh god, people are singing Happy Birthday in the middle of a crowded restaurant to that poor guy, he must be completely embarrasted and hating his life right now!!!” That’s empathy?? No, that’s bullshit.

So what I’m saying, is stop trying to imagine what everyone else is feeling and then reacting based on a fantasy. If you want to know what someone is feeling, you gotta get down and dirty and really get in there. And people won’t just tell you what they’re feeling by the way, you have to gain their trust in that moment and work your way in. That takes actual effort, not “empathy”. Empathy is the easy no-effort route to understanding others — it’s superficial nonsense.

To truly understand others, you have to stop pretending to know what they’re feeling — instead, you have to approach with an open-mind, closed-mouth, and open-ears. And unless you’re willing to do that, then accept that you have no idea what another person is feeling. Empathy: No and Never

Lucky Bunk

If some people are luckier than others, then the concept of luck is nonsense. It means there’s some other factor at work rather than random chance. My friend is extremely “lucky” for example. Whether she’s rolling real or virtual dice, she rolls whatever she needs to win. Quite simply, she expects to win and does. It’s not a fun process to play against her in a game of chance. And yes, she’s found several four-leaf clovers over the years.

Whereas she expects to win, and frequently does, I expect to lose and get what I expect too. It seems as though expectation is the determining factor behind outcomes. This means that luck/chance/randomness isn’t an actual functioning mechanism. Chance is a fictional concept we adopt to make games seem more exciting. “Oh boy, maybe I’ll win!! But maybe I’ll lose!!! Hehe! So thrilling!!!” The most exciting entertainment we consume always has some sort of surprise element.

So for the purpose of our own entertainment we conveniently forget that outcomes align with our expectations, we pretend that chance is real. But realize: we have deep-seated long-term expectations as well as shallow short-term ones. This means: if you’re a die-hard pessimist for example, endeavors will typically fail despite any current wish for something to work-out in your favor. Outcomes are based on a culmination of expectation rather than a quick “I hope I win this time!”.

And the conclusion is this: you are getting exactly what you expect from life. There is no luck, good or bad. If you’re a loser, it’s because you expect to be a loser. How can you alter this trend? Change your expectation. Expect the best, get the best. The people that seem luckier are simply expecting a better life and they’re receiving it. And whenever a great expectation isn’t met, just plow-ahead expecting an even greater outcome.