Monday, December 31, 2018

Lessons from 2018

Today is New Year's Eve and if you're anybody who's anybody, you probably have some resolutions!

As always, this is not a new idea.  The ancient Babylonians rang in the New Year by promising to pay off debts and return borrowed objects; the Romans made promises to the god Janus.  (January is named for the god Janus, who is the god of beginnings, endings, gates, passageways, doorways, transitions, time, and duality.)

More than half of Americans make resolutions, but four out of five fail.  Most resolutions are about improving oneself, with the most common ones involving reducing alcohol intake, losing weight or eating healthier, and saving money.

 This .gif never gets old!

Now, I've already made a lot of posts about things like losing weight and so forth.  So today, for all you assholes who simply want to be "better," I offer my lessons from thirty years of life.  In the last year especially I have up-ended my life, and while I have done such things as losing 40 pounds and paying off all of my credit card debt, the thing I am most proud of is the person I've become.  It isn't a secret.  It's simply a commitment to basic principles of being Not a Dick and today, I'm happy to make those principles publicly available.

The only pre-requisite is holding yourself accountable for your actions.

Ultimately, we all grow the longer we've been alive.  I like to think that's because we're well-traveled.  Even if you have never left your hometown (or couch!) you are moving forward... literally.  See, the average distance from the sun to the Earth is 93.2 million miles. Multiplying by 2 Pi gives 585.6 million miles for the circumference of the Earth's orbit. Dividing this by 365.25 days/year gives 1.603 million miles per day.  That's how far you've come.

Why not act like it?

I'm thirty years old and as of today (December 31, 2018), I've been alive 11,173 days.  So, I've traveled 17.9 trillion miles.  Not including that time I went to England.

There's a few simple principles I live by, but none have been as informative as the Four Agreements.  You might have heard of them.  I didn't come up with them; that honor goes to Don Miguel Ruiz, a neospiritual shaman who wrote a best-selling book by the same title in 1997.  Inspired by Toltec culture, his book was at the top of the New York Times' bestselling list for a solid ten years.  His son later added a fifth agreement: "BE SKEPTICAL, BUT LEARN TO LISTEN."

Funnily enough, my version already included a fifth agreement.  Here are the Five Agreements as they are written and as they hang in my kitchen.  I have italicized anything I added to Ruiz's original statements, which are themselves paraphrased.  (Look up the Ruiz's book if you want to see them in their original, un-butchered form.)

#1: Be impeccable with your word. 
Speak with integrity, say only what you mean (and are willing to stand by), and avoid speaking against yourself or using your words to do harm to others.

#2:  Don’t take anything personally.

Nothing others do is because of you; what others say and do is a projection of their own reality and perception.  Even if you disagree with or are angry at someone, you can still treat them with respect.

#3: Don’t make assumptions.

Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.  Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.  Take time to gather your thoughts to communicate clearly.

#4: Always do your best.

Your best is going to change from moment to moment, and day to day. It will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. You are allowed to have bad days.

Under any and all circumstances, simply do your best, and don’t be too hard on yourself come nightfall.

Avoid self-judgement and self-abuse. Transform regret into action and make all criticism constructive in nature.

#5: Support and encourage others.

Ask for help when you need it.

Build others up; don’t break others down. Do not let others break you down; do not become a martyr or fetishize victimhood. Do what you can to be the change you want to see the world.

Pick your battles and be open to changing your actions when new information becomes available to you. Lose gracefully, win humbly, and live life as role model to others who watch you.


I do not consider myself an especially "spiritual" person.  I adopted the "Agreements" based on a plaque hanging on my friend's wall.  (I Googled Ruiz before I made this blog post, crossing my fingers, hoping he wouldn't turn out to be a pedophile, cult leader, and/or MLM peddler.  He isn't!)

But these agreements can truly transform the way you interact with the world, if you let it.

Some other general good advice I have for you, this coming new year:
  • Be who you needed.
  • Consider Laurence C. Jones, a black educator in the Jim Crow era, who famously said, "No man can force me to stoop so low as to hate him."  This wasn't mere talk.  Laurence was nearly killed by a lynch mob and not only politely talked his way out of being lynched, but got the lynch mob to pass around a hat and donate money to fund his school for young black men.  
  • Badasses don't have to prove they are badasses.
  • Finding points of agreement are is the best manner of de-escalation.
In case you think I'm full of it, I should probably mention that what prompted this post is that I went viral last week.  One of my Bucket List items was to go viral so I was delighted, even though the backlash was a little bit shocking.  I went viral for the reason most people do: their weird look or hobby garners attention from people after it triggers some emotion.  Fear, disgust, excitement, arousal, take your pick.  My weird hobby was, what else, pet play.


Having won the title of LA Pup in November, I went on a TV spot to talk about the subculture of human pups (and humans pets).  The TV spot was mostly fair, but it was, like all TV spots, heavily edited and very much sensationalized.  And the viewer comments were... less than understanding.

I spent the last week responding to the negative backlash and it reminded me of a college essay I wrote about trolling.  (Ironically, having a lot of mean humans be mean to me really reinforced my belief that dogs are what we should all be emulating.  Dogs are enthusiastic, friendly, kind, fun, and non-judgemental.  And humans... well, um, humans could learn a lot from dogs.)


If I had to summarize trolling in a single sentence, I would say it is the ability to evoke an emotion reaction from someone.  It's easy.  You attack deeply held personal beliefs and people flip their shit.  They get angry, defensive, and upset.  The trick to trolling is that trolls are generally psychopaths; they lack empathy and have no emotional investment in triggering others.

So how do you counter trolls?

Simple.  Follow the above agreements!

Don't let them get to you.  Be kind.  Be understanding.  Treat them with the sincerity and respect afforded to them as a human being.

 Step 1: You can't upset me.

 Step 2: I like you, or at least your potential,
and you can't change that.

Take their sarcasm, their hatred, their cruelty, and compress it.  Because when you take organic material and compress it for long and hard enough, it becomes diamonds.

 Not all analogies are perfect okay?

Punching Nazis may feel great, but no one has ever changed their mind after being punched in the face.  And I've talked about this before.  The truth is, open, emotionally sincere dialogue changes minds and wins hearts.  Anger is validating, and easier than sympathy... but it just doesn't work.  And me?  I'm all about results, baby.  I changed myself and now I am ready to change the world.

Live your life for yourself as if it's your only time around.  But life your live for others as if you believe in reincarnation.

And when life knocks you down, 
never stop getting up.

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