Staying True To Who We Are In The Reality TV and Social Media Age.

Americans live in the wealthiest country in the world with the most opportunities at our fingertips, yet we are still unhappy. The 2016 World Happiness Index rated the U.S. the 13th happiest country. Out of the 12 that ranked higher, only Norway had a higher GDP per capita.

Unhappiness is a virus rapidly permeating every aspect of our lives. The television and the internet are the hosts for this type of virus. Turn on the news at any hour of the day and it is a relentless drip campaign of negativity, one fatal car crash after political scandal.

Our social media accounts are wonderful tools for observing others who are having more fun, making more money, and doing much better than we are. Instagram and Facebook are the highlight reels of everyone’s life. Everybody is posting their eighty-yard touchdowns and buzzer beating shots, never their fumbles on the goal line or game losing turnovers.

A study from 2016 surveyed 1,787 adults ages 19 to 32 and found that those who used social media the most were at the highest risk of being depressed.

The constant need to keep up appearances can be suffocating in today’s reality TV era of society, and losing the sense of who we are in the rat race is effortless.

This past weekend I got together with two friends I haven’t seen in a while. We convened at what others have raved as one of the hotspots in town, and walked through tables lined with pretty people all seeking something different yet specific, out to the patio, which held what we really desired – a wonderful view of Los Angeles. Smoke and laughter drifted by our table, and as we reminisced about past memories, our roaring laughs became a full-bodied contribution to the scene.

Stories of past events that are forever set in stone in our own personal history books were exchanged with more warmth and spirit than the obligatory chore of keeping up with our current situations.

Intermissions of these episodes were marked by a silence that would settle the mood, broken by one of us commenting on the surrealism of the whole setting. Acknowledgement of that comment didn’t have to be spoken; it was intuitive between the three of us. We knew where we had come from.

We all had our own struggles; I was out of college about a year and was using my degree to stock shelves at a Tilly’s. The job was seasonal and I was soon unemployed, there was little stability or certainty in any area of my life. Through perseverance, faith, and most of all the guidance of others, I found my way into writing, which is my passion.

But everyday I remember the emotions I felt when life was uncertain and somewhat grim. That is my truth, as much a part of who I am as my name and telephone number.

My greatest fear today is not losing what I have, but forgetting where I came from. When I remember those dark days of solitude, I have gratitude for everything in my life. If I forget, I could have all that I dream of, and not be able to enjoy any of it.

I am guilty of losing my way and deviating from my moral compass. I created a character I thought I was supposed to be in the world, and played that role until I had a moment of clarity where I realized how unfulfilling it was.

I looked at who I was, both good and bad attributes, and from that I saw an honest picture of who I was. If I want to be comfortable and truly happy I need to face both, and be willing to work on the latter.

The effects are immediate; it is amazing how many of our problems are solved just by simply identifying them. The more difficult aspects of ourselves take time to work on, but at least we have gained an awareness of them.

A big part of finding my truth and being aware of it was sitting in silence with myself, which is something I try to do on a daily basis. I completely disconnect from the world for a small amount of time each day, sometimes as little as ten minutes. I turn all the electronics off, leave my phone in the other room and sit in silence with myself. It was a strange experience at first, but it is one of the most significant practices I’ve come to rely on.

We can’t be anyone but ourselves, despite what society tells us who or what we ought to be.

My Debut Book Released!

My first book titled “Thoughts” has been published and released by Libero Media!  It is a book of short stories and life that commentate on the human condition and experience in contemporary society.  You can check it out via the link below.  I hope you enjoy it and appreciate all feedback!  Thanks

 

Delaying Gratification Is The Most Powerful Tool You Can Adopt To Change Your Life.

When I was younger we ate Sunday dinner at my aunt’s house with the whole family. I have a vivid memory of one of these Sunday’s in which my mother, cousin, aunt, and myself were baking cookies for dessert. At seven years old, I was a mischievous troublemaker with a riotous sweet tooth, and extra eyes were on me as ingredients changed hands.

My older cousin, the most vigilant of the three, quickly became bored and moved on to other affairs. My mother and aunt would periodically yell, “Do not eat the dough! You have to wait” just for good measure. I would smile and nod, and dump some more chocolate chips into the mix.

It was a classic battle of wills in which they would eventually wear down and turn their backs, and no sooner would I take a mouthful of chocolate chip covered cookie dough right off of the mixing spoon.

I just could not wait for the cookies to bake; I had an overwhelming impulse that I had no control over.

In the mid 1960’s, thirty years prior to my cookie baking debacle, Walter Mischel, a Standford Psychologist conducted his own impulse control experiment with cookies. In Mischel’s experiment children were given a cookie and told that they could eat the cookie immediately, or wait 15 minutes and receive a second cookie.

The results of the experiment showed that children who were unable to wait the 15 minutes were at higher risk of obesity and addiction, while children who were able to wait generally did better later in life. The one’s who delayed gratification had higher SAT scores, better health, and higher incomes.

Impulse control is the single most effective tool we can implement to better our lives, because it is at the root of almost all of life’s major problem areas.

Many young people jump at the highest paying job they are offered right out of college or graduate school. We take jobs with fewer benefits and less time off in an area we don’t enjoy because it will pay more money and satisfy the immediate desire to make more money. We will rarely take a job we enjoy if it means less pay. In the short term the extra money feels good, but over the course of a year, sometimes less, people are burnt out and unfulfilled.

We do the same with love and expect immediate results. I have never been in a long-term relationship with someone I became intimate with after only a date or two. My experience has always been that relationships develop slowly over time, usually beginning as friendships.

Society today is fast paced and so instantly gratifying that it is damaging to human relationships and fulfillment. Want love? Swipe right on tinder and you can find a match today. Want to feel good? Post a selfie on Instagram and watch the “likes” stream in, boosting esteem with every notification received. There’s no need to wait for anything anymore and we are not happier as a result.

Mischel’s study left us another nugget of information on impulse control, and that was how the children actually controlled their impulses. The kids who held out did not torture themselves by looking at the cookie for fifteen minutes. Instead they distracted themselves while they waited. They sang, played, or did anything besides sit and stare at the cookie.

I think to the past of other impulsive decisions I have made and reflect on their pro’s and con’s. I do a quick analysis of the outcomes of those impulsive decisions. At best the decision made on impulse did not fulfill me like I thought it would, and at worst it created a mess in my life that I had to clean up later.

Hobbies are another tool I use to keep my mind off of whatever the new shiny thing in front of me is. Many times I have been faced with a problem that I perceive needs an immediate solution, but I’ll go for a run first, or do some writing. When I am finished, the immediate problem I perceived wasn’t really a problem at all and my first idea of a solution would’ve surely created a problem.

The old cliché tells us to “sleep on it” when faced with big decisions, and while it tends to be overlooked because it is a cliché, it became one because it is true.

Technology & Young People: Catalysts for Future Change

Ray Kurzweil, a world renowned computer scientist and inventor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

This is because technology advances at an exponential rate. Statistics like that are dizzying to look at, but in the day to day process of our lives we become accustomed to more advanced technology without giving it much thought.

Recently I was sitting around solving the problems of the world with one of my writing mentors when he said “There is nothing my generation can teach you guys.” This confused me. He is an experienced writer who I look up too, much older than me, currently twenty-four. He’s far more seasoned than I am at conquering problems the world has thrown at him.

I asked for further explanation of what he meant, to which he replied “Everything we have to teach you, you can find yourself, and much faster. Matter of fact you guys could probably teach my generation a lot.”

This statement often goes un-appreciated by me. To think of how much information is currently available via a simple Google search is akin to guessing how many grains of sand make up a beach. It’s a different world and my generation was the first to become immersed in it. We were the first to grow up with the internet, social media, cell phones, and all that comes with those things. We saw how they evolved from their primitive forms to what they currently are and we learned how to master them every step of the way.

As a result my generation shoulders much of the responsibility for how the future will look. We have endless information at our fingertips that was never accessible before the internet era. After 12 years of two wars and a major financial meltdown, our skepticism rivals that of the 1960’s youth, with even more ways of obtaining information and boiling the truth out of it.

Those who have ill intentions for the power they wield have to go to greater lengths to keep an informed population pacified; and they are. But with the technology available organizing in opposition to those efforts is much easier. It was widely reported that social media played a huge role in the organization efforts of the Ferguson protests as well as the Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Dakota Access Pipeline movements.

Times are more dire now than ever. The current administration has made it clear they regard the Constitution merely as a suggestive piece of literature. Our rights are no longer God given, but invoked as spoken rhetoric. We are told to wave the flag proudly, but not to inquire on what the flag actually represents.

Organization, protest, and keeping the government rigorously accountable are necessary to our way of life. There is no better tool for this than technology, and the people who must lead this movement are the ones who know how to manipulate technology best – young people.

Technology has been a wonderful catalyst for allowing us to accomplish those goals so far. Since the current administration took office there have been endless cycles of protest. The women’s march, which was the largest single day of protest in history, the Dakota Access Pipeline marches, and marches against the Muslim ban are testaments to that. One of the many things those protests have in common is they were all organized through social media.

The internet has also allowed us to hear the voices of millions of people who would otherwise be unheard. If you polled the columnists of this website alone, you would find many of us are lawyers, teachers, mechanics – working class people. Few of us make a living off of writing alone – I know I sure don’t. If it wasn’t for the internet, most of us would have no platform to get our points of view out to the world, and we are merely a drop in the ocean if you take a look at the number of blogs and websites available on the internet.

There are, of course, disadvantages to having so much information available at all times. We are bombarded by so much content that the important information can get lost in the static. There is such a thing as fake news, although it is not as mainstream as many would like to believe, and it can make deciphering truth from fiction difficult. But we can all agree these are minor setbacks that pale in comparison to the overwhelming advantages technology provides us as social activists. I am unaware of any movements attempting to roll back technology to what it was pre-1995.

The advantages technology provides us to obtain information, organize, and oppose corruption and tyranny are unprecedented. It is the responsibility of all Americans to keep our government accountable and to unite and organize when their agenda strays from ours. This responsibility is especially important to young Americans, for we are the ones who will carry the values of America into the future.

Redefining The Path To Success

The skyline of New York City is visible from every hill in my hometown, and stands tall over us as an ever present entity. All of the lights, bridges, and skyscrapers – constructs of concrete and steel – blend as one into the symbol of opportunity. As a kid I would often stare off into the distance at the skyline and imagine one day I would be working in one of those buildings – maybe the top floor of the Chrysler building, or a corner office of a Wall Street icon.

Like many other millennials my age, a corner office on Wall Street embodied the epitome of success. We were told to go college then become professionals, hedge fund managers, and nine to five office people. Growing up I was surrounded by doctors and lawyers, so the natural instinct and subsequent conditioning was to pick either one, go make a bunch of money, and live happily ever somewhere in suburbia.

Success was a well laid out path trudged by those before. The blueprint for us, used repeatedly for generations, was laid at our feet. Achieving success was as easy as following that blueprint.

The problem however, is that the antiquated blueprint has become obsolete in a world that vaguely resembles itself from a generation ago. Our generation has broken the mold, and cast the success blueprint into a pile next to the Compact Disc and VCR.

We are children born of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90s, products of the dotcom and tech boom. Entire frontiers of new industry and revolutionary ways to make an income are right in front of us. Techies in Silicon Valley have replaced Charlie Sheen from Wall Street, and entrepreneur has became a word that means more than someone who is too lazy to get a real job. It is a viable way to earn a living, avoid tuition debt, and make a name for yourself.

Another profound change my generation is experiencing is soaring tuitions of college and graduate school. My father graduated from Rutgers in 1968 and paid $400 for a semester of college. I paid much more than that for just a semester’s worth of books. Want to go to college, then law school today? $300,000 is roughly the price tag, and unless you come from money it will be a debt you will be paying off for the rest of your life.

That all but guarantees I will have to slave away in an office somewhere for the next forty years just to pay off that debt and support myself. I was always a creative type who was never interested in the corporate world. I like the idea of working for myself and being my own boss, master of my own destiny. I like writing, music, and art. But nonetheless, the blueprint to success was laid out for me. It was explained and passed down like any other cultural tradition, and so, I tried to follow it.

Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, it just didn’t fit. I went to college, studied political science (I still question how much of a science it is), did well and graduated. I floundered on taking the LSATs because my heart was never in it in the first place. I worked a few internships, and hated every minute of the rigid structure, high stress, and corporate environment.

At twenty-two I decided to reject all of that and take the biggest risk of my life up until that point. While the blueprint for success changes, the American way of taking risks is timeless. I decided to follow my passion and become a writer. I endured the “that’s cute, you can write while you figure out what you want to do with your life” remarks at family functions and on bad dates. I often kept myself up at night wondering if I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

But I fell back on another truth as American as apple pie – perseverance. I started by getting one of my articles published in the Santa Monica Daily Press, a local newspaper. Then I got a weekly column for the Good Men Project. All the while I had been churning out short stories and poetry on my own time. “Just write, write, write” my mentor would tell me. That collection of short stories and poetry has turned into a finished book called Thoughts that will be published this February. I am currently working on the life story of Chris Luera, 3 time world champion fitness athlete, and have other book ideas in the works. I used to worry I was making the biggest mistake of my life, now I worry that I won’t be able to keep up with all the work I have on my plate.

Facebook and Microsoft weren’t built in corner offices of skyscrapers; they were built in garages and dorm rooms. Everything you need to be successful is at your fingertips. So to my frustrated millennial’s, who feel like square pegs in round holes, I say this: If doors aren’t opening for you, build your own damn door and walk through it. Find something you absolutely love to do, something you would gladly do for free, and go find a way to make money doing it. That’s the blueprint for freedom.