1. Praise yourself. Not to the point of conceit, but to emphasize your self-worth. Look in the mirror and tell yourself: ‘I’m worthy!’ But you have to also maintain the stance that everyone else is worthy, too. Your self-praise is not permission to belittle another. It is permission to join others in greatness.
2. Never read the comment section on any website, if the story has anything to do with race, gender, sexuality,or nationalistic ideas. The Internet is greatfor a lot of things: purchasing books, getting directions, research, and figuring out where a movie is playing. But the ‘Net has also produced a legion of cyber-bullies, trolls, whatever you want to call them. You know of whom I speak. In the comments section of any site, these cyber-bullies usually post as “anonymous” so they can post something racist, misogynist, homophobic, or just plain stupid--and not have to own their words, or the effects of their words. The ‘Net has provided a safe platform for these digi-cowards. You have to be real coward (and possibly deficient in a few areas) to use the anonymous option when the ‘Net is already a continent of anonymity. It’s a facet of loser-dom that is damn near impossible to comprehend. What are you so afraid of? You have the opinion, why don’t you own it publicly? For every piece of intelligent commentary, there are a dozen comments from “anonymous” posting baleful quips like, “kill all niggers,” or “no means yes, and yes means anal.” You’re kidding, right? If you cannot stand by your words, do not present them in any fashion. Not audibly or typographically. Our world is in too precarious a spot for the cyber-bullies to be allowed to continue wasting our most precious resources: time, attention, and synapses. I challenge all cyber-bullies to sign your comments with your real names. In the 21st century there is no reason for people to hide under the aegis of anonymity. This early in our new aeon, we have to hold each other (and ourselves) accountable for all our collective multimedia bullshit. Otherwise, we’ll be continuing to traverse the same pothole filled superhighway of the previous century. Don’t be afraidto stand by your words, thoughts, or beliefs. If you want to use the word “nigger” own that shit. People want to say that the ‘Net is our highest form of representative democracy. If this is the case, another Katrina or Sandy should wipe us out for our hubris. Shit, I’ll be the brother with the tattoos and shaved head and doing the rain dance. Word is digital-bond. Wow. I just wentoff on a rant. My bad.
3. Look beyond the surface. You don’t want to fall into the analysis leads to paralysis pattern, but you want to develop the tools needed to deconstruct the messages you receive about yourself and about your world. Once you have an idea about how it all works, you can make an informed decision whether or not to believe it. I'm not saying you should distrust all information--I am saying that you should develop the tools needed to discern if the information is worthy.
4. Produce more than you consume. While there is nothing wrong with informed consumption of culture, many of us spend an inordinate amount of time paying for the permission to experience other people’s stories. Our stories are valid and just as important as anything else out there. When we present our own stories, there are fewer opportunities for others to tell tell them. Having others speak for us is one insidious way that our esteems are attacked. If you want to see an example of telling our own stories as a form of self-defense, watch the Eminem film 8Mile (2002). When his character, B-Rabbit, airs his dirty laundry. The guy he was battling against had nothing to use, causing him to lose focus and to ultimately lose the rhyme battle.
5. Have a code. This may seem to be ripped right out of a fantasy novel, but there is something very grounding about having a set of values too live by. What level of disrespect or negative impact are you willing to suffer until you fight back? At what point will you step in to defend others? When you give your word, do others experience it as stone, or as tissue paper? Once you have this foundation of values—once you know where your lines are—it is much easier to navigate through your world. I’d suggest writing down your code and keeping it on you, turning it into a symbol or sigil, or hell, get it tattooed. So, when things start to go off the rails, you can refer to it and trust the purity of your approach andintent in the world. [This will be the focus of the 4/2/2017 Uncle Shawn Podcast.]
6. Do not question joy. This should not need too much explanation. So many of us have been conditioned to treat joyful feelings as something out of the ordinary. So, when we encounter it, we scrutinize and question it away. It is our jobs to incorporate joy into our lives every single time it appears. It is not an abnormality to our daily conditions--it should be an essential part of them.
7. Complete projects. The initial ramp-up is so easy, as we are fueled by the newness of the creative spark. When things impede our progress, our momentum begins to slow until we stall. Imagination is wonderful, but when you start routinely executing your ideas—seeing them to fruition--you’re in an entirely different league. Completing projects is like keeping your word to yourself. If you say you’re going to do it, then do it. I know far too many people who have half-finished manuscripts, or partially made films, or other projects that are in various stages of incompleteness. I count myself among this number. The amount of negative self-talk that arises when these projects are inquired about is saddening. Hell, if you don’t want to feel so awful, finish the damn project. If it is important to you, you will get it done.
8. Prune your garden. The older I get, the less friends I have. But the friendships that have remained are stellar. I’ve left some people, while others left me. It’s sad; it hurts, but if you’re pruning for righteous reasons, the pain and sadness are worth it. This may seem like a corny analogy, but bear withme. You’ve come this far. Our friendships are like gardens; they are beautiful and flowering things. Every so often, weeds enter and if they aren’t immediately cut, they will take over and choke the life out of everything. Not too long ago, my garden was more weeds than flowers. I was irritable, judgmental, and none too pleasant to be around. As I was trying to figure out why I felt so constrained, so stifled, I never thought to look at my relationships. When I did, when I identified that some of my relationships were the primary contributors to my dis-ease, I got out the shears. I’m much better forit.
9. Serve. When you can, help others. Don’t fall into the trap of helping others when you’re not at your best. You’ll only do damage to your self and who you're trying to serve. It is so enticing to be that person at every rally, at the food bank, or playing chess in the shelter—but be wary that your life of service does not turn into a job designed to feed your ego. I saw a bumper sticker that read:“Don’t let your struggle become your identity.” We cannot be activated all the time. It is not healthy. No guilt should be involved if you decided to sit out an event to stay home and veg out. But if you can, serve. We all need help, or will need help, or have needed help. Some of us got it, others did not. We need to work together to make out shared world a place that is loving and supportive of all.
10. Move more. Eat better. Eat as much good food as you can afford. While I have very strong feelings about the high costs of healthy food, I also believe that some things are non-negotiable. Want to live longer? Eat healthier food and exercise. Don’t exercise only for the cosmetic benefit, but do it so that your body can operate at its highest level. Better food + better fitness = better attitude. When you can experience and participate in the world, free of the fog of refined sugars and saturated fats, you will be able to accomplish much more than you ever thought possible.