In his novel, which is known to be the greatest novel of the 19th century, Leo Tolstoy says "there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts." This quote I find to be the best line in the whole novel. It's been 138 years since he published that book and still, I think everyone needs to pay attention to his words.
My opinion of the novel itself is a different story, but the truth is, this quote is perfect. No two people are the same and no two hearts are the same. Now, if you've read any of my novels then you'll know that I have no issue with same sex relationships. I believe anyone of any colour, gender, race should be allowed to love whomever they choose. Just because their love looks different than yours, doesn't make it any less real.
I'd also like to take his quote one step further and refurbish it. I believe there are as many kinds of genders as there are genitals. I know, this is a bit far fetched, but hear me out.
A big influence in my work is the idea of how gender stereotypes impact younger people. I know for me, when I was growing up there was an increasing amount of pressure to discard my own interests and pursue those that "men" are supposed to pursue. This means playing sports, being funny, not having any fear and chasing women.
This divide between genders I believe is as detrimental if not more than the exclusion of certain types of love. I know for me I was given an ultimatum. It was indirectly forced onto me but eventually I was the one forcing it onto myself. The ultimatum was: be a stereotypical guy - play sports, act tough and ignore your emotions. The other side of it was: play music, be who you want to be and go through life happy - non popular - man.
At the time, the first choice seemed more lucrative but now looking back I know I would have been better off had I followed the latter choice. If I had the power to go back, would I change it? no. Even though I took a route that led to unhappiness, it made me who I am today and if I didn't follow that route I probably wouldn't be writing this blog right now.
I kind of went all over the place today but I want to end on this: I realize that it makes us feel better when we can categorize things. We say "this is how love is supposed to look" or "this is how a woman acts" or whatever but the fact of the matter is that these expectations and rules only lead to unhealthy results. Sure they may work for the average person (numerically) but what about the young boy who doesn't want to tell his parents or friends that he's attracted to other boys?
And what about the person who was born with a set of genitals and doesn't feel right in their body. I can tell you what happens to them. Right now, they internalize the pressure and don't feel at home in their bodies. It causes them too much pain and they look for a way out. Sadly enough, the easiest way out is death. Youth in the LGBTQ Community are 4-6 times more likely to commit suicide than those who identify as heterosexual.
So, if you know anyone who isn't like you, think for a second, how would you feel if everyone was like them and you were the minority.
Virtually everything good in life is on the other side of discomfort. Uncomfortable situations create a force field around the life that we want. That’s why when I realize I‘m feeling comfortable, something is wrong. Comfort is only valuable during old age, and even then, I’d argue that it’s not so valuable.
When I say the word discomfort I mean fear, hard work, embarrassment, pain, delayed pleasure etc... Discomfort is all the things that we don’t feel like doing. By doing those things, we progress. And progress, in my opinion, is the single most important factor in happiness. I believe when people wish for comfort, they’re actually hoping for happiness.
So what does this mean?
This means that anyone who can endure discomfort and feel comfortable in uncomfortable positions is going to be the one who wins. They will not only win the happiness race, but they will also win the outward “success” race. External success is not the most important part. Progress and happiness is. Worldly success is just a natural by-product.
In my novel, The Speechwriter, Samuel Math’s main goal is to create a happy State when he’s running Nebraska. He describes this perfectly. He says that happiness must be achieved first – then and only then – may the external indicators (like GDP) be increased.
It’s quite simple and counter-intuitive but when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. When we hear about someone who’s done an extraordinary amount of work, we envy them. In my opinion, the person who can endure and embrace discomfort will win on all sides of the marker.
When I wrote my first novel, The Speechwriter, I tried to put myself in a tough position. As a man, I wrote in the the first person perspective of a woman. It wan't easy and I don't know if I did the greatest job, but it was fun. Especially the sex scene.
As a writer and as a person, I think it's important to do challenging things like this. It's the only way to grow. For me, in the three months it took me to write the novel and the three months of editing it, I constantly had to try and see things as I thought a woman would.
One thing I probably didn't capture very well is the social pressures placed on women. By social pressure I mean the pressure to look a certain way, the pressure of some men's sexual harassment tendencies and the general pressure that comes from a gender biased against woman. I ignored these because hopefully in the year 2020 they won't exist.
Overall, I think I did alright. I mean, I grew up surrounded by a heck of a lot of sisters, so I hope that helped a bit. The main reason that I'm happy I wrote this novel as a woman is just the insight that it gave me. I'm glad that I spend a good chunk of time trying to think how a woman would. I think it opened my eyes and gave me a new way to look at things. I still use that today.
Looking back I think it's had a positive impact on my life and I'd have to say, more than ever, I agree with Shania Twain "man, I feel like a woman."
Yes. I’m claiming that. Here is why. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines evolution as “a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state: a process of gradual and relatively peaceful social, political, and economic advance.” When looking at this definition, the only component that we are more evolved in is the “more complex” part and I’m not sure that’s such a great thing. Below, I will dissect this definition with my opinions.
Before I tell you why I believe this, I’d like to tell you about how I came to this realization. Peter Theil, the founder of PayPal wrote a book called Zero to One. In his book, he asks the question “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” This is my answer. I think it’s an important truth and that very few people will agree with me on it.
It’s clear to see why people might disagree with me on this truth but what makes it important? I believe this truth is important because acknowledging it and learning from this truth will help humans move forward from the narcissistic beings that we are.
So, back to the definition. Who is in a lower state and who is in a higher state? I say trees are in a higher state than humans. What I mean is this: the average human being spends 44 hours a week doing something they hate in order to sustain themselves. I mean, we have to work jobs to be able to afford shelter and food. Trees are their own shelter and they don’t do any work to get their food (oxygen, sun, carbon and water) except for grow closer to the sun. And by sustaining themselves, trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen (which is useful) whereas humans do the opposite. Point proven. They are in a higher state.
As for complexity, humans have won. But complexity is not something you want to win at. Winning the complexity competition is like winning the IG Nobel Prize (the equivalent of a Nobel Prize but for insignificant accomplishments). Do you know someone that makes really simple things complex? You know him. He’s the guy who takes a two-step process and turns it into a for hour journey? Instead of taking the stairs, he’ll just scale the wall up to the 20th floor. I mean, this is basically any person who works in finance. Complexity is not a great thing to have. Trees are simple, humans are complicated species.
The third part of this definition is asking who is in a worse state and who is in a better one. I have to go with trees on this one. How many trees have diabetes, depression, mental illness, cancer or self-esteem issues? Not many that I know of. Are trees racist or sexist? No. And what is their average life-span? Well over 100. Trees live in a better state than humans.
The last section of out definition is “a process of gradual and relatively peaceful social, political, and economic advance.” Do I even have to explain this part? Relatively peaceful? Trees win. Relative political advance? This cannot apply to trees because they evolved past politics. Relative economic advance? It’s every tree for itself. It’s a total free-market. Ayn Rand would be proud.
If you still disagree with my point of view, that’s ok, it’s just your over-complicated brain talking. If you still disagree with me – that proves that trees have won. If you can accept this fact – the fact that humans are not as great as we make ourselves out to be – then you’ve learned all you need to from trees and you’ve started the progress of evolving our species one step closer to what it could be.
In life we trust,
P.S. Body builders… You think you’re more evolved than trees? Think again. They don’t work out and they don’t do steroids or any supplement for that matter and they have no problem building muscle. You know the saying “he’s got tree trunk legs?”
My first novel, The Speechwriter, is based in the future when school shootings become a weekly occurrence. Why did I choose school shootings? There’s one simple reason. Mass Murder – Suicide is the tip of the ice berg of our greatest social issue right now. This issue is the same thing that causes suicide, assaults, addictions, rape, excessive use of drugs and alcohol, mid-life crises, the everlasting search for “more” in life and basically everything else that seems evil.
This issue I speak about is self-esteem. Not the pop culture version of self-esteem but the term that Nathaniel Branden – the world renowned psychotherapist used. He describes it as “the disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. It is confidence in the efficacy of our mind, in our ability to think. By extension, it is confidence in our ability to learn, make appropriate choices and decisions, and respond effectively to change. It is also the experience that success, achievement, fulfillment – happiness – are right and natural for us.”
In short, I would say self-esteem is the belief that we can handle life’s challenges and that we are worthy of all the great things life has to offer. A big part of self-esteem is self-respect. By that I mean treating ourselves and our bodies with a high level of respect. That means sleeping enough, eating well, not doing things that are detrimental to us physically, spiritually, socially or emotionally.
It is important to note that self-esteem is most depleted in people aged 15-29 – the age where people are constantly trying to figure out who they are in this world. That is also the age group where the second most likely cause of death is suicide. The first being reckless driving.
Low self-esteem is the cause of people ignoring what they are truly interested in to pursue things that are generally more socially accepted. Low self-esteem is what makes people feel out of place when pursuing their natural interests. Low self-esteem is the cause of people studying and pursuing a career that they aren’t truly passionate about. Low self-esteem is what makes it possible for the following industries to exist: cosmetics, cosmetic surgery, gambling, prostitution, pornography and overpriced luxury items.
Low self-esteem makes girls say “I wasn’t born pretty enough which is why I spend an hour every day getting ready for school.”
Low self-esteem is what made Elliot Roger kill 6 people in the Isla Vista Shooting. “They wouldn’t sleep with me” he said. Low self-esteem is what caused the Columbine Shooters to rebel against “the jocks.”
Needless to say, self-esteem is America’s most depleted resource and if something is not done about it things will only get worse. This is why I chose school shootings. This is why I wrote The Speechwriter. There is evidence that this is an issue but there is no guaranteed way to fix it. The best option I can see right now is the public education system. That is where self-esteem needs to be developed.
What do you think?
I am committing myself to giving away the first five novels that I write for free. That's right, the first five. I love writing and you love reading. How's that sound?
Why am I doing this?
It's simple - I am a brand new fiction writer who has no previous experience. I cannot guarantee that my books will blow your mind. All I can do is pound away at my keyboard and pour my heart into my work. That doesn't mean it will be great, but I'm trying.
I've also made this announcement public, by putting it on my blog, which means now I kinda have to do it. I hope you hold me to my word.
Yes, I still will have them available for purchase in paperback and e-format but there will always be free access for those of you who don't want to risk anything more than your time. If my writing turns out to be half-decent and you really enjoy it, all I ask is that you share it with friends.
I want this to be a fun and interactive process and I want you all to join me for the ride. It won't be easy, but nothing fun is. I am going to experience procrastination and doubt and fear and every other horrible feeling that life has to offer, but that's ok. I will blog about my failures and hopefully we can all learn from them and be entertained in the meanwhile.
My favourite thing in the world is when two ideas correlate. This happened to be the case when I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. As I opened the pages, I knew Dan Ariely's ideas from The Upside of Irrationality would go together perfectly.
In his book, Steven talks about three major topics: Resistance, Work and The Muse. Resistance is anything that stops you from creating. Work is work - it's creating even if you're not inspired. The Muse only shows up after you start working - not the other way around - or like Tchaikovsky put it "inspiration comes to those who can master their disinclination." Steven's formula is simple: Beat resistance by doing work. If you do, then the muse will show up. For any artist reading this, you're already thinking "yeah right, it's not that easy."
This is where Dan Ariely comes in with Behavioural Economics. In his book The Upside of Irrationality, Dan talks about a time when he burnt 70% of the skin on his body and in his treatment he received Hepatitis C from the blood transfusions. From here, he decided to take an experimental drug for the next 18 months. This experimental drug wasn't so glorious. Every time you would take the pills (in Dan's case three times a week), you would vomit for the next 16 hours.To all the artists out there, we know that convincing ourselves to do the work can be just as hard as taking this pill - not rationally so - but we aren't rational beings.
This is where Dan's genius comes in. At the time, he talks about how he loved watching movies. Each morning before he knew he was going to take the pills, he would rent two or three movies. Then, after taking the medications he would sit there with a blanket and a bucket and watch his movies. It turns out, after the 18 months had passed, Dan was the only one to take the pill every time he was supposed to and it turned out that the treatment was successful. Good for you Dan.
Dan knows he isn't a higher evolved species than the rest of us. He knows he just tricked himself. He tricked his monkey brain into thinking it was getting an immediate reward. This led to a long term reward also. Any artist knows that great work means delaying immediate gratitude. To my dear fellow artists, how can we apply this to our internal war of art? Give yourself a reward for putting in the labor. If you're a writer, allow yourself to read or watch TV only after you've written 2,000 words of your novel. If you're starting a business, reward yourself with a coffee after making 20 cold calls.
Whatever it is - and you know what it is - you need to do it. Trick yourself into doing it. I guarantee you, if you do, the treatment will be successful. That is, the muse will pay you a visit. Now, excuse me while I go reward myself for writing this by drinking coffee.