828 - Negative

Negative self-talk hurts you, and positive self-talk (also known as “affirmations”) help you.

This is obvious and non-intuitive. It’s non-intuitive because most people default to abuse when they are disappointed by someone’s behavior, especially when that someone is themselves. When someone does something we don’t like, we get upset, and when we get upset, we tend not to be nice.

It really is that simple. We try hard and sometimes (hopefully) succeed at being less abusive over time, but it doesn’t come easy.

And the easiest person to abuse is the person you can abuse secretly, or even with the support of the people around you.

“He’s so hard on himself.”

Is that intended as an insult? Hardly.

If our society has taught us anything, it’s that the people with determination and grit are the ones who succeed, and deserve happiness. And no one is harder on those people than themselves.

Right?

Well, no.

People who sustain abusive relationships with themselves don’t turn out well. They might succeed in the short term, but it will come at a heavy cost.

The real secret to success and happiness is unlearning self-abuse.

Think of it this way: Who gave you the right to abuse yourself?

You deserve all the respect and kindness you’d give to anyone else. Don’t let yourself get away with negative self talk.

827 - Reviews

Conversations are usually better than speeches.

This occurred to me while I was writing that short review of Amazon’s The Boys yesterday. I realized that I don’t much like writing reviews of movies and TV shows lately, because I’ve got Nerd Critic, which is always better, because it’s a conversation.

Even when I’m ranting, I’m doing it at someone who is in the room with me, and who is likely to respond in some way.

The way to really get into what works and doesn’t work in a movie, or a show, or anything else, is to have a conversation about it.

A speech is one-way communication. It’s the broadcasting of a stream of ideas without interruption. It doesn’t leave any room for evolution or refinement.

But when two people start colliding ideas, they can discover all kinds of things they absolutely never could have on their own. This is one of the ways we can know how important social interactions are for human beings. Is a person even a person without another person to interact with?

Anyway, my point is that when it comes to reviewing stuff, I prefer not to do it alone.

826 - Boys

If you're looking for a show that perfectly captures the nuances of the current zeitgeist around superheroes, watch Amazon’s The Boys. While it is often shockingly, transgressively violent, it also manages to build a cast of real characters who are much more complex reflections of the counterparts with which we have become so familiar.

It is a narrative that explores the unholy byproducts that emerge from the mixing of ecstatic wealth, massive corporate influence, and frightening individual power. And driving right down the center of the story is an appealing everyman, whose humility and guilelessness are entirely earned from the beginning, and who winds up exemplifying just what kind of moral fortitude is possible for "regular" people.

I really loved the show. Rather than relying on cheap gimmicks and choking self-awareness, The Boys reaches far past those easy targets to pull off something that feels perfectly timed and culturally vital.

A warning: the first season ends on breathtaking reveal that is calculated to inspire an enormous thirst for season 2. The good news is it’s already in production.

825 - Senses

Sensitivities, like muscles, must be exercised to develop. As with any skill, improved sensitivity requires practice, and maintaining improvements is only possible with persistence in that practice.

Talk to a sommelier, for instance. Or a physician.

Or a piano tuner.

Spiritual sensitivity is no different than any other learned skill. Exercise, and it gets stronger. Stop exercising, and it fades away.

It doesn’t even really matter what your definition of spiritual sensitivity is. Maybe it’s empathy — the ability to discern and connect with the emotional experiences of others. Maybe it’s communion with God, whoever and whatever you believe, or don’t. Maybe it’s about an attunement to universal morality, the search for truth, or beauty, or both.

Maybe, probably, it’s some mix of all that and more.

Whatever spirituality means to you, the common fact is that it must be exercised to be developed. When it comes to the truly useful skills, no one gets anything for free.

824 - Addicts

I believe there is a broad spectrum of addiction, or perhaps, rather, that there is real utility in establishing a broad and fundamental definition that covers the whole spectrum of addictive/compulsive behavior.

That way, the solution for a given addiction would depend both on that fundamental definition, and the position it occupies along that broad spectrum.

On one end, for example, would be the latest season of your favorite TV show, or that game you can't stop playing on your phone. On the other end maybe we could look at opioids, or alcohol.

I’m not going to pretend I’m qualified to offer a complete or comprehensive, or even terribly accurate fundamental definition of addiction. But at least part of the definition has to be a kind of learned powerlessness, or the loss of faith in one’s ability to control one’s actions.

No wonder the idea of free will has come under suspicion. We’re all addicts, and addicts don’t have a lot of strong evidence to support it.

823 - Addicted

Anything can become an addiction. Medical science is slowly coming around to this idea, so it doesn’t sound so glib and false anymore, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore the science and just move along.

Addictions are a problem because they steal time. That’s their main function. If I do anything compulsively, to fill time and distract myself from discomfort of any kind, and the thing I’m doing is not making positive contributions to my life, then it is just an elaborate waste of time.

This goes for the extreme one’s that everyone recognizes — like heroin. Especially because it’s illegal, heroin consumes an enormous amount of the addict’s time. In the worst cases, it takes all of it.

But it also goes for the trivial examples of which nearly everyone is guilty — like newsfeeds and social media. Time lost, no value added.

Every time we get a hit, we lose more time. The harder it is to get a hit, the more time we waste. The more time we waste, the worse we feel, and the greater the temptation to distract ourselves away from that feeling with the time-wasting addiction.

Addictive craving motivates us to trade bigger desires for smaller ones. Being an addict is like persistently buying a buck with a twenty. And this, too, is just a function of time. The dollar is tempting because it’s right in front of you, and the twenty is a day, or an hour, or five minutes away. “If I take the buck now,” you think, “I can always go find a twenty later.”

But there’s always going to be a buck in front of you, and it’ll always cost the twenty that was five minutes away.

822 - Me

I update this blog every day for myself.

There really isn’t anyone else. Maybe a tiny handful of people that feel a kind of unconditional obligation of support. People like my mom. Hi mom.

But I didn’t start posting every day on the idea that I’d get some kind of big, meaningful audience for these words. I started posting every day to prove, to me, that I could.

It turns out I can. I can do it every day.

I’m not spinning out any kind of gold, here. I’m spinning out competence and confidence. I’m allowing imperfect effort into the world on a daily basis. It’s a real challenge. It makes me feel vulnerable and a little ugly.

This is good. Because the opposite of those feelings is perpetual perfectionism, which is another way of describing perpetual procrastination.

I’m training myself out of inaction over here. No one has to notice. No one has to care.

No one, that is, except for me.

821 - Unsubscribe

I’m proud of my email inbox. I run a tight ship, so it’s the one medium in which I can be depended upon. I don’t miss emails.

Partly this is because Google’s spam filter is very, very good. I’ve been using my primary email address for almost 15 years now, and I basically never see spam. And on those rare occasions when something slips through, I can just report it and feel like a good citizen.

But even with the spam problem basically solved, there remains the “bacon.” The emails you knowingly or unknowingly signed up for by just being a regular person on the Internet.

For all of those, there is the almighty “unsubscribe.”

If I see something in my inbox that isn’t useful or interesting enough to justify itself, I am aggressive about unsubscribing. New things will pop up all the time. Whether it’s because an app or company has inappropriately distributed my email address to one of their partners, or because I was briefly interested in some kind of service or software, there will always be new weeds in the garden of my inbox.

No problem. I’ll just keep finding the tiny link at the bottom, and it’ll be one less nuisance tomorrow or next week.

As I’ve practiced this principle with my inbox, I’ve noticed that it’s become easier to apply it to the rest of my life. What are the things that are failing to add enough value to justify the time they consume?

Unsubscribe.