Break the Cycle

As I mentioned a few posts back, I’m working on becoming more disciplined. I have been posting on here regularly, shooting for a goal of at least one post every two-days. I was doing well at the beginning, then Thanksgiving weekend hit.

I don’t do well when it comes to blogging whilst travelling. Finding the time, motivation, and will to write up a post somewhere other than home is difficult for me. I am working on this, and I’m going to overcome that stupid issue when I leave for my next trip over the holidays.

Missing a few days wouldn’t have been too bad, but it’s now been over a week since my last post. I let myself fall back into the cycle of not writing. The inertia of not doing something is difficult to overcome vs. the inertia of actually doing something. In other words, it’s way easier to continue not doing something than it is to continue doing something. The key is to recognize when you’re falling off track, and correct it as soon as possible. The further you drift away from the path, the harder it is to get back.

I’m back on track, and I will continue posting regularly. I appreciate your patience and understanding over the short break. Look for another post here next week.

In the meantime, feel free to post in the comments any tips or stories you have about getting back on track after a setback. What do you do when you feel yourself slipping away from your goals? I look forward to reading your comments.

-Will

Advertisements

Thoughts on Social Media (in 2017)

(My last few posts on here have been tangentially related to some of the older posts I wrote on twentyeleven. This was mostly coincidental, but I like the idea of revisiting topics from the old blog and updating them. Today, I’m sharing my ideas about social media, a topic I discussed in this post back in 2011.)

Social media has become a more toxic environment since 2011. The 2016 election exposed a lot of division in the US, bringing with it a lot of anger, vitriol, and bitterness. Recognizing that Facebook and Twitter have become cesspools of angry political debates might be one of the few things the divided factions can all agree on. The places we used to sign on to connect with others have now become places of division and segregation. Filters allow users to maintain a feed of agreeable posts, so they’re not confronted with ideas that might challenge their point of view.

I rarely go on Facebook anymore because it has become such a landfill. Beyond the rage over political differences, it’s difficult to navigate through the trash heap of memes, Buzzfeed videos, and clickbait articles to find the original posts that my friends have made. Facebook isn’t about connecting with friends and their lives anymore– it’s about bouncing around shitty memes, “insightful” news articles, and “motivational” Gary Vaynerchuk videos.

Perhaps I’m jaded. I’m open to that possibility. However, I can also recognize when something has outlived its useful lifespan. The value of a Facebook account is no longer recognizable to me. Beyond having a profile to maintain some sort of social norm, why do we continue to use Facebook?

The other social media networks aren’t much better. They’re all vacuuming up our personal data, adding slashes to the death of privacy by a thousand cuts. What value do we get from them?

As we march triumphantly into 2018, I encourage you to pause and reflect on the value you receive from the entire lot of the social media platforms you use on a regular basis. Do you feel happy when you’re checking your various feeds? Do you feel that you’re using your time wisely when you use these sites? Are you actively making and/or maintaining valued relationships with other people through these platforms? I’m not chastising anyone for using social media– I just think we should actively examine what we’re getting from these various platforms.

Thanks for reading today’s post. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section. I’ll have another post on here by next Monday.

-Will

Thoughts on Emo & Pop Punk (Six Years Later)

During the twentyeleven days, I listened to a lot of emo and pop punk music. I listened to a lot of other music as well (my taste in music is eclectic), and my friends in high school introduced me to a variety of indie artists as well. But I still listened to a lot of pop punk, and it was the primary source for most of the mix CDs/playlists I made at the time (ex. this playlist I posted on twentyeleven).

Even then I knew that pop punk and emo music was fraught with exaggerated emotional lyrics, and that the scenes and situations described were ridiculous at best. The relationships described in the lyrics of most songs in these genres are pretty toxic, and overly saturated in twisted idealism. The formula for these songs is fairly simple:  The “hero” in the song was dumped on his ass, and now his former lover is seeing someone else, and that sucks because the “hero” was a nice guy who really loved her (ex. “Miserable at Best” by Mayday Parade). If you’re a jaded dude who thinks girls are mean because they won’t date you, this kind of shit is gold. If you just got dumped on your ass, this kind of music will make your feelings of betrayal and injustice (because your ex had the audacity to move on) seem valid*.

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve grown in years is that folks of a certain maturity level don’t continue to listen to these genres– at least not on a regular basis, anyway. (Perhaps that’s just the isolated bubble of people I’ve surrounded myself with, but I wouldn’t be surprised it was true for people outside my social circle as well.) I think the reason people abandon listening to this music is that it lacks authenticity. Sure, the artist in the song probably is feeling those emotions of betrayal, sadness, and grief– but are they justified? Are they justified enough to base an entire album around those feelings? Where is the other person’s perspective to this love gone wrong song?

The lack of depth, lack of female presence within the genre, and lack of realism kills the basis for the emotions that saturate the lyrics of this genre. Emotions are strong and powerful, and clearly a key part of music lyrics, but they have to be authentic. Why should we respond to what these emotional lyrics represent if they aren’t real? Listeners want music that makes them feel something; the lyrics that pervade most of these songs just feel shallow.

Part of growing up is recognizing that the things you used to love aren’t nearly as perfect as they once seemed. The world is a problematic place. People are flawed, and the art they produce is also flawed. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something we have to acknowledge, recognize, and think about as we continue to navigate the weird journey that is life.

This weekend is going to be super busy for me, but I will have another new post up here on Monday. I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend. Feel free to let me know your thoughts about my post in the comment section. See you soon!

-Will


* There’s nothing inherently wrong with listening to this kind of music after a breakup if it helps you move on (though I would firmly contain listening to it within the “denial” portion of your stages of grief).

Attaining Financial Discipline

As I mentioned on my post last Sunday, I am working on becoming more disciplined. Part of this journey includes becoming more disciplined financially. I’ve never had issues with paying my bills on-time, but in the past I’ve felt like I wasn’t handling my money as well as I should. I have never been much of a saver, and I didn’t use a written budget to keep track of my spending. Without a budget, cash tends to go out as fast as it comes in. The paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle is stressful, and, unfortunately, very common; 78% of full-time workers in the US currently live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Lack of financial discipline is both a personal and cultural problem.

So how do we break the cycle of being constantly on the edge of financial ruin? I’ve been listening to the Dave Ramsey Show Podcast, and I am currently reading his book, The Total Money Makeover. The advice he gives can be broken down into a few short steps:

  1. Get on a written budget. Write out all your monthly expenses & income at the beginning of the month. Allocate spending for every dollar of your income BEFORE you spend it.
  2. Save $1000 ASAP. This is for your starter “Emergency Fund.” It’s a small buffer between you and any unforeseen expenses. (Later, after paying off all consumer debt, you expand your Emergency Fund to equal three-to-six months of expenses.)
  3. Pay off your debt. He recommends using the “Snowball method” wherein you pay off your smallest debt first (making minimum payments to service your larger debts), then moving on to the next larger one, and so on. Your payments will compound as you eliminate smaller debts, which will give you a sense of progress as you pay off your debt.

There is additional advice on investing for retirement in the book, as well as other tips for eliminating debt and improving your financial health (ex. if your car is worth more than half of your annual income, you can’t afford it). The book is a little cheesy, and filled with a lot of cliches, but the advice is sound. It’s an easy read, and there are forms at the back of the book for help with creating a written budget. If you have little knowledge about personal finance, it’s a good place to start. I would encourage seeking out additional books and information on investing after getting rid of debt ad building a solid emergency fund.

I feel a lot more in control since establishing a budget. I’ve already paid off a credit card, and I have a solid plan to make quick progress on my other debt (including my student loans). I’ll feel better when all of this debt is gone, but it’s nice to see it beginning to shrink in the meantime.

I hope sharing this advice helps those seeking to gain more control over their money. Look for another post here on Saturday.

-Will

Avoid the Drift

Life is funny in the way that it ebbs and flows. There are times of incredible stability, where everything goes as planned, and times of radical change, where nothing seems certain. Since the twentyeleven project, things have been less certain. I think college and twenty-something life is fraught with ambiguity most of the time. Distant goals and dreams exist, but the path forward is rarely ever clear. A vague notion of moving in a certain direction is usually all one has to guide them.

Amidst all this change, it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Without something to move toward, you end up drifting aimlessly. The drift can feel pleasant for a short while, as simply floating along requires little effort. Eventually, the lack of anchors and solid ground will leave you feeling hollow and hopeless. Floating isn’t nearly as pleasant and carefree as it sounds; it is an ocean of anxiety, despair, and listlessness.

Post-college (and after any other period of focused effort toward a specific goal), it’s easy to lose your bearings. Whenever you feel lost, don’t lose hope. Find your anchors again, and point your ship back in the right direction. Despair will melt away, and a sense of purpose will return.

Keep moving forward, my friends.

-Will

P.S. Look for another post here by Thursday (11/16). I’m committed to posting on here regularly for the foreseeable future.