Because.... I'm awesome and very intelligent. I write about ideas that help me live a better life and I'm not afraid to tell the truth as I see it. And it might benefit you as well because everything you thought you knew is wrong.
I set up a Paleo / Primal in London FaceBook Page a while back in order to help spread the word about the life-style in the UK. There are now around 70 members so I thought it would be good to organise a meet-up. Maybe it was too short notice for most people because only two people showed up. In any case we had a good time discussing how we found out about the scene and what kinds of things we eat.
One of the discussion points was the reaction of our friends and family members to our change in diet. While I’ve told my family members and closer friends all about it (and it’s no big deal to them), I don’t go into full details with acquaintances and strangers. If it comes up in conversation I’ll explain the situation but I don’t go out of my way to inform / educate / preach to people.
My approach to spreading the word (although I’m pretty vocal online) is much more about raising questions in people’s minds. For example, most people guess me to be five years younger than I am. Which often prompts people to say that I’m lucky that I look so young. The question I then ask is: “Do I look young or does everyone else look old for their age?” (Yes I may have good genes, but it’s getting to the stage where people guess me to be younger than both my younger brothers).
That’s my way of marking out my world-view, by showing how I don’t buy into the way everyone else sees things and by getting people to question their assumptions. Yes, most people spend their lives drinking too much alcohol, eating too much processed food and consuming too much sugar. So it’s normal in the sense that most people look a certain way at certain ages. But it’s not normal in the larger scope of human history.
Beliefs such as the idea that people’s metabolism just ‘naturally’ slows down as they age or that guys just ‘naturally’ get a beer-belly as they grow up aren’t true at all. It’s just that the new normal is fast becoming a situation where most people are overweight, fat or even obese and showing signs of ageing much sooner than they would if they were eating healthier.
In any area of life we can decide for ourselves what is normal, and we don’t have to go along with what everyone believes to be normal.
Are you a Paleo / Primal eater? Do you discuss it with people? Do you do anything else that is considered abnormal by people? Let me know in the comments.
It’s the perennial question. Is it possible to make money online in a way that doesn’t involve teaching others how to make money online? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with selling people shovels if they really want to dig for gold. But there are too many people selling advice on how to find valuable ore when they’ve never done any digging themselves.
Then there are all the self-help bloggers among whom a whole set of people that are selling products that will tell you “How to live an awesome life doing something you are passionate about”. I wonder if that’s what the creators dreamed of doing when they were kids? It’s like dreaming of becoming a career counselor.
The question was implicitly raised recently on Corbett Barr’s Think Traffic Site when he announced the topic of the blog he would create in order to showcase his online-money-making skills. ( ThinkTraffic: How To Choose The Perfect Topic To Build A Successful Blog). There was an open vote and the topic that most people wanted for the experiment was: “Blog and Website Design for Non-Designers”.
But then many complained that the topic was too close to what Corbett is already doing with ThinkTraffic and that they would have liked to have seen a niche tackled that wasn’t related to making money online, blogging, seo etc.
Now I’m not looking to pass judgement on Corbett or any other individual. I think it’s great to see people take action, no matter what niches they are working in. But taking in a broader perspective I am cynical about the endless amount of “experts” that try to make money by telling others how to do so.
Maybe these people are making money in other niches and they are reluctant to divulge their secrets in case their ideas get ripped off? I honestly don’t know. But ask yourself if you should be listening to someone who has no track record in any other market.
Is there another way?
I like to deal with reality on this blog and the fact of the matter is that the easiest way to make money is online is certainly by marketing to people’s needs in one of three big areas: Health, Wealth and Relationships.
Helping people to lose weight or get big muscles, get rich and have more sex or better relationships. That’s where the money is. It’s the stuff that’s low on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and that appeals to the masses. These people want to hand you money right now if you promise to solve their problem for them. Why make it harder for yourself than it has to be? Just shut up and take their money.
I can’t fault that thinking. Unfortunately I’m not wired like that, yet. (I’ll leave the door open in case I have a change of heart or find an angle that I’m comfortable with. Never say never.)
So what do you do if your passion isn’t “Helping people make money doing something they are passionate about” or ‘How to make money online’. (I’m assuming for the moment that you do want to work on projects that interest you. Many people feel perfectly fine creating websites and products about topics they have no personal interest in.)
Now I’m not an online-marketing millionaire yet, so keep that in mind. But I do make a little bit of money from online ventures so can give you a few tips.
1. Accept that you have to go through the process of completing projects several times to gain experience and before you hit your stride. This means creating a website (perhaps with a blog), or a YouTube channel. Something that generates traffic, readers, viewers or subscribers. Then start selling them something, either your own product or someone else’s for which you receive a commission.
You may get lucky the first time round but more than likely your first project won’t get much results. However the more times you go through the whole process the easier it gets and the better the results will be. Note that you don’t have to have amazing original ideas at this point. Just go with whatever takes your fancy and have a go at setting up a system: Drive traffic. Sell something.
2. Now it’s time to get more serious. Start thinking about the different interests, hobbies, relationships, business ventures and so forth that you are engaged with in life and see if there is some problem that you have successfully overcome or that you are interested in overcoming. The money is in solving a problem that people have.
3. Go through the process that you’ve been practising in point 1 but apply it to the topic you are interested in. If the problem is one that you are still working through you may have to come up with your own solution. This could actually be a feature of your Blog or YouTube channel. The quest for the solution is then the story that brings in traffic.
Of course if you already have a topic and a problem that is of high interest to you, that is of interest to other people and for which you have a solution then you can apply the process from point 1 straight away. Just be aware to separate the succcess of the system that you set up (Drive traffic. Sell something) from the topic. You may have a great topic but will need to experiment with different systems. Or you may have a great system but the topic is not of interest to enough people.
My first online earnings came from a blog about hypnosis where I reviewed a course created by a friend of mine. (Conversational Hypnosis in case you are interested. Yes that is an affiliate link).
After that I created some of my own products including a recently finished set of E-books and MP3s called Guitar Theory Revolution. It explains music theory to guitar players in a way that is different from how it is conventionally taught.
Now playing guitar is something I love to do, and I always struggled to understand and apply music theory. The way it was described and taught just seemed very illogical to me and I found it very confusing. So I set out to solve the problem for myself and as I went through that process I realised that it was a problem for other guitar players as well.
I don’t know if this will be my ticket to internet millions, but I really enjoyed going through the process of creating the site and the resources. I learned a lot about a topic that is of great interest to me and it is something I will have no problem promoting every opportunity I can. (By the way, if you’re interested you can promote Guitar Theory Revolution through ClickBank and get 75% commission on each sale).
What do you think? Should we just suck it up and sell people get rich, thin and laid quickly schemes? Or do you think it’s better to work on projects that really interest you? Is there a possibility for overlap between the two? Let me know in the comments.
Howard Bloom is a writer and thinker who I enjoy following. While I understand that a lot of what he says is wild speculation and based on unfashionable science (for example, group selection theory of evolution), the fact is that his ideas have helped me practically.
Have a listen to sections of these interviews with him about group selection and dominance hierarchies. Then have a think about where you are in hierarchies and what would happen if you moved up in them. Would that be something worth pursuing?
Listen from 0:22:40 to around 0:30:00
Listen from 0:03:40 to around: 0:14:00
Watch this whole video (It’s only 6 minutes long).
I find it helpful to look at myself as a node in the complex system that is our species. The reality is that my basic needs are met, I have food, water and shelter so my day to day moods are mostly affected by what I (subconsciously) believe my position to be in the dominance hierarchy and whether I’m moving up or down in it.
To be clear this is has little to do with accumulating money and material wealth (plenty of studies show this provides only a short term boost to confidence, self-esteem and happiness), it’s about cultivating in your mind and body the feelings and ideas that you are a ‘success’.
Our ancient biological software and hardware considers itself a success if it is feeling healthy, certain in itself and its understanding of the world (or at least steadily learning more), overcoming hardship and short stressful moments both physical and mental (but not chronic stress), sex, relationships with friends and family.
Bloom’s ideas explain why if you’re on an upward spiral everything in your life seems come easier and easier. And when you’re in a downward spiral, things seems to go from bad to worse.
Be aware of how your body and mind are reacting to your position and direction and make efforts to ensure you’re always growing, moving up, testing yourself, expanding and learning.
One of the projects I’m working on is a website for guitar players that want to learn music theory. Specifically it’s for new guitarists and those that have tried learning music theory in the past but have struggled with it or found it hard to apply in practice.
Now I don’t claim to be a virtuoso guitar player, I plan to get a lot better. But something I am good at is trying out new ideas, being creative and not being afraid of breaking the rules.
So when it comes to the guitar I teach in a slightly different way than most. An example is shown in the video below. Now if you’re not a guitar player it might not make much sense to you, but the main point to take away is that most guitar players count the notes they are using from 1 upwards. So they count: 1, 2, 3, 4 etc…. while I count: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4… etc.
There are various reason for this, which can be summed up as follows: The old way works for a lot of people but not everyone. So I came up with a different way to serve the needs of those left out.
Now I realise my approach is controversial, so when I post my videos on various social media sites I add a disclaimer like the following:
“I know some of you take offence at the way I teach. Please be open minded and understand that not everyone learns in the same way and that some people benefit from the way I explain things.
But that doesn’t deter critics. Just look at some of the comments I receive.
“Then you teach people a system with 12 different numbers to navigate. You go on to teach people that the root should be “0″ instead of “1″. I cringed. Then you say the formula for a major chord is “0-4-7″ instead of “1-3-5.”
“Your right some people do have trouble learning conventional methods but these methods are what make up musical structure. You take the tried and tested ways of creating music then you develop your own style once you understand the principles.If you had trouble with maths then you would’nt make up your own mathmatical method and say “well i couldn’t get my head round the other way so i made up my own” It would just be wrong because it’s not the way it’s done.”
“How about showing us the proper method that every experienced guitarist will recognise ?Thanks for taking the time but i don’t think it’s a good idea to stray from the path when learning music theory thats been established for hundreds of years. Pass.”
Now I don’t mind fair criticism, but what I don’t agree with is this idea that we should do things just because that’s how they’ve always been done. I don’t think I need to explain why I think that’s a poor way to go about things.
The funny thing is that my lessons get plenty of positive feedback when I post them on social media sites, it’s just that it’s mostly anonymous. It seems that people who disagree with my approach are more likely to log in and voice their opinions, while those that like what I’m doing are quietly appreciative and just “upvote”, “digg” and “like” my stuff.
There are are a few that write to tell me that appreciate what I’m doing but on the whole my supporters are less vocal than the detractors.
“I’ve been scrutinizing my fretboard for quite a few years now and this is one of the best ways to look at it. Great insight!”
“Thanks for these lessons, they are better than anything I’ve bought to educate myself”
I fully accept that I may be wrong in my approach. But what’s the harm if it works for me and a couple of others, even if we are a minority? Being different somehow offends people or makes them feel threatened.
There’s something more going on here than just believing I’m wrong. Because I see this kind of behaviour happen in all kinds of areas. In fact, like many of you I’ve been subject to negative comments about my behaviour throughout my life. Whether it’s due to my choice in clothing, the music I like to listen to, what I like to eat, all kinds of things. There’s no shortage of people that like to tell me that what I’m doing is weird and not normal.
A helpful way to think about why this happens is to use some of the ideas that Howard Bloom wrote about in Global Brain. He proposes the that individuals within a system can be described at either conformity enforcers or diversity generators. Broadly speaking conformity enforcers want to keep things as they are while diversity generators takes risks and mutate more readily.
I’m a diversity generator. I take risk, I try new things, I mutate freely. Yes I get things wrong, I fail and I mess up. But that’s what risk is about; a chance for success and a chance for failure.
Many of you are like me in this respect and I hope that thinking about it in this way will give you more confidence to experiment more and try things out for yourself regardless of the comments you get from others.
You’re far more intelligent than those who rely on group consensus to show them how to live their lives. All you have to ask is: “How is that working out for them?”
And of course: “How is doing what I do working out for me?”
So while there is a time and place to consider what the group is doing, there’s also a time for experimentation. And that will inevitably bring criticism. However a lot of criticism isn’t well thought out, just a knee jerk reaction against anything that is new and different.
And when you get that type of reaction you know you’re pushing past the edge of what is permissible, normal and possible. I don’t know about you but that’s where I like to be.
If you’ve always done what you’ve done before you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.
If you want what you’ve never had before you have to do what you’ve never done before.
I’ve recently started taking part in live blues-jams down at a local pub. My previous music project fell apart but I didn’t want to stop performing. When I stumbled upon this local jam-night it felt like the perfect thing to get involved with.
I decided that I was going to check the night out before joining in. I wanted to talk to the organisers, see what the skill-level of all the musicians was like and whether they we’re open to having beginners join in. But once I was at the pub I got talking to the house-band, and when they asked if I wanted to play that night I thought to myself: ‘Why not?’. An hour later I was up on stage doing my best to keep up.
In the past I would have probably declined and taken some time to practise more and psych myself up for the performance. But I’ve managed to change my approach to these kinds of situations somewhat over the past few years.
I used to be quite a cautious person, often worrying about things that could go wrong rather than focusing on all the things that can go right. And I would feel the need to practice and prepare for far too long.
But I’m slowly curbing my need to prepare indefinitely and these days I’m much more likely to get stuck in and learn on the go. I just accept that I’m going to suck at any new endeavour and that it’s the only way to really improve.
I guess it’s common sense but it’s just not how I was operating for a long time. My acceptance that learning a new skill involves putting myself in these kinds of situations is related to what I’ve learned about talent. It doesn’t exist.
The idea that people have any innate talent for any skill (I’m not talking about physical advantages such as height for basketball players) is something I no longer believe in. When I see another guitar player on stage playing a brilliant solo I no longer envy their talent. I just admire their hard-work and their ability to perform authentically.
Time and time again it’s been shown that individuals that are thought to possess innate talent just practise a lot more than everyone else. Think Mozart was particularly talented? No, he just practised playing piano for thousands of hours from a young age. He didn’t write any noteworthy music until he had been composing for 10 years. Was Tiger Woods born to play golf? Not really, he was just lucky enough to be born to father who put a golf-club in his hands as soon as he could walk. (Check out the book Bounce for more examples of how practice trumps talent).
The only luck people like that have is that they are born into an environment that supports and pushes them to become better in a particular field from a young age. They’re lucky to have had a head-start but that doesn’t mean you can’t decide for yourself to put 10,000 hours of practice into something in order to become really good (See the 10,000 hours rule in Outliers).
I think the the idea of ‘talent’ is in fact quite damaging. From a young age people are told that they are innately good at some things and not so good at others. It is false and completely warps their sense of reality and what it is possible for them to achieve.
When I was younger I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was good at and what my place in the world was. In my opinion that’s the result of growing up in a world where people are described as having innate talents. In school these ideas are ingrained by things like aptitude tests. The reality is that you can be great at pretty much anything if you put enough practice in. It sounds cheesy but it’s the truth.
What do you think, is there such a thing as talent? Do you think you have a talent for something or are naturally inclined for some activities? Is there anything you have decided you want to become really good at?
This is it, the final day of my 30 day blogging challenge.
My goal was simple:
I’m setting myself a 30 day blogging challenge on the topic of authenticity. I may write about something I did that day, someone I spoke to, a book or article I’ve read, or simply post about what is on my mind. I might even put up the occasional video. As long as I post something every single day for the month of June.
I knew before hand that I wouldn’t be able to write long articles every day, so I gave myself leeway to post different kinds of media. The only real cheat was day 18 when I simply posted the song: Be Yourself by Audioslave. Unfortunately no one is yet paying me to think and write about authenticity so I didn’t always have much time to spend on this blog.
But overall I’m satisfied with the project and will mark it as a success.
Part of me was a little hesitant to tackle this topic, as I acknowledged (and some readers commented) the topic is a vague one. It’s hard to pin down exactly what we’re talking about and there’s the constant danger of straying into woo-woo new-age territory. But I’m happy that I kept things relevant to reality and hope that you guys have learned a thing or two that you an apply in real life.
A final note, you might have noticed that I avoided examining authenticity through the prism of ‘real’ philosophy in these posts (Nietzsche, Adorno, Heidegger etc.), that was a conscious decision. I just didn’t want to get involved with definitions and language games at this point. Maybe next time.
So now you have an insight into the topic of authenticity, what do you think of it?
Is it useful to think about and apply in your life? Or is it just nonsense? Let me know in the comments!
Also consider what kind of websites you visit, reading about celebrities isn’t much better than watching them on TV.
Examine the feelings you get when using social media, both positive and negative and be aware of how it may be affecting you.
In the same way that your body needs to clear out waste periodically, you should do the same with your mind. Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual. It’s just a way to clear your mind and train your ability to focus.
You don’t have to be radically honest about everything with everyone. Start being honest with yourself and take little steps towards being more honest.
See how far you can push it, then pull back if necessary.
4. Accept chaos, practice more trial and error
You probably overestimate the amount of control you have over many aspects of your life. Accept the chaotic nature of the universe, pick goals and move towards them with less planning and more trial and error.
5. Act more impulsively
Follow your instincts and impulses more. They served generations of your ancestors just fine. You’ll probably break plenty of social conventions this way but you’ll find out which ones are there for a reason and which ones are just bull-shit rituals and traditions.
Obviously do not do anything dangerous or anything that will bring harm (even inadvertently) to others.
6. Deal with reality as it is, not how you wish it was
Investigate the models you have of how the world operates and test them. If you find evidence that contradicts your model, then it’s time to adjust it.
7. Find values and live by them
After all of the above you should have a better sense of what you want, what other people want and what we all actually end up doing.
It’s time to choose a compass and a direction and start travelling.
Think about what you value, maybe it’s money, fame, honesty, truth, security, adventure, equality, danger or health.
It doesn’t matter, just choose something and move towards it.
I’m entering the last three days of my blogging challenge and it’s time to start wrapping up to see if I’ve learned anything useful.
First of all I gained a little more clarity on one of the reasons why I find the topic interesting. That is, I’ve been looking for values to guide me and believed that authenticity could have been a kind of compass to better direct my decision making. However I now see it as a tool to help me discover, choose or create my values.
I realised that some of my thinking showed an assumption of some core self, and I don’t believe that to be the case. But I do think we can hang these ideas on something solid: our biology and the fact that we are social animals.
We have to accept that reality. That people observe eachother’s body-language, voice tone and eye-contact to get a sense of how much congruence there is between what they say and what they do. So that we know who to trust and follow.
It’s important to understand that and know how to work with it because a full belief in yourself gets you very far in this social world.
That brings me back to the idea of finding or creating values to guide me. If I want to be guided by values I need to know where they come from and how they are created.
The problem with tying internet-wide identity to a broadcast network like Facebook is that people don’t want one normalized identity, either in real life, or virtually.
People yearn to be individuals. They want to be authentic. They have numerous different groups of real-life friends. They stylize conversations. They are emotional and have an innate need to connect on different levels with different people. This is because humans are born with an instinctual desire to understand the broader context of their surroundings and build rapport, a social awareness often called emotional intelligence.
Face it, authenticity goes way down when people know their 700 friends, grandma, and 5 ex-girlfriends are tuning in each time they post something on the web.