the miserable bastard's self help guide

If you are struggling, read this.

The thing about this thing, or, at least, this first week of this thing, is how it takes you out there to the cold planet again and again and again, when you aren’t expecting it. Long, undulating waves of fear pull you out to where you are alone and unreachable, even by words sent from the strongest satellite.

The thing that brings you back is love.

Xeni Jardin shares something intensely private.

Some things I learned this year.

Funnel year in review

So. I wasn’t quite sure where to post this online. This seems like the right place so I’m posting it here. It has been a strange year for me. I turn 31 tomorrow and I wanted to take a few minutes to share some stuff I learned this year.

1. This too, shall pass.

Everything, even the worst thing that you can imagine will eventually pass. It doesn’t seem like they will at the time, and everyone will tell you something like this, but I promise to you, this too shall pass. Hang in there if things are tough for you right now, it will get better.

2. Be lucky.

There is no substitute for friendships, family and people who care for you. I am grateful especially for my dad (who is my hero even though he likes talking with strangers at the tip about the qualities of trailers). I am also massively grateful for my big brother Duncan who helped me straighten out a path forward even when things were a bit shit. I am profoundly grateful to my mate Mick who listened, encouraged, and looked out for me as he has done for just about as long as I have known him. Thankyou to everyone else who has helped out this year, I’m grateful for you and proud to call you my friends.

My friends and family have really looked out for me this year and in that I am incredibly lucky. My clients were understanding and awesome even when I was, frankly, a bit of a retard. Make your own luck and cultivate good relationships with everyone because it’s the right thing to do and sometimes, it’ll save your skin.

3. You can change.

When things get gnarly you tend to realise how dramatically your life circumstances can change. Things are set in stone until they are not. Once you start changing your life other things can change too. You are never stuck where you are, except in your head. If you want to change something, don’t wait, just do it. Never be frustrated by circumstance because it can change irrevocably in minutes, so don’t wait for someone to make things happen for you.

4. Get moving.

I had forgotten how important being fit and healthy is. I forgot how much of a difference it makes to you (Spoiler: A huge difference). If you are struggling with any sort of imbalance, distress or just everyday stress there is no substitute for getting out there and doing something.

Run, walk, ride, kayak, whatever, just get moving. It’ll fix you when you’re done talking and you’re ready to start over. Get on the bike tomorrow, or even better, now. Once again, here I owe a debt to lots of people but especially to my big bro Duncan for helping me get moving again.

I went from misery on two legs, to a bearded god of man (I kid, I kid). But honestly, you can do this if you’re willing to dig in. I participated in my first multisport race in October, and I’m planning to compete solo in all four disciplines for the first time in February next year. Clichés aside: If I can do it, you can too.

5. Things are looking up.

Things are looking up. I feel lucky, I am happy and healthy these days and that’s more than enough to be grateful for.

Excellent. Haven’t posted recently because I’ve been a miserable bastard. Happens to everyone. Getting back on top of it now though.

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.

Or, why being a grumpy shithead is less fun than it seems.

Louis CK clip courtesy of Drew Monge.

Watch this and come back. I’ll wait. It’s genius and it’s 100% true. And it comes back to one of my recurring themes of my personal miserable bastardry. Which is:

Don't feel shit - the mental space to reflect on why you feel shit is so much more than some people have

We all have crap to deal with, and we all have experiences which we’d rather not have. You don’t want my problems I, most likely, don’t want yours. And I know that could exasperate people who are feeling pretty ordinary - I’m not actually asking you to feel grateful that life has served you up a shit sandwich. Just that thanks to a long line of people who have come before you, you don’t have to eat shit sandwiches everyday.

The problem is not that though. It’s just that it’s actually sort of fun to be grumpy. You can be sarcastic about things and you can let people know exactly what you think. You can even control conversation and your relationships if you’re a bit of a shit. (Creepy control tricks in relationships are a perilously messed up road and will never result in good times, but still we persist in being cranky, even when it get down to it, we’re often not really that cranky.)

The problem is that once you head down the road of being an irritable shit, it’s hard to go back, and it will become worse over time, and the end result is that you’re not that much fun to be around. I want lots of folks turning up to my funeral so I can all make them listen to AC/DC while my ashes (mixed in with glitter and confetti) are shot out of a cannon into the sea. If I continue down the road of being a dick, then nobody comes and an awesome funeral is wasted.

But if you’re a miserable bastard and you don’t really know what to do with this kind of Hallmark card psychology (as it probably rankles and annoys you) you probably want an actual thought here.

So here’s my suggestion. Start very small, but start today. Do something that’s good for you, good for someone else or just plain good. It will have an effect on you. There’s this thing called a virtuous circle. Basically it’s that when you do good things are you are rewarded for them, more good stuff comes your way. This is not karma per-se, just common sense.

Do the damn dishes. Whateve </body></html>

Stuff doesn’t get easier

Difficulty curve

Today I’d like to talk about the difficulty curve. Everyone says that things get easier. That’s a nice idea but it’s not entirely true. As a miserable bastard you should know that “Everyone” should be put in the same basket of common wisdom of “They say”.

Here’s a video game analogy. In the first levels of a video game, every thing is sunny, the monsters are easy to deal with and you’re gently introduced to the way that particular video game works. You’re having fun, and before you know it, you’ve found yourself at the top of the game, knowing intuitively how things work and you’re dealing death and stomping those monsters like nobodies business. You’re awesome at it, and it feels pretty great. You’re the best plumber in the kingdom and you’ve found the princess.

That’s what a functioning difficulty curve looks like. A broken game however, will ramp up that difficulty too quickly and you’ll end up getting frustrated and beaten by the game’s systems. It’s not fair and you don’t want to play. So you don’t.

Each day things get more complicated, we willingly take on more distractions and aspects to our lives. These hobbies, relationships and activities all add meaning to our lives. But with those extra things we also add in all this mental clutter. It makes it hard to make decisions and see our way through when the going gets tough.

Your work will only ever get harder usually. You take on extra responsibility, your workplace expects more out of you and you mostly deliver.

Quite a few times over the last few years I’ve asked myself “shit is this ever going to get any easier?” and it occurred to me that, nope, it’s always hard growing and that’s why things are so damn tough.

So - here’s the point. Things only ever get harder, but you’re getting better and better at dealing with stuff, and if you’re not, you either need to learn how to, or ask for help so you can.

Now you could be forgiven for thinking, “welp, that’s a bit shit and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and I might as well pack it in”. You’d be an idiot. The truth is the stuff that stresses us out is often in our control, but we often put in a huge pile of stuff to deal with later. Sometimes stuff is out of our control, but there’s a surprising amount of stuff you can deal with if you roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

There’s nothing wrong with being stressed, and feeling like everything is on top of you. That’s pretty common, but it’s how you deal with it that is the key to being happy and healthy.

So how do you actually deal with it when it’s all too much then? You need to recognise that this is just another step along the road and you’ll probably be nostalgic for this time in a few years time when your life has moved on. We mostly remember the good stuff and not the bad (unless the bad is really bad).

So the best way to deal with this is to remember and understand how you found yourself in the position you’re in now - actually think about your decisions for example:

I work for myself. I have a really stressful, full on life as I have to deal with my suppliers, my bookwork, my clients and my workload and that’s when everything is going right. When the shit hits the fan, it’s easy for me to wish I had somebody to sort it all out for me, or perhaps to daydream about when I used to work in a music store.

So if you’re asking me to define happy how about this: “I ended up here because I made a bunch of decisions and I’d still make the same decisions today”.

I accept that my life is stressful and busy, but as a result of being a bit zen about the clutter and nonsense of bad clients, bad suppliers and things out of my control, my life is less stressful because I’m not worried about it, I’m just dealing with what I can actually sort out.

Dealing with stuff small chunks is a simple way to stop the bullshit and the stress. You can only control what’s in your hands. Stefan Sagmiester said it best when he said, "Complaining is silly. Either act or forget."

And the next step is simple. Plan. Plan like an aboslute motherf*$ker. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a way forward. If you are miserable then you need to work out a way forward. A way forward doesn’t have to be anything dramatic. Taking 30 minutes a day to exercise will change your life - not today, and not tomorrow but it will.

You can make crazy dramatic steps, or little incremental ones, but the important thing is look at your life, identify the bullshit and the stress and either act or forget. Stuff doesn’t get easier, you just get better at dealing with it.

Either Act, or Forget - Stefan Sagmeister

If you’re at breaking point and struggling with stress, bullying, personal issues this message is especially for you: Don’t give up. Stuff doesn’t get easier, but it will get better. Hang in there and push on, you’ll get there. Don’t ever let stop fighting for your life. Don’t let the bastards get you down. You will get there.

So what exactly is the point of this then?

I was up late at night staring the ceiling. I’ve been reading a lot of self help books. They’re all pretty rubbish actually. They are written for the sort of people who buy self help books.

So it occurred to me, what I need to do is write a self help book/blog which is written for the people who actually need help. The miserable bastards. If you’re a grumpy troglodyte who hates everything, I hope this is of some use to you. If your day is paved with sunshine and kittens, I doubt you’ll get much out of this.

What qualifies me to write such a thing? It’s the internet, I don’t actually need a qualification at all. That said, I’m technically not a Miserable Bastard, I’m a bit manic and that qualifies me as the manic energy is what I’m using to write this, and the miserable I get when I’m not up is where I draw my experience from.

What’s wrong with self help books at the moment? They’re generally a bit terrible, they waffle on about philosophers who were on the bleeding edge of thinking a thousand years ago. I don’t think anyone thinks about what real people think and feel and that’s where TMBSHG steps in. No bullshit - just thoughts about how to improve our collective lot in life without setting nonsense unrealistic goals.

In closing, being happy or at least happier, is attainable for anyone with a bit of commonsense and the will to do something about it. That’s what this is about, and that’s why I’m writing it.