I can sit on the sand for hours if left alone. I run my hands through the grains, feel the ocean break. I watch the gulls and sea eagles drift by.
Silence comes and goes in rhythm with the waves. The silence in my mind sometimes matches it. Thoughts swim by, in and then out of my field of view. At other times they will stick around while I turn them over and over like a seashell in my hands, running my fingers on every curlicue and ridge upon it.
I jump in the cool ocean. No matter the weather, save for a scary stormy sea, I’m in there in the morning. Sometimes I stand only knee deep after a quick soak. Sometimes I drift with the current in a clear turquoise sea, looking towards the headlands and the secrets they enclose, then seawards towards the rising sun. I squint from the salt and brightness, feeling the soothing bath of the elements relaxing and yet somehow energising me.
I look towards the house where my family is staying. We come here a couple of times a year in various seasons. My family is asleep still, rocked by the sound of the crashing surf.
We live the mountains a couple of hours away, but the beach is where I feel refreshed and reawakened. I bring problems to the ocean for solutions. The ocean brings perspective. In some primal amniotic way the ocean either integrates or flushes the problem, leaving it for the scavengers in the deep.
I want to buy a beach house. I want to have a place to bring my family whenever I want. I spend some time each day looking in the real estate windows, dreaming. My wife and I sit at the table with the ocean outside, and discuss the potential for buying, re-mortgaging, borrowing, finding an investor, buying and renting through Airbnb. We lounge on the deck with champagne and measure the costs, imagining how we can pay the rates, the electricity, the water. We muddle in the sand and dream our little dream of being at the beach with our family and each other, warm in each other’s embrace, cuddles on the couch and adventures by the sea. We imagine our boys catching puffer fish in the rock pools and fishing off the headland, cooking their prizes in butter and lemon, flour and salt.
I wake up and head to the beach. I feel the sand between my toes, grainy and cool. I walk straight into the water and she welcomes me, swirling between my legs, drawing me gently in to her cool enclosure while I take long breaths in and out, feeling the joy of my aliveness.
I look towards our house, where we stay each year. It’s a beautiful mansion to us. Our friends own it and we stay here for free, a week at a time. We pay no rates, no bills, no maintenance fees. We spend no time checking Airbnb to see if anyone is staying this week, if we can afford the mortgage. We have no stress over having two properties miles apart.
One of the two main functions of this blog is to show men that self-change is possible. And not just a little change. Complete, one-hundred-and-eighty degree change. Turn your life around, from the bottom to the top kinda change. This is the kind of change that I have brought about in my own life through years of practice.
The second function is to show that this change can happen at any point in your life. Age is no barrier to change if you want to do it. All you really need is the patience to negotiate the land-mines of personality disruption. You need, at minimum, a five to ten year plan to see permanent and visible change.
Self-change has immense potential for surprise. I have completely surprised myself by finally becoming something I didn’t even know I wanted to be: a handyman.
I almost failed woodwork and metalwork at school. I had no patience. My father only wanted me in the shed to hold stuff for him, and had no patience for me to learn the skills I needed. Most of the tools completely mystified me.
It wasn’t until I was thirty that I started thinking differently about fixing and building. The great motivator was my father-in-law. He had (and still has) a fantastic attitude to fixing what’s broke: give it a go, and if it don’t work, take it to the shop.
Once the engine blew up in my Subaru wagon. Unbeknownst to me, he bought another wagon from the wreckers, called me to his house, and told me that we were gonna swap engines.
I was aghast.
“But that’s a mechanic’s job! We’re not bloody mechanics!”
His confidence won me over and despite not knowing an alternator from my asshole, I decided to trust him to get it going. Two days later, we got it running. I asked him afterwards how many engine swaps he’d done.
“That’s my first one” he replied.
To this day it’s was one of the greatest “fake-it-til-you-make-its” I’ve ever seen. It educated me to the power of doing stuff yourself, giving things a go, and throwing shit against a wall until it sticks.
Many men reading this will have read Jack Donovan’s The Way Of Men. As he states, mastery is part of what makes men manly. The drive to do things over and over again until mastered is innnate to many men. The great thing about the shed is you don’t have to consciously “practice”. There’s no need to sit down and practice planing or drilling. You just try stuff out and do things, and the practice comes from that. I’ve spent years just mucking around here and there, fixing something every couple of weeks, doing something around the house, and I’ve finally reached a confidence level where creativity can happen. I’ve been learning the rules so I can break them occasionally.
So I’ve been collecting tools and materials and building my shed into a handyman’s paradise. My goal has been to get to a point where I no longer have to go to the hardware store to complete a job. It is such a ball-ache to stop halfway through a job to get a pack of screws or oil or some tiny thing. A one hour job turns into several hours, and your momentum get all screwed up.
I’ve been on holidays for ten days now and I’ve done a bunch of stuff:
I laid a rock wall.
I built a timber box.
I built another box.
I got this motor running and only almost electrocuted myself once.
I put together an old old table saw and considered running it with the above motor. I then decided against it when I found the motor runs at 16000 rpm. Just slightly too fast.
I fabricated a battery-powered cut-off saw from an old grinder and drill-press.
I ran power to my shed (fuck yeah!).
I put a new bench top on my bench.
I cleaned and consolidated my tools, only keeping the ones I use most often on the board and shelves.
I planed, sanded and finished some fascia boards.
My compressor that wasn’t building pressure so I broke it down and repaired it.
I fixed the power steering pump in my car.
I have never enjoyed myself so much. I’ve spent a couple of hours every day in ecstasy, using my tools, getting better at them, revelling in my own sense of mastery, and watching my property approach the picture in my head. Those days of frustration in the woodwork shop are gone.
Part of my satisfaction come from rejecting the need to do everything today. Impatience and the focus on getting immediate results destroys the enjoyment. The happiness in building comes from the time it takes, the journey rather than the destination. Patience is required, a lot of it, and as I get older, the more patient I get. There is no need to rush. I move one mile at a time. One step, then another, then another, until the job is done. It is a truly beautiful and satisfying feeling.
Boys, go get yourself a shed, and experience mastery for yourselves.
The organization I worked for seemed to do everything in the worst way possible. I had just developed my iPhone apps, looked around, and saw that the IT component of my work operated just like the washed-up body of a bloated whale; i.e. Completely Fucked With Shit Everywhere.
Now, I work a blue-collar job. I tighten nuts and bolts for a living. I love what I do; it’s very rewarding. It’s reasonably technical, and a lot like a chess game; all the pieces have to be in the right place at the right time.
But, like a lot of blue-collars, I know that physical work carries a limited life-span. Digging trenches and carrying loads into my fifties and sixties motivates me like an icepick in the eye.
I also know that there is a very hard ceiling on my wallet. Two years ago I was five years into my job and three-quarters of the way to that ceiling. Knowing that for the rest of my life I would be relying on the company agreeing to wage rises to guarantee an increase in my standard of living put a monumental dampener on any enjoyment I had in my work.
Every job I worked has been better than the one before. That’s not by accident. I think it should be the goal of intelligent young man to weigh his work up and improve his lot.
The questions I have asked myself are:
Money: Does it pay more? Does a higher annual rate mean you’ll be working more hours (not good), or that the hourly rate is higher (very good)?
Conditions: Do you work your ass off, or is it a laid back environment? Are there contract conditions that make your job more enjoyable?
Experience: Is this job going to help you down the track? Will you learn manual, leadership or technical skills that make you more awesome outside of your job?
Time: How much time do you save each week at this job?
I dunno about you, but I want to spend as little time as possible working at my job. I would rather be working on building an independent income, enjoying my hobbies, and playing with my kids.
Travel time to the job takes that time away. Overtime work takes that time away. Working weekends takes that time away, and you will never ever have it again. Getting paid for overtime is only cool if you REALLY NEED the money, ie you can’t eat or have nowhere to sleep.
Most middle class bovines work overtime so they can spend it on their new couch. That’s eight hours of your life GONE. It’s gone working for someone else’s agenda and some overpriced tartan furniture.
All these things were on my mind. But that’s not why I wrote that hate-filled email.
Back to being righteously pissed.
I hate inefficiency. Even when making breakfast, I do it in the most efficient way possible. I make the minimum of trips to the fridge, to the cupboard. When someone moves my oatmeal, I start breaking shit.
So when I started working for this bloated corpse of a company, I felt a lot of internal turmoil. Things were outdated, software was redundant, double-handling was rife. Working there rubbed against many of the things I held dear.
I gathered my pissed-offedness and hate into a mental USB stick and downloaded it into an email. Several rewrites later I had a frothing, laser-sharp review of the atrocious nature of our IT. After staring at the screen blankly for a few moments, I took my future into my control.
I sent it to the GM.
Immediately I started sweating. But I backed myself. Come what may, I’d said my piece. I was doing my bit to battle the burden of omniscience.
After a tense two weeks in which I wondered whether I still had my job, I received a reply. The GM thanked me profusely and put me in touch with the manager of IT, who then ensured I had access to the people who could make a difference.
Two years later and that email is paying off with a move to IT.
I really wanted permission to send that email. But I asked no one and told no one. I was scared, but it payed off in spades. During #NoNothingNovember as I reflect on not asking for permission, it strikes me as no coincidence that the most audacious act of my working life would occur now.
I have no degree. I don’t need one. If you’ve never been to university you’d be surprised how stupid 90% of the students are. I’ve worked only sales and blue collar jobs. Many of the men there are far more intelligent than any graduate.
If you are working a blue collar job, and you want something more, you can move on and up. Do not believe them when they say you MUST have a degree or qualification. If you are intelligent enough, if you show enough initiative, people will find YOU.
This post was going to be called 10 Things a Man Should Do Alone. But seriously, if you’re not already working out, educating yourself, writing to get your thoughts in order, and working on some skill or hobby, then get out and start before your vagina goes all Ouroboros on yoself.
Instead I’m going to discuss being alone, and share with you the things I’m not sure many men do. To me, however, these are the things that propelled me quickly (relatively speaking) from being a socially-retarded loser to fully-functioning self-actualising human.
Be Alone. But Don’t Be A Fucking Psychopath
Being alone is the fucking coolest thing on earth, and is highly under-rated by the majority of the population. Assuming you are not alone because of socialisation problems like some psychopathic school kid, it is where you recharge, take stock, and get to know where you’re succeeding and failing.
Alone time is especially important to me, cos I have kids. And holy shitballs, do they suck the time away. It’s tough enough getting laid with my wife, let alone getting time by myself. If you’ve got kids, you need to take the time to take time out.
There’s a bunch of things a man should do alone. Any of these can be done with others, but being alone removes the Need To Socialise. Socialising means communicating, competing, and seeking attention. It’s tough to understand how much of this you do without being alone for extended periods of time.
There are a bunch of socialisation patterns you use with everyone you know, and without being alone you will never know of your choices: using those patterns, changing to other patterns, or burning them with the other useless paraphernalia of your life.
Being alone is also the only time you’ll hear yourself. A lot of this has to do with socialisation patterns. It takes a significant amount of time (thirty minutes to an hour) of conscious awareness of being alone before socialisation breaks down and the inner you starts to be heard.
Silence In A World Of Noise, Aka Smartphones Make You Miserable In A Happy Way
Today’s world is one of noise. Almost everyone I meet wants to fill it with more. People love the sound of their own voices, regardless of whether they add value, or create filth.
But it’s not just the audible noise that I want to discuss. Every bit of data that you see, hear, taste, touch and smell takes attention. Think of attention as a fuel tank. There is only so much you have per day, per week, per year.
With our cache of attention we can absorb noise, or we can absorb signal. The noise is rubbish, redundancy, rehashes. The signal is novelty, newness, interest. Noise is obviously trash, and we want as little as possible. It’s like using fuel to run your car on a rolling pad. It takes you nowhere. Signal on the other hand can often take us from A to B. It can educate and inspire. But not always.
The problem with signal, and it is a huge problem in today’s world, is that it is addictive. In previous eras the information problem was a huge ratio of noise to signal. Now that we have all of humanity’s data available to us, the problem is reversed. We now see an immense section of society addicted to novelty.
Almost everyone I know under the age of 40 cannot leave their phones alone. Every minute of spare time, literally as soon as there is nothing to do, the phones come out. I have not been immune to this. It became an awful habit.
And the worst part?
I often didn’t need to check anything. Phones and the internet are great for getting directions, finding tradesmen, making appointments, and googling important and timely data. But 90% of the time I needed none of those things. All I wanted was a distraction.
In actuality, what I needed was a hit.
You’ve probably heard about dopamine before, and its effects on the brain. It’s often touted as a “reward chemical” or part of the brain’s “reward center,” but more recent research has shown that, like novelty, it’s actually more closely related to our motivation to seek rewards rather than being a reward itself. Animal studies around the brain’s reaction to novelty have suggested increased dopamine levels in the context of novelty. So the brain reacts to novelty by releasing dopamine which makes us want to go exploring in search of a reward.
The problem is that because dopamine encourages us to seek rewards, it may be encouraging us to look for more, and more, and more stuff on the internet. We get sucked into long cycles of internet surfing because our brain is reward-seeking due to the dopamine hits from novel information. Every time we see something new, it only primes us for more surfing.
So, rather than being a useful pastime, phone and internet use has become an addiction. It is robbing you of your life, your time, and your health. My eyes have not been the same since my first smartphone. The fine motor muscles are extremely tight, and I find it much more difficult to actually “see” my surroundings. I look, but I my eyes don’t engage.
How Do We Escape This Pernicious Habit? And What Does Pernicious Mean?
We need silence. Utter digital silence. Our brains have been changed by the internet. We need to restrict this change.
We still have a beautiful world around us! But how many of us notice it? Do we notice anything less than the change of seasons anymore?
As men it is our charge to remember how the world is. One day the internet may disappear. We must be able to remember how to live without it. Women can keep their Facebook and the rest. They are far more distracted than we are.
When you are alone, put away your phone. It is a simple task, and you WILL struggle with it. It is a habit you have to break. Use your phone only when others are around, if you must use it at all. Alone time is much too valuable to waste on phone surfing.
When you are alone it is important to keep this digital silence. It is distracting you from hearing the awesome within you. Being alone is the only time you can hear this voice trying to erupt from the depths.
Self Reflection and Self Therapy
This is the most important task you will ever perform in your life. Sometimes you will do it every day, at other times you will go months without it. But always you will come back.
Why do you stop when you are within arm’s reach of your goals? Why do you sabotage your relationships? Why can you not keep a job? Why is missionary your favourite (and only) position?
Have you asked yourself the deep questions of your life? These questions are the ones that will enable change in you life. You may never get a clear answer, and you will not change with any speed. But self-therapy is the way forward, and every man who is not perfect should practice it.
It’s the only way I have found to guarantee forward progress. If you are stuck in a rut in life, and frustrating yourself with your inability to change, then there are likely psychological, emotional and physical barriers preventing you from getting on with life.
Therapy ain’t for pussies either. You don’t have to tell anyone you are doing it. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. Everyone has psychological blocks, even hard-asses. It’s just that hard-asses have the personal control to run through those brick walls when they need to. The rest of us can take the slower, safer but not necessarily easier route.
Self Therapy 101
1. Buy a journal. Write in it. Draw in it. Paint it with custard, I don’t give a fuck. It’s yours and it’s private. No one else is to see inside it. In it should go any observations about yourself you find interesting.
Don’t edit yourself. Remember, no one else will see this ever. Be as honest as you can.
Over time you’ll start to get it. You will begin to understand yourself. You will edit less. It’s not so much a book for re-reading. It’s more about getting ideas out of your head and into a tangible format where you can begin to make sense of the nonsense. Your brain will take what you’ve spewed onto the paper, and begin to work on it without you even knowing about it. It’s pretty much magic.
3. That’s it. Take your time. Take your whole life. Nothing will make you perfect, so don’t rush change. Take at least 12 months then look back and see if you are happier.
What’s the Goal Anywayz?
The goal is to get out of your own way so you can live life. Most people live life on train tracks. The tracks take them to the same places, emotionally, in their relationships and in their life situations.
We want to have choice. We want the ability to experience not just frustration and misery, but happiness and satisfaction. That is a choice. We want to find friends that help and inspire us, rather than drain our energy. That too is a choice. We want to find meaningful work and hobbies that lend ambition and direction to our lives. You can make that choice.
This is the second instalment of this series. You can find the first part here.
Being a dad ain’t rocket science. Some books and blogs would make it seem like you need advanced degrees in psychology and childhood learning before you can play peek-a-boo.
Don’t take that shit. Do what I did in the first part of this series and decide what you want your child to be like. Then, work backwards from there and find the behaviours that will model future character.
It’s really not hard at all, and a lot of it is common sense. For example, if you don’t want a cruel child, don’t be cruel yourself! Only a retard could fail to see that. Are you a retard?
Here’s what I strive for with my children:
Don’t beat up your kids.
This should be obvious. If you want kids who can trust you fully, you need to restrain yourself. Hey look, I’ve smacked my kids on the bum when I’m at the end of my tether. I can count on two hands the times I’ve done it in five years. Sometimes they just know the buttons to press.
When I review the situation after the fact, however, I find that their behaviour is, while not justified, at least somewhat predictable. To warrant bad behaviour, they are usually
tired: from lack of sleep; a big day at some point in the previous three days; from playing with other kids; from a growth spurt.
hungry: from lack of food; or too much junk food.
requiring attention: they haven’t got what they need from you in the past 24 hours.
A child usually cannot tell when he is hungry or tired. How many adults do you know behave badly when they are starving or after a big night out? Expecting a 3 year old or 6 year old to keep their emotions in check is like expecting a labrador to avoid peanut butter jelly time.
Re: that last point, your kids NEED parent time. They don’t need a whole lot, but your kids require your undivided attention for a little while at least. My go-to if I’m tight for time is usually wrestling. I throw them on the bed or trampoline and go to town on them for a set time.
Ultimately, resorting to violence smacks of a lack of imagination. Is my child misbehaving? Should I discover the primary drivers behind this behaviour? Should I uncover what has truly made my child upset? Should I perhaps feed him because he is starving?
I’ll just smack him!
It’s the go-to for stupid people. I’ve never met intelligent person who believes smacking is the answer. The people who smack generally want their child to OBEY, an action with which I am not entirely comfortable. Obedience opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, so it will be the subject of future discussion.
This doesn’t mean I don’t discipline my kids! Kids need boundaries, they need strictness and occasionally severity. But these are not taught through violence.
Don’t tease your kids.
Teasing is the realm of primary school kids. A tease from a parent is never, ever regarded as a joke by the child. Name calling or deliberately annoying them in a cruel way destroys self-esteem, which, contrary to what some fuckheads in the manosphere community would have you believe, is as real in a child’s psychology as its sense of family.
If you want a cruel and self-loathing child, please continue with this stupidity.
Once I saw a boy of about 9 or 10 on a swing, with his dad swinging him. The boy screamed with joy.
“You squeal like a girl!” his father spat.
The boy shut himself up. His face became a mask.
The morals taught? Expression was obviously forbidden, but it was permissible to destroy another’s sense of joy. Another future dickhead was born in that moment.
Don’t do their learning for them.
Most kids naturally have an inordinate sense of patience. So where do they learn frustration and impatience? Their parents.
When my son learnt to do his own buttons up, I was tearing up the walls. I would rather peel my own face off than watch that performance again.
The thing is, I was the only one frustrated. Sitting warmly on my lap, he would find the button, grip it securely, then go to push it through the hole.
And miss. Patiently, slowly, surely, he would again find the button and push through.
And again. And again. AND AGAIN.
Without a murmur. His breathing would become measured by degrees, like a meditation master throat breathing. There was no whinging, no whining. Just trying.
I, meanwhile, was fighting an losing battle. My inner dialogue was rapidly retrenching my desire for my son to independently learn. Each miss sent my chest into spasms, my heart into hammer blows. I so wanted to show him the way, and get it over with.
I finally got control over myself as my boy proudly showed me his shirt, buttoned beautifully. His face was calm, beatific. It had taken him ten minutes. He didn’t mind. Only I did.
Kids don’t do things for the end result. They do things for the doing. I once saw a one-year-old playing Connect Four. He was having a lot of trouble putting the coins into the slots. There was a woman behind him, who, whenever he had difficulty, would slot the coin.
Why on earth would you do that? Having the coin in the slot is only a sign of success. It’s not the point of the boy’s exercise. Remember that next time your child is learning. Children don’t see things as frustrating. They only want to try things, learn, and wonder.
Be in the moment with your kids.
Too often I am merely sitting with my kids. I am not there. My mind is elsewhere, daydreaming, reading, on my phone. I am waiting for My Time (TM).
Being with kids is work. Hard Work. They are alive, so full of energy and always totally in the moment. Playing with them, being with them takes energy, and it is too easy to just be there in body and not in spirit.
That’s too bad, because soon enough it will be gone. They will grow up. My eldest is five already, and it’s just like every parent says: it goes by so fast.
Adam Sandler starred in Click, an otherwise forgettable movie. In it, Sandler finds a magical remote that enables him to play, pause and fast-forward through his life. His skips all the boring bits, but finds that the remote takes note of his selections, and speeds through other parts that are similar. In this way he ploughs through life at hyper-sonic speed to his death.
I often feel this way. Life is the bit lived between work, sleep, meals and parenting. What is left? The hour or two a week you spend on your hobbies? No.
All of Life is Life. Not just the bits you want to enjoy.
If you can live with this in mind, your kids will notice, and respond favourably.
“Let me think about that.”
This is one of the most potent and underused tools in a parents arsenal. You are under no obligation to respond immediately to any request from your kids. You can take all the time you need to decide whether the request is appropriate or not.
Too many times I’ve reacted instinctively to a request, then later regretted my decision. The key word here is “react”. We don’t need to react. We can take the information on board, actively think about it, then hand down a solid decision.
Don’t be a helicopter.
Hover parents are fucking annoying. It’s like they have to micro-manage every part of their child’s life. They make sure nothing untoward happens, that their child is playing appropriately, that their child is bored out of its fucking brain.
They are essentially saying to their child “You are incapable of playing without direct supervision” and “Life is entirely predictable”.
Here’s a tip: stay the fuck away. Let the little bastards hurt themselves. Let them eat sand. Let them give Jimmy a Knuckle Happy Meal and feel the consequences of a three-year-old’s burning wrath.
My boys have scars, cuts and bruises you wouldn’t see on grown men. And guess what? They are fucking smart, co-ordinated and pumped about life. Next to nothing scares them.
Many of their friends look like they were pumped out of a factory production line, cookie-cutter kids. They need mummy’s say-so to try anything new. They run to dad if they fall over.
That’s all right though. Our modern world needs plenty of fodder for the future’s factories. Life is a learning experience, and if you are hovering, you are shitting on your child’s self-education.
A father needs patience more than anything else. He has a whole family to teach, advise, and protect. In his realm he needs to be in control. To lose control is to display weakness and vulnerability to his family.
In extremely specific circumstances losing control is allowable, but 99% of the time it is not. Patience is the ability to remain calm when frustration and anxiety rear their ugly heads. Patience is not easy. But your children will respect you for it.
Patience is difficult, but it is successfully cultivated through practice. Become a calm, solid rock for your children. Be there to listen to them, teach them, and show them the way, and do so in a consistently patient manner.
No/low TV time.
I don’t have a television. When I mention this, the usual reaction is disbelieving silence.
Then: “What do you do at night?”
My answer is generally “Where do you find the time to watch TV?”
It is amazing that TV is so ubiquitous that to not have one is considered outlandish enough as to be unbelievable. What is telling, however, is that the next comments after the above dialogue are often excuses about how they try to watch only “good” shows. Yeah right.
TV hypnotises. That’s all you need to know. Look around you next time you’re watching a show. Everyone looks like they are under anaesthesia. The jaw is slack, the eyes are glazed, the body is relaxed.
When you are under hypnosis you become incredibly vulnerable to suggestion. Is that what you want for your children?
In addition TV moralises in often unhealthy ways. They promote weakness, groupthink, and putting everyone else ahead of yourself. It tells you what the mob thinks you should find important, and informs you of what should cause you anxiety.
While we don’t have a telly, we do watch shows on the iPad or computer. The best part of this is the lack of ads. But we still find that the kids want more and more show time. Shows are great, as every parent knows, because they babysit well. The kids will be where you left them. But of course the downsides are:
TV kids are generally fat
TV kids generally have a bad diet
TV kids lack imagination, and limit their games to mimic the shows they watch
TV kids are more badly behaved and require more parent attention when the TV is not on, because they forget how to play independently
Turn the TV off as often as possible. The more you do it the easier your kids will find it to play independently.
Parenting is a hard task, but it is also problem solving at it’s best. Working out the reasons behind bad behaviour, and coaching your kids towards being fucking awesome is the best thing I’ve done. Let me know in the comments what your rules are. I’m always keen to learn a little more!