Why Quacks Exist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor as long as there have been people, there have been sources of guidance. Deities, prophets, leaders; all have persisted through time and have been highly influential on our world. We look to them for answers to our problems, for ways to improve our lives, and we try to model our own lives in their image or vision. For thousands of years, humans modelled themselves after a god, or many gods, and these all-powerful beings generally rewarded “good” behaviour and punished “bad” behaviour. Unexplainable phenomena were attributed to these beings’ anger or sadness, and joyous, miraculous events were attributed to their pleasure and exuberance in response to our following of their teachings.

Overall, people trusted in their worshipped deity to maintain a natural order to the world, and for thousands of years it seemed like things were going pretty well. Until modern science, putting your faith in whatever deity you worshipped was the best way to explain the intricate workings of the world around you. So, even though it seems incredibly odd and foolish that the Ancient Egyptians believed that Ra, God of the Sun, traveled across the sky each day in the Mandjet and through the Underworld in the Mesektet, this was the best explanation available at the time, because nothing could disprove the logic upon which this belief was based.

This trend continued for thousands of years, while sporadic,  groundbreaking scientific discoveries were made. Even though displacement, the Heliocentric model of the Solar System, gravity, and other major discoveries occurred, the majority of the world still accepted a supernatural force to explain the majority of the phenomena in their daily lives.

As long as there has been deitical worship, there have been those seeking to unseat those in power, influence a number of people, and gain power and money as a result. The most extreme examples of these types of situations are better known as cults. The word cult carries a very negative connotation in today’s world, largely thanks to a string of violent situations over the years involving cults. The mention of Charles Manson’s name still sends chills down people’s spines due to the gruesome murders he and his fellow cult members conducted. The Order of the Solar Temple, the Church of Bible Understanding, and Scientology are other famous examples of cults, though not all are inherently violent in nature.

Tom Cruise speaking at a scientology event. Still psyched about Katie Holmes.

Tom Cruise speaking at a scientology event. Still psyched about Katie Holmes.

Cults all operate under a similar doctrine of exposing members as victims and targeting their weaknesses using fear and humiliation. They eliminate independent thought and coerce members into adopting the core philosophies and the sacred creed of the cult. The leaders of cults are often psychopathic in nature, and the victims in cults are often weak-minded people who are vulnerable to the misleading teachings of the leader and other elders in the cult.

Improper, but powerful logic is wielded as a weapon to cut into the wounds that fear and abandonment have caused for new cult members, as cult members are often seeking refuge from society because they feel as if they do not have an identity within it. Along with the promise of identity, cults offer security, respect, and friendship. These are all core needs of human beings, and this is why the control a cult has over its members is so powerful.

Fear Mongering

Fear is a powerful tool that is employed by many marketing agencies at the core of their techniques. It can either be used explicitly or implicitly, but if you examine the message that a lot of advertisements are sending, most are in fact rooted in fear. Ads for alcohol are mostly targeted at men, and they often depict men consuming whatever beverage is being sold, and while doing so they are surrounded by attractive women. If you pay close attention to most alcohol ads, the women are much more attractive relative to the guys; you rarely see model quality dudes slamming back Bud Light, but all of a sudden the beer touches their lips and they’re surrounded by a bunch of girls approaching Kate Upton levels of hotness.

How does fear play into this? If you don’t drink our beer, you’ll be a loser like this guy was before and you won’t be surrounded by pretty girls at a party.

This pattern applies to all sorts of other products:

i) Buy this shampoo or else your hair (and you) will be ugly and no one will find you attractive

ii) Buy these clothes or else you won’t happy and attractive like our models are

iii) Buy this cleaning product or else your house will be a mess and no one will want to visit you

iv) Buy this car or else women won’t see you as powerful and successful

And it works. No one is immune to the effect that fear has on you; it just affects certain people to a greater degree.

Historically, cults were created to oppose the dominant source of authority at that time. Many people who felt lost or alienated by this authority for whatever reason were scooped up by cults and turned against the rest of the world. Because organized religion was the dominant explanation for life for thousands of years, most cults throughout our ancient history have been religious in nature. If someone felt lost and fearful in the world dominated by organized religion, joining a cult offered them an apparent safe haven. These organizations never really succeeded in making a difference in the world, but many of their vilified acts still live on in infamy. Cults still live on today, but they have a different form for a number of reasons.

Reason 1) A Changing of the Guard

Enter the world today: science has since supplanted organized religion as the governing body of explanation for our observations and questions. In the past, the behaviour of cults, like all humans, was much more violent in nature.

Steven Pinker

Dr. Steven Pinker

Dr. Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. In his book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Dr. Pinker goes into great detail about why we, as humans, have become progressively less violent throughout history. The main reasons are commerce, the adoption of feminist ideologies, and cosmopolitanism. Our modern society values intelligence and being cultured over strength and violence. As a result, modern cultist behaviours mirror this change, and we now embrace the logic and reason that science is comprised of to fight our battles. Even the most famous religious cult, Scientology, gives a nod in its very name to the changing of the guard from organized religion to science.

Mike Adams, founder of NaturalNews.com

Mike Adams, founder of NaturalNews.com

While no formal cults (aside from PETA) exist to oppose the scientific community, many individuals or organizations have sprang up in recent years to try and debunk science, with a particular focus on the food and medical industries.

 

 

Notable examples include Mike Adams, who operates the website NaturalNews.com; Dr. Mehmet Oz of the Dr. Oz show; and Vani Hari, author of the blog FoodBabe.com. These three are at the forefront of the anti-science movement, and most of their dubious claims have been discredited; nonetheless, they still persist today.

Quacks prey on the public’s distrust of science and preference for “alternative” methods to solving their various health problems. They use fear mongering to lash out against large corporations, big pharma, and factory farms. They use fear-mongering buzzwords like “toxin” and “chemical”, and they generally paint the picture that the scientific community is dooming mankind through their freakish laboratory experiments. The problem is that science operates under a methodology of constant checks and balances; peer review prevents bad science from being propagated, and experiments are constantly being replicated and modified due to the open-minded nature of scientists.

 

Reason 2) The Prophet (and Profit) Motive

The prophet motive is why many quacks are the way they are.

The prophet motive is why many quacks are the way they are.

Many quacks are not only influenced by profit but by being a prophet to their loyal followers. Similar to cult leaders, many quacks are pathological narcissists. By becoming a prophet of sorts to a group of people, a quack satisfies their desire for attention and an inflated sense of self. Many quacks were also not entirely content with their profession, as it left them feeling bored or unfulfilled in comparison to the demands of their narcissism.

Dr. Oz was supposedly a successful surgeon and instructor at Columbia Medical School before he launched his quack branding and TV show, so clearly his ego was writing cheques that his job couldn’t cash.

 

 

Notable quack Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopath, perhaps felt inadequate in the earning potential of his profession, so he launched Mercola.com, along with a line of natural health products sold through his website. Now he lives in a multi-million dollar estate in Illinois. Foodbabe and Mike Adams have both made enormous profits off of their quackery, and all of these factors tie into it. If money was the sole motivator, a potential quack could have easily resorted to a well-paying job that was more behind the scenes. By being at the forefront of their respective causes, quacks can simultaneously feed their egos and fill their bank accounts.

Reason 3) The Naturalist Fallacy

Most quacks today spend their time crusading for organic or natural products and against conventional farming. We surely all bought into the hype that was organic food in the mid 2000’s and it was easy to see why: the cultural attitude at that time demanded change. Unfortunately, organic food is not all it’s cracked up to be. If you take time to browse the literature available on organic food, you’ll find a number of conclusions with regards to comparative studies between organic and conventional food. Organic food is not healthier for you, nor is it more nutritious, and the only reason it tastes better is due to a placebo effect. Every single review study published arrived at this conclusion. In addition, while 75% of conventional food contains traces of residual pesticide, what is more alarming is that 25% of organic food contains the same levels. These levels are FDA approved and deemed to be non-toxic, but the illusion that organic food is pesticide free should be apparent by now.

The common pattern these quacks employ is that they will pick on a certain product, for example, fruit juice. The article will go through all the dangers of fruit juice, the industrial processes and poisons thrown into the mix, and then it will leave you hanging, as if there is no hope, which induces fear. Miraculously, the article will then do a complete 180 and showcase a whole host of healthy juices that won’t poison you and aren’t made by evil corporations. They might cost 400% more, but at least you’re in good hands consuming safe, natural products!

A very misleading sign

A very misleading sign

What constitutes “certified organic” is also very misleading. Organic farms still use pesticides, but the only difference is that these pesticides are organic in contrast to conventional synthetic ones. These pesticides have actually been shown to be more harmful than synthetic ones because of their lack of specificity, i.e.. they kill the pest and a whole host of other organisms.

On top of that, because these pesticides aren’t as target specific or effective, they actually have to be sprayed more to have the same desired effect, which is obviously more harmful than using a synthetic pesticide much less. Because of this revealing data from the scientific community, organic food sales have slowed or begun to decline. This is not some big farm conspiracy; organic food has much higher profit margins than conventional food because consumers are simply willing to pay more for it, so it wouldn’t make sense to doom something that makes you more money.

Reason 4) The Internet

 There is a wealth of information out there, and most of it is not policed whatsoever. Anyone can whip up a website and start spouting off facts without any scientific basis behind them trying to convince you that science is wrong and the government is out to get you. Online petitions, photoshop, and other previously unavailable technologies make recruiting new members to your organization so much easier. Facts can be easily twisted because websites can cite sources that are also false in nature, but appear legitimate given the context. The result is a twisted web of fact and fiction that takes a lot of work to sift through, and many people don’t have the time for that; they’d rather just buy that Brazilian power crystal.

What people need to be aware of is that quacks are out to sell you something just as badly as Wal-Mart is. They use the Naturalist Fallacy to their advantage to gouge people for higher prices and inflated senses of worth, but it’s all the same in the end. Educate yourself and be critical of the information presented to you. These individuals are intelligent people who are great at marketing themselves and their beliefs. The internet has made that incredibly easy and efficient to do, and almost anything can appear legitimate at surface glance.

Looking Ahead

There will always be individuals in a society who exhibit distrust of mainstream tastes, and there’s nothing we can do to change that; it is human nature to question the world we live in. However, there is both good and bad inquisition. All that can be done is respectful education and cautioning of the dangers of quack individuals.

Oh, and stay off the Huffington Post.

5 Myths About the Fashion Industry

Fashion is an every day part of our lives (unless you’re a nudist) because the clothes we wear say a lot about who we are as a person. Like all industries, fashion is not immune to stereotyping and myths. Here are some of the common mistakes many people make when it comes clothing and the fashion industry.

Unknown-71) Made in Italy means it’s better.

Prato, Italy

Prato, Italy

Historically speaking, the crown jewel of the textile and garment industry was Italy. Many legendary fashion houses were founded here, and in the city of Prato, the capital of the Italian garment and textile industry, most of these fashion houses set up shop. That was then, and this is now, and in today’s world, Prato is no longer filled with a bunch of adorable old Italian ladies sewing together Italian suits and shoes for fashion houses. Today, Prato is estimated to be home to almost 50,000 migrant Chinese workers, of which less than 10,000 are legal. This makes up for almost a third of the entire population of the city.

 

 

 

A Factory in Prato

A Factory in Prato

The conditions in many of the factories populated by migrant workers are reported as being sweatshop-like, and as a result of the low pay and harsh working conditions, the textiles and garments produced in Prato today pale in comparison to those of the past bearing the same “Made in Italy” label. This label used to be synonymous with quality, but today, many companies are popping up that sell garments with the coveted “Made in Italy” label, often with some phony Italian name attached to the brand as a namesake. This is not to say that major fashion houses are exploiting this cheap labour, as most of these houses retain family-owned garment and textile factories to protect the integrity of the brand, but be aware: next time you see something that is “Made in Italy”, that label might as well read “Made in China”. Ironically enough, this brings me to the second myth.

2) Made in China equals poor quality.

What Italian textile industry was to quality, the Chinese textile industry was to cheap, efficient production. Today, the stigma of “Made in China” is not entirely accurate; yes, there are still thousands of factories that churn out cheaply made products, but in recent years, due to inflation and demand for higher wages, many companies that were previously based in countries with higher standards of employment conditions such as the United States, Canada, and Italy, have recently shifted production to China in order to keep product costs down while maintaining profit margins.

What all Arc'Teryx tags used to say.

What all Arc’Teryx tags used to say.

A Canadian example is the outerwear company Arc’Teryx, a personal favourite of mine. All Arc’Teryx products were designed and manufactured in Canada, but ever since the company changed hands and production was expanded, many Arc’Teryx garments are now manufactured in China. Despite this, the company employs strict quality control standards, and the reputation of their brand has yet to falter despite the change in production location. In fact, company revenue has tripled in the past 5 years. Other companies that manufacture high quality goods in China include: Theory, Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone, and Emporio Armani.

A Chinese worker making an Arc'Teryx Jacket

A Chinese worker making an Arc’Teryx Jacket

The conditions in these factories are much better than the sweatshop like conditions that still plague many Chinese factories to this day. The employees who are working in these garment factories have more extensive training and possess more skill than many of their counterparts working in factories that assemble garments for places like Wal-Mart or the Gap. Essentially, think of it like the difference between the AHL and the NHL; you get paid more because you’re a better player, or in this case, garment maker. As a result, quality is not impacted, only the price of labour.

3) All clothing products made in Asia are of inferior quality to those made in Europe and North America.

A Japanese Denim Mill

A Japanese Denim Mill

Japan has an incredibly rich manufacturing history, as many of the manufacturing techniques and technology were directly imported from America. Japanese denim is widely regarded as the best in the world, as many highly trained artisanal companies have been manufacturing denim the same way for almost a century. Today, most of these denim companies manufacture their products using old shuttle looms, which they procured from Levi Strauss Co. after they shifted much of their production to China in the designer denim boom of the 1980’s. Many high fashion companies also manufacture their clothing in Japan due to the high quality workmanship and technology available in many of the manufacturing prefectures. Global brands such as Dior, PRPS, Nudie, and Robert Geller manufacture many of their products in Japan, or use fabric from Japan to be sewn into garments elsewhere. Japan also has a rich history of fashion design, with common themes including relaxed fits, deconstruction, and a certain casual elegance surrounding many designers’ collections. Workwear is also a fairly popular trend in Japan, and many companies hit it big during the workwear trend that began in 2008. Due to Japan’s rich history of manufacturing, reproduction of the clothing and styles of this era were easily reproducible.

 

Yohji Yamamoto.

Yohji Yamamoto.

The godfather of Japanese fashion, Yohji Yamamoto, has been successful for decades designing clothes that are truly unique, and in my opinion, some of the coolest on the planet. Japan is also home to arguably the best fast fashion company in the world, Uniqlo, who have recently expanded into the North American market with an extremely positive reception. Uniqlo is prized by many fashion hobbyists because of their high quality products and designs compared to other entry level stores such as H&M, The Gap, and Zara.

Three of Yohji Yamamoto's looks. Authentically Japanese and effortlessly cool.

Three of Yohji Yamamoto’s looks. Authentically Japanese and effortlessly cool.

4) A higher price automatically means something is of higher quality.

Stephan Schneider. He designs both the textiles and the garments for his collections. The quality and design that goes into his pieces are second to none, but they are relatively cheap when compared to large fashion houses' products.

Stephan Schneider. He designs both the textiles and the garments for his collections. The quality and design that goes into his pieces are second to none, but they are relatively cheap when compared to large fashion houses’ products.

Many decades-old fashion houses sell clothes not on merit, but simply based on the legacy of their name. Gucci, Prada, Chanel, etc…have rich histories, but their current designers were not the ones who founded the label. Many of these labels suffered slow periods when the industry crashed or when a certain designer was at the helm, but the brand is only as powerful as the designer’s interpretation. This is why I rarely purchase things not from an eponymous label; the designer founded their label on certain aesthetics and a vision, so their passion is so much more evident than in the big houses, which choose designers based on past history, but pay them a handsome salary in the process. As a result, the drive and the passion is sometimes lost in the money, while smaller labels still trying to prove themselves are inherently more exciting.   What’s nice about these smaller labels is that because the designer is trying to gain a foothold in the industry and form a following of fans, prices are often lower. It’s essentially the same process that occurs in the music industry: when a band first starts out, their shows are cheap, low-end productions, but the passion in their work is evident, and you can sense the energy of the band much more in a small venue than in a huge stadium. When a band gets to a huge stadium, their music has often changed, they’ve “sold out”, and they’ve become a lot more safe and predictable in order to secure more money from their fans and sponsors. The key is not to purchase your clothes from a world-famous rock star; you have to get them from that local band that’s just starting to take off.

5) Europe is ahead of the rest of world with regards to fashion.

A pochette.

A pochette.

Perhaps decades ago before the advent of airplanes, the Internet, and online shopping, but this simply isn’t true now. Many trends that exist in Europe will simply never be popular in North America because of cultural and functional differences. For example, pochettes (see picture) are fairly popular with European men, but they’ll probably never catch on in North America because our lifestyles are functionally different. Europeans do a lot more light travelling and aren’t infatuated with the automobile quite like we are, so owning a pochette makes sense for a European man, but a North American man would look out of place with one. Despite this, many travellers return from Europe infatuated with how progressive many European cultures are, and while emanating these cultures might seem like a good idea, we have to remember that North America is functionally different from Europe, and, unfortunately, a lot of things popular there will simply never see the light of day here.

The Experience Matters: The Evolution of the Quick-Serve Restaurant Industry & the Birth of the Gourmet Diner

In the last ten years, the quick-serve industry (fast food for the remainder of this article) and the restaurant industry as a whole has experienced a dramatic shift. From the 1950’s and the birth of the All-American Diner to the 1990’s and the onset of the epidemic of obesity, fast-food restaurants have come to define our culture of convenience and laziness. Today, a variety of quickly made meal options now exist for the consumer, but even the mighty fast food industry has experienced a shakedown as of late.

Ah the 50's, when smoking didn't cause cancer, diners weren't seen as unhealthy, and almost no one was obese.

Ah the 50’s, when smoking didn’t cause cancer, diners weren’t seen as unhealthy, and almost no one was obese.

In years past, 4 primary types of restaurants existed: the fast food joint, the cheap diner, the chain sit-down restaurant, and the classy fine dining place. Today, as a result of increased public knowledge of the food industry and the demand for change, a new breed of restaurants have emerged, and their principle selling point isn’t the food itself; it’s the novelty of the experience.

Super-Size-Me-DVDIn the 21st century, we have access to more information at any given time than any other generation in history. This wealth of knowledge that is literally at our fingertips has enabled humans to learn more about whichever subject they desire than was ever possible before. Food, being a basic function for life and all, is a popular subject of conversation and research. Many famous documentaries about the food industry surfaced in the past decade, including Food, Inc., and Super Size Me.

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Both of these were groundbreaking in nature and shed light on previously unknown sides of the food industry. We now know a great deal more about the production of our food and the health risks associated with many types of food. Our world is also the most educated in history, with a higher percentage of people in university and college than ever before. These students are not necessarily studying things related to food science, but we have a greater passion for education and the availability of information, and thanks to the Internet, we have the means to access it at any time. As a result, the veil has been brought down: the food industry lied to us, and we demanded change thanks to our newfound knowledge.

Enter the restaurant industry. Despite our newfound knowledge of the fast-food industry, we aren’t getting any healthier. Obesity continues to rise at an alarming rate, McDonald’s almost has 40,000 locations around the world, and our supply chains are already taxed as it is. Despite the push in the mid-2000’s to buy organic, and then the furthering of that campaign to forego organic and purchase local instead, as a whole, our society has not changed their taste for unhealthy food. Fast food no longer fools us, and yet we still continue to help these chains grow. But thankfully, we have slowed the growth of many fast food chains because of one key factor many of them lack: an experience.

According to Bloomberg, the fastest growing segments of restaurants in North America are: Cafes (this includes Starbucks), Asian restaurants (anything from sushi to Thai Express), Mexican (Chipotle, Taco Bell, hundreds of burrito places), Chicken (KFC, Chick-Fil-A), Sandwich (Subway, Arby’s), and frozen dessert (Ben & Jerry’s, legions of froyo cafes). Family sit down restaurants such as Cracker Barrel are declining, and burger chains are barely scraping by in terms of growth. When we break this list down, a few things become apparent.

Cafes

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“Kid you better hurry up because in 5 minutes, this place is becoming a Starbucks.”

Cafes are number 1 because coffee is king, but if you examine the types of cafes and their expansion, you’ll notice that Starbucks is leading the way, by quite a large margin. In Canada, Tim Horton’s is a cultural icon, but they are also losing ground to the coffee giant. Why could this be? It certainly isn’t because of the price or speed at which the product is delivered; Dunkin Donuts and Tim’s both have Starbucks beat there. What I think it equates to is the experience that cafes such as Starbucks provide in comparison to their cheaper counterparts. People are willing to pay more for a product if the experience of their purchase is better. Consumers have become a little smarter, and as a result, a little more demanding of the service industry. The type of experience I’m referring to is quieter, more welcoming, has more attractive interior design, and higher quality service.

Asian and Mexican Foods

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Chipotlaway

2) The next two on the list are foreign foods (Asian and Mexican). This type of experience would qualify as a cultural one, because despite the fact that these types of chains are Americanized, watered-down versions of the real thing, they’re still more foreign than a burger and fries from McDonald’s. Both these types of foods are also perceived to be a lot healthier, and while that may be partially true depending on what you’ve ordered, the big draw here is the cultural experience of eating foreign food rather than plain ol’ burgers and fries. Recall that health is not a primary motivator for consumers despite the widespread knowledge of the dangers of fast food. It certainly is a factor, but the data would suggest that it’s definitely not the most important on the list. People are willing to discard health if the experience is worth it. Why else would Smoke’s Poutinerie be as successful as it is?

Traditional fast food restaurants have also tried innovating with more creative menu options to retain current customers and attract new ones. Many food critics cite innovation as one of the key trends in the restaurant industry moving forward, such as Wendy’s pretzel bun or Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos.

Sandwiches

Quizno's filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2014

Quizno’s filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2014

3) The sandwich industry is a steady one, but one former key player has been in the red for quite some time. Quizno’s was founded in 1981, and in ten years they had almost 5,000 locations across the continent. Gradually, the size of the chain actually decreased and the company recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, 2014; the chain has since stabilized, but it is a shadow of its former self. Why did this happen? The quality of the food was roughly the same as their two main competitors: Subway and Mr. Sub. Price was virtually identical. Same with wait time. Quizno’s expanded rapidly in the same vein that Starbucks did, but Starbucks remains today, bigger and better than ever. The difference between Quizno’s and their competitors is the experience: I like to call it product transparency.

When you’re ordering at Subway or Mr. Sub, you get to choose everything you want to put on your sandwich, and you can see it being made right in front of you; you’re in control. At Quizno’s, this was not the case, as the sandwiches came with preset formulae, and additionally, the ingredients are mostly hidden at the beginning of the ordering process. This creates a feeling of dishonesty and breaks trust between the employee and the customer. The number 1 rule of sales is honesty; people like to buy, they do not like to be sold. If your buyer trusts you as a seller, then you’ll have a much higher chance of selling, and the experience will be favourable. If I’m getting a sandwich at a fast food place, the expectation is that I get to be in control of what I’m ordering, so when I feel out of control, that tends to alienate me as a customer.

Interior of a Quizno's. Complete lack of visibility of product on the left side hurt the chain due to it alienating customers through a lack of trust.

Interior of a Quizno’s. Complete lack of visibility of product on the left side hurt the chain due to it alienating customers through a lack of trust.

 Frozen Desserts

Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt puts the customer in control and builds trust.

Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt chains put the customer in control and build trust (and big business).

Product transparency and consumer trust is also why frozen yogurt chains have expanded so rapidly. Froyo first experienced a brief boom in business during the health craze of the 1980’s, and to go alongside their copy of Sweatin’ to the Oldies, many consumers also indulged in a healthier treat: frozen yogurt. Chains such as Yogen Fruz got their foothold here, but growth was largely stagnant, and now many of these companies have all but disappeared. The reason? Product transparency and consumer trust. At Yogen Fruz, you’re not really in control, and you don’t totally trust the people making your food. At frozen yogurt cafes, you are in control; the ingredients, the toppings, the amount – everything is up to you. Yes, health was a factor in their expansion, but many of the toppings that these places have are candy. The hidden factor behind all of the success is the fact that the more knowledgeable consumers of the present like to feel like they’re in control, so by gaining their trust through product transparency, you’ll experience a greater deal of success.

 Burger Chains

Aftermath of McDonald's $1 billion interior decor upgrade.

Aftermath of McDonald’s $1 billion interior decor upgrade.

While burger chains are far from hurting, they did undergo some major rebranding to compete with the changing consumer tastes. For example, McDonald’s launched a rebranding of many of its restaurants in the past 5 years. The rebranding included investing $1 billion in an entire decor change from the plastic, diner-esque setting it was known for to a more comfortable, lounge type of feel. This included adding in McCafe stations to all of its locations beginning in 2010 in an effort to steal business away from Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Tim Horton’s. Wendy’s has recently followed suit with a similar decor upgrade. This was all an effort to improve the customer’s experience when they visit the restaurant.

Many burger chains have also resorted to installing LCD/LED TV screens in their locations to display menus or sweeping shots of their products. While these installations are actually a bad thing in terms of the store’s electricity bill and cost, it does provide the stores with a more glossy finish and also allows for a quick turnover with regards to menu choices.

The Birth of the Gourmet Diner

In addition to the fast food industry’s shift, a new niche of restaurant has emerged: the gourmet diner. These types of restaurants serve the same type of food that fast food places traditionally serve, but by putting a unique spin on things in terms of their product and by cultivating a unique atmosphere, these “in-betweener” types of restaurants have been popping up more and more lately. The gourmet diner offers higher quality food than most fast food restaurants sell at a slightly higher price and a longer wait. These restaurants satisfy consumer’s need for a tastier meal than a fast food place can provide, but at a much lower price than they would pay at most other sit-down restaurants.

The experience at a gourmet diner is what sets it apart: many have honed in on a specific type of food and jazzed it up a great deal. The portions are large, the food is creative, and the atmosphere of many of these gourmet diners (even if they have since become chains), are unique in the restaurant world. Two prominent Canadian examples include the gourmet burger chain The Works and aptly named Smoke’s Poutinerie. While the mission of each of these chains is slightly different, their modus operandi is similar: take an “unhealthy” product, make it look and taste awesome, add in a cool atmosphere, and you give people an unforgettable experience.

The Works: heaven

The Works: heaven

Both The Works and Smoke’s offer fairly unhealthy options, but as I have mentioned before, despite what we know about the adverse health effects of fast food staple items like burgers and fries, we will throw all of that out the window for a cool experience and a tasty meal. Both of these places have capitalized on new consumer tastes (pun intended) with regards to the food industry.

Smoke's Poutinerie's Pulled Pork Poutine: heaven pt. II

Smoke’s Poutinerie’s Pulled Pork Poutine: heaven pt. II

More and more restaurants are popping up that are offering a gourmet spin on fast food staples such as burgers, fries, and pizza. People are sick of having the same old cheap fast food, so they are willing to pay slightly more for something infinitely better in terms of experience and taste. Both of these chains have expanded quite rapidly throughout Canada, and I’m sure America’s vast restaurant industry has its own fair share of examples.

Moving forward, we can only hope to educate ourselves further about our food. I would like to see a bigger push for a new group of healthier gourmet diners, but unfortunately, the worst foods for you are often the cheapest. It is encouraging that we are exploring new avenues of dining, and that many fast food chains are slowing their growth, despite what minor facelifts they may be employing. It is my hope that this trend continue, as it pushes innovation on many of the industry heavyweights and forces them to improve their practices. One thing remains clear: as more educated consumers, we are now in the age of the food experience. Our restaurants need more than good food to attract us, and it will be interesting to see what types of restaurants emerge as a result.

8 Common Fashion Mistakes Men Make

Dressing for a business or formal setting often becomes a regular part of a guy’s life, and doing it right can improve your long-term job performance, your co-worker’s perception of you, and the chance that you get a promotion or hired for a job that you interview for. Dressing appropriately and doing it well is one of the little details that many people often overlook and view it as unimportant, but psychological research suggests otherwise. You also get treated better when you dress better.

I recall an instance where I was low on money in my chequing account because I had preset my savings account to withdraw money on that day of the month every month from my chequing account. I was in town for an interview and was wearing a suit and tie. I went to pay for my bus ticket, but to my horror, I had no money in my account! Three people at the bus terminal witnessed my situation and immediately offered to cover the $5 that I was short for my ticket. As I’m sure everyone has been short for money at least once in their life, it pays to at least look successful, even though at that moment your bank account might suggest otherwise.

With this in mind, these are the mistakes that I see a lot of guys young and old making when it comes to looking their best. If you aren’t currently following these tips, this won’t make or break your career. That being said, improving the way you dress can only help you give off a better impression, which can only help you in the long run, so you might as well try and look your best and show you care. There’s a reason that large client-facing corporations invest a portion of their training budget into image consultants: how you look does reflect on your professional appearance.

I understand that fashion is a subjective beast and that many “rules” are made to be broken, but there’s a reason that certain ways of dressing are more widely accepted than others; they just look better. This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the most prominent ones I see most often.


1) Wearing clunky slip-on shoes with a suit.

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Your shoes are the single most important part of your wardrobe. They are the first contact with the ground and take the most abuse throughout the day. No one item in your wardrobe can elevate your outfit quite like the way a good pair of shoes can. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of stores like Aldo and Spring at the mall, most guys default to a pair of clunky, slip-on, square-toed shoes from these places to wear with their suit.

The first problem with doing this is that these shoes look cheap. I understand that many guys just starting out don’t have the most cash to spend on a nice pair of shoes, but if you’re going to invest in one thing, it’s a nice pair of shoes. Many other places exist aside from the mall that allow you to purchase a nice pair of shoes on the cheap. Try discount stores, eBay, thrift stores, etc…A cheap suit with good shoes will always look infinitely better than a nice suit with cheap shoes. One of the main reasons for this is that humans can see the quality of leather much easier than suiting material like wool.

If you’re wearing loafers with a suit, make sure it’s in a more casual setting. It’s just an accepted practice that your shoes should have laces in a business or formal setting.


2) Wearing a tie that is a lighter colour than their dress shirt.

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The rule of thumb is that your tie should always be a darker colour than your dress shirt in a business or formal setting. What you wear out to the club falls under totally different criteria.

  203Your shirt should also never be the same shade of colour that your tie is, even it has stripes. While you might think that your shirt and tie “match”, the reason that you wear a tie is to create a visual interesting strip to break up the blocks of colour that your jacket and shirt create, ideally in a colour that compliments them to form a balanced colour palette. By picking a tie that is lighter than your shirt, you ruin that balance. The last thing you want to do is make your tie lighter than your shirt because it ruins the visual effect. Same goes for matching your tie too closely to your dress shirt. The reason this is seen so often is that employees at a lot of low-end menswear stores in such as Moore’s or Tip Top Tailors often dress this way, which gives the false impression that it is correct. Dress shirts and ties that are sold in a combined package (as per the examples on the right) are also guilty of this, so it makes sense that many guys would wear the shirt/tie combo just as it came in the package.


3) Wearing a plate buckled belt with their suit.

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Never with a suit, but I’d argue never at all

If you are dressing formally, a metal plate buckle looks tacky and unprofessional. A classic buckle is the way to go here. I’d argue that metal plate buckles just look tacky in general and that you should wear a proper buckle with everything from your suit to your jeans, but that’s your preference.

Classic belt buckle with a suit. Always.

Classic belt buckle with a suit. Always.

If you want to be taken seriously in the business/professional world, lose the plate buckle. Get a black or brown belt to start, but once you get a more diverse wardrobe you can add more colours as you see fit.


4) Wearing inappropriately coloured socks

White socks with a suit. Rookie mistake

White socks with a suit. Rookie mistake

White socks with anything business/formal related is the sign of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and that can send a message to your potential employer that you might not know what you’re doing at your job if you can’t get the basics right. Wearing the right pair of socks is a lot more important than you think.

Fine for the day-to-day, but never for an interview

Fine for the day-to-day, but never for an interview

Socks can provide a flash of personality in an otherwise boring outfit, which stimulates visual interest and can tell people who you have an interesting personality if you’re willing to risk drawing attention to yourself. Colourful socks are a great way to jazz up an otherwise conservative outfit without going over the top.

When in a professional setting, match your socks' colour to the colour of your pants.

When in a professional setting, match your socks’ colour to the colour of your pants.

That being said, don’t do this in an interview setting; you’ve already got their attention, no need to distract them. When dressing more professionally, like during an interview, make sure your socks are a similar shade of colour that your pants are.


5) Tying a tie knot that isn’t the right size.

Merril Hoge: A legend for all the wrong reasons.

Merril Hoge: A legend for all the wrong reasons.

Unless you’re Merril Hoge, you probably can’t pull off a tie knot that is the wrong size for the collar style of your shirt (and even then, Merril gets constantly lambasted for his ridiculously oversized tie knot).

Perfect sized tie knots. Notice how the middle guy is wearing a spread (wide) collar shirt, so his knot is proportionally wider. The other two are wearing shirts with more narrow collars, so their knots are also a little smaller.

Perfect sized tie knots. Notice how the middle guy is wearing a spread (wide) collar shirt, so his knot is proportionally wider. The other two are wearing shirts with more narrow collars, so their knots are also a little smaller.

Make sure that you tie a four in hand knot for smaller collars, and a half or full-windsor for point and spread collar shirts. Balance the size of your tie knot with the width of your collar as well as the width of your suit lapels. A knot that is too large or too small will make your neck area look abnormal, affecting the balance and contrast of your suit and overall look.


6) Not removing the inventory tag from their suit jacket.

The inventory tag: remove after purchase.

The inventory tag: remove after purchase.

I see a lot of younger guys making this mistake, mostly because they want to advertise the brand of their suit. You will find this tag sewn on to the left sleeve of most suiting jackets. The tag is meant to be removed upon purchase of the jacket, and is used for inventory purposes only. Leaving it on there makes you look like a jackass.

 


7) Using a tie made of synthetic material like polyester

This one is simple. Polyester just isn’t like silk or wool in the sense that it doesn’t fold and tie that well. Forming a dimple with your tie is 10x easier with a silk or wool tie, not to mention that they just look better. Yes, they are a tad bit more expensive, but if that’s a factor, eBay or a thrift store are your friends. Places like Banana Republic, Ross, TJ Maxx, or Winner’s also have cheap silk ties in fairly classic colour choices.


8) Believing everything they read in GQ, Esquire, Details, or Men’s Health and taking it as gospel

Nick Wooster: #menswear cult leader, fashion blog photo whore, and fashion clown. Tries way too hard to look good. GQ loves him.

Nick Wooster: #menswear cult leader, fashion blog photo whore, and fashion clown. Tries way too hard to look good. GQ loves him.

These magazines all have an agenda: to sell the clothing that companies who have ads in their magazines make. The effect that a magazine like GQ can have on recommending a certain brand or product can have is akin to the Oprah effect with books. Ever wonder why Canada Goose jackets just popped up overnight? GQ ran a feature on them in a 2008 issue – the next year stores everywhere had them stocked. Raw denim from companies like Nudie and A.P.C. had almost no sales before GQ started recommending them; now they’re commonplace. “Classics” such as Sperry TopSiders and Clark’s Desert Boots also had their heyday in recent years thanks in large part to GQ and similar magazines.

While their in-your-face style of writing comes off as non-argumentative, most people who are experts in the fashion industry largely consider magazines like GQ to be a bit of a joke.

They do offer some solid advice for basics, but a lot of the trendy stuff they push on their readers can be quite absurd sometimes. The whole #menswear movement is a little bit of a cult anyhow. Stick to what you’re comfortable in, and don’t go changing everything about yourself just because a magazine with “authority” told you to do it. There is a wealth of information online that far surpasses what these magazines can provide. These magazines are a great starting point, but just dip your toe in the pool, don’t dive all the way in.

This is why your suits or shirts will never look the same as in a magazine.

This is why your suits or shirts will never look the same as in a magazine.

Also, never expect your clothes to fit like they do in a GQ photoshoot. Photoshop works wonders, as does pinning clothing from behind to make it fit more snug on the models. Visit your tailor and know your measurements.

You don’t have go out and spend a ton of money to look your best; it’s the little details that make the difference.

Stop Being Boring & Basic Pt II: Embrace Art

 

In our current education system at the secondary and post-secondary level, we have commoditized the courses we take. We treat them as investments in our career, and approach our choices from a one-dimensional viewpoint. We tend to choose courses that have proven merit with regards to obtaining a worthwhile career, such as business and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) group of courses, and in turn, we often shun those who choose courses that are more heavily based in the arts.

Classic Pre-Med Society t-shirt slogan.

When I was in first year, my program was known as Biological & Medical Sciences, often shortened to BioMed, and the general mindset among those in this program was that all other students were inferior because they weren’t as intelligent or they weren’t destined for career greatness like we all were. Engineers weren’t included in this sweeping generalization because they were all dyed purple and freaked everyone else out. As I grew older, I soon realized that this was a terribly myopic view of the world, and that by embracing the mindset that the arts were useless and unnecessary, I severely limited my potential in terms of intellectual and personal growth.

The recent stigma of being “basic” that is often attached to boring, average people is in line with a lot of what I have spoken of in past articles. I am a passionate advocate for embracing change, being different, and striving to improve and try new things; essentially, the antithesis of all things basic. What I have found is that what a lot of basic people are lacking is a working knowledge of, or passion for, the arts. This effect stems from our belief that art education is “pointless”, because too often we treat education as an occupation, not a vocation.

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Artsy people are often seen as social outcasts, left to fraternize with each other -often against the mainstream- while that same mainstream either ignores or ridicules the odd ways of the art crowd. Many career-driven youth often abstain from artistic endeavours because they are a waste of time or they simply think that they lack the ability to do so. And just to be clear: going to a music festival like Coachella or Osheaga doesn’t really count, since these festivals are full of people who are only there because music festivals just happen to be experiencing resurgence, and are now a popular option to have a great time at. Yes, there are swathes of true fans that are there for the music, but they are mixed in with a bunch of bindi wearing basics. What this is causing, though, is a dilution of the artistic merit that these festivals stood for in the first place.

Bindis made their debut for white girls at Coachella. Basic status: achieved.

Bindis made their debut for white girls at Coachella. Basic status: achieved.

When I talk about artistic endeavours, I’m talking about learning an instrument on your own time and terms, learning about various elements of film to appreciate your favourite movies on a whole new level, following fashion shows of your favourite designer, or taking up a form of visual art. The fact that your parents forced you to take piano lessons as a kid might not count; it all depends if that instilled a passion for music within you, or you merely found it to be a chore that your parents forced upon you.

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In his 2004 book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton describes art as one of the cures for the manic depression that the Western World is experiencing as a result of our constant battles for status and personal wealth. What is unique about art is that it places everyone on an equal level. Spectators at a local band’s show at a dive bar are unified by the music and the experience; not what their salary is or what clothes they’re wearing. Even the materialistic art, fashion, is not immune to this effect. If you have an eye for colour, fit, and fabric choice, you can assemble an outfit that looks amazing for $50 as easily as you could for $5000. Despite what the average person may think, the price tag on your clothes doesn’t make them look better; a working knowledge of the art that is fashion does. Art is very much a social and cultural equalizer: it’s not a coincidence that most artists also happen to be very politically opined to the left side of spectrum. Even in a very conservative, pro-capitalist mindset, art is a necessary thing that helps provide relief from the stresses of monetary gain and competition.

Despite the benefits of learning and experiencing art, elementary and high school curricula in North America have largely abstained from promoting art, and have instead relegated it to cutbacks. Fundamental English and math skills are critical for a functional adult life in North America, but a balanced education is far more critical in terms of happiness and personal growth. Unfortunately, only so much time exists in a day, and fundamental subjects take priority, as they should. This is why it is largely the responsibility of parents to instil a passion or at least a basic introduction to the arts in their children; our educational system simply doesn’t have the capacity for it in its current state.

Exposure to music, visual art, theatre, film, or other forms of art at home will foster greater creativity, general knowledge, and help children experience a more balanced perspective of the world that school simply can’t provide. Parents are often too concerned with the ends of their child’s education, but not the means. All parents want their children to succeed and be happy, but unfortunately they are often prioritized in this very order because we are often guilty of the incorrect assumption that success and happiness are mutually inclusive.

More and more girls are pursuing Business and STEM related careers, leaving the stereotypically feminine arts behind.

More and more girls are pursuing Business and STEM related careers, leaving the stereotypically feminine arts courses behind.

Differences in gender construct are also to blame for our general aversion to the arts. Boys are pushed towards activities such as sports, and are taught that the most important subjects in school are math and science because those are seen as the two most important for landing a good career. An artistic path is avoided because it is seen as more feminine and career-damning, and no parent wants their young boy to be the victim of ridicule. As gender equality continues to improve, many girls are being pushed in the same direction in order to compete with boys in those same subjects. As a result of this odd duality, the arts are often ignored both in school and outside of it, and we come to the current generation of basic people who have an aversion to the arts, simply because they’re not “important” for future careers or, if you’re a guy, that they’re too feminine. In university, STEM and Business programs continue to grow, while arts faculties are left without funding, are not growing proportionally, or are even shrinking.

What we often forget is that just because someone is interested in the arts, that doesn’t mean that they’re any more feminine than the next person. For example, in centuries past, noblemen were expected to have a working knowledge and appreciation for the arts, and the most famous musicians were in essence, rock stars of their time. A famous example is virtuoso violinist Niccolo Paganini, widely regarded as the greatest to ever pick up instrument. He was just as famous for his musical prowess as he was for his female sexual conquests. Hardly a feminine trait to have.

Even David Beckham paints.

Even David Beckham paints.

In recent years, advertisers have tried to make a push to get men to become more feminized in terms of their role as consumers. In the past, men would go to work and women would be in charge of spending the money of the household, and most advertisements were targeted at women. Today, most households have two working parents, and regular spending is more equalized as a result. Marketing agencies have recognized this, and in the past fifteen years, the age of the male consumer began. The male fashion industry has experienced fantastic growth in the past decade as a result, and what was previously seen as a feminine interest is now taking ownership under the male consumer portfolio. The fact is, it’s now becoming a normalized thing for men to care about how they look and what they are wearing, and more men today have taken an interest in fashion, even if it is a casual one.

The problem with this situation is that it is commoditizing the art of fashion, which limits exploration, cultivation of interest, and choice of the male consumer. Despite what you might think, magazines like GQ are not great sources of fashion information and advice. They push one specific construct of how a man should look, and this is largely rooted in which fashion companies are paying to have their advertisements in the magazines. Check through the next issue of GQ that you pick up if you don’t believe me. Their clothing or accessory “recommendations” are almost always from the companies whose ads line their pages.

GQ: they have an agenda to push, so take their advice with a grain of salt.  Ladies: I hope you appreciate that I picked an issue with Ryan Gosling on the cover.

GQ: they have an agenda to push, so take their advice with a grain of salt.
Ladies: I hope you appreciate that I picked an issue with Ryan Gosling on the cover.

In effect, this sucks the art out of the clothing, and instead they are merely presented as products for purchase, which is the opposite aim of what art is supposed to help achieve. The most talented and visionary designers whose work is truly artistic in nature are left out of these magazines because they can’t pay the big bills for advertising space. I’ve picked on fashion because it is the genre of art that I am most familiar with, but I am sure that you can find cases like this throughout all other forms of art.

So what can you do to remove that “basic” label if you’ve ever been accused of being that way? Educate yourself. Choose a genre of art that appeals to you, and research it in your spare time. Love watching movies? Try reading up on film and learn some elements and techniques that filmmakers use to produce the wonderful films you enjoy watching. Music your thing? There are tons of great websites and blogs that can get you pointed in the right direction to discovering new bands or learning an instrument, depending what your preference is. I could go on, but you get the point.

This problem of art deficiency all stems from our educational system and how we were raised. Do your best to embrace education in all forms, and not just the avenues that lead to the most money. Your palette will expand, your creativity will improve, and above all else, it will give you new ways in which to find solace and happiness.

Master Your Craft, Not Warcraft: The Dangers of Escapism

 

imagesWe are a unique generation in the sense that, for the first time in history, we have access to an incredible variety of tools and products that will entertain us and help us pass our leisure time almost effortlessly. Our cell phones, TVs, video game consoles, and of course, computers, all allow us endless opportunities of entertainment, escape from reality, and the chance to experience what we once thought was impossible. It is truly remarkable that we can experience so many things with these devices, but it’s also making us depressed, lazy, and unproductive.

Before the Millennial generation, you passed your time with a real hobby; one where you had to put in actual work to get a result. There was blood, sweat, tears, and the reward of actually doing something: accomplishment in its various forms. Virtually everyone had a working knowledge of a craft or trade of some sort, whether it was woodworking, gardening, knitting, or hunting. Almost all basic functions and needs of the household could be accomplished by those who inhabited it, and since these skilled trades also happen to be enjoyable hobbies or pastimes, increased happiness and overall self-esteem were present as byproducts. There was a sense of ownership for not just the physical home for which our ancestors dwelled, but also for the wares and other products that filled it.

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Today, our hobbies consist of a different assortment; most are time wasters that offer little to no tangible benefit to our lives. Television is the worst offender, with the average North American household spending 5 hours in front of their TVs per day. This number has changed in recent years due to the onset of popular online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, but there will gradually be a shift back towards TV sets as more incorporate the services directly into their software.

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Online time wasting is the next worst offender. Despite the fact that most Millennials spend more time on their computers than on their TVs, I’ve ranked using the computer as the second largest time waster because email, reading the news, and other useful, productive tasks are also accomplished in conjunction with time wasters like Facebook. That being said, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are consistently in the top 20 most visited websites worldwide, so people are spending most of their time on time wasting websites. LinkedIn is not included because it is unique to social media in the sense that almost every function on the site is a productive one that helps fuel the user’s career, whether it be networking, research, or information provided through shared articles.

Video games are also an incredibly unproductive hobby. There are some exceptions: for example, several hospitals have used the game Super Monkey Ball to help train surgical residents to improve their fine motor skills. Some other games teach problem-solving and general intellect, but the vast majority offer an immersive, often times addictive experience that provides little value to the user aside from a temporary escape.

I’m not condoning the use of video games, TV, or wasting time on the Internet entirely. I’m suggesting that we stop making these activities hobbies, and consciously moderate the amount of time spent on each respective platform. Escape and leisure is a necessary and healthy tool for the human mind, but like all things, excessive use is harmful. As a former gamer, I can attest to wasting a large portion of my time on something that ultimately was not that important; despite what I thought at the time, going 20-0 in a game of Dota wasn’t actually more important than my biology homework.

Dota was (and is still)  pretty awesome, but I wasted a lot of time playing it.

Dota was (and is still) pretty awesome, but I wasted a lot of time playing it.

I’ve mostly cut out video games from my life, and I can attest to the benefits of doing so. When I was younger, I used video games, TV, or mindless Internet surfing to waste time and distract from more important things, such as homework or chores. This sort of mindset might make me sound like a hardass, but think about it: by ignoring things that are ultimately more important by taking the easy way out and escaping, what does that say about you as a person, and how will that translate to who you grow up to be? I have fond memories playing video games with my friends, but they are far outweighed by experiences that I actually put in time and effort to achieve.

If you’re currently spending hours each day binging on Netflix marathons, playing COD from the time you get home from work to the time you go to bed, or you spend the better half of 4 hours each day planning your future wedding on Pinterest, perhaps you should consider altering your time usage just a little bit. Effective use of your time can produce so much more value for your life than simply throwing it away on escapist tendencies. It will also improve your mental health.

By using your time to avoid accomplishment and responsibility, you are creating unnecessary stress in your life. Although you may think that spending a whole day watching Game of Thrones is a great decision, the aftermath is what you need to be concerned about. In our world, there are constantly things to do, whether it is homework, errands, or actual work related to your job. By devoting a large chunk of time to escapism, you’re shunting that responsibility and placing all of these more important tasks on the backburner. Unfortunately, these tasks will still be there after the escapism marathon, so the thought of doing them will still be in the back of your mind, which causes stress.

Instead, if your energies were focused on hobbies or past times that involve actual effort on your part, your brain chemistry changes. Dopamine is released as a reward for achievement at the end of your struggles. Your mindset shifts to an achievement-based one, and you are inherently more motivated to get up off the couch and actually do things. This is why most people find that they are most productive when they have a jam-packed schedule: their mind and body are linked in a desire to achieve things and produce results. By doing productive hobbies, you are essentially rewiring yourself to be more productive in your day-to-day life.

If you choose the opposite, easier path of escapism, your brain still releases a bit of dopamine, but it is falsely earned. By adopting a lifestyle of escapism, your mind and body are not as motivated to achieve things and be productive. You will still experience that relaxed, pleasurable feeling dopamine gives you, and you didn’t even have to do any work in order to get your reward! Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many North Americans today, and it is why we have become so lazy: we have no desire to achieve happiness through short-term struggle or sacrifice. Why would we when we can simply press a button and achieve the same effect? If you’ve ever wondered why your heavy stoner friends are generally so lazy and unmotivated, this is the same reason. Constant drug use results in the body’s dependence on dopamine release, and because the easiest way to achieve this is through getting high, their sense of motivation quite literally goes up in smoke.

This is also why pornography has become what it is today. Instead of relying on personal interactions and real-life sexual experiences, a huge majority of men (and some women) rely on pornography for sexual stimulus and reward. This life of sexual escapism, like other forms of escapism, has damaging effects. Although masturbation is widely accepted as a healthy sexual practice, I have yet to come across a study that endorses the regular use of pornography; although the two practices are closely linked, they are still very different things.

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By constantly using pornography for sexual stimulation, a person is essentially telling their brain that there is no need to go outside and try to find a sexual partner, because they can simply look up porn online and get the same end result. The problem with this is that it has created an entire generation of lazy men (women rely substantially less on pornography since it is almost exclusively produced for a male audience).

Today, there are legions of men who have almost no motivation to go out in public and engage another woman or man in a social interaction with the hopes of it ending in a sexual encounter. After orgasm, the chemistry of the body and mind changes. Testosterone, the hormone responsible for all things manly, is at its lowest level immediately after orgasm, and afterwards it is slowly produced to replenish the body’s stores. This is the chemical responsible for a lot of motivation in a male’s life, as many daily tasks are rooted in sexual motivation, not to mention sexual motivation itself.

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Popular culture can be heavily influential on people, and if you recall the film There’s Something About Mary, there is a famous scene where Ben Stiller’s character, Ted, is told to jerk off before his date with Cameron Diaz’s character, Mary. Ted is posed the question: “You don’t want to go out with a loaded gun, do you?” This scene influenced an entire generation of men to pursue masturbation before potential sexual encounters in the hopes that they wouldn’t screw it up or that they would last longer in the forthcoming sexual encounter. The problem with this advice is that it sets you up for the worst possible chemical state of mind that you can have.

That wasn't hair gel...

That wasn’t hair gel…

When you go out on a date post-masturbation, your testosterone levels will be in the recovery state, and your motivation, charisma, and overall sexual energy will be at their lowest. This is the opposite of what you would want for a successful date. Essentially, don’t believe everything you see at the movies: you want to go out with a loaded gun. There is a wealth of literature on this topic, but I recommend you check out yourbrainonporn.com for more information on this subject.

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By eliminating escapist tendencies from your life, your daily output will be at levels that you have never experienced before. You will be more motivated to do everything, your self-esteem will improve, and your energy levels will be higher. Fill your spare time with more productive activities. These do not have to be old-fashioned, physically demanding tasks, either. You could take up an instrument, or learn computer-based skills, such as coding or graphic design. Many resources are available online or elsewhere that can assist you; it’s all just a matter of getting out there and doing it. Escape is still part of a healthy life; we need to unplug from our busy world for an hour or two, but to turn escape into the dominant component of your spare time is a damaging lifestyle that offers little in the way of returns. There will be a lot of people who will wake up when they’re 40 and wish they hadn’t wasted all their free time on escapist habits.

We are a unique generation in the amount of escapist venues we have readily available, but we are also blessed to have access to an incredibly wide array of skills and hobbies that we can learn. It is also why we should stop spending our money on things that help us escape so often, and instead invest in tools that allow us to create things. All it takes is the right state of mind and a healthy dose of self-motivation.