It’s Not What You Know; It’s What You Produce

Anyone who knows me will know that I enjoy stand-up comedy. I constantly quote my favourite comedians’ routines or adopt the techniques and patterns found in stand-up into my own way of speaking. I even advocate for its study in order to make you better at networking and interacting with people overall. One of the first stand-up specials I stumbled across was Eddie Murphy’s Raw. Murphy may have been best known by those in my generation as the Donkey in Shrek, but he was a superstar in the 1980s thanks to the success of his stand-up. One of the main focuses of Raw is the new way men and women interacted during the 1980s, largely due to the rise of feminism and materialism. In the following clip from Raw, Murphy repeats the phrase (from the 1986 Janet Jackson song of the same name) “What have you done for me lately?”

This ideology may seem quite entitled, but let’s replace the man and woman in this scenario with a university student and the economy.  The largest problem facing millions of university graduates is the issue of finding employment and repaying student debt. One of the terms floated by the media is “underemployment”, or the notion that given their university degree, a recent graduate is overqualified to be working at Starbucks or serving at a restaurant. The problem with this scenario is our definition of “qualified”. A university graduate may certainly be more intelligent in certain areas than a non-graduate, but does that necessarily equal more qualified?

The economy is not (at least directly) a function of intelligence, it is a function of worker output and efficiency. The intrinsic value of many university degrees relative to the job market is simply not that high. Simply put, the knowledge gained in many university degrees nowadays has no value in an economic sense because that knowledge cannot create economically valuable products. Education, in a holistic sense, is certainly valued on other levels aside from the economical, but what was the point in investing in a university education in the first place then? You don’t need a university to teach you how to read and write; the most revered writers of our time did all of that thinking on their own accord and were inspired by the experiences of their own lives, not the lessons learned in lecture. This is not to say that attending university is a waste of time -we are not yet at a point in society where we can ignore university en masse- but the approach towards the university education and what happens afterwards still needs to change.

Let’s return to the analogy of the recent graduate and the economy. “What have you done for me lately?” is the question constantly being asked of the recent graduate by the economy. She is quite the nagging bitch, but the fact remains: if you want to be seen as valuable and desired by the economy, you need to produce things for her. Knowledge can be a commodity, but it is of no use to the world if it remains stuck in your head. That knowledge needs to be applied to create products or services of value for the economy to reward you with her attention and satisfaction.

Education as a Lego Set

The fact is, most university graduates are simply consumers of the commodity of knowledge purchased from their university. A typical university graduate crying the pains of underemployment is like buying a set of Lego, building the thing that the instructions told you what to build, and then expecting to win a Lego building contest.

You paid for the education, you were given the same set of pieces as everyone else, but what you create from that set of pieces and how you do it is up to you. The problem is that most people are expecting to be rewarded for doing the bare minimum requirement of “success”, i.e. following instructions. You won’t look like a failure, but you also won’t stand out that well, either. This isn’t to say that in order to succeed you simply need to deviate from the instructions; it is one way of succeeding in winning the Lego contest. You may get first prize with your effort, but the judges also may not particularly like your Lego creation, and you may finish last.

“But the contest is rigged!” you exclaim. At first glance, perhaps. There are others that were born as more creative Lego builders or whose parents are friends with one of the Lego contest judges. There may be those whose set was actually missing a few pieces by accident, or others may have stolen few extra pieces when an unfortunate contestant wasn’t looking. But there are also factors that are totally within your control. Maybe before the contest you read up on the latest Lego building techniques in case you feared your creativity wouldn’t be strong enough. Maybe you volunteered at a school teaching children there how to build basic Lego structures and the parents of one of those children is a Lego contest judge. Perhaps you tutored fellow students who were struggling with their Lego building abilities and that in turn helped give you new perspectives on Lego building.

You may point to the fact that not every school was given the same set of Lego, and that all those kids from Harvard got the deluxe expansion set with 45 new pieces in it. Simply having more pieces is not the whole answer; it is how well you construct them and demonstrate your abilities to the judges that will assist you. Sure, more of the judges might have went to Harvard – after all, that is where many great Lego builders of the past have graduated from – but being great at Lego building is something they take great pride in, so they can still respect someone whose hard work both outside and inside the Lego contest demonstrates their desire to succeed. To ignore or discount this situation is equally as arrogant, though, because the Lego building institution you got accepted into still does speak volumes about the character of your Lego building abilities and potential.

When the contest is over and the results are in, you should not get angry at anybody if you don’t win, including yourself. Do not blame the system as being biased, do not blame yourself for building a worthless structure instead of playing it safe and sticking to the instructions; focus on attending different contests with different contestants and judges. No two judges are the same: although they look for similar elements in contestants’ Lego structures, what you built today that got you last place may get you first place tomorrow. No two contests have the same makeup of contestants: new contestants are entering all the time, and over time you will gain more Lego building experience and learn new Lego building techniques. It is not always the most qualified Lego builder that wins the contest: sometimes you just have to build the right structure for the right panel of judges.

Consider that maybe you’re competing against Lego builders who are truly more talented than you and who simply want to win more. It may be time to swallow your pride and switch to an easier contest if you are starting to get discouraged. On the flip side, if you always finish second or third in each contest simply by following the instructions but are happy doing so, who cares? It might not be as glamorous or lucrative as deviating from the norm, but the risk of losing far outweighs that chance of winning. At the end of the day, you bought your Lego set because you enjoyed playing with Lego, or at least enjoyed the thought of winning something by playing with it.

However, if you find yourself consistently failing whether you have followed the instructions or not, then strongly consider adapting your approach to Lego building or trade in your set altogether. Sometimes the pieces in the set just aren’t the right fit for you, and other pieces may resonate more strongly with you. Don’t blame the system for stacking the odds against you, because you can only build a creation as strong as the pieces in the set combined with how much work you’ve done inside and outside the contest to assist in your good fortune.

While it may be true that the average level of Lego building skill has increased over the years, as has the cost of purchasing a Lego set, that does not make you better than those who are not as good at building Lego as you are, or who cannot afford to buy a set. Being able to purchase a Lego set also does not entitle you to winning a Lego building contest. The judges are expecting you to follow the instructions, but are hoping that you do not. It is here where you will truly learn the most. Following instructions does not allow for self-learning and a gain of knowledge or real experience; deviating from them does. What good would handing out all of the tips and tricks of the Lego building trade do for the nature of the Lego contest? True merit and happiness is gained by working to discover those secrets for yourself.

As a student, it is paramount that you recognize that knowledge is a common commodity nowadays; this is the reason why a university degree is not as valuable as it was in our parents’ generation. Our society’s ability to access infinite amounts of knowledge with the click of a button or the tap of a screen is almost universal, and much of what we learned in school can be read using a search engine. The value of going to university is the skills you learn along the way: critical thinking, reading, writing, group collaboration, and presenting are all valuable skills learned throughout a typical undergraduate degree, but most students fail to apply them in ways to produce anything meaningful. The strength of a university graduate is found in how they apply the knowledge they have gained in conjunction with the skills they have learned as part of their university degree.

 

 

 

 

Flow and Fiero: Why Students Need to Struggle to be Happiest

In 2010, three Cornell University students committed suicide within a month of each other by jumping off a bridge on the Ivy League school’s campus. In response to mental health advocates and national outcry, Cornell installed safety nets on the bridge in 2012.

The Cornell Bridge.

The Cornell Bridge.

Mental health has become an increasingly prevalent issue on university campuses across North America, and suicide has risen to become the second most common cause of death for Canadians aged 15-24 after auto accidents. Many attribute this spike in mental health issues and suicide rates to increasing pressure to succeed at university. 11696-02-chart1-eng Currently, males are four times more likely to commit suicide than females are. Since men are more heavily scrutinized in terms of status and earning potential than females are based on mate choice and evolutionary biology, it makes sense that increasing pressures to succeed and land a good career are weighing more intensely on the mental health of boys than girls. That being said, reported cases of mental health are roughly equivalent across genders, so both sides are feeling the pressures of university. c_5_56_2_1_eng I wrote in a previous article that mental health in university is affected by grade inflation in high school. Thirty years ago, only 10 percent of students were on the honor roll; today that number is close to 40 percent. The high school curriculum has not changed radically, but competition to get into university has.

In Canada, the entrance average to get into the top universities hovers close to 90 percent. With a university education being so highly desired by today’s youth, we are seeing fierce competition amongst high school students that is artificially driving up entrance averages despite the fact that the quality of education or quality of the students has not significantly changed. To help their chances at achieving high grades, more students than ever are attending summer school to take a course or two and maximize their chances of padding their average.

It’s a simple formula: devote time to a course or two during the summer, get an inflated grade due to the increased amount of time spent on the coursework, and consequently decrease your course load in the upcoming school year. While this seems like a great idea on the surface, it’s not adequately preparing students for the struggles of university as well as the real world, which doesn’t involve studying, but work. Less youth than ever before are unemployed, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a higher unemployment rate (or underemployment rate).

In fact, due to choices students are making in lieu of summer employment, such as summer school or volunteering, less youth are choosing to work because they believe that a higher average or volunteer experience will help them more with their university application.

The problem with this approach is that it is not adequately preparing students for the struggles of the real world, where they may need work experience to even land an in-between job while they search for one after university. Additionally, working at an entry level job at a fast food restaurant, retail store, or a summer camp provides many skills that you can never learn in a classroom or will never be subjected to in a volunteer position that is not as intensely monitored.

Camping out to buy Call of Duty

A gamer camping out to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Major video game releases such as this one have been cultural landmarks akin to the release of Star Wars: Episode 1.

Video games are one of the more popular forms of entertainment on the planet, and they have come a long way since the development of Space Invaders or Pong. Most big budget games now have the polish and presentation of a full-length Hollywood feature, and some game launches have produced lineups akin to Star Wars film screenings. When game designers create a game, they pay close attention to what emotions they evoke in the mind of the player. Two of the most common psychological concepts developers toy with are flow and fiero.

Flow explained graphically

Flow explained graphically

Flow is the feeling of being “in the zone”, where the game just becomes a blur because it is so entrancing in its entertainment value. For those of you who used to play World of Warcraft for hours on end, you can relate to this. Many of the most popular and addictive games throughout history mastered the emotive response of flow and sucked gamers in for hours of enjoyment.

Fiero is the Italian word for pride, and it is used to describe those moments of emotional high or elation after a victory of sorts in the game. Defeating a boss, finding a rare item after hours of searching, or even completing the game are all examples of fiero. Moments of fiero help to break up the “flow” of a game to provide an emotional roller coaster of sorts.

If you were to picture this graphically, imagine flow as a relatively steady line with a few peaks and valleys, with fiero providing the major spikes and the occasional valley upon moments of failure, whereby flow would suck the gamer back in and rescue them from being deterred enough to quit.

The psychology behind game design is fascinating because it draws on parallels of real life and research into game design has determined the ideal ratios for moments of flow and fiero that yield the most successful experiences. A game that is about 75% flow and 25% fiero and associated failures makes for the most immersive and enjoyable game. For example, Blizzard Entertainment, the studio responsible for Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo, found that a drop rate of 25% for important items in the game produced the happiest players.

When designing a game, flow is the most important characteristic and is developed along what developers call an “engagement curve”. Essentially, players are presented challenges in the order that they are equipped to handle them. A player is in flow when they are learning, adapting, and overcoming small challenges as they come. Moments of fiero arrive occasionally when the player gets emotionally attached to the accomplishment. Remember that first time your Charmeleon evolved into Charizard and you cranked the volume on your GameBoy? That was a fiero moment for the ages. Unknown-2

So what does video game design have to do with mental health and education? We should strive to have the same balance of flow and fiero in our lives in order to be our happiest. The problem is, most people today have spent their youth taking the easy way out, ignoring the little challenges along the way and abstaining from a solid “flow” of sorts, in hopes for the fiero moments.

Many high school students are not mentally able to cope with failure because they have barely experienced it by the time they get to university. As a result, when a good number of students inevitably bomb their first big midterm, their engagement curve was simply not prepared. Some students respond by adjusting their strategy to get their mental health into a state of flow by taking the small steps to overcome challenges as they arrive. Other students will not be so lucky, and this is when mental health issues arise.

When you place a group of overachievers in the same environment, competition will be fierce. When you factor in that university classes need to be bell-curved to an average of about 71-74%, many students attending universities with entrance averages approaching 90% will no doubt be mentally impacted.

Today’s students need to start challenging themselves to the point that they experience failure, small or large, so they adequately condition themselves to cope with failure in university. The high school curriculum is not likely to get markedly more difficult, so students should seek external challenges. This is why more students need to work summer jobs.

A job presents an unpredictable set of challenges and a set of failures that help to mentally prepare students for university and beyond. You’re put in an unfamiliar situation, you make mistakes, and you have to deal with difficult people. If a summer job is not an option, consider pushing your comfort zone with challenging tasks such as a canoe trip or other outdoors related endeavours.

In today’s world, many youth are deprived of outdoors experiences, yet these offer youth a multitude of challenges and tasks that help them progress a mental engagement curve. A summer job or going camping will not necessarily increase a student’s grades, but it will help them get into a state of flow in terms of mental health because their mind will be accustomed to failure and how to overcome it, often in moments of fiero.

The problem is that by seeking moments of fiero while not being in a state of flow, a person risks constant states of anxiety. The other side of the coin is that by not challenging themselves enough, the risk is boredom. Humans need a steady balance of challenge and success to be their happiest. 2012-08-26-Flow-balance   Any successful game has equal moments elation and frustration, with most of the gameplay being a steady progression of learning, applying, and overcoming challenges. Today’s youth are too concerned with the fiero moments of their lives without realizing that 75% of your life should be spent in a state of flow.

Our media sensationalizes wealth, fame, and excess, and social media avenues like Twitter or YouTube make it easier than ever for people to connect with celebrities or even briefly become one. Along the way, we forgot the value of working a crappy job and all the lessons it teaches. We need to re-evaluate how we are challenging our youth and realize that failure is a necessary part of success. Very few people can play through an entire game without failing once, so we must work on perfecting our own state of flow so that we can optimize the fiero moments in our lives.

Rethinking How to Network

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The internet is awash with a flurry of articles, seminars, and books about career success targeted at millennials. We’re the “hopeless generation” that inherited a screwed up world full of selfish baby boomers, grossly inflated tuition, and a terrible job market (which actually isn’t relatively terrible as I have previously argued).

Most of these books promote industry buzzwords like “networking”, “connecting”, or “self-branding”. These are all very important things, but the vast majority of these books and articles approach these techniques from a very shallow angle. The authors or other “career development experts” all say the same thing: get out there, network, promote yourself and your brand, and you will be winning at all the sports. Aside from the cult-like use of the word “networking”, these experts never really offer solid advice on the hows, but simply the whats, the wheres, or the whys of networking and building valuable relationships with industry professionals.

We all know the saying: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. That saying gets tossed around as soon as you start thinking about your career as a student. Unfortunately, what this saying and the general mantra behind networking is lacking is the how to get to know people. If I asked this question to a room full of people, most would answer with: “Go to a networking event, carry business cards, etc…” Wrong. That answer addresses the where to meet people, and honestly, networking events are a terrible place to meet people. That’s like saying that the best place to pick up a girl is at a bar. It’s not.

A networking event.

A typical networking event.

At a networking event, you have two kinds of people: value seekers and value providers. Most millennials are written to and treated as if they are a value seeker. You’re low on the totem pole and you want to seek out the right people who will help advance your career. The value providers are those executives and other well-connected higher ups that can make that happen for you. In essence, they’re the hot girl at the bar. When you go up and introduce yourself with a fake smile and over jubilant handshake, you create the same effect of annoyance that hot girls feel every time they go out. High value providers enjoy the ego stroking, but they’re out there looking for value as well, and 99% of the population isn’t going to provide them with it because they’re approaching things from the wrong angle. The goal of proper networking is hack the interaction so that you become mutual value providers for each other.

 

images-6The industry standard advice for a networking event is to show up, look professional, and have business cards ready to hand out. Everyone and their mother does this, and it’s boring, predictable, and unlikely to get you solid returns on your interactions. If you really want to maximize your networking success, don’t attend networking events. It’s the same reason that you don’t go to the bar to meet your next long term partner; it’s an environment that attracts people who are looking for a quick solution, not quality interactions. I will get into what to do instead of attending networking events later on, but I do realize that some success does come from networking events.

Here’s how to stand out and do it right:

Creating quality interactions in a short amount of time is difficult, and it’s the reason most men fail at picking up women. The same can be said for failing to “pick up” a high-ranking executive; it’s essentially the same type of interaction. You want something from them (whether it be sex or a job), but they aren’t sure if you’re worth giving that up to. In order for your interactions to be successful at a networking event, you need to convince the people you’re interacting with that you’re worth their time.

You don't have to wear a tux, but no one cuts a suit like Tom Ford (above) does. You want to have one that fits like this.

You don’t have to wear a tux, but no one cuts a suit like Tom Ford (above) does. You want to have one that fits like this.

 

1) Dress the part: elevate yourself above your competition and get a tailored suit, a good pair of shoes, and make sure everything goes well together. You don’t have to walk in with a lapel flower and a bespoke double breasted suit, but you should aim to be better dressed than 90% of the people there, both value providers and value seekers. It shows you know how to play the game and that you’re committed to reaching the top. In most client-facing careers, appearance is heavily weighted, and since many of these positions are quite lucrative and sought after, you might as well go the extra mile and invest in looking your best.

 

2) Have something interesting to talk about.

Malcolm Gladwell. While his books may be "pop science", they do offer a great starting point for some cool ideas.

Malcolm Gladwell. While his books may be “pop science”, they do offer a great starting point for some cool ideas.

This is where reading things other than Buzzfeed or the Chive come in handy. If you are well versed in numerous theories or ideas in psychology, sociology, or other easily applicable and explainable subjects, you’ll be well-equipped to carry a conversation and introduce some cool new ideas to high level executives that they may not know already. Whatever you talk about, have an opinion and stand by it.

Avoid talking about business: no one cares what entry level stuff you can regurgitate to try and pretend you know what you’re talking about. These are heavy hitters with decades of industry experience. They wrote the books you had to memorize, so don’t patronize them by trying to sound like you know how the business world works.

Additionally, these people have been at the top of their game for quite some time. Do you really think that after all their years of work, they want to spend an entire evening in an echo chamber? Booooring. Strike up a conversation about their passions. Try to align yourself with what they enjoy and develop a deeper connection that way. Don’t blabber on about how great the company is or how smart and wise they are.

It’s the same reason why you never tell a hot girl that she’s hot. She knows that already, and the executives know that they’re a big deal and that their company is great.  When you’re speaking with an executive, dig a little deeper and show you actually care about what they think and what they enjoy. The best friendships and relationships are founded on passion, so find out what theirs are and build from there.

 

3) Don’t be a kiss ass.

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At networking events, value providers constantly have everyone on their junk. It might seem cool to them at first, but it eventually becomes a blur after an entire evening of meeting hundreds of people who are essentially the same person. When you first introduce yourself, act like you don’t care about a job – it’s the last thing you bring up in person. Talk to them because you noticed something about them, or you overheard something they said. Leave work at work and be observant; talk to them like a real person.

 

4) Do your homework.

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To add to your layers of conversational topics, why not research who your targets for that night are? Before every interview I’ve had, I find out who is doing the interviewing and then I Google and LinkedIn creep them to find out who they really are. Learn about them, their passions, what they’ve achieved, or even what their kids have achieved. Show up to networking events armed with this knowledge and just direct the conversation towards something you know they will feed off of. Take command of the conversation and keep calling the shots: give the people what they want to hear.

 

5) Establish time constraints.

Unknown-11The reason why people often get so uncomfortable talking to strangers is because they are not sure when they interaction is going to end, so their mind becomes distracted at trying to find an excuse to end things. Before you get into the meat of the conversation, establish a time constraint. It could be something as simple as: “I was just on my way to the washroom, but…” Keep your conversations brief, to the point, and then gracefully abandon them.  You want to think quickly on your feet, establish a brief connection, and then when the conversation is just starting to slide, get out. You must be the one taking control of the interaction; if you dictate when the conversation is over, it will place you in a dominant position, and it also makes you less annoying since you don’t hover around them and drag the conversation on.

If you establish a time constraint, your value provider target is going to be more at ease because you have established the framework for the duration of your interaction. They will be a more attentive listener and are more likely to remember you since you are the one who leaves them hanging. This is a great chance to leave them a business card. When you hand them your business card, write down the key topic of your conversation so that it jogs their memory.

 

6) Speak slowly

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Nervous people make other people nervous because their actions are quick, jittery, and evoke a sense of unpredictability. This puts your targets on edge and distracts them from the message of your conversation. If you take a deep breath and speak slowly, this will relax you and your audience, and they are more likely to receive your message in a positive, memorable way. Speaking slowly also shows that you’re not intimidated by talking to someone important, and executives will treat you with more respect as a result.

7) Be funny, or at least learn the art of comedy

Louis C.K. should be one of your starting points for studying comedy.

Louis C.K. should be one of your starting points for studying comedy.

Humour is a universally liked trait, and funny people are generally more popular than those who aren’t. If you aren’t naturally funny, start teaching yourself to be. Humour is an intelligent craft that is performed by mastering the abstract relationships between two seemingly unrelated things, manipulating language, or being observant. Study the joke patterns of your favourite comedians, or even read a few books on the basics of humour. Most humour follows basic patterns with interchangeable words and subjects, so once you understand how to construct a joke and work on your timing, humour can come naturally to anyone.

An improv class is also recommended, as it will help you loosen up your nerves and help you think creatively. Humour is a reflection of someone who is emotionally intelligent, observant, and pleasant to be around: who wouldn’t want to hire the person who provides this to their company?

 

Ok, so that covers how to present and conduct yourself at a networking event, but as I mentioned before, these are not the best places to meet value providers. Recall the last sentence of tip # 2: “The best friendships and relationships are founded on passion, so find out what theirs are and build from there.” You want to use context as your aid in maximizing the chance for aligning passions with a value provider, and there are numerous places to do that.

Here are the best 4.

 

1) Volunteer

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Volunteering unites people for a  cause and does not discriminate in terms of wealth or status. It’s an excellent way to meet like-minded people and develop a relationship not based on something superficial like work. Whatever cause you’re volunteering for will take centre stage, and employment will come up later on in conversation. As long as you show that you’re dedicated and hard-working, value providers that are present will recognize the value that you can provide their company and are more likely to help you out with your job search. The fact that you’re volunteering in the first place already cements the fact that you care about more the world than money.

2) Learn to golf or play tennis

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It is said that most big business deals are not made in the boardroom, but on the golf course. Our current North American business model dominated world dictates that high ranking executives play golf together and forge business partnerships in the process. Tennis is also present on the list because it too is associated with the country club crowd, but due to the more intense nature of the sport, it will never be as popular as the much easier-going golf. If you don’t know how to play golf or even tennis, start learning. Even if you’re opposed to the idea of golf because of elitism, the wasteful environmental nature it promotes, or it seems too expensive, these are the rules of the game. You have to play by them or you’ll get left behind.

One other option is to get a part-time position at a high end country club/golf course and use your position there to expand your network. This can really pay off if you’re skilled at golf or tennis, because then you can provide a lot of value to executives who might need a few pointers. They just might return the favour by hooking you up with a job.

3) Join a summer intramural sports league

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Excellent way to meet like-minded people. Get a team together or join one as a free agent. Virtually every executive is competitive in some fashion, so organized sports are a great outlet to foster a sense of healthy competition. It’s another example where everyone is levelled based on their skill and ability, not on their salary.

4) Acquire a second job

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Get a second job for evenings or weekends in a service-related position such as a bartender or a waiter/waitress. Aim for a classier place where you’ll have a better chance to run into higher profile contacts, and then just let the conversations flow naturally. Talk about where you went to school, what you’re currently doing at your job, but don’t hedge the conversation on these points. Make most of it about your contacts, but if you must speak about yourself, talk about your passions. Again, it’s all about finding similar passions with others and aligning them in a way to make a connection.

 

 

Most of your success in networking doesn’t boil down to who you talk to or where you go: it all comes down to who you are and how you apply that to the real world. Sure, your parents might know someone who can give you a job, but it’s up to you to excel at it and not screw everything up. You can go to 50 networking events per year, but if you don’t provide an ounce of value to the people you’re talking to, why would they hire you, let alone remember you? If you want to be serious about career advancement and proper networking, just keep this in mind: your career will never advance unless you advance yourself.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Stop Being Boring and Basic: Be Passionate!

Growing up, we are told to embrace our differences and to just “be ourselves”. Unfortunately, most children and teenagers soon realize that being different is not the best social strategy, and most soon conform to certain standards of appearance and behaviour. High school is where some youth find out what they identify with, and others discover this in university. This includes what crowd you fit into, where your true interests lie, and what people you enjoy being around; however, this is a process that is predicated on stereotypes and conforming to them. In other words, this is how cliques are formed.

I believe cliques form and persist due to a lack of passion and social courage among the members within them. This is normal in high school, as most kids that age lack the life experience and self-awareness to recognize what they are passionate about, let alone act on it. In university, life experience starts to trickle into people’s lives, and cliques are not as apparent, but they still dominate the social fabric of campus. It is only when passion starts to integrate itself into people’s lives do stereotypical conformities start to dissolve in place of a stronger, more individual identity that was shaped as a result of someone acting on what activities or interests they hold dear.

What does all of this have to do with being boring or basic? Humans are a highly socialized species, and most of us dream about being famous in some form or another. In fact, today it is easier than ever to become famous thanks to social media and the internet. There are numerous cases of seemingly average people who became famous because they posted a video of themselves on YouTube. There are normal girls who are famous because they post attractive pictures of themselves on Instagram. Countless more examples exist, but we are truly living in the golden age of self-promotion. Because of this, it is more important than ever to be passionate. We are all competing for attention with one another, but in order to win out, you have to be passionate to stand out from the crowd.

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When defining passion, we must first differentiate between internal and external validation. Being passionate about something means that you are not motivated by external validation; you do it because you enjoy it, regardless of what other people think of you. This also means that you enjoy the entire process of it, not just the glamourous end result. Remember, just because you enjoy something, doesn’t mean you’re passionate about it. Let’s pick on both genders to help illustrate my point.

Girls: Usually when I ask a girl what she is passionate about, the top three answers are: food (this includes wine), traveling, and fashion.

Who doesn’t like food? If you had have said cooking, then that would make sense; cooking is an art, but going to a nice restaurant and paying for a nice meal or Instagramming a boat full of sushi is not being “passionate” about food, it’s enjoying a basic biological function and seeking external validation for it.

This isn't being passionate about food.

This isn’t being passionate about food.

This is!

This is!

Traveling is in the same boat (or plane or train or whatever): traveling is an almost universally attractive thing, and it’s largely the result of simply paying for it. Many people enjoy traveling, but remember, enjoying something and being passionate about it are two different things. If you were truly passionate about traveling, you would be going to countries most people have never even heard of, interacting with locals, learning the language, getting off the beaten path, and coming back with a story.

When a girl tells me that she’s passionate about fashion, I usually laugh a little on the inside, and then get her to name her 5 favourite designers. If one of them is Coach, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, or the like, I equate her being passionate about fashion to desiring ownership of expensive designer goods and the external validation that comes with them, but certainly not an appreciation for design, silhouette, textures, and fabrics. Most people who are “passionate” about fashion usually end up looking the same, and if you’re really passionate about it, people shouldn’t have to ask; they’ll know.

Guys: With guys, we tend to be passionate about sports, cars, and technology (especially video games).

Sports are a pretty universally attractive thing, but unfortunately, sports are becoming diluted with casual fans. The Air Canada Centre is infamous for how many of the “fans” sitting in the best seats in the house are always in suits sending emails the entire game, clueless about what’s going on. Blue Jays games are also guilty of this, and while there’s nothing wrong with going out and enjoying an afternoon ball game while crushing a few beers and dummying a hot dog, I find it a little weird when people start rocking Jays hats when they have, at best, a basic working knowledge of the lineup and starting pitching rotation. The reason people wear these hats is the same reason they Instagram their sushi: external validation, which detracts from your true identity. I don’t think it’s wrong to wear a Jays hat if you’re not a passionate fan, but what I am saying is that you should be honest with yourself and find a better alternative.

Cars are a whole other story, and perhaps the worst case of external validation we have in today’s world. It pains many passionate automotive fans to see guys without an ounce of taste driving around a car that they bought simply to get attention. There are plenty of affluent men in the world who choose to drive non-attention seeking vehicles because they are in tune with what their passions are, and cars aren’t on their list.

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea. Worth 47 billion, he drives a 1988 Volvo 740 station wagon.

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea. Worth $47 billion, he drives a 1988 Volvo 740 station wagon. He’s not passionate about cars, and the fact that he hasn’t invested his wealth into an expensive car reflects this

Technology is a very external validation driven field, with many guys guilty of shelling out insane amounts of cash for a huge TV and an amazing hi-fi stereo, yet they know nothing about what they just got themselves into. However, if you walk into the home of someone who is truly passionate about technology, it’s breathtaking to see how they pour their passion into their toys in order to achieve the maximum output of their resources.

The key message is that just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Being passionate is one of the most fundamental principles of respect in our world. I have infinitely more respect for an awkward nerdy guy who is clearly in love with his work in the lab than some guy ripping around in a BMW who has all the toys money could buy, but when you speak to him, he clearly hasn’t taken the time to develop any internal validation. He has spent all of this time trying to prove himself to the world, that he has lost the definition of who he is and what he truly enjoys. Wanting to make money and spend it is not a passion – it is a path towards dependence on external validation. Instead, become passionate about your work or business and delivering value and good service to your clients; the money will come.

Try this out: if someone were to do an impression of you, what would they do? How easily could they formulate an accurate impression? If someone can’t easily do an impression of you, then you are probably not passionate enough about the things you enjoy. Start embracing the key pillars of own your individuality, and start broadcasting to the world what about you is so special. If you can’t think of anything worth broadcasting to the world, start small. Pick a few things, or even one thing, you enjoy and build on that. Read about them more. Interact with others who share your passions to learn more.  Above all, do not live your life based on a series of external validations; it is ok to share your passions with the world, but make sure that you are internally validated before you seek external validation, and not the other way around. Those who have passion will always be remembered over those who don’t. Quit hiding, stop being basic and boring, and start shaping your life around what you’re passionate about.

 

The S-Curve of Development: Identify when you Plateau and Find a New Curve

Development is a crucial stage for the success of just about anything, and is often mathematically described using a sigmoid curve. The development of a technology is the most common example of something that follows this pattern. A new technology will stumble out of the gate slowly, but eventually reaches a turning point, which accelerates its development, and eventually the pace of development reaches a plateau.

The Learning Curve: a sigmoid function

The Learning Curve: a sigmoid function

Think back to your high school days: were you popular from the beginning? Were you at roughly the same level the whole time? Or were you a late bloomer who caught up in the later stages of your high school career?

If you were popular from the beginning, your development likely was in a state of plateau. This would have been great while everyone else was still developing and catching up to you, but once the rest of the group caught up, it is likely 1 of 2 things occurred:

1) You persisted in this state of plateau as the others pushed past your level and left you behind wondering where all the good times went

2) You got motivated to change and develop further, and you kept pace with the rest of the group, perhaps regaining your lead.

Before he got signed to the NFL, all Kurt Warner was qualified to do was bag groceries. He was in a state of plateau.

Before he got signed to the NFL, all Kurt Warner was qualified to do was bag groceries. He was in a state of plateau, and many people who peak in high school experience this state afterwards.

I’m sure you can complete the rest of the scenarios based on this train of logic, but the point here is that this is why we often here of people “peaking” in closed environments such as high school or university. Many people who were popular in high school remain this way into their university career, but once they plateau their development long enough for others to catch up, they will be in unfamiliar, unpopular territory. This same scenario is often what motivates the less popular into continuously developing and improving themselves in the hopes that one day their hard work will pay off and their growth level will surpass the benchmark of their more popular peers.

One other phenomenon that can also be explained by this sigmoid curve of development is how good friends can drift apart after first year in university – specifically if you spent it in residence. I had a great time in first year, and I had a very social floor with lots of friendly people. I thought that we would remain friends for all of our 4 years at university. Unfortunately, I was unaware of the sigmoid pattern of development at that time and how influential your behaviour and ambition can be on the slope of the curve.

At the beginning of second year, I went to a few parties hosted by people who were on my floor, but we quickly grew apart due to our different interests. What I failed to realize was that, generally speaking, success in university is a lot more than getting good grades. Getting involved around campus, studying together, going to big parties – doing it all, basically –  are the keys to a fruitful career as a university student. Instead of my development accelerating, I was actually stumbling out of the gate because of my arrogance and stubbornness brought on by the small, isolated group of friends that I had. We thought that we were better than everyone else because we weren’t wasting our time partying with the “dumb” people from our floor. We were sorely mistaken, but eventually, I learned my lesson. I started volunteering, started going out with new friends more, and started making a lot more friends as a result of both these changes to my life. My grades actually went up, my sense of belonging at school improved, and I felt happy about my future. My development hit that turning point and started accelerating upwards. I was catching up.

If you find that you’ve grown apart from friends that you had in first year, it’s probably because you were simply at different places in your lives, and this can likely be explained by the fact that your development curves simply didn’t match up properly. Your goals, ambitions, and interests did not overlap or were not parallel; they were divergent. Do not be afraid to move on and seek out others more similar to you, though, as it is highly unlikely that you’ll retain all of your friends from first year simply because everyone develops at a different pace. Perhaps 5 years down the road you’ll reconvene, so there’s no need to burn any bridges.

The end of your university career can be a very scary thing for some people, and I think it’s because your development curve has plateaued near the end of your university career, and many people are unsure of where to go from there. High school and university were essentially guided tours of life, and all you had to do was listen to get the most out of it. Once you are a graduate, the tour is over, and you’re left to explore the city all on your own. The big challenge and paradox of further change and development that we face is branching off from our current sigmoid curve and stumbling out of a new gate.

What we need to keep in mind is that we should learn the recognize when we are plateauing in our development. Many people reach a stage in their mid to late twenties where they simply grow tired of their job, no longer feel young again, and are generally quite apathetic. Why else are there so many articles pertaining to fostering excitement and acceptance for the lifestyle of the twenty-something? What these articles should be teaching is that if you find yourself complacent and jaded, perhaps it is time that you branch off your current curve and stumble into a new one.

A new job, a new city, a new skill, a new partner in a relationship, the list goes on and on. Bear in mind that no one person has a development curve that they can sustain for their entire life – we are simply not built that way. Look at the most financially successful person in the world: Bill Gates. After an incredible amount of financial success early in his career, Mr. Gates likely grew bored of being so wealthy all the time, so he branched out to a new curve: philanthropy. It’s the reason why many billionaires are also such passionate people. Their passion brought them their vast amount of personal wealth, but it also enables them the ability to branch off their curve and start a new one with great faith and enthusiasm for its challenges and successes.

I believe that passion is lacking with a lot of young people today, as we have become so depressed and complacent with how our lives are going to be. We’re going to school, we’re getting taught things, but a lot of people are not getting educated. The passion to learn and develop is something that will pay dividends for your entire life, so learn to recognize and harness your passion and energy when you are stumbling or plateauing. This way, your life will be a lot more exciting and fulfilling, as you will be in a near constant state of accelerated development. Never stop trying to find new curves to stumble into; remember, passion is key above all else.

The Pareto Principle and How it can Apply to Life as a Student (and beyond)

In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto was taking a leisurely stroll in his garden. He was examining his pea plants, and he noticed a pattern: 20% of the pea pods contained 80% of the peas. He developed a mathematical model for this pattern, and he produced what is now known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. This causal relationship is rooted in the fact that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Pareto then applied his model to land ownership in Italy, and he determined that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people. A modern day example of this can be found at the root of the wealth distribution of many nations, where 80% of the wealth is controlled by 20% of the people. While the Pareto principle is an economics theory, it can be applied to your life at school and help you improve your performance by optimizing your time use.

The Pareto Principle Distribution

The Pareto Principle Distribution

If you apply the Pareto Principle to one of the keys of academic success, studying, you will find that you get 80% of your studying done in 20% of your time actually spent studying. This might sound shocking at first, but bear with me for a moment. Think to when you’re studying: you spend a lot of time being distracted, re-reading, thinking about other things, daydreaming about your future, or you leave to go grab a coffee. Let’s take a 5 hour study session at the library and break it down:

20% of 5 hours is 1 hour, so in theory, you only need 1 hour of studying to achieve 5 hours of “studying”. The rest of the time will be spent on your phone, waiting in line for coffee, checking Facebook or another website, or simply zoning out in moments of lost focus. Starting to make sense?

Let’s attach this to a different example in the not so near future: you are now in the process of starting your own business. The Pareto Principle predicts that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. This is why as a business owner, it is imperative that you work harder initially to retain your regular client base than worry about complaints from one-time customers, as they will not provide as much business as your core 20% will. How large that 20% will become is up to your skills and abilities in sales and marketing, but the fact remains is that you want to treat your best customers the best, as they will essentially keep you afloat based on how much business they provide for you. This is why many companies employ a VIP system or preferred client program; they understand the value of a regular customer.

While the Pareto Principle itself is hardly cutting edge (I mean, it has been around for over 100 years), the applications to which it can be applied are always changing. In today’s world, there are so many outlets for our energy, and we simply have to learn how to harness this energy to make the best use of the 80/20 ratio.

The first way to do this is to not over-indulge all of your time in one thing; diversify your portfolio, so to speak. So instead of spending your entire day studying, break up your day into a variety of activities, otherwise you’ll simply be damning yourself from the beginning to accomplish less. Divide your day into smaller chunks of time in which to accomplish your goals for that day. Keep your mind fresh by constantly changing things up.

For example, let’s say that you have to study for two midterms, have an essay due, and also have some routine homework to accomplish, and let’s say it’s all due in a week’s time. Instead of stressing about one thing over the other, allocate a balanced amount of time to each until you accomplish the task. Maximize that 20% of your time each day to achieve 80% of your work. Keep things changing to limit distractions and other contributing factors to the wasted 80% of your time. By managing your 80% “waste time” effectively, you can accomplish 80% of multiple things in the same time as you would normally have accomplished 80% of only one thing.

Our brain traditionally gets bored of doing one thing after only half an hour to an hour, so by changing up the activity, you’re essentially resetting the clock on the 20% of your time to accomplish 80% of a new thing. This is also why I’ve always lived by the philosophy that I’m more productive when I’m busier and mildly stressed about how jam-packed my day is. Perhaps you’ve noticed this too: if you have extended periods of down time, despite all that available time to accomplish whatever tasks you have on hand, you in fact accomplish less because of the lack of motivation, the lack of urgency, and natural tendency to procrastinate. If you want maximize the benefits of the Pareto Principle, simply do more things and manage accordingly.

So with the coming exam season, during your day-to-day routine at work, or your next work-out, try to introduce a bit more variety into it to reset the 80/20 clock and invigorate your mind to accomplish more in the set amount of time you have each day. Each task will feel fresh and fun, your motivation to accomplish things will increase since your list is more challenging, and you’ll accomplish more things in a more efficient manner. This article is living proof that the 80/20 principle works. I wrote it in about 25 minutes in class when my mind started wandering from the course material.

Fall in Love with the Process, not the Product

An issue that I see at university is that many students are pursuing a career that is not the right fit for them, and by that I mean that they’re misled as far as the character required for that particular career. Ask any first year science student what they want to be, and most will say that they want to be a doctor. Ask them why, and most will say that “they want to help people”, “they want a stable career”, or “they’re passionate about health care”. These are not encompassing reasons to become a physician, and demonstrate how poorly misinformed many students are about their future. You could be passionate about health care and be a nurse, a public health official, etc… The same metric can be applied to those who desire to be lawyers, or investment bankers, or whatever big league career you have in mind. Students are very mislead on what a job actually entails, because as a society, we like to focus on the glamours and the rewards of our desires, but never the often grim, difficult path it takes to achieve them.

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I find that young students often fall in love with the idea of becoming a doctor, or lawyer, or whatever, because they enjoy the prospect of a good career with a solid income, a title, and other prospects that this will bring. I was guilty of this, and you probably were too at some point. One of the big problems with the culture at university is that envy persists in an almost universal prevalence. Envy is a characteristic of a meritocratic society; one in which status is based on what you have achieved – your merits. This might seem nice at first, because shouldn’t societal status be determined by how hard you have worked for it? The problem with meritocracy is what happens when you don’t succeed, when you fail. If you have failed, for whatever reason, then society tells you that you don’t deserve anything nice, and that your place is at the bottom. Not only that, but we have rather nasty terms for generalizing failures: a loser, to name one. This sort of placement system can be very rewarding to those who succeed, but even more damaging to those who don’t. This is why so many students are caught up with the dream of a great career: no one wants to be known as a failure or a loser. Unfortunately, using this notion of success/failure has limited the scope in which we choose our paths in life, and our motivations for doing so are often misguided and shallow.

Unfortunately, this is often the primary motivation for a lot of people's career choices

Unfortunately, this is often the primary motivation for a lot of people’s career choices

What many high school students and university students need to understand is that in order for a career to be enjoyable, you have to fall in love with the process achieving your career, not the product of possessing your career, or the “title”. And this is not limited to the process of becoming what you want to be; this includes the day-to-day grind of whatever it is you desire to be. You have to embrace the daily struggles you’ll face and use that anxiety in a positive way to help motivate yourself. I’m going to pick on aspiring physicians and lawyers for the bulk of this article for simplicity’s sake, but this metric can be applied to whichever prototypical “good” career that you can think of. This article is not meant to negative or critical of those who are set on pursuing one of these careers and are well-informed as such; it’s meant to provide a sense of realism to the ones whose heart may not be in the right place and who perhaps don’t understand themselves enough to make the right decision.

I was given great advice by a friend of mine who, at the time, was in med school. He said: “A lot of people have this mindset that while I might be miserable in undergrad, once I get into med school, that will all change! And they’re wrong. It gets a lot harder, and you have to dedicate a lot more time to your profession. If you’re miserable getting into med school, you’ll be miserable in med school.”

This perfectly illustrates my point about process versus product. Getting into med school is not some magic pill you swallow to make your life immediately better. It’s a small piece of the puzzle in terms of life satisfaction; you need balance, and your personality has to match well with the type it takes to have an enjoyable career as a physician. There are lots of difficult aspects of the job that can wear on you, the long hours might not be for everyone, and people are less grateful for health care than you think. The novelty of getting called “Dr. so and so” wears off quickly, so if you truly want to a be physician, you have to dig a little deeper than superficial things such as the title or the big pay check. Don’t base your idea of success and happiness off of what is around you. Envy is ever-present in our society, and the more similar you are to somebody, the more likely you are to envy them. Envy can be a good thing; use the thing that you’re envious of another person possessing and use it to try to improve that gap in your own life.

Sometimes you have to deliver some devastating news to people. If you're not prepared to deal with that, maybe rethink your career path

Sometimes you have to deliver some devastating news to people. If you’re not prepared to deal with that, maybe rethink your career path

Much like medicine, law is a very prominent career choice that is often poorly misunderstood and over-glamourized in popular media. Law school involves a great deal of reading and writing, and most of the material is not the most exciting literature on the planet. Legal work itself is also very time-consuming and repetitive, and it’s a very difficult thing for some people to get used to. Like medicine, law is not a glamorous career. When you get admitted to the bar and start work as an associate, you’re likely going to be doing a lot of document review and preparation. More long hours await, and many people are simply not capable of putting in those long hours of work. This is the process of being a lawyer, at least initially, so you really have to ask yourself if this is right for you. Don’t be misled by movies or tv shows; law is a grind, and it’s not for everyone. The job market for lawyers is also not the greatest at the moment. There are currently thousands of unemployed J.D.s in the United States, and Canada isn’t much better. Be aware of these things before you decide to pursue a career in law.

What you'll probably do as a young lawyer fresh out of school.

What you’ll probably do a lot of as a young lawyer fresh out of school.

Guys, if you think that dropping the whole “Sup girl, I’m a doctor/lawyer/iBanker” line at the bar is going to get you that hot girlfriend that you always envisioned would be your reward for your years of hard work at school, think again. You’re likely going to be restricted to someone who has just as little free time as you do. Why do you think so many dual doctor or lawyer couples exist? Yes, they share common interests and passions, but a lot of it has to do with convenience and proximity. Quit believing what movies have told you: girls will not magically fawn over you if you have a prototypical “good” career. You’re just falling in love with the idea of the title, and hoping she will, too. If you barely have enough time for yourself, how could you possibly have time for someone else? Don’t pursue a career path of this nature if one of your motivations for doing so is picking up hot girls with your bank statement and job title. It’s a foolish notion, and it’s incredibly shallow and asinine. That being said, if you do make it to one of these careers, chances are you’ll meet someone equally as intelligent and hard-working as you are, so there’s something to look forward to at least.

Making all that money won't make you happy, especially when you barely have time to spend it when you're fresh out of school

Making all that money won’t make you happy, especially when you barely have time to spend it when you’re fresh out of med school

Before you start calling me a cynic, or think that I’m too bitter, know this: I have many friends in both med school and law school, they’re enjoying things immensely, and they’re happy with their decision. Yes, some of my law school friends aren’t the most confident about their future job prospects. Yes, some of my med school friends are not looking forward to those long nights in the ER. That being said, all of these people chose the career they did because they fell in love with the process and not the product. They don’t go around bragging about what they’re in school for, because this type of education is a humbling experience. They led a balanced life in undergrad, and they all have sound mental health records. They enjoy what they do most days, and they also know that pursuing a demanding career such as medicine or law requires a balanced lifestyle that one cannot sustain if they are too caught up with only the academic portion of their life.

That being said, not everyone who becomes a physician or lawyer will be happy with their career, but these are likely the people who didn’t fall in love with the process, and were perhaps a little dishonest with themselves. Balance is key to maintaining this level of happiness, as your career alone simply cannot provide you with all the happiness that a healthy life requires. There are a lot of students who are pressured into pursuing careers like this because of family pressure, whether it’s because of your parents, your siblings’ accomplishments, or extended family. Because of your close relation and similarity to those in your family, envy is at its strongest here, and it is no wonder that siblings are often secretly (or overtly) resentful of one another if one is “successful” and the other is not. The common theme with a lot of these scenarios is that they completely ignore the dreams and desires of the individual in question. The people providing the pressure just see the good career, the title, and the money. This is not a healthy way to choose a career, because you run the risk of pressuring someone into a career that they’ll be miserable at. The people in this environment have failed to recognize the importance of falling in love with the process.

Another reason why people fail to fall in love with the process is because they create lofty expectations of themselves and become too focused on the ends but not the means. As mentioned in a previous article, high school grades are being inflated at a rate never seen before, and this is creating an illusion for more and more students that they have the academic potential to achieve a great career. Once in university, reality sets in, and only the top students make it into whichever professional school they were gunning for (and some of the top students don’t even get in!), leaving a large group of disappointed, envious people.

Relax. All is not lost, but perhaps this is a great time in your life to examine why you decided to pursue a certain career path. Did you want to become a physician because you wanted to help people? Was it just about the title, money, and job security? Was it just because you were good at science? Was it because your parents, sister, brother, and half of your extended family are also doctors? There are many careers where you can help people, many more where you can make a lot of money, and plenty that require you to be good at science. Maybe you enjoyed the thought of being a respected member of the community? There are plenty of careers or even volunteer positions that give you that same sense of worth and value to your community. Why do you want to be a lawyer? Do you enjoy debating? Relish the opportunity to wear a nice suit every day? Want to help the victims of the world achieve justice? Just like the previous example, there are many answers to this question. What more students need to work on is to start asking the right questions about their chosen path, and then fall in love with the process of answering it.

Many psychologists and executive coaches are now identifying the importance of knowing yourself in terms of your interests, strengths and weaknesses with regards to career choice and life fulfillment. Take a second to write down your interests – they could be academic, extracurricular, whatever. Try to find common traits between them, and use these traits to determine what will best for you. For example, I have worked at summer camp, I enjoy doing outreach and education events, I’m very analytical and love reading, I love debating and public speaking, I love working with people, and I love creative things like writing and marketing. A career that is best for me should involve working with people, problem solving, have me being in a leadership role, and allow for some creativity and flexibility. Think critically about what traits achieving your dream career truly entails, and see if it meshes well with what you are like as a person. This way, you’ll determine if the process is going to be worth attaining the product.

As philosopher Alain de Botton once said: “We should not give up on our ideas of success, but make sure that they are our own; that we are truly authors of our own ambitions. It’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse having an idea of what you want, and finding out at the end of the journey and that it isn’t in fact what you wanted all along.”

Fight Club had it Wrong: the Problems with Minimalism

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When I was in first year at university, it seemed that there were two films that everyone was buzzing about: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fight Club. The two films are controversial, edgy, and they signify a coming of age for many students. One of the main themes of Fight Club is anti-consumerism, which leads to violent, radical activist behaviour in the latter stages of the film. Throughout the film, the narrator is told to free himself from his possessions, because it is in fact his possessions which control him. This is an “awakening” of sorts to many students, who now recognize the evils of advertising, mass media, and consumerism. A major lifestyle movement that has been gaining steam in the past decade is minimalism, which is also largely anti-consumerist and anti-possession.

Minimalism to the extreme

Minimalism to the extreme

Minimalism preaches to rid yourself of all but your most necessary possessions and living space. This means selling all of your DVDs, getting rid of most of your clothes, downsizing your home, and generally clearing your life of unnecessary clutter. Some of the more extreme proponents of the minimalism movement advocate for you to trim down your belongings to a mere 100 things, which is certainly no easy task for many of us today. I do agree that minimalism is useful for certain aspects of your life, and that as North Americans, we do accumulate a number of things that we simply do not need anymore. Technology is to thank for much of this, as we can now have entire libraries and DVD collections on a few devices in our home. However, as trendy as minimalism may be in today’s world, it simply does not work for the vast majority of us.

Minimalism advocates for less clutter

Minimalism advocates for less clutter

At its core, minimalism is just another countercultural lifestyle choice that provides its followers with social status leveraging against the status quo. The premise of essentially every countercultural movement is the motivation to be cooler than the mainstream, and minimalism is no different. The trend with design technology has mirrored this cultural taste, and most of our popular items today are very minimalist in their design. While technology and its design has advanced tremendously in the past decade, the price of most items has remained relatively stable, or has increased slightly.

A minimalist lifestyle reduces spending in the sense of clutter, but it increases spending in the sense of technology to offset the items lost. Getting rid of all of your CDs, DVDs, and books will likely require you to acquire a Netflix account, pay for a relatively good internet package to download movies or music, and purchase a Kindle or an iPad to store and read your discarded books on. This can be a rather expensive upgrade. Essentially, minimalism is not so much a rebellion against consumerism as it is a by-product of the evolution of technology. Think of any vision of an ideal future you may have seen in any science fiction movie. The design template was predominantly minimalist, with a low amount of visually stimulating colour and very simplistic overtones. The advanced technology allowed a more simplistic, streamlined way of life, much like what modern minimalism advocates for.

An example of a minimalist dwelling

An example of a minimalist dwelling

The actual lifestyle impact of minimalism is, on the surface, very promising. Less stuff means more space, more space means a more fluid and simplistic lifestyle and more time to focus on the tasks at hand instead of constant cleaning and organizing. But, another aspect of minimalism is to reduce the size of your living space to cut out unnecessary space from your life. This is all well and good when you’re young, as you don’t have the need for as much stuff because your day-to-day life simply doesn’t dictate it. But the vast majority of the population isn’t young, and space is required to raise a family in a healthy environment.  Additionally, a large part of North American culture is entertaining guests, whether it be for a birthday party, family reunion, or your child’s sleepover. While you can rent out a public space for a birthday party or a family reunion, or simply avoid having your child have a sleepover, this can be potentially damaging to your reputation and to the event itself.

If your home is not big enough to entertain guests such that you have to rent a public space, it ruins the intimacy of hosting the event, not to mention it costs a lot more. You might also run into unforeseen rules, regulations, and other annoyances along the way. In short, minimalism can often lead to awkward social situations if your social circle are not minimalists themselves. This is not to say that minimalism is wrong, but that it will never reach mainstream society because of how the North American family model has historically been constructed.

To quote the Great Gatsby: “I love big parties, they’re so intimate”.

This is why I believe that the minimalist movement is cultivating a secular crop of lonely people, unless your other friends also happen to be minimalist. If you physically do not have the space to entertain, or to even share it comfortably with one significant other, you’re limiting your development as a human. A small space is tight, enclosed, and unwelcoming. Look at most examples of minimalist living and you’ll find that the design and layout of most of these spaces evoke a very cold and lifeless atmosphere. Minimalism is also for people who do not need to interact with many people during their daily routine. For this constant face-to-face contact, you would need more clothes, means of travel, possibly a space to entertain at some point, and other possessions that sync with this lifestyle that minimalism doesn’t allow for. Dependence on technology, discarding mementoes and other priceless memorabilia, and ascribing to a strict regimen of little to no possessions can shut you out from some truly great experiences.

Ironically, experiences are what a lot of the appeal of minimalism is based on. In lieu of adding to your collection of possessions, the minimalist approach is to spend your money elsewhere. Learning new skills, travelling, and living outside the confines of your own home (hence why size doesn’t really matter) are key traits of a minimalist lifestyle. Traveling has definitely become one of the de facto ways to gain independence and discover yourself today, but a life of constant travel is quite expensive and unpredictable, which many people simply cannot afford to do. I definitely encourage shaping your life through experiences, and building lasting memories with them, but the fundamental flaw with this philosophy is that it states that experiences cannot be created through possessions and consumerism. I would argue that many possessions can provide you with experiences, and that one simply needs to be a smarter consumer instead of largely abstaining from purchasing.

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Minimalism advocates for spending more income on experiences, such as travel

In a previous article, I spoke of my theory that buying your clothes second-hand at thrift stores or online makes you more attached to them and increases your satisfaction with your purchase because you had to live out more of an experience to locate and procure them. My theory of experiential consumerism can be applied to almost every purchase you make in the future. I equate it to this: if the purchase you are making will provide your life with a direct, tangible benefit, then it counts as an experiential purchase, and you should buy it. This could be a cookbook, a computer, a bike – anything that you will use to great benefit of your own life.

What you should aim to approach with a more minimalist mindset are the things that you do not place high value in. I’m not the biggest fan of electronics and TV in particular, so I have the bare essentials as far as technology goes: a computer, a cell phone, and a small TV, but that’s all I have any use for. If you place more value on technology, by all means, spend away on it, as your high sense of value that is invested in your experiences that you gain from electronics will be rewarding.

I place a high value in books and my clothes, and my bookshelf is full of titles new and old, and my closet follows a similar pattern. I gain a great deal of personal value when I read a new book and learn something, or when I purchase an item of clothing to emulate a certain style or aesthetic that I find interesting. All of these are experiential purchases, and the value that they give me is worth the purchase ten-fold. Don’t be afraid to spend money on things you’re passionate about; it’s not consumerism if you’re consciously aware and happy with what you’re buying.

A minimalist closet. Generally not indicative of someone who places value in their clothing

A minimalist closet creates a very restrictive and repetitive wardrobe, which is fine if you don’t place value in your clothing.

The narrator in Fight Club placed a high value in furniture from IKEA, but the difference here is that he placed a high value in the furniture, not IKEA the company. This is why when he purchased everything in his apartment from IKEA, he was in a delusional state of happiness. His purchases did not reflect his high valuation of interior design and an attractive apartment. The narrator purchased unoriginal, cheaply made furniture that anyone could have, and this furniture was not produced with longevity in mind. This is also why many experiential purchases will be higher quality purchases: a long product life will produce more experiences for the consumer, and this attachment will produce more satisfaction and happiness with the product. If the narrator had have searched high and low for antique furniture or other rare, quality pieces, he would likely have been a lot more upset when his entire apartment went up in flames, because he attached an experience to his purchase.

I believe that Fight Club’s core message about how we let our possessions own us was correct, but to discard all possessions in favour of a life of squalor and violence was quite frankly delusional in nature. Our possessions only own us as long as we let them. We don’t have to throw everything away and squat in a dilapidated house while plotting our revenge against the system; we can make conscious decisions to make more of our purchases experiential ones. For many people, minimalism is a radical notion, and this is why it will simply never catch on to the desires of its proponents. Like all forms of counterculture, the strength of minimalism lies in its exclusivity. Minimalism has some good merits, but to subscribe to the entire ideology is not sustainable for most people.

As long as there is democracy, there will be competition for status. Counterculture exists for those on the cutting edge of status leveraging, and when an aspiring minimalist discards all of their possessions, they are merely trying to be cooler than the other guy, which is counterproductive. As the old adage goes: “The harder you try to be cool, the less cool you actually become.” The reality is, many of our possessions are what define our status and help us find a place in society. As sad is this grim truth is, it will continue to persist as long as our egalitarian society yields the premise of success and fortune no matter what the situation you’re born into.

What’s ironic is that while minimalists abstain from possessions because they’re a constant measure of status, minimalism itself is a status-seeking lifestyle. At its core, minimalism is keeping ahead of the Joneses by abstaining from needless purchases, so in terms of social morals, minimalists are no better than the possession driven mainstreamers they seek to distinguish themselves from.

Stop keeping up with the Joneses. Worry about yourself instead.

Stop keeping up with (or ahead of) the Joneses. Worry about yourself instead.

In this sense of almost inescapable status laddering, we must tailor our consumption to mirror our values, and force ourselves to forego purchases that are not experiential in nature. If we purchase things because we value them and disregard purchases that are thoughtless and largely driven by consumer hysteria, we will start to see a great deal of change. Tailor your purchases to your values, and stop making unnecessary purchases of things that you do not value.

I definitely encourage you to clear out some unnecessary things, as we are all guilty of having too much clutter in our homes. However, minimalism will not make you spend less money; rather, it will make you spend your money differently because you’re more actively thinking about what you’re doing doing with it. And this is the one philosophy of minimalism that I believe should be applied to your life whether you ascribe to this lifestyle or not. The bottom line is: we need to think about why we’re purchasing things, stop trying to impress each other, and instead focus on impressing ourselves.