D&D and Life

I am in control of my actions and reactions, not how they turn out, not the things around me, not the problems I face. Only my actions and reactions.

Turns out, the system for D&D combat is a really good tool to help navigate life.

Hear me out.

In D&D (5e), when you’re in combat, your character has only three things they can do on your turn; an action, a bonus action, and movement.

An action is usually something like making an attack or casting a spell, or even holding an action until something else happens (other actions include hiding, dashing, interacting with objects, and so on). A bonus action might be to take a potion or even another attack if you’re one of those classes.

Here’s the thing though. I can choose to attack, but my dice roll determines how I do. If I roll low, no go. If I roll high, hurray! I succeed. I choose what to do, but I can’t control what happens (not until someone develops a wrist technique for rolling dice how you want – I’ll keep you posted on that).

So in life as in D&D.

In life, I can only choose my actions and movements. I can choose whether to pursue this relationship, take that job, move away, move home, write this book, start that blog, exercise, etc. It’s all up to me. What I can’t choose is what happens with it. Maybe I move to a new city and it doesn’t work out. Maybe the relationship doesn’t pay off. Maybe the book is a glorious flop. Or maybe not. I have no way of knowing.

However, also as in D&D, I can stack the odds slightly in my favor. In D&D you use a d20, or 20-sided die, for most ability checks and attack rolls. You roll the dice and add your modifier. A fighter class, for instance, will have a higher chance of doing something strength-based so they will have a higher modifier, and a likelier chance of success. Say they have a +4 modifier, on a d20 that increases the chances of meeting the target number by 20%. Not bad. Magic weapons, spell effects, and other items can also increase the chance of success.

How can I do the same in real life?

Education is one step, and I don’t necessarily mean organized education, although that can help in certain circumstances. But if you want to succeed on your taxes this year, doing some research and learning how to prepare your taxes is essential. Or learning that you can afford someone to prepare your taxes for you.

You might learn a new language, which helps your chances of getting a coveted job posting abroad.

You might get a certificate in the area of your choice, vastly increasing the odds of getting a job in that field.

Health is another way to stack the odds in your favor. Having more energy, both mental and physical, will help you in any endeavor, whether it’s personal or professional. Being emotionally stable is another huge benefit in work and in life, and though that might require some investment (hey, training in D&D ain’t cheap), it’s well worth it.

How far can this metaphor go?

Well, D&D is a cooperative game, designed to run best for groups of 4-6. A solo player won’t be able to handle much, as their skills aren’t going to be balanced. That’s just how the game works. You can’t be a rogue and a wizard and a barbarian and a cleric. You will have your strong points offset by weaknesses. Everyone does. But in a party (support group of friends/family) everyone is made stronger. You can tackle higher level puzzles, traps and monsters because you all work together.

As in D&D, as in life.

I think this is one reason why people love D&D so much. I’ve even heard (through rumors), that some psychologists treat it as a great place to work through personal issues. Home-therapy, anyone? At the very least, it can teach a receptive player how to cooperate in the face of danger (and believe me, the stress of a combat situation feels very real), how to have interpersonal conflicts in a healthy way, creative problem-solving and a lot more.

D&D is a great metaphor for life and a great tool for how to live it.

Or maybe I’m just looking for any excuse to repackage my problems as dragons.

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The Cult of Hustle

“As we’ll see, as well-intentioned and glamorous as the Religion of Hustle is, it often backfires on people. Because the truth is that most types of work (especially work that will make you some money in 2017) does not produce linear returns, it produces diminishing returns.” – Mark Manson

The cult of hustle is a relatively new phenomenon, and like most new(ish) trends in self-improvement and business, it’s got a good heart.

I scoured the internet to find the best examples of hustle, and here’s what I found:

Articles

The World Belongs to Those Who Hustle

How to Hustle Your Way to Your Dream Job in 4 Steps

How To Hustle Your Way To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur

WANT TO BE SUCCESSFUL? HUSTLE LIKE A G (6 CASE STUDIES TO PROVE IT)

Memes

 

“Harsh but true ... Keep going,  no one cares !!! #hustle #hustler”
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Well.... We'll see...
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Keep Up That Hustle, Girl ||
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Moving Mountains Motivation: Rise and Grind
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As you can see, the whole idea is that the harder you work, the more you can accomplish. Well…duh. That’s not rocket science. The idea goes back to America’s industrial and Protestant history when colonists and later immigrants worked harder to get ahead. The American dream is all about working hard to make a life for yourself (classically; I don’t know what it’s morphed into now – to have the most Insta-worthy life?).

But the cult of hustle takes this basic, good idea and turns hard work into clout. Hustle becomes a badge of superiority, and it does so in some very unhealthy ways.

The majority of those articles above relate one thing to hustle above all others – pain. Suffering. Sacrifice. If you’re not struggling, rising bleary-eyed at 5am with only four hours of sleep and sweating through whatever your vision is, you’re not doing “it” right, whatever “it” is for you.

Unfortunately, the bad advice is often mixed in so well with the good that we tend to swallow the concoction whole. There is merit in hard work. If you stay in your comfort zone you won’t change and grow. If you don’t make changes things will stay the same. Those are all true. But the idea that daily sacrifice day in and day out will guarantee success is flawed. The problem is, we only hear the success stories. “I hustled my way to success and here’s how” and anyone who followed the advice and didn’t earn six figures in six months knows they just aren’t hustling enough.

The most disturbing part to me is how many inane quotes on the internet glorify the lack of sleep as a symbol of passion and drive.

Here are two articles on sleep and productivity, one from the Washington Times and one from Sleep.org. Unfortunately for hustlers, scientific studies have shown that losing sleep makes people less productive, so much so that Kelly McGonigal says they’re often as muddled as someone who is drunk (The Willpower Instinct).

From students in college pulling all-nighters before exams to hustlers working 4am-midnight, lack of sleep is only going to hurt your chances.

So why is the cult of hustle so prevalent? Well, there are a few reasons.

First, hustle = success is a very simple formula. Work hard, earn loads. It’s attractive because while it’s not necessarily easy, it is simple, and it seems to take all the guesswork and question of innate talent out of the picture. Follow these steps and make money. (Sounds like a get rich quick scheme to me, no matter how much pain is involved.)

Second, it’s independent. Most hustle quotes also involved things like “being ahead of the pack,” quips about leading the wolves, and other ideas that standing alone at the front is glorious. Very American. Independence, owning your own business, not being attached, making your own schedule (4am-12am, so awesome!); it all flouts the idea of community and support, and re-asserts the idea that you can do everything on your own, not a great virtue in today’s disconnected and aching world. (The goal of a mature person should not be independence – the highest form of maturity is interdependence, according to Stephen R. Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. See a great article here.)

And third, it’s a status symbol. Being a hustler is a generally applauded notion, again, going back to America’s roots of the virtue of hard work. The Protestants held a very firm notion that hard work, discipline, and frugality led to a good (moral) life (Wikipedia). Too bad we’ve got the hard work and discipline down without the frugality since most of the point of hustle seems to be to be able to own the fanciest cars bought with your hard-earned dollars.

Regardless of its roots, hustle means being able to lord yourself over your lazy colleagues who waste their lives working 9-5 and aren’t also side-hustling, writing books and content, working on starting their own business or in any other way not wearing themselves to the bone. Hustle is a moral thing. Hustle is good. Hustle is virtuous. Rest is becoming sin. Contentment is becoming complacency (read the dictionary on that one).

It’s a dangerous trap to fall into. And it’s very easy now that the cult of hustle has spread so rapidly and so quickly. But it’s just a trend, the age-old hard-work ethic wrapped up in fancy memes and productivity hacks.

It doesn’t guarantee a good life.

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Help, I’m a Self-Improvement Junkie: Discovery Series

I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Manson articles lately. I really like the guy. He gives good advice, hard advice, with wit and swearing and a little (okay, a lot) of ouch.

There was one article he wrote that had me sitting back heavily in my chair, blowing a breath into my hair as I stared at the wall above my computer.

He said too many people have become self-improvement junkies. And this was not a good thing. Well, he said it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not as good a thing as the junkies think it is either.

Here’s what he says about junkies:

Self-improvement junkies feel like they need to jump on every new seminar, read all the latest books, listen to all the podcasts, lift all the weight, hire all the life coaches, open all their chakras, and talk about all their childhood traumas — both real and imagined — incessantly. For the self-improvement junkie, the purpose of self-improvement is not the improvement itself, rather it’s motivated by a subtle form of FOMO (fear of missing out). The junkie has this constant gnawing feeling that there’s still some magic tip or technique or piece of information out there that will create their next big breakthrough (again, both real or imagined).

Self-improvement for the junkies becomes a kind of glorified hobby. It’s what they spend all of their money on. It’s what they do with their vacations. It’s where they meet their friends and network. – Mark Manson

That’s me. To a T. I know me, and that’s me. Yikes.

I’ve turned self-improvement into one of my major interests. I was proud of it. Super duper proud, because I knew I was just getting better and better all the time.

But wait, what about my panic disorder that developed in the midst of my junkie reading? What about the latent anxiety that has gone unresolved since childhood? What about the depression I struggled even to accept was real? What about that?

Self-improvement books hadn’t made it go away, no matter how many techniques and toolkits I built.

I had the positive thinking down. I knew how to reframe situations. I could throw a book at anything.

I was a junkie, riding the highs of each book and inspirational article I came across. It’s the exact same feeling I have when I get a new idea for a story, or a new idea for a D&D campaign, or a new idea for a crafting project. In other words, it flows just like all my other hobbies and interests. It makes me happy, but that is not the same thing as being healed.

So I’m a junkie. Great. Now what?

Fortunately, Manson tends to follow up his brutal life lessons with practical advice.

The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” (whatever the fuck that means), is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things. – Mark Manson

His advice? Become a tourist instead of a junkie.

Other people only come to self-help when shit has really hit the fan. They just got slapped in the face with a divorce or someone close to them just died and now they’re depressed or they just remembered they had $135,000 in credit card debt that they somehow forgot to pay off for the last 11 years.

For self-help tourists, self-help material is like going to the doctor. You don’t just show up to the hospital on a random Tuesday saying, “Hey Doc, tell me what’s wrong with me.” That would be insane.

No, you only go to the hospital when something is already wrong and you’re in a lot of serious pain.

These people use self-help material to fix whatever is bothering them, to get them back on their feet, and then they’re off into the world again. – Mark Manson

This is golden advice, even to my junkie mind. I want to be in “the world” again, or even for the first time, since I’ve spent most of my waking memory engrossed in the improvement of every aspect of myself.

But the problem with obsessive junkies is, as Mark points out, flawed, because it assumes that there is something to be improved. Something wrong in the first place. It stands in the way of the present, the now, where life is actually lived and enjoyed.

I like how he relates his solution to the 80/20 Principle as well, telling us to just focus on not messing up the biggest decision in our lives. He doesn’t mention what those might be, but I would put job and marriage in there for sure. Maybe attitude as well, especially regarding a growth over fixed mindset. Raising kids with love would be another one. But the little things, the daily habits, morning routines, perfect fitness regimes, and all the other stuff junkies (aka me) thrive on…maybe those don’t matter as much.

Not maybe. They don’t. On my deathbed I’m not going to have my habit trackers before me feeling proud of all the checkmarks. I’ll want my family around me, my legacy, my work made with love.

I feel like a lot of people are junkies, and a lot of them don’t realize there’s anything wrong with it. I was just like that the instant before I read Mark’s article. I thought all those books would help me live life, but while I was busy reading about having a great life, the life itself was moving away from me.

Thanks, Mark.

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Guest Post with Lani: Being an INFJ/HSP Abroad

Today I’d like to share a post by my long-time blogger friend Lani of Life, the Universe and Lani. I’ve known her on the web for about five years now, and the more we talk, the more similarities we find.

Lani is also an INFJ/HSP, and she’s an expat living in Asia, as I once was. I asked her if she would share what her experiences were living overseas as an empath, and she graciously accepted.

When did you first discover you were an INFJ/HSP?

I didn’t realize this until I was in my late twenties. I just thought I was prone to crying and therefore too sensitive for my own good. I was living in Portland, Oregon and walking with a freshly returned expat who had been living in Japan. A bus behind us made a noise, like the door opening or a screeching halt and we both jumped. Then we looked at each other and laughed. We were like, “hey, you, too, huh?” and that opened the door to a conversation I never had before about being a highly sensitive person.

Once you found out, how did you react?

Honestly, I felt relief that I wasn’t alone because people have a tendency to stare at you like you’re a freak when you seem to “overreact” to a situation. Of course, my friends always laughed, like the time I thought I was falling off the side of a mountain and screamed. OH, how it echoed.

What are the challenges living overseas as an empathic/sensitive person?

Good question. I don’t know if I can count the ways. I mean, being an HSP in another country looks like you’re simply adapting to another culture or a language barrier. And this is not to say that you aren’t, but I think it gets a little trickier to compartmentalize your overseas experience and being an HSP.

What is the best thing about being an INFJ/HSP?

For me, it’s not being who people expect. Folks have a tendency to think they get you, right? after a particular interaction or two. For example, as an INFJ, people think I’m super social and that I want to go out drinking with them after work. No. Instead, I desperately want to get home, read, and be alone.

Being an HSP doesn’t seem like a good thing at first. It’s taken me a while to appreciate it. If you are quickly moved to tears or “jumpy” folks think you’re weak or a wuss. Okay, I’m projecting. But being HS means that empathizing with people or situations can be done with greater ease. This is no small thing either.

I’ve had many people open up to me throughout my life. Maybe this has to do with trust and non-judgment. But I think it could also be due to the fact that I pay attention, when I ask how you are doing I’m not doing it as a passing greeting and when I see that you are distracted or out of sorts, I gauge the situation. In other words, I’m sensitive to other people and my surroundings, and it has created wonderful connections.

How does your partner respond to your needs?

He’s gotten used to me and how I am. For instance, whenever we’re at a movie theatre, I’ll be bawling my eyes out over the film, and these days he doesn’t even notice that I’m clutching and crumpling up a tissue or that I fished it out of my purse. It’s kind of nice actually. Sometimes you don’t want to be asked if you’re okay. I can’t help it, and yes, I’m fine, thank you.

How does it affect your life? (In writing, teaching, etc.)

Yeah, being an HSP is tough because of the way society perceives tears, sensitivity, and feeling things with great emotion. Non-HSPs assume that you’re a drama queen or that something is wrong with you.

When I’m particularly stressed out as a teacher, I cry in front of my students. I hate it because I don’t want them to think they have gotten to me, but they have, and well, what are you going to do? Sometimes, I walk out. I’m fond of walking away to compose myself. But I don’t even have to be upset to “get the vapors”. I’ll cry if there’s a beautiful video I’m showing them or if I read something touching.

There’s really nothing you can do. I mean, people have tried to give me medicine when I’ve complained about how prone I am to tears because they see it as a bad thing. You have to learn how to handle your feelings regardless if you are sensitive or not. A lot of it for me is accepting who I am, and knowing your self.

What advice do you have for INFJ/HSPs for travel or life abroad?

Regardless of whether you are at home or if you travel, you really do need to figure out what you need and what makes you happy. I like a full fridge, a clean apartment, and some peace and quiet.

I feel like the reason why encounter everyday resistance is to shape us and give us an opportunity to figure ourselves out. Trust me life can become a little bit easier when you do.

It was amazing to read Lani’s answers, because so many of them echo my own. You can read about how I reacted to finding out I was an HSP here.

Thanks Lani!

Be Yourself: TED Talk Review

 

Have you ever heard the phrase “just be yourself?” I’m positive you have. If not said directly to you, then in a book or on TV, always given as advice on how to overcome shyness or anxiety. How to survive at a party or on a first date. How to make friends the first day of school. How to ace an interview.

But in this talk, Caroline McHugh points out that being yourself is hard work. And nobody is “just” anything. Just implies that it’s so easy, so little, so meager to be yourself, when really it’s the journey of a lifetime to even figure out what that is.

Yourself is hard work. Yourself free of others’ expectations of you, of your own expectations, of how you were raised and the people who surround you, is hard. We need to give a little more grace to the process and a little more honor. Being yourself is the goal in life, and if you can say that you are yourself unabashedly, that’s a cause for celebration.

McHugh also invites us to ask not what our life expectancy is but what do we expect of life. She points out that that is a much more interesting question and one that will help us uncover who we are.

Who we are, in being ourselves, is well represented by an hourglass. At the beginning and the end of our lives, we are the best at being ourselves. Kids run around and play and goof off with very little awareness of themselves or what people think, and we all know the stereotype of the elderly being crotchety and outspoken. What I love is that McHugh says that when you realize you have more summers behind you than in front of you, you become more honest because you just can’t be arsed to care about anybody else’s opinion.

The bit in the middle is more problematic, when we’re squeezed by society’s pressures and have to accommodate and adapt and live up to other people’s expectations.

In the middle of her talk, McHugh dives into her idea of an interiority complex, presented in contrast to the inferiority and superiority complexes. An interiority complex is entirely unrelative to others.  It’s a vantage point and orientation where you have no competition. Contrast that with the idea of superior/inferior mindsets that depend on others to exist (superior – I am better than those around me, inferior – I am worse than those around me).

Remember what Jill Scott said about queendom (paraphrase): “Mine can never compare to hers and hers can never compare to mine. We all come with our own strengths.” This is such an important mindset to have, and one we try to teach ourselves and our students and our kids, but again and again we find it so difficult.

When you think about your identity, you’re not your thoughts, you’re not your feelings (because who’s feeling them), you’re not what you do, there’s something underneath it all that is the real you. Growing up, growing old, growing out; it’s all a way to figure out what that person deep inside is.

McHugh mentions the blue sky, which caught my attention because it’s such a prominent idea in my meditation practice.  The sky doesn’t’ boast or complain about it’s weather, it knows the impermanence of the storms and the sunsets and the permanence of the blue sky.

I think the advice of this talk can best be summed up in these words; don’t live someone else’s opinion of you. Find it for yourself and be honest. Be you.

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