Not so competitive competition; playing games not matches.

Not so competitive competition; playing games not matches.

Not so competitive competition; playing games not matches.

It is safe to say that the well is pretty much empty today. Part of me would like nothing more to sit and watch a film, thoughtlessly wasting my evening away and distracting myself with my phone should any thoughts pop into my head.

It’s been some years now since I played my sport competitively and nearly the same amount of time since I played it to any standard regularly. I have resigned myself, through injuries, to play only veterans matches; thankfully only played once a month. I would like to say that the result doesn’t matter and I am easier on myself about my performance, but after 16 years of competition, ranging from school sport right through to full time, I can not fully let go of seeking validation from the success of victory or a match well played.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember playing sports at school with my friends, running around a football pitch in the bright sun or even the rain, with scores up in the double figures and never really caring about the result until someone called “next goal wins”. The joy was in the playing, the time spent with friends, the time spent outside at break time. I cared about the result, I always have and, seeing how I approach activities today, I think I always will, but my enjoyment never wavered.

Me evading some BPRUFC players during the EDF Intermediate Cup Final (2009)

From games to matches

It wasn’t until I found a sport I was better at than most that my level of enjoyment started to shift in line with my subjective perception of my performance or the result of the game. If I had played an individual sport, success would have rested solely on my shoulders but finding my gift and passion for a team sport, there were so many factors that could determine my mood when I stepped off that pitch. I could have the game of my life and feel completely void of positivity because the result went against us; we had lost…..I had lost. If my performance was poor, win or lose, I had lost by playing poorly.

Chester Legends (2015) — The beginning of retirement and veterans sport

From matches back to games

Fast forward to today; having played a “fun” veterans match over the weekend, it felt good. We won, a lot of my old teammates were there or playing as well and we all went to the bar after; just like old times. As I was getting the odd pat on the back for my two scores and general performance, I couldn’t help but replay the match in my head and think “if only I’d passed there instead of….”, “if only I’d tried to step that guy instead of…” I had to consciously and deliberately snap myself out of it.

There I was, retired for a few seasons now, far from being match fit, with no skills training or match experience for some time and I couldn’t help reverting to the mindset I had when I was at the peak of competition. I have thought before, and I think now about all those who, like me, had competed at some level and now stood in a bar surrounded by their friends feeling empty or disappointed. Maybe, they are out of sport completely and they are watching the sport they used to compete in. As the match plays out the greater that feeling of emptiness grows as the realisation hits that they are missing a huge part of their identity and have failed to fill the hole with something else.

Obstacle “race” 2013

…..and after it all

I wish I could say I filled that hole. I’ve had long enough, right? I can’t say that though. I play the odd veterans match and have taken up long distance running. The hole is still there though. When I’m not playing the odd match, I run. It started as a way of doing something, anything, to busy my body and my mind at the weekend when I was so used to playing. At first, I plodded along sucking in gulps of air, feeling like I was chewing my way through it, I’d get home and check the time, and I would feel okay. I’d go out for shorter runs during the week and then the weekend would come, I would lace up my trainers and I’d set off checking my run app every half mile to make sure I was on course to beat my last record. Already I was back in competition but with nobody to compete with, I competed with myself.

That would not be a bad thing if I weren’t so competitive. I would run until my lungs felt like they were going to burst to beat my last time and if I didn’t, I would get home, shower and feel like I’d lost for the rest of the day.

I’ve come a long way since I have retired, at coming to terms with no longer going to training and matches with my friends. Socializing, competing, winning but deep down, whether it’s a “fun” veterans rugby match or my weekend solo run; I am still a competitor….if only against myself.

 

Matt Sheen

Matt Sheen

TOC Blogger

I used to play rugby; now I run up mountains & write stuff

You Are Going To Die

You Are Going To Die

You Are Going To Die

Apparently, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. However, the big corporations have proved that taxes are by no means certain, so the only thing we can absolutely rely on is death.

With that in mind, allow me say this:

You are going to die.

And that’s really where this article should end.

Those five words should be enough to provoke a life-changing reaction. Why life-changing? Because if we’re being honest here, we all have things that need to change, and if we’re being really honest, some of them probably need to change badly… and fast.

But I’ll bet that reading “You are going to die” had about as much effect on you as reading “You are going to eat a sandwich”.

Facing our own mortality with any seriousness usually only happens when we’re facing someone else’s (a family member or friend perhaps). Or when we’re forced to contemplate our own death in the form of a close call with the reaper, bad news from a doctor, or advancing old age. Unless you’re presented with that awful news, or you’re getting old, all other brushes with death are exactly that – brushes. They’re usually fleeting and easily forgotten.

But… let’s go back to the fact that you are going to die.

The days available to you aren’t unlimited. Once they’re done, you’re done. End of story. But in all likelihood, you’re still not living what’s left of your life the way you’d like to, are you? I know I’m not. Why? Because I don’t feel a sense of urgency. Not at all.

There’s a quote floating around the Internet that’s attributed to Buddha. It’s probably about as accurate as a quote by George Washington talking about his iPhone but anyway… it goes like this:

“The trouble is, you think you have time”

Barring old folks and recipients of bad news, we all think there’s plenty of time. We know we won’t live forever but that’s a theoretical concept, so we act like we have years and years to sort out our shit and to live the life we want to live.

But in most cases, we don’t live that life, and then before we know it, we die.

I’m not living the life I want to live. Not even close. I’m 48 years old today, and even though I’ve made a lot of progress lately, I’m still working on some of the same irrelevant crap I was dealing with 30 or more years ago.

What about you?

What are you still dealing with?
What baggage are you carrying?
What programming do you follow like a robot?
What beliefs do you never, ever question?
What tiny insignificant nonsense is allowed to destroy your serenity?
How does that affect your life?
What’s it doing to your health?
How does it affect your family?

Do you even care?

You should, because I promise you one thing, you’re going to die. You won’t get a single wasted day back, and you won’t get a second chance to be who you are.

So once again, let’s recap – You. Are. Going. To. Die.

The question has to be: How are you going to live before you do?

It’s easy to wonder what the point of all that was. It’s obvious that few people like to talk about death, let alone give it the deep thought it deserves. It amazes me how effortlessly we can just push the idea of dying way into the background.

I’ve done it more than once – had a close call or been given some potentially bad news by a doctor. For a moment in time, I saw the end but after it became clear that I wasn’t going to die, that familiar desire to LIVE MY LIFE TO THE FULLEST! hit me. Things would be different, I’d live and laugh and smile and not get stressed by the same old rubbish.

But that feeling vanished almost as quickly as it arrived, and things went back to normal. I returned to the same old, same old, mostly because it didn’t seem to matter.

As always, life went on as it does.

But it doesn’t.

It seems that there has to be a compelling reason to change, if change actually even matters. But if feeling life slipping through your hands one moment at a time isn’t compelling enough for you to change whatever you need to change, then I just don’t know what will.

And by “you”, I obviously mean me.

I don’t know you. Maybe your life is just perfect, but mine isn’t.

As much as I’d like to pretend that I have a pure and selfless motive for writing this, that I want to help, it’s really all about me (as usual).

By writing down these thoughts about death’s steady advance, I’m taking another step to reinforce this message in my own mind. Making it more real. Removing my ambivalence.

So if you’re bored, offended or barely interested in this post, that’s okay. If you get nothing out of this, that’s okay, and if you get a lot, hey that’s okay too. All I know is that any misery in my life is 100% down to me, and I’m running out of time to change that.

So I’ll say it again – but honestly this time:

I’m going to die.

I’m not okay with wasting any more of the days I have left.

So I’m going to change everything that needs to change.

If you need to, I hope you do the same.

Ashley Kramer

Ashley Kramer

Tribe of Change Blogger

Ashley Kramer is a freelance writer, minimalist, and traveler, not necessarily in that order. He writes about health and fitness, society, and technology. And strangely enough, he also writes books for children.

Athletic Identity and Athletes Depression

Athletic Identity and Athletes Depression

Athletic Identity and Athletes Depression

I looked up and watched the seconds tick away. A bright light flashed from a camera flashed and captured the moment, 3..2..1..Time. My career was over. I lost. I was one point away from placing at the IHSA State Wrestling Tournament. I lost to two people that entire year. Tony Ramos went on to become an NCAA champion and National Team member for USA Wrestling. Elis Coleman went on compete in the 2012 Olympics and gained media attention with his ESPN Top 10 moment, the flying squirrel. Tough shit, right?

When someone asks me if I played sports growing up I sometimes find myself responding, “I was a wrestler.” In my head it echoes, “I am a wrestler.” I find that most people who played competitive sports respond the same way, including young adults that still play.

I am a point guard.
I was a defensive tackle.
I am a gymnast.

What does this even mean? They identify who they are as the role of an athlete, Athletic Identity. Numerous studies have found that adolescents strongly identify with their role as an athlete. What is troubling however, is they associate behaviors, values, and future possibilities based on how they perform as an athlete. If you win, guess what? You are a winner. You lost? Well, you are a loser. You weren’t on the starting roster? You are mediocre. What are you when you are done competing? You are a has been, incapable of relevance and unable to capture the ecstasy flowing through your veins as you stepped onto your playing field. Tough shit, right?

We have allowed ourselves to judge our worth based on athletic contributions. We associate our behaviors on the field with how we should behavior in society and our relationships. I mean, we did receive praise for it, right? Without athletic competition, how can we contribute? What is our worth? Who are we? Former athletes are dealing with this issue every day, struggling consciously and subconsciously to find out who they are without competition. These struggles leave individuals feeling depressed, lost, irrelevant, angry, aggressive, and develop subconscious coping strategies. Psychological distress ensues.

Guess what? It might not just be those who played professionally or collegiately. It might be you, that played competitively for a few years but couldn’t crack that starting lineup in middle school or high school. Adolescence is a pivotal crossroad in an individual’s life. A crossroad of ‘the person one has come to be’ and ‘the person society expects one to become’. Erik Erikson marked this crisis as Identity vs. Role confusion. Our youth are finding a sense of self and how they fit into society. Easily influenced, they are being told directly and indirectly how they are valued in the hierarchy based on how they perform. When you win, your name or team gets read on the PA system for morning announcements. Fame. When you lose, it doesn’t. Irrelevance. Psychological distress ensues.

Psychological distress presents itself in diverse ways. It’s damn near impossible to determine how this plays out for everyone. There are so many variables at play in the adolescence stage of life. Here’s what I do know though, there’s research to back the claim that strong athletic identity was significantly and positively correlated with anger and aggressiveness (Visek et al., 2010). Might this differ between sports? Of course. Might this differ depending on the environment of the athlete and social influences? Obviously, yes. You are a product of your environment. Unfortunately, our environment has become a society places an extreme amount of pressure on young athletes to succeed from the moment they begin playing. Don’t believe me? Go to a few little league football games and listen to the parents. How old are these kids? Young. The average age for boys to being playing sport, 6.5 years old. Don’t even get me started on the ideology these parents have on making their kids specialize in a sport from the moment they start playing, hoping they will breed the next LeBron James and cling to their child’s greatness to compensate for a lack of perceived success they never attained. We’ll all together skip the biomechanical issues that may present because of specialization, we can save that for another day. It’s time to wake up people.  

Here’s what I’m not saying: Stop letting your kids play sports! Only hand out participation trophies! If kids play sports they will develop psychological distress later in life.

Here’s what I am saying: Pay attention.

Athletic careers end for everyone. There is nothing inherently wrong with athletics. It’s the ideology that we attach to it and impose on our youth, whether we realize it or not. We glorify it.  Athletics can be a tool to help develop well rounded, healthy, productive, contributing members of society. But it is just that, a tool. Do not negate the other tools you have at your expense. Make it a point to validate other behaviors of young athletes and non-athletes. When they learn a new skill, have them teach you. When they contribute to society, encourage discussion. Get them involved in other activities that will also help develop them to be productive members society and develop a self-worth outside of athletics. Stay consistent with the message to the youth. You are more than the amount you earn, the number of points you scored, and the number people who follow you. Take a minute and think about the message you are actually sending to other people and our youth.

I still wonder how my life would have been different if I had won my last high school match. I can still taste the sweat on my face and see the flash of the camera as it captured my moment of defeat. But when I look at the picture today, I realize that moment doesn’t define me. None of those moments do. All of the time I spent in between matches, the days I spent with my family, and everything I did after that moment does.

Nick Leinfelder

Nick Leinfelder

Tribe of Change Blogger

Nick Leinfelder is an Entrepreneur, Trainer, Functional Patterns Enthusiast, and a Realistic Idealist.

@readapt_training on Instagram

Nicholas John on Facebook

Pain Is Just Weakness Escaping The Body? Bullshit!

Pain Is Just Weakness Escaping The Body? Bullshit!

Pain Is Just Weakness Escaping The Body? Bullshit!

No pain, no gain! That’s what I believed and therefore that’s how I lived. Pain was a big part of my life for a long time.

I joined a gym when I was 13 years old, motivated by deep insecurity and crippling shyness. I got my first training injury the same year. It wouldn’t be the last! Between a seemingly endless parade of muscle tears, strains and sprains, and the fact that I always got huge levels of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) after workouts, I was perpetually in some kind of workout-induced pain.

Things got worse as the injuries piled up over the years – throw in my bad back, mild arthritis in my hands and feet from my martial arts days, plus a dental implant that impinges on a nerve, and you’ve got a tasty recipe for hurt. Not shattering agony or anything that dramatic, but enough that pain was a constant and annoying companion. One I got used to living with because I thought I had to.

When I first got to know my wife Sarah back in 2014, I brushed aside my ongoing pain with an air of calculated machismo. “Oh I’m in pain all the time but it doesn’t stop me!” was my only take on the subject.

There’s a whole lot of figurative chest beating, manly grunting and posturing in that statement, so much so that I’m amazed that she didn’t run away screaming.

What an idiot I was. These days, I wonder what kind of mental malfunction allows someone to take pride in suffering?

 

Anyway, I thought I knew something about pain. Then in late 2015, my back finally went bang after decades of scoliosis-driven problems, dumb training, and ongoing disk degeneration. This is when I really got to know pain. Instead of merely being sore, I got to experience the kind of agony that intravenous morphine eases but doesn’t come close to taking away. That wasn’t much fun.

The Depths Of Insanity

At some level however, I still thought that pain was a necessary part of the process of being me.

I train, therefore I hurt. Right?

My thought process was simple. At some point, I’d go back to gym and would just carry on as before…the bad pain would fade and the good pain would settle back in.

Allow me to clarify – I was on a massive amount of pain killers, wearing a brace, unable to walk without a walker, and couldn’t survive without help, but I was hassling my physical therapist to allow me to go to gym and do a few sets of machine chest press “…because it would be good for me… help tighten my core… ease the pain…”.

Bullshit! In truth, I desperately wanted to regain some lost muscle so I didn’t have to be the skinny guy I’d always been terrified of being. At this point, I’d lost around 30lbs, so I was cringing.

Carrying muscle was much more important to me than being healthy or even recovering but do you think I could see that? Not a chance. The social constructs I believed in were just too strong. I had a vision of what being a man was all about, and I knew what I needed to look like in this world.

And that vision was so powerful.

Later in the rehab process, when I could still hardly walk and was using a crutch to get around, I’d go to gym “to do my rehab exercises”. While I was there, I’d sneak in some machine press, machine dips etc. or anything I could that would help me gain back the muscle I’d lost, even if it set back my recovery. How deep was my cognitive dissonance. Apparently as deep as it gets!

Changes

While I was working on my appallingly slow rehabilitation, I started paying attention to a guy named Naudi Aguilar, who I’d somehow found on Facebook. For anyone who doesn’t know him, he’s a bio-mechanical movement specialist and runs Functional Patterns in Seattle.

I was lucky enough to get to work one-on- one with Naudi, and speaking frankly, he saved my life. But that’s a different story, which has been covered before and probably will be again, so let’s get back to what he taught me about pain before I’d even met him. LISTEN TO MY STORY HERE

Basically, Naudi believes that much of what the fitness industry promotes doesn’t lead to fitness but rather to dysfunction. Instead of making human beings more functional by respecting how we evolved, working out can actually make us less functional.

After a bit of reflection, I made the connection and understood the “training can equal dysfunction” concept. Hell why wouldn’t I understand it? I was seriously dysfunctional. Even five months into my recovery, I moved like a 95-year- old man and my best friends were still the stacked painkillers and muscle relaxants I chowed down 18 hours a day.

Being honest with myself, I recognized that I’d tried to disguise weakness and insecurity for more than three decades. I actually started lifting casually when I was 10 years old, so that makes nearly 40 years at gym, and for what? All that time, sweat, effort and pain had helped to break me down instead of building me up, exactly as Naudi was theorizing – this became obvious, even to me.

But it was only when I listened to a YouTube interview with Naudi that I started to grasp something significant. He spoke about not being in pain… about not having to deal with pain at all, any pain.

Why? Because he trains to not only avoid any future physical problems, but also to erase the ones he already has. There’s no ego involved, just a clear and logical approach designed to make his body function better than it used to, and to keep it that way. He doesn’t train to be “big” or “strong” or any of the other mindless and superficial reasons often repeated by bodybuilders and strength-junkies.

That makes a lot of sense, and it seems a simple enough approach to fitness but my reaction was a slightly stunned “WTF is he talking about?”

Why did this concept totally blow my mind?

Because it’s the exact opposite of the way I’d always operated. I trained to get big. Nothing else mattered. Not strength (although it was a factor), not health, not functionality, not even standing straight, and certainly, not being pain-free.

I’d followed the shallowest and most meaningless goals, and now I was paying the price.

Being a physical wreck after my injury was a blessing because it helped me begin to address the ego-based inadequacies that fueled my dysfunctional behavior. After a lifetime spent just doing the same thing and expecting different results, something clicked and I started thinking in terms of longevity, sustainability and remaining pain-free.

Time To Engage My Brain

I began to ask myself scary but important questions. For example, “Is heavy military press functional”?

Of course it is assuming the goals are to repeatedly press a barbell over my head, to have big deltoids, and to pretend not to feel inadequate but that’s all! Does heavy military press help my day-to- day ability to walk, to move without pain, to function as a human being? No, of course not.

Furthermore, would it put my damaged spine under unnecessary pressure? Yes, no doubt about it.

So to hell with that exercise! And to hell with all the other exercises I’d been doing like a robot for so long.

I resolved to ask myself these two questions before doing any fitness or rehabilitation work:

“Is this making me more functional or not? If not, why am I doing it?”

I’ve realized that I can do hundreds of hours of rehab, and I can focus on repairing and building up what’s been damaged, but I’m sabotaging my recovery and my long-term health if I persist in stupid, outdated practices that do nothing but stroke my insecurities.

Happy days, I figured it all out and lived happily ever after right?

Dumbassery Persists

Wrong! The ingrained habits and patterns of a lifetime don’t necessarily vanish overnight, even in the face of indisputable evidence that the behavior is destructive – I had recently been completely unable to walk! Hello?? Surely that was enough?

Apparently not. I may have given up lifting, or going to gym, but it took months of introspection and processing to finally put all that old thinking behind me.

For far too long, I treated every solo-FP session as an intense workout instead of rehabilitation. I was trying to use extra resistance, adding more sets and reps, and pushing harder each time – just like the meathead I’d always been.

This was in spite of having gone through all those sessions in Seattle with Naudi where we’d do two or three reps of a movement and then stop because we’d done exactly what we needed to do – any more was superfluous. There was no ego in the FP studio, but when I left, I still dragged plenty of it around with me.

I knew I was pushing too hard, losing form, possibly setting myself up for more problems, or even badly hurting my back again. But so much of who I was, wanted to be big that I couldn’t let it go.

But eventually, I did.

It didn’t happen in a burst of light and inspiration. Things slowly changed as my thinking evolved, and I evolved along with it. My ego became less of a factor, and I started to actually apply my intellect at long last. The more I did that, the easier it became to think instead of just acting.

It took far longer than it should have but these days, I do my FP sessions without my ego. If I do three reps with the lightest resistance band, and that’s all I need to do, then that’s it, job done, move on. If the 10lb kettle-bell is the right weight for a movement, then that’s what I’ll use, and the 15lb will get used when it’s needed.

Building big muscles is the last thing on my mind, but building a functional, sustainable body and mind is my absolute priority.

This shift in thinking and behavior has been liberating to say the least.

Knowing that I’m contributing to my well-being instead of my self-destruction is an amazing feeling. As is not being in pain, especially the self-inflicted kind. I’ve been lucky enough to change, to be forced to change in fact. But not everyone gets that kind of luck. If you’re the source of your pain like I was, believe me when I say it’s not worth it. It really isn’t.

If you cause yourself pain or discomfort in order to look a certain way, then you need to ask yourself some scary questions.

There are alternatives to being a drone locked into the social constructs that have been forced upon you all your life. I was a mindless drone, but I got better. If I can, anyone can….

Ashley Kramer

Ashley Kramer

Tribe of Change Blogger

Ashley Kramer is a freelance writer, minimalist, and traveler, not necessarily in that order. He writes about health and fitness, society, and technology. And strangely enough, he also writes books for children.

What’s A Kardashian Anyway, And Why Does Anyone Care?

What’s A Kardashian Anyway, And Why Does Anyone Care?

What’s A Kardashian Anyway, And Why Does Anyone Care?

In all seriousness, I’m still not totally sure exactly who Kim Kardashian is, or why I should care. From my limited understanding, and a brief chat with a few friends, she was more or less a nobody (at least in celebrity terms), who happened to be friends with Paris Hilton. It seems that she only rose to prominence for appearing on a sex tape, as did her friend Paris of course.

She then parleyed that 15 minutes of infamy into long-term reality TV “stardom”, and is apparently now one of the highest paid reality TV “personalities”.

Since when was this kind of nonsense a reason to make people famous? On one hand, I think she’s done exceptionally well to get where she is, but on the other, I’m stunned at how she got there and stays there – on the backs of other people who should know better.

As I shake my head in wonder, a line from a song by Jewel comes to mind:

“People living their lives for you on TV. They say they’re better than you and you agree”.

There’s a whole lot of wisdom right there. I have no idea why anyone would be even the least bit interested in faux-celebrities like Kim Kardashian, let alone turn them into role models, which is effectively acknowledging their superiority in certain respects. I understand being impressed with the acting skills and achievements of real celebrities who’ve worked hard to get where they are – who doesn’t respect Jack Nicholson’s career arc for example? But I’m baffled as to what’s missing in people’s lives that makes them watch or even revere the activities of people like the Kardashians?

Why would anyone care about what’s going on in her life, or any one of dozens of similar reality TV personalities for that matter? How about her siblings? What has Kylie Jenner ever done to warrant adoration or even interest? Why does anyone even know who she is?

And what’s up with shows like Duck Dynasty or 19 Kids And Counting and similar slop? Tuning in mindlessly week after week to watch the television equivalent of a train wreck in slow motion doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you actually lived next door to typical reality TV folk, you’d likely move to a new neighborhood and you’d do it fast! But put them on TV and millions tune in.

What’s The Hook?
Who watches this stuff? Desperate people, that’s who. It’s much easier to watch the manufactured dramas of reality TV than it is to contemplate what’s going on in our own lives, particularly when there isn’t much drama. When in fact, there isn’t much of anything besides the slow treadmill that is the day-to-day existence.

For starters, there’s dealing with the demands of the kids, sitting in traffic, crawling through an endless stream of emails and pointless meetings at work, cleaning the house etc. etc. Then there’s the blessed relief of the weekend, which is unfortunately followed by another week of the same old same old.

Chuck Klosterman covered this subject rather nicely in a NY Times article titled My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead. His theory is that “A lot of modern life is exactly like slaughtering zombies”.

As he points out, “If there’s one thing we all understand about zombie killing, it’s that the act is uncomplicated: you blast one in the brain from point-blank range (preferably with a shotgun). That’s Step 1. Step 2 is doing the same thing to the next zombie that takes its place. Step 3 is identical to Step 2, and Step 4 isn’t any different from Step 3. Repeat this process until (a) you perish, or (b) you run out of zombies. That’s really the only viable strategy.

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

The Internet reminds of us this every day”.

When your life is reduced to a series of tedious tasks and routines that you do simply because that’s what you think you have to do, then it makes perfect sense to just tune it all out by watching stuff that literally does numb the mind – that’s why they call it mind-numbing. Being deeply interested in Kim Kardashian and her ilk is the surest sign that you’re not paying attention to your own life.

It’s all about distraction. The best kind of consumer is one who’s going to consuming till they die, and the only way to convince anyone to stay on the grindstone until they’ve reached the end of their useful (i.e. productive) life is to:

  1. Convince them that they’re doing okay
  2. Apply social conditioning as vigorously as possible from as early as possible
  3. Feed them ongoing doses of manufactured enjoyment, which is where retail therapy, reality TV, sports, celebrity worship and self-medication come in.

In that context, Kim Kardashian makes total sense, but she shouldn’t have to. Your life doesn’t have to be a small-scale, never-ending zombie apocalypse but it’ll probably stay that way as long as you’re content to be distracted, manipulated and conditioned.

Klosterman concludes his zombie article as follows:

“But you can do this, my friend. It’s disenchanting, but it’s not difficult. Keep your finger on the trigger. Continue the termination. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop deleting. Return your voice mails and nod your agreements. This is the zombies’ world, and we just live in it. But we can live better”.

He’s right. You can live better. You deserve to, and so does your family if you have one. You do have choices.

Do Something!
One of the most powerful things you can do is to tune out the bullshit that’s being poured into your brain. That’s what’s making you a consumer, or as it should be known, a slave to social constructs. Reality TV should go first. It’s crap, pure and simple, and it has no place in your life, regardless of how much you enjoy just zoning out watching other people live their lives for you.

Sports is another thing that can, and should go. Rabidly following sports isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe some time away from obsessively wondering what “your” team is up to is a good idea, if only to see what else is going on out there in the world?

Then you can look at ways to cut down on the amount of advertising and marketing messages that you’re exposed to. These messages sell happiness through the power of fear – fear of not fitting in, of missing out and of being left behind. But the more attention you pay to them, the harder it is to make meaningful change.

You can make a massive dent on both of the above points by just not watching TV, at least the broadcast or reality kind. You can make better choices than that every single day. It’s not all that difficult to break the pattern of being distracted.

Make a decision to make your own life more interesting and exciting. You don’t have to do something big and extravagant – anything is good – plan a vacation, plan a weekend away, even going for a walk instead of watching TV is a worthwhile step.

Come up with something interesting to do instead of watching the stupid shenanigans on TV. What have you always wanted to do? Do you remember? If so, then just do that! Learn a language, learn how to brew your own beer, build a boat. Hell, if you have to, just paint your house. Seriously – anything is better than a life on the couch turning your brain into mush.

You could also ask yourself why you even care about all that rubbish on TV when there actually is some programming worth watching? What stops you from just ignoring all that junk in favor of some of the brilliant documentaries out there? Two hours on YouTube with some intent and purpose will teach you more than 2,000 hours of reality TV even could.

You owe it to yourself to live a bigger life than following Kim around. She doesn’t give a damn about you. No really, she doesn’t. So why do you give a damn about her?

Ashley Kramer

Ashley Kramer

Tribe of Change Blogger

Ashley Kramer is a freelance writer, minimalist, and traveler, not necessarily in that order. He writes about health and fitness, society, and technology. And strangely enough, he also writes books for children.

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