Two Pieces of Advice That Actually Made a Difference

“Do this but be that and always remember this but think this if that happens”

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It feels like all the self-help advice out there has cancelled each other out because there’s just too much of it to remember, let alone actually implement. 

I’ve consumed a lot of self-help advice recently. Books, articles and believe it or not actual human interaction. I want to share the advice that has had the greatest impact on my life so far. I’m sure you will have heard it before, and most of the time so had I, it just took the right wording to make it stick.

Be grateful for your problems, there are 1000 things that could be worse right now.

Everyone (except maybe enlightened monks) has one or two or 12 niggles that brings them down to Earth, that they complain about. But what got me were all the problems that I don’t have. There are thousands.
I’ve heard “it could be worse” countless times but it didn’t click until I actually stopped to think of all the possible problems that I didn’t have to deal with because my life is free of them.

My mum didn’t get hit by a car today. I didn’t contract any STD’s on the weekend. (Because I didn’t get laid, but still, a problem I don’t have right?) I still have two eyes that work OK, better than the 285 million who have vision problems worldwide.

This doesn’t need to be a massive unrelatable guilt-trip, like “African kids are starving and you’re complaining about traffic? Fuck you!”  But instead a reminder that your suckiest issue right now would easily be overtaken and look like free bacon if any of the worse problems you thought up became a reality.

Now when I finish thinking about my most average current problem, I end up smiling because there wasn’t a cockroach in my Big Mac.

No one cares. So terrify yourself, then laugh about it.

This one hit me like a freight train. To others, you are but a side character in their story. You are the random person they walk by, or the co-worker they have small-talk with. There was a whole lot of stuff happening millions of years before you, and unless North Korea gets itchy feet and want to test out their nukes, there will still be a whole lot going on when no one remembers you. You’ll be another headstone to walk past and an inactive facebook account.

Bleak maybe, but that means there is no reason not to be exactly who you want to be. Or to do crazy shit on the daily. I know I’d be mad if I hit 60 and lived a safe live full of shoulda’s instead of oh-wells. No one is judging that’s worth worrying about.

For my radio show recently I had to hit on girls wearing a mini-skirt. Long story. Don’t ask.

Wonder if I can flirt my way onto the bus for free...

Wonder if I can flirt my way onto the bus for free…

It was amazing how little people cared, noticed, or reacted. I actually had conversations with people around my office who didn’t bat an eyelid. On the street I might as well have been wearing my favourite outfit I swear I look great in, because everyone who saw me had the exact same amount of fucks left intact after I was gone.

The majority of things you do today will be forgotten in the next six weeks by you, and those around you. The reasons not to go for what you want, or to not do stuff that makes you laugh until you have abs, shouldn’t be enough to keep you from absolutely terrifying yourself by attempting, and then laughing about it later. Nobody even remotely cares as much as you.

Ironically, my favourite writer Mark Manson, who provided a lot of the aforementioned self-help I went through, has a different approach. I asked him what his favourite piece of advice is that he says to himself that has a positive influence on his life, and he replied in like 10 seconds with this:

“I try to say as little as possible to myself internally, because I try to understand that sometimes life makes you nervous, and sometimes you feel like shit, and that’s totally fine and normal and it’s no reason not to do what you want to do.”

Maybe one day I’ll get to a point where I’m so busy living the life I want to with no regrets and a whole lot of scary-then but hilarious-now failings under my belt that I won’t need to say anything.

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Why I gave a thief my business card

My neighbour had a strange thing in each hand when I responded to his ferociously loud, “shit’s going down” kind of knock.

It’s about midnight on a Wednesday, and there’s my neighbour with a plate of food in one hand, and a hoodie in the other. Thing was the hoodie was currently occupied, by a 17 year old lad with a guilty look on his face.

“Bro I just caught this guy breaking into your car! What should we do with him!?”

Can we just. There I was knee-deep in a FIFA match on my Playstation, now all a sudden I’m deciding some petty criminal’s fate?

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First off we need to commend the badass-ness of my neighbour, Gerrard, who not only caught a criminal and hand-delivered him to my doorstep, but did it all while holding a plate of chicken wings.

As I came to terms with what was going on, Gerrard mentioned something.

“We don’t call cops for this kind of thing.”

I’ve heard this unwritten rule before. It’s usually when the person calling would rather avoid law enforcement themselves, which in Gerrard’s case is likely due to his recreational “side-business”. Which justifies why he’s got CCTV for his driveway, which explains how he saw this wee punk breaking into my car on his security monitor, which also explains how he didn’t even have time to drop his dinner to bolt outside and nab him. It all makes sense now.

I shook a word out.

“OK, yeah I don’t think cops are what we need here either.” (Lies, they are exactly what we need here.)

As I stumbled around for some more sentences to try smooth over my obvious shock, who pipes up but the kid in the hoodie.

“Honestly it wasn’t-”
He didn’t make it very far through his sentence. It was cut short by the most vicious back-hand I’d ever seen, courtesy of Gerrard.

“Don’t you fuckin’ talk to him! You should be apologizing! You’re lucky it’s not my car!”

As the punk’s lip started to bleed, his getaway car rolled up. In it were his accomplices who were looking for him. Gerrard left me with the boy at my doorstep to go staunch out the new visitors.

“Are you his wheels? Pretty shit friends for leaving your mate to get caught!” Etc etc…

It’s just me, and this rather pathetic looking kid. I tried to play good cop.

“Look bro I don’t know what’s going on at home for you to feel like you need to do this kind of stuff, but whatever it is, you got to talk about it.”

He looked shocked that I didn’t decide to lecture-shout at him about the money to fix my car.

“Honestly sir it actually wasn’t me.”

He even chucked in a “sir”. Even though he decided to start showing some respect we both knew he was full of it. Since I was nice to him he must of felt stink about busting my car window. My guilt manipulation was on point.

“Can I please get some ice for my lip?”

It was bleeding a bit. Gerrard wasn’t playing tiddlywinks before, more like connect four… Connecting four knuckles to his jaw.

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I retreated to the kitchen and grabbed some ice. I also pulled out a business card and handed them both to him.

“Bro if you’ve got no one to talk to about whatever’s going on, like the reasons for all this, you can always email me and we can just chat about it.”

His face lit up. Where he expected a hiding, a tiny bit of interest was shown in the decent man he could possibly become.

Meanwhile Gerrard was chasing the getaway car off our road. As it turned around to head for the way out, he threw his plate right into the path of the windscreen. Little bits of chicken and glass littered the street. Gerrards flatmate was also waiting at the end of the road for the car with a big-ass rock, which he tossed into the path of the speeding car. A brutal thud marked the end of their failed thieving mission in our hood.

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Two reasons for handling it this way. First, he knows where I live. If I roughed him up, guess who’s going to have the favour returned to him via his older brothers. And I prefer my cheekbones whole.

Second, yes everybody is a bit insecure, but combine that with no positive role models, plus mates that bond over this sort of thing, you’re going to get sucked in. Call me a lofty left-wing-tree-hugger but what he needs is positivity and belief.

In retrospect, I could’ve handled it differently. Imagine the look on his face if (just to freak him out,) I started casually undoing my belt, saying to Gerrard, “ahwell, tie him up, leave him in my room…”

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“Yeah the spider’s caught us a couple flies…”

He didn’t email me, hell he might have thought I was a massive pushover. At least he knows someone mildly gives a shit.