Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What is Self-Actualization? The Key to Becoming Superhuman

What is Self-Actualization?

I wondered the same thing myself when I first came across the term, but after researching a bit more, I think it perfectly describes the type of lifestyle I've been trying to describe and live these first two months that I've been writing this blog.

Self-Actualization is, in a phrase, the attempt of an individual to realize their intrinsic potential. Dr. Abraham Maslow popularized the term in his article, A Theory of Human Motivation. Maslow explained that self-actualization is ""the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for him [the individual] to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming."

When it comes down to it, this is the type of lifestyle that I'm all about. When I had my Thanksgiving Moment of Clarity (TMOC), I came to the realization that, absent any positive intervention, I was going to become a comfortable, out-of-shape, good-but-not-great member of society, who preferred watching TV and drinking to actually getting shit done. Maslow thought that the need to self-actualize is at the heart of everyone's purpose on this planet, and is the final stage that a human being can hope to achieve.

What are some common traits of self-actualized individuals? According to this article, the self-actualized are:

  • They have realistic views of themselves and others. The self-actualized aren't deluded into thinking that they're necessarily better than everyone else at everything. They recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and know when to ask for help. They also don't put other people on a pedestal, nor do they needlessly denigrate them.
  • They are focused on finding solutions to problems. They not only want to solve their own problems, but also those of others. They are motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics to make the world a better place.
  • They are spontaneous. They don't find a need to conform to needless social constructs and rules, and tend to be spontaneous in their thoughts and deeds.
  • They need to be autonomous and occasionally be left alone. They are social people and enjoy interacting with groups, but they realize that they need some alone time to work toward their true potential. Basically, there is a tendency for the self-actualized to be independent in their work and other pursuits.
  • They continually appreciate the nature of the world around them, often viewing it with wonder and awe.
  • They have had peak experiences. According to Maslow, these are moments of intense joy, wonder, awe and ecstasy (not the drug…I think…). These experiences can be transformative or reinvigorating.

Sounds pretty kick-ass, right? Maslow estimated that self-actualization only occurred in less than one percent of the population. This may have been because he thought that individuals had to progress through a hierarchy of psychological states to achieve self-actualization. This hierarchy has been challenged by a number of scholars, but is still taught in psych classes.

Because we're all on this planet for such a short amount of time, isn't self-actualization a pretty sweet goal to aim for?
Who doesn't want to reach their full potential? Well, judging by what I see most of the time, a bunch of people.
All of the Bitchers, for example. Doers are inherently on their way to self-actualization. But Bitchers that come up with excuse after excuse, or eschew a sense of personal responsibility to always play the victim will never achieve self-actualization. Don't you want to be in the top 1% of all humans? Jesus, it's like being one of the X-Men or something. Until you actively start searching for what you're capable of and take affirmative steps in that direction, you'll never know what you're full potential is. Until you try to scratch the surface of your abilities, you are wasting the wonderful gift of life that you've been given.

By no means am I saying that I'm there yet—in fact, I think I've just started on the journey to self-actualization. But as the old proverb goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Stop the excuses. Stop the bitching. Get on the road to self-actualization. Become superhuman.

How close are you to self-actualization? Leave your stories in the comments below.

Questions? Comments? Want to know the secret of life? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Are You a Bitcher or a Doer?

One thing that I have always worried about is being classified as a "bitcher." You know the type—people that always complain about things that are going wrong for them, but do nothing to make their situation better. For years and years, I looked at these people and thought, "Jesus Christ, I don't want to be one of those people." So a lot of times when I could have or should have complained, I just shut the fuck up and internalized it.

The problem is, I still wasn't actually doing anything to make things better. The road from being someone who doesn't do anything to being a bitcher is a lot easier than moving from not doing anything to doing something.

Being around bitchers is terrible. Nothing is ever good enough. Other people are always causing them problems. The worst part is, a lot of times, they don't even bitch to the person that's the object of their bitching! They never confront people that are doing wrong by them not necessarily out of a fear of confrontation, but rather so that they can bitch about it later. Bitch, bitch, bitch—that's all they ever do. Bitchers' lives are endless sinks of negativity, attracting miserable shit that will make them bitch even more.

Doers, on the other hand, actually do something to fix problems. Doers find ways to get shit done. Look up how to fix that broken toilet on the internet, or call a plumber. Re-hang that towel rack. Start developing another source of income if you don't have enough money. Nine times out of ten, proposing solutions will at least get you some kind of forward momentum. Of course, this doesn't apply to dealing with airline personnel. But most of the time, it at least helps.

Are you worried that you're becoming a bitcher? Or worse yet, a recovering bitcher? There's still time to change! I've found that writing ideas down and creating a plan, more often than not, helps focus you on solutions to problems.

Another exercise that helps is think of an issue plaguing your town and how you'd fix it. St. Louis certainly has a lot of these, but I'll use car break-ins as an example (namely because my car was broken into recently). A lot of people bitch about all of the car break-ins here in town, but don't do anything to change things. "That's just the way it is," or "things are getting so bad now," are a couple of common refrains.

I took a couple of minutes to think of potential solutions. The obvious solution is harsher penalties for perps, but a lot of times these are kids that get a slap on the wrist from lax judges. So I looked up the St. Louis penal ordinances and code, and tried to figure out what it would take to change the penal structure. It turns out it would be doable if I put my mind to it, but, to be honest, at the moment it's kind of far down my list of priorities. The point is, though, now I know what affirmative steps to take when I turn my attention to that problem. It might take a while, and a few initiatives on the ballot, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Don't be a bitcher. Be a doer. Propose solutions. Get shit done.

Questions? Comments? Think I'm bitching too much? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Slay Your Inner Darth Vader

Those of you that know me know that I'm a bit of a Sci-Fi fan. I'm not a total nut job about it or anything, but I do enjoy watching Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, basically anything with "Star" in it.

The other day, Return of the Jedi happened to be on Spike, so I figured I'd flip it on for a bit. One scene that really stuck with me is when Luke turns himself in to Vader on Endor (or is it Endor's forest moon? I never understood that one. They really should've been more specific than "the forest moon of Endor," but I digress…).

At any rate, Luke is trying to turn Vader good, but Vader has all of these excuses lined up like a whiny little bitch. "You can't imagine the power of the dark side," "It is…too late…for me, son," "Waaa, waaa, baby needs his ba-ba."

The whole time, I found myself thinking, "fuck this guy." So many people use this same bullshit excuse. "You can't imagine the power of __________." "My parents." "My job." "My TV addiction." "Boozing." "my lazy, fat ass." Get over yourself. This is no excuse. Everybody has their vices and responsibilities, and sure, vices can all be fine in moderation, and some responsibilities can be non-negotiable (like if you have kids). But when they start to interfere with the life you want to lead, you have a big fucking problem. Cut down on the vices. Find ways to make more time to do what you want to do. You can't abandon your kids, but you sure as shit can get up early or stay up later to work on your passion project. Once you realize that the one with the power is you and you alone, you'll be much happier with your life and the impact you're making.

The other line, "it is…too late…for me, son," is a similarly pathetic cop-out. You may be comfortable with where you're at, settled into a certain standard of living that provides just enough comfort to keep you feeling "okay" with how things are going. But you might have a feeling, deep down, that there should be something else that you should be doing with your time on this planet. It's never too late to start doing what you want to do. You just need to make an affirmative decision to start changing your life. Little steps become big, life-changing steps. If you want to write a book, write a page per day. Before the year is over, you have your book. But you'll never finish if you never start.

So the next time you hear James Earl Jones' that whiny voice in your head, cut it down with your lightsaber. Just like Luke in the cave in Empire, kill that old fuck. That voice doesn't run your life. You run your life. It's never too late to start making changes. Get out there and make something of yourself.

Questions? Comments? Don't understand all of the nerd references above? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The End of the World

A lot of crazy shit is going on around the world right now. Japan is still reeling from the earthquake/tsunami combo and the related nuclear incident. Revolution continues to sweep the Middle East, installing democracies (good!) that may or may not be friendly to America (oh). These revolutions are sending the price of oil soaring. The price of food is increasing rapidly. More people are overworked and under-compensated for their efforts. And, oh yeah, somehow we're involved in another war in Libya. Everything is pretty fucked. Some would even wonder if it's the beginning of the end—you know, the whole deal. The end of the world.

So why am I going into work with a smile on my face? History indicates that this is not the case. Societies have weathered famine, plagues, and all manner of natural disasters before. The true "end of the world" is probably likely to come one of several ways that can be counted on one hand: nuclear holocaust, asteroid collision, super-volcanic eruption, mass coronal eruption from the sun, and alien invasion. We only have control over one of these, and who knows how long we can appease those goddamned aliens?

My point is, it's fairly arrogant to think that the end of the world will be caused by humanity, or some action that people take. The end will more than likely come via a fairly random occurrence. This not only goes for the world, but for your own life, as well. What if an asteroid hit the earth today? What if there was a solar burst that fried everything and sent us back to the stone age? What if you drop dead of a massive aneurysm? Would you be happy with how you lived your life?

Now, if you're in a Westernized country and are reading this blog, the odds are that you'll live a fairly comfortable existence and die at a (relatively) old age. However, a good amount of the population will never make it there, through no fault of their own. Is there something you want to do with your time on this planet that you haven't gotten around to yet? WHY THE FUCK NOT?!? Start taking steps to accomplish your goals NOW. Don't put it off another day. Any progress, no matter how small, is still progress. Another day ticked off your personal shot-clock. Another week gone by like so many others. What do you want to accomplish? The time is now to make it happen. If you happen to be lucky enough to make it to old age, you'll still be glad that you made something happen with your time. You aren't going to wish you watched more TV or worked more at unfulfilling tasks. Seize the day! Do what you want! Make something happen! Now!

Questions? Comments? Think that I may, in fact, be the Angel of Death (I'm not)? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sound Body, Sound Mind

I recently started P90X. Yeah, I guess I'm one of those guys. So what? Wanna fight about it? If so, please come back in 90 days.

At any rate, I let my weight get a little out of control while studying for the bar exam, and have been struggling with it ever since. I worked hard last year to shed about 20-25 pounds from my heaviest point, but after that I reached another plateau that was difficult to break through. I figured that I had to do something pretty extreme to shatter it, because I was already watching what I ate and exercising regularly, so I figured P90X was just the thing to help me out. Besides, who hasn't been mesmerized by those infomercials after waking up early on a Saturday morning and not being able to get back to sleep? I finally bit the bullet and, after wading through about 5 different "special offers" on BeachBody's website, ordered the DVDs.

So far, so good. I've lost 4 pounds in 5 days so far, and best of all, I don't find myself craving all of the sweet shit nearly as much as I used to. Granted, the first two days were BRUTAL. You really do need to be in reasonably good shape before starting the program, as it still absolutely kicked my ass for the first three days. I have no idea if the "muscle confusion" shit actually works in the long run, but so far it appears to be doing the trick.

Best of all, though, is that I find that I'm far more productive after a workout that intense. I came home from work today and worked pretty much non-stop on projects until bedtime, which is (for me) a huge accomplishment. I have more energy and stamina, both of which are at a premium currently with all of the shit on my plate. I also just feel better. It's difficult to describe, but I'm able to get in the zone much easier, and stay there for longer. When a lot of your projects involve creativity, that's incredibly important.

I'll keep updating my progress periodically, not necessarily only for your benefit, as I'm sure you're riveted by the story of some pudgy asshole trying to get back in shape. Rather I want to put this information out there to hold myself accountable, so that the next time you see me at a party or a wedding or whatever, I'm not chowing down on fried chicken or pizza. If I am, you can come up to me with a shit-eating grin on your face, give me a thumbs up, and tell me, "Whoa, bro, P90X, lookin' good!", before I throw the drumstick at your face and get tired chasing you around the room. I think I'll stick with it. I hope I do. If not, my credibility is completely shot, so no big deal, right?

Questions? Comments? Wondering why this is being posted so late? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Friday, March 18, 2011

DJ’s Wine Tip #1: Trust Your Tasting Instincts

I'm currently studying to become a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). Doing so consists of studying a 231-page study guide at your own pace, then taking a 100 question test in 60 minutes. You have to get a 75% to pass. I'm a pretty kick-ass test taker, but I'm taking this seriously, so that means studying as much as I can in addition to writing blog posts, stories, novels, and sketching out potential business ideas. Did I mention my 40-plus hour per week job? Do you need a handkerchief yet? Where's that violin music coming from? It's very faint, but I can hear it…

At any rate, the study guide has a lot of good information that dovetails nicely with my own experience, so I feel confident enough to make some posts on wine tips that are useful for the average person. Hopefully, they won't have the air of snobbery that a lot of the other wine writers are known for.

The first tip: Drink what you want. I was recording a recent podcast (more details to follow) where the topic of wine experts came up. These experts tend to come up with exotic "flavors" that they taste within the wine. This practice, by itself, is not a bad idea. It forces you to verbalize what you're tasting, and think about why you like certain wines more than others. The only problem is, if you ask five different experts what flavors they taste in any given wine, you're likely to get five very different answers. These flavors are not universal. That's why when some asshole tries to browbeat you with something like, "There's no tobacco flavor in there, you knave!", you can confidently shoot back a "Fuck you, THAT'S WHAT I TASTE!"

The nicer experts realize that they understand what flavor profiles are pleasing to their palates, so by identifying those flavors, it's shorthand for "this wine tastes good to me." If you start to identify some of the flavors that you like, you should be able to start breaking down what you think of certain varieties (also known as varietals in winespeak—think Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.), and coming up with some go-to types of wines that you like.

For example, I've found that I like wines that have bold flavors of cherry, vanilla, some berries, and even some chocolate (yeah, I like Cherry Garcia—SO FUCKING WHAT!?!). I can't break flavors down to the level of "cloves" or "coriander," but I can detect a noticeable "spice" flavor in some wines, specifically Malbecs. If you don't taste these flavors, DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT! I haven't seen too many places that identify Malbecs with spiciness, but I can taste it, so that's what matters to me. And that's probably why I think a good Argentinian Malbec holds up so well to steak—it's like a second layer of spices for the meat. But that's just me—when it comes to how you taste things, I don't know shit!

As you start to break down what varieties you like, start experimenting with things like the price and what region the wine is from. Take note of regions that you particularly enjoy. Note that there are plenty of "hidden gems" out there that are great, inexpensive wines. That's a post for another day.

With regard to pairing wine with food (another post for another day), there are several "golden rules" that experts try to adhere to. Feel free to break those, too. There is a little science behind certain pairings, but if you find that a certain combination works well for you, why fuck with it? Worry about the science later if you really start to get into wines. If not, why bother yourself with it. If you're in a group, and someone questions your choice, feel free to break out, "Well, I figure we'll have another bottle anyway—would you like to suggest one?" Hopefully, this has the twin benefit of bringing something to the table for everyone and liquoring up the asshole that was enough of a dick to try to put you down using your choice of wine (I didn't realize how pathetic that sounded until I wrote it out).

So, to recap, wine experts have widely differing palates. Try to identify flavors that taste good to you, but don't get too obsessive or dickish about it. Play around with different varieties of wine to figure out what you like. Once you can identify certain varieties, experiment with different regions and price points. Feel free to try to find some hidden gems—they're out there. Just find something you like, and try to consistently recreate the experience. That's what matters in the long run. Eat. Drink. Be merry.

Also, let me know if people are getting anything out of these—they're fun to write, and I think my "voice" comes out better on a topic like this or sports, hence they may be more useful.

Questions? Comments?
Wondering where the discount bourbon articles are? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Say Whatever You Want

People are too afraid to speak their minds. This is because we've all been conditioned that, "you have the right to free speech, but if you say something controversial, you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences." This is the message that employers and companies want to promote to protect their carefully-crafted images.

I think that censorship is bullshit. At least the First Amendment protects us from being thrown in jail for what we say. Egyptians just fought and died for this right. Libyans are doing so as we speak. Still, in this country, where we're supposed to have the right to say whatever we want, people seem to think that for some reason, be it keeping up appearances with the neighbors or not getting in trouble at work for their views, it's much easier to conform who they are to some ideal "form" of what a neighbor or employee should be. People wear these masks for a majority of their waking hours, saying things that are considered "acceptable," never rocking the boat, to the point where they become trapped in the farce, and forget the person they once were.

That's actually part of the reason I started this blog. I felt myself slipping away, to the point that I didn't recognize the person in the mirror. I even hesitated before putting it up because I was scared that it might limit my professional prospects in some way. Then I realized something powerful: who gives a shit?
The chances are, nobody will. So you say "fuck" every now and then. Who doesn't? Well, besides Mormons. But that's their deal. They don't care if you do. Trust me—some of my best friends are Mormons. Shit, I played for their softball team in law school.

Speaking your mind is necessary if you aren't going to be some nameless, faceless drone; a mere cog in the machine. If you want to stand out, for good or ill, it's good to be a little different, to have your own opinions, to push the envelope a bit. If others don't like it, fuck 'em. You aren't competing with them for anything. If they try to brag about something or put you down, tell them to fuck off. You don't need them. The chances are better that you'll find more like-minded individuals, and ultimately make deeper, more meaningful connections with those people.

Ideally, everyone would be courteous to one another, and feel free to do so if you like. But don't be afraid to call an asshole an asshole, either. Say whatever you want. Nobody gives a shit. Even if they do care, and pressure you to conform, then that's not the place you want to be. Life's too short to be someone you aren't.

Questions? Comments? Want to tell ME to fuck off? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Challenge Everything

 It's the same thing your whole life: "Clean up your room. Stand up straight. Pick up your feet. Take it like a man. Be nice to your sister. Don't mix beer and wine, ever." Oh yeah: "Don't drive on the railroad track."

-Groundhog Day

I saw Groundhog Day again a month ago, and this quote really stuck with me. Though you probably shouldn't get blackout drunk and play chicken with a train, I think Phil Connors was on to something.

If you're anything like me, you probably have people either ordering you around all day, or at least telling you what you "should" do. A lot of times, people comply with these suggestions without asking a simple question: why? A lot of times, the answer is something like, "because it's my job," or "I don't want to disappoint them." In the case of your job, I would suggest if you're only doing something for money, that's just not fucking good enough.

"But D.J., I need money to pay for my house/car/kid's education." I completely agree—money helps you buy a lot of things. But you don't really want to accumulate cash—you want the house/car/your kids to not have to worry about financing their educations. Money is just a means to an end. If you're doing something just to accumulate a pile of cash without any idea what you want to do with the money, you're probably wasting your fucking time.

The reason I say this is that people do a lot of things just for money without question. Even when coming up with goals, people fail to ask "why" far too often. Do you really want to buy that house, or do you want it because you're supposed to buy a house? Do you want to buy that new car to get around town, or because you want to impress people/pick up chicks? Do you really want to (GASP!) have kids, with all of the responsibilities that come along with it?

Everyone obviously has responsibilities, and that's certainly fine. Responsibilities help give your life a purpose, and make you an honorable person by keeping you accountable for your actions. But responsibilities that you don't really want or need can keep you chained down and prevent you from leading the life you want. Don't do anything just because you "should" do it. Ask yourself the tough questions. Do I really want to do this? Why am I doing this again? What's the end game? If you can't answer these questions with something that is important to you at your core, you have a lot of thinking to do.

Questions? Comments? Wondering how my generation can be so "entitled"? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Baseball is Losing Me

For the first time in a long time, I'm not terribly excited for a baseball season. I'm sure this is a shock to those that know me better, but even before Adam Wainwright's devastating, season-ending injury, I just wasn't looking forward to this season. After attending maybe ten or so games last season, and watching far too many 1-0 and 2-1 losses by the hometown nine, I just don't know why I should be invested in the game anymore. I talked things over with my brother, and it seems like we have similar complaints. Here are some of the big ones:

Games are too long. Cards games generally don't start until 7:05. They take at least 3 hours on a good night, usually more like 3.5 when Tony LaRussa is feeling frisky with his pitching changes. By the time I get the car and drive home, it's usually already 11:00. Contrast this with Blues games, where the game starts at the same time, but is over by 9:30, and I can be home by 10:00. It's not necessarily that I want to go to bed earlier, but I do like to finish up other shit when I get home. The solution? Make games 7 innings. This would totally fuck with the TV revenue, player salaries, ticket prices, and pretty much every record on the books, but it might be necessary to keep people sane. Honestly, most people leave by the seventh inning stretch anyway—this would just make it official.

There's too much standing around doing nothing. The pitcher can rub the ball for two minutes in between pitches if he wants. The batter can step out of the box and really give his balls a good scratch. The pitching coach can take his sweet-ass time getting to the mound, then discuss golf with the pitcher just so some moron can get loose in the bullpen. It's all bullshit when you get down to it. Here are a few ideas:

-No stepping out of the batter's box. If the batter gets something in his eye, fuck him. Of course, then we have the problem of a bunch of idiot fans shining laser pointers in batters' eyes, but it's better than watching all of these hitters channel their inner Nomars up there.

    -Have a pitch clock. Twelve seconds should do it. If a pitcher can't get a pitch ready to go in 12 seconds, too bad. It's a ball.

    -Only 3 throws over to first before you have to pitch. Sure, this might get baserunners running a bit more, but that would be bad why? It would be exciting, damn it!

    -One warmup pitch for guys coming out of the bullpen. Can't you get those warm-ups out of the way WHEN YOU'RE, YOU KNOW, "WARMING UP" IN THE BULLPEN?!?

The season's too long. 100 games would be plenty. Nice, round number. Cut out some of the series within the division and interleague play, while you're at it. Again, the statistics would change, and the players and owners would bitch about less revenue, but if it would get rid of those unbearable mid-week series in July against the Pirates when it's 95 degrees at 10:00 pm, then goddamn it, I'm all for it.

Make the game more exciting. I think this is what it comes down to. I hate to say it, but now that the hitters "aren't juicing" anymore (read: whatever shit they're using isn't cutting it), pitchers have a decisive edge. I'm fine with watching a pitcher's duel every once in a while, but when every single game is 2-1 or 1-0, it gets a bit boring. Maybe we need the DH in the NL. Even a modified DH where you could only DH for a non-pitcher would add a little bit of excitement, as some poor sap would be heckled mercilessly by the visiting crowd for DHing. Get runners running again. Get some juiced-out monsters hitting steroid-fueled homers again. I don't care.

All I know is that I'm getting bored with this game, so imagine what the kids think of it. You know kids, with their tweety-birding and phone-messaging each other—they can't pay attention to anything for more than five minutes at a time. That's just how it is. It used to be that the game connected generations—my grandpa and I could always discuss baseball, and we had a common frame of reference to bridge the generational gap in the form of statistics. But with steroids, those numbers became meaningless, and a lot of the intergenerational nature of the sport was lost. "But didn't you just endorse steroids as a solution to the problem?" Yeah, but only because they fucked things up in the first place. Now that nothing is sacred anymore, we might as well just make the game as entertaining as possible, history be damned. Of course, steroids should still be banned at every level up to the majors, because, let's face it, they can do a lot more harm than good if abused, or just if taken unsupervised. But if grown men making at least $400,000 per year knowingly take them, know of the health risks, and are fine with those risks in exchange for some cash, who am I to stop them? Just make the game fun to watch again. If not, I'm more than happy to give my sports dollars to the NFL and NHL.

Questions? Comments? Wondering if I really watch hockey? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.


Monday, March 7, 2011

What Are You Saving For?

I guess I'm being a bit presumptive here; I assume that you're saving some of your paycheck in the first place. If so, congratulations. If not, GET YOUR FUCKING SHIT TOGETHER ALREADY!

I apologize for yelling, but it just pisses me off when people bitch about a shitty job or living paycheck-to-paycheck and do nothing to fix the situation. We get it: your job sucks, the pay sucks, whatever. Complaining never fixes anything. Do something to fix your situation—either spend less money or somehow make more. It's really that simple. Make some tough decisions about what is really "necessary" in your life. Put those non-working hours to good use learning new skills or picking up new hobbies other than "increasing the size of the ass-print on your couch while watching shitty reality TV." Get your shit together already.

I apologize for the detour, but for those that are saving up some cash, what are you saving it for? The possibility of a well-earned retirement thirty or forty years down the road? Who the hell knows if we'll make it that far, anyway? Are you socking it away for some undefined "business idea," like I was, floating aimlessly along, hoping that somehow you'll build up a mountain of cash? Even then, what would you do with said mountain? Would you travel the world? Would you then sit on your ass all day and do nothing? Would you start volunteering? What would this "business" do?

I guess my point is, think of the things that you would do if you had all of the money in the world. Then, take affirmative steps to make that lifestyle come about. Want to travel the world but have a "good" job already? Take exotic vacations when you get the time off, or (if possible) negotiate a remote working arrangement with your boss. Try to take a couple of weeks and imagine what it would be like to live that kind of a lifestyle. If you find that the lifestyle agrees with you, start making a plan for saving up for your goal. Figure out how much cash you would need to save up before you felt comfortable taking "the plunge," be it for buying a new car or starting a new, globetrotting lifestyle. It's really up to you, though I would suggest that you will come to value experiences far more than things, which have an odd way of piling up over time and becoming a bunch of shit. Whatever the case, make sure that you are saving up cash for concrete goals, and not just to be able to say you're sitting on a pile of money. Come up with a plan and put it into action. Remember, at the end, when you're old and frail, or when you step off that curb before you see that bus coming toward you, you can't take it with you. Start planning today.

Questions? Comments? E-mail me at Follow me on twitter @djgelner.

Friday, March 4, 2011

You Don’t Need So Much Shit

Seriously—you don't. You might think you do right now. You might think that you need a new HD Tivo, or a new shirt, or even a new pair of shoes, but you probably don't.

People get way too caught up in all of the shit that they insist on owning. Why should you cut out a lot of this shit? Shit usually complicates…well…shit. You don't feel as free to move to a new place when it means hiring somebody to move all of this shit. Shit also is basically money that takes up space. For example, think about all of the DVDs that you own. Now, think about how often you've actually watched anything from your DVD collection. The only DVDs that I can recently remember watching that are from my collection are The Departed and a few seasons of It's Always Sunny. I do have Netflix streaming, but that allows me to stream a ton of movies for about half of what a Blu-Ray costs. The simple lesson out of all of this is that if you aren't using it, you wasted your fucking money.

I realize people buy things for a lot of reasons. For some people, shopping makes them happy. They can go out with a fist-full of cash (or plastic) and have some control over what they're buying. Some people are (oddly) worried about "keeping up with the Joneses." I've never really understood why people do this—who cares if the asshole next door has a nicer set of golf clubs/car/couch than I do? At the end of the day, it's all just shit. You are not defined by your possessions. You are defined by your actions. How you treat other people, what you do with your short time on this planet—those are the things that make you you. Not the Starbucks Super-Froth Espresso Maker 5000 or some dumb-ass watch from Switzerland.

By not buying this kind of shit, you ensure that you can retain your freedom. You don't go into debt to buy a bunch of stupid shit, so you have more freedom to do what you want with your life. You don't have as much shit, so you have more flexibility to move about and try new things. Believe me, I know. In law school, I bought all kinds of DVDs, clothes I didn't need, and fancy meals just for the hell of it. I was living like a big city lawyer, but without any income! As a result, I ended up with five-figures of credit card debt. At the time I thought I was still okay because I had a high-paying job waiting for me. Then the economy went in the shitter, and firms started canning young attorneys like Spam factories. There I was, a newly-minted lawyer, at a job where there was little work and the constant threat of layoffs, and a mountain of credit card debt, to boot.

Fortunately, I kept my job and have long since paid all of that debt off, but I was fucking stupid to put myself in that position in the first place! Do I use any of that shit I bought in law school anymore? No. I'm too fucking fat for any of the clothes (though making progress on that front), and I never really want to make a commitment to watching a whole movie at home. The expensive food is long gone—the only shit that isn't still in my collection (quite literally). Stop letting your shit own you. Good, nourishing food. Some kind of shelter. Probably a computer of some sort. Solid, functional, appropriate clothing. These are really the only things you need. Don't be like me—instead of buying stupid shit, go out and do something that you want to define you. Write a book. Make a movie. Get a new hobby. Just don't fucking shop for more stupid shit!

Questions? Comments? A few too many "shits" in there? E-mail me at

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Being Yourself

I don't know if it shows in my writing, but I've been struggling to find a voice for this blog. I don't know what the deal is, but sometimes I think I come off sounding robotic or (worse) nagging at times. I've come to a realization:

That fucking sucks.

Nobody likes to be nagged, and I hate to be one to nag anybody else. I just feel like I haven't been putting enough of myself on the page thus far. Sure, I hope the nuts and bolts of the advice are there, but at the end of the day, I could program a robot pay somebody to program a robot to write the same things. There's no soul—nothing that makes me "me." I've often found that the best way to write is to write as if you're speaking, poor grammar be goddamned. On this blog, I felt like I was slipping away from that at an increasingly fast rate.

I think that this may stem from the need to please people that I have commented on in previous posts. Additionally, I've tried to keep things a little too "professional." Not that I don't want to provide high-level advice, content, and other assorted musings to everyone that reads this, but I don't want to do it in the starched-shirt, formulaic way I had been doing it. I felt like I was losing my edge, and, because of that, a little bit of myself.

Going forward? Fuck it. People that know me also know that I like to drop a "fuck" bomb every now and then. I'm not always going to have opinions or a style that people agree with. That's entirely okay. You're certainly welcome to read a different blog if anything here offends you, especially the quality of the writing. What I'm trying to do from here on out is stop holding back. Society often tells you that you have to jump through certain hoops to get from point A to B to C. One of those hoops is sanitizing everything to the point that nobody gets offended, to "keep your options open in the future." Fuck that. They're just words. If you think they're more than that, you're welcome to take your eyes elsewhere. For those that stick around, though, I promise to break free of these fucking conventions and bring a little more humor and edge to my posts in the future. If you want a taste, head on over to BlogMogger and look at some of my other work. Why, you may ask? Because I don't fucking care anymore.

Oh fuck.

Questions? Comments? Wondering why I have to say fuck so much? E-mail me at

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