Special Snowflakes

This is a topic I never thought I’d actually touch. We hear about how people think they’re so special, typically using the words special snowflake and typically from the older generations (read: 50+). Typically these low slung insults have the right idea, though the angle at which these statements are being lobbed is all wrong.

I’m talking about Chapter 3 in Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck. In particular, there’s a couple passages that I want to highlight before I take the anti-special-snowflake generation to task.

…beginning in…the 1970s, self-esteem practices began to be taught to parents, emphasized by therapists, politicians, and teachers… Kids were given inanne homework assignments, like writing down all the reasons why they thought they were special…seminars [told us everyone] can be exceptional and massively successful.

That sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?

Today, we have a group of individuals, thought not technically wrong, chanting about how kids are being taught participation trophy this and safe space that. No one seems to have stopped and thought where all this came from…

It came from the generation of people complaining about it right now, and the generation before them. When the shoe is on the other foot, it’s amazing how much the narrative changes.

On the flipside:

…a generation later and the data is in: we’re not all exceptional. It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself.

Hmm. Mark’s taking the side of the grumps, as the millenials would probably call those of us trying to spoil the fun (I suppose, I have no idea; saying things in jest is what makes the Internet great, right?).

The difference here is how this information is shared. Right now we’re faced with old people telling young people you’re wrong and you should feel bad which as history clearly shows, works absolutely zero percent of the time. You’d think the old people in the scenario would know better, given they were young once. Oh well.

In order for this information to sink it, it needs to be discovered by those needing it the most… once they’re adults. The huge caveat to all this is: trying to teach a child that life sucks and to grow a pair always turns out wonderfully (not). Having grandpa tell your six-year-old about how his life was such shit that said six-year-old should nut up and stop feeling bad about not winning something somewhere is a fantastic idea (not).

There’s a threshold after which an individual can understand this concept. As a child, said individual is not at or past such a point.

So what do we do? We raise our kids to be kids and as they get older, enstill them with the tools they need to discover life on their own and at their own pace. If we raise our children to be entitled, then we’ll have entitled adults. If we raise our childen to be walking satirical assholes and finding the doom and gloom and life is hard, suck it up comes out of their depressive face holes every moment of the day (cough, nihilism), then we’ll have a new generation of nihilistic sad sacks that end up bitter in their old age.

There’s a balance in the middle, but I don’t believe it’s found to be valuable by any other means but through experience. The short version of all this is: life is hard but don’t be an ass in teaching children that. Let them figure it out and guide them.

Perhaps one day we’ll no longer have a generation of sad sacks complaining about snowflakes.

The 2017 Book Club

Getting ready for the New Year looks like a couple different things in my world:

  1. What am I doing now that I should stop doing?
  2. What am I not doing now that I should start doing?

I think I have an idea for #2.

For the latter, a big deal for me is reading more. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about setting goals for yourself rather than having resolutions, a goal I’ve created is to read a book every two weeks. That sounds pretty easy for most and depending on what you enjoy doing with your day, it might be. For me, my attention is in a lot of different places, on purpose.

I find myself much more satisfied with life in general, if I’m dabbling in a bunch of different thing at once, rather than going whole hog on just one idea.

Hence the two-week window, versus one.

To hold myself accountable, I want to start a book club of sorts. If you’re just discovering this blog and this post well after the fact, don’t worry. You don’t have to follow along in real time. All the discussion is asynchronous, mostly with me reflecting and discussing what I’ve read in blog post form. I’ll have them marked with 2017 Book Club as a tag, so they’re easy to sort through and read.

Here’s the idea: every Monday I post about what I’ve read in the calendar week prior (Monday-Sunday). I’m kind of already cheating and have started a book for 2017 that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I’ll share that with the group on January 1st, as it’s Monday, and that’ll start off our 2017 Book Club.

The kinds of books I expect to have are mostly non-fiction, learn-something-from-this type books. This doesn’t mean exclusively self-help books, either, though I might sprinkle some of that in the mix, too.

A lot of knowledge is floating around out there and has yet to be consumed by many of us. Let’s change that.

I’ll see you January 1st!

On Going Back to Regular Books

Last week, I bought my first regular, good old-fashioned book with the intent of reading it in longer than I can remember. It felt satisfying, but it make me think about how technology has progressed in my daily life (I’ll cover this more in a future post). In regards to reading material, I haven’t picked up a digital book or magazine in months. The last digital magazine I bought was over a year ago.

I bought The Talent Code, something I already owned in Kindle format. I read about 1/3 of the digital book, but stopped after a while. I’m not 100% sure why I did it, but if I reflected long enough, I think one of the biggest reasons for doing so was that because I was reading this book around bed time, the harshness of the light was making it difficult for me.

Obviously that’s no longer a thing, but even with the advancements in the iOS operating system, I’m still not reading any books on my iPad. I still visit Web sites. I still check my email. I still do all the things that were always digital to begin with. I didn’t hesitate to stop reading books and magazines digitally.

And here’s what I think is the reason. For me, reading is an experience. I make it an event. If I want to read a book or magazine, I make the conscious decision to do so. I grab a beverage, I sit down on a comfy chair or couch, or even lay in bed, and read. During that period of time, I don’t want any distractions. If I’m in the throes of a deep plot, I don’t want anything to tickle the back of my mind and make me want to check my email.

I don’t want to get too deep into the distractions of technology and social media, just yet, and will cover that in the very near future, but I will say the last couple of months has really allowed me to think about what I really want to get out of my various methods of communication.

Back to the book story.

Buying this actual book, made of actual paper, and occupying an actual unit of physical space on my actual bookshelf felt good. This in and of itself seems counterintuitive to how I obtain other entertainment media: out of every video game I bought in the last year, only one of them was on disc and that was only because it was cheaper than digital; out of every movie I’ve seen outside the theater, the vast majority I rented through my cable provider or Netflix; I don’t buy music anymore, I pay for Spotify.

It seems strange, but having an actual book to read really helps me get into the mindset of consuming the information therein. This extends to magazines, as well. I subscribe to four magazines: Time, Men’s Health, Fortune and Wine Spectator. Granted, I used about-to-expire airline miles to pay for them, but nonetheless, I give my mailman something to do every month.

The way I treat these magazines is the same way I treat a book. When I want to read it, I make it a thing. I sit down, I read it. I might read the whole thing in a day, or I break it up, but I don’t ever read when I’m distracted, or multitasking.

I have a slightly strange way about doing all this. It’s 2016 and I’m sitting here enjoying the fact that I can buy a book instead of get it on my iPad. Maybe we’ve hit the point where technology isn’t going to get much more useful than it already is when it comes to consuming information.

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