How to STOP your past from haunting you right now!

What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?

How do you feel when you think about that?

If you feel nothing, congratulations, your past has been dealt with and no longer haunts you.

if you feel… anger, sadness, confusion, shock, frustration or any other pain, then like most people, your past has not been dealt with and still does haunt you.

You have to deal with it sooner or later, because if time healed all wounds there’d be no money in becoming a doctor or therapist.

Whether it’s a sub-optimal childhood, a bad relationship, a crappy work situation, a school bully from 38 years ago, a betrayal, your Mum stealing your Easter eggs or really anything that still conjures powerful emotions, you’ll be a lot happier having dealt with it sooner rather than later.

And now is as good a time as ever, especially considering how easy it is to do, surprisingly enough. Alternatively you could just never deal with it ever, as being a moody prick makes for a great anti-hero in a movie and is quite “cool”, even though it’s rather unpleasant.

I read about how to do this in a book written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, called The How Of Happiness. What the author lacks in terms of having a pronounceable name, she makes up for by being a professor of Psychology who has conducted a lot of experiments in how dealing with your past can permanently improve your life

My experiences with this

I implemented the “free writing” method and went through a number of experiences, including this terrible relationship I had with a previous girlfriend as well as a terrible job I’d had.

After doing this exercise I totally changed the way I thought and subsequently felt about both of those experiences.

I realised that I was very grateful for my ex-girlfriend for being such a next-level crazy bitch, because if she had kept her personality disorder largely hidden from me, I might have ended up staying with and perhaps eventually marrying her, which would have been a horrifying outcome. I shudder to think at what a bullet I must have dodged, simply because my beautiful ex-girlfriend who I was totally enamoured with was such a disaster that my friends told me repeatedly to absolutely, definitely dump her immediately.

I went from being angry and sad about the experience to laughing about it and feeling actually glad that it had happened. How awesome is that!

For the work experience, I went from being angry and bitter about a previous job I’d had that was horrendously stressful, to actually thankful I’d gone through it. I realised that if i hadn’t done that job I wouldn’t have learned about the totally vital things which led to my next fantastic job, things that there’s no way I would have just stumbled upon otherwise. I look back and chuckle at what a pain in the ass it was to work there and remember some of their painfully stupid policies that led to half the company leaving within two months.

Wouldn’t it be nice to flip the way you feel about some of your unhappy memories?

How to do this

Here are three ways you can deal with your past, the first two are straight from “The How Of Happiness”, and are the actual exercises which Psychologists used in experiments with their subjects to see if after doing them, they were happier down the road than the control group. The third exercise is my own design.

Free writing method

For the next four days, I would like for you to write about your very deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experience of your entire life.

In your writing, I’d like you to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts.

You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends, or relatives, to your past, your present, or your future, or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now.

You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or on different traumas each day.

At minimum, you should spend fifteen minutes writing each day, and you should write for several days in a row, for as long as needed

Guided writing/talking method

A sequence of three general steps is taken, with the ultimate goal of finding benefit in pain.

First, whether through writing or talking (to a trusted friend):

Acknowledge that your loss or trauma has caused you a great deal of pain and suffering.

Then consider what you have done during your loss or in response to it that you are proud of. If a family member has died, perhaps you worked extremely hard to make his or her last days comfortable. If your marriage fell apart and you sank into a depression, perhaps you bravely slogged through your workdays and kept it together, at least in front of people who depended on you.

Next, consider how much you have grown as a result of your loss. Do you think that you have a new perspective on life (even if it’s a negative one)? Do you believe that you are more compassionate now, or more grateful, or sensitive, or patient, Or tolerant, or open-minded?

Finally, think about how the trauma has positively affected your relationships. Have any of them been strengthened in any way? Have any of them become closer, more intimate, or more supportive?

Comedy writing exercise

(Comedy, because this is literally how I have written some of the material I’ve used when I’ve performed on stage at various comedy open mics and is the general process a lot of other comedians use, which is how they end up joking about their childhood or their relationship problems even though, at the time, those experiences were awful)

  1. Think of something bad that happened to you
  2. Brainstorm everything you remember happening regarding it
  3. Brainstorm everything you remember thinking about it
  4. Brainstorm everything you remember feeling about it
  5. Brainstorm what you are proud of in your response to it
  6. Brainstorm how you have grown as a result of it
  7. Brainstorm how it has positively affected your relationships
  8. Brainstorm what’s funny about each of these things (perhaps the other person’s absurd mindset or the bizarreness of the situation in general or how other people reacted or how you reacted or so on)
  9. Write a standup set based on this (optional)
  10. Perform the standup set at a comedy open mic (optional)

Next steps

If you’ve gotten through to this part of the blog, you either quickly scrolled all the way down just for the sheer thrill of seeing text fly up the screen, or you actually read everything above this.

If you took the time to read this, you must have thought it was worth your time to do so, and if it was worth your time to read then surely it’s worth your time to apply.

Reading a blog about different exercises for how to deal with your past without actually doing those exercises is like reading the manual of a car without bothering to drive it.

So which of those three methods, Free-Writing, Guided Writing/Talking and Comedy Writing would you lean towards trying out?

And since you took a few minutes to read this blog and you’re currently reading this on a device which has the ability to let you type out some notes for a writing exercise right now, do you think it would be worthwhile spending another three minutes just starting your preferred method right now?

Good, get started on one of the exercises, then leave a comment below saying what you got out of it, after you’re done 🙂

 

My Experience Doing Jordan Peterson’s Future Authoring Program

jordan peterson
I have huge admiration for Dr Jordan Peterson and have spent god knows how many hours watching his lectures.

And whilst I have learned a lot from the man, the dominance hierarchy, what Intelligence actually is, what personality actually is, the shadow, where the hero story actually comes from and how to think about the current political climate, I don’t think I’ve actually taken time to APPLY any of this.

So finally, I decided to actually USE this guy as a resource, and went and bought his Future Authoring Program. On it’s website this is it’s description:

“Most people have never been asked to contemplate the question: “What do you hope to achieve in your life and what kind of person do you want to be?”

This realization was the genesis of the Future Authoring program. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, decided to ask his students to sit down and write about their ideal future. They were asked to specifically describe the type of person they wanted to be, the skills they wanted to attain, and the relationships they wanted to have, among other things.

Simply through this guided contemplation, Dr. Peterson’s students found themselves feeling like they had more direction in life. They were less anxious about the uncertainty of the future, and knew what they could do today to start down the path of becoming the person they wanted to be.

Since that first class, the Future Authoring program has been designed, refined, and deployed to thousands of people. It has been found to be profoundly effective at aligning goals with actions, and helping people define what they want their future to look like and achieve it.

As I started going through it, in it’s own description it said the program could take up to five hours to go through. Hours. Five. Well, this program clearly isn’t messing around then. There are no “quick & easy” fixes here, this is the real deal.

The structure of the program is quite simple, it asks you questions and has you write in a text box answers to them. it said that writing down answers, as opposed to just thinking about them, is absolutely key, because writing is really a fantastic way to organise your thoughts and gain clarity. And organise my thoughts and gain clarity I did.

The first revelation the program hit me with was in the section about leisure time.

“It is not uncommon for a person to waste four hours a day on unsatisfying leisure activities.”

It said that because if someone doesn’t think and really plan out how they spent their free time each day, they would by default go to the easiest thing to do, like watching TV, playing video games, or in my case, watching youtube videos for hours and hours on end. After work. During lunch. On weekends. On Holiday. And sometimes even before work too.

Then the program broke down just what wasting four hours a day would look like:

4 hours in a day
28 hours in a week
120 hours in a month
1,440 hours in a year
86,400 hours over 60 years

So over the next 60 years, if failing to plan out what you want to spend your leisure time after work and on weekends doing, it would not be uncommon for a person to waste 10 years. Literally 10 years of 365 24-hours days.

I didn’t plan what I wanted to spend my leisure time on. I generally wasted most of my weekends and the second I came home from work and lay down in bed to watch “just one” youtube video, that was game over. I’d watch stupid videos for hours, not even enjoying it, just killing time.

The program then asked me to go through and write out what I did want my leisure time to look like and what I didn’t want my leisure time to look like and what would happen if I didn’t change my habits around this. This one finding, in itself, might make my life twice as enjoyable in the long term.

The program covers all the different areas of your life too, repeating the formula of having you describe, in detail, what the ideal would be, for your work, family, friends, health etc. and then describe, in detail, what the you would NOT want to have in terms of those things.

The idea is to define your version of “heaven” and your version of “hell”, so it gives you something to run towards as well as something to run away from. Your fear of achieving success becomes outweighed by your fear of not achieving success and instead sinking into the hell you described for yourself.

It’s like a thousand wakeup calls all at once, with then sections for each on how to implement these.

Most people don’t take the time to consider, in depth what they really want out of life and to consider, in depth, what they don’t want in life, and of course this is detrimental to the life you end up leading.

The last section of the program is reviewing the answers you wrote to the previous questions, then writing your most important goals, then ranking them, then defining those goals, in detail, then breaking down what you need to do to actually achieve them. It’s the most in-depth goal-setting I’ve ever even heard of, and I’ve done a lot of goal-setting.

The first thing I’m applying are the insights it’s given me about leisure time, after work I want to play ukulele, write blogs, exercise and socialise, not mess around on youtube. I want to convert my leisure time to productive activities, not idly consumption.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably at least a little curious about what sort of difference this could make in your life, so I recommend you check out what the course says for itself, by clicking here: https://selfauthoring.com/future-authoring.html

And here are some other reviews people have made about the program:

Goals That Will Make You Happier

I would like to be happier, but my goals have only vaguely reflected this desire, mainly instead revolving around stuff that I think would be cool, rather than would actually make me happier.

So recently I read a bunch of different books about the science of happiness. Contrary to popular belief, happiness isn’t like a butterfly, where if you chase it, it just runs away. Happiness is instead like literally everything else in life, when you pursue you it, you increase your likelihood of getting it IF you actually know how it works, and most people (literally almost everyone) doesn’t understand it, because it’s not intuitive, at all. Think of all the things you think would make you happier. You’d be wrong about at least half of them. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s everyone.

You can set intelligent goals that will make you happier, but not if you rely on intuition over scientific research. We simply suck as guessing how different things will impact our level of happiness, mainly because our instincts have to do with survival, not happiness. Humans (and all life-forms) evolved to survive, not be happy, and once our needs are already met, our biology doesn’t tell us to slow down.

So rather than continue my haphazard attempts at crafting a lifestyle and habits that I think might make me happier but I wasn’t really sure about, I decided I should actually dig into the science.

So I read “Lost Connections”, “The Happiness Trap”, “Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile”, “Hardwiring Happiness” and “Authentic Happiness”, which were all jam-packed with useful, actionable, scientifically proven methods of improving your average mood.

Some key paradigm shifts I had whilst reading all this were:

You can’t control your thoughts.

Don’t believe me? Try to not think about vanilla ice-cream. Try to not think about how it tastes. Try not to think about how it smells. Try not to think about eating it right now? Did you succeed? No. This is the same for everything, so trying to “control” your thoughts to make them pleasant rather than unpleasant doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. What about all those books that preach this as a way of making you happier? They are toilet paper. All of them. But you can turn down the power that your thoughts have over you by observing them more often in a detached way. “The Happiness Trap” has great exercises for how to do this.

Community is key.

Do you know what happened to your ancestors who were not accepted members of their community? They died. Studies in these books about other primates as well as studies on humans reveals a powerful connection between those who were outcasts or lacked social ties and those who were miserable, stressed and had a lower life expectancy. Having internet friends doesn’t do dick for your feeling of being accepted in your community. Not knowing who your neighbours are and not feeling like you’re a part of something, in evolutionary terms, is a precarious situation to be in. This was a big reminder for me to actually engage in community service, community activities and join a community organisation.

Ugly, anti-social cities suck.

Greener areas, which encourage social ties between neighbours and are safe and not noisy are significantly better to your happiness to the alternative. And the alternative has been the places I’ve been living, for years and years.

The new goals I created for myself, after reading this book:

Reconnect With Meaningful Values

Become Excellent At Mindfulness Meditation
Become Excellent At Love & Kindness Meditation
Become relatively unmaterialistic

Financial Security

Live in a safe, green area with a home that is quiet
Have work I have control over and derive meaning from
Be financially secure

Connect With Other People

Build Rich Social Connections based on shared purpose
Be Someone Who Does Community Service & Activities Often

Happy Personality

Become more extraverted
Become less neurotic

Regularly reflect on thoughts

Be Good At Gratitude Journalling Regularly
Be excellent at doing CBT on self
Be excellent at doing ACT on self
Be excellent at doing BA on self

Fill my day with Hobbies

Be someone who exercises regularly in nature

Develop a complex self-image

Some of these goals I’ve already largely achieved and are just reminders to keep on track, others are totally new for me.
I have developed an extensive plan on how I’m going to pursue each of these goals, which will take a very long time, and I can’t wait to get started.

The best book of the bunch was “The How Of Happiness”, if you’re interested in actually living a happy life, I strongly recommend you check it out here

The best app for monitoring your progress with happiness is called, astonishingly: “Track Your Happiness”, you can get it here

Here’s to a happier you 🙂

 

Book Review: Hardwiring Happiness

I just got done reading a book that you’d really like.

“Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science Of Contentment, Calm And Confidence” by Rick Hanson Ph. D

He’s this Neuroscientist who also is really into meditation and stuff, and wrote a very practical book about how to do, what is essentially a very advanced version of “Gratitude Meditation”, but something that you can just slot into everyday life.

Each time you speak with a good friend, you enjoy it, but you probably don’t really let the enjoyment of it sink into you, as you get distracted by other things.

Each time you have a nice meal, you enjoy it, but again, probably not for long before you’re distracted by the next thing.

Part of the book deals with actually making the most of the good things in life, something I’m not sure I’ve ever really read about. Yeah you’re supposed to “make the most” of everything, but… how? This book is how.

Another part of the book explains the science behind why it’s difficult for us to really bask in the good things that happen, and instead why it’s so easy for us to be negative it all.

Our brains are basically wired to keep us alive, rather than particularly happy, and if you’ve been in a state of panic for a long time, like being bullied or growing up in a shit neighbourhood or something, your brain would rewire itself to adjust to this reality, protecting you from every conceivable threat, even after these threats are long absent. This is why depression can spiral. But if you can wire your brain one way, you can wire it the other, and this process of “Gratitude Meditation” is how you do that. Take your brain from a red state to a green state, and then keep it that way most of the time.

Another part of the book goes over what to do with negative thoughts, experiences and memories, and even explores who therapists help patients recover from traumatic memories by having them reinterpret them, which is something you can do for yourself.

But the bulk of the book is just HOW to do all this. The book is extremely actionable, with every chapter having steps for you to take to implement what it is he’s teaching.

My only criticism is that the science can get a bit overwhelming in spaces, but you’re a smart cookie, so you’ll get past it.
If you want to improve your average mood level, this book is a no-brainer (there’s a pun in there, somewhere)

Check out the dude’s website here: http://www.rickhanson.net/books/hardwiring-happiness/
And the book on amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Hardwiring-Happiness-Science-Contentment-Confidence/dp/0385347316/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Book Review – “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari

I recently read this great book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari

It has a bunch of stuff in it that would really help you better understand the causes of depression so you can sidestep them to never have to experience depression ever again, as well as get very actionable advice on how to live a life that is much happier, fulfilled and meaningful.

The first key takeaway of this book:

Depression isn’t caused by a randomly occurring chemical imbalance in your brain, it’s caused by having a depressing life, and just because you have a lot of money, doesn’t mean your life isn’t depressing.

To say that this theory of depression being caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain has been discredited implies it was ever actually credited to begin with.

“The United Nations—in its official statement for World Health Day in 2017—explained that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “cause more harm than good, undermine the right to health, and must be abandoned.” There is a “growing evidence base,” they state, that there are deeper causes of depression, so while there is some role for medications, we need to stop using them “to address issues which are closely related to social problems.” We need to move from “focusing on ‘chemical imbalances’ to focusing on ‘power imbalances.’ ”

The book really digs into how people were sold the lie of depression being caused by just some spontaneous chemical brain imbalance and thus solvable only through anti-depressants which inexplicably don’t work very well or at all for most people most of the time (spoiler alert: billions of dollars being at stake)

The book also covers in detail the real causes of depression, with the scientific studies to back them up and interesting anecdotes about the studies to stop the book from being boring. These causes are (and nod your head for the ones that resonate with you)

1. Having a depressing job (do you have control over it? Does it feel meaningful to you?)
2. Being disconnected from other people (how many people would loan you $100 if you needed it?)
3. Being materialistic (the more materialistic you are, lines up with the more unhappy you are)
4. Having had a traumatic childhood (whether you realise your childhood was traumatic or not, but you can address this in therapy)
5. Living away from nature (very interesting studies showing the benefits of living even near a park)
6. Having financial insecurity (i.e.: being in debt, living paycheque to paycheque)

And then the author goes on to explain how to make your life better. I’ve summarised some of the easiest methods he’s researched, which you could apply to yourself, right now:

1. Join a bunch of community groups to check them out (then continuing to participate in whichever ones you enjoyed the most)
2. Sign up to do a bunch of different community service things (continuing to do whichever community service you enjoyed the most)
3. Install ad blocker in your computer (easy as fuck) to decrease the problem recognition that is the purpose of all these internet ads
4. Google “online therapists” and discuss your childhood with them, it’s cheap, easy and incredibly effective, even if you’re pretty sure your childhood was fine
5. Take acid, with a guide, whilst lying down and blindfolded, visualising whatever and exploring those visualisations (your subconscious) to essentially lucid dream whilst awake and learn how to have a more healthy relationship with your ego

There are tonnes of other things he recommends for improvement, but those are just the top ones I thought of which you can do quite quickly and easily

My biggest criticism of the book is the author’s clear political bias, but that only really comes in to really affect two or three chapters (basically that the government should pay for everyone’s shit and capitalism is evil), but outside of those few chapters he stays quite scientific and useful.

I learned loads from this book and hope to apply all those suggestions soon, and I hope you do too.

You can check out a sample of the book on Amazon, to see what you think of it.

Then after that, if you don’t need convincing about why depression being caused by more than just chemical imbalances, I’d recommend you just skip ahead to chapter 16, which starts to dig into the really actionable advice on how you can make yourself less depressed, and more happy and fulfilled in your life.

Let me know what you think of the book and how you go with implementing it!

How to improve your conversion rates for SaaS users in 3 minutes flat

3 minutes, seriously.

Here’s an example (https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2017/02/10/5-simple-ways-productive-evernote-phone/) of how Evernote uses a value education blog post to increase the conversion rates of:
– non-users to free users
– free users to premium users
– premium users thinking of cancelling to premium users who aren’t

Evernote has stacks of blogs like this, which they can send out as emails too. Evernote understands that their users don’t necessarily understand the full value of their software, even though it’s quite simple to use (just like your software too Ill bet)

So, in 3 minutes, here’s how you can implement this too:

Option A:

Send a link to this blog post you’re reading straight to an employee and tell them to make a blog post/email for you guys similar to how Evernote did and send it out to a list of your subscribers, easy peezy (if you still desperately want to micromanage your business, tell them to send you a copy before they publish it, but it’s probably not necessary). You can spend the remaining 2 minutes and 50 seconds admiring yourself in the mirror if you wish.

Option B:

1. Spend 60 seconds thinking of 4 ways users could get more out of your software, perhaps features that are under-utilised, or things to do with the software that are under-utilised (feel free to also just delegate this to a staff member)
2. Spend 110 seconds writing the bare bones of the post
3. Spend 10 seconds copying and pasting what you’ve written, plus the following message, and email it to a staff member/indentured servant:
“Dear valued employee,
Please edit this for any spelling or grammar mistakes, fix up the formatting, change the font to one you think is cool, find some cool image to add to it, flesh out whatever you think needs fleshing out and then go ahead and publish it,
Lots of Love,
Your Boss”

You might think that your Software is so easy a blog like that would be redundant, but if Evernote does it, maybe it’s worth doing too. I’ll give another example of why stuff like this is important.

I had a friend who had played this video game called Oblivion for about 100 hours. This game was famous at the time for having one of the largest maps in Video Game history. It was only after these 100 hours did he have a conversation with a friend where he realised that the “fast-travel” feature existed, where you could just teleport from one side of the map to the other, without riding your horse there.  And my friend is not a pleb when it comes to video games, so if he didn’t know that, imagine everything your users don’t know about your software!

So, anything your users seem confused about or perhaps aren’t fully taking advantage of yet that you could allocate 3 minutes of precious time to?

After you do the first one, you’ll be way more likely to make another and another until your users are getting so much value out of your services they form protest rallies when you threaten to close down. Enjoy!

How to quickly find an apartment in District 1 of Saigon

Finding anything in Saigon is a pain in the ass, but with this method you’ll be able to find a decent studio apartment within a couple of afternoons.

You’re unlikely to get a particularly flashy place or a particularly cheap place ($250-$350 USD/month is about the price range), but for apartments in District 1 it goes fairly well and the nightmare scenarios you hear about, where a landlord totally fucks over a tenant, is less of a common story here.

First thing is just to show up to 18a Nguyen Thi Minh Khai in District 1 (here: https://goo.gl/maps/YFsrmZZTFE22)

Then walk up and down the alley and knock on the doors which have the “room for rent” sign on them.

Half of the places will say they are actually full and they merely have the sign there because… reasons.

For the ones that do have a room for rent, whoever is there will probably show you around the room even if they don’t speak english.

You will want to check that:

– the water is hot
– the air conditioner works
– the bed is decent
– the wifi is fast (get the wifi password and load a youtube video on your phone to see how quickly it loads)

Then when they call the landlord’s son on the phone to speak with you, ask them:

– if you can park your scooter here or not
– how often the maid cleans the room and does laundry
– if you can use the kitchen downstairs
– how much the rent is
– how much the rent actually is when you include all the extras
– what the security deposit is (hopefully nothing)
– what the “rules” are
– if you’re allowed to have a “friend” stay overnight (many won’t allow it, especially if the friend is Vietnamese and thus will ruin any hope of a sex life you foolishly envisioned)

Then once you’ve found like 3 places that are good, meet with the landlords one at a time to ask the same questions you asked the son, discuss anything further with them and look at the housing contract, then say you need to talk to your Dad or whatever and don’t agree to anything.

Then whichever Landlord feels the least likely to be a pain in your ass is your best bet.

But expect to have your first experience be awful, because anything they tell you is unlikely to actually be true. So if you can avoid paying a security deposit that would be great, then you can just move out and move in somewhere else, which is what I did.

I’ve been living in the same building for over a year now and it’s been pretty good so far.