8 Pieces of “Bad” Life Advice That Are Actually Good
“Your goodness must have some edge to it—else it is none.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
1.) Put less energy into fixing breaks and more energy into breaking fixes
“There is no riskier risk than refusing to risk at all.” ~Jen Sincero
This one’s tricky. I’m not saying don’t heal. I’m not saying don’t lick your wounds. I’m saying make it priority two or three, not one. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing yourself in a tiny comfort zone.
The only way your comfort zone gets bigger is by taking risks. Breaking your fixes is calculated risk taking. Whether your fix is an addiction, an outdated belief, a cultural conditioning, or a political/religious indoctrination, when you focus more on breaking fixes, you are being proactive about getting the horse of your life in front of the cart of your unreasonable (and often unfounded) expectations.
Look at it like a cycle of health and self-improvement. Break your fix, let the risky adventure break you (hero’s journey), fix your breaks, then get back to breaking your fixes. In order to achieve wise and holistic interdependence (cosmic heroism) you’ll need courageous and risky independence (personal heroism) to break yourself away from the comfortable but stagnant co dependence (fear).
2.) Embarrass yourself as quickly as possible
“Passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.” ~Mark Manson
Before you can get better at something you have to suck at it first. Forget about talent. Forget about luck. Talent and luck pale in comparison to perseverance. Sure, they might help you get better faster, but they are out of your hands. So it’s better not to even waste your energy on them in the first place. Focus on what you can control, and that’s self-improvement.
Self-improvement takes practice. And practice means action. It might even mean looking like a fool. So be it. Embarrass yourself. Make mistakes as soon as you can. Free yourself to write, paint, produce, sculpt or play the worst thing ever created. Don’t fear failure. Embrace it. Own it. Learn from it. Then recreate from the vital knowledge gleaned from your plethora of mistakes.
If you avoid failure, embarrassment and fear, then you will never create anything meaningful. So go all in. Fail fast. Embarrass yourself as quickly as possible. Make glorious mistakes. Samuel Beckett said it best: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
3.) Use philosophy as a chisel for the hardened beliefs within you
“Philosophical thinking that doesn’t do violence to one’s settled mind is no philosophical thinking at all.” ~Rebecca Goldstein
Philosophy helps you discover that everything is connected despite what you’ve been taught.
Questioning what you think you know diminishes the broadcast of the codependent ego so that you can tune into the broadcast of the interdependent whole.
If wisdom is what you’re seeking, then the interdependent whole is a good place to start. If your goal is to get out of the rat race, to transcend the stagnant status quo and to overcome the default setting, then questioning what you’ve been taught is a good first step.
Rather than importing wholesale whatever framework for life the codependent status quo programmed and conditioned you to accept, use philosophy (the art of questioning all things) to discover how everything is connected to everything else.
Using philosophy as a chisel is self-actualizing. It deconstructs meaning. It interrogates worldviews. It is proactively self-improving.
It teaches you how to be relentless in your questioning, how to be ruthless in your circumspection, and how to self-overcome so as not to be overwhelmed by the tribe. More importantly, it will help you discover your most authentic self by providing a flexible yet fierce way of being and becoming human in the world.
4.) You’ll reap no evolution if you don’t sow a little revolution
“The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to help overthrow the rest of us.” ~Rob Brezsny
Humans may not agree on much. But one thing most of us can agree on is that we all hope for a healthy and progressive evolution for our species.
The problem is that most of us live in profoundly sick societies. Societies that pollute the air they need to breathe, the water they need to drink, the food they need to eat, and the minds they need to co-evolve with.
Any system that forces its people to breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, eat polluted food and then reinforces its people (whether through brainwashing, political propaganda, or cultural conditioning) to continue doing all the things that causes that pollution is a profoundly sick society. As Krishnamurti wisely put it, “It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
So what can you do about it? For starters, educate yourself. Honor the golden rule, the nonaggression principle, and the 7th generation principle. In the face of a profoundly sick society this might mean sowing a little revolution.
Next, if you’re really feeling courageous, dare yourself to become David against the Goliath of the state. Become Heracles against the Hydra of the war machine. Become a well-armed lamb contesting all votes. Become lionhearted despite all cowards.
But before any of that, you must check yourself. You must become free. Becoming free is the most revolutionary act you can take. You must be free in order to gain the courage necessary to create the kind of change that leads to a healthy and progressive evolution for our species.
5.) Your “love and light” could use a little tough love and darkness
“These mountains that you’re carrying, you were only supposed to climb.” ~Najwa Zebian
Happiness is overrated. “Good vibes only” is just plain lazy. Get out from underneath the burden of needing to be happy all the time. That’s too much weight to be carrying around. Take it easy on yourself.
Forcing yourself to be positive and happy all the time is just an ego trap set up by the scared-shitless part of you that doesn’t want to face the shitty parts of life. That’s blatant repression.
Stop demonizing sadness. You cannot be happy all the time. Happiness, like sadness, is a passing storm across the sky of the Self. Some storms are refreshing and invigorating, like happiness. Some are painful and rough, like sadness. Both can be overwhelming. But both are merely information. They just happen to be information that you “feel.”
As far as information goes, pain and sadness will teach you more than comfort and happiness ever could. Use that information to make yourself healthier. Use it to create meaning. Happiness will become a convenient bi-product of your self-improvement. The best you can do is hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. And nothing prepares you for the worst better than the vital information gleaned from pain and sadness.
6.) Don’t allow your life to become overly domesticated:
“Society tames the wolf into a dog. And man is the most domesticated animal of them all.” ~Nietzsche
Get away from the zoo-mentality, the menagerie of madness. Let your mind out of its steel cage. Crucify any routine that kills your dreams. Nail it to a cross and fill your wine cup with its blood. Play more. Dare more. Adventure more. Trust more. Love more. Domesticate less!
Problems arise from excess. Excessive culture. Excessive domestication. Excessive control. Excessive tidiness. Excessive pacification. When anything becomes excessive it smothers wildness. It smothers freedom. It smothers the soul.
Learn to be nourished by solitude rather than defeated by it. The wild is the greatest teacher in the world. Meditation in solitude is a sacred strategy that helps bring balance between nature and the human soul. Let the interconnected cosmos teach you the difference between healthy and unhealthy through a “language older than words (Derrick Jensen).”
So get out there. Get off your overly-domesticated ass. There’s nothing stopping you, but you. There’s an entire world to explore. There are wild places calling out to your heart. It’s a call to adventure. It’s a hero’s journey.
Life is too short not to feel your deepest darkest wildness howling inside you. I implore you: don’t just become another domesticated dog. Discover the wolf hidden inside you.
As Nietzsche profoundly stated, “Truth as Circe. Error has turned animals into men; might truth be capable of turning man into an animal again?”
7.) Kill your old self and bury the body in the back yard
“Unless you are constantly practicing it, this dying and being reborn, you are only a guest on this dark planet earth.” ~Goethe
The art of healthy ego-annihilation: question thyself, destroy thyself, rebirth thyself.
Why is all this killing and re-birthing necessary for self-improvement (or spiritual development)? You kill your codependent self so that your independent self can emerge with the courage to become an interdependent force of nature. In other words: your ability to adapt and overcome is directly proportional to your ability to self-overcome.
Sometimes the only way to discover that the “door to your jailcell has always been open” is to lose the mindset that conditioned you into thinking that you were trapped. The trapped mindset is also the fear-based mindset. It’s the indoctrinated mindset. In short: it’s your codependent self. Kill it, as soon as possible. Learn from it. Then “bury” it in your muscle memory (back yard).
Learn to do this again and again and it becomes a healthy cycle of self-overcoming that can lead to profound self-improvement and deep enlightenment. With enough practice, this questioning yourself, destroying yourself and rebirthing yourself will come as easily as your body sheds its skin.
8.) Love dangerously
“Healthy, strong individuals seek self-expansion by experimenting and by living dangerously. The good life is ever changing, challenging, devoid of regret, intense, creative and risky.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche
What is loving dangerously?
Loving dangerously is loving without hope. It’s loving courageously, vulnerably, honestly. Which is likely to hurt. Therefore, loving dangerously is being open-hearted enough to be okay with having your heart broken. In fact, it’s about becoming adept at adapting to heart break. It’s about overcoming the slings and arrows of life and becoming resilient, robust, and anti fragile because of heartbreak.
On a long enough timeline heartbreak is inevitable anyway. So, you might as well get better at adapting to it, at learning from it, at transforming it into something that can make you stronger. Taking risks, loving dangerously, loving vulnerably with your heart on your sleeve… That’s true courage.
Loving dangerously is loving without an agenda. It’s being a true hopeless romantic rather than just talking out your ass about it (like hopeful or hopefool romantics do). It’s allowing others to love the way they must love. It’s letting go of your ego’s attachment to love. It’s loving at the edge of the human condition: fallible, uncertain, hungry, in a frenzy.
Paraphrasing Samuel Becket: Ever loving. Ever broken hearted. No matter. Love again. Break your heart open again. Break it better… That’s loving dangerously.
Life is short. Love is risky. Courage is uncomfortable. But more of life comes from love laid open and bare than love closed-up and made invulnerable in vain. So, take the leap into the dangerous and vulnerable waters of love. There is adventure to be had. As Rumi suggested, “Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absentminded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly. Let the lover be.”
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.