How To Guarantee A Terrible 2020
What follows are my 5 immutable rules for a terrible, no good, deeply unfulfilling 2020. Follow these rules and I guarantee you misery. Here's to your misfortune.
1. Keep yourself distracted.
The goal is not long term success, but short term comfort through avoidance. To this end, make sure your phone & computer are set up to always grab your attention. Read online news regularly. Have push notifications activated so you can import cherry-picked disasters from far away places directly into your head.
Concern yourself with the affairs of people who don't know you exist, especially those the media puts in front of you. Definitely hang on every word the talking heads and politicians say during the election cycle. That will keep you especially distracted, agitated, and depressed. Perfect for getting nothing done.
Have your shows and social media going while getting work done. Ignore the data that says the vast majority of people can't multitask- you're definitely an exception 😉
Carry a screen with you at all times. The bed, bathroom, work, dates...and bury your head into the screen at the slightest hint of boredom or awkwardness. This creates a habit of avoiding any potential discomfort and is incredibly effective for killing any chance of personal & professional growth.
This mindless, reactive consumption guarantees you won't ever contemplate where you're headed in life, and will keep you from ever creating anything meaningful. You can't create if your constantly consuming, after all. Perfect for stagnating!
2. Prioritize everyone & everything else.
The first part of this is to make sure you prioritize everyone else's plans for your time. Having time for your self is overrated. Use your best hours for other people's projects and obligations. Tackle other people's emergencies and "urgent" tasks over the things that move you towards your true goals. Say yes to everything you're offered. Don't forget to binge on shows and social- those take priority. Your own projects and desires can wait. After all, you've got decades of time to burn. Probably.
Ok, part 2- Make sure you prioritize everyone else's opinions and thoughts over your own. Your mental real-estate should be sold to the lowest bidder. Parrot and re-quote everything you see and read. Wear the brands and follow the trends. But under no circumstances are you to entertain your own opinions and ideas. Definitely second guess yourself for having ideas that don't fit the narrative. Don't come to your own conclusions. Let them decide for you.
3. Have many projects but don't commit to any of them.
In the rare chance you do find some regular free time, have many creative projects. Write, paint, run, lift weights, take photographs, start a business. But don't commit or follow through on any of them. Stick around long enough to spend weeks researching gear & spend a small fortune on it, but make it easy to quit as soon as things get a little difficult, inconvenient, confusing, or boring. Remember to stay distracted (rule 1) so it's easy to watch a show or hop on your phone instead of working on a project. Repeat on a new hobby.
You'll know you're doing this correctly if you accumulate a ton of gear over the years, but marginal skillsets to go with your stuff. That's exactly what you want.
4. Set ambitious goals with no timelines or consequences
It's nice to think about the finish line that you'll reach "someday." It's comfortable to dream about. It feels great without having to lift a finger! And it's easy to defer- you can always say you'll start later because there's no timeline.
Because it feels so good with no effort, I recommend you stay in this dreaming phase. Here are some examples of how to do this. Always say-
"I'm starting a business" instead of working on it to the point of running the business.
"I'm thinking about writing a new book" instead of writing every day.
"I'm going to run a 5k" instead of signing up for a 5k and publicly posting it on social. That would be difficult to back out of and potentially involves running- let's avoid that.
Another good tactic for indefinitely deferring action is to "research" by bingeing information endlessly. Read all the books, watch all the YouTube videos, take all the courses, read the blogs. Take a ton of notes.
Do everything except work on the task at hand. Remember, you only move closer to your goals if you work towards them daily. We don't want that.
All we care about is feeling safe & comfortable now in the short term, while feeling good about our intentions. This is not about committing to anything or holding yourself accountable. Which brings us to...
5. Nothing is your responsibility, nothing is your fault.
Poor, poor you. Life has dealt you a bad hand and other people have it way easier than you. Of course they can start businesses and run marathons. They don't know what it's like to be you. It's not your fault. You are 100% the victim here, and you are definitely more oppressed than them, your friends on Twitter said so!
So shift all blame to others and shun all responsibility. Do not hold yourself accountable and avoid scrutiny by drawing attention to those who have it better than you. It's their fault you feel this way. It's their fault you're in this situation.
This line of thinking will help you smugly justify your situation, keep you soft and complacent, without ever needing to lift a finger.
That's it. Follow those 5 rules and you're guaranteed a miserable 2020. To recap:
- Keep yourself distracted.
- Prioritize everyone & everything else.
- Have many projects, but don't commit to any of them.
- Set ambitious goals with no timelines or consequences.
- Nothing is your responsibility, nothing is your fault.
Ok. Let's talk.
The first version of this was going to be the 5 laws for nailing resolutions. It was positive, tactical and told you what you should do based on all the latest research.
As I read the finished draft, I came away thinking it was formulaic garbage. It would have been lost in the noise with every other "win the new year" article. It's easy to publish that shit-it's safe, requires no thought, and meets expectations.
In an attempt to avoid contributing to the noise, I flipped the email on its head and drew attention to what lurks in the self-help shadows of those optimistic articles. Instead of focus, I championed distraction. Instead of accountability and taking ownership, shift blame and shirk responsibility.
I felt uncomfortable writing this because I've acted on all of these negative impulses more often than I'd like to admit- the 5 rules come from personal experience. The 5 rules are an acknowledgement of that filthy, greasy, petty, egotistical, lazy, animal side I try to keep stuffed down in the recesses of my psyche. It's ok to feel those impulses-there's nothing wrong with having them (but that's a different conversation).
If you felt anger or unease reading any part of the 5 rules, you recognized that animal in yourself as well.
Good. Follow that discomfort.
Understand: When it comes to personal goals, you don't get credit for intentions- only your actions. That gap between intention and action is where your feelings and emotions wait to ambush you. The 5 rules are there to prevent you from taking the right action.
"It's cold outside."
"I'll do it later."
"I'll just watch one episode."
"It's ok to skip a day."
"I want to be better."
That crapshoot of emotions and feelings stands between your best intentions and the action you take. There are occasions when it's easy to do the right thing. But more often than not, you fall victim to one of the 5 rules under the influence of how you felt in the moment.
Your character, self-esteem, and integrity are forged in the moments where you do what needs doing especially when you don't feel like it.
Your resolutions & goals will vary. But the mental game never changes.
For the coming year & beyond, I wish you the courage and discipline to take vigorous action on what you know needs doing- especially when it's difficult to do so.
Featured image: I took this long exposure photo of the summer 2018 Holy Fire just a few miles from my home in Riverside, CA. Seemed fitting for today's topic.