I made a post recently, referencing Pokemon-Go, that received a huge amount of attention and controversy for my little page. The post was a meme that implied if you were playing Pokemon-Go, you were stupid. I got messages and comments ranging from harsh criticism to praise regarding, both my image as a fitness expert and as an influencer. Someone even referred to me as a “role model,” which is very flattering, but I would like to remind you that, just like everyone else, I’m just trying my best and at times, I suck. I am going to clarify my position, my opinion on the game and why many of you should tell me to, “go fuck myself,” on that subject, so stick around until the end.
One of the comments that sticks out in my mind is one that refers to that post as being incongruent with my overall message. I need to address this first as it is the basis for my dislike of the game and the reason I found that meme to be comical. This individual said that I am normally positive and encouraging, yet with a post that implied that people playing Pokemon-go are stupid, I had broken that theme. This is true, but only to a small degree. I have been through and experienced enough of the terrible, ugly side of life to know that deciding to be positive is the only logical choice if living a happy, fulfilled life is the goal. However, my aim and overall theme is about taking control of your life and making it beautiful. Everyone has a different idea of what beautiful is, or what a happy life entails, so no one can ever tell you that you are wrong. That being said, achieving that life, no matter what it looks like, requires sacrifice, dedication and hard work. Many of us long for a change of circumstances, yet only a precious few make the changes and struggle long enough to make them realities. Most of us, myself included, find comfort and escape from these less than ideal situations in the form of distractions. These distractions are manifested through many platforms such as sports, fantasy leagues, parties, the bar, TV shows, clubs, movies and yes, video games.
None of those are bad or negative in their own right, but its how we use them that becomes a problem. Take me for example. My distractions of choice, before I began to take control of my life were drugs, alcohol, the bar, and also video games. I hated where I was at and lied to myself about where I was going. Most of the jobs I’ve ever had, I didn’t like, so I did them half assed and day dreamed about being somewhere else. I longed to be able to go do the things I really wanted to experience in life, so I resented my place and the time I had to give up to pay rent. I lived from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, dreading that awful Monday morning. I couldn’t even enjoy Sunday, because I knew tomorrow I had to go back to work. I was trading 5 days of my week to live the other 2. Here is the funny part…Did I do anything about it? Did I make any changes that would end the cycle of being broke and unable to chase my passions? Nope! What I did was quite the opposite. I went to the bar multiple times a week and especially on the weekends. I had “fun.” I lived for weekends, looked forward to them and missed them when they were over. During the week, I would reminisce about the good times I had with my “friends” while I put my head down and struggled through the week, waiting for the next time I could feel alive.
That empty wasteland most of us call the work week was a time that let my mind wander. I had time to reflect on my situation. I knew I wanted things to be different and I always thought about how great it would be to be able to do this thing, or go on that trip. Did I think about how to make that happen? Sure, sometimes, for moments, but mostly I just assumed that things would be different in the future. I’d get a raise and I would move on to bigger and better things, eventually. I would think about my position, my shitty car, my bills and my inability to do what I wanted. I was stuck and the anxiety was too much, so I would do something else, something that was exciting. If I wasn’t altering my reality, I was playing video games, because I love video games and I am really good at them. I’ve dumped weeks into different titles, on different systems and I loved every minute of it, but eventually, Id have to unplug from that reality and return to mine; a reality that depressed me and made me resent the world and circumstances that I believed put me there. No matter how much blame I put on anyone else, it didn’t matter and nothing changed. So I continued to want to escape.
I started to realize that no matter how drunk I got, how much fun I had the night before, or how deep into a game I was, my problems never went away. I may have had fun, but I never woke up anywhere closer to where I wanted to be in life. Actually, I was farther away, because my bank account was smaller and my body in worse shape. Eventually, the real problems I had were stealing the joy I got from the bar, from my friends and from video games. Naturally, I stepped up my distractions, like many of us do, to more powerful and intense immersion, but it only made my situation worse. I would spend more money on the things that made me feel good, effectively pushing me farther away from the experiences and lifestyle I actually wanted, ironically making me the cause of my own discomfort. This epiphany changed my life.
The things I was doing to find comfort in a bad situation were the same choices keeping me there!
Lets say that again. I was the cause of my own discomfort.
Before I move on, let me clarify something. None of those activities are bad and living a life like that isn’t either. The problem was that it didn’t align with who I wanted to be. In other words, my “Rift” was enormous and I had no idea what a “True North” was, or how to find mine. (Those are both Blog posts. To more deeply understand those terms, go read them at b-wayrwordpress.me)
To continue, I realized that if I was the sole cause of my own discomfort, I could also end it. I started to seek out information about taking control of your life and the journey has been incredible. It lead me to the understanding that I needed to work for myself and be the master of my own time, effectively allowing me to play video games all I wanted, if I wanted. *Wait, more video games? I thought you said that was bad, Zack?* What was bad is that I was INVESTING so much of my time there effectively eliminating any chance I had of changing my position in life. Some distractions are fun activities so they aren’t bad unless you are avoiding responsibilities or progression. Some though, are pure distraction, toxic and destructive, like many I had in my life (not video games, like Pokemon-go, although anything can be a drug and I sure as hell pushed the limits with console games). I found, though, that I only wanted these terrible distractions, habits, or addictions, when I was miserable. For example, we have all heard about the lab experiments where they put a bunch of rats in a cage and give them two bottles of water, one pure and one laced with cocaine. In these tests, the rats would almost always overdose and kill themselves in a short amount of time. Then, a scientist decided this test was flawed. He recognized that the conditions for the rats were terrible. There was no stimulation or comfort. The cages were hot, bland of color, crowded and inhospitable. This scientist did the same test with the two bottles, but instead, put the rats into a rodent paradise. They had plenty of food, toys, entertainment and room to fornicate, haha. He found that none of the rats preferred the drug laced water, let alone overdosed. Although some used the cocaine recreationally, none of them died and this test has been replicated many times. The point is, when you are happy in your situation, pure distractions lose their power over you because you don’t even want them. They return to their more acceptable function as a punctuation, not the paragraph.
The journey has been difficult and enlightening. I often went 3 steps forward to go 2 back and sometimes went further, but I was determined to make progress, so I did. This path has led me to where I am today. Much of it has to do with delayed gratification as opposed to instant indulgence. I understood that principal, but doing it was a different story, so I forged through personal discovery and personal development that allowed me to recognize opportunity and my ability to seize it. Just under 2 years ago, one such opportunity came along that changed my life and I can honestly say that I am so excited for what the future holds, instead of looking ahead with dread and depression. I doubt many of you will believe me, but I used to ride my motorcycle with such “devil may care” attitude because I honestly didn’t care if I made it home. Now, I work for myself with an incredible group of people that I now see as another loving family. I am happy to share this opportunity with anyone that sends me a message, but that isn’t the point. What I am trying to say is that if I was buried in my video games, or fantasy football, I never would have been ready to take advantage of this opportunity, effectively saving my life. I meet and talk to people these days and they tell me I’m lucky. No…I decided to change. I decided to be ready when the chance came along. I DECIDED to have this life, because I hated where I was and who I was becoming in my old life. For this reason, I found the meme funny and from that perspective, it can be considered stupid. Which brings me to why you should tell me, “Zack, go fuck yourself.”
We all have a different image, or view of what paradise looks like. We all have a different “True North.” (see my blog for further explanation) What I find pleasurable, or enjoyable, may be terrible and torturous to someone else. For example, I hate shopping. Its awful and puts me on edge, probably because I never made much money for the majority of my life, but to many, its leisurely and fun. Lets use a different example. How about unicycles? To most, an obscure hobby that many don’t take seriously. There are some, however, that chose to ignore that stigma and pursued the riding of this single wheeled contraption as a discipline. There are people that can do absolutely incredible things on a unicycle, so much so that anyone would have to tilt their hat to them. At the end of the day, though, the person riding that unicycle couldn’t care less if anyone gave them accolades. They ride it with such skill because it is their passion. They ride it for themselves because its joyful and pleasurable. Happiness of excellence is a real thing and without it, distractions and good fortune are meaningless. Did they suck at one time? Absolutely, but they ignored the negativity around them because they never did it for anyone else and eventually, reached a level of proficiency that elicited respect from anyone who witnessed their skill. If they cared about what others thought, would they ever have gotten good enough to reach that level? No. Would they get the same joy if they only gave it a half effort? No way. Most people today are so concerned with their ego that they never invest themselves in something deeply enough to ever find real joy of excellence. To the outsider, you will look like a fanatic, a weirdo, a freak if you will, but they are missing one of the greatest aspects of life. Instead of feeling bad for yourself, you should feel bad for them when you encounter a “hater.” They obviously don’t have anything in their life that challenges them and so they cannot recognize the passion in someone else, even if its a different activity. I have a great respect for anyone chasing their passion, no matter how obscure it is, because I know the struggle and reward of doing what you love.
On a similar, but less dramatic note, the same way a discipline can bring fulfillment, so can an activity or pastime bring pleasure. Just like we can all appreciate the discipline and effort required to be a master of some discipline, we can all appreciate the pleasure of a good distraction. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives so we all like different activities. Some of these things are tremendously popular because they appeal to so many different walks of life and preferences; such is the case in this situation with Pokemon Go. To ground this one and validate your angry responses to my post, I have so many things in my life that I love to do that could be easily made fun of. In fact, if I saw me walking down the street, or was my own friend, I would probably make fun of me because I recognize that I look like a big dumb jock. My image and style screams douche bag and totally understand when someone assumes and treats me as such. Does that give anyone else the right to poke fun? Not really, but they still have the choice and sometimes I do things that invite criticism. We are all free to do what we want as long as it isn’t physically hurting someone or breaking someone’s property. Is it right? No. Are they an asshole for doing so? Sure, sometimes. We all make assumptions and draw conclusions based on perception. Sometimes its funny, but you have to be open to being wrong and you shouldn’t treat someone based on appearance, unless their behavior dictates that response (if you thought I looked like an asshole and then I was, you would respond by walking away lol). So on that point, if you love playing Pokemon Go, what does it matter if some asshole says its dumb? That doesn’t make it dumb. Its just that asshole’s opinion. There is, however, another side to this that brings up, yet another point.
I mentioned that I do a lot of things that I could be made fun of, right? Lets point some of these out, but first I want everyone to understand that you can only be a victim if you allow it. I know that sentence is going to drive people crazy, but think it out before you angrily respond and understand that language is not physical. You cannot make me hurt with words unless I give you the power to make me hurt. A racial slur, a tasteless joke, or an ignorant comment must be made with malicious intent and then must be received as such. In my world, the only opinions and views that could hurt me are those of whom I respect; my family, my closest friends, my mentors. Those are the only people whose words would affect me because I value their opinion and only because I seek their guidance, respect and acceptance. Anyone else could go off on me all they want and my confidence and self esteem would be untouched. If a stranger verbally assaults you, or your habits, you don’t feel bad because of their opinion. You actually feel bad because you agree with them on some level. Some part of you dislikes that behavior, habit, or facet of your personality, but instead of working on it, we generally hide it and get mad at anyone that pulls it into the light. Again, not because others are seeing it, but because we can see it. When you are honestly working on making yourself into the best version of “you,” the arrows of the passerby fall on deaf ears. You don’t have to be the best you right now, we are all works in progress, but knowing you are on your way is liberating. (See “Fearless” in my blog) So what I am saying is, keep your chin up and let those soft spots show so that you know where to expend your effort to improve who you really are. When you are happy with you, no one else can bring you down.
To drive the point home, ill share some of my dirty laundry. I wear terribly short shorts that look ridiculous. One may think I’m trying to be sexy or show off. Im not. I just like wearing them. Do I need to justify that? Not at all. I get made fun of for them all the time, but its harmless. It actually helps me get machines in the gym because so many people are still homophobic, or just think I am a weirdo. Who cares? I have long hair that makes me look like a dumb kid from the 80’s or like someone that takes himself too seriously as a model. Do I need to explain to everyone why I am growing it out so they won’t think Im a big douche bag? Nope. Do I try to anyways? Sometimes, but I recognize that its out of insecurity and that is caused by my ego (ya, I still have work to do on myself too). It may be a weak point if someone wanted to give me a hard time, but I won’t lose sleep over it because I recognize that I look pretty funny. I would probably join them in making fun of it; I actually have. Does it take anything away from who I am? Maybe in their eyes, but honestly, if something aesthetic causes someone to not like me, they really don’t belong in my life in the first place. Last example, I promise. I often times pee sitting down. Ya, I said it. I honestly prefer it. Do you know how many times I’ve been made fun of for that? Countless, because in our culture, only women are supposed pee sitting down, but I see plenty of advantages and so I say, “fuck your stigma and stereotypes.” Ill break this one down a bit. If you have been in the military, especially the Marines, you will know the term, “field day.” Thats where we clean our rooms to such extreme levels that you find yourself polishing the underside of the fridge. Not the floor beneath it, the literal underside of the damn fridge. Why? Its not important. There is some connection to clean rooms and IED’s and if you weren’t military, ask someone who was and they will tell you why that is funny. Anyways, my point is that I have cleaned so much damn pee off toilets that I refuse to do it, so instead of having to clean it up, sitting down avoids the dilemma all together. *Why don’t you just aim better, Zack?* Sometimes you miss, ok. Especially after hiking 20 miles and not sleeping for a few days. Also, there is the simple pleasure of just being able to sit down and rest for a minute. I enjoy it. Sorry, not sorry. Anyone could make fun of me till the cows come home, even someone I respected, but I don’t sit down for them, I do for me. Does it threaten my masculinity? To them maybe, but I have nothing to prove, so nope.
One of the comments pointed out that the game has gotten a lot of people out of the house. Many people that have social anxiety avoid places like the gym because they are embarrassed or self conscious and this game has gotten them out of the house. I think that is amazing and I am happy for them. Fitness isn’t complicated, but its hard and the difficulty lies in getting yourself to just do it. So hey, if it works for you, go nuts and have fun.
Even More Criticism:
I hope by now, you may have an idea of what I will say in reference to fitness and this game. Understand, though, that your resistance to going outside your comfort zone perpetuates the condition and is caused by ego. If you have social anxiety, its because you are worried what others will think about you. Thats what keeps you in the house! You have every right to be outside, go to the gym and enjoy the world as much as anyone else. If some ugly (on the inside) person makes you feel bad, ignore them and recognize that they only do that because they hate themselves. You should feel bad for them. I understand that for some, they may have some serious conditions, but the result is the same. If you want to overcome it, eventually you will have to decide to break out of that self imposed prison, no matter how difficult it is, or choose to live in isolation for the duration of your life. I understand that this game is a gateway to broader horizons, which I see as an amazing opportunity and if it helps you thats great, but there is still a problem. Just because you trade one virtual world of immersion for another layered on google maps that forces you to walk around, doesn’t mean you all of a sudden care about your health. Nor does it mean you deserve a pat on the back for exchanging one virtual reality for another that people get so lost in that they fall off cliffs. Use it to get yourself out of the house, but then have the goal in mind to eventually become a part of this world. Its beautiful, you are beautiful and you belong here. You owe it to the world to show them how amazing you can be. If you are lost in a game, you will never figure out how to do that!
Please have the perspective to see that running around looking at the world through your smart phone and virtually throwing virtual poke balls at Pokemon is pretty damn ridiculous, to the point of being dumb. Does that, in any way mean it isn’t fun or worth playing? No. Is that a reflection of everyone playing it? No. Its an observation and its funny. I can play N64 on super smash for hours on end and never get tired of it. Can that be called dumb? Hell ya. Does it mean Im dumb? No, but I understand why my Mom would say that (when I was younger and that was all I did, I would say, yes). Bottom line is this. Confidence and self esteem come from the inside and no where else, so you don’t need my validation for anything. If you don’t like my opinion, you don’t have to agree with it. It is possible to disagree with someone on one topic and not hate them or judge the rest of their being based on that one opinion. This is the same reason people can’t talk about politics. We will disagree, but that doesn’t mean I hate you or think less of you. Discussion is a great thing. Disagreement is a great thing. It challenges our thinking and strengthens our reasoning, or it gives us the chance to identify where we made a mistake. This isn’t empirical and its just my opinion, but honestly, have we grown so proud that we think we never do anything that might be funny to someone else? If that is the case, then I feel bad for anyone that takes themselves so seriously to think they can never be the punchline, or that they never do anything worthy of a joke. Really though, those things are some of the greatest in life. You know what I’m talking about, the ones that are funnier looking back on them. Like farting in an elevator, or when you try to look cool in front of a crush and trip, dropping your lunch tray. The only reason we don’t laugh in the moment is because our ego doesn’t allow us to see the humor in the situation. Hey, shit happens and sometimes, it happens to us. Lighten up!
But what do I know? Thats just my opinion.
P.S. – If you are offended by the title and feel the need to tell me, read the post again.