I see a lot of young men and boys who seem to be having trouble getting engaged in the world these days. They have a lot competing for the time, like video games, sex and drugs, and a lot of things keeping them from getting engaged like high unemployment, and the risk of failure. As this 1802 Allegorical Map demonstrates, youth alienation is not a new thing. It was thought that if youth could avoid dissipation island, and spend a bit of time on penance island, they could chart their course for new lands, happiness, and success with the help of this map. I suppose this is coaching at it’s best in Napoleonic Times.
Self-experiments in chemistry
The Great Oliver Sacks reveals his early propensity to being a literary drug fiend in the 1960’s. He failed to demonstrate much impulse control. Sacks also wrote about his experiences in his usual, colorful and compassionate way. Thank you New Yorker!
A great article on how violent video games affect teens from CG Magazine. I am quoted throughout the piece.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young people in Canada; the statistic is the same over in the United States. While there are a multitude of factors that can contribute to suicide, an American study released in January found that action category videogames can play a significant role in suicide ideation and attempt. The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found that individuals who played extensive hours of action games (which the researchers define as first-person shooter, fighting, sports, horror and crime/war-themed games) evidenced the highest Acquired Capability for Suicide, or A.C.S. This is defined in the study as traits (for example, a lowered fear of death and higher tolerance for both physical and emotional pain) that can both physically and mentally prepare one to make a lethal or non-lethal suicide attempt.
(From Crains Chicago Business, by Shia Kapos)
Tony Dreyfuss, co-founder of Metropolis Coffee, and his wife were celebrating Mother’s Day with their infant child in 2006 when he got a call about a broken coffee brewer.
“I said, ‘Gotta go.’ And I left on my wife’s first Mother’s Day. I wasn’t taking stock,” Dreyfuss recalls. It was a low point for them, but not low enough to make him pull back from the long hours building his business. Six years and two more children later, his wife, Karen, pulled him aside and said something had to change.
Dreyfuss saw a doctor and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1, a mental illness that led to an intense attention to work. The disease often is referred to as manic depression or sometimes “the CEO’s disease.”
“I simply ran manic for years. I got a lot done, but it deeply affected my relationships. I wasn’t present with anyone,” he says. Though he didn’t exhibit other common symptoms of the disease—“I didn’t spend money, sleep around or drive like a maniac”—“I just worked, worked, worked.”
The Chicago businessman, 41, grew up in Madison, Wis. He was a skateboarder who took up juggling and photography. Since he was a child, “he’s had a limitless imagination,” says Tony’s father and business partner, Jeff Dreyfuss.
Tony Dreyfuss says he was prone to making life-changing decisions on a whim. His career began while he was driving a cab as a student at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a philosophy degree. He pulled over one night for coffee and was so struck by that particular cup’s flavor, he decided right then to make the drink a career.
To him, that meant running a coffee shop. “At that point I wasn’t thinking about roasting it,” he says.
He and his wife moved to Portland, Ore., which along with Seattle is the epicenter of specialty coffee. He took a job at a Peet’s Coffee & Tea, working his way up from bean-scooper to management before taking a pay cut to become a taster and “fill a knowledge gap.”
His parents, both linguists, had moved to Seattle, and his father also had become a coffee connoisseur. While attending a trade show in Seattle, father and son purchased a coffee-roasting machine with the idea of going into business.
“We were jacked up on caffeine after drinking a dozen espressos. It was like drunk people getting tattoos,” says the younger Dreyfuss, who already was planning to move to Chicago, where his wife had grown up.
Dreyfuss found retail space in the city’s Edgewater neighborhood for a coffeehouse and roasting facility. That was in 2002.
Today, Metropolis has 400 wholesale customers in Chicago and 200 beyond and expects revenue of more than $7 million this year. The company still operates its only cafe on Granville Avenue, and it employs people with disabilities through nonprofit Aspire.
After his diagnosis in 2012, Dreyfuss told his staff he was taking a three-month leave. The response, he says, was “Oh, thank God!”
Bipolar disorder, he continues, “makes you completely incapable of understanding how your actions affect other people. You have great ideas and you just dump them on other people and move to the next thing.”
With counseling, medication, dietary changes and at least eight hours of sleep a night, Dreyfuss says he’s as healthy as he’s ever been. He carves out open time on his calendar, which allows him more time to think creatively. The company has thrived as a result, he says.
Karen Dreyfuss calls the change at home “miraculous,” adding that the diagnosis explained a lot.
“When you start out in marriage, you support all the meetings and all those fires that have to be put out,” she says. “But year after year there will always be more fires and more meetings and if you don’t draw that line, it will consume you.”
On the patio of Metropolis’ new headquarters in the Avondale neighborhood, Dreyfuss’ phone goes off midconversation. He pulls it out and turns it off.
“Three years ago I would have answered it,” he says. “I really try to be present with who I’m with. That’s what I’ve learned the most.”
Read the full article at Crains:
There is no such thing as living life in a state of perfect balance. We are either going toward balance or away from it, much as a child does balancing her weight standing on a teeter-totter. When our lives tip away from balance we are less able to deal with stress and we become dissatisfied. When we are moving toward balance, we are better able to tolerate and deal with the ups and downs of life. The trick is to stay closer to balance than to tip wildly from one extreme to the other. Here is a list of the top ten things you can do to help you move toward a more balanced life.
Sleep is the pillar of mental health. When we don’t get enough, or if we get too much, we don’t function very well. Most experts say seven to eight hours is a healthy amount. Just as important as the quantity is the quality. If you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day, you had a good sleep. If you wake up feeling tired you probably didn’t sleep well. Stress and poor sleep become a vicious cycle. As you reduce stress in your life you will probably start sleeping better. As you start sleeping better, the better able you’ll deal with stress.
Yeah, I know, all tips for a better life include exercise because it’s essential. You don’t have to work out in the gym four days a week or run a marathon. Simple things like going for a regular walk or using the stairs instead of the elevator incorporates exercise into your life. Most experts say that the best “medicine” for depression is a long walk. There are a lot of reasons why exercise is good for your mind and body but let’s not talk about it and just do it.
We are what we eat. We eat too much of the four food groups: sugar, fat, salt, and starch. They affect our bodies in drastic ways: rapidly inflating our blood sugar, our blood pressure; making us feel bloated; and clogging up our arteries. It takes a bit of time to plan meals and shop accordingly, and it’s well worth doing. In other words, putting a bit of thought into what we bite into makes a lot of difference. Meal planning allows you to look at your whole week so you can get some variety as well as nutritious, wholesome food. Having good food in your refrigerator will help you avoid running out for that slice of pizza.
I was raised with the value of “everything in moderation” and it’s served me well. At its root, it’s about knowing when you’ve had enough. We don’t have to drink until we pass out or eat until we feel nauseous to know that excess isn’t a good idea, yet millions do it every day. We live in an excessive society where there is a lot of everything so the temptation to keep piling it on (what ever it is), is always there. At the root, it’s all about knowing when you feel like you’ve had enough. We are driven by lifestyle demands, peer pressure, the demand for more (because more is better isn’t it?). At some point we have to decide for ourselves. A friend of mine recently purchased a kitchen safe, which is a clear plastic cube with a time lock. She puts a bag of cookies in it and when the timer allows her to open it, she takes out a few cookies, then locks it for another 24 hours. If you don’t have the will power to resist eating the whole bag at once, either don’t buy them or get a safe.
We live in a state of constant stimulation. It’s death by a thousand cuts. We over stimulate ourselves when we check our phone, watch TV, listen to the news, spend time in front of any screen, hear sirens on the street, or even listen to the radio. When stimulation creeps in it has an insidious effect on us, because we don’t pay attention to it. We may notice at some point in the day that we feel tense, but have no idea why. For the most part we are passive receivers of stimulation. Even the humming and clanking of our homes adds a tiny bit of stress to our overworked nervous system. Why not go on a stimulation diet? If you must listen to the news, do it only once a day. Turn your phone off when you get home and avoid other forms of stimulation. Read a book. For those who are extra sensitive, earplugs might be an option.
Control your Schedule
Talk to anyone who specializes in being “busy”, as in too busy to meet for coffee, or too busy to chat on the phone, and you will find someone who is a slave to their own busyness. Of course they have more control over their schedule than they let on and for reasons known only to them, they like it that way. How many times you have said, “I have to do …”, or “I should …”, without really considering why? We keep ourselves in a state of constant busyness at times, which unbalances us, makes us crazy and stresses us out unnecessarily. Take a break from the habit of busyness and take a 30,000 foot view. Ask yourself, do I really need to do this? What will happen if I don’t do it right now? Can someone else do it? You might surprise yourself how many things you can scratch off your to do list. Find blocks of time where you control your schedule. Do things that give you pleasure or allows you to unwind. Only you control your schedule.
Take a moment to check in with yourself several times a day. Notice what you are feeling. Are you feeling: overwhelmed; tired; excited; nervous; bored; hungry; or stressed? Most people are too busy, stressed, or unaware to check in with themselves. It’s only when you notice your state that you can do something about it. Typically once you’ve gone into overload it’s too late. For instance, if you are having a stressful day, you might take a break from your work to stretch and walk around a bit. If your plans include watching the latest action movie with friends tonight, you might want to give it a pass and have a quiet night at home. Noticing how you’re doing is half the battle and that starts with awareness and self regulation.
Too often we leave things unsaid, stay angry at people, or stew in the juices of frustration and resentment. It’s the sort of stuff that keeps us awake at night. To truly be able to sleep at night and to live without the past chasing you, consider cutting past hurts out of your life. If you have something to say to someone who hurt you, say it either in an email, in phone or in person. Life can be difficult and stressful enough without lugging this stuff around with us. Forgiveness can be tough for those of us who don’t come by it easily. The only way to really be at peace with yourself is to leave the past behind so you can face each day with a relatively fresh page.
Review Your Habits
We are a combination of good habits and bad ones. To know what they are, take an inventory. If you are falling out of balance, chances are good that some of your habits are dragging you into that territory. Reinforcing good habits is a good way to remain in balance. Conversely, erasing a bad habit will help you keep in balance. If you have habits you would like to change, tackle them one at a time. For instance, if you tend to be messy, make a point of cleaning up after yourself for a couple of weeks. Get into the habit of looking around and taking away an empty cup or washing it right away. After a few weeks you will transform a bad habit into a better one. Once you feel you have that one under control, tackle another one. Replacing old habits with new ones will make it easier to maintain balance in your life.
It’s easy to focus on negative things in our lives, because our brains are wired to prevent a recurrence of pain. That means we have to consciously reflect on the positive things in our lives instead of taking them for granted. Some of us are so wired for negativity that we have a difficult time thinking of anything to be grateful for. By focusing on positive things in our lives, we automatically spend less time being negative. Thus we are more balanced on the positive/negative scale. If we truly appreciate the good things in our lives, and yes, there are millions of them, we balance our thinking. Spending even a few minutes a day reflecting on gratitude actually changes the way we think. With a more positive outlook, we will be less prone to depression, more upbeat, and probably more fun to be around.
A client of mine who is going through a transition repeated this Anaïs Nin quote the other day. It becomes so true of those of us who spend too much time avoiding risk.
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”
The guitarist was demoralized. He felt betrayed. No one considered his side of the story. No one cared how he felt. At the most crucial moment of the band’s short career, he was abandoned by those he trusted the most.
So he vowed to start a band of his own. He would start a band so amazing and so successful that his old band would regret ever firing him. He would become so famous that they would spend the rest of their lives thinking about what a horrible mistake they had made. His ambition would make them pay for their disrespect.
He recruited even better musicians than before. He wrote and rehearsed religiously. His desire for revenge fueled his passion. His rage ignited his creativity. Within a couple years, his new band had signed a record contract of their own and was taking off.
The guitarist’s name was Dave Mustaine, and the band he formed was called Megadeth. Megadeth would go on to sell over 25 million albums and tour the world many times over. Today, Mustaine is considered one of the most brilliant and influential musicians in all of heavy metal music.
Unfortunately, the band he was kicked out of was called Metallica. Metallica has since sold over 180 million albums worldwide, and they are considered by many to be the greatest heavy metal band of all time.
And because of this, in a rare intimate interview in 2003, a tearful Mustaine admitted that he couldn’t help but still consider himself a failure at times. Despite all he had accomplished, he was still the guy who got kicked out of Metallica. Tens of millions of albums sold. Concerts given to screaming stadiums of fans. Millions of dollars earned. And yet, a failure.