The Foreign Rational

The world as seen through the eyes of a life-long nomad

The internet abounds with advice on how to lead a better life. Which would be fine, if so much of it wasn’t exactly the same.

Most of these so-called “life hacks” were figured out years — if not decades — ago and have been written about ad nauseum by amateurs and professionals alike. Yet the same dozen titles keep popping up in my recommendations.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, these well-meaning writers are actually craven money grabbers exploiting our insecurities and imperfections to rack in clicks and satisfy their gaping need for validation?

Because if that’s what it is, I want in! But since I’m a bit lazy, I’ve summarized everything you need to know in a single article.

1. How I lost 76 pounds in four weeks using these simple steps.

Diet and exercise. Seriously, stop trying to sell me on magic pooping pills or the latest exotic vegetable full of chemical compounds you can’t pronounce. Take in fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight. Metabolism complicates matters a bit, but you’ll be fine if you exercise regularly and stay hydrated.

I tried this time-tested technique and lost about 10 kilos (22 pounds) in a bit under 6 months. If that doesn’t sound amazing, it’s because it’s not — nor should it be!

Note that I’m not a doctor, I’m a random internet dude (like most of the people writing these articles). For proper advice, ask a medical professional.

Healthy-looking food arranged in a circle. Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

2. This simple routine got me sleeping like a baby in no time.

Good for you.

The problem with these articles is that they’re rarely generalizable. The advice you need depends on what specifically is preventing you from sleeping. Having trouble winding down? Schedule time to lie in a clean, fresh, comfortable bed. Can’t stop looking at your phone? Let it charge in another room. Obsessively thinking about whether the FBI will figure out it was you? Try yoga.

Basically, identify your exact problem and deal with it. If you can’t, get help from a doctor. Since everyone’s problems are different, don’t put too much faith in the words of web wanderers.

3. How I’m able to write 83,000 words every day despite having three jobs, two kids, four dogs and a gardening addiction.

Cocaine, probably. Although I would advise against it. There are healthy ways to increase productivity, but they aren’t particularly quick or sexy, so don’t expect your life to change in a heartbeat.

If you want to be more productive, create the conditions for productivity. Don’t just set big goals; mix in bite-sized steps you can cover quickly. Give yourself rewards for all achievements, big and small. Use peer pressure to your advantage by finding a group to write with or a friend who is expecting your draft. Ground your motivation in things you can control (friendships, cake consumption) rather than things you can’t (page views, revenue).

This is a hard one for me personally, since I don’t feel a cosmic urge to dispense my wisdom to the world. Sending articles to friends and getting their feedback is what I identified as my greatest motivator, so that’s what I do. Try a bunch of stuff and find what works for you.

4. The easiest way to quickly improve your writing, explained.

Write more. Experiment with writing. Try a lot of different things and find that sweet spot where what you like meets what your readers like. Also read summary #6 about becoming a better human.

Don’t just release a bunch of garbage into the world and think you’ll automatically gain XP, level up and morph into a Hemmingway. Look back on your writing. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. Also, if you can, try to get a mentor or a writing partner (preferably someone who’s smarter than you).

Also stop reading articles about how to write better. After one or two you’re good to go.

A book exposing itself in front of other books. Photo by Elisa Calvet B. on Unsplash

5. I made $10,000 in a single month writing articles during my toilet breaks. You can too!

Actually, you can’t. Some people can, but statistically speaking, it’s very unlikely you’re one of them. Not because of some crazy talent gap, but because in the online meritocracy there’s only so much luck and money to go around. To be honest, I don’t think anybody should be making that much dough in the time it takes to lay some cable.

The best you can do is tweak the odds in your favor.

If you want to make more money writing, then write more. You can’t control what gets read, so the best you can do is look for what people enjoy and how you can contribute. Finding partnerships also helps. The rest is a matter of time, grit, experience and more than a bit of luck.

Another proven way to make more is by releasing rehashed clickbait, or getting sponsored by McDonalds for the 12 best sauces in which to dip your McNugget (number 9 will surprise you!). It’s up to you to decide whether the money is worth your time and consistent with who you want to be as a writer.

Based on this article, you know where I stand.

6. The five habits of super-successful, self-aware, intelligent, emotionally available, overall awesome humans.

There aren’t five, there’s one.

For everything you do, think of a way of doing it that’ll eventually make you better.

Don’t just do; think about what you’re doing. Don’t just think; think about thinking. This is a process psychologists call meta-cognition and is what most people associate with being wise.

Want to be more successful? Reflect upon what is keeping you from that success and slowly remove those barriers from your everyday life. Want to be smarter? Figure out what makes you think you’re not smart enough and work toward either overcoming those obstacles or redefining what you mean by “smart.” Want to change your life entirely? Accept the teachings of the Buddha and have faith in reincarnation.

If you’re having trouble getting started, you can organize your thoughts in a journal. The only difficult part is finding the discipline to stay focused on your goals in the long term. See summary #3 about motivation.

And stop wasting your time with those “find out if you’re amazing in 20 easy questions” quizzes.

7. Turns out my partner isn’t perfect. How can I ever be sure they’re the One?

Communicate. Don’t just list off things you want; going off on a diatribe isn’t the same as having a conversation. Figure out what you want from your relationship, what’s missing, whether you can live without it, and whether your partner can give it to you.

When looking at what you have and what’s missing, find a way to objectivize. Humans are programmed with an empathy defect; we can only really see the world through our own eyes. That’s why when you’re considering whether to stay with or leave someone, getting into a thought pattern of “he never cleans” or “she can’t stop talking about Quidditch” is the wrong way to go. They may be doing a lot of things you’re not seeing, so talk to them and try to find an objective — rather than emotional — scale to measure what’s important to you.

If you communicate, objectivize, assess, then decide, you’ve done your best and can move on with your life without looking back and ruminating.

True love isn’t looking at one another. It’s looking together at the oncoming Rapture. Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash

8. 12 signs you’re in the ultimate relationship

There’s only one sign: How do you feel about your relationship?

Good? Then we’re done here. Having doubts? See summary #7. Worried your astrological signs are not compatible? Douse your partner in my patented blend of unicorn sweat and leprechaun spittle that will cleanse your chakras and open your aura to the universe for only $59.99 plus shipping.

I have a visceral distaste for these kinds of articles for two reasons. Firstly, a lot of them imply you need all these signs when in fact, missing some doesn’t mean your relationship has gone sour. If anything, you risk contracting FOMO and ruminating over whether your perfectly good relationship is all a lie because you have different tastes in music, the colors of your socks don’t match, or some other nonsense.

Secondly, this is a great exercise to do with your partner. Figuring out how each of you measures the success of your relationship can help you align your expectations and build a solid foundation for a lasting future together. Are you really going to leave that important work to some digital rando preaching the importance of laughing at the same jokes?

Don’t trust the dwellers of the interwebs with your health and happiness. Not even me. Now go out and have a wonderful life!

(Unless, like me, you’re still in lockdown, in which case stay inside and cope.)

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