Responsibility vs. Apathy

The choice is yours.

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If I had to guess, I’d say the average person registers at least ten eye-rolls on any given day. I’m certain this number is higher if they’re prevalent social-media-users, news-watchers, or are in a committed relationship spanning longer than one calendar year. The distractions are overpowering, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to distinguish truth from fabrication. As a result, the automatic response is to assume everyone’s full of shit.

This isn’t everyone, but generally speaking, this is the current landscape of the world. Despite all its rich beauty, noble causes, and powerful movements, cynicism runs wild. Caring isn’t cool anymore — it’s too risky. Instead, having a quick-witted response or cutting remark to everything is king. It’s no mystery why the majority of conversations go nowhere — we listen for where we can check out, not for where we can make a difference.

This form of disenchantment has always been my preferred means of communication. The purpose of my over-the-top, exacerbated sarcasm was to serve as a guise for just how fearful I was to put my heart at stake and actually believe in something. The be the cause of something. Humor can indeed ease the pain of a challenging life, but it’s far from a liberating form of resolve.

Maybe our Information Age took flight just a little too rapidly. Maybe we’ve become too smart for our own good. Or maybe there’s too many of us blind to the fact that the human condition is not wired for happiness or connection and we must deliberately cause positive, forward experiences for ourselves and for others. Whatever it is, it’s not working. It isn’t wrong, it just isn’t working.

What’s the alternative?

The answer is not in the words on the page, but in the paper being used.

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Here’s the reality: as much information as we claim to have, we really don’t have that much. At a certain point in learning, observing and drawing conclusions, we meet a fork in the road. Depending on which direction we take at this fork, determines how whatever it is we’re understanding appears for us.

Unless someone is recounting an event where I was physically present at the time, I’m convinced there’s no way to actually ever know the truth. Everyone has their own truths distinct from universal ones like death, so to spend a great deal of time and energy determining what’s really true about someone else is a fool’s errand. On top of that, the truth can look vastly different depending on the angle being viewed from, or the time in which you take inventory.

In any case, searching to like hell to figure out a person or organization’s motive puts you at the effect of it all — rendered powerless. And when you can’t or won’t take the time to discover, you’ll often end up choosing something apathetic by default simply because it lets you off on an easier hook. 

It’s not that your reasons aren’t valid; there’s just no benefit to focusing on them. The more focus is put on something, the more significance is added, thereby perpetuating the unwanted thoughts and feelings associated.

The highlight reel known as social media doesn’t lead to depression because we don’t think we can have what someone else has or we’d rather have their lives. Our lives are generally fine. The issue comes from the deep, dark inner monologue that’s triggered every time we view a picture or video of someone.

“There’s no way she’s actually happy. She can’t be that happy. Look, she’s totally blind to the fact that point of view’s going to end up hurting her in the long-run. Ugh, it’s no annoying that people don’t get it. I’m the one looking at this though, instead of going out in the world and doing something productive. Fuck this, I’ve had enough. Why do I keep doing this?”

Repeat the cycle 10x per day.

All that noise unaccounted for — or worse, undistinguished — can do a lot of damage. The worst part of it, is it’s simply a barrage unloaded upon us. There’s zero responsibility in any of it. This same vicious cycle occurs with our loved ones, co-workers, friends, family and strangers we’ve never met before.

To start getting responsible for your experience of life involves a number of things, but for the sake of time, I’ve cut it down into three must-do’s that when implemented, begin to slowly transform what it means to be you.

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1. Mind Your Speaking

Remember that nonsense that goes on in your head? You’d probably argue that stuff has power. Well, unless you want to show me a brain scan that shows a picture of what that inner verbalization looks like, I’m going to humbly say it’s not real. What gives it power, however, is when you actually say that crap that’s in your head.

When you speak, you’re not only setting audible targets for the brain to chase down and tackle, you’re also providing a listening of yourself for others. Every time you speak, who you are becomes a little clearer to other people. Over time, they’ll begin to make evaluations on what is and isn’t considered a safe way to be around you, thoroughly robbing them of their self-expression and subsequently, their experience of life.

Your voice has power whether you choose to believe it or not. Creating an empowering context for living involves choosing to be responsible for your speaking and the impact it has on others, both positively and negatively.

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2. Keep What’s Most Important In Existence

You know that picture of your family you have propped up on the corner of your desk at work? One may view it as a way to break the ice with new clients but what’s most powerful is seeing it as an existence system for what you’re dedicated to in life.

We’ve discussed the distractions you’ll encounter over the course of your day. They’re everywhere, and there’s no value in having an opinion about it. Just get that they’re there. Because of this, without a way to remind yourself what it is that’s most important to you in life, you’ll succumb to the distractions.

Pictures of family are great because not only will they remind you to work hard so they can experience a better life, but they’ll remind you to remain grounded and not let anything throughout the course of your day deter your emotional state, so you can be great for them when you come home.

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3. Drop The Identity

Dan Whalen, by default, is a lazy coward who will buck dealing with conflict by whatever means necessary. Spending my entire life trying to get this man praise hasn’t worked, nor will it ever work. He’s unremarkable. Standing for myself isn’t enough. I have to stand for something greater.

When I go through life embodied as “contributor”, “leader”, “listener”, or even “son”, my results are 10x what they’d be otherwise. Those words, in their highest regard, are made up of extraordinarily honorable traits. When I go through my day, not as Dan Whalen, but as “leader”, every interaction in my life transforms. I’m different for people. I’m valuable. I’m not stepping over my name or where I come from — I just know that left to my own devices, like everyone else, I’m out for nothing but survival.

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In closing, I’m not saying you can’t roll your eyes at things. I’m just saying that if the velocity in which you currently do so was inhibited to some degree, you’d have more time to love and appreciate things — as well as see the openings for you to make a difference.

We’re all out to make the most of our lives — I understand that. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s frustrating. People can suck from time to time. But giving power to it with our speaking isn’t helping. Letting the distractions dictate our day isn’t helping. And focusing on ourselves damn sure isn’t helping, either.

Instead, commit to an empowering context for your life. See the best in people and fight through your resistance to do so. Take responsibility for not only yourself and your experience of life, but others’ experience of life when they come in contact with you.

Again, the reasons and justifications are as valid as scientific fact — they just don’t produce many extraordinary results.

Pay mind to what produces an actual human payoff.

Erase the resignation and cynicism.

Move the world.

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