The key to happiness: ACCEPTANCE

I’ll start by saying the name of this post is a lie. Acceptance isn’t the key to happiness, because there is no key to happiness. There’s no magic wand to wave and sprinkle some fuckin pixie dust and you’re all smiles forever. There’s no happiness cheat code.

What there is is strategies; actions and plans that help you along the path to happiness. Acceptance is a big one. As you learn to accept the reality of the situations you find yourself in, you’ll find it more and more difficult to be vexed by them.

A lot of people mistake acceptance for being supportive of your situation. This is completely incorrect. Accepting a situation is only a recognition of what’s happening. We tend to push away shit we don’t like, and all too often that means ignoring key aspects of difficulties we face. We ignore uncomfortable challenges to the point that they destroy us and the things around us, just to avoid facing it, as per the “this is fine” dog.

A much simpler and more effective strategy is acceptance. It’s only when you recognize and accept what’s happening that you can begin to make a difference. If you don’t take control of your situation, your situation will just run it’s own course. Very rarely will that be in a way you actually like.

I hate uncomfortable shit. I hate being in situations that are confrontational, or that are bound to have bad outcomes. Yet never once have I been able to ignore a bad situation and have it resolve itself nicely. That’s not real life. That’s not how things happen.

A lot of this goes hand in hand with what I call toxic positivity, or false positivity. This is the neatly packaged positive affirmation lifestyle that you see on Instagram. This is the idea people pitch of how if you just focus on the good, then good things will happen. I’m not going to discount the power of positive thinking, but I do want to dispel the concept that bad things won’t happen if you think positively.

The truth is, bad shit still happens and you have to deal with it. The first major step in that is acceptance. Learn to accept what’s happening, and you’ll be able to make decisions in a responsible way.

I can and will continue to talk about acceptance in the future, but right now I have a little boy who wants to hang out with his dad. Check this video out for more of my opinions on acceptance.

Why gratitude is so important

I feel like this subject gets beaten to death. Not that that’s a bad thing. After all, repetition is a great way to learn, and anything important bears repeating. But do you really understand why gratitude is so important?

We live in a consumer-centric culture, and people place a lot of value on possessions. Many people want to place the blame for that on greedy companies selling the products, but products are only made to meet demand. The true fault for our obsession with things is in us, the consumer. At the root of it is a dissatisfaction with the things we have.

I’m not knocking nice things. I love nice things. There is nothing wrong with having nice things, and setting goals for tangible items is totally fine. What’s bad for our mindset and mental health is when our craving and desire for those items overrides everything else. You might want a Porsche, but your life isn’t over because you drive a Toyota.

We associate happiness with success, and success with wealth, and wealth with possessions. So when our mind breaks it down, happiness = possessions. I can’t really think of a more fucked thought process. Each of those things has little bearing on the next, in addition to being shitty definitions of those words in the first place. We need to overhaul those definitions, but I’ll save that for another time.

For now, let’s bring it back to possessions, and our obsession with them. This constant comparison we subconsciously play creates a grass is greener mentality. As we sit and crave what we see as better, we begin to resent what we own. Resentment is the opposite of appreciation.

So what happens when you can’t appreciate what you already have? You get bitter. You get angry. You spend your time wishing for other things instead of living in the present. When you can’t live in the present, you can’t prepare for the future. When you can’t prepare for the future, you can’t create a path to the things you want.

Oddly enough, one of the most important ways to get what you want is to stop reaching for it so damn hard. Stop desiring it so much. Start looking at the good in your life and appreciate it for what it is. Accept it, and plan for the future.

I’m not saying you can’t get what you want in other ways, because you certainly can. But none of those ways are going to bring you happiness and personal fulfillment along the path, and when you reach your goal, it’s going to feel empty. After all, a key to appreciating what you have is understanding that it could be worse. Shit, it’s probably the single biggest part of appreciation. When you don’t understand that it could be worse, you’ll always be reaching for something better.

You can know that you have a shitty, unreliable car, but at least you don’t have to walk. Understand?

Let’s just be honest, nobody likes a complainer. Stop bitching about what you have and learn to be grateful. Big things happen in your mindset when you take time to be grateful.

This Post Has No Pictures

This post doesn’t have any pictures. It won’t have any fancy links, or interesting facts. It doesn’t have formal structure, or much structure at all, really. It’s a minor miracle it groups words into sentences and paragraphs.

There is a reason for it, though. I’m writing this post because I don’t write enough. And it just so happens that things like pictures and links and structure are what stop me most of the time. Writing blog posts reminds me that everything we do is judged and measured.

The reason I write is for impact. I want to give something valuable to people in the form of life advice. Not because I think I’m perfect, or some kind of fucking guru, but because I’ve been deep in the shit and I always manage to climb out. That has to be worth something to all the other people who are deep in shit. Be a fucking light to those in the dark, and all that nonsense.

The problem is, I get caught in HOW to write blogs instead of WHY. I start worrying about search parameters and reach. Which tags will be most valuable to google. It starts to ruin the intention.

Once I start worrying about how my little cogs fit into the internet machine, I get slowed down. I don’t write when I feel it, but when I think I can expand my reach, which is antithetical to the idea of heartfelt expression. Trying to do that shit while I give advice is like patting my head and rubbing my belly.

This is where I get a ways into a post and realize I’ve been rambling without going anywhere.

I think what it all comes down to is that I shouldn’t let details derail my ideas. Sure, I can increase reach by reading how to structure my posts so people react better, but maybe it won’t increase my reach, because it won’t sound like my voice. And if I can’t use my voice to tell my story, will it even come off as authentic enough to make a difference in someone’s life?

I spent so much of my life suicidal and obliterated drunk. There’s entire chunks of my life that are a blur. I’ve felt anxiety that prevented me from completing simple tasks. I used to picture myself as being on a small island, a floating chunk of rock and grass, elevated above and separate from everyone. Humanity sat within one ring, and my little island floated on another. Eternally apart from everyone; never understood and never belonging.

These are feelings, and states of being, and drives that I’ve learned to manage. While I still visit sometimes, I don’t live in those states of mind. When one begins to creep up on me, I can spot it and take precautions to make sure it doesn’t take control.

What the fuck does this have to do with everything else? Well, if I’ve experienced those challenges and hardships in my life, and I’ve learned to crawl out of that hole, then I should be sharing that every chance I get. There’s too many people who need to know they’re not alone.

So I’ll do my best not to let myself get caught in the minutiae of proper blogging techniques, because somebody needs to read this. Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re reading this right now and you’ve been wrestling with feelings of worthlessness, or a feeling of separateness; like no one can possibly identify with you and what it’s like to be you. I understand, because I’ve been there. It’s a lonely place.

But you’re not alone, and that’s the point. My inability to put out regularly spaced blog posts stems from my own feelings of worthlessness. My desire for perfection, which leads to my inability to complete anything, because if I’m not perfect, then I’m a failure. You’re not alone. I see you.

I see you, and I love you. I think you should know that you deserve love.

If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please let me know. If you you know someone this could help, share it with them. My goal is to help you by giving you the information that helps me. If you want to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter, or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.

Sometimes the Bad Guy Wins

Its a shitty statement to even utter, but it’s the truth. Sometimes bad people never get what we think they deserve. It’s tough to process, especially if your personal feelings are involved. Watching someone who you know has trash character be successful is painful.

We love a hero story. Literature and film have been telling the story of good vs. evil for as long as they’ve existed. We love the underdog, we love karmic retribution. We love watching Rocky beat Ivan Drago.

But the reality of life isn’t as black and white, and we don’t always get that scripted ending. We don’t always get our way. In fact, we rarely get our way unless we’re willing to put in intense amounts of work. Before we can do that, we need to better understand this uncomfortable truth.

Who’s the bad guy?

In real life, it’s a lot harder to discern good from bad, right from wrong. Aside from ax murderers and serial rapists, a lot of bad behaviors operate in a real hazy space. Most people will deliberately mask their shitty actions behind some form of kindness. They do this because they know it’s wrong, and people will judge them for it.

But how can you be a good judge of character if the negativity isn’t up front? Unfortunately, that’s an ongoing dilemma. The truth is, you’ll get duped, you’ll befriend people who are selfish, ego driven, and sometimes full blown sociopaths.

Following is a list of traits and behaviors to be on the lookout for.

  • Angered frequently, easily, or excessively
  • Intentionally blames others for their own behavior
  • Self absorbed and inclined to brag
  • Uses kindness or generosity as leverage in relationships
  • Critical of others and unforgiving
  • Hates puppies

Okay, so I may have just thrown in that last one, but it’s definitely a red flag. Another red flag I didn’t put on the list but could be, is if they have an extensive list of former friends who “wronged them.” We all have a few of those, but when there’s a small army, it often points to a more serious issue.

You also need to look at these things and ask yourself “am I the bad guy?” Sometimes you may be more of a Leonard Shelby than a Clark Kent.

I fucked you up with that one, huh?

Cold, hard truth

So there’s an ugly truth we have to face. The idea that these fakes and liars never get the justice we know they rightfully deserve. The truth is that some terrible people live to ripe old ages, and die with a smile, never paying for their transgressions.

How do we cope with that? How do we come to grips with the idea that life isn’t always fair? To start, you need to accept that life has no bias toward anyone, good or bad. Luck isn’t a thing. We create a good portion of the positive and negative aspects of our lives, and the rest is just statistical chance.

If you think good always wins, then why did Kim Jong Il die while in power? It’s simple: good doesn’t always win. Sometimes the bad guy wins.

I’m not saying this to appear negative, or to dash the hopes and dreams of those who type “amen” in the comment section. It’s just the truth.

So maybe your personal nemesis will always do well. Maybe the person you know who is a selfish fraud will continue to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone around them. You’re just going to have to deal with that, and the best way is to not deal with it.

That’s right, just don’t deal with it. Don’t deal with that person. Don’t associate with them, don’t do anything to support them, don’t let them invade your thoughts and take your power.

The ideal goal is to raise your self awareness and acceptance to a point that you don’t let shit phase you. You can be aware of your anger, jealousy, and that biting desire for vengeance, yet not be consumed by it. In fact, the quicker you can recognize it and say “I see you,” the quicker you can drop it and move on. Simple acknowledgement is enough to weaken the grip just enough to start wriggling free.

We can’t let our skewed view of fairness and justice piss in our Cheerios. We have to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people, and then we have to let it go. Look at the rage simmering in your stomach, and say “I see you.”

If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful, please let me know. If you you know someone this could help, share it with them. My goal is to help you by giving you the information that helps me. If you want to continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter, or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.

You can’t stop bad things from happening

When I was in my early 30’s, I asked my dad when I would get a break. There had been so much difficulty and so many challenges, that I thought I deserved a break. I wanted a run of good things to happen. Hardship was beating me down.

He told me there is no break.

Not the answer I wanted. No break? No respite? No shelter from the ongoing assault? What the fuck kind of shit answer is that? “Sorry, son. You’re doomed.”

Apparently there was good news in this. Apparently, while bad situations will constantly appear in your life, so do good ones. And if you look hard enough, you can find a silver lining in the bad stuff.

That’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re drowning in debt, or having all of your employees quit, or you’re under imminent threat to your physical safety. When you’re facing these types of situations, it basically feels like you’re cursed. The world is collapsing on you. There is nothing good coming, and no one will save you.

I’ll spare you the shit where I get all posi and say “just switch your mindset!” I know as well as anyone that simply changing your mindset is much easier said than done. Yes, it is the end goal, but it’s not as simple as flicking a light switch. There’s a lot of ongoing work involved.

This is the part where I’m supposed to geek out talking about neuroplasticity, but I’ll spare you that too. Instead, I’ll just say old habits are hard to break. It takes conscious effort, willpower, and repetition to put healthy habits in place. It’s never easy when you start.

That’s the whole trick, though. You have to start. You have to sift through the uncomfortable and downright scary situations and find the good parts, then focus your attention there. Sometimes the good is tough to find, especially early on.

When we think about positive and negative situations, we tend to polarize them. It’s either wonderful or awful. That’s not how it works. It’s more of a sliding scale, with both positive and negative happening simultaneously.

If you’ll notice, “DEAD” is at the far end of negative for me, just past syphilis. That’s because if you didn’t die, then your day wasn’t the worst. Sure, your day might have sucked, but you didn’t die. That sounds like victory to me.

That’s not to undermine or minimize pain and suffering. It’s important that we allow ourselves to experience those feelings, but we also need to maintain perspective. There is always a situation worse than what we’re in.

The truth is, most of our days fall between “found $5” and “cheese slid off pizza.” I know the disappointment of opening a piping hot box of freshly delivered pizza only to discover the cheese piled high to one side. If that’s the worst thing to happen that day, you’re doing fine.

If a day is not the worst possible (dying) then that means there’s a glimmer of good. You need to find that good, and celebrate it. Revel in it. Recognize that something shitty happened, but also that it could have been worse. Bask in the fact that you didn’t die.

This is the essence of positive mindset. Recognize the worst, aim for the best, and understand you’ll probably fall in the middle. There’s always some good with the bad, and it could always be worse. Practice this. Start today. It can be the beginning of amazing things.

If you found any of this useful, or you know someone who would, please share it. My goal is to help people with this information, so I appreciate feedback. If you want to continue talking about mindset and life tips, you can join the conversation on Twitter or my Facebook group, Unstoppable.

Battling Artist’s Block

actual photo

My brain is a scrapyard. Most of the stuff laying around in there is just waiting for the landfill or furnace. Instead of crushed cars stacked five stories, it’s jettisoned art projects, blurry nights from my 20’s, and all the forgotten cheat codes from GTA3.

You don’t always find a lot of useful things in junkyards, but if you wander around long enough, you’ll see some cool stuff. Either that, or you’ll get lost, beating the same paths over and over until you forget why you were there in the first place. I like to call that “artists block.”

I don’t have artist’s block right now, and that’s probably why I’m able to write about it. I think. I’m not really sure. Fuck, maybe I do have artist’s block. There’s more ideas than action, that’s for sure. That’s most likely because the ideas come faster than I can take action, or possibly because the ideas are just vague enough to stop me from starting.

How are yo supposed to handle that? I’m not 100% sure. There’s a lot of methods, and over the years I’ve found some that work for me, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone. I’ll still share a few things that help me when I’m struggling with artist’s block.

1. Switch Mediums

If I’ve been doing marker drawings for awhile and I start to get stuck, I switch mediums. Maybe I’ll knock out some acrylic paints, or switch to watercolor. I’ll often go in a completely different direction and work on sculpture or assemblage pieces.

One of the reasons we get artist’s block is because we dig ourselves into repetition and routine. It’s easy to fall into a rut and then lose inspiration. Forcing ourselves to work in other mediums makes us think in different ways, and the different techniques can usually transfer from one medium to the next.

A lot of people may not realize it, but working on mixed media abstracts has been one of the biggest influences on my tattooing; especially cover ups. The fact that I don’t have any preconceived notion or concept as to my finished product is the biggest driver.

Now how the hell does that make any sense? How can slapping paint and glue and glitter and trash together have any influence over tattooing? Tattooing is meticulous in its details, and skin is an unforgiving work surface. There’s little room for error. The other is just haphazard and chaotic.

So yes, the techniques are different, and the final products are worlds apart. Yet there is kindred mindsets and approaches involved. The loose, fluid nature of my abstract process is a stark contrast to tattooing, but with cover ups, that loose approach is important. I need to remain open to making changes to structure, shading, color selections, and light sources; sometimes when I’m more than halfway done. Without my experience with mixed media abstracts, my vision would be narrow and confined to the conventional, rigid process of tattooing.

This is what switching mediums can do for your creativity, and for the times you suffer artist’s block. Force yourself to be uncomfortable and think outside the box. It can broaden your horizons and give new perspective.

2. Steal People’s Shit

Hold on, I probably need to clarify that very loaded and controversial heading. I’m not saying steal in the sense of plagiarizing and claiming other people’s work as your own, or selling and making money from it. No, I’m talking about reproduction as practice.

Early in my career, I was bad. I mean, I was really really bad. I fucking sucked. I could draw to a degree, and I spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years with my head buried in a sketchbook, but I had no idea how to design tattoos. Those first several years were basically learning how to draw and doing shitty tattoos.

After hobbling along and botching plenty of tattoos, I started mimicking other artist’s drawing styles. I wasn’t copying designs, but rather attempting to utilize their abilities to further my own. When somebody else has figured some shit out, following their blueprint will help you figure it out too.

Being a copycat; at least behind closed doors; helps you understand why certain artists do things the way they do understanding can blow the doors off of your creativity. So if you’re fighting against artist’s block, go ahead and copy people. Just don’t try to make money off of it, and give credit where it’s due.

3. Get Random

Since 2005, I’ve been doing a drawing exercise called three in a hat. You write down a number of loose ideas; dog, dagger, rose, etc.; and randomly pick three of them. Then, you put all three into a single drawing. The results are often things that shouldn’t go together, and working out a design using them is challenging. This forces creativity in ways that are out of your ordinary process. It’s a wonderful exercise for tattoo artists, who always need to mash up eclectic concepts in one drawing.

The whole process can be fun if you really run with it and let yourself get silly. The only problem I regularly ran into was losing all of the little slips of paper and having to rewrite everything. That’s an avoidable problem with the Brainstormer app, which functions in the same way. It has customizable and unique random generators. I recommend it, but I’m also wary, since it hasn’t had an update in 4 years and doesn’t appear to be very active or monitored. For now, it works.

4. Smashing Your Face Into a Wall

It might not fix artist’s block, but you’ll forget all about the frustration, and instead focus on the gushing blood.

Feeling like your creativity has reached its limits is normal. We all plateau from time to time, and waiting it out sucks. If you can kickstart the process back to creating, that’s fantastic.

If you felt this blog was helpful, please pass it along to someone who could use it. I always welcome feedback and discussions, so feel free to comment. You can also continue the discussion on Twitter, or my Facebook group, Unstoppable.

It’s never too late to make a change

I used to think I was a man set in his ways. Hell, I still try to pitch that idea when I’m being stubborn about something. The truth is, I’ve made multiple drastic changes in my life. My father showed me that change can happen at any time, and when I was in my early 20’s watching my dad get his degree, I knew it wasn’t just lip service. He had turned his entire life around when he was older than I am today.

Speaking of how old I am today, I just turned 40. That’s me and my kids after I blew out my candles. It’s funny when I thin about it, because at 30, sitting home and eating cake with a bunch of kids wasn’t my idea of a great birthday, and I HAD 3 kids. That speaks to the idea that we can continue to reinvent ourselves and make changes as we age.

When I look back, it seems like I reinvent myself every decade. You can even take that back to childhood, and say that my first reinvention was when I was around 11, and decided I wanted to draw comic books. The second came when I was around 20, and embraced my new role as a tattoo artist. The third was at 30 and I opened my studio, launching my role as business man and entrepreneur. It looks like it’s time for that to happen again.

Now this isn’t overnight change. These are natural progressions as I navigate my situations, clarify my intentions, and commit myself to moving forward. The last 10 years has been total fucking madness most of the time. I waded through chaos for the majority of it, scrambling just to hold onto threads of sanity to keep me going. Through divorce, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, suicidal ideation, marriage, kids, mortgage, life, death, loss…it’s a rollercoaster.

That just fucking life, though. I’m not a special case. This is the same bullshit millions of other people have to go through every single day. I haven’t been given a shit hand. If anything, my life is amazing. We all have to deal with pain and loss, and huge numbers of people have to deal with addiction and mental illness. It could be so much worse, and I should be grateful I even have the opportunity to deal with my struggles. The struggles of others can be so much more difficult by comparison.

The only thing about me that’s special is that I am introspective enough to understand how my own thoughts and actions have brought me to this place. That’s not even that special, either, because that shit can be taught and cultivated in anyone. It’s the entire catalyst of making changes in your life. Without self awareness and reflection, you’re bound to get stuck in those patterns of thought that keep you exactly where you are, in that dead end job or lonely marriage or those friendships that only offer drama. If you can’t look at yourself with introspection and see what’s happening now, yo won’t be able to change what happens later. You’re just blowing in the wind of circumstance.

Which brings the circle right back around to me, and turning 40, and what that means for my own personal growth. I’ve talked a lot about how tattooing doesn’t hold the same fascination that it used to, and how I want to do other things with my life. I’ve also been pretty open about the fact that I don’t know exactly what that means, or how change is going to manifest itself.

All I know is that there’s other things I love. Other things that make me happy, other things I thoroughly enjoy for no reason whatsoever. I’m just going to grab those things and squeeze the fucking life out of them, and hope that I stumble into the satisfaction we all deserve.

For now, that means I’m going to make a lot of art. I’m going to write, vlog, go to thrift stores, hang out with my family, and take midday naps. I’m going to eat delicious things and then feel guilty about it. But most important, above all else, I’m going to use these experiences to help other people.

I don’t know what help looks like from one person to another, but I do know that no matter how different we are, we go through life the same way and experience many of the same things. We feel the same emotions and ask the same questions of ourselves. We wonder “can I even make changes in my life?” We often don’t have an answer.

Lean on each other in support. That’s what I’m here for, if I’m to be completely honest. Hopefully you can see me fuck up and feel like shit, and then maybe you won’t feel like shit when you do. We’re all human. The happiness and contentment isn’t in our destination, it’s in the journey.

All that stuff, and whatever other cliches you’d like to add in, ad infinitum. You get the idea.