12
Jun

real-talk-should-i-let-my-kid-go-to-art-music-school-or-should-i-force-them-to-study-something-else
 REAL TALK: Should I let my kid go to art / music school or should I force them to study something else?

“Should I let my kid go to art / music school or should I force them to study something else?”

I get asked this question probably once a week – minimum.

Some background for those of you just joining us: I do a lot of shit. During the day I am a VP level Project / Product Manager responsible for a long list of art and technology things that you probably use. For example, if you’ve ever used an iPhone, you’ve used something I’ve designed and deployed.

After I go home for the day I start my second shift as Showrunner of (Re)Generation Who: Baltimore’s Doctor Who Convention and PotterVerse: Baltimore’s Harry Potter Convention.

Then I do my third shift, which is seriously studying to be a musician.

I’ve worked professionally in the arts, marketing, finance, mobile telecom, and pharma – all at blisteringly high levels because I don’t know any other way to work. I also professionally wrote and drew a comic for 10 years and worked in animation. One of the big things that I do is I ensure that my events have programs within them that elevate the arts and encourage kids and adults to pursue their Thing.

It’s my Why.

If I didn’t feel strongly about this I’d be using my second shift time to sleep or eat or something. I would probably have bought a house by now.

At my core, I am a performance artist and musician. Always have been.

For example, this is the most “me” that’s ever been captured in a photo. The only thing missing is my guitar:

Exhibit A: Wonder Woman

This is an important element so that you understand what I am going to write next.

Parents come to me for advice when their kids want to study art or music. Some are terrified. Others want me to tell their kid it’s a bad idea. I don’t have a BFA. I have a BA. I didn’t go to art or music school.

I will not tell your kid that it’s a bad idea to study the arts. Sorry. I’ll give your kid real advice that’s based in the actual world. They should be studying both. Why?

Creative Jobs:

Today’s CREATIVE climate is one such that all of us creatives have to be everything. For my comic, I wrote, drew, evangelized sponsors, created social media campaigns, handled my finances, did outreach, and pretty much everything else myself. Same for my events. If you are doing a creative project, you will have to be every department in your own company. Period.

We are all octopi.

We have to be in order to succeed. If you want to be an artist or musician and you suck at Marketing there’s a pretty high chance you are going to fail and not even know why. I am not the best at anything. I’m just really good at some things and Beast Mode Level in Marketing.

You can be the best and still no one will care if you don’t know how to market and manage yourself. Success is still not guaranteed and MONEY is required to make money. So make sure you can do something else to generate funding. Kickstarter and Patreon are a tiny fraction of the guaranteed money I can pull down from a consulting gig. Because I was good at other things, I’m able to support myself and wisely invest in my education and projects such that I can do what I want.

Cubicle Jobs:

Today’s BUSINESS climate is equally competitive. Why do you think I went from being so broke I couldn’t afford shampoo to where I am today? It’s because I did creative projects after work which gave me the expertise and training that NO COMPANY will give you today. I am VP level and in that entire journey I have never had a company try to nurture my skills. I did that myself because I knew that if I just sat in a cubicle I’d be like that guy in Office Space whining about his red stapler for the rest of my life.

Or worse yet – pretty much every job I’ve had had laid off all of us every 6 months to 2 years. If you are a cubicle jockey, that is just as tough in today’s world. How will you stand out? I stand out because of everything you see on my bio page, and ALL of that was because of the arts. I get raises where others don’t because of my creative capabilities.

The biggest mistake you can do as a parent is to squash your kid’s desires.

Childhood is supposed to be about experimentation. That’s when you have the TIME to DO IT. I work in a field that has literally nothing to do with my BA from Rutgers University. I could have majored in Butt Science and I’d still be where I am because of who I am and the natural drive that I have.

Them: “That’s a strange Butt Science Degree you have there, young lady.”

Me: “But I can manage any project and make you $$$ unlike anyone else. Google what I did on the internet.”

Them:
“Hot, damn! Here’s a cash money!”

Today people judge you by what you can do and have done – not by what is written on a piece of paper. I don’t even posses a Project Management certification (PMP) and I make more money than many of the people I know who have that. Why?

Track record of exceeding expectations.

I was at vacation in Disney World one year at the same time a PMP Conference was there. That was a moment of clarity for me when I realized that I basically bypassed that due to achievement and was going to the Magic Kingdom while they were stuck in some dry meetings for the day.

But back on the main topic –

Do you think I have the time in my 30s now to study music seriously? Not really. I give up sleep and a social life to do it because I need to do it or I’ll slowly die. There’s been a hole directly in my chest since I was 5 years old when I first heard Van Halen and Iron Maiden that told me I should be playing music but with no money or support I was stuck sitting in my room hoping that I could afford a guitar when I got older.

Today I am making up for lost time and I am at a terrible disadvantage because I wasn’t given the freedom to experiment as much as I needed as a kid. I didn’t let go of the anger about this until I was 28.

The hole is still there. It’s still trying to kill me unless I play music. This is who I am. People trying to direct me into other careers meant well, but ultimately caused a pretty severe disservice to my development.

My advice is to always nurture interests, no matter how impractical they may seem. In my experience, those things tend to propel whatever you end up doing forward because the default position in life is to be a sack of flesh eating a Lean Cuisine in a cubicle that’s dripping water from the ceiling while Judy in Accounting is explaining the color of her baby’s poop to you.

Anything different won’t be necessarily accepted. I’ve never been a woman who “fit in”. The key is – if you leverage it properly you’ll out perform and out earn everyone else and it’s all because of the arts.

We dismiss the impact of the arts and we are jackasses for doing so:

America’s dismissal of the arts in general has created a lot of boring people who can’t think their way out of a paper bag. It’s basically a slave class of workers that companies use as flesh cogs in a disposable and replaceable machine. There is no longevity at any company anymore. My longest corporate gig was 2 years before yet another merger had us all on unemployment due to no fault of our own.

Let your kids experiment. Let them be themselves. You can’t stamp it out no matter how hard you try. My devotion to music is a perfect example of that. Experimentation is the key to finding out who you really are. I worked in animation for Disney and found that it wasn’t my dream just like I worked in comics and discovered the same. The key thing is that I got to try it and got it out of my system so that I knew what WAS my dream and could focus on that. I should have been able to figure this out when I was 20, but I didn’t have the exposure to it that I needed to make that decision.

Sorry, but it’s highly unlikely that anyone knows what they are doing at age 18. Technology changes so fast now that it’s kinda impossible. My job didn’t even exist when I was in college.

Tell your kids to study the arts, but also make sure the school they go to prepares them to market themselves such that they can manage things and support themselves no matter what happens in the future. Failing that, make sure that they can study the arts on their own time because nobody needs a diploma to play music or draw things. They just need enough of whatever it is that they need (usually exposure to concepts, support, and industry knowledge) to prepare them for the future.

The biggest stupidity I’ve ever seen is how America separates the arts from academics. Rutgers University actually prevented me from taking creative classes since I was enrolled in their main school. Some creative schools really fail at preparing their students for the real world octopi approach and produce proficient creatives that have no idea how to get and hold down a job.

You can and should do both because both of these things are critical to survival in today’s real world. Discouraging someone from pursuing an interest is about as stupid as trying to hold your coffee cup with your buttcrack.

It never works and just causes inflammation that results in lost sleep and a lower quality of life in their 30s when they finally have the money to buy a guitar and a few lessons.

Click here to join my mailing list to be alerted when I release my upcoming book and other creative projects.



Oni Hartstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Music, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

Hang out with me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/onezumi
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theonezumi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onezumi

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16
Feb

life-with-eyes-you-can-see-every-person-who-is-trying-to-look-at-your-ass-which-you-never-realized-before
 Life with eyes = you can see every person who is trying to look at your ass which you never realized before

Yeah. I didn’t expect the last 2 years to be mostly me fixing all of the broken things on my body that I had to just ignore for most of my life. I am not sure you could pay me enough money to go through this again. I’ve been talking about this for awhile but this isn’t something you just get over quickly. I’m so happy that I am almost TOTALLY done!

I now have sight – and a lot of other things I’ve gotten fixed before, during, and after that debacle. Now I’m almost done with physical therapy. I’m stronger than I have ever been but I am still processing all of this. I work so much that I haven’t been outside all that much so I haven’t encountered absolutely everything in life post eye surgery yet. My last gig was so awesome that they let me work from home so I wouldn’t die in a car accident while recovering.

You start to go a bit nuts when you have to stay indoors for long periods of time and heal – and it’s not like you can stop working if you are in my position. During all of this I still delivered that amazing quality I’m known for. It’s actually EASIER to work now.

But I still get confused occasionally and I am still wrestling with how insane it is to get sight for the first time in your 30s.

Completely new relationship with the world. Having eyesight kind of feels like being a low level psychic. It’s easier to discover who the shitheads are.

I can now read facial expressions and can tell if someone is asking me how I’m doing and really wants to know or is just asking that to take up conversation time.

Understand the law of attraction

Imagine being an alien and landing on planet earth for the first time. That’s maybe (sort of) a description of what this is like.

I’m not joking, guys. Something “better” can freak you out if you aren’t used to it. And you know what? It’s weird for my family and friends too – many of them try to help me “too much”. For example, Harknell keeps forgetting that I no longer need a “Seeing-Eye Husband” and sometimes goes back into the formation we’d walk in when I was blind – until I gently nudge him out of my way. :)

I love that almost no one realized that we had a defined system for moving me around. It had 3 parts:

1. He’d walk in front of me and I’d track to his shoulder.

2. I’d hold my phone and he or an assistant would text me or whisper into my ear who a person was so I could walk up and say hello seamlessly. It was like I was an airplane with air traffic control.

3. I’d use my iPhone to photograph and zoom things so I could see them.

Any sort of change – even a positive one – opens the door opens to fear – to questioning what’s real and what isn’t.

Also you can see every person who is trying to look at your ass which you never realized before. @_@;;

What I thought the world was before my surgeries wasn’t true. The world is actually easier to live in than what I thought it would be. I struggle daily with the idea that I spent my entire life thinking things were a certain way but it wasn’t. I can seamlessly drive anywhere now.

I’m still processing it and I plan to go outside and experience as much as possible to get used to Life After Sight. And I do apologize that I am not posting anything super deep today, but I wanted to share one thing with you.

The older I get the more I realize that life is a weird cycle of gains and loss tied to if you are a positive or negative person. If you are positive, you’ll attract positive people and things to you. If you are negative – the reverse. The biggest thing to remember is that everything is temporary, everything changes, and the only thing that matters is that you keep going and seek out positive things because it’s the incremental contributions that add up to amazing things.



Oni Hartstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Music, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

Hang out with me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/onezumi
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theonezumi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onezumi

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27
Jan

real-talk-qa-negative-thoughts-how-to-silence-negative-thinking-about-yourself-events-and-life
 REAL TALK Q&A: Negative Thoughts: How to silence negative thinking about yourself, events, and life

The me of 15 years ago and the me of today would probably not be friends.

I used to be a highly negative person. For those of you who have met me in person this is probably a pretty big shock. My reputation today is that I can stay calm and polite in even the most stressful situations. My staff has in the past pulled me aside after a particularly rough situation and asks me how I didn’t blow up. Here is the answer. Today I’m going to talk about negative attitudes, where they come from, what happens when you are negative, and how I stopped being negative.

In 2010 I chose to put together a system to reprogram my brain’s default to be positive instead of negative. I gave it a duration of 3 years. A test. If my forced attitude change didn’t work to show improvement in my life by 2013 I’d drop it and try something else.

I am a huge fan of looking at myself as a social experiment.

How To destroy negative thoughts


I automatically assume I am a stupid asshole that needs to be observed and directed by my own self. This is how I’ve permanently broken behavioral patterns that weren’t serving me. I simply refused to become attached to myself and these patterns in the first place.

Not only did it work – it’s the main reason I’ve been so successful.

Understanding Negativity:

First let’s talk about what creates a negative perspective so that we can understand how to undo it.

Our perspective gets defined when we are young. Trauma and lack of support from parents, family, and/or school are some of the common things that can create a negative perspective. If we are set up to fail over and over again we expect to fail. If we keep experiencing trauma after trauma, we expect more trauma.

For example, if you wanted to be a musician and your parents simply told you that you may as well not try because it’s impossible and stupid they have set up a negative expectation. Maybe it won’t work, but starting a pattern of giving up before you start is incredibly damaging to a person’s life and ability to succeed and innovate. This can easily become the lens with which you view the world if you don’t take action to override it. These comments and experiences slowly filter through every aspect of your life until you expect everything to not work, give up before you try, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy that repeats over and over again.

The result is that the fictional parents in this example may have felt they were protecting their kid but instead prevented them from entering into a thought pattern that would have led to good behaviors that equal success – whether they literally become a musician, a corporate manager, or both. Our interests are varied pathways to many ideas and experiences. The worst thing we can do is shut down an interest in another person.

Fixing negative thoughts

How to Fix it:

The good news and the bad news is that the world generally responds to what you think and what you believe. The solution is simple but also probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do: You have to change “fuck this” to “Hell yeah!”.

My internal voice used to be a doppelganger for the TV version of Tara from True Blood:

This is maybe funny on TV but it’s not cool in real life. This is definitely not the type of behavior that gets anyone to advance in life. It only attracts more negativity to you and then the cycle returns and then you maybe die alone and no one cares.

There were some years where my brain would act like this but my mouth would speak in a more kind way. It was jarring. It was like my body knew what to do but my brain didn’t want to let go of the lens that trauma had created for me. I call it my nightbird because when I name a sonofabitch that means I can take control of it and own it.

I forced my nightbird to shut up with one simple step: Every time my brain would default to a negative statement – even if that was justified – I’d think of a positive statement related to the same situation immediately. Eventually my nightbird let go and defaulted to the positive programming.

If someone was driving stupid in front of me instead of saying “fn slow asshole!” I’d say, “This person may have been having a bad day. I’m glad they are able to go out and get their errands done.”

If someone pushed through me in a store instead of thinking that they should f off, I changed it to “that wasn’t personal – they are probably in a rush. I love their hair color!”

Even if someone is highly aggressive toward me I try to understand the pain they must have that is generating it and meet it with kindness and a kind thought.

This seems like some hallmark card bullshit but it’s actually just as difficult to change as it is important to change. If you want your life to be positive you have to act positive first. There are no exceptions to this. No one wants to set up their picnic blanket next to the biggest pile of dogshit. The only way I’ve found that works is to make it a practice to:

1. Don’t judge yourself. Understand where you are and what you need to change. Judging yourself leads to depression and weakens your ability to fix the issue.

2. When you emote something negative – IMMEDIATELY emote a positive in the same way. Make it a game. Cancel out your negatives with positive.

3. After enough repetition, this will become your true nature and you will have opened up the door to success and a better life. It works. I am your proof.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni



Oni Hartstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Music, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

Hang out with me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/onezumi
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theonezumi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onezumi

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11
Jan

real-talk-qa-wednesday-how-to-set-goals-you-can-actually-reach-or-why-your-new-years-resolution-doesnt-work-and-how-to-fix-it
 REAL TALK Q&A WEDNESDAY: How to set goals you can actually reach OR why your New Year’s Resolution doesn’t work and how to fix it

Submit your question for a future Q&A Wednesday by emailing me via the top bar on this site.

If you have trouble setting and sticking to goals this Real Talk Q&A Wednesday is for you.

I never do New Year’s Resolutions. Since I am a business owner in charge of 3 events plus my freelance career as a marketing consultant who needs to set and exceed goals in order to be employed– this often surprises people. The real deal is that I set goals every day/week/month/year as an overall life practice so it makes New Year’s Resolutions a moot point.

New Year’s Resolutions are mostly marketing. I should know because I am a marketer. It’s great to sell people gym memberships and $65 planners but as far as sustainability and success the positive outcome tends to be low for many people. There’s nothing wrong with gym memberships and $65 planners, but if you give up in 2 weeks you’ve wasted your time and money. I’m going to tell you how you can set goals and win.

The most important thing to understand is why most New Year’s Resolutions fail.

You fail to reach your goals because you fail to understand how the human mind works when you are setting them.

Oh man, that’s a problem. But guess what? Every problem is an opportunity.

How to set goals & use problems as opportunities

I am ALWAYS telling my staff this because it’s the truth. I’ve achieved to where I am solely because I was able to take negatives about my situation, personality, and behavior and then transmogrify them into positives.

transmogrify your "bad" behavior and you'll always win.

In my case, I have the ability to hyper focus on 1 thing. It can be a big problem because the house could be burning down and I’ll still not want to get up to stop what I am doing. I figured out how to trick myself to turn this on and off. Similarly the problems I face in life, every time I’ve solved it something better came along later.

So let’s ignore the problems for now and talk about strategy. Let’s use the problem of not understanding how the human brain works to actually understand it and use it.

Here is an example: If you wanted to lose weight and your normal diet was to eat a lot of crap food and drink a gallon of soda every day you might be tempted to say, “Next week I am going to immediately stop consuming bad food and I’ll only eat lean protein and vegetables from now on!”

No, dude. You are probably gonna fail.

The person that does not fail in this example is an exception that probably makes up a tiny percent of the population (major congrats to them). People don’t like change. In my MMA and bodybuilding days every January the gym would be flooded with people incorrectly using the machines and by the end of January the gym would just be the regulars again. Did those people suck? No! They just set themselves up for failure by not understanding how the human mind works.

MAke your New Year's Resolution work - Super Mario style?

When you set goals you can’t slam your butt immediately down the Super Mario chomp chomp of life and expect to win.

People exist on various vibrational levels and none of them are bad – just different. To move from your starting level to a higher vibrational level is like jumping from Canada to Texas or becoming an Olympic athlete in 1 week. You just can’t do it. The distance is too wide.

Unrealistic Pressure:

The idea of a New Year’s Resolution puts a lot of communal pressure on people to “get it right”. All eyes are on you. Everyone is doing it. Peer pressure! But guess what? When we make mistakes our brains want to give up and go back to what we used to do. How do we fix this?

1. Make goal setting a daily and weekly part of your life no matter what time of the year it is.

2. Create small, realistic goals that add up to bigger goals.

I'd describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here's how I manage it.

I’d describe my average day as a butt flamingo that crashes through a window like Batman. Here’s how I manage it.

Weekly / daily task review:

If you know what you want to achieve you won’t need to spend much or any time on revisiting your big picture, but if you are still shaky and finding your path you may want to make a list of what you want to accomplish this year and even for the next 5-10 years. If you have trouble staying focused on the big picture you may want to keep this list visible in your workspace. If you don’t know your big picture your goal can simply be to experiment with several things that you enjoy to see if your big picture reveals itself this year.

I review my task list and strategy every night and/or morning for each day. Once a week I meet with Harknell to discuss bigger picture items that we have to collaboratively solve for my business.

Perfection doesn’t exist. Manage change instead:

Understand that these goals WILL change a lot – and sometimes even completely. That’s why I’m looking at them at least once a day and adjusting them. In theory I could have a day where I have to go into NYC on business (like this week) where I lose an entire day. Or like last year where I lost almost the entire year to eye surgeries and recovery. Obviously when I had eye surgery my task list changed almost completely. I had to get help from people to do things I would have normally done. It sucked but I still pushed forward the best I could with what I had.

Your goals are only guides to give you a baseline of what’s up. Your job is to manage change, not to be a robot. This is not about “getting it right” or being perfect.

You fail because you focus on perfection.

Be flexible:

List out all the stuff that you want to accomplish this week and imagine that they are in a reserve pool that you can flow out into the next day or week of free time depending on how your life is going. Realize that you are probably going to have to double the amount of time you think you need for most of these tasks. You might have to move some of those tasks to next week – that’s why I look at it as a pool. It allows for flexibility within a real life. To start you may want to test how much you ACTUALLY get done for the first week so that you don’t overload yourself and set yourself up for failure.

Start small:

There’s no shame in starting with just 1 thing for the first week. We all have lives and unpredictable events in our lives. Some of us work day jobs in order to be able to afford to go for their actual job that they want. All of these things can impact or destroy our goals for the week. Be at peace with that. If your tasks have to go back into the pool because your day job forced you to work 80 hours of overtime simply slide the task into your next available free slot, repeat the weekly strategy meeting and readjust your timeline. This is reality. Life happens. There will never be a perfect time to start this. If you think that you are just making excuses to not move forward and that’s the topic of another post entirely.

Life will happen. Plan for that and be flexible with small, achievable goals.

EXAMPLE: If you want to lose weight your tasks would look something like this:

1. Stop drinking soda. If this is tough stop drinking it for 1-3 days per week and work up to 7 days a week.

2. Stop eating fast food. Feel free to use the same 1-3 day duration to start and then work that up to 7 days.

3. Exercise. This can be a short walk once a day, moving up to a workout in your home once a week.

4. Increase exercise level. Work out at home 2 and then 3x a week. Consider joining a gym but only do that if it will help you exercise more and won’t be a deterrent. (I work out 5 days a week and don’t have the time to join a gym anymore because doing it at home means that I will do it. Understand your quirks and work with them instead of trying to make yourself some impossibly perfect automaton.

No one gives a crap how you achieved it, they only care that you did it.

You are building a house, not making it magically materialize in a second:

Imagine your biggest goal is like building a house. Your small goals = molecules of each brick. Your bricks = bigger goals or milestones. You don’t start out achieving a brick. That’s too big and almost impossible. You get the molecules and build your first brick, then your second brick, then before you know it you have a house. Your work processing this along the way is CRITICAL TRAINING for you being able to handle the increased responsibility that will inevitably be your reward for success.

Your process is more important than the actual goals.

Your process will have evolved your brain toward making good habits and it will also hard wire achievement into your personality. When you get to a more advanced level you’ll actually have the ability to handle the pressures that come with it. I can tell you right now that the me of 7 years ago could not handle the me of today’s life. The process was more important than the actual tasks. I had to go through all of that to be able to get through all of this.

People might be shocked today to know that I was a chunky kid with no athletic capabilities whatsoever. That chunky kid evolved into being fit and the first female black belt from the police training facility where I founded multiple self-defense classes. I didn’t do that overnight, nor did I have access to the best food and equipment.

I used to drink 3-6 cups of soda a day as a kid. As a very fit adult soda smells and tastes disgusting to me. You will almost never see me drink it because I just hate it. I vibrate on a different level that that now. When I was a kid I would have thought you were insane because it was what my entire family drank – I rarely drank water. The act of seeking out small goals distracted my brain from the length of the journey. I made those bricks and then made more and more bricks. I evolved myself from being an overweight low achiever to a very fit habitual overachiever.

This transformation could not and did not happen overnight.

If you focus on how great it feels to achieve something small that adds up to something large you will lose track of time and notice you’ve achieved a big thing before you realize it. Start small. DO NOT start large. Realistic achievement motivates the human brain to keep going – not trying to climb Mount Everest in a day. I actually knew someone who wanted to start hiking and decided to go on a 2 week long hike as their first hike. They ended up failing badly. The came home needing surgery because because they were not in the physical shape needed to accomplish this.

Start small. Your process is the most important thing.

This is the main concept you need to grasp before you can do anything. If you keep chunking your tasks into tiny things, resetting your expectations every day when you review your list, and focusing on your process rather than how much you’ve achieved you’ll be empowered to adjust your plans for the amount of willpower and stress level that you may be experiencing in life. That’s when you will really start to shine.

You are not where you are. You are how far you’ve come. Keep going and keep it Real.

<3 Oni



Oni Hartstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Music, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

Hang out with me:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/onezumi
Instagram: http://instagram.com/theonezumi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onezumi

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16
Dec

daily-real-talk-how-to-survive-the-holidays-alone-without-family-or-with-depression
 DAILY REAL TALK: How to survive the holidays alone, without family, or with depression

The holidays are supposed to be a nice time of year but for many people it’s a depressing time instead.

The media sells us a story about the holidays that reinforces a falsehood – that everyone has some sort of perfect life with families who welcome them home every year. For many people this is not the case. People get sick, they die, they move far away so they can’t afford to visit, and some people have abusive families. Here are my tips on how to survive the holidays alone, without family, or with a depressing situation.

DAILY REAL TALK: Holiday Survival

STEP 1: Realize that the media lies: All of those images that you see on TV aren’t reality. I have had the privilege of meeting people from many walks of life. People who are alternative, people who are mainstream, people who are of every income level from completely poor to those in the 1%.

I call all of these people friends.

They all have the same thing in common. Dysfunctional relationships and hardship doesn’t always seek out people of a particular race, class, or situation. The more people I meet from various backgrounds, the more I realize that we are all the same. We may wear different pants or have more pairs of pants but the human experience is the same.

I will not give specific names to identify people obviously, but over the last 20 years I’ve met poor people who had wonderful families and terrible families. I’ve met extremely rich people with he same – some who had to live every day in fear that they’d be brutally assaulted by their family.

You need to realize that what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily truth.

Remember Cordelia, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer? If you haven’t seen this show, Cordelia was the more popular “mean girl” in the beginning of her story. Pretty girl, popular, rich – she seemed to have it all. But she didn’t. Her personality in High School was an attempt to fit in and make up for what she wasn’t getting at home. And she collapsed after High School.

That was some of the realest stuff I’ve seen.

Cordelia Chase: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

In the popular narrative she may have been characterized only as a villain toward Buffy. But she wasn’t. She was just a girl trying to get by. You may have started out hating her but eventually you grew to like her once you got to know her and even felt sad for her.

We are all the same. Your first step to freedom is realizing that the media lies and the image of a perfect holiday doesn’t exist for everyone.

There is no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect person.

I challenge you to look at Facebook over the holidays and see how many people you think have it all are complaining about the torment they have had to go through on that day from their family. I see it every year. If storybook happiness doesn’t exist for you, that’s OK. It doesn’t exist for that many people because it’s a fake idea.

If someone’s life looks perfect, they are probably just good at putting on a good front and dealing with crap.

STEP 2: Cut out the noise: Turn off or cancel TV service. If Christmas music bothers you shop online or use headphones in the store just like we do in NYC. Define what makes you feel bad and do your best to remove it from your life. We aren’t babies anymore. it’s our turn to control our lives.

STEP 3: Create your own tradition: We feel disappointment when we expect X and get Y. If you know X is impossible, throw X out the window! Are you setting the bar too high so that it’s unrealistic?

Stop torturing yourself right now. There are children with terminal cancer who are happier than some folks during the holidays. Consider that for a second and take responsibility for the gift you have – life.

If you can’t get to your family this holiday or have family who you don’t get along with you need to identify in your life who your chosen family is. If you don’t have anyone near you you also aren’t alone. Most people’s friends are on the internet nowadays and hundreds or thousands of miles away.

This is not a rare or unique feeling. You are not alone in this.

Take control. Define what a good holiday means to you and do that. Don’t allow TV’s fake definition of the holidays to crap on you every year. Is your best holiday a week long video gaming party? Is it a week of fitness? How about art? Maybe you get in the car and take an epic road trip since Christmas Day has almost no traffic on the roads. I do that a lot myself, actually. Vroom vroom.

Define what your truth is. Define your own tradition. Do that. Don’t use a false success metric (that almost no one truly achieves) and set yourself up for failure.

Most of us do not have perfect lives, but people often fall prey to the trap of editing out what they don’t see and assuming other people do have perfect lives so that they can beat themselves up for not having something that just plain does not exist!

Cut that shit out and you’ll be much happier. Your life is about you, so own it – even if it takes you some years to work up to the point that you can.



Oni Hartstein is an New Jersey-based entrepreneur that is obsessed with Marketing, Music, and Technology. Please direct all business inquiries or technology review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.

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