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7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

7 Keys To Start Living Your Dream

At 19 I dropped out of college to go live in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, arguably the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city in the world in order to work on my dreams of being a music journalist and promoter. Here I am sitting on my couch, maybe everything isn’t perfect – but I still get to talk to high powered music executives all day and party with rock stars all night and I don’t need a “Real job” to support it all. One question I get asked all the time is “How did you manage to do this at such a young age?” Here are seven keys I used to unlock this kickass lifestyle!

1. You Don’t Need A Plan From The Start

When I started blogging at 14 I didn’t really have a grand vision. I knew I liked hard rock and heavy metal and was all about 80s pop. I wasn’t sure what I could ever do with that. All I knew was that it was fun to write about it on weekends. As it grew I realized that one of the best strategies in life is to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks. This is a lesson I still use today, I regularly attend concerts or industry events with no real goal in mind beyond “meet X individual” or just “hang out with Y band and see what happens” and on a surprisingly regular basis, things turn out well.

The thing is – people like people who are, (in the words of that Bud Light commercial:) “Up for whatever happens”. If someone invites you to an after party at 2 in the morning you have to go – not just because you’ll probably have a good time and get to do cocaine with a bunch of hookers, but also because of the connections you’ll have a chance to make. If you’re willing to just go out and play it by ear mighty forces will come to your aid unexpectedly – and it will be glorious.

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2. Be Ready To Improvise

Building on that previous point is the notion that you have to know how to improvise. This goes far beyond being “up for whatever;” it means that you also have to know when to use caution when deciding a new course of action. Being able to improvise has gotten me through many a sticky situation – it helps you find your way into exciting new situations that can advance your career and give you a great story for your grandkids.

The point being – improvisation is an incredibly valuable tool and not one that is easily learned. But when you learn to apply it and use it on a regular basis then you can rest easy with the confidence that no matter what you should be able to handle the struggles of day to day life in whatever dream you want to live. No one said this would be easy, and a key aspect that many of my mentors have emphasized to me is that you need to be flexible and ready to take life as it comes if you want to get anywhere.

3. Habits Lead To Results

Now this next point is obviously far removed from improvisation but is just as important. I’ve mentioned in other articles on here that you need to place discipline over motivation, but perhaps even greater than that – you need to form habits. This is key for several reasons. First of all – it allows you to do something every day that you know that will help build towards your dream. For example, if you want to be a guitarist this might mean practicing two hours a day no matter what, if you want to be a runner then it means you go running five times a week. What I’m trying to say is I know from experience that if you do anything long enough and with enough dedication eventually you will become good at it!

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Furthermore – when other people see your habits they will be impressed with your work ethic and want to work with you. People are drawn to individuals who they see can regularly produce results – and if you prove that you can produce results (or better yet, multiple results!) every day then the more potential partners you will find. No one wants to work with someone who hasn’t proved themselves to be reliable – it is those individuals who have proved their dedication that end up getting the most offers and taking their work to brave new worlds.

4. Prove You Want It Most

Building on the idea of habits leading to results is the notion that you have to prove that you want it most. In all honesty – most people don’t know how to build habits like this and being able to makes it easier to prove you want something the most. Kanye West once spent an entire summer locked up in his apartment making beats because he wanted to succeed so badly. Hunter S Thompson would type up entire novels from his favorite authors to become a better writer. Obama would wake up at 4 in the morning to learn English. It may not seem like it at the time, but these things pay off.

The fact of the matter is that with concrete proof that you want something more than anyone else things will start to fall into place for you. There’s a difference between saying “I really want to live the rock and roll lifestyle” and “Here’s 4,000 posts I’ve made about rock and roll”. My entire vetting process for potential employees basically relies on them coming out and showing me not credentials, but rather concrete evidence of the work they’ve done. This is perhaps the hardest of these keys to pull off but it is also one of the most valuable.

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5. Remember To Be Nice To EVERYONE

I don’t think that anyone wants to be thought of as an asshole by the masses. There’s an easy way to remedy this – be kind and respectful to everyone. This doesn’t mean being weak – you should be able to set limits – but it does mean that you should always be willing to help people and guide them forward. It means that you shouldn’t call people out on social media and it means that you should be very cautious before putting out any sort of controversial opinion into the public sphere.

Am I saying you have to be politically correct? No. I literally talked about doing cocaine with hookers earlier in this article – clearly that’s not a priority. What I’m saying is that resorting to ad hominems and poorly thought out opinions is the place of the Republican party (You saw the last debate – I’m not being partisan) it’s not for someone who is trying to live their dream. So be encouraging – give advice to people getting started and try to find mentors who also ascribe to this philosophy.

6. Enjoy The Ride

This is one of the most important parts and something I used to forget. At times you may feel like you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re not going to get any bigger. But always remember to take a look around and realize “Huh, I’ve been able to do a lot to achieve my dreams” There are plateaus in everything you do, that’s how life works. The trick is to embrace those plateaus as quiet times in between the madness that so often defines day to day life. If you’re not enjoying the ride why bother? As Lemmy Kilmister of the legendary band Motorhead once said “The chase is better than the catch!”

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And I know as well as anyone that desire to succeed can be crippling. You reach those moments where you feel like everyone is against you and won’t let you reach the next level and you start to suffer. But here’s the thing – if you keep going people will respect you. If they see that even in a tight spot you kept your cool and decided to plow forward and not give up and did so with a smile on your face then they will know that you’re the real deal. In a world where you’ve to to fake it until you make it  you might as well enjoy the madness.

7. When You Get To The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

One of the most important books in my life is Timber Hawkeye’s Buddhist Boot Camp. One of the books key ideas is: “When you get to the top of the mountain – keep climbing.” I’m not being facetious when I say this is perhaps the greatest of all these keys. In my rise to living my dream every time that I thought I had reached the peak I decided to keep going, and things ended up even better than I possibly could have imagined. As far as I can tell, short of marrying Pat Benatar, there is no actual upper limit to what can be done in this world and you need to take full advantage of that as you push your way forward.

To tie into this, Jack Kerouac, in his book The Dharma Bums writes, “You can’t fall off a mountain” And this is the final message I want to leave you guys with. No matter what you do – as long as you maintain your honor and integrity it’s pretty hard to screw up badly enough that you get sent back to square one. Always keep pushing and know that with these keys you might just be able to do something great!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via flickr.com

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

You know how this looks:

  • Parents constantly comparing children.
  • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Adultery…
  • And many others.

For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

How to fix a dysfunctional family

In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

Dysfunctional… Or just average?

Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of interest and time spent together
  • Sexism
  • Utilitarianism
  • Lack of empathy
  • Unequal or unfair treatment
  • Disrespect towards boundaries
  • Control Issues
  • Jealousy
  • Verbal and physical abuse
  • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

How to turn it around

When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

Correction is possible

In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

Verbalize it.

All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

Putting it to work in real life

In real life it would be something like this:

“OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

Or:

“Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

Or:

“Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

This is what you have to remember:

1-Stop.

2-Why it’s wrong?

3-What you need.

And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

It’s a family thing

A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

In other words, you will need cooperation…

So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

It’s not a free-for-all battle

In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

The method

1. Drop the ego

Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

2. Not blame, but responsibility

When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

You will do something like this:

“Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

What happened here?

We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

3. Doing the work

What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

“When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

Love is all you need

You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

And what happens if it simply is not there?

What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

There is only one thing you can do:

To break away.

Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

“We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

Putting distance

So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

What do I mean?

Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

I choose my peace of mind.

And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

How to prevent it

There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

  • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
  • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

Priorities and clear thought

You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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