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Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Notes to a Discontented Generation Y

Well, I just turned 25 last Saturday.

It’s hard to believe I’ve already been working for 10 years. During that decade of “gainful” employment, I’ve gone through a huge transformation in thought regarding careers, passion and purpose.

My first job was as a YMCA camp counselor. I was 15, and I was excited to be getting a paycheck with my name on it. I thought a little money in my pocket would be the ticket to freedom, but within 2 weeks, I’d come to the realization that while I was really good at “pitching” myself during the interview, the work sucked. It was boring and tedious, and it showed. It’s pretty hard to stay enthusiastic while you’re fishing HotWheels out of the toilet.

I thought it was just the job that sucked. Everyone told me that my first job would.

Over the next 6-7 years, I moved through a series of other jobs hoping that one would really appeal to me. I worked at museums, retail, grocery stores and restaurants. I even worked at UPS. Yes. With the brown short-shorts.

Each one had some element that I liked, but within a few weeks, the same familiar feeling always crept back up.

Emptiness.

I always felt like I was literally an indentured servant working for pennies, with no end in sight.

The worst part about this servitude is feeling like you’re the only one experiencing the pain. I can’t tell you how many people I’d see who had been at their jobs for 20+ years, in a state of zombie-like compliant quasi-misery.

I imagine that this must be what it feels like to have a terminal disease that takes 20 years to fulfill its promise.

I specifically remember during my training at UPS, one of the assistant directors pointed to his boss endearingly and said “Richard hasn’t missed a day or called in sick in 27 years.”

He flashed a grin at me, then looked expectantly, waiting for me to be impressed—as if this was a good thing.

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I just remember thinking to myself “What the fuck is wrong with these people?”

I quit that job faster than Kim Kardashian quit on Kris Humphries.

At this point, you might be thinking “Sure Daniel, but those were all just JOBS. You’ve never had a real career. Once you get a career, things will be better.” At least that’s what my family told me. Just toe the line, Daniel. Just toe the line.

Eventually, I came to a much different conclusion. I came to the realization that I could job hop my whole life and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. I could go to college and get a degree like I was supposed to and hop around with that on higher-paying jobs (which adults like to call “careers” to make ourselves feel better), but in the end, the problem wasn’t with the jobs or the employers; it was with me.

I had the problem. It wasn’t about getting a different job, or a better PAYING job. It was about having a job period.

I was experiencing a major case of cognitive dissonance between what I wanted my life to be and the options I saw available.  Part of this was coming because at a very deep level, I was afraid to admit what I really wanted. As funny as it is to admit this in writing, I felt wrong or dirty. I felt ashamed of these feelings and above all, I was afraid. I was afraid that I would be called lazy, stupid, impractical, a “leech”, etc by people I cared about. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.

I’m not afraid anymore.

You know what I want? I don’t want to work. Like, not ever.

I don’t want to be forced to show up anywhere and do something for someone else, simply because if I don’t show up, I might not be able to feed myself or have a home.

I don’t want to go to any more mindless meetings with 20 other people who also don’t give a shit, and are just there because if they don’t show up—you guessed it—they might not be able to feed themselves.

I don’t want to have to ask “permission” to take a day or three if I’m sick.

I don’t want to have to kiss ass for years to get a raise, just so I can work harder on more stuff I don’t care about.

I don’t want to spend my days punching Excel spreadsheets, hoping that I’m making someone happy.

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You know what I hate? When people ask me “what do you do?”

What do I DO? I breathe, motherfucker. What do you do? What do I do? I don’t DO anything. I AM somebody. And since I am somebody, there’s no limit to what I can DO. I’ve never felt it was fair or accurate that our culture defines people by the narrow set of skills they use to generate income.

What does that have to do with anything?

What you do to make money is completely separate from how you spend your life or who you are as a person. Ironically, many people auction their entire lives away to get more money.

Am I the only one who sees the twisted contradiction here? If it were up to me, you know what I’d do? I’d spend my life traveling, learning languages, practicing martial arts, reading, programming, eating good food and (eventually) raising smart, open-eyed children.

I’d spend the time that I was supposed to be “working” to create something of value for others and use my creativity to leave a mark on the world. Isn’t this what we were made for?

All the other shit can suck it.

Look, it’s just you, me and this letter. We can cut the pretenses. Just be honest with me: if it were up to you, you wouldn’t go to work tomorrow, would you? Come on, I said be honest. Even if you “like” your job, wouldn’t you much rather be doing exactly what you want to do at the pace you want to do it?

Now, let me be clear: this whole idea of not working isn’t because you’re LAZY. Far from it, in fact. It’s because you see the Matrix for what it is, and realize the game being played around us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t put effort into anything or dedicate our lives to a cause. I’m saying we should design our lives around a cause that we believe in, and stop lying to ourselves if what we’re doing isn’t something we’re passionate about.

Essentially we are trading something very real (life/time) for something very fake (money) and we’re always on the losing end since our time on this earth is finite but technically, the amount of money out there is infinite. We will always run out of time before the world runs out of money. As long as we carry on with the traditional mindset that time equals money, we will NEVER be free of the constraints placed upon us.

Now, 95% of people will say “But Daniel, you have to do SOMETHING for ‘work’. You’re going to be homeless. You need to get a job or something and then do stuff on your free time. That’s just life.”

False.

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This is a perfect example of being caught in what I call the “culture box” and having been in there for so long that you can’t even see the walls anymore. American culture dictates that work should be placed squarely at the center of your life, with any  personal creative interests only being pursued in your spare time.

There’s no reason why we have to work 40 hours, 5 days a week. That’s a structure that people with money have put in place so that people without money keep their heads down and don’t have time to ask too many questions.

Even the idea of retirement is a joke. Working until you’re 60. Saving, saving, saving and contributing to your 401k in hopes that eventually you can stop working and live the last 20ish years of your life in budgeted obsolescence, hoping to at least maintain a semblance of your standard of living in a dwindling middle class as your savings depletes by the day.

Is this what we’ve become? Is this the dream we’ve waited our entire lives for?

If this is all, please tell me now so that I can find a rope and save us all some trouble. If I knew that this was going to be the “apex” of my life, I’d just off myself right now. It sounds bittersweet at best.

I propose another way.

The key for us is to figure out how we can manipulate our environments to produce more of this imaginary currency without sacrificing the time (which is the real currency). That’s the game. Most of the time, we go at it the wrong way, trading it 1:1, as if a certain amount of money could equal even a fraction of your time. I can’t stress this enough. Time is LITERALLY priceless. It can’t be valued. “I make $30/hour”. So you’re saying your life, these next 60 full minutes of respiration, are worth $30 of imaginary bits? I’d say there’s literally no comparison between the two. It’s apples to potatoes. Completely different. We have to set systems in place to make the currency come out without the time going to waste – because before you know it, the time will be gone…and the currency…that was never even there to begin with.

We’ve seen what happens working purely for work’s sake, spending all your time making more money or obsessing about promotions or possessions. You’re ashamed to actually admit the things that you actually want to do. You’re afraid of being labeled “different”. God forbid someone thinks that you don’t have “work ethic”. This is one of my favorite cultural insults. It’s as if there were some morality attached to laboring on things that you don’t enjoy. Since when did capacity to suffer become an ethical issue?

What about this…

What if you were to make your life and the pursuits that interested you—traveling, learning, physical activities, creation, art, time with loved ones, whatever—the center(s) of your life and fit work in like a planet in orbit, with it’s sole purpose to fund and support the pursuits above?

How would your life and self-image change?

What would you REALLY do with your life?

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What if I told you that your presence wasn’t actually required to generate the resources that support you, and you were left to roam the earth freely?

Have you ever considered that in a completely digitized society this is a very real possibility?

Now, before you start pointing the finger and saying that it’s not possible to generate resources without being present, I want you to think about your boss’ boss (or perhaps THEIR boss). Somewhere up the chain, somebody is reaping the benefits of a system they put in place to generate resources without being present.

“But Daniel, I can’t manipulate my environment or set up any systems to make money. I HAVE to work.”

So let me get this straight: the Wright brothers—in their shed in rural South Carolina—can figure out how to bend a piece of metal and build a machine lighter than air that can fly across an ocean… but you can’t figure out how to make money flow to you? I’d suggest that you try harder.

The CEO of Walmart isn’t clocking in to make ends meet. That you can be sure of.

And the great thing about our generation is that you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to set this type of system up anymore. Many independent business owners have already realized this truth. Entrepreneurship is the key.

To be sure, this isn’t a popular way of thinking. And it’s even harder to imagine yourself living like this if you don’t have any friends or role models doing it. It is really hard to imagine that this is even possible. You go through a lot of the “Yeah, but that won’t work for ME” scenarios in your mind. Trust me, I feel you. I’ve been there. But as I’ve met more and more incredible people through my blog—people who are living that “fictional” life—I realize that it’s not only very possible, but that there’s a formula to creating these circumstances. It’s not luck, and it’s not voodoo or “positive affirmation”.

In the past 12 months I’ve gotten increasingly closer to this reality.

Are you one of the few who believes a better way is possible, not just for people in books or in the news, but for YOU?

Leave me a comment below and let me know.

 

-Daniel

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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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