Unfold it as a Series of Conversations, Not as a Set of Actions

Unfold it as a Series of Conversations, Not as a Set of Actions

I just got off my coaching call.

And what I’m discovering is just how easy it is to get caught up in the actions rather than the conversations.

Leaders generally are doers and are used to creating. They know they can count on themselves to create anything they want.

But ultimately, that’s not leadership. Leadership is unfolding a series of conversations. The conversations are what lead to the actions.

What I’m seeing for myself is that there is less breakthrough in action than in conversation.

I can’t tell you how many actions I’ve taken, or how much time and effort I’ve invested in them, that ultimately led to lackluster, disappointing, out of balance results (in proportion to the actions taken, the results were surprisingly dismal).

I’ve heard gurus say that actions are of limited use. Before, I didn’t have access to that. Now I see. There are more breakthroughs waiting in conversations than in actions.

There are more breakthroughs waiting in conversations than in actions. Share on X
How to Handle Addiction

How to Handle Addiction

Addiction is something all creatives and creators can relate to, to lesser or greater degrees.

I have recently had some questions regarding addiction and felt it an important topic to address.

I have not mastered my addictions, and perhaps I never will. But I have learned some valuable things about what it means to be human and that has helped me greatly on this journey. That’s what I’d like to share with you here.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and what follows should not be taken as advice. Seek professional help if you are struggling with severe addiction.

What is Addiction?

Some of the most prevalent forms of addictions are smartphones, social media, shopping, video games, alcohol, drugs, porn, relationships, co-dependency, and so on.

Most people will try to put these on a sliding scale from bad to terrible, but the reality is most things are not inherently evil, and even have their place. It is human, however, to try to categorize and rank everything.

“I feel worse when I do abc versus xyz” is a subjective, emotional statement, not a universal sentiment, let alone fact.

Shopping is not an addiction until it becomes an uncontrollable, compulsive behavior that leads to your financial ruin. In like manner, most addictions are just temporary escapes until they begin ruining different aspects of your life – relational, physical, financial, or otherwise.

Most addictions are just temporary escapes until they begin ruining different aspects of your life. Share on X

Note: Anything outside of what is morally and culturally accepted is in a category all its own, and not something I will specifically address here. That said, the mental models I share may still be of some value.

1. Reduce Importance

I believe the first and most important step to handling addiction is to reduce its importance.

There is some part of us that wants to believe that if we just do a better job of beating ourselves up, that next time, we won’t make the same mistake. So, we become professional bullies.

I know of a man who was caught watching porn by his wife, and he snapped his laptop in half out of anger.

However symbolic the action, however sincere the sentiment, in that moment, the importance of addiction increased in his life. I don’t know what happened next, but I would venture to guess that was not the last time he watched porn, because snapping his laptop did nothing to reduce its importance.

You cannot reduce the importance of addiction by giving it more emotionally-charged attention, becoming a professional bully, making yourself wrong, hurting yourself, hating yourself, or any of the “normal” behavior that seems to accompany self-loathing addicts.

You come to hate yourself because you hate bullies, plain and simple.

God or the universe does not seem to treat addiction with the level of urgency that we do. So, why do we?

I am not saying there is no consequence for addiction. There always is. But I do not know of anyone who went on a social media binge that instantly got struck down by lightning.

Beating up on yourself is what does the greatest psychological harm. It does more harm than the action or behavior you’re trying to stop in the first place. You beat yourself up and then try to convince yourself that it is God’s wrath raining down on you.

People try to shed their addictions by giving it more attention, and it ends up doing the complete opposite.

People try to shed their addictions by giving it more attention, and it ends up doing the complete opposite. Share on X

It has often been said that the best way to manage anxiety is to let go. Addiction is much the same. You can reduce its importance by letting go instead of trying to control and micromanage it.

2. Change Context

We all go through a traumatic moment in early childhood. Even if we don’t remember, even if we say it’s not a big deal, it has shaped us for the rest of our lives. And we have trouble accepting that.

The context we got in that moment was “something’s wrong here.”

Up until that moment in life, everything was fine. It wasn’t paradise, but there also wasn’t anything notably wrong.

Everything changed in that moment of trauma. And for the first time in our lives, we got that “something’s wrong here.”

Why is this important? Because you’ve been carrying that context with you from that day on. And if you haven’t been present to this, it’s also been running your life!

When you succumb to addiction, instead of simply acknowledging the action or behavior, you immediately turn to “there’s something wrong here.”

And that perpetuates a guilty conscience. Then we are back to the same cycle of doing things we don’t want to do, beating ourselves up for it, giving more attention to our addictions, rinse, repeat.

What if there was nothing wrong?

See, I can feel you protesting already. Because you won’t even allow yourself to go there. You must keep beating yourself up or you’re a bad person. Otherwise, God himself will deal with you. Am I right?

But in the generous present moment, there is nothing wrong. I doubt that you are getting chased by a dinosaur as you’re reading this. And you are missing that generous present moment by focusing on what’s wrong. You’re not cherishing the present you were given.

You’re too busy projecting into the future, thinking about the consequences of that debt, or that conversation you’re loathing to have, or the project you dropped the ball on.

The future hasn’t happened yet. Can you be present?

What if good and bad was just a meaning we assigned to everything? What if the universe itself doesn’t discriminate between events? What if, to the universe, all events were just events?

“Something’s wrong here” is a meaning we assign to everything if we are not present to it. But now that you are present, you can change the context.

3. Be with Your Emotions

Addiction can often manifest as an escape from some emotion we once did not feel able to deal with. So, it got bottled up.

As you can imagine, there can be a lot of internal buildup if you repeat the same patterns. The moment an intense emotional moment arises, you seek escape, so you turn to addictive behavior. Over time, a molehill can turn into a mountain.

Those with lingering addictions, often, are sensitive and empathetic. They feel deeply and are saddled with emotions whose origins are a little iffy, and can feel overwhelming.

Just for a moment, imagine that there are two of you – your adult self and your child self.

Consider that the emotions screaming out at you are coming from your child self and not your adult self.

And when you see it that way, it’s easy to let go of judgment. If your child were in pain, you would help them. It’s instinct.

What else would you do? Would you try to solve the problem? Perhaps.

But solving may not lead to the results you’re looking for. We spend most of our lives trying to survive and fix situations, and it’s apparent in our communication and how we live our lives.

What a loving parent would do is listen to their child. Acknowledge their pain. Let them know that they love them no matter what.

Is that the way you deal with yourself? If you’ve been beating yourself up for your addictions, then the answer is certainly “no.”

Simply sitting with your emotions and not trying to survive or fix them, not trying to do anything with them except love them, often leads to their dissolving.

It sounds like magic, but it isn’t. It’s just that you have never sat with those emotions long enough or given them the space they needed to find expression.

Next time you feel an intense emotion, close your eyes, and just sit with yourself. Meditate if you like. Listen to the frightened child screaming out, calling for your attention. Listen. Acknowledge the pain. Let it know that you love it no matter what.

Final Thoughts

The better you understand what it means to be human, the less power addiction holds over you.

Maybe your actions and behaviors don’t change overnight. But because you give addictions less attention, their significance diminishes in your life. And that has a way of shifting your actions and behaviors too.

Behavioral modification is treating the symptoms at best, and never gets to the root cause. Beating yourself up will only aggravate your conditions.

You need to listen, acknowledge, forgive, and love as you would a helpless child. That’s all you were ever tasked to do. Leave the rest in the capable hands of God or the universe.

Pay what you want for the first issue of my digital magazine, The Renegade Musician.

The Renegade Musician

Lessons in Creativity, Part 3: Identity

You will feel weird until you can accept who you really are.

If you’ve always felt like you totally belong in this world, and that you’ve always been doing the things you think you were meant to do, then you’re a freak of nature.

Most of us end up trying and experimenting a lot, and even then we don’t necessarily end up finding the “perfect fit”.

And until you “come into your own”, it will always be a struggle making sense of your own thoughts, actions, and beliefs. It will be a struggle making sense of the world.

But getting to the core of who you are is critically important. Dr. Gabor Maté, in his book, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress notes that those who struggle with identity are also prone to autoimmune disorders. This is because they tend to put everyone’s needs before their own, to their own detriment.

INFJs (“the advocate”) already have these tendencies without ever being prompted to please people; we tend to do it naturally. We don’t live for a cause – we represent the cause!

***

Shortly after my band broke up in 2009, I was a mess.

Most shows would end with me feeling completely isolated and left out, regardless of what the objective reality of the situation was.

I didn’t want to be a pest, but I would sometimes tell my band members what was going on inside my head. Sometimes they would coax it out of me because I wouldn’t be in any mood to talk.

But the root cause was always the same – I felt like the other band members were getting all of the attention, and that I was irrelevant.

I’m not saying that I was justified in what I was feeling. But friends and relationships was one area of my life that wasn’t totally going the way I thought it should.

In due course, the band broke up. I’m not sure if I was at fault, or if it was just that the other guys had other things they wanted to pursue. It was probably a bit of both, as evidenced by the fact that two of the band members got married within a very short amount of time thereafter.

I couldn’t totally make sense of what I was feeling, so I decided to see a psychologist. That in itself wasn’t an easy decision, but I didn’t feel like there were many people I could talk to about what I was going through at that point.

Over the course of several sessions, my psychologist said a couple of things that I still remember to this day.

The first was this: “It sounds like you just went through a breakup – like you were in a relationship. The band was your significant other.”

True, a band is a lot like marriage. This is said jokingly a lot of the time, but there’s no denying that you’re committed to the members, you make important decisions together, and the music you create is a collaborative effort.

It was an odd thing for my psychologist to say, but it was probably true. I was dealing with a lot of emotions because I really thought there was a chance at success with this band.

“People usually settle for 80% of what they’re looking for in a partner,” he also told me.

I should clarify that he wasn’t talking about the band at this point. He felt that I should be in a real relationship, with a girl, and that if I didn’t make the effort to talk to someone I was interested in, it was a “missed opportunity” rather than “pre-ordained rejection.”

It was a nice way of framing it, but I wondered if he knew something I didn’t.

Like, how would he know I wouldn’t be rejected by girls? Did I really have redeeming qualities that the opposite sex would find attractive?

***

Perhaps I was spoiled by Japan.

You see, while I was living there, I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble making friends.

For them, it probably had a little bit to do with the novelty of befriending someone from overseas, someone that didn’t share the native skin, eye, or hair color.

I lived in Japan for a total of eight and a half years with my family while going to kindergarten, all the way up through to grade eight.

For the first four years, we lived in an area called Akura, in a small apartment. Akura had a history of breeding some great soccer players, and sure enough, many kids spent recess playing soccer.

It also wasn’t the nicest part of town. As result, I’m pretty sure I made enemies as easily as friends while we lived there.

But when we moved into the mountains, in Sakasedai, I was welcomed with open arms. Sure, not all of the kids liked me, but they cheered when I showed up for the first day of school – literally!

I made a lot of friends, and it wasn’t hard work. Sure, I still had a rotating circle of five or six “best friends” based on common interest, but there were very few kids with whom I didn’t meet and interact with. Well, I was a little shy about the girls mind you.

***

I’m 33 now. Just recently, I was asked by a customer experience manager at a bank if I was in post-secondary school. I laughed.

I still look quite young. I feel young. But only now do I feel like I’m truly comfortable with whom I really am.

This is after spending time in environments where independent thinking was simultaneously promoted and pushed down – in church, in school, at work, and in network marketing meetings. God, network marketing meetings.

My point is this: it isn’t going to be easy if your expectations don’t match up with your natural talents, abilities, tendencies, and even your personality type.

But I’ve discovered that you can’t have expectations for other people – unless you’re leading them. You have to make sure to voice your expectations too!

When you let go of these expectations, you will put a lot of doubt, a lot of confusion, and a lot of procrastination to rest. As my counselor once taught me, “unspoken expectations are premeditated resentment.”

Actions always speak louder than words. If you want to know what someone’s agenda truly is, forget their words – just watch what they do next.

I admire Derek Sivers because he’s willing to embrace his strengths and do the work that complements his personality. It’s not bad to stretch yourself, and I have no doubt that Derek does, but if you’re expecting something out of yourself that you have no way of creating or providing, you can expect your identity crisis to continue.

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