The Inspirational Listicle

Over the past week I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time on Medium. It’s so easy – they recommend new articles for you, they tell you how long it will take to read, the font is so nice! It’s very easy to get lost and overwhelmed.

But two articles have stuck with me:

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, And More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms by Benjamin Hardy

To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind by Jamie Varon

Hardy’s article is a classic of its genre – corporate-y life maximize your life you don’t have to conform here’s how to game a system in which I am privileged. It reminded me a lot of some of James Altucher’s writing. I followed Altucher’s writing for a while when I was seventeen until someone pointed out to me how many of his tips were based in white male privilege. Some of Hardy’s tips are more manageable and I am very susceptible to the motivational listicle. I frequently fall into the pattern of thought where I am only one article, one inspirational tip, away from living my dream life.

My dad and I are taking tip 15 (Replace warm showers with cold ones) to heart and testing it out for a week. It’s supposed to give us more energy and get us up and ready for the day. It worked the first day but subsequently I have faced each morning with dread at the thought of having to stand under the cold shower head for 5 minutes while I wash my hair. Even worse, if this silly little Tony Robbins-endorsed tip really works, we’re going to have to take cold showers for the rest of our lives.

The other 49 tips seem overwhelming. Marry your best friend? I just spent ten minutes on Tinder talking about roller derby. Create an automated source of income that takes care of the fundamentals? Sorry, gotta bang out these cover letters first. Optimize your life might sound like a good goal for someone who is already living some semblance of a put-together life, but for someone who is in a time of transition, personally economically and politically, this is not useful.

This is where Jamie Varon’s article comes in. A digital writer who I follow on Twitter (I can’t remember which one) tweeted a link to it and I, ever eager for another trip into the whirlwind of Medium, clicked through. For the first time after reading a Medium article, I could breathe. (It helps that Varon’s article is a 5 minute read, compared to Hardy’s 30). Varon’s bolded pull quote is clear and important: “And what I think we all need more than anything is this: permission to be wherever the fuck we are when we’re there.”

I am an unemployed recent college grad who finished school a semester early in order to take some time off and figure out what she wanted. That is where I am. This ‘semester’ (what is time when you’re not in school) is half over and I still don’t know what I want. Timing is important, and February just wasn’t my time. (That’s why it’s March 1 and I am optimistically starting this new project).

If those 30 point listicles about how to game your life and optimize your time and energize your body are helpful for you, then yeah, go read them. I know that I’m about to jump down the rabbit hole of 5k training tips. But it’s not the end all be all. You are where you are and that is more than okay. That is good. You can’t game timing. Stop looking for the video game cheats to your life.



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