An Open Apology to the Non-Fiction, Self-Help Genre

Hi, my name’s Nicole, and I’m a reformed non-fiction, self-help book hater.

Previous blogs may make it seem like I hate non-fiction, especially of the self-help variety. It’s not that I hate it, it’s that it’s not what gets me fired up when choosing books. At least it wasn’t until last year.

What broke my stubborn streak? Once I started reading more, I wanted to add a wider variety of books – including those for personal and professional development. Upping my reading habit coincided with a new mental health diagnosis and the start of a new job. Since I had a lot of novel things to figure out, I thought I might as well add some self-help into the mix.

I learned that while there’s a lot of fluff out there, there’s also a lot of good advice that my stubborn ass was finally open to taking in. Here’s what I’ve found separates the worthwhile ones from the junk.

Well-researched

If you’re trying to convince me an idea works, you need to give me the proof. Any book that comes in with reputable studies and pertinent real-life examples to back up its claims is already far and ahead of some of the “best” self-help books I’ve read.

There are two ways these books fail at this first step. The first is the quality of the studies they use. Self-help books love using pop culture science – pop psychology being the worst offender. The moment that authors start sharing debunked research, like the Stanford Prison experiment, I no longer trust them. If they can’t take the extra minute to Google whether it’s true that showing willpower as a child sets you out for later career success or that the average person only uses 10% of their brain, then I find it hard to trust the rest. Just in case you’re wondering, neither of these are true.

The second, are the real-world examples used to illustrate the effectiveness of the advice. Some famous individuals have become a staple in self-help literature: Steve Jobs, Theodore Roosevelt, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, and Albert Einstein. These paragons of excellence have entered the pantheon of “most-successful-people-who’ve-ever-succeeded”. It weakens the argument when every example I’m reading are the usual suspects. On the other hand, if your only examples are average Joes with generic names who would be difficult to track down if needed, doubts start to creep in, wondering if these people exist. Being selective, specific, and critical with examples goes a long way in building trust.

Who does this well? The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How To Make The Most Of Them Now by Meg Jay Ph.D. + Why We Sleep: Unlocking The Power Of Sleep And Dreams by Matthew Walker Ph.D.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to write a book, but it shows when you do. Both of these books nail it when it comes to backing up their advice with facts.

If you’re still in your twenties, I recommend The Defining Decade. An easy read that covers why you should start laying the foundation for the life you’d want to live already in your 20s, even if you’re also figuring things out. Meg Jay uses real-life examples from therapy sessions they’ve conducted, with some pretty convincing evidence as to why waiting until your 30s to set a good foundation isn’t ideal.

Reading Why We Sleep gave me many sleepless nights where I reevaluated how little I’d prioritized sleep in my life. At the time of reading it, I was working a hectic job that made having a consistent sleep schedule impossible. This book forced me to come face-to-face with the reality that this was unsustainable. The evidence that Matthew Walker provides is hard-hitting and makes it a must-read for anyone still not convinced that getting enough sleep at night matters.

To the point

The majority of self-help books I’ve read are quite short to start with (under 250 pages), and often half the book is unnecessary. The culprit behind this disaster? I’m blaming an abundance of long-winded examples and anecdotes, paired with a heavy hand of repetition.

Remember that thing about good examples mattering? This is why. One well-chosen example can outweigh 5 mediocre ones. This also goes for personal anecdotes that sidetrack more than illustrating the point.

I get it. Repeating something helps it stick. Repeating something helps it stick. R̸̡̝̫̫͈̆ẽ̸͎͎̹̖̬̽͛̈́̚p̵̬͔̓̚e̵̡̪͇͔̾ͅa̶̱̽̀͝t̴̯̻͈̝̂͛͘i̵̛̟̬̮͒͛̈́͂n̷͕̍͆̏g̶͕͖̫̮͔̎ ̸̻̘̯͝ş̶͝ơ̷̗̬͊̉̇̈́m̸͕̤͆̐͘e̴̛̟͔̓͌̊̿t̶̡̪̂͜͝ͅĥ̸̨͎̝̮͓̀̎̈́i̵̩͝ṅ̴̨͍̞̣͖̍̽̋̔g̵̥̜̳̣̅͜͝ ̵̘̔́̄͑ḫ̸̟̔è̶̖ḷ̶̝̗̲͌͐p̵̡̣̭͚̗̎̚͠s̴̪͜͝ ̸̠̇̒̀͑i̷̗̮͙͌̈́͠t̶̠͙̣̮̓̓̐ ̴̘͔̳̩̔͠s̴̙͍͉̦̘̒̏̅̚t̵̡̙̖͍͑͝ͅi̶̼͈̭̺̫̒̆͝ć̴̨̥̯̄̏̓ḱ̵͙̃. But there’s a finite amount of times this can be done until it becomes condescending, even when it’s done with a wink and a nudge. When heavy-handed, the tendency to repeat statements can come across as the author thinking you’re too thick to remember the point if it’s not repeated two thousand times.

I’m not reading your book for style but content, so please, just say what you’ve got to say without underestimating the reader and get out.

Who does this well? Deep Work by Cal Newport

As someone who finds it difficult to pay attention to…anything, I came into this book skeptical. A book about how deeply focusing on one task is better than pinging back and forth? Well, that’s not only impossible, but it can’t make that much of a difference.

Still, it’d been recommended so often, why not give it a go? Well, I’m happy I did, because Cal Newport puts together a convincing book about the benefits of deep work and how to integrate the practice in your life.

While never overstaying its welcome.

Specific and actionable, yet flexible

Some people read self-help non-fiction to be inspired.

I am not one of these people.

I’m not interested in vague sentences about believing in yourself. I read self-help non-fiction to learn how to do things better. I don’t want the author to just share their philosophy with me, but for them to also share how to best put it into effect. Only telling people what to do, without providing them the ways how to do it, isn’t just useless. It can come across as gatekeeping at best, and like you don’t actually understand your ideas as much as you think you do, at worst. Once again, being specific helps in creating credibility. Even if the only point of reference is how the author did it, as long as that’s recognized, it goes a long way in building trust.

Very few of the self-help non-fiction books I’ve come across allow for adaptability in their advice. If the author also recognizes that human beings can differ in the way they live their lives, their resources, and their ways of thinking, I’m sold. Stepping away from the one-size-fits-all mentality shows an effort to think about the solution being provided from more than one angle.

If you can’t tell me what to do with your advice and are incapable of giving options or seeing more than one way to implement it, I’m left doubting its use. General tips like “be more organized” or “learn to prioritize” don’t do anything for me, unless you can give the specifics.

Who does this well? A classic: How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

At this point, How To Win Friends and Influence People is infamous. If you haven’t read it, you’ve most likely already heard about it. I wasn’t keen on reading it, at first. I thought this book was going to be an amalgamation of nebulous motivational confidence boosters. Or, it was going to be the handbook to manipulate other people to bend to your will. Neither of these sounded interesting to me.

But then my partner pushed me to read it because he found it useful. And since this was in the beginning stages of the relationship where you’re still trying hard to impress each other, so you follow through on their recommendations, I read it. And he was right. It is useful.

I am a human who gets sweaty at even the thought of interacting with other humans. Dale Carnegie’s tips have helped me be a little bit less sweaty. Which I’m qualifying as a win.

Doesn’t only exist to sell the author

I understand that authors of self-help books have to sell themselves a little. We don’t want to take advice from someone who isn’t successful or happy or an expert in whatever they’re vouching. We want to learn from the best. Unless they’re already a worldwide famous figure, they will need to bring in their credentials to convince us they are worth taking advice from.

But more often than not, from the first few pages, you can tell that a book was written to sell the author and his services more than it was to help you. If I read one more marketing book where the author says they were doing something unrelated to marketing but “I’m just so weird and quirky that this completely non-marketing thing reminded me of something marketing-related” in an effort to convince you of their expertise, I will throw myself – or them – into an active printing press.

This flaw becomes particularly egregious when the author’s wrapped up in an inspirational spiel with little substance, while also aggrandizing their own accomplishments. If the conclusion to your story is “it worked so well for me because I’m so smart and I’ll tell you how you could be too, but at a price“, then I’ll stick to not making deals with the devil and moving on to another book that will give me the information I want in one go.

You can have your actions speak louder than words, even when relying only on words. I promise.

Who does this well? On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

This one almost feels like cheating. Considering Stephen King’s reputation and what he specializes in, he more than proves himself as a master of his craft without having to explicitly shove it in your face.

On Writing gives useful writing tips in the context of Stephen King’s own experiences as an author. He takes you on his journey from amateur writer to bestselling author, sharing best practices along the way, without ever feeling like he’s bragging or boasting or trying to sell you his latest book.

It’s not about avoiding talking about yourself, it’s about not putting yourself on a pedestal in an attempt to gain the respect of your reader. Have some trust in your reader and let them decide first, before grabbing them by the shoulders and yelling out your accolades in their face.

I wish I’d told the contrarian in me to shut up and just give the genre a try earlier than I did. Instead, I’ve spent years flip-flopping between either believing I was too capable to do things on my own or believing that I was so different and broken I was beyond help. Getting outside my comfort zone and reading more helpful non-fiction hasn’t changed my life, but I’ve gained some useful tips, tricks, and tidbits along the way that have come in handy.

Simply put: self-help non-fiction can be a great tool to further your understanding of yourself and increase your knowledge about the things that matter to you.

Even though sometimes it’s still more fun to figure things out yourself, not caring if you end up falling on your face.

How To Read 100 Books In A Year (From Someone Not Organized Or Good At Finishing Things)

If there’s something I hate, it’s book snobs.

You know the ones.

The ones who give you 75 quotes on why every successful person on the planet reads 5 books every day so you should be doing it too. The ones who put reading books on a pedestal of “the ultimate, bestest way to consume information and improve yourself/your life”.

I love books and reading is an important part in my life, but I feel like people forget that reading should be accessible and easy and fun.

While sure, reading can make you more productive or intelligent or more empathetic or a more interesting person, it doesn’t have to be the end goal. I read because it’s fun. And you should too.

Because I wanted to get back into enjoying reading as much as I did when I was a kid, I’ve been setting reading challenges for myself. After two successful reading challenges in the last couple years, I’m finally on track to conquering 100 books for this year.

There’s a lot of advice out there online, but most of it seems to be for the more organized, hustle-culture, productivity-booster type of individual. I do not count myself among those. I’m more of a loosey-goosey, absent-minded, eccentric-art-teacher, later-in-life-diagnosed-ADHD kind of type.

And here’s what worked for me.

Start small.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve heard it all before: don’t run until you can walk, don’t bite off more than you can chew, slow and steady wins the race, ad nauseam. It’s cliche, but in this case, it’s cliche for a reason. Of course it’s exciting to set your first reading target to be 100 in a year. It’s an impressive number, but it can be overwhelming if you’re not already in the habit of reading regularly.

If you’re starting off setting a reading challenge, have it be relative to your starting position. For me, I started with 25, then 52, and this year 100, because that’s what felt feasible.

Build up to it. As you see your want-to-read list grow, you’ll also be motivated to take on more next time.

Prioritize reading

There’s no getting around it, you have to make reading a priority. Expect to significantly cut down on watching shows, movies, or spending time on social media.

It’s necessary to be mindful of what you’re reading when building in the habit to go for a book instead of… anything else. If you use other forms of media to unwind, don’t try to immediately replace them with books on gender or quantum theory. Try to go for something that you could see as being equally as entertaining.

Basically: you’ll have to get off that darn phone, but feel free to replace mindless scrolling with mindless fluff books if that’s your jam. Just make it a switch you look forward to.

Read what you like (and what you think you might like)

Start off by reading what you like.  

If you’re not sure what you like because it’s been some time since you picked up a book or are deciding to start for the first time, this is where you brainstorm.

If you’re already a reader, go back to your old favorites and start there. If you’re not, there will be genres and topics you find interesting in other forms of media that you can carry over into the books you choose.

I love comedy, but never read funny books when I was younger. One of the first things I did when starting my first reading challenge was look up “funniest books” and tick off a bunch on that list. Even if your niche is “bleak Scandinavian detective shows”, there will usually be a literary equivalent.

Feel free to start exploring topics you’ve always wanted to know more about. I do enjoy non-fiction (despite what it may seem like from my tips), but only in very specific topics like illustration, gender theory, autobiographies, or marketing and communications – because I can apply the last one to my regular job.

If you suspect there might be a topic you could enjoy, add that to the list.

Do your research

What do I mean by the list?

The list will be the place where you put everything you want to read. This can include anything from:

  • Book recommendations from friends
  • Book recommendations from influential people you respect
  • Books you’ve been wanting to read for a while
  • Genres you want to explore
  • Specific authors you enjoy and want to know more on
  • People you find inspiring/interesting who you’d like to read about
  • Topics related to professional development (your job, industry, productivity tips)
  • Topics related to personal development (hobbies, self-actualization, philosophy)
  • Anything and everything you could think about that you’d like to spend time on.

The list will be essential in meeting your reading goals.

Now that you’ve given some thought into what you’d like to read, jot them down. Organize it however works best for you – through Excel or through an automated platform.

Sometimes one of the biggest problems with reading is wondering what you’re in the mood to read. Take the guess work and mental strain out of figuring that out and just use your list as your go-to.

Automate keeping track of what you’re reading

If you’re not on Goodreads already, get on it. And for those who don’t want to support Amazon (Goodreads is owned by Amazon, in case you didn’t already know), StoryGraph provides a great alternative that gives you even more data on your books, like mood, average length, and difficulty.

Either of these platforms will give you a great place to input what you’re reading, let you set a reading goal, tell you if you’re on track with it, and a place to dump your want-to-read list. Plus, you can categorize and rate each book, which will lead to more book recommendations.

If you’re looking to switch over to StoryGraph, you can even export your Goodreads data into StoryGraph so you don’t have to manually input everything.

Physical books, tablets, and e-readers, oh my!

You don’t have to stick to physical books during the entire challenge. If you want to save money and space, combine them with a tablet and/or e-reader.

Having several devices for reading is beneficial because each has their own benefit:

  • Physical books can be great to read at home, especially if you’re reading before bed.
  • Physical books are easier to read if you’re prone to getting distracted.
  • E-books are cheaper and take up less space than physical books.
  • E-book libraries are much more accessible than physical libraries since you don’t have to worry about physically returning anything.
  • If you’re traveling, an e-reader or tablet is more practical than carrying around books. Plus, if you get bored with your current read, you’ll have many more available.

Not limiting yourself to one medium means that you can read whenever works for you. Yes, this means you can still have screen time and read at night and sacrifice your sleep. We’re focusing on how to read more. If you’re already going to stay up late, you might as well replace your phone or TV time with a book.

VARIATION. IS. KEY.

Don’t stick to just one genre or author. Combine short books with long ones. Switch up difficulty levels: combine dense novels with easy breezy reads. Go for fiction and then non-fiction.

Read several books at the same time so you can hop between them in case you get stuck on one and don’t be scared to keep on turning to the list and mixing things up.

If you’re not easily bored, you can skip this one. But, if you’re like me, keeping things varied will make sure you don’t feel stagnant. Following up a marketing book with a graphic novel may seem odd to some, but it can help keep the challenge exciting.  

Variation keeps things fresh.

Keep a mini-library

Make sure you’ve got a pile of books ready to be picked up. This goes for both physical and digital copies.

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll reach point where you don’t know what to read and you want to make it as easy for yourself as possible. If you have pre-selected options to choose from based on the list you made, you’ll be more likely to keep going.

If you’re feeling stuck, going out to buy a new book could be an extra mental hurdle that leads to procrastination. If it’s already there, you’ll be less likely to resist the idea of starting a new book because it’s glaring back at you to read it.

So keep your e-reader stocked with options and stop vilifying the unread stack of books piling on dust in your house by using and replenishing it.

It’s more than fine if you fall behind

I’ve already professed how great I think Goodreads is, but I must admit that sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship. Goodreads will let you know if you’re on track for your reading challenge. And it feels great when you’re ahead.

But when it shows you that you’re four books behind (like I currently am at the moment of writing) it can be a teensy bit anxiety-inducing. I want to read and achieve the goal of 100 books, but I know if I panic, I’ll end up procrastinating.

Then I remind myself that I set this goal for myself and no one else and that the whole point is to have fun with it. And I also know this has happened before and I can catch up – I just have to prioritize reading a bit more for the next couple of weeks.

Remember: this is for you and it’s really all about reading more, not about hitting that magical number 100. Don’t stress if you’re behind. Enjoy the journey and read as much as you can.

Part of what led me to challenging myself to read more were some key encounters with old friends. Right when I’d resigned myself to reading less (the motivation wasn’t there anymore) quite a few people in my past started bringing up the fact that they became interested in reading because of how voraciously I read.

The reasons why? Up until then 1) they didn’t realize that reading being fun was an option and 2) they thought to be an avid reader you needed to be on some higher level of self-improvement, or some intellectual path.

That’s really what it took to get the fire going again. A reminder from some old friends of something I’d almost forgotten: reading should be fun and accessible.

If you want to know what didn’t work for my disorganized brain, head here.

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

Reasons LinkedIn Influencers are The Worst

Apart from ruining the words “algorithm” and “viral” for me forever, managing corporate social media accounts has made me hate LinkedIn – the supposed platform for professionals and businesses to network and put their best face forward.

More specifically, it’s made me hate the special breed of influencer that lives on LinkedIn: the LinkedInfluencer.

The LinkedInfluencer: Who Are They

LinkedInfluencer: a social media influencer whose primary platform is LinkedIn. Those whose every other post is a humblebrag, rooted in hustle culture, who subscribe to that “if I can do it, so can you” mentality – disregarding that their upbringing came with all the privilege in the world.

If you’ve been on LinkedIn, you’ve probably run into them before.

They’re those people in your network obsessed with painting themselves as the most professional professional who’s ever professionaled. And, most importantly, they achieved everything you wish you could in life, but they did it all by themselves, through their hard work and dedication (and absolutely nothing else, they swear).

Let’s break down just why they’re the worst.

LinkedInspirational

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Source: Twitter @TheStateofLinkedIn

The LinkedInfluencer lives for inspirational stories.

Stories where the underdog loses everything but ends up coming out on top. Stories where an employee teaches a boss a lesson in humility – with them being the boss in question, of course. Stories that make 90s sports movies seem grim in comparison.

If you’re not in the position to leverage a socioeconomic systemic disadvantage, don’t worry, there’s always a way. I’ve seen people take the most selfish business successes and weasel in an Anne Frank quote just to (try to) trick their audience into being inspired.

And if all else fails, just make some shit up about a job candidate with no qualifications whatsoever becoming a superstar CEO because they understood the true value of hard work.

That always works.

#Grateful #Humble #Blessed

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Source: Twitter @TheStateofLinkedIn

Humblebragging, the act of pretending to say something self-deprecating or humble that actually highlights a success, is all over LinkedIn. There are two flavors of humblebrag: the one where you show off how much money you’re making and the one where you show off how good of a person you are.

The first one is pretty easy to spot. Some common ones?

  1. The “oh, I didn’t realize the keys to my expensive car were in the shot”.
  2. The “oops, didn’t mean to share a close-up of my designer luggage”.
  3. The “very casual shot of my everyday life in my enormous house”.

The second one is more insidious. These posts hold a dual function of telling you they’re a good person while humanizing them by celebrating they do regular activities too.

Common tactics to look out for:

  1. The “good” parent post. Some people just go for the age-old adage that everybody likes children. These posts generally talk about how they spent time with their child for the first time in months and realized that spending time with them reminded them they loved them – or that they existed at all.
  2. The good Samaritan post. If you hand a person in need money and don’t tell your LinkedIn network about it, did you even help them at all? According to a certain subset of humans, the answer is a resounding no.
  3. The eco-warrior. Particular egregious when it’s happening outside the sustainability industry. I’ve seen people working for highly polluting companies decide they were the beacons of information the public needs when it comes to sustainability tips. Turns out, you can make “taking the train to work instead of driving” a whole personality trait!

When it comes to the humblebrag, it always feels a little bit too uncomfortably personal. Somewhere along the line, people have forgotten that Facebook and Instagram exist. NB: Your veiled excuse to brag about how great you are might not be appreciated by the people who already put up with you in your daily work life.

Pair one of these posts with the insufferable zest of hustle culture, and you’re on your way to becoming a true LinkedInfluencer.

Hustle culture 5ever (5ever, because it’s more than 4ever)

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Source: Twitter @TheStateofLinkedIn

The cult of “rise and grind” is aaaaaaaall over LinkedIn.

If you’re waking up at 5, well, they’re waking up at 4. If you’ve been reading a book a week, well, they’ve been reading 3 books a day. And if you’re happy with your life because you’ve achieved some semblance of work/life balance that’s good for your health? Well, sheep, if you’re not pushing yourself to your breaking point and alienating your loved ones, then why even work at all?

It’s a one-size-fits-all culture of guilt and shame disguised as celebrating and perpetuating a good work ethic, with a supposed steadfast formula to success. When at its most toxic, this mentality assumes that the only way to be successful is for you to approach every challenge like you’re a white finance bro or girl boss with a rich daddy. And if you fail at that, it’s all on you.

The promotion of no-excuses hustle culture while simultaneously spouting incessant inspirational stories about giving people a chance, is just one of the oxymorons of the LinkedInfluencer.

Hello, Captain Obvious

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Source: Twitter @TheStateofLinkedIn

LinkedInfluencers love posting about ideas that are obvious to everybody but that they think are groundbreaking. While other influencers, like YouTubers, strive for relatability, LinkedInfluencers strive for uniqueness – or as they call it, a personal brand. They need to believe they can provide a one-of-a-kind perspective on every topic.

They’ll write posts and articles about their journey to success and learnings along the way even if it doesn’t matter that nobody asked them for any of it. The more jargon and buzzwords they can add into the mix, the better. After all, we’re on a professional platform, where the more people you alienate, the more of a high-achieving entrepreneur you are.

In reality, half of the time these posts read like a college student whose paper is due in an hour and still needs 800 words to reach the word limit. The other half of the time it feels like you’re reading some finance bro or girlboss’ half-baked slam poetry.

The only way I’m reading LinkedInfluencer posts from here on out.

At the end of the day, the goal is to inspire others in the most self-serving way possible in an effort to feel important.

“Thoughts?”

Source: my own feed

But just how are you going to convince others to engage with the half-baked post you just posted? Luckily, LinkedIn convention states there’s a perfect, one-word question to instigate discussion: “Thoughts?”

Every time I see a post end in “Thoughts?”, a little part of me dies. While I am not opposed to hearing or sharing thoughts overall – my very blog section is titled THOUGHTS – the way that this question is used is always just a low-effort way to try to game the algorithm into thinking your post is more interesting than it is.

The worst? When people repeatedly post a statement that nobody would deny, followed by “Thoughts?”.

“[Insert your profession here] is underrated. Thoughts?”.

“You should be paid more if you work more. Thoughts??“.

“Child slavery is bad and we shouldn’t bring it back. Thoughts???“.

I’m not against working hard.

I’m not against trying your best or giving people a chance or generating thought-provoking discussions with other specialists in your professional sphere.

What I’m against is low-effort, bullshit content that just propels the myth that if you just work really really hard, guys, you can do anything you want because you’re the only one setting yourself back. I’m against perpetuating the myth of being self-made, without acknowledging that you were able to afford doing unpaid internships (or even worse – rely on the work of unpaid interns) in a city with a ridiculous cost of living. I’m against pretending everybody has the same hours in the day, when some people are struggling because they need to take a second job, or are responsible for their household, or need those hours to recover, because they’re struggling with illness – mental or physical.

I’m against people being ego-inflating unoriginal dicks blinded to their own privilege acting like they’re inspirational thought leaders and underdogs.

Anyways.

Before I forget to ask…

ψ Ť̷̢̨͔̹̲̂Ḧ̶̙̠̱́̊̑ͅO̴̢̟͖͒͛́͆̍U̶̺̟̩͐̄̾̀͝G̶̨̩͎̈̂͒̕H̶̟̪͌͋T̶̜̩̩̋͘S̴̙͉̦̼̄̔?̵̖̘̤̝͊̒̃́͜͠ ⛥

Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.

I’ve Never Been Good at Sticking with Things: The Lifecycle of an Abandoned Hobby

As you get older, you begin to accept parts of yourself that you used to be delusional about. At the ripe old age of 26-going-on-27, I’ve already come to understand a few things:

  • Bangs in any way, shape, or form do not look good on me,
  • I will never be the “chill girl”, because I have never been chill for a second of my life,
  • And I have never been, and probably never will be, good at sticking with things.

I could blame the last one on an inability to stick to routine, an ego that can’t handle not being perfect at everything immediately, or an attention span that rivals that of a coked-up squirrel. But instead of taking responsibility for my actions, I’ll just blame my parents. It’s their fault for being too supportive of their children, encouraging us to be independent and take ownership of our hobbies. Instead, they should have been over-invested in what we were doing and set up unrealistic expectations that we’d never meet. Like normal parents.

Despite this dilemma of nurture or nature, the result is the same: I have more abandoned hobbies than I can even list. While I can’t remember each reason for picking them up or why I abandoned them, at this point, all I am sure of is that they all go through the same cycle.

Phase 1: The Epiphany

It starts innocuous enough. Your friends are doing cartwheels around the schoolyard and are talking about the new gymnastics class they all signed up to. No, you watched a YouTube video on nail art and realized you can walk around with ladybugs on your nails all the time. Wait no, your sister came back from her tap-dancing class in a leotard and tap shoes and oh look, everyone’s looking at her, and doesn’t that look really fun?

And then the thought creeps in….

“I could totally do that.”

Phase 2: The Honeymoon Phase

You’ve now done it a couple times and it feels a-ma-zing. You’ve convinced yourself that this new thing you’re doing is going to change your life. The stars have aligned, and you’ve finally found your calling.

Although you’ve just started – or not even that yet – you’ve already told every person you’ve met about the new coding app you bought (even though just the thought of anything too detail-oriented and logical makes your eyes glaze over) or shown them your brand-new rollerskates (even though you’re terrified of going faster than walking speed or doing any tricks without at least 7 layers of padding on first).

It’s all uphill from here, bay-bay!

Phase 3: The Struggle

It turns out to be good at things you have to actually be consistent… and slog through the rough parts… and you’ll probably most likely suck in the beginning. And it turns out you won’t be an amazing superstar/professional athlete/X-games winner/yogi instructor/coding genius after a month.

Although this happens every time, you are both shocked at how hard things can be and disappointed at the lackluster results. This time was supposed to be different. You saw how it was all supposed to play out (ending with you being awesomely amazing at everything, naturally), and now see your half-baked dreams slipping through your fingers.

And all you have to show for it is a malformed vase your ten-year-old hands made in a community center basement, surrounded by sexagenarians.

Phase 4: The Bargaining

You know what? Who even has the time and energy to do something every few days for a limited amount of time to get better at it? What do you mean spending an incessant amount of hours in a short time isn’t sustainable?

You’ve tried to see it through and still, things don’t seem to be getting much better. Your fingers still hurt from playing the guitar those three times for like 15 minutes and you’re still unsure if you’ll ever be able to pick and strum at the same time. Ignoring the fact that every 20-something year old guy with a beanie can do it, you’ve convinced yourself that people who can do this must be multi-armed wizards.

And since you’re not an appendagely-gifted wizard and honestly, it’s getting kind of boring, you quietly give up.

Phase 5: The Shame

Here’s the thing with quietly giving up: it doesn’t really work when you’ve announced to the whole world that you’re seriously – but like, seriously this time – taking on a new hobby. That unlike last time, this time you did the research and bought all the right stuff for it. And yes, I know I quit the other thing but this time I made a PLAN.

You want to disappear as soon as someone starts asking about how your YouTube channel’s going and when you’re going to post your next video on how to quit shopping for a year. You want the Earth to swallow you and the over-stuffed Zara bag(s) hanging on your arm. But since it won’t, the best thing to do is just accept the shame, own up to your flakiness, and mumble something about a completely unrelated topic to distract them.

Plus, I just saw this other thing that it turns out I really want to do, and I think I could be really good at it? And if I was doing the first thing I just gave up, I’d have no time to do this new thing! I’m not actually giving up, I’m just prioritizing. Look! I’m making a plan and everything!

Was this entire blog a long-winded way to say that I hope this lasts but that my track record isn’t exactly stellar, so please, set your expectations accordingly? Maybe.

But hey, a few things have stuck along the way. I still make art and love to read and even write every so often. You try so many things out, something’s bound to stick.

Let’s hope this one does too.