Shadi Mirza

Marketing sherpa. Digital content wonk. Serial blogger. Not following your passion is death.

How I learned to stop giving a shit and delete all social media

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

I just did the social media equivalent of packing up all my things and leaving. 

Not one hour ago, I requested all my Facebook data. And as soon as it was safely uploaded to Google Drive, I deleted my account (apparently it takes 14 days — probably because Zuckerberg hopes I’ll come crawling back).

High as a Georgia pine on righteous indignation toward Facebook and its carelessness with my data, I kept the social media exile train rolling. Twitter? The only thing that platform ever did of note was normalize Trump. Deleted. And Instagram, the site most responsible for destroying young people’s mental health? I’m over it. Tumblr and Quora followed suit.

Look, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say that I’m somehow much happier without social media—it hasn’t even been a day. But I can say that I’ve been mentally preparing for this moment for a few months.

Want to see if you’re ready to commit social media seppuku? Start by following in my footsteps.

1. Delete social media apps from your phone.

It isn’t just more cumbersome to log into a site like Facebook through Safari on mobile. A lot of the functionality isn’t there, either. You have to really want to share mundane ramblings about your day to post on mobile. So if you find yourself unwilling to exert the effort, maybe it isn’t worth expending.

2. Unfollow everyone you know.

Again, you’re testing to see if you care about your Facebook friends’ status updates enough to manually type their names into the search bar, as opposed to being fed their content like a goldfish in a glass bowl. I’m willing to bet you’ll find it easier, and more rewarding, to just hit people up through Messenger or SMS.

3. Think about what else you could be doing.

In the past four months, I’ve read more books than I did in the entirety of 2017. Think about that for a second. So much of my free time was being gobbled up social media that I could even crack a book. That’s pretty sad for someone with two degrees in English.

You don’t have to go on a reading spree, but I’m sure you can think of things more worthy of your time than social media. So start doing them instead of checking your phone or your desktop web browser. You may just find yourself logging out of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—permanently.

Unless you’re dying of some terminal illness or something

Photo by Ricky Kharawala on Unsplash

I had a stress-free morning. After a quick shower, I made my family some breakfast, saw my wife out the door and got the girls ready for school and daycare. The drive to both places was leisurely — there was no traffic, but we would have been fine even if the AZ-51 was packed tighter than passengers in a United airplane.

This morning stood in complete contrast to others. Usually, by the time I’ve made food for everyone else, mine is cold. And I have to shovel it into my gaping maw like someone who hasn’t had a meal in ages.

My morning commute is racked with terror—that my oldest daughter will be tardy for school, that my stress will translate into me being short with my girls. Or, maybe, in my haste to keep so many balls in the air, I’ll get into a car accident. But none of those anxieties filled my head today. Why?

I gave myself the luxury of time.

All I had to do to avoid stress, this whole time, was get up early, rouse the kids from sleep and start my day with more time than I needed.

Give yourself the luxury of time. Wake up earlier. Start your day by banking precious minutes, and then revel in the space you’ve created with them. Read the paper. Read to your kids. Or, I don’t know, poach some damn eggs.

My point is, just because your family runs like a well-oiled machine, and you know exactly what time you have to leave the house to get everyone where they need to be, doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit by jumpstarting your day sooner.

Shit happens. Accidents add time to your commute. Breakfast has a way of soiling a child’s clothes. Wardrobe changes eat up time. So give yourself more of it.

And just breathe.

Or why it's okay to pump your brakes on occasion

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

I was slumped back in a chair at the Glasgow Marriott when my wife regarded the lump of flesh attempting to hop the border of my shirt.

“Is that your gut?” she asked. I looked down at my paunch. “I guess it is,” I replied.

At first, I was perplexed — we'd been doing nothing but walking and hiking during the first leg of our vacation in the United Kingdom. But the more I thought about it, I realized that the insane volume of beer I'd been consuming, combined with pub food like a shared plate of three-pound nachos, filled me with more calories than I could burn walking around Arthur's Seat.

Now, I like to think I’m an active guy. I do bodyweight exercises. I also run. When I don’t exercise, I get crabby (a point to which my wife will be more than happy to attest). But on vacation, I made it a point to quit being so, um, extra.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Here's why:

1. Quitting reminds you why you started. That moment in the hotel made me realized why I love living an active lifestyle. My clothes were getting tighter. I actually had to watch what I was eating. And climbing stairs became a chore. That sucked for me.

I don't have to deal with any of that when I'm really active. Switching off made me realize that I want — no, need — to be on.

2. It keeps you from crashing and burning. There was a point when I was training for a marathon and running anywhere from 40-50 miles a week. After my second consecutive Sunday doing a 20-mile training run, I started to question why I was sacrificing my sleep and sanity.

So I stopped running, and I didn't start again for almost six months. If only I had given myself permission to skip a run or take a vacation between training programs, I may have kept my weekly miles up.

3. It gives you a (self-imposed) hurdle to overcome. Maybe the path to your goal has been a smooth one. Mine was, up to a point. Week after week, I upped my mileage until I was nearly ready to start chasing marathon medals. When I stopped running, I hit the wall I had created for myself harder than I anticipated. And I surrendered to apathy.

I decided I wanted to cultivate muscle mass instead of spending a large chunk of my morning, which usually began at 4 AM, running the same block over and over again.

My two-week descent into gluttony lit a fire under my ass. Yes, running a marathon is a thing I want to do. I can sleep when I'm dead. But I still want to do pull-ups, push-ups and all that jazz.

It just means I'll have to get up earlier.

A shallow analysis based on very little evidence

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Last night, my oldest daughter, Nadia, asserted that the Earth was flat. She refused to tell us who put this idea in her head, which either means she’s being secretly brainwashed or she has a five-year-old’s understanding of the world. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but, let’s go for the overly dramatic option here for absolutely no reason.

My youngest daughter, Rowan, does nothing but scream all day. Oh, she wants a coffee biscuit? Cue the screams. Is Rowan thirsty? She’s gonna scream. And if she’s had a short nap and looks visibly exhausted? Brother, you know Rowan’s going to shriek like a banshee.

Let’s put aside for a second the clear cause of all these changes, which is that we abandoned them for two weeks and went on a European vacation. I’m not a child psychologist—separation anxiety is not even remotely in my lane. But freaking out about my kids being total weirdos is.

What the hell is going on here, man? Did my in-laws let them have free reign of the house? Probably. Did they consume nothing but sugar and processed garbage? You bet your sweet bippy. Will any amount of whole foods and stern parenting return them to a normal state? That I don’t know.

I feel like I need to walk back my previous post about it being okay to leave your kids for a long period of time. Maybe other people’s kids are built of stronger stuff, and they’re resilient enough not to succumb to the lizard part of the brain that suggests it’s a good idea to run around the house screaming and wrecking things.

Clearly, my kids can’t handle that stuff. So we aren’t even going to entertain the idea of going on vacation without them ever again. I mean, I already made that promise to Nadia, but if this is what is going to await us when we get home from a long flight, man, it’s so not worth it.

It’s okay — you can, and should, go on vacation without them

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

There are destinations that are perfect for children—Disneyland, LEGOLAND and Universal Studios among them. Then there's Old Man of Storr, a rocky hill with scrambling ascents in Trotternish, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Make no mistake, it's not like my wife and I spent almost two hours trying to summit Everest. Old Man of Storr is more of a walk than a hike or climb. But it would be hard with children—the Quiraing, another landslip in the same area, is even more taxing.

But we wanted to do something for ourselves. We'll soon be celebrating our ten-year anniversary. We haven't had a child-free vacation in five years. And my eldest daughter, Nadia, would have complained that she was tired not five minutes into the any of the outdoor activities we did on Skye.

So we left her, and my youngest daughter, Rowan, with family for two weeks. I'm not going to lie—in the months leading up to our trip, I was riddled with anxiety. What if Nadia accrued too many tardies and was kicked out of school? How bad would Rowan's separation anxiety be? What manner of junk food will they be cramming into their gobs while we're gone?

But you know what? They were fine. Sure, we came home to a mountain of sugary cereals and single-serving Kraft Mac & Cheese cups. And the one time we chatted with Nadia on Facetime, she looked like a zombie. But our kids survived.

And we had a great time.

A brief list of things you cannot do with your kids on vacation

  1. Spend almost $300 on an eight-course meal at one of the best restaurants in the world.
  2. Toss back beers while trying to put away a three-pound serving of nachos.
  3. Take your time reading every single info card at a museum because there's no one tugging at your sleeve begging you to leave.
  4. Sleep in until almost 10 AM.
  5. Listen to raunchy podcasts while driving around in a tiny Fiat that wouldn't be able to accommodate one car seat, let alone a second.

I will say that I promised Nadia we wouldn't go to Paris without her. It took almost all of my willpower to ensure we kept that promise during the two rainy, miserable days we spent in County Kent. Most of the attractions we wanted to see were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Dejected, we looked at ticket prices for the Chunnel. I came this close to pulling the trigger. And, then, I remembered what I said to my five-year-old. That meant the last leg of our trip, in Dover, wasn't as exciting as our time in Skye and London. Still, I'm thankful for the resilience our kids showed in pushing through without us, and we kind of owed them.

So I made another promise: we will never, ever go on vacation without them again.

Because that’s what I did for two weeks

Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash

Hey, peeps — it’s been a while. You may have noticed that, after publishing every single day for almost a year, I vanished. Or, maybe, you didn’t notice at all. Sad.

Anyway, my wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage by spending two weeks in Scotland and England without the kids. (That’s another story right there. I’m still processing my emotions on that front.) I could have written something—almost every single hotel, pub and national monument we visited had free Wi-Fi. But we were on vacation together, so I took a vacation from Medium.

Here’s what I learned:

The machine keeps going, even when you’re not driving it.

Every time I connected to Wifi to share a photo from the summit of Old Man of Storr or post a photo of a Full Scottish breakfast, there my notifications were. People were still reading my stories on Medium, commenting on them and following me. And I didn’t have to write a damn thing.

Every moment you aren’t writing isn’t wasted.

Even as I sit here, writing a very general story inspired by my vacation, ideas abound. I already mentioned the possibility of discussing how it felt essentially abandoning my kids for two weeks. But we also stayed at our first Airbnb while in London, and that’s a topic that’s ripe for mining, too.

The point is, even though I wasn’t putting ideas to paper, the old noggin was still coming up with them.

Your brain needs a vacation, too.

The writing streak was fun while it lasted, but I can recall many days, usually on weekends after I’d been out with my wife and friends, where I didn’t have the drive to write—or the mental capacity for that matter (beer works in not so mysterious ways).

I pushed through because I wanted to keep my streak going, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting yours end.

If you don’t feel like writing, don’t. Just ensure that whatever short break you take doesn’t turn into a creative slump, which in turn can lead to a total drought.

Don't mistake self-love for complacency

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Confidence is sexy. In my last post, I talked about not letting other people control you. Part and parcel of that is not letting them tear you down either. When you act like you're King Shit of Fuck Mountain—and you feel like it, too—you're a walking, talking, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yeah, acting like you're crushing it is the first step toward actually crushing it. But there's a dark side to believing in the positive power of your own bullshit. You're lulled into the false assumption that you have no room for improvement. And that's a different kind of bullshit—the stinky kind.

Take me for example. I'd be lying through my teeth if I said I was perfect. I flip off crappy drivers. I get frustrated easily. I drink so much coffee that my teeth feel like carpet. I'm introverted to a fault. I have trouble slowing down. I really should cut back on all of those things.

Don't get it twisted, though. I'm not here to rain on your safe spaces. Body positivity is a beautiful thing—no one should ever have to live feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. You do you.

But—but—keep an inventory of your faults. Be introspective. I gave you just a snapshot of my faults, and that means I'm ahead of the game. Because I'm aware of my imperfections, and I'm trying to do something about them.

The long and short of it is, nobody's perfect. Be mindful of your faults. Endeavor to work on the things you can fix. Yes, accept the things you can't, but not at the expense of other people. Because if you live for yourself, and only yourself, then, baby, you're a narcissist.

And narcissists are garbage people.

#Psychology #Life #Narcissism

What “The Push” really tells us about human nature

Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

I've talked, briefly, about The Push before. While I was initially mesmerized by the idea that a certain subset of the population can be easily manipulated to commit murder, it's the larger idea of Derren Brown's special on Netflix that has stayed with me:

Often, we readily hand over authorship of our lives.

Road rage: The struggle is real

The epiphany came in traffic. I was trying to merge onto the I-17S, signal on and everything. A dude in a Mustang sped up instead of allowing me over, and, without thinking, I flipped him off.

Now, I preach positivity. If Andrew W.K. started a church, I'd worship at the pews. Road rage isn't a thing I believe in, and, yet, one action by a total stranger sends me into a flurry of obscene gestures.

In other words, I allowed some nameless jerk-off to snatch the pen from my hand and write in the book of my life. And it isn't the first time. Just yesterday, I talked yesterday about how my coworkers' negativity slowly put a damper on my own mood.

Death by a thousand cuts

This is how Derren Brown intended to wear down his mark and coerce him into committing murder: small acts, each sending Brown's victim further and further into a web of lies.

So it is in the real world. When I first started driving, I never would have dreamt of flipping someone off. But with each act of careless driving I endured, my resolve wore down. After many years, the person I swore I'd never be was the person I'd become.

And that's slightly unnerving.

Our lives are our stories. As a writer, the words that spill out from my mind and onto the page aren't immediately perfect. I pause, reread and, most importantly, edit myself. We all could stand to do a little bit of that in life, too.

Take control

Don't let some jerk be your co-author. Pause, take a deep breath and write a way forward that isn't influenced by another person's thoughtlessness. Because that's the kicker: often, the actions that make us angry have no thought or intention behind them.

You can't control what other people do. But you are the captain of your ship. So don't just spin the wheel like a maniac. Take it firmly in your grasp and steer your emotions with intention.

#Life #Self #Psychology

Why be a joy vampire when you can practically sweat positivity?

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Unsplash

I sat in a room with more than 100 marketing professionals, and the misery was palpable, like a wet, mucousy sneeze. Don't get me wrong—not everyone in the room was a sad sack. Why would they be? We're well-paid and have great work-life balance.

Rather, the contagion was being spread by a mere three or four people. Heads down, swearing under their breaths, they took the fact that our two-hour meeting had taken a detour into a discussion about reality TV. Maybe they had better places to be. Perhaps seeing the prospect of leaving before 5PM slip away offended them on a profound level.

I don't know.

What I do know is that having to listen to their whining when I could have partaken in joyful banter was starting to affect me. As much as I pride myself on embracing the joie de vivre—a virtue in which I often fall short—their attitude was contagious. In other words: I found it hard not to give a fuck when these people were tossing them about with reckless abandon.

Normally, I'd put in headphones, or go somewhere, anywhere, else to avoid letting negativity get the better of me. But from this there was no escape.

People, partying is the only path. Before you think I've been listening to too much Andrew W.K., let me assure you that I'm not that into his music. I admire the man and what he stands for more than his brand of pop-metal. It's the musical equivalent of a breath mint: it tastes great going down and leaves a nice impression that fades all too quickly.

You have every right to be negative—this is America, after all. The stars and stripes were sewn in the thread of freedom. But don't be a joy vacuum, especially when no one in your immediate vicinity can escape your toxicity.

It sucks for us. It's unhealthy for you. Be the party, even when there's no music or booze to be seen. Because those things are party, but you don't need them to throw one. The party's all up here.

(You can't see me, so just pretend I'm pointing to the old noggin'.)

#Self #Work #Inspiration

Why Jordan Peele’s story is universal

Nathan McBride on Unsplash

In case you missed it —which you probably did, as the ratings were pretty low—Jordan Peele won the Oscar for “Best Original Screenplay.” The movie he wrote, Get Out, is a nuanced and intelligent take on racism in the 21st century.

And it almost didn’t get made. In his acceptance speech, Peele said:

“I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work.”

Think about that for a minute. Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele (we can say that now, and we should) attempted to write the screenplay that would earn him widespread critical acclaim nearly two dozen times. He failed at doing one thing more than many of us ever will.

But, still, there he stood at the podium last night. Why? Because he persisted.

Think about that next time you hit the snooze button instead of going for a run, delete the Word document containing your novel rather than write another chapter or puff on a cigarette because tossing the whole pack in the trash is too hard. There’s always, always another day. You can try again.

Hell, I’m motivated. I woke up at 4:30 this morning to do bodyweight exercises and go for a run. It helped that my black Labrador, Bailey, took a dump on the carpet in our bedroom. But Peele’s speech helped, too.

The tricky part for me—and for you—is to keep going long after the wave has crashed. The Oscar buzz will die down. Twitter will move on to something else. But you and I have work to do.

Keep going—even when you’ve failed for what seems like the hundredth time. Because your next attempt might not net you an Oscar, but it could be the start of something big.

#Movies #Oscars #LifeLessons #Inspiration #Wisdom