The query letter is quite possibly the single most important page you’ll write for your novel. You’re expected to summarize and condense and pitch your entire book in just a few hundred words! Not too mention the obscure formatting expectations involved. It can be so confusing. Wouldn’t it be helpful to see some real life examples of query letters, letters you can know for certain were successful? Well never fear, because in this post I have not one, not two, but six query letters that landed authors agents. Use these letters as templates when writing and perfecting your own query letter.
Letter #1: YA Contemporary Fantasy, Patrick Bohan
Dear [Insert Agent Name],
When sixteen-year-old amateur occultist Paul “borrows” an enchanted ankh to conjure a social life, he gets a demon instead. A demon that, unfortunately, plans on using the ankh to conquer San Francisco instead of scoring Paul a hot date to prom. The demon steals the ankh and kidnaps Paul’s crush before disappearing into the Underworld. Oops.
A demon-hunting society arrests Paul for the blunder, revealing that his spells have turned him into an underworlder — a monster with a thing for magic and evil laughs. If that wasn't stressful enough, the society assigns teenage commando Alice to be Paul’s babysitter. She doesn’t exactly appreciate the assignment, or see eye-to-eye with her people’s nonviolent approach to underworlders.
The society gives Paul just one month to retrieve the ankh and rescue his crush. If he fails, the society turns his head into a wall hanging.
Paul and Alice’s search for the ankh takes them deep into the Underworld, a world where might makes right and danger strides through the ashen streets. But when Paul gets chummy with the cutthroat underworlders, Alice tests his loyalty via broadsword. Paul must find a way to save both worlds from the demon he released, all while keeping his big head on his shoulders. Fingers crossed.
OCCULT JENGA is a YA urban fantasy novel, complete at 90,000 words. It will appeal to fans of HOLD ME CLOSER NECROMANCER by Lish McBride. I studied at Cornell University, with a focus on economics and bottomless coffee cups.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Like a true egomaniac, I’m leaving my query letter as the first example. Sure, it’s anything but perfect. But it follows a very traditional format of presenting an inciting incident, followed by stakes, followed by what the main character must do to avert the crisis and what happens if the main character fails. It also uses an acceptable amount of voice, with sentences like Fingers Crossed and Oops telegraph that this is going to be a more light-hearted piece, one with lots of humor. Using voice is a great way to capture this element of your manuscript. The ‘comp title’ used here is HOLD ME CLOSER NECROMANCER, a book that was published within the last 5 years. It was successful, but not a wildly mainstream bestseller, showing agents that I’m reading within my genre and do not have unrealistic or even arrogant expectations for how my book will perform.
Sure, the letter anything but perfect. Some would call it basic. Hell, I would call it basic. But if nothing else, it’s traditional. The letter is roughly 350 words (average query length), opens with stakes, ends with stakes, and gives just enough details to keep plot clear while avoiding vagueness. If you’re looking for an average query letter, this is it.
Letter #2: Middle Grade Fantasy, Hélène Boudreau
I am seeking literary representation and hope you will consider my tween novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS.
First zit. First crush. First … mermaid’s tail? Jade feels like enough of a freak-of-nature when she gets her first period at almost fifteen. She doesn’t need to have it happen at the mall while trying on that XL tankini she never wanted to buy in the first place. And she really doesn’t need to run into Luke Martin in the Feminine Hygiene Products aisle while her dad Googles “menstruation” on his Blackberry.
But “freak-of-nature” takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones and bath salts bring on another metamorphosis—complete with scales and a tail. And when Jade learns she’s inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother’s side of the family, it raises the question: if Mom was once a mermaid, did she really drown that day last summer?
Jade is determined to find out. Though, how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic mer-girl go about doing that, exactly … especially when Luke from aisle six seems to be the only person who might be able to help?
REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS is a light-hearted fantasy novel for tweens (10-14). It is complete at 44,500 words and available at your request. The first ten pages and a synopsis are included below my signature. I also have a completed chapter book for boys (MASON AND THE MEGANAUTS), should that be of interest to you. This manuscript has received a revision request from editor, Kathy Tucker, from Albert Whitman & Company.
My middle grade novel, ACADIAN STAR, was released last fall by Nimbus Publishing and has been nominated for the 2009/2010 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. I have three nonfiction children’s books with Crabtree Publishing to my credit (one forthcoming) as well as an upcoming early chapter book series. My writing received an Honourable Mention in the 2008 Surrey International Writers’ Conference literary competition (Writing for Young People) and I was recently awarded a juried literary grant from the Ontario Arts Council.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this project.
When asked about the letter Hélène’s agent Lauren Megibow said it has an exceptionally “strong voice, one of the things writers struggle with the most. Hélène, however, knocked it out of the park with her query letter. I find young readers are very sensitive to inauthentic voices, but you can tell by just the first few paragraphs that she is going to absolutely nail the tween voice in the manuscript.”
Hélène immediately draws us in with her fun, authentic voice. The personality of the writing shines through, which is so important, especially in humor heavy MG. Not only does she get all the information across clearly and concisely, but she uses humor to keep it fun and give us a sense of what her novel will actually read like. Using voice like Hélène is a great way to make your letter unique without breaking any query conventions.
Letter #3: YA Contemporary, Danika Stokes
Dear Mr. Smith,
At BookExpo / BookCon this week, I spoke with my editor Holly West (senior editor Swoon Reads, Macmillan) about acquiring a new agent since my current agent, Morty Mint of Mint Literary Agency, is retiring. Holly suggested you’d be a good match. I have two unpublished projects at present. One is a partial, Into The Storm, which I’m working on with Holly. The second is Coffee Run. Complete at 60K words, Coffee Run (previously titled Sip Sip Bang Bang) is a fast-paced action adventure best described as “Die Hard in a coffee shop.”
Haylee Campos is living the New York dream. She’s landed an impressive publishing internship at Folio-Echo, made great friends, and is finally starting to feel at home in the city. At work, Haylee spends her time putting out fires and, of course, making the occasional coffee run to Caffeine, the shop across the street. In spite of her mother’s worries, Haylee’s life is practically a Taylor Swift song. Until she gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trapped in Caffeine by a group of rogue criminals, Haylee and Carter (the super hot barista whose inability to get her order right is what landed Haylee in this situation in the first place) must rely on their extensive knowledge of action movies in order to save themselves and the other café customers. But time is running out… Full of heart-pounding action, close-calls, and pop-culture references, Coffee Run is similar to Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith, Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer, and Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen. A revised version of this manuscript is one of several projects Holly and I are considering down the road.
My most recent Macmillan YA, Switchback, launched May 28 and although I do not have any purchase numbers, I can share that they had to cut the signing line at BookExpo, and all copies of Switchback sold out in half an hour at BookCon. Switchback has received literary praise for its portrayal of an aroace teen who finds herself an outsider because of her asexual / aromantic identity. Switchback made Publishers’ Marketplace’s “Buzz Books”, Barnes & Noble’s “35 Most Anticipated LGBTQAP YA Books”, 49th Shelf’s “2019 Books for Young Readers Review”, A Thousand Worlds’ “Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of 2019”, Book Riot’s “2019 YA Book Preview”, BN Teen blog’s “New Releases”, and was selected for Barnes & Noble’s “48 of the Best YA Books of May”. Support among the YA author community has been tremendous. On its release day, Switchback received Twitter shout-outs of support from Heidi Heilig, Julian Winters, Zoraida Córdova, S.K. Ali, Amanda Lovelace, Preeti Chhibber, Cyrus Parker, Sophia Elaine Hanson, C.B. Lee and many others. My other writing has received recognition and literary praise as well. Edge of Wild (previously entitled Tathagata) was a quarter-finalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award (2013), a finalist in the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize (2015), and took second place in the Publish or Perish contest (2015). All the Feels was selected for Swoon Reads' fourth list (2015) and was nominated for YALSA's Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (2016), and for CYBILS' Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (2016). Edge of Wild was included in Chapter Indigo’s "Our Favourite Canadian Fiction" (2017) and made the “Crazy for Canlit” longlist for the Giller Prize (2017). Internet Famous was selected as one of Fierce Reads' "9 Perfect Summertime Reads" (2017) and also received a coveted “Highly Recommended” ranking from CM Magazine (2017). In 2018, Internet Famous was nominated for the R. Ross Annett award for Excellence in Writing by an Alberta author and The Dark Divide, was nominated for the High Plains Book Award (2018). In the summer of 2018, both Edge of Wild and The Dark Dividereached Calgary’s Top 10 Fiction Bestsellers List.
If you are interested in Coffee Run or Into the Storm, or would just like to chat further, please contact me at home at (XXX)XXX-XXXX or by email at XXXXXXXXXX@gmail.com. You are also most welcome to talk to Morty Mint (my previous agent), or Holly West at Macmillan, who has been my editor for all of my young adult novels.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Maybe this isn’t your first publishing rodeo. You might have had a book published in the past but want a different agent, or maybe you self published, or have a background in short stories. But for whatever reason, this is not a query letter for your debut novel. If this describes you, then not only will you need to pitch your work, but you’ll also need to pitch your previous work, highlighting the success you’ve already had as an author. Danika does a brilliant job of this, beginning the letter by explaining she’s had an agent and is published by a Big 5 house, but is seeking new representation. Then, after a blurb explaining what happens in the book, Danika gives an estimation of sales figures, lists all the awards her work has won, and provide details to highlight how successful her book launch was. As an established author, Danika checks all the boxes, but what's so great is that she never oversells or undersells. She never makes up sales figures or exaggerates her success, but she doesn’t forget to include any positive attention the book has received. This makes her stand out as both an author and a business partner, as agents can tell from the letter that she a motivated and resourceful marketer. TLDR, they know she’ll be easy to work with.
Danika Also does amazing work with comp titles, draw creative similarities to other well know titles. She describes her book as Die Hard in a Coffee Shop, which not only gives us a sense of what the plot will be about, but also lets the reader expect a witty tone. With her plot blurb, Danika follows a short and sweet formula, presenting her character (Haylee Campos in an ordinary world), a conflict that jars the character out of their ordinary world (Rogue criminals in the shop) followed by stakes (must rely on their extensive knowledge of action movies in order to save themselves and the other café customers.) This snappy blurb coupled with an extensive biography section catches eyes, and if you do the same, your letter will too.
Letter #4: YA Fantasy, Sarah Ahiers
In the Kingdom of Lovero, where families of assassins lawfully kill people for the right price, seventeen-year-old Oleander “Lea” Saldana sets out on a path of vengeance against the most powerful assassin family of all.
The list of things Lea can count on in her life has never been long: her mother will try to poison her to make Lea a better assassin, she can beat her boyfriend, Val, in a fight, and her bone mask will keep her safe from the angry ghosts as she kills someone in the night. But when she trusts Val, a member of the powerful Da Via family, with the secret location of her home, she is betrayed and her family is slaughtered while Lea barely escapes as the sole survivor.
Now there’s only one thing left to do: make the Da Vias pay.
The only problem is, the Da Vias have gone to ground and the one person who can find them is her missing uncle, banished from her family years ago. Even if Lea can find him before the Da Vias realize she escaped their knives, Lea can’t trust him. Hells, she can’t trust anyone ever again, and definitely not her uncle’s too-attractive-for-his-own-good apprentice, Alessio, no matter what her heart and body tell her. How can she trust Alessio when the last boy she loved destroyed everything? How can she fall for Alessio when revenge is all she should care about?
But when the Da Vias kidnap her uncle, Lea has a choice: use him as a distraction to finally kill the Da Vias, or trust Alessio and save all that remains of her family.
ALL THAT REMAINS is a YA fantasy novel complete at 99,000 words. It would appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING trilogy and Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, served as the fiction editor for 2003 Wayfarer, the literary magazine of the U of MN, am a SCBWI member and have been accepted into Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults (January 2014). My young adult horror short story “Smothered” appears in DARK MOON DIGEST YOUNG ADULT #1 and I have a story for the adult horror market in DARK MOON DIGEST #6.
[Redacted], editor at Harlequin Teen, read five pages for a critique session at the MN SCBWI October 2013 conference, loved them, and would like to see the manuscript when it’s ready for submission.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Letter #5: Adult Sci-Fi, Jason M. Hough
Dear Ms. Megibow,
From your profile on Publisher’s Marketplace, I see that we share a love for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. I am contacting you for representation of my science fiction novel, THE DARWIN ELEVATOR. The manuscript is complete at 130,000 words, and can stand alone or become a series.
Skyler is immune to a disease that has wiped out most of humanity. Only one place on Earth is safe for those not immune: Darwin, Australia, where a space elevator of alien origin suppresses the disease. Trapped in the city, the ragged citizens of Darwin rely on food grown aboard orbiting space stations to survive. They rely on scavengers like Skyler for everything else.
With a small crew of fellow ‘immunes’, Skyler leads missions into the dangerous world beyond Darwin’s safe-zone, searching for the useful relics of old Earth. Spare parts, ammunition, books -- for a price, Skyler will find it. When a reviled political leader hires him to retrieve information from a long-abandoned telescope, and smuggle the data to scientists living in orbit, Skyler is thrust into the middle of a conspiracy.
The telescope data proves another alien ship is approaching Earth. While trying to keep the discovery secret, Skyler’s employer sparks a bloody coup, led by a faction hell-bent on total control of the Darwin Elevator. As the uprising spirals into all-out war, and the alien ship nears Earth, Skyler must risk everything to protect a secret he barely understands.
I learned the art of creating fictional worlds while designing sci-fi video games, such as Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction and Metal Fatigue. These titles featured intricate stories and complex characters. I feel this experience, and my lifetime passion for the genre, has transferred well to the medium of the novel.
I would be happy to provide additional materials at your request. Thank you for your consideration.
Jason M. Hough
Letter #6: YA High-Fantasy, Ryan P. Freeman
I’m Ryan P. Freeman. I’m already an indie author with multiple works published. As a free-lance marketer, I have multiple social media platforms, with readers in Canada, Italy, the UK, Norway, Australia, and the U.S. I head the marketing effort for this conference, and am highly active in both the St Louis and Hannibal Writers Guilds, founder/President.
The next novel I’ve written is an immersive 87,000-word YA high-fantasy novel called Nameless, which is currently being professionally edited by Kara Frazier, who I was referred to by Meghan Pinson, another editor here at this conference.
Originally written as a homage to the late Ursula LeGuin, Nameless reads like a mix of Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind meets Skyrim.
After a nameless scullery maid miraculously defeats a dragon by commanding him by his True Name, her village sends her away to Moen Mage School out of fear from the raw magical power she possesses.
Now nameless and homeless, the girl adventures from island to island across the sea towards the mage school. Along the way, she dodges the murderous Order of Oblivion, who are bent on ripping the meaning out of people and invading her Realm from their own chaotic land of Oblivion.
Nameless desperately wants to discover who she is and why she matters, in a world which has dismissed her all her life. During her journey, Nameless continues learning how her ability can tip the balance of power on the highest order.
The nameless girl, together with elemental dragons, piratic merchants, and mer-women, become pitted against the Order of Silence’s on-going apocalyptic invasion.
Her story is as much about finding meaning as it is about the drive behind why people crave to understand themselves.
Thanks for reading these 6 letters! For more free info on querying, publishing, my own work, and this crazy writing profession, sign up for my mailing list below. It would mean a lot to me. -->
1. Klems, Brian. “Read These Successful Query Letters.” Writer's Digest, 28 July 2011, www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/successful-query-letters.
2. Sambuchino , Chuck, et al. “Successful Queries: Agent Lauren MacLeod and ‘Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings.’” Writer's Digest, 5 June 2019,
3. “Successful Queries.” Writer's Digest, www.writersdigest.com/forums/topic/successful-queries.
4. Ahiers, Sarah, and Jason M. Hough. “r/PubTips - [PubTip] Agented Authors: Post Successful Queries That Garnered Agents Here!” Reddit, www.reddit.com/r/PubTips/comments/6slgyd/pubtip_agented_authors_post_successful_queries/.
Natalie interviews me about getting my agent in 2018 and my suggestions for anyone looking for representation. She also chats with Patrick McDonald, the creator of the wildly successful website QueryTracker, about its origins and how to get the most out of it.
If you're a querying writer or you plan to query in the future, this episode is for you!
If you're interested in starting a successful online business based on membership, this episode is also for you!
In the 80’s no-budget horror-comedy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… Together again!, Dr. Jekyll announces that surgery is costly, painful, and really icky. His solution? Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. All the other doctors in the room cheer.
Today, Jekyll’s run away with the store. The number of Americans on antidepressants has doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017, from 13.3 million to 27 million today. A mindblowing 1 in 10 people in the United States, including kids, are on antidepressant medications. Most mental illnesses now, including depression, are treated as chemical imbalances, with an emphasis on pharmaceutical rather than psychological treatment. The pharmaceutical industry also happened to boom, creating more billionaires than pills in an XL bottle of xanax. But that’s totally unrelated. Really! Just ask this totally trustworthy rat-looking pharmaceutical exec. He’ll tell it to you straight.
I don’t believe that Americans have become twice as likely to be chemically imbalanced. I don’t believe that the number of mentally ill has doubled. I do believe that a mix of lifestyle changes and overdiagnosis has caused a massive uptick, that isn’t necessarily good for patients, or the world. Looking at history, we see that some of the greatest crisis leaders succeeded not in spite of, but in part because of mental illness.
By the end of this post I’d like to have you convinced that most people labeled mentally ill are not really mentally ill, and are in fact suffering from conventional drugs and treatment. This is partially due to mass over-diagnosis, but also our perception of mental illness as something fixable through pharmaceuticals. I argue that mental illness is not just something to overcome, but often times a strength, and in that cases can today be treated without drugs.
TLDR: Fuck Dr. Jekyll.
The recommendations in this blog may be useful in understanding depression and other mental illness, but should not be taken in place of medication, standard therapy, or doctor recommendation.
Pay no attention to the salesman behind the curtain! (Imaginary Illness)
Our drug is proven to improve mood! It’s the humane solution! And it comes with twenty-five free life-threatening side-effects! Order now for your choice of bowel failure.
In 2005 the Pharmaceutical industry spent 32 million on DTC antidepressant ads. Today it spends 122 million. This massive marketing campaign was kicked off by GlaxoSmithKline, a British company eager to de-stigmatize depression and help as many sick men and women as possible. Basically, a bunch of wholesome goobers.
GlaxoSmithKline proceeded to promote the hell out of antidepressants, DTC’s, and consequently, established depression as something normal, something entirely chemical and detached from circumstance. The depressed, the manic, and the mentally ill all had a chemical imbalance according to Glaxo and other companies, and shouldn’t have to rely on wishy-washy talking cures or head shrinking to fix a chemical issue. Stigma gone! Problem solved, right? Well, not quite.
While they had the best intentions, trying to de-stigmatize mental illness and making profit for a company eager to help patients, these companies unwittingly began a vicious cycle ending in millions of Americans being diagnosed with phony illnesses and drugs.
See, the trouble was that psychiatrists began to doubt themselves. They’d look at other medical professionals, with their fancy scalpels drugs and chemicals, and they wanted in. So the psychiatrists started to doubt themselves. Were they really doctors? What if uncle Gerald was right? Maybe they just forget the whole therapy thing and go back to dental school? More doubt crept in. The psychiatrists began to feel that just talking to a mentally ill patient was an impotent treatment, and started to prescribe more and more drugs to fix the problem. The drugs didn’t necessarily fix the patient, but it did quiet them, a short-term result that made doctors look good and the pharmaceutical companies very happy. And so began a race to the bottom, with more and more psychiatrists diagnosing more aggressively, trying to catch up with other more sophisticated and scientific psychiatrists by handing out pills like candy. And before they knew it, one out of ten Americans was gobbling up addictive, mentally draining DTC antidepressants.
Nobody had bad intentions. There was no mustache-twirling supervillain conspiring to over diagnose. There’s no one to blame -- It just happened. The market can be funny like that.
It’s impossible that people have become twice as depressed in just 10 years. It is very possible, however, that our standards for mental illness have changed. While catching more sick people under the umbrella term of “Mentally ill,” may sound good on the surface, it draws the patient into a web of drugs and treatments that often leave them worse than where they started.
A 2010 US study found that there was no significant increase in suicide attempt for patients on antidepressants. But there was no decrease either. It changed almost nothing measurable, other than the patient's self-reported mood. That isn’t to say nobody needs drugs. There are definitely many cases where drugs are absolutely necessary. Just not nearly as many as there are now.
I’d argue that most would be better off with traditional psychotherapy, or just working through their troubles by just talking to clinical psychologists without drugs. Which is why I’d like to tell you about
A Kind of Cure (Managing mental illness without intensive medication)
This sharp increase is too great to just be overdiagnosis. Some has to do with lifestyle. I’d argue that while overdiagnosis is responsible for the majority of this trend, a more sedentary, indoors, depressive lifestyle is responsible for the rest.
People in wealthier, developed nations have a lifestyle hinged on lots of sitting, less connection, and low level stress. I argue the uptick in mental illness is a lot to do with this change in how we live. Consider the following:
-Risk of developing major depression has increased tenfold since World War II. Peoples who have seen war tend to be less depressed than those who have not.
-People in less developed countries have lower risk of depression, Manic Depression, and other mental illnesses than in industrialized countries
-Depression is higher in cities than in rural areas
-Within the United States, the Old Amish communities are among the happiest in the country.
More and more of us are sedentary today. It’s unavoidable, a means to earn a living. And we eat artificial food, use mobile phones rather than face-to-face communication, and are constantly bombarded by low-level stressors like cars and subways. Those are all more or less unavoidable as well. Isolation, one of the greatest
But the answer isn’t just more pharmaceuticals. It’s often lifestyle changes. Psychiatrists would prescribe more lifting, long walks on the beach, or clinical therapy, rather than clinical drugs. Before intensive chemical treatment for mental illness was common, it was managed. History is littered with great figures who managed. These guys and gals weren’t ill. They were
Crazy like a Fantastic Mr. Fox (Mental Illness as a Strength)
Winston Churchill was a fantastically charismatic leader, incredible writer, and responsible for the best squad roasts of 1940. He was also a life-long manic depressive. His father died in an asylum. Churchill would often refer to periods of terrible depression as his "black dog." During these fits manic-depression, Churchill exhibited little energy, few interests, and would always see the worst in everyone, according to friends and family. On the other side of the spectrum, when his "black dog" backed down, Churchill exhibited abnormally high levels of energy and restlessness, often beginning to work at 8 am and ending work at around 2 am.
The rest of Parliament didn’t have the time of day for wacky Churchill’s gloom and sudden boom during peacetime. They said “When Winston was born lots of fairies swooped down on his cradle with gifts–imagination, eloquence, industry, ability–and then came a fairy who said 'No one person has a right to so many gifts,' picked him up and gave him such a shake and twist that with all these gifts he was denied judgment and wisdom.”
But while the rest sought to see the good German, to appease, only Churchill could see that the Nazis wouldn’t settle for anything but a horrible war.
But they didn't get peace. They got war. Chamberlain was out. Suddenly, Churchill’s mental illness was useful. Churchill took the reigns, his manic-depression contributing in part to the victory.
During bouts of mania, Churchill's chipper attitude and seemingly endless energy, despite a terrible blitz, inspired everyone around him. It was exactly what people needed. And when depressed, his mind wandered to the dark depths that nobody else would go, allowing him to better predict German movements.
While his Manic-depression could be difficult, it was both a curse and a blessing, making it considerably more manageable.
Steve Jobs was obsessive. General Grant was a manic depressive. MLK struggled with depression his whole life. So did Ghandi. So did Hemingway. And Van Gogh. And Beethoven. There are so, so many more examples of mental illness acting as a strength throughout history, especially during crisis.
For all of them, mental illness was difficult for them to manage. It was tough. But it also contributed to their success, and who they were as people. The illness was tied up in their identities as a strength rather than a weakness. It was something manageable. I wonder if they would have accomplished the same if they had accepted their peculiarities as some terribly nasty disease. I doubt they’d have been as happy. I believe that, like these examples, many Americans have mental illnesses manageable without pills that could act as a strength in many cases.
I’m not the first guy to point this link between mental illness and achievement out, or poke at holes in the pharmaceutical industry. Dozens of fantastic essays and best-sellers have dissected these trends out before. And they’re all sharp as hell. Check them, and my other sources, below:
I wrote a novel full of badass San Franciscans, real magic, and awkward dance moves. It comes out late 2019. If you don’t want to wait, enjoy posts like this, or want to get some cool free stuff, sign up here. You won't regret it. Pinky promise.
1. Schneeweiss S, Patrick AR, Solomon DH, Mehta J, Dormuth C, Miller M, et al (2010). Variation in the Risk of Suicide Attempts and Completed Suicides by Antidepressant Agent in Adults: A Propensity Score-Adjusted Analysis of 9 Years’ Data. Achieves of General Psychiatry 67(5): 497-506.
2. Ghaemi, S. (2012). A first-rate madness. New York: Penguin Books.
3. Psychology Today. (2018). Are Mental Health Issues On the Rise?. [online] Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-changing-culture/201510/are-mental-health-issues-the-rise [Accessed 23 Jun. 2018].
Can a pill make you smarter? Can you open a bottle, swallow a little silver oval, and become more intelligent? Just take a moment to imagine that. Doing better on tests. Doing better at work. Getting more done. All from an affordable little pill, taken once a day.
Is that even possible?
I’m here to tell you, yes. Yes it is.
There are safe, non-addictive, and 100% legal nootropic drugs you can take right now that will make you smarter and more alert. These are drugs used by the military, tech CEOs, and stock brokers. These drugs are tested, and clinically proven to work, with limited to no serious side effects.
These drugs are safe, and most importantly, they work.
I know because I’ve tried them.
I’ve never bought into IQ tests, brain games, or written measurements of intelligence. From what I’ve seen, all those were built to make people feel good about themselves, to cash in on feeling special. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just the way we are.
I’ve never met someone who didn’t think they were smarter than the average guy. “The average American thinks he or she is smarter than the average American,” reported a Yougov survey, where 55% of Americans described themselves as intelligent.
But the intelligence we use in everyday language has nothing to do with tests, and everything to do with results. The “smart” people are the people who are present, quick, engaged, and get things done. We can’t see into someone's head. We can only see what comes out of it. So that makes intelligence a perceptible state, like being sleepy, awake, happy, or sad. And state can be changed with drugs.
When your brain feels awake and interested, you can pull facts out of your head and solve problems with lightning speed. When you’re tired or bored, ideas drip in and out like a leaky faucet. That’s perceptible and measurable. That’s intelligence.
So the intelligence we think of and use in everyday language is a reflection of state. And you already know pills can change that.
I’ve left a list of drugs that will put you into that state, in order of my preference, below. I’ve included pros, cons, and experiences.
When I took my first tablet of Modafinil, I finished 50 pages in three hours. Then I knocked out a two hour gym session, sold all my old electronics online, gave an improv speech on tigers, and had time to make a freaking roast turkey.
Amazed didn’t come close to describing the feeling.
I’d heard Modafinil didn’t have a crash when I’d gotten my hands on a bottle, and just assumed Modafinil was weaker Caffeine. So that morning, like a total dumbass, I gobbled them like candy. Polished off a third of the bottle.
That was dumb for a whole bunch of reasons. First, modafinil is pricey as hell. Second, one pill lasts 14 hours on its own. Lastly, Modafinil makes a triple espresso look like a cup of water.
So what is it then? Wikipedia describes Modafinil as a “wakefulness-promoting drug used for treatment of disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, idiopathic hypersomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea.” It’s a clinically proven drug to make you more alert, which to me, is the most important and measurable component of intelligence.
Modafinil is aderall’s legal, non-addictive cousin, and a massively popular study drug. It’s silicon valley approved and a wall-street favorite. It’s Monster Energy meets Limitless’s imaginary NZT, with a sprinkle of green tea thrown on top. It’s almost a crime that so few people know about it.
Unfortunately, in the US, it’s also a crime to sell. Modafinil is a schedule IV controlled substance. That means it’s not necessarily illegal to use, but it’s not bought or sold in the United States either, due to concerns about addiction potential. If you want to buy modafinil, you’ve got look overseas, and even then, there are legal issues with importing large quantities to the states. That means compared to caffeine, it’s expensive. About $1.50 per pill.
I’m not going to sugar coat it: Modafinil can be addictive. Maybe not chemically addictive, but it’s easy to develop a dependence. I’m a big believer in not needing anything, which is why I don’t use Modafinil much, if at all. That, and because I’m cheap as hell.
But let me repeat: Modafinil is NOT chemically addictive. It’s about as addictive as caffeine. You can get hooked, but only mentally, never physically.
Modafinil is really unique in its effect on dopamine amongst wakefulness drugs. It releases a limited amount of dopamine to increase a sense of accomplishment and reward, but binds it to your receptors differently than traditional amphetamines, meaning there’s no chemical addiction formed. So don’t be scared away. Modafinil is safe.
-Increased Efficiency, Energy, and Happiness
-Lasts up to 14 hours
-Not sold in the US
Adrafinil is the weaker, over-the-counter version of modafinil. It’s exactly the same as modafinil, just considerably less powerful, and easier to get your non-narcoleptic hands on.
If Modafinil is Dr. Evil, then Adrafinil is Mini Me.
Adrafinil is so similar to modafinil, because in the body, it becomes Modafinil. After being ingested, adrafinil is metabolized in the liver, where it’s then converted into modafinil, with the remainder being metabolized into the inactive modafinilic acid. Since adrafinil is a precursor to modafinil, both drugs very similar effects and benefits
However, since Modafinil doesn’t have to go through the extra step in the body, it’s significantly more potent, almost twice the strength of adrafinil. Modafinil also lasts twice as long.
Because adrafinil is metabolized in the liver, however, it has the potential to seriously screw you up if dosage is abused.
Again, don’t let this scare you away. While elevated liver enzymes are sometimes associated with adrafinil use, liver toxicity resulting from adrafinil is super rare, and brought on by high-dosage abuses.
But for God knows what reason, Adrafinil is totally unregulated in the US, and available at your local drug store. Go figure.
-Increased Efficiency and Energy.
-Lasts up to 7 hours
-Easy to buy at US pharmacies
-Potential health risks
3. Caffeine Pills
Caffeine pills are espresso in tablet form. If you’re dropping $20 bucks a week on lattes and fancy drinks, consider switching to pills. They’re more affordable, more effective, and last longer.
It’s no secret that caffeine makes you more alert. Even if caffeine doesn’t actually make you quicker, it makes you feel quicker, and that’s enough to get results.
Caffeine pills also don’t have come with the sugars and long lines that you’d find in a starbucks.
Caffeine pills are a great option if you’re a broke student and need to power through final exams. They’re cheap, easy to buy, and effective.
-Lasts up to 5 hours
-Less satisfying than traditional caffeine drinks
4. Smart Drinks, Shakes, and other commercial smart products
Don’t. Just don’t.
In my humble opinion, most smart drinks, shakes, and supplements sold in supermarkets or on big online retailers are pure bullshit. I’ve never seen one with real, measurable results or recognizable ingredients. Maybe there are some out there that work.
But I haven't found any.
From what I’ve seen, these commercial smart drinks are expensive as hell, filled with processed sugars, and just terrible. I’m sorry to any smart drink or shake retailers out there, but it’s true. Back to the drawing board, guys.
If I were you, I’d just stay away from these entirely.
-Not clinically tested
-Boatloads of Sugars and other Carbs
So, there you have it. My list of smart drugs you can buy and use today.
I’d remind you that I’m not a doctor, but I mean, come on. If you’ve come this far, there’s no way you’re giving me that much credit.
Drugs and self-medication can be dangerous. It’s not the sort of thing to be taken lightly. Before taking anything, please do your own research, and make sure you know what you’re doing. So, I will say for legal reasons:
I am not a licensed medical professional. I’m not allowed to prescribe drugs to friends, family, or even pets. So don’t take my word for things.
Drugs can be bad. Don’t use them, and definitely don’t abuse them. There. You’re welcome, America.
1. “Modafinil.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modafinil.
2.“Adrafinil.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrafinil.
3.Matyszczyk, Chris. “Average Americans Think They're Smarter than Average Americans.” CNET, CNET, 13 May 2014, www.cnet.com/news/average-americans-think-theyre-smarter-than-average-americans/.
For [undisclosed] and completely reasonable reasons, I had to put my phone on Grayscale for the last month. For those of you like me, who aren’t techies or turtleneck-wearing apple geniuses, that means the phone was black and white. Everything was in shades of gray. No color.
At first I hated it. I wanted to give my stupid phone the backhand, bury it, forget about it, then just when the phone started to get comfortable, dig it up, and then backhand it again!
So, yeah. I guess you could say I was a little frustrated.
But oh, WOW, was I wrong. With greyscale on, my phone usage went down over 70%, I started really appreciating music, treating my phone as a tool instead of an activity, and most importantly, the world became so damn colorful. Beautiful, even.
Our caveman brains are designed to be attracted to the flashing RED BOLD messages on our phones. The sexy reds and neon orange notifications force us to look, click, and develop a habit. Is reality in HD 1071? Does it come with surround sound? Of course not! And do I get cute smiley faces and comments when I do something stupid? No! No, I get an mean frowny-face or a fine instead. To our inner caveman, reality pales in comparison to the handheld digital cave.
Oog doesn’t care about a boring ass black and white world, where notifications are dull brown and instagram filters make Ooga look like a freaking phantasm. He doesn’t want anything to with that crap. And when our inner Oog loses interest in the digital world, the real world suddenly gets a whole lot more interesting.
I’m not bashing technology. Neither is Greyscale. In fact, I started to appreciate technology a lot more without color. It became a fantastic tool, rather than a separate reality. I expected less, so it delivered so much more. Like a boring looking magic box that did everything I asked.
This Greyscale hack has been around for sometime, but nobody talks about. Probably because it’s just so simple that it seems silly. Here’s a link explaining the science behind, and some cool personal anecdote: https://blog.mozilla.org/internetcitizen/2018/02/13/grayscale/
Here’s how to put your phone on Greyscale, with pictures:
Looking up from a boring, grey screen to see a world in full HD color is an amazing experience. Think “The Wizard of Oz.” Not just that, but you start only using your phone for the stuff that really matters. And you start to appreciate that stuff. Music, phone calls, even digital conversations become meaningful. Give it a try. It’s great!
Oog would thank you, but you know, he’s a caveman and hasn’t invented complex speech yet. Do the poor guy a favor. Go grayscale.
I take cold showers. Not tepid, faucet-on-half cold-- I’m talking freezing, bone-chilling cold. I’m talking Jack-letting-go-of-the-door in Titanic cold. And I don’t get sad violin accompaniment or a crying rich girl either.
I’ve done this every morning, for about a year now. Without exceptions. Why?
Well, I enjoy it. I hated it at first, of freaking course. I’m not some crazed Nordic ice giant, oversized brow aside. There may even have been a few tears when I started --- but good luck proving anything, pal.
Anyway, after some convincing, and a few uncomfortable mornings, I learned to love this part of my routine. I actually look really forward to it! It makes my day more productive, fun, and thrilling. And hopefully, after reading these FOUR REASONS TO TAKE COLD SHOWERS, you can have the same badass experience.
1) Everything Else Becomes Easy.
After jumping into a freezing cold shower first thing in the morning, everything else in your day will seem like nothing in comparison. It’s a hell of a lot easier to jump into uncomfortable situations after you’ve just jumped out of the most uncomfortable situation of all! You’ll find a greater sense of self-confidence, as public speaking, tedious tasks, and awkward situations seem a lot less trying. I mean, it’s not as bad as a bucket of cold water right? Right.
You also set a winning pattern for yourself, by taking a crucial victory first thing. You put yourself on a serious winning streak, the self-confidence you get from that one very chilly personal victory means even more victories. (See “Winner Effect” below.)
Being the sort of person who can sucks up being an icicle for a good ten minutes is a great way to feel confident. Not much can put you off after ten minutes in ice water.
2) Get Clear Skin and Hair.
Cold water is fantastic for the skin. I actually noticed improvements in just a few weeks! If you buy skin care product, or are the sort that cares about hair follicles and pores and all that crap, this is definitely for you. Cold water constricts blood vessels like ice cubes in a freezer, tightening pores, and flattening cuticles.
What do meditation, improv, and unshakable happiness have in common? Presence. Being totally engrossed in the moment, enjoying the present instead of worrying about the past is what makes people truly happy, and a hell of a lot more productive.
This is the point of meditation and breathing exercises. To teach you to savor, and enjoy the moment. Because the current moment is all there is.
Sky diving, cliff diving, intense running -- these are all thrilling because they make you forget your thoughts and focus on nothing but the current moment. In The Now. Concerts are amazing because you lose yourself in the music. Actors lose themselves in a good performance. This sense of presence is usually what makes us happy.
You don’t have a choice but to be entirely present when taking a cold shower. I mean, what else are you going to think about? There’s freezing water raining onto your head! Nothing else matters but the water, nothing but the moment. That sense of presence means that cold showering is a sort of meditation, teaching the mind to be more present, and happy. It sounds far-fetched, but it’s satisfying as hell. Why else would people do it?
4) Cold Showers Put you in “Peak State.”
So-called “Intelligence” or “Skill” is usually just a reflection of your state. Don’t believe me? Take an IQ test with the flu after spinning around in a circle seven times. Run a marathon with no stretches. Don’t warm up before a show. Not too easy right?
But the opposites true too. Ever have one of those moments when you were just on top of things? When you were performing at your peak, really passionate about something. When you really got into it, I bet you didn’t have trouble recalling facts, speaking clearly, or forming thoughts. You were in a peak state. Your mind was fully alert. Cold showers put you into that same state, a sort of all-in-one warm up for life. Sounds pretty great, right?
Well, maybe warm up was the wrong word…
So say yes to cold showers. Say no to Rose’s stupid door. Push that thing away, and enjoy your cold, icy plunge! Your body will thank you for it.
Winner effect: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-winner-effect
Presence: “The Power of Now,” by Eckhart Tolle - https://www.amazon.com/Power-Now-Guide-Spiritual-Enlightenment/dp/1577314808
Maybe you’ve got soul-crushingly high student loans. Maybe you’re one missed payment away from moving back in with your weird uncle Vernon. Or maybe that big hairy guy with the eyepatch is going to twist your legs into a pretzel if you don’t cough up $2000 by Thursday night -- The point is, for whatever reason you need to get your hands on a big chunk of money, in very little time.
Don’t worry. If you follow at least one of the steps below, you will be able to save between $800 - 2,500 dollars this week with minimal effort. However, like most of the stuff I yell about it’s easy to do, but easy not to do. Taking a sexy photo shoot of your old sneakers just to flip them for 50 bucks might not seem like it matters, but the money adds up. If you skip a step, or don’t fully commit to scrapping for the whole week, you most definitely won’t make the money. There’s no substitute for doing.
So without further ado, here’s how you can save money fast.
If you’re serious about putting the money together, then craigslist is your best friend. While online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon are great for small ticket items, almost every family in the US (Even the hopelessly broke or unemployed) has at least $4,000 worth of old junk that would be perfect for craiglsist.
First, go through all your belongings, and ruthlessly put aside whatever you don’t need or what could retail for a high price. Electronics, appliances, and big ticket items like bikes and furniture are ideal for craigslist, so try to prioritize those first - you can get to the smaller stuff later.
Once you’ve got a nice pile going, search the item on craigslist, then post them at a slightly lower asking price than similar items or items like yours that have sold in the past. This isn’t a garage sale, but knocking 50 bucks off will help you get the money faster.
Make sure your pictures are well lit and attractive. If the item is dirty or used, spruce it up a little. If you absolutely don’t have time, post stock images. This will make a world of difference.
Lastly, once buyers start contacting you, be quick, and polite. Call them up if possible, and establish a rapport. This is a great time to practice your sales.
Using craigslist, you should be able to sell your appliances, old devices, especially nice clothes, and sporting goods at a considerably higher price than eBay or at a garage sale. Even if you don’t have much, you definitely have at least one very nice or expensive item (Couch, Iphone, designer bag, art, instrument) that you can part with for $400 or more.
2) Temp work (Shiftgig, Jobble, local temp agencies)
Temping is a great, no-entry cost way to put away some money. Just get on a temping app like shiftgig, or contact your local temp agency, and go do some work. Shift apps tend to have a crazy variety of events, so you could be doing anything from data entry to sales. Just be sure to pick shifts that are early or late at night, so you can still go to your day job or school. If that doesn’t apply to you, go ham for the week, and work as often as you can. Select jobs with higher pay (Think office or clerical work at $18 - $26) rather than shorter jobs with lower rates. Not only is this temping better paid than retail, but there’s less pressure since there are so many temp agencies, and if you don’t perform at your best for one agency or job, you can move on to the next. Plus, you can start tomorrow.
Note that for many of these you won’t even have a boss, or the work will be self-directed, meaning you’ll have time to do listen to something while you work, or multi-task. You probably spend a good chunk of the day listening to music or podcasts already - now you can get paid while you do it.
You’ll probably be pretty damn tired working two jobs, but temping’s saving grace is that it’s temporary. You can afford give up one week out of the year to work 16 hours a day if it means you save $1,000 right? Because this isn’t just income. This is money that goes straight into your bank account! That you’ll be saving, or using toward that big payment you absolutely must make. I’d say it’s worth it.
3) Local clothes exchanges(Buffalo exchange, crossroads) and local booksellers
I’m sure you have a piece of clothing you hate, or a book or textbook you’ve read 1,00 times. There’s most likely a local retailer that will buy it from you. Sure, you’ll probably get maybe ⅓ of retail price, but ask yourself how else you could get money from your beat up jacket or sociology textbook? Every little bit counts, and the $50 - 200 bucks you make from retailers could be the difference between Big Tony buying you a pretzel or turning you into one.
4) Ebay, Amazon, Etsy
The last stop is the most well know. While these are easy to use, there are already so many users that you’ll be less likely to make as much without experience. However, if you’ve got a bunch of smaller, vintage items, these sites are for you. Create a listing with a low asking price, and just wait for someone to bite. Odds are, at least one of your posts will get a response.
eBay is also great if you totally run out of stuff to sell in your home. You’ve run the craigslist circuit, and have zero junk lying around. Great! Now it’s time to hit the thrift store. Using the Amazon pricing app, look for items that have been marked down significantly, buy them, then sell them on eBay for a higher price. THis works great for sneakers and special vintage clothes. While you can make money at this, you’ll make less than the above and it’s more work, so save this for your end game.
There you have it. Four simple ways to pile up money this week that costs you nothing but time and a little hustle. I’ve used these before with absolutely phenomenal results, and I hope you all get as much out of them as I did. Leave your experience below in the comments, and happy junking!
You can’t escape reality. No matter how bad things get, no amount of drugs, fantasy, gaming, or even lucid dreaming will let you outrun your life -- there’s just nowhere else to go. Because reality is real.
Again, It’s better to let reality hit you like a freaking truck than to waste time looking for a way out. Because their isn’t one.
With that out of the way, learning to lucid dream is a great way to better understand yourself, get more rest, and broaden your horizons. Plus, it’s fun as hell.
What is a 'lucid dream'?
A lucid dream is a dream where you realize you're dreaming, and take control of what happens. During a lucid dream, brain activity is nearly identical to consciousness, but just as restful as regular sleep. Crazy, right?
That means you can fly like a bird, chill with celebrities, or have a wacky journey of self discovery, all while sleeping like a baby.
Here’s how to get stated tonight:
A reality check is a test lucid dreamers use to tell whether they’re awake or asleep. This is something that can only happen in a dream. A common reality check is a pinch, for example, because there is no pain in a dream. My favorite is the finger-through-hand. It’s just like it sounds.
Just hold your hand out, and try to push your pointer finger through your palm. Really believe that it will pass through, see the finger going through in your mind. If your finger ever pokes out the other side, congratulations, you’re dreaming!
You should pick a reality check, and perform at least 15 per day. Make it a habit, and eventually, you’ll catch yourself in a dream. Then the fun begins.
Here are two ways for you to use those reality checks to get started;
Method 1 - Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD)
In WILD, you fall asleep asleep with an alarm set for about 2 hours before your usual wakeup. When you do wake up, close your eyes, and lie still, while staying alert. Let your body sleep, while your mind stays awake.
Eventually, you’ll start to see some bizarre lights and images dance behind your eyelids. Focus on these images, staring until you go into a sort of tired trance. You might not be able to move your body after a while — don’t worry. That’s a good sign! You’re body’s fast asleep. Stay relaxed, and eventually, those images will turn into a dream. Perform a reality check just to be sure. Now you know you’re in a dream. Congrats! You’re having a lucid dreaming.
Method 2 - Wake-Back-To-Bed (WBTB)
Your second option is WBTB. Just set an alarm for sometime at least two after you go to bed. Then, when it goes off, stay awake for an hour and just think about dreaming. DId you dream earlier? Try to remember it. Are you practicing your reality check? Now would be a good time. With lucid dreaming ion, go back to bed and practice the WILD technique. Continue to perform your reality check until you catch yourself dreaming. Then the fun begins...
Congratulations, you’re a lucid dreamer! Now you finally have a reason to get some sleep. Just keep an eye out for Oscar winning dream hoppers and badly burned 80’s monsters. Have fun!
[What follows is an average schedule of a Thai monk living in a monastery. While protocol varies from place to place, the below is a very common timetable.]
At 4:00 in the morning, the monks wake up, and head down to main hall. They meditate there for an hour, then chant for another hour.
Then at around 6:00, the monks take a field trip to the neighborhood, where they wander around barefoot, asking the locals for food.
At 8:00, they head back to the temple, and sit together for breakfast. Think Rice and Tea. Then there’s debate on scripture, sometimes philosophy.
At 12:00, they break for lunch. This is the last solid food they’re allowed to consume until breakfast the next day.
Classes start at 1:00. Some monks may attend school outside the temple, but for most, it’s a solid four to five hours of buddhist philosophy and theory. Oh, and there’s homework. A lot of homework.
At 6:00 everyone reconvenes for two more hours of meditation, followed by prayer. Talking or yawning during the prayers results in an immediate whack on the shoulders by the Gegou or other ranking monk. Sometimes, if he’s in a mood, he’ll pull your ear instead. Really hard.
At 8:00, the monks finish their homework and go to bed, happy as a clam. They get up the next day and repeat. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.
I know what you’re thinking: how in the world could anyone with that schedule, with that impossibly dull, repetitive beast of a day, go to bed happy? No parties. No booze. No entertainment, unless you count watching Somboon get his ear pulled, which I guess can be kind of satisfying.
I’d run away screaming. And unless you happen to be one of those exceedingly rare Thai teenagers with a thing for celibacy and lengthy philosophical debate, you’d probably do the same.
But for some reason, these monks report levels of happiness that’s completely off the charts. The same goes for the Amish, Tibetan monks, and most strict priesthoods. What’s the missing ingredient?
Presence. I’m sure that community and lack of stress play a role, but the only way they stay so cheery is by taking pleasure in the simple things. By learning to savour the moment. If you spend every single hour of everyday doing something mindless, what came before or what comes after doesn’t really matter.
Nobody asks What Flavour of Water is Served with Lunch Tomorrow or when they’ll be able to afford those new Gucci Meditation Pillows. The now becomes their all because it's all there is.
What if you could do the same? If you could learn to enjoy whatever you were doing, this very moment. If you could stop waiting to be happy, and be happy right now. Plus, You could be more focused. Sharper. More fun to talk to or be around.
Well, you can! And you won’t have to move to a mountain to do it.
The answer: Meditation.
Focusing on nothing but the present moment, to condition mind for happiness and sharpen focus. There are so, so many meditation techniques, from prayer to mantra. But a breathing meditation, in my experience is the quickest and most satisfying. And it’s super easy to get into. Here’s how to get started:
1) Sit down and cross your legs. If you’re flexible enough, put one leg over the other, like the picture. Make sure that your back is straight.
2) Close your eyes.
3) Breathe naturally. Focus your attention on the breath. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath. Don’t try to silence thoughts if they come up. Just peacefully observe them, and let them pass. If you have trouble doing this at first, count your breaths.
In, out. One. In, out. Two. In, out. Three. All the way to ten, then repeat. You get the idea.
Start with 5 - 10 minutes a day, whenever convenient. From there, you can work your way up to more time, and start reaping the benefits!
You’ll probably start researching more techniques and fall down the rabbit hole yourself once you’ve noticed improved happiness and sharper thinking, but a breathing meditation is more than enough to get started.
There’s just one catch: you have to actually do it. I know that sounds easy, but most people forget that one. Reading about meditation, or mediating once a week isn’t going do it. Think of your brain as a muscle. It needs consistent exercise, not just a guilty trip to Planet Fitness after polishing off a Twelve inch Pizza. It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do.
Good luck, and enjoy the little things!
Meditation Study: https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/wcu/f/Teeter2016.pdf
“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across.”
You know who said that? Sherlock Holmes, that’s who. Then again, he also bragged about turning orphans into spies, and spent a big chunk of the his adventures high. Wait… Is it too late for me to ask you to forget that example? Damn.
Let’s face it: we are what we think. Our thoughts drive our actions, emotions, decisions, and just about everything else. It’s why motivational videos about kittens make us smile, while music videos with celebrities crying into the camera make us sad.
Our personality and beliefs are shaped by these thoughts. And where do most of our thoughts come from? The environment. From the role models we see on TV, in our homes, in literature, or culture.
Let’s take an example.
When I was in Kindergarden, I used to build these big towers out of blocks. These weren’t just your everyday, run of the mill towers. I’m talking spirals, pirouettes, domes -- the whole shebang. One day, after I was putting the finishing touches on a wooden skyscraper, my teacher, Ms. S, walked over to me and said I was like a little architect. That made five-year old Patrick very happy. The towers were pretty good. Maybe I could be an architect!
But then I watched King Kong, and decided I’d rather be a plane-smashing monkey the size of a tank. The rest is history.
Anyway, the point is, thoughts don’t come out of thin air.
We’re brainwashing ourselves with information everyday, whether we like it or not. There’s no way to avoid it, it’s just how people are. A teacher says we can do something, and we can. A big monkey destroys a city, and we want to jump on the bandwagon. And it doesn’t end when we reach adulthood -- these forces shape us for our entire lives. Think about how much travel can change a person, or finding a new friend circle. The environment never stops rubbing off on us.
The subconscious is like a big sponge, molding our personality and thoughts from whatever it soaks up. From whatever’s around.
But what if you could CHOOSE what your subconscious absorbed, brainwashing yourself into becoming the kind of person you want to be? You’d be able to change your personality, outlook, and self-concept just by thinking. The good news is, you can! No drugs or orphans required.
An information diet is choosing the type and amount of media you consume. The idea is that if you take in positive, thoughtful information, while avoiding the negative or less-than important stuff, you’ll only be shaped by the positive info.
It’s not going to be easy. You’ll have to harness your will, change your thought-process, and basically give the middle finger to conventional wisdom.
Going on an information diet is recognizing that most news, TV, and media, are bullshit, and that you’re much better off without them. Sure, maybe they’re informative, or even a lot of fun, but if you’re goal is to live a happy, productive life, are they really helping? Probably not. News about celebrity overdoses or tragedy overseas might be really interesting, and maybe even make you more interesting to talk to. But will they help day-to-day? I doubt it. If all you get is a constant stream of disaster news and schadenfreude, it can be very difficult to stay focused or motivated.
“Ravenous Shark Eats Family of Four… INCLUDING The puppy!” will probably get a lot more hits than “Ravenous Shark Passes by family of four, just like it does every other 364 days of year,” but not a lot of sources are going to publish headline #2. Just because it’s educational, doesn’t mean it’s giving you an accurate picture of the world. And even if it did, why the hell does a puppy being eaten hundreds of miles away matter? Are you ever going to meet this puppy? Does your concern for the puppy make it any less unfortunate? Nope. It doesn’t.
On an information diet, you’ll have to go make a list of what media is helping, and what’s not. Which sources offer strong role models? Positive themes? Practical info you can use-day to day? Basically, the information diet is putting parental controls on your life.
It’s hard. It’s really hard. But if it means you get to take control of your thoughts, shaping yourself, isn’t that worth it? I’d say so.
Here’s a quick start guide:
Step 1: Ignore
Start by cutting out anything unnecessary. Make a list. This will probably include most social media, news outlets, and TV.
Stop reading about freak unicycle accidents and serial murderers who kill with a spoon.
Get your current events from other people, or set up a one hour chunk of time on the weekends where you can binge to your hearts content. That way, you’ll still get a good sense of what’s going on, without wasting too much time or energy.
Step 2: Forget
If you absolutely must learn something impractical or useless for school or work, do it in big chunks. That way, it’ll be fresh in your mind for the test or the meeting, but will quickly disappear and leave space for useful information.
Step 3: Learn
Now that you’ve eliminated all the negative influences, you’ll be left with just a few really great books, podcasts, shows, and news sources. Use those. use them over and over, until the concepts sink in.
Next, pick a role model, and read their autobiography. Odds are, some of their mindset will rub off, and you’ll be one step closer to the person you want to be.
Lastly, start priming yourself with positive speech. Search up ‘Motivational videos’ or ‘affirmations’ on youtube, and play it in the background. It might sound cheesy, but a lot of the ideas will rub off on you. Start read success stories from people trying to do the same thing you’re doing, learn from them, and put it into practice.
The information-diet is another counter-intuitive lifestyle changes that can make a big difference. If it’s too tough at the beginning, you can start small, just limiting your bad influences and spending more time on the good one. You don’t have to go cold turkey right off the bat.
There’s a lot of great info on this subject, but I think Tim Ferris’s book “The Four hour work Week,” along with his blog, cover it pretty thoroughly. I’ll leave that link, with facts and sourcing below.
Good luck, and happy brainwashing!
Tim Ferris: https://tim.blog/category/low-information-diet-and-selective-ignorance/
Priming Study: https://www.psychology.northwestern.edu/documents/faculty-publications/molden-priming_2014a.pdf
Affirmations and Positive Videos study: https://www.cmu.edu/homepage/health/2013/summer/benefits-of-self-affirmation.shtml