I Want to Believe The Hype - Stallio

Is Your Scepticism Holding You Back?

Image: I Want to Believe The Hype by Stallio

A massive thank you to everybody who has commented, spread the word on Twitter & Facebook, or emailed me with feedback about the first week of The Clear-Minded Creative – the response has been fantastic.

The blog was even featured on The Guardian Edinburgh, which amusingly attracted my very own “hater” in the comments, who described me as “like Anthony Robbins meets Adrian Mole”.

Unfortunately for my hater, I actually take that as a compliment – I was a big fan of Sue Townsend’s geeky creation as a kid, and I also think Anthony Robbins has a lot of good things to say.

What?? I hear you gasp!

Wait a minute – don’t tell me – might you be hugely sceptical or cynical about self-development?

If so, I can totally relate. It’s hard not to be in the face of an ever-increasing queue of self-appointed ‘gurus’, lining up to sell you the ‘secret’ or ‘hidden key’ to success, or a miracle cure for your insomnia/low self-esteem/alektorophobia (fear of chickens) – especially when you have to remortgage your house to afford it.

Anyone who sets themselves up as a guru immediately sets alarm bells ringing in our minds. Nobody’s perfect after all, so if someone’s selling us their lifestyle or personality as something we should be aspiring to, I for one can’t help wondering what they’re not telling us about this perfect life of theirs, like what skeletons they have in their closet or bodies buried under their patio.

Okay, I have an over-active imagination but you might have the same nagging sensation that the image they’re portraying is not quite the whole truth.

Throughout my adult life I’ve fluctuated between wide-eyed naivety (or open-mindedness depending on your view), and a stubborn cynicism. The truth is though that I regret the extended periods where I was most sceptical and closed-off to the possibilities of self-improvement.

But Surely It’s Good to be a ‘Healthy Sceptic?’

Now I do believe that there is such thing as healthy scepticism, because people need to have a sense of when people are trying to con them and scepticism of generally accepted “truths” can be a very healthy thing. We need to challenge pointless traditions and out-dated systems and opinions.

However if a person is too sceptical about things that could be helpful to them surely it is counter-productive.

Old-School Self-Help

We’ve all heard of self-help gurus who have become hugely successful such as Anthony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Brian Tracy. Whilst the advice these people offer can often be very helpful for anyone willing to put in the hard work to implementing it, they also often charge a premium for their services and use pushy sales techniques which could put people off.

And many people can come away disappointed because they thought there would be an easy answer to their problems.

Despite this, I personally have benefited from the advice of these old school self-help types because I gave them the benefit of the doubt and listened to the useful things they had to say.

And the likes of Anthony Robbins have inspired others, such as life coach Tim Brownson who is bringing self-help kicking and screaming into modern times with his no-nonsense, but highly effective approach. You can tell just by reading his excellent blog that Tim is no ordinary life coach.

Aesthetics are Important

These days, someone like Chris Guillebeau who uses fresh and modern design is more likely to get the trust of the modern creative person than someone like Brian Tracy with his old school aesthetics. But sometimes it’s worth pushing past your preconceptions.

The Advantages of an Open Mind

This excellent article on the same topic at The School of Life suggests we need to reclaim a sense of ‘sceptical optimism and down to earth happiness’.

With an open mind you can look past things like aesthetics and find some useful information.  And no-one’s saying you have to agree with everything a person says to get something useful out of it. Each person is unique and a critical eye is of course necessary in order to pick out the specific things that apply to your own personality, talents and life situation.

Do you agree or disagree that there are benefits to having a more open mind? Have your say in the comments.

Nine CMC

Clear-Minded Creative Types #1: Nine

Nine – picture by Emli Bendixen

This is the first in a series of interviews with creative types who are doing things a little differently to the norm, and I’m delighted that the first interview is with my friend Nine, who also happens to be one of my favourite writers. I asked her to introduce herself:

I’m a freelance editor, zinester, traveller, and member of the redundancy club. I work while I’m on the road, and avoid paying rent by finding house sitting assignments. My where-next shortlist changes weekly.

My zines are If Destroyed Still True (about stuff that happens to me) and Sex Industry Apologist (based on my years as a staff member at a support project for sex workers).

Abyssinia, Henry is my primary blog these days, documenting where I’m at, but my other one is called Everyone I Ever Kissed, which is exactly what it sounds like: it’s been on hiatus for a while, but I’ll get on with it eventually. I also used to edit the LGBT and subsequently Deviance sections of The Skinny magazine.

Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?

I pretty much always wanted to be a writer, though when I was a kid I wrote short stories and now I’m all about non-fiction. I like to read fiction by others, but real life is too interesting for me to make things up.

In my mid- to late teens I wanted to be a music journalist, and worked on that quite a bit, but eventually I got really sick of it – I felt like I was bluffing my way through it. I guess my motivation was wrong: I wanted to write about music because I loved music (and I loved getting free stuff, and getting onto the guest list reduced my chances of getting ID’d), but not because I loved writing about music.

I gradually realised that I’d been trying to sound like some sort of all-knowing observer with no discernible personality. I was writing in this voice because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Then I discovered zines, and got more into punk and DIY scenes, and that kind of changed everything.

A lot of the zines I read had that confessional/memoir thing going on, which appealed to me. And I saw that actually, I could create something just the way I wanted it – I didn’t need to follow anyone else’s formula for what constitutes ‘proper’ writing or ‘proper’ publishing or whatever, and I could have full control of how it looked and where it went.

So then I wound up largely focusing on my own life, though often incorporating the personal-is-political approach. It’s always felt completely natural to me – I’m just writing in my own voice rather than taking a step back and pretending I’m not really there. Although I’m aware that my life might not be all that conventional by some people’s standards, it’s not actually about accentuating (perceived) difference. There are universal experiences to talk about, and I want to strike a chord with people.