Practical magic is like life hacking except that you’re cheating. Which is fine. You worked for that cheat.
Note that you don’t have to deploy actual spell casting for it to be a cheat, either.
You have taught your brain to do things that most other people haven’t. This means you can hack just a little bit deeper… You can take yourself into the murkier areas out beyond the gratitude journals and firefox extensions that litter the more popular pathways.
If you are really honest about what you want -another magical skill you’ve picked up- then you can get there better and faster.
You already know this works and you already know what you want. And that isn’t half the battle, that’s most of the battle. I’d say around 90%.
With that in mind, let me present some Black Hat Life Hacks. Direct, measurable methods for magic users everywhere to give themselves a serious upgrade in 2011.
1. Locate the good stuff
We begin with some soul searching. Find your best qualities. This is harder than it first appears. We have an image of ourselves that rarely matches up with how others see us.
Find the good stuff in people around you, as well. Then tell them about it.
2. Be aware of the bad stuff
Bad stuff here means shortcomings. And maybe the word ‘bad’ is too loaded. Basically find your weaknesses and minimise them (rather than completely remove them which is asking too much). There are two ways you can do this:
- The full frontal assault which rarely works.
- The asymmetric assault which works a lot more of the time.
Take me. I express too much anger and frustration at work. Not in an infantile way, in a way that would be completely normal in any other first world economy but England. (Some stereotypes are true.)
However -and you can see where I’m going with this- I chose to live in England. So it’s down to me to change. I can
- Take three months off on stress leave, meditate daily and come back to work up to my eyeballs in Zoloft, having removed my temper completely. (In theory. I’d have to stay on the meds in this hypothetical example.)
- Recognise that my behaviour is abnormal in this setting and avoid unnecessary stressors while using negative reinforcement to gradually change my behaviour.
You aren’t perfect. You don’t have to beat yourself up over it. Even just recognising that you have areas of improvement is most of the battle won.
3. Surround yourself with right thinking
Fat people tend to have fat friends. Depressed people have depressed friends. Choose your associates carefully because the last thing you want while trying to upgrade is a whole soup of negativity.
This is easier than you think. You don’t have to abandon old friends and family. Just join a new group like a book club or a volunteer organisation or something. Balance out the influences.
4. Accept new things
People have a natural cut-off point beyond which they are no longer interested in new things. Don’t believe me? Check your iPod. Actively resist that impulse.
Do not permit stasis in any area of your life. Try new foods -especially the ones you don’t like. It’s taken me to age 29 to like stilton but last weekend that moment finally arrived and it was a divine revelation. A divine, cheese-based revelation. I would try multiple times a year because I knew I was in the wrong. Intellectually I knew it was good. There was just the matter of the taste.
Well, that’s gone now. I even bought a special stilton spoon today. (I know, gaaaaaaay!) Once you get there, new is awesome.
Try new sex positions, get someone to explain cricket to you, learn how to de-bone a duck.
5. Explore the unknown
Go somewhere you have never been -somewhere that is substantially different from where you live- and come back with a trophy.
A trophy in this case isn’t an apron that says “Tijuana” on it (although that would be awesome), it is a symbol of how your life is different because of the journey. Think of it like a magical fetish. I got those hand printed Sibilla cards in Florence. On a more mundane level, I spent €100 on a cast iron casserole in Paris that has transformed my cooking. I use it most nights.
A framed photo of yourself for your mantle counts as a trophy… As long as you are either:
- Jumping out of or off something very high.
- Feeding or otherwise being dangerously close to something with large teeth.
- Having sex with a celebrity.
6. Get better at digital
Question. Do you think technology is going to become more or less advanced? Next question. Can you tell me precisely when you decided to ‘sit one out’ on the internet? Was it Twitter? Was it Foursquare? Was it RSS?
Final question: Can you tell my why your parents aren’t as good at using the internet as you? Now picture what you think digital media is going to be like by the end of your lifetime.
Get. Better. At. Digital.
It’s like learning how to read. You are judged by everyone on your digital competencies. It’s simultaneously not at all like learning how to read because the language keeps changing. Too bad. That’s never going to stop. You’ll just have to keep learning.
- Google yourself. Get to the top of the ranking for your name.
- Start a mini-blog that includes your actual name. Tumblr or Posterous are the best. I like Posterous. It’s easier and less hipster. (Point two is one of the best ways to accomplish point one, by the way.)
- Get on -and get good at- Twitter. Note that ‘good at’ does not have to mean tweeting constantly.
These can be your 2011 digital milestones.
7. Read the core texts of the major western religions
Here’s a secret. They’re not actually as long as you think. They are also defining some of the more enduring conflicts of our age. Plus, it’s called an upgrade for a reason.
So that’s the Torah, The New Testament and The Koran.
8. Get fitter without spending money
Gym memberships are excuses. People think because they actually commit money to something then that will force them to go. It won’t. That’s not how your mind is wired. Incentives work better than threats.
I have never met anyone who used a gym to get fit who wasn’t already fit or normal weight already. They just got fitter. They enjoy it. Power to them.
I also know plenty of ex-fatties who got trim and fit without dropping a dime on gym membership.
Besides, going it alone forces you to learn more about health and fitness. This knowledge has more long term value than working out how to change the settings on your gym’s cross trainer.
One final remark: If weight loss is one of your resolutions, consider it as completely separate to getting fit… Because they are completely separate. In fact, the most recent studies suggest regular exercise is contraindicated for weight loss. (Ie exercise will make you healthy. It won’t make you thin.)
9. Subscribe to The Economist
It’s the best global magazine in the world. Trust me. If you read every issue then by 2012 you will be a true global citizen. And it is your responsibility to be a global citizen. What happens to the world happens to you.
Don’t let the name fool you. It’s economic the way the LSE is economic – it’s social rather than financial. Which means it’s for everyone from Rupert Murdoch to a housewife on a tiny island in the Pacific. The world needs more global citizens.
Buy it for yourself for Christmas.
10. Learn 3 new skills
And I mean ‘new’. I don’t mean adding to your knowledge about something you are already familiar with and most probably like. (You should still do that. But we are upgrading here.)
We are talking about project management or classical music appreciation. Something that would add value to you in an independent third party assessment. Something that you could work into a resume.
11. Devote more time to your appearance
Yes. Seriously. This appears to be the best short cut to get people to
- focus more on their own needs
- improve their self esteem
- improve their health
- improve their pay scale
- improve their social skills
- improve their sex lives
If it sounds vain to you then you really need to do this upgrade. 2011 is the year you spend more on your hair. Gordon says you can. We don’t need to end up looking like the cast of Twilight, we should aim to be a bit better turned out.
Let me break this down further. If you spend more time emphasising the things you like about yourself you will lift your self esteem and then all the other good bullet points above will happen quicker and easier.
Told you these hacks were a bit black hat.
But I think magical folk can see the value in them. We can bake a cookie into the vague outline of a person and see the link between that and your partner’s boss. The jump between improving your appearance and getting paid more is smaller… Even if it is more uncomfortable.
Conclusion: commit and measure
This is another thing magical folk can do (sometimes). Notice how, once you get past the first two points, the rest of the hacks have precise metrics? That’s so you’ll know they’re working, so you’ll know that you are upgrading throughout the year.
Life is getting faster. You will blink and you’ll be reading another post like this with hacks for 2012 before you know it. Magical folk know when they’re making progress.
So pick your upgrades and make sure you measure them. I know I will. In fact, that last sentence is going to be my umbrella resolution for New Years.
2011. The year of the upgrade.