The short version

I’m taking a few months off from writing for this blog.

I’ll be back in the spring / summer of 2020.

The long version, part 1: I need to dedicate time to projects in the works

I finish grad school in May to become a therapist. After that I’ll be launching new projects, including:

  • Live-online groups to help people develop self-love and self-compassion
  • One-on-one consultation to help individuals understand the mechanics of their mind, address blind spots in their psychology, and work to live at the edge of their happiness, connection, and success 
  •  An in-person event (potentially)

All of these projects will be built around evidence-based practices and will live at the intersection of psychology, spirituality, and philosophy. They won’t be for everyone – or even most people – but for the right person, they’ll be transformative.

Updates and applications for all of the new projects will go out to my mailing list before they are posted here. If you haven’t already, I’d be honored if you considered signing up for the mailing list here.

The long version part 2: I need to go back to the drawing board

I’m taking a break from this blog for a few additional reasons…

1) Many of the most loved articles on this blog, especially those in the first year or two, came from places of darkness.

But there’s a catch: all that stuff I wrote about, like going to therapy, having hard conversations, developing a meditation practice, changing careers, becoming cool with being imperfect, setting boundaries, etc.? They worked. I don’t experience the same intensity or persistence of darkness that I did when I started writing.

However, this creates a new challenge. If I want to keep writing things worth reading, I need to tap into a new spring of inspiration. For me, that begins with intentionally creating a bit of space.

2) My views on self-help and personal development have evolved. On one hand, I think there’s a lot of value in personal development. The Inner Game of Tennis and A Complaint Free World forever changed my life.

On the other hand, I think that most people who turn to self-help and personal development (both practitioners and providers) are deluding themselves; they don’t need a clever book, article, podcast, or coaching business – they need a therapist.

All of us are wounded and many of our wounds need another person’s care, attention, and perspective to heal. I wish we could bypass it, but I don’t think we really can.

As far as I can tell, true flourishing works like this:

1)    First, you work to address the core wounds that hold you back from your true self. This almost always requires the assistance of someone else, and it may require medication too as you work to get your life together. Note that many people (myself included) will spend countless years of their lives ignoring the reality that we can’t heal alone.

2)    Next, as you begin to develop better health and self-worth, you take some time to get to know your true self again.  

3)    Finally, as you gain possession of your life and develop comfort in your skin, you work to unfetter your heart and mind. This is where personal development really comes in.

Of course, none of these steps exist in isolation, nor are they perfectly linear. However, it’s extremely difficult to flourish when you’re still being controlled by your demons. When I started this blog, I thought self-help was the first, and maybe only step. I no longer believe that and want to take some time to think about what that might mean for me as a writer.  

3) I don’t want to play in the sandbox anymore. Real talk for a second: 99% of the influence industry is gross. (By influence industry, I mean speakers, coaches, podcasters, bloggers, vloggers, social media influencers, etc.).

So many of the people involved with churning out content are doing it for the wrong reasons. They say they just want to help people, but in reality, they’re looking for validation. They say that they know how to build a business and will teach you, but in reality the only business they’ve ever built is teaching you how to build a business. And don’t get me started on the army of influencers trying to help others lead vibrant lives while privately struggling to keep their own heads above water.

Keep in mind that I’m writing from a place of having been there. I used to be a very successful speaker while chunks of my life were a mess. I wrote about self-help without regard for (or understanding of) the research. Am I eating crow right now? Totally. However, in the first article I posted, I promised that I would be honest and do my best, and if that involves admitting that I was wrong, so be it. 

Even really good people with pure intentions and strong work ethics still fuck it up. Something I didn’t fully understand until I went to grad school is that unless the person is a trained expert or a researcher, they almost certainly have no idea what they’re talking about and are confusing anecdotal evidence for science.

Reading a scientific paper and understanding its applicability is deceptively difficult. Before you even get out of the gate, you need to have a decent grasp of statistics and the science behind research. There’s a huge difference between a prospective study with 22 participants and an experimental design with 50,000. Yet, both can be published in credible, peer reviewed journals.

Crazier still: just because something is published, well designed, peer reviewed, and statistically compelling doesn’t mean that it can be reproduced. In fact, a shocking number of studies – especially in psychology – can’t be reproduced. Of course, most successful influencers don’t concern themselves with any of this (even though many pretend to).

So the problem boils down to this:

  • Much of the best science around psychology is shaky, irritatingly nuanced, and difficult to fully understand.
  • Many of the most qualified people to help us understand the research don’t work in public or haven’t put in the effort to make themselves and their work engaging.
  • Many of the people working in the influence industry are unaware that they lack the expertise to actually understand (let alone communicate) what they’re talking about; by the looks of it, many can’t even differentiate anecdotal from empirical evidence. However, unlike most experts, they’ve learned to be amazing at marketing their stuff.
  • Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the influence industry are motivated by validation, vanity metrics, fame, and money, not ensuring that what they say is true and useful.1 

So we have a problem. The stuff that gets rewarded online is overly simplistic and often straight up wrong or incredibly misleading. The content that’s evidence based and useful is nuanced, long, and at times dry AF. One is Laffy Taffy, the other is a poorly made kale salad.

Can this problem be solved? Certainly. There is a way to write about science that is both engaging and helpful, but again, I want to think about what that looks like for me and for the people who trust me enough to read my work.

So, with all of that in mind, it’s time to take a break. I want to integrate everything I’ve learned in grad school and figure out how to meaningfully – and responsibly –  contribute to the conversation around mental health and personal growth. I’ll be back in a few months. Until then be well!

Footnotes

  1. One of the best examples of this is the resurgence of psychedelics and MDMA as psychotherapeutic interventions. Right now, there just isn’t much research on this stuff. The research that exists consists mostly of small studies with bad controls. Virtually all of the research focuses on the efficacy in controlled, clinical environments, not the effectiveness in the real world. Perhaps most concerningly, psychedelics are legit dangerous and can cause irreversible damage. In other words, from a scientific perspective we really don’t know all that much about psychedelics and their relationship to mental health. Yet, if you’ve spent any time at all in the blogosphere or listening to podcasts, you would be convinced that we have rock solid evidence of psychedelic’s effectiveness and safety and that the FDA is just arbitrarily keeping us all miserable by not letting us candyflip with our therapist.
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