How to Practice What You Preach (For Those Just Starting Out)

By Michael Laster
Jan 27th, 2014
1 Comment

Life is about finding balance between your own well-being while contributing to the well-being of loved ones. No, that’s wrong. Who am I to tell you what life is about? Purpose is relative. Maybe you just want lots of money, status, and compliments – screw helping others. Life is whatever you make of it. No, wait, it’s actually about eating, sleeping, and mating so our genes can survive – everything else is just extra. NO! It’s not that either. Life is… actually, biologists can’t even define “life” since they’re still debating whether viruses even count as living things since they need a host to reprodu…

Ok, let’s put aside trying to define life from the outside. Look inward for a second. What’s motivating your long term goals right now? Assuming you’re not working at your dream job (though props if you are), what do you hope to do? Many of us (including myself) don’t feel we have the resources yet to live the life we want to live to change society for the better. And by “us,” I mean people in their late teens or 20’s who are aware of a problem, or problems that face our generation and future generations. But how do we go about actually embodying the change we want to see in the world?

Sure, we can ‘like’ quotes by Ghandi or Thomas Jefferson on Facebook. We can also tweet the lyrics of John Lennon or Rage Against The Machine, or email friends links to news stories we feel are important. We can stay up all night debating our political opinions. But spreading awareness can only go so far without real action (aka “slacktivism”). At the end of the day (or in the morning, any time is good), we need to ask ourselves: do we really care about the well being of strangers, or do we just get off to the idea that we’re “someone who cares”?

Making a real impact involves cutting out the false modesty (no time, too lazy, have to tend my rabbits) and admitting that it’s actually possible. “But wait, there’s so much wrong with the world, where do I even begin?” Well which one of these motivates you the most? Here’s a grocery list:

  1. Human rights (hunger, poverty, racism, war crimes)
  2. Discrimination (gender, race, orientation, age, or disabilities)
  3. Animal rights
  4. Immigration
  5. Economy
  6. Education
  7. Housing (the rent is too damn high)
  8. Health (people’s blood pressure is too damn high)
  9. Clean energy/Environment/Climate change (the temperature is too damn high)
  10. Legalization of marijuana (dude, let’s all get too damn high)

If you’re a big idea person though, instead of taking up one specific issue, you may want to try and find a single source for all of the above problems. A lot of people talk in general terms about fighting “the system,” or “the man,” but who is that exactly? “The man” seems to mean different things to different people. Here are some of my personal favorites:

1. Large government. Our personal freedoms are being taken away through surveillance, overregulation, and taxes. There are also too many handouts to those who abuse the system, which hurts the average hardworking American. (Conservative stance)

2. Corporations and banks. They’ve gotten too powerful in the last 100 years. They’re messing up the environment and hurting small businesses and middle class Americans. They do this because they have become too big for the government to regulate. (Liberal stance)

3. Both of the above are true because capital hill and corporate America are in bed together, screwing over the 99%. (Occupy Movement)

4. Government, corporations, banks, the media, and even the entertainment industry are all part of an international conspiracy run by a mysterious group of wealthy families nicknamed “The Illuminati.”

5. Human nature itself  – If we had it offered to us, we’d all get corrupted by power too since we’re only human. So we must curb our selfish impulses by losing our ego through various Eastern practices (meditation, yoga), or opening our hearts to Jesus, or expanding our consciousness through hallucinogens, or healing our inner child, or listening to New Age gurus.

6. Reptilians/Satan/Demons. The elites have sold their souls to entities at lower vibrations of consciousness that feed off of the collective fear and anxiety of humanity. Yummy.

You can pick one of those, or combine a few. All that matters is that we’re able to back up our point of view by doing hours of research. Then, pursue it with a skill (music, poetry, painting, design, literature, business skills, investment, people skills, animation, photography, cat juggling etc…).

There is, however, a danger in taking these issues too seriously. If we focus too much on all the problems of the world, we can lose the ability to see the positive aspects of life. If we see ourselves as someone who’s more informed and aware than most people, we run the risk of walking outside and becoming resentful towards the majority, seeing most people as uninformed robots who sell their individuality just to be another cog in the collective idiocracy. The feeling of being “too aware to be happy” is a trap, and often sucks in people who felt alienated to begin with. If you’re already depressed and you decide to listen to Alex Jones… you’re gonna have a bad time.

But on the other extreme is a state of mind addicted to having fun, turned off by any mention that there’s anything wrong with anything. They may even want to do something, but they’re scared of being seen as the one who lowers people’s good vibes with being too… “truthy.” After all, no one wants to be compared to the person with a megaphone in the street screaming


Even more common is choosing a life of escapism due to an underlying feeling of helplessness when it comes to big issues.

“Oh, that stuff will take care of itself; we’ve made it this far, right? Come on man, you only live once, so don’t worry about things you can’t change. Just live in the present – don’t worry, be happy!”

Both points of view contain truth, but they’re also both incomplete without the other. The first is informed, but contaminated with fear, anger, and paranoia. The second has a good attitude, but doesn’t realize their potential for being a part of something larger.

Ideally, we want to practice what we preach in both action and attitude. So keep liking those Ghandi quotes on facebook, debating politics, and emailing articles, knowing that it is possible to be aware of what’s wrong while still being motivated by everything that’s still right.

The end.

One Response to “How to Practice What You Preach (For Those Just Starting Out)”

  1. Wonderful, wonderful writing on this blog!
    I’ve felt the need to let go of my clinginess to #3 on your “big idea person” list and focus more on #5’s curbing “selfish impulses by losing our ego through various Eastern practices (meditation, yoga)”. I’ve tried complaining and complaining and, what a surprise, it hasn’t brought me more contentment or inner peace. So now I look within and do my best to open my mind to all the sacredness we encounter in this spiritual journey.

    Now I am focusing on not making a fool of myself through mindful consideration of others’ situations, and well as clarifying intentions behind my actions. This helps me gain confidence and really comes full circle – people can be really nice if you just act compassionate! That scrunched expression on the face of your fellow bus passenger may be the result of a gassy stomach, not because s/he is just mean!

    Thanks for encouraging everyone to reach out. I’ve been having a hard time with it, and this just helps me understand more than ever: We’re together in this!

    Keep up the Karma,


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