Thursday, 6 October 2016

How to Live Well

Some time ago, somehow, unwittingly, I signed myself up to a website called Quora. I'm still not sure how (and they say a university education is worthless these days). For the uninitiated, Quora is essentially Yahoo Answers but for adults - think less "I've been putting my period blood into my boyfriend's food for a month. Is he a vampire yet?" and more "What is your investment checklist before you sell a stock?" It's fair to say I'm more of a lurker than an active contributor to this particular repository of online knowledge.

Nonetheless, I still read the emails Quora sends me, mainly because it sends about five a day (it gets better, I seem to have signed up multiple times, under different email addresses. I'm not convinced I wasn't involved in some kind of conspiracy and have since had my memory wiped). Somewhere along the line I decided it was easier to just acquiesce and accept my new life as a member of a thriving internet community I have no recollection of applying to join.

And anyway (don't fucking judge me, I read as article in the Observer's education supplement recently that said the idea we shouldn't start a sentence with a preposition is outmoded and incorrect), the daily digest emails are quite interesting sometimes. There is, however, one thing I've noticed, and that is that pretty much every other day, it not actually every day, someone asks a variant on the same question which may have been the first I ever read on the site: "What are some habits of highly successful people?" See also "How do I become successful?""What do successful people NEVER do?", etc, etc. And the only thing more predictable than the question is the answer - it is always exactly the same.

Cod, successful people are really fucking boring, if their habits are anything to go by. Every time I read another identikit answer I think that regardless of whether or not following all these daily rituals would actually make me successful, they would definitely make me miserable. Honestly, life's too short for a cayenne pepper cleanse. Ever. So fuck how to live successfully. Here's how to live well.

Start your day with coffee

Some (successful) people will tell you to start every day with a glass of tepid water with a slice of lemon, as "it aids digestion". I hate to be the one to break it to you, but your digestive system is doing just fine on its own, We didn't have safe drinking water in England until the 19th Century and people's guts did OK. Sure, average life expectancy was 35 for much of that time, but do you really want to live too far past that? You're only going to get fat and lose your hair. 

Here's how to start the day right: coffee. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant - it increases the heart rate and gets your blood pumping to promote wakefulness and alertness. It's like cocaine for middle aged office workers. You need to be awake to get out of bed and start your day, plus your heart is getting a workout - what could be healthier than that? The only downside is that coffee is a diuretic, so it can make you thirsty if you have it first thing. You could choose to combat this with a glass of water (guaranteed 99% cholera free since 1835!), but I find a can of Red Bull is extra refreshing, and bonus, more caffeine!

(For anybody interested, I don't buy Red Bull unless absolutely necessary - successful people such as myself don't pay full price for branded energy drinks where avoidable. Boost has been on 'special offer' at 49p since it was released onto the market, but the best value for money out there is Bulldog, which has a regular retail price of 35p and a full, syrupy flavour that isn't too sweet. Best Buy Energy Drink, also 35p is fine, but the taste is weak.)

Set your alarm an hour later than you usually do
I'm so tired of hearing that you should start setting your alarm an hour earlier than necessary in order to do well. Seriously - it makes me feel tired just thinking about it. The idea is that by giving yourself an extra hour in the day, you can achieve so much more - it's another hour in which to be successful after all! Except bullshit. Your body needs sleep in order to regenerate its cells, and that includes brain cells, An extra hour in the morning is just another hour in which to be tired, My advice is to have a lie-in. Try to spend an extra hour in bed, if you can. For example, I set my alarm for 8am, but I try not to get up before 9 - all the extra brain cells I have acquired in that time mean I'm extra ready to take on my day, and having 12 minutes in which to shower and dress is daily exercise in logic and problem solving - it's basically olympic training for your brain,

Take a long, hot shower
The logic of successful people would hold that one should take a freezing cold shower every day. The cold has the dual effect of waking you up (necessary, I suppose, if you haven't had any coffee) and making the experience uncomfortable enough that you won't spend too long in the bathroom (heaven forfend you not be imbibing your tepid water and lemon by 5.06am precisely). But herein lies the problem - the short, sharp shock of walking into a cold shower might wake you up, but it's still a shock. Did you know that of you find someone suffering from hypothermia you shouldn't try to warm them up too quickly? The inclination is to stash them in a hot bath until paramedics arrive, but you'd do better to spend the time planning their funeral if that's your approach, because the sudden change in temperature is enough to kill them. Same problem with the cold shower. You're all snuggly and toasty warm in bed and then you leap into a stone cold shower - it's not going to end well, is it? Sure, you might not actually die, but do you really want to risk it?

Don't Disconnect
It's amazing how many people will take to social media to tell you to disconnect from social media. Successful people don't waste time making and maintaining connections, keeping up with the news or reaching out to, and learning from people all over the world, people who might know things you don't and be able to help you close that deal, fix your computer or diagnose that weird rash that you're too embarrassed to see a doctor about. People are a distraction. Successful people log off from the internet and work for 16 hours a day until and because their only friend is the cold muzzle of the gun they press to their temple every night. Don't be successful.

Watch TV
Quite possibly my biggest bugbear, even more so than people who press the call button for the lift when it's clearly already lit, or people who press the button to open the doors on the train before it has even come to a full stop (I have a lot of button-related rage), is people who say they don't watch TV. "I don't even own a television" is the most overused phrase in the English language, I hear it at work and I WORK IN TELEVISION. Successful people don't watch TV, they read books, because successful people apparently never worked out that it's not an either/or situation. They also never worked out that cortisol, the stress hormone, can do serious harm to your vital organs if left unchecked, and trash TV is a faster way to unwind than settling down with the a glass of tepid water and a well-thumbed copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original English (speaking as someone who had to read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original English as part of their degree, I can confidently state that it actually raised my stress levels significantly). Successful people also don't know that a TV set can be a portal to learning and betterment - and anyone who cares to still disagree would do well to remember that I have watched enough murder documentaries to make it entirely plausible that I could kill you and never get caught.

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