Be Still Every Day

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As important as it is to move every day, making time to be still is of equal importance. It is the quiet yin to the yang of activity, the vessel that holds the fire of creation. Without stillness you can only hope to achieve half your potential.

The modern world is antithetical to cultivating mindfulness. The Internet tempts users with unbridled access to unlimited information: images, videos, games, information, with no limiters and every opportunity to get even more. Many games–especially mobile games–are Skinner boxes that draw the player in with bright colours, instant gratification, and just enough frustration to keep the player wanting to keep playing in, for a small, small price. Social media lets you share your thoughts on anything an everything, peek into the lives of people you want to follow, and deliver and receive instant gratification through like and share buttons and quick comments. Web articles with clickbait titles stir up your passions and suck you in, then drive you on to even more clickbait. Devices ring with notifications every hour of the day, and with constant connection comes the constant demand to keep working, keep doing, keep seeking more.

Much of the modern world, deliberately or otherwise, induces a quasi-permanent state of insatiable desire. Whenever you think you are fulfilled, something new comes along and stokes the flames once again. This state of constant rushing about to do things and get things leaves people exhausted, sick and unsatisfied. With so much activity, and brains entrained to keep acting, there is no space to breathe, to recharge, to remember.

In a world that demands constant activity, learn to be still.

But stillness is not the destination. A statue is still, but it is not alive. A man can stand in an empty room and stare blankly at the walls all day, but he’s more likely to be insane or addled than self-realised. Strive for mindfulness. A total acceptance of everything around you, with your mind completely engaged in the present. Yet to achieve mindfulness, first understand stillness.

Meditate Every Day

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Every day you are becoming your tomorrow. What you do now, in this moment, influences what you will do next. Do something enough times and it becomes a habit. If you are habituated to seek sensory pleasures, to seek more work to do, to keep moving, your mind will fixate on opportunities to do so. If you are habituated to be mindful, to be receptive of everything around you, to appreciate the present exactly as it is, your mind will free itself to be one with the moment.

Earlier I’ve written about taking back your mind. Now we take things to the next level.

Meditate in the morning. After you wake up, meditate. What you do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. You don’t want to be irritated, distracted with emails and thoughts and the latest media scandal, or otherwise emotionally upset. There is always time for that later. You want to be calm and focused. Find it through meditation.

Find a quiet spot, sit or stand, breathe, and relax. Pay attention to your body. Does something ache? Is your back bent and your head hunched forward? Is there tension in your muscles? Are you fidgeting?

Let your body go completely liquid. Perfectly at ease, perfectly relaxed, yet perfectly unified. The old adage is to be like water. In Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power, Peter Ralston explains how to achieve this state when standing upright. Rest your weight in the center of your soles, pressing down into the earth. Align your knees, hips, torso, spine, shoulders and neck so that each successive limb or joint is stacked upon the one below it. Imagine that there a thousand-pound weight hanging between your legs, and stand so that the weight won’t pull you into the ground. Think of it like stacking a series of ever-smaller plates one atop the other. If you need help, press your back and the back of your skull against a wall, and maintain that posture.

Completely, consciously and totally relax every muscle from your toes to your neck. It may feel wrong, especially for people who unconsciously carry tension in their bodies all day long, but it is worth it. Your pelvis and shoulders may feel unnaturally wobbly, limp or useless. That is perfectly natural. The key is to remain completely balanced. If you are balanced in a neutral position, able to maintain your posture without swaying back and forth, you are doing it right.

Adapting these principles to a seated position is relatively simple. Sit upright, soles flat on the floor, legs relaxed. Your weight should be focused on your coccyx, directed into the floor. As with the thousand-pound weight analogy, sit so that the weight won’t pull you down. Should you try more advanced position like the half-lotus or full lotus, always keep your back straight and your body loose.

You probably won’t get this right the first time around. Or even the first hundred times. That’s okay. The key is to keep at it until you do get it right (though engaging a coach or therapist to check out your posture won’t hurt). When your body is aligned and loose and free, so too is your mind. Take your posture–seated or standing–and begin.

Clear your mind. Whatever it is you may be thinking, let it go. Simply cease paying attention to that stream of thought, and pay attention to a complete silence. Let this silence engulf you. In that silence, take in everything around you. The feel of your clothes, the temperature of the air, the rustling of leaves in a breeze, the gentle light of the morning sun. Drink in the moment.

Don’t force it. This is not a state of work. This is a state of rest. You know how to let your body rest; simply let the entirety of your being enter a state of repose. And should you find your mind distracted by a random thought or some strange sensory input, simply let it go and return to the state of stillness.

Yin and Yang

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Stillness is the stepping stone to mindfulness. Once you are familiar with the whole body sensation of mindfulness when you are still, apply mindfulness in motion.

When speaking to someone, grasp his body language, tone of voice, gaze, tone, content of speech, assumptions, emotional state and implied meanings. When walking in the wider world, study the environment, people, ongoing events, traffic flow, weather, geography, your posture, physical sensations, weight distribution, fatigue, pain. When working, let your mind be completely absorbed in it and allow nothing to disturb your state of being. Be completely in the present, exactly as you were when you were meditating in stillness.

Mindfulness is a state of being. Of receiving and parsing all the information around you, acting in the most relaxed, calm and efficient manner, and appreciating the entirety of Creation. By moving every day you become healthier and learn to be disciplined, creative and efficient; by combining motion with mindfulness you eliminate distractions, receiving useful information, and seeking the most fluid way of doing things.

Achieve synthesis of action and non-action, decisiveness and thoughtfulness, yang and yin. Be as immovable as earth, as free as the air, as focused as fire, and as mutable as water. Balance these traits to suit your current situation.

When apprehending something new, approach it with complete openness and curiosity, seeking to understand everything about it. When acting upon it, do so with complete resolution. If you encounter an obstacle your first thought may be to blast through it. Seek instead a way to flow around it and reserve your energy for powering to your goals; if there isn’t one, identify the path of least resistance and blast through. When faced with a thousand and one things to do, root your mind in place, identify what must be done, and act with complete calmness and pinpoint focus. At the gym, relentlessly engage mind and body. Seek the most efficient and effective ways of working your muscles, preventing injury and enhancing performance.

Always remain mindful of your actions. When you find yourself straying, return to that state of stillness and presence.

Be still every day to achieve mindfulness. Then leave stillness behind and be mindful in what you do.

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If you’d like to support my work, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon.

6 Vital Skills for High-Functioning Autistics

If you’re high-functioning autistic, there’s a high chance you’re starting life on the back foot. You may have significant social difficulties, poor motor skills, sensory issues and other deficits. It’s not your fault, it’s just how your brain is wired. But the real kicker is that to most people, you appear mostly normal — if a little eccentric — so they’re going to treat you like a normie. You may not even recognise that you’re significantly different from others until later in life.

Society is built by neurotypicals for neurotypicals. This is simple demographics. If you’re not neurutypical, you’re going to have to adapt as best as you can. One of the major difficulties growing up autistic in an NT world is that society assumes you’ve adopted the skills, norms, and behaviours that enable you to function in that society. Most NTs can do this unconsciously, if with some guidance, and this assumption is baked deep into every civilisation.

For those of us who, for some reason or other, have not grokked these concepts growing up, life becomes a daily struggle to make sense of an illogical world.

It’s nice if the NTs accomodate your special needs — I am certainly grateful when they do — but I don’t expect everyone around me to do it. Especially complete strangers who don’t know me or my specific needs. Likewise, I don’t expect NTs to change their behaviours and attitudes to accomodate the needs of autistics either. I despise being touched by people I don’t know, but physical contact is a common NT way of expressing positive emotion, and telling all NTs to stop touching just because I don’t like it is selfishness beyond compare.

The world is not made for the neurodiverse. To survive, to triumph, we must adapt to the world while retaining who we are.

1. Develop Baseline Social Skills

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Humans are social creatures. You included, no matter how much you may think otherwise.

if you live in modern society, you are part of an interdependent whole. You are reliant on other people for food, water, electricity, clothing and other essential services. The only way you can get around that is to walk away from modern civilisation and live a self-sufficient life in the boonies (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this).

To persuade people to give you these things, you need to demonstrate your value to them — which, in practical terms, means working for people to earn money to buy stuff, understand what others need and how to meet them, and how to communicate your needs to others.

You don’t need to be the life of the party. You don’t have to transform yourself into a social butterfly overnight. But you do need a baseline minimum of social skills to function in society. You may not feel that such skills are important, but everybody else around you will — and expect the same from you. If you can’t live up to their standards, they have less reason to help you when you need the help.

What is this baseline? It depends on what you do and what you want to achieve.

If you’re a day trader who works mostly on a computer with minimal human contact and with no desire for human relationships, you only need enough social skills to communicate your basic needs. If you’re a writer you need to understand what your customers and audiences want, and effectively communicate with them. If you seek a lover, you must know the language of intimacy.

At the same time, society imposes a set of requirements on you. Proper etiquette and social rituals, such as mealtimes, small talk, cultural taboos and expected behaviours. Basic work skills like being punctual, diligent, meticulous and repsonsible. The written and unwritten laws of communication. Reading body language to tease meaning from vague words. Knowing the most appropriate response to a given situation.

And, more often than not, you only have one chance to get it right.

But don’t fret: social skills are skills that can be learned. Most NTs simply pick them up unconsciously. You, too, can learn them — you just need to be conscious about it. Study the spoken and unspoken norms of the circles in which you travel, put these skills into practice, and don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve found that people are perfectly willing to help someone if you make it clear that you are there to learn from them.

It is exhausting. It will take a lifetime to learn. You may not ever be as smooth or confident or skilled as others. You’ll probably make many mistakes, and make even more missteps you won’t be aware of. But if you want to enjoy the benefits of civilised society, you must act like a member of that society.

2. Manage Your Emotions

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Every day fresh tempests of emotions threaten to blow people left and right. The media is ever-searching for the latest outrage to grab viewers and grab advertising revenue. Race-baiters, social justice warriors and outrage-mongers fill the airwaves with nonsense day in and out in a bid to capture and retain the limelight. Activists and bloggers shout from every social media platform, trying to sway you by your emotions.

In a world of outrage, microaggressions and trigger warnings, he who is constantly outraged will be blown about and used as a pawn. He who cannot control emotions will be stressed out perpetually, leading to chronic diseases and an early death. He who chases the highs of self-righteousness and anger will burn out and be destroyed by the inevitable crash. And for autistics, this constant emotional load will make it increasingly easier to trigger a meltdown.

You must remain calm and centred. You may consider yourself a rational creature, but humans are rationalising creatures. Many humans are motivated by feelings, and only invent justifications after acting. Emotional appeals are powerful means of social influence because they short-circuit the brain; when activists and politicians and salesmen pressure you to act, you must know when and how to re-engage your brain’s capability for rational thought. The last thing you need is to get caught up in some pointless Internet feud, or to do something you’ll regret.

The trick is to breathe. Breathe gently, deeply and rhythmically. Keep your focus on your breath and maintain a regular rhythm. I prefer a four-count inhale and exhale cycle, but you can pick what suits you best.

As you inhale, gather up any emotions you feel, and expel them on the exhale. If you are angry, you may visualise a dark roiling ball of red light in your lungs; if you are sad it may be a dull gray ball. As you breathe out, visualise them flowing out your lungs and nostrils and dispersing in the air. As you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in a stream of pure white, spreading throughout you and bringing you to a state of calm.

You may feel yourself being pressed by a constant assault of negative emotions. That is fine. Simply let them pass through you instead of stagnating within. By concentrating on your breath, you are purging these negative emotions from your body and refreshing your brain with oxygen.

I’ve found that this trick also works if you’re on the verge of a meltdown, or are in the middle of one. Concentrating on your breath helps to sooth outraged nerves, accelerating the recovery process.

As a rule of thumb, the more negative emotions you feel — sadness, anger, grief, fear — the more impulsively you’ll act, and the more impulsively you act, the likelier the possibility of long-term negative consequences. You can’t take back the past. Better to avoid making a mistake if you can. Whenever you find yourself roiled up, step away and breathe. You can always come back to the situation later.

3. Take the Red Pill

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The Red Pill is the truth. The truth about the world, the truth about men and women, the truth about relationships, the truth about sexual politics. If you are autistic and suffer from social deficits, the Red Pill is a powerful paradigm to put you on a level playing field with everyone else in the social arena.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Knowledge of the Red Pill is critical to understanding sexual dynamics. It is crucial foundational knowledge if you want a lover while avoiding predators in human skin.

The Red Pill is often misconstrued as the body of knowledge for pickup artists. It’s true PUAs use it. But the Red Pill applies to married life, to people seeking fulfilling long-term relationships, to people trying to understand why men and women act the way they do — and to both men and women.

At its heart, the Red Pill is about the differences between men and women, and how they strive to establish meaningful complementary relationships. Concepts like sexual marketplace value, female hypergamy and male socio-sexual status help you judge where you stand in relation to others, understand why people act the way they do in love, and how to maximise your own value through self-improvement.

The same tactics used by sleazy PUAs to seduce women are the same tactics a husband uses to maintain a happy marriage. The Red Pill must be paired with ethics. Seek self-improvement through nutrition, exercise, constant learning and meaningful hobbies. Build confidence through employing body language, vocal practice and mindset development. Hold yourself to high standards of moral conduct and demand your intimates to do the same. Recognise how men and women interact, and with this knowledge achieve your relationship goals.

You may not want to use the tactics of pickup artists. Touching strangers or being touched by strangers may feel repulsive. Prolonged conversations may be draining. Your relationship goals may be different from mine. And that is fine, but you still need baseline social self-defense skills.

You must, at the very least, be able to identify scumbags, liars, abusers, narcissists and predators. You need to know whether someone is truly interested in you or just toying with you to get something from you. The Red Pill shows you their tactics, allowing you to see them coming a mile away. And it gives you the confidence to see them off and help your loved ones defend themselves against them.

4. Know the Game of Influence

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6 Vital Skills for High-Functioning Autistics

3 minutes ago

cheah 64 in life

If you’re high-functioning autistic, there’s a high chance you’re starting life on the back foot. You may have significant social difficulties, poor motor skills, sensory issues and other deficits. It’s not your fault, it’s just how your brain is wired. But the real kicker is that to most people, you appear mostly normal — if a little eccentric — so they’re going to treat you like a normie. You may not even recognise that you’re significantly different from others until later in life.

Society is built by neurotypicals for neurotypicals. This is simple demographics. If you’re not neurutypical, you’re going to have to adapt as best as you can. One of the major difficulties growing up autistic in an NT world is that society assumes you’ve adopted the skills, norms, and behaviours that enable you to function in that society. Most NTs can do this unconsciously, if with some guidance, and this assumption is baked deep into every civilisation.

For those of us who, for some reason or other, have not grokked these concepts growing up, life becomes a daily struggle to make sense of an illogical world.

It’s nice if the NTs accomodate your special needs — I am certainly grateful when they do — but I don’t expect everyone around me to do it. Especially complete strangers who don’t know me or my specific needs. Likewise, I don’t expect NTs to change their behaviours and attitudes to accomodate the needs of autistics either. I despise being touched by people I don’t know, but physical contact is a common NT way of expressing positive emotion, and telling all NTs to stop touching just because I don’t like it is selfishness beyond compare.

The world is not made for the neurodiverse. To survive, to triumph, we must adapt to the world while retaining who we are.

1. Develop Baseline Social Skills

people-2557396_960_720.jpg

Humans are social creatures. You included, no matter how much you may think otherwise.

if you live in modern society, you are part of an interdependent whole. You are reliant on other people for food, water, electricity, clothing and other essential services. The only way you can get around that is to walk away from modern civilisation and live a self-sufficient life in the boonies (in which case, you wouldn’t be reading this).

To persuade people to give you these things, you need to demonstrate your value to them — which, in practical terms, means working for people to earn money to buy stuff, understand what others need and how to meet them, and how to communicate your needs to others.

You don’t need to be the life of the party. You don’t have to transform yourself into a social butterfly overnight. But you do need a baseline minimum of social skills to function in society. You may not feel that such skills are important, but everybody else around you will — and expect the same from you. If you can’t live up to their standards, they have less reason to help you when you need the help.

What is this baseline? It depends on what you do and what you want to achieve.

If you’re a day trader who works mostly on a computer with minimal human contact and with no desire for human relationships, you only need enough social skills to communicate your basic needs. If you’re a writer you need to understand what your customers and audiences want, and effectively communicate with them. If you seek a lover, you must know the language of intimacy.

At the same time, society imposes a set of requirements on you. Proper etiquette and social rituals, such as mealtimes, small talk, cultural taboos and expected behaviours. Basic work skills like being punctual, diligent, meticulous and repsonsible. The written and unwritten laws of communication. Reading body language to tease meaning from vague words. Knowing the most appropriate response to a given situation.

And, more often than not, you only have one chance to get it right.

But don’t fret: social skills are skills that can be learned. Most NTs simply pick them up unconsciously. You, too, can learn them — you just need to be conscious about it. Study the spoken and unspoken norms of the circles in which you travel, put these skills into practice, and don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve found that people are perfectly willing to help someone if you make it clear that you are there to learn from them.

It is exhausting. It will take a lifetime to learn. You may not ever be as smooth or confident or skilled as others. You’ll probably make many mistakes, and make even more missteps you won’t be aware of. But if you want to enjoy the benefits of civilised society, you must act like a member of that society.

2. Manage Your Emotions

meltdown-1312488_960_720.jpg

Every day fresh tempests of emotions threaten to blow people left and right. The media is ever-searching for the latest outrage to grab viewers and grab advertising revenue. Race-baiters, social justice warriors and outrage-mongers fill the airwaves with nonsense day in and out in a bid to capture and retain the limelight. Activists and bloggers shout from every social media platform, trying to sway you by your emotions.

In a world of outrage, microaggressions and trigger warnings, he who is constantly outraged will be blown about and used as a pawn. He who cannot control emotions will be stressed out perpetually, leading to chronic diseases and an early death. He who chases the highs of self-righteousness and anger will burn out and be destroyed by the inevitable crash. And for autistics, this constant emotional load will make it increasingly easier to trigger a meltdown.

You must remain calm and centred. You may consider yourself a rational creature, but humans are rationalising creatures. Many humans are motivated by feelings, and only invent justifications after acting. Emotional appeals are powerful means of social influence because they short-circuit the brain; when activists and politicians and salesmen pressure you to act, you must know when and how to re-engage your brain’s capability for rational thought. The last thing you need is to get caught up in some pointless Internet feud, or to do something you’ll regret.

The trick is to breathe. Breathe gently, deeply and rhythmically. Keep your focus on your breath and maintain a regular rhythm. I prefer a four-count inhale and exhale cycle, but you can pick what suits you best.

As you inhale, gather up any emotions you feel, and expel them on the exhale. If you are angry, you may visualise a dark roiling ball of red light in your lungs; if you are sad it may be a dull gray ball. As you breathe out, visualise them flowing out your lungs and nostrils and dispersing in the air. As you inhale, imagine yourself breathing in a stream of pure white, spreading throughout you and bringing you to a state of calm.

You may feel yourself being pressed by a constant assault of negative emotions. That is fine. Simply let them pass through you instead of stagnating within. By concentrating on your breath, you are purging these negative emotions from your body and refreshing your brain with oxygen.

I’ve found that this trick also works if you’re on the verge of a meltdown, or are in the middle of one. Concentrating on your breath helps to sooth outraged nerves, accelerating the recovery process.

As a rule of thumb, the more negative emotions you feel — sadness, anger, grief, fear — the more impulsively you’ll act, and the more impulsively you act, the likelier the possibility of long-term negative consequences. You can’t take back the past. Better to avoid making a mistake if you can. Whenever you find yourself roiled up, step away and breathe. You can always come back to the situation later.

3. Take the Red Pill

Red Pills.jpg

The Red Pill is the truth. The truth about the world, the truth about men and women, the truth about relationships, the truth about sexual politics. If you are autistic and suffer from social deficits, the Red Pill is a powerful paradigm to put you on a level playing field with everyone else in the social arena.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. Knowledge of the Red Pill is critical to understanding sexual dynamics. It is crucial foundational knowledge if you want a lover while avoiding predators in human skin.

The Red Pill is often misconstrued as the body of knowledge for pickup artists. It’s true PUAs use it. But the Red Pill applies to married life, to people seeking fulfilling long-term relationships, to people trying to understand why men and women act the way they do — and to both men and women.

At its heart, the Red Pill is about the differences between men and women, and how they strive to establish meaningful complementary relationships. Concepts like sexual marketplace value, female hypergamy and male socio-sexual status help you judge where you stand in relation to others, understand why people act the way they do in love, and how to maximise your own value through self-improvement.

The same tactics used by sleazy PUAs to seduce women are the same tactics a husband uses to maintain a happy marriage. The Red Pill must be paired with ethics. Seek self-improvement through nutrition, exercise, constant learning and meaningful hobbies. Build confidence through employing body language, vocal practice and mindset development. Hold yourself to high standards of moral conduct and demand your intimates to do the same. Recognise how men and women interact, and with this knowledge achieve your relationship goals.

You may not want to use the tactics of pickup artists. Touching strangers or being touched by strangers may feel repulsive. Prolonged conversations may be draining. Your relationship goals may be different from mine. And that is fine, but you still need baseline social self-defense skills.

You must, at the very least, be able to identify scumbags, liars, abusers, narcissists and predators. You need to know whether someone is truly interested in you or just toying with you to get something from you. The Red Pill shows you their tactics, allowing you to see them coming a mile away. And it gives you the confidence to see them off and help your loved ones defend themselves against them.

4. Know the Game of Influence

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Civilised living is a game of influence. People are trying to influence you, and you are trying to influence others.

‘Influence’ is value-neutral. This could be a pushy salesman demanding a customer buy something he doesn’t need, or a more thoughtful one helping a customer meet his requirements. This is a manager convincing a low-performing worker to get his act together, an employee asking for a raise, or you trying to convince someone to hire you.

85% of autists are unemployed. If you don’t want to be part of this statistic, you have to convince people that you can bring value to their lives. It means convincing an employer to hire you, persuading your boss to give you a wage, selling your product to customers, and so on. Doing this successfully requires knowledge of the art of influence.

You must know how to influence people to achieve your goals. You also need to recognise when someone is trying to influence you into making a bad decision. Think of the salesperson getting you to buy products you don’t need, an attractive girl luring you into a cult, a colleague who wants to shove all his work to you while claiming the glory. People who are mind-blind and lack social skills are especially vulnerable to such predations; to avoid being prey, you must spot incoming predators.

Learn the ways of social influence and power. The 48 Laws of Power, the 9 Laws, Verbal Judo and books on salesmanship and public speaking are essential. You don’t have to be adept at social influence — you just need to be good enough to get by — but you must protect yourself from manipulation.

Above all, whatever skills you learn, you must employ them ethically. To be part of civilisation is to abide by its norms and customs, and that means holding yourself to the highest moral standard. Be as harmless as a dove, but as wise as a serpent.

5. Build Your Talent Stack

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Autism is a gift and a curse. The singular defining trait of autism is an all-consuming obsession with something. This could be high-order mathematics, the history of 15th century Europe, cephalopods, dinosaurs, trains, the list goes on. In my case, I don’t have any particular area of interest — because everything is my area of interest, and I will spend vast amounts of time chasing down nuggets of information related to whatever subject currently catches my eye. This area of obsession is your greatest strength, and by cultivating it you will achieve success in your chosen field.

However, this obsession may also be your undoing.

If you define yourself as your obsession, and only by it, nobody will care about you. I am a writer, but so is everyone on Steemit, every copywriter and adman, every journalist and blogger. With only ‘writer’ to go by, I am indistinguishable from the crowd. Nobody has any reason to pay attention to me, and therefore buy my stories.

If your area of interest is not in demand, this is incredibly challenging. You may know the value of pi to the thousandth digit, but it has little demand outside some highly specialised applications. You may be able to name every bone in the human body, but if you’re not in a medical-related field it’s little more than a neat party trick. If nobody wants the one thing you are good at, they aren’t going to care about you.

Thus, you have to be more than just your interest. You need to build your talent stack.

A talent stack is the sum of your skills and talents. Any singular skill may be formidable or mediocre, but when put altogether you achieve a union greater than the sum of its parts. You have your brand, your value proposition to the world, the essence of you.

In my case, the top of my stack is obviously writing (excellent fiction, very good non-fiction). After that comes research and analysis (very good), holistic thinking (very good), creativity (very good, but only when applied to fiction) history (good), martial arts (above average), interest in technology (above average), and social communication (below average).

Armed with this talent stack, I write science fiction and fantasy stories with heavy emphasis on history, culture, technology and martial arts. It makes the most of my talents, enabling me to build my brand.

Think about your talent stack. Go beyond your area of obsession and figure out your other strengths and weaknesses. Put them all together and you have that one compelling thing that you can offer to the world: you.

6. Always Improve Yourself

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You are not your autism.

It is a major part of you, but it is not the entirety of your being. Don’t be trapped by it.

Growing up, I’ve had to deal with a huge number of issues. At sixteen I was still prone to tripping over myself. I was barely able to function in a social setting until I was twenty, and even today I still have difficulties. My senses, if anything, have grown even more sensitive over the years.

But I am more than that. I am more than my flaws, more than my mistakes, more than any other arbitrary identity marker anybody would paste on me. I am a writer. I am a Singaporean. I am a man. I am more. As a sentient being, I can choose to be someone better every day.

Every day I make that choice. I try to be civil to people, regardless of whether I like them. I try to manage sensory and social deficits through studies and training and practice. I try to bring value to others’ lives. I try. And in trying, I become.

You are what you have done and you become what you do. Build self-destructive habits and mindsets and you destroy yourself; develop positive habits and mindsets and you become greater.

If you want to be someone who can live an effortless and fulfilled life, able to practice your talents and capable of managing your challenges, start now. Learn and practice the skills you need to get there — and do not stop, ever.

To live in modern civilisation, you must adapt yourself to its norms while retaining and growing who you are. A paradox — but one that, if squared, yields success in life. With the above-mentioned skills, an autist has the foundations of success.

Now become the best person you can be.

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My dedication to self-improvement allowed me to write NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS, and it has since been nominated for the Dragon Awards under the Alternate History category. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it on Amazon here. To vote in the Dragon Awards, please click here.

The Art of Preventing Procrastination

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I’ve been told procrastination is a major hurdle people have to overcome. I wouldn’t know about that: I never had a problem with procrastination.

I’m not going to discuss how to overcome procrastination. There are plenty of articles out there that teach you how to do that. What I am going to articulate here is how to structure your mind so that procrastination isn’t an option. Productivity becomes your default setting, and you’ll never catch yourself putting off to later what must be done now.

Get Motivated and Organised

Why do you do what you do?

Examine everything you do in your life: the books you read, the events you attend, the hobbies you pursue, the work you do. Why do you do them? What benefit do they bring to you, and what costs must you bear? What do you want out of life and how do these actions bring you closer to fulfilling your life’s work? Create your life goals and keep your eyes on the prize.

Goal orientation is critical. You must know why you do what you do. If something does not take you closer to your goal, you must discard it. This mindset prepares you to eliminate unnecessary tasks ordinary people use as excuses to procrastinate.

You have limited time and energy. Spend them doing things that benefit you. This is an investment: sink time and energy into something, and that something returns greater value to you. Put in eight hours a day at work and receive a salary, spend an hour exercising every day and get fitter, and so on. If you do something that doesn’t bring your closer to your goals, something that won’t help you in some way, you are burning time and energy on nothing.

Arrange your life around two kinds of actions: what you want to do and what you need to do. The former are things that give you meaning, inspiration and energy: your hobbies, spending time with your family, building a business, volunteer work. The latter are things that you must do so you can get on with the former: taxes, chores, difficult training, tedious but necessary administrative work.

Discard everything else.

If something does not bring you closer to fulfilling your dreams and ambitions, it does not serve you and must be discarded. Every little thing, be it puttering around the kitchen during crunch time, dropping work to sweep the floor, daydreaming of your next meal when you’re studying, must be identified, stopped and discarded. This frees time and energy so you can focus on the things that you love and the things that must be done.

Focus and discipline is paramount. Leave no room for distractions. My work table holds my mouse and computer — nothing else. When working, I open only the programs and tabs I need — nothing else. Energy goes where your attention goes, and you want to pour your energies into doing things that offer a return on investment. Channel your attention accordingly.

Act Resolutely

Once you know what you want and need to do, resolve to commit a hundred percent of yourself. It doesn’t matter how small or large a task is: if you can commit a hundred percent to the smallest job, you can commit a hundred percent to the largest. Resolve yourself to never work half-heartedly and to accept nothing less than excellence, if not perfection. Leave no gap for excuses and distractions to wear down your will and steal time and energy through little acts of procrastination.

Recognise that nobody else will do the work for you — especially the unpleasant things that need to be done. Resolve yourself to tackle the most pressing and most difficult tasks to the utmost of your ability. Once you’re done with them, you’ll be left with the things you want to do, and doing the things you do want to do will re-energise you.

This is not to say that you should recklessly attack your labours. Working smart is as important as working hard. Sort your tasks by deadlines and difficulty, then break out the large tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. Set measurable goals and realistic timeframes for yourself. Unpleasant work never ends, but if you can complete enough of it every day to keep you afloat and keep yourself aligned with your long-term goals, you’ll have the space and energy to do the things that inspire you and fulfil your dreams.

Embrace the Suck

It won’t always be sunshine and roses. You’re not going to like everything you do. Inevitably you’ll have to do something you hate, and the emotional reaction that arises will present a convincing case to shun the task. In the face of such feelings, there is only one acceptable course of action.

Embrace the suck.

When you see yourself facing an arduous but necessary task, calm yourself with deep, regular breaths. You may feel disgust, annoyance, displeasure or some other negative emotion. This is perfectly natural, but these emotions won’t help you. As you breathe, acknowledge the existence of these emotions on the inhale, then release them on the exhale. If you need help with this, as you breathe, think the following statement:

I acknowledge that I am feeling angry/sad/unpleasant/disgusted/afraid/(insert emotion here). Nonetheless, I must and I will complete this task. I release this emotion with my breath and commit myself fully to its completion.

If you need to, say it out loud. Recognise what you are feeling and let it go. That emotion is a message from your ego, pointing out how unpleasant something is. It is a useful message, but only so far as it is a reminder of what you dislike. It does not help you with the task at hand. By calmly but resolutely discarding the negative emotion, you are freeing yourself to bring the full weight of your talents and intelligence to bear on your task without inflicting unnecessary psychic harm on yourself.

As you grow more proficient, you can do this faster and more smoothly. At a high enough level, you can sense the emotion and discard it in the space of a breath. Without this emotional pain, you have no disincentive to put off needed work.

Alternatively, let the negative emotion fuel you. Let it fill every cell of your being, becoming the fuel that lets you power through the task. Recognise why you dislike doing something, and use that reason to give yourself motivation to do it properly. Here’s an example:

  1. I hate doing my taxes.
  2. I hate doing my taxes because it is tedious and time-consuming.
  3. I hate doing my taxes so much, I’m going to get them done right now so I won’t waste more time than I have to, and so I’ll be able to do the stuff I like later.

This probably works best if you experience powerful energising emotions like anger when you encounter that task. If a task makes you feel repulsed by it, amplifying that emotion will simply give you a greater disincentive to not do it.

Regardless of the tactic you choose, you must tackle the task NOW. Accept no excuses from yourself. The only reason to hold off doing something is if doing so will put you in a better position, such as getting friends to help you, getting information from elsewhere, or letting an adversary wear himself out before meeting him in the field of battle. If you will not gain an advantage by waiting on it, attack the problem immediately and decisively. Commit yourself fully to the task and keep going until it’s done.

Re-energise Yourself

Attacking difficult tasks will expend more energy and willpower than easy tasks or things that you enjoy. At some point you’ll run out of energy. It’s impossible to keep a fire burning when all you have left is ashes. When you’re burnt out, it’s easy to keep pushing back tasks. This isn’t procrastination so much as legitimate exhaustion, but procrastination sprouts from the seed of exhaustion; it’s easy to tell yourself you’re still tired even if you’re ready to go again. Thus, you must keep yourself in a state of high energy.

There are two ways to maintain high energy. The first is to restore yourself by taking breaks. The second is to do the things you love, the things that create energy for you and maintain your momentum.

Understand what helps you recover your energy. Sleep, quality time with your loved ones, your hobbies, whatever it may be. Some blessed people can perfectly align their interests and work, so the things they do keep them motivated all the time. If you can’t reach this rarefied state of existence, it is perfectly fine. Simply schedule triggers for breaks.

There are plenty of articles that advise working in bursts of 30 to 45 minutes and taking time off to recover. If this is how you work, do it. I’m not like that.

My mind operates in two modes. In regular mode, doing things I don’t particularly enjoy or actively dislike, short bursts of maximal concentration do help. Working at a task for 45 minutes to an hour will trigger a stop for a break, at which time I’ll walk away from the computer and do something else for a while.

But when I’m engaged in a flow state, like when I’m writing or doing something that requires my utmost attention, time loses relevance. If I stopped at regular intervals I would merely be breaking my flow and reducing productivity. Instead, I set an event trigger: the completion of a goal, such as completing a chapter or an article, triggers a stop for a break, not the passage of time. Once set, I ride the flow state all the way to the end, regardless of how much time it takes. And even so, if I’m still in the zone when I hit the trigger, I won’t stop. I’ll maintain the momentum and keep going until fatigue takes over. Or until I’m done for the day.

Victor Pride wrote about this phenomenon in New World Ronin. Everyday tasks, what he calls black and white work, are boring but necessary, and can be dealt with through multitasking. But full color work, creative work, demands your complete time and energy; you have to keep at it, keep the momentum going, and ride the wave until you are done. No matter how long it takes. The work itself energises you, so you don’t have to take a break.

Energy–physical, mental and emotional–is the fuel of life and the necessary ingredient to success. The secret to success is to keep yourself in a state of high energy. If you have to do work that you hate, take time outs regularly to keep up your energy. If you’re doing work you love, work that keeps you energised, maintain the momentum and do not stop.

Productivity is a Mindset

Procrastination is human. But so is productivity.

Understand yourself. Understand what keeps you going on and on and on. Understand what you despise, what makes you feel like you’re being dragged through the mud. Set in place habits that allow you to maximise the former and manage the latter. By taking away distractions and temptations, and keeping yourself in a state of high energy, you allow no room for procrastination to seep in.

Productivity is a state of mind — and with the right mindset, success becomes an inevitability.

Notes On Navigating An Overwhelming World

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The developed world is harsh on people with hypersensitive senses. The screeching of brakes and tooting of car horns, dazzling and ultravivid colours in every direction, audiovisual assaults from televisions and speakers and screens, the constant demands for attention even as the world wears you down. It can’t kill you. It only makes you feel you’re losing your mind.

I grew up with hyperhearing, hypertactility and synesthesia. Sensory issues have haunted me for my entire life. Skin-on-skin contact has always been painful, especially if someone touches me without warning. Light exerts subtle pressures on my skin–dawn is gentle and soothing; afternoon carries the confidence of maturity; evening light is elderly but accepting; artificial white light is sterile–and when darkness falls it feels like a weight has lifted off me. When someone or something moves within my line of sight I feel a ghost of a sensation creeping across my face, as though my eyes are attempting to mirror the motion. I prefer the harsh but tough texture of 1000D cordura to slick but shallow PVC or plastics of pleather most commercial bags are made of. I have heard phones vibrating over the chatter of a noisy food court and heard the low-pitched rubbery tones emitted by a strand of hair being rubbed between my fingers.

As I grow older, my senses have grown more acute. When I took up kali, every clash of naked sticks was a blinding white blast that left a painful ringing in my ears. When shopping for winter clothing, I ran my finger across a down jacket, producing a high-pitched scratching that bit into my bones. Simply touching the material, much less wearing it, was unbearable. During infrequent trips to cities and malls, I have to brace myself for a constant sensory assault. Sitting in an empty train car offers temporary respite — until the inevitable metallic yellow screeching of metal on metal as the train pulls into a station. I can hear people perfectly well through noise cancelling headphones. My neighbour types on a mechanical keyboard every day, and the only reason I can tolerate it is because he lives a block away. I don’t watch English or other language dubs of movies or anime if I can; the dyssynchrony between words and lip movements is jarring, and many English voice actors are too high-pitched for my ears. I can’t stand ASMR performances; they trigger rage instead of euphoria. I barely even talk on the phone these days: when I do I need to process streams of colours and sounds flowing into complex textured shapes against a flat immobile wall of deepest black, and from this flood of sensory input identify words and phrases, reconstruct sentences, interpret meaning, and construct a reply within milliseconds.

The human brain can only absorb and process so much at a time. In my youth, prolonged exposure to loud noises and tactile sensation led to mental shutdowns and meltdowns.

A shutdown is like withdrawing into a shell and switching off all non-existence-critical life processes. Speech becomes meaningless babble. Emotions run wild, even if body language suggests placidness. Every remaining erg of energy is focused inward on maintaining the remnants of sanity; there is nothing left to frame a coherent thought, to speak a word, to voluntarily move a muscle.

A meltdown is the opposite. It is a lashing out at the world. It is pent-up frustration and dammed-up emotional and physical and psychic pain erupting at once. It is a physical expression of internal turmoil and sensory overload. A gentle breeze becomes a salted knife slicing off your skin; a caress transforms into acidic fire; a whispered word is a deep penetrating bomb delivering a payload of razors and chaff.

During especially stressful periods I logged an average of one meltdown a day, sometimes two. When I was younger I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what I was feeling; later, when I did, only a handful of people believed me and even fewer respected it.

I will not spend my days fearful of the next meltdown. I will not be battered all my life. This world will not accommodate me — but I can adapt.

Life on a Wrong Planet

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Over the years I developed a number of adaptations to the modern world. To others it may seem eccentric, quirky or otherwise unusual. I don’t care — they help me survive, and that is the highest measure of an adaptation.

I keep my workspace quiet and tidy at all times. When working, the loudest sound I permit is the fan and music at low volume. Usually I work in silence. Spending hours on end without distractions sharpens the mind and concentration, allowing totality of focus on the task at hand.

When shopping for clothing and electronics, I check technical specifications online, create a shortlist of goods, and extensively test the shortlisted candidates in person. I handle them, weigh them, run my hands down them, paying careful attention to sensory input. A single failure in any category is an automatic disqualification. I shun noisy mechanical keyboards, cheap plasticky mice, clothes that offend my eyes, or anything that poses undue discomfort. Usually that means paying for high-end goods, but the price is always worth it.

I talk to people primarily by text message or in person. Phone calls are infrequent and usually to the point, and only if it’s worth the massive energy expenditure required. Long business calls are so draining that I usually have to take time off just to recover from them. I learned not to push myself if I don’t have to, instead taking the time to recover my energy.

When moving through a crowd I utilize footwork from martial arts. It’s more than just practice; it allows me to avoid touching people. Even the slightest brush against human skin is jarring. Timing, distance, weight transfer become extremely important when you have a powerful disincentive against touch. And when you can feel range and motion, integrating that sensation into your movements becomes an exercise in self-awareness and body dynamics.

When the little things define how well you get through the day, you pay attention to the things nobody else notices. I tape down my sticks to absorb sound. I walk on the balls of my feet because the Singaporean shuffle is rough and grating. I pick up and move stuff instead of dragging them and creating painful sound. I strive to speak clearly and use perfect English because Singlish is painful to process. I try to predict areas with loud noises and avoid them if I can.

This isn’t to say I spend my life evading sensory input altogether. The world won’t always respect my needs and desires. So I train myself to face up to it.

I enter arcades and will myself to linger, to function in spite of the razzle-dazzle. I don’t silence noisy children or screaming babies around me if they don’t pose a sanity risk. I attend conventions and conferences if I’m interested in them, and take measures to mitigate sensory input. And when things get unbearable, I break out my personal protective equipment.

ISOLATE