The Contradictions of City Life

We like to say we go to cities for the freedom: Jobs, culture, excitement. And yet living and working in one, you exhibit more herd-like behavior than one does in the country. 

I’ve lived in both, and for the last two years have been back in the city. And I’m not knocking those who enjoy urban living, but it’s full of contradictions that I personally find unfulfilling. 

Maybe when I was younger, I loved city life more. Now, in my mid-thirties, I realize that it might not be for me. 

Contradiction: Thousands and thousands of people meet crushing loneliness. How can you be so saturated in humanity but feel so isolated? How do all of these people and all of this stuff going on make you so depressed? This has been a recognized phenomenon for some time, and no one has a satisfactory answer. 

My take is that populations that are a) too large and b) too diverse have low trust and cohesion. It’s simple. If you feel littlenperceived connection to that teeming mass of humanity that seems almost too big, you won’t make the effort to get to know them. Because why bother? They’re probably transients anyway, here today, somewhere else tomorrow.  Continue reading “The Contradictions of City Life”

Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules

You go along with the checklist. You follow the rules. And you find that you still can’t “make it.”

Replace “you” with “me,” and that’s where I am now. 

You see, I did the pre-approved, Boomer-sanctioned thing: College. Grad school. Safety. Security. Don’t rock the boat. And I still have to get a second job. 

I’m not against working hard. But it is kind of depressing. 

Perhaps “disillusioning” is a better word. But I’m telling you, this is why I do not find it irresponsible to warn as many young people as humanly possible to explore alternatives to college. 

It’s another reason why I warn people away from law school as much as humanly possible. 

Law school provides you with some of the most unmarketable skills in one of the least-demanded fields. 

Every instinct telling you to go to law school? Listen to it, and then do the opposite. 

The same goes, generally, for college. 

Look, I’m no self-improvement guru. I don’t have everything together. But I can tip you off about what not to do. Why make the same mistakes someone else did? Continue reading “Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules”

Escapism Is Rearmament

You probably heard all of the knocks against escapism growing up. Stuff like: “Grown-ups don’t waste their time with that kind of stuff.”

Like what? Reading a book?

Imagination?

With all the ugliness and strife in the world, who wouldn’t want to escape? That’s where we come up with some of our best ideas.

Escape . . . removing oneself from confinement or a dangerous situation. 

And yet escapism gets a bad rap. It’s seen as retreat, a frivolous diversion into the unreal. Avoiding real life and real responsibilities. 

Even the dictionary seems to hold this view:

…habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity…

But that’s not what we do. We aren’t forced to flee to these imaginative worlds by marauding enemy hordes (though the enemies of civilization, intellectual and physical, do fit this bill). We seek to escape to somewhere better, even if only for a little bit, to recreate ourselves. 
Recreation = re + create

Retreat is running away. 

Escape is rearmament.  Continue reading “Escapism Is Rearmament”

Axiometry Part III “Don’t Think About What You Could Have Done Differently.”

“Don’t think about what you could have done differently.”

“Don’t beat yourself up.”

“Let the past go.”

Sayings we’ve all heard before. But are they valuable bits of wisdom, or valid, empty words?

Thats right! It’s time for more axiometry, my made-up word for examining common aphorisms and figuring out if they really make any sense:

Axiom: “A rule or principle that many people accept as true.”

metry: “Art, process, or science of measuring.”

There are many variants of this particular axiom, but they all focus on the same thing: regret.

Ah, regret. A favorite topic of mine. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should know how I feel about regret:

Carry around your past regrets, not as an anchor, but as a guide.

So you maybe you think you already know where I come down on this particular axiom.

But as with everything , we shall see. Continue reading “Axiometry Part III “Don’t Think About What You Could Have Done Differently.””

Sartorial College

I used to think that fashion was stupid, dressing up was for stiffs, and that society had gotten to the point where what you do and who you are matter more than how you look.

And then I started working.

Suddenly, all of that boring, corny stuff my parents used to say made sense.

You see, humans are visual beings, and first impressions are powerful things. There is science behind all of this, but I’m both a lawyer and a man who knows my limitations, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole here. 

I have learned something else though: Second impressions matter too. And third. And fourth. And so on. 

How you present yourself carries over not only into your business and personal relationships, but also in how you carry yourself

Again, the explanatory  science is out there. You have the Internet. Search amongst yourselves. 

Me, I have trouble working if I’m not dressed up. I wear a suit and tie to work everyday, and have for the past eight years, even when the dress code at my workplace has been relaxed. 

What kills me about this more than anything are the comments I get:

  • “Aren’t you hot in that?”
  • “It’s Friday, you know.”
  • “Alex always look sharp…like a movie star.” (Someone actually said this to me)

And my favorite:

  • “You’re making the rest of us look bad!”

To which I say, you’re making me look good. Thanks! Continue reading “Sartorial College”

Delayed Gratification in Music

Music is the best. 

So is delayed-gratification. 

If you’re an adult–a successful one, I mean, regardless of what it is you have found success at–you are likely familiar with and practice the concept of delayed gratification, which is itself a function of self-control. 

By this, I mean the idea that you forego a short-term pleasure or gain now so that you can set yourself up for better, more lasting pleasure or gain in the future

This can also be thought of as long-term thinking (eternity sure is a long time, don’t you think?).

Or you can think of it as the future vale of something, such as money, the idea being that a dollar is worth more in the future than it is now, thanks to, let’s say, investing it. 

Or maybe delayed gratification can be seen as avoiding a Pyrrhic victory. See, in 280 and 279 B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus, a region of modern-day Greece, defeated the Romans in two battles. However, these battles inflicted such heavy losses on his own army that Pyrrhus is reported to have said that any more such victory would undo him. 

Pyrrhus later lost the war.  

So what does all this have to do with music?

A lot, really. The concept of delayed gratification can be applied to art in general in that it’s all about rhythm and timing–think set-up and payoff.

What better medium than music to discuss this? Continue reading “Delayed Gratification in Music”

Becoming a Nightmare: When Your Name Lives On

You’ve all seen the movie. You all know the story. 

Three hundred Spartan warriors making their last stand against the dreaded Persian army at the Gates of Thermopylae, the narrow pass that would be their grave. King Leonidas’ defiance against the Persian King Xerxes. Unimaginable bravery against impossible odds. 

(Leave off the fact that the whole thing was kind of silly because the rest of the Greek city-states weren’t there on account of the Olympic Games).

The 300 knew they were going to die. But they knew that, if they could just hold off the Persians a little bit longer, they could buy their people enough time to amass a counterforce. 

Bravery. Skill. Belief in something bigger. And the superior position. 

But the Spartans were betrayed! A discontent tipped the Persians off about a rear entrance through the pass. And so the Spartans died before they perhaps should have, though they did end up saving all of Greece, due to the machinations of one rogue Spartan. 

Ephialtes. 

In the 2006 movie 300, adapted from the comic book of the same name, Ephialtes is depicted as a deformed hunchback who was unable to sufficiently be a part of the phalanx and, insulted by Leonidas’ refusal to let him prove his bravery, sold his own people out to the enemy. 

In reality–and while the movie did get a lot right–this backstory to Ephialtes is innacurate. He might have just been a dick. 

But do you know what the word Ephialtes means in Greek?

Ephialtes means “nightmare.” Continue reading “Becoming a Nightmare: When Your Name Lives On”