“What’cha thinkin’?”

“What’cha thinkin’?”

I hate this question. But I do not hate the people who ask it.

I know why people ask it: They want to start up a conversation. As someone who enjoys talking, I cannot fault them for this even a little bit.

But it’s a loaded question, similar to asking someone “How are you doing?” What they want really isn’t the question; they don’t care. “How are you doing?” has become conflated with “Hello!” And “What’cha thinkin’?” is more like “Let’s talk about something here; the silence is killing me!” Continue reading ““What’cha thinkin’?””

Feeding the Perfection Beast

Today is February first. In addition to things like Black History Month, President’s Day, and whatever else is celebrated in February,* it also marks the beginning of the annual RPM Challenge

Think of the RPM Challenge as the musical equivalent of November’s National Novel Writing Month. The Challenge, which started in my home state of New Hampshire back in 2006 by local music magazine The Wire, is a call to record either 35 minutes or 10 tracks worth of new music in the month of February. 

It’s a lot of fun. Or would be, if I ever finished the challenge. 

Unlike National Novel Writing Month, which I accomplished this year, the several times I’ve began an RPM Challenge project, I never finished it. 

The one time I sort of did was in 2009 when I played bass on my brother’s album. He’s finished the challenge four or five times, now, maybe more. And he has more kids than I do. 

Me, I always petered out somewhere along the line, sometimes due to time restrictions, sometimes due to technical or equipment difficulties, but usually due to being my own worst enemy. 

You see, back when I had the music equipment and the space to record, I fell into the thrall of that dreaded monster perfection.

Perfection is one mean bastard. He gets into your head and makes you think you’re some kind of rock star when you’re really just a dude with a 9-to-5 and a hankering to pretend, just for a few hours here and there, that you’re something bigger than you really are. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

This is the difference between me and my brother: I let perfection play on my immaturity and narcissism. My brother, while only a year and some change older than me, got married, started a family, and finished school far younger than I did. 

In short, he grew up faster. 

He knew the value of time and realism. He didn’t dicker around with trying to get everything just right. No, he said to himself, and I’m making this up based on observations but bear with me, “There is something I want to do. If I do X, Y, and Z for this amount of time every day, I will accomplish what I set out to do.”

He had a goal, and a system to achieve that goal. 

Process and not perfection. 

In short, he went for it. 

Me, not so much.  Continue reading “Feeding the Perfection Beast”

The Treadmill of Life

Real-and-Inspiring-Getting-Off-the-Treadmill-of-Life.png

“Are you stuck in a rut? Does life make you feel like you’re on a treadmill, constantly running and getting nowhere? Well, stick around because boy, do have the answer for YOU!”

The above sentence is, of course, complete nonsense. And yet, there’s a lot of this going around.

Look, I love the Internet. There is more knowledge, more communication, more connection than you could ever handle in a lifetime. There is also another thing that gets forgotten: More inpsiration.

That’s right! Like lots of other people, I have discovered what is sometimes called the “manosphere,” but which I just like to refer to as “men.”

Like most males of the species, I do not have many friends that I see on a regular basis. My “social support group” or whatever you want to call it can be counted on one hand. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I have let my friendships dwindle down to mere acquanitences, and it feels futile, and even daunting, to try to rekindle them.

Enter the Internet. There are lots and lots of men talking about these things, and how to navigate a life that seems not quite deisgned for you to live in. A lot of it is in good fun and the spirit of true self-improvement. Some of it has even been helpful!

I’m not here to knock any of it, even though I don’t agree with all of it.

But sometimes I do look at these people–older than men, younger than me, the same age and me–who seem to have it all figured out, and I have to tell myself, before I get too depressed, that everyone is different.

And also that this is the Internet. Lots of people are trying to sell themselves. While 99% of what they do is given away for free, and it’s eminently fair to offer that remaining 1% for a price (usually low), there is an element of puffery.

Still, it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to others, even when we know that can sometimes be a fool’s game. But without something to aspire to, where do we go?

Sadly, I know the answer to that. You go to a pretty dark place and it’s tough to get out.

But at least a dark place feels like SOMEWHERE, even if it’s not a somewhere you want to set up permanent shop.

Being on life’s treadmill, though . . . treading water . . . is almost more miserable in its mediocrity.

You’re just going . . . nowhere.

Or as one of my favorite bands puts it:

Runnin’ twice as fast to stay in the same place
Don’t catch my breath until the end of the day . . .

–Faith No More, “Ricochet

“It’s temporary,” you might say. “We’re all in this situation at some point.”

True . . . but fifteen or so years can sure seem like an eternity.

So while I have no answers for how to get off, I can continue to use my life as a cautionary tale to make sure that you don’t get on the treadmill of life. Continue reading “The Treadmill of Life”

Electing Gods: Politics and Identity in the Aftermath of 2016

Sadly, I was wrong. One person died before the polls even closed. And I was right about the rioting, though I’d be more than happy to have been wrong about that.

I’m not here to gloat or to point fingers. The guy I voted for best the other person. Okay. Can we get on with life now?

Remember: This is not a political blog. There’s PLENTY of that out there elsewhere, believe me. 

But politics is interesting because of how it relates to two things I find fascinating: Human nature and God. 

Politics and Human Nature

As I recently discussed with my friend Lloyd of Business and Bullets, human beings, for whatever reasons, evolved to like people on their group, or tribe, and dislike those out of it:


This is plain to see in politics. We like our political tribe to the exclusion of others, or even to fact. And we’re all guilty of this. All of us. 

What separates us is our various levels of self-awareness and or desire to mitigate this tendency when necessary. 

As I discussed in my post “Everybody Must Be Right“:

…I can only conclude that there are only two types of people:

  1. Those who have some objective standard against which they measure their behavior in reality.
  2. Those who think that they create their own objective standard.

Why does this matter?

If the only standard is what you feel is right at the time, you will rationalize whatever you feel to be right, and to hell with anybody that gets in your way.

Nothing is concrete, and who are you to say that anyone’s morality is better than anybody else’s?
This amounts to giving in to human nature, something that civilization tries to prevent us from doing. 

Being relativistic or feelings-centric is actually an intense form of self-worship: We become our own god. And you know what they say about gods: they are jealous and they are angry…

If you worship yourself and you are your own god, then there is quite literally nothing that will ever make you change your mind. If there is no such thing as objective truth, then whatever you feel is reality. 

You will never change your mind, because your worth as a human being will be inexteicably linked with your feelings.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this help explain why we see such violent reactions–tears, literally shaking–as the result of the loss of one’s preferred political candidate?

I know politics have huge implications and that elections matter, but these reactions are more akin to learning that your nation lost a war rather than the person you voted for lost an election

It’s irrational, but then again, aren’t we all?

So politics becomes bound up with identity. This leads nicely into our next topic of discussion. 

Politics and God (or the Absence Thereof)

I’ve already advocated that people not be afraid to discuss politics and religion, when appropriate, with family and friends. But this discussion goes a little deeper as to why politics replaces religion for many. 

That’s right: The state is God to a lot of people. Even those who are not self-professed atheists and who might even be practicing members of a church. 

I’ve identified three worldviews, two of which can be grouped together and one which is clearly distinct. 

  1. Those who believe that cleansing or mitigating the stain on human nature can only be achieved by the Divine.
  2. Those who believe that cleansing or mitigating the stain on human nature can only be achieved by the Self.
  3. Those who believe that cleansing or mitigating the stain on human nature can only be achieved by the State. 

Those in categories 1 and 2 share many commonalities, the main one being that control over base impulses and passions is an individual effort

Whether through the grace of God or ones own will, mastery comes from within. One becomes a master of themselves. And every master needs a slave, don’t they? The slave becomes one’s passions.

The big difference here is that the religious ask God to help carry them those extra few inches, while the others, who may be also be religious but are typically not, believe that they can do it themselves. 

This leads us to group 3: Statists. This will explain why I personally am not a fan of expansive, intrusive, activist government.

By what we’ve already discussed, I think you can see where I’m going with this.  Continue reading “Electing Gods: Politics and Identity in the Aftermath of 2016”

The Other Shoe

Does everything you do feel like it has hidden pitfalls?

Are you surprised by good news, and constantly expecting bad news?

In short, are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

I sure am. Not as much anymore–not nearly as much–but it’s still a bad habit of mine. 

Because that’s what self-doubt is: A habit. 

Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, or the mistakes you haven’t even made yet, why not think about the hundreds of other things that you did do right?

Successes never stick in your memory as much as failures, but that doesn’t negate the fact that your successes still happened

I think about this because things are going well in my professional life. Really well. I’m starting to achieve some level of mastery. I’m starting to, for the first time in my legal career, shake the imposter syndrome, that is:

high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. 

Heavy stuff. Continue reading “The Other Shoe”

The Society Of People Who Don’t Put Things On Other Things

There’s a funny Monty Python sketch called about the Royal Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things, a group of people who like to . . . put stuff on top of other stuff.

Well, think it’s funny. Your mileage may vary.

Anyway, this ridiculous sketch got me thinking about our own society, which is quite the opposite.

We hate putting things on top of other things.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense. Our big problem is that we don’t judge. We don’t like to see anything as objectively good or bad, right or wrong. It makes us squeamish. It’s icky.

A part of this goes back to Americans’ fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of equality: In addition to believing that “equality” means “equality of outcomes,” may of us also think it means that every single thing–ideology, action, belief–has identical worth. This is called “relativism,” also known as “bullshit.”

Americans seem paralyzed when it comes time to make any kind of value judgment, whether it’s ridiculous attempts to excuse Islamic terrorism by referencing “The Crusades!” or trying to justify and normalize pedophilia and incest as just being different, equally valid kinds of love as any other.

This is insanity, and, like they say in the Monty Python sketch, silly.

America needs to be a Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things.

What got me thinking about this? Waking up and looking at the world around me:

And so on.

You could say that we do put some things above others. We value certain nationalities, or certain races, or certain professionals. And that is, of course, true.

But we’re so loathe to make any sort of value judgments, such as:

  • If you murder people, regardless of why, it should be deemed wrong.
  • If you are shot by the police for a valid reason, your skin color should not make it any less right or wrong.
  • If you are a police officer and you shoot someone for a reason that is not valid, you shouldn’t get to hide behind the “Blue Wall” and you should be punished, even though you’re a police officer.
  • If you want to protest the National Anthem, that’s fine. If you disagree with that, that’s also fine. Some things can be morally equal (I don’t consider standing for a colored cloth a “moral” obligation).

If you are afraid to put things on top of other things, the whole thing is going to fall down.

The timing of everything makes one think as well, especially with arguably the most important election in the last 50 years looming. Continue reading “The Society Of People Who Don’t Put Things On Other Things”

Fear and Adventure: Why Encouraging Risky Behavior Will Save Us All

Fearlessness

Safety is killing us. It is stifling. Nobody wants to take risks. Nobody wants to make the calls that have consequences should they not work out.

My observations and personal experience lead me to believe that, unless people have near mathematical certainty of a positive outcome, nobody wants to make a decision.

But why? And why does this matter?

It matters because life is risky. Being an entrepreneur is risky. Approaching that cute girl over there is risky. Moving to a different city is risky. And so is standing up and physically defending your loved ones and other innocents from harm.

Riskiness and rugged individualism are baked into the American way, but somewhere along the line this started to get viewed as a liability rather than an asset. I believe the common buzzword is “toxic.”

How we got this way is less of an important question–helicopter parents, “wear a helmet,” and all of that. More important is making sure that the next generation isn’t like us.

The wife and I took our soon-to-be four-year-old to a fun local kid’s amusement park the other day. He is very tall for his age, and much to his delight, is now able to go on many of the rides hitherto unavailable to him.

The kid didn’t stop.

Edaville, Carver Massachusetts.JPG

Roller-coasters, the big Ferris wheel, rides that shake, spin, tumble, and drop. He loved them all, laughing hysterically and throwing his hands in the air with each loop and plunge. If he’s had any fear of free-fall or heights, he hid it well.

It was great! There’s nothing like watching a little kid enjoy themselves. But it also made me think of a few things relating to my own life:

  • I never went on roller-coasters when I was a little kid.
  • To this day, I really don’t like roller-coasters and still kind of fear heights.
  • Much of my adult life has involved overcoming my aversion to risk-taking.

Are these things connected? Does a willingness to take physical risks translate into other kinds of risk-taking later in life, risk-taking in love, in business, and in thought?

I mean, I have a boy. Boys are crazy, right? They all have this impulse to make mischief, take things apart, and in general raise hell.

But there’s more to it than that.

These impulses, whether in boys or girls, are inborn but can also be squelched. 

They can be squelched by excessive safety.

They get squelched at our own peril. A society that’s afraid to take risks is a society that’s afraid to be great. Continue reading “Fear and Adventure: Why Encouraging Risky Behavior Will Save Us All”