Confessions of a Bad Friend

No one ever really leaves their school days behind. We graduate older and somewhat wiser than when we entered, but carry with us personalities and associated baggage formed during that time.

The teenage years are a crucible in which we are shaped. Whether it is a good thing that this happens in school is a debate for another day. It just is.

Sadly, some of us, me included, could be horrible people during those days. Just absolutely wretched. Worst of all, we could be wretched to people we considered friends in order to acquire status in the eyes of people who were really also kind of horrible.

That’s right: I had good friends I threw under he bus, on more than one occasion. Because I could be kind of an asshole when I was younger.

More than “could be.” I kind of was.

It’s shameful to think about, but less embarrassing. Age gives perspective, and moments like these are why we are able to learn and grow.

But man, I’d love to have some of those years back.

I thought of this particular individual as I filled out my application for a security clearance for work. A part of the application involved listing the names and contact information of those who have known you for a certain amount of years.

“Ah, my friend [NAME WITHHELD] would be perfect!” But then two thoughts came to mind:

  1. Would he actually respond, or even give me a positive reference?
  2. Can I truthfully consider this person a “friend”? Does he?

The answer to question 1 is unknowable. But I know the answer to question 2 is an unequivocal “no.” Continue reading “Confessions of a Bad Friend”

Book Review: Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower by Ed Latimore

Ed Latimore is one of my favorite people on the Internet, and one of the best reasons to even get a Twitter account in the first place.

Ed is a professional heavyweight boxer, a physicist, a chess player, and a writer. And he just drops bomb after bomb of wisdom, delivered with humor and flair.

The funny thing about Ed–and this is absolutely intended as a compliment–is that much of his advice sounds exactly like the advice that my father gave me growing up, and that my grandfather gave my dad.

You see, wisdom doesn’t changeSociety might look different as the decades go by, but eternal truths remain.

Ed also helped boost this humble blog: Once he started following me on Twitter, tweeting out links to my posts, and even linking to my site from his, I noticed my traffic increase exponentially. The point of this isn’t to humblebrag, but to explain that Ed is the kind of guy that likes to help others out. He shows gratitude and inspires others to show gratitude in return.

It’s been cool to see Ed’s rise. For example, when I joined Twitter and started following him, he had something like 2,000 followers. Two years later, he’s up to 25,600. The message is getting out. Quality attractsOr to put it in terms Ed might employ, provide value, and people will flock to you.

Given that I am a fan of Ed the thinker and Ed the man, when I heard he was writing a book, I was very, very excited. Published in February of 2017, Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower: Insights from a Heavyweight Boxer is not Ed’s first book, but I do think its his most substantive. And now that I’ve finally gotten a chance to read it, I can tell you that it is a worthy addition in the realm of “self-improvement” literature.

There are themes that run through the book: Self-discipline and delayed gratification, focus, and surrounding oneself with quality people recur, and much of Ed’s insights touch on or stem from these key points.

Ed doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He doesn’t talk down to readers. And what Ed preaches is not controversial or weird or overly esoteric. His gift is reframing universal truths in memorable ways. Continue reading “Book Review: Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower by Ed Latimore”

What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?

Today is Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus’ final ministry, the Last Supper, His passion, crucifixion, and Resurrection. 

It also kicks off the season of “Muslims bombing churches in the Middle East,” but I digress. 

Maybe I should write about this instead of my intended topic–after all, we’re suddenly beating the war drums over Syria because the President was supposedly swayed by his daughter’s heartbreak over the latest gas attack. What about this? This, also, has been going on for years. Is it the type of weapon deployed that makes the difference here?

Yeah, I’m heated. 

But this does tie into what I wanted to write about in a way. 

According to Matthew, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people spread palms and their garments on the ground as though he were their king, the children in the Temple cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David!”

Indignant, the chief priests and scribes asked Christ if He heard, and to which He responded,

“[H]ave you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, you have brought perfect praise’?”

This has entered the culture as the saying, “From the mouth of babes,” denoting that children have some kind of wisdom to offer. 

So what gives? What does this mean? When do we listen to children? Even adult ones? Continue reading “What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?”

Days of Infamy 

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American military base at Pearl Harbor, culminating in the sinking of the USS Arizona. Numerous pieces have, are currently, and will be written about this day, what it meant then, what it means now, and what it will mean in the future. 

This is not one of those pieces. 

Last summer in a post commemorating the D-Day invasion of Normandy, I discussed why it’s important to commemorate these important national days:

We’ll never know. But it’s important that we keep the memory of those who survived, and those who died, forever in our national consciousness. This country has done so many great things, and is capable of so many more. Black, white, whatever, we’re in his together. We haven’t always been, but we have been longer than not. 

I stand by this, but it’s important to remember that all of our best days aren’t necessarily behind us. 

I remember 9/11 because I was just shy of my 20th birthday on that day. While I didn’t enlist then, much to my chagrin, I knew so many who did because the attacks affected them so. 

Admittedly, my age group is on the older edge of the millennial spectrum. But still, lost in the furor over whiny, spoiled, bitter, vitriolic, and just plain mean special snowflakes is the fact that not all young people are like that

There are some who do imbibe the lessons and wisdom of tradition, who are indoctrinated into the good things in life, who seem so “mature beyond their years” for the mere fact that they aren’t acting like idiots. 

This is the problem: Our culture expects to young people to act like idiots and actively encourages it. 

Think about it: We love to keep young people perpetually adolescent and dependent. You can remain on your parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26. People are routinely in school until the age of 30(!) and still cant support themselves or a family. 

But some “kids” still rise to the occasion. They did during World War II, the did after 9/11, and I’m sure they will do it again when needed on other upcoming days of infamy that are sure to happen. 

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Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination

We are all born with small brains. But the good news is that brains grow.

We come into this world, quite frankly, ignorant in the truest sense of the world–some might say “stupid”–and spend the rest of our lives acquiring knowledge and wisdom in the hopes of, at the very least, mitigating this stupidity.

There is nothing wrong with being young. Yet here in America we have this weird obsession with youth.

I can be tough on Millennials, but I also have a fair bit of sympathy for them.

To be fair, I should say “us,” as according to most cut-offs, I am also a member of this generation, being born in 1981 (although some people who study this sort of thing put the cut-off at 1982).

The interesting thing about Millennials is that the exaltation and, indeed, worship of youth is relatively new in history.

Youth Over All

There is nothing wrong with being young. We were all young once, and it is fun to be energetic, vigorous, free from responsibility, dreaming big dreams and beholden to no one except maybe your parents. The young do see things differently, unconstrained by past precedents or logical fallacies that hold many of the rest of us back.

But this is in large part because of their relative ignorance and inexperience. These are not necessarily things that should be celebrated.

Youth should be spent trying to pave the way for adulthood, not remain in a perpetual state of adolescence.

I am 35. I know a hell of a lot more than I did when I was 15, or 20, or even 25. However, when I am 70, I will look back at my 35-year-old self and say, “what an idiot!”

I have a hypothesis about why this youth-obsession is so prevalent, so powerful: The young are easy to indoctrinate and manipulate.

And they are, as my friend Rawle Nyanzi puts ita captive audience.

A large part of this is the cynical desire to sell stuff to young and create lifelong customers who will induce their parents to spend money on their behalf until they are ready to spend their own.

But our youth-obsession goes beyond trying to make a buck. We tend to see everything “young” as “good” and “old” as “bad,” without thinking about the actual issues critically. What’s worse than adults doing this is the fact that the young do it themselves. Don’t believe me? Check out the reactions to two elections that occurred in 2016:

  1. Brexit. Our friends across the pond voted to leave the EU. The Remain vote was heavily concentrated in cities, the Leave vote in more rural areas. There was also a young-versus-old age gap.  How many hysterical did we see by the young for the “old people vote” to be nullified, or the “elderly”–that is, anyone over 35 or maybe 40–disenfranchised?
  2. The U.S. Presidential election. Here in the States, we’re being shown election maps of “what if only Millennials voted?” showing a unanimous Hillary Clinton victory. This has been coupled with bloodthirsty hopes that all old, and usually white, people will literally die (and some are trying their damndest to make this happen).

This is pretty genocidal, to say the least. But it goes to show that the indoctrination is working.


Everyone is indoctrinated, and everybody advocates for indoctrination. Everyone.

When you educate somebody to have good manners, or to respect their family name, you are indoctrinating them. If you are religious, you are indoctrinating your children into a religious worldview. Patriotism, love of country, military service and respect for it, these are all things that are indoctrinated.

The idea all societies have, from the primitive to the highly advanced, is to indoctrinate children with things that are good for society, and to recognize those that are bad. Continue reading “Get Them While They’re Young: Youth Obsession and Indoctrination”

Thirty-five Years: What I’ve Learned To Do, And Not Do

I normally don’t care about birthdays, but I just turned 35 and this is kind of a big one. 35 is the age you need to be if you ever want to run for president, though that’s never going to happen. It’s also the age that the ancient Greeks thought you needed to be before you even started to acquire any wisdom about life the world and everything else.

So yeah, it’s pretty momentous. Generally I don’t care about age. But whatever, this is as good an age as any and good a time to give some advice I have learned in these 35 years, especially for the younger guys reading. It’s been a mostly useless 35 years, though I like to think I’ve done a few good things.

Don’t waste your 20s. I wasted my 20s, and have been spending my 30s playing catch-up instead of advancing.  If there’s one thing I could go back and do again in life, it’s my 20s. Now, the late 20s were a little bit better, but for the most part my 20s were an extension of my teenage years. This is bad, especially for men. I would say that there is no bigger danger to masculinity in traditional notions of manhood, which are the building blocks of society, then perpetual adolescence. Useless stuff, like sports, video games, pop culture, chasing girls, and other forms of consumption designed to keep us childish and docile. I should’ve had a producer mindset. I should’ve been starting a business. Continue reading “Thirty-five Years: What I’ve Learned To Do, And Not Do”

Put the Envy Away, or How I Learned to Enjoy Other People’s Successes

Picture by Kikikay. I will take it down if she requests.

I can still see the photograph in my mind.

Me, playing my bass, surrounded by two friends, one on the drums and the other on the piano. There might have been someone else in the picture, playing the guitar or some miscellaneous brass instrument. But that third person wasn’t as important as what our chorus teacher, who took the picture, said:

“I just know that everybody in this picture will be famous someday.”

Well, that someday came alright, but only for some of us in that photograph. Continue reading “Put the Envy Away, or How I Learned to Enjoy Other People’s Successes”