Watch Scott's TEDx talk!

A brand, a business and a career. From a nametag.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Short cutting people’s human instinct

My friend once introduced me to one of her coworkers. 

When the she learned about my daily practice of wearing a nametag, her immediate response was this:

Aren’t you afraid of getting kidnapped? 

Now there’s a strange thing to say to someone. Guess it never really occurred to me. 

But now that she mentions it, wearing a nametag every day could be potentially dangerous. In fact, multiple publications and organizations have been issuing official warnings about nametags for decades. 

Kidnappers know if they use a victim’s name, it makes them appear more trustworthy. The nametag acts as a point of entrance for someone who tries to con them. Which can increase the risk of crime and assault in the form of someone who pretends to already know you, taking advantage of your trust. 

Safety researchers call it the name lure. 

Bundy, one of the most famous serial killers in history, was well known for using this tactic. Using someone’s name put his victims at ease and gave the predator a chance to be engaging and soften his words. And because it happened in a second, he could short circuit people’s human instinct. 

All he needed was a second, then grabbed them, and boom. 

But that was back in the seventies. 

Certainly, we have learned our lesson when it comes to the potential danger of wearing nametags, right? 

Maybe not. Think about the well intentioned parents who label school items with their children’s name. All a kidnapper has to do is check the potential victim’s jacket or lunchbox, and they have the perfect way to lure the child into conversation.

Or what about the businessperson attending a conference in a foreign city. She goes out to lunch one day and is approached by a local man. He greets her by name, explains that he is from the hotel where she is staying, and will look after her. Then he takes her to meet friends at another hotel and buys her a drink. And when she wakes in the morning, she realizes that she’s been assaulted and robbed. Still wearing her conference nametag. 

Are these stories urban legends? Creepy campfire tales? Or legitimate warnings? 

Maybe all of the above. The guide to preventing kidnapping and abduction puts it best:

Just because someone knows your name, doesn’t mean that person should be trusted

Which brings us back to the original question. 

Aren’t you afraid of getting kidnapped? 

Well shit, now I am.

In twenty years, there have definitely been a handful encounters where my safety felt jeopardized. Trust me, there are some places you just don’t want to be wearing a nametag. 

But overall, not really. 

Perhaps there is a bigger question worth asking. 

What's worse, thinking you're being paranoid, or knowing you should be?

Has anyone ever used the name lure on you?

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

When did this record store become a fascist regime?

Opinions are no longer a dime a dozen. 

Thanks to the amplification of tribal behavior through modern technology, opinions now cost much more than a dime. Hell, we can’t even afford to have them anymore. The social cost is simply too high. 

Particularly if our opinions are unpopular and controversial. Anything we say can and will be used against us. Even the very act of expressing my opinion about the inability to express an opinion is probably not an acceptable opinion, in somebody’s eyes. 

Reminds me of a memorable scene from my favorite music movie. 

You tell me right now, what’s wrong with The Righteous Brothers? 

Nothing, I just prefer the other band. 


How can it be bullshit to state a preference? When did this record store become a fascist regime? 

This moment is perfectly illustrative of modern culture. Our tolerance of, respect for and comfort with other each other’s preferences has vanished. 

Now our culture favorite pastime is judging each other’s taste like a math problem. It’s either good or bad, right or wrong, smart or stupid. Because of this, people are shamed and shrunk into silence. 

Fearing the repercussions of uttering a single honest opinion, we acquiesce and add our support to the accepted consensus. 

Fearing the rejection from the herd and being cast to the bowels of hell, we only feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion. 

Fearing the social backlash and public lambasting, our deeply felt opinions become regrettable gaffes and nothing more. 

The old joke was, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as long as it agrees with mine. 

But there’s nothing funny about that anymore. And the saddest part is, our declaration of universal human rights explains that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference. 

Guess that only applies when people have the right opinions. 

What do you want to create in the world, regardless of public opinion?

Monday, July 06, 2020

Woe unto them who act contrary to this spirit

Here’s the best part about the ocean. 

When you get into the water, you can’t make anything happen. All you can do is adjust to what the ocean is already doing. 

That’s what happens when you’re at the mercy of a force much larger than your fragile little bag of bones. Humility is instilled into you, whether you like it or not. 

Hamilton, the pioneer of big wave surfing, said it best:

Anyone not humbled by the power of the ocean should take a good, long look at a fifty foot wave. If you don't have respect for a wave, it's only a matter of time before the ocean teaches you to get some. We're all equal before the wave. 

The ocean, of course, is a metaphor for something much bigger and abstract. Call it nature, god, the universe, higher power, metaphysics, the cosmos, whatever. 

Woe unto those of us who act contrary to its spirit. 

No matter how big and strong and clever we think we are, we’re all just stepping into the ocean, waiting for the wave to humble us. The word current says it all. It derives from the word corant, which means the flow of electrical force. 

But it also means belonging to the present time. Right now. The place where we can’t make anything happen. Where there’s nothing to change or improve upon. 

We show up, surrender to what the water is already doing, hang on to our boards and enjoy the ride. 

Koontz summarized it best in his definition of the human condition:

Survival and sanity depends upon our embracing pain rather than resisting it or dreaming of escape. 

Take a chance and dance with the current.

Do you struggle to make progress against the resisting mass of the entire sea?

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts

Autonomy, or the ability to make choices according to our own free will, is a core psychological need. 

We all want to be the author of our own script. We all want to freely choose things in our life without being overly controlled. Research even shows that there is a direct relationship between job autonomy and greater work satisfaction. 

But careful what you wish for. Once we find ourselves in an environment with minimal structure and zero micromanagement, entrusted with astonishing levels of autonomy and responsibility, it can be quite disorienting and intimidating. 

After all, most people are accustomed to having an explicit job description and a boss supervising our work. And so, in the absence of micromanagement, we can feel paralysis rather than liberation. Trapped under the weight of ambiguity and chaos. 

It's one of the reasons former entrepreneurs often make effective startup employees. Because freedom is their home vibration. It's their baseline operating mode. Having run their own business, they already know how to manage their time efficiently, they require minimal direction from above and take extreme ownership of their work from cradle to grave. Kind of like autonomous vehicles. 

Entrepreneurs roam freely, using a variety of techniques and technologies to sense their environment and navigate with little or no human input. Using an extensive amount of data extracted from real life scenarios, their neural networks are activated and learn to perform the best course of action, getting smarter with every mile they drive. 

And sure, they may run over the occasional cyclist and destroy a few mailboxes here and there. But nobody's perfect. 

Just like autonomous vehicles, as long as you give entrepreneurs adequate time to recharge, and wipe the blood the windshield, they're ultimately a smart choice for the organization. 

To quote the greatest car commercial of all time, unexplained fires are a matter for the courts. 

If you were in charge and had total freedom on how to handle things, what would you do and how would you do it?

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Nibbling your way back to joy

Ellis, the founder of rational emotive behavior therapy, explains that the mundane encounters which we all experience each day constitute unpleasant, even stressful, events. And the ubiquity of these events, he writes, may make them even more potent contributors to the stress of modern life than has previously been assumed. 

All the more reason to take greater agency over joy. To bring as much perceptible lightness to the otherwise oppressive situations of life as we can. 

Hell, there are millions of people who live their entire lives without anything that brings them joy. Probably because they don't deem themselves worthy of it. Why not go out of our way to offer that gift to them? Why not perform the simple act of giving ourselves away before we need to or are asked to? 

One of the most satisfying parts about wearing a nametag all day every day is that it's a vehicle for creating moments of micro joy. A hello from a bus driver, a conversation with a cashier, a joke from a complete stranger, each of these encounters make both people rise up with a greater lightness of being. 

We feel that little thrill, as if the cells in our body are slowly rising. Our exchange lasts a few seconds, but for one brief moment, there is an emancipation from the anxiety which takes the joy out of life. 

We have yet another reason to make life a true celebration.

If that sounds pretentious and schmaltzy and suspiciously earnest to you, then maybe ask yourself what kind of relationship you have with joy. 

Ask yourself where in your life you might be cynically blanketing every spark and flicker of delight. 

Because if you want to get out of that destructive stress loop and into a more fulfilling existence, mundane encounters are an easy and free place to start. 

It's cheaper than therapy. 

How are you taking greater agency over joy?

Friday, July 03, 2020

Receiving the gift of cotton candy skies

Our culture has a severe addiction to a family of dangerous ideas, each of which has a slightly different species. 

Here they are, in no special order. 

Clarity, closure, certainty, consistency, consensus, control, cleanness and completeness. 

Clarity means everything has to be plainly seen and understood. 

Closure means everything has to be wrapped up in a tidy bow. 

Certainty means everything is guaranteed with zero probabilities to contend with. 

Consistency means everything is predictable, orderly and undemanding. 

Consensus means everything is safe and doesn’t offend anyone. 

Control means everything that happens in our life is a result of our own actions. 

Cleanness means everything is simple and free of difficult layers. 

Completeness means everything is connected to the whole and flowing as it is meant to be. 

We are addicted to every single one of these. 

Hanging our hearts on such narrow pegs, we’re hoping for something that simply not going to exist. Waiting in limbo to receive the gift of cotton candy skies, we’re waiting on a train that’s never going to come. 

Earls wrote a book that chronicles the dawn of the age of creativity in business, in which he said the following:

It is an unfortunate fact of life that moving forward always means letting go of some things that have previously helped us. And yet we continue to use the construct, long after it has been shown to be groundless. 

Yet another sign that letting go might be in order. 

Our precious cocktail of clarity, closure, certainty, consistency, consensus, control, cleanness and completeness? 

The time has come to get sober. 

Are you willing to let go of the need for what most define as order?

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The excursions of the imagination are so boundless

Animated movies are a staple of modern day cinema. 

They are perhaps the most important genre in the film industry. 

And not only in terms of box office gross and franchise success. But also their contribution to our cultural heritage, their ability to articulate mythology and their way of communicating meaningful messages to audiences of worldwide. 

What’s fascinating is, after you watch a few hundred of these animated movies, multiple times over, thematic patterns begin to emerge. 

Think back to the last animated feature films you’ve watched. Whether you liked them or not, and whether you cried your eyes out or not, odds are, one of the following lessons was taught. 
  • Be yourself, but work together. 

  • Treasure everything, but accept change as a natural part of life. 

  • Own your unique gifts, but ask for help and trust in those around you. 

  • Share your joys, but only with those who appreciate them. 

  • Learn to let go, but never give up on yourself. 

  • Seek the treasure, but value the friends you gain along the journey. 

  • Honor your background, but don’t let it limit your future. 

  • Feel everything, but don’t worry about needing a reason to. 

  • Have a new adventure, but find your way back home. 

  • Keep moving forward, but remember where you came from. 

  • Accept that people will call you crazy, but still see how far a simple idea can take you. 
Southpark said it best in their award winning episode about imagination: 

Fictional characters affect our lives more than most real people in this room. They have had a bigger impact on the world than any of us have. They've changed our lives and changed the way we act on the earth. Doesn't that make them kind of real? They’re imaginary, but they're more important than most of us here. And they're all gonna be around long after we're dead. In a way, those things are more real than any of us

Should we be taking life advice from cartoon characters? 

Absolutely. Remember, just because it’s not the lesson you’re interested in learning right now, doesn’t make it any less valuable. 

Are you extracting insight from divergent sources of information?

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Holy people and their pious ejaculations

Addiction psychologists famously 
hundreds of case studies from various family members of workaholics. 

One cool theme in their final profile was that spouses viewed their relationship as serious and intense with a minimum of carefree time and fun, and children believed their workaholic parents took work too seriously and lacked a sense of humor. 

Does that sound like somebody you know? 

Hell, it could be any one of us. 

After all, workaholics don’t have a monopoly on taking themselves too seriously. We just do it better than anyone else. 

But the lesson behind this is not about the abundance of hours, but the absence of humility. 

For those of us who are nose to the grindstone every hour of every day, there are several things we fail to realize. 

Nothing we do will affect the fate of humankind. 

Nothing we don’t do will be the end of western civilization. 

And yet, we can still make a full commitment without taking ourselves too seriously or subscribing to a murderous work ethic. 

Reminds me of the great saying about the famed passenger liner:

Titanic was so arrogant that it thought itself to be unsinkable. 

Point being, it does takes humility to accept we’re not as unique and indispensable as we think, but it's also profoundly freeing. Discovering that the world will not fall apart without our witty banter and expertise, what a tidal wave of relief. 

Ah, the peace of a life wholly surrendered. It’s better than drugs. 

If you want to create fewer unnecessary stressors and drastically decrease the pressure you put on yourself, let the virtue of humility triumph over you. 

Acknowledge your relative insignificance. 

In the words of my recovering workaholic pal, the biggest casualty of untreated addiction is perspective. 

Where will you acquire the humility you need to balance your audacity?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Wasting your time and energy trying to resurrect the dead

Within the interpersonal realm, surrender is the willingness to leave our position to join the other. 

To make the empathetic leap and see things from somebody else’s perspective. 

But in the intrapersonal realm, meaning, that which goes on exclusively within our own minds and hearts, surrendering means something different. It’s the willingness to leave our ego and join the only reality there is. 

And make no mistake, this is a skill. Surrendering is a muscle. It’s something we have to practice on a daily basis, both in the macro and the micro. 

Here's a quick assessment to help you assess your own relationship with surrender. 

Do you obsess about things that don’t go your way, or do you move on with your life quickly and without guilt? 

Do you debate trifling issues that are irrelevant to your current situation, or do you stay focused and unperturbed by the debris? 

Do you whine about interruption and create a swampy backwater of unproductive energy, or rise above the noise and forget it ever happened? 

Do you feel instantly abandoned and devastated at even the slightest rejection, or is your beingness so solid that the routine of everyday life does not derail you? 

Clearly, this is not a scientific tool. But if your answers tended towards the first part of each question, perhaps your relationship with surrender could benefit from some additional attention. 

It’s certainly a better use of your time than fighting reality every step of the way. 

Remember, the more you let go in your life, the less stressed you’ll be. 

Are you ready to leave your ego and join the only reality there is?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The dream finds itself reduced to a mere parenthesis

Age and ambition have a complicated relationship. 

There are certain people who, as they get older, will stop dreaming, period. 

Others will put their dreams in a box so they never spoil. 

While others will actively kill their dreams out of fear or guilt. 

And my personal favorite, the people who do dream big, but have literally zero intention of ever even beginning to lay the groundwork for making those dreams a reality. 

Now, there is one other camp of dreamers on the list. People who do still dream as they mature, but with significantly less attachment and expectation. 

Very different posture. 

Having recently found myself in this last camp of dreamers, allow me to share what it feels like. 

Instead of believing that happiness depends on getting something or becoming someone in the future, we are more honest and realistic about ourselves. 

Instead of acquisitively driving our dreams from a place of ego, we accept and delight in the fact that our dreams are humbler than we originally thought. 

Instead of demanding the world give us everything we desire, we adopt a more realistic attitude about how to attain the things we want, or if they're worth attaining at all. 

Instead of harboring illusions that our dreams will save us and set us free, we find the majority of our fulfillment en route to the goal. 

Instead of forcing ourselves to accomplish things by society's arbitrary time standards, we abide by our own sense tempo and rhythm and velocity and trajectory. 

Proving, that we’re still dreaming, but with less baggage. 

What’s more, our dreaming process is more spacious. Meaning, we keep slack in the system. We keep whitespace on the dream canvas. 

Because who knows what will happen? 

Life rarely conforms to our wishes, and it’s important to allow for some emptiness so there is room for the unexpected dreams to pop up and steal our hearts away. 

Those dreams we never could have predicted but realize we can’t live without. 

Will your dreams remain dreams when you insist on their being fulfilled instantly?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Tie me into a bow and sail off into the sunset

People leave your life sometimes. 

Not by dying, necessarily. They just go away. 

And it isn’t a thing you can control or predict. All you can do is react. 

Reminds me of my favorite coming of age movie. Gordy says of his two best friends from middle school:

As time went on, we saw less and less of each other, until eventually we became just two more faces in the halls. It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant. 

The question is, how do you react when people leave your life? Do you become upset that you never got the closure you were looking for? 

Maybe you get angry that you don’t fully understand everything there is to be understood before somebody turned their back. Or you interpret that person’s exit as a horrendous violation of the rules of friendships and a callous disregard for your emotional wellbeing. Or you demand a final airing of grievances, so you can have the last word. 

Maybe you don’t actually want closure, but vindication. A nice tidy explanation that clarifies why you’re the one who was wronged. 

Look, all of these reactions are normal and healthy. Nobody appreciates being ghosted. Who among us doesn’t want to tie every friendship up in a neat bow and sail off into the sunset? 

If only human beings were that black and white. If only our expectations didn’t get in the damned way. 

But the reality is, people leave our life sometimes. And in fact, if somebody has clearly made the decision to move on, even without your input, you can fight as much as you want, but eventually, you’re going to have to trust their decision and let them go. 

It’s not fair, but it’s also not about you. 

People are going to do what they’re going to do. 

Are you waiting for somebody to provide with an excuse, just so you can find a way around it?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Fled out to afflict mankind, filled with hope.

Shawshank is my favorite movie of all time.

It was a film about institutionalizing people. 

Not only physically within the walls of the jail, but also mentally and emotionally and psychologically. Inside their own heads and hearts. 

Brooks, the elderly prison librarian, finally finds out that his parole is up after fifty years. But his first response is to grab a fellow inmate in a chokehold and put a knife to his throat. He cries that killing someone is the only way they'll let him stay. 

It's the most heartbreaking scene in the film. Brooks is officially institutionalized. 

Red's haunting speech says it all:

Man's been here fifty years. This place is all he knows. In here, he is an important man, an educated man. A librarian. Out there, he is nothing but a used up old con with arthritis in both hands. Couldn't even get a library card if he applied. Believe whatever you want. These walls are funny. First you hate them. Then you get used to them. After long enough, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized. They send you here for life, and that's just what they take. The part that counts, anyway. 

Brooks is the despondent personification of how organizations, not just prisons, but many large institutions, are committed to the dulling of the individual. 

To paraphrase the great folk song:

They can be so cold, they'll hurt you and desert you, they'll take your soul if you let them, but don't you let them. 

The problem is, the fish often don't know they're in water. One telltale sign is their relationship to permission. 

Here are a few examples. 

If you're the passive naysayer who comes to meetings solely to shitting on other people's ideas, you might have been institutionalized. But if you're the impatient initiator who creates contagious energy, generously amplifying the work of others, you're not.

If you're the distrustful cynic who has a long list of all the things we're not allowed to do here, you might have been institutionalized. But if you're the brave creator who would rather ship something risky and beg for forgiveness later, you're not. 

Shawshank has another great scene at the end of movie about this. 

Red, now a free man, asks his new boss at the grocery store if he can take a restroom break. 

To which his boss replies, listen, you don't need to ask me every time you go take a piss. Just go. Understand? 

Prisoners like him don't know any better. Thirty years he's been asking permission to piss, and can't squeeze a drop without say so. He's an institutionalized man. 

The good news is, it's never too late to unlearn. You're never too old to be free. 

Yes, it took your heart and mind a long time to get this way, and it will probably take a while to unfuck them. 

But it is possible. 

Have you liberated yourself from the prison, or merely switched to a different institution in which you are not free?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

To what extent is your journey one of internal control?

Cults are scary because they suck you in, but also because they don't let you leave. 

There is simply too much psychological pressure. 

Members can’t just come and go as they please. People are strongly encouraged, and often times physically forced, to be committed and obey the rigid rules of conduct. 

It's like that aggressive store owner who doesn't let you leave without buying something. Or when you go to cancel your contract for some technology service, only to find out that all your website data is deleted, and the company denies you access and ownership to your account, making it impossible for you to leave them for another vendor.

Of course, this is not about cults. This is about coercion, power and pressure. 

Particularly in a social setting, where the tribal energy can be very difficult to resist. 

Think about the last time you were part of group, a club, or an organization, either personal or professional, that you decided to leave for whatever reason.

Were you afraid the people would criticize and judge your decision? Did you feel shame and sadness for not following through on your implicit commitment? Or perhaps you felt trapped under the weight of expectations? 

That’s completely normal. And healthy. Hell, only sociopaths don’t have feelings like that. 

However, one of the ways we set healthy boundaries is by staying strong in our decisions despite social pressure. Embracing our inner confidence to have certainty about our decisions, whether or not they disappoint others. 

It’s really hard. Not everybody is comfortable resisting majority influence and subverting social norms. What’s more, some people in your group will demand to know why you’re leaving so they can mend their heart and have clarity with the situation going forward. They will insist you tell them why you’re leaving because they deserve closure and resolution. 

But sadly, closure doesn’t exist. Boundaries do. 

Goldsmith calls this halting the journey. In his book about creating meaning and achievement, he writes:

Like cross country skiers, we're stuck in a set of tracks that someone else has created with a particular route in mind. But the evolutionary journey from surviving to thriving requires a sort of global positioning system. You have to understand how to seal the doors behind you. 

It doesn’t mean you should act callously and inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. But it does mean that you should make your journey one of internal control, not outer. That you should be vigilant about excising out of your life any investment you truly believe has reached a point of diminishing returns.

Better to courageously abandon something you have clearly outgrown than to stick around too long and pay a premium on opportunity cost. 

What support would you need to have in place in order to remember that you have a choice?

Monday, June 22, 2020

Begin with the worst possible situation and let it flood your senses

Seneca once wrote that the greatest peril of misplaced worry is that in keeping us constantly tensed against an imagined catastrophe, it prevents us from fully living. 

Perhaps it’s time we found a better place for that worry. 

To make the mental railroad switch, so to speak. 

Because even though it’s toxic energy, it's still energy. Which means it can be channeled in a productive manner. 

Ellis tells his patients to begin with the worst possible situation and let it flood their senses. It’s a cognitive technique for desensitizing themselves to a diversity of frustrating situations. 

Instead of pretending not to be worried, they try following their irrational thoughts as far as they can possibly go. Because it might just prove to them just how ridiculous they’re actually being. 

For example, let’s say you’re running five minutes late for an early meeting at the office. 

How far can we follow that worry? 

Here we go. 

By running late, the client will get upset and close their account, which will piss off your boss and result in you getting fired, leading to your unemployment, which will send you into a pathetic spiral of depression, at which point your wife will walk out on your sorry ass, leaving you behind with no money, job prospects or friends, forcing you to move back in with your parents, who will resent you for disrupting their blissful retirement, which will soon create so much guilt that you will have no choice but to off yourself in the bathtub. 

All because you were five minutes late, you pathetic loser. 

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? 

Next time you feel the weight of worry bearing down on you, go for broke. Go through your own hierarchy of mildly, moderately and intensely anxious scenes, and you might find yourself more relaxed than enraged. 

How are you developing your ability to endure difficult feelings and learn from them?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

People come here to make it, not make friends

The older we get, the trickier friendships become.

After a certain age, our schedules become more compressed, our priorities become more focused, our energies become more limited, our filters become more discerning and our values become more secure. 

Meaning, there is a finite number of new relationships we have room for. 

And so, we have to learn to approach our relationships with a sense of acceptance and trust. 

A few examples. 

We accept the changing tides of our friendships. Trusting that certain people come into our lives for a season for a reason. 

We accept there will be companions that we outgrow who we don't know how to replace. Trusting that by letting go, we create the space in our hearts for new ones. 

We accept that soliciting new friendship is going to make us feel deeply vulnerable. Trusting that the process will pay dividends in the long term if we put ourselves out there. 

We accept that many people are unwilling to accept the burdens and risks of friendship. Trusting that when we reach out to them, it will be more meaningful that just sitting at home perpetuating our own disconnection and loneliness. 

We accept that some periods of solitude will be inevitable. Trusting that the more we know what matters most to us, the more we'll become a beacon to people who are looking for a friend like us. 

It reminds me of something a friend once said about moving to a huge city in his thirties:

People come here to make it, not make friends

Maybe so. But lest we forget, we're never alone in this world unless we want to be. There are no strings attached except the ones we choose to tie. 

Yes, the older we get, the trickier friendships become. And yes, the voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life's whims in ways our other relationships aren't. 

But there's no reason to sentence ourselves to a destiny of loneliness. 

We just have to try harder. 

What's your system for keeping your relationships alive?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Compounding the sluggishness of your evolutionary crawl

There's a difference been adaptation and evolution. 

Adaptation is a specific process of adjusting ourselves to become better suited to our environment. It's undergoing modification to fit our new circumstances. 

Evolution, however, is a broader term that refers to any change in anything over time. It's the gradual development of something from a simple to a more complex form. 

But the two ideas work hand in hand. Despite their differences, the theme of both concepts is the same. 

Letting go. 

It's about not getting stuck on something we first envisioned for ourselves. Because if we insist on consistency all the time in all things; if we are over reliant on our winning strategy for every endeavor, we will never adapt or evolve. 

Personally, my mistake was being way too religious about how I earned my money. It's my stubbornly entrepreneurial and relentlessly independent personality. Profitable as that may have been, it also put limits on where my success could come from. 

And the epiphany was, oh wow, working by myself has finite earning potential. Not to mention a cap on overall job satisfaction. 

And in order to become better suited to the changing environment, in other words, to adapt, my career needed to diversify. Which meant working in a real office at actual companies, joining teams and collaborating with other human beings, in addition to running my own enterprise. 

It was far more complex than sitting in my living room in my pajamas making art all day, but ultimately more satisfying and less lonely. 

Such is the nature of evolution. We stay consistent in the micro, honoring our skills and talents; but we change in the macro, remaking ourselves as we grow and as the world changes. 

What do you need to let go of to keep moving the story forward? 

Once you figure that out, just know this. Each of us needs to find the balanced commitment to whatever our primary goal is, but with a willingness to pivot quickly when necessary. 

Because evolution doesn't necessarily favor the strong, it favors the most adaptable to change. 

If we can learn to do that slowly and constantly, we will triumph. 

What has always been heroic about your work that is now preventing you from growing?

Friday, June 19, 2020

At the peril of your soul, we take this to satisfy ourselves

The was a famous legislation passed in the seventies that provided enforcement for something called a satisfaction guarantee warranty

After all, the customer is always right. This act stipulated that businesses would have to refund the full purchase price regardless of the reason for dissatisfaction. 

Carlin famously named this the advertising lullaby, meaning, the whole purpose of marketing is to lull consumers to sleep. And it may have been revolutionary at the time. But fifty years later, there is massive proof of just how ubiquitous our satisfaction guaranteed consumer culture has become. 

That worn and tired phrase is more than just fine print at the end of an advertisement, it’s an entire mythology. Since the legalization of the satisfaction guaranteed concept, people have become deeply demanding of fulfillment in all of their interactions, not just their retail purchases. 

Each of us keeps mental ledgers of our disappointments and diminished expectations, and demand payback when the debit column gets a little too high. 

We embark on this quest for unrealistic satisfaction, poised in a great ballet of expectation, only to get our hearts broken again and again. 

But that’s the challenging part. Life is not a retail shop. Once our experience fails to match up to our impossibly high standards, we don’t get our money back. The product is not replaced within thirty days of purchase. 

How do we cope with that? 

Cameron’s book on finding inspiration urges us to ask ourselves a question to become more intentional around the idea of fulfillment:

What choice can you make right now that would fill you with pride and satisfaction? 

Her question is a hopeful reminder that although life is not set up to meet our meaning needs, we can still wield some control. We can still engage in the enterprise of paying singular attention to something we really want to bring into existence, big or small, no matter how shitty everything else is at the moment. 

Perhaps it’s time to amend that famed legislation to something a bit more realistic. 

Satisfaction is not guaranteed. 

The only thing we are guaranteed is the possibility of satisfaction. 

Where can you express appreciation instead of expectation?

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The dull mist of worry hanging in front of his eyes

The four most liberating words in any language are:

Not my problem anymore. 

Like the entrepreneur who sells his company, but still gets phone calls from old customers who have complaints about their products. Not my problem anymore. 

Or the longtime board member who resigns from her volunteer role, but still gets emails about mundane issues that need voting on. Not my problem anymore. 

What about the property owner who sells his condo, only to learn about real estate tax hikes and waterline construction. Not my problem anymore. 

Or the broke and drained painter who gratefully takes a stable day job but keeps hearing news stories about how the gallery marketplace is tanking. Not my problem anymore. 

Each of these little moments of freedom happen for the same reason. 

Somebody somewhere set healthy boundaries. 

They bravely accepted that their golden goose was done laying eggs, and they made the risky choice to get on with their life. 

Whyte names this experience daring to rest. He says how to rest is to give up on the already exhausted will as the prime motivator of endeavor, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals. To rest is to give up worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we are there to put it right. 

This is the type of rest that awaits us on the other side of surrender. It's the reward for the difficult work of letting go. And it’s completely liberating. 

The best expression of this freedom is the departure of an outgoing president. 

The nation’s newly installed chief is escorted by their predecessors out of the capitol after the swearing in ceremony. They gather on the stairs on the east front of the building and wave to the whole world. 

And while the new president waves to the crowds, putting on his best executive face, but secretly terrified how the hell he is going to do this impossible job, the former president looks around as if to say, not my problem anymore. 

What can you let go of right now so that you can regain your freedom?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The calendar of ebbs and flows of the soul

Most of us don’t change until we have to. 

But the best time to prepare for change is before we need to. 

And so, why wait until things get visibly shaky? Better to habituate ourselves to the inevitable loss and uncertainty and fear that change brings. Better to train ourselves to make those small, effortless and irrelevant changes on the regular. 

That way, when the big kahuna comes along, we’ll be in a better position to ride it. 

Senge writes in his pivotal book about the dance of change our sense of surrender can make this process much lighter:

The notion that everything is in motion, in process, can relieve us of the pressure to have everything fixed and worked out. The only reliable thing we can know is that this situation shall change. And we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that whatever we are experiencing is not forever. 

Imagine if you adopted that mindset. The prospect of change would not only become less cumbersome, but more attractive. 

It’s just a weather pattern. How long can it keep raining, anyway? 

Hawaii definitely has a few cities with the most consecutive days of rain in the country. But that happened back in the late thirties, when it rained for two hundred days straight. A meteorological anomaly. Outside of that, it never rains for more than a few days. Maybe a week. 

Thoreau once called this the calendar of ebbs and flows of the soul. He wrote in his legendary journals:

The mind is subject to moods, as the shadows of clouds pass over the earth. Pay not too much heed to them. Let not the traveler stop for them. They consist with the fairest weather. 

His concept not only applies to matters of the mind, but to matter itself. 

Change is taking place everywhere at every moment. And we can wait until it taps us on the shoulder to take action. 

Or we can throw our arms up in the air, surrender to the ebbs and flows of the soul, change before we need to, and have faith that the rain is going to pass eventually. 

Once you learn that small changes won’t kill you, what big changes might you try?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We've noticed some unusual activity on your account

Most credit card companies are vigilant about watching for unusual activity. 

Their algorithms constantly scan accounts and purchases, flagging any suspicious activity, and alert customers about any questionable transactions. Their computers know our spending habits better than we do. 

If we're suddenly buying a thousand dollar handbag, but the average charge on our card rarely exceeds a few hundred dollars, be ready for the notification. 

We've noticed some unusual activity on your account and are concerned. Everything okay? Please call if you have questions. 

When this happens, customers feel scared and surprised, but also safe and cared for. Considering credit and debit card fraud is one of the biggest financial fears people have, fraud notifications offer us peace of mind. 

Wouldn't it be great if people could receive similar notifications for every area of their lives? 

Just imagine, any time our behavior dramatically deviated from our normal patterns, it triggers a red flag. A computer analyzes every permutation in our history, measuring biofeedback such as pupil dilation, heart rate and body temperature; along with geolocation, cell phone data and other relevant data points, calculated against the standard variation, discovering if the activity is unusual and suspicious. 

The human seems to be experiencing genuine shock and surprise. Pupil dilation. Elevated heartbeat. Deploy response team!

Technologically, this is possible. With the capabilities of artificial intelligence, we are closer to this reality than we realize. 

Culturally, however, we may not be ready for this yet. It's a little too close to one of those science fiction thriller movies. 

But in the meantime, this a useful exercise for each person to ask themselves. 

What triggers a red flag for you? What qualifies as unusual or suspicious activity? 

Credit card companies, for example, have certified identity theft risk management specialists who look for the following spending patterns:

Shopping away from your home base, making several purchases quickly, buying something small and then something big, charging travel expenses in multiple geographic locations on the same day, and so on.

What red flags are on your personal list? What if you shared that list with the people closest to you, and they were notified in the event of unusual or suspicious activity? 

It might prevent people from going down some dangerous roads, creating greater levels of accountability and integrity within relationships. 

Look, they're already watching our every move anyway. May as well use it for our benefit. 

Who is notified when your behavior suddenly becomes unusual and suspicious?

Monday, June 15, 2020

The weight of myself on my shoulders

It's true that the heaviest burden is having nothing to carry. 

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of our lives where a lighter touch might be called for. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some part of us that has been bursting to rid itself of all this psychic weight. 

Here’s a scary thought experiment:

Where in your life you feel most burdened by the weight of expectations? What commitments have been eating away at your soul for a long time that you’re just dying to release? And if one burden could be removed from your life today, what would it be? 

Start from that place. All those obligations and crusades and responsibilities you once said yes to, that now make your life so heavy. Odds are, they are the stones in your pack that are dragging you down. The time has come to jettison some of that bulk, so your life can take on a lighter quality. 

Look, humans are meaning making machines, which means we can both invest and divest our meaning as we see fit. We’re grown ass adults who can do whatever we want. 

And the best part is, when we finally rid of all this stuff, we will be lighter for the journey in front of us. Which is not only a gift for ourselves, but everyone we encounter. 

It’s like cleaning out your closet or garage. One dedicated afternoon of purging all the crap you shouldn’t have kept in the first place, and by the time the sun sets, you physically feel lighter. 

Just imagine feeling like that, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

That’s is the true benefit of deleting expectations, both yours or other people’s. They add up quickly. But because we never question their validity, we fail to calculate their total psychic burden. 

And we end up carrying the weight of ourselves on our shoulders.

What if you released the onus of taking responsibility for the rest of the world?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Putting ourselves at the mercy of people's opinions

Have you ever given up on ideas, projects and even beliefs just because of one asshole's unsolicited judgment? 

Sadly, it happens to the best of us.

Instead of choosing how much weight we grant other people’s opinions, we collapse faster than a cheap soufflĂ©. 

This is one of the great joys of getting older. 

Once you know exactly who you are, then you put exactly zero weight in other people's opinion of you. 

Once your life is where you want it to be, you don’t have to listen to anybody. 

Most codependency questionnaires include a question or two about this issue. Something like:

Are you always worried about other people's opinions of you? Are the opinions of others more important than your own? 

Clinicians name this excessive impression management, or external referencing. It's form of manipulation and control, and it's completely exhausting. 

Kind of sounds like the first fifteen years of my adult life. Thinking back to the number of sheer calories burnt trying to manipulate people into seeing me in the ideal light, it's a wonder that I ever had time to work. 

How much light and freedom and joy would you feel if you simply ignored everybody? 

That is an option. As an adult, you don't actually have to listen to anybody. 

Each of us has the right to choose how much weight we grant other people’s judgments. 

But that's just my opinion. 

What is your sense of self overly reliant on?

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Perspective arrives in the form of slightest swing

Reacher perfectly explains the notion of perspective
in his latest adventure:

It's like being on a train, stopped next to another train in a busy railroad station. Your train begins to move. It picks up speed. And then all of a sudden, it’s not your train moving. It’s the other train. Your train was stationary all the time. Your frame of reference was wrong. You thought you train was moving, and the other person thought theirs was

Think about the last time you were in that situation. 

Somebody, something or some experience stopped you in your tracks and made you think to yourself, huh, would you look at that

When this moment of perspective occurs, it's disorienting, but subtle. It's not like we're teetering on the edge of some astounding epiphany. 

Typically, what we think is an epiphany is merely reality. It's the other train moving. Subtle, quiet and sudden.

And when this perspective washes over us, the healthiest response is to express gratitude. 

Because although we're all waiting for that one huge cinematic and epiphanous moment with fireworks and banners and trombones that will changes everything forever, most of the time, perspective arrives in the form of slightest swing. 

Are you willing to accept that there may be a bigger reality asserting itself through you?

Friday, June 12, 2020

We're all trying to out special each other

How was your specialness insulted? 

This is the issue underlying the majority of our suffering. We are terrified of not being unique and not standing out and not being congratulated on how remarkable we are. 

Or maybe that's just me. 

Either way, one of the fastest ways to puncture our veil of specialness is with a physical ailment. 

Years ago at a checkup with my urologist, the doctor told me that the pain in my groin was the result of an abdominal hernia. 

Shocked, I asked what might have caused my condition. Lifting weights? Singing too loudly? Working too many hours? Exercising too much? Making passionate love to my wife? 

The surgeon responded very matter of factly:

You have a hernia because you have testicles. 

Huh. Well then, that makes sense. 

My doctor explained further:

Look, you're a man, and men are vulnerable to this kind of injury. It happens all the time. One out of every twenty males suffers a hernia in his life. And so, it's very routine. We perform over a hundred hernia removal surgeries every year. You're going to be fine. 

Instantly, waves of relief flooded me like light, bathing me in almost celestial glory. It never felt so good to be so unremarkable. To be so exquisitely ordinary. 

It's funny, we live in this culture where we're all trying to out special each other, tripping over ourselves trying to prove to each other how extraordinary we are. 

Durden's classic monologue comes to mind:

You're not special. You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You're just the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We're all part of the same compost heap. We're all singing, all dancing crap of the world

That's the best part about getting injured. 

It makes us less interested in the story we tell about our own specialness, and more interested in our common humanity. 

What if you let go of the pressure you put on yourself to be special and great?