I am the crowd

This moment of forgetting always begins with a thought that you’re somehow different, morally speaking, than the rest of the crowd. That guy didn’t signal when he changed lanes. I always signal. That car could’ve made the light—I would’ve been quicker. I am always very efficient with overhead bin space.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2017/12/the-crowd/

It’s been a long time since I‘ve gotten upset about crowds (of any sort.) But there was a time when stuck in traffic, or held up by a crowd, etc. really pushed my buttons.

Now I just feel sympathy for everyone who is in the crowd, (as I am as well,) but who doesn’t yet realize it.


Factory work, Round 2

My fear—or maybe it’s better written, as “my lament”?—is that for every made-it-big tech person who represents the worst of avarice and greed, there is a sea of regular tech people who are being ground up by the works. Countless pasty faces staring at screens, drinking diet soda, trying to live in the bites of life they can grab after hours, (taking their phone so they can be summoned, of course!) stressed-out, burnt-out…

So when I hear people talk about “tech people” as if we’ve collectively done something wrong and messed up the world, I look around and all I see are people who’ve been broken and smashed. The grass is no greener on the inside-tech side of the fence. To everyone outside-tech, what gets done inside tech is magic—it’s not, it’s factory work, round two.

I don’t mean this as a repost to what people say when they lament what has happened to the world, but as a commiserating plea: “Yes! Yes! The problem is everywhere.”


Are you part of the solution?

If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.

~ Seth Godin, from https://seths.blog/2017/02/nextstep/

This rant from Seth is a couple years old, but it remains as important as ever.

I talk often about the problems with social networks. But what I’m particularly interested in is what, (if anything,) actually works to change people’s minds. I bet you can guess what works: Basically, nothing works.

I wasted a lot of time trying to explain the problems with social networks using facts and rational arguments. You know how far I got with that. One day, I stopped trying to educate and explain, and started trying to plant seeds. Little seeds of inquisition. Little seeds of self-awareness.

How do you feel when you are not on that social network?

And how do you feel after it ate your face for 2 hours?

Do you like the way you look, all hunched over with spine twisted and your face completely facing the ground?

Could you make progress on your dream if you could just find 10 hours of time a week? (As if you only spent 10 hours on social networks this week.)

Hold your phone facing you at arms length. Look just to one side and notice the actual amount of your immediate world which it occupies. How do you feel about only living within that small fraction of your world?

Visualize your death bed. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) Now begin to list your imagined regrets as you lay dying. (Seriously. I’ll wait.) Which items on your list were related, in any way, to online social networks?

You have Seth’s thoughts. You now have my thoughts. Do you have any thoughts of your own?

Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?


Change is not a commodity

[C]hange does not take technology, it takes courage. And, this is why change is not a commodity. Change is not easy nor is it formulaic. But I can say this with the utmost conviction, change is inevitable and it is yours to define.

~ Brian Solis, from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2012/03/28/it-takes-courage/

If you want to affect change you must first understand which sorts of changes are difficult and why.

On the one hand, things change all the time. A great definition of “old age” is when you begin to lament the inevitable changes to the specific things you prefer in your supermarket. On the other hand, affecting a change that you desire feels extremely difficult. (Go try to bring back your favorite brand of mustard after the manufacturer has discontinued it.)

On the one hand, there’s a huge array of things I can change easily: My shirt, the book I’m reading, and the lane I’m driving in. On the other hand I quite honestly struggle changing my physical body, my bad habits, and my addictions.

On the one hand, changing thousands of minds at once is easy: Give me a few orange cones and I can make everyone change their mind about always driving on the correct side of the road. On the other hand, it seems impossible to get people to do the correct thing, when they are waiting to turn left at a two-way stop sign, and I arrive opposite them intending to go straight.

On the one hand, millions of people have been convinced to spend their time on social networks. On the other hand, try convincing just one of them to disconnect.

Sometimes a piece of technology is enough to change everything and everyone. Sometimes no piece of technology seems powerful enough to get it done. Sometimes a tiny idea spreads like wildfire, and sometimes the mindless mob wins. Sometimes people are swayed by emotion, and sometimes they make choices based on logic. Sometimes change is objectively good, sometimes it’s objectively bad, and sometimes it seems too complicated to decide.

The important question is: What sort of change do you want to attempt?


§22 – The forty-eight other guys

(Part 34 of 35 in Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Understanding community has always been a challenge for me. The first key understanding was that “community” is just an abstract concept; A community does not exist in the world as a concrete thing I can point to, touch or clearly delineate. Instead, when asked to explain community, I list things which I feel identify a community: its persistence, members’ unifying or common interests, having a focus in a specific physical or online space, etc. But when I really start digging in, it’s all simply interpersonal connections, behavior, communication, expected norms, shared identity, etc.. If that’s true, then functional interpersonal communication is necessary for the creation and continued existence of a healthy community.

My question these days is: What is sufficient for the creation and continued existence of a community?


The journey

I’m fond of the old adage, what was once your workout will eventually be your warmup. It captures the inevitability of progress if you simply put in your time. In the beginning, the time spent seems to surface an endless sequence of unknown-unknowns. Bottomless, rabbit holes appear and you have to go far too far down the first few to learn an important lesson about depth versus breadth of knowledge. Soon you begin to realize the beginner’s journey is more or less the same for everyone. You get a few wins under your belt. Someone ahead of you compliments your work. You help one of your peers. Then you help one of those farther ahead of you, and realize the distance you’ve come is farther than the distance between you. You feed increasingly off of the energy of your peer group, bouncing ideas and challenges around like a seasoned practitioner. You look around only to realize there are now a large number of newer people on the journey who are behind you. You’re struck by a deeply pleasant emotional vertigo. You remember running in the halls with your brand new friends full of energy, and you feel recharged and invigorated; You might no longer run in the halls—age appropriateness and all that—but the energy from those who do is absolutely contagious every time. You struggle to refrain from proclaiming, “wait until you see what’s next!” Instead, you redouble your efforts by dashing ahead, behind the scenes, around the next corner, or over the next hill, to help with the preparations. You realize—you apprehend—that you’ve gotten as much out of giving back to help with the process, than you did from going through the process that first time. The cycle repeats. The learning, the friendships, the accomplishments—and quite frankly the advancement of the entire human race—builds with each iteration.

So, when is the last time you started something as a beginner?

When is the last time you showed up a bright eyed and bushy tailed neophyte?

When is the last time you helped the others? Those behind you, those ahead of you, and those around you?


Society does not exist

Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.

~ Oscar Wilde

In real life

Yet many modern-day Westerners — who will live their whole lives with freedom of speech and the means to talk to almost anyone about anything — remain convinced they are essentially powerless to improve human life around the world, and use their internet access primarily to share pictures of cats.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2014/11/the-gift/

I recently deleted my Facebook account; Not, “deleted the app from my phone,” but deleted my account so I am no longer on Facebook. That was the last of the social networks I was on.

My life is measurably better now without social networks. I still have this inconceivably amazing tool in my pocket which I use regularly to leverage the hard-won advantages of the human race in 2019. I still use that tool, (and other tools, including my feet and a bicycle,) to collapse the distance between me and those I want to communicate with.

I look forward to seeing you in the big room with the ceiling that’s sometimes blue and sometimes black!


Intentional about people

People who cultivate an inward orientation on purpose are still relegated to the “alternative” fringes for the most part. Only a minority of people I know seem to have any interest in mindfulness and meditation, which are really just ways of practicing inwardness so that we can stay receptive in ordinary moments — which probably don’t contain hot tubs or ice cream or cocktails or anything else that’s exceptionally agreeable.

~ David Cain, from http://www.raptitude.com/2014/06/two-ways-viewing-world/

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: I’m lucky to be surrounded by a network of people who are exceptional.

Where by “lucky” I mean: The harder I work, the luckier I seem to be. I’m intentional about the people I spend time with. Time is short, and there are countless people. By choosing who I spend time with, I’m controlling one facet of the experiences to which I’m exposed, and that’s one part of actively guiding who I become.