Throws you back into trying to fix the world

Being a perfectionist is more than merely striving for technical flawlessness. 

It can also manifest in the form of aggressive idealism and naive enthusiasm. 

Ellis cites this brand of perfection as one of our core irrational beliefs. He writes:

We convince ourselves that precise and correct solutions exist for every world problem, and we must find them immediately. But that attitude only ties us up further into knots of indecision. Perfection becomes a fairytale, an unreasonable demand we place on the world. Compulsively obligating ourselves to it, that typically leads to stagnation and frustration. 

Now, that doesn’t make us bad people for wanting to save the world. The ache to come together to conceive of a solution that unfucks all this mess, that’s a universal human craving. 

But when things aren’t working the way we expected to, our natural inclination is to throw more at the problem. And that doesn’t always work. 

Maybe it’s an experience to be savored, not a problem to be solved. 

Maybe the pressure to find a solution is going to be unbearable and isn’t worth the cost. 

Maybe letting go of perfection doesn’t reduce our commitment to doing the best we can. 

Welshons writes in his book of prayers that the most healing solution to any problem is more love. Which is hard for many of us to stomach, since love is perhaps the most imperfect thing in the universe. But wishing to speed up the healing process is not the best use of our time. 

Remember, nothing is perfect, final or fixed in this material world. 

And striving for that is both unattainable and unnecessary. 


What if there is nothing wrong with the pain that you were experiencing?

Rarely do we find truth at the extremes

If you’ve ever used one of those rickety old hair dryers, ceiling fans, hand mixers or air conditionings, it sometimes seems like they only have two settings. 

 Standing still and going full blast. 

 Which is somewhat annoying but perfectly acceptable for a household appliance. We don’t expect a ton of grey areas with that stuff. 

 But when it comes to the human being, having only two modes is potentially hazardous to our health. 

 Because if our only ways of existing in the world are standing still or going full blast, we’re in trouble. It’s not sustainable or healthy. Anything taken to the extreme can be a detriment. 

 Have you ever had a coworker or boss who came into work every day either completely exhausted or silently withdrawn? Perhaps you’ve been that person yourself. It certainly applies to my workaholic tendencies. And it’s not a pretty picture. 

 When the only two choices are standing still or going full blast, burnout is not far behind. 

 What we need is a dimmer switch. An internal device to gradually lower the brightness and intensity of our light output, depending on the circumstance. 

 That way, we don’t have to blast every single watt at all times. We can take back control of our energy and slide the switch up or down as needed. 

 Interestingly enough, dimmers have been around since the late eighteen hundreds. And recent studies show that they’ve been scientifically proven to reduce a home’s electric use up to forty percent over time, and even make your light bulbs last twenty times longer. 

 If that doesn’t illuminate a truth about healthy energy management, perhaps you need your vision checked. 

 Remember, rarely do we find truth at the extremes. 

 Embrace the grey and see what kind of voltage exists in the middle. 


What extreme is causing a detriment to yourself?

Mobilizing ourselves to survive in a hostile world

Ellis writes in his book on reacting to antagonists:

People and things do not actually push our buttons. We push our own buttons. And we can learn not to push them. But before we do so, we accept that people are not actually driving us crazy, rather, we are driving ourselves crazy when they do it. And only when we take extreme ownership of our own reactions can we maintain inner calm and mobilize ourselves to survive in a hostile world. 

Think back to your first job in a real office with real people. Remember how enraged you used to get when confronted with some obnoxious stimuli? Maybe it was your coworker who chewed like a mule, or your dopey boss who had the jimmy legs, or the upstairs neighbor who blasted dance music first thing all morning. 

Probably made you want to strangle somebody with a cell phone cord, right? 

And yet, the harder you tried to make it go away, the cleverer people would get in their response. 

Proving, that while we can’t control what other people do, we can control what we think about what they do. 

We can forgive them for being human. We can remind ourselves that we’re no picnic ourselves. We can accept a baseline amount of ordinary misery as part and parcel of daily life. 

And in most cases, we can simply rise above and forget about it. 

We don’t have to like it, we just have to ignore it. 

Besides, why use other people’s little imperfections as creative inspiration for our own rage? Why grant others the satisfaction of negatively impacting our good mood? 

There’s no need to have an antagonistic relationship with their behavior. 

Bonhoeffer’s immortal words come to mind:

And though the waves foam and rage ever so wildly, they can no longer rob me of my peace. 

Whatever you’re thinking to yourself in this situation to get so upset, accept that you might be pushing your own buttons. And stop. 


Will you live a vigorous life and not be a casualty of your own efforts?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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. 


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