Attached to fury because it’s fashionable

Lebowski says that at some point, we all have to decide whether we will love humanity or hate it. Whether we will husband this world with care or manhandle it with violence.

Both options are readily available and intensely attractive, but there is one main difference between the two.


Because it’s so tiring hating the world. Forget about the moral and ethical implications of hate, when we become so determined not to enjoy life, solely out of spite, it takes a toll on our bodies. It wears us down. It’s like trying to hold back the tide.

The sad part is, whatever time we spend hating anything, that’s time we’ve wasted on someone who doesn’t even deserve it. It’s like we’re punishing and destroying ourselves for the actions of others.

Don’t we have better things to do with our time? Are there not more useful outlets for our energy? Aren’t we here to increase the net flourishing of vitality in the world?

Koppelman, the award winning writer and film director, says that for years he used business rejection as a way to stoke a kind of anger and determination, but he doesn’t do that anymore. He found that anger worked really well when he was young.

But as you get older, he warns, if you keep using it, it doesn’t burn clean.

Are the fumes of your flame polluting your life and the lives of those you love?

And remember, even if we do hate world with the heat of a thousand suns, it’s not judgment on having those feelings. It’s easy to get attached to our hate because it’s fashionable.

But dragging our hate behind us like a hot turd on a stick isn’t helping anybody. It’s just leaving smelly skid marks.

It reminds me of that old saying, we can’t love anybody until we love ourselves first.

Because the rule has to go both ways. We can’t hate anybody until we hate ourselves first.

I actually wrote a song about that called Yourself First.

Remember, if we really loved ourselves, then we wouldn’t pollute our minds.

Are you withholding your love to the public as a way to get back at the world you hate so much?

Remembering the past, defining the present, shaping the future

 Carlin, in his posthumous autobiography, writes extensively about his changes as a comedian. About how in the late sixties, he changed everything from his routines to his appearance to his management team to his audience.

But he explained that he was the kind of person who needed those changes to happen in a natural, organic and timely fashion. Nature works very, very slowly, the comedian said. Even a volcano, which may seem like a split second eruption, is actually the end result of a long process that’s gone on for years far below the earth’s surface.

Carlin’s changes seem to have come just like that. Drawn out over several years, then exploding in a series of eruptions.

This wholesome, organic process of transformation brings me peace. Whatever changes we’re going through at the moment, bizarre and confusing as they may be, they have been bubbling under the surface for a while.

And that actually makes me trust the process more.

It’s like reading a book by an amazing author and being able to relax because you know you’re in good hands. Sure, the volcano is jarring and scary and sizzling when it erupts.

But nature is just trying to restore the balance the best that it can. We’re in good hands.

Santorini comes to mind, an island whose volcano has shaped the landscape for thousands of years. And in remembrance of the eternal power of the volcano, the locals commemorate the eruptions and hold festivities for it every summer.

Throughout the event, the volcano becomes active again and travelers from around the world get to see its magnitude. Locals say that the goal is to make sure that everybody remembers the power and fierceness of the volcano. They say it is part of the past, which defines the present, and shapes the future.

What a beautiful meditation on the changes of life. Because we can use all of the explanations, rationalizations and technical devices in the world to predict when our eruptions are going to happen, for how long and with what impact.

But we can never achieve complete control over these natural events. All we can do is honor the end of that long process that’s gone on for years far below the surface, and hope that the river of lava doesn’t take us away.

If the ground is rumbling under your feet and the ash is starting to appear, trust that you’re in good hands.

And remember the advice of the national geological survey, who reminds us that it’s not safe to roast marshmallows over the river of lava, no matter how long the stick is. 

What would be different if you trusted your changes?

Why S.M.A.R.T goals are S.T.U.P.I.D

Management consultants have been preaching for decades that our goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

Here is my argument against all five of those qualities, and what you might try instead.

This sounds like the ideal firs step for setting goals. But what happens when events beyond your game plan throw a wrench into the mix? Your precious little goals betray you. And specificity actually prevents you from spotting exciting new opportunities that live outside of your narrow purview.

Whereas starting with a broad vision without being attached to any one outcome allows you to pivot, adapt quickly and find happiness regardless.

I used to set a hundred specific goals each year, and all that did was stress me out. Today I only have one. Fulfillment. That’s it. Everything else is just a strategy. This unspecific approach allows me to maneuver calmly through my life as an opportunist. Keeping my eyes open for unexpected experiences that might improve my life.

Corporate executives love this one. You can’t manage what you can’t measure, as the saying goes. Of course, what if you’re doing something you’ve never done before? Something that can’t be proven by objective standards?

Measuring becomes a moot point. It takes you away from doing the work for its own sake. Data doesn’t always speak to the totality of an experience. Not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that is measured matters.

Einstein never officially measured the aspects of the physical universe like mass increasing or time slowing down. How could he? The tech wasn’t there yet. These forces were far too big or far too small to be quantified. He simply proposed theoretical methods for understanding what could happen at such distances and sizes.

And people dubbed him the greatest genius who ever lived. So much for measurable. Just because a goal can’t be comfortably quantified is no reason to throw it out.

Very troubling. If people only attempted the impossible, then they would never innovate. Our goal should be taking the risks that accompany making impossible things happen.

Because even if we’re guaranteed to fail, our effort stretches us in a way that makes the journey worthwhile. We make attempts at the unachievable anyway, embrace our failure, then go back and try it again, while the rest of the world criticizes instead of creates.

True innovators separate what they want from questions of possibility. They’re willing to throw out things like logic, practicality, profitability and responsibility, in order to change the world. Jobs manipulated reality, made the impossible possible, and revolutionized personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing.

Achievable wasn’t remotely interesting to him, and now the entire world gets to reap the benefits of his genius on an hourly basis.

Completely relative. It fails to take into account how much, how often and how quickly human beings change. Our goal to earn a million dollars this year might be relevant when we first set it, but what happens when we become different people with different needs? Where’s the forgiveness in that equation?

It’s like the word of the year exercise. December comes to an end, people get into goal setting mode and choose a word that acts as their mantra or guiding principle in the new year. This term sets them in the right direction, bringing more awareness to their intentions.

Until real life happens. And what was relevant six months ago no longer matters anymore. It’s like paying for a year’s subscription to a hunting magazine and then realizing over the summer that you’re a vegetarian. Relevancy suggests consistency for consistency’s sake, rather than honoring the truth of our experience moment by moment.

Hell, think about how relevant your new year’s resolutions became once the pandemic hit. People change. Life is dynamic. Relevance is an illusion.

It means to make sure your goal has a target date. Give yourself a deadline to focus on. Something to race towards. It’s a wonderful idea in theory, but in practice, virtually everything in life takes longer than we think it will. Everything.

Choosing arbitrary calendar dates for completion is unrealistic, impractical and fails to take into account the biggest variable in the pursuit of any goal, human nature. It’s true that constraints are a powerful forcing function for execution, but let’s not put more unnecessary pressure on ourselves.

We all have enough anxiety as it is. Time bound goals often do little more than create expectation, which triggers stress, which produces resentment. In my experience, it’s healthier and more productive to trust the process. To have faith that whatever we’re doing, it will get done when it gets done. And if it doesn’t, then maybe we didn’t need to do it in the first place.

# # #

Ultimately, whatever goals you have, my recommendation is not to kill yourself making them specific, measurable, achievable and relevant and time bound.

Leave room for all the dynamic variables of human nature and go enjoy yourself.

How many of your old goals embarrass you today?

P.S. If any of these ideas resonate, you might like Prolific, my new software for Personal Creativity Management. Try our 300+ tools for free and you’ll never miss another goal again.

Everyone is disappointing once you get to know them

Here’s a page out of the middle manager’s handbook.

They call you into their office and ask you to shut the door and have a seat. And instead of responding dramatically, they calmly, sadly and regretfully tell you that you’ve really let them down. Their hopes were high, but you failed to deliver, so get ready for the kiss of death, that dreaded ominous phrase, they’re disappointed in you.

Just like your parents used to say when you were a kid.

They’re not mad, just disappointed.

Does this tactic still work on you? When someone tells you that you have disappointed them, does it ignite shame and regret and motivate you to apologize profusely and change your behavior instantly?

If so, then you’re not alone. Most people are terrified by the prospect of letting others down.

But perhaps this is an unfounded, outdated fear that needs a more mature perspective.

As a thought experiment, let’s take acknowledge several important realities about disappointment.

First of all, everyone is disappointing once you get to know them. Everyone. And so, whatever it is that you did or didn’t do, it’s not some behavioral anomaly, it’s merely your humanity.

The next thing is, people almost always get over it when you do let them down. Nobody ever died from disappointment. More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than being let down. All hurt feelings aside, your imperfection will be survived. They’ll get over it. Most people have the ability to cope with a wide variety of feelings.

The next point is, disappointment is borne out of expectation, and people’s expectations are their problem. They may try to put that onus on you, but part of being an adult with healthy boundaries is knowing what’s yours and what’s theirs. Just because somebody’s precious expectations weren’t met, doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

Lastly, disappointing others is the cost of making yourself happy. The more you become ruthless with your time and energy, the more you will get used to letting people down. As my mentor used to joke, if people hate you, you’re probably taking care of yourself.

Fact is, people who are mentally, emotionally and spiritually whole are not sucked into the vortex of guilt that others create to try and control them.

Whole people act in behave in accordance with their values, take responsibility for their actions, apologize when they screw up, and try to learn from their mistakes.

But the thought of anyone being upset with them does not cause them to feel uncomfortable.

When someone around them is let down, they don’t take responsibility for trying to make them feel better.

Ultimately, every one of us should be ready for people to behave in disappointing ways. It’s part of being human.

And the quicker we accept it as the price of admission for healthy relating, the sooner our peace will return. 

Do you have the courage to set boundaries and love yourself even when it disappoints others?

Highlight the necessity for human contact

Koontz writes in his suspense novel about a father who loved his car more than his family:

Harlo had nobody to whom he could give the love that he lavished on the car. A can’t return the love you give it, but if you’re lonely enough, maybe the sparkle of the chrome, the luster of the paint and the purr of the engine can be mistaken for affection.

Have you ever made that mistake? Turning turn to material things because they’re more predictable and less complicated than human beings?

It’s an easy trap that so many of us fall into. Myself included. We reach for something, rather than to someone, to get our needs filled. Because it’s faster and safer and cheaper.

But over time, we do such a poor job of developing our emotionally regulatory landscape, that we obfuscate human relations on behalf of commercialism.

It’s not wrong, but it’s certainly unsustainable. That’s the true nature of consumption. It comes with a limited ceiling of satisfaction. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a such thing as repeat purchasing.

There’s an inspiring recovery book where the issue of substance addiction is framed in a similar way. The author writes that in her frantic seeking, her basic delusion about things is that they can satisfy what is really a spiritual need.

Instead of realizing that there is a law of diminishing returns in the enjoyment of such things, she clings to the delusion that just one more will bring the satisfaction and relief she wants.

What thing has reached the point of diminishing return in your life? Have you ever thought about what your life would look like without it? Whom would you have to turn to in order to fill that void?

Scary thought. People are exhausting and unpredictable. Better to confide in things for our affection.

The other problem with reaching for something rather than to someone is, the moment we threaten our allegiance to these things, not only does our body howl in protest, but so does our ego.

Because it’s gotten used to dissociating and escaping from emotional regulation.

Wait a minute, you’re telling me that we have to actually deal with our feelings now? And trust other humans with them? But the latest edition of our favorite video game now comes with floating islands, werewolf skins and crossbow aim assist. This is bullshit. We had a deal.

Look, cars and alcohol and video games are wonderful things. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we mistaking the benefits we get from them as affection? Are we attempting to use them as a viable substitute for people?

If so, then we might consider reaching to each other instead. In our increasingly consumerist culture, it’s important we highlight the necessity for human contact.

To quote my favorite celebrity doctor:

Touch is fundamental to the human experience. It’s the first sense that develops in the human developmental spectrum, it’s the inroad to intimacy, and intimate contact allows the brain to develop in a healthy way. It allows you to develop healthy emotional regulation.

Remember, higher consciousness is not singular pursuit. It must include the other. 

What thing are you trying to turn into a viable substitute for people?

There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt

Think about the biggest drama queen you know.

Do they spin small anxieties into outsize disasters? Do they cry wolf at the slightest sign of trouble? Do they assume disaster is around every corner? Do they spin everything into a vortex of negative thought?

Do they take minor provocations as personal affronts? Do they believe they are the only one to ever experience bad events? Do they have zero sense of proportion? Do they overuse hyperbole to the point of bursting from it?

Do they employ nonstop histrionics and search of the spotlight?

It’s truly exhausting.

But it can also be compelling, attractive and even addictive.

Hollywood writers know this well. They create big, charismatic characters who chew up the scenery and comically overreact to everything because they know audiences will react.

Which is fine on the screen, but it’s different in real life. As much as we bemoan the office drama queen in theory, we have to notice when we enjoy and enable that behavior too much.

Here are a few more questions to ask, several of which actually made me realize my own complicity in the issue. See how they resonate with you

Have you ever confronted your own fascination with drama? Are you taking stock of your own contribution to the drama problem? Does your drama queen’s neediness make you feel important? Does being the sanest one on the team reinforce your sense of superiority? Do you refuse to bite when the drama starts rolling?

Point being, every drama queen needs subjects.

If you want to dethrone her, start by removing the audience. 

Have you honestly asked yourself about your role in the creation of the situation that frustrates you?

Is it authentic connection, or just another meme?

Few things bring me more joy than videos of unlikely animal pairs romping or snuggling.

Goats and rhinos, pigs and cats, deer and foxes, tortoises and terriers, monkeys and tigers, parrots and hippos, few things in the world are more adorable than interspecies friendships.

Disney animated movies, eat your heart out.

The question is, did the animals work out a common language, or is it just another cute internet meme? Have these unlikely pairs become inseparable pals because of a stress event or coincidence in captivity, or is it an authentic emotional connection?

The dreamer in me wants to believe the latter. That animals are far more emotionally complex than humans. That they proactively seek out social relationships outside of their own species. And that they even learn how to connect with one another by adopting the behaviors of other mammals.

Now, although these interspecies relationships are well documented in popular media, the number of official scientific studies are scarce.

But one fascinating university study did catch my eye. There are several potential correlations between wild animals and humans.

First, there is a beautiful definition of what an interspecies friendship actually is. Sustainable, altruistic or reciprocal relationships between two or more different animal species where they interact with a certain frequency and consistency of affiliation behaviors which are not reproductive or aggressive.

Sounds like the kind of friend every human needs. Just imagine if more people forged relationships in that way. Kind of makes you wonder. If a rhino and a goat can connect across species lines, why are still fighting wars with each other?

The second conclusion that caught my eye was, young animals appear to make more interspecies friendships through play, whereas adults make more interspecies friendships through social bonding and proximity to other animals.

Once again, humans could learn a thing or two from this point. Think about kids. They make friends with anybody, anywhere. They don’t size each other up with condescending questions first. What do you do? Who do you know here? Is that your diamond encrusted sippie cup? Kids don’t care. They want to play.

Adults, on the other hand, have decades of prejudices and traumas that conspire to limit their relationships to those who look, think and dress exactly like them.

Because they’ve been burned and screwed over too many times, and their hearts have been hardened.

Reminds me of a powerful song lyric. David Gray sings:

We were born with our eyes wide open, so alive with wild hope, now can you tell me why, time after time, they drag you down, down in the darkness deep, fools in their madness all around, know that the light don’t sleep.

You don’t need a degree in zoology to make the conclusion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my pet flamingo needs to go for her daily walk. 

How many people did you go out of your way to avoid yesterday?

When our very sense of self broadens and deepens

When somebody makes the comment, you’re all over the map, that’s not an insult, it’s a compliment.

Because none of us are fixed artistic entities. The world wants to govern our growth by insisting that we never diversify. People want to pathologize anything that’s diverse and experimental.

But the reality is, we’re not supposed to be one thing in this life. Having a clean and linear and tidy career narrative is extremely rare.

What’s important is that we honor our delight in variety. That we embrace a changing curriculum of own own making based on our promiscuous passions and pursuits of the moment.

And that we’re moving in any direction following the call of interests, in pursuit of genuine outgrowths of a blossoming new self.

My term for this is polyamorous creating, meaning, pursuing relationships with multiple creative projects, with a full knowledge and consent of all partners involved.

It’s not deviant or irresponsible, and it’s not a form of professional attention deficit disorder. It simply means giving ourselves permission to explore many new ways of being an artist.

Besides, when did we decide that being all over the map was a crime? We’re not running for president. Our electability as artists does not hinges on the consistency of our opinions and endeavors. We can have as much scope, range and breadth as we desire.

Byrne is renowned for the fertile conceptual brew that characterizes his diverse creative endeavors. In his book about how music works, he says that for him, diversification is about seeking out ways of stretching creatively. Diversity is not a business decision, it’s a way of staying interested.

The map is there for a reason. Be all over it.

It’s not wrong, it’s your right. In the end, all these twists and turns, they’re the shape of our creative life. 

P.S. Prolific, my new software for Personal Creativity Management (PMC) only has 13 Founding Member slots left. If you want the tools to help you
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Understand which moments belong to you

Linklater is one of my favorite filmmakers because he is notoriously allergic to plot.

In many of his interviews, he explains that plot is this agreed upon structure we all sign up for hang moments on. It’s this contract with the audience. And although people think they want it, it’s really just a fake thing that they create that assumes life is going to give them closure.

But the reality is, life doesn’t have a plot. There may be turns in our narratives, but what most people remember about their lives are moments.

Now, here’s the challenge as it relates to filmmaking. Hollywood is a system. The way typical narratives are set up, there’s no room for philosophy, as executives view it as digressive material.

If it’s not advancing the plot, if it’s not moving the story forward, there’s no place for it.

Everyone has a friend who loves to point this out. You go see a flick and they spend the entire car ride home bemoaning the plot holes in the movie, noting the inconsistency in a storyline that goes against the flow of logic.

Good for them. Linklater could not care less. His biographer writes about this is the exploration of the filmmaker’s alternative notions of cinema. He has a career of movies that are conduits for a lot of ideas and energies that are spit back out in an interesting way. And the realism of the projects are their dismissing of any narrative.

It’s so refreshing and inspiring to know that somebody else thinks this way.

Because we’re all addicted to the fine white powder of clarity, closure, certainty, consistency, consensus, control, cleanness and completeness.

And the world could use a little less plot.

What really matters are the moments.

Moments where we’re happy to be alive. Moments when someone we meet is everything we’d hope they would be. Moments when thoughts end and dreams start. Moments when we see through the matrix. Moments when we suddenly feel every heartbeat in the room.

Moments when the magic is trying to enter. Moments when a door opens and lets the future in. Moments so golden that they take our breath away. Moments that are so deeply human that they cut through our differences.

That’s my perfect movie.

If somebody asks you what it’s about, you aren’t really sure what to tell them.

What moment do you want to own?

But the people who came before you abused my trust

Emerson once wrote:

As the traveler who has lost his way throws his reins on his horse’s neck and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world.

But what if he wasn’t referring to about the imaginary bearded lifeguard in the sky? What if he was talking about actually people on the ground?

Because that’s where faith and trust play out on a daily basis. When two people relate to each other, the electricity that surges between them is what is divine.

And so, the more we put ourselves at the mercy of these people, the farther we will be able to venture, and the more will be given back to us.

Multiple studies were conducted to prove this. Zak’s research discovered the neurologic mechanisms that enable trust, and these mechanisms have actually been used both by world banks to stimulate prosperity in developing countries and by businesses to enhance economic performance.

Sadly, many people hoard their trust like doomsday preppers. They’re unwilling to risk making something they value vulnerable to another person’s actions.

Which isn’t their fault. It’s likely that their distrust was initially triggered by childhood experiences, traumatic or otherwise. After which they began a pattern of mistrusting for the rest of their lives.

But the irony is, even the most guarded of cynics still trusts people more than they realize.

Think about the most distrustful person you know. Somebody who wears their suspicion like a badge.

Have they ever ordered coffee, gone out to dinner, stayed in a hotel, taken a taxi, gone to the dentist, or flown in a plane?

They trust complete strangers every day. No matter how many trust issues they purport to have, at some level, they are willing to put themselves at the mercy of other people.

It may not be much, but it’s definitely a start. The fact that those interactions happened to them all means that trust is possible.

Mill’s words come to mind, who notably said that the advantage to mankind of being able to trust one another penetrates into every crevice and cranny of human life, and the economical is perhaps the smallest part of it, yet even this is incalculable. 

For all the ways in which the world today falls short of utopia, trust is usually worth the risk. 

Are you willing to discover what wonderful things happen when people get together and trust each other?

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