Pervasive Shallowness

One of the issues blocking our efforts to achieve meaningful human connection is shallowness. In this case “shallowness” can be defined as the opposite of depth or authenticity. This shallowness can be found in our lazy use of automatic social scripts (ie. “How are you?”), superficial conversational matter, and fruitless gossip. How did we end up in this place of Pervasive Shallowness? Better still, where is our Emotional Depth? I have a theory about it’s displacement: it’s being repressed.
Why connect with a person when you can connect to the Internet? After all the device is called an iPhone – emphasis on the “I” not on You. Who are “You” anyway? Wait don’t tell me.
*Tap*Tap*
Your Insta says you Vacationed in Bali for two weeks last summer and have a loving fiancee of 3 years. Your dog, Fido the poodle, has 600 Likes OMG! Wow you have an awesome life!
Wait what? The screen failed to mention your parents getting separated after 30 years of marriage.
Hm? You didn’t share a video of the time your supervisor relentless berated you until you felt less than human.
Huh? The family doctor diagnosed you as pre-diabetic?
These hypothetical scenarios represent a distressing reality. A reality we’ve willingly traded for unlimited access to distraction. Some where deep inside all of is a rich well of human experience begging to released. That yearning soul will remained trapped if there is not an ear to listen. We must make it our mission to listen.
Barry
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Writing is thinking

Occasionally I’ll hear something that penetrates my soul deeply. While listening to an Impact Theory podcast I latched on to the idea that writing is thinking. In the literal sense writing is thinking. Therefore, writing actually improves thinking. The process of writing forces one to take an amorphous cloud of ideas and shape it in a sensible way. Maybe not sensible, but certainly understandable.

I can’t explain why I felt the need to avoid writing lately. Maybe I am scared to see what I really think? Maybe I feel that there is no point to writing anymore? Maybe I feel I genuinely have nothing interesting to say? I reject the excuse of not having time. There is always time.

Ever since adopting this new identity I have rapidly collided with many new ideas. In fact, you could say I’ve become an idea fiend, manically hunting for my next “fix”. The thing is once you discover how amazing /crazy/interesting the world is it becomes hard not to look for more evidence of it. Reading nonfiction gifted me an appreciated for the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”. In many ways truth is stranger than fiction simply because it is true. Reflecting on my own life reveals a series of strange real events which sound completely fictional. Knowing this compels me to seek out other people’s strange but true stories.

So ultimately what am I trying to say? Well……nothing. I’m just writing and thinking.

Till next time – Barry

Do algorithms cause insanity?

Spoiler alert: Yes.

This weekend I caught myself in a depressing feedback loop. It was the typical stinging self-abusive talk of “You’ll never be good enough” “Why are you so lazy” and so on. Eventually I snapped myself out with a proverbial “Knock it off!” Hopefully I’m not the only who argues with themselves… Anyways once my mental battleground cleared an interesting thought swooped in:

Is insanity really doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? OR is insanity really thinking the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

In the second question the word “doing” is replaced with “thinking”. This a small albeit important distinction. Our actions are preceded by our thoughts. Following this logic different thinking should lead to different actions. Hence an insane person is incapable of thinking anything new. That explanation may be over kill, but I want to be really clear before moving on.

What does an overdone cliché and thinking have to do with algorithms?

A lot actually.

Algorithms are codes designed to follow a set of rules. Programmers deploy software algorithms virtually everywhere to simplify our lives. Here I’m using the word “algorithm” to describe predictive software commonly used by social media. For example, one day you randomly watch a bunch of Fly Fishing videos and now Facebook Ads starts displaying Discount Fly Fishing rods. Facebook uses techno-wizardry along with algorithms to snoop on you. This information is then used to curate content to your personal preferences. For those well informed internet dwellers this isn’t new information. The media has been blaring the alarm on how these technologies will led to the “ruin of society” since 2016.

Put the apocalyptic/dystopia hyperbole aside for moment. Consider the following: If algorithms guarantee you are only exposed to the same ideas, doesn’t that make you insane by default? Do you want to live a limited life? Life’s highest pleasures are often found in discovery. Discovery is not possible within the familiar. New ideas expand the breadth of our personal universe.

Fight the algorithms. Don’t be insane – Barry

When we go to Mars

Thanks to my boi Elon Musk traveling to the Planet Mars within my lifetime is a real possibility. That’s so wild.

*Disclaimer: I do not have a personal relationship with Elon Musk*

So, what will humans do when we get to Mars? First things first: Dictatorship. Don’t worry! My strong leadership will help us survive the perils of living on another planet. To prove my competence I already created a Mars colony name: New Terra. As in New Earth, but wayyy cooler. Now that I have your confidence let’s talk about survival stuff.

How we survive

Before humans can thrive we must survive. In establishing a base our first priority is to fulfill essential needs: Food, Shelter, Water. Luckily for all you colonists I packed a bunch of IKEA furniture onto the shuttle so we are covered for shelter. Unfortunately for the first 20 years or so on the Red Giant we’ll need to eat Ramen Noodles…. Dibs on shrimp flavor!

You: Ramen Noodles! WHAT?

Don’t worry! I packed cup-o-noodles too! Last we need to solve that pesky water issue. Hmmmm. Well Mars has ice caps right? We can just melt those. Like we do on Earth. Problem solved.

What will we do?

After surviving initial contact we’ll need something to occupy our time. Internet seems out of the question from a practical stand point. Here are my proposals for Martian Recreation:

  • Mars Bingo
  • Mars Monopoly
  • Mixed Martian Arts

Not a whole lot of variety at first. Most of the time will be spent staying alive.

One last thing

Traveling to Mars is literally going to the New World—Chris Columbus got nothing on us.

See ya in space – Barry

Does anything we do matter?

How can anyone with a basic working knowledge of astrophysics say yes? In the cosmic perspective of events us humans are tiny creatures toiling around on a tiny rock in the Milky Way. It’s strange.

I gobbled up Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry last week and now I suffer the consequences. Toward the conclusion of the book Tyson encourages readers to adopt the “cosmic perspective.” Basically, when we measure our personal problems against the cosmic drama of the universe they become insignificant. Less than insignificant.

astrophysics_for_people_in_a_hurry

Dwelling on this fact can easily deteriorate into a full blown existential crisis. On the other end of the spectrum the cosmic perspective is incredibly liberating. Even if I don’t actuate my dreams the world will carry on. As humans we get to play a supporting role on the grand stage of the universe.

In that I find something beautiful. – Barry

The Motivation Mugs Experiment

A few weeks ago I started this crazy experiment called Motivation Mugs. Like all experiments it started with a question; “Why isn’t this a thing already?”

Seriously though. I love coffee mugs and while browsing Amazon a few weeks ago I failed to find one that suited me. I was looking for something with a pleasing yet empowering message. Naturally I typed in “motivation mugs” and nothing came up. OKAY, maybe a few things came up but they weren’t what I invisioned. Soo on a whim I decided to make my own Motivation Mugs!

IMG_20180313_171705_387

 

So far it’s been pretty fun, but I would really apperciate feedback on the Motivation Mugs website . It’s super rough right now so I apperciate any and all feedback/constructive criticism. Specifically in layout, content, vibe, pricing – literally anything that could be helpful. Don’t be afraid to be super honest either.

Looking forward to hearing from you all soon! – Barry

Identity

I am used to rejection. Especially in the dating arena. Growing up people thought I was weird (I was). Kid Me enjoyed talking to myself out loud and indulging in beautiful fantasies. A solid 15% of my attention span continues to fuel these vivid daydreams. It’s strange, but I can semi-honestly say that rejection feels comfortable at this point. Semi-honestly because that teeny stinging pinprick of pain still snips at me. It goes away pretty fast though.

My rejection immunity serves a powerful function in my identity. I love to see myself in the image of an Outlier. Over maybe a Visionary? Actually, Titan may be more accurate. My young psyche fully latched onto the idea society’s most admired people often started as rejects. Maybe one day I would be fortunate to join their ranks. The thought of being mentioned in the same breath as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, President Lincoln, Elon Musk or any other celebrity electrified my soul.

Over time Conformity began her steady courtship of my heart. The first visit was Freshman year of college. She came bearing gifts of love, acceptance, and romance. I brushed off her advances, but she was ever persistent. I didn’t welcome Conformity into my life until she showed me the False Mirror. The False Mirror showed me all the ways in which my life was wrong. The dirty reflections revealed a deeply inadequate individual. Next, she weighted me on The Invisible Scale. She placed the burden of society’s expectations on the left plate and my fragile dreams on the right one. The results were obvious: I didn’t measure up.

That person accepted Conformity with open arms, never questioning the validity of the tests given, or asking why the test mattered in the first place. That person was not me. I am the Outlier. Reflecting on that period of insincerity scares the shit out of me. I started asking uncomfortable questions:

When did I decide to betray a crucial part of identity?

Why was it so easy abandon my true self?

Who am I now?

20/20 hindsight shows all the tiny allowances that lead me down that road. Growth, and subsequently, change are huge factors to living fully. Try something new, date outside your “type”, learn new skills! It’s fine if you do not aspire to be an Outlier, Visionary or Titan. BUT occasionally it might be a good idea to stop and ask,

Is this really me? – Barry

Mentors in Hiding

There is immense value in having a mentor. A mentor serves as a coach, friend, teacher and motivator. Recently someone asked, “Hey Barry who is your mentor?” I looked at the questioner with a wide stupefied gaze. Mentor? I don’t have a mentor. So I told them I was temporarily without a mentor. Days after the conversation the question lingered. Where can I find a mentor?

Well I have fantastic news! Are you excited?! There are mentors everywhere. Right now the smartass reading this and looking underneath his sofa is thinking,

search-under-couch.jpg

“I don’t see a mentor here Barry…”

Okay so maybe not literally everywhere, but all around us. A mentor doesn’t not have to be constrained a living breathing human. We can find mentorship in books, movies, videogames, art, and sometimes even ourselves. Here’s a great example:

In 9th grade I stumbled upon an anime called Fairy Tail. This cartoon is basically about a group of misfit magic users who come together and form a family like bond. To this day my favorite character in the show is Gajeel. No more what challenge Fairy Tail faced you could rely on Gajeel since he is a tough, no-bs guy that NEVER backed down even when obviously outmatched by an enemy. Watching Gajeel’s boldness at a time where felt pathetic and wimpy empowered me to copy find those traits in myself. Years later while in college I got the same tattoo as Gajeel has in the show for self-reinforcement.

fairytail.jpg

Of course, the 9th grade kid me didn’t realize this. I just wanted to watch an awesome show. The lesson is if you’re willing look past the surface of entertainment you can find real insight. This not me encouraging you to binge watch 12 hours of TV. Instead of blindly consuming ask yourself, “what about this character resonates with me?”

Is it Superman’s pledge to uphold truth, justice, and the American way?

Is it Jon Snow’s commitment to his cause despite constant resistance?

Is it Kermit the Frog’s ability to be in dank memes?

The-Muppets-Kermit

“I take mentoring very seriously”

Diversifying your portfolio of mentors is important too. Fantasy/fiction teaches great lessons through metaphor and biographies/non-fiction show how people overcame real life challenges. Earlier I wrote that sometimes mentors can come from within. What I mean is leveraging the power of questions to push yourself in a positive direction. For me this is asking,

“What would the absolute best version of myself do about this?”

If you’re totally honest, this usually produces a good answer. Go fourth and scour the planet in search of a mentor.

May the force be with you – Barry

 

Give your ideas an expiration date

It was the wildest thing I could do in that moment. While staring at the dozens of notebook papers scrawled with blog ideas taped to my fridge I suddenly decided “To Hell with it all!” For the next 3 minutes I furiously crumpled and dumped every single idea. The good ones, the okay ones, the bad ones, and even the absolutely amazing ideas.

Every writer/blogger suffering from Writer’s Block reading this probably wants to curb stomp me. “Barry! Why in the world would you throw away good ideas?!”

Rest easy. There is a method to my madness.

We all know how valuable a good idea can be. A good idea put to work possesses amazing transformative power. Look at Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling etc. Many of us see ideas as mental objects to be stored and sheltered. It’s this line of thinking that leads us to stockpile ideas in our secluded mental basement. I take issue with this. Consider this for a moment: What use is a great idea hidden away?

Ideas are a biological form of currency. They hold extraordinary potential, but only when used in a certain amount of time. Otherwise they ripen and die. Fresh ideas taste much better than rotten ones every day of the week.

So, am I insane for trashing all my old ideas?

Absolutely.

A little bit of insanity often leads to the best ideas – Barry

Smiles away

Everyone carries a tiny match. We can this little thing a smile. It only takes a second to light someone up. A simple smile can defrost the chilliest exterior. It can illuminate those trapped in darkness. It can be a present gifted to friends. It can bridge the gulf between total strangers. Someone, somewhere needs your warmth. Smiles and smiles away. – Barry

Now you see me

My approach to social media differs from most people. To start all my cellphone notifications remain silenced except for calls. Social media apps are banished on my device. This forces me to browse Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. periodically on my laptop. Lastly, I arranged my phone home screen with my most used apps and eliminating the ability to swipe through multiple pages.

Why go through all the trouble?

Raw human connection is a beautiful thing. I love that feeling of shared vulnerability as two people shed their masks leading to a moment of a collective “Now you see me.” Getting to that level of intimacy requires both time and attention. The 90% of people addicted to their smartphone create an artificial barrier to raw connection. Every beep, boop, whistle, ring and ding summons our attention to a glowing palm without hesitation. It rips us from the present and tosses us into a digital vacuum.

Don’t mistake my observations for an anti-smartphone stance. I love technology. I do not love the way it is used. A serious danger occurs when we mistaken social media for raw human connection. The colorfully filtered photos generate a reality distortion field. A screen is not a substitute. If real human connection is “Now you see me” social media is “… Now you don’t.” It is a digital mask free of nuance and sincerity – an illusion passing for reality. Always remember this.

Go out into the world and truly “See” someone for the first time. – Barry

Distance and Expectations

While reading Essays from Ralph Waldo Emerson I stumbled upon an interesting quote:

“Things are always more beautiful at a distance. The mountain a far is more beautiful than the one near.”

Emerson used this line in his discussion about nature. When I thought it about more this quote is a great life analogy. This simple concept reveals an important insight about human nature. Getting too close to something ruins the beauty of the thing. Our imagination idealizes what we covet which skyrockets our expectations out of control. Humans are intuitively aware of this. We express it in sayings/clichés like:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

“Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

Present day Minimalism gains momentum as our heavily consumerist world begins to gain sobriety from our expectations about “things”. This idea transcends our feelings about ownership of personal possessions. Have you ever had a crush on someone, but once you got to know them found them repulsive? Ever dream of traveling and when you arrive it’s not quite what was expected? See an amazing movie trailer only to sit through a subpar film?

Everyone can relate to similar or equivalent experiences. My goal is not to convince people away from their desires. Wanting more out of life allows us to aim higher. It is the first step of growth. We can be smarter about our wants and chase the things that will truly fulfill us.

The mountain a far is beautiful, but nothing beats the view from the top of the mountain. – Barry

Do I really want to be healthly?

“But do I really what to be healthy?”

I couldn’t help but to think this out loud. When entering through the front of Weis customers pass by the produce to reach the bakery. The apple in front of me cannot fairly compete with the strawberry cheesecake 20 feet away. I know nothing about physics but I know desserts possess a pull stronger than the gravity of a planet.

“Must…. Look…. Away…”

My gaze disappointedly returned to the shiny red apple in my palm. Why can’t you taste like that dammit! Answer me!

The apple refused to comment. A series of similar decisions followed:

Potatoes or Flaming Hot Cheetos?

Spinach or Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream?

Oatmeal or Lucky Charms?

Unsalted peanuts or Nutella?

Broccoli or Bacon?

Just when I feel triumphant the store pulls out on last trump card. A candytopia rack of the world’s most delicious and unhealthy delights right next to the checkout counter. Snickers, M&M’s, KitKats, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Sweet Tarts, Twizzlers. All right there for the taking, those shiny colorful wrappers tempting me and whooing me to come closer. Oh come on…. Just one teeny little Snickers could hurt! You know you wanna….

Tastebuds salivating, I feel my will power melting away. The sweet siren song of candies pulling me into a deeper trance. I struggled to fight back, “Must be healthly…”

“Um sir?”

The cashier interrupts my existential crisis to inform me that I am holding up the line.

“Whoops sorry,”  proceeding to check out without buying any junk food. Trumpets play brilliantly in my background imagination. I won! I was healthy! I rode this high all the back to my apartment. Almost everything inside my fridge is a fruit or vegetable. That when I realized almost everything inside my fridge is a fruit or vegetable. One out loud thought eroded my proud moment

“Do I really want to be healthy?” – Barry

No BHD at the DMV

The Department of Motor Vehicles remains my least favorite organization on the planet Earth. I needed to renew my driver’s license making this visit completely unavoidable. Great. No need to stress it’s just a license renewal. Should be fairly quick. I like the way I think, okay to the DMV!

How naïve of me. Last time I checked “quick” meant something other than a maddening 90-minute wait. I went through the online license renewal process a month prior to avoid this. I never received my camera card in the mail so here I was.

“Number C640 counter 7”

Yes! That’s me!

I moved quickly to counter 7 and presented the paperwork to the clerk. “Hi, so I did the license renewal onl-”

“License number.” The clerk cut me off without flinching from his computer monitor.

Somewhere deep and dark chasm inside of me I felt a spark of murderous rage peer out for a microsecond. DID HE JUST INTERRUPT ME? My greater angels prevailed however and I calmly rattled off the digits on my license.

chasm

Rage: I’ll be here if you change your mind!

Barry remember that anger will not serve you.

I will if I punch him in the forehead.

Be the bigger person.

Ugh fine.

Guess they don’t teach BHD (Basic Human Decency) to DMV employees. I stood there seething a few seconds while Rude clerk man, let’s call him Rudy, typed my personal data into the system. This interaction burned through my leftover patience reserves.

Rudy swivel in his chair to face me at last, “Check or Money order?”

“I don’t hav-”

“Then I can’t help you.” Rudy immediately spun back to the monitor.

My breathing sped up 1000 percent while my fists clenched manically. To hell with the pacifist approach. Eyebrows stiffened at an angular V and voice firm I addressed Rudy once more, “NO Listen. What I been trying to tell you is I did the renewal process online. I never received the camera card in the mail and the woman I spoke to on the phone said there was no fee.” I did not wait 90 minutes just to be dismissed in 9 seconds.

Rudy made eye contact with me for the first time. His demeanor changed slightly, “Is your home address the same?”

“Yes.”

Rudy worked some magic and produced the paper I needed fairly quickly. I took the paper and made sure to give a him deliberate quasi-sincere “Thank you” before going on my way.

I really hate the DMV – Barry

Success leaves Clues 

My favorite pastime involves spending the afternoon reading biographies of my personal heros. Unlike a movie or online article, biographies gave readers an intimate look into the minds of high performing people. In addition to demystifying the myth of the individual, we get a glimpse of the harsh realities surrounding what it takes be successful. As Dr. Eric Thomas says, “Success leaves clues.”
In my fervor to digest the knowledge of high achievers I began reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. I expected a bold account of a genius rising to greatness. Instead I gained a gritty insight into intelligent man who realized his vision through uncanny persistence and will power. As of today I am half way through the book and most of it thoroughly accounts Elon’s failures. In the early 2000’s a dark cloud of bankruptcy loomed over both Telsa and SpaceX. With an uncanny persistence Musk continued to fight for his vision. On quote from the book really exemplifies his mindset,

“Most people who are under that sort of pressure fray,” Gracias said. “Their decisions go bad. Elon gets hyperrational. He’s still able to make very clear long term decisions. The harder it gets, the better her gets…” –
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance.

This tells us that the biggest clue in Elon Musk’s success lies in his persistence. Bringing a vision to reality requires one to persist despite the presence of failure. Whatever you decide to accomplish this year remember to persist.

Keep on pushing – Barry