Invisible Obligations

Rip up the intangible contract.

Forgo the unwritten lease.

Abandon the silent script.

Every day I see people doing things not aligned with their best interests so that they can fulfill an Invisible Obligation. What is an Invisible Obligation? Barryiam-Webster defines it as “Unstated rules or obligations we unwillingly invent or conform to.” What’s wild about invisible obligations people is how tightly people grip onto to them. Many times these invented obligations have no real consequence attached to them either. So how do we spot an Invisible Obligation? It usually begins with the qualifier(s) must, should, need to, have to.

“Unstated rules or obligations we unwillingly invent or conform to.” – Invisible Obligations, Source: Barryiam-Webster

For example:

I must go to Kathy’s party or everyone will hate me.

I don’t like the way John acts but I should hangout with him since he asked 5 times.

I really need to get my parent’s approval before I consider moving out of this apartment.

Becky walks all over people but I have to keep my mouth shut or she’ll get mad at me too.

In all of the examples provided the person weaved a tale in which they were relinquished of control. The inconvenient truth of the matter is besides eating, drinking, and staying alive you do not have to do anything. Obviously, there are unpleasant consequences attached to living certain ways, but we always have a choice. Bucking expectations only feels impossible. Take a quick browse through your memory banks and I guarantee you can find instances of people boldly abandoning what’s typically expected. Maybe it’s the class clown who always pulled gags and interrupted lessons. Maybe it’s outspoken teen who mother’s insisted she “speak like a lady”. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The difference between them and you is a willingness to make a different choice.

“Courage is your birthright.” – Mel Robbins

Don’t be ashamed of taking ownership of your own agency. All I ask is that we be courageous enough to replace “ I have to” with “I choose to.”

It’s late now, I choose to go to bed – until next time – Barry

Advertisements

Appreciation Invitation

In the flurry of day to day madness easily allows us to get lost in the mundane tasks of life. Slogging through emails, texts, notifications: it’s like playing a never-ending game of mental air hockey. In those moments of monotony, we can feel reduced to unfeeling biological automatons. Compounded over a long enough timeline the daily drudgery can chip away at vibrancy of the human spirit. To alleviate this condition, I extend a simple invitation: give appreciation.

Give honest appreciation to those people who hold a special meaning in your life. Express to them explicitly why they are important. Fill them with a sense of everlasting gratitude. In this department action is key – The intention to appreciate someone weights nothing compared to the gravity of authentic praise. If you need permission here it is.

I hope you accept my invitation to appreciation – Barry

Emotional Contraband

Don’t hide the evidence! Get rid of it!

As a passive viewer of a crime thriller it drives me crazy when characters do seemingly irrational things. Audiences of horror movies are acutely aware of this fact, “why do they always split up?” Ironically, our life is the exact same way. To an unbiased spectator we are the unwise teens who intentionally run into a dimly lit cave. Luckily, you have some control over the screenplay of your life.

Setting the Scene

Imagine a typically Wednesday. You’re just chilling on the couch when suddenly you hear a convergence of footstep just outside your door. Before you have time to respond a squad of burly men equipped with riot gear brutally invade your living space. The Captain rattles a saltine colored search warrant inches away from your face demanding answers! “Where is it!” His thundering voice howls with an unquenched rage, sweat beads gliding off of his bald head into his unkempt beard. The shock of the in the dramatic turn of circumstances leaves you paralyzed. “What the heck is going on?!”

dea-nso-group

Hope you have a good lawyer!

Well the DEA (Department of Destructive Emotional Actions) got tipped off that you were illegally hoarding emotional contraband in your apartment.

“Emotional contraband?”

Yes, one the most insidious types of contraband there is to own. The law defines it as any physical object or memento that causes unnecessary emotional pain. For example: pictures of ex-partners, old love letters, gifts from now estranged friends. Why do we feel so deeply compelled to hold on to these objects when all they cause is pain? Well I do understand. I harbored a deep sense of guilt whenever I looked at this wooden hippo that was gifted to me from a former friend. She bought it in a cheap gift shop in Paris because it reminded her of me. After a silent feud we had not communicated in almost a year and half, but everyday this hippo sat on my office shelf reminding me of her presence. It hurt to look at that damn hippo as it drudged up conflicting memories, yet I voluntarily kept it in my line of sight. Without a doubt this falls under self-inflicted cruel and unusual punishment.

Emotional Contraband – any physical object or memento that causes unnecessary emotional pain. For example: pictures of ex-partners, old love letters, past gifts from estranged friends/family.

One day I gained the courage to throw it away. Guess what? I felt an overwhelming sense of relief afterwards. With that tiny act I purged myself from the guilt of that lost relationship.

What is your wooden hippo? – Barry

Work/Life Balance

g-crescoli-468248-unsplash

*I orignally wrote this for a Graduate Discussion assignment about Work/Life Balance and got carried away…*

My approach to Work/Life balance is simple: Take a systems perspective. By this I mean people should design a system in which balance in built into your schedule so that it not something that needs to be consciously performed. My primary strategies for maintaining balance fall into the following categories: scheduling, routines, rewards, boundaries. I like to think of this approach as the “Triple Redundancy” because if scheduling fails you can always rely on the other pieces of the system.

Scheduling

Recently I’ve begun preparing a weekly schedule in which I assign time slots in hour-long increments to all of my activities. The rigid items typically get inputted first so things like class, office hours, internship hours, morning routine. Secondly I look for spaces with the gaps to fill with miscellaneous activities I enjoy: Creative writing time, laundry, podcast, going for a walk. I find that adding fun things onto my schedule helps me treat them as a priority.

Routines

About nine months ago I began experimenting with a daily morning routine. A morning routine is a deliberate and habitual set of activities that an individual performs everyday. Creating and sticking to a morning routine has been beneficial for me because it gives me a sense of stability in a otherwise chaotic day. For those interested my routine looks like this:

Wake up 6am

Gym 1 hour

Shower 12 minutes

Meditation 10-20 minutes

Breakfast 25 minutes

Experience shows that my routine typically lasts around 2 hours so I never schedule anything to interfere with the first 2 hours of my day.

Rewards

Another tactic I exploit to maintain work life balance is a personal Rewards system. I have a mental contract with myself that if I perform certain activities I am allowed a very specific reward. One that has helped me get healthier is very straight forward: If I exercise during my morning routine, I am allowed to shower that day. Otherwise I am not allowed to shower. I LOVE taking showers so if I get lazy and miss the gym the punishment is I am not allowed to shower that day. I find the technique to be powerful, I typically do not go longer than 2 days without showering/exercising. Another experiment I’ve been running involves using visual rewards to reinforce behavior. For those interested look up “The Paper-Clip Strategy” and the “The Seinfeld Strategy”. These strategies are good for creating long term habit formation.

Boundaries

Lastly to maintain work life balance I have refined a clear set of boundaries around how I use my technology. Essentially a list of rules of engagement for my smartphone here are some for example:

  • No smartphone allowed in bedroom during bedtime
  • No checking email before my morning routine
  • No checking phone while I am driving
  • No  distracting social media apps allowed on my smartphone

I have also disabled most of the notification noises and alerts on my phone (with the exception of the default text message app).

Until next time – Barry

The Missing Ingredient

For a while I got the sense that something felt wrong. My commitment to embracing self-discipline remained rock solid. Besides the occasional cheat day my health was on point. Fortunate worked hard to keep skewing things positively in my favor – to the point where I started to think Lady Luck had a crush on me! If things are great why is there a thought gently nagging in the background of mind? What could I possibly be missing?

After two months of mulling it over I figured it out! The Missing Ingredient: FUN.

The most obvious things usually get overlooked. Somewhere along the way I forgot I that I’m allowed to have fun. It sounds stupid in it’s simplicity, but I think I feel into the trap of believing that being a real “adult” meant taking things seriously. Super seriously. Then I thought

“Like, seriously?”

Seriousness not a sustainable long-term strategy. To constantly approach things from a space of seriousness puts a limiter on the amount of joy one can feel. My mind’s default operating system is one of deep analysis of stringent rationalized thought. Running on this mode takes a huge power load so I’ve learned to let my mind unwind and embrace absurdity. We need to allow space for fun, creative, and uplifting thoughts. I borrowed Tim Ferriss’s question, “How can I make this more fun?” to spice up otherwise boring activities. It doesn’t require all that much extra effort either. Simple examples:

  • Jam some tunes and dance while you do house chores
  • Play with new words, phrases and emojis when you communicate
  • Occasionally indulge in “childish” interests or hobbies
  • Experiment with new foods/restaurants

Here’s my recipe:

Take a pound of Life

Grab a hand full of fun

Sharply flick the wrist…

“BAM!” – Now ya livin’!!

BAM

*recipe trademarked by Barry Crocker*

Ghosting: Side Effects

Ghosting is a strange phenomenon born out of our technology based culture. For some it is an innocuous act of disappearance, for others it is a degrading sign of disrespect. I’ll come clean – I have ghosted two people before. Both times I genuinely believed it was the only viable option. No communication allows for a cleaner split. I slept with a clear coconscious for years until recently. Ironic that the term is called “ghosting” – the two connections I digitally severed reemerged in haunting dreams.

Drinking a bottle 20 proof hindsight has me rethinking my decision to ghost. Was the situation really so bad? Could those relationships have been salvaged over time? Did immaturity get the best of me? How has this person coped knowing I just vanished entirely from their lives? The frustrating thing is I can never ask outright. At most I can unblock, observe, and wish them well. These former connections remain a permanent smudge on my brain’s back window.  At the end of day I don’t regret it though. I used ghosting to gain emotional sobriety while stuck in a toxic environment. Past pains inform the present so I’ll probably never ghost anyone ever again.

Guess I’ll just continue living with ghosts. – Barry

*Photo by Pathum Danthanarayana on Unsplash *

The Idea Broker

g-crescoli-468248-unsplash

Writer’s block is that terrible creeping feeling you get in the back of your throat. The suffocation starts slow until finally your ideas perish. For months I suffered through this condition. The thought of a keyboard induced a hair tingling extra sensory sense of nausea. It was like being told to voluntarily walk the plank. Why would I ever submit myself to such madness? Here’s the other thing. Going for long periods of time without builds up an accumulated feeling of shame.

“Whatever happened to that blog of yours?”

“Are you still writing?”

Yes, well sort of….

I’ve been experimenting with prose on my mental typewriter. I’ve reading books and jotting down notes, that’s technically writing too. I suppose that’s not what you mean. You want to read what my mind conjures to me in fits of brilliance. The trouble with that is I do not permanently own a brilliant mind. At most I rent it for special occasions – at a premium might I add. So what’s the next best thing?

Promote yourself to role of an Idea Broker. Stock brokers buy and sell stocks with the knowledge that not every one will be a winner. Treat your ideas the same way. A poor idea expressed is better than a good one left to wilt. For ideas are beautifully fickle things. They temporarily possess us then flutter onto the next person until finally realized through creation.

Seth Godin said it best, “If you want to be a good writer my first question is this, ‘Where is your bad writing?’’

Until next time – Barry

Mission Statement

My Mission – To inoculate myself from Weakness. To forge a personality, mind, body and soul immune to Weakness.

Secondary Mission – Spread the vaccine to Weakness for those looking for the cure.

What is Weakness? – Weakness is any mindset, belief, force, person, place, or thing which prevents an individual from living a fully expressive and authentic life. It is anything that waters down the zesty flavor of the human condition.

What is not my Mission? – To propagate a formula which promises “perfection”. My life will serve as a blueprint for others, a recipe where the ingredients can be tailored for individual preferences. My mission is NOT altruistic. It is completely and entirely selfish. If my selfish actions breed altruistic consequences I will treat it as a benign coincidence.

Background – I spent the first eighteen years of my life living beneath my potential because I was convinced I wasn’t good enough. One-day out of the blue Courage seized me to commit a small act of personal defiance. That teeny act of defiance became the first insult in the war against Weakness. We’ve been engaged in battle every day since then.

Until next time – Barry

Two Tenets of my Philosophy

There are two core tenets of my personal philosophy. I like to think of them as “bedrock beliefs” simply because they are so ingrained into my psyche.

Belief One: There are things I give a shit about and things I don’t give a shit about.

On the surface this appears to be dangerously similar to puberty fueled teen apathy. It’s not. Lend me your imagination for a moment. In my mind are two humongous ice buckets. In black sharpie someone with sloppy handwriting wrote “Give a Shit” and on the other bucket well… the guy didn’t even bother to label that one. These buckets represent attention and focus. At any one point in time there are a million people trying to convince you to care about all sorts of things from shoe lace shortages, bee hive costumes, and any random castophre on reported nightly news. Even the most compassionate of us cannot care about it all. My approach? Pick a few to care deeply about and let everyone else do the same. Someone will find those missing shoe laces eventually.

Belief Two: ALL things are temporary.

Yes ALL things. Even you reading this right now. When expressed this belief tends to cause controversy, I get things like “so what’s the point?” or “that’s just an excuse not to care about anything”. These responses fail to capture what I’m thinking because they operate on the assumption that permeance makes something valuable. It’s actually the complete opposite. Any student in exposed to basic Economics understands the principle of Scarcity. Limited resources remain valuable due to their rarity. Our false sense of perpetuity leads us to take the most valuable things for granted. My mindset is this: If I understand that all things are temporary and, thus always susceptible to loss, I will take greater measures to enjoy it while it’s currently available. Contrasting this outlook with false permeance shows that I care deeply because I always anticipate loss in the near future.

What are your two core beliefs?? – Barry

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

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

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

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