Outsourcing Novelty

To expand my mental landscape, I’ve purposely built in a system that outsources novelty. Actuating raw potential depends upon a steady flow of ideas to be tested and acted upon. Somewhere along the line I realized that the brain is not a perpetual motion machine, the same ideas with produce the same results. My first course of action? Spend a little bit of time everyday researching new things with my old buddy Google. That got old fast for two reasons: 1) It’s hard to look for new things without any starting direction 2) research gets tedious very quickly.

Then I remembered Tim Ferriss’s brilliant question: What if I did the opposite?

The opposite of “looking” in this instance is “receiving”. Illuminated with this insight I signed up for weekly email newsletters in topics unfamiliar to me. My favorite newsletters right now are Farnam Street, Design Luck, James Clear, and Recommendo. Savvy web users can take advantage of Google Alerts to receive periodic email alerts on topics of their choosing. Google Alerts helps me zoom into specific news on a subject without sifting through click-baity trash.

Another way to increase the odds of running into new ideas comes from disabling predictive suggestion help on both Google search and YouTube. When enabled this feature uses your previous search history to suggest similar content. Over time the algorithm learns your preferences and neglects to show things outside your usual interest. Without knowing it you become confined to a small sub-section of the internet tailored for your liking. A whole new realm opened when I decided to escape this invisible bubble.

My favorite tactic for exposing myself to new ideas is connecting with a diverse range of people. Every person is a universe onto themselves and I often find that they have discovered rabbit holes that I never stumbled upon. Remember: Everyone in the world knows something that you don’t.

Farewell for now – Barry

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Daydream

“I memorized your face just in case you try to murder my friends.”

I paused a moment at this audaciously honest remark. A part of me wanted to howl in laughter – another part wanted to reassure her that I’m a “good guy.” Instead I matched her bold stare and replied, “That’s fair.”

Because it was. I was about to get into a slick Purple Mustang with three tipsy women I had just met 20 minutes before at Molly’s Pub. Somehow, I became an honorary member of their girls night out. They eagerly stuffed me in the backseat. Within a few seconds I heard the heart-thumping roar of the Mustang’s engine. There was no turning back now.

Our next stop: Karaoke.

Sunroof down, spirits high, and speakers booming we raced to Reno’s. Barbara looked at me from the passenger’s seat quizzically, “Barry! What song should we play?!”

“I’m in a Kendrick mood, put on DNA.”

My request received a glowing smile of approval and soon after Kendrick’s lyrics assaulted our ears with rap glory. The song ended right as Carla pulled into Reno’s parking lot. My brain finally caught up a bit at the strangeness of the unfolding events: Am I living in a movie? Who the hell cares, get me another beer please. Okay brain sounds like a plan.

Without recalling my legs moving I ended up standing by the girls night troupe at the Karaoke sign up sheet. Our current struggle? Deciding what song to sing. My eyes soaked in the environment at all the merry drunkards singing along with the main karaoke performer. Faint puffs from smoke clouds combined with the fragrance of hard liquor put me at ease. The right bars smell like a unique form of happiness.

The ladies were still deciding on song when I suddenly heard Lauryn Hill’s voice wave over me. Sentiment wiggled into my heart as I put my eyes on the floor, “My mom loves Lauryn Hill.” Suddenly I felt pressure gripping on my left wrist. It was Barbara, “Come on!” Without warning she led me to the center of the dancefloor. My body came to life as I held her hands, unconsciously leading her with my motions. No words were exchanged, but our bodies flowed in perfect sync. Without warning I stared serenading Barbara while our eyes locked. The moment was a vivid daydream. We danced for three more songs.

I escorted her back to the girls night group and quickly escaped to the bathroom. When I returned Barbara lightly touched my bicep and whispered, “You’re the best man I ever knew.”

In that moment the dream became real. In the back of my mind I knew there was a chance I would never see her again. – Barry

Interesting…

0Why

I want to be a dating coach.

…. Interesting. That wouldn’t have been my opening line.

Brain, what do you mean? It’s the truth, I want to be a dating coach.

Well yeah that is cool and all but what about the other stuff?

I’m not following you.

Dude really? NASA, Moving to Houston, Salsa dancing, Random girl tickling you in the bar – is any of this ringing a bell?

Haha oooohh you mean my life events! Yeah! Sounds awesome. The tricky part about all this is remembering the details. I am a writer therefore I should write. The equation is straightforward and the execution difficult. It appears Brain developed a writing phobia too, so I need to soothe back into the blogging thing. By the way, I still want to be a dating coach.

Barry why? It seems really random.

For the longest time I convinced myself that dating didn’t matter to me. I masked my frustrations with clever rationalizations and embraced the “lone wolf mentality” for years. Self-deception remains an insidiously effective poison. Behind that stoic shield of solidarity stood a vulnerable lifetime insecurity. In truth, my failings in the dating world made me feel extremely stupid. More than that – it felt like an invalidation of my masculinity. From the outside looking in, it seemed like no other men struggled with this issue. Clearly, that means there’s something wrong with me then? The symptoms of toxic relationships, manipulation, and scalding resentment played themselves out for years until finally I got the courage to diagnosis the underlying issue: ME. I refused to acknowledge and heal that deeply rooted insecurity, letting it embitter my view of women, men, relationships, and the whole goddamn universe. The time came to metaphorically look myself in the eye and ask, “no bullshit, what do you want?” The unapologetic answer is I want to amazing at dating! I want to own my masculinity and feel competent and attractive. In the process I could pull guys out of the rut where I started.

That’s all for now, until next time – Barry

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

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

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*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

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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.

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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