Monday, August 1, 2016

Already Successful AF

"To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) 
American Essayist & Poet

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


People get really riled up about selfies. Every other week, there is some new study going viral about how it promotes narcissism. In Sugar Land, TX, there might be an angry mob on its way to set fire to city hall because they recently installed a public art piece depicting a couple of friends taking a selfie. When people talk about people taking selfies, they snarl. 

I'd like to submit the following... 

This is how people used to do photos before digital photography became an option: 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A asks person B to take said photo
Step 3) Person B takes one or multiple photos
Step 4) Person A takes photos to develop
Step 5) Person A picks up photos from development
Step 6) Person A decides which photo shows them in the best light and shares with friends via photo album, stuffing away all the less desirable images in a shoe box

Then came digital photography... 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A asks person B to take said photo
Step 3) Person B takes one or multiple photos
Step 4) Person A deletes all the less desirable photos and keeps the best one and shares with friends 

Then came the flip screen option on our phones... 
Step 1) Person A decides they would like a photo of themselves in front of a particular backdrop
Step 2) Person A takes the damn photo 
Step 3) Person A shares the damn photo

All we're doing here is deleting the middle-men, folks. 


And this, by the way, is where ALL technology is always going: We're finding ways to get from point A to point B faster. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Was in Love With a Dream of You

I was in love with a dream of you
You with fantasies of what I might've been
A tango of chess and combat
A trace of hope
I came crawling back at thousand times just to dangle a blink of honesty over your head
Are you there?
Are you there?
Do you watch from a distance like me?
It isn't fair

I was in love with a dream of you
You with fantasies of what I might've been
We danced a dance
Dances end
"Things sometimes end," you said to me

It wasn't fair
What I asked of you
It wasn't fair
Not your burden to bare
Nor mine, your cross

Friday, June 3, 2016

Spiritual Procrastination

I read this section of The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda today that is so timely and relevant to the thoughts I've been having...

"You have the vanity to believe that you live in two worlds, but that is only your vanity. There is but one single world for us. We are men, and must follow the world of men contentedly."

Spirit may give us peace, clarity, joy, insight into ourselves... But it will not tell us what we 'should' do with our lives. It is our journey and God, frankly, doesn't give a crap.

Our desires, wants and dreams are creations of our own ego. We feel a calling to a destiny but, as beautiful and necessary to the human experience as that calling is, it is still a human creation.

Many of us have, at times, found ourselves spending arguably too much human time exploring the beyond, seeking answers. We find ourselves at an impasse in life or otherwise lost, unable to make decisions about our next step. We avoid making decisions because we do not want to accept the possible less-than-ideal consequences that may come of said decisions. So we spend more and more time looking to the beyond, as if some answer will reveal itself about what we should do with our human journeys.

Let's call it Spiritual Procrastination.

Spirit is not an other. God is another angle of humanity. Spirituality and Science are not at odds; they are simply different languages of interpreting and/or measuring this funny thing we call "reality."

So, no: the universe aint gonna clear the way for us. The way belongs to us. We still need to pull the trigger. We still need to make decisions. The freedom to face-plant after an ill-advised chess move is at the core of what it is to be human.

Spirit doesn't care if you should quit your job or buy that house. Spirit's only contribution to our lives is to motivate us (by way of connecting us via the oneness of consciousness) to live in a state of loving kindness. All the cool human shit that happens (like success in business or a sign pointing us to the perfect house) are simply side effects of staying true to our highest selves.

All that said... I am Spiritually Procrastinating like a mother#amp;amp;@er right now! Working through it though! Just give me a month or two. I swear.
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Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Goes up

I have yet to face a challenge the answer to which has not been awareness.

As we navigate this thing we call reality, it serves us well to occasionally stop, take a moment and ask ourselves the following question: "Am I seeing the forest or am I looking at the trees?"

It seems like every other day there is some new quick-blurb article going viral in which some half-assed understanding of a complex scientific study is dumbed down into a Twitter-ready headline. These headlines are designed specifically to pull you in. To seduce your mouse and fingers into a harem of click-bate. This is fine for entertainment value but these headlines, blurbs and articles are preying our our very human instinct to look at the trees. They're designed to distract you from seeing the forrest.

We can understand the trees. We can climb them and take a nap under them. We can touch them. But the forrest is vast and in order to see it we must stop and take that moment we keep avoiding. Life has patterns and predictable variables. We've even had success in predicting the future using math. A common pattern in reality that I've noticed is this: The faster something changes, the faster it has the potential to change right back.

I like looking for patterns. It's what drives my art and it is why I believe artists and scientists enjoy each other's company. We, students of both disciplines, enjoy dissecting reality; we just use different tools and languages. I remember clearly the very first time I became aware of the "fast come & fast go" pattern. It was the mid-2000s and I was active in my college fraternity. Living in a house with a bunch of guys and a layer of testosterone you could cut through with a knife can make for the perfect laboratory setting of a control group for an amateur psychologist.

I don't know who introduced the idea of taking Creatine into the group but, within a semester, every other brother of Gamma Phi Epsilon was woking out with the fitness-aide. That summer, everyone was freaking huge. It felt like overnight I was surrounded by various Hulks doing keg stands. I don't know who stopped taking it first but, by Christmas, everyone had shrunk down into nerdy Bruce Banner.

I've been at war with obesity my whole life. Thanks to some less than ideal rolls of genetic dice, my body fights me when I try to get active and my metabolism shuts down when I look at a slice of pizza from across the room. Science has arguably not found a strong enough explanation for why our bodies try to race back to our higher weight after we loose a bunch of pounds. If you've ever tried a fad diet, you're all to familiar with the disappointment of watching the scale inch back up after a few weeks of glorious progress. This is why nutrition and fitness experts encourage us to lose no more than a couple of pounds a week. They've known of this pattern for quite some time. They've looked at the forrest.

But I continue to find this pattern to be true in all aspects of life. So much so that if a fairy godmother (or a powerful Hollywood producer) was to offer me overnight fame and fortune, I would respectfully decline. Reality seems to look for a quick way to crash that overnight empire. Justin Bieber, the perfect example of overnight fame, seems to be walking a never-ending tightrope of self-implosion. Another popular example of this in the entertainment industry is the story of writer/director, Troy Duffy.

What goes up, must come down. The further you throw the ball into the heavens, the longer it will take to return to Earth.

Now I'm sure that for every example I give, we can find a counter. But as I said, this is a general pattern I've noticed. When taking a moment to look at the forrest, this is how it looks to me. And that is the reason I cherish the long, hard road it has been to get to where I am. It is the same reason I am grateful for the future. Small, incremental change. Patience. One foot in front of the other.

My friend, Mike Sager, is a writer with a thousand and one stories about his adventures as a journalist working for the likes of Esquire, GQ and The Washington Post. There was this story he told me that I think about almost every day. There was an interview subject (Marlon Brando?) whom he was trying to track down. Story was that the subject had retreated to the mountains so there Mike finds himself, climbing a damn mountain to interview this guy. I'm sure I'm butchering this story but those details aren't important. The takeaway was this: Most of the time Mike spent climbing this mountain, he was looking at his feet, watching with care where he was stepping next in order to avoid a fatal tumble to his doom. Every once in a while, he would stop and look up. He would gaze upon this incredible vista, the sun and sky painting the horizon with all the glorious colors of God's canvas. Mike would look at the forrest for a few moments in awe and then return to the trees, the rocks and steps just beyond his own feet. He stopped every so often to see how far he'd come, but the majority of the journey was spent watching his own feet.

It's not black and white. None of life is. I, dear reader, have zero desire to convince you that my general observations of life are indisputable facts. I share this with you, in part, so that perhaps my experience may inspire one or two of you to push past some bolder you may have stumbled across on your journey. But mostly because putting my journey to words is my own tool for seeing the forrest. After writing this piece, I'll be back to looking at the trees. I have a photo assignment I need to finish by Monday.

Fret not if you've been working on your craft, project, business or art for two years and haven't made it as far as you'd like. The longer it takes, the deeper your roots go into the ground. The older the tree, the hard it is to cut it down and the deeper it's ancient foundations go into the earth. It's okay if things take a long time. They should. There's a stronger chance the changes we work towards will be longer lasting.

A tree is easier to cut down than an entire forrest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Bee & the Ant

I stood outside Starbucks and took in the day. The sun washes a pristine glow of calm on everything like a tsunami of light. As I breathe it in, a bee starts maneuvering around me. I pull away from it several times, fearing its stinger. It stays in hot pursuit and almost lands on my skin several times until it finally touches down on my white tee. I assume it was attracted to the color. With a twinge of anxiety, I shake the cloth in order to persuade the bee to find another landing spot. If flicks off and lands on the ground. I take a few steps back in order to avoid agitating it. A part of me thinks about stepping on it in order to alleviate my anxiety about the possibility of any future eminent threat.

It got me thinking… If it were an ant, I would not have maneuvered. I would have flicked it off, not caring about whether it survived. I may have killed it by smacking it right away. If the ant was in my home, I may have grabbed a spray and slaughtered its entire family and army with the press of a plastic trigger. If it were a bee hive, however, there would be more strategy involved. I may have called in a specialist to have the hive removed professionally.

Then it dawned on me: That’s why they want nukes. Not the bees and the ants. The proverbial Them. Them with the brown skins. Them with the foreign religions. Them with the dictators or strongmen or scary forms of government. Them who supposedly hate us. Us the proud and the patriotic.

I’m not normally one to kill things so quickly and easily anyway. Going back further, however, I’ve been conditioned to treat the bee with respect because I’ve been stung before. In order to avoid being stung, I’ve learned to think twice about touching it. The ant can’t do shit to me, so it gets no respect.

We don’t screw with companies who have powerful lawyers. Big trucks have paths cleared for them on the highway because they can cause more damage whereas motorcyclists are often bullied by even Honda Civic drivers. The big guy at the nightclub may be immediately forgiven if he accidentally bumps into someone whereas the smaller guy might get checked back or, at the very least, be given a threatening look.

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

They want nukes not because they plan to use them. They just want not to be squished or stepped on. From what I understand, bees die once they use their stingers. The nuke is like the bee’s stinger; it’s the last resort. If they’re ever forced to push the button, it will be the end of them anyway. We have 1000 stingers to their one or two. During their interview, Fidel Castro admitted to Oliver Stone that attacking the United States would be suicide. All They really want is simply not to be bullied.

All of that said… I still don’t want them to have nukes.

Understanding your threat is not the same as appeasing it. To make strong policy, we learn how our opponent thinks not in order to be sympathetic and forgiving, but in order to formulate stronger, smarter countermeasures. A battle is like Checkers. War… Any war… Is Chess.

The bee flies away, possibly to accost another guy wearing a white shirt. I watch my feet as I walk into Starbucks, wondering how often I accidentally step on ants as I walk in an average day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Five Tips I Wish I Knew at 21

This was an answer to a media inquiry from a couple years back. 

1) Perfectionism is an Achilles heel. One mediocre step forward is infinitely more productive than planning eight perfectly time/executed/presented steps.

2) Have a team. No one can do it alone. People that claim to are simply narcissistic and not giving due credit to spouses, family, friends, etc. Your team doesn’t necessarily mean employees on the payroll; I call my mom my ‘Family PR Manager.’ She reminds me about birthdays, family etiquette concerns… Things I normally don’t get time to pay attention to with everything moving so fast.

3) Find an elder mentor. There is a difference between intelligence and wisdom. You may be more educated than your parents’ generation but your parents have life experience. We overcomplicate things with all of our 'book learnin’ but sometimes the answers are simple and direct. Sometimes you don’t need analytics; just some elbow grease

4) Read a lot of biographies and 'self-help’ books but don’t subscribe 100% to just one. My cousin, a very successful corporate manager, gave me the book, How to Become a CEO. He said to me: “You don’t have to love the whole thing. If you get only one good idea out of it, you're already 10 steps ahead.”

5) Consistency is key. Whatever you choose to do, make it as much a part of your daily existence as brushing your teeth. Calvin Klein famously said: “Repetition is reputation.” The next guy might have a better widget, but people will remember you, your widgets and your
professionalism because you will blog weekly, show up to events on time and keep producing a consistent product even if it can use some improvement. Professionals will respect your reliability more than your brilliance.