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If We Can Handle You, You Can Handle Them

Some people don’t create because they know from looking in the mirror just how ugly the critics can be. And they don’t want to receive from others the same measure of vile they eagerly dished out when they played the role of dissatisfied consumer.

“I know how nasty I can be and I don’t want anybody saying that kind of stuff to me. So I will hide my gifts in a place no one can see.”

If this sounds like you, here’s my advice: Don’t worry about all that bad karma you’ve accumulated from playing the role of the mean police officer to other people’s work. You’ll be just fine. Creators have been dealing with people like you for centuries and that hasn’t stopped them from getting things done. Now it’s your turn to join those creators.

You already know what it’s like to be a critic who lords over other people’s work. Let’s take it to the next level by putting your own ideas and innovations out there for the world to engage. You know what it’s like to not be impressed, but you’re not fully human until you’ve tried to make an impression.

Come out and play with the big kids. Let go of your fear and start creating.

You’ll be able to handle the mean people in the same way we’ve been able to handle you.

If You Don’t Trust People, Then You Shouldn’t Trust Politics

Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

“Ordinary people can’t be trusted to make the right decisions about what’s best for themselves and others. That’s why we need government to decide for them.”

“And who will we trust to decide who these government officials are?”

“Ordinary people, of course. It’s only fair.”

I hope you see the irony here.

I also hope you see the irony of expressing mistrust in human nature while also expressing faith in the idea that human nature will somehow become trustworthy when those humans work for the government. If people can’t be trusted to make their own decisions, why would those same people be trusted to make decisions for the rest of us? This line of thinking has never made sense to me and I hope it starts to make a little less sense to you.

Here’s one of my favorite clips where the economist Milton Friedman addresses this fallacy in response to Phil Donahue’s concerns about capitalistic greed:

The way we’re going to move forward in this world is not by finding a person who’s good enough to make bad systems work, but by investing in systems that incentivize even the bad person to make himself or herself accountable to creating value for others. And I know of no other system like that than the free market.

If you’re interested in hearing me elaborate on this theme, check out this talk I gave at The Nassau Institute & The University of The Bahamas on the power of free markets and why we need to look beyond politics if we truly want to create a freer society:

You may also enjoy: There is Only One Way to Save Our City and Who I’m Voting For.

Forgiveness Requires Philosophy

Most of us see ourselves as dynamic, evolving, and always growing. Then we look at others as stagnant, one-dimensional, and always remaining the same. When we make mistakes, we see it as a small part of an ongoing and much larger process of personal growth. When others make mistakes, we attribute that to the dictionary definition of who they are.

When we forget an important birthday or anniversary, we’re only human. When others forget, it’s scientific evidence that they don’t care. When we think about the people in our lives from ten years ago, we imagine them with all the same annoying qualities they had when we last saw them. When others assume the same about us, we find it laughable in light of how much things can change over time.

This is the point in my post where I’m supposed to tell you something like “stop doing that” or “try harder to give others the same benefit of the doubt that you allow for yourself,” but there’s a reason why we tend to be more charitable towards ourselves. It’s because we have a lot more information about ourselves. That information provides context. That context provides a superior quality of understanding. And that superior quality of understanding is what makes sympathy possible.

It’s good to recognize the value of things like being more compassionate and forgiving, but it’s futile to treat those attributes as if they can be manufactured through willpower alone. You’re not more lenient with yourself because you try harder. You’re more lenient with yourself because you understand better, because you possess more data about the variables at play in your experience. When you’re late for a meeting, you see more than the contradiction between what the clock says and what time you arrive. You see all the sincere and praiseworthy attempts you made to be on time. You see all the unfair and unpredictable obstacles that got in your way. You can feel the sensation of guilt and shame swimming around in your stomach as you realize that you’re going to let your coworkers down. To you, you are more than your actions. You’re a complex arrangement of intentions, emotions, weaknesses, challenges, and so on. To everyone else, you’re just a disrespectful and inconsiderate slacker who needs to get his or her priorities straight. Access to information, or the lack thereof, changes everything.

If you want to become the kind of person who’s less judgmental, less resentful, and more sympathetic towards other people’s shortcomings, here’s the way: ask more questions and seek more knowledge. You’ll never be good at letting things go and loving people in spite of their flaws unless you practice the art of relentlessly questioning your assumptions. You can’t bulldoze your way into a state of sympathy. Forgiveness requires philosophy, not force. Instead of trying to understand, think to understand.

Instead of equating shortcomings with sleights and treating imperfections as insults, remind yourself that everyone has a story. A story with many moving parts and mysteries that you’ll never completely unravel. Then, instead of filling the gaps in your knowledge with conspiracy theories like “they’re just out to get me” or “this is personal,” be curious, ask questions, and remember that the way you’re feeling about them is the same way someone else is feeling about you.

Look Beyond the Beautiful

Photo by 小胖 车 on Unsplash

“Actual shortcuts often appear to be detours. The crowd doesn’t understand this. They’re always looking for a shortcut that looks like a shortcut. If you’re merely following them, you probably won’t get anywhere interesting. It’s the detours that pay off.” -Seth Godin

It’s common for people to expect opportunities to show up in the form of beautiful angels and inspiring muses, but most opportunities first appear as nagging irritations and unwelcome surprises. If a possibility is knocking at your door, it’s very likely that it will sound like a problem that’s kicking at your door.

There’s an old saying that “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die to get there.” I think the same is true of things like creativity and success. We all want the rewards of a life lived with imagination and ambition, but we have a hard time remembering that our perceived difficulties are the very things that make such a life possible. When life gets tough, we take that as a reason to stop trying.  We ask “why should I try to be creative at a time like this?” What we should be asking is “why would I ever need to be creative in the first place if life granted me the immediate and easy manifestation of my desires?”

We were inspired to achieve transportation improvements like the automobile and the airplane because our desire to get around was exceeded by our natural abilities. We were inspired to achieve communication improvements like the telephone, radio, and internet because our desire to share information was restrained by our geographical limitations. We were inspired to achieve improvements in medicine because our ability to live healthy was constantly challenged by sickness and disease. Prior to these improvements, people experienced these limitations and challenges as harsh conditions to be resented. The people who changed the world were neither the ones who sat around complaining about the limitations nor the ones who settled for just being positive about the challenges. The difference makers were the ones who looked at problems as if they were promises of greater freedom and fulfillment to those who were committed to innovating around them.

In the bible, angels were seen as messengers of God. Yet, in most of the stories where they showed up to deliver a message, the recipient freaked out at the sight of them and was paralyzed in fear. The message was divine, but the packaging was perceived as dangerous. Sometimes in our moments of greatest despair, we’re like the characters in the bible who entertain angels unaware. Progress is most often abandoned not because of the challenges that stop us from creating wealth, but because of the inability to see that challenges are the very source of wealth.

If you want more inspiration, imagination, and innovation in your life, you have to searching for hidden messages and overlooked advantages in the very areas where most people are freaking out. There’s a lot of good left to be discovered in the world if you don’t limit your focus to the things that look, feel, and sound good. To find the beautiful, look beyond it.



In Case You Missed Out on Bitcoin

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

“If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.”- C.S. Lewis

If you’re one of the ones who missed out on bitcoin, I’ve got some good news for you: there’s still time for books.

According to Amazon, you can get classics in history, economics, philosophy, science, and literature for as low as the price of penny stock. And you won’t have to worry about the value of your investment dropping when other people get rid of their old copies of the same books you buy.

If you’re bullish on knowledge, invest in books ASAP. The only bubble you need to worry about is ignorance.

I’ve heard many people say they wish they had bought just a little bit of bitcoin 5 years ago. I hear ya, but that train has left the station and there’s nothing you can do about it besides get smarter for the next opportunity you’ll need the intelligence to recognize.

If you think this is sarcasm or satire, think again. In every generation there are people who regret their past failure to aquire useful knowledge. You can avoid making that same mistake by acting now. Don’t look back on this day ten years from now and think to yourself “Man, I would be so much happier, healthier, and wealthier had I only listened to that one nerdy guy who told me to get in on books.”

I began with C.S. Lewis. I leave with you with the words of Atwood Townsend:

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

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