A couple of months ago my 15-year-old daughter asked me how she can overcome some of her fears. The “I don’t like to be home alone at night or walk down a dark alley” type. At the time I was stumped. As a manly man if a buddy had asked that question the obvious answer would be “grow a set you pansy!” Followed by endless shaming until the guy admitted he wasn’t a wuss anymore. As a man I have been shamed out of fear my whole life.
A little birdie (years of therapy) in my hypothalamus sat up and urged me to take a different tack with my daughter. So I mumbled something about “you only get good at things you practice” and proceed onto google. Four months, much reading and many trials later I actually have found a few things that are appropriate for exactly the situation I have: a 15-year-old girl with normal age related anxiety in a few areas and a desire to get a little more gritty and tough.
We tried the first fear buster test at home tonight. Watch the video of my attempt below. Hat tip to Julien Smith in The Flinch for this technique that I have added onto.
Directions are simple. It takes less than two minutes. Get up right now and go to your cupboard. Pick out a little used but once loved coffee cup or glass. Hold it out in your hand at arm’s length, shoulder height. Now drop the cup! Yes you heard me drop the damn cup! Now clean it up. Sit down and write a list of every feeling that you felt before during and after dropping the cup. Use a feeling list like this if you have to. Naming feelings in detail reduces their power over you. You can just notice them like anything else. “oh, there is dread. And his friend fear. How interesting.” This exercise takes you through (slight) emotional distress, into analysis and onto (hopefully) some increased awareness and confidence all in less than 10 minutes with very little risk to life or limb.
It took my daughter a couple tries before she could drop the cup. The flinch made her arm go limp a few times before she pushed it aside. All the training to be careful and don’t break things. Yet there was her father giving her permission to break stuff and there would not be any consequences. The monkey mind couldn’t deal. Couldn’t reconcile the conflict. Multiple disaster scenarios raced through her head. Fear and dread took over. But with my encouragement she pushed through and found out that nothing bad happened. She stared down the flinch and won. One step at a time. Keep building and practicing and larger fears will lose their sway.
Like anything else the journey starts with the first step. If you want to get tougher try the cup drop challenge. All you have to lose is a little fear and a cup you don’t use anyway.
As the new year is upon us and many people are thinking about what they want to do different in the new year than last I have been hearing many things that all basically come back to ” I want more”. Whenever I want more it has always lead to unhappieness. What I am starting to realize is that is not the lack of the thing that causes the sadness (because after getting the thing I have never ever been completely satisfied). It is the search for more (or less) that is the source of the unhappieness. The key is to accept “enough” and enjoy the now.
Last year my New Years resolution was to end the year with less stuff than I started. I was on a paring down kick. I completely failed. Oh sure I went though the garage and drove two trucks of stuff to the st Vincent de Paul and a load to the dump. But I also bought a bunch of new stuff all of which seemed absolutely necessary at the time despite my best overall intentions. One area of explosion was kids stuff. How does that stuff seem to multiply at 10x the rate of anything else in the house?
Have not figured out New Years resolutions incorporating these new learnings yet. But stay tuned.
I have been contemplating much of my life on the fact that truth can only be found when you know the opposite. You can’t understand white without seeing black. What is left without right? What is true without a lie? Pleasure without pain is meaningless. So many things can only be truly understood when you also understand their opposite.
This morning I am re reading The Book from Alan watts. He says
Stop looking for it.
No really I mean it. Some questions start out from a bad place that makes the answer impossible or pre ordains certain categories of answers (or precludes others). The form of your question has this flaw.
Something that can be “gotten” must be a person, place or thing right? Something that can be found must have a path to it somehow. It must be a destination. It must be somehow discoverable to anyone with the right finding/getting tools.
In my experience happiness is something completely different. I find it much more part of the journey than the destination itself. Happiness comes in glimpses here and there. Happiness is only appreciated when it’s opposite is also experienced. In fact happiness is heightened greatly when in very close proximity to fear and pain.
In my experience there are three different modes of being in happiness and I need a good balance of all three to be able to answer the “are you happy” question in the affirmative.
Happiness of pleasure: physical as well as mental pleasure. All animals know this one.
Happiness of grace or gratitude: since I write this the day after Thanksgiving this should be top of mind while this form of happiness is typically taken for granted the rest of the year. This is the happiness you feel when being thankful or recognizing grace in your life. For noticing the things larger than yourself.
Happiness of excellence. A job well done makes one very happy. Doing hard work, yes going through unhappiness in service of something larger can lead to much greater happiness. This kind of happy can only be experienced after achieving a goal built on many failures and struggles.
So stop trying to get happiness as a possession.
Eat a piece of cake
Look up at the sun and be thankful for its warmth
Set a high goal and achieve it through hard work.
String enough of those experiences together, figure out how to create happiness on demand after any set back. Then when anyone asks you the question “are you happy” you will know how to answer yes.
I bought my first kindle the day they launched way back on March 3, 2009 (thank you Amazon for remembering every order I have ever done with you). At the time I was in a mode of buying every new gadget that came out. I wanted to stay well ahead of the Jones. The vast majority of gadgets I have bought over the years (like 99 percent) are no longer in my life. The kindle is. That got me thinking: why?
First lets back up for some context:
I have been re-reading Lila by robert Persig on the metaphysics if quality.
” the increase in versatility is directed toward Dynamic Quality. the increase in power to control hostile forces is directed toward static quality. Without Dynamic Quality the organism cannot grow. Without static quality the organism cannot last. Both are needed.”
Have also been remembering much of his ramblings in Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance after spending quite a bit of time wrenching in the garage lately. I have been thinking about what are Quality products/experience/people quite alot lately.
E-book readers generally and the Kindle specifically is basically an overall higher quality experience of reading than anything else. For me it is 10x higher quality. In venture capital, when Unicorn hunting, you always look for the product that is 10x better than the previous product or it’s competitor. That is because to cause a seismic shift you have to be an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE better. 20% better doesn’t disrupt whole industries. 10X does.
So ok, Martin, how specifically is the Kindle 10X better than paper books for you?
1. I read 5x more than before. Amazon says I have 396 books on my Kindle. I read 2-4 books at a time, switching with my mood. Not possible with old books (and not possible to store all the old ones!)
2. Cross platform ease of access (Kindle on every device) means my books are available in many more places than old books. I can read any of my 396 books anywhere, anytime. One of the great maxims of my investment philosophy is “Americans are lazy”. Do anything that enables me to be lazy (like forget my books on a trip) and you have a winning product.
3. The paper white screen. It is better than reading a paper page. It has its own back light. The font can change. There is no eye strain. You can read it in the sun. Far superior to the Ipad or a computer LED screen.
4. Long battery life. I basically never charge the Kindle, nor do I obsess about it running out of power. My books are always there (again see lazy). The Kindle is a hassle free, low maintenance device and platform. Oh, and I have never seen it blue screen.
5. Portability, always large selection and variety. In the age of dead tree books, on a trip I had to pre plan which books i wanted to read because they added weight and took up physical space. What if my mood changed? or i found out the book sucked? Now all options are available, and the integrated store means ALL options are ALWAYS available.
6. The highlight feature. I read a quote from Joseph Campbell recently when responding to someone who asked him what he did for a living (at that time he was unemployed in Woodstock NY). He replied “I underline books”. I am also a book underliner. But how do you access those nuggets, the book essence after you close the thing and put it on the shelf? All those ah’ha moments are lost, locked away. No longer with Kindle. Your notes are available in the cloud anywhere, anytime. Need to find that cool quotation from that book for to send your friend? No problem. Books and your insights from them have become interactive and available apart from the physical form of the book. Now that book knowledge can be hyper linked all around the world. I wonder if anyone has done any studies on the potential increase in overall usefulness of knowledge now that it can be dispersed so readily in hyperlink quotes rather than requiring each person to read each whole publication? How much has our collective IQ gone up?
All the great things said, the Kindle ecosystem still has some growing pains to work out:
Mostly Industry Obstructionism. The industry preventing a superior user experience to preserve a legacy business model. Like uber changing taxi and amazon/Apple TV replacing Comcast. The old guard doesn’t want to die and uses all tools at their disposal to elongate their life. The incumbents are fighting masterfully to preserve the old low quality user experience because of their bottom line.
What is on my Kindle Wish list?
Some way to involve. To local book shop. I like the personal touch and personal recommendations. I just wish I could buy kindle from them even at a premium to pay them for the service they provide. Book recommendation bots are ok, but I like talking to people and wish I could support them if I decide to buy the product they recommend in a different format.
This all brings me back to the thoughts around Quality. It is clear that one man’s Quality may be another mans Hell. Kindle definitely exposes this Quality paradox.
While the platform delivers a 10x higher quality experience to the reader (and author in terms of greater access and readership). it significantly disrupts the value chain and delivers a lower quality experience for many middle men (and potentially marginal authors).
Lets drill a bit deeper into exactly how the Kindle ecosystem lowers quality for middle men in the book business
1. Less middle men are needed overall. Authors can go direct to devices with computer delivery and recommendations. 2. No trucks and printer a and all that physical stuff in the middle
3. The value of the bookstore clerk is diminished. Not in actual value to the reader but in their proprietary database of reading knowledge and relationships has been surpassed by the central shared pattern recognition database and algorithms A primary benefit of the book store clerk was as a guide. What should I read next? I like this author what do you suggest? I have a daughter of this age, what do you suggest? All those questions can better be answered by a central database than a proprietary closed node on the network.
4. The store is not needed as a delivery mechanism either. So now what is the store? What can the store do that the computer can’t? The best have reinvented themselves as stop on book tours. Event spaces. Etc.
5. Book Venture capitalists (publishers) are lost. Publishers used to be taste makers. Venture capitalists. Because they understood the distribution system and how to get a return on their investments. They no longer do. While the new platform does have a way to do venture capital as publisher it is not clear and not all under the control of the publisher anymore. The one who controls the platform (apple, Amazon, etc) now is at the table eating. Less money for the VC, less people willing to cultivate authors, invest in authors, promote authors, etc.
My advice to the legacy Book Publishers and their supply chain?
Resistance is futile.
The transition to a superior publishing system for both authors and readers is being held back by legacy publishers. This is a delay. But in the end it is unsustainable as due to the tendency toward quality. The Kindle is a higher quality consumer reader experience by 10X. You can’t put that off forever.
Summary of what i have learned from the kindle. Focus on making the consumer experience of higher quality than the competition and all else will follow (even if slowly)
ps: just out today: Amazon opens physical book store. So now I can see a book, get a recommendation from a person and buy the kindle version without feeling bad. Now that is what a book store is supposed to be!
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the grey areas. And getting more comfortable there. Growing up I wanted everything black and white. Good and bad (thanks catholic school). Right and wrong. Most debates had at the core the goal to find the one “truth” or to “win”. If I “lost” the debate I sometimes would change my position. But not out of compassion or empathy but out of a desire to always be on the winning side. Life was all about winners and losers
Then i turned 50. Something changed. Suddenly I had these very unfamiliar desires to actually understand other people. Maybe even to have compassion for other points of view (even if they were wrong and going to hell). It was a shock. I didn’t feel like I had to win every argument. At first this was terribly unsettling. What is the purpose of life of not to win ?
I don’t know where this path is going to go. By no stretch am I over my youthful competitiveness and desire to win. But now there is something else. Something like a desire to get along. To have less stress. To allow others to win sometimes. To sit on the sidelines sometimes. To coach sometimes. To watch the game sometimes. Why do I always have to be a player ?
I am not saying I have found a new path of compassion and am now an enlightened being. Far from it. But what I do have the faintest glimmer of is a desire to understand more and lead a compassionate life.
Going to be interesting where this goes.
This is my first long form blog post in many years. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram killed the first incarnation of DeepGreenCrystals. Over the years (and with the help of every new technology wave), my communication style has shrunk and devolved. Today my email signature is simply “M”. Pictures have replaced words. Apps fill in names and places and helpfully link to everyone else’s thoughts about a person, place or thing, so my personal thoughts are rarely necessary.
When I turned 50 last year, something changed. One part nostalgia, two parts paying it forward, add a splash of extra time on my hands and I have a tasty cocktail with which to reboot this DeepGreenCrystals thing. The title has the original intent baked in. Deep Green Crystals, the tiny valuable knowledge nuggets that power the whole thing. The powerful things that really matter. As I look through the archives, there is a lot of pontification, product reviews, and outright whimsy. Going forward I hope to stick to the basics. My thoughts about things big and small that I think are important and powerful in this life. Hopefully I will be able to imbue into the posts some of what I have learned over the years to give context to my opinions. You won’t find any slavish talking points here (although I am sure to be accused of that eventually). Every post will be a result of my personal desire to actually communicate a point of view that I feel very strongly about based on 50+ years trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I hope you don’t always agree with my conclusions. We have traveled different paths. I just hope you understand how I got here and why. Not trying to start a debate, although many issues will be controversial. Your opinion is always welcome, but don’t be surprised if I don’t change my mind just because you feel strongly I should.
Not sure how often I will post or if anyone will give a shit, but this is where I am going to leave it all.
Comments (sometimes) welcome.