A Brief Word About Twitter

People are angry about the recent changes to Twitter's API.

I'll be honest: I understand very little about what's going on with Twitter. I'm not a developer, and my eyes tend to glaze over whenever I try to read the jargon. (Marco Arment has a nice summary though.)

The gist seems to be that Twitter is clamping down on what developers can and can't do with the service, which, according to most, is going to make Twitter significantly less awesome. As a result, my Apple nerd brethren have begun defecting en masse to App.net, a new platform whose Alpha service resembles an extra-geeky Twitter with a $50 entrance fee.

I don't know enough about the issue to judge Twitter's actions. Presumably, they're doing what's best for Twitter. That's their prerogative. If Twitter becomes unusable, it will bum me out. I love Twitter.

But fortunately, App.net has come along just in time to shelter us from Twitter's turn to the dark side. If you're over there, you can find me as andrewmarvin.

As we transition from the old to the new, I'm reminded how important it is not to allow ourselves to become overly attached to anything, let alone a social network. Technology moves quickly. If Twitter becomes something to be abandoned, we will adapt, move forward, and be OK.

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"What Do You Care?"

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
-Lao Tzu

I've been obsessed with Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee ever since Shawn Blanc linked to it a couple of weeks ago.

The premise is that Jerry Seinfeld borrows a classic, old car and picks up one of his comedian friends for coffee. Their conversation is recorded and edited into a fifteen-minute film.

One of my favorite moments is in episode one when Larry David suggests that his picky eating was one of the reasons his marriage ended:

Larry David: I stopped drinking coffee, and she hated it. I said, "What do you care?" I had tea in the cup. She said, "Well we can't even share coffee in the morning anymore." I said, "But there's something in my cup! You can't see what's in my cup. I'm still sipping! There's still steam coming out of it! What's the difference?!"

Jerry Seinfeld: I know. I ordered soup the other day. Somebody said, "That's all you're gonna get?" What the hell do you care?

I don't mean to sound rude, but I think they have a point. Why do we care? Sometimes there's a good reason, but many times there isn't.

Let's use the tea example.

When we care about what someone else is drinking, we are attaching some small part of our inner peace to that person and their actions. Because we can't control that person or what they drink, we risk feeling discontent when they don't act in the way we've expected them to.

We allow ourselves to be affected by other people like this all the time. It's a perfectly natural, human thing. Of course we should care about what our loved ones think. But when it comes to minutia—like what someone's drinking—I can't see any worthwhile reason to care.

Ask yourself, "How does this person's decision affect me?"

If the answer is that it doesn't, that's great. Let go, and become a little bit more free.

If the answer is something negative, ask yourself why. Is it a good reason, or is it kind of silly?

In either case, the good news is that, while you have no control over the other person, you do have control over you, which allows you to free yourself as long as you choose to do so.

Merlin Mann came up with a terrific response to these situations on Back to Work. When faced with something silly—perhaps even something serious—that has a negative effect on you, simply say to yourself:

I've chosen not to let it bother me.

By acknowledging the fact that you cannot control anything other than yourself and how you react to what goes on around you, you enable yourself to rise above whatever it was that was disturbing your inner peace.

Let them drink tea. Let them order soup. Everything will be alright. Trust me. There are more important things to worry about.

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The Shawshank Question

Is hope a good thing?

It keeps you going through uncertain times, but that uncertainty can drive you insane.

So is it better to be hopeless? To know there is no chance, but to be certain about it?

I’m not sure, but having experienced both in close proximity to one another, I have to say that I miss having hope.

Hope is like a candle when you’re without electricity. Even when everything else is shrouded in darkness, there’s always that little flicker. The hope that some day, just maybe, things will brighten. Things will be OK. It comforts and consoles you.

And your imagination — being the absurdly powerful thing that it is — can take that little flicker and stoke it until it becomes a roaring fire filled with dreams and possibilities and a future that’s so good you can’t possibly envision anything else. How can something that good not come true?

I don’t know why, but it can.

Hopelessness means that the thing you were clinging to, protecting, nurturing, has vanished. There’s a void in your heart where it used to live. And it’s agonizing, especially if you’ve been holding onto it for a long time and have given it your complete confidence.

What makes hope insidious is that it can hinder you from achieving other things. If you’re busy holding on over here, you’ll miss what’s going on over there. And I know — you don’t want what’s over there. That’s natural as long as the hope for what’s over here exists.

Perhaps the realization of hope is inevitable. Eventually, it’s either going to come true or be crushed. Maybe it’s better to rip the bandage off quickly.

The only way to survive hope’s demise is to think of it in the context of freedom. Hope — like expectations — attaches you to an outcome. When that outcome doesn’t come true, your attachment to a thing is severed, and it hurts like hell.

But the pain will subside. Every passing moment brings you a little bit closer to being OK. Once the wounds heal, we are free to move forward. And as we move forward, we come closer to arriving at the next big thing. And — hopefully — the next big thing will be a sure thing.

On the Notion That Your Phone Sucks

In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.
Oscar Wilde

Yesterday, Apple announced an onslaught of new laptops, software updates, and general awesomeness at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

Like all WWDC keynotes in recent years, it was a great day to be an Apple fan. When the company releases new products, its not only a chance to drool with excitement and start contemplating selling your organs. It’s also a reminder of why we in the Apple community stand so firmly behind the company.

Apple perpetuates what we believe in: simplicity, elegance, and sophistication.

But it’s not for everybody. Nothing is.

Try as I might, I couldn’t help but encounter the usual Internet skepticism and criticism about Apple’s announcements — people who scoffed and rolled their eyes while promoting their own obviously superior brands and devices.

There was a time when I would have taken their criticism personally. Apple is doing what I believe in, and therefore, when you insult Apple, and you insult me. We could have a lengthy discussion about how and why a company engenders such emotional attachment, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that I’ve learned not to waste my energy trying to disprove someone’s opinion.

As long as they believe blue is red, you can’t have a rational conversation about the color of the sky.
Patrick Rhone

If you believe your phone is better than mine, that’s OK.

If I believe my computer is better than yours, that’s OK.

But trying to convince the other person that their opinion is wrong is futile.

And why bother?

What do you have to gain from telling me that my phone is stupid? What do I have to gain from letting you know your computer sucks?


When we feel strongly about a thing or idea, we attach ourselves to it. It becomes a part of our identity. To have someone bash your thing is to have them bash you as a person.

But it’s not worth preserving that attachment. Someone will always disagree with you, and so the more attached you are to your idea, the more likely you are to have your inner peace disturbed by a willful dissenter.

Instead, be content to let the other person think whatever it is they think. Chances are their way of thinking makes them happy. Why rob them of that happiness?

Let go.

It’s pointless to defend a personal preference. It’s like trying to make an intelligent case for your favorite color.
Merlin Mann

If you don’t like my phone, don’t buy it. I won’t buy your computer.

And we’ll all be OK. Trust me.

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My Mostly Irrelevant Thoughts on The Talk Show

The Internet has been in an uproar ever since The Talk Show moved from 5by5 to the Mule Radio Syndicate.

Over the weekend, Gabe of Macdrifter wrote a response about the response to the change:

People take their opinion too seriously and like to inflate their own value. How can anyone without personal connections to and personal knowledge of the network switch have any opinion? Further, who gives a shit. It’s a podcast that isn’t ending, just switching networks. No one shut down 5by5. No one changed anything that materially impacts my life. I had to resubscribe to a podcast on a different feed. Big deal.

Dan Benjamin, John Gruber’s co-host on 5by5, released a statement Monday morning explaining the situation. He’s a class act.

Gabe’s response is valid. No, my life is not literally impacted by a podcast changing networks. I’m still sitting here at my desk, regardless. Nothing’s changed.

But the reason I and thousands of other listeners are feeling impacted is emotional attachment. This is what Gabe’s response misses and what Dan’s statement gets exactly right.

Like Dan, I started listening to podcasts when I had a forty-five minute commute to a job I couldn’t stand. I had been listening to NPR, but it was getting on my nerves, and I didn’t care about 90% of what I was hearing. That’s the beauty of podcasts: you can listen to thoughtful conversations on the topics that you love. 5by5 has been the source of so much learning, entertainment, and comfort for me since I started listening almost two years ago. Like Dan says, I feel like I’ve gotten to know the hosts over time, and they’ve become like my buddies. They don’t know who I am, but I spend time with them whenever I’m in the car, and subsequently I feel like they’re my friends.

The Talk Show’s switch to a different network feels like a favorite band breaking up. Something I’ve come to know, love, and rely on in some small capacity is over.

Yes, shame on me for developing an emotional attachment to a podcast, but what can you do?

Oh, well.

5by5 will continue. The Talk Show will continue, albeit in a different form. And really, we won’t be any worse for the wear. Other than Dan’s statement, we have no personal insight into what caused the switch, and so it’s not worth fretting over. We still have a 120 episodes of The Talk Show that can be revisited any time, and now we have a new incarnation of the show to look forward to.


Take the time to understand change before you fear change.

Unless John makes a statement, we can’t fully understand this change. If you ask me, that means we need not fear it. We shall persevere.

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Rest In Peace, Grammy C

My grandmother died last week. She was 92 and the best grammy her four grandkids could ask for.

As sad as I am over her passing, I’m fortunate to have nothing but wonderful memories of her, and I’m comforted to know that she’s in a much better place than the convalescent home in which she resided for the last ten years of her life.

I’m also reminded of the importance of recognizing that, while the body may die, the spirit lives on forever, and so she’s not gone. Not really.

The pain comes from no longer being able to see someone, to touch and hug them, to talk with them and hear their voice when we’re so used to doing so.

But we are fortunate to be much more than physical bodies.

To be at peace with the passing of a loved one, we must let go of our attachment to their physicality. Death is a natural part of life, and so the loss of the body is inevitable.

If we can let go of the body and preserve the spirit, we will never have trouble finding those whom we’ve lost.

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An Alternative to More

Seth Godin:

If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you've got...

then you've handed control over your happiness to the gatekeepers, built a system that doesn't scale and prevented yourself from the brave work that leads to a quantum leap.

This article is one of my favorites, and it's something that resonates with me as I try to transition from full-time student to someone who works for a living.

Attaching your happiness to the notion of "more" is dangerous. There will always be more, and so you're attaching your happiness to something that's ultimately unattainable. Subsequently, happiness itself becomes unattainable.

There are ways to combat this attachment to more, and it's something I focus on here and in life. Minimalism is one way. To be able to identify what is enough, and then to be happy with it, is a valuable skill that must be constantly practiced.

Perspective is another. To realize what is and what is not important, and to be able to recognize who and what deserves your time.

Inner peace is another. To be so aware of who you are, and to love that person so unconditionally, that you have no fears, worries, wants, or desires, and you are content with You.


Their rules, their increments, and you are always on a treadmill, unhappy today, imagining that the answer lies just over the next hill...

All the data shows us that the people on that hill are just as frustrated as the people on your hill.

When I peer into the box that society wants me to crawl into, this is all I see. A smothering, unsatisfying existence, where happiness is always a little further ahead and just out of reach. The thought of living in that box makes me uneasy.

Luckily, there's hope:

An alternative is to be happy wherever you are, with whatever you've got, but always hungry for the thrill of creating art, of being missed if you're gone and most of all, doing important work.

There is an alternative. I know there is an alternative because there are people living the alternative.

Fortunately, the thrill of creating art and doing important work are what help me be happy where I am. Unfortunately, I've yet to determine how to make a living while doing it.

Richard J. Anderson had a great post on this topic a few weeks ago:

I like technology, writing, music, art, and variety. I like having clearly defined goals I can check off a list when they’re done. I like knowing that what’s done really is done, and I don’t have to fix it unless I made a mistake. Where do any of these things intersect, and do they intersect in a place that also provides enough money to live on while I focus on what truly matters to me?

These are the questions I'm asking myself, too. I love to read and write. How can I make a living doing these things?

I'm not sure yet.

But, the answer is out there, and I have faith that it will reveal itself.

The trick is to not give up on looking for it.

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The Beauty of Being Wrong

The fact that I’m doing yoga at 7 AM every morning still blows my mind.

It’s been two weeks since I became an early riser, and I love it just as much as I did on day one. The quiet solitude of the morning, the sense of having so much more time, the increased exposure to sunlight… All so wonderful.

But, for all its awesomeness, this change has created something of a splinter in the back of my mind.

The Stubborn Night Owl

You see, for years I was convinced of my own superiority as a night owl. It appealed to my introverted nature, and I liked the rebelliousness of staying up and sleeping late. I associated early rising with convention. Getting up at 8 AM, driving to a cubicle, sitting there all day, and then driving home exhausted and horrified at having to do it all over again tomorrow — it seemed like no way I’d ever want to live. If it works for you great, but I knew it wasn’t for me.

It still isn’t, at least when it comes to the sitting-in-a-cubicle-all day part. But fortunately, I’ve avoided — by both choice and design — that sort of existence.

Instead, I get up with the sun, practice yoga, make tea, read, and then write and make things. It’s a routine with which I’ve quickly become obsessed.

What’s given me pause, though, is the fact that I was so wrong about night owlism. Actually, no; I wasn’t wrong about night owlism so much as I was wrong about being an early riser.

I still think being a night owl is great, and people who prefer that lifestyle should continue to live it as long as it helps them grow and do what they want to do.

Unfortunately, staying up late and sleeping in every morning was paralyzing me. My creativity and productivity stagnated. I was stuck in an incredibly depressing rut, and the only way out was to make a drastic life change: to start getting up early.

I see now just how wonderful being an early riser can be. It’s not painful at all — provided you’re getting your required amount of sleep — and it opens up a whole new world you may have forgotten existed. I certainly did. It truly is life-changing.

Of course, one could easily reverse my story and get the same benefits. Someone who is forced to rise early every morning and go to a job they hate and come home exhausted could, in theory, quit, start their own business, and sleep until mid-morning before doing the work they love all day and late into the night.

It works both ways, and I make no claims that one is better than the other. The best one is the one that works for you.

But, back to my splinter.

What Do I Know?

The feeling I’m experiencing now is that I was wrong.

Wrong in the sense of thinking one way was better than the other, and wrong in thinking I could never become an early riser. Ever. I never wanted to, never thought it would be good for me, never even entertained the idea.

I was a proud night owl. Stubbornly proud.

And yet, here I am.

And so I find myself thinking, “If I was wrong about that, I might be wrong about other things too. Maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about.”

Maybe minimalism isn’t healthy?

Maybe politics are important?

Maybe sports do have value?

Maybe being an introvert isn’t better?

These are scary thoughts, because my identity is ingrained in these possibly incorrect notions. If I’m wrong about them, then part of my identity is lost and/or needs to be rebuilt.

Being wrong is scary.

But, like anything, the solution lies in perspective.

First off, people grow and change. This is for the better. I might be telling my kids someday, when they’re groaning and hiding under the covers at 10 o’clock in the morning, how I used to love to sleep in when I was younger, until it stopped working for me. And that’s the thing:

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. If it’s not, change it.

Minimalism works for me. Being apathetic about sports works for me. These things, at the very least, do me no harm.

I thought being a night owl was working for me, and for a long time, it was. But, then it stopped. When my life changed — when theses and job hunts and apartments and writing and responsibilities became the focus — I needed to change too. Staying up late was not helping me write my thesis or become any more of an adult. I was stuck. I wasn’t growing.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of staying up late. But, I was wrong to think I could keep doing it and still get to where I wanted to be. I couldn’t. So, I had to reevaluate and change my habits.

Not a Thing

There’s a deeper aspect to being wrong as well, one that I wrote about long ago. It’s the know-nothing principle.

The know-nothing principle is a solution to the fear of being wrong. The fear of being wrong grows out of being so attached to your ideas that you become unreceptive to new information, which might contradict or disprove your ideas.

“I am a night owl, and it works for me” was my idea. I knew night owlism was better. I shunned the notion of early rising out of fear that it might in fact be superior to my idea. I did not assume the know-nothing principle when it came to sleep schedules. As such, I was unable to see the benefits of an idea different from my own, and in turn it took me a long time to realize that my stubborn adherence to my own idea was causing me to stagnate.

It was only when I stopped being closed off, when I became open to the idea of early rising that I was able to adopt it and change for the better.

By being open to alternative ideas, by thinking of them not as wrong, but merely as different, and by being willing to try them, we free ourselves from being prisoners of our own ways of thinking.

And so, this experience of being “wrong” does not fill me with the fear that I might be wrong about everything. Rather, being wrong is humbling. It’s a reminder that I know nothing. I had forgotten that, and so I had become attached to my ideas. And of course, I was hurt when life reminded me that my idea wasn’t the only way.

The past two weeks have reminded me of the importance of an open mind. An open mind frees you from the fear of being wrong. You don’t have to cling to one idea or another, and you don’t have to jump to defend it from anyone who thinks differently than you.

As Socrates said:

As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.

I thought I knew something about sleep schedules. But, it turns out I don’t know the first thing about them. And that makes me smile.

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A Prisoner of the Past

Crave translates into slave
John Roderick

When we lose something wonderful, we experience a natural desire to get that thing back — to get back to the way things were.

This desire arises out of attachment to that thing. When we lose something wonderful, we lose a part of ourselves. Part of our identity was defined by that thing, and so part of our identity must be rebuilt.

Rebuilding can be exceptionally difficult and painful, especially when we convince ourselves that the only way to rebuild is to recover the thing that was lost.

Unfortunately, the loss of the thing is often permanent, which only augments our desire to recover it. The permanence of the loss is directly proportional to our desire to get the thing back. When someone dies, we really wish we could see them again. When someone goes away for a weekend, it’s not a big deal because we know they’ll be back in no time.

The more we allow ourselves to believe that recovering the lost thing is possible, the longer it takes to rebuild, and the longer it takes to be whole again.

Too often, getting back to the thing is impossible. When that is the case, the only way to rebuild is to release our attachment to the thing. Cherish the thing, certainly, but do not try to get back to it. That is, do not allow your happiness and your identity to be dependent on the recovery of a thing that is lost forever. Preserve the memory of the thing, but do not allow yourself to become enslaved by the notion that you can go back to the way things were.

We cannot move forward if we insist on remaining a prisoner of the past. We cannot rebuild by rewinding, only by looking — and moving — ahead.

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

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The Essential Lesson About Expectations

Expectation is the root of all heartache.
William Shakespeare

My dad has always taught me the importance of managing expectations. Allowing them to get out of control almost guarantees disappointment, while keeping them low increases the chances of being pleasantly surprised.

But what exactly is an expectation?

An expectation is an attachment to an outcome.

Let’s say you get a tip from a friend about a job he or she thinks you would be perfect for. They tell you all about it and encourage you to apply. They’ll put in a good word for you. It sounds great. The pay would be better. It would be a field you’re interested in. You could use the money to get out of your crappy apartment and pay down some of your student loans. Things would get better. All in all, it sounds like a big upgrade. It’s going to be awesome.

Until you don’t get the job.

This thought process is indicative of out-of-control expectations. When you allow yourself to get overly excited about something that is not yet a sure thing, your brain begins to act as if that thing is already true. When the thing doesn’t come true, it can be devastating.

Attachments to outcomes are no less dangerous than attachments to things. Suppose you get a brand new toy, whatever that means for you. A new car, gadget, instrument, doesn’t matter. You love that thing, and it brings you joy. You don’t want to imagine life without that thing. So if — and when — it breaks, you experience pain and loss.

The same can be said of attachments to people. Boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives are wonderful things, but when their bodies are no longer there — either by choice or by death — the pain can be excruciating.

This pain happens because we have attached a part of ourselves to that thing or person. Our identity is in part defined by our relationship to it, him, or her.

“I am the owner of that car.”

“I am John’s girlfriend.”

“I am Jane’s husband.”

When the car or John or Jane are no longer there, that part of our identity disappears with them, and that void hurts. A lot.

Obviously we can’t force ourselves to stop enjoying things or loving people, so the solution lies in establishing one’s identity independent of external entities.

“With or without this thing/person, I am still me.”

When your sense of identity is unwavering, you don’t feel disappointment when you don’t get the job. Rather, you feel content in knowing that you were OK before the job, and you will be OK without the job.

Of course we feel sadness over the loss of loved ones, whatever the reason. Relationships are an essential fiber of our humanity, and losing them hurts like hell. But perspective and identity must be maintained. In the case of the girlfriend: you were OK before her, and you will be OK after her — even if you don’t think you can be.

When someone dies, our pain is corporeal. We ache over being unable to see the person, or hear their voice, or feel their arms around us. But we may take comfort in knowing that they’re still there, even though their body isn’t.

In all of these cases — the lost job, the broken object, the missing person — we were expecting the thing to be there. When it isn’t, our expectations are not met, and we hurt.

We must learn to let go of our expectations of outcomes, things, and people. In doing so, we free ourselves from our attachment to them. This is not to say we should go through life as emotionless robots, but rather that we must know who we are — with and without these things. Our identities must not depend on the presence or ownership of external entities.

We must truly know ourselves so that we may live independently of the things over which we have no control.

Self-control, then, is the key. You have true control over almost nothing and no one in this world. The only thing you can control is your mind and how it deals with what happens to you. Remove expectations, and you remove the chains of attachment.

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