Boys and Girls Are Dumb

Here's the thing.

There are seven billion people on the planet. Out of those seven billion, you'll meet tens of thousands. Out of those tens of thousands, you'll maintain real relationships with only one or two hundred. Out of those one or two hundred, only a handful are really worth knowing. Only a handful will know you intimately.

So when you find someone that helps you be the best possible version of yourself, someone who makes you laugh and feel loved and like you can do anything, someone who isn't nuts and doesn't want to do anything with your emotions but nurture and protect them, you hang on to that person, and you don't treat them like shit.

It's not always easy, and the timing is never perfect. But you make it work.

You respect them.

You listen to and support them—through everything.

You don't play games.

You say what you mean, and you mean what you say.

You give them what they need.

You don't give up.

You do whatever it takes.

You make it work.

A person unwilling to adhere to each of these values is not worth having in your life. Look to the next better thing.

The world is full of people willing to screw you over, on purpose or by accident. People are generally good, but that doesn't mean they aren't looking out for themselves first. I don't blame them. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else.

That's why unconditional love is so rare. For two people to be so confident in who they are—as a team and as individuals—that they are each capable of putting the other person first regardless of conditions or convenience is so rare, it can take a lifetime to find.

Those odds are the stuff miracles are made of.

The Problem with Loyalty

I'm a loyal person.

I keep a small circle of close friends. Always have. Chalk it up to nerdiness, academia, introversion, et al. I don't always know whether it's the best model, but it's the model I've adopted. It enables me to put my best into each relationship. As with multitasking, the more inputs clamoring for your time and attention, the less each receives.

Tasks, of course, are not people. While you may stay up all night with a task, it doesn't embrace you in the morning. You don't take bullets for tasks. You don't wake up every morning asking yourself how you can make a task feel special today. A task doesn't care.

People matter, but it takes a lot to find the good ones. There are over seven billion of them out there, and only a handful are worth knowing. I've met a few, and to them I hold on as tightly as I can.

Even after months and years, real loyalty is unwavering. Often inexplicably so. At times, against better judgment.

I live to make you feel safe. Beautiful. Invincible.

But I can only do so much from here.

The problem with loyalty is that it creates attachment, and attachment invariably leads to suffering.

My heart is loyal to a fault.

The Next Better Thing

What do you do when the love of your life decides they don’t want the job?

Like any loss, the first reaction is denial. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense. How can your heart be so sure of something, and then be wrong? How can your heart be wrong?

What makes someone the love of your life is that they defy expectations. They supersede all of your past relationships, and you can’t possibly envision someone better. You think, this is it. I don’t have to look anymore.

Unless they don’t agree.

And when that happens, we have no choice in the matter. All the confidence and love in the world is not enough to make someone feel something they don’t feel.

The pain and grief comes not only out of the loss of that person, but of the realization that now you’re back to zero. You thought you had a ten on your hands, and now you have nothing. And the despair comes from being unable to possibly imagine anything ever coming close to what you’ve lost.

But the thing is, something better will come.

You only know the love of your life so far. It’s easy to declare someone the best when you have no knowledge of who else is to come after. Sometimes, your heart is right, and there is no one else.

But when your heart is wrong, the only thing you can do is trust that the next best thing — the next better thing — is yet to come. Even if you can’t possibly imagine who they are, someone better is coming. Someone who defies your expectations in ways you’ve never even dreamed of.

It sounds impossible, but that’s because seeing is believing. It’s impossible to envision someone better until that someone arrives. But they are coming. We have to believe and be ready.

They’re on their way.

Like a Slow Fire Burn

You are what you listen to.

In many ways, my iTunes library is an extension of my identity. This music defines me. These artists represent my values. These songs represent memories and scenes from my life.

My music is who I am.

I bought an iPod Nano the other day for workout purposes, and so I was perusing my iTunes library trying to decide which songs to put on it.

The problem with going through your library song-by-song is that you unavoidably come across its deep, dark secrets. The songs you no longer listen to because of the memories associated with them.

There’s one particular song I always scroll past because it reminds me of a girl I was in love with. Back then, I wasn’t familiar with the artist, but it was one of her favorites, and this particular song was the one I enjoyed the most.

It’s a song I never would have known existed if that relationship had never happened.

And now that the relationship is over, and the song is still here in my library, I find myself in a difficult position. Even looking at the song in my iTunes brings back painful memories. Or perhaps they’re good memories. Or perhaps they were good at the time, and the pain stems from their being lost.

In any case, on this particular day, something persuaded me to listen to that song.

It hurt.

But at the same time, it was a therapeutic pain. As soon as the song started playing, memories came flooding back. Images. Faces. Feelings. All of which were wonderful at the time, and all of which now hurt like hell.

But for some sick reason, I forced myself to sit through that song. And as I endured that chorus and let those memories punch me in the gut over and over again, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry over what I lost or smile about what I had.

The funny thing is, I played it again. And again, and again, and again.

And every time I played it, I felt a little bit better. And I felt a little less like crying and a little more like smiling. Because just because I lost it doesn’t mean it’s gone. The memories are mine, and they’re still here. The fact that they hurt only confirms that it was real. And that makes me smile.

It is a good song.

Life remains amazing.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

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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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John Gruber:

Late last night, inspecting Santa’s handiwork, a simple thought occurred to me. A decade or so from now, when, say, I’m waiting for my son to come home from college for his winter break, and, when he does, he wants to spend his time going out with his friends — how much will I be willing to pay then to be able to go back in time, for one day, to now, when he’s eight years old, he wants to go to movies and play games and build Lego kits with me, and he believes in magic?

On Self-Improvement

Leo Babauta has a big post on quashing the self-improvement urge.

I don’t love it.

So what’s the problem? You could say it’s great that people are constantly trying to improve themselves, but where does it end? When is anyone ever content with who they are? We are taught that we are not good enough yet, that we must improve, and so … we always feel a little inadequate.

I do say it’s great that people are constantly trying to improve themselves. It’s what I’m doing, and I think it’s what most self-aware people are doing. But, while I do strive to get better, I also feel proud of who I am at the same time. That varies from day to day, but overall I’m a self-confident person. I wasn’t always, but luckily my parents dragged me to a karate class when I was nine, and I was able to develop a sense of self-worth. I found a drive within myself to get better, but it didn’t come from being told “You suck!” all the time; it came from a desire to be awesome. So while I suppose I did feel “inadequate”, it inspired me to grow into a better, stronger person. Why would I want to be content with being a shy little dork? (Part of me remains a shy little dork, of course.)

We are never adequate, never perfect, never self-confident, never good enough, never comfortable with ourselves, never satisfied, never there, never content.

While I’m sure some people feel that way, I think it’s a sweeping generalization. There’s a big difference between wanting to get better and thinking you’re a worthless human being with nothing to offer anyone. I hope the latter are a minority.

And it becomes the reason we buy self-help products, fitness products, gadgets to make us cooler, nicer clothes, nicer cars and homes, nicer bags and boots, plastic surgery and drugs, courses and classes and coaches and retreats. It will never stop, because we will never be good enough.

I agree that much consumerism is driven by a feeling of lack, and that many people attach their self-worth to their possessions. It’s a tenet of eastern philosophy, and that line of thinking is obviously incorrect.

I think there are two levels to this “self-improvement is bad” argument:

  1. Self-improvement is bad because it convinces people to buy things they don’t need, like self-help books.
  2. Self-improvement is bad because it never allows people to be happy.

I agree with number one. Advertising that suggests, “You need to eat this! You need to wear this! You need to buy this!” scares people into spending money. It’s like when the news tells us to stock up on bottled water, canned food, and generators because there’s snow in the forecast. “Self-help” as an industry is in fact probably unhealthy. Everyone has issues, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to buy XYZ product. That’s just about the money.

I disagree with number two. If self-improvement consumes your existence, then yeah, that’s bad. But it’s not difficult to see how people can aspire to be better without becoming debilitated in the process.

We must improve. We must read every self-improvement book. When we read a blog, we must try that method, because it will make us better. When we read someone else’s account of his achievements, his goal system, his entrepreneurial lifestyle, her yoga routine, her journaling method, her reading list, we must try it. We will always read what others are doing, in case it will help us get better. We will always try what others are doing, try every diet and every system, because it helped them get better, so maybe it will help us too.

I suppose that would be the case for an individual incapable of thinking for themselves — and perhaps that’s the majority of the population — but not everyone looking for self-improvement lives that way. The way to self-improvement lies in introspection. But that’s not to say we can’t or shouldn’t learn from others.

New information must be considered before being implemented. We must evaluate new information before deciding if it’s applicable to us.

Would that be horrible, if we were just content and didn’t need to better ourselves every minute of every week? Would we be lazy slobs, or would we instead be happy, and in being happy do things that make us happy rather than make us better?

But doesn’t getting better make people happy? Again, there’s a difference between wanting to get better and being obsessed with your own inadequacy. Too much of any thing isn’t good for you. If the quest for self-improvement causes you to neglect other aspects of your life, then yes, it’s probably time to reevaluate. But self-improvement is not inherently bad, so long as it’s done in moderation, like anything else.

Think of how [being content] might simplify your life. Think of how many self-improvement books you read, or listen to in the car. Think of how many products you buy to make yourself better. Think of how many things you read online, in the hopes of being better. Think of how many things you do because you feel inadequate. Think of how much time this would free up, how much mental energy.

Yes, it would help many people who are consumed by their feelings of inadequacy. While books and audio tapes may contain valuable information, looking for magic bullets in them is futile.

Realize that you are already perfect. You are there. You can breathe a sigh of relief.

Striving to get better is not the same as striving for perfection. If you were perfect, you’d never make a mistake, and that’s unhealthy.

You are not perfect. But you’re probably awesome anyway.

Quash the urge to improve, to be better. It only makes you feel inadequate.

But a feeling of inadequacy often inspires us to get better, to learn new things, and to grow. You can’t grow if you think you’ve nothing left to learn. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get better as long as it’s not hurting you or someone else.

Ultimately, I see what Leo is saying, but to suggest that all self-improvement is bad doesn’t make sense. Striving for contentment is itself a form of self-improvement. Growing is what life is about.

I can think of nothing more valuable than having an unconditional love for yourself. That love should be for your strengths and your weaknesses. You should be happy with who you are while recognizing your flaws, and yes, striving to improve them. These flaws do not render you a broken or worthless human being. On the contrary, they are as much a part of who you are as your best qualities.

I agree that people shouldn’t beat themselves up over their inadequacies. Don’t feel bad about not being perfect; no one is, and you’re awesome. But still try to be the best person you can be. Why wouldn’t you?

I say love yourself right now, and get better all the time; it’ll only give you more reasons to love yourself.

And then explore the world of contentment. It’s a place of wonderment.

Well, that’s true.


Bob Marley:

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more.

You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are.

The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do.

Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon.

You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.