We Should Focus on Outliers More

TeroVesalainen

What’s an Outlier?

In my article on education, I mentioned how some students, often the systemically disobedient, tend to be some of the most intelligent. These individuals, outliers from the normal distribution in more ways than one, can be some of the greatest thinkers we know.

But what exactly is an outlier? What sets people apart from the standard tendencies, responses and thoughts that most people have? In essence, what makes some of these outlandish thinkers different?

In this context, an outlier is someone who stands separate from the main body of individuals. This could be in any area: IQ, following rules, standardized test scores, most mangoes eaten per capita, you get the idea.

So What?

The point of this whole concept is to identify why some of the social heretics among us are dismissed as looney before their great genius is revealed. I think this goes back to how our schools and, society in general, are structured. We tend to reward uniformity in thought and action, a reverence for the status-quo. 

However, it can be hard to cultivate progress and originality of thought when we reward those who support what is already widely agreed upon. The reform I’d like to see is one where students, throughout the whole of their educational experience have more autonomy.

I believe the best learning and the learning that begets the most passion for the work, is one where there is choice of content and freedom of expression. That may sound vague, but let me explain.

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The Symbiosis of Learning

Throughout high school and even college, I found myself at odds so many times between what I wanted to study and what I was being told to study. I found that in my spare time I was still reading and watching videos about history, biology, even mathematics. Why? Because I was a writer and I needed to know about those things to write my stories.

Now, is everyone a writer? Obviously not, but that doesn’t mean that people’s passions won’t lead them to study in multiple areas. Learning should be a symbiotic experience, one where the student can see the full breadth of what they’re learning in a wider context. 

How mathematics is related to physics and the laws that govern our world. How chemistry relates to biology and the compounds that react in our bodies. How English and pyschology are related to each other in the realm of human thought and how the language we speak affects how we think. When students are given freedom to seek out knowledge of their own accord in areas that they’re passionate about, these relationships become more evident to them.

The Invisible Hand of Education

The concept of the invisible hand comes from economics and how it relates to a market economy’s tendency to regulate itself given the autonomy to act alone. This is a beautiful concept Adam Smith came up with. He said, Laissez-faire,” or, let the people operate as they see fit and things will work out.

I believe there’s an invisible hand in the realm of education. Humans are creative and innovative by nature, and by allowing people to focus on their drive toward different subjects, we can see a regulation in expertise and creative focus. Namely, allow people to create and study what lights a fire in their chest and all the desired areas of study and productivity will be met.

And for those areas that are less desirable to study and attract less people, I would argue that we are already seeing this problem being solved with the advancement of technology in certain sectors of the economy.

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What About Those Outliers?

So, where do outliers fall into this picture? Outliers are those who are already following this path even in the current system. They can be proactive about the things they’re passionate about, seeking new ways to improve and learn about them.

Outliers are a microcosm of how a system like this would operate. Would an autonomous system like this work for everyone? Of course not, but the current system doesn’t work for everyone either, and I talk to more and more people everyday who are dissatisfied with the course of their education.

There would be fallouts in a system like this, just as there are failures of our current system, but I believe the overall social and economic good that would result outweighs those negative externalities unlike the current system. As always, thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

Disconnect to Feel More Fulfilled

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Don’t Give Yourself an Option

I’ve found a ritual lately that I love. I’ll take forty-five minutes to an hour, drive up into the mountains, hike a few minutes, and just enjoy the freedom of being disconnected from everything. Sometimes I meditate, oftentimes I’ll just sit and enjoy nature.

The key to this is that I go out far enough that my phone is out of cell range. It’s a different feeling than just turning off your phone or having it on airplane mode. If that’s the case, I can always choose to turn my phone back on and check for notifications, browse the web, whatever it may be.

Going out of range takes away all those options. It leaves me powerless to be in the moment. And you’d be surprised what can happen when you do nothing.

Distraction-Free

We can be productivity-obsessed sometimes, always looking for things to do, but a lot of the time the things we use to fill our time can just be distractions. I’m all about being productive, but when it turns into a compulsive need for distraction and a fear of being bored, then there’s a problem.

When I sit in nature, the fact that I’m doing nothing but being, and listening to the sounds immediately around me, distills on me. I realize that I’m content in that moment, that I genuinely love my life. I still have goals, there are still things I want to achieve and I won’t stop working hard for those things, but realizing that I can still have happiness and peace in the moment has helped me to stay grounded.

Our devices remind us of things we need to do, they tell us to check what so-and-so is doing, pulling our attention to anything but the present moment. On the surface, this isn’t menacing or anything to be worried about, it’s a part of the modern world we live in.

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Behind the Scenes

The constant barrage of information, news feeds, and status updates creates an inner dissatisfaction without those things. Without realizing it, we feel uneasy and on-edge without something to check, without something to hold our attention.

Disconnecting has taught me that there’s an inherent happiness already there that doesn’t need any stimulation. When you take the time to do nothing, to just sit and befor a little bit, you realize that.

It’s not anything you have to work for, it’s just there. But it can be hard to notice with all the stimuli around us. Everyone and everything around you is vying for your attention, so give a little to yourself.

The Myth of the “Other”

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As Old as Humanity Itself

There’s a notion in the human mind of the “other.” Maybe it’s inherent, maybe it’s a result of the cultures we have been raised in, but either way, this concept persists in our thinking. Somehow we struggle to find some sense of personal identity without differentiating ourself from others.

Maybe it stems from our history. When two ancient tribes came into contact with one another, there were immediate lines of demarcation. We are such and such tribe and this is our territory as opposed to this other tribe . For some reason, there was a need to separate the two.

Perhaps back in the day this was necessary, but in our modern, globalized world, the concept of the “other” is something that needs to end. We are evolving as a species, striving to put an end to implicit bias, discrimination, racism and forms of division between us. Viewing other people as inherently different than us can be damaging.

Praise Diversity

I’m not saying we should refuse to recognize the nuances of culture and the things that give us commonality with certain people. Diversity of culture and experience is something that should be encouraged and praised. The amazing thing about different cultures is that embracing them makes us more inclusive. The only reason the myth of the “other” exists is because we fear what (or in this case who) we do not know.

Recognizing and embracing the fact that people have different cultures helps us to understand that they aren’t so different from us. It’s amazing how quick we are to judge someone else’s ways just because they’re different from our own. And sometimes one’s defense of their culture and heritage is seen as an attack on another’s. Really, these lines are human constructs. They’re boundaries we have created to feel unique, but they needn’t become lines of division.

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Divisive Rhetoric

I don’t have to explain to anyone the amount of division that exists today because of our rhetoric. We demonize immigrants, slander the LGBTQ community, and make instant judgements of character based upon religious affiliation.

This sounds idealistic, but we’re all the same. I mean it. Literally the same. The sooner we let that nugget of truth sink into the marrow of our bones, the sooner we’ll be happier.

I’m by no means perfect. I still make snap judgements on a regular basis. The point is not perfection. The point is progress. Simply being aware of the fact that we hold biases is the first step to helping eliminate those biases.

Some people think that messages like this serve no real purpose, that promoting love on a world scale is nebulous and doesn’t actually change anything. I disagree.

You dispel hate by injecting love. Injecting it into society, into people’s lives on an individual basis. Because fixating on the removal of hate and prejudice only makes us focus on those things more; but focus on introducing love into a system and then we stand a chance.

I Was a Terrific Student and a Terrible One

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It’s Possible to be Both

I was a great student. I never spoke out of turn, I always did my homework, turned in my assignments on time and just generally never caused any trouble. I was every teacher’s dream. But I had a secret the whole time: I hated school.

I don’t mean hate school in the rebellious “I hate learning” sort of way, I mean I hated the structure. I hated the mind-numbing repetitiveness that permeated the place. I did my work mostly out of fear. Fear of getting reprimanded by teachers and parents and fear of losing any claim to a good life if I didn’t get good grades (I had this mindset since elementary school).

The Pressure to Out-Achieve

School and grades have a large impact on our lives whether we like it or not. However, for a kid like me, who was so afraid of not succeeding—of being left behind—it became a destructive thought-cycle that was relentless at times.

I started to become hyper-competitive with myself and others. If I wasn’t top of the class, I was doing something wrong. There’s nothing with wanting to excell and push yourself, but when yoursuccess becomes contingent on someone else not doing as well, then we have a problem.

Traditionally, I was a straight-A student. The only Bs I received on a report card were in high school for a Calculus class and even then only for a semester or two. I was obsessed with As. It got to the point that on some assignments—even if I got an A or high B—my teachers would comment on it. They usually said something to the effect of “Good job, but you can do better than this.” Looking back, it’s mindboggling. Mindboggling how much influence we place on an arbitrary letter grade. Because like I said, if I hadn’t truly believed that those little letters on my report card would determine the course of my life, I would have been the worst student.

The Audacity to Learn and Grow

I suppose the rebellious side of me was stifled for fear of ridicule. I hated most assignments I was given, and couldn’t stand homework, but I did it all. I hated how school seemed to destroy any love for a subject I previously had. I’ve always loved learning and have been an independent learner, seeking out knowledge of my own accord. For me, the assignments and syllabi were stifling. They didn’t allow me to learn the things that were important to me.

I understand the debate for general education. Yes, everyone needs a firm foundation that includes basic English, mathematics, science and social studies. My problem with these subjects wasn’t the subject matter, it was how they were taught.

Everything taught in school is seen as a small cog in the larger scheme of the societal machine. You learn the things you need to so you can pass the exam; you pass the exam so you can get into a good college or grad school, etc.; you get into a good school so you can get a degree; and you get a degree so you can get a higher-paying job. So you see, everything about school, from the moment you walk in on your first day, is about where and how you will fit into society. Either as an obedient lackey or a rebellious heretic that is doomed to fail. The only thing is, reality doesn’t always follow this narrative.

Comfreak

The Square Pegs in the Round Holes

If I’m Henry Ford, I’m going to hire the worker who’s going to assemble those parts on the assembly line exactly as instructed. Someone who isn’t willing to do that isn’t profitable for my business. We see the same pattern in our schools today.

We inform, we do not really teach. We indoctrinate, but we do not really educate. Teaching in schools is done in such a way that we are fooled into thinking that our minds our expanding, that we are learning how to think. In reality, much of what we see is really a grade-school teacher or professor presenting the class with a wheelbarrow of facts, which students take their shovels to and hope to regurgitate as much as possible for the exam.

I was never given the autonomy over my learning that I craved. It was always done on the timetable of someone who had never even met me who had written a textbook thousands of miles away. But I never spoke up about my discontent because of my fear of failure. I was trapped in this dogmatic system that didn’t satisfy my creative or intellectual needs, but was forcing me to stay silent about it.

We Often Don’t Reward New Thoughts

Ever notice that some of the loudest kids in class were also some of the smartest? You wouldn’t be able to tell by their grades, but they usually thought with such an unhindered creativity that it simply had no place in the land of color-in-the-lines and fill-in-the-blank worksheets. These were the kids who were always being told to be quiet, always being sent to the principal’s office. They saw the system around them and they questioned it.

One of the most regrettable failures of the school system is stifling creativity. Out-of-the-box thinkers simply don’t have a place in a system that is designed to create a certain type of citizen, with certain values.

It’s no fault of their own, but teachers simply don’t have the time or resources to entertain every tangent one of these firecracker thinkers might have. It would hinder the whole school process. So, what do we do? We tell them to sit still, be quiet, take notes and not to ask questions that don’t pertain to the lesson.

It’s sad to say and some might be offended by this, but oftentimes the students who perform the best scholastically are not necessarily the smartest, but the ones who conform the most willingly. I was a great example of this. The only difference with me is that I had all these thoughts and impulses, but refrained from vocalizing them due to stigma.

The successful students, the summa cum laude, they are the dedicated doctors. The reliable managers and the associates. They are streamlined right into our workforce system, because that’s exactly what school is modeled after. They thrive in the established system and are deemed the most successful, when the entrepreneur in the back row is doodling to keep himself from falling asleep.

ISDiva

So What do We Do?

It’s easy to criticize, it’s hard to come up with solutions. Simply put, I advocate a system based less on grades, rote memorization and performance on standardized tests and more on individual student interest and passions.

I’ll go into more detail in my next post, but I want to hear from you guys first. What are your thoughts on the education system? Did it work for you or did you find holes in the system? I’m open to diversity of thought and opinion here so let me know in a response or note!

This is Where I Wrote Today

It Can Be Anywhere, Really

There seems to be a whole Pandora’s Box of tricks and tips to becoming the best writer you can be. One of the most common is making a ritual for yourself. Write at the same time everyday, in the same place with your favorite Bath and Body Works candle. Doing this will show the Writing Gods that you are obedient to their commands and they will bless you with the muse.

I actually think this is very true, for the record. Creating a routine is a great way to train the mind to know when it’s time to write. I’ve seen success in my own writing with it. When I sit down at the Barnes and Noble cafe five minutes from where I live, the synapses in my brain go off: “Time to create.”

But today I’m here to say that rules are meant to be broken. Writing is a passionate thing, or at least, it should be. Now that doesn’t mean it’s not work, there are some days when the last thing I want to do is write, but that means that on some level, there should be inspiration whenever you sit down to write.

Sometimes You Have to Go to the Muse

On a good writing day, you might feel like F. Scott Fitzgerald and you’re convinced you’re writing the next Great American Novel. On a bad day, you’re skeptical you ever knew anything about the English language to begin with. It’s an ebb and flow.

If I waited for what felt like a “good day” to write before I actually sat my ass down and put my fingers to the keyboard, I’d write once a month, maybe. Oftentimes, a good day results from an empty mind and the willingness to create something. Pushing through that initial wall of doubt is an even better way to show the Writing Gods you’re serious.

Now, back to routine. Routine can be vital in getting past that wall each and every day. However, sometimes I find that mixing things up can bring a whole new perspective to my writing.

I call it “seeking out the muse” because I believe this is closer to reality than we give it credit for. Writing beside a stream today in the midst of nature was the perfect reset I needed. We can become accustomed to anything, our writing rituals included, and doing something to shock our creative selves from that monotony can bring a flood of inspiration.

ComFreak

Get Weird with Your Writing

Basically, mix it up! Routine is great, but don’t become convinced that there’s only one way to do things! Creative minds often thrive on diversity, writers especially. The more places you write in, the more you’ll see. The more you’ll see, the more experiences you’ll have and that will ensure more stuff to write about.

Writers are surveyors of the world and commentators on it. It’s our job to bring the seemingly everyday and mundane facts of life to light and get people to think more deeply about them. The only way to effectively do this is to put ourselves in circumstances where we can survey the world.

So, write in the streets! Write in the coffee shops of the world. Write in your closets. Write next to a grazing cow. But dammit, just make sure you seek out the muse and write. Write because you want to. Write because you don’t want to. Write because the world needs to see your passion.

Why We Introvert Shame and Why We Should Stop

The Misconceptions

The narrative on introverts has been pretty much the same since the dawn of the phrase. They’re quiet. Lonely. Not outgoing. Often “too nice,” they don’t speak up for themselves. They don’t like people, and a host of other fallacies.

Aside from the world being primarily driven by extroverts for a host of different reasons, introverts’ values are highly looked over. It has something to do with the nature of introverts themselves, but this doesn’t change the fact that the world has an unfair bias toward introverts.

As someone who’s been on both sides of the spectrum depending on the day and time, hopefully I can bring a fresh perspective.

Introverts are Too (Insert Derogatory Misnomer Here)

Oftentimes, the narrative around introverts is negative and meant to break down introverts for their supposed weaknesses rather than their strengths. This leads to a single story, which is a dangerous zone to be in. Soon enough, the only times we hear “introvert” are in a negative light.

Unfortunately, this creates a highly distorted perception of reality and what introverts are actually like. Why focus on the introvert’s tendency to remain quiet when introverts are known for being deep thinkers? Oftentimes their aversion to speak just means that they are deep in thought. It’s not an aversion to people or social interaction.

Imagine if we demonized extroverts for some of their perceived negative qualities? Imagine if we only saw them in the light of arrogance and brashness, of being attention-hogging narcissists? Everyone would be in outrage, presumably, the extroverts themselves. But somehow it becomes okay to shame introverts because they are less likely to retaliate about it.

Difference in Perspective

It’s not a matter of extroverts and introverts being fundamentally different people, it’s more that they do different things to achieve the same results. Extroverts are known for gaining their energy by interacting with others in a social setting. In other words, they gain a lot of satisfaction and social utility in being with and around their peers. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there’s also nothing wrong with gaining the same level of satisfaction from being in a small group of people or even alone. That gives introverts the time to think and process. By this they fill the same well that extroverts are looking to fill, but in fundamentally different ways.

So, both introverts and extroverts are looking to satisfy something within themselves, they just have different ways of doing this, but neither is necessarily better.

Ambiverts

Now, no one is totally extroverted or introverted, everyone has different qualities that land on different points of the spectrum. Most people are probably ambiverts, which means they have a balance of introvert and extrovert characteristics.

It was refreshing for me to learn about ambiverts because sometimes it feels as if the other two box one in to a prescribed way of acting. But that’s hardly true.

For most of my childhood and during high school, I identified more with introversion. I loved to read, write, and spend time with my close circle of friends. I never went to parties, but I never felt the desire to. I never felt like I was missing out on anything.

After high school, I went through a period of extroversion where I valued social interaction and being bold as the best way to live. By being extroverted, I was filling my desire to interact with others. Now, I’m somewhere in between the two. I still love talking to people and meeting new people, but sometimes I’m not always up for it. Sometimes, I’d rather be at home reading, or spending time with myself so I can be more secure of a person. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Be Who You Are

What’s important to learn from this is that every individual—introvert, extrovert, ambivert—is different. No matter your social disposition, you shouldn’t be thought of as lesser or placed in a box due to that.

Everyone requires different things to feel fulfilled and they should be allowed to pursue that as long as it’s not harming others. If you wanna stay home instead of go to the party, stay home. If you want to go meet twenty new people, then go! Either way, don’t throw shade at the other side.

The DNA of Greatness

BarbaraALane

What Does It Take?

I recently watched a documentary on Albert Einstein, and by recently I mean this morning. It was fascinating. Obviously, the main focus was on his achievements in theoretical physics like his papers on the photo-electric effect and, of course, general relativity. What I thought was interesting, though, was how they focused a lot on his character; i.e. who he was as a person. That got me thinking about the characteristics Einstein had that contributed to his greatness and if those can be quantified. Are there a collection of attributes that can be identified in people who change the world? Essentially, is there DNA to greatness?

I think there is. Obviously no two people are alike and these qualities will vary, but that doesn’t mean we can’t isolate certain features. Here’s my attempt to do just that.

They Tend to be Pariahs

At some point in their lives, the greats of this world are usually social outcasts. However, I’m more fascinated on the qualitiesthey possess that attribute to this, rather than their rejection by society.

Take Einstein, for instance. At a young age, he worked at a patent office in Bern, Switzerland. He wanted to teach physics, but after graduation his professors refused to give him recommendations. This made him desperate for money, hence, the patent office job.

Why were his professors adamant about not recommending him? As a student, Einstein demonstrated some quirky qualities to put it lightly. He was always speaking out of turn in class. He would go up to the blackboard and solve unfinished equations without being asked. He would even refuse to take classes that he found intellectually un-stimulating.

Maybe if Einstein had fallen into place more, he would have landed a job as a professor right after graduation. But his eccentricities prevented that from happening. It all worked, though, as his time at the patent office lended itself to a lot of thinking. It was then he theorized special relativity.

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The World Is Malleable

I believe that built in to the DNA of greatness is the belief that the world around us is malleable. Einstein didn’t let the system limit him and it paid off. How else would anyone overturn centuries of belief on how the universe worked? He didn’t let his professors get to him and he didn’t let Newton’s classical theory stop him from dreaming about the possibility of a world that operated differently than what people believed. He shook the foundations of physics instead. He understood that the world is malleable.

Steve Jobs, eternal enemy of dogma, and self-proclaimed uprooter of the established, has a quote that perfectly describes this.

When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. 

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

So, there’s a clear difference in the way that these influencers view the world. Life is not a structure that they simply live in. It’s not a vehicle that they hop into for seventy years until they die. Life is a sculpture that they are able to mold. It’s a system they can provide input for and receive some sort of result.

Simply put, they have the audacity to think they can change the world. Where this comes from, I have no idea, but it seems that by believing in their influence, they will it into existence.

Unapologetically Themselves

This goes without saying given the last point, but the Jobs and Einsteins of the world are true to themselves. Social pressure is not enough to keep them from doing what they know they are meant to do. If it was, they would never change the world. There’s this self-confidence in them that sometimes comes off as arrogance, but it’s necessary to make actual change. They have to be grounded in themselves and firm in their belief to withstand the hailstorm of doubt from others. George Bernard Shaw once said:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Change is only possible when the status-quo is challenged. If there’s too much reverence for how things are, how will progress ever be made? So, we have an interesting paradox: we idolize those who make great change in the world, but before their genius is recognizable, they are labeled as heretics for trying to break well-established systems.

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Courage to be Wrong

Lastly, with all this irreverence for the well-established must come the courage to be flat-out wrong. Einstein’s theory of general relativity was almost dismissed multiple times as assuredly false. It took three separate solar eclipses spanning across years of study and expeditions around the world to confirm the reality of his theory. Perhaps the smartest man who ever lived was almost overlooked.

Einstein knew this, and he knew the repercussions of being wrong, but he forged ahead anyway. Steve Jobs failed more times than he got things right, but we only focus on the times when he got it right because of how revolutionary they were.

They have a balance between the acceptance of failure and the tenacity to forge ahead. These things, along with a host of others, contribute to the perceived greatness of those people who’ve made a mark on the world. But I want to hear from you guys. What do you think?

Am I right about these qualities? Am I completely off-base? Or what are some other qualities you think contribute to greatness? Respond to this to let me know, I’m curious.

Living a Life of Intention

Bess-Hamiti

Intentionally Vague

Intentional living has always been a nebulous concept for me. What does it mean? Isn’t everything I do driven by intention at some point? When do I cross the ethereal threshold of living an “intentional” life?

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve come to believe that our overall motives matter more than each decision we make during the day. There’s no need to stress about every decision we’re faced with. Coming up with an arbitrary system of “conscious decisions” kind of defeats the purpose. I’ve found that living an intentional life means living the life you want to live. That simple. Living life in accordance with your values and beliefs. Living life based upon the standards and expectations you set for yourself and not to please others.

Focus on Things You’re Passionate About

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: passion is important. So many of us have things that we love, things that make us feel alive. Putting priorities on your passions brings a sense of fulfillment that can’t be beat. And if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily have a clear “passion,” then take the time to explore what it might be.

I genuinely believe all of us are here for a purpose, whether by divine mandate or cosmic happenstance. Find what that purpose is. And when you do, give it your all. For me, it’s writing. I discovered my love for words and storytelling when I was thirteen and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been a tough road with a lot of rejection (and more to come), not to mention the stress of actually believing in myself enough to go for writing as a career. But it’s been infinitely worth it.

It’s amazing how the human race fits together like fine latticework. Our skills and talents, likes and dislikes, when put together they comprise the whole picture. We really are greater than the sum of our parts. What we do with our lives should be more than a career or job choice, it should be a small piece of that latticework that connects us to the rest of humankind.

Suju

Recognize That You Have Choices, Then Make Decisions

This one may seem self-explanatory, but it’s necessary to help us break free of what holds us back. I mean this point in the most literal sense. You have a say on the majority of what happens in your life. Let that sink in for a moment because it has some powerful implications.

A lot of the things we see as roadblocks in life are really just decisions we’re afraid to make. We let our desire for money and popularity hold us back. We set aside the things we really want in life because we’re afraid of breaking social norms, family ties, or seeming too radical.

Over my years in high school when I grappled with what I wanted to “do with my life,” I considered a lot of career paths. Doctor. Astronomer. Physicist. Linguist. English professor. But I always came back to writing. One day I decided to stop making myself miserable by believing that I had to choose one of these other options because they were more “practical.” I decided to focus all my efforts on what I actually wanted from my life.

Be Okay With Failure

I’m not even saying don’t be afraid of failure. Hell, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid to fail. I think about crashing and burning quite often, especially with how volatile writing can be; but I recognize that when failure comes, it’s a temporary state and I try my best to move past it. Learning to dust yourself off is an invaluable skill.

And I should clarify: being okay with failure means being okay with failing an infinite number of times, because you have no idea how many times it’ll take before you get it right. When I don’t get a freelance gig I was hoping for, or I’m rejected by an agent, I can’t afford to let myself be down for too long. It’s never a question of if, it’s a question of when; and I have to believe that, mostly for my own sanity, but also because it’ll make me more successful.

No matter your approach to life, make it all your own. Do what you love and don’t give up on that. Put out positivity and good energy and it’ll be returned to you. Find your place in the latticework and get to work.

Generational Hate and Why Millennials Aren’t the Worst

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It’s a Big Pile of Avocado Toast

From being labeled “entitled” to “technology obsessed,” “detached,” and “narcissistic,” you’ve probably heard quite a bit about millennials, especially recently. Millennials get a lot of flack, especially when it comes to very cardinal things about our nature. We have been touted as the generation without work ethic, the generation that wants everything given to them with little to no effort. We’ve been blamed for the destruction of industries such as Applebees and napkins. We’ve even been slandered for loving avocado toast too much!

Basically, if there’s anything perverse or just plain crappy, millennials have probably been blamed for it. But why? Why is the millennial generation being singled out, especially by older generations? Hint: this has happened before and it’ll continue to happen so long as there are old and young people inhabiting the earth. What we have here, folks, is just a common case of generational hate.

Millennials are a Microcosm for Young People

Older people have hated on the younger generation forever and vice-versa. It’s simply the cycle of things. Millennials as a whole aren’t any more entitled or self-indulgent than any other generation, but we happen to be the generation currently in young-adulthood, ergo, the hate-mail. The negative qualities and characterstics that are always pointed out in millennials are inherent of all young people. In case that went over your head. All young people have aspects of immaturity and self-centeredness because THEY ARE YOUNG. Growth happens over time and so people mature with time. It was the same with Boomers and Gen-Xer’s

Many people like to attribute their disdain for millennials by blaming it on the internet and social media. They say these have caused an arrogant, lazy, self-centered generation. I agree that growing up with the internet and social media have made us different, but only in outlet, not in principle. Millennials simply have a different place to direct their self-centeredness and insecurities than previous generations. So it’s a matter of perspective. Not to mention, with how connected the world has become, our actions are now advertised for the whole world to see. Basically, older people will always hate on young people (regardless of the time period) for the same qualitites they once had but have now matured past.

FoodieFactor

Millennials are Kind of Killing It

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in history. Granted, there’s a lot of factors that play into this, like ease of information and the internet, but there’s also some impressive leverage working against us. Education is astronomically expensive, forcing more students to incur debt every year. Not to mention the higher cost of living in general. All of this compounds to make gaining an education extremely difficult if you’re not born with a silver spoon.

The fact that millennials are still this hungry to be competitive in today’s economy with the deck stacked against us is admirable. So, I don’t know where this notion of “laziness” or “entitlement” comes from when the actions of the millennial generation say the opposite. The people I interact with in my generation are all motivated, hard-working individuals who have dreams they’re working toward. Yes, they use technology a lot, yes, they’re on their phones a lot, but who isn’t nowadays? I’m not saying millennials’ dependence on technology isn’t something to be worked on, but it’s hypocritical in today’s world to cite technology-use as a character flaw. I see just as many Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s on their phones when I’m in public. So, let’s look in the mirrora little more. Besides, many millennials use their phones and laptops to make a living.

Free-Photos

Is There Hope for Our Broken World?

Honestly, I think the generational debate gets too heated for no good reason. People do stupid and shitty things through all stages of life, it’s the nature of the beast. Millennials are growing up in a different world than previous generations, but that’s been true for every previous generation before us.

Old people will still lament about the good old days and young people will scrape through college to get an entry level job and then wonder forty years from now where their social security went. When it comes down to it, we’re all human beings; old, young, fat, short, ginger. And we’re all trying to figure out how to live in this world that can seem unforgiving sometimes. So, let’s stop ragging on each other and share a coffee with avocado toast.

Yes, I’m Mixed, Yes, You Can Stop Mentioning It

Photo Cred: PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

Our Perceptions of Others Trap Us

Okay, short rant. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it didn’t come up so often. Why does it come up so often? Well, it’s kind of written . . on my skin. Somehow, people think that my being mixed means they can say whatever they want. As if I’m in some undefined race purgatory that exempts me from being offended.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the repeated requests to touch my hair, or the blatant disregard for my opinion and the people that touch my hair without asking. But I can get over that. I’ve even gotten used to the “Where are you really from?” as if “Florida” isn’t an exotic-enough answer.

No, what really gets me is when people somehow decide they know how I should act.

“You’re the whitest black guy I’ve ever met.”

Or.

“You’re really bad at basketball for a black guy.”

Or my favorite.

“You’re like an Oreo! White on the inside, black on the outside!”

Sorry, but I must have missed the seminar growing up that would teach me to be “really” black. Because apparently my personality is “white.” Aside from that being an extremely dense comment, it’s derogatory and borderline discriminatory.

It perpetuates this mindset of everything being black and white. Literally. We draw cultural, societal, economic and caste lines still based upon race. And the larger racial issues, the widespread problem of implicit bias, starts with small prejudiced concepts like this.

I understand maybe it’s funny for you seeing someone mixed who enjoys reading books, writing, talking about social issues and being in nature. Because we don’t associate those with being “black,” do we?

Or how shocking it is because I like music artists who happen to not rappers be (God forbid). Yes, my ears also enjoy the sound of the acoustic guitar in indie music and the occurence of melanin in my skin doesn’t mean I listen to rap and only rap. I listen to whatever sounds good.

It’s this belief that somehow clinging to racist subculture will be funny. Hint: it’s not. Especially when it comes from someone who—quite frankly—has never had their habits questioned because of their race. So, without further ado, here’s a short list of the top things that annoy the hell out of me.

Yours Truly

Things That Bug Me

1) You don’t have to try and fist-bump me or go full on LeBron handshake when you meet me. A handshake is fine, really.

2) Please don’t ever, ever, use race as an icebreaker. Because, quite frankly, it’s tacky, uncomfortable, offensive and just not funny. Making mention of how few other black people there are in the room does not break the ice.

3) Oh? There’s a black girl in one of your classes? You’re right! This must mean we’re automatically compatible. By all means, set us up!

4) Yes, I understand when I walk into a room I am often the only person of color in the room. Staring does not change this fact.

5) Parents of girls I have dated: asking your daughter “how she feels” about dating me due to my skin color and “if she’s okay with it” is just poor judgment. Oh and racist, yes, it’s also racist.

6) Girls I have dated: most people consider it pretty shitty when someone goes out with you just to say “I’ve kissed a black guy” and then never talks to you again.

7) Citing the course of history to “prove” that black people have lower IQs.

8) Saying that I look like _____ (insert random black icon who I look nothing like).

9) Asking me for permission to say nigga. If you have to ask, just don’t.

10) Acting shocked when I say I don’t like watermelon or Kool-Aid. Or really, just bringing that up in general.

Micro-Racism

Basically, just don’t be a dick. I understand a lot of things done and said to me have been done out of ignorance and not out of any actual ill-will against me. However, racism on the basis of ignorance doesn’t make it not-racism. Let’s call it micro-racism.

I’m very aware and proud of my mixed heritage and culture. When I meet someone new, I don’t distill who they are down to their skin color and then make assumptions on how they should behave based upon that. So, please, don’t do it to me. Because one day you might read a post where someone calls you out for your micro-racism.

The Rise of the Freelance Economy

Photo Cred: trinhkien91 on Pixabay

Freelance is Popular, Really Popular

There’s a trend rising in the economy, especially within members of my own generation. Millennials love freelancing. Like, a lot. And when you look at the type of work freelance often entails, it’s no wonder.

An estimated 47% of all freelancers are millennial, the most out of any other generation. Everyone from graphic designers, to writers, photographers, and website builders are finding a place in the freelance economy.

But why is freelance predicted to be the majority portion of the workforce by 2027 (https://tinyurl.com/ybcmfx92) and why are millenials filling the majority of the demand in the freelance economy?

It’s in the DNA of Freelance

The rise in freelance work can be attributed pretty closely to the type of work freelance is. It tends to be creative, free, and less structured than the rest of the economy. A lot of people are beginning to see the lackluster nature a lot of traditional “9–5s” have. The hours are often more than they’d like. The pay is never as good as they want. The time-off is always too little.

This craving for freedom and for potentially higher-paying work is leading labor to the freelance sector of the economy. People are using skills either newly-developed or long-held on websites like Fiverr or Upwork to sell their skills. I think this shift in less-structured work and payout is indicative of a wider change in what we value as an economy.

Photo Cred: rawpixel on Pixabay

Quality Matters

It’s a lot easier to be jobless when freelancing, especially if you’re not too good at you what you do. Freelance work is skill-centered, meaning it relies on possessors of said skills to speak up and offer their skills for a price. It’s also skill-centered in a literal sense, the more skilled you are at what you do, the more clients and higher payouts you’ll likely receive.

This is a stark difference from the kind of corporate grooming America has seen for the last half-century. In the good ol’ days, you entered a company with not much actual skill, but with plenty of education and a shiny new bachelor’s degree under your belt. Then you learned the skills necessary to do your job as they were taught to you by the company.

There’s no boss but you in freelance work. If you don’t have the skills necessary for a certain job, you either learn them, or you don’t get paid. It can be a lot more daunting than traditional work, but also more rewarding depending on your style of work.

Photo Cred: Free-Photos on Pixabay

Why Millennials Freak for Freelance

Millennials love freelance so much because it lines up almost perfectly with our values and ideals. Millennials are often touted as the generation that can’t afford assets, the generation who lives at home longer than any other, or the ones who won’t be cashing a dime out of social security.

This is a topic for another post (that I will write), but I’d argue that those are all results from forces outside of our control. For all the heat the younger generation gets, millenials are the most educated generation. We value learning and gaining new skills.

Freelance also coincides with the free spirit in a lot of millennials. Our generation, for whatever reason, values freedom of thought and expression and the ability to work in an unrestricted environment. All of these are available in freelance work.

For the generation that grew up with or was at least heavily exposed to the internet, it’s a hub where we can offer doing something we enjoy for a livable wage. I can’t deny I’d love to see an economy where more of us can do what we’re passionate about, utilize our specific skills, and enough money to live. On our terms and on our timeline.

Minimalism: When Less Is So Much More

Photo Cred: bohemienne on Pixabay

What is It?

Along with all of the cat memes and political topics that pervade our modern world, you’ve probably heard of minimalism. Trust me when I say it’s more than a hip buzz-word, or the latest trend. It’s more than the belief that everything in the world is evil and perverse and the only way to live a happy life is to be an ascetic living separated from everyone you know.

Minimalism is the concept of value. It’s accepting things into your life that enhance your experience in a positive way and rejecting the things that don’t. That simple.

Although, it’s often associated with physical goods and consumerism (and that’s definitely a big part), it’s more a law that guides you to focus on what adds value to your life. And with so many things that seem to take from our wells rather than replenish, minimalism is a welcome concept for many.

Clear Your Cache

So, what exactly falls under the umbrella of minimalism? Well, anything really. People, places, things, jobs, relationships, etc. The purpose of minimalism is to clear away all the extraneous things in your life that keep you from being as happy as you could be.

As human beings, we’re natural hoarders. Hoarders of what we think will make us happy or what we feel we must keep in our lives. We hold on to guilt, pain, toxic relationships, meaningless items and other things that serve to clutter our lives.

When we reach the point where we can let go, then we realize how we didn’t need those things all along. We see how much happier we are without them. Let’s use the example of material goods, since it’s an easy scapegoat.

Photo Cred: vacdll on Pixabay

When Every Day is Black Friday

It’s easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and not see it for the damaging principle it is. Our lives have become so full of stuff that we can’t fathom not having the things we do.

Every year, tech companies release updates to their products, making the current one obsolete. Mind you, not obsolete in a valid sense, but obsolete in the sense of social utility. Having last year’s phone or smartwatch means you’re out of date. And this may not seem like a big deal until you see someone with the new gadget and everyone is ogling at the thing. There’s always a little piece of us that says, “It’d be nice to have that. My phone is fine, but that one does such-and-such a thing.”

It’s gotten to the point where our lives revolve around stuff, whether we realize it or not. We want a better job so we can make more money so we can get the better house, or the better car, or the house boat, or the trailer and on and on it goes. It’s this cycle of wanting more and more that leaves us fundamentally unsatisfied. A lot of people can relate to this unsatisfaction, but it’s hard to place it when all we see around us in advertising is how we should be consuming more.

It Ain’t Good for Anyone

If it’s not enough that our compulsive consumption habits are making us deeply unhappy, then let’s take into account what effect our consumption has on the environment. It’s simply not sustainable.

We are leveling more forests than ever before, releasing more CO2 and methane than ever before and producing more waste than ever before. And all this with no sign of slowing down.

I have to check myself on a regular basis and remind myself that the things I consume come from somewhere. Someone had to gather the raw materials and refine them before the product ends up on a shelf in colorful packaging. It’s easy for me to forget the cost of my consumption when my only interaction with the product is buying it. It’s an amazing result of our modern world, that we can buy something without taking any part in its production or without knowing where it came from; but much of it is a fallacy.

For all the economists out there, you’ll know the term, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a cost. Everything.

Photo Cred: scottwebb on Pixabay

Downsize Your Life

The good news is, there’s a solution to all this: consume less and consume more responsibly. Becoming a minimalist doesn’t mean renouncing the world and living in a cave, but it does mean living a happier, more fulfilling life with less. Less clutter, less stuff, less negativity, less harm to the environment.

It can be as simple as going through your closet and donating all the clothes you never wear. Maybe it’s deciding that you don’t actually need that new gadget. Or it can be as drastic as downsizing your life, deciding to make less money at a job you enjoy more so you can live in a smaller home and have more time for your family.

Basically, minimalism is a personal decision that will look different for everyone. Keep what you really value in your life and expel anything that’s extraneous. As long as it makes you happier, then you’re doing it right.

You Don’t Really Know Stuff, You Just Think You Do

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My Existential Crisis

Guys, I don’t really know anything. Not really. I mean, I think I know stuff, I believe I know things, but it’s really just me filling that void inside me that knows it won’t truly know anything.

And that bugs me because I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to things like that. I research like a maniac when I make a stance on something. I have to look at all sides of something before I make any kind of decision on where I stand, but today I had a chilling thought: I don’t actually know anything for sure.

I mean this in the practical sense. I can read studies and counter-studies, look at all sides of an argument, but on some level, I’m trusting what other people come up with.

Trust Me

How do I know that carbs are metabolized into fat if they’re not used for energy? Well, I read it. And I whole-heartedly believe that, even though I don’t have any experience or empirical evidence in my life to demonstrate the truth of that to me. For a lot of my knowledge, I rely on the expertise and honesty of others.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I just want you to break down your thought-process enough to where you realize that there are very few things you actually know. As an evolving society, we share knowledge and experience to grow together. In that sense, human beings have a sort of hive-mind. There’s a constant exchange of information and wisdom happening 24/7. Something is discovered, something gets refuted, and on and on it goes.

Photo Cred: sasint on Pixabay

Gimme That Knowledge

Aside from the weird, meta-physicial anxiety it gives me to know that very little of what I consider my “knowledge” is actually verifiable, there’s a certain humility to it that I love. This is how the world works. This is how intelligent beings operate. We give the knowledge we have to others so they don’t have to experience the same things. Good and bad.

As a collective, as a species, we are a young toddler fumbling through the cosmic uncertainty. But our ability to learn from one another is what gives us such an edge. Animals do it too. When one ape learns that she can use a certain branch to get to fruit high up in a tree, she demonstrates it to others so they all can benefit. The other apes didn’t need to have that exact experience to trust her judgment. By trusting the knowledge she gained and shared, they were all better off.

1984 or 2018?

What’s difficult with humans is motive. We’re extremely intelligent, but that also gives us the capacity to deceive and lie. Where and who we obtain our knowledge may be as important as the information itself. How do we judge what is credible and what isn’t?

I certainly don’t have all the answers and don’t claim to, but we have to be careful in an age when information is so easily obtained and shared. When Joe Shmoe can share his thoughts and opinions from the interior of his sedan on Facebook and everybody takes it as fact, we have a problem. What I love about knowledge and information is that it can be corroborated. A fact is a fact and if you can find other sources that verify a piece of information, it’s a good sign. Still not a guarantee, but a good sign.

I’m sure Orwell is turning in his grave to hear phrases like “alternative facts” being used. That’s dangerous ground to be on because there is no such thing. That’s basically the equivalent of saying:

“That’s a lie.”

“No, it’s not. It’s an untruth.”

There are always drawbacks with progress. We have the great privilege to have almost unlimited access to information, but we have to be responsible with how we release and consume this information.

I don’t think things are as bad as they seem sometimes, i.e. altruism isn’t dead. We really live in an amazing time where the ability to stay conscious and informed is easier than ever. Just remember though, you may think you know things, but how can you be sure? And with that mind-bending thought, I bid you all adieu.

Why Everyone Should Meditate

Why Everyone Should Meditate

Photo Cred: NeuPaddy on Pixabay

Don’t Be Scared of Your Thoughts

Most people think meditation and they think lotus flowers, Himalayan monks, and chakra points. Aside from all those things being objectively awesome, that couldn’t be farther from the modern reality.

Meditation, at its deepest level, is the acceptance of oneself and one’s surroundings. It’s the reverential: “I’m okay. It’s okay.”

It’s easy in today’s world to neglect the Self. And not neglect yourself as in lack of personal care, but neglect the Self in the sense of not taking time to bewith oneself. Soul-search. We all have insecurities and emotional deficiencies, but our culture is built on avoiding those at all costs.

We thrive on distraction. If there’s ever a moment where it might be unpleasant to just sit and think, you never have to. You have Instagram. Queue Facebook. Oh, hello there Twitter. Can’t forget about Reddit. Face it, what would you do without Snapchat? Hell, you even have Medium!

All these resources provide a great way to socialize and network, blow some steam even, but they can also be escapes. It’s much easier to run from the scary or uncomfortable parts of your psyche than it is to face them head-on.

Just Be

Meditating is the epitome of just being. You don’t do anything. You don’t say anything. You don’t strive for anything. You simply are. It’s effortless. And if it’s not, it’s not meditation.

Photo Cred: sasint on Pixabay

I like to think of it like water. Let’s start with water as runoff from melting snow high in the mountains. From the moment the water melts from the ice, it follows the path of least resistance. The water never tries. It lets gravity take it where it will, and by doing so, it can carve grooves into rocks, form massive canyons, create frothing monster rivers. I doubt many people would deny the power water has on our landscape, yet it does all this by simply letting go.

Balance

This is how meditating should be, and that’s really the only requirement. Sit down and let your thoughts take you where they will. Let it be effortless. Relinquish some control for a few minutes (which is a foreign concept in the 21st century). Silence, or even better, turn offthe little box that captures so much of your attention every day. In essence, do nothing.

There’s the dichotomy I love in meditation: do nothingas opposed to always be productive. And by doing nothing you will achieve far greater things. Giving our mind and our bodies the time to reboot can have some amazing effects. Instead of slugging through the day trying to be so productive, we can take a few minutes, 2 or 3 times a day to just sit and be. Be with our Self. Then we return to activity. We resume whatever we were doing before.

It’s this balance between rest and activity, being and doing that creates a sense of fulness, of fulfillment.

There’s No “Right Way” but Here’s How I Do It

There’s no “right way” to meditate. I know people who listen to guided meditations, some people just sit down and focus on their breathing, some like to do it in groups. These are all valid and viable ways to meditate.

Photo Cred: terimakasih0 on Pixabay

I practice something called “Transcendental Meditation” or TM for short. It’s based on ancient wisdom from the Vedas (ancient Hindu scripture), but without getting too technical it’s based on the use of a mantra.

A mantra is just a word (more like a sound, really) that one uses to guide the meditation. You repeat the mantra in your head until your mind inevitably gets distracted by a thought. Your mind will be lead down a thought train until you realize you’re meditating. Then, you simply return to the mantra. So, even in a single meditation, there’s this cycle of activity and rest, activity and rest.

Hurry Up and Do Nothing

In the end, I think we all know we need to disconnect a little more. Meditation is a great way to do so. It’s worked for a lot of people, it’s worked for me, it’s worked for countless people for thousands of years who helped develop this ancient knowledge.

But, like anything, all the knowledge in the world won’t do any good unless it leads to action. If you can get to the point where you’re sitting down, sans-smartphone, ready to meet your Self, that’s the whole battle right there. The rest, well that’s just hurrying up to do nothing.

Ahimsa

Yes, You Read That Correctly Okay, let's start at square-one: what in the world is "ahimsa?" Friends, Romans, Countrymen, let me introduce you to a beautiful concept I discovered recently. Ahimsa is the concept of compassion to all living things. It comes from Sanskrit "himsa" which roughly translates to "injury" or "harm" ahimsa being the opposite of this. So, "to cause no harm or injury."

I discovered ahimsa while browsing the web one day and initially filed it under the "Read About Later" section of my brain and promptly forgot for a week or two. A few days ago I actually got to reading about the topic and I loved it more than I expected. I love the simplicity behind it. Compassion. Plain and simple. Strive to cause no harm or injury to those around you.

The Beauty of Ahimsa

Ahimsa is more than just the opposite of violence. It's compassion in a very full sense of the word. Ahimsa extends beyond the self to encompass all living things. It's an important concept in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism which attest that all living things have a spark of the divine in them, an underlying energy that connects all things. So, under ahimsa, to hurt another living thing is like hurting yourself in some way. That's pretty out there, but it brings a beautiful rationale to the whole concept.

Where the Himsa Is Our Ahimsa?

Ignoring that really bad sub-title, the question is still a valid one. Where is our compassion? This isn't to say most of the people in the world are void of compassion and are degenerate reprobates (say that five times fast), it's just to say that our compassion and kindness to people, animals, things, have certain bounds.

I'm sure most people have the basic human compassion to help a person in need directly in front of them. Or even the compassion to go out of their way to sacrifice something of theirs for the benefit of someone else. I believe the majority of people are inherently good. Bob Marley would literally hand out money from his house in Kingston, Jamaica to people who needed it. They would line up in the street for it. He was famous for saying that he didn't lock his doors. People would ask him in interviews why that was and he would say something to the effect of, "I don't want to think the worst of people."

Please don't take this as an invitation to leave everything you own unlocked, but it shows the kind of mindset Marley had and how he viewed other people. Where I think we lack some compassion is where we draw socio-political lines in our society. The dichotomy can be mind-boggling sometimes.

Republican                                                Democrat

Rich                                                               Poor

Beautiful                                                       Ugly

Obviously, there are a ton more examples. But these are just a few that are clearly defined lines in society. Somehow it's easier for us to justify showing less compassion to people that we consider on the opposite side of the spectrum from us.

A Practical Approach

Ahimsa has many implications in the way we live our lives today. I think we can all afford to be more compassionate with other people, especially people with whom we disagree. Ahimsa is a beautiful separation of a person for who they really are and our perception of that person. It can teach us to love people for their inherent value as a human being. To hell with race, or social status, or political inclination, they're a member of the human family so, I'm going to love them. There's real power in that.

I would be remiss if I didn't include some unapologetic vegan plug. But really, for me, and this is important to stress, for me, part of ahimsa extends beyond just human beings but to animals as well. Personally, I wanted to make sure I was limiting as much suffering as I could and not consuming animal products anymore was a huge part of that. Now, I stopped eating animal products before I learned about ahimsa and there are a myriad of reasons why I made that decision, but it was a great reaffirming concept to discover.

The little things in our life can end up having a large impact. Even with bugs in my apartment, it takes me an extra minute or two to let the bug outside instead of killing it and flushing it away. It's a small thing, but it contributes to my over-all feeling of well-being knowing that I'm trying to limit suffering and show compassion to all things.

I recommend doing some reading on ahimsa. Whether or not it takes the form of any large change in your life, it's still some positive reading. If nothing else, it may just improve your mood.

I'm Rich

And Other Realizations About My Western, 21st Century Privilege I've been fortunate enough to visit a few other countries in my life. I love seeing other people speak their mother tongue, eat food that's strange to me, see centuries-old architecture. Most of the time when I travel, it's pretty laid-back and my thoughts swirl around a certain cathedral or the intricacies of bagged milk (looking at you Canada). But every now and then I visit a place that, for better or for worse, makes me feel rich.

And not even rich in the I-have-a-smartphone-and-continual-access-to-wifi sort of way. I mean in the part of me that's thankful to walk around where I live and not see trash everywhere. Or broken-down brick buildings. Rich in the sense that I drew the cosmic lottery when I was born. I was born in the United States of America, where even the poorer members of our country are miles ahead of other countries.

Gratitude

Seeing some people in those situations has given me real appreciation for how fortunate I've been. I entered the world with a head-start on so many people. Clothing, food, water, education, these were all offered to me without question the moment I was born. That is a form of privilege. Undeniable. Unequivocal.

And the purpose of this article is not to spread guilt about being genuinely fortunate. I don't think that's beneficial for anyone. I want it to spark thought about what more we can do for those who have not been dealt the same hand in life. My gratitude doesn't lead me to guilt, it leads me to change. Change my viewpoint of the world, change my actions. It leads me to have more empathy for everyone.

The Ignorance Bubble

It's so easy in our technology-driven world to be trapped in a bubble of ignorance. A bubble of comfortable complacency. And I'm no different! I get so distracted about scrolling through my Instagram feed for the funniest meme, or worrying about the intricacies of my everyday life that I can forget the plight of so many other people (can you tell that I'm listening to the great Bob Marley as I write this?). It's interesting how everything in our society is made to pull our attention and then return that attention to ourselves. The clothes I have aren't good enough, I'm not fit enough, I don't socialize enough. By keeping us distracted on their ads and, in turn, ourselves, we become crippled from seeing the broader world. From making actual change.

It's easy to become lulled into a state of quiet ignorance. Other people's problems don't matter because they're not affecting me. This thinking, intentional or not, deprives us of empathy and the drive to help others. A thought-process born out of ignorance doesn't necessarily mean innocence.

So What?

Once again, the purpose of this isn't to increase unneeded guilt. But hopefully it's a rallying cry for people to make personal introspection. I know that just from writing this, I'm going to look up local non-profits and organizations that work to better people's lives. Obviously that can mean a lot of things, but it's about starting where you are. I know I have to do something that feels bigger than myself. Because when compared with the rest of the world, I'm rich.

Desire

Do What You Love, but Not Really... My thoughts of late have been focused a lot on desire. My main gripe with desire is how we talk about it our whole lives, and then we directly do things that contradict those desires. How many can conjure up this memory:

You're a wide-eyed child. There's something wistful about everything in the world. You're curious and you don't know enough about how the "world works" to not see the world for what it is: unbridled beauty. The world, the whole of it, is good.

So, someone asks you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

And your mind, whether you know it or not, moves to the thing (or things) you love most. You say, "astronaut" or "archeologist", "singer," "poet," "president."

Don't you see the beauty in that? Children—human beings—automatically vie for something they love. Something that fascinates them, that captures their attention. Children understand better than anyone else to never ignore that fiery feeling in your chest when something excites you. When you're passionate about something. When did we lose that?

 

The Death of Desire

Practicality became the death of our desires. At some point, we're all told to be "practical" and "realistic." Somehow we equate that with giving up on what you love and focusing all of your energy on finding a profitable career. I'm not saying money isn't important, it is. It's hard to do much of anything in today's world without some amount of money and the people who are struggling to make ends meet know how important it is; but there's something to be said for following your dreams, as cliché as it sounds. What happened to passion? What happened to wanting something so bad you work your ass off and do just about anything to make it a reality?

I'm a firm believer that belief leads to action which leads to reality. If people followed through on their passions, if they ignored the pressures of our modern consumerist society and actually worked for what they wanted, we'd live in a very different world. I guess you could call my thinking pretty idealistic, utopian even. Of course everyone would love to follow their dreams, but we just don't live in that kind of a world.

 

My Epiphany

I think that's a cop-out. I believe we're more powerful than we think we are. There's a certain paradigm shift that happened in my mind about a year ago and it goes something like this: I was stressing about my next semester in school because what I wanted and what I felt like I should do were conflicting. I wanted to be a writer, I have since I was thirteen. But my whole life I was always told to go to college for something practical because if you don't, you'll end up a starving artist with nothing going for him. I believed this lie for years. I struggled with self-worth and self-esteem because at every turn it seemed like what I wanted to do with my life had zero social utility, i.e. it wasn't profitable.

Then, I thought of a simple phrase that changed my life. I have a choice. Think about that for a second. It was the purest thought I've had to this day. I realized that I could literally dictate the course of my life. I could cast aside the prejudice and expectations of others and do what wanted to do with my life. So, I dropped out of school. I made a website. I wrote a book.

And you know, from society's perspective, I haven't done much with my life. I don't make money from my writing yet, I'm not published, but I take value in the little ways my life has changed. I'm comfortable with myself and my decisions. I'm happy to be doing what I love everyday even if I struggle financially. I'm okay with the struggle because there's never a question in my mind if I'll make it, it's when. And I work everyday with this goal in mind and I fully believe it will become a reality for me. And if it doesn't, well, I'm still a hell-of-a-lot happier struggling to do something I love than to be making plenty of money doing something I hate.

 

Just Do You!

In the end, I want to see more people doing what they love. What they really love. If you really want to be a doctor or a stock broker on Wall Street, then go for it! As long as you're passionate about those things. But if there's something in your life that makes you unspeakably happy, something that you love so much you would do it your whole life anyway, then DO IT. To hell with everyone who tells you you're not gonna make it or it's not a smart move because at the end of the day, it's your life. And YOU have to be satisfied with it. No one else.

The Beginning

Where do I actually start? This blog started as a seed in my mind long before I actually made the first keystroke. I'm the kind of person who thinks all the time, about everything, like incessantly. As a writer, I guess the natural next step was to write those thoughts down and hopefully get some clarity for my stir-crazy brain. This first post serves as a sort of disclaimer. Everything that I post and talk about here will be primarily therapeutic: a place where I can come to terms with things that I think about on a daily basis. Almost like a journal. I don't pretend to be wise enough to push my thoughts or opinions on other people, so please don't interpret this as some This is What's Wrong With the World Campaign. While I may express some of those thoughts, they're still strictly my own opinion and viewpoint.

So, I guess the next question that surfaces is: why make a blog then? And what the hell does "Words About FreeDumb" even mean? Well, to answer the first question, I love reading and hearing how others think and what their opinions are on different subjects. But I've never been the type of person to really voice my own in fear that people will ridicule it, especially right now when a lot of discussions are so charged. I guess it's my humble hope that by putting some of my own thoughts out there, I can help people see things in a light they may not have considered before, meet people with similar viewpoints, and just generally spread some positivity out into the world.

With that said, let's talk about the title. It's a little tongue-in-cheek, to be honest. I think a lot about how we can be slaves to freedom. I mean in the sense that we have so many freedoms we can become lulled into a state of comfort and ignorance. We can take those freedoms for granted, not really thinking about the consequences of our actions or the price for that freedom. I know this all sounds very vague, but I'm purposely not getting into specifics because there will be plenty of time to discuss those as I write more posts.

Like I said, my main goal in writing Words About FreeDumb is to have a space where I can put my thoughts out there. Hopefully, I can also encourage some people to think outside the box, buck the status quo, things like that. If I'm the only person that ever ends up reading this: fantastic. If millions of people end up reading it and think I'm full of shit: fantastic. I'm just here to write, so write, I will.