Enlightened Conflict

what hath america wrought

October 22nd, 2015

ideas urinal

Aici lo tems s’en , va res l’Eternitat.”

<here, in this place, time moves away toward eternity>


“This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper. “

T.S Eliot

<“The Hollow Men”>


“Has it been in your experience that one’s affairs are always in order and that all life’s conundrums will eventually be made clear?”

David Stone







what hath god wrought


It is always interesting to read a historical book <What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe> and look at what is happening in today’s world.



Historical note on the title of the book.



The first telegraph message, sent by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse on May 24, 1844, over an experimental line from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, was “What hath God wrought?”



At over 900 pages and pretty academic in its detail and narrative … this book is not for the faint of heart <but very interesting if you can wade through it>. The book is heavy on political history and the role politics & government played, and didn’t play, in the transformation of American society.



Simplistically you see that government has always been functionally dysfunctional constantly lurching through the decisions a country needs to make as it struggles with private versus public, growth and the well-being of its citizens <all within a Constitutional construct>.



In addition … in looking at that one particularly period of history we see everything was magnified, or amplified, by developments in communications <mails, newspaper, books, and telegraph> and mobility/transportation <trains, steamboats, canals, and roads>.





Isn’t that what technology & the internet is doing today?




And that magnification created the same issues we seem to discuss today:

traffic hurry disconnectd going


–      In 1846 Philip Hone wondered if the rapid pace of change threatened cherished values …

“everything goes fast nowadays, even the winds have begun to improve upon the speed with they have hitherto maintained; everything goes ahead but good manners and sound principles.”




They discussed the delicate balance of empowerment and responsibility within the citizenship … the power of government to enable individualism all the while encouraging the citizenship to use their liberty & freedoms to seek improvement.




–      John Quincy Adams stated …

“Liberty is power and the citizens have a responsibility to use their freedom.
The spirit of improvement is abroad upon the earth. Let not foreign nations with less liberty exceed us in ‘pubic improvement’ … to do so would ‘cast away the bounties of providence’ and doom what should become the world’s most powerful nation ‘to perpetual inferiority.’

Even in religious environments ‘responsible capitalism’ was discussed:




–      As the author points out … even in 1826 preachers were teaching …

“work hard, be thrifty, save your money, don’t go into debt, be honest in business dealings, don’t screw down the wages of those who work for you to the lowest possible level, if you manage a surplus be faithful stewards of your bounty and generous to causes.“





All the foundation things of capitalism done the right way and economic growth without sacrificing values to a better society.




The book does a nice job reminding everyone of the challenges any government faces.



–      Tocqueville expresses concern with the future of a democratic government.sheep

“… it rarely forces one to act but it constantly opposes itself to one’s action; it does not destroy it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize , it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces the nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”




Mostly, as I read about a country’s transformation, I was reminded that change is never easy and in the midst of progress you do right things and wrong things and there are consequences for all <and you inevitably have an opportunity to ‘wrong the rights & right the wrongs’>.



It reminded me that we all adapt.



Countries also. Just look at capitalism.



America developed a prosperous example for capitalism and ultimately exported the example. Other countries then adapted the idea creating a customized capitalism to accommodate their needs, wants and desires <which, by the way, may not match America’s>.






America exported capitalism …. not values or rights <or democracy>.


Economics is what inevitably changed behavior because as country leaders desired people to be more productive <so they could be more competitive globally> they inevitably had to give them more rights, liberties and avenues to do so.



This means that the expansion of rights was driven by economics … and only curbed by that particular country’s government ideology <or the country’s overall culture>.



I mention that because we Americans tend to look outwards with a sense of righteousness … and the outside world states unequivocally … I do not want to be exactly like you.

being yourself cahnging



I struggle to understand why we in America don’t get this.


Our book stores and amazon are strewn with self-help books shouting “being yourself … don’t be someone else!”“learn from the best but be nobody but yourself.’



In other words … learn the shared learning and implement as an individual.






Are countries really any different? Why wouldn’t we expect another country to want to maintain its own character and way of doing things?



In addition.



The book reminded me how grumpy I get with people who continuously claim <loudly> that America is declining <i.e., going into the shithole>.



I never really thought of us as a country of whiners, pessimists and blamers <finger pointers>.



Context and perspective … the book once again reminded me of this from a historical perspective.



The book reminded me that in the 19th century there was a relatively balanced global power <hmmmmmmmmmmm … kind of like where we may be heading today?>. Oh, and yes, there was a ‘global economy’ at that time.



And the 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power.



The United States was the only country able to project military force globally, it represented more than a quarter of the world economy and had the world’s leading “soft-power resources” in its universities and entertainment industry.



America didn’t purposefully build the imbalance … the imbalance was opportunistic and reflective of contextual situations.



What that means is that no one truly knows much about social engineering and how to “build nations.”


The transformation of America in the 1800’s certainly reminded me of that.


At times it appears like America reached its strength position despite itself.



Therefore … if we cannot be sure how to ‘build a nation’ or have some formula to improve the world hubris is dangerous. It certainly seems like what is required is a careful understanding of the context of change.






Here is what I know <and believe>.



Anyone, and any country, will be successful if it finds its pride cloaked in humility <not hubris>.



I cannot remember where I found this quote but it seems to highlight what Americans should avoid at all costs <domestically as well as internationally>:



“Sweep in as if emissaries of light bringing salvation to the natives living in a dark forest. You think you are heroes because people ask for your help and advice. You think that worth works for you will automatically work for everyone else. Your teeth are whiter and your clothes are better and suddenly that permits you to be the ultimate arbiters of public morality.

You assume America, and capitalism, is the ultimate model and you end up judging everything simply by how close it comes to your own ideal. You begin to think you have carte blanche to remake whatever you want to remake in your own image.”


Speaking of humility.



We, everyone in a country leadership role, lurch back and forth between what is right and what is wrong all the while every step taken on a path with a sign that says “what is best for the country & people this way.’


And each step nowadays seems to be burdened by this word ‘compromise.’



Compromise implies ‘giving up something that is right or the best.’



It seems like it would be better to recognize that there is no one right way and no one right answer in heading down this path … all head down the path … it is just an argument over what shoes I want to wear that particular day.



maybe we have no ideaAnd that is … well … it all seems just fucking insane.



It seems like maybe those spewing forth the idea that the other’s ideas are stupid and the path to greatness is ‘this way’ …and it is the only way … could drink from the cup of humility and accept that our past has certainly taught us that there is no one way nor right way.



Our past is strewn with greatness intermingled with some dark aspects.



Greatness doesn’t reside in our actions or accomplishments … it resides in one’s belief in hope & the future. Greatness resides in the ability to keep an eye on the horizon and the ability to put one foot in front of the other, sometimes not knowing where your foot will exactly land, on this path of ‘better.’




Ralph Waldo Emerson … “America is a country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”





Daniel Walker Howe writes on page 853 … “Americans live by hope for the future but their conflicting hopes for their country and their own lives provoke dissension.
Americans are constantly proposing new ideas and then wrangling over them.”



America is, and always has been, a country of the future.



America will, and always has, wrangled over ideas and hopes.



We always have and always will.



The moment we accept that, and embrace that, we accept dissension and accept that sometimes we will get it right … and sometimes we will get it wrong … because … well … while maybe being a great nation we are inevitably a great big group of people trying to do the best they can without having any specific formula for what to do.



The news of the decline & demise of America is tiring. Or maybe better said “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” <Mark Twain>.but yes ideas matters debate hugh






That’s why I hack my way through 900 page history books … to gain and maintain some perspective.




Sometimes I learn something.


But mostly it gives me some perspective on what is happening today.
One last random thought.




I am not a speechwriter nor am I politician <most likely not qualified for either> … but … it slightly puzzles me that we don’t hear more Ralph Waldo Emerson or Adams or … well … many of the great American philosophical thinkers of the mid 1800’s quoted or used to make a point.



They had the ability to capture the American spirit, the American desire to ‘do things’, the American power of individualism and the American belief that government supports to ‘better.’



But, hey, that’s me.

And if they did … well … then I couldn’t use all their great words and I wouldn’t have a blog.

75000 dollars (and the haves and have nots)

October 17th, 2015

rich people paying rich people

“…. the very rich are different from you and me.”

F Scott Fitzgerald


“… it is not easy for men to rise whose qualities are thwarted by poverty.”


<55 AD-127 AD>


“… the doctrine of enlightened “self-interest rightly understood” was a part of America’s DNA from its founding.”

Reflections on Alexis de Tocqueville








This is kind of about the haves and have-nots … but mostly it is a reflection upon how the wealthy have little, or no, link to the reality of what everyday schmucks like me <non wealthy> think or feel.



That said.


The fact that an NBA star spent $75,000 for a ‘5 day get away’ made me sit back and shake my head saying to myself “… and wealthy people wonder why no god nooooothe everyday schmuck like me gets aggravated over the whole wealthy & inequality discussion?”



Set aside any herb Viagra drug discussion or the fact the getaway was at a brothel <both legal> because what a person wants to do in their personal time is their choice <whether I agree with it or not> … this is about $75,000 spent on one long weekend.



I have earned some very nice annual salaries in my past but this is the kind of money I cannot grasp even thinking about past salaries I had.


The most I maybe spent was 10% of this amount on a week long trip to Europe … and I didn’t part with that money casually.



Think about the fact that $75,000 out of pocket is a family of 4 who earns maybe $120,000 annually <taking out taxes & social security & deductions to get back to the $75,000 real cash on hand annually>.



Think about the fact that $75,000 out of pocket maybe allows one of my best friends to partially help pay for his 3 kid’s college degrees.



I think about $75,000 out of pocket to me <and pretty much any of my friends & acquaintances> … well … I cannot fathom how my life would be lived differently if I had it. Suffice it to say … it would be easier and I wouldn’t be plunking it down for one weekend of ‘getting away.’



And, coincidentally with regard to this $75k, according to a study <conducted by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and economist Angus Deaton> on Americans and how they evaluate their happiness, a salary of $75,000 a year is the magic number after which people’s day-to-day happiness no longer improves. According to their numbers, you won’t be any happier on a day-to-day basis if you’re making $75,000 or $750,000—though you’ll likely feel like you’ve got a better life overall.

My point?

With all due respect to someone who almost died … this jerk spent $75,000 on a 5 day getaway.

To circle back to Alexis de Tocqueville … self interest rightly understood this is not.






I do not begrudge people earning money.


I do not begrudge wealth.


I do not begrudge vacations and ‘needing to get away.’



On the other side of this discussion …  nor do I believe an ‘entitled mentality’ benefits any culture … let alone benefits the self-esteem & self-actualization of individuals. Working for something and getting it, or being fairly rewarded, creates better people psychologically.



But what I do know is that a culture with a healthy fairly distributed structure of wealth dream big and pass alongdistribution <low to high> creates a healthy economy and mindset. Research has shown again and again a natural distribution of wealth encourages people to work hard and achieve fair compensation for their efforts <and permits people to dream and also establish what they want in their minds as well as find some level of what they feel comfortable with>.



But I also know that research consistently shows that when wealth inequality reaches absurd scale it is detrimental to attitudes & behaviors <which inhibit economic growth and foster bad attitudes>.




$75,000 on one weekend.



I do want to bitch about the really rich today and wealth inequality.



But I’m not going to bludgeon people with statistics because I am fairly sure most of us have the gist of the issue.



I will point out two key wealth inequality thoughts:




– The growing gap between the poor and rich is a global phenomenon. According to Oxfam, the richest 1% have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014 and are on track to own more than the other 99% by 2016.




– In US, over the last three decades, the wealth owned by the top 0.1% households increased from 7% to 22% even as the wealth of the bottom 90% of households declined.




And I will also point out that even though I earned a good salary in the past <nowhere near some of these high numbers> I struggle to believe I can put myself into the shoes, let alone the minds, of the super wealthy. Shit. I am fairly sure 99.9% of us cannot.



I said that as a preface to me saying that I recognize that wealth or not … they have their issues & problems too.



I was reminded of this when I saw that some NYC therapist discussed the problems he discusses with his super rich clientele:




“If you are part of the 1%, you still have problems and they are legitimate to you. Even when you say: ‘I don’t have to struggle for money’, there are other parts of your life.

Money is not the only thing that defines you. Your problems are legitimate.”

Clay Cockrell therapist to the 1%




Here is the thing.



choosing shit


Although the 1% of the 1% have problems … they still have choices because of their wealth.



The 99.9% have no such choice … they just have to get on with getting on with it.



This makes me suggest that it’s not really the wealth that bothers me … it’s the way that money is spent.





And also maybe the fact that systems, and a world, originally conceived to serve everyone and give everyone a fair chance … can be ‘bought into’, redesigned and develop its own set of rules to favor not only the needs of the wealthy … and, maybe the worst, is being reconstructed for the protection of wealth and the wealthy.




My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions.

In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.

Warren Buffett





Simplistically … more wealth begets more wealth.



In it’s most sneaky way it does it in a way I call the double down of being wealthy.



What I mean is that the more money you have the more additional free shit you get <and, worse, wealthy people feel they are entitled to these things … uhm … yeah … I called it ‘entitlement’>.



Poor people … shit … everyday people … would be shocked if they knew all the perks rich people get simply for being rich.



Forget the tax breaks and loopholes a wealthy person has access to maintain their wealth.




Rich people often get paid to wear jewelry.



They get paid to lose weight.



They’re given free laptops and TVs.



They get ‘comped’ rooms or upgrades that eliminate expenses.



They get expense report reimbursements.

bullshit no way



The most ludicrous is when the celebrity wealthy get gift bags just for attending big award shows, bags filled with “goodies” worth $20,000 — which is more than a full-time minimum wage worker earns in a year.




Inequality has an even uglier side.



It’s pretty obvious to state that having more money affords you more food, more clothes, more housing, and more “stuff.”



But the richest families actually spend less on food, clothes, housing, and cars than the poorest families as a share of their income. The real difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich spend a larger share of their much larger income on insurance, education, and, when you analyze the housing component, mortgages—all of which are directly related to building wealth and preserving wealth.




The richest 10% spend much less of their income on food.


The richest 10% spend much more of their income on insurance <and relatively more than all but the very poorest on education>.



This means that when you have money you actually spend less on the stuff that ensures you survive and more on the stuff that ensures that you <and your children, possessions, and wealth> survive and thrive.



Poverty … shit … even income-stressed … means no future … only a Life lived in the present tense.



While we, who have money, can suggest those with less money should work harder, be smarter and look to the future … reality dictates that the anxiety of having no money all the time forces poorer families to keep focused on immediate needs & concerns.



Bottom line?



The poor spend relatively more on what will keep them alive.



The wealthy spend more on what will keep them rich.



This leads me to address the “big” issue.



Or what some people call “redistribution” <which I do not>.


It is admittedly a tricky discussion.


It can quickly devolve into a socialist type discussion. But it is not.



It is as simple, and complex, as fairness. And I mean fairness not in wealth distribution but rather social mobility.



Since 1980 America has been experiencing a significant increase in income inequality. In 1980 the top 5% represented 16.5% of total national income and the bottom 40percent represented 14.4percent. By 2008 the 16.5 was 21.5 and the 14.4 dropped to 12%.


Suffice it to say the distribution worsens when you look at wealth rather than income.



Attach that to the fact that the United States ranks worst among major economies in social <upward> mobility. Yup. America now lags behind many European countries in the rate of upward mobility <so much for the “land of opportunity” concept>.



Basically the lower end of the middle class truly is getting, and had gotten, royally screwed.


Those with just a high-school degree or less have seen their relative earnings sink.


odds 1 richAnd over the past decade those who attended college but did not earn a degree have also seen their earnings sink.


Incomes at the top, meanwhile, rose significantly during the whole period.
The result was a dramatic divergence in fortunes.



Please note … this is about capitalism … and it isn’t.



Increasing income inequality is certainly a reflection of a broader transformation in how capitalism is transforming itself in the 21st century.



While capitalism has certainly offered tremendous benefits – it has helped increased standard of living as well as lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper, and new, goods and services to everyone – it has also hollowed out the incomes and wealth of the American lower-to-mid middle class.


All the while the rich at the very top got richer.



Here is my main factoid.



The inequality can mainly be reflected in the fact that only 40% of American neighborhoods now have an average income within 20% of the national median … compared with 60% in the 1970s.



There are consequences on society <beyond just making people angry>.


Now … one could start asking me what is creating this deep lack of social mobility.





Think of something called ‘opportunity hoarding.’



Some guy named Matthew O’Brien wrote about “opportunity hoarding,” the idea that rich people are talented at doing all the right things you need to stay rich and make sure your kids get rich, too. Rich couples live in richer districts, read more to their kids, send them to better schools, hook them up with better internships, slide them into better entry-level jobs (or, better yet, into the family business), and finally pass down their insured and well invested wealth. Even education, the great American equalizer, makes for a poor equalizer. And it’s not only because wealthy teenagers are more likely to go to school. Young people born to rich families who don’t go to college are 2.5 times more likely to end up in the richest quartile than young people born to poor families who do go college.




But the real point with opportunity hoarding is that the wealthy, looking at the widening gap between the haves & the have nots, are more inclined to do whatever it takes to protect themselves from falling INTO that gap.


They hoard their opportunities as well as their wealth, therefore, others cannot shift into the space because it is blocked out.






The reality is that the market isn’t so good at making sure that the wealth that’s produced is being distributed fairly or wisely. Some of that wealth has to be reinvested back into education, so that the next generation has a fair chance, economy hey lookand reinvested into our infrastructure <which makes the economy efficient>, and provide some sort of safety net for those who lose out in a market economy.



Aw shit.



I didn’t want to rant about inequality … I wanted to rant about the absurd view the wealthy seem to have with regard to the world.



The super-rich have some absurdly distorted ideas about the world. They are, on more than average, to believe their achievements are the product of their superior brains and hard work.






When you end up talking about inequality and haves and have nots it becomes a convoluted passionate discussion.



The divide between the haves and the have-nots is nothing new in America, but in recent decades that gap has been getting wider as the middle class shrinks and the very richest Americans keep getting richer.





Inequality and ‘economic growth’ are inextricably tied … but maybe in the wrong way.



We’ve all been effectively told, and sold, that endless growth is essential to maintain and improve our quality of life.

This is not only absurd it also couldn’t be further from the truth.



We seem to forget that after World War 2 worldwide competition was relatively nonexistent therefore US companies could afford to pay average workers – with average skills – above-average wages, complete with pensions.



In addition the GI Bill got “single-family home ownership” started for the everyday working people. Before WWII single-family home ownership was not something the average common person strived for let alone even thought was possible.



These two factors created the largest middle class ever created. Affordable, one-family homes were built everywhere and millions of people all of a sudden had “good jobs” and were able to afford these houses being built.
Average people working on assembly lines, doing fairly simple work, were making house buying money.





And then the natural evolution of ‘if I have this I should be working toward this’ attitude kicked in <psychologically called ‘hedonistic adaptation’>.



Not only did we get used to owning a home we got used to a higher standard of living and we got used to ‘moving up the economic ladder.’



We were NOT used to finding comfort and staying at that comfort level.


We have come to accept moving up should be the one constant in our lives.


THIS is what we are always looking to go back to.


Just think about that for a second.


The average blue collar worker … the one with a high school diploma putting a nut on a bolt all day making enough to buy a house, two cars, yearly vacation, and dinner out every week … is that possible in today’s world? Is that even realistic?



We can talk about CEO pay, the 1%, and corporations all we want but maybe a part of it is that the good old days of average people living above-average lives are over.



I say that but I also want to remind everyone about some of these average everyday people.


poor and poverty

And we seem to forget as we look at the $75000 weekenders that the billion dollar profits that McDonald’s make are mostly created by the ‘burger flippers’ and NOT the shareholder. Yup. The real wealth creators are the ones who work long grinding hours <these are the people who are also living in the ‘present tense’ with regard to money>.



We sometimes seem to forget that even if everybody had a PhD we still need garbage men, plumbers and sewer workers. All of whom most certainly contribute more to society than say wall street speculators who make money off of making money <not making anything or doing anything>.



We seem to forget as we bitch & moan about subsidizing low-paid workers with food stamps and other ‘entitlement’ initiatives that our anger is directed at those who actually work 10 hours 6 days a week trying to make ends meet and sustain a family … rather than the companies and wall street groups that rake in billions of dollars.



We seem to forget about those things so well that we then decide to focus on people who do have wealth and go out of our way to protect it for them <because they earned it>.







I read somewhere that the True Measure of Any Society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.



And when I think about that I start thinking about the utterly despicable, self-absorbed actions of those who spend $75,000 on a long weekend.



I want a world of the future which will value real skills … and real morality.



In the end.



While there is certainly a higher moral road … the basic road business walks is ‘produce something and make money from it’ and that is the same basic road for a healthy society.



Wall Street makes wealth from wealth.



The everyday schmuck makes wealth from doing something.



That has to count for something … doesn’t it?



Only a sense of shared social sacrifice in the pursuit of ‘what makes this country great’ will generate the progress we need and desire.



When I see a headline that someone paid $75,000 for a long weekend <as I stare at my $136 electricity bill> I recognize today’s world is relentlessly driven and categorized by money. I know it shouldn’t be but I would have to be delusional to not recognize this.



We live n a world where if you do not earn and spend conspicuously you are failing.capitalism poor with money



We use material things as a substitute for feelings and hopes <why else would you go to a brothel for $75,000 or have a $25 million mansion for just you and your spouse>.



Our culture seemingly has a price tag for every dream.





I can feel compassion for the super-rich. They got problems too.



But if I got 99 problems I can guarantee you the 1 thing that would help resolve most of them would be $75,000 <and most of hte 99.9% would be raising their hand saying ‘hallelujah’ right with me> .




So please forgive me if I feel slightly less than compassionate when I see wealthy people spending $75,000 for one weekend of fun to ‘get away.’



“Self interest rightly understood.” $75,000 for a long weekend <at a brothel>.


Someone somewhere has lost sight of what is reality.

deciding what it means to be a successful human being

May 26th, 2015

keys to success

“To paraphrase someone smarter than me, who still knows nothing, the philosophical task of our age is for each of us to decide what it means to be a successful human being.

I don’t know the answer to that, but I would like to find out.


Ottmer <the futurist>


trying human being





Being a successful human being.



I don’t know the answer to that and I would like to find out.



What do I like about this?



It isn’t necessarily a positive statement … just a hopeful one.


With a dash of ‘realistic’.





Absolutely aspirational.



It is about seeking without being overtly motivational.  It is almost acerbic … but truthful and openly honest in its regard to ‘self.’



This also brings to mind something called ‘mental contrasting. ‘



Mental contrasting is contrary to positive thinking.



In fact … the research suggests convincing yourself <… all that positive psychological mumbo jumbo> is suggesting to yourself that life is meant to be easy … uh oh … which just makes it appreciably harder.



As I have pointed out in past articles … the best way to make personal progress is to balance optimism with some pessimism. Please note … that is different than ‘realism’ in that in the balancing you take some fairly risky steps based on optimism and the pessimism keeps you focused on some practicality. Realism is just some mumbo jumbo for deciding to reside in the wretched hollow of what is in between optimism and pessimism <doing nothing and taking no chances>.




In discussing ‘being a successful human being’ this actually means the whole idea that picturing the future you desire makes it more likely you’ll attain it … is wrong.



Again and again research has shown that making a fantasy of something you want can make it harder to achieve in reality.

stupid son of a bitch



Imagine yourself having a productive week … and you’ll accomplish less.



Imagine receiving a windfall of cash … and you’ll be less motivated to engage in the kinds of activities that might bring you money.






There’s nothing wrong with a bit of positive daydreaming if it makes you feel good as long as you don’t expect anything more than feeling good.



But the search for the answer of what it takes to be a successful human being is way more complicated than some trite soundbite.



It’s not passion.


It’s not happiness.



It’s not really any one word known in the human language.



It’s a feeling.


And maybe that’s where I struggle with all the trite ‘self-help’ and motivational and Life coaching stuff.



Because here is all I really know about becoming a successful human being.



Sometimes you come to a place where there are no right decisions and all paths lead to bad ends.


It sucks.


But … there you are.


wood path stone steps

And you still must choose your way.






You may not think you know how to make that choice but you do. Often you think you don’t know how because you look at it all in the wrong way.



The question is rarely “what should I do? … but rather ‘who do you want to be.’



And , in fact, you do know how to choose because when you think about it a little … really hard <maybe in the harsh light> you recognize you cannot control everything that will result from your actions … you can only control the actions themselves.


Therefore you shove all the other crap off to the side and ask maybe the only question you need to ask at this ‘make a choice’ point:



If you died down one chosen path … how would you want to be remembered?






It is here I offer an odd thought.






Maybe something not really mainstream type thinking.



Realistically many times part of choosing a path is ultimately having to walk down a path you have never walked before.



And hoping the shit you will face … you will face well.



But you cannot be sure because … well … you have never faced it before.



Therefore I bring up a version of dreaming.



Back to that thing called mental contrasting.



Mental contrasting actually seems to retain the most useful part of positive fantasizing. Mental contrasting helps you envision and clarify what you want by mentally reminding you how good it can feel to attain something.



But it also builds upon the motivating power of knowing what you have not yet attained … that you have some serious ground to cover.



Does this prepare you for the ‘who you want to be’ hard choices? Shit. Nothing truly prepares you for that but at least you have thought about it and hopefully that eliminates some of the more unpleasant surprises.



Mental contrasting also is a very individualistic dreaming type exercise. Putting you <mentally> in positions and clarifying what you need to do.



I say that because being a successful human being is an “I” thing … not an external thing.


“I don’t need anyone to hold me, I can hold my own.”


Ani DiFranco




In the end.



Having a discussion on what it means to be a successful person pretty much means we try and find words for something indescribable.








And there is a Russian word for that:



It means … well … nothing, not a thing, (not) anything <pronounced: [neesh-TOH]


There are no words to describe a successful human being.



Yeah, yeah, yeah … we toss around a lot of words but they all seem ‘less than’ they should. Why? Well. Because the concept of deciding what it means to be a successful human being is an indescribable thing.



We try and put words to it so that people have something to aim for.


Some words that at the end of the day they can hold up and point to.










Yeah … I say ‘nuts’ to that.



Let’s stop trying to describe what is indescribable.


stars and shrinking human

Being a successful human being is defined by you, with no words, because it is made up of choices & character.

And while we would LOVE to label it with a nice simple word … these are the type of things that are bigger than any word you can find in a dictionary.



And, in the end, you just gotta make the choice … and choices … in your search for that undefinable thing called ‘success as a human being.’



Do I know the answer to what it takes to be a successful human being?

Shit no.


But I surely would like to find out.

everyone needs a place

April 25th, 2015


created my world place

“Everyone needs a place.

It shouldn’t be inside of someone else. “

Richard Siken


“It’s the one thing we never quite get over: that we contain our own future.”

Barbara Kingsolver








This opens with a line from a poem … not a quote.



I love the line and I love this thought.

lost but better place


Far too often we seek definition from the outside … the outside world and people.


Metaphorically it means we far too often find our ‘place’ inside the outside.



It makes you wonder a little why we think someone else can build this space better than ourselves.


I mean … c’mon … who can build it BUT yourself?


<sigh … and yet we let others build it again and again>



We are born to build our own place because, frankly, there is nobody who can know you more than you.



You should not be molded by the eyes or thoughts of others.


You should build a place in which “you” is safe <I imagine the corollary thought is ‘do you really trust someone, anyone other than you, to build a place that will withstand the worst storms of Life?’>.



And while this may seem philosophical … it seems like nobody else CAN build it for you because … well … it is and always will be who you were and who you will be.



You are not only the architect of your fate but the architect of your space.


I am fairly sure you would not choose to build a home inside another home.


Why would you do so with yourself?



Sadly this conversation of ‘building your own space’ seems to almost always focus on what kind of person one is … in relation to other people or societal norms/expectations.


I am not going to suggest your relationship with other people or the outside world is irrelevant … just that you shouldn’t permit it to define your space.



I think it is important to define oneself as an individual … and avoid comparisons as much as possible … or at least with minimal comparisons.



We certainly have the power, the intellect & the knowledge to define ourselves.




Some people call his ‘find your own voice’ I kind of think it is find your own space.


You find your own home within you in which you sleep, eat, think, invite, kick out, party, cry and live.

life place and time


“When they opened the cadaver, they found a house.

A couple argued inside.

There was a rhythm to their words, like the beating of a heart.”

Barry Napier




By the way. While this thought sounds sensible and practical and … well… good … it is really hard.


Essentially this means the only promise you are making is to yourself and not to anyone else. You are not a metaphor, nor an excuse nor an example to others. But this also means you have to create on your own … and many people don’t think they are creative enough to build something strong or ‘right’ or beautiful <using traditional sense as the judge>.


It is difficult because you are judged first & foremost by yourself … and then you can decide whether you want to see if you meet the ‘promise’ that others & society feel like you should have made to them.



All my bullshit philosophical ramblings aside … I love the thought that no one should build their space inside someone else.



I love the thought this makes most people uncomfortable. It makes people feel uncomfortable because they know they are part of something bigger … and that ‘bigger’ MUST be smarter than … well … me. I mean c’mon … wouldn’t they know better than I whether I was good enough or fulfilling the promise of who and what I should be?



I also think it makes people feel uncomfortable because pretty much everyone <at least anyone I have ever met> has a storm inside them. A storm of who and what they will be. The lightning inside us scares us. The electricity energizes us at the same time. And we don’t know whether we are good enough, big enough, strong enough … for the storm inside us.


“We just have too much lightning crammed into our hearts.

Just want someone to put her ear to our chest and tell us how far away the storm is.”


Lauren Zuniga


love place in mind


Aw shit … I don’t know.



Lightning & storms are alternatively scary and exciting.



All I really know is that it is my storm … and I want my space for it to rage.

Enlightened Conflict