Enlightened Conflict

the oversimplification crisis

September 11th, 2017

 

occam economy choice simplify

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We miss out on the value of the message itself as a vehicle for driving virality.”

 

Jonah Berger

 

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“Say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

Bruce McTague

<author of “the shortest business book ever written”>

 

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So.

 

 

oversimplification wrongThis is about how we have a simplification crisis.

 

 

Ok.

This is about how we have an oversimplification crisis.

 

This crisis is making us … well … stupid.

 

 

Ok.

This crisis is making us stupider.

 

 

Look.

 

What I mean is that in a world in which we know that everything is complex, and more often than not, more complex than our own pea like brains can handle, we unerringly swerve toward simplistic headline conclusions and oversimplifications and absurd bullet point conclusions.

 

This surface skating intellectualism just makes us stupider.

 

Now.oversimplify assumption risk life business

 

We may convince ourselves we do this simply as a mental survival technique but I would argue, and I do, that it actually is the opposite of a survival technique … it is destructive behavior. It is destructive in that it destroys the overall thinking of what is actually a population quite capable of being intelligent, if not intellectual.

Yeah.

It makes us stupider.

 

I thought about this the other day because I have conversations with some incredibly smart and talented people who know a shitload more about more things than I could ever imagine and this topic came up. I note the smartness of these people to highlight how unusual it is that I can say something that actually can make a group of these people stop, be silent and then go “hmmmmmmmmmm.”

It is a rare thing.

 

And, yet, it happened the other day.

 

After some extensive conversation on North Korea, global trade challenges, Trump <of course> & foreign policy we opened the discussion to “what is the biggest challenge facing us …”

 

My thought drew some <thoughtful> silence.

 

I said “oversimplification.”

 

To me … oversimplification misleads and creates bad decisions and, worse, creates bad thinking <which leads to bad opinions, attitudes and thoughts>.

 

And I offered a couple reasons why I believe this is happening <I did this because if you can identify the issues you can find solutions>:

 

 

We have convinced ourselves we do not have time for complex

 

 

big fat waste of my time business show for itGoing back to the ‘destructive behavior’ thought I shared earlier …  oversimplification is anything but efficient. It actually demands more time in a variety of ways. The two simplest ways it does so is <1> the time we over invest attempting to isolate the simplest version of what is anything but simple and <2> the amount of time & energy we have to invest explain everything beyond the simplistic tripe initially offered, to thwart misguided behavior & reactions to the oversimplified offering & to redefine the oversimplification into bifurcated parts of the oversimplified whole.

 

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that we all have shorter, and shortened, attention spans.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that people best retain “one thing.”

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves in our perceived “never enough time” world we have to topline everything <to fit everything in>.

We do this destructive behavior because we have convinced ourselves that in a blizzard of nonstop things constantly vying for our attention the only way to capture someone’s attention is in some pithy soundbite.

 

Basically we have convinced ourselves that hollowing out an idea and a thought actually benefits not only the idea and the thought … but us!

 

This is fucking nuts. Absolutely crazy.

 

Unfortunately, and truthfully, some things are just too complex to communicate in a sound bite or in 3 seconds or less.

 

No matter how brief and simple you want to make it … well … it is neither brief nor simple. It is complex and sometimes the opposite of brief.

 

It isn’t just about telling a story.

 

Nor is it just about finding influencers to broker the story.

 

Nor is it just about practical value.

 

Nor is it just about emotion.

 

Unfortunately it is a combination of those things. Yeah. Effective communication is … uhm … complex.

 

 

We have convinced ourselves that simple & simplicity is reflective of common sense.

 

 

time to do it right do it overI admit.

 

I have never been shy about calling bullshit on the simplistic tripe being spewed under the guise of ‘expert advice’ or ‘common sense.’

 

That said.

I will suggest no topic has  been tortured more by common sense than simplicity.

 

 

Common sense suggests the simplest thing is the best.

 

Common sense suggests it is easier for a person to remember one thing and one word.

 

Common sense suggests in a complex world we humans crave simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests in a busy world we only have time for simplicity.

 

Common sense suggests a lot of nonsensical bullshit.

 

I will not argue that making something as simple as it can be is good but … well … simplistically … oversimplification is misleading and ultimately creates bad less-than-informed decision making AND thinking.

 

We have used this common sense simplicity bullshit for one simple reason — it serves us well in challenging the most established legitimate rule of Life & things. And that rule is “the world is complex.”

 

We embrace simplistic solution after simplistic solution, all labeled as ‘common sense ideas’, which are often counter to what an expert would suggest <which is often deemed “too complex”>…  only to find 90% of the time common sense was not only just simply wrong but also made us stupider.

 

I have written about simplicity and the complexity of finding the simplest way to communicate the complex many times and as I do so today I would remind everyone of what Jonah Berger offered us for a nifty sound bite compilation of sound bites to create a sound bite philosophy:

 

Here are his STEPPS for making anything go viral:

 

–          Social Currency: We share things that make us look good (even if that means pictures of our cat).

 

–          Triggers: Easily memorable information means its top of mind and tip of the tongue.

 

–          Emotion: When we care, we share.

 

–          Public: Built to show, built to grow.

 

–          Practical Value: News people can use.

 

–          Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.

 

And while this is about “making things go viral” it is actually about finding the simplest way to communicate complex shit in a way that it is actually retained in a cognitive way.

 

I would also note that this dos not reflect “one simple thing”, sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mindit does reflect the complexity of reality and the mind and it reflects how to … well … help make us less stupider.

 

Ah.

Cognitive way.

As in “we actually understand what it is we heard, saw or read.”

 

That is an important thing to ponder because over simplification cheats cognitive value as well as the value of whatever it is you have to offer people. Simplicity may be “memorable” but it doesn’t really lodge itself in anyone’s mind & memory in any meaningful way.

 

In fact.

 

The less depth you offer in your oversimplification the more you are at the mercy of the mind that decides to remember you. What I mean by that is if you don’t provide the depth the mind will create some perceptions around whatever it lodges in the pea like brain.

 

Uhm.

 

This means the pea like brain lodges only what is actually the brain’s perceptions of what to remember and not what you <a> know to be true, <b> think it may be important for that mind to know or <c> want the brain to store away in its mind.

 

faulty reasoning oversimplification overlookI imagine what I am talking about is some wacky version of awareness versus engagement but that shit is bullshit too.

 

It’s all bullshit because we should be turning away from simplification and engagement and connection and simply focus on “say what you need to say to persuade someone to think or do what you want them to think or do.”

 

All the other bullshit just confuses things.

 

If I tell someone that ‘being noticed ‘ is the most important thing, than some asshat is gonna come up with some zany oversimplified shit that gets noticed but doesn’t effectively communicate one thing <let alone all the things you may have deemed truly important in the beginning>.

 

I admit … I balk at a lot of the bullshit offered online about simplification <and the importance thereof> because … well … it is an oversimplification which diminishes the importance of ‘communicating depth’ and increases the importance of ‘being noticed.’

I do not like that equation.

 

Effective communication is not a binary choice.

 

Effective communication, as with almost everything, is a complex challenge in communicating a complex thing well – because if you can communicate a couple things well it actually increases the perceived value <which then inevitably creates a stronger “memory stamp” … with value attached!>.

 

Which brings me back to our oversimplification crisis.

 

I could clearly argue that in today’s fragmented messaging world where information multiplies at light speed and a day still remains 24 hours that we humans are constantly honing our “incoming thoughts” filtering mechanisms.

 

I could also argue that our filtering system, as it exists today, sucks.

 

We have dumbed down our communication and thinking behavior to such a hollowed out status the majority of time we skate along the superficial irrelevant surface of reality.

 

If we are lucky, the ice doesn’t crack.

 

But the truth is that oversimplification only offers the thinnest of ice to skate on and inevitably we fall thru the ice … over and over and over again.

 

Uhm.

 

And in the business world falling through the ice is bad. It is, metaphorically, making a bad decision based on shallow thinking and paying for it.

 

Yeah.

I did say the biggest issue we face is oversimplification.

I said that because if I can solve this, if I can have smarter people communicating complex things more smartly and I can have more everyday schmucks understanding that simple solutions are more often like trying to place a square peg in a round hole … well … I think it unravels a shitload of other problems we face in today’s world.

 

I imagine I am arguing that if more people are less stupid and more aware of the reality of things the more effective & efficient we will be in addressing the difficulties reality tends to place in front of us.

 

period end-of-story_design

 

In the end I will go back to where i began … “say something meaningful in an interesting way.”

 

There are no rules nor boundaries in this statement.

 

You use as many words, or as few, as you need to say … to say something meaningful in an interesting way with the intent for it to be understood … and, ultimately, persuade someone to think something.

 

Period.

the myth of simplification

July 19th, 2017

simple i like

 

“The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde

 

 

“What a simple black and white world you must live in.” – unknown

 

 

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Communication.

 

Effective communication has been, and always will be, complex and complicated … and a good thing for society. Effective communication inevitably feeds into the minds and enlightenment of the listeners. If you dumb down communication inevitably you dumb down the listeners.

 

Old white men hollowed out communication. I imagine as they hollowed out everything else they found it inherently more productive to gain their objectives by hollowing out communication. Everything became soundbites, powerpoint bullet points and ‘elevator speeches.’ Effectively communicating complexity took on less importance than puncturing the mind with a quick sharp stab <and then walking away>. Old white men mastered the art of emptying communication to a point where businesses end up walking on the slippery surface of irrelevance <cloaked in a beautiful robe called “what is important for you to know.”>

 

Bruce McTague

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Well.

 

I may as well fulfill my contrarian obligations immediately – nothing is it is complicated complex not simple Life worldsimple.

 

Nothing.

 

Look.

 

I may be wrong but I think the world would be a shitload ‘righter’ if we just assumed nothing was simple and started acting that way.

The whole idea of simple and simplicity has … well … fucked us up royally. It has almost become an obsession toward which everyone is consumed by until we are either frozen into inaction <this isn’t simple enough> or we hold our “simplicity prize” up high proudly … only to find in our holy quest we discarded some essential items which would have actually helped this ‘simple idea’ live.

 

We all want to simplify our lives <or at least we talk about it a lot>, simplicity in thinking, simplicity in ideas and simplicity in work … and yet, as a generalization, we all seem to seek every way possible to complicate our lives.

 

We see simplicity as a way to solve problems and, whew, we are a certainly a ‘people’ of problem solvers <but also problem creators as a corollary>.

And, yet, “it seems simple …” may be the biggest problem of all and may be one of the most misused and misguided statements and thoughts in today’s world.

 

 

A good friend of mine, an experienced communications professional, always says “if you are explaining you are losing” as an argument for simplicity. The challenge is that it … well … isn’t an argument for simplicity. It is actually an argument for clearly articulating what you want, and need, to articulate.

In fact … as I will point out later in this rant piece … being too simple actually creates more confusion, therefore, simplicity could actually be creating the explaining.

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speak

 

 

<oh my>

 

 

And that is where the myth of simplification dies. It dies in truth and reality.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of two opposing things – security/reliability, which anchors the sense of safety thereby justifying the common sense aspect of simplicity, & passion/risk/newness, which anchors the sense of movement thereby justifying the smartness aspect of simplicity.

Simplicity reality, more often than not, is an amalgamation of multiple fragments crating a mosaic which is pleasing to the eye <and relatively easy to grasp>.

 

Simplicity reality, more often than not, consists of some opposing thoughts in that, typically, if you have one… you can’t have the other.

 

Contrary to simplicity narratives the complexity actually brings in the pragmatism of a simplistic reality <and I would argue effectiveness.>.

 

All this means is that simplicity is rarely simple and trying to capture it in a meaningful single word or image is … well … not only silly but sells the depth & breadth of a decision or situation or idea or thought … or reality itself … short.

 

Reality is complex.

Life is complex.

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity.

 

Simple is hard.

 

It is hard because sometimes, okay, most times simplicity is arrived at by distilling complex solutions/ideas down to its most efficient form.

 

business simplicity complex woekI would note that from my own business experience I would say that many times simplicity ideas can only be found from checking out all of the different solutions. And after sifting through everything simplicity is more often found in a “doh” moment <not an “ah ha!” moment> in that you may be surprised by the fact simplicity is just the thing that makes the most sense at the end of the day.

 

And why is simple THAT hard?

 

Well.

 

Al Einstein said, “Make things as simple as can be—but not simpler.”

 

Geez.

 

So simple isn’t the least.

It may actually be somewhere above the least and significantly below the most <complex>.

 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek simplicity. But what it does mean is that simple or simplicity shouldn’t be defined by rules or milestones or trite “say it in 10 seconds or less” dictates or, well, any boundaries.

 

Simplicity defines itself it is not defined. Simplicity is reflective of the time, place, people, situation and solution needed.

 

Ponder that my friends.

 

What may make simplicity even more complex is, oddly enough, that part which should make it the simplest.

 

Simplicity, more often than not, is the nitty gritty stuff and not the more glamorous big vision or “big idea” stuff. It is about marrying principle and pragmatism and gradual improvement – piece by piece and part by part.

 

To me, simple and simplicity tends to be found in shit that most people would think has nothing to do with simple:

 

  • Coalesce fragments

 possibilities-plans-ideas-infinity-life-business-choices

“The whole is simpler than the sum of its parts.

Willard Gibbs

 

I think people would be much better off f they understood that while simple may be represented in ‘one thing’ it is actually representative of many things.

The best of the best ‘simplicity finders’ are the ones who are the best at coalescing fragments. Gathering up disparate pieces of information and figuring out how to make them whole in a way that

 

 

  • Box in complexity

 

Let me begin by paraphrasing a quote about how Sylvia Plath wrote…

 

“Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life.”

 

Margaret Rees

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I used the quote because far too many people think simplicity is about stripping away things to showcase the core instead maybe they should be thinking about stripping away the veneer so that the truth can be laid bare.

Let me explain <you will not agree with this if you do not agree that simplicity is a ‘whole made up of fragments’>.

 

Simplicity, to me, is about using the complex parts to box in the whole.

 

making your point bracket triangulate business combine experienceYou either:

 

 

  • Bracket what you want to offer <simplicity resides within two opposing thoughts>.

 

 

  • Triangulate what you want to offer <simplicity resides in the middle>.

 

 

  • Box in what you want to offer <simplicity gets squeezed into middle>.

 

Now.

Some people may use what I just shared and say “simplicity is the distillation” and I would push back by suggesting “simplicity is reflective of all the parts as it shows the whole.”

Am I parsing words?

Maybe.

 

But when someone says ‘show a picture’ or ‘say it in 5 seconds or you lose them’ and be done with it … I just don’t think it is that simple. Simple stimuli are just as likely to confuse. Provide ambiguity. Generate a feeling of ‘lesser than’ <”I am missing something of value or I missed the opportunity to showcase some value”>.

 

— note: there is a lot of research supporting this thought —

 

Look.

 

Our minds are like real estate.

 

Space is limited and we can’t let every thought, idea, product, person or whatever have a place to stay.

 

That means where the rubber hits the road with regard to being simple and simplicity is that it must create some connection with whomever is touching that simplicity

 

I will end with Chopin. Chopin is one of my favorite classical composers. I seriously doubt anyone who has ever looked at any of his sheet music would suggest his music was not complex. And, yet, close your eyes and listen … it contains a simplicity that connects.

 

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“Simplicity is the final achievement.

After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.”

 

Frédéric Chopin

 

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All I know is that we have totally fucked up the idea of simplicity to a point where simple, or simplicity, is more a myth than reality. This myth has hollowed us out – hollowed our thinking, our communication and our culture.

 

beauty in the breakdown 2

Most of the worthwhile things in Life are not hollow … they have depth & breadth … they are … well … complex.

 

Reality is complex.

 

Life is complex.

 

Most ideas and thoughts are complex.

 

And there is no simple solution to complexity but I would suggest that the beauty can be found in the breakdown of the complex to its simplest form.

normality is a paved road

December 15th, 2016

 

pretending-to-be-normal

 

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“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

 

Vincent van Gogh

 

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mener une vie normale <French>

to lead a normal life

 

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Benjamin Franklin:

 

“Human happiness comes not from infrequent pieces of good fortune, but from the small improvements to daily life.”

 

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“When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

 

 —–

Sigmund Freud

 

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normal-not-fun

Well.

 

Let’s just say “normal” gets a really bad rap.

 

It constantly has to fight off “boring” and “same as” and “routine” and … well … let’s just say a shitload of ‘not-so-positive’ sounding words.

 

I mean … c’mon. Is normal really that frickin’ bad?

And what hell is ‘normal’ … as in a normal life … anyway?

 

Anyway.

 

I imagine, as with most things in Life, normal is about balance.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know a shitload of people will suggest that ‘normal’ is defined by the individual and how they view life … but, in general, at one end of the  ‘how to live your life’ spectrum is wacko eccentric person and the other end is bland milquetoast boring to tears person.

 

Most of us reside somewhere in the middle of all that.

 

I tend to believe the problem is in how we most often have this discussion.

 

When we talk about living a ‘normal’ life it almost seems destined for some boredom and certainly when you decide to sit back with some self-reflection … uhm … it will most likely be generously dipped in some disappointment.

 

And then, on the other hand, it seems like a choice to live an ‘anything but normal’ life it almost seems destined for some sanity challenges and certainly what-is-normal-youth-advicesome self-reflection generously dipped in some discouragement.

 

Yikes … so your choice is either disappointment or discouragement.

 

Look.

 

None of us really want to be normal all the time. We want to spice it up a little and maybe do something not so normal for us <albeit … it could be fairly tame, or absurdly reckless, in other people’s eyes>. And it is that little choice … that ‘step away from what we normally do and think’ that kind of gets us in trouble.

 

Why?

Because most times we ‘step away’ by ‘being spontaneous.’

 

<note: spontaneous has a dubious relationship with ‘something different than the normal’>

 

Whew.

 

Truth be told … spontaneity sounds awesome <in concept> but more often than not disappointing. Not many people point this out but spontaneity actually sucks because anything “abnormal” or “not normal” is a great concept but has a nasty habit of creating more problems than it is worth.

 

Truth be told … routines <which is a characteristic of ‘normal life’> do a shitload to help establish our day-to-day ‘normal’ with a nice side benefit that it encourages us to believe we do have some self-discipline  <because the alternative is that we start thinking we live a completely chaotic undisciplined life>.

 

normal-life-break-rules-paved-with-decisionsYeah. a lot of these routines look really minor and really mundane if you sit down and think them through.

My advice? Don’t.

Just let them occur as naturally as breathing because these stupid little things tend to create a larger sense of rhythm or normalcy in your life.

 

And, yeah, even eccentric nutjobs incorporate some ‘normal’ routines in their daily Life.

 

But here is where balance enters the discussion.

Because we want both <although in today’s world it seems like there is no in between.

 

It may seem weird but I tend to believe no one’s sole ambition in Life is to be viewed solely as ‘normal.’

 

And, yet, we can live a pretty frickin’ good Life ‘normally.’ And, in fact, our normal most likely incorporates some fairly ‘abnormal’ … or let’s call them ‘unique features’ … aspects.

 

Most of us actually incorporate some unique shit into our lives which are simply reflections of our personality uniqueness. But because they are extensions of who we are we overlook them a being ‘normal.’

 

Let’s face it.

normal-worst-2

Normal has a shitty reputation.

 

And it should not.

 

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“I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more.

I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits.”

Anaïs Nin

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This isn’t about ‘fitting in’ or marinating some rigid code of conduct or even seeking approval in what you do. this is about doing shit that makes you happy … and I assume that ‘happy’ means you haven’t been <a> laughed at as a fool – just laughed at for having fun, <b> stared at as if you belong in some loony bin – just stared at because they know you are enjoying yourself  or <c> doing something insanely stupid just to gain some attention.

 

Yeah.

Sometimes this shit may be out of the mainstream but 99% of the time it is not unacceptable to everyone. It is just is not … well … the normal everyday 100% of the time shit people see or hear.

 

Whether you like it or not … suggesting ‘normal’ is completely self defined is … well … stupid.

 

Yes.

You should have your own way of seeing the world and the life you’re living.

 

Yes.

You should feel it is normal <as long as it is not a ‘statement’ but rather an natural extension of your ‘self’>.

 

Yes.

You should accept the idea that other people may feel differently about your version of normal.

 

All that said … here is where I think normal and abnormal go into conflict.

 

 

Yes.

You should understand that normal is actually defined by some standard operating procedures of the people, society & culture as a whole.

normal-slaves-of-ordinary-be-daring-different-assert

And, no, I am not suggesting some of the wacky crap society thrusts upon an individual <society tells me how I should be stuff> but rather the fact cultures, civilizations in a broader perspective, define some accepted rules of behavior – some “what I should do” stuff.

 

Let’s call them ‘core life action basics.’

These are some normal things which everyone should do and think in a normal day and a normal life.

 

Here is the good news for people who balk at ‘normal.’

 

The great thing about culture is it tends to give an individual a lot of room to expand upon these things. You can go about your life wearing whatever clothes you want and saying a bunch of different words as personal expression beyond the core. I call that ‘window dressing stuff.’ In other words I can dress up my core ‘normality crap’ in pretty much anything I want and express it with almost any words I want.

 

The trouble mostly revolves around the fact that some individuals infringe upon the core, change the core and sometimes do things which do not meet what most people would accepts as accepted normal behavior.

 

Here is not just a Life truth … but a civilization truth … a culture cannot permit that ‘abnormal normal’ to become normalized.

And while we often suggest it takes courage to express yourself in some ‘not-so-normal’ ways it actually takes even more courage to defend core normality.

 

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“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue?

 

It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

Practical Magic

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Anyway.

 

When it comes to this topic the bravest people in the world are not the ones who dont flinch_by_peacelovemusicstand out through self-expression of self-identity even if that identity is ‘not the normal’ but rather the people who unflinchingly defend normal core beliefs & behaviors and unflinchingly express it in whatever personal identity way they want.

 

Far too often we slot people on one side or the other where, in truth, we should be also slotting people into the third more significant slot.

I imagine the problem with that is that those people are not interesting enough to make splashy headlines nor are they boring enough to be masticated for being milquetoast.

 

And, yet, they were the bravest of us all. They chose to be normal & not-so-normal and fought relentlessly for both.

 

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just-shower-thoughts:

 

On my headstone, I think I want, “No one deserved death more.” That way, people will research my life and find nothing interesting, then actually think that for wasting their time.

Enlightened Conflict