“Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”

H. G. Wells


“You know, sometimes in life you can get kinda stuck and you feel like you should have changed chapters by now, but you can’t.”

Wish I Was Here <Aidan>


“Constantly absorbing and commenting on things that have just happened sounds to me like a recipe for feeling powerless. Online, I frequently feel both stuck in the past but presented with a grim projection of the future. There is very little focus on the present, which is a place where we derive agency. We can act now.”

Charlie Warzel


A lot of life feels like you are stuck between things. Not always stuck stuck, just tucked in between things. I would argue that this sense seems heightened these days. Charlie Warzel posited in this piece it is because we are always stuck in the past. Similarly, I read this piece “can technology reveal too much about the past?” and pondered the thought that if we are stuck in the past, and that past is constantly revealing new bits & pieces, well, that would make it seem like we are constantly stuck in an uncertain, less than solid understanding, of the past.

I noodled this a bit and I think I would phrase it a bit differently in that I believe we all feel stuck because we never attain resolution on things. Social media, life, business, all keep slinging things in front of us and while we may get some things done, we are leaving an increasing number of things in the past unresolved. This asymmetrical ‘completion’ creates an uneasy tension between the past, present and future. Maybe said another way, we are stuck in a continuum of unresolved things.

Which leads me to suggest this means we simultaneously gravitate to that which is stated most declaratively and become increasingly skeptical of the most declarative. This should force some reflectiveness and maybe some recognition of the fallacies of some of our thinking but, circling back to the opening point, we just get stuck and nothing truly gets resolved. Technology, for all its potential and actual good, is simply bad for helping people focus beyond surface skimming. Sadly, this suggests Stacy Horn may be right when she says: “cyberspace does not have the power to make us anything other than what we already are. It is a revealing, not a transforming medium.” While I do not necessarily agree with her in totality, I will agree that human nature is like gravity and if you seek to defy gravity, as ‘cyberspace’ can, it needs to be purposeful. In other words, skimming when faced with an onslaught of information is natural, resolution is dubious as a consequence and while a person may feel like this behavior makes them unstuck, their sense of being stuck only deepens.

Which leads me to in a world where we are simultaneously bombarded with a great deal of stimulation, we learn to focus our attention on what we believe are the important stimuli while filtering out that which we deem less relevant stimuli. This is a brain survival technique to reserve, and preserve, our focus resources, which are actually fairly finite, to apply against all the stimuli that need processing. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this is exactly the situation, we find ourselves, cognitively, in a 24/7 technology world exacerbated by social media and the internet wherein we are constantly battling for our experiential and sensory survival. And while in this survival mode we simplistically dumb everything down to make the gazillion events look similar, and manageable, the unfortunate truth is that no event is actually identical to the previous event. We approximate shit seeking to get out of the inbetween only to find every new data input is not in fact identical to the very similar looking data that came before so, well, nothing truly gets completely resolved.

“Man is a rationalizing animal not a rational one.”

Robert Heinlein

Which leads me to winners and losers.

When you are stuck somewhere in between identifying real winners and losers is difficult. What I mean by difficult is that in this scenario I am outlining, an onslaught of new data daily, a sane human will settle on some vanity metric to point to. Vanity metrics are simplistic heuristics for complex situations. In this world we become heuristic imbeciles defining success and failure. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that success always rests on a fairly fragile balance between the needs of the individual and those of the collective and it would behoove us to understand that balance does not naturally occur in a technologically driven world, it needs to be monitored, calibrated, recalibrated almost on an exhaustingly minute-by-minute basis human by human. This sounds incredibly exhausting if you buy into the thought we are constantly facing unresolved things, but, if you don’t, power moves to anyone who has the most data, about the most people, and can convert it into understandable narratives, who would in effect be the only owners of the main resources that could be converted into things of value (or non-value). I will point out that if data is used the right way, it can actually make us smarter collectively, not just richer personally, but that is a societal winners/losers discussion. That said. The problem is that we are now at a moment where the social contract is being renegotiated involuntarily because while we are stuck ‘somewhere in between’, some dubious characters are crafting ‘the social contract’ which will replace the one we may know and like. I imagine my point here is if you are stuck somewhere in between your ability to picture what the future may, or should, look like is impaired and the world is then simply shaped by the tools, not the humans.

Which leads me back to ruts versus stuck.

  • Getting in a rut is sliding down the slippery slope of the everyday grind of Life. You simply fall into a space where day in and day out you are checking shit off your list and justifying the relatively unsatisfying space you are in by showing everyone, and yourself, the list of things you have checked off.
  • Getting stuck is a more frustrating Life situation. This is where you know you are not where you want to be and doing things you don’t really want to do and … well … you are stuck. You have shit on your list or at least one thing on your list, which you WANT to do, but day in and day out you look at your list and that little nasty shit of a thing never gets checked. That may sound pedantically trivial, but this relates back to the larger “nothing ever gets resolved” mentally. And what is worse you know you are usually stuck in one of two ways:

Your own head.

In your mind you may not recognize it for a while, but then it hits you: I am not moving.

I am stuck. This sucks.

Others around you.

You may not recognize it for a while because you feel like you are moving, but then it hits you – everyone else is moving faster <or it at least looks like people are>. Life, which often looks blurry in the midst of all the shit you want to do, now looks just a bit clearer, but everyone around you looks blurry. They are moving and you are not.

But here is the worst “stuck.”

When you get stuck between who you are and who you want to be. You know there is a better version of you but you are stuck being the current version of you. it may not be a bad version, it may not even be a sucky version, you just know there is a better version and this is where not having any resolution on anything really sucks – you are never really sure what better version is.

Getting stuck is usually really difficult to get out of. Stuck, more often than not, occurs DESPITE the fact you are doing whatever you can to not permit it to happen.

Anyway. If you google “get unstuck” you will get over 200,000 results in .48 seconds. The majority of those results are about ‘changing attitudes’ or ‘simple techniques to get unstuck’ or even ‘breaking habitual patterns.’  Most likely none of this shit will help you. Mostly because the advice is more about getting out of a rut and not about getting unstuck. But I would also suggest there ain’t a shitload of advice because … well … getting unstuck is difficult, there are no ‘techniques’ and your ‘stuck’ is most likely contextual & situational and is a consequence of a level of lack of resolution that simply checking shit off your to-do list will not solve.

Being stuck is frustrating. Sometimes even maddening. And sometimes it makes you angry.

I don’t have some secret to share about how to get unstuck. All I know is that it sucks, it feels sucky, and you have to sometimes suck it up and be creative in your pursuit of what you want to get unstuck.

In other words, its complex. Oh. The word complex comes from the Latin root plectere: to weave, entwine. In complex systems, many simple parts are irreducibly entwined so when you are stuck inbetween you are actually stuck in a knot of intertwined shit – some good and some bad. But I imagine my point here is that the world itself, technology, politicians, businesses, seem to have a tendency to create a context within which you have to make an extreme effort to craft meaningful resolutions.

You can’t see forward, you can’t look back

There’s nothing that you need, nothing that you lack

And it ain’t gonna last this way

Sunshine/World Party

Which leads me to the thought that society seems to constantly encourage us to dream but then shift those dreams to certainty under the belief in doing so dreams can be ‘attained.’ It seems like we should be encouraging people to not only embrace the liminality between dreams and certainty (possibilities and pragmatism), but we should also be teaching people, in an increasingly uncertain world, the principles necessary to navigate the unpredictability of that uncertain world, i.e., teach how to navigate the wretched hollow of somewhere inbetween. It is with that liminal navigation where we find the pragmatic stepping stones to maybe not get certainty, but enough certainly to make progress against our dreams (possibilities). The internet has created an incredible amplification system extremely ineffective in enhancing people’s ability to focus, to organize thoughts, to be reflective, to sensemake and refine truly meaningful, non superficial, messaging. The declarative is winning over the deliberative and we seem to either gladly embrace a system that doesn’t really encourage deep deliberation and does encourage shallow reaction or we are just lost in the non-resolution of somewhere in between. I imagine part of what I am suggesting is that ‘somewhere inbetween’ fucks with our dreams and our response to that is to attempt to make the dreams concrete believing this not only makes dreams more achievable but more tangible. For some reason I tend to think this devalues the real value of dreaming, but that’s me.

Which leads me to end with a thought from Rob Estreitinho.

As with most philosophical questions, it comes down to either:

  1. Are you doing the thing that in principle is right
  2. Or are you doing the thing that is most effective

Of course, reality happens somewhere in-between, but that’s the spectrum. And although part of me wants to believe in effective altruism, my spiritual tendencies are more inclined to the former right now. Key words: ‘right now’. This stuff fluctuates.

Meaning: as individuals, we have a degree of control and agency that, in isolation, means little, but collectively, means loads. This is true for voting, sustainable habits, and to an extent our overall sense of wellbeing. Which is another way of saying, as long as you consciously sweep your front door and try and encourage others to do the same, it’s possible you’ll have done enough (or at least far more than most).

While we appear to invest a shitload of energy thinking through the seemingly infinite dimensions of societal foibles and technological hijinks, it can actually be quite freeing to simply admit they are unreformable and irredeemable and the only thing that will get is out of somewhere in-between, and find meaningful resolution, is humans. And lest you think this piece was solely about life, people and society, go back and reread from a business perspective. Businesses can reside in the somewhere inbetween too. And it is just as unhealthy for them. Ponder.

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Written by Bruce