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Monthly Archives: January 2018

Buying Time

Everything I do to maximize my health, and trust me, I at least try to do a lot, is, at the end of the day just an attempt to buy time. The one thing that’s running out.

I guess the big question here is: Time to do what?

It’s OK To Be Wrong

The real key is recognizing when you are wrong and being comfortable admitting it. Because here’s the thing: Being wrong is an opportunity to learn something. Or, to put it another way – you can’t learn without being wrong, because wrong implies you don’t know what you’re doing, which turns out to be the perfect state for learning!

The problem is some people interpret their lack of knowledge as a sign they are dumb, which isn’t the case at all. There’s a difference between not knowing something and being dumb. In fact, I would argue that not being able to admit you are wrong is a better indicator of personal deficiency than a lack of knowledge.

Not knowing is a great place to be – because it means you are primed to learn. It’s how we grow as human beings. So if anyone makes fun of you because you don’t know something, don’t ever be embarrassed, be grateful. They showed you something about their character (insecure because they probably lack some quality they see in you), and they have provided you with an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know.

Take that opportunity and remember not to be an asshole to other people – help them instead. Trust me, life will be a lot more rewarding…

Living In The Land of What Is

Important concepts to be aware of:

The land of what should be is a fools game.

Try to interpret the reality around you and act accordingly.

Understand the parameters of the game you are playing and work from there (this one can take a while).

Try to accept what’s beyond your control – it will keep you from fighting battles you can’t win.

If the ship has sailed, you’re not going to bring it back to port. Save your energy to fight a battle you might win.

Too Much Information

I’m really starting to think that humans aren’t equipped to disseminate the amount of information (good and bad) that we are bombarded with constantly. Case in point: I just had a casual acquaintance come up to me and ask me if I was aware that the moon was “an artificial satellite.” “Pardon me?” I replied…

This was not a stupid person (I’m making a very general observation here). Well dressed, gainfully employed, not under the influence. Yet he believes the moon was “put there” by a third party. Where did he get his information? From the internet of course.

WTF is happening to us? It’s as if we have collectively lost our minds. Were we always this ridiculous, ignorant, suspicious and fearful? Or has the constant stream of information into our brains made us even more so?

Are we each living in a parallel universe, with our own unique reality? Do we in fact now live in an age where we get to choose our reality and make up our own facts to go along with it?

The really weird thing is, if you try to bring science or facts into the dialogue, they only become more convinced of their beliefs (their’s our old friend confirmation bias saying hello). It’s almost enough to begin making you question your own reality…

How To Think

I’m reading this book about research and public health and I keep coming across the phenomenon of confirmation bias (the author uses the term “selection bias”) as an obstacle to conducting and interpreting research. From scientists no less!

It’s the same old problem – a researcher forms a hypothesis, and then proceeds to cherry pick data and slant the research to confirm their original idea. The very definition of bad science.

So I’ve been brewing on this, and it occurs to me that perhaps all of us should try to adopt a new way of thinking.

What if we started from the assumption that everything we know is simply the best information we currently have, and that it should be updated as soon as better data reveals itself?

In other words, assume everything we know is wrong until proven otherwise.

If we constantly train our brains to think like this, maybe we will more easily recognize our own confirmation bias – a quality that makes us appear small minded and frankly, not that bright.

Maximizing What You’ve Got

There are things in life we wish we had, and then there are the things we have. The things we wish we had may someday become attainable, or they may not. The things we have, however, are ours right now. By maximizing them, we are taking reality and trying to make the best of it. The problem is, we often don’t place enough value on the things we have, and we place too much value on what is out of reach. What we need here is a little attitude adjustment

First of all, stop for a moment and just be grateful for what you have right now. Seriously – at the very least, if you are reading this, you’re alive. That’s a pretty big thing – You’re not dead yet! See, this is what I mean by reality based thinking – I’m not trying to be morbid, quite the contrary. The reality is that someday we will no longer be alive, and we won’t have the luxury of making decisions and setting goals, or even of just enjoying the simple act of being. Realizing this reinforces the idea of gratitude – you may think you’ve got nothing to be grateful for, but you’re alive – so you would be very, very wrong.

But back to this maximizing thing. All I really mean is don’t try to be something you are not, rather take the things that are uniquely you and make the most of them.

Don’t de-value something because it comes easily to you – it may be very difficult if not impossible for someone else. So if you have something you are good at, develop it.

Maximize what you’ve got.

Your gifts are right in front of you.

Time and Energy

These are finite resources. It’s really important to internalize this concept, because you can go through life for a long, long time before the penny drops on this one. I’ve always over estimated what I could do with a given set of resources within a specific amount of time, and as I have gotten older I recognize this more clearly. For the purpose of this post I don’t want to get bogged down in the pros and cons of operating like this, but I do want to focus on the idea of making some very conscious decisions as to how best you might spend the time and energy you have (left). I put “left” in parenthesis because although this is a critical point at all times of life, it becomes even more important as you get older. Time and energy will, at some point, run out.

So what exactly am I saying here? I guess I’m saying make sure you are allowing yourself time to do the things you really want to do, and try and prevent time wasted on projects or relationships that just aren’t that important. Ask yourself “If I had a year left to live, how important is (insert activity, person or thing here) to me? Is there something in particular I would like to do or (at least attempt to) accomplish before I die?

I’m not saying everything needs to be carefully weighed and planned – one should always be open to the opportunities life presents us with, and we should always have the flexibility and spontaneity to change what we are doing based on those opportunities.

But always be aware of the little black holes in your life that are sucking your time and energy into them with little or no reward. You must ruthlessly cut them out like a cancer

The Only Thing Worse…

…Than being sick is being sick in a blizzard. Now when I say “sick” in this context, I’m talking about sick as in viral illness, the kind of thing that is the bread and butter of any ER. Yes, even with constant exposure we are still susceptible. Our immune systems are probably stronger than most, but there’s still a limit… I do, however, want to make the distinction here that I’m not talking about sick as in cancer. No trouble like that around here folks, and I’d like to keep it that way!

There’s a kind of perverse pride in going to work in the ER in severe weather, somebody has to be there to take care of the sick and dying. You have to be tough to do this job, and somehow it just feels satisfying to get there in a snowstorm. But you also have to be realistic; you’re not doing anyone any favors by going in sick, not being able to perform, and infecting your coworkers and patients.

So here I am in NY, an area that had a significant “weather event” in the last 24 hours which also unfortunately coordinated with me getting sick. So there’s that.

I have the kind of personality that feels an overwhelming need to fulfill obligations and meet my responsibilities. But I’m not superman. Time to rest and heal, I’ll be back soon enough…

Sick

Fucking bullshit. Goddamn motherfucking bullshit.

Back online tomorrow.

That is all.

Here’s a Tip

Don’t bother recommending art (or anything else for that matter) to anyone – EVER. If they ask, or you’re having an engaged conversation, that’s different. Otherwise, it’s pointless. Here’s the reason why:

It’s only meaningful to them if they discover it themselves.

If they want to hear what you have to say, they’ll ask for it. Otherwise shut your pie hole and save it for other things that are more useful.

Make Your Soul Grow

It’s the first day of a new year, and I am going to take this opportunity to do my first re-post, with a brief set-up. We have all experienced rare and precious moments in life when we read or see or hear something that touches us deeply, and etches itself permanently in our mind. Such was the case for the contents of this post when I first came across it. I read this at a time in my life when I was struggling with justifying (to myself) the rather large amount of time I was spending creating art, which in my case was music. I wasn’t earning any money from it, and I had long ago set aside the dream that somewhere there was a large group of people eager to consume what I was creating. So what the fuck was I doing it for? 

Well, the answer is in Mr. Vonnegut’s letter, and not surprisingly he states it with humor, grace and wisdom, in a way that NYC public high school students could readily understand. In the process, he answered a deep metaphysical question asked by a self-doubting older middle-aged man who was looking into the black void of time, a bit lost for how to proceed in his life and desperately looking for a meaningful answer. It turns out the answer was, of course, right there in front of me. Thank you Kurt Vonnegut for clearing things up. Now, from March of last year,  enjoy!…

In 2006, a year before he died at the age of 85, Kurt Vonnegut was invited visit the students of Xavier High School in New York City. Although he declined their invitation, stating “I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana,” he wrote the students this letter in reply. I came upon it at a time in my life when I was having a hard time creating and it resonated deeply. He wrote:

“Practice any art . . . no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.  Starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives…”

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut