Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: December 2018

Phenotype

The set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

If our genotype represents all of the possible potential manifestations of an organism, the vast majority of which are unseeable, then our phenotype is what the world sees. It is the physical manifestation of our genotype – quite literally how we look.

We have some significant control over how this plays out to the degree that we develop what we have, but we’re not changing our basic genetic blueprint. It was the hand we were dealt at birth, and it’s ramifications significantly define who we are.

Take actors for example. The arc of their careers is determined to a large degree by their phenotype. Lee Van Cleef was never going to play soft male roles – his phenotype said this is a cold, cunning and cruel man. It didn’t matter if that was his true personality or not. Which leads to the question: Does our phenotype actually determine who we become? If we look mean, do we become mean? If we look kind, does that necessarily represent who we are?

I think the answer is clearly no – humans are way too complex for that. The old truism “don’t judge a book by its cover” indicates that this was a lesson worth passing down from generation to generation, no doubt as a safety mechanism for survival.

But still, clearly phenotype is our destiny to some degree. Some people are breathtakingly beautiful, most are not, and some are (at least by the standards of the surrounding society) downright ugly. No amount of grooming or exercise or plastic surgery is going to change that. We can work to maximize what we have, but we cannot become what we are not.

The really weird thing is, I’m not sure any of us really has that clear an idea of how others interpret our phenotype. What others see when they look at you is most assuredly not what you see when you look at yourself.

Which brings up another interesting question: To what degree does inner will and intent shape how others interpret your phenotype? My guess is that, although it’s not something objectively seen, it most definitely is something subjectively sensed.

40%

Ok, this rule is really simple: Whenever you think you’re done – as in “I can’t go on, that’s all I’ve got,you’ve still got 60% in the tank. You think you’re maxed out but you’re really only at 40%, because that’s where the pain starts.

This is a David Goggins axiom, and he seems to be one of those people who exists simply to show us what we are capable of doing. He has walked the walk, so when he says this, I am listening.

Of course, none of us wants to voluntarily put ourselves through this kind of pain – but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t do it.

The point here is this: It’s good to periodically remind ourselves that we are all capable of achieving things far beyond what we ever thought possible. That potential is within each of us, just waiting to be used.

How much of this potential we choose to use is entirely up to us.

Haunting

I would have enjoyed Leon Vinehall’s “Envelopes (Chapter VI)” if I had simply heard it as a piece of music. But seeing it realized as a haunting black and white video was strangely moving.

This is a really interesting piece – he is telling a story with music, then adding images to enhance the sound. Film works the opposite way – you tell the story with images, then use music to enhance the visuals.

The way he’s created this is very powerful and hard to shake once you’ve seen it.

It’s a beautiful and haunting expression of loss that keeps drawing me back.

For The Love Of God And All Things Holy

There is a special place in hell for those who choose to edit out “curse” words when distributing creative content. Seriously, stop it – that’s enough.

This is America for christ’s sake – one of the most violent and nihilistic places on earth. Everyone here is armed to the teeth and primed to kill at the drop of a hat. In fact, we believe god wants us to kill, and we celebrate mass murder and use each atrocity as a national reminder to buy more guns (because, you know, you can never have too many).

As if somehow hearing someone say “fuck” on television would bring the whole thing down like a house of cards. Like our delicate sensibilities just couldn’t handle it. The hypocrisy is fucking maddening.

If I am watching (or listening) to something, the first “bleep” I hear will also be my last, because I am out. It is insulting and infuriating on at least three levels:

  • First, I am a fucking adult and I don’t need a goddamn nanny protecting my ears. I have heard and used these words on a daily basis since I was old enough to remember and I’m pretty sure you could say the same.
  • Secondly, you are censoring art you fucking sanctimonious prick. If I am watching “Full Metal Jacket” and it’s censored I don’t know whether to scream or weep. I recently listened to a podcast that was “bleeped.” It’s just sad.
  • And thirdly ( in case you haven’t already noticed it) I like swearing. Curse words are good words – important words to be be used for color and dramatic effect. Excellent words for expressing humorous points. There’s a reason why every language has them.

Now I’m not saying they should be used indiscriminately, but, I mean, really? Children are using these words as soon as they begin speaking.

If you are offended, fair enough – just leave. No one is making you listen or read or watch anything. But don’t ruin it for the rest of us who are adults.

For gods sake let us have our motherfucking fun.

The Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Are rattling their chains in the dark recesses if my mind, demanding attention they’re not going to get.

I banish thee, infernal spirits!

Go forth and haunt someone who gives a shit.

The Question Mark Bridge, Part 4

Rennie was destined for great things, but no one, least of all her, knew it yet. Right now she was just a 16 year-old girl living by her wits, on her own, in a very dangerous world. She was used to it though; she had no choice – it was all she had ever known.

She was the child of someone who either couldn’t, or wouldn’t take care of her, and as a result she had been abandoned as a baby. Whoever her mother had been was lost forever in the long, sad existence of her childhood. All she knew, all she cared to know, was that she was a foundling who had somehow ended up in an orphanage. She didn’t really remember that much about this part of her life, she was either too young or too traumatized by the experience, or perhaps her brain was just protecting her in an effort to survive. What she did remember was the seemingly endless succession of foster homes; after a while, they all just blended together into one giant pile of unhappiness, abuse, and neglect.

She had run away so many times she couldn’t count, but this time she was determined to make it to Memphis. It’s not that she knew anyone there, it’s just because it’s Memphis. She had heard this song called “I’ll Take You There” by Mavis Staples on the radio – the DJ said it was recorded in Memphis at a place called Stax. She had never heard anything like it – Rennie didn’t believe in god, but if there was a god, she thought he must have sounded like Mavis Staples. So without anything but the clothes on her back and the $46.00 she stole from the foster home, she set out.

She didn’t realize it, but things were about to change for her in a big way. Before that could happen though, there was going to be plenty more pain and suffering to endure. How is it that some people are able to survive against all odds, they just don’t seem to break no matter what, while others collapse at the first sign of trouble? How can a child live through what she had experienced and not come out completely broken? And then, like a brown and dried out little wisp of a weed, at the first sign of nourishment suddenly blossom into a beautiful flower? It’s not by nurture, that’s for sure. No, the real magic of humans seems to be that they pop out of the womb pretty much fully formed.

Life was about to test her once again before it decided what to do with her. She may not have looked like it, but she was more than up to the challenge. Looks can be deceiving – this is a lesson smart people learn very early on in life.

The key word here is smart.

No Limits

If you’re trying to create something, this is the mindset from which you start.

No pulling back.

No fear.

No self-censorship.

No second guessing.

Just the full and free expression of whatever the fuck pops in your head.

Go!

Reset

Let’s say you’re the kind of person who is constantly looking for ways to improve, both yourself, and the world around you (at least to the extent you think it’s possible). Maybe you come up with some idea for improving your workplace that involves educational initiatives, and let’s say that your job is one that requires constant learning – so it seems like a no brainer, right? The problem is, you need resources from higher level management to pull it off.

You pitch it to your bosses and they seem completely enthused and fully supportive, except for the resources part. That part not so much. What do you do?

Before I answer, let me state that I think this is an issue for anyone at any organization who attempts to facilitate change, and quite frankly, I get it. Resources equals money, and to allocate money, no matter how high up the ladder you are, you must ultimately justify it to someone else. There is always someone higher up to answer to who could probably care less about allocating funds for education to workers on the front line. After all, this is America, and profit drives everything.

So you have two choices. One is to bail and congratulate yourself for at least trying to improve things. The other is to scale the thing down, somehow, so that it requires no resources from management. In other words, make do with what you’ve got. The whole thing might still fail, but at least now you will have really tried to make something happen with essentially nothing. You might still be able to spark some enthusiasm in someone else in your workplace who in turn will take the idea and run with it.

In other words, don’t fold like a cheap suit at the first sign of resistance. Show some grit and come up with some other strategy. At the end of the day, win or lose, you can rest knowing you are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

The Process Is The Thing

Everybody wants to get the thing done, and of course finishing is important. But it’s not everything. You are going to be in a constant state of unhappy frustration if this is all you’re focused on, and you’ll be depriving yourself of a great deal of joy at the same time.

Learn to enjoy the process of making the thing and you’ll be a lot happier – after all, it’s the only part you have any control over.

Once it’s done and you release it to the world, beyond promoting it, whatever happens is out of your hands.

Don’t Ask, Just Do

It’s okay to ask someone if they need help, but it’s much better to just jump in and start doing the actual helping part without being told what to do. It’s usually not too hard to see something that obviously needs attention, so why wait for permission to do it?

Now mind you I’m not advocating that you attempt to do things that are beyond your scope of expertise. But even if you are an actual rocket scientist chances are you’re still waist deep in work that could be done by anyone with a brain and two hands.

If someone is drowning you don’t ask them if they need some help.

You just jump in and fucking help them.

“We Failed Until We Didn’t”

Let’s say there is something very, very difficult that you want to do very, very badly. It could be anything – play a musical instrument, get a PHD, learn how to code, be a stand up comedian, make a film, become a boxer, learn how to speak another language, change careers – you get the idea.

First you are going to suck at it – I mean it’s going to be embarrassing. And that’s the good news. After you get done sucking at it for an indeterminate amount of time, now you are going to flat-out fail. Over and over. This is the part that separates the men from the boys – the ones who really want it as opposed to the poseurs.

The thing is, you don’t really know it at the time, but this is the part you will look back fondly on. So if you find yourself in this phase, remember that.

This is the good part.

The Placebo Effect

We all know what this is, but did you ever really think about its profound implications in our day to day lives? Let’s see – you take a sugar pill and it works simply because you believe it will. Which begs the question:

What if what you thought was true about yourself really was?

I mean, when you really start to think about that it can become a bit of a mindfuck. For example: You mean if I think I’m a failure I’m really a failure? Or conversely, if I think I’m a winner that makes me one?

How about this: Is how much pain I’m in directly proportional to how much pain I think I’m in? WTF? Could this be true?

Or this: Is my degree of happiness based on how happy I believe myself to be?

Clearly, there are some limits. If you have stage IV cancer you’re probably not going to “believe” it away. But you could certainly control your perception of it.

I think the lesson here is this:

The stories we tell ourselves define who we become.

Bullitt

Taciturn. Yeah, that’s it. Badass, grim and taciturn. Of course, who better to inhabit this role than Steve McQeen in this 1968 classic directed by Peter Yates. This film is both a time capsule from the late 1960’s and yet somehow has a feeling of being untethered to any era – it is just unimaginably cool. 

I can’t discuss this movie without taking a moment to honor the memories of stuntmen Bill Hickman and Loren Janes. Bill drove the Dodge Charger and Loren the Mustang in what many believe is one of the greatest car chase stunts ever filmed – ten minutes of pure adrenaline as these two vehicles careen through the streets of San Francisco at dangerously high speeds – it really has to be seen to be believed. Motorheads around the world get jacked just thinking about it. It’s the gift that just keeps giving and never gets old no matter how many times you see it. 40 years before CGI, with not much beyond seatbelts in the way of safety precautions, it’s just early Detroit muscle cars with V8’s driven by someone with ridiculous skills and brass balls.

But it’s the little touches that make this such a unique and great film – the verite like clinical precision of procedural details, the minimalist dialog, the cinematography that captures everything with an extremely realistic vibe. Nothing looks like it was filmed on a set, and of course it has an amazing jazz soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin.

Steve McQueen was never better – his face just looks burdened by the weight of humanity’s darkest impulses. Most of what he conveys in his performance is non-verbal, yet within moments you know exactly what kind of man he is. Like Bogart, he was one of those actors that never seemed to be acting.

I don’t think a single person smiles the entire film. It’s not exactly film noir, but it was made at that point in the 1960s when genres were starting to break apart only to be bent and twisted to make new forms of cinematic expression. 

It’s like a testosterone loaded fuel injected fever dream from 1968 where each new day is a grim exercise in surviving human corruption.

Buckle up.

Humans vs Humanity

Here’s the difference: a single human is literally a smart ape. Depending on the person, it could be a very smart ape, or a very dumb one.

Humanity on the other hand, is the collective intelligence and sum total of knowledge ever developed by all humans.

See, humans, for the most part, are looking out for themselves. Some are more altruistic than others, but you get the picture.

Humanity however, is concerned with the propagation of the species at all costs. It’s goals are not concerned with political ideology or the whims of even the most powerful human. It has bigger fish to fry.

It will make its plans clear to us as its imperative unfolds. One thing’s for sure: we’re not steering the ship to our destiny – it is.

Therapy

I’m a big, big believer in the power of therapy. Let me state at the outset that this process has had an immeasurably positive impact on my life, so my observations are not abstract – they are born out of experience. 

And yet, like so many life altering experiences that involve the mind, what exactly is happening is not always clear. There is, however, one deceptively simple component that I believe is profoundly powerful. In fact, I think it is the crux that makes the whole thing work.

What I am talking about is this: There are many, many things that we all struggle to process in life, and often these things hold us back from achieving our full potential. These are the secrets that we can’t talk about to anyone – except, if you are lucky enough to have one, your therapist. Just the simple act of opening up and unburdening yourself of whatever perceived shameful experience or thoughts you have can change everything. 

There is something that happens when another human listens to you without judgement. They don’t even have to really say anything for the healing to begin to take place. It’s as if at the moment of your revelation the energy in the room changes your psyche on a molecular level, as if giving voice to your perceived pathology deflates it like a pin popping a balloon.

Suddenly, everything changes.

What once seemed opaque, now seems crystal clear. What once seemed shameful now doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

How does this happen? I have no fucking idea – but I can tell you it works. As a bonus, sometimes you find out you have strengths you didn’t even know you had.

Find this information useful? Don’t thank me, thank your therapist.

HIPAA And Blogging

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was enacted in 1996 to legislate the control of health related information for business and tax purposes as well as to provide a legal framework to protect patient information. It is a very broad and complex piece of legislation, but for the purposes of this post, I am only concerned with one specific facet: the protection of privacy with regard to patient health information.

Anyone who acts in a capacity as a health care provider must hold paramount the responsibility of ensuring the privacy of patients medical records.

This is sacrosanct and must be fully understood by anyone administering health care. It is not a difficult concept to understand and would seem to be self-evident – that being said, I fully understand the necessity of enacting this fundamental right into law, and I fully support upholding it. Protecting peoples privacy is a very big deal – I get that, and I take my commitment to honoring that privacy very seriously.

I am an ER nurse, a musician, and an artist. I make things by processing the world around me. I try to constantly learn in order to grow and better understand the world I live in. I do this so I can hopefully contribute something meaningful to this world to the best of my ability.

My interactions as a nurse in a busy inner-city ER provide a rich environment for personal growth, and I am constantly learning from my interactions with both my patients and my colleagues. I do my best to protect the identity of any specific person or event that makes me think deeply about what it means to be a compassionate human, but to not write about these experiences in a general and non-identifiable way would represent a failure of my mission as a human being.

We all move forward collectively, and to communicate lessons learned it is necessary to talk about what it means to be human in an honest, compassionate manner. The specific interactions and examples of human connection that led to an insight must be examined in a thoughtful way so that we may all learn.

It is only through thinking, talking and writing about our experiences that we are able to gain greater insight into what it means to be a fully realized human. Protecting patient information is important, but let’s exercise our judgement and use critical thinking about what exactly this means. 

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.