Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Comfort Zone

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that everyone has an innate “comfort zone” when it comes to their work environment. I think this is generally true, but certainly there are people who are not comfortable anywhere – however we’ll exclude them for the sake of our discussion.

Beyond the obvious, I wonder what this tells us about the person we are observing, or indeed, about ourselves. What underlying personality traits are at play here? Are we in the right environment where we can perform at our best, allowing us to make the greatest contribution to our world? Are we fulfilled by the the work we do in this space?

Are we in our comfort zone?

If not, perhaps it would serve us well to keep searching for the right fit. Life is too short to be miserable.


It’s Important To Suck At Something

This is a really, really crucial point. Because, the thing is, if you only do things that you are good at, you’re not really growing. This is especially true for things that we love and for which we have achieved a high degree of competency. Once you’ve achieved the status of expert, then it it’s just a question of becoming better and refining what you have already mastered. But this isn’t really growing – to really grow, I would argue that you actually need to learn something totally new. And when you begin the process of learning something new – you will 100% suck at it. This is a good thing – in fact, this is exactly where you want to be! Pathetically horrible – that’s what we’re going for.

This is how you remain vibrant and alive, this is how you remain young – you never stop learning. You never become afraid of sucking at something, of looking foolish. Because that’s where the fun is. Seeing yourself slowly get better at something you couldn’t do but wanted to is fucking thrilling.

Don’t Ever Give Up

No matter how old you are.

No matter how sick you are.

No matter how traumatized you are.

No matter how weak and tired you are.

No matter how uncertain you are.

No matter how injured you are.

No matter how grief stricken you are.

No matter how ashamed and sorry you are.

No matter how disabled you are.

No matter how mentally ill you are.

No matter how unloved you believe yourself to be.

No matter how  defective and broken you feel.

No matter how beaten down, depressed and despondent you have become.

Until you have reached the point at which death is imminent, know this:

You have something unique and special to contribute.

Don’t you ever, ever, ever fucking give up.

Own Your Space

Don’t just occupy it.

Own it.

Don’t hope things will get better.

Make them better.

Don’t complain.


Making Something Happen

Let’s say you have a good job that’s very difficult but gratifying. It pays well, and you give it everything you’ve got when you’re working – it makes you feel good to do so. Over time you begin to see how you might be able to make things better, so you tentatively start trying to improve something specific. You begin to be rewarded for your efforts both by your peers and your bosses. Things slowly start to change, and you realize you are making something happen. You begin to be approached to work on more projects, and you gradually start to take on more responsibility in the workplace It’s a little intoxicating to see things start to happen, and it’s kind of fun to see what you can do, so you keep doing more…

Then one day you realize you are spending a significant amount of time at home working on projects you have volunteered to do. This signals a time for reassessment – and this is a good thing. One should always be constantly reassessing how time is spent – it’s our most precious commodity.

There is no good or bad here, just a reminder to maintain a vigilant awareness that our resources are limited, and we would be wise to remember this and act accordingly.


Accidents happen in a split second. One minute you’re going about your day as usual, the next minute everything changes. Sometimes these accidents have life changing consequences for those involved. At the very least they remind us how fragile and precious life is.

No one wants to cause pain and suffering to anyone else much less their loved ones or themself. Protect yourself and others by paying attention.

Be careful out there.

The Window of Opportunity

For what it’s worth, here’s my take – the window of opportunity is a time limited affair. This is not a time for questioning, for weighing your options, for pondering about the right thing to do.

This is a time for action. You either seize the opportunity and act – or you pass. There is no one right answer here. Just be aware that once the window closes, that opportunity is gone. There will be others, but each one is unique.

Pay attention and act accordingly…

New Rule

Ok, if  I was suddenly made king of something or other, here’s my first new rule: You can no longer talk about the United States “gun problem” in public unless you have a solution. It doesn’t have to be a solution that will definitively work, but you must be able to back it up with a coherent thought process, and you must own it. And finally, you must be prepared to actually begin the process of implementing your solution.

Otherwise, please stop bloviating ad nauseum about your “viewpoint.” We’ve heard it all before.

Night Owl

I’ve always stayed up late, I guess I’m just wired that way. I have one of those brains that, no matter how exhausted I am, somewhere around 9 PM my mind starts to kick in, and by 11 o’clock I’m operating at full capacity with ease. Even if I’m exhausted, the later it gets the more cranked up I become. I may be sleep deprived and on my 3rd day with less than 6 hours a night, but at midnight I’m jacked.

When I wake up in the morning on days I work in the ER, I think “Why do you keep doing this?” because I feel  wiped as soon as I get up. All day at work I’m OK, but I know I’m not anywhere close to even 80%. Slowly but surely, however, I start to pick up steam as the day turns into night. And then: Boom! By 11 PM I’m operating at full speed. Going to bed is the last thing on my mind – I’ve got shit to do! Probably not the best thing for productivity, but there you go. I am what I am…

Art Or The Artist?

It should come as no big surprise that many creative, driven people are a complex manifestation of their personality and environment. Artists often create as a way of dealing with their pain – they are trying to understand and control their world, and often that world has proven to be overwhelmingly dangerous and chaotic.

It is also no surprise that, like all humans, artists are complicated and flawed. And therein lies the conundrum…

Does our appreciation for the art diminish if we discover the artist has done unforgivable things?

For example, if the artist is a racist, do we turn our back on their art? What if, prior to discovering this, we loved what they created and it profoundly enriched our lives? What if they beat their wives? Or were pedophiles? Or supported sociopathic tyrants?

I’m going to cut to the chase here and state my position clearly.

All that that matters is the art.

We are all imperfect and flawed, but what we strive to create is not bound and defined by these flaws – it is our attempt to transcend them.

A Pair of Psychotic Breaks

In the ED things often come in twos – it’s just a weird quirk. Sometimes it can be be something really odd, like two cardiac arrests back to back who both have bilateral below the knee amputations, or two perforated colons after a routine colonoscopy – from the same doc at the same GI clinic on the same day…

Or two infected lower extremity venous stasis ulcers, both teaming with maggots (here’s a factoid – in this case, the maggots are actually therapeutic!). Or today – a pair of very agitated and severe psychotic breaks.

No real message here – I just finished three twelve and a half hour shifts and my neurons are just randomly firing.

Carry on…

Edward R. Murrow Must Be Spinning In His Grave

I try very, very hard not to watch any “news” on television. But sometimes, in public places, I get caught. Tonight it happened at the gym…

”CNN: Breaking News Exclusive – Gunman’s Hairdresser Speaks!

Really?! This is what it’s come down to?

Look, I understand this is the world we live in, but let’s not pretend that this is reporting the news. Michael Ware is a news reporter. This is infotainment. And when it’s attached to a story about a mass killing, it really creeps me out. Mass murder isn’t entertainment. I feel really sorry for all the bright people with journalism degrees who found themselves doing “stories” like this. It must be really hard to get up in the morning and look at yourself in the mirror…

Recording In The Digital Playground

I love this metaphor – partly because it implies childlike fun and discovery, and partly because it acknowledges the inherent artifice of recording music.

Nothing – I mean nothing – will ever sound like hearing live music in a room. The visceral direct neurological stimulation of sound exciting the anatomical structures in our ears and then traveling directly into our brain for interpretation simply cannot be simulated by any recording, no matter how good the equipment or technique of the engineer. There seems to be some kind of energy exchange going on in the immediate environment when music is being played live. Just the process of putting up a mic, running it into a preamp, and recording it to a medium is in itself artificial. These kinds of recordings can certainly be great (when they capture transcendent performances), but they will never approach what the event actually sounded like live.

So if that’s the case, why not use every tool at your disposal to craft an audio event that could never happen in the real world? We live in a golden age of digital tools that enable us to manipulate audio in ways that were never before possible. Of course, at least 90% of everything made will be at best competent and at worst unlistenable – but that was always pretty much the same for everything ever recorded. However, the 10% at the top has the potential to show us things about ourselves we never dreamed possible.

The only limit is your imagination and audacity. So stop thinking like an adult, break rules as if you never learned them, and get to work!

Whatever You Do, Don’t Walk Too Close To The Chimp Cage…

I remember this was one of the first pieces of advice I got when I joined the circus. The chimps were part of a Mexican animal act, and they weren’t kidding. If I remember correctly I actually had to repeat the instructions to make sure the message got through. “They can rip your arms right out of the sockets.” Trust me – I didn’t have to be told twice.

It was a weird gig – a small circus for acts on their way down that traveled by truck through the deep south. Unless you were one of the ”featured” acts that is, in which case you traveled by Airstream. The ringleader was an alcoholic German gimp who walked with a cane. We’re talking authentic fringes of society here folks – I felt right at home. Drinking and smoking pot late at night in parking lots with the Vietnam vet and his juvenile elephant named “Baby Stony.” Hanging out and discussing philosophy and atheism with the ex-Franciscan Monk who lost his faith and joined the circus. Driving around with the band leader who had worked in Burlesque before that dried that up and he pivoted to the circus. A very surreal week in New Orleans spent with local “circus folk.” It was a very specific subculture with it’s own rules, codes of behavior, and language. I could write a short book about this episode in my life – adults only and not for the faint of heart…

What The Fuck Is Wrong With Us?

Las Vegas, October 2, 2017 – 59 dead, with over 500 wounded by a lone gunman. Welcome to America! This kind of dark, violent pathology appears to be woven into our DNA in a way that doesn’t seem to be present in other societies. All humans are potentially violent, but we really seem to have carved out a special niche as a deep outlier on the bell curve of what’s “normal.” The really disturbing thing about these mass shootings is not that they happen, it’s that we seem to accept them as normal. We make no attempt to change gun laws, unless it’s legislation designed to make guns more easily available.

Nothing will change, because we clearly don’t care. We are so nihilistically violent that we eagerly assume the role of our own existential threat. We apparently do nothing not because we are paralyzed with fear, but because we are so comfortable with the expression of violence. The media coverage begins to look uncomfortably like entertainment, feeding the masses desire for the spectacle of carnage. We have taken the French’s theatrical tradition of Grand Guignol and remade it in our own fashion. Why stage fake murder when you can do it for real?

In light of our long record of doing nothing in response to these tragedies, the hypocritical hand-wringing and proclamations of concern are nauseating. Our President comforts us: “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has…” Oh we come together alright.

Together as one murderous, bloodthirsty mob. A very unpleasant and tragic truth to face. Unless each one of us become agents of change, I’m afraid we all have blood on our hands…

Cleaning Up The Mess Part 1

When I was 34, my sister committed suicide. It had been a long time coming, so it wasn’t a big surprise – she had already made multiple attempts and was suffering from severe untreated mental illness. Like everything in life, things didn’t go according to plan. It was quite a scene.

I remember getting a call from my father that she had overdosed on psychotropic medication and alcohol in a motel on the interstate – she had long ago learned how to manipulate psychiatrists in order to get the medications she wanted. I loved her the best I could, but she had been too far gone for many, many years. One of the things about mental illness that people don’t understand unless they have been through it with a loved one is how much it wears you down – after decades, you just get exhausted. You lost hope a long, long time ago. It’s a brutal reality of life to realize that some things just aren’t fixable.

So now she is on life support in an ICU in critical condition, and someone has to go to the motel and clean up the crime scene. I fly to Virginia from New York as the only one in my family capable of dealing with this tragedy. The whole thing was like a surreal dream. I rented a car at the airport and drove straight to the motel. I remember it was cold and windy, with grey skies and light rain. Some guy who worked the front desk and probably got paid minimum wage let me into the room. This was way over his pay scale and he made a quick exit. The vibe was “Take all the time you need and for gods sake please don’t make me come back in here. Just close the door on your way out.”

As you might imagine, the room was a mess – pills and empty bottles of booze and her suitcase and clothes everywhere. Overflowing ashtrays and the TV was still on. Didn’t look like anyone else had been there since EMS carted her away. There were some remnants of emergency rescucitation equipment on the floor with everything else. It was my job to collect her personal belongings and whatever else I might find that shouldn’t be left behind.

I have this aspect of my personality that has served me well over my life, but isn’t particularly attractive. When I have a job to do, no matter how unpleasant, I just get on and do it. No crying, no emotional display – just grim determination.

Life isn’t for pussies.