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Self-Reflection Means Self-Criticism

May 4, 2009 — 9 Comments

I’ve never really written about my girlfriend here. It’s strange because she is such a big part of my life.

Our relationship isn’t always the best which is unfortunate because she is a very sweet girl. It’s my fault mostly. I am a 21 one year old guy and I work all the time. My position forces me to make some really shitty decisions, ones with no real winner and enough of them added a bit of an edge to an otherwise wonderful relationship.

I don’t always agree with the things that upset her. There are times when I think she’s totally wrong. But looking back there are quite a few decisions I made that I am not proud of. Priorities and internal logic that were embarrassing at best and disturbing at worst.

I guess you need to think when you’re making a choice: is this an something I respect or is the logic just tenuous enough to settle your conscience?

There is a good line in Meditations where he says something like never do anything that you will worry about remaining ‘behind closed doors’. I think the same goes for how you treat the important people in your life. And when I look back on things, there’s a lot I could never justify to a third party. I regret that and it’s something I’d like to put an end to doing.

Mergers & Acqusitions

May 1, 2009 — 3 Comments

icanhas1.jpg

And so ends the chapter of my life where I constantly scour the internet for funny dog pictures and carry a camera to catch Hanno failing a site-record 5 times.

If you haven’t seen it, FailDogs.com now aggregates all the fails from I Has Hotdog and Failblog onto one site. Ben Huh, the CEO offered me a certificate commemorating the sale as a joke but I of course made him give me one. The site couldn’t be in a better or smarter hands.

Never Enough

April 28, 2009 — 5 Comments

I like watching those shows on HGTV where people shop for their first home. I always lose it when I see some 25 year old engaged couple rejecting a house because it only has “two bathrooms” or “not enough space for a formal dining room.” It’s banal and insidious and makes me shudder.

When I think about it, that’s a lot like how we judge and make complaints about other people. Deep down there’s no other explanation but entitlement. I mean, have you ever once thought that you’d be willing to trade something you do appreciate in someone in exchange for the thing you’re complaining about?

Our grievances against other people are mostly rooted in this tendency to take what we do get for granted and whatever else we want as justly deserved. It’s a petty kind of narcissism shined over with rationalizations about social cues or the ‘future of customer service’ or reciprocity. And when I look at it that way, I realize there isn’t much honor in criticism, just greed.

The Second Act Fallacy

April 23, 2009 — 14 Comments

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that there are “no second acts in American lives.” Joesph Epstein retorted in Ambition that Fitzgerald should have realized that just because the ending isn’t happy doesn’t mean there wasn’t a second act. In fact, we have a name for that style: tragedy.

Maybe he would have been better served to remember that. Or, better still, he could have abandoned the whole notion that his life was a like a play. Consider that Fitzgerald’s love of drama, glamor, and fame were responsible for almost all his problems. It’s why he was depressed, why he loved a woman who destroyed his life, and why he never sat down to really work again.

What if there is just life and we’re not all actors on a world’s stage. There wouldn’t be the crushing pressure of redemption because there isn’t an audience to redeem. There would only be you. And each day, the expectations you fulfill are your own. The day before and the day after are unconnected because there is no narrative tying them together. They just are.

The Second Act in American Lives is a fallacy generated by the absorbed belief in the First Act. They’re both counterproductive. They’re both delusional. They ultimately make it impossible to an incredibly difficult thing: waking up everyday and doing only the things that make you happy and proud and self-contained.

Life

April 20, 2009 — 7 Comments

No offense to my dad, but I don’t remember getting a whole lot of advice as a kid. And considering how many of the former responsibilities of the family are getting pushed off onto society or dropped all together, this was probably a good thing. Today, the onus to learn life lessons falls almost entirely on the individual.

On my bookshelf, I have Life books. Books that were formative or influential and had implications outside their immediate reading. When I don’t feel like reading something new, I pick one of them up and flip through it. There’s this book called The Harder They Fall, which for about 300 pages is entirely about some boxing match, but it’s on that shelf because the last page has this wonderful paragraph about thinking we can “deal with filth without becoming the thing we touch.” I also have a delicious tag that I try to keep important articles in. Ones that make me think “what an asshole” or “keep that in mind” or “you should be so lucky to ever become that person.” The people who wrote them probably had no idea that their topic could be interpreted in such a way, which is the whole point.

The problem with a lot of advice is that it’s a good part projection of the other person, and not about you. What I like to do is search out things that speak to me, that I can tweak into becoming some sort of lesson rather than an explicit instruction from someone else. Chances are you’re going to wake up one day and find yourself in a situation you don’t know how to deal with. But if you’ve properly prepared yourself, you should have the tools on hand to work something out.

What I’m saying is that there is a critical distinction between the crap you read about box office economics, or tech acquisitions or random chatter about the future of the media and what has real implications for your actual life. One is like the clacking chatter on the floor of the stock exchange and the other, a private conversation in a lush, quiet office. One matters, and the other is distracting, vicarious bullshit that would so instantly go mute if someone told you that you were dying or had a few million dollars in a bank account.

So which one should you spend the most time organizing or collecting? Which one are you going to turn to if things go to shit? Or, finally, who is more respected, a master of wisdom or information?