all posts tagged 'anxiety'

I'm getting rid of my iPhone for a month

originally shared here on

Long time readers of this blog may recall that I've been psyching myself up enough to try switching to the Light Phone.

I’m legit embarrassed to admit just how much I’m addicted to my iPhone.

It happened slowly over the course of the last 15 years. Today, I find myself frequently incapable of putting it down, even when it’s actively making me feel terrible.

The biggest expense of always being virtually connected is never feeling connected to the physical moment happening in front of me.

That wasn’t so much of a problem to me when I was sitting in front of my Compaq desktop in the basement of my parent’s house.

Back in those days, I used to hate being away from my computer. The very first thing I’d do when returning from a family vacation was to jump on the computer and catch up on a week of message board posts.

Here in 2024, though, I don’t subject myself to that experience.

The other day, I was playing a Lego game with my son and while he was explaining an aspect of the game to me, I pulled out my phone and went to turn on music. Mid sentence, he stops and says, “Dad, can you put your phone away? It’s distracting me.”

Oof. That’s not how I want my son to remember me.

I’ve tried all the techniques people say can help limit screen time. Grayscale the screen. Delete apps. Block toxic websites. But because none of those tricks are actually working, it’s time to take more drastic measures.

My plan is to move my phone number onto the Light Phone for a month. Just a month.

I'm going to do this during the month of August. That will give me a couple weeks to prepare for it. I am honestly worried about what I’ll be giving up, and so I'm doing what I can to brace myself for that impact.

I’m mostly excited, really. After more than a decade in the comfortable, walled garden of the Apple ecosystem, I think it will be nice to experiment with new tech tools again.

The Light Phone is designed to be as boring and practical as possible. It can make phone calls, send texts, and give driving directions, among a few other things.

But there are certainly some activities that the Light Phone won’t do very well which I am unwilling to give up. So here are those activities, along with how I'm thinking I'll deal with those activities for the time being:

Taking notes and reminders.

A notepad with a pen. ✅

Next.

Reading.

Sometime in the last couple of decades, I stopped reading books.

I’m not exactly sure why. I used to love reading books when I was a kid. I would go to the library and read every book they had on building websites and computer programs. I’d also read every new edition of Animorphs, Goosebumps, and Harry Potter as soon as my library stocked it.

But beginning in high school, I stopped reading books for fun. Reading felt like a burden, something you were assigned as punishment. I resented reading so much, in fact, that I used to pride myself on not buying books for class in college and finding a way through without them.1

If I read books these days, I almost only read non-fiction, which is fine… but I miss reading for fun.

Earlier this year, I helped my wife proctor some tests at her school. I wasn’t allowed to be on the internet, so I brought a book along that a friend recommended called What You Are Looking For Is In The Library. I burned through it in a day, and it got me interested in reading fiction once again.

I think I wanna try getting into a fiction series. The last series I read was the Left Behind books in high school, so uh, yeah… I’m a bit out of the loop with what’s good out there.

If anyone has recommendations, let me know!

Taking pictures.

I used to be really into cameras when I was really into making clips2. When my oldest was born, we thought it made sense to buy a good SLR, so we picked up a Canon Rebel T6i.

I do still grab it out of storage and bring it along to the occasional soccer game or choir performance, and the shots feel better to me than the ones I get with my iPhone. It helps that I have a decent assortment of lenses, but I think it also speaks to the joy you get from using a tool that was intentionally built to complete a task.

Of course, I can’t realistically carry an SLR with me all the time. I need something more practical.

When I sold cameras at Best Buy3, the camera I recommended the most was the Canon SD800 IS, and it was the camera that documented some of the most fun moments of my life. It was small enough to fit in my pocket alongside my iPod.

Even though it fit, I still didn’t carry it with me every day, which makes the pictures I did take with them feel extra special when I browse through them today.

Maybe having a camera on me all the time is less necessary than I’m worried about. I mean, in a normal day for you, how many situations can you envision where you must take a picture of something and can't flag down someone to take one and send it to you?4

So I’m in the market for a camera that’s small like the SD800 was, but perhaps more professional. I remember seeing someone mention the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III and I thought the silver one looked kinda dope.

It makes me happy to see Canon keeping these devices up to date. The G7 X can shoot 4k video, and it’s got WiFi and USB-C so it’ll be easy to get media off of it. Most importantly, its size means it can stay in the drawer by the door and leap into service at a moment's notice.

But anyway, what about y’all? Anyone else use something besides their phone to take a picture or a video?

Listening to music.

The whole reason I wanted to make this post is because I wanted to brag about my restoration project with my old fifth generation iPod.

But because of course this is what happens when I brag, I’ve been stuck for a few days trying to debug a hardware failure that is proving exceptionally frustrating to resolve. Chef’s kiss.

So instead of bragging about that, I’ll instead confess that I’m one of those sickos who maintains their own library of MP3s.

I’ve always looked at streaming services with squinty eyes. Maybe it’s because I’m still mad at what they did to our beloved Napster. Maybe it’s because I think it’s important to not give complete control of my cultural history to massive corporations5. Maybe it’s because buying an MP3 version of an album from an artist will give them vastly more money than my combined streams would ever account for. Maybe it’s because I am an aging boomer.

Either way, transitioning away from Apple Music will not be too excruciating for me. I’ll still use it because I have HomePods all over my house, but when I’m not home, I want need a way to bring my music with me.

The Light Phone does have some storage and an MP3 player option, but because of the intentional design, you’re limited to a single playlist and 1gb of tunes. That doesn’t work for me, brother.

I’ll keep y’all posted with my progress on the restoration process. I want to get Rockbox installed on it so I can experience what the home brew community is doing with this old hardware.

In the meantime, if anyone knows how to address issues with an iFlash Solo syncing with an M1 Mac mini, holler at your boy.


I’d like to take this opportunity to express how pathetic I feel that I need to take these extreme steps to reclaim some part of me that I feel like I’ve lost ever since going whole ham on the mobile revolution.

I talk at length about the joy that comes with technology, but I should also recognize the negative impact that tech can make.

We went through an era of unfettered growth from Silicon Valley-powered firms who had nearly no supervision and did everything they could to exploit our political and economic systems for their own gain.

And to be clear, their growth did bestow some incredible tools onto us.

But as much as our society derides subgroups like the Luddites and the Amish for their apparent aversion to technology, there is clearly some merit to how they approach technology. You should adopt technology because it’ll help you, not because everyone else is using it.

Every night around 10:30pm, I find myself lying in bed, entering the casino that is my iPhone. Every app is a different section of the game room floor.

My email app is a slot machine, where I hope I’ll hit the big bucks and get an email saying “yay you’re hired!”, but the odds are better that I’ll see an email saying “lol you owe me money still.”

LinkedIn and Reddit are craps tables, where I sometimes roll an 11 and see a post from a friend who had a successful day at work or a post on /r/AskHistorians that teaches me something interesting (like Did President Andrew Garfield ever eat lasagna?). But more often than not, I roll snake eyes and see something which makes me feel like a failure or living in a dumpster fire of a society.

Even my beloved RSS reader app, filled with feeds that I explicitly opted into, can feel like a game of blackjack. Yeah, I often walk away with at least some money, but I still sometimes leave the table feeling unsure why I’m passionate about anything anymore.

I let this happen to myself. And every time I pull my phone out of my pocket during a family dinner, I rob myself of what makes life worth living in the first place.

Like our Silicon Valley overlords like to say, you can’t stop the march of progress. Technology is rapidly improving, and major advances in our collective understanding of the universe are unveiled at an overwhelming pace.

There’s gotta be a way where we can harness the good parts of technology without entirely succumbing to all of its detriments. The first step, I suppose, is defining what I want to get out of life.

And really, it’s pretty simple:

  • Play Legos with my son
  • Sing karaoke with my wife
  • Watch Rocko’s Modern Life with my daughter
  • Make music, work out, and learn new things
  • Be able to visit the doctor when I’m not feeling well without going bankrupt
  • Build something useful for people
  • Not make other people’s existences any worse than they already are

If those are the things that are important to me, then why would I burn precious energy spending time on a device which gives me anxiety attacks on a daily basis?

So yeah, come August, I’m signing off from my iPhone for a bit. It’ll feel good to step out of the casino and focus on building legos, taking walks, shredding on the guitar, singing karaoke, hanging out with friends, and listening to music.


  1. At the time, I was extremely anti-book because the book publishing market is an extreme racket, issuing frequent updates to textbooks with minimal tweaks while commanding insane prices. Today, part of me wishes I read the assigned works for most of my liberal arts classes. Maybe I would’ve picked up more useful facts about the Australopithecus or found useful anecdotes from Cold War geopolitical conflicts. 

  2. This is what we used to call videos before YouTube. We'd record a bunch of segments of a video on someone's dad's camcorder, then use a capture cable to play back the video onto a computer, and then edit it in something like Pinnacle Studio. Wild times, indeed. 

  3. Which seems to be my point of reference for where to look for all of these problems... I worked at Best Buy from 2005 to 2010, so basically, what were the tech solutions we had for these problems before the iPhone came out? And is there anything from the past 15 years that has improved on that tech? 

  4. Maybe this is a hypothesis born out of privilege, but let’s call a spade a spade: this entire article and premise is only possible for someone who is drowning in technology and choosing to reduce his consumption. 

  5. Brennan Lee Mulligan recently had an excellent monologue about this topic, but I don’t have a direct link to it. Just look at Paramount’s recent decision to remove all of MTV and Comedy Central’s backlogs of content as all the proof you need that you should back up what you care about. 


Comfortable with the struggle


🔗 a linked post to rachsmith.com » — originally shared here on

I’ve known developers who’ve put up with the struggle with the expectation that one day it will go away: one day they’ll be an expert and never have to struggle again. This day never arrives, and so they bail out of the field.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the struggle ever goes away. I’ve been doing this professionally for 14 years now and I still have to deal with the struggle almost every work day.

If you can be comfortable with the struggle and build up your tolerance for it. If you’re able to sit in that moment and be okay without drama or a total crisis of confidence, I’m fairly sure you’re going to do just great.

The Struggle comes in multiple shapes and sizes too. Here is a short list of my experiences with The Struggle from this week alone:

  • Impostor syndrome
  • Anxiety about breaking a physical connector
  • Frustration with unclear objectives
  • Being overwhelmed by unfamiliar technologies
  • Debugging something and being unable to find an answer

After 12 years of professionally dealing with The Struggle, I’m still able to handle many aspects of it, but my tolerance is quickly diminishing.

Dealing with The Struggle is much easier when you feel like there’s a reward for you at the end of it. Right now, I’m trying to restore my old iPod fifth gen with an SD card, and no matter what I do, I cannot get it to work right.

I’ve been all over forums, digging into the sixth and seventh pages of search results, desperately looking for clues as to why I’m not getting it to restore.

But I can picture myself playing that brick breaking game soon, and that first game is gonna be so much fun after all of this work.

Continue to the full article


Life's absurdity is a cause for happiness


🔗 a linked post to iai.tv » — originally shared here on

Sisyphus is forced to push a heavy boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down; for all eternity. Camus famously compared Sisyphus’ condition to the human condition. We too are fated to complete mundane, meaningless tasks, to chase desires and achieve goals only for them to be replaced by new desires and goals; always returning back where we started. Ronald Aronson argues it is our awareness, our human self-consciousness, of this condition that makes us superior to it.

I didn't read Camus in college1, so this concept of imagining Sisyphus happy is brand new to me.

If you also don't have much exposure to philosophy, give this article a try. It's certainly given me motivation to try reading The Myth of Sisyphus for myself.


  1. Although I did used to listen to The Magnetic Fields quite a bit. Sometimes, I lament not going through a brooding phase, and then I revisit the albums I listened to heavily in college and think, "oh yeah, I definitely had a brooding phase." 

Continue to the full article


'Inside Out 2' tops $1 billion at the global box office, first film to do so since 'Barbie'


🔗 a linked post to cnbc.com » — originally shared here on

"Inside Out 2" has also showcased how vital the family audience is to the box office. This underserved crowd accounted for more than 70% of those in attendance during the film's domestic debut, according to data from EntTelligence.

While this audience came out in droves for Universal's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," which generated more than $1.36 billion at the global box office, there was little for them to feast on until the recent releases of Sony's "The Garfield Movie" and Paramount's "IF."

We saw Inside Out 2 as a family the week it came out.

The anxiety attack portrayal in the movie got the tears rolling. I haven't felt so seen as it relates to mental health struggles, and I'm glad I have an example in the media I can show my kids as they get older and start dealing with stuff like this.

I don't understand why everyone keeps dogging on Pixar, saying they haven't released a good movie in years. Elemental, Turning Red, Soul, Onward, and Luca are all incredible movies.

The only turd since the pandemic is Lightyear. The reveal about Zurg's true identity made me literally yell "you've gotta be kidding me" out loud in a crowded theatre.

The article here does make a good point about the family audience being underserved essentially since the pandemic. We love taking the kids to our local Marcus theater, and there have been very few opportunities to do so with new movies.

The Garfield Movie was cute but also quite skippable. Better to find the 90s cartoon and binge that.

IF is not a kids movie; it's a movie geared towards aging parents who have lost touch with their inner child. (🙋‍♂️)

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was dark as hell. I enjoyed it, but my daughter had nightmares for a week after seeing it.

So yeah, I'm grateful for Inside Out 2, and I'm looking forward to more family friendly movies coming to theaters here yet this summer like Despicable Me 4, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Transformers One.

Continue to the full article


The Levers That Money Can’t Pull


🔗 a linked post to moretothat.com » — originally shared here on

Bob Marley (supposedly) said that “some people are so poor, all they have is money.” What he meant was that there are people that mistake the pursuit of wealth for their purpose, and when they realize that they’ve conflated the two, they understand that they’ve missed the point of why life is so worthwhile in the first place.

This is why purpose must be discovered without the promise of incentives or monetary rewards. It can only come from conducting an honest audit of what makes you feel wonderment (i.e. childlike curiosity) or a sense of duty (i.e. parental responsibility), and then directing your attention to making the most of those endeavors.

The sense of self-worth that can be derived from purpose is free from money’s clutches, so keep this in mind whenever you feel discouraged by how much you have. Money is simply not a variable here, and the knowledge of that goes a long way.

I’ve spent the past six months of unemployment conducting the audit described above.

And I’ve learned that what brings me wonderment is learning how technology works1, and my sense of duty is in teaching others how to use it.2

It’s not so much that I forgot those things about myself. What brings me such shame is the fact that I’ve suppressed the urge to pursue those activities in the name of making money.

Ultimately, love is the thing that matters most, but it’s often overlooked and disregarded as a cheesy emotion. In the minds of many, skepticism signals intelligence, whereas love signals naivete. After all, you garner respect by sounding the alarm on humanity’s problems, and not by pointing to love as the answer to them.

This is precisely why love is taken for granted. Even if love is felt between you and another person (be it a friend, partner, family member, whomever), it’s often left unarticulated because saying “I love you” means that you’re fine with seeming naive and aloof. And if this fear goes on long enough, you’ll feel that the best way to express your love will be through ways that act as surrogates for it.

Another thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am a naturally trusting person.

The majority of people I’ve encountered professionally appear to be the opposite. In particular, those playing the entrepreneur game seem especially skeptical or fearful of leaning into love.

Skepticism and fear drive those folks to make decisions about their business which ultimately lead to their demise.

I’ve sat in countless meetings with teams of executives who are frantically trying to come up with an idea for how to get more people to buy their thing.

At some point, an obvious answer emerges which involves building something that genuinely helps people.

But that obvious answer is almost universally looked at the same way you’d look at a plate of boogers because of financial concerns.

This general feeling is why I’ve struggled so hard to find a job. I’m tired of building software which only serves the purpose of making money.

Instead of jumping into another job where the culture is driven by money, I’m waiting until I come across a culture that is driven by love.3

Money’s a great tool, granting me a level of freedom that I may not have experienced had I pursued any other career.

But money is also the primary reason why I am dealing with severe anxiety and depression. It’s why my heart constantly feels like someone is squeezing it like a strongman squeezing an orange.

The only thing that causes the grip to be released? Doing things that lift the “purpose” and “love” levers. It’s when I trust others and spread as much love as possible when I feel the most alive.

Using the analogy in this article, I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life optimizing for the money-receptive levers. I’m gonna spend the next few in pursuit of lifting the money-negligent ones instead and see where that leads me.


  1. It’s not just tech… it’s all the STEM topics. And history. And sociology. And psychology. I find endless joy when I dig into understanding how anything works. 

  2. My sense of duty also extends to caring for my wife and teaching my kids stuff. I went out a couple weeks back and bought us all baseball gloves, and every day since, we’ve been outside playing catch. That is, up until yesterday, when I accidentally threw the ball down the storm drain. 😬 

  3. Here’s where I’ll say that I’m not so aloof as to deny that a business exists to make money. But when given the choice to be helpful versus to mint more money, I’d rather be on a team which makes the “help someone” choice more often than not. Those teams are out there, but they’re hard to find. And the turnover on those teams is exceptionally low. 

Continue to the full article


WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 13: Anxiety Attack Mitigation


🔗 a linked post to music.apple.com » — originally shared here on

A heads up: this post talks about mental health and suicidal thoughts again.

When you mention suicidal thoughts to your therapist, the first thing they do is work with you to write up a plan.

The plan is a series of steps you can take when you are unable to pull yourself out of a funk.

The steps start out small and accelerate all the way up to “go to the hospital.”

My first small step was to write down movies, TV shows, or songs that make me happy.

The movies and TV shows were easy, but I struggled to think of songs that made me happy.

As I’ve written a lot about this month, most music simply distracts me or serves as a sympathetic friend. It’s not often that songs put a smile on my face.

I started a new playlist in Apple Music called Anxiety Attack Mitigation1. Over the following few weeks, I added songs that brought a legit smile to my face when I heard them.

Here are the songs on it as of today:

Black Box - Fall into My Love (Radio Edit)

One night, my daughter was eating at the table while I was doing dishes. We were arguing about something unimportant. She was “very mad” at me.

This song comes on shuffle and I begin dancing. I can’t help it with this song, it’s too damn groovy.

I turn around and look over at my daughter. She looks up from her plate with an angry scowl. She sees what I’m doing and her jaw drops like a cartoon character. She gets this look on her face that’s equal parts amused and shocked.

She quickly realizes that she’s supposed to be mad at me, so she quickly covers her mouth and looks away.

Whenever this song comes on, even if I’m “very mad” about something, I can’t help but crack a smile.

Coolio - The Winner

I mentioned this song in my Hit ‘em High writeup, so I’ll make this quick:

This is a song that I’ve heard all my life, but never actually listened to until very recently.

Seriously, read these lyrics.

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect this sort of message from the same guy as Gangsta’s Paradise, but I’m grateful for the wisdom of Coolio.

Des'ree - You Gotta Be

102.9 Lite FM was my second favorite radio station growing up2.

I’d fall asleep to that station every night.

The song I most looked forward to hearing was this one.

Even as a fourth grader, this song made me feel good about myself.

As an adult, the song serves as a manifesto for how to keep moving through life.

Sum 41 - Fat Lip

I had this song on my Cybiko.

That’s a big deal because my Cybiko had a 16 megabyte card, which could store a whopping 16 minutes of low quality MP3s.

This song reminds me of middle school. Wanting to rebel but never feeling courageous enough to do it.

I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform it live twice this year3. I used to think pop punk music wasn’t something I was allowed to have as part of my identity, but the past few months have needed a soundtrack to help me make sense of my present situation.

Now, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I love it.

12 year old Tim would’ve loved to see Sum 41 live. 36 year old Tim is grateful to have had that realization before it was too late.

And every time I hear this song, it reminds me that I need to put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.

Rêve - Still Dancing

I already covered this one.

Hoobastank - Crawling In The Dark

I’m embarrassed to admit I listen to a lot of these songs, and this one is probably the one I’m the most embarrassed about.

Maybe I’m reaching a point in my life where I want to care less about what other people think, and this post serves as exposure therapy.

But I can’t rock out enough to this song when I feel angsty. It helps me feel less alone.

Jimmy Eat World - The Middle

This was another song that was on my Cybiko.

Every time I hear it, I try to place myself into the perspective of either the singer or the girl.

As the singer, someone pops into my head that I feel could use a pat on their back, so I shoot them a text and see how they’re hanging in there.

As the girl, I allow myself to get the pat on the back.

Bluey - I Know a Place (The Creek Song)

The best children’s television show of the past few years is unquestionably Bluey.

The soundtrack to the show is part of the reason why.

Close your eyes when listening to this song and picture the scene being described.

It’s a sure fire way to ground yourself back in reality, to give you a chance to let go of the thing that is causing you so much stress, to make space for thoughts that matter.

Em Beihold - Numb Little Bug

I went out for karaoke a month or so ago and heard someone sing this song that I’d never heard before.

The lyrics match the way I feel when I’m especially down, and listening to her helps me feel less isolated.

Modest Mouse - Float On

Like the Coolio song above, here’s a song that’s been in regular rotation for years, but I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics.

This song is a reminder that life often works out just fine in the end.

Hoku - Perfect Day

You listen to this song and try to not get a dumb grin on your face.

Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up

Yet another song I’ve enjoyed for years without considering the lyrics all that much.

The uplifting lyrics and encouragement to persevere through struggle make this song perfect for this playlist.

It also often gives me perspective for my own struggles. I know there isn’t such a thing as “the suffering Olympics,” but come on, my struggles aren’t much compared to those of an African American in the 70s.

The Linda Lindas - Talking to Myself

I’m seeing Green Day this summer, and the Linda Lindas are one of the opening sets.

Their entire Growing Up album is very good, but this song made it on this playlist because, much like the Numb Little Big song, it often feels like we’re alone when we have depressive thoughts.

I’m super lucky to have friends I can call to talk about the things I think about that I can’t help.

Some of you may even be reading this post! I can’t believe people read this stuff, but again, I’m a very lucky guy. ❤️


  1. This is an incredibly dorky name. Just needed to admit that here. 

  2. My first was Radio AAHS. The ink I could spill about my love for Radio AAHS… 

  3. They are currently on their final tour. I’m not sure if this is like pro wrestling when people have retirement matches and then go on to wrestle for another 30 years (looking at you, Ric Flair), but it sure feels like they are ready to call it. Yet another reason I’m glad I took the opportunity to see them live this year. 

Continue to the full article


All about the money


🔗 a linked post to builders.genagorlin.com » — originally shared here on

One can of course relate to money in pathological ways. For those whose standard of value resides not in a conception of their fully-lived life (a la the builder), but in the impressions or judgments of others (be it God or society or their parents or some other “drill sergeant”), money means whatever it purportedly means to those others—status, in some circles, or wicked materialism in others, or in still others, “privilege” to be forgiven with obligate philanthropy. 

By contrast, a builder’s relationship to money is not mediated by any of these external intermediaries. She understands that money is a medium of value exchange, and what she values is set by the life she wants to build and the world she wants to live in. 

There are also simpler pathologies, such as when fear or insecurity drives founders to pursue short-term monetary gains over the longer-term health and durability of their business. But such financial anxieties can be diagnosed and remedied by re-orienting toward the overarching goal of building one’s best life, which presumably includes a healthy and durable version of one’s business (or whatever one is building) as part of it.

Quite a useful way to reframe money and its importance to a well considered life.

Continue to the full article


Adding tagging to timbornholdt.com

originally shared here on

I just released a feature to this site where blog posts can now be tagged with any number of tags.

You can then read all the posts that are tagged as confidence or music or programming or whatever.

I was extremely inspired by kottke.org's recent redesign. The idea of turning your blog into your own social media stream-looking thing strikes me as one of those design decisions that feels revolutionary and obvious at the same time. I will no doubt try to do something similar to this site right here.

But as I think through the best place to start, I'm resisting my urge to just blanket redesign the site without a plan. And the first step of that plan is to do the tedious work of going through my archives and adding tags to the old posts.

Tags aren't exactly a revolutionary new feature. It took me about a half hour to implement the basics, and then another day or so of tweaking the process of adding them to each post so I can do it quickly.

The reason I wanted to share this as a post is because one unintended consequence of going through this process was [pause for sarcastic and dramatic effect] ... anxiety!

Because of course the creation of a a feature for my site that is read by an exceptionally low number of people must result in getting way into my head about it.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour going through my old posts and adding some tags to them.

As I got deeper into the archives, I kept thinking of tags that would've been great to add to posts I had already added tags earlier.

I found myself getting mad at myself for not being optimized up front and just having a tag list to choose from.

Well guess what, Tim? There’s no way you’ll know what tags you want to add until you’ve added all the tags!

Just do your best, man. Even getting half way is an amazing leap forward. Just keep moving forward.

It's proving to be surprisingly hard for me to not beat myself up over this tag system, which again, is supposed to be fun, you goober!

Here's the best case scenario from doing all this work: maybe these tags will help me articulate the overall themes I cover on my site, to identify the topics I’ve been interested in throughout the last fifteen-ish years.

Here's the worst case scenario from doing all this work: complete and total indifference from the universe.

Note to self: just enjoy getting a chance to go through the clutter of your site and clean it up. It’s fun! Add whatever tags you think will help, and if you get an idea about a better tag later, go back and look it up then!

As you can see, I'm still working on not letting anxiety cripple me from starting and completing a project.

Why am I even stressing about this?

Just go have some fun with your tag thing.

It makes you happy.

That should be enough.


The Job Hunt Chronicles: Month 2: Beyond the Fog

originally shared here on

A pair of worn-out shoes at the edge of a path leading into a misty forest.

(This is the second in a series of posts going through my journal entries from the last month and talking about what it's like to go through a period of unemployment, self doubt, and finding your spark. You can read the first one here.)

Alright, we've made it through February!

I'm still on the job hunt. I'm still dealing with some crippling anxiety and depression.

But I'm making progress! I'm having interviews, I'm figuring out how to feel my feelings and articulate my values, and I'm finding opportunities to enjoy the moment and be optimistic about finding my next job.

I journaled every single day last month. I fed all 28,000+ words into ChatGPT and asked it to summarize the entries into two sentences using the style of the journal entries themselves. Here's what it said:

Another month down, filled with musings, mild misadventures, and moments of clarity amidst the mundane. Balancing personal passions, family love, and the hunt for professional fulfillment, the journey meanders through the highs and lows, always circling back to the comforting, complex tapestry of daily life.

Man, do I actually sound that pretentious in my own journal? 😂

Anyway, if you're wondering what was on my mind in January, strap yourself in and let's go!

"What are you looking for?"

Gonna put this up front again like I did last month.

I'm looking for a position where I can blend strategic tech leadership with hands-on coding, preferably in a small, mission-driven company focused on healthcare or climate solutions. The ideal environment is a funded startup with fewer than 50 employees, leveraging generative AI, and based in or flexible with the Twin Cities area.

Ideal extras include a flexible 32-hour work week, a hybrid work arrangement, and opportunities for travel and professional development

In short: If you know a mission-oriented startup seeking a tech-savvy strategist passionate about making a significant impact, send them my way!

Activities I've done

I put this section in my last post because it felt like a badge of honor to brag about how many meetings I had in a month. To me, it felt like I was doing something.

All of that pride went down the drain after talking with a new friend who basically said that I'm continuing to burn myself out by grinding through hundreds of meetings instead of doing the actual hard work of sitting down and figuring out what my values are.

Once you know what your values are, you are so much more likely to know what path to walk down.

So in that spirit, I won't mention how many meetings I've had. Instead, I basically spent this month continuing to figure out who I am and what I want.

I'm aware that's not a very satisfying or flashy statement to make in a blog post that purports to explain life in the eyes of someone who got laid off.

But truly, most of what I've done in the last month is learn about my feelings and how to deal with them productively.

I've gone to some of the darkest places I've ever gone in my life this past month. The shame, the fear, the depression, the embarrassment, the anger... all of those feelings are easy to deal with when you ignore them like I had been for my entire adult life.

But your body can only handle ignoring them for so long. Eventually, you find yourself leaving work early and rushing to the hospital because your heartbeat is noticeably irregular, and your heart feels like an orange being crushed in the hands of a strongman, adrenaline secreting between their fingers.

One thousand and six hundred dollars later, you're told that there's nothing physically wrong with you. Go see a therapist.

Your body remembers each and every time you ignore those feelings, those warning signs. Those "gut checks" that you decide to push aside because it doesn't align with what you think you should be doing.

Eventually, it all boils over.

So that's what I've been up to this month: looking back at the past twenty years of my life and beating myself up for years of beating myself up.

It hasn't all been atonement, though. I've also started to hope again. I've had moments where I'm excited again for what's next.

Even if that's something as simple as waiting for a hug from my kids when they get home from school, or watching an episode of Drag Race with my wife every Friday.

Those little things are the things that keep me going, and they're giving me the energy to start looking forward to how I can get back out in the world and be helpful.

Things I've learned

Here are all the random things I've been contemplating over the past month:

👨‍🎨 Personal growth insights

My 7 year old daughter told us she thinks she's getting too old for Barbie.

This was crushing for me and my wife to hear, but for different reasons.

For my wife, it was the prototypical "my kid is growing up" response that all parents feel when they see their kid age. I don't wanna minimize that feeling, because I certainly feel it myself: it's bittersweet to see your kids grow up.

But for me, it was a good reminder that the grass is always greener on the other side.

I can't remember the last time I dreamed about what I wanted. I feel like I've been coasting for at least the last several years.

Besides hanging with my family/friends and the occasional fun project at work, there hasn't been much driving me forward to grow.

And that's probably where a good chunk of my depression is coming from.

I could either sit and analyze the "why" (and trust me when I say that I have), but the more important thing is to be grateful for coming to this realization and making strides towards dreaming again.

My problem is that I, uh, kind of forgot how to do that.

Part of it stems from my engineering brain continually looking for edge cases that cause me to reject a dream wholesale.

Another big part of it might be this fear of losing what I've already got. I worked hard to build a reputation, I've got a great family that needs to be provided for, I've got a house that needs maintenance and improvements, the list goes on and on.

But whatever the reason, I find that dreaming is a muscle that can atrophy. I have a similar theory about being extroverted: after the pandemic, I found being around people to be exhausting in a way that I never felt before. My extroversion tendencies returned as I continually subjected myself to new groups of people.

Dreaming feels the same way: continually practicing and refining the act of dreaming is the only way to get good at it.

That's what makes me jealous of my daughter and son.

I watch them play with Barbies together, and their ability to play baffles me.

How can you just start playing?

How can you come up with new scenarios and then go for it?

I ended up talking to my daughter about this. It felt great to share with her how I'm jealous of her ability to be young and idealistic and have a vision for how her life can be, and I'm jealous of how she's able to express that vision through her play.

She ended up deciding to keep her Barbies, and I'm extremely grateful for that. It means there's still more time for me to learn first hand from the master of dreaming.

She'lo yada, yada.

I was speaking with someone about struggling to make a decision that needed to be made, and he told me about this expression that he heard his family say a lot growing up.

It's a Hebrew expression that means "He who doesn't know, knows."

This pairs nicely with the Derek Sivers axiom of "Hell Yes, or No," where something is either impossible to say no to, or you simply say no to it.

Both of these, of course, are "easier said than done" aphorisms to adopt, but it's good to document them nonetheless.

It's awesome to end things.

I spoke with a friend who ran a very popular blog about his adventures traveling to various breweries, and we were both talking about how we were considering winding down our various beer-related projects.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I keep coming across articles expressing the importance to consider the ending to whatever you start.

At one networking event, I heard a speaker ask "what is the percentage likelihood that you will exit your business?"

The answer: 100%.

Because at some point, you will die.

That is the ultimate finality, of course, but the longer I'm around here on earth, the more I have to start embracing the good side of things ending.

I built mncraft.beer a decade ago because my wife and I were extremely passionate about supporting craft breweries, and we had a goal to get to every single brewery in the state.

Fast forward ten years, our ambitions have changed. It's difficult to convince two young kids to sit in a car for several hours on a weekend, let alone motivate myself to spend all that time traveling to visit a brewery that, in all likelihood, only produces mediocre beer.

I've gotten all that I can get out of that project. My biggest takeaway is that a brewery often is a boon for a small town. Even if the beer isn't going to win any awards, we all collectively need more third spaces, and breweries act as a fantastic gathering place for a community.

According to my Untappd account, I've had 7,445 beers since joining the app in August of 2012. Of that, 4,346 of them were unique. I've had 200 different styles of beers, and I've learned that I like Pilsners, Belgians (anywhere from Dubbels to Quads), Extra Special Bitters, Kölsch beers, and straight up, old school IPAs.

I know what good beer tastes like, and I know what breweries make good beers in our state.

So what's the benefit to continuing that app?

I shared a video from Hank Green last year about letting go of the dreams of your past in order to free yourself up for new ones, and that's the mindset I gotta adopt here.

It's always sad to end things. I remember every closing circle after a show would end in theatre was a mess of emotions and tears. I remember losing our final football game in high school, looking around the field, seeing tears and frustrations mount on the faces of my teammates. You never wanna say goodbye to something that gave you so much joy.

It kind of reminds me of this exchange from Hook (one of my favorite movies of all time):1

Hook: Are you ready to die, boy?

Peter: To die would be a great adventure.

Killing off parts of our former self on which we linger is a privilege which allows us to fully move on to the next adventure.

Al Snow on Success

I felt under the weather this month for a couple days, and on one of those days, I decided to watch the Wrestlers documentary on Netflix.

Two things I want to mention about that:

First, the whole thing felt like a work-shoot to me. I love the way professional wrestling blurs the line between what's real and what's made up.

It felt like the documentarians were very intentional about painting Al as the babyface (the good guy) and Matt Jones as the heel (the bad guy).

I hope OVW gets a good boost in viewership as a result of the documentary. They did a great job of showing how the sauce gets made, and I'm sure they know it's the exact sort of thing that hooks in smart marks like me.

Second, since I assume all of those wrestling terms are not meaningful to most of you, here's a great quote that comes at the end of the documentary:

If you equate success in a destination (that destination being WWE), you’re probably not gonna get it. But if you equate success in doing something you’re passionate about and that you love, and that gives you purpose and drive, then you’re successful.

I keep asking myself what success means to me, and while I don't have a solid answer yet, maybe it's because I'm still working on giving myself permission to dream without restrictions.

I'll get there soon, though. I can feel it.

Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car".

After Tracy performed with Luke Combs at the Grammy's this year, I saw a post that talked about her performance of Fast Car in front of an extremely frustrated crowd at Wembley Stadium in 1988.

You can find recaps of the story online, but the long and short of it is that Stevie Wonder was refusing to go on stage at this birthday celebration for Nelson Mandela, so Tracy came back out on stage and performed Fast Car.

When you watch the video, you hear the crowd go from rowdy to genuinely moved.

It's hauntingly beautiful. That song has always been a staple in my rotation, and after hearing it performed in this way, it makes it even more special.

We should use all of our senses to find our way.

I feel like the best metaphor I can give for how depression feels to me is a fog that completely obstructs my vision.

No matter which direction I look, all I see is a dense fog of nothingness.

But what I keep reminding myself is that even when you can't see, you still have at least four other senses you can use.

I'm not sure how to use those other senses yet, but I'm starting to use my ears to listen for opportunities, my nose to sniff out which direction to walk in, and my gut to validate which direction feels right.

The Dan Patch Club serves as a template for who I wanna be when I get old.

My dad invited me to speak to The Dan Patch Club, which is a subgroup of residents and friends of the Masonic Home in Bloomington dedicated to learning and exploring various topics together.

I'm ashamed to admit that I'm not immune from playing the generational blame game. But placing each other into broad, faceless groups like "boomers" or "millennials" only makes it harder for us to pool our collective wisdom and work together to solve real problems that our society faces.

Short of vague jokes about mysticism and ritualistic masonic secrets, I honestly had no idea what to expect when my dad asked me to come speak to these Masons.

I figured the hour would be spent giving a broad introduction to generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney, but what surprised me was how many hands were raised when I asked "how many of you have used ChatGPT?"

I should've known better because I did know that this room contained two PhDs and a retired attorney. All of these guys had extremely poignant and informed questions about the use of AI in our society.

We talked about the legal implications of deep fakes, the ability to spread election propaganda at unfathomable speed, how these models "reason" and come up with "truth", and the most important question which continues to plague us information workers: "how do you turn off predictive autocomplete in Microsoft Word?"

As we were wrapping up, I actually didn’t want it to end in the same way I haven’t wanted many of my conversations to end lately.

Sparking that curiosity in people is one of the key values I've been aspiring towards as I craft my vision for the next ten years.

I hope when I’m their age, I’m still kickin’ it with my homies, whomever they may be, nerding it up about complex topics, continuing to challenge myself and grow as much as possible.

Is anxiety only reducible when you are focused on your basal instincts and needs?

It seems like the only known treatments and mitigations for anxiety center around mindfulness and getting your brain to live in the present.

Is that really it? Living in the now is the only way to make anxiety go away?

It seems like there should be more we can do to harness our ability to look into the future while keeping the major doom scenarios from spiraling in our heads.

Meditation?

Anyone have any good suggestions for developing a consistant medication practice?

I have tried apps in the past but haven't found them to be sticky or altogether helpful.

Daniel Tiger isn't only for kids.

Toward the end of February, I had a major backslide with my mental health, and it kind of came to a head one day while I was dropping my son off at daycare.

I usually let him pick out what we listen to, and he chose the Daniel Tiger's Big Feelings album.

One of the first songs on that album is called "Close Your Eyes and Think of Something Happy."

I ended up at a red light and, as I found myself descending into some negative thoughts, I decided to do exactly that.

And you know what I saw?

Absolutely nothing.

It crushed me.

I'm a grown ass man, and I couldn't even come up with a single thing in that moment to think of in order to make me happy.

Suddenly, from the back seat, I hear my boy giggling and singing along.

Man.

That moment highlighted to me how badly I needed help through this stuff. That there is a ton to be happy about.

I'm glad my son was able to help me get out of my head.

And I'm glad I'm no longer dismissing those songs as "simple kid songs." We can all use a reminder for how to process sad and angry feelings in a healthy manner.

It's easier to venture out when you know you can return home.

I heard Dr. Becky mention it in that Farnam Street podcast, but she was talking about the relationship between teenagers and parents.

I've been considering the sentiment in regards to music.

For the past five years, I've been very curious about genres of music from which I've typically shied away.

I decided to listen through my entire local library of music, which is currently sitting at 83 days of non-stop new tunes.

That library is filled with music of every type of genre imaginable. Country. Experimental free jazz. 70s East African jams. Norwegian death metal. A mashup of Metallica and The Beatles. All kinds of EDM mixes.

It took more than 4 years to get through all of it, but I finished it with an appreciation of the core albums that have been there for me my whole life.

The other day, I decided to shuffle my "key albums", which is any album I've given a star rating of 4.5 or higher.

I was instantly transported back to several happy moments in my life. Building Ralph Wiggum images in front of my computer in my childhood bedroom. Walking home to my (eventually) condemned house in college. Going for a run around the pond in Bloomington. Riding the light rail home.

Solitary moments where I didn't need to worry about what other people would think of what I was listening to.

A place where I can be myself.

That concept applies to much of our soul searching. We are only able to be truly adventurous when we know there's a safe place for us to come home to when we're weary from exploration.

I find myself drawn to people who are able to speak passionately about their cause much in the same way my kids talk about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

There's something magical about believing in something.

There's something special about having solid, firm convictions on which you stand.

It's this palpable energy you can feel emanating from someone sharing their passions.

I felt it at a couple of job interviews I had last month.

I felt it while speaking with friends about AI.

I felt it playing crazy rummy with my wife and talking about what we want to do for our ten year anniversary.

Maybe that's the feeling I should be chasing. Is that feeling "joy"?

I'm not sure where I started getting so disillusioned about that feeling in a professional context.

But I'm eager to find a job where I can surround myself with that energy once again.

Kids simply do not care about success like grown ups do.

When my daughter was 4, I'd watch her play a game where she'd have to pick the right word and she would purposefully pick the wrong one.

Like, I knew she knew the right word, but she intentionally picked the wrong one.

It sent me up a wall.

But one day, I asked her why she was picking the wrong one on purpose.

She said, "I like the noise it makes when I get it wrong."

My kids are way better at learning and dealing with uncertainty than I am.

And success is whatever you define it to be.

I can't thank you all enough.

A lot of my journaling over the past month is just, like, truly dismal.

But there are moments of light, and they're all thanks to you all.

I am forever indebted to the literal hundreds of people who have reached out to ask me how I'm doing. I'm so fortunate that I've got so many people who care about me.

I feel like I'm not able to be my own best friend right now. I find myself continually returning to a place where I can't stop beating myself up.

You know how people used to take their old cars that they don't want anymore and drive them deep into the woods and leave them there? That's how I feel right now. I feel like a beat up old car that's completely rusted through, nature slowly consuming and reclaiming it.

But it's conversations with many of you that are helping me see that's not an accurate picture of reality.

So thanks for checking in on me. It's definitely helping me get through the fog.

👨‍💼 Professional growth insights

If someone calls themselves an "expert", it's because they're trying to sell you something.

This insight came from a talk by the incredible Jim Wilt that technically came from January, but I didn't include it in last month's post and want to make sure I include it now.

My inbox is a prime source of stress.

It's a roulette wheel where sometimes you win big (a job offer, a congratulatory email, a rave review), but you also sometimes lose big (a threat of a lawsuit, a late bill notice).

I'm still learning how to separate work from my personal life, but a good place to start is to go to your settings on your phone and turn the inbox off for your work email.

You don't need to remove it altogether.

But when I was at Bionic Giant, I turned it off, and it helped my stress levels immensely at night.

It allowed me to turn it on if I needed access to a message on my phone during the day, but then I could easily turn it off at night so I didn't get distracted when I went to my inbox to read a newsletter.

It's awfully hard to say "no."

I wrote a lot in my journal this month about how a lot of my anxiety stems from saying "yes" to everyone and everything.

One reason I can't say "no" is because I'm not sure what I actually want. Saying "yes" at least gives me the chance to figure out if it's something I want.

But when I say "yes" to too many things, I never get a chance to sit back and reflect on whether it was something I wanted.

Which basically describes the first decade+ of my professional career. I say "yes" to the point where I have no room in my schedule to reflect.

I need a better analogy for how generative AI arrives at its solutions when compared to a search engine.

If anyone has any ideas, let me know.

I don't get why I feel so guilty for feeling sick.

I find it next to impossible to rest as it is.

But when I'm sick, it's like my anxiety works in overdrive to try and let me know that I'm falling behind on stuff.

I said this earlier, but I felt a little under the weather one day this past month, and I ended up calling folks and cancelling my meetings with them. The guilt I felt was incredible.

I appreciate having anxiety to keep me thinking through possible problems and pushing myself to move forward to fix them, but the combination of the "fight or flight" and "freeze" responses makes it tough to get anything done.

Learning new things becomes a lot harder as you age.

I was turned down from a job I was rather hopeful to get because I don't have the experience in the Javascript framework that they were looking for.

So I decided I was gonna sit down this past week and learn it.

I tell you, I watched three different tutorials, and I could not bring myself to finishing any of them.

The problem here is that I already know how to build web apps. I've been doing it since I was eight years old.

I've learned how to build web apps by hand, by using PHP, by using Laravel (a framework built using PHP), by using Wordpress, and by using Ruby on Rails.

And you know what I've realized after all that learning? They're all slightly different ways of achieving the same thing.

And guess what? There are roughly a dozen different additional popular ways to build and deploy web apps. There's all kinds of containerization techniques to deploy scalable platforms. There are cloud providers that allow you to spin up all sorts of architectures to scale your platform. There are a bajillion different Javascript frameworks to write your code in, along with a quadrillion CSS frameworks to style your apps in.

I may have hit my Morgan Freeman in Shawshank moment where I simply don't care what technology we use anymore.

You feel compelled to use Rails to build a monolith? Great!

You think you're gonna hit a scale that requires a complex microservice infrastructure built on hundreds of lambdas? Fine, sure, let's do it.

The thing is, I don't want to learn a new framework for the sake of learning a new framework.

If I needed to figure out a specific architecture for a job, I am 100% confident that I could do it, even if it requires using a framework that I've never used. That's what nearly 30 years of building on the internet does for me.

[...]

Can I be real with you all for a minute?

Of all the sections I've written in this blog post, this one is the one I am having the hardest time releasing to the world.

I have a feeling I'm coming off as a bit of a crybaby.

I recognize that any craftsperson needs to hone their craft and stay up to date with the latest tooling in order to be marketable.

My problem may be that I'm conflating burnout symptoms with my general interest in learning new things.

In every development project I've ever worked on, I've had to learn new things.

There's always a new API, a new SDK, a new framework to pick up.

It's been part of my agency life for my entire career.

Maybe my problem isn't with learning new things. Maybe it's that I'm exhausted from having to whip around from tech to tech without ever taking an opportunity to go deep on any one of them in particular.

Even as a seasoned Ruby on Rails developer with more than a decade of use, I feel like I'm falling behind with all the fancy new Rails 7 functionalities like serving HTML over the wire.

There are a million different ways to build websites, and I'm struck with the realizing that I'll never learn all of them.

Maybe I have to decide whether I want to sharpen the tools I do know intimately, or whether now is a time to adopt new tools and put in the work to become an expert with those ones.

They say learning new things becomes harder as you get older.

What's next for me

Last month, I committed to coming back with a more clear vision of what I want my life to be. I don't think I'm at a point where I'm ready to articulate my vision, so I am going to continue spending time honing that through journaling, meditation, and conversation. I hope to be in a place to share a rough draft with y'all next month.

I also want to keep up my recent blitz of sharing links here on my blog. I'm going to add in a "tagging" feature to my posts so I can start keeping better track of things I talk about on here and find them more easily.

I also want to start podcasting again. I will commit that by next month, I'll be able to tell you what my new podcast will be about. My friend Dana and I are going to start meeting once a week to hold each other accountable on our various endeavors, and that's what I'll be spending that time plotting.

If you're reading this and want to know how you can help me, here's how:

  1. If you know of a full time (32-40 hr/week) job opportunity where I can help architect a complex software system for a meaningful organization and lead a team of people to get it built, please send it my way.
  2. If you come across any thought leaders who are speaking about AI from a perspective of what it will mean for our humanity (in how we work, how we organize, how we think, etc.), please connect them with me!

Thanks again for reading all the way to the end! If you did, I would love to hear if anything resonated with you. Shoot me an email or a note on LinkedIn.


  1. The next line in this exchange is, ironically, "Death is the only adventure you have left," which I don't feel fits neatly into my narrative here, but it's still a great movie. I can't wait for my kids to be old enough to enjoy it like I still do. 


Beat anxiety with the most addictive experience on Earth


🔗 a linked post to youtube.com » — originally shared here on

Really straight forward advice here:

  1. Write down ten things that you’re grateful for, and write each one three times. (This points out to the brain things that have already happened that are good, which lets us take in less negative stuff)
  2. Practice mindfulness for 11 minutes a day. (This is proven to calm down your nervous system and make you less emotionally reactive)
  3. Exercise 20-40 minutes until the voice in your head gets quiet and your lungs open up. (This releases nitric oxide and also resets the nervous system)

I think I can incorporate the gratefulness piece into my journaling habit I’ve developed.

I have never been able to get a mindfulness practice to stick, but hey, maybe that’s something I can try to start tomorrow.

Exercise has been, admittedly, hit or miss these past several months. I do enjoy Apple Fitness workouts, but I miss the runner’s high I used to get with running. I need another goal-based exercise activity to keep myself on track.

But I digress: all of these serve as catalysts to get you into a state of flow, which, as mentioned in this video, is one of the greatest experiences you can ever feel.