all posts tagged 'parenting'

Smartphones, social media, and parenting teens/tweens


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

I was recently part of a big parenting discussion group about whether a parent should allow her tween to have a smartphone with Snapchat. It produced a lot of stories and anecdotes and feelings and opinions, including a few tales of teens finding ways to circumventing parental controls or even picking up burner phones in order to be able to do things like keep up streaks. There were also some anecdotes of real-life consequences around location tracking, hazing, content getting shared and saved without consent, etc.

It was eye-opening and terrifying, because my kids are too young for this sort of thing today, but I’m sure the options will be even more overwhelming and difficult to manage by the time they’re this age. The social pressures in their and your peer group will influence what’s considered appropriate, regardless of any age listed for any terms of service, and there are so many things that are technically permitted but not exactly good for us in this world.

I wanted to take the time to formulate the long reply I had composed into a more publicly shareable blog post – which will likely come back to bite me in the ass! I’m sure things will shift between now and when my eldest hits iPhone age, but for now, my perspective on giving a 13yo a smartphone with Snapchat is a hard NO, and this is my reasoning why.

My daughter is already asking me for a phone for her eighth (!) birthday, and right now, it’s an easy no.

I understand that social media is obviously where all your friends are and you don’t wanna feel left out, but to me, there is no difference between using social media and using drugs or alcohol.

The thing I keep telling my kids with stuff like this (swearing, adult themes, etc.) is that it’s all about context.

There will come a time when you are able to fully understand the context of when to deploy an F-bomb.

There will come a time when I can’t shelter you from the maelstrom of crap that rains down on you from every direction on social media. I hope if you choose to engage with social media, you do so with the knowledge of both the benefits of these platforms (connectedness, sharing your life) and, more importantly, the detriments (data privacy, mental health struggles).

But yeah, for now: no phones. Sorry, gang. My number one job as a parent is to keep you safe, even if you aren’t happy with me.

Continue to the full article


Dads Rock: The Evidence


🔗 a linked post to aibm.org » — originally shared here on

Fathers have a direct, positive impact on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of their children, and this shows up in measures of educational achievement, social skills, and long-term mental health. While fathers do more paid work, and perform less childcare overall than mothers, they play a unique and complementary role in child raising.

While they play an essential role at all stages of a child’s life from infancy to adulthood, their presence seems especially influential as they grow older. A father’s closeness to his child in middle childhood and adolescence protects against loneliness and depressive symptoms, particularly in girls. Sixteen-year-old girls who are close to their fathers have better mental health at 33. Controlling for many other factors, the adolescent delinquency rate for boys is lower when they have involved fathers.

First off, a happy belated Father’s Day to my fellow dads, cool uncles, and other father figure-types out there. It isn’t just biological dads who need the shout outs; if there’s a kid in your life that you care about, then you should get your flowers as well.

Second, ever since we had our first child, I have looked forward to the current stage that both of my children are at.

I’ve never been one to see a baby and melt into a ball of baby talk and snuggles.

But I sure am down for teaching my kids how to apply the ultimate chinlock, ride a bike, catch a ball, step outside of their comfort zone, and cope with tough feelings.

I’m just glad that I found some empirical evidence to validate my unsubstantiated thoughts around fatherhood.

Continue to the full article


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. 


The Knowledge Project: #187 Dr. Becky Kennedy: The One Thing You Can Say That Changes Everything


🔗 a linked post to youtu.be » — originally shared here on

I love Farnam Street. It's an amazing blog to which I hope you already subscribe.

While I devour the weekly Brain Food newsletter, I can't say I've listened to many episodes of The Knowledge Project podcast.

I've been pretty burnt out on podcasts over the past few years. I think this is due to three main factors:

  1. A feeling of indifference to the shows I used to love.
  2. Covid. I got way more into music during that time, which was easier to consume around my family than a deep podcast.
  3. A feeling of guilt when I don't listen to every episode of a show. It's easy to fall behind when your favorite podcasts are weekly and 3 hours long per episode.

So while podcasts haven't been my favorite mode for consuming information lately, this episode of The Knowledge Project featuring Dr. Becky Kennedy caught my attention because of the Brain Food newsletter, so I decided to give it a go.

It was so good that I actually went back and listened to it twice.

Here are the elements from the podcast I took away, peppered slightly with my own commentary:

Respect your children like you would respect an adult

Your number one job as a parent is to keep your kids safe.

Those safety bounds, however, need to be defined with a fair bit of common sense respect.

When I'm building an app, it's my job to keep the user safe. I want to make sure that they are aware of what they are doing when they give me their data, and I want them to understand what could happen if they choose to make an adult decision to share that data.

Children often don't have that understanding of consequences yet, so it's my job to expose them to danger methodically and let them learn about consequences on their own.

But that doesn't mean I need to be a jerk about it.

On that same topic of actions/consequences, it's helpful to think through in which ways I'm trading long term skills for short term gains. If my kid forgets their homework at home, do I provide them with the short term gain of remembering for them, or do I provide them with the long term memory of the pain associated with forgetting to bring their homework?

Boundaries

I loved Dr. Becky's definition of a boundary:

A boundary is something I can tell someone else I will do that requires them to do nothing.

As an example, my wife and I struggle with keeping our kitchen counters clean because they're the place everyone just dumps their stuff when they come into the house. Mail, school work, and various toys start piling up.

I've made requests in the past like, "hey, can you kids please keep this area clean?"

These are just requests. They don't help define expectations.

Instead, I sat my kids down this weekend and said "okay gang, here's the deal: I'm going to clean these counter tops every night after you go to bed. If there is anything on these counters that isn't put away, I'm going to throw them away."

Unlike me requesting them to keep their stuff tidy, I've established a boundary that requires them to do nothing.

Get on the same side of the table

A common (probably basal?) way of communicating is advisarial.

Imagine a table sitting in a conference room. Many arguments feel like I am sitting on one side of the table and you are sitting on the opposite side.

A better way to communicate is to find a way to be seated next to each other on one side of the table, and place the problem we are addressing on the opposite side.

Dr. Becky gives an undeniably relatable example in this episode about her son and his towel. He kept leaving his towel on his bedroom floor, and she kept getting frustrated that he'd walk past it and do nothing about it.

She could've just done what most of us do: fly off the handle.

Instead, she framed the conversation as "us versus the towel." She said something like, "we both know towels don't go on the floor, what's going on here?"

Her son, to her surprise, said "you know, it's funny... I don't even see the towel on the floor."

That's me. I'm the son.

It took years of frustrated rants from my wife before I started noticing things like piles of dishes in the sink or scores of unfolded laundry baskets piling up.

Something recently started clicking in me, though, and I have been getting better about being a good house mate!

The lesson here: make it "us versus the problem." It's a lot more productive to attack a problem as opposed to a person.

A good measuring stick for the strength of your relationships

Ask yourself: "would they come to me with a problem even if it might get them in trouble?"

Confidence

Confidence is not feeling good about yourself.

Confidence is about self-trust.

It's about being okay being yourself when you're not the best at something.

What to do when someone comes to you with deep feelings

When someone shares a feeling like shame, embarrassment, regret, sadness, disappointment, etc., here's a three step process for what to say:

"I'm so glad you're talking to me about this."

This one phrase shows you are interested in what they are saying, and it naturally invites them to tell you more.

"I believe you."

This helps build confidence. As we described earlier, confidence is about self trust.

Even if you don't necessarily agree with them, just the acknowledgement that they have feelings and that they are feeling them is a way to help them trust their own feelings.

"Tell me more."

Just let them share until they have nothing more to share.

And that's it.

Once you've done those three steps, you have, in the words of Dr. Becky, "crushed parenting." Or marriage. Or friendship.

Helping someone learn they can trust their emotions allows them to take the energy they'd otherwise use to process the feelings and use it to address the problem.

Why we shirk responsibility for our actions

People shirk responsibility for their actions when they equate the outcomes with being an indication of who they are.

Let's say you identify as a smart person. If you get a bad score on a test, that conflicts with the identity you've chosen. After all, smart people don't get bad scores.

Instead of being able to process why you got an F, you might seek external sources to blame. "The teacher never said this would be on the test," or "The teacher is out to get me," or something similar.

We do it as adults, too. "I'm sorry I'm late, traffic was terrible."

(You know what this feeling is called, by the way? Shame. More on that shortly.)

One way you can help deal with shame is to frame the situation like this: "you're a smart kid who got a bad score on a test."

This, instead, allows you place the identity you've chosen in one hand, and the event which contradicts it in the other. It sort of frames it like the "get on the same side of the table" example I gave above.

If it's "you against your son" because he got a bad score, it's gonna be advisarial from the jump, and there's too much wasted energy on sorting through blame and feelings.

If it's "you and your son against the bad score," you can start to address the actual problem.

Shame

We often talk about "fight or flight" as a response to an external stimulus, but the "freeze state" is common for when someone feels shame.

This is helpful for me, personally, because I feel like I've been frozen for the past few months.

The frozenness is a response to me feeling ashamed and embarrassed with losing my job and not knowing what the next move is.

It feels like getting an F on a test. And frankly, I haven't gotten many F's on tests before, so I haven't really learned how to process and deal with shame constructively.

As I've reflected on this, I think about a story I often tell when giving my life story: the time I failed so spectacularly on a physics midterm.

My response to that situation was to give up and switch majors. I chose "flight."

And maybe that was the right response to the situation, and maybe not. But it's interesting to revisit these defining memories in our lives and evaluate them with new information like this.

I probably still would've dropped out of engineering school. But now, in my mid-thirties, I actually think I'd do a better job in college than I did in my early-twenties.

Feelings are like passengers in a car

We often have voices in our heads from sources like impostor syndrome, depression, anxiety, and so forth.

Imagine these voices as passengers inside a car. The car is our mind.

Our goal isn't to kick the passengers out of the car. There's no way to eliminate these feelings altogether; they're part of what makes us human. They belong in the car just as much as any other feeling like happiness.

The goal is to learn how to not let them take the driver's seat.

What's the "ideal" headspace to be in?

This is a question I'd like to explore some more. It seems like the point I just made serves to learn how to compartmentalize troublesome feelings, but we never really talk about compartmentalizing manic emotions like excitement which are often lauded.

So that begs the question: is there an equilibrium we should be striving for? Am I approaching this problem with a video game-like mindset of "winning" when, in fact, there is no game to be played here?

Kids learn to regulate their emotions through their relationship with their parents

When we shush our kids and tell them to get over things, we're not allowing them to feel those feelings. We're, instead, putting that bandaid solution on top of them, which forces them to learn other ways to cope with their feelings.

And yes, that means we, as parents, learned how to regulate our own emotions in the same manner.

This presents a great opportunity, and it's a tact I've taken with my kids: be honest and open about how you are processing feelings.

Repair

Repairing is the process of taking responsibility for your actions and apologizing for them to your partner or child.

This, according to Dr. Becky, is the most powerful relationship tool you can cultivate.

The first step of repairing is, ironically, to repair yourself. You need to say something like, "I'm not proud of what I just did, but it will not define who I am."

The second step is sitting down with person you've wronged, name what happened, take responsibility, and state what you will do different next time.

It sounds so obvious. All this stuff sounds so obvious. But I can't be the only one who struggles to do the obvious thing in the heat of the moment.

AVP

AVP is a technique you can do to learn how to build confidence and handle emotions.

  • A is for Acknowledge. Name the feeling and greet it. Something like "Hey, anxiety!"
  • V is for Validate. All feelings have a place in our bodies. It doesn't mean they need to explode out of our bodies, but it makes sense for them to exist in there, and it's okay for them to exist in there. Say something like "It makes sense that this feeling is here" or "I believe myself" (meaning you believe that you are, in fact, feeling that feeling)
  • P is for Permit. Allow yourself to fully be OK with experiencing that feeling. (An added bonus would be to add "...and I can deal with it.")

I have been trying this technique when I've felt anxiety attacks come on this week, and it actually really helps to keep myself in the driver's seat, so to speak.

Technology/screen overuse

A large section of the podcast is devoted to dealing with kids and their addiction to cell phones or video games.

There are a couple of points that I thought would apply even to those without kids:

Equating phone use to tobacco use

As a society, we collectively determined that children cannot control themselves with other addictive products like tobacco, so we drafted legislation to protect children from purchasing tobacco.

It bums me out that we aren't able to have productive conversations about the addictive properties of social media or cell phones in general in the halls of our legislative branches.

Do as I say, not as I do

Before leaving JMG, I hadn't had a single vacation in my career where I completely unplugged from work and lived in the moment.

Even at Bionic Giant, I still felt myself compelled (obligated?) to have my laptop with me, just in case someone broke something and I was the only one able to fix it.

We've allowed cell phones to seamlessly invade and consume our lives. Besides perhaps when I'm going swimming with the kids, I can't recall the last time I wasn't within at least 10 feet of my phone. When I am with my kids, I can't go more than several minutes without impulsively checking my phone for some sort of update.

That's truly sick behavior, no matter how you slice it.

And I'm a 36 year old dude.

If I can't regulate my own behavior, how can we expect our children to regulate themselves around these things?

Of course, there's lots of angles to this problem, right? "Just because you can't handle yourself doesn't mean you have to punish the rest of us" is a easy retort to that. And I'm not here saying "let's let a bunch of legislators determine how to parent our kids" because, of course, I am an American after all.

But we aren't even at a point where we can have these conversations without resorting to attacking each other.

We're sitting on two sides of the table instead of both of us on one side focused on addressing the problem.

It's depressing.

The fact is we do have precedent around establishing guard rails for behaviors our society deems destructive. We should be relying on the opinions of the experts who research these topics and drafting rules that protect the most vulnerable in our population.


Alright, that was a pretty long recap. If any of those topics sound interesting to you, I highly recommend checking out the episode!


I lost it : r/Parenting


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

Lately, I’ve been trying to find more examples of the internet being a force for good for humanity.

Here’s an example my wife sent me from the r/Parenting subreddit. The OP told a story where she blew up and cussed out her 8-year-old.

Here’s the highest-rated reply:

When you are both in a calm state - take your kid aside and discuss the incident. Apologize sincerely. Then tell this story:

Imagine you are on a high ledge, and you can take a slide or the stairs. The slide is more satisfying and gets you to the bottom faster. BUT - there's always poop at the bottom of the slide that you land in. And then there's the stairs. It's boring, it takes longer, it takes more effort - but you get to the bottom with no poop at the bottom.

Losing your temper is like taking the slide. It feels great during the ride (ooh yelling is cathartic and it's releasing the pressure valve, and it's FAST which is what your brain wants when it's upset) but, you're cleaning off poop at the end.

Use yourself as an example - I lost my temper, I took the slide, and I spent all day feeling bad about myself and now apologizing.

And sometimes the poop doesn't come off - the smell stays no matter how hard you try to clean.

That's the memory your kid has of the incident. Sometimes the stink is permanent. It's always more work and bigger consequences to take the slide/lose your temper.

It’s easy to find examples where the internet shows us the worst in ourselves.

I’m being intentional about engaging with content on the internet that attempts to show us at our best.

Parenting is harder than ever because we’re fighting generations of poor parenting habits based on tough love that’s necessary for survival when you’re living on the plains, foraging for food, one snowstorm or famine away from certain death.

We now live in a world where we’re safer, healthier, and wealthier than we’ve ever been... which renders those poor habits obsolete.

It's gonna require a ton of stair walking, across several more generations, in order to break them.

As awful as Reddit can be, it's moments like these which make me truly appreciate what we can do when we are able to pool our collective wisdom and try to do better.

Continue to the full article


‘The Simpsons’ Is Good Again


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

I don’t know if you’ve ever spoken to little kids about The Simpsons. I have, and I highly recommend it. Most of them recounted some version of finding the show during the pandemic.

Their knowledge is encyclopedic: Because every episode is exhaustively listed, all the kids casually threw around official episode titles for which I only had a shorthand when I was growing up. For them, the show is watched on demand in endless quantities. I asked how many episodes they think they’ve seen, and the responses were usually in the 150-to-300 range. And they all intend to watch all 750.

As I’ve humblebragged about often here, I used to run the internet’s largest website devoted to Ralph Wiggum.

Such a dubious notoriety would make you think I’ve already exposed my kids to The Simpsons, right?

Well… no.

After having roughly 30 years to reflect, what I love about the show is how much care you can tell the creators put into each episode.

Nearly every second within a typical 24-minute episode is loaded with sub jokes, perfectly timed to maximize our enjoyment and make a statement.

I really respect the show and what it meant to have as a dorky little middle schooler who felt like it was hard to get people to understand him.

I guess my hesitation with my kid, aside from the fact that she’s sassy enough as it is, is that I’m afraid she won’t get it. A lot of the jokes will fly over her head.

And maybe it’s a “shame on me” moment for not trusting one of the smartest little kids I’ve ever met.

But I guess as I edit this blog post after already posting it, maybe what I’m really afraid of is that she won’t appreciate it as much as I do.

Thankfully, this article came at an optimal point in my life, because now I have 5 examples of recent episodes I will absolutely watch with her starting tomorrow.

It’s a double whammy: I get yet another awesome bonding opportunity with my kid, and I get to face another fear of mine (that being the fear of change in life).

Maybe it’s okay for The Simpsons to not be the same it was when I was a kid. Maybe it’s both worse and better.

Maybe it’s okay for something that’s 36 years old to be different than it was back in elementary, middle, and high school.

Continue to the full article


How philosophy can solve your midlife crisis


🔗 a linked post to news.mit.edu » — originally shared here on

Happiness often follows a U-curve in which middle age is uniquely stressful, with a heavy dose of responsibilities. That’s all the more reason to seek out atelic activites when the midlife blues hit: meditation, music, running, or almost anything that brings inner peace. But self-reported happiness does increase later in life.

Oddly, as Setiya observes, many of the most consequential choices we make occur in our 20s and early 30s: careers, partners, families, and more. The midlife crisis is a delayed reaction, hitting when we feel more weighted down by those choices. So the challenge is not necessarily to change everything, he says, but to ask, “How do I appreciate properly what I now am doing?”

My daughter turns 7 tomorrow. I’m feeling like I’m finally hitting a point with that relationship where I am not needed as heavily, and I’ll soon be able to indulge in atelic activities more frequently.

The beautiful thing is that I’m now able to enjoy some of these activities with my kids as they get older.

I think that’s the part of parenting I was looking forward to the most: getting to do cool stuff (like go on rides and play Pokémon) with two really cool little people.

Continue to the full article


'Anti-dopamine parenting' can curb a kid's craving for screens or sweets


🔗 a linked post to npr.org » — originally shared here on

Studies now show that dopamine primarily generates another feeling: desire. "Dopamine makes you want things," says neuroscientist Anne-Noël Samaha. A surge of dopamine in your brain makes you seek out something, she explains. Or continue doing what you're doing. It's all about motivation.

And it goes even further: Dopamine tells your brain to pay particular attention to whatever triggers the surge.

It's alerting you to something important, Samaha says. "So you should stay here, close to this thing, because there's something here for you to learn. That's what dopamine does."

And here's the surprising part: You might not even like the activity that triggers the dopamine surge. It might not be pleasurable. "That's relatively irrelevant to dopamine," Samaha says.

When I was a kid, dopamine was the "happiness molecule".

These findings (which position dopamine as a mechanism which forces you to pay attention to things) cause much of our lifestyles to make more sense.

You keep doom scrolling not because you like it. You do it because your brain keeps telling you "this is important stuff, you should pay attention."

It's not an excuse, to be certain... but as the 20th century laureate G.I. Joe said: "knowing is half the battle."

Continue to the full article


Ten Commandments For Living From Philosopher Bertrand Russell


🔗 a linked post to fs.blog » — originally shared here on

I know, I know… another list.

Really, though, this is a list where I found it hard to choose just one to highlight here. I think I’m gonna go with this one:

When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

I’ve been doing this with my own kids, and it is forcing me to really take a good look at my values. After all, most arguments come to a point where the disagreement can either be won by finding mutual moral ground, or avoided by realizing you just aren’t even speaking the same language.

Continue to the full article


It can be annoying to be online


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

Last night, I posted an article here called “Everyone needs to grow up.”

I shared it because I’ve personally felt drawn to “childish” things lately, and I’m personally trying to make sense of it… How do you find a balance between serious adult responsibilities (raising a family, managing a team, etc.) and needing a break from that?

A good friend saw that post and sent me this article, which acts as a great counterpoint. (He may be the only reader of this blog, honestly.)

I’m of the opinion that the only way to be an adult is to be willing to meet people where they are and care for them in the way they want to be cared for. It is about setting healthy boundaries; it is about knowing who you are and what you, yourself, can do and can handle. It is about planning for the long-term.

The concept of knowing who I am is absolutely top of mind lately. My wife and I have been considering our own individual values and discussing how those mesh, mostly as a way to understand what we want to instill in our children, but also to figure out who we are as individuals.

One thing I’ve realized while undergoing this thought experiment is that I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my life suppressing who I am as a way to maintain neutrality and not rock the boat.

An example: I really like using “big words”. I find it hard sometimes to express my thoughts, and it makes me happy when I find a new word which poignantly expresses a thought. But then I often avoid using those words because I don’t want to be seen as aloof or pretentious.

Anyway, I think some people are really in tune with who they are and are unafraid to show that to the world. Being an adult, for me, is finding a way to be comfortable with who I am and not ashamed of it.

I don’t think people are adult babies now, at least not offline. Although I do think it’s maybe harder than ever to be an adult. The traditional markers of transitioning through life-stages are evaporating; basically all that’s left to guide you are bills and literature. The structures that created our modern idea of adulthood have collapsed — which is to say governments aren’t subsidizing things like homeownership like they did after the Second World War — and it’s easy to feel adrift.

Boy, ain’t that the truth. We have a playbook for life all the way up through high school. From there, it’s a boot out of the nest, and it is up to us individually to figure out how to adult.

Continue to the full article