all posts tagged 'values'

What I Do When I Can’t Sleep

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Listening to him name exactly what he liked about the wine turned up the hairs on the back of my neck. Suddenly, my own experience of the wine felt deeper and more satisfying. I wanted to know: How was he able to identify these flavors?

He told me the secret was to blindly smell things and try to label them. You see, the part of your brain that’s responsible for smells is naturally mute. It’s called the olfactory bulb, and it’s an ancient fist of neurons just behind your eyes. It has only indirect backroad connections to the parts of the brain that control language, like Broca’s area. So, even though you might have an easy time knowing whether or not you like a scent, it’s not easy to label that scent with a word. It’ll feel like groping through a dark closet for something you know is there, but can’t quite find.

I did not know this, and now I will be nerding out on ways to train my taste buds.

But this article isn’t just about developing your sense of taste. It’s also about defining your style.

In much the same way the author describes how he is, for the first time in his life, articulating what he likes as a writer, I am starting to do the same with several areas of my life.

Case in point: I have a huge collection of quotes that you can see on the main page of this site.

I just fed all of them through ChatGPT with this prompt:

I’ve attached a series of quotes which are meaningful to me. First off, tell me the consistent themes you recognize across all of the quotes. Then, tell me what this says about the things that inspire me.

Here is the result:

Across all the quotes, several consistent themes emerge:

  1. Growth and Self-improvement: Many quotes focus on the importance of personal growth, overcoming challenges, and continuous improvement.
  2. Perseverance and Resilience: There's a strong theme of enduring hardship, staying strong in the face of adversity, and the importance of perseverance.
  3. Wisdom and Perspective: The quotes often reflect on acquiring wisdom, gaining perspective, and understanding life's deeper meanings and truths.
  4. Happiness and Contentment: There's an emphasis on finding happiness, being content with what one has, and the pursuit of joy in life.
  5. Community and Relationships: Several quotes highlight the value of community, the importance of relationships, and the strength that comes from vulnerability and connection with others.

These themes suggest that you are inspired by ideas related to personal growth, resilience in the face of adversity, the pursuit of wisdom and understanding, the importance of happiness and contentment, and the value of community and relationships. It paints a picture of someone who values both internal development and external connections, seeking both personal fulfillment and meaningful interactions with others.

:extremely Marge Simpson voice: “Well, duh.

(For real though, pretty awesome that we have a tool that is exceptionally good at summarizing large amounts of data and picking out patterns throughout the dataset.)

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A different and better way to live

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Both the “drill sergeant” and the “Zen master” mindset share a common underlying worldview on which our lives do not fully belong to us, in that we have relatively little agency over the goals we set and the means by which we pursue them.

The “builder’s mindset,” by contrast, flows from a qualitatively different and deeply countercultural worldview: one on which all of our efforts can and ought to be organized around the ultimate goal of building and enjoying our own best life.

My goodness, this hits me right in my feels.

I’ve been absolutely obsessed with reading Gena Gorlin’s work lately. Several of her articles have deeply resonated with me.

I’m gonna share this passage as well, because again, as I aim to come up with some sort of tangible list of values, this will be helpful:

The “builder’s mindset” represents a fundamentally different set of underlying core assumptions about the kinds of beings we are, what we can do, and what is worth doing, compared to the other mindsets. This includes:

  1. The view that we are rational agents capable of and responsible for shaping the natural world according to our needs (i.e., of building).

  2. The view that exercising one’s agency to build one’s own fully-lived life is a self-sufficient end goal, needing no further justification or permission.

  3. A primary motivation by love and values, rather than fear.

  4. The view that human relationships are necessarily win-win, not win-lose or lose-win.

For point number one, she even references my favorite Steve Jobs quote. I mean, come on… this article was tailor made just for me.

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eternal woodstock

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As people keep trying to make Twitter 2 happen, we are now in a period that I'm calling Eternal Woodstock — every few weeks, users flock en masse to new platforms, rolling around in the mud, getting high on Like-dopamine, hoping that they can keep the transgressive, off-kilter meme magic going just a little longer, even though social-media culture already been fully hollowed out and commercialized.

I haven’t signed up for any of the new Twitter clones. I do have a Mastodon account that I created back before Twitter got terrible, but besides a futile one week attempt to get into it, it too has sat dormant.

Maybe this is just part of progressing through life, progressing through society and culture.

It’s something I’ve noticed now with having kids: as a kid, you are extremely tuned into social status. Everyone else listens to the ZOMBIES 3 soundtrack? Now you have to be into it. Your little brother likes it now? Now you have to be too good for it.

But for that brief moment, you feel like you’re ahead of the game. You’re a tastemaker.

The times where I’ve genuinely been the happiest in my life have been when I’ve done something just for myself. If it makes those around me impressed or weirded out or indifferent, it was of zero consequence to me.

The short list of things I can think of that fit that bill: this blog (which has existed in some shape since I was in sixth grade), making clips for television production class, learning something new, 90s/00s pro wrestling, running, and playing the guitar.

It’s only when I start to look around at others when I start to get depressed.

And maybe that’s a key insight into why I feel like I feel right now. I don’t have a job at the moment. At my age, your social status is determined by things like the vacations you go on, the home you have, and the title you hold.

But really, none of that stuff matters. What matters is the stuff that brings you joy.

It just so happens that those things, in fact, do bring me joy. The vacations I’ve gone on in the past 12 months have been the happiest I’ve been in ages. I spent all morning deep cleaning several rooms in my house, and it feels incredible.1 Building software and solving problems for people is what makes me happy, not being a director of this or a chief whatever.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I should stop feeling guilty about not posting a whole lot on social media.

My home is this website. People can come here if they wanna hang out.

Sure, I’ll poke my head up and see what’s going on with others around me on occasion, but I don’t need to feel compelled to chase the feelings that come alongside taste-making.

Those feelings are like capturing lightning in a bottle, and ultimately lead me to my deepest forms of depression.

  1. Even though I know the kids are gonna mess it up in roughly 4 minutes, that’s okay. It’s their house, too.  

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How philosophy can solve your midlife crisis

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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.

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The blind programmers who created screen readers

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For most companies, accessibility isn’t a priority, or worse, something that they pay lip service to while doing the bare minimum to meet regulatory compliance. Ojala’s pet peeve is people thinking that accessibility is a feature, a nice-to-have addition to your product. When they tack on accessibility later, without thinking about it from the very beginning, Ojala can tell — it feels haphazard. (Imagine first creating a product with a colorless UI, then to add colors later as an afterthought, only to use the wrong color combination.)

I heard long ago that the reason developers should start testing software with accessibility in mind is that everyone, at some point in their life, will benefit from accessible technology.

At a minimum, as your eyesight gets older with age, an increase in font size will make it more comfortable to read things.

Any story that revolves around a few people banding together to solve an actual problem, and how that solution literally changed people’s lives, is so inspiring to me.

It’s what I yearn for at this point in my life. I don’t mind making money and building apps which drive business value. The stability of my job has done wonders for my mental health, and I am supremely grateful that I have it.

But boy, wouldn’t it be fun to get to work on something that has an outsized positive impact on people’s ability to live productive lives?

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It can be annoying to be online

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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.

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I Am a Meme Now — And So Are You

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At some point you have to accept that other people’s perceptions of you are as valid as (and probably a lot more objective than) your own.

This may mean letting go of a false or outdated self-image, including some cherished illusions of unique unlovability.

I recently had a talk with Shannon that was eerily similar to the central conceit of this article.

We don’t get to pick how we show up in other people’s interpretation of ourselves. The author’s story about his dad sleeping at the movie theater next to him is a great example.

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Time millionaires: meet the people pursuing the pleasure of leisure

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Any time we scrounge away from work is to be filled with efficient blasts of high-intensity exercise, or other improving activities, such as meditation or prepping nutritionally balanced meals. Our hobbies are monetised side hustles; our homes informal hotels; our cars are repurposed for ride-sharing apps. We holiday with the solemn purpose of returning recharged, ready for ever-more punishing overwork. Doing nothing – simply savouring the miracle of our existence in this world – is a luxury afforded only to the respectably retired, or children.

Oof. As someone currently on vacation, this hit particularly hard.

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Three Theories for Why You Have No Time

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The history of American housework suggests that both sides have a point. Americans tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions. And when material concerns are mostly met, Americans fixate on their status and class, and that of their children, and work tirelessly to preserve and grow it.

But most Americans don’t have the economic or political power to negotiate a better deal for themselves. Their working hours and income are shaped by higher powers, like bosses, federal laws, and societal expectations.

To solve the problems of overwork and time starvation, we have to recognize both that individuals have the agency to make small changes to improve their lives and that, without broader changes to our laws and norms and social expectations, no amount of overwork will ever be enough.

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The BuzzFeedification of Mental Health

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Two parts of this article really spoke to me:

The more capitalism wants us to feel scrambled so that we are isolated, automatonized, and susceptible to replacing our own needs with the needs of capital, the more quickly capitalism needs to sell us an ever-wider array of identities to feel secure and logical within.

It does feel tough, as a millennial with a school-aged child, to navigate all of the various identities that “youths” cling onto these days.

“A successful contemporary politics has stakes in defining the rhythmic flow between schizophrenic and identificatory impulses,” he writes. “Hopefully, alternative rhythms can challenge, or at least syncopate, the accelerating rhythm of late capitalism.”

What he’s saying is that we need to stop taking the stripping of our identities and the selling of new ones to us as a given, and start to create our own, at our own pace, in our own way.

I went for a walk around Lough Eske this afternoon, and I was thinking about the identity I want to create for myself.

Identity has been something that is of keen interest to me lately, especially after leaving JMG.

I feel like since taking a step back from the persona of “app developer / entrepreneur”, I’ve been able to be more curious and exploratory.

It’s why my headline on LinkedIn is “anecdotalist.” It’s a touch douchey, for sure, but it feels like the closest I can get to how I feel.

Anyway, read this article and think about how it applies to the beliefs that you hold most closely. Whether that’s Christian, an intellectual, a parent, or whatever. Take some time to reflect on why you feel like you have to be ”something”.

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