Rearview 35

I have a theory that I’ve been explaining to people at parties over the years that usually earns itself equal parts agreement and laughter. It has to do with how we assess the world around us as we age.

I think it’s fair to say that until we’ve had 30 years on Mother Earth, we don’t have much understanding of how the world works. Not to mention, we all know plenty of adults in middle age who generally seem to have never paid attention in the first place. My point being, that its not until we reach our mid-30s that we’ve gathered enough data on our ourselves and our environment to be able to primitively assess how our lives have unfolded. No longer are we making most decision as we go, grasping at ideas (and sexual partners) without much awareness of their consequences. Around 35 we finally have enough experience to be able to look back in our life journey’s rearview mirror and ask… How the fuck did I end up here?

Before I dive any further, I understand I’m talking about those of us in the upper 5% (less?) of humanity with the privilege of education, no threat of war or famine, and the sheer luxury of being able to sit still for a minute and donate some presence of thought to who we are, where we’ve come from, and ultimately, where we’re going. With that said, this type of performance review, isn’t for the faint of heart. Most people don’t sit down to review their young life and think, “Wow, I crushed this!” Because life is complex and all of us have regrets. Yes, you can still love your family and regret not having started it earlier/later. It’s our complexity that makes us human. But even those of us with few or zero (liars!) regrets, likely wish they took more risks in life. Basically, I’d bet those people regret not having more things to regret. Ok I agree, too meta. Moving on…

Let’s take relationships for example: Recent statistics show that your 40s are the decade most married couples call it quits. I’d argue the seeds for this monumental life change were planted in their 30s. They hit their Rearview 35, the cracks of their discontent begin to show, and either those cracks are patched up or the great unraveling begins. You’ve seen the FB status updates, you know what I mean.

“God only gives you what you can handle!”
I gotta live my truth!

And my personal favourite, “Everything happens for a reason!”

If you see any of these updates on a close friend’s profile, maybe check in with them to see what’s up. Chances are, a great unraveling has begun and they need a friend.

One of the most frustrating parts of living this life, is that there’s such an abundance of information that it’s impossible for us to know it all. Mistakes are inevitable. If you’ve spent your first 35 years studying social science, you now have all the natural sciences to contend with, and vice versa. Even more of a handicap is if you grew up very religious. Good luck seeing what human life is all about with the God-Goggles on. That’s like trying to drive with a blindfold. Faith and action can only take you so far.

Below is an except from a recent chat with an Engineer friend of mine regarding the general ignorance of human beings. Needless to say, I was disturbed by his revelation.

The moral of this story is that none of us should assume we know everything, or anything! As we grow our perspective and knowledge after our Rearview 35 it’s important to keep an open mind about ourselves, others, and our surroundings. Nobody should aim to turn 50 and not understand the generations which preceded us and that only happens when we think we’re done learning. Stay open and stay curious so hopefully when Rearview 65 comes along, there will be less surprises and significantly less to unravel. Good luck.

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The Value of Criticism…

It’s no secret to those that know me well, some of the things I enjoy most are discussions about meaning and the human condition.  How words and phrases shape how we think, how we evolve and essentially how we interact with the world…I love that shizzz.   And nothing is more valuable to a discussion like that, then hearing a completely opposing opinion; it forces us to look within ourselves   and either sharpen our blades of objectivity, or concede that we need to correct course.

So, when I logged onto Facebook near the end of the December (after a 6 month hiatus), I had completely forgotten (see: blocked out) about the lack of dialogue that actually happens on the social network.  Ideas are slapped onto status updates, anyone that objects is either referred to as a “troll” or a “hater” and therefore the only thing that grows is our self-righteous opinions that all of our thoughts are consistently correct.

Newsflash… they aren’t.

Here is the status update that inspired this post:

“Attempting to build credibility through criticism might seem intelligent, but only to the like-minded individual.  #Creating > Criticizing.”

Now, I already have a problem with short burst claims like these  trying to fit all the nuance of life into something like a greater than symbol.   Because though the author might enjoy using math symbols, he’s missing a huge part of the equation here (Boom, word play).

So allow me to start a discussion where we can share ideas…

How do we ever know if we've made mistakes if we ignore all criticism?

How do we ever know if we’ve made mistakes if we ignore all criticism?


The Value Of Criticism:

To be clear from the start, there is criticism and there are assholes.  There are parts of each of our lives that are clearly in need of criticism and the ugly light of truth; the sad part is that most of us want nothing to do with people closest to us that don’t might not agree that we’re lovely and perfect.  Unfortunately, these are the people we need the most, more on this later.
There are many people that just don’t want to improve or grow, no matter what the massive red flags waving in their face might be.  Only after significant turmoil can they accept reality and no objective criticism is going to stop their delusions.  I have been both inside and out of this looking glass, and it ain’t pretty.

The key is compassion, which I’ll also explain later.

So let’s keep this all in mind as I make my case for criticism.
Without criticism there is no allowance for the spectrum of truth/opinion, without truth there is no growth, and without growth there is no progress (see: Religion – Billions of people exerting all of their energy in believing the palpably untrue in the face of significant opposing data).

Innovators, Entrepreneurs, Engineers, and Artists are all at their core both critics and creators.

They believe the world they are living in is flawed and  can be made better. Without this critical evaluation of our surroundings, apathy takes hold and we remain stunted in our knowledge or perspective of the world.

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s say that creating continues without criticism.  In my opinion, without critics, creation becomes homogenous, unimaginative, and empty.  Criticizing and the critical mind provides much value in pursuit of progress, beauty, and growth.  If we ignore the criticism from within and from without… nothing changes. We continue to beat the same drum hoping for a different sound.

The key ingredient though is compassion. Compassion to accept our misgivings, take responsibility and move forward.  And also, the compassion to accept that not all criticism is warranted or valuable, but we need to cultivate a sense of self-worth so that not every punch leaves a mark.

Typically, no punches land harder than those from the people we love and/or respect.

Those closest to us have the vested interest in seeing us succeed, in seeing us happy and flourishing in life.  It only makes sense that these well-intentioned people will do what they believe is in their ability to help.

This is certainly a double edged sword, because some honest feedback from these people may very well be exactly what we need in our search for growth, but the impact from their words can feel like a brand recently plucked from the fire.   Evaluating these criticisms for value free from emotion, is a difficult task, and one  I am still learning to navigate.  Because if we cannot embrace the words of those  closest to us, those that know us best, where does that leave us?

Well, it leaves us looking to the Twitter, Facebook, and image quotes from strangers to give us direction in life.  I am not saying there is no value here, but I am sure you can see the dangerous implications and the rabbit hole it leads to.

In the context of art, the best artists are the most devoted critics, both of themselves and the world around them.

Dali, Picasso, The Beatles, Hemingway, Michael Jackson, DeNiro, Nolan, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga etc….(this list could go on for pages)

These are some of our icons because a world of critics spoke out.   The same happens  every day on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and to local creators around the world.  Art and Creativity without the critic both internal and external is meaningless.  It strips away the beauty of what art is meant to be; garbage to one person and pure magic to the next.

This is all without mentioning the reality that criticism in and of itself can be creation and very valuable indeed.  Look at Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK and most respected comedians.

The purest form and value of a comedian is criticism, to point out the emperor’s birthday suit and raise the awareness of what society has come to wilfully ignore.   If we exist only in a vacuum of our own beliefs, we never learn if they are worthy of our time and of the frequency we use them in our interaction with the world.

Mark Twain once said, “If you find yourself on the side of the majority it is time to pause and reflect…”  and this is impossible without subjecting your opinions to the world that might oppose them.

The most ironic part of this entire discussion, is the person who owns the aforementioned status update is a videographer.  As videographers, their entire editing process becomes worthless and grey without learning to embrace their role as a master critic; both of themselves and of the images they capture.    And for those that are curious, the reason I didn’t address my issue with his comment on Facebook is that my days of fighting the good fight (aka trolling) on the internet are over.  It’s much better to discuss in an environment that invites it; as on FB people take a dissenting opinion as a personal attack, certainly not my intention.

My overall point here is not to prove that criticism is more valuable than creation, but only through collaboration and true objection can we arrive at magic.

In reality, every opinion will have those that agree, those that disagree, and those that could care less… it’s up to us to continue to create with compassion towards ourselves and our critics, knowing that each actionable step should be a step forward towards understanding the world, not backwards or in place.

Creation is merely the beginning…



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The Image Quote Trap

This year, one of the coolest things I’ve added to my life this year is the mental collaboration with a good friend of mine, Andrew.  Aside from the onslaught of daily emails we send one another,  we have been having weekly phone calls to discuss the implications of, “What it means to live a valued life?”

This question alone has taken us from subjects like the danger of unmitigated input from social media, the overarching benefits of independent thought, “neuro-bunk”  (TED talk video below) and how science is misused by marketers to sell snake oil,  the definition of “do no harm”, the consequences of  beauty,  fashion, and celebrity culture, and most importantly… the elusive experience of reality.

There is a quote I read recently that seems to underlie a lot of interesting theories and conversations Andrew and I have had this year.

“Men believe a thing when they behave as though it were true.”

I am pretty sure the quote came from the Eleanor Roosevelt book I recently finished, “You Learn By Living” ; I’ve been reading with a voracious appetite recently so I might be wrong about the source, but either way, its a book worth reading.

The concept this quote slaps me with is the hypocrisy around and within us (myself included).  We say one thing, post an image quote on our Facebook wall, Re-Tweet it, get a tattoo of it, and whisper it aloud before we drift to sleep.  Surely this outword promotion of positive ideas validates our desire to be better people, but does it move us further away from realizing it?

When the sun rises we step into the world and face difficult decisions at every turn that challenge our core beliefs and the platitudes we use as crutches.   We becomes slaves to emotions we refuse to explore, that cause us pain, yet we continue to move forward stride by stride with the drum beating chant of the positivity and self-help soliders that have infected all aspects of our culture.   But when the glow of positive thinking dims, we don’t have to look too far into the past to see how the reality of our lives, more often than not, does not match the quotes we associate with.

It is this gap between reality and perception that we all must be aware of.   Because the hope that underlies these platitudes is definitely a good thing, but when we use them as substitutes for legitimate action, this is where the ball of yarn begins to unravel.  This social pseudo action relieves us of the ugliness that comes with facing reality.  And its the car wreck of reality that stands in the way of us becoming better people and accepting the disparity between our lives and our Instagram philosophies.

If your actions aren’t matching your outward rhetoric then eventually something is going to give.  Because this chasm between who we want to be and who we actually are gets further and further away from us the more we turn our back to it.

Make no mistake, reality will be as painful as you think (if not worse) when you stare it in the face, but that’s where all our answers are.  Nobody ever said life was easy.  It’s surely an incredible adventure if you step into it… but easy, it is not.   Think about it.

Here’s a cool video from Molly Crockett, whom I might very well be in lust with, called Beware Neuro-Bunk. This is an excellent message, and the massive problem Molly addresses is a disease that has infected nearly every aspect of the diet, fitness, and health industry.   And we all believe the “neuro-bunk” of marketers that appeal to our insecurities because usually we don’t want to face the reality which would, in the end,  provide us with all the solutions we’d need.


If you can think of any realities that you have been avoiding, I’d love to hear about them and what sort of changes you plan to make.

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