I wish I never had to read another email.

This is something I’ve said thousands of times, aloud and in my head (mostly in my head). I’ve said it in anger after opening another death threat. I’ve said it in frustration when an email sent me down a rabbit hole that took me away from a project I had planned for the day. It’s been an underlying sentiment for years, but it wasn’t until recently that it turned into a concrete plan:

I am going to stop reading emails.

But how?Keep Reading

I’m going to keep this short, because I only have 56 minutes of battery left on my laptop and still have about 100 emails I want to write today.

If you want to get work done, and are having a hard time controlling your focus (Facebook), keeping yourself from being distracted (Twitter), or hurdling any of the other hurdles between you and what you need to do today (Taylor Swift’s instagram account), take your laptop to a coffee shop and leave your charger at home.Keep Reading

I’m my own worst critic. A lot of us are. I don’t like this about myself. A lot of us don’t. But I finally have a strategy to make it stop happening.

Of course we’re our own worst critics: we know better than anyone else our abilities, capacities, our “should”s — we know our potential, so we know when we fall short. We know our dreams, our honest-to-goodness, non-filtered-for-“reality” dreams. We know the lessons we should have learned, the mistakes we keep making.

We have all the data to give ourselves the most accurate grade possible, and the way we were taught to grade as kids is to start at 100 and work our way backwards. I’m not as happy as I should be despite my privileges. Minus 1. Why did I engage in that harmful relationship that was so much like the other harmful relationships I was in? Minus 5, one for each. Minus 2 more for not learning the lesson. Minus 10 for pointing out a “flaw” in someone else you know you embody. And so on.

From “I would never treat anybody this way.”

This is something I have heard myself say dozens of times. I know that I have an unhealthy standard I set for myself, and that with other people I lead with compassion and understanding, while I never give myself the benefit of the doubt. This understanding is as far as I’ve gotten, or at least it wasAnd for good reason: I can’t give myself the benefit of the doubt, because there is no doubt.

I know. I know better. I know what I should be doing. How I should be feeling. I know.

It’s easy for me to treat other people with compassion when they experience a shortcoming I would berate myself for, because I don’t know if they know what I know. I don’t know if they know we create our own obstacles to happiness. But I do. I know that. So I should be better.

What’s worse: I know I shouldn’t should. Oops. There I go again. But I know better. That’s why. I know what I know, and I know better. That’s at the crux of all of this.

To “I would never treat any body this way.”

I’ve been working with a business coach, her name is Paula, at the suggestion of a friend. I am doing a lot of stuff, but I have been doing it in an emotionally, physically, financially (and plenty of other-ially) unsustainable way. Paula is just plain delightful, but also sharp as a tack.

We were chatting about the issue of how I struggle with the hate campaigns that get pointed in my direction. It just feels wrong, and makes me physically ill, which makes it hard for me to do anything. Then I get frustrated with myself for feeling that way, because intellectually I know that I shouldn’t allow others’ misconceptions of me and my work to affect my well-being. It’s silly. So then I’m frustrated two-fold. Inception of frustration. Not ideal.

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, would come from it. I’ve thought about this a lot. Then she pointed out something I already knew.

“Your intellect has matured to this point, but your limbic system hasn’t.”

Right. That’s true. That’s the annoying part. It’s that I know I shouldn’t be experiencing this body discomfort, this genuine ill. It makes me sick. It hurts in my chest. That’s what annoys me. That’s the double-whammy.

Then she said basically the same thing, again, but this time I heard it differently.

These are separate. My intellect — my mind, the higher logic, my me — is not my body — my limbic brain, my reflexes, my physical response system. The first one is the one that writes on this site, that gives advice to others, and that sometimes (oftentimes) berates the second one.

Applying Sanford’s Theory of Challenge & Support to Myself

In grad school, one of the most important things I learned was that we need to meet someone where they are, and help them grow incrementally toward who they want to be.

The theory being that if you challenge someone too much, they’ll become overwhelmed; and if you support them too much, they’ll stagnate; the appropriate combination for growth is challenge mitigated by support.

The idea being that you don’t go from 1 to 100. You go from 1 to 2. 2 to 3. 3 to 4. And so forth.

Previously, I had been treating my limbic self (my body’s reflexive responses to these external stimuli) as being on the same level as my intellectual self (the higher reasoning self that has spent way too much time thinking about these things).

I was holding myself to a high standard, which would be fine if I just had one self and it was at a high level. But that’s not what’s happening. There are two selfs here: one part of me needs challenge to thrive (the intellectual part), as well as a second part of me that needs support (the limbic part).

Moving Forward: Supporting instead of Challenging

It’s time that I stop holding my body to a standard that I would never hold anybody else to. It’s time I start realizing that knowing something intellectually isn’t the same as experiencing it, and that’s okay. To know that the way for my body to catch up with my mind is by meeting it where it’s at, the same way I’d meet anybody where they’re at.

Right now, my body isn’t okay with a lot of things my mind understands and can rationalize with ease. My body craves things my mind doesn’t (like cheese and sunburn). It reacts to things in immature ways (like how I sometimes almost vomit with sadness when I read the horrible things people say about me on the internet — people who don’t, and likely never will, know me).

Pretending it doesn’t, or yelling that it shouldn’t, won’t change that. Maybe someday — hopefully someday — it’ll catch up, but that’s not going to happen if I keep trying to make it go from a 1 to 100. I need to focus on getting it to 2 first, or I’m not going to get anywhere. And to do that, I need to treat it how I would treat any other body: with compassion, understanding, and support.

And that’s something my mind can totally (finally) get behind.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I’ve generally had the perspective of Mr. Twain. But that’s because resolutions are so commonly things that won’t actually improve someone’s life, or (and especially) the lives of others in their life. But what if we all had the same New Year’s resolutions, and were able to hold one another mutually accountable, and they improved our lives and the lives of those in our lives?

If a genie gave me just one wish… I would wish for infinite hummus. Sorry. But if I was lucky enough to stumble upon another genie, my wish would be for everyone to make these New Year’s Resolutions (ya know, in case treating every day like Christmas isn’t your style). I believe in the power of individuals, and we can change the world one person at a time for the better. But it starts with changing our individual worlds. So, Mark Twain be damned, this year I resolve to:

  1. Realize that I’m incredibly fortunate. Even when things seem like they can’t get worse, and I think the whole world is against me, the simple fact that I’m able to be unhappy is a byproduct of the fortune of being given that opportunity to be unhappy.
  2. Be grateful for what I have. I don’t have much, but I have plenty. Flipping a switch and having lights come on, for example, is pretty freaking awesome. I want to remind myself to be more thankful for those things, every day.
  3. Want less, and learn to want to give more. Giving is happiness.
  4. Understand that it’s okay not to be happy all the time. And to affirm others in understanding this. Life has ups and downs and lefts and wrongs. It’s okay to not be happy — it just makes happy even better when I get it.
  5. Appreciate aloneness. To not freak out, to make the most of the peace, and to remember that being alone isn’t the same as being lonely.
  6. Love more and judge less. “This goes for loving yourself, too, Mister!” I yell at myself, judgmentally, because I know that I’m far more likely to love and avoid judging another person. I can definitely do more loving of myself and others, and less judging of myself and others.
  7. Eat less food that makes me feel like garbage. Yeah, it tastes good in the moment, but I’d bet heroin feels pretty good, and you don’t see me eating that every weekend.
  8. Move my body more. Sitting is bad, and I do it too much. I don’t enjoy exercising, but I want to learn to enjoy it. When I nudge myself to do it, I almost always enjoy it. I’m going to do that more.
  9. Put myself in unknown situations. Comfort is good, but growth comes from challenge. I’m going to seek out unknown situations, read things I may not have otherwise read, talk to people I may have otherwise ignored.
  10. Treat individual human beings as individual human beings. Don’t allow myself to track my mud into their houses, or the mud that someone else who may have looked like/sounded like/smelled like them do the same.
  11. Not let my pride stand between me and something or someone. It doesn’t matter what the “principle” of the matter was, or all the other bullshit excuses I use. What matters is what I want to happen in the future, and whether I’m willing to circumvent pride to make it happen.
  12. Sweep before my own door first. To remember that I’m not helping any one — as a hard worker, friend, partner, etc. — if I’m not taking care of myself. I need to be my own friend first.

If you’re up for this challenge, let me know. Or share the list with a friend as a friendly challenge. We can be one another’s accountabilibuddies. Gosh, I love spelling that word.

I have a hard time asking for help, likely mostly because I’m a dude. You might freak out reading this if you’re familiar with my other work, but let me write a few more words before we start sounding any alarms.

I grew up being told not to ask for help. Even still, every day of my life I’m told not to ask for help. I’ve been told this by people who I care about a lot and admire, and also by complete strangers who should really mind their own Ps and Qs. All of these people (silly gooses) kept telling me this all my life (like, ALL of my life) because I have a penis (not bragging). And believe it or not, as a result of being told hundreds of thousands of times that I shouldn’t ask for help, I have a hard time asking for help. Weird, right?

Ipso facto, being told I’m bad at asking over and over and over because I’m a dude and eventually internalizing that message means I have a hard time asking for help because I’m a dude. So, to clarify, it’s not being a dude that made me a bad asker of help, it was being born in a world where being a dude means being convinced I’m bad at asking for help. Because Society.

The good news: I know this is ridiculous.

The bad news: knowing it’s ridiculous, even with the absolutely confident certainty of knowing that I possess, doesn’t make it much easier to ask for help.

That’s the most wild part. I know this script I’ve been given, part of the Masculinity Play I was unconsentingly cast in at birth, leads only to a dangerous, self-destructive, or — at best — unhappy Grande Finale. I know that. But every time I see two roads diverging in a yellow wood, where I can choose to soldier on or ask for help, I’m more likely to take the road less healthy-lifestyle-lived-on by — or however that quote goes.

What’s even worse is that I’m actually kind of ashamed of how bad I am at asking for help, which, in turn, makes it even harder to do, and harder to admit I don’t do. OH THE TANGLED WEBS WE HAVE WOVEN.

This, my dears, is why I do all the things I do, and shoulder most of the burden for many of them by myself. This is also, my dears, why I don’t sleep. And I don’t want to not sleep. I think sleep is just wonderful. I would enjoy doing more of it every day, or maybe even a couple times some days.

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions (because I don’t support making year-impacting decisions while hammered and wearing that woman’s sequined blazer you “borrowed” but have no intention of ever giving back even though I don’t even come close to pulling it off). But I do love resolutions in general. So I’m going to resolve, right meow, to start asking for help, and to give the folks in world the opportunity to not help (which you are totally welcome to not do).

In a former job I did a lot of “Needs Assessments” which is a fun (ha!) way of determining an org or program’s strengths and weaknesses. The resulting report was supposed to enable the staff to adjust they’re approach in order to bolster their strengths and find solutions or support systems to alleviate their weaknesses. I’m going to do a Sam Assessment, and be really Frank (kidding, I’m Sam) about what I’m good at and where I need some minor (major) assistance (FEMA).

These are Things I’m Good At! | But I’m terrible at these related or complementary things, and could really use your help if you’d like to support me in doing the bold things

(Make sense? Let’s give this a shot. In no particular order…)

Performing my show; Speaking/Keynoting about Social Justice-y Stuff | Getting the word out about my show; advertising that I do these things at all; getting video footage of my talks/shows

Simplifying Complicated Ideas into Adorable Graphics | Knowing what complicated ideas people need help simplifying; researching data to support the graphics

Designing and Building Pretty Websites | Programming more complex and secure web applications, including the three big ones I’m currently floundering on

Making Things that Reach Millions of Eyeballs | Having any idea of how that happens; handling the response to those things (positive and negative); fostering those things to help them get into more eyeballs

Writing | Editing; assessing needs of what I should be writing about; connecting with sites/publications to have the stuff I write published elsewhere

Helping People Who Reach Out to Me for Help | Reaching out to folks who might need my help or be able to help me; identifying folks who would be helped by work I’ve already done if I just sent them a link; connecting with people in my field(s) to collaborate or support one another

Giving Away Almost All of My Time & Work for Free | Earning dollars to pay my bills, repair my bike, or “grow my business”; creating things that I can make dollars from; charging dollars for those things

Not Keeping Up With My Email | Keeping up with my email

Eating Hummus | Not eating just hummus

I just got back from watching the new Hunger Games flick. I cried 15+ times in 146 minutes and left the theatre fired up to burn down the establishment. You should see it. I also went alone. And that’s not how you’re supposed to do that thing. But if you’ve never done it, do it. Even if just once.

It’s an important experience, even if it seems silly. Here’re my tips for making the most out of it.

  • The teller who sells you your ticket “for one” will give you a look like she’s never seen someone seen a movie alone. She has, she’s just having the same knee-jerk judgmental reaction to you being alone that your subconscious is having to you being alone: it’s wrong. Throw them both off with a big grin and by saying “Yep, just the one. I’m the one. No friends with me, no fam, not meeting anyone inside. I’m alone. All by myself. And I’m going to watch the sh*t out of this movie.”
  • Then get popcorn. Not because you’re alone, or for any special reason. Just because popcorn is awesome.
  • Get there early enough to get the absolute best seat in the theatre. About a third of the way up the main section, dead center, just you and your popcorn. You own that space. People are going to ask if you’re saving the seats beside you. You’re welcome to save one for your popcorn.
  • Everyone will start filtering in and the lights are on and they’ll all see you and you’ll start to feel like your own little Truman Show. You will be tempted to whip your phone out and keep your mind busy. Don’t do that. No! I said don’t. Turn on airplane mode and put it away. Search your feelings, Luke.
  • The lights will dim for the previews and you’ll start to feel anonymous. There will likely be some trailers for movies where they show all the super hilarious parts. This is when you’ll have two options: (1) sink into that anonymity in the dark, enjoy the movie in silence, and roll out, not particularly stoked; or (2) fulfill that promise to yourself and watch the sh*t out of this movie, starting by giving into the hilarity of the “show all the funny parts” movie trailers. LOL, but for reals.
  • The movie is about to start. Shhh!
  • Laugh, groan, shriek, and watch the sh*t out of the movie. If there’s one of those “nuh uh!” moments where you’d normally turn to your fellow movie goer and be all “nuh uhhh!” do that. Just, to a stranger. Or your popcorn. “That snack isn’t the best.” Nuh uhhhhh!
  • Every time you laugh, you’ll be more aware of your laughter than you’re generally aware of your laughter. This is great. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant (sorry, Luke, that quote may not have worked here).
  • The movie is over! Congrats! Give your popcorn bucket a greasy high-five.
  • Don’t stick around through the entire credits or anyone else who sticks around through the entire credits will think you’re there to murder them. Haha! Kidding. We’re past that, aren’t we!
  • Hold the door for a few strangers on the way out. It’s polite.
  • Then write a Facebook status about the movie and leave out the part where you were alone and then add that in a comment and experience the judgment all over. But now you’re okay with that, aren’t you?

  • Then go home and blog about it.

Boom. You just experienced some life. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed eating popcorn tonight.

My momma taught me to say please and thank you, to keep my elbows off the table, and to never chew with my mouth full. As a near grown-up Sam, these all feel as natural as breathing, blinking, or eating peanut butter directly from the jar with a spoon (sorry, Momma).

I thank the bus driver whenever I get off the bus, the coffee shop person several times throughout the “put caffeine inside of me process” (“What would you like?” Caffeine, thanks!), and I even thanked the Capital One rep when she told me that my identity was stolen (again) and some yahoo in New York is spending all the money I don’t have. I say a lot of thank yous in any given day. But there are a lot of people I never thank.

I don’t thank the people who write essays (like this one) or give talks (like this one) that tickle my brain and leave my mind spinning for days, weeks, or, sometimes, years. I don’t thank the people who write books I read that shape my perspective, changing the way I think about writing, the world, and myself. I don’t thank people who taught me things, or provided the support I needed, that led me to where I am today.

I got an email today from someone thanking me for the things I do online and it included the sentiment “I bet you get this a lot, but…” The truth is, I don’t get a lot of encouraging emails. In fact, I get very few. But the few I do get I stick in a Gmail folder called “encouragement” in case I’m having a rough week and need to tap into my reserves. Almost every encouraging email I do get includes that “I’m sure you get this a a lot” sentiment. And I realized today that I often think the same thing, and that keeps me from saying thank you to the people whose work I appreciate. I don’t want to be a nuisance. They won’t care about hearing from lil ol’ me. I’m gonna eat some more peanut butter from the jar.

If I can muster up the gratitude to say thanks to the bus driver, I can muster up a bit more to thank all those other people. I don’t mean to say bus drivers aren’t as worthy of my gratitude (they are!), but I don’t think I’m living up to the gratitude I was taught if I only say thanks to the people in my immediate presence. And I’m going to stop allowing myself to assume the other people, the writers and talkers and designers and creators, who influence me wouldn’t want to hear my thanks.

For the next week, whenever I read or watch something that really hits me deep, I’m going to write the person who made it a thank you. I will write at least one thank you per day for the next seven. Let me know if you’ll take the same challenge in the comments below, and we can share stories.

Thank you for being you,

sK

***

Oh, but if you do, please don’t send me a thank you, or it won’t count as one of your seven (sorry, I don’t make the rules — blame the folks at corporate). This challenge is not me fishing for more thanks.

I lie a lot. I didn’t realize that until I started following Sam Harris, the Author of Lying, on Twitter (I highly recommend following him, by the way — dude’s got a great first name). A few days ago one of my Twitter buds retweeted his challenge below, which is how I was introduced to Sam (great name, by the way) and his work.


Instead of pledging not to tell a lie, I decided to first just be cognizant of the lies I found myself telling. I wanted to see how terrible of a person I am before I decided to quit lying cold turkey for a week. And holy cow. If more lies make you a worse person, I’m Joker from Dark Knight bad. The vast majority of the lies I heard myself telling were completely meaningless: they didn’t really benefit me in any way that telling the truth wouldn’t. It made no sense to me.

But I guess that some men just want to watch the world burn.

White lies, where I would find myself saying something untruthful for the perceived benefit of someone else, were also common. But, again, I can’t think of any case where I would’ve actually done the person harm by telling the truth.

Even the lies that were meaningful detours from the truth were not only completely unnecessary, but examples of me making a poor life choice. I’m not sure why I told them, because rational choice theory would make a clear argument against the lie. The tiny potential short-term benefit doesn’t come close to escaping the shadow of  now I must uphold this lie forever. But I told them nonetheless. Because who doesn’t enjoy crippling anxiety?

“Unlike statements of fact, which require no further work on our part, lies must be continually protected from collisions with reality.”

— Sam Harris, Lying

I found myself wondering, for the first time in my life (and am currently wondering again), how many lies I’ve told in my entire life. Or, even more worrisome, what the ratio of truths-to-lies is in my average day. This, my friends, is a rabbit hole I do not recommend. Take the blue pill, keep living your life, and thank me later, because it gets dark fast (not quite “why do I have electric plugs instead of nipples?” dark, but definitely “you think that’s air you’re breathing now?” kind of dark).  If you do wander down this twisting corridor, let me know when you get to the part where you start to wonder what truth really is, if anything you’ve ever known was true, and if perhaps the things you think are lies are actually facts and I’ve just been lying to myself and oh god my nose is bleeding.

So. Anyway. The title of this thought. I’m going to do that. For real. Starting now: (and I would love for you to do the same thing, then we can share our thoughts next week. You know, unless you’re an unscrupulous scumbag… like, well, me?) No lies for 168 hours. No white lies, no lying by omission, nada. Did you know it’s impossible to lie in question form? But I’m not even going to use that trick. It’s going to be tough, and I’m already anxious thinking about it, but for the next week I am not going to be dishonest at all.

Oh god my nose is bleeding.

***

Bonus! Here’s a great RSA Animate about honest and dishonesty. If you wanna chat, use the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.