What’s at the root of (un)happiness? How can you start and maintain a daily meditation practice? Where might minimalism fit in? And what about politics? Better Humaning is where I write about all that and more.
Consider a few alternatives. Let’s say I told you:
A. I want to remove every unhealthy habit, food, and mindset from my life, and I’m going to start tomorrow.
B. I’m going to eat less sugar, starting tomorrow.
When tomorrow comes, which one are you likely to hold me accountable to? Which might you help me excuse when I fall short? Which are you actually expecting me to do? Or even realistically try?
Let’s do a few more with those questions in mind.
A. It’s my goal to transform my country to 100% renewable energy.
B. It’s my goal to transform my local school district to 50% renewable energy.
A. My organization is going to end racism, globally.
B. My organization is going to help local people of color, and other disenfranchised people, register to vote and get to the polls.
That’s plenty to get the point I’m going to make, I think.
But first, here’s what I’m not about to say: that any of the As above — the lofty, admirable, pie-in-the-sky ambitions — are in any way bad, undesirable, or something I’m advocating against.
I want all of those things. I have, at different points in my life, said all of those things, in some way or another. And I don’t even like thinking of myself as ambitious.
Here’s all I want to point out: sometime we set the bar so high because it gives us an excuse when we can’t clear it.Continue reading → “When Ambition is Hiding”
My last few weeks have been marked by creativity. I love that feeling. I want to make it happen more.
Bill Gates is frequently quoted for saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
I feel this contrast more intensely on a smaller scale: we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year.
It’s so easy for me to think of myself as a creative person — a writer, a doodler, a designer, a coder — even when I don’t create anything in a given day.
But I’m not really a writer when I’m not writing. I’m a reader of political news, or a dog walker, or a cook, or a compulsively rechecking my email because it triggers a dopamine response-er.
I’ve been “working on a book for three years” now, but I haven’t truly been working on that book for three years. I’ve barely worked on it at all. A few minutes here, an hour there.
Creativity is an act, and one that is so easily sidelined by other actions — anything that feels safer, simpler, easier, or fulfills a shortsighted desire.
How many people do you know who are “working” on things that never get any creative time dedicated to them?
How many projects are you “working” on that you haven’t sat down in front of for over a week? A month? A year? Ever?
Last week, I finished and published a book. The week before I co-created and published a massive Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide. The week before that I wrote a new comedy show. And in between all of that I’ve made major strides in starting two new (secret, for now) projects. And I’ve only checked my email two thousand times (a made up number down from what I assume is my normal two million times per month).
But in the weeks before that, I was mostly just slogging through administrative stuff. Checking in on old things, closing out 2018. Not really making progress on anything, with only a few essays and one edugraphic to show for it.
All of that got me reflecting on the ebbs and flows of my own creativity, and wanting to come up with some personal challenge or strategy to get a better grasp on that part of my life.
I don’t want to spend most of my time on tasks that amount to nothing, but feel good in the moment (or at least don’t feel terrifying, like creativity often does).
I want to spend most of my time creating things that I share with the world, that are durable, that might exist when I’m gone.Continue reading → “The Creative March”
Because I’m self-taught in most things I do — from programming to design to animation — a lot of my friends ask me for tips on how to learn a particular thing.
“I want to learn how to make websites,” a friend will ask. “Where do you think I should start?”
Over the years, I’ve given a lot of different responses. Pointing people to free online resources for learning, like Codecademy or Khan Academy. Or telling them to join a local workshop or meet-up. Or both.
It’s not how I learned, but it’s easier to point someone to a resource than it is to give an autobiography for how I learned something myself.
However, seeing that advice fail again and again prompted me to rethink my rationale.
What would it look like, if I advised people to learn things how I’ve learned them?Continue reading → “Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning”
For the past 7 days, my life was consumed by the flu. Technically, I was more couch-ridden than bedridden, but I was decidedly horizontal. Luckily, I had a faithful guardian who didn’t leave my side, so I survived.
This is the first time I’ve had the flu in as long as I can remember. I don’t get sick often. The last time I was even “take a day off work” sick was over a year ago (and I don’t even have to get a doctor’s note to call in — I have lenient bosses).
Yesterday, as I was catching up on the SNL I missed, I realized I didn’t get most of the jokes because I hadn’t been keeping up with politics or the news (or even trying).
Today, something else hit me, as I started to dive back into work and catch up with life, that I can attribute entirely to the flu:Continue reading → “The Big Thing Being Bedridden with the Flu for a Week Made Me Realize”
For the past almost-decade, I’ve checked the “self-employed” box lots of times: when opening bank accounts, on lease applications for apartments, and it’s how the IRS sees me.
But it’s a lie. I’m not “self-employed.”
Nobody is.Continue reading → “You’re Not “Self-Employed””
There’s a modern scourge upon us, and every get-together, plan, and social event is vulnerable.
I don’t know when it started, who’s to blame, or if it can be defeated, but I’ve begun vaccinating myself against it. And if you or your social circle have caught a case of the Maybes, or you want to prevent an outbreak, here’s what you can do.
The first step with any epidemic is understanding the problem: What is the Maybes, how does it spread, and why is it harmful?Continue reading → “Breaking the Chain of “Maybe””
I haven’t meditated in over a week.
I’ve become increasingly aware of this every day that passes. It’s become so big in my day, that, right now, Not Meditating feels like all I’ve accomplished.
And yet, here I am writing this instead of doing the damn thing. What is wrong with me?
I know that I’ll appreciate my time sitting — both while it’s happening (even if I know it’ll be more fitful than usual) and after. It’ll give my day more focus, give me a breath between the world and my reactions to it, and I’ll feel happier, healthier, calmer, and whole-er.
The benefits of meditating, when I haven’t been, are always more obvious to me in the negative: the list of things I’ve been doing, thinking, eating, etc. that were not mindful, but were instead short-sighted comforts that led to longer-term pains. The things I wouldn’t be doing if I had been meditating.
And my recent memory is full of such things. My body and mind are weighed down with their aftermath.
Yet here I am, still Not Meditating.
I know that all that’s standing between me getting back on that path or me continuing to flounder is a few minutes on the cushion. I’ve known that every day.
And yet I didn’t. I still haven’t.
So what’s getting in my way? If you’ve ever experienced this — or currently are — what’s getting in our way?Continue reading → “Falling Off the Daily Meditation Path”
I have a confession to make: I’m an Overthinker.
I think I’ve always been this way, but my condition has worsened with age. And my chosen profession didn’t help.
I overthink as a matter of work, often. And I always overthink my work. Not just the things I make themselves, but how to describe what I do, and what unites it all.
Lately, I’ve come to think that the best way to describe my job is “overthinking everything so you don’t have to.” That’s no surprise, I’m sure, if you’ve popped around this site, or read my books, or seen anything else I’ve made.
But, ironically, I’m also driven, fundamentally, to empower people to not need me, via my work. I always endeavor to remove myself from the picture. Making myself irrelevant is one of my primary goals in everything I make, and it’s often the question that leads to the improvements or further work: “How can I create something that is freely available to prevent a person from needing to hire me to do it?”
That’s why, for example, I released my copyright on my work back in 2013: I didn’t want people to have to keep asking me to use it, license it, or reprint it. I removed myself from the middle.
So this creates a bit of a conundrum. No surprise: me finding a conundrum. That’s Overthinking 101.
Recently, I’ve been [over-]thinking about that conundrum a lot. And I’ve felt a growing urge to reconcile it, which brings us here. To the how-to I never suspected I would write: A list of ways that I overthink everything, for those of you who want to DIY (OIY?).
Following is the process I generally follow as I overthink everything in my life and work.
I apply it to everything I create, to the social justice and human rights advocacy I engage in, to how I organize and operate on a “business” level, and even to how I do things in my “personal” life (relationships, puppy training, cooking, etc.).
This is the not-so-secret sauce.
But I suggest you proceed with caution. Overthinking is addictive. I wonder why that is.Continue reading → “Overthinking Everything So You Don’t Have To”
Policing Voting vs. Nuance
You can complain about politics if you don’t vote.
You’re not a bad human if you don’t vote.
You can still be my friend if you don’t vote.
And voting is an exceptional way to complain.
And it’s a perfect way to stake a claim in your humanity.
And it’s a wonderful way to show up for your friends.
Mistakes don’t guarantee learning, but learning requires mistakes.
Be the wind, or risk becoming the sail.
Last spring, I got to spend a couple weeks in rural Ontario giving a few dozen (!) talks, assemblies, and shows at schools and organizations around the province. Every time I visit the Ontario countryside, I’m struck by how much it reminds me of my now-home state of Texas, in ways that are equal parts comfy (lots of hospitality) and uncomfy (lots of camouflage and usage of the word “lifestyle”). But this trip was different.
In years past, the ideas I was presenting (i.e., social justice and anti-oppression concepts, centered around gender) were mostly received as new. And the questions aligned with that. But this year, a lot of the questions I was hearing weren’t responding to what I was saying on stage, as much as they were addressing things that were already bouncing around students’ minds before I got there. I just became the first “spokesperson” for social justice they were able to confront IRL.
For example, in years past I got a lot of questions about things like “What do you mean gender and sexuality aren’t the same?” Or “What do you mean a woman can’t ‘oppress’ a man?”
But this year, a bunch of times (double digits) during Q&As I was asked something that amounted to “So gender is a social construct, and so is race, so why are we accepting of Caitlyn Jenner but not Rachel Dolezal?” By high schoolers. In rural Texas Ontario.
Hold that thought. I’ll return to it, but first I want to take a step back. Continue reading → “I can’t stop thinking about the “Social Justice Dogma,” or keeping quiet.”