Philosophizin

Better Humaning

Overthinking Everything So You Don’t Have To

A how-to listicle for aspiring overthinkers

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”
(Un)Happiness

The Road Away From Email

A long and winding path with a pot of gold at the end. If I can get there.

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?

Continue reading → “The Road Away From Email”
Better Humaning

This Flowchart Will Change Your Life

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." - Maya Angelou

Hahaha — oh headlines. But seriously. You need no flowchart beyond this flowchart. View. Share. Love. Life.

Maya-Angelou---Change-It-Flowchart

Better Humaning

I Miss Wondering

“For this feeling of wonder shows that you are a philosopher, since wonder is the only beginning of philosophy.” - Plato

Earlier tonight, I turned the burner on high and while I was waiting for my rice to come to a full boil I had a thought: “I wonder if rice cooked in beer would be good.”

A few years ago, I would have likely wondered that for quite a while. It may have been on my mind while I ate my boring water-based rice. It may have popped into my mind tomorrow, or the next day, when I next saw rice or beer. Visions of beer-based rice recipes might have danced in my belly. I may have wondered about it for a week (or ten) before I finally giving in, cooking it, and exiting Wonderland for Knowville.

But none of that happened, because Google.

Before the water (boring) in the pot began boiling I already knew if “beer rice” was a thing, what it would taste like (delicious), exactly how to make it, and what types of recipes it would be good in (ALL OF THEM). Continue reading → “I Miss Wondering”

Better Humaning

I Don’t Believe in God, but I Do Believe in A Lot

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” - Mahatma Gandhi

I don’t believe in God. Saying this is easier now than it was when I was a kid, because I was struggling equal parts internally with my lack of faith and externally with the reactions of people in my life when they found out. Coming out as an atheist leads people to make so many incredibly definitive snap judgments about who you are as a person, many of which are less than warm and fuzzy. It’s usually easier just to let them assume otherwise.

Doing the work that I do, people often ask me if I’m Christian, and are surprised when they find that I’m not. Atheist + Humanitarian = Confusion, which I find odd. As a non-Christian, I don’t see the disconnect at all. Not believing in God doesn’t mean you don’t believe in people. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than I don’t believe in God.

For me, and I suspect for many others, not believing in a god isn’t a choice. I didn’t wake up one day, raise my middle finger to the heavens above, and say, “Big ol’ pile of nope, Bro!” then start sinnin’. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I spent many a night as a kid lying in bed, tears in my eyes, feeling rejected because I wasn’t able to believe. Believing sounds great, ultimately. I can only imagine how comforting it would be to believe that there is a sense of intentionality, or just someone looking out for you, in the universe. But, for me, believing would be faking, and I’m no faker.

I also find myself explaining with some regularity that not believing in a god doesn’t mean I lack faith, or that I don’t believe in anything. Where your faith might be bound by dogma and tradition, and your belief is in a definitive higher power, I find faith in other things, and have deeply held beliefs that keep move moving through my life.

Above all, I believe in people.

I believe that people, at their core, unsocialized and unmarred by negative influences, are good. And that with the right nudge they will tumble toward positivity. I have faith in the work that I do nudging, and have seen many a person tumble toward a life where they provide light and safety for others in their life. I love people, and am bound in my service to them — to you, I suppose.

I believe that if you can do nothing else, commit yourself to helping the people you love be unashamed of who they are.

I believe that the last spoonful in a tub of ice cream is where all the crack is located and that’s why it’s impossible not to start eating another tub.

I believe that the Golden Rule and many other things we were taught and internalized as kids are ruining our lives.

I wrote about the Golden Rule a lot in my book, and on my other site, but the short version is that the Golden Rule is based on the assumption that other people want to be treated how you want to be treated, which assumes everyone wants to be treated the same way. The Platinum Rule, “Treat others how they want to be treated,” is way better. But there are a ton of other aphorisms that are ruining us, too, like “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”

I believe that the right song coming on at the right moment is the closest thing to Nirvana I’ve ever experienced.

I believe that pants are the work of The Devil.

Okay, I guess I don’t technically believe in “The Devil,” but whatever. You get it. I can have my lack of cake and eat it, too. Anyway, pants. Seriously. Beyond the simple discomfort of pants, pants are so often required for doing things that I don’t want to do, and don’t think we as a people have evolved to do. Like jury duty. We suck at jury duty. And time spent not wearing pants is generally time well spent.

I believe that nothing human-made will ever match the beauty of the naturally occurring art that surrounds us.

I believe that the internet is simultaneously the most unifying and divisive invention in human history.

And I have faith that someday (hopefully soon) we’ll find a way to amplify the unity experienced via the internet and marginalize the divisiveness.

I believe in focusing on the grey amidst the black and white.

I believe that humans can be connected to one another without ever having met, and when we allow ourselves to fall into this connectedness we are experiencing the best of what it means to be human.

I believe that intentionality is the soul of happiness, and effort the soul of contentedness.

I believe in ghosts.

Because I have real-life reasons, folks. Spooky reasons. Stories for another time. But spooky. Trust me.

I believe that you don’t have to ask for permission to smile.

And, finally, I believe that love is the answer to most of life’s great questions.

How can we end wars? What’s the point to being alive? How can I best be a good sibling, child, parent, coworker, friend, boss, civil servant, etc.? Why does the world seem to lose its color whenever I go three days without eating hummus?

(Un)Happiness

We Fabricate the Obstacles that Stand Between Us and Happiness

We're convinced that there are challenges -- immutable, concrete, biological -- we must overcome in order to be happy. What if we convinced ourselves otherwise?

You sit down in a restaurant, the server comes over and asks what’ll you have. “I would like a double bacon cheeseburger, please. I prefer my fermented milk on top of pig on top of cow on top of cow.” Then the server replies, “No problem, hun’. Just put together this 5,000 piece puzzle Minimalist Sand Dune and I’ll have your order right out.”

Wait what?

That hopefully sounds absurd. You’d never stand for that. “I’ll eat my heart attack somewhere else!” you might yell. But we do stand for that. We put 5,000+ piece puzzles between ourselves and things we want every day, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Continue reading → “We Fabricate the Obstacles that Stand Between Us and Happiness”