living intuitively

blog

C U R I O U S
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography


The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.

Curiosity is a superpower.


More than intelligence or persistence or connections, curiosity has allowed me to live the life I wanted.
— Brian Grazer
curiosity image 13.jpg

It opens doors, keeps you engaged, keeps you learning, keeps you growing, keeps you evolving…

I personally have an INSATIABLE curiosity. The more I learn, the more I want to learn. And the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know! (It’s a total kick in the pants)


Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.
— Leo Burnett

curiosity image 15.jpg

Curiosity manifests in multiple ways: reading, asking, exploring, experimenting.

I read basically anything I can get my hands on, usually nonfiction (though fiction can be just as insightful!). The topics I read about range from international relations to economics to finance to psychology to history to spiritual enlightenment to personal development to health/fitness to government/politics to leadership to business to…yeah, you get the idea. The more you do it, the more fun it becomes - you start making connections not only in your current reading, but in other areas: past readings, past experiences, current experiences, current situations.

The world starts to come together and make more sense (note I said more sense, not complete sense! There will always be mysteries and unknowns - part of the ride, my friend).

curiosity image 11.jpg

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.
— Socrates

Not only do you start to see how things fit together, but you are better equipped to make wiser decisions: with your money, your career, your personal life. Knowledge is P O W E R, baby.

curosity image 4.jpg

And if reading isn’t enjoyable/feasible for you, then try podcasts and audiobooks! After you’re all caught up on The Nativist Podcast (shameless plug!), there are countless fantastic and informational podcasts out there in practically every genre/format/vibe imaginable.


I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious.
— Albert Einstein

Need more motivation to become more curious?

In her book Dare to Lead on page 171, Brené Brown notes researchers are finding evidence that curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory, and problem-solving. A study published in the October 22, 2014 issue of the journal Neuron suggests the brain’s chemistry changes when we become curious, helping us better learn and retain information. H O L L A!

curosity image 5.jpg

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.
— Samuel Johnson

My curiosity also manifests in the questions I’m always throwing at people. I want to know DETAILS: background, wants, fears, ambitions, experiences, insights, philosophies, jobs, worldviews. I’m endlessly fascinated by people, social dynamics, psychology, motivations, and just LIFE in general.

Interestingly enough, I’m NOT a pryer - I respect boundaries and privacy, and play off the information the person provides me. I stay on the surface unless I either confirm willingness from the person or I sense their transparency.

curiosity image 12.jpg

Be curious, not judgmental.

And not only is curiosity better for you, it’s better for EVERYONE. It opens your mind and helps you co-exist more peacefully. Ignorance breeds fear and contempt. Illumination and knowledge punches fear and contempt in the face. We fear what we don’t know, whether it’s the stock market or a religion certain politicians like to tell us promotes terrorism.


Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common but it is essential for right thinking.
— Leo Tolstoy
curosity image 2.jpg

It’s OUR responsibility to educate ourselves. To not rely on hearsay and rumors and news pundits. That’s when it gets dangerous (Nazi Germany, anyone?!). It’s on us to get out and explore and keep an open and curious mind.

Try not to just automatically accept information you receive, even if from an expert/trusted source. Identify possible biases/knowledge gaps; try to separate the facts from the underlying agenda. Let’s think for ourselves. Interact with foreign cultures, foreign ideas, foreign methods - so we can assess them ourselves and reach our own conclusions. It’s our civic duty, our personal duty, our moral duty.

Closed-mindedness is the enemy. Not only does it start wars and cultivate hate crimes, it fuels hatred and just makes life friggin’ MISERABLE for everyone. Everyyyyone. Not just the hated - those low vibing haters ain’t happy, either. Plus, it just limits everyone’s lives! It stunts innovation, rejects bliss, prevents growth. No bueno.

In his book Tribes, Seth Godin distinguishes between fundamentalism and curiosity.

  • Fundamentalist: considers whether a concept is acceptable to their worldview before exploring it.

  • Curious person: explores first and then either accepts or rejects the new idea.








This applies not only to religion, but life in general. Which are you? IMPORTANT QUESTION: Do you embrace the tension between your current framework and a new idea, or do you filter for what fits your current outlook?

As Godin states, curiosity has nothing to do with income, education, or organized religion. It has to do with a desire to try, a desire to push boundaries.

As I see it, curiosity is a weapon against mediocrity. It keeps us striving and evolving and innovating and ENGAGING IN LIFE. It helps us maximize our potential. Unlike stress and pressure which can be destructive and counter-productive, curiosity is a positive but powerful force propelling us forward. It illuminates the dark, reveals opportunities, generates ideas, yields solutions, smashes barriers, obliterates hatred, and nurtures self awareness.


Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.
— James Stephens
curosity image 3.jpg

Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.

When we look at life through a lens of curiosity, the world automatically feels safer, better, cooler. It feels more interesting, more fun, more awe-inspiring. It feels less threatening, less dangerous, less baffling, less negative.


There are those much more rare people who never lose their curiosity, their almost childlike wonder at the world; those people who continue to learn and to grow intellectually until the day they die. And these usually are the people who make contributions, who leave some part of the world a little better off than it was before they entered it.
— William Herbert Sheldon

The mundane suddenly becomes A W E S O M E. Curiosity has a way of reinvigorating your life. I mean, think about it: We live in an incredible world, with all of its intricacies and connections and features: in nature, in societies, in EVERYTHING. Once you start paying attention and WONDERING - the world becomes and infinite wonderland.

curiosity image 7.jpg
Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason, aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life of the marvelous structure behind reality?

And this is the miracle of the human mind - to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.
— Albert Einstein
curisosity image 7.jpg

That’s one of the reasons I absolutely love kids: they’re constantly asking why, trying to make sense of the world (you parents constantly bombarded with questions may find them less charming!). Why do some people say yes when they mean no? Why do we do what we do and say what we say? Why is the sky blue and why is steel strong and why can’t we just write checks to pay for everything?

Bottom line: Curiosity rules. Don’t think so?

51910833_315623529303706_6911443797717024768_n.jpg

xx,

-w-

Ya F E E L me?

Now on to the second Great Untruth, as outlined in The Coddling of the American Mind (an amazing book I read and first mentioned in an earlier post):

Always trust your feelings.

[Note: This relates to your emotions, not your intuition.]

Don’t get me wrong, emotions are helpful. Emotions are valuable messengers, revealing what’s going on below the surface, in your subconscious. They illuminate unhealed/repressed/insecure/etc parts of your being.

However, it’s imperative you view them through the right mindset: tools to increase your self awareness and heal yourself. Means to make you even more of a BAMF (bad ass motha you know what). Doing so requires willingness and discipline. It can be all too easy to give in to your initial feelings of anger/envy/contempt/fear/etc. But nope - be stronger than that.

If someone says something says something that rubs you the wrong way, or triggers feelings as resentment or rage, ask yourself:

  • Could I possibly have misperceived their words/intent?

    • Maybe I misheard them, or misunderstood them. Maybe they misspoke, thereby concealing their true [pure!] intent. Did they offend you unintentionally? [Have come across the wrong way? I know I have!] Try not to assume!

  • What can you glean from your emotional reaction?

    • Why did it affect you so strongly, in that way? Did it hit a nerve with you based on some past slight, of which the person is unaware? If so, this is a great opportunity to resolve the issue(s) within yourself

Do yourself - and others - a favor by going that extra step to check your automatic emotional reaction. If you operate off pure [initial] emotion, you’re limiting your self/interactions/connections and dooming yourself to a life of victimization, hurt, anxiety, and ostracism - regardless if these emotions are justified.

And so what if they are justified?

What if the person actually was intending offense? By reacting hostilely and lashing out (as tempting as it can be), you only deepen the divide and nurture the status quo.

Again, try to avoid assumption. If something rubs you the wrong way, respectfully acknowledge your possible misperception. This allows them: 1. an opportunity to clarify; 2. an opportunity to learn and see how their words/reasoning could be misconstrued and negatively impact others. (Wouldn’t you appreciate the same opportunity, if roles were reversed?) This likely heightens their awareness, thereby hopefully bridging the gap, lessening those divisive lines, and decreasing the likelihood of it happening again, to you or someone else. And maybe they stand by their assertion and maintain their racist/sexist/homophobic/ etc intent and view. It is what it is.

At least by responding with love and respect you can rest assured you’re not contributing to the problem. You can hold your head high knowing that by choosing to respond with love, you’re doing your part to soften the divide. And don’t get me wrong - sometimes you need to show a little fire to emphasize your point; but if you’re all flame and fury, you’re only exacerbating the situation.

A great principle to live your life by is the principle of charity: interpret others’ statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible. The ease with which you do this shows how solid within yourself you are. If it’s still challenging - time for some self reflection, amigo.

And while you’re self assessing, try not to label emotions as negative or positive - they’re just emotions! Like, I said, they’re tools to help you become happier, healthier, and stronger. Means by which to become S O L I D.



Choose not to be harmed - and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed - and you haven’t been.
— Marcus Aurelius

I’m a big fan of stoicism and Marcus Aurelius.

Don’t let others control your mind and cortisol levels. There will ALWAYS be offenses and offensive content (especially online!). Good news! It’s not up to you to right every [perceived] wrong, and school those with whom you disagree. (How easy would it be for them to change your mind? It’d likely be just as tough to change theirs.) As we strive to lessen hatred and heal divisions, we must all pick our battles and ignore some of what we see, and just carry on with our day - if only for your own sanity’s sake!

Shine on, babes.

xx,

-w-





B O O K ing IT
I am part of everything that I have read.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography



To me, reading is life. Reading and learning and growing.

I’ve always been a book enthusiast. The library has always been my wonderland. Book stores make me giddy. They still give me such a rush. As a kid, I lived for summers when I could load up on library books (I’m talking multiple overflowing baskets), devour them, then repeat. I would read all day, then scramble to finish my chores before Mom and Dad came home.

I managed to read almost wherever I went. On WalMart outings , I’d head straight to the books and grab the one I’d started on my last visit. I’d follow my parents around the store with my nose stuck in a book, maintaining enough external awareness to know where they were walking. I soaked up as much as I could before having to put the book down and wait for the next trip. I don’t know how many books I finished this way.

Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.
— Plato

I remember appreciating how awesome and uncomplicated life was as a kid, and not wanting to grow up. Growing up meant I’d have to get a job, and getting a job meant I wouldn’t have unlimited time to lose myself in books. Adulting - who has time for that?!

I personally love book recommendations (I have a couple of must-read lists) - and I’ve had a few people requesting I share books I’ve read - so here’s my latest list! Here are books I’ve read within the last 12 months, in no particular order. I’ll bold those I highly recommend:


  • The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

    • Excellent read on fragility of today’s youth. See my last blog post: What doesn’t K I L L you makes you STRONGER for a snippet.

  • Be Like a Fox: Machiavelli’s Lifelong Quest for Freedom by Erica Benner

    • Fascinating read outlining Machiavelli’s life and work and presenting him as actually anti-Machiavellian! Benner submits Machiavelli was actually a good-hearted, profound ethical thinker who fought to uphold high moral standards and restore the democratic freedoms of his beloved Florence. His writings, such as in The Prince, actually critiqued princely power, but had to be veiled due to the politics of the time.

  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

    • Thought provoking. Eye opening. Fascinating.

  • The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

    • It outlines a powerful model and actionable steps to overcome common hurdles teams face, and advises on building a cohesive, effective team.

  • 101 Secrets for a Successful Retirement: Practical, Inspirational, and Fun Ideas for the Best Years of Your Life!

    • As you can imagine, not a riveting read, but not bad. Though I don’t plan to retire for a loooong time, I still like to educate myself on what’s ahead, so I can make good decisions now to set me up for later success.

  • 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days by Dean Karnazes

    • The man is an animal. ‘Nuff said. I love endurance challenges and constantly seeks ways to strengthen my mind and discipline, but I didn’t necessarily derive that from this book.

  • Learn More Now: 10 Simple Steps to Learning Better, Smarter, and Faster by Marcia L. Conner

    • Strategies, exercises, and stories to maximize learning. It provides tips and tricks to identify your methods and styles best suited for you. The guidance applies to all aspects of life: work, home, school, and society.

  • Red Sparrow

    • Quite a bit different from the movie. I rarely read fiction anymore, and so this was a fun change of pace.

  • The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

    • MUST READ. I wish I could gift this to every single person. Gabby is a total goddess. In this book, she guides you through transforming your fear to faith, and releasing the blocks to what you desire: happiness, security, and clear direction. She shows you how to cede control so you can relax into a sense of certainty and f r e e d o m. She advises on how to reclaim your power so you can life so you can truly LIVE.

  • How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollen

    • Just WOW. What an eye opener and paradigm shifter. Having always been taught that “just saying no” to drugs includes passing on psychedelics, I was shocked to learn the true history and value of them. In an engaging way, Pollan describes how significantly successful LSD and ‘shrooms are in not only mitigating difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, but how they also remarkably improve the lives healthy people making sense of life. Having never partaken of such substances (alcohol is as rock’n’roll as I’ve gotten), I was essentially a newbie going into this book. Interweaving science, personal experience, history, and medicine, Pollan debunks the myths surrounding psychedelics since the 1960s, when psychedelic evangelists triggered a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. Now that the therapy is re-surfacing on the conventional scene, it’s interesting to consider what it has to offer.

  • How Full Is Your Bucket: Positive Strategies for Work and Life by Tom Rath

    • This book reveals how even the briefest interactions affect our relationships, productivity, health, and longevity. Grounded in 50 years of research, this book shows how to significantly increase the positive moments in our work and personal lives -- while reducing the negative.

  • Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence by James R. Clapper with Trey Brown

    • Clapper (former US director of national intelligence and Obama’s senior intelligence adviser) explores such controversial questions as the ethics of intelligence, the morality of intercepted communications, the limits of surveillance, etc. This subject matter affects all of us. I appreciated Clapper staying apolitical and focusing on the issues themselves. He offers valuable insight into the evolution of intelligence and its increasing value and relevance today, particularly in the current political climate.

  • Agent Storm: My Life Inside Al-Qaeda and the CIA by Morten Storm

    • In his captivating autobiography, Storm shares his journey from troublemaking teen in Europe to Muslim convert to jihadist to double agent for the western intelligence (CIA, as well as British and Danish intelligence).

  • The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies by Michael V. Hayden

    • General Hayden’s book provides a snapshot of senior professional opinion during difficult times. It offers insights from an intelligence professional who held some of the US intelligence community’s highest positions, including director of CIA and NSA.

  • All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Wealth by Laura Vanderkam

    • Useful read. Vanderkam advises the key is to change your perspective. Instead of regarding money as a scarce resource, consider it a tool to creatively build a better life for yourself and your loved ones.

  • Unbeatable Mind: Forge Resiliency and Mental Toughness to Succeed at an Elite Level by Mark Divine

    • I’ve always been intrigued by the Navy SEALs, and the mental and physical mastery they embody and represent. I’ve always loved pushing myself to the max, to see just how much I can do. I enjoy reading about Hell Week and their rigorous training, to glean methods to apply to my own life. Commander Mark Divine, a retired Navy SEAL and founder of SEALFIT, and the popular Unbeatable Mind Academy, shares his insights on how to forge mental toughness, develop mental clarity, and cultivate a true warrior’s spirit - lessons that are applicable on the battlefield, in the gym, and in daily life.

  • Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Productivity in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

    • Duhigg demonstrates how genuine productivity - rather than mere busyness - relies on certain choices: how we frame daily decisions; the big ambitions we embrace and the easy goals we ignore; the cultures we establish as leaders to drive innovation; how we interact with data. Duhigg outlines eye key concepts - from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making - that explain why some individuals and companies accomplish so much. Drawing from the latest discoveries in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics - as well as the experiences of elite and accomplished people - this meticulously-researched book explains the most productive people/entities don’t merely act differently - they view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways.

  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

    • Duhigg explores the science behind habit creation and reformation.

  • Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss

    • I am a major Tim Ferriss fan (author of The 4-Hour Workweek), and am an avid listener of his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. In Tribe of Mentors, Ferriss compiles wisdom and tools from multiple kick ass people. The book has 623 pages and I blew through them in two days; not because I’m a speedy reader, but because I couldn’t put the book down. Not into reading that many pages? Check it out in podcast form: The Tribe of Mentors Podcast (I listen on Spotify).

  • The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

    • This is one of THE most highly recommended books on leadership, productivity, and business.

  • The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins

    • If you hold yourself back due to laziness/fear/doubt/etc, this could be a game changer. Robbins explains the power of a “push moment” and how you only need five seconds to break through barriers to live a productive, fulfilling, empowering, healthy, accomplished life.

  • The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

    • This book details the evolution of Islamic terrorism, particularly in the modern day. It provides valuable insights into the interaction among various governmental/military/intelligence/law enforcement agencies, identifying not only their accomplishments, but their mistakes.

  • The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz

    • Ruiz uncovers the source of self-limiting beliefs that steal our joy and create unnecessary suffering.

  • You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

    • Sincero is a BAMF. Bottom line. This book is not only hilarious, but enlightening, refreshing, and helpful. She shows you how to identify and change self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stand in your way. After reading it, you’ll be ready to take on the world.

  • Out of the Maze: An A-Mazing Way to Get Unstuck by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

    • A short story on the benefit of thinking outside of the box.

  • Confronting Iran by Ali Ansari

    • Having read previous books on Iran, this book enhanced my knowledge, particularly regarding Iran-U.S. relations, as well as Iran’s relations with other Western nations. Ansari outlines the history of these relations which leads us to our current situation, particularly regarding the nuclear issue. It identifies perpetuated misconceptions and misperceptions that continue to affect our interactions today.

  • Social Engineering: The Science of Human Hacking by Christopher Hadnagy

    • Hadnagy provides valuable insight into identifying and defending against various human hacking techniques. He advises on protecting sensitive information - both personal and professional - by explaining various methods and exploits ill-meaning actors employ.

  • Fierce Enigmas: A History of the United States in South Asia by Srinath Raghavan

    • South Asia is an integral part of American foreign policy, and understanding its history directly informs understanding of past and current international relations and global dynamics and strategies (which affect our lives).

  • Saudi, Inc. by Ellen R. Wald

    • Wald offers useful insight into geopolitics not only in the Middle East, but worldwide. She details the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and its partnership with the U.S. She explains the oil industry’s impact on regional and global politics and economies. She outlines the genesis and succession of Saudi Arabia and its leaders.

  • America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh Wilford

    • Wilford writes an interesting account of the evolution of the United States’ relationship with the Middle East, as well as the establishment of the CIA.

  • 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars by Kurt Eichenwald

    • This was an insightful, in-depth look at the government and military response (of the U.S. and its allies) to 9/11. It highlights such divisive issues as suspect detention and interrogation, wiretapping, Middle East invasions (specifically Iraq), and it chronicles the logic and thought processes of decision-makers grappling with those daunting decisions.

  • Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic by Ray Takeyh

    • Takeyh demystifies the Iranian regime and shows how its internal conflicts shaped its current posture toward the U.S.

  • Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government by Paul Volcker

    • Volcker is the former chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Monetary Affairs and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Volcker chronicles his career, during which he confronted multiple financial crises and issues. He extols the virtue of stable prices, sound finance, and good government. It wasn’t as dry of a read as you’d expect.

  • AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee

    • I referenced this book in my recent post: Being H U M A N in the age of AI. An essential read as we face the reality of artificial technology and its potential impact on our lives.

  • Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad by Peter Bergen

    • Bergen, a subject matter expert, delivers an absorbing account of the hunt and demise of bin Laden. It outlines the counterterrorism strategy landscape and the evolution of Al Qaeda.

  • Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown

    • Brown shows how to find power within, and how to live a truly courageous and resilient life by rumbling with your vulnerability. Brown is a straight shooter who is also relatable and RAW. She’s an allstar.

  • High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way by Brendon Burchard

    • After extensive original research and a decade as a leading high performance coach in the world, Burchard teaches six deliberate habits that give you the edge in not only your work life, but your personal life.

  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

    • This book was just the kick in the pants I needed to apply what I already knew to be true: having too many balls in the air prevents us from progressing on what we truly value. Read this book if you: have ever felt compelled to declutter your life; find yourself stretched too thin; feel overworked and underutilized; are frequently busy but not productive; feel like your time is hijacked by others’ agendas. This book will help your reclaim your time and power so you can do less but better.

  • Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

    • This book highlights the power of connecting with your people and provides the inspo for finding and leading your tribe: as an entrepreneur/as an activist/as a person/as an employee.

  • Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

    • In the same vein as Tribes, this book advocates speaking up and leading. It advises on overcoming the resistance holding you back from becoming invested, successful, and indispensable.

  • Witness: Lessons from Elie Weasel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger

    • This book is pure soul food. Wiesel, author of Night, was a well-known Holocaust survivor and human rights activist. All the feels with this book.


Happy reading!

xx,

-w-

booking it image 2.jpg










What doesn't K I L L you makes you....
Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

Images by Brooke Richardson Photography

I don’t want you to be safe ideologically. I don’t want you to be safe emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots and learn how to deal with adversity. I’m not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that’s the whole point of the gym. This is the gym.
— Van Jones


It’s undeniable: Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are skyrocketing.

Why is this?

I recently read a book called The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.

This book explores causes of and antidotes to:

  • Fragility of today’s youth

  • Decline of free speech

  • Elevated rates of depression, anxiety, self harm, and suicide, particularly among today’s youth

The book starts off with three Great Untruths that seem to have spread widely in recent years:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.

  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

coddling image 2.jpg


These Great Untruths are negatively impacting everyone. Anyone who cares about youth, education, or democracy should be concerned about these trends.

This post will focus on the first Great Untruth (specifically regarding fragility): What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

Contrary to current popular practice and belief, children are antifragile. They NEED to be exposed to various challenges and stressors (within limits and in age-appropriate ways) or they will fail to mature into strong and capable adults, able to function successfully and engage productively with people and ideas that challenge their beliefs and moral convictions (Failure to Launch, anyone?!).

coddling image 3.jpg
You are not a fragile candle, you are a fire - so welcome the wind by seeking out ideologically different speakers and ideas.

Though parents/teachers/caretakers/administrators have good intentions by shielding and protecting kids from physical/mental/emotional/psychological hurt, doing so actually does more harm than good. Grossly expanded conceptions of trauma and safety are now used to justify overprotecting youth of all ages (even many college kids who now claim the need for safe spaces and trigger warnings lest words and ideas “endanger” them).

Safetyism is an obsession with eliminating threats (both real and imagined) to the point where practical and moral concerns are overruled. Safetyism deprives young people of the experiences their antifragile minds need, thereby making them more fragile, anxious, and prone to seeing themselves as victims.

coddling image 4.jpg

The authors discuss how children today, on average, have far more restricted childhoods than their parents did, though the parents grew up in far more dangerous times. This is due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • Fear for children’s safety (though children are safer today than at any other point in history)

  • Heightened educational standards and requirements, from preschool through high school, particularly to facilitate college admission

Both of these factors result in less exploratory play time and more structured, supervised time. The authors note helicopter parenting combined with laws and social norms that make it tough to allow kids unsupervised play time may negatively impact their resilience and mental health.

Basically, when we overprotect children, we harm them. Overprotection makes them weaker and less resilient in the future. As with most things, it’s about balance. You don’t want to neglect them, but you don’t want to overmonitor them, denying them the thousands of small challenges, risks, and adversities they need to face on their own to become strong and resilient adults.

coddling image 6.jpg
Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.

Foster antifragility by giving kids the gift of experience so they can become autonomous, resilient adults. Recognize they need some unstructured, unsupervised time to learn how to judge risks for themselves and practice dealing with issues like frustration, boredom, and interpersonal conflict. The most important thing they can do with that time is to play, especially in free play, outdoors, with other kids (away from screens!). There may need to be an adult nearby for children’s physical safety, but that adult shouldn’t intervene in general disputes and arguments.

The authors even recommend encouraging your children to walk or ride bikes to and from school at the earliest age possible, consistent with local factors like distance, traffic, and crime. Ask your school to provide a way for kids to check in and out, to track children who trek to school independently without needing to use a smartphone to monitor them.

coddling image 1.jpg

If you like the idea of allowing your young ones a little more leash length, but are worried the neighbors will report you, visit LetGrow.org to print a “Let Grow License” to send with your kiddos. This informs any (well-meaning!) busybodies your child is not lost or neglected, and is allowed more free rein (in compliance with state law). Learn what the laws in your state require by typing “state laws” into the site’s search box.

As previously mentioned, it’s not just about physical safety; consider your kids’ emotional, mental, and psychological well-being. You can fortify them by encouraging your children to engage in a lot of “productive disagreement.” Instruct them how to communicate respectfully. Teaching them how to give and take criticism without being personally offended is an essential life skill.

In the next post, we’ll discuss the second Great Untruth: Always trust your feelings.

xx,

-w-

coddling image 7.jpg

Write here…










Being H U M A N in the age of A I


It’s 2019. Shouldn’t we be blitzing around in flying cars with robots at our beck and call a là The Jetsons? I feel let down.

Just kidding because…life might become more Jetson-esque in the not-too-distant future.

As we know, technology is constantly evolving, and artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of that. If you’re a techie, you’re probably current on the state of artificial intelligence. The brainiacs working on it have made some remarkable advances in the field. Projected timelines vary widely, buuut it’s safe to say our lives will become increasingly impacted. Virtually every aspect: the way we work, the way we shop, the way we move, the way we learn, the way we eat, the way we communicate.

While we’re still pre-AI takeover, it’s crucial for us as a society to address important questions, such as:

  • What does it mean to be human?

    • What will happen to people emotionally, psychologically, and economically when they no longer have jobs and don’t work to make a living?

      • There is much discussion regarding the how/when of professional displacement (eg some fields will be affected differently) but it’s a valid concern

      • Many people base their identity and sense of worth on their title/job role/professional contribution/productivity/ability to earn income

  • How much privacy should humans retain?

    • Specifically in an age where data is the new currency, and computers are already lapping up all the data we generate just by existing in the digital age, to continually fine-tune their algorithms and customize their influence on us (personalized ads, suggested purchases, even music based on data we (un)knowingly provided).

  • How do we program AI for moral dilemmas, eg. self-driving cars swerving, thereby sacrificing you to save a child pedestrian?


If left to its own devices, AI will also produce a global distribution of wealth that is not just more unequal, but hopelessly so. AI-poor countries will find themselves unable to get a grip on the ladder of economic development, related to permanent subservient status. AI-rich countries will amass great wealth but also witness the widespread monopolization of the economy and a labor market divided into economic castes.
— Kai-Fu Lee, author of AI Superpowers
  • The technology - and thereby the wealth - will be concentrated in the hands of a significant minority

    • China and the US are light years ahead of everyone else, and due to the nature of the technology, this gap will only widen and become un-bridgeable, leaving other countries in the dust (thereby wrecking their economies - resulting in significant financial, political, physical, and psychological repercussions).

      • Drilling down even deeper, the investors/engineers in China and the US will accrue almost all of the data and wealth, as part of a cycle that will continue separating them from the have-nots.

        • There are a few proposed remedies to this (redistributed wealth from high taxes on those elite few profiting off the technology, gov handouts, etc) that should be considered and hammered out before it’s “GO TIME”

        • There’s even concern those elites will have the resources to transform themselves into literal superhumans, by bio hacking the shiz out of themselves (eliminating all disease, extending their lives, etc). This will further divide them from us mere mortals. Not an ideal situation, yeah?


As Kai-Fu Lee (author of AI Superpowers) notes, the resulting turmoil will take on political, economic, and social dimensions, but will also be intensely p e r s o n a l. As a society, we’ve come to see our work not just as a means of survival or “gettin’ that bread” (my words, not his), but as a source of personal pride, identity, and real-life meaning. Severing these ties - or forcing people into downwardly-mobile careers - will damage much more than our bank accounts. It will directly assault our sense of identity and purpose. Cue rising levels of depression.

Sounds doomsday, right? Pretty freakin’ grim?

But hear me out…

Kai-Fu Lee is one cool dude and knows his stuff. He contributed to breakthroughs when AI was first emerging, and since then has had a wildly successful career (as president of Google China, as an executive at Microsoft, SGI, and Apple, as an author, as an educator, as a mentor, as a speaker, as a social media influencer, as chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures). He went from scientist, to engineer, to executive, to teacher, to…cancer patient.

Lymphoma knocked him for a loop. Suddenly motivated to reassess his life, he gleaned paradigm-shifting, life-changing wisdom via self reflection, and visiting a Buddhist monastery. This resulted in an epiphany and changed outlook on technology, its role in our lives, and what it means to be human.

Kai-Fu, humans aren’t meant to think this way. This constant calculating, this quantification of everything, it eats away at what’s really inside of us and what exists between us. It suffocates the one thing that gives us true life: love.

Many people understand it, but it’s much harder to live it. For that we must humble ourselves. We have to feel in our bones just how small we are, and we must recognize that there’s nothing greater or more valuable in this world than a simple act of sharing love with others. If we start from there, the rest will begin to fall into place. It’s the only way that we can truly become ourselves.
— Master Hsing Yun, Buddhist monk

As Kai-Fu came to realize, for all of AI’s stunning capabilities, the one thing that only humans can provide is actually also exactly what is most needed in our lives: love.

We are far from understanding the human heart - let alone replicating it - but we do know humans are uniquely able to love and be loved, that humans desire to be loved, and that loving and being loved make our lives worthwhile.

Kai-Fu advises this is the synthesis on which we must build our shared future: on AI’s ability to think, paired with humans’ ability to love. Creating this synergy will allow us to harness the undeniable power of AI to generate prosperity, while also embracing our essential humanity.

Kai-Fu proposes a social investment stipend: using the economic abundance of the AI age to allow displaced employees to invest their time and energy in activities that promote a kind, compassionate, and creative society. These would form the pillars of a new social contract, one that valued and rewarded socially beneficial activities the same way we currently reward economically productive activities. It would provide income to those choosing to invest in socially productive activities in three broad categories: community service, care work, and education. Cool, right?

In an age in which intelligence machines have supplanted us as the cogs and gears in the engine of our economy, I hope that we will value all of these pursuits - care, service, and personal cultivation - as part of our collective social project of building a more human society.
— Kau-Fu Lee


If you’re interested in learning more about the progressing impact of AI, I highly recommend not only Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, but also Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

xx,

-w-