December Notes

The things that we love tell us who we are

-Thomas Aquinas

It is the holiday season of a most peculiar year. 2020 has been the most unique year of my life and I know I’m not alone in this feeling. The pandemic is going to both keep loved ones separated and get thousands of people killed at a time we have always celebrated for the 42 years of my life. As much as it absolutely boggles the mind I can empathize with people caving to the desire to be together during the holidays. For many it is the only time of year we see loved ones. Families make a priority of coming together, being our best selves, and blowing off steam from the previous year. Much of that is not going to occur this year, and where it does occur will be a death sentence for many.

Sorry for the harsh beginning but we all know it’s true.

We need to normalize the darkside of the holidays. There is a lot going on, both in celebration and self medication. Gratitude and generosity are celebrated but loneliness and grief are amplified. Regardless of the specific celebration just the fact that we end the year with some structured tradition brings a lot of comfort the world over. This is the first time in generations the winter holidays are going to be celebrated under these conditions. Please make efforts to look for signs of grief. Shower everyone with acceptance and love. One thing my grandmother makes a point of every year is to include those who couldn’t be with us in the prayer. It has always been a powerful moment for m. In the spirit of that tradition let’s all make an effort to include everyone we can in any way that we can. Call and send messages to everyone you can think of. No effort is too small in these times and you never know how much of a difference the smallest gesture cam make. I am not familiar with every cultures tradition at this time of year, but I know that they are all built on a spirit of togetherness. Let’s use this power to end a dark year with brightness that shines in every corner.

Now onto lighter topics. Sorta

Maybe it’s just you

If you believe that technology is ruining the world I have two accusations to make. This first is that you haven’t thought it through that well. If you feel you have thought it through extensively and you maintain that opinion… maybe it’s just you.

There is nothing more loving than technology. I love getting letters. I hate writing them. Emails are amazing. Texts are even better. GIFs and emojis are the best. No postage, no travel time, response times discretionary. Now we carry devices that effectively put the world within reach. In a few short years the entire world will be online. Technology is improving peoples lives in every single way. Every argument against it is rooted in voluntary engagement with negativity. The algorithms (instruction sets) that these platforms are built on are designed to figure out what you are interested in and optimize for that. They show you more of what you are searching for. So if all you are seeing is negativity that is entirely on you.

1 Week Challenge: Spend the next week engaging with social media the same amount as normal but be precise with what you engage with. Like, heart, watch, share or whatever your normal style of engagement but only do it with content that you want to see more of. Watch how fast the algorithm adapts and you start seeing more of the good out there. If you are only seeing nonsense that means you are only engaging with nonsense. By the end of 1 week you will be amazed.

Favorites of the month:

Podacst: The Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris. This one is special for December because the focus is on serenity, mindfulness and in the most recent episode titled “Doing Good” there is a deep dive into altruism is magnificent, informative and explores one of my biggest pet peeves. The idea that charity and generosity need to be done privately and anonymously to be considered genuine. Fuck that!!! Even generosity committed in the most overt and obviously attention seeking manners is still better than it not being performed at all. The Doing Good episode begins with examples of simple acts of generosity out loud amplified the results to a magnificent degree. Perfect for the holiday system. Happy Holidays

Blog: jbrandonhall.com is an up and coming blog that seems to be finding a little bit of focus and traction lately. I highly encourage all of you to explore new and past articles and engage with the author. He seems alright…

see what I did there? MUAHAHAHAHA!!!

Any blog recommendations would be pointless without going to the king daddy of them all. Tim.blog. The jack of all trades and master of many. Tim Ferriss is an author/blogger/podcaster and investor. He has written several great books and his best and my favorite of his is a tour de force of metal-learning titled The 4-Hour Chef. The blog is an absolute smorgasbord of topics but the reason I am including it on my favorites list is beyond that. The production and layout is beautiful. It is incredibly well organized and it is dripping in my favorite part of the auto-didact experience, links and links and links. (I need to learn how to add links to my articles. Someone please remind me to do that)

Lesson: This month the lesson is going to be presented along with my first book recommendation and brief review. In 1998, Michael J. Gelb published the bible for all autodidacts/meta-learners under the title “How to Think Like Leonardo Da VInci”. If I had a gun to my head and had to name my all time favorite book this would probably be the one I landed on. The book has some biographical information on the godparent of innovation but the format is an outlay of “7 Steps to Everyday Genius”.

“The five senses are the minister of the soul”

-Leonardo Da Vinci

The lesson this month is based on our control of the sensory inputs we receive and the models we build of the world based on these inputs. I often do the thought experiment of what the world would look like if the only information i received was what I physically interacted with. This maps onto childhood pretty well. When I was a kid the world was still a very mysterious place. It seemed like anything was possible but I only really knew the people I talked to and my world model was built solely on the things I had seen and done. There was a certain freedom and peace in that world. Now we are constantly being fed information of a world that even the most worldly among us could never directly interact with or be impacted by.

Last months lesson was on meditation and a technique called auto-regulation. This is just a fancy word for taking a few moments and paying attention to the breath and unplugging and controlling attention for a few moments. This is the first step on the path to the ever popular catch all term for meditation “mindfulness”.

As we progress towards mindfulness let’s begin by taking the next few weeks paying attention to the times where we react to information we have received about the world beyond our scope.

if you read a news article, or see a polarizing video on social media and it leaves you with the feeling the world is trending negative capture that moment. Explore that feeling. Then look around you and hold that feeling up to your immediate world and just see what you see. Do your direct experiences and interactions look anything like that feeling you were left with? Just how far apart is the vision of the world the story, image or video left you with from your actual reality? Write down any and all thoughts and observations from this exercise. See what realizations it offers as to just how significant an impact these things have on our perception. They color our worlds far more than we realize.

Parting Words for 2020:

This year has been one like no other I can remember. I still see more love than hate. More people coming together even though we are forced to stay more distant. I see examples of technology helping support a fragile world in times of struggle. I see a desperate need for a change in leadership, but I also see more people aware and engaged with the goings on around us. In disruptive times please be more kind and generous. More patient and understanding. We are all we have. I wish everyone the most joyous of holiday seasons and love all of my human family. Until next year.

*Disclaimer: I self edit this blog and will often post before thoroughly checking for grammar and flow in an attempt to avoid not publishing. I suffer from every possible form of attention deficit issue and completion anxiety. I have drafts that have been sitting in editing limbo for over 3 years. So in the interest of transparency I wanted to share this as both an excuse for imperfection and an explanation for any errors missed. “Perfect is the enemy of done”

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