There is a growing belief that the universe is a zero sum game, that everything swims in a finite resource pool.
So if someone is stronger, this implies by default that someone else must be weaker. If someone is rich, this must be at the expense of someone who is poor.
There’s some truth to this. Oppression is real. Poverty is real. Inequality is real. These are things we must fight against.
But maybe there’s some deeper thinking here. Is it possible that as you become stronger, others become stronger as well? Is it possible that quality inspires more quality?
Perpetual motion might be the discovery here: our ability to create and attract like forces. Our intrinsic magic that creates something from nothing. This can benefit everyone.
So no, I’m not a believer in a zero sum game universe. Infinity, as much as it can be understood, is defined as limitless potential. Right in front of us.
This year, my biggest goal is to make the case for Radical Optimism. The stoics believed that for many of us, happiness was a choice. There were outliers (the poor, the sick, the broken) but to a huge degree, they thought reality was up to us. This is what we might today call ‘privilege’.
I’m one of those privileged. I was born into a bit of luck. So for me Radical Optimism is making choices that include less whining, less complaining, and more joy. It’s perhaps a naive and selfish approach.
But joy begets joy. Good work begets good work. And the true purpose of Radical Optimism isn’t to bring happiness to oneself, but to others. It’s a revolution about being of service. It’s about a relentless (and often blind) movement forward - without the analysis/paralysis that often holds us back. It’s about breaking down the resistance.
Radical Optimism is not about having all the answers. Nor is it about ignoring pain and suffering (no amount of magic can dispel that). But it is about latching onto the smallest sliver of light, and growing it.
I love bicycles. I rode my first mountain bike back in the ‘early 80’s courtesy of Jerry Ahlberg in Marble, CO (look that one up) and have almost broke my collarbone more than once.
And the strange thing is: I love going uphill as much as downhill. I love that work. It’s a meditation around persistence and pain, but also the joy of moving forward.
On those very hard parts, I have to - by necessity - rise out of the saddle. It’s the only way I can get the leverage I need to get around the steepest corners or the vertical incline. It’s about the gritting of teeth.
That’s where we should be every now and again - at that moment we’re not sure we can make another revolution of the pedal but pedaling anyway. Breaking away from what is the status quo and into a view that’s a little bit better. Or maybe stopping completely, spent but knowing we can take another crack at it tomorrow.
A good life, perhaps, is measured by how many times we’ve risen out of the saddle just like that. What do you think, is it possible today?
I think so. I’m cleating in.
This is one of my friend’s favorite quotes: put the couch in the kitchen.
We get stuck. We forget how good we are. Wheels turn but nothing moves.
Maybe dragging the couch into the kitchen is what we need. Maybe shaking things up is exactly what 2019 is asking for.
It’s an interior design question: how will our minds be thinking about things today? Moving things around from where they’ve always been could be a great start. Maybe put that on your ‘To-Do’ list.
I watched Bird Box this week, which is certainly worth the time. This became a metaphor for something I think we’re all very good at: building boxes around ourselves.
Then one day we wake up and look at that box, and wonder how we got here. My box is beautiful and I’m very lucky to have it, but this year especially is about punching bigger holes in it to breathe, and removing walls.
This is what my Mother taught me at the end of her life. Don’t be afraid to go.
Eminem said it best.
This idea of embracing reality. And making friends with the odd creatures that land on earth.
I’ve been hit by such a creature - an asteroid from space.
The death of my mother. My mom. Nana.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to unwind that a bit and write about it here. Tune in if you want to get heavy around that, and help me shine some light into the shadows.
1942 - 2018.
There are a minimum of two realities we are faced with everyday…
Reality as it occurs.
And reality as we (I) perceive it to be.
Socrates and Plato discussed this in the Hot Tub Time Machine centuries ago, this idea of Absolute Truth and the real meaning of ‘Knowledge’. The Matrix discusses it again in a future not so distant from our own. In these deep philosophical mind-benders, it might even be argued that there is just the one reality: mine. But does this negate the goal of compassion: being one with others?
The Rubik’s Cube spins and spins again.
The one truth we do know (if we know anything) is that we can control how we respond to ‘reality’, at least most of the time. When we get bitch-slapped by circumstance, we can manifest our own behavior/attitude/outcome to a huge degree.
There are exceptions of course, but if we accept the power we have and are held accountable for who we have become, just about anything is possible.
Owning that, perhaps, is everything.
Go get some:
If you ask my religion at this exact moment in time, I'll tell you I'm working at becoming a Radical Optimist.
Maybe the true Radical Optimist sees suffering and has empathy. Maybe the true Radical Optimist is the person who is charging towards the best solution and fighting like hell for the best outcome. Maybe it's the embrace of suffering to realize there is something more. Something better.
Peter McWilliams wrote You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. I haven't read this yet, but I've always been intrigued by the title and the idea that negative thinking is something only the idle have time for. This isn't always true of course, but how many times have you heard someone say "I succeeded because I didn't know any better.... I just put my head down and did the work."
The inverse of that title is All I Can Afford is a Positive Thought. In this age of noise and discourse, it might be the best action we can take. It might propel us to do the work we are meant to do.
And perhaps be a radical, and a revolutionary, in the process.
The world likes to separate us.
Into classes, politics, religions.
We're stratified and defined based on algorithms or data or....
We see 'other' often before we see ourselves.
But empathy is the greatest gift. Turning 'you' into 'us' our greatest skill.
Something to try today.
The biggest challenge I have is chasing shiny objects. In my own frenetic mind, there are a 1000 things I should be doing at this exact moment.
I'm trying to kill the myth of multi-tasking. But t's a crazy zombie that always resurfaces, blood on it's lips, whispering sweet nothings in my ear. Faster.... faster.
Speed is the enemy of quality. And quality is the repetition of making the Best Next Move, over and over again. A few misses will happen, for sure, but focusing on the next choice, the next fork in the road, the next concrete thing that can be accomplished - this is how goodness is achieved.
I'm working on ignoring the squirrels that want me to chase them in a all directions. I'm doing my best to put aside the emails that are trying to set my agenda. I'm focusing instead on the one thing, the ONE thing, that will get me closer to the who, what, how, and why of the person I want to be.
Be present. That's a good place to start.
There are lessons to be learned from story-tellers. Even the ones you might not appreciate.
Because, at the very least, they raised their hand and demanded to be heard. They may have been afraid, but they got over it.
Boldness is needed. Audacity is mandatory. If not now, when?
Still blissing out to the new Bladerunner soundtrack. You should too.
Want to read the first chapter of my novel? Email me.