Courageous Wants

If proper effort is committed, much of what we “want” will be achieved. Now, energy expenditure of course varies quite a bit based on both the want and the abilities of the wanter, but an input = output sense of order, of fairness exists regardless of want difficultly. And even if the want is never fully satisfied, one necessarily grows closer to the coveted outcome through proper inputs; you may not lose 100lbs, but if you cook every meal, you will lose something.

There exists, however, another category of wants (titled Courageous Wants) where the input = output formula cracks. The #1 CW is love. Almost everyone contests this judgement, because by placing love in CW, one’s agency is apparently swindled, because there are no “right things,” no “proper inputs,” no “blueprints” for CW, because more effort (however defined) does not necessarily get one any closer to the want. Sure, one can seemingly tilt probabilities – going on 100 dates instead of zero – but this is mostly an illusion. In non-CW, nobody “accidentally” loses 100lbs; in CW, people routinely “accidentally” fall in love. Hence the courageousness of wanting love: you are throwing your well-being into a grinder of luck that can’t be conquered by self-will.



Thanks to a tightly edited training montage in the latest action thriller, wherein the good guys GET JACKED! in preparation for conflict, a spark of motivation consumes you. In this moment, when Hollywood magic is gloriously climaxing, hydrogenated-soybean-oil-coated popcorn fingers are blissfully ignored and reality checks remain distant, you will remember how good it feels to be in shape. The mental vows start compiling. No more eating processed foods. Runs 3x weekly. EOD in the gym. Swim 1x weekly. In bed by 22:00 nightly.

By the next morning, dreams of a finely-formed abdomen are overwhelmed by memories of calloused hands, achy legs, and broccoli sandwiches; you have been in shape before and remember the accompanying pain. Suddenly, the motivation that was once so tangible has drifted into the inaccessible ether. And if you are like damn near everyone else, once bereft of that Hollywood juice, the fear of discomfort will now easily triumph over the thrill of possessing a sculpted body.

For all the incessant talk about “echo chambers,” there are, tragically, few words spent grappling with the true cause of free individuals systematically eliminating opposing voices. The oft-cited culprits – social media giants, a polarized electorate, the 24/7 news cycle, etc. – allow us to believe that 2020 is profoundly unique. In some ways this is, indeed, correct, but it’s our base instincts that permit those culprits to register at all. People today, just as all previous iterations of the species, run from pain toward pleasure. This is as true with information as it is with fitness. And it’s true even as the sprint toward instant gratification is done while knowing that a deeper, more sustainable pleasure is to be found on the other side of anguish.


You will soon begin to notice it: there are things that people say to do, and there are things that people actually do, and the two routinely bear no relationship to one another. It’s especially easy to notice this phenomenon in childhood when advice, guidelines, edicts, and instructions are most forthcoming. Upon observing the disconnect – when people give you suggestions that they themselves don’t follow – it’s natural to be consumed by confusion. I am here to help.

When something becomes cliché there is great danger that mindlessness ensues. People will repeat a phrase like “Don’t lie” over and over without really thinking about why such a phrase is true. It just is. In childhood, though, if you ask Why? you’ll usually receive at least an attempt at explanation. It hurts people. Would you want someone to do it to you? It will make you a bad person. Perhaps these reasons can momentarily placate a child, but they are surely not good enough to honestly motivate behavior of anyone beyond a certain (read: young) age. At that tipping point, a safe conclusion is that adults are saying “Don’t lie” simply because everyone else is saying it. That’s it, that’s the mindlessness I’m referencing.

The conclusion is, of course, borne not solely out of insufficient explanations, but upon seeing a world filled with lies. Little lies. Big lies. Little big lies. It’s a bit like what the great Coach Chip Kelly said re: stretching:


RTPD’s Lebron James

You are our Lebron James. That is, our surefire, “can’t miss,” once-in-a-generation, absolute lock #1 draft choice in the “Road Trip Partner Draft brought to you by State Farm.

In the current age of analytics, it’s tempting to overcomplicate the obvious. This error, I promise, shall not be made by our organization. In RTPD, there are three metrics that truly matter, and you happen to score perfectly in all three:

one // Driving Skills // Generally accepted as the least important trait in draft prospects, but an area where if the bare minimum standard isn’t met – stick driving competence – an otherwise tantalizing stud becomes undraftable. Supreme driving skills, the let’s-see-how-fast-I-can-go-in-a-neighborhood balls that you flaunt, are often registered as a sort of “tie-breaker” among elite draft choices.


Stop Giving Advice

This seems like the absolute perfect time to stop making a mistake I keep making. Your nascence is what makes the timing so right (welcome to the world, btw) because it is expected that the youthful need advice. And it’s the entire advice-giving enterprise where I continue to err.

Quite quickly you will begin to explore the world. Exploration will bring you much joy; it will also bring questions. In need of answers, you may well turn to adults, and, perhaps, you may turn to me at some point. I would be honored by an inquiry. Glowing from the request – Me?!? I can’t believe xxxxxxxxx thinks so highly of me – I’ll be tempted to answer with facts, figures, wisdom, and anything else that counts as “advice.” After all, I’m the adult here, the man with all this knowledge, and the least I can do is share with you. This logic feels right. It will even feel right to you. I asked for advice, so give it to me. No longer will I oblige.


Helping by Not Helping

There is always a temptation to think you have the answer for someone else. Consumed by this noble desire to help, it’s easy to forget that most problems are not information problems – the fat person is rarely confused about what constitutes healthy eating. Which means that action is the issue, and how to inspire action is as elusive an answer as any.

With you, though, action is unlikely to be lacking either. This puts you squarely in an elite genre of people who are both willing to try and deeply understand the world, and who then possess the will to carry out the prescribed behaviors.

Still, the temptation emerged: Let me get xxxxxxxxx a good book of philosophy. But no, I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul, and I shall not give in to this desire.

So I give you this book because it is très lolz. That’s it. No grand message. No deeper purpose. Just an enjoyable way to spend some time.

Be well. Or not. But do laugh. If that doesn’t happen, I’ve done something wrong.

Beating Children

Kids used to be beaten. Fortunately, this practice has largely been abandoned as parental gentleness has won out over “tough love.”

A trend away from aggression has also occurred in youth itself. And again, there are victories to be celebrated as unsafe, risky behaviors become less common.

This transformation, though, is not without at least one major downside. While I do not doubt that your wonderful parents will create a loving, compassionate, and fun environment, that you will be encouraged and supported endlessly, growing up shall still be an angsty process. You’ll need an outlet as you grapple with your place in a world. I dare say that the greatest such outlet is really loud and really “violent” music that is screamed along to while driving fast (but not too fast) with all the windows down. But in society’s rush toward softness, the genres of music most appropriate for this great outlet have all but disappeared. No harsh guitars. No dominating vocals. No epic darkness.

Sometimes it’s okay to look back. Progress winds imperfectly, thus what used to be can indeed trump what is. So, like your father before you, when the messiness of life seems too much, Nine Inch Nails will not let you down, will not make you hurt.

Hard Varieties

Running a four-minute mile is hard. Being happy is hard. But these are distinct types of “hard,” and remembering that truth is vital.

The first type of hard is Never Done Before (NDB). Even for the most adventurous, the most risk-loving, and the most challenge-oriented, unique difficulty accompanies first attempts. For as much as you may believe in yourself, and as much as you may possess a rich resume of success, an inner voice of doubt (IVD) whispering Yea, but you may not be able to do this will be waiting for you upon an NDB undertaking. There are some near-universal NDBs, like running a four-minute mile, but every individual’s complete NDB list remains unique. This helps explain why the same activity can be so easy for one person (non-NDB) and so arduous for another (NDB).

Another type of hard is Please, Do That Again (PDTA). Unlike NDB, you have indeed successfully done That. Yet, you remain skeptical about your abilities since you lack understanding regarding how triumph occurred – you feel “lucky.” Thus, a replication crisis grips you such that if you are asked to perform That again, IVD will appear whispering essentially the same message it gives for NDB.


Respect Given

You haven’t gotten enough respect. At least not from me. At least not until now.

I have rather enjoyed this simplified quarantine life. I play guitar, read, write, cook, go on long walks, and work out. While it’s true I am an extreme extrovert, no part of me has been longing for human interaction.

On weekends, I break the routine a bit and watch a movie or two. I’m not one who often opts into “classics,” but the fact that I had never seen The Godfather seemed like an oversight worth correcting. And so I did. The film and its sequel were most notable not for their celebrated cinematic landmarks, but because they made me think of you.

I, like any high school graduate, “studied” history. I, like any member of any family, heard stories of what had to happen for me to be comfortable. So I know the tales of the immigrant life, the poor life, the making-something-better-of-my-life life and how you embody all of them. Still, I never really felt the meaning or achievement of it all. Perhaps this is an inevitable failing of trying to understand anything that is so distant from one’s own existence.


In isolation, it’s tempting to think you have it all figured out. That’s right, you’ve got the answers, the philosophy, the explanations, and even the tidy rationalizations to sweep away points of confusion. It’s all quite comfortable. Knowledge of confirmation bias provides nonexistent inoculation against this pathology.

You never have to be isolated, of course – there’s infinite information out there just begging for consumption. But the tricky stuff is not easily changed through dissenting voices and long hours in the library, because the tricky stuff is not a matter of facts per se. Rather, the tricky stuff is another way of saying “life philosophy” which is another way of saying the stuff you really, really want to get right but to which objective answers are fleeting.

And so, you sort through aphorisms and religions (and a whole lot in between) searching for what feels right. Toss in your experiences and the hard-won lessons of youth, and the tricky stuff may not feel that tricky anymore. It’s at this juncture where people trend toward being stuck in their ways, an isolation where new information is easily dismissed.