A Hard Right Turn

June 16, 2011 — 46 Comments

At 20, I moved to Los Angeles to live with Tucker Max for the summer. I didn’t know it then, but I was dropping out of school and I would never come back. At 24, I’m dropping out again. Last week I packed up what little I still own and moved to New Orleans.

When I did it the first time, I was scared. Scared all the time. It’s funny because this time, I was worried every day I had my job for the last year. Is this who I am going to become? What am I supposed to do with all this? But when I left, actually the second I made the announcement I was leaving, all the fear left. As soon as I was given control of my life back, I felt calm and comfortable. At peace. It was a nice bookend to realize this, to realize that fear I felt both times was rooted in a single theme: taking control of my life. Leaving school, that was taking it. Leaving a career, that was acknowledging that I’d given too much of it back.

But this was always my plan. When I made it, I thought it’d take two years; it took closer to three. In the middle of those two events, I’ve racked up more than I ever would have expected. I was the Director of Marketing at American Apparel. I researched for a bestselling book by Robert Greene and 50 Cent. I’ve advised on the release of five of them now. I’ve bought millions of dollars in advertising. I’ve seen my work written about in every major publication I can think of. I’ve been offered two book opportunities and turned them down. I ran one of the biggest and earlier Groupon deals. I’ve traveled. Met with important people. Been humiliated and learned from mistakes. Had power, used power, observed powered. And at the end of it, all I could think was: so…

The middle had its ups, no question. I’m beyond grateful to the people who allowed me to take a shot at them. But it was grueling. Shakespeare once wrote that “between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma or a hideous dream.” It was something I struggled to appreciate for a long time, trying not to lose control of the wheel and veer off in a direction I didn’t want to go. To trust in the plan, to accept the commitment. Some people are meant for a certain kind of life. Some are not. It’s important to know where you fall in that.

I’ve not talked about these things on this site for a few reasons. Mostly because I was busy actually doing them. The other reason was I didn’t want to be like the rest of the charlatans out there. I wanted to build up something solid before I talked about myself and my opinions. I just couldn’t see what I’d get out of doing it before that, except feeling like a douche. But now you have it, there I am and ‘what I do.

What’s next for me is a book. I’ve already begun working on it. Some of the ideas of already been floating around on here in posts (see: this and this) but it is mostly new material and not what you’d expect of me. This is not the book I’ve dreamed of writing but is the book I HAVE to write now. If I do it right, it will open the door for the former as well.

Anyway, here I am at 24. Not close to the millionaire I naively promised myself years ago I’d be by the time I was 25. But I do have more than I know what to do with. And thanks to Philosophy I can’t see myself realistically chasing that goal very hard anymore. Because when you figure out what is important to you in life, you can throw out all the rest. You can stop chasing ghost and shadows and illusions. You can lean on what is real and what is necessary. And you can laugh and pity those can’t. You can realize, as Seneca wrote, that too often they ‘win’ at the cost of life.

And so you focus on yourself and what you need to do. And block out all the rest.


June 10, 2011 — 24 Comments

You know that feeling you get when you haven’t been to the gym in a few days? A bit doughy. Irritable. Claustrophobic. Uncertain.

That is how people who don’t fulfill their potential feel on a daily basis. Only the cause and effect is obscured. It’s sublimated beneath general anxieties about money, about their status, about bullshit office politics and ego. They mask it in depression or other manifestations of pain—back injuries, carpal tunnel, that bad knee that is always acting up. But deep down it’s stress from the cage, the position the human animal isn’t built to know how to tolerate.

And so they try to find a cure without knowing the disease. Buying themselves things, going out, fucking, careers, vacations, divorces and new loves. The cycle is so vicious precisely because these things don’t have any affect. The person only feels worse about themselves, like it’s their fault the medicine doesn’t seem to take.

The solution is simple and doesn’t really need to be said. To keep with the metaphor though, it’s only possible when you realize the reason you feel like shit is because you gorged yourself the day before and haven’t exercised. Then you know that all you have to do is get off your ass and go work out.


May 25, 2011 — 31 Comments

Think about how easy it is to have one more—to go beyond what you allowed yourself and have one more piece, one more glass, one more handful. And yet, think about how much harder it is to do one more—one more lap, one more page, one more hour, one more rep than you intended. There’s always rationalization on hand for the one and an convenient excuse ready for the other.

The person who can conquer these two dilemmas and reverse the order of this seemingly inalterable paradox, they are a true master of themselves. They have achieved more than self-control. They have self-direction.

Maybe and Might

May 18, 2011 — 13 Comments

I’ve learned recently that its better to tell people that I might do something or that maybe I will be going to this. You get better feedback this way. Rather, you actually get feedback this way because it creates an opening for it. People are reluctant to speak their feelings when its clear that you’ve made up your mind already.

It calls to mind a remark by William Tecumsah Sherman, who once told a friend he never gave reasons for what he thought until he absolutely had to. Because after a while, a new and better reason would pop into his head and he’d want to use that instead.

It’s what Polonius told Laertes in Hamlet. Keep your thoughts to yourself, he said, and “take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgement.”

Part of strong opinions, loosely held is side-stepping the tendency to reify. There is no need to amplify your intentions by repeating them as certainties. By wording things as contingencies, I feel that I am to make room for change based on the facts as they come. To set things up literally as only possibilities, but mentally as assumptions. Function follows form, as some say, and this is the proper form.

What this means presenting externally the signs of ambivalence, while beneath, know firmly what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. Because, with the exception of special circumstances, people who seem sure of themselves and their future are threatening. On the outside, be like everyone else: indolent and unsure and drifting. On the inside: none of these things.

I was thinking today about how one-sided our complaints typically are. The readiness with which we’ll take but refuse to give. Livid at a driver who takes too long at a light. Whoops, I spaced out there for a second, when we do it ourselves. Ask for rides to the airport whenever you need one. Meanwhile, you take a mental note of the gas gauge and watch the clock when you’re waiting curbside for someone else.

It’s funny how backwards we seem to have in. Really, in our complaints about others, the blame is spread out over a large group—it’s not this driver you’re reacting to but cumulatively this time plus the time it happened last week at a different light and a thousand other times since you’ve been driving—and yet, when it comes to the other side of the equation, it’s the opposite. We are the one who asks too much of our friends AND we are the one who gets distracted and holds up traffic too often. That’s not how it is in our heads though.

Think about how often we expect empathy and don’t think to give it. Someone is rude to you, it’s not acceptable. When you are rude, it’s because you’re tired, you didn’t mean it, because the process has been frustrating. We ask without consideration and can’t even consider why someone else might be asking of us.

In some respects this is just routine selfishness. But it’s also rooted in the misguided way we keep score. We keep a tab, subconsciously mostly, for all of humanity. Ratcheting up our attitude or disillusionment each time we’re imposed upon or screwed over as though the world was working in conjunction against us. And then, we deliberately forget our own impositions on this world—how many that we have taken and taken or been the problem.

It would be better and we would be happier (and more generous) if we worked on flipping this. Look at each individual instance for what it is, a trivial and singular encounter but look at everything that you do as part of a collective and closely watched account. As one philosopher put it, pretend that everyone else is hemmed in by predetermination but that you, and you alone, have been given free-will. Because when you give up the misguided notion that they are in control and focus solely on the fact that you in fact are in control, the whining petulance stops and the magnanimity can begin.