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Chronicle Politics

Day 38 and Better Fear Than Anger

Culturally in America we’ve lost touch with the value of fear. Which is a shame as fear is a root emotion (along with sadness and happiness). We’ve became enchanted by anger instead. But anger is not a root fear. Anger is the steam rising off of fear. Cultivate, explore and release your anger and underneath you will find the fear that drives the issue.

We’ve decided we don’t like fear though. We’ve perverted it into a weakness. Especially during the pandemic. Anger on the other hand as won cultural acclaim in America. We use phrases like “right to be angry” and “righteous anger” rather than exhuming a deeper truth that will be more revealing. Fear is good though. It cuts deep. Fear shows us the child that lives in our innermost self, revealing the terrors and traumas children feel from being powerless, abandoned, and small.

Even as we cultivate strong bodies and swift minds as adults, the child who was betrayed by the accidental lapses by our parents remains inside of us. In psychology they call that the inner child. Perhaps your inner child is angry. Mine often feels anger. But at her heart the child is just scared. But rather than answer the questions raised by our fear and overcome it, we are seduced by the power of the anger steaming on top. We cultivate heroics to nurture the anger. Americans craft elaborate myths about the heroic value of anger.

I’m not suggesting you are not angry. Or that your anger has no place. Nor am I invalidating the source of your anger. I am however asking us all to dig deeper. Learn why you are angry. Then go deeper. Find the fear of the child that is inside you.

My fear? That I’ll be abandoned by my people during this pandemic. Just like I was abandoned as a child. I got angry seeing the choices people made. But underneath it was simply the fear that repeated a childhood trauma that I wasn’t important enough for anyone to save me. Knowing that helps me save myself. I take responsibility for my own fear. I can use it as an edge if others don’t work on their anger. But I’d rather we as a nation work through our shit instead.

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Chronicle

Day 37 and Boundaries

I recently did a Twitter poll where I asked folks what they used to develop their emotional capacity. I listed therapy, meditation/mindfulness, coaching and “nothing” as the options. A full third of respondents choose nothing.

This really took me by surprise as much of my follower base is made up of folks in the technology industry along with significant business and finance types. Most have Silicon Valley mindsets tend to prioritize hobbies like biohacking and performance. Having insight into your mental and emotional state has become a burgeoning part of the quantified self movement. So finding out that a large number of people don’t invest in their mindset was, to quote Geoff Lewis, a narrative violation. I really thought we were all committed to parenting our inner children along with our Wim-Hoff breathing, weight lifting and protein eating.

But maybe I shouldn’t find this odd. It’s much easier and certainly more linear to put gains on your squat and cut your fat mass to show your abdominal muscles. The math on that can be done on apps and coaches can help along your progress. It’s trackable. Clear metrics for success exist. OKRs for your body. But learning to let go of self limiting beliefs, check your desire to self victimize, or refrain from vomiting your emotions all over your friends is less quantifiable.

Still you can track your meditation minutes in Calm or your time with a professional coach which your venture fund offers with their new fangled mental health benefits. So why is it that a third of people happily clicked that they were fine not doing anything for their emotions?

I suspect it has something to do with the challenge of knowing yourself and that knowledge necessitates drawing new boundaries. The further one gets in a journey of emotional and mental health the more one has to let go of habits and people that undermine us. Sometimes it can even mean giving up all the things we thought made up our life. Such is the high price of happiness. People may reasonably make the calculation that it’s too high a cost. That being unhappy isn’t so bad. That boundaries are too expensive for someone like them. So they tolerate what they’ve always known as the unknowns of pursuing happiness is too much.

It’s quite likely I’m overthinking this one as I’m currently reminding myself of the value of boundaries in my own life. Perhaps it’s as simple as being a fish in water. If you don’t know the water is there why question it? A third of people may have never considered the benefits of questioning their existing beliefs and emotions. Which saddens me a little. But also reminds me that investment in emotional growth is a significant edge.

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Chronic Disease Chronicle Politics

Day 36 and Responsibility For Yourself

As a libertarian, personal responsibility is a foundational philosophy. Owning your decisions and their impacts on others is crucial for freedom. It’s also an impossible standard at which we fail daily.

Humans are selfish and fallible creatures, prone to rationalization and justification. We tell ourselves stories about our innate goodness in order to shield ourselves from the pain of our sins. We believe our own lies first.

This has been particularly apparent to me, once again, during the pandemic, as I’ve watched family members make choices over and over again that show how much they need me to forgive their sins. As if I was their own personal Jesus and not their daughter or sister. Ready to tell them that leisure travel is fine because well they are probably being safe and oh sure winter is just so hard. Mental health is just such a struggle isn’t it?

I’m no messiah. I am not here to take your sins and wash them away. I’m just as much a sinner as you. And I’m certainly not the best person to ask forgiveness of when it comes to the health of others. I’m the personification of how your decisions actually affect real people.

You know our little stories about how “the sick and elderly should stay home and keep themselves safe because…list of rational reasons.” We’ve turned it into an entire political stance. We’ve built it into a moral edifice. When it’s just a lie we need to feel better about our sins to survive.

And so I stay at home. I don’t interact with other people. I see my husband and my doctors. Because I know I’m responsible for my own life and my own health and nobody else will be. I’m not asking others to be responsible for me that haven’t actively chosen this as their life path (with thanks to my husband and mother who did).

But I am asking my other family members be emotionally truthful with me. I’m asking them to admit to themselves and to me that their pleasures are more important to them my quality of life. That by taking a trip to a far away beach that they perceive as safe for them, they add to the aggregate set of decisions on a collective level that forces me to stay at home. That those decisions will keep me at home alone cut off from normal activities for longer. Basic life.

If you engage in those choices, admit the truth to yourself. And admit it to me. That your enjoyment of life is more important than me living mine safely. To not do so is to lie to yourself and to me. I can accept your choice. I cannot accept your lie.

I’m shouldering the sum total of all the bad decisions and little sins of everyone else who either can’t or won’t take responsibility for the impact that their own choices add up to at the societal level. It makes me angry, I’m a libertarian not an ubermenschen. I don’t want to carry responsibility for everyone else. If I was I’d probably have different politics. I’m only responsible for myself. So stop asking me to accept responsibility for yours.

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Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 35 and Workflows

For someone that thrives in chaos I hate change. Once I have a workflow for an application or device I dig in hard. Part of this is because I have shockingly poor user experience intuition. It takes me longer than average to learn to use even the most simple applications. But part of it is how I learn. I dive in deep to master a new skill and then jealousy horde the knowledge out of fear that someone will change a design or form factor to the point where my muscle memory cannot be relied upon. That would mean a complete reset of my capabilities requiring a day of learning. That’s mental overhead and the stress of doing my work poorly while I learn. I bring this all up being I got a new phone.

My old one was getting sluggish and my husband loves buying gadgets so a new one appeared after I had merely whispered that my old device may not be long for this world. The new one is sleek and fast and lovely but it’s significantly bigger than its predecessor.

And even an inch requires me to completely relearn muscle memory for how to hold the phone, how fast I can type, and where the apps do or do not bleed out the edge. I kid you not when I say two days into using it I’ve already developed a callus on my pinky from holding it up vertically while thumb typing. I hope my pinky hardens over fast as damn this phone is heavy.

This frustrates me as I spend my day on my phone and have a significant amount of my workflow baked into mobile apps (I’m writing this in WordPress’s excellent iOS mobile app) as my spine gives me trouble if I spend all day in even the nicest office chair. So I type a lot while lying down with the phone over my face. You can see how I might get a pressure callus from this nonsense now as the grip I’ve developed relies heavily on the right pinky to hold up the device. This worked well on a lighter shorter device. Not so much here.

I know I’ll adjust in a few days but the minor irritation that comes from having a workflow be disrupted has its cascade effects. It does just enough to knock you off kilter that it can sour a mood or inhibit creativity. I’m sure there are lessons in here for how app onboarding and product sales can be managed to ease stress or buy in for consumers. But for me it’s probably just a minor callus and an extra Ativan. And a bit of writers block as I get frustrated with just how uncomfortable my hands feel with something new.

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Chronic Disease Chronicle

Day 34 and Absence of Evidence

I’ve been rising through a noticeable uptick in energy and functionality. If I compare myself to where I was over the summer it’s practically night and day. I credit a small portion of this to moving back to my home state of Colorado. But it’s largely due to turning over my healthcare to some fairly unorthodox health practitioners.

I felt like I wasn’t making any more progress with my traditional doctors. I suffer from an autoimmune condition which is treated by a rheumatologist in New York. He’s world class and took me in as a patient when I could barely walk a few steps without a cane. Thanks to steroids, chemo drugs, and biologic injections I have back basic functionality but I wasn’t living a life free of pain nor did I have the energy to be out of bed more than a few hours a day. So when I arrived in Colorado and was, through pure kismet, referred to what I can really only describe as a healer I said “fuck it why not?”

I’m not fully prepared to go into all the details now but she threw the book at me. Supplements, herbs, weird machines, biofeedback, and other stuff I fear to put into words as it sounds like quackery. But god damn if it isn’t working.

I’m quite tired from a busy day (a nice change from just always being tired for no reason) so I won’t belabor my writing just to pad the word count. But if you feel like you have health issues that aren’t being helped by traditional medicine what have you got to lose by asking around for some alternatives?

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Chronicle Finance

Day 33 and Psychological Safety

Creativity is scary. Any time you build something new fear lurks around the corner. Because even if it’s not rational, your perception of risk rises when your potential for failure is at its highest. Perhaps this is why when you take a conscious risk you unconsciously try to mitigate any unnecessary additional risks. This has a number of significant consequences for businesses. You want to feel safer when you take risks so you seek out psychological safety from your associates. The principle is simple. You will only take risks if you believe you don’t be punished for it. Psychological safety has been shown to be crucial for teamwork.

I’d wager this is a factor in why startup teams tend to be homogeneous as human nature makes it harder to trust what we don’t know well. Which is fascinating when you consider that diversity is also an important factor in financial performance. And as much as this principle of psychological safety been discussed for team performance, there is one area in startup land where feeling safe is rarely cultivated: venture capital.

Venture’s entire culture is steeped in cliches of competition and combativeness. Which seems odd for a group that theoretically prizes high performance. Wouldn’t they benefit from cultivating psychological safety the most? If entrepreneurs are solving entirely new problems with high chances of failure feeling like they can trust their financial partners should be a top priority. And surely plenty of ink has been spilled on picking good partners in the literature of startup advice. And yet the atmosphere of distrust is pervasive. Venture capitalist and entrepreneur are constantly managing the information flow between each other. Which is exactly the opposite of what creates the necessary safety to take creative risk. So why isn’t this discussed more?

Imagine a fund who instead of poking holes in your data or lobbing grenades in your plans instead showed it was sensitive to the parade of fear and doubt that pervades most decisions. You’d get more done by a mile. Ideas could be refined instead of defended. Plans could be buttressed and shored up rather than rationalized. Having safety will lower the kind of inhibiting social pressures to show “that you are always crushing it” perhaps enough to produce startups that actually do go on to crush it.

This strategy could shift the dynamics of a firm’s competitiveness too. In group dynamics of status and posturing prioritize deal flow among only in group group members which disadvantages everyone by increasing competitive deals and rising prices. Funds who who have psychological safe founder relations will then disproportionately control what deals get done as the creative risk takers will seek them out. That kind of deal flow would be a major leverage point. Rather than getting stuck fighting for the same deals everyone agrees on (which isn’t a sign of quality no matter how much we want it to be so) venture fund that sticks to prioritizing psychological safety will spend more time with productive risk taking that builds the future.

Developing emotional capacity isn’t a platitude. It’s grueling work that takes place over years, sometimes to little effect given our innate resistance to change. But it is truly transformative.

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Chronicle

Day 32 and Happiness

While yesterday was the recap of my month of long form writing. I don’t feel entirely done with the experience that is emerging from this practice. The benefits are both much more apparent (and subtle) than simply finishing what I set out to do. So to kick off month 2 and day 32 I want to share a little more about this emerging insight.

I’m just happier than when I started. I feel a sense of joy and playfulness that feels much closer to me than I thought possible. Especially in the shadow of the pandemic and political instability it feels a bit heretical to be rising up. And here I am finding childlike feelings of play in the midst of chaos. But the more I put out these feelings of happiness out into the world the more I get back from friends and family. Writing has turned into a virtuous cycle where I tap into the enchantment and wonder of my own mind. And as I share my feelings and ideas I get back comments, messages, and phone calls with people sharing their own process. It really feels wonderful. We are together making new things from our minds.

Giving each other permission to find joy and excitement in our pursuits seems crucial. If we don’t it’s all too easy to get sucked into the despair of the nothing. You may remember the nothing from childhood. It’s the growing horror that absorbs all creativity and joy in The Neverending Story.

With the narratives of despair (and the terrible realities on which they are based) can consume us like The Nothing. It’s goal was to consume the land of Fantastica. It’s power is disillusionment. And I very much wonder if this constant drumbeat of doom sends us to a similar place. Our very nature as humans who form communities, share insights, be creative, build new things together, all becomes subsumed by consuming horror after horror.

But the nothing was stopped in my life. Even a small gesture like a long form journal brings back the human spirit. We share it and others recognize it in themselves. We connect and share. And in doing so push back the encroachment of the nothing. It’s a battle we can easily win by doing something as simple as being happy sharing our thoughts with each other.

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Chronicle Internet Culture

Day 31 and The Goal

I feel a real sense of accomplishment that I did what I set out to do; write one piece of long form content everyday for a month. Now of course having achieved my goal I would like to do it for two months straight but I’ll give myself a moment to enjoy the happy feelings that come from finishing what you set out to do.

On the first day my writing muscles felt atrophied. It has been sometime since I wrote regularly and here I was committing to do it every single night. But I was able to get into the habit and quickly found myself enjoying the routine.

The biggest change I’m noticing is a smoother less disjointed focus in my mental processes. Rather than needing to work myself up to writing or pick a topic and commit to a narrative, I now ease myself into the threads from the day and see where my imagination takes me. This mental fluidity (which requires non judgement which is a struggle sometimes) is slowly improving the quality of my thoughts. I look forwarded getting ideas on paper and tying together disparate thoughts now each day. To seeing what strange new connection might emerge from the day. Like limbic memory and crisis or the power of loosely organized crowds

I’ve also noticed a distinct uptick in the momentum of life. That a daily exercise of writing could push forward my focus shouldn’t be a surprise but nevertheless I’m seeing progress on ideas that may become a reality. Because I’m using this space to think about my investing, finance, and cultural chaos a daily writing habit means I am makings fast progress on a thesis. Writing is an excellent forcing function for seeing ideas more clearly but also for seeing if you may have the seeds for something bigger.

If you are considering a writing exercise like mine I highly recommend doing a month long commitment. Do it in public. You may be surprised by where you end up. I covered a lot of emotional ground which has been a really boost to my spirits.

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Chronicle Internet Culture

Day 30 and Aesthetic Signals

I’ve been chewing on an investment thesis for a bit.

Any of the angel investing I’ve done has mapped back to some very obvious principles in hindsight, and while I’m not quite ready to put it all out there, I’ve been doing the work to formalize it. I even bought the domain chaotic.capital.

I bring all this up because I’ve been thinking a lot about how aesthetics layer up to telegraph intellectual principles as part of my thesis work. One of the directions I’d like to consider is frustratingly expensive. In most established upper or hipster class aesthetic trends, the difference between being top half and top decile is probably the matter of only a few thousand dollars and working with someone who has taste.

The difference between top 10% and top 1%? At least a hundred grand. To really be world class takes millions.

We like to think that style doesn’t cost a whole lot of money. We give lip service to taste as an intrinsic talent. But it’s closer to being a skill developed through work and study. The people that make culture for a living have an eye for the granular details that make an aesthetic coherent. They can spot the third derivative inspired byproduct at a glance, and give its genesis to you step by step. They don’t do this to be snobs necessarily (which those who are insecure in their tastes tend to think) but simply because they cannot unsee their own aesthetic insights.

The downside to taste being partially a function of study is that if you want to adopt an aesthetic that has history, you can’t really half ass it.

This inexorably leads to new aesthetics arising and evolving simply because those with some study know they cannot afford to pursue an established aesthetic. If they did pursue something with lineage and no budget, they would need to bring an order of magnitude more taste to the whole affair. Now this doesn’t matter if you are middle of the pack. A spit and polish will do you good. But if you want to go from top ten to top one you need to invest the money and talent to get that order of magnitude.

And if you can’t? Well you probably need to pick a fresh aesthetic direction less burdened by history. Harder to pick it apart by showing it’s full lineage for one. But more crucially it gives you the space to build your own.

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Chronicle Media

Day 29 and Momentum

I haven’t felt so invigorated by the internet in a long time. I’ve had a week of joyful chaotic fun alongside my virtual friends (which during pandemic times includes my IRL friends too). Without the alt right and their mascot President Trump sucking all the air out of the room I’m seeing a lot of relief. The slight diminishing of the existential threat has lead to a lot of what I can only call silly season.

Just about everyone I’ve encountered has been filled with newfound creativity this week. Stonk mania is really only a piece of the goofy energy. To be sure I’ve been riding high on the wave of GameStop and the other meme stocks (though to be clear we actually made money with a well timed bet on volatility and only bought one share of $GME for the fun). But it’s more than that. The giddiness that comes from any kind of upcrash raises spirits in all adjacent fields.

And as I spend a lot of time in financial and social media circles it’s been a hell of a party. Granted most of us are waiting for a hangover to hit but more than a few of us are wondering if we’ve tilted into an entirely new chapter of chaos as the world grapples with the power of loosely organized crowds.

Whatever comes next a momentum is building from the energy. We’ve seen a possibility that chaos can be fun and not destructive. A sorely lacking feeling in the last few years when memetic armies only fought on one side. Now it’s a free for all. And that is potentially a lot more interesting.