Categories
Aesthetics

Day 701 and Frozen Goods

My Black Friday purchases are slowly making their way from warehouses in Denver or St Louis or other parts unknown to me in Montana. When I placed the orders I was so excited for the good deals.

But instead I’m just finding new disappointments. Four out of six items I ordered from Splendid will have to be returned. A pair of pants from Lunya is simply made for someone taller than me. And the remaining pieces of the order from Nadaam still hasn’t shipped yet. I hope my new negligees from Skims don’t disappoint as my track record on soft goods isn’t looking so great. Failures all around.

I’ve also had a few issues with trying to order cosmetics. I do a big order with Briogeo once a year. It’s in transit during a very chilly day. It was 10 degrees when I woke up. And I’ll admit I’m concerned about receiving a complete frozen bottle of shampoo. And it is expensive shampoo too.

We’ve had this issue before. Ipsy and Allure monthly boxes show up half frozen in the mailbox for a day. A Sephora order went straight to our mailbox where it sat for two hours before I got the alert it has arrived. It was cold but not fully frozen. I am afraid to look up how much efficacy is lost if retinol is frozen. What about vitamin C? How bad is it to freeze your cosmetics?

Because we live out on country roads and outside the town limits, we find our packages are often delivered by men in pickup trucks doing piece work contracts. They are nice folks but there isn’t much they can do about an expensive skin cream freezing solid in their open pickup truck bed. I would try to buy things in person but we don’t have a Sephora here so that catalog order life remains how people get stuff in rural America.

I used to have concerns about melting cosmetics when I was in Colorado. So perhaps freezing is an improvement. But I’m definitely wondering if we will need climate controlled options for certain kinds of deliveries in future for items that need a moderate temperature band. It could be a brand issue to have your product not work because the chemical bonds got wrecked by extreme weather. And we are all about to get more extreme weather as a normal feature of daily life.

Categories
Culture

Day 700 and Focus

I’m noticing a latent fear in the startup management classes. How do we know if people are focused? Maybe it started with work from home skepticism. But now it’s become an all encompassing yet amorphous fear that nobody is focused anymore. And I have a theory.

It’s all projection. The fear is coming from inside the house. The world is so chaotic everyone is struggling to stay focused. This includes your manager. This includes your manager’s manager. Even your CEO is struggling to shake off the clinging entropy that emerges from constant crisis. And because shit rolls downhill everyone is now flailing around attempting to show they are doing their jobs even as they know they are failing. Even though it remains unsaid because it’s impolite to tell your boss he can’t focus.

The constant chaos that is tugging on our collective capacity to focus is quickly eroding our entire social contract. Not because no one does their jobs anymore. But because we want to be set up to succeed. Because “doing your job” is a point of pride for most people. We like to reliable even if we know there are limits to what we can deliver. So collectively we are hyper vigilant for fraud even as we lack all accountability to each other because we’ve got to protect ourselves first. Self care right?

I don’t see how we get out of this state of fight or flight without a significant changes to culture. Surveillance capitalism isn’t very effective at driving value. It is very good at exacting any drops of it from people attempting to maintain their own dignity. See for instance the railroad workers who have no flexibility in their scheduling. Now with added Congressional oversight!

Categories
Culture

Day 698 and Looking Ahead

I’ve got the sense that people are writing off big chunks of time. The long now has so thoroughly burned out everyone that who cares about achieving anything in the medium term right? December is a wash. Heck I’m talking to folks who have wrote off all of 2023 and even into 2024. The now and the long term are all that matters.

And I’m actually quite amenable to this viewpoint. I’ve still got to get things done before the end of the year. I’ve got fundraising to do and deals to close. I’m excited for how 2023 will go as a down market is a builder’s market. But I understand the frustration with trying to plan ahead when everything feels like it is crumbling. The medium term feels like a sand trap sucking in your attention and emotional energy.

It takes a guts to walk through a dark valley of despair. And we’ve got a lot to feel despairing about at the moment. But just because it is all doom and gloom doesn’t mean we’ve got no reason for optimism. People are resourceful and humans as a species are shockingly good at problem solving.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m feeling good about looking ahead. Maybe it all takes longer than I’d like. But maybe it stops me from engaging in brute force efforts that are going to burn me out. We all just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Categories
Culture

Day 697 and Chivalry for Women

I was having a conversation with one of my girlfriends today about power. We are both exploring the new ways in which we’ve become more aware of our inherent power. Not that we were not powerful when we were younger but rather we have a new consciousness about it’s responsibilities. And it’s relationship to our gender is complicated.

One of the most dehumanizing aspects of Girlboss culture was how it forced female founders into rigid standards of acceptable behavior and emotions. We were surprisingly heavily policed even though we were allowed to use femininity to allure and entice. Girlbosses were empowered. Except occasionally we were only empowered with sex appeal.

Girlbosses looked good on magazine covers and in lifestyle content. It was honestly suffocating even as it was a massive tactical advantage. Imagine being given a cheat code or a level up. Of course you are going to play it but sometimes it takes the joy out of the game.

I am less adverse to the wiles of the feminine as I get older. Now I am able to wield the benefits of mutual viewpoints and seeking common ground. Women are trained to persuade from a young age. We are trained to be accommodating and without hostility or anger. It makes it easier for us to seek out where we might come together.

But those powers of persuasion can also feel manipulative and narcissistic. Men who have felt failed by their mothers can feel particularly hostile towards feminine power. Negative family orientations towards women from siblings to parents can sit in completely irrational and reactionary places for men. I say this because men occupy a similar place for me. Mommy and Daddy Issues can often materialize in stabilizing coping mechanisms. But ultimately it’s not a healthy exchange of power if it’s not consensual.

I dislike having power that I only wield because of my gender. I would prefer to have a less charged environment to pursue my fortunes. But I am also not adverse to playing my hand. You’ve got to play it as it lays. Different women have resolved these power discrepancies in wildly disparate ways. But we are not absolved of the ways in which we hurt men just because we have been hurt by them.

One of the great oversights of the feminist movements may be our lack of a developed gentlemanly style code for women. A theory of chivalry for not playing fair in the gender wars. We certainly expected it of men. If you wield power you must do it responsibly. Peter Parker principle applies to anyone with gifts that can be used for good or evil.

Categories
Medical Startups

Day 696 and Edge

I’m enjoying a migraine this weekend that was both strong and as of yet unbeaten. Perhaps I overdid things on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. But I’ve been stuck in bed in a dark room for the last 48 hours or so.

While this sounds a bit miserable, I can assure you it is also part of my edge. When my physical works shrinks my cognitive capacity unfurls. I very much liken it to the traditional super hero dilemma of being gifted with something that makes living a normal life a challenge.

I may be stuck inside struggling with light, noise and smell but I can still do most of my core deep work. I can’t take calls or go to meetings but I can be on my phone and my Kindle. I can intake information and I can synthesize that information when I’m in darkness.

And that is 90% of my job. Be informed and make the best decision you can. Those decisions are generally done when you are calm and fast. And I get the benefit of being in rest and digest as often as possible as it’s what keeps me alive.

I’ve got a generalized theory related to finding one’s edge. It’s pretty simple. If other people perceive it as a weakness but you understand how to wield it as a strength then your got an edge. People dismiss you sure. But being underestimated is one hell of a way to get on the better end of a trade.

And so while I’m here looking like I might not be worthy because of some set of heuristics that’s have typically worked well for you I’m actually the one that has a leg up on you. You would do well to think about all the ways in which you can leverage talent and insights that trade below their value. You can make a lot of money betting off of truly underestimated viewpoints.

Categories
Culture

Day 695 and Pareto Focus

Perhaps one of the odder aspects of millennial culture is our enthusiasm for embracing middle age. The excitement of passing into one’s middle and late thirties is palpable on Twitter in particular.

Our Boomer parents still think of themselves as “young at heart”, while millennials are grasping at any semblance of stability that comes our way. Buying a house, watching your children grow up, and acquiring items like minivans are luxury life events.

As culture and civilizational mores careen towards ever more swift changes, millennials are caught between a desire for the stability of previous types of adulthood while also being forced to constantly adapt to new expectations. You are being buffeted by changes that are swift and unrelenting. It is chaotic. You wish fervently to get out of constant fight or flight to the safety of being middle aged, even as the firmaments of past social stability are going down around you.

I believe this is contributing to a serious tension in our work lives. I’m tentatively calling it Pareto Focus to synthesize two concepts. The first being that 80% of the output is from 20% of the work (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule). “Focus” because we have little incentive to grind out focus on the remaining twenty percent of refinement if the rules of the world are changing too fast for expertise to ever be rewarded.

I see this in myself to some extent. I’ve done the work to become a competent working expert in several overlapping fields. I’ve worked in the desire trades including luxury, fashion, and cosmetics.

But I’ve not seen any point in pursuing them to the logical extension of specialization because the chances that the world shifts has always felt too great. Better to understand his desire and attention drive the larger market and refine those skills so even if the winds shifts I will still find work.

This has had a lot of positive effects. I focus on inverting as it allows me to apply the vast array of Pareto knowledge I’ve acquired. And it lets me continue working to intake the 20% of the new so I can I’d enjoy the fruits of the 80% of results.

Obviously I’m simplifying this a great deal. I am genuinely expert in many areas and hold myself to high standards because I’ve met the specialists who have done the long hard road to refinement. And I know where their paths have diverged from mine. Some of it is simply personality driven. Generalists and specialists are needed in any system.

But I do think Pareto Focus might be a phenomenon that’s driving labor allocation and focus in a wider generational way. If change continues to accelerate, you cannot blame people for doing the math on what it takes to survive.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 694 and Buy Everything Day

When I was a hippie kid growing up in Colorado I was a fervent believer in a “holiday” called Buy Nothing Day. It was a campaign heavily promoted by a magazine called Adbusters which saw itself a culture jamming organization.

It felt cool and hip and maybe even a bit new to protest excess consumption in the era when globalization hadn’t yet experienced the bitch slap that are the last twenty years of history not actually ending. Teenagers are obviously a bit prone to over simplifying the world and I was no exception.

Now as a jaded veteran of the retail and luxury wars, I think it was the height of white girl naïveté that not shopping one day of the year meant shit. Now I pile all of my shopping into Black Friday. Instead of it being “Buy Nothing Day” it has become “Buy Everything Day” for me. I know how much brands are riding on my choosing to spend and I hold out the bulk of my shopping to extract maximum value.

I bought 2 tee shirts, one cardigan, 3 cashmere sweaters, one pair of silk pants, one cotton robe, 2 slips, 2 bras, and 3 pairs of tights. I bought a jumbo size shampoo and conditioner as well as travel sets. I also bought a luxury face cream, highlighter and other sundry cosmetics even though most of the cosmetics I prefer aren’t even on sale today. We also bought 4 scented candles for the house. Alex bought a pair of Chelsea boots, a new gun safe and a hunting jacket. In other words, we shopped till we dropped. We went full American on the day.

We’d hoped to buy new dishes and a few pieces of furniture as this has also been the year of outfitting the house but alas we just couldn’t figure out enough deals ahead of time. Black Friday is often a mess of confusing offers and marketing bullshit. It’s been made dramatically worse by the wave of direct to consumer brands who claim to give you better deals but often do little more than obfuscate where you are getting ripped off. It’s lowering trust by insisting that you are getting something better when you know you are not.

It’s with that knowledge in mind that I’ve come to terms with the reality of American consumption. I’ve come full circle on Buy Nothing Day. I recognize that shopping is the full contact sport that drives everything else around us. And so long as I’m embedded in that system it serves little purpose to be obstinate or contrary. But equally it serves no purpose to be taken advantage of by these brands either. Getting a deal is a very American kind of battle I’d rather win. As of yet there is no option to remain off the battlefield. But one day it may be gone for good. Until then I’ll buy my cashmere in discount.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 693 and Thanksgiving

I’ve got so much to be thankful for this year. And it’s the first time since the pandemic began that I’ve felt optimistic about where I’m going with my life. Even if I’m a bit of a doomer, I remain a believer in the human capacity to figure shit out. The road to tomorrow is long and bumpy so best plan ahead.

I’ve had a certain worldview for a while. That we may have some hard years ahead of us to earn back the heights of our boom. Nothing in life is free. And we dined out on energy and resources that had hard costs.

But I prepared for the possibility that life might be harder. I got us to our homestead in Montana this year. To think before this year we’d never owned a piece of property before. It just wasn’t a possibility for so long and then we bounded up on the flush years and found a way to realize some gains.

So I’m grateful that on this cycle of the churn I’ve played it well and fair and I’ve set my family up to work and thrive during hard times. We didn’t get over our skis but neither did we fail to prosper. And for that I am grateful. I am thankful to have been able to play to higher standards but also not gotten eaten by the bigger beasts of capitalism.

I suppose it’s also no accident that I’ve also felt I’ve been thriving in my personal life. I’m so thankful to have made progress on becoming more myself this year. It will probably in hindsight be a demarcation between some of the compromises I made in my youth and some of the boundaries that have led to maturity now.

The more I let go of old copping mechanisms and become more myself, the better I do at achieving my goals. And I hope I can remember this lesson every day. If I can do that I will always have something to be grateful for in my life. And on this turn of the wheels I am offered another chance to defy the odds.

Categories
Culture

Day 690 and Status Games

Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.

It’s a turn of phrase I’ve written about before, specifically how in our post modern times, we are challenged to understand who is pursuing a life of virtue and what their obligations may be to the rest of us.

No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.

JFredrickson.com Day 45

Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.

Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.

There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.

Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.

Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.

But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.

Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 689 and Dick Riding

As chaos continues to unfurl around the world, the tendency towards hero worship is getting out of control. Cults of personality are having a moment absolutely everywhere, even as we are treated to even more spectacular variants of the Emperor Has No Clothes. You’d think the recent flameouts in finance, technology and politics just this week would make us all a bit more skeptical of authority and yet that does not appear to be the case.

You cannot go onto Twitter without exposing yourself to someone’s daddy issues disguised as a low rent business school case study thread. I was concerned about the information hygiene as platform capacity degraded. But I honestly wasn’t expecting the first disease that actually emerged. Twitter is in the throes of an emotional venereal disease.

I am talking about dick riders.

If you are not familiar with the term, being a dick rider means praising absolutely every move of someone you perceive as having more power than you. Dickriding is a particularly uncomfortable form of reply guying wherein you praise absolutely every move of the person whose dick you are riding.

It’s especially virulent among regular people without personal expertise or exposure to the problem at hand. Not knowing any better is not however a prerequisite for dick riding. You can lend your credibility to someone else by using your expertise to rationalize just about anything.

Humans love power and hierarchy. I guess it makes us feel safe to believe that someone knows what the hell they are doing when we are afraid. But the sad reality is that we are all human. Even the most accomplished and brilliant among us are still saddled with bias, self doubt, insecurities and blind spots. If you are inclined towards the religious, we are all sinners. Though I’d recommend you combine that with a side of grace as I don’t mean this to be judgmental.

I realize it’s pretty funny to bring up the redeeming power of grace in the context of sexually explicit slang. But I do think it’s helpful to remember that even the worst of us have redeeming qualities and even the best of us have flaws.

So if you are tempted to engage in dickriding because you think someone is better than you, might I encourage you to consider that we are all equals in the eyes of God. Or at very least equal in the face of a good shit post.

I’m a straight woman so I like riding dick but I don’t know what excuse the rest of you have.