Becoming Jakespeare

Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 2 epic poems and a collection of sonnets. He had 20 years of solid productivity. I’m going to start my writing career at 50. 50 is the new 25. You must set goals if you want to accomplish something as great as that. It’s kind of mind boggling how much work that is. 2 plays a year for 20 years. From 50-70, that’s going to be my goal: to surpass Shakespeare.

Till then, I’m going to study his writing. When I started listening to his plays during the pandemic something clicked. I realized that to change anything about us for the better we must understand our origins. Shakespeare better than any other writer in the English language has portrayed the psychology of our history. The US is a multicultural nation, but we speak and think English. It only makes sense to study one of the writers who used English most powerfully. 

I started somewhat randomly with the Comedies, but I am beginning to design a curriculum for myself to follow. To accomplish this goal, I have to manage my time wisely. I have some serious transformations to achieve if I want to become the greatest writer in the English language. Is this an insane goal? Not really. I’m on my Master P No Limit mindset. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s the goal. How will I know if I am achieving my goal? I will have to publish a book in five years, in 2026-27 to launch my attempt. I’m building a rocket ship for the next five years and when that day comes, I’m going to send it.

The book will come from these blogs. I am writing one a day and as I accumulate ideas about Shakespeare and the various connections to contemporary culture and business the whole picture will become clearer, and I will be able to describe it better. I will know these plays as well as anyone on the planet. Why? Because that is my training ground. I have more fire inside me, more motivation than anyone else. Shakespeare’s writing is my gym, the plays are my mountain to climb.

I imagine that by the time I’m a couple years into this project I will start to get book deals. When I publish the book, it will build up anticipation for the stories. The whole thing is going to be a documentation of the habits I develop to achieve this goal. People might only care in retrospect, but I want to show the process of getting there. 

In addition to studying Shakespeare with more vigor than anyone ever has before, I will also be doing a survey of art history that has been influenced by Shakespeare. In addition to studying, I will be creating. I will be doing original photography and painting inspired by the plays. I’m going to fully immerse myself in the creative world of Shakespeare until I know the taste of the marrow. I’ll be drinking bone broth for breakfast. 

Of course, this will mean traveling to England. I will have to live there for some of this journey. I will also obviously have to visit Italy and France, where many of the plays are set. Greece as well and even Egypt. This will give me an opportunity to create interesting visual documents of the times. When I get an idea like this, it becomes everything I need to organize my energy. 

Now, let’s talk about some of the odds that are stacked against me. First, I must be crazy to attempt to outdo Shakespeare. If I know that it is crazy, it’s not crazy, though. Right? I know it’s crazy. Now, it is possible that I could produce two great works a year for twenty years from 50-70 and retire and live in the countryside somewhere for a couple of years before joining the bard wherever we go. That doesn’t seem impossible. Why does it have to be crazy to want to be the best? Shouldn’t we all have that as a goal?

I do have some challenges, though. The first one is that I am tone deaf. My daughter and I sing a song called “Off-Key Jake” where we make fun of how badly I sing. I do have a decent voice in a certain register, but it is very limited and if I try and sing most songs it is struggle city and I am basically monotone and off key as heck. If I’m that bad at singing, then how am I going to write beautiful lyrical lines of dialogue? 

You must know your weakness to improve it. 

How cringe is this? Is it even funny? Or is it just a bad bit at this point? Or are you intrigued? Are you wondering if I’m going to do it? Do I have your attention? The thing is, I must stick with it long enough for you to see, but that’s why I’m calling my shot right now. I have five years to study Shakespeare and I’m calling this process “Becoming Jakespeare.”

What’s the worst that can happen because of this goal? I can fall far short. So what? That means nothing. Say I even come the tiniest bit close to my goal, though, and I write a few things that stand the test of time and give people entertainment and food for thought for hundreds of years into the future. If I do that, then I will have done something good. If not, no big deal, but come on folks. Have we given up trying? 

If you have the vision, you can see it through. It gives you power and purpose in all your interactions. I have decided this is my path and I’m going to be forming a curriculum for Summer and Fall quarters. When do I expect people to start following along? Probably in the Fall of 2022 I will have people following my path. I’m going to attract my competition. Nobody else is trying to outdo Shakespeare that I know of. They will, though. I’m stoking an ancient fire. 

What do you think? Corny or impressive? How will we measure the success of this project? Why do I think that I could do this? What is my opinion of myself that is so high as to even think such an arrogant thing, let alone to blog about it? I don’t know. I just feel confident. I have a very low opinion of my work in so many ways, but I still think that I can be the greatest dramatic artist in the English language of all time. 

Will they be plays, novels, movies, episodic serials or what? I think that the two-hour experience is key to it. I will be doing visuals of course, but the audio could be good on its own. I am going to do audio versions with contemporary comics. There’s a lot to do. Thanks for reading and following along. This is going to be fun. 

Under the Influencer: As You Like It and Social Media

If Shakespeare were alive today, what would he think about social media? This type of question is an imaginative prompt. It is a call to speculate. It can’t be a hypothesis because there is no way to prove it. Without the ghost of Shakespeare communicating with us, we can only use his words and ideas to dream up an answer.

One thing I can say with conviction is that Shakespeare understood the power of social influence. He dramatizes transformative dynamics of persuasion in the comedy As You Like It. In the first scene we have a confrontation between brothers. Their father has recently passed away and the younger sibling Orlando is asserting himself as a rightful heir. This kind of self-promotion, this dogged belief in one’s own rights and worth, has Logan Paul written all over it. 

When he is denied his rightful portion of his inheritance, he fights a professional wrestler. This performance is a public spectacle and because he is willing to risk being hurt or being humiliated, Orlando creates a scene that has a lot of interest for the audience, including the cousins Rosalind and Celia. Make no mistake about it, Rosalind is the most powerful influencer of the play, the Call Her Daddy of the Forest of Arden, but the play begins with Orlando’s fight. Rosalind’s reaction to the occasion is funny and telling.

The title As You Like It might as well be describing how social media algorithms work. As you like things on Facebook, as you spend time on various websites, your desires begin to take shape in the form of data, and this is reflected to you in the messaging of targeted ads. Your affinity for things creates a path paved with offers for those things. As you like it, it is served to you. When we are first introduced to Rosalind and Celia, they are discussing their problems and they decide that to find some escape from their troubles they are going to use love as a diversion. They make the decision to play the game of liking boys.

This decision is followed immediately by an opportunity to meet a hot young influencer. Rosalind follows her instinct for pleasure when she hears about a wrestler who has been breaking young men’s ribs. Of course, she wants to see that. Orlando appears out of nowhere to fight the wrestler, Charles. It is as though their decision to find diversion through love conjures up a meeting. She wants to find a boy toy. Driven by desire for entertainment she meets Orlando. Rosalind and Celia are hilariously explicit in their desire to find distraction through love with the exception that they are not going to take the guys seriously. They are out for a fling, looking to feast on man tears. Along comes young Orlando. Poor unwitting dude.

The wrestling is being performed for the Duke, Celia’s father, so when they all assemble for the match, he sees his daughter and niece and calls them over to him. He asks them to talk to Orlando, to convince him not to wrestle. Poor Orlando is so bummed about his stupid older brother he has become super emo. He says he has nothing to lose, that if he dies then he opens a place for someone else, some real self-pitying stuff. It’s funny because he’s doing this brave thing, but he’s also super bummed on himself. You can see the negative influence his brother has on him.

Orlando shocks the crowd by beating the wrestler and his victory transforms his mood and his status. The women go to congratulate him on the fight, and he finds himself completely enamored with Rosalind to the point that he can’t manage to form any words. Talk about influence. Rosalind from this moment has the upper hand. She is also attracted to Orlando, but he is mad for her.

In Shakespeare’s depiction of their world, it is influence or be influenced and that is true in social media today, too. You are either driving the conversation or following it. Rosalind plays the game expertly. Orlando is such a simp for her that it is easy. She can manipulate him to her will.

Under the influence of his affection for Rosalind, Orlando becomes obsessed with romantic love. He spends his days writing poetry and pining away in the woods. He changes all his habits because of her. Rosalind can influence Orlando the way an Instagram model can get people to subscribe to her Only Fans. It’s all too easy. 

To play the game better, Rosalind takes on an alter ego so she can interact anonymously with Orlando. She convinces the poor sap to pretend that she is Rosalind and to practice expressing his love for her. Orlando thinks he is pretending that this young man Ganymede is Rosalind, when it really is her. Rosalind uses this catfishing technique to test Orlando and to see how he responds. She begins to train him how she wants him to behave, punishing him for being late and constantly questioning the authenticity of his feelings. 

Rosalind has extremely strict rules for how lovers should behave, and she holds him accountable. It is not until Orlando is physically harmed that Rosalind is in turn influenced herself. When she is shown a bloody piece of Orlando’s shirt and it is explained to her that he was injured defending his brother from a mountain lion she passes out. This reversal of influence illustrates the game of social influence and is relevant to understanding how today’s media and marketing functions. As you like it, you allow it to influence you.

Hot Girl Summer in As You Like It

As You Like It is an interesting title for a play. It is a phrase that pleases the ear and the mind. It could refer to a beautifully cooked meal, a well-made bed, anything that is prepared and presented with care and understanding of your specific preferences. It suggests something tailored to your desire. It is a phrase that evokes the spirit of service.

In the play, Rosalind and Celia take advantage of the freedom that comes along with banishment to create some very enjoyable experiences for themselves. One of the most interesting things about Shakespeare’s comedies is the mixed tone he creates by having very serious situations within a comedic plot. In the first scene where we meet Rosalind, she is grieving the loss of her father who has been banished from the court by her uncle. 

The plot is initiated by Celia’s desire to help Rosalind to cope with her trauma. They decide that the best way to get time to move quickly and to increase their joy is with a little romance. So, they set out to find some fun with the opposite sex. Rosalind is a smart, confident, and horny heroine. She’s Shakespeare’s Cardi B.

One prominent segment of Internet comedy involves pranks. The Nelk Boys, Chad and JT go deep, and so many others create parodic situations that involve real people unaware that they are participating in a skit. Rosalind orchestrates just this kind of a situation with Orlando. Disguised as a man, she finds him lovesick in the forest and convinces him that the only way to prove his love or to cure himself of this lovesickness is by pretending to court him as though he were Rosalind (he really is). She sets him up for a series of pranks.

If there’s any doubt as to who is referred to in the title, then one answer is given when we witness Rosalind orchestrating a series of marriages at the end of the play. She manipulates the situation like a practiced matchmaker and gets a series of couples to commit to marriage. Rosalind is a mass marrier. She is a master marketer. 

Rosalind is a character who gives us an example of what kind of control you can have even when you have very little political clout. She has enough money to buy a property in the woods, but she also has the drive and the confidence to make the moves. She has to set up in this new context and begin to manipulate the players in a game she is creating. 

Chelsea Handler could play a powerful Rosalind. Her confidence, her sexual charisma, and her enjoyment of herself all would be natural strengths aligned to the actions of the character. There is something so satisfying about seeing Rosalind absolutely toy with the object of her affections. There is something seductively cruel and superior about Chelsea Handler’s confidence. I think that Whitney Cummings could embody Rosalind, too.

Studying Shakespeare’s comedies gives us a glimpse at the roots of our culture. Through his influence on the English language, Shakespeare continues to pressure our understanding of the world around us and inside of us. The comedies portray a world that is governed by a desire to be happy, by a drive for health and resolution. As You Like It portrays a female duo doing the most to make the most of their summer. Let’s let Rosalind take the reins for a bit and enjoy what we can of this upcoming season.

Justice or Just Us?

One of the great ideals that we try to live up to is being just. Having a fair and balanced approach to how we interact with others is key to building stability within a community. When people trust that a system is not going to be discriminatory, then they are more willing to commit and contribute towards that end. If the outcomes will most likely be fair, then we are able to trust in and participate in the process.

One of the things that could help us to overcome our sense of division in this country is to refocus our energies on our core beliefs. If justice is truly important to our culture, then it should be upheld and discussed. If we can come to agree on our ideals, then maybe the details of how we process conflict and how we measure rewards will feel more fitting. With the bizarre social experiments that we are all a part of, it has become beyond challenging to find common cause in our core values.

Justice is a tricky term. In Plato’s Dialogues it has more to do with the common good than with individual punishment. Justice is the ultimate goal, the greatest good. It is a pure version of the truthful relations between people. The effects we have on each other are positive and negative and justice attempts to account for all of that energy. How do we come to an agreement about painful differences in judgment?

We need to return to thinking about our core beliefs. If we really study what justice is and what it requires, then we might be able to help ourselves to see the world more clearly for what it is. It never is just us.

How to Make Social Media Work for You in 3 Easy Steps

The digital world and the analog world are slowly merging together. Their common denominator: strangers. Being in public spaces or interacting online is similar because we are open to the energy of other people. We work throughout our lives, consciously or not, to cultivate relationships that we can trust. The thing about strangers is that you don’t know ahead of time if they are friend or foe.

The obvious dangers involved with encountering strangers in analog life, in the physical world have trained us over time, that is to say we have evolved to understand the risk of people we do not know. World history is essentially colonial. Humans have gone to the most unimaginable lengths to expand the dominion of their group’s power. The chronicles of conflict, an age old history of war, informs us as we step out the front door and onto the driveway. We prepare ourselves to go out in public. We dress differently. We look in the mirror before we leave. We become aware that we may see someone we really like or we might see people with whom we have conflict. Either way, we want to be ready.

When it comes to showing up in the public space of the internet, however, we seem to have lost all discretion. People compose their tweets on the toilet. You might as well go start shitting on the sidewalk. It’s disgusting how little regard we have for our own privacy anymore. We both broadcast too much of our private lives and allow too much public interaction in our private times. It’s not that the line between public and private is eroding. It is simply that we have not learned how to treat the digital world like the public space that it is. 

SOCIAL PUBLIC. The first step to making social media work for you is to treat it like it is being in public. Don’t check your social media until after you have showered and prepared yourself for the day. This step alone would so radically change things for most people, it might be enough on its own. When you start to think about social media as a public space it makes you reconsider what kind of content you might post as well. 

The inherent danger of public spaces has informed how humans act for our entire history. Now we have a public space that feels like we are in the safety of our own privacy and so we are not acting with the same kind of caution. There are different protocols for different parts of the public space in the physical world and the same is true, online. It is totally appropriate to take your shirt off at the beach. In line at the bank, this is not going to fly.

We understand from experience, from education and from the influence of culture how to behave in public. The nuanced social codes become as second nature as driving a car once we have mastered them. In the digital realm, though, we are acting without any kind of caution and are showing very little wisdom about safety. If you didn’t understand how to behave in the physical world just imagine how much trouble you could create. Well, that is exactly what is happening every day and night, online.

SOCIAL SHARING. Extending from that idea of social media being another kind of public is the awareness of a need to create boundaries. Even as you exercise the discipline to not engage on social media unless you are prepared for a public experience, you also have to define your boundaries so that other people know when they can contact you. You wouldn’t just show up at someone’s home in the middle of the night, and sliding into their DMs might be just as inappropriate.

Coming up with a schedule of what you want to share, an editorial calendar, will help to give the whole process a much-needed structure. The problem with social media as we are using it now is that it permeates too much of our lives. Creating boundaries and best practices will allow you to regain some traction in relation to your social media use. But, sharing consistently will proactively help to shape that process. If you decide you want to post 4 times a week to keep the public aware of a project you are working on, then that gives you deadlines that will help to motivate the production of the work. Instead of just randomly posting things when you feel like it, following a plan will give your social media presence the discipline necessary to control the volume, to modulate the amplitude. Social media can be like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Coming up with an editorial schedule is a plumbing fix. It creates a structure that allows only so much of that activity into your life at once. It makes the whole experience much more productive.

SOCIAL DIET: Figuring out how much you want to share also gives you a sense of how much to consume. Social media can be anything you want it to be. There is as great a variety out there as you could imagine and more. The trick is to figure out what the different values of consuming culture can be, and to create a way of choosing how much and what kind of media to consume. 

You can use social media to learn about fads and trends, to network, to research, to find inspiration, and also for mindless entertainment. None of those things are bad. It is just about the balance and your ability to nourish yourself intellectually and emotionally through that media. We understand that we have certain nutritional requirements, so no matter how good candy tastes we are not going to eat nothing but candy all day every day without some serious consequences. The same is true, culturally. We need to be consuming things that help us to grow in much greater quantities than that which gives us immediate gratification through pleasure but is ultimately a burden of empty calories that we will likely store as fat and have to carry around until we decide to do something about it. 

All three of these shifts will help you to get more traction over your social media use and regain more balance in your life as a result. Remember that social media is another form of public. Treat going onto social media with as much seriousness as you would going in public or at least on a zoom work call. Figure out what you want to share with the world and then create a schedule so that you can build up a sense of credibility and reliability through a measured and regular presence on any platform. Finally, figure out what kind of cultural exchanges you need in order to grow and which ones are simply a fun but empty moment of time and then budget your time the way you would think about eating nutritious food and having a dessert from time to time. You don’t wake up and go straight for the ice cream every day without it starting to affect you in serious ways. We are beginning to understand how powerful social media is, and once we begin to treat it with the respect we do for going out into public, then we will get much more out of it and it will have fewer adverse effects. Social media is extremely new in the scheme of things, so it is only to be expected that there will be some periods of experimentation until we get a grasp on how to use this technology effectively and responsibly.

Resistance Training and Social Media

What is your morning routine? The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is I prepare a cup of coffee and sit down to write. While I’m waiting for the water to boil, I will make my bed, brush my teeth, take a leak or do any leftover dishes from the night before. Any kind of moving around will help to wake me up. Brushing your teeth first thing wakes your mouth up gets the salivary glands firing.

Once the water boils, I follow a series of specific steps to brew a great cup of coffee and then I sit down and write.

Central to my methodology is the refusal to look at my phone for the first hour of writing, the first hour of the day. I turn the alarm off and then I don’t see anything for at least one full hour and two pages of writing. 

I don’t think that our phones are controlling us any more than I think that gravity is controlling us. Some people cave into the pressures of gravitational force, but other people use that existing inertia to build strength. Some people build rockets. By resisting gravity, by lifting weights, by doing pushups, by climbing up hills, we use that negative force to our advantage.

There is a tipping point to strength versus difficulty of  resistance. Gravity keeps things grounded, but there is a certain amount of strength that is achieved through resistance that makes that force less meaningful. When your strength is greater than the forces exerted upon it, there is a freedom from the negative. Strength negates the weakness which is given to us as a precondition. Muscles atrophy without work, but we can train and become a lot stronger than if we remain sedentary. 

The same thing is true with our consumption of culture or food or anything else. The stronger the urge to do something the greater the capacity for strength. It merely requires a knowledgeable plan of action that will lead to increased will power. If you do this this and this, then this will result. In the case of social media, the program of resistance has not been developed. We don’t have social media trainers. The closest thing we have is Gary Vee.

If we lift weights, run, or follow some well-designed exercise plan, we will most likely see some good results. The harder we work, the more we resist quitting, the better those results are likely to be. The same is true culturally. We just need to have a conversation about media consumption and health and then evolve that conversation to be about fitness. Everything is circumstantial. Just like an athlete who is working out with high intensity twice a day is going to have different food requirements, an artist who is producing a lot of work will also have different needs with what they consume.

We need to develop some fundamentals. We need a set of best practices when it comes to social media that anyone can follow and become decently fit, fairly fluid, and more in control of the entire process. That will be a service to humankind to develop that kind of discipline. Figuring out the right amount of time to spend on different activities will help you to build up the will power necessary to use social media without becoming victim to it. These activities, which I will describe soon, will help us to make the most of digital culture.

Social media has a very strong pull on us at the present moment. We need to learn to resist. That doesn’t mean to not participate. If anything, it means to engage more fully. As long as it is going to be a part of our lives, we should learn to use it to build our will power. If resistance doesn’t mean abstinence when it comes to social media, then what does it mean?

We have to create a set of standards and best practices to gain some traction for our personal journey through a social media influenced world. 

Five Reasons the Internet Doesn’t Suck

Right now, we have a chance to create a new future. The courage to change requires a lot of motivation. Do you want things to change? Do you want to change them? What is your reason for doing the work? How do you want to be? What do you want to achieve?

Motivation is synonymous with will power. It is the ability to get yourself to do something despite distractions, an aversion to pain, fatigue or any other reason. Exercising will power means sticking to a decision until a new decision has been made. It is a form of mental strength that manifests as consistency. 

This stability achieved through exercising will power is key to building trust, which is a superpower when it comes to relationships. If will power is like most things, then it can be built up through practice or it will diminish through neglect. Things are either vital and growing or they are in decline. What resources does the Internet provide us with that we can use to stimulate growth and to strengthen our will?

  1. Mental and Physical Exercises: the mind-body connection is a very real thing. Exercising the body can help us to build our will power. Exercising your mind can, too. Setting aside time for exercise is more common today than in previous generations. Setting aside time for mental fitness is just as important. There are tons of awesome tutorials on YouTube that break down the mechanics of exercises and their effects on your body. When athletes get hurt and require physical therapy, they gain a better understanding of how their body functions. Today, the Internet is full of valuable sports science information.
  2. Nutrition and Diet: take control of your health through what you eat in the kitchen. The science of nutrition is ever evolving and can be confusing at times, but a solid fundamental knowledge of what the body needs and how to best provide it with those needs is critical to everything you do. What you eat affects how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. This is something that I intend to keep learning about and the best part is that when you find out what works and what isn’t working it immediately improves your life. Whether that is understanding macros and losing extra weight, removing some foods that your body doesn’t process well or addressing some kind of hormonal imbalance caused by nutritional deficiency you will be able to find helpful guides on the Internet to empower you through education on how diet and nutrition affect the body and mind. 
  3. Cooking: the value of good food is immeasurable. Learning to cook is one sure way to improve the quality of your life. When you can cook food that you find delicious, it empowers you. You have multiple opportunities every day to try something new, to innovate and explore. The internet is loaded with cooking tutorials, recipes and other inspirations to get you going in the kitchen.
  4. Fun: playing is staying in the game. Finding balance is key in life. How much time you spend on any of these activities depends upon your lifestyle. Surely, you can find something fun to do in your area. Take a look at the map of where you live and try to imagine it from the perspective of a visitor. What would they find to do that looks fun? Whether a game of Lazer Tag, mountain biking a trail, 
  5. Local History: exploring your zone. Wherever you live there are things that you don’t know about and finding out how things came to be will undoubtedly give you some good context for figuring out the current situation. When we think about learning history, we tend to focus on much bigger geographical areas, but digging into the history of a neighborhood, of a section of a town, of a road, of a forest can unlock some magical information about where you live. 

Real Men Cry: Jocko Willink, Brené Brown and Emotional Vulnerability

Mastering your emotions is old school. Jocko Willink won’t teach you how to do it, but he will tell you how important it is. He seems to have inherited a respect for emotional control and so he has no recommendation beyond what Nike prescribes. Willink is, however, very open about his emotions and it is not rare to hear him breaking into tears as he is reading something or recounting a story that involves great loss. He is a person who has found the ability to feel deeply and to remain operational. I think that Jocko is a national treasure for the way he devotes himself to teaching leadership skills. His love of literature and his experience in war make him one of the most dynamic speakers and thinkers we have today. I learn things from listening to and reading Willink. He is a very smart guy with a lot of experience to draw from in his discussion of management ideas and all things war. I have learned a lot from listening to Willink, but nothing about how to deal with your emotions, only that you have to somehow some way.

One of the only public intellectuals I can think of who is maybe more badass than Jocko Willink is Brené Brown and it is because of her commitment to understanding emotions. She is an intellectual firebrand, an advocate for feeling deeply, an enemy of shame and a friend to all who struggle with feeling vulnerable gracefully. I found Brené Brown when I needed her most: as a new father struggling to adapt to the new emotional experience of being vulnerable. The experience of having someone you love unconditionally who depends on you for their survival and well-being opened me up to feelings of vulnerability I had never even imagined. 

There is a logic to Brown’s work. You can read it or listen to it in a sequence that will make a lot of sense, but you might need to hear her words more urgently than you need to understand her theory. This is a time for embodying the spirit of her book Rising Strong. We are at a crossroads. We can choose cynicism or caring deeply. Both Jocko Willink and Brené Brown advocate for caring deeply, they just have different techniques for how to do so effectively. Willink prescribes early rising, physical therapy, and doing the work to stay on the path to protect your people and to win the day. “Discipline equals freedom.” There are thousands of techniques he gets into, but the core mission behind all of his ideas is to be there for your people, to do the work. Make good decisions that put you in the position to have leverage. Jocko is a Navy Seal, and he is teaching us about relationship skills. That is the core of his leadership philosophy.

Brown teaches us how to own our emotions. Her main thesis is that shame is a horrible management strategy that has been used over time excessively and has created a culture of shame that stunts our emotional growth and limits our experiences. Through confronting the feelings of shame and giving voice to the experience, she points to a path of greater self-awareness and self-actualization. When people talk about doing the work, they are pointing to the same process. Doing the work, emotionally, is rewriting your own motivations to shift from a shame-based set of ideas to a more human and accepting model of behavior.

I can remember going through my Brené Brown education vividly. I listened to Rising Strong one spring season not too long ago while I would go on these long hikes in Nisene Marks forest. Being in a wild setting is therapeutic to me and so is exercise and I was using the two together to help me to process my feelings. I would eat some edibles, put on my headphones and head out into the woods.

If you listen to Brené Brown, you will most likely have some breakthroughs. What she is teaching us is so simple, but so incredibly important and valid. Our culture has a lot of problems with how we teach people how to be valuable members of society. Brown is especially powerful for people who have been raised to be strong and to avoid showing weakness. Being vulnerable is unavoidable, but lots of us try our hardest to out-maneuver whatever threatens to make us feel exposed. But we are all members of the human family and we will all experience devastating losses. Running from the feelings of vulnerability, hiding behind the armor of shame only makes the whole experience that much more chaotic and potentially dangerous.

It is only when we own our feelings by giving them a place, by voicing them, that we regain the leverage we need to work with and through our emotions. As a proud Texan, Brown offers a wonderfully rich contrast of things. It would be very difficult to mistake her discussion of vulnerability for a watering down of masculinity or toughness. She is not attempting to demonize masculinity or to attack men. Brown is a friend to men. She can teach us how to be more human. Women too, of course. But men need friends in this process of learning how to be more human. If we want men to change, then we should celebrate the people leading the charge.

Through listening to Brown and walking through the woods feeling the grace of cannabis moving through me I have several memories of the most painful epiphanies, of just sobbing and crying with nobody around to see or hear and all of the bottled-up pain inside of me would just come out in these awful roars of grief for what I couldn’t change, for what I couldn’t forget. The loss of friends, the loss of love, the fear of failure, all of it, everything I was ashamed of came rushing up out of me like a stampede of buffalo shattering the underbrush of my heart as I stumbled with tear filled eyes deeper into the dark and wild. 

Some people will try to shame you for who you are. In a world where almost anything we do seems to be criticized by someone who feels superior, it is so important and refreshing to have people like Brené Brown and Jocko Willink who can remind us how to be more human, who can help us to find the courage to continue fighting despite inevitable loss. The human condition is absurdly beautiful and impossibly fragile. We are all walking our own paths through these woods and thankfully there are friends who can help to remind us that it is ok to feel pain, it is ok to feel vulnerable and that the only way to get stronger is by doing both. 

Transparency, Privacy and Competition

The way we live now is wild. Reality television has mushroomed into a massive social media explosion. What people show on Instagram is sometimes as fake and scripted as what happens on produced reality television programming. At the same time, people are also sharing too much real information online a lot of the time in ways that professional media outlets wouldn’t, and for good reasons. When does transparency go too far and become a total lack of privacy? What guidelines should we be establishing to safely and effectively use social media? How is this dynamic driven by competition?

Is there any chance that we can work our way out of this mess and back into simpler times? Are we hunters, farmers, doctors, soldiers, influencers, cyborgs or what? People have taken on varied roles in different periods of history. Right now, we are in a period of historical transition and it is especially important to experiment and to envision new ways of doing things. Sometimes, those experiments and periods of growth might best be done in privacy for the sake of going through the process of trial and error without an audience. 

Is it possible to grow and change for the better in a world dominated by social media culture? Or do we just have to change our attitude about cultural productions and the value of making mistakes in public. This might sound strange, but it happens all the time with podcasts. Sometimes a certain amount of dysfunction makes it more relatable to listen to. It’s more like real life. Some podcasts are so polished and produced you feel like you should brush your hair and put on some nicer clothes before you listen. Oftentimes we want something a little more relaxed.

Maybe competition is a normal human response, and the way it’s happening online is simply an extension of how we compare and debate the merits of each other’s lifestyle points in analog life. Martha Stewart was an influencer before there were lifestyle blogs. The number of people who are now able to create content and connect with an online audience is radically and exponentially increased. The Internet adds scale to lifestyle marketing in a completely new way. When it becomes interactive, it becomes much bigger and more differentiated. There is a lifestyle influencer for any imaginable cultural niche. 

While this new media has also created a new economy, we are still working out how all these new forces function. We are in the infancy stages of social media and haven’t developed enough best practices to know what we are doing. It can be a wild and dangerous combination when businesses experience massive scaling through the internet and people are suddenly thrust into positions of immense power and responsibility. Since these massive fortunes have been created within our lifetimes, there is a learning curve like never before. We have new money, oh boy do we have new money.

Bezos, in talking about the infrastructure bill said that he hopes the initiative will help to keep a competitive advantage for the US. His official statement reads: “We look forward to Congress and the Administration coming together to find the right, balanced solution that maintains or enhances U.S. competitiveness.” In that statement you can grasp something of our reality. We don’t live in isolation; we exist in competition. We have to remain aware of external threats to our security. If we don’t do this, they might do that. Businesses may be multinational, but they have national roots. Lifestyle might be the focus of a majority of social media, but it is made possible by macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns.

The policy of the US has historically been isolationist, but in a world with internet and nuclear weapons that is absurd. We are interconnected, and we have to figure out how to make that reality work best for the common good. With the Internet, that means business and social networking opportunities. While we strive to grow and connect to more people, the sense of our identity comes into play.

As long as our interconnectedness comes with the threat of violence, with an attempt at domination, then we will continue to make decisions that give us a competitive advantage. There are some situations, even in a world with hostile threats, where being competitive is counterproductive. If we want to enhance our competitive advantage, then we should be working on creating a stronger sense of team spirit and camaraderie, but we should also look for opportunities for cultural exchange. We most likely have more to gain from transacting with each other than we have to fear from losing our competitive advantage.