Dating in 2018: WTF?

February, 2017 

That’s when my last relationship ended.  It didn’t officially end until the spring, but I was going through some things that made it tough for me to be in the right head-space for a relationship.  In January, I was fired from a career I had put my everything into.  A month later, I went snowboarding for the first time that season and ended up breaking my arm badly.  At that point, I wasn’t a boyfriend in any meaningful way.. I had too much that I needed to figure out.  Bless her heart, she was awesome and supportive the whole way through.  Probably the most amicable breakup I’ve ever had.

May, 2017

One of the relationships I kept reflecting on last year was with Max.  We had dated a couple years prior.  There was so much chemistry between us and so much that we had in common.  It seemed to work on every level.  Except she was bugging to go explore the world and I was committed to my career.  I was also too dominant in that relationship, more controlling than I would’ve liked to be.  There were times where her free-spirited nature was at odds with my career goals and I would try to convince her that my career goals were a higher priority than her being herself at all times.  I wish I hadn’t.

In understanding why I had been fired, I realized that it was a matter of fit.  In trying to understand where I would fit best, I realized that I needed to do a better job of understanding myself.  That journey mirrored so much of what Max had learned leaving a big 4 accounting firm and working for a start-up.  I wish I had done a better job of understanding that story.  She helped inspire a lot of growth on my part, and I thought she might appreciate knowing that.

December 2017

I wrote a blog post about her.  Flushed out every thought and emotion I had on the subject and realized a lot of things I still hadn’t considered.  It was a good experience.  At the end, I figured I would tell her about the ground that I had covered and thank her for her part in all of this.  I made a YouTube video and send it to her on Christmas.  I was clear that I wasn’t looking to get back together, but I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t trying to plant a seed for the future.

January 2018

After about month of radio silence, she emailed.  She said some nice things and asked if I was up for a video call.  I said sure – and then proceeded to hear nothing from her for another month.  I knew she probably had a full plate so I eventually just emailed, “whats on your mind?”  Her reply was more direct this time.  Said she was busy, was happy for me, then questioned much of what I had said, and seemed to have forgotten about that video call.  I replied, tried to explain, but then said it would probably be easier over the phone.  No reply.

March 2018

Another month of radio silence.  All I wanted to do was let her know what I had gone through, and hoped that she would be happy for me.  Maybe I should send her a link to the blog post about her?  At least it would be the full story.  So I messaged her on WhatsApp but before the opportunity presented itself, it became a conversation.  She began to question who I had ‘become’, suggesting that I was still the same person.  It was tough trying to explain how and why over text.  But I tried.  At one point, she even ceded that it seemed like I was a whole new person.  Maybe she was just saying that hoping I would stop trying to argue my point.  Regardless, it was clear she lacked the motivation to invest the time into understanding that person.. and everything that I had felt towards her had shifted.  One of the things I appreciated about her most was that understanding me seemed effortless.  Now, not only was there effort involved, but she had no interest in putting the effort in.  A bummer at first, but it felt good to have clarity.

Right around that time, I was trying to go on a date with a girl named Mia.  Someone I dated for a bit a few years ago, and someone who I had a bunch of fun, nerdy stuff in common with.  She’s all kinds of cool, but she’s also working through some things.  When things get difficult or confusing, she hides.  She tried that with me before and I just walked away.. it’s why we stopped dating the last time.  This time, I was more interested in helping her rise above that.  So we tried to go on a date, but then she got busy.  We rescheduled, but then she got busy again.  I told her I knew this pattern, and I was happy to walk away if she wanted me to, but she didn’t – she was struggling with old habits.

April 2018

So we tried again, but work.  And again, but work.  I was on my way out this time, but did so with a link to a post I had written about her, so she would at least know what my honest feelings towards her were.  She was surprised.  She opened up to me more than she ever had, and seemed that much more motivated to see me.  Seemed like progress.  So we rescheduled.. and she ghosted again.  This time, it was because she had read the rest of my blog and found out about Max.  She was afraid that I was using her to fill a Max-shaped void.  I couldn’t hold it against her, it was a legitimate question that I also had to ask myself.  We talked it through, and agreed that we would make attempt number 6.

Had I been stood up 6 times with no difference in the context, I’d be worried about my mental health.. but that wasn’t the case.  With each time, progress was being made.  And I could tell that these were big steps for someone who didn’t have a lot of opportunities to take these steps.  Unfortunately, it was also creating an imbalance in the relationship which I knew was unhealthy.  She pleaded that work was being unfair, and that she wasn’t leading me on, and how interested she was… but she couldn’t get her actions to match her texts.  The outcome was disappointing, but I’m happy that I treated the situation with compassion and understanding instead of walking away at the first sign of getting hurt.

April 25th, 2018

The very next day, Max texts me.  Said she’s in-town, and would ‘love’ to get together.  Well then.  We book a late dinner for Sunday.  She also wants to smoke a joint together, so we plan to get together later in the week too.  Easy way to get my mind off Mia, I guess.

April 27th, 2018

Arrive to a 3-day self-help seminar on Friday.  Pretty skeptical about what I’m walking into, but doing it with an open mind and the best of intentions.  A girl catches my eye.  Was partnered up with her at the end of the day for an exercise where we’re asked to sit directly across from each other and tell a victim story while looking into each others eyes.  We spend most of that time looking at each other and cracking up, because neither one of us is any good at pretending to be a victim.  A fun introduction.  We shall call her..  Lulu.

On the way home, I text my buddy who invited me to the seminar, letting him know how it went.  He asks if I met anyone interesting.  I say everyone’s interesting if you ask the right questions (holding back from saying I met this really cute girl).  He tells me that he has another friend who’s there doing the seminar and he hopes that we have a chance to meet.. and that her name is Lulu.  As he puts it, we’re two of his closest friends and the ones he goes to for good conversation.  Wow.. that’s kinda cool.  I ask if he’s interested in her, or if she’s in a relationship.  Says he dated her for a bit way back, and he thinks she’s in a relationship with someone.  Well, never mind then…

April 28th, 2018

Saturday’s part of the seminar put me and Lelu back in close proximity.  I do my best to avoid creating interactions, but don’t avoid them either.  Our chemistry continues to build.  I text my buddy again that night, asking if he’s sure that she’s in a relationship.  He says yes.  I tell him that while my instincts around these things are a bit rusty, pretty sure this girl is into me.  He tells me a bit more about her and shows some enthusiasm around us connecting beyond this seminar.

April 29th, 2018

Lulu was definitely the best part of my Sunday seminar.  We sat beside each other a few times and ended up doing a couple of the 1 on 1 sessions together too.  I eventually asked if she knew we had both been invited by the same friend – she didn’t.  She was excited, especially because it meant that there was a good chance we’d see each other again. As the day went by, everything suggested more chemistry and more interest.  At the end of Sunday’s seminar, we were supposed to thank people who we had connected with and tell them what we appreciated about them.  She approached me and opened with “Thanks for being the best looking guy here, it gave me something to look at”, and followed with a few very thoughtful compliments.  I replied, telling her that she was the highlight of my weekend and that I hope to see her again.

Now to go directly from that self-help seminar to dinner with Max.  Along the way, I text my buddy and ask if he’s sure that Lelu is in a relationship because everything that happened that day would suggest otherwise.  He ended up taking her out for dinner and dug in.  Said she’s only been dating this guy a short while, but she doesn’t see it going anywhere.  Tells me not to worry, and he’ll connect the two of us before long.  I have no interest in being the guy that breaks up a healthy relationship, but if she’s already on her way out.. I can’t help but want to see her again.

So I arrive at dinner with Max – fancy sushi.  She gives me a big smile and a big, but not too big of a hug.    We get seated and start talking.  Eventually, she asks me about my aspirations.  I think I say something like creating the most significant positive impact I’m capable of.  She says that’s a bit vague and asks what the most significant positive impact I think I’m capable of.  I may have told her President of Mars.  She called bullshit.  That probably needed a little more explaining.

I guess for starters, I really do think that the upper-limit of the human mind is often well beyond the limits we place on ourselves.  Mars though?  I told her that the bigger the problem, the more motivated I am to solve it and I can’t help but want to find solutions to the big problems we as a species are facing today.  Ok, but why Mars?  Well, I’ve seen well-intentioned people come and go, only for their ideas to fall on the deaf ears of a system which is designed to protect itself from change.  I often think that what the world desperately needs today, is a blank canvas where a new government could be established with modern policies.  If we only had the opportunity to lead by example, how quick would the world be to adopt those good ideas?  Unless I’m missing something, Mars will most likely be our first opportunity to build something from scratch.

I think she made an attempt here to bring me back to reality and asked me to connect that to a real goal.  I told her that while I have these ideas, and they seem logical in my mind, I still need to prove that they can exist outside my head.  I need to take my personal philosophies, my ideas, and my ability to execute, and make something special.  If I could make something special, that something that people can understand as an expression of my mind and my vision, people would notice.  If people noticed, they might appreciate, and if people appreciated, they might just be willing to hear what I have to say.  While that something special can take on different shapes and forms, no form comes more naturally to me than building a business.  So I told her I was working on building a billion dollar company.

She said back up the “B”.  What?  Back up the “B” in billion.  What do you mean?  She asked if I knew how hard it was to build a billion dollar company or how rare they were.  She didn’t take kindly to what she thought were grandiose exaggerations of what I was really up to.  She knew that I was working for a cannabis retail start-up, but I don’t think she understood the potential behind it.  I told her about the awards, and the industry growth, how visible our founders were, and how ahead of the curve we were.  She didn’t seem to care.  I said that if you had to pick an early winner in cannabis retail, it would probably be us, and to say that wasn’t an opportunity to build a billion dollar company was untrue.  She still didn’t believe me.  Or maybe she didn’t believe that I would do it.

I did my best to ask her about what she was up to throughout the evening.  She sounded like she was dealing with a lot, but persisted that she was happy.  She certainly valued all that she had gone through in the last year. I asked her what her goals were and she said to land a job this fall.  It looked like she was lined up for a fancy title at a mid-sized private equity firm doing some level of analytics.  I asked if she had any big goals.  She seemed less sure about this… maybe something to the effect of using big data in driving HR policy, limiting inequality in the work place.  Sounds neat.

Despite all my efforts to guide things in a positive direction, we kept finding our way back to my aspirations, and her lack of confidence in my ability to accomplish them.  I wish I had been able to tell the story of how I got from being fired to wanting to set up camp on Mars.. pretty sure things would’ve made more sense that way.

The night largely seemed like an exercise in her trying to cut me down.  I was used to her being an optimist, a big thinker, open-minded, and supportive.  Now I wonder if it’s her that’s changed or if it was just my memory of her.  I was all but convinced that who I had become was a better fit for who she was.  But as soon as I realized that, I also knew that who I had become, might not be a fit to who she is today.  I think that’s what I was facing.  Somewhere between her big corporate gig in silicon valley and her MBA, her mindset seems to have changed.  Where she was once about possibilities, she was now about limitations.  There’s probably also an element of trying to stick it to your ex-boyfriend… and I probably deserved it.

At one point, I said, “This is unexpected, you’re usually more..”  I cut myself off, and apologized, saying that it wasn’t my place to say something like that.  It threw her off, she knew what I was getting at.

It was getting late, we asked for the bill.  We hugged again outside and she apologized for being less supportive than she used to be be.  We said goodbye.

April 30th, 2018

Knowing that we had made pseudo plans to hang out later in the week, I sent her a text.  I basically thanked her for dinner (she insisted on paying), then thanked her for challenging my goals.  I said that I’m steadfast in dreaming big, working relentlessly towards those goals, and being at peace with where that takes me (I’m all about shooting for the stars and landing on the moon).  I said I’m rarely challenged on these things and if nothing else, it was good exercise.  I also said that based on our conversation, I had the impression that there were probably other people in town she’d rather spend time with and that if I was right, it was all good with me.  No response.

The day before she left, I sent a text saying I hope I didn’t upset her with what I had said.  I told her I was happy for her, and wished her the best of luck.  She responded back saying she had been busy and yes, lots of people to see.

May 1st, 2018

Speaking of radio silence, Mia messages me the next day.  Apologizes for the incoming wall of text, and the proceeds to say some very nice things.  She talks about how strongly she feels about the potential between her and I.  Then talks about her struggles and the progress she’s made.  Then she talks about her feelings.  Then she says something to the effect of, ‘and I won’t hold it against you if you never want to talk to me again’.

I agreed with a lot of the things she said about the potential between her and I, and I appreciated that she recognized and appreciated the progress she had made.  So we get into a text conversation where I thank her for opening up to me and we get into the possibility of trying one more time.  I ask her what the difference this time would be, and she says a strong effort.  I ask if that means that the last 6 times weren’t strong efforts.  She says that this time, she’s just going to go for it – be less cerebral about it.  I told her it didn’t sound all that convincing.  She reminded me that she wasn’t very good at explaining this stuff over text.  The conversation kinda fizzled after that.

Went to bed, had a dream that she had made an effort the following day to make something happen between us and I was happy about it.  Woke up to no such effort.  Decided that I was being unfair.  Told her that if she wanted to explain things to me in person, I would make the time for that.  My ask was that it was on the weekend and at my office (so if she pulled a no-show, that I could just keep working).  She was receptive.  She planned to come by on Saturday but on Friday she asked if she could move it to Sunday.  This looked familiar.  She didn’t come by on Saturday or even get back to me about Sunday. And that was the last I heard from her.

May, 2018

A friend of mine cracked a joke a couple months ago saying that I should jump on Tinder with a bio that says something to the effect of, ‘Dating is confusing, anyone wanna blaze and hang out?’  Dude is sounding like a genius right about now.

Ironically, back in April, I was talking with a couple female friends about the challenges of dating and I suggested this was why dating apps had become so popular.  One friend was in her 50s and had been married for 27 years so she had zero interest Tinder.  She said that people need to get outside and engage each other in real life.  I asked where that might be appropriate these days given all the tension between men and women.  Every answer she gave was immediately turned down by my 20-something friend.  At the gym? Nope, don’t be gross, I’m just here to work out.  At a book store? Just because I’m here buying books doesn’t mean I wanna be hit on.  In-line at a cafe? Nope.  I told them I found it all very confusing and hoped they would find some empathy for the other men out there feeling the same way.

Only a few weeks ago, my sister and sister-in-law were in town.  I asked them about the dating scene and the tension between men and women.  I get that some men are shitty people.  I’ve even lost friendships over that kinda stuff.  But this general negativity towards men seemed unhealthy.  They responded with an analogy which they were quite eager to share: Think about men like a bowl full of skittles.  One of them is poison, but you don’t know which one.  Why would you risk it?  It wasn’t the right time to tell them that they’re using the same logic as those who avoid Muslims in fear of Muslim extremists.

My mind is searching for a connection between all these interactions.  Considering the rise of neo-feminism and the #metoo movement.  Considering the impact of social media.  Considering the heightened levels of anxiety, stress, and drug use.  I’m trying to see through it and to the other side… and I can’t.  I’m not saying we won’t get through it.  I would bet that we do.  I just don’t yet see how.  I think this gets worse before it gets better and that concerns me.

Some men have learned the advantages of identifying themselves as an ‘ally’.  Some have learned that you can improve your odds by dating multiple women at the same time.  Some have learned that it’s easier to get turned down if you turn into a giant asshole afterwards.  There’s even a sub-culture of men who are downright confused and losing hope of ever figuring it out.  Everyone’s dealing with it in their own way… but none of these are about how we make it better.

This is a big problem, and I have a swell of motivation to find a solution for everyone out there that’s struggling to find meaningful connections.  I think much of the solution is based in honesty and real communication.  Not just honesty with others, but honesty with ourselves as well. We’ve also romanced the concept of love since we could first tell stories, and it’s warped our expectations of what it is, where to find it, and how long it lasts.  If we would only make the effort to understand ourselves and then to understand one another, I can’t help but think that things would get better.  To get there, perhaps we need to be reminded of why we should be courageous when facing those we fear.  Or why we should be compassionate towards those who have hurt us.

… or sex robots for everyone?

Starbucks: Not Discussing the Complexity of Racism

Not long after it happened, a friend of mine posted the viral video of the two black guys getting arrested and taken out of Starbucks.  I had a few initial thoughts.

  1. That sucks.
  2. This is going to trigger some serious outrage from the internet crowd.
  3. I wonder what actually happened here..

As the story goes, two young black men entered into a Starbucks waiting to meet a friend.  Without buying something first, one of them asks to use the washroom.  A Starbucks employee says that washrooms are for customers only.  Instead of making a purchase, the men simply grab a seat and wait for their friend to arrive.  At this time an employee, possibly the manager asks the men to leave.  They decline, saying that they’re waiting for a friend.  Whether or not they said something to the effect of we’ll buy something when our friend arrives isn’t something I’ve been able to track down.  After refusing to leave, the manager calls the police to remove them.  The police arrive a short time after and ask the men to leave again.  They decline again, saying that they’re waiting for a friend.  After the police ask multiple times without success, they’re placed under arrest.  As they’re being walked out, their friend (who happens to be a middle aged white guy) shows up and this is pretty much where the viral video starts.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I can’t help but think that very few people are having a meaningful conversation about this.  It’s becoming formulaic at this point.  Minority is marginalized, video goes viral, internet produces outrage, company goes into damage control and *repeat*.  This isn’t how we make progress.  We have to make the effort to understand what really happened here if we want to avoid things like this happening in the future.  I’ll make that effort here.

I’ve spent plenty of time in Starbucks and I don’t even drink coffee.  When I used to work in finance, most meeting were coffee meetings and about half of them were at Starbucks.  I’ve also studied the history and operations of Starbucks quite closely for a variety of reasons.  Consider me a Starbucks pro.  I have a thing about being punctual so if I’m doing a Starbucks meeting, there’s a good chance I’m there 5-10 minutes early.  More often than not, I’ll grab my drink order when I arrive rather than waiting for the other person to avoid the perception of being a non-paying customer.  That said, on more than a few occasions, I’ve waited for the other person to arrive before placing an order and have never been approached by the staff.  I’ve also asked to use the washroom before making a purchase more than once and have never been told that it was for customers only.  This is where we need to start asking why and being honest with the answers we find.

Most of the Starbucks I’ve been to were in the finance district or in nice neighborhoods, the areas without much crime and where Starbucks employees generally felt safe.  I think that when you feel safe, you tend to care more about the well-being of others and are more likely to let things like this slide.  The neighborhood that I grew up in was different.  Washrooms at local gas stations or McDonalds would have special lights installed so that you couldn’t see your veins; preventing heroin addicts from using those washrooms for shooting up.  Employees at these establishments were much more guarded in how and when they would allow washroom access.  I don’t know Philadelphia that well, but looked up the crime rate in that area and it received an ‘F’.

Something else worth mentioning is that about a year ago, there was a robbery at a different Starbucks in Philadelphia.  In the early afternoon, a man walked up to the register with a gun and told the 19 year old female Starbucks employee to empty the register.  She quickly walked away from the register towards the back room and the man left shortly after.  The security footage shows a black man in his 30s, wearing a black hoodie.  Was this person the same person that refused to leave the Starbucks a few days ago?  Definitely not.  But I think it would be a mistake to assume that this incident has no relevance to what happened last week.  I would guess that word of this robbery probably spread quickly through the Philadelphia Starbucks scene.  I would also guess that there was some kind of message to those employees about following procedure around these things.

A year later, two black men, both dressed mostly in black and appearing to be in their mid-30s enter into a Starbucks in a rougher side of town.  After declining to make a purchase and declining to leave, what should the Starbucks employee do?  Follow procedure?  Procedure likely suggests to call the police.  The call to the police was simple,

“Hi, I have two gentleman in my cafe who are refusing to make a purchase and refusing to leave.”

The message from dispatch was also relatively simple, “We have a disturbance there, a group of males refusing to leave.”

When the police arrived, they calmly and politely asked the men several times to leave.  It was only after refusing over and over that they were arrested.

Unless they’re withholding parts of the transcript, this wasn’t as much of a racial issue as it’s being made out to be.  Mostly, this was an issue of two people refusing to make a purchase and refusing to leave.  Mostly.  There is an element of racism here which needs to be discussed.

I actually began writing this entry a couple days ago but wasn’t able to return to it until now.  I’m happy I had that time as I was able to learn an important detail which hadn’t been mentioned in the dozen or so articles I read about this.  The men entered the Starbucks at 4:35.  The police were called at 4:37.  2 minutes?  Really??  That smells heavily of prejudice.  I’m having a hard time not jumping to the conclusion of racial prejudice… but for the sake of discussion, I’ll carry on.

The first question I ask myself in these situations is how would this played out had we swapped black for white?  Two white men enter a Starbucks, refuse to make a purchase and refuse to leave.  Police are called to enforce company policy and the law, and the two white men still refuse to leave.  The two white men are arrested and removed from the premises.  Would the internet have reacted the same way?  Would we have considered this normal?  If that’s the story I had heard, my first reaction would’ve been “why didn’t these dummies just make a purchase?”  Because these gentlemen were black, we dare not say it.

My understanding of racism is not discriminating based on the color of someone’s skin.  Instead you judge someone based on the merits of their actions and the contents of their soul – good or bad.  I’m a big fan of Trevor Noah and he said something interesting about this situation, “I bet from now on, they’re going to be more careful when it comes to dealing with race.  You know what, I was thinking what black people should do?  I think we should see just how far we can push Starbucks now.  Just to mess with them.  Like, ya, now we go back after they’ve done the racial bias training and just use the bathroom but take all the toilet paper home with us.  Ya, y’all have a problem with this? No? No? No? No? You don’t? I appreciate your sensitivity, ya I do.”  He went on to give several entertaining examples of ‘how to mess with them’.  The beauty of good comedy is that it communicates hard truths in ways that people don’t mind hearing them.

When I see incidents perceived as racially charged, I often ask if it’s strictly a skin color thing.  I say this because I often wonder what has a greater impact on prejudice, skin color or dress code?  How would things have played out had these gentlemen been wearing suits?  How would it have played out if it was a couple of thugged out white guys with neck tattoos?  What if it was a well dressed white guy and a thugged out black guy?  What if it was a suited up black guy and a thugged out white guy?  What if it was a couple of Latinos wearing exactly what these black guys were wearing?  When does the color of your skin just become just one variable in your appearance?

Better understanding racism is something that’s very important to me.  This past weekend, I took a friend of mine out for breakfast and we had a great conversation about this stuff.  He’s Wesley Snipes black, originally from Somalia, but has spent most of his life living in major cities here.  As he put it, nobody second guesses him when he’s wearing a suit.  But once he goes out with a hoodie and fitted cap, people start making assumptions.  The truth is, I could probably go out wearing the exact same hoodie and cap and people wouldn’t make the same assumptions about me.  And there’s no way around it, that’s racism.

And after all that, I’ve now set the stage for what I think the real issue is:  Tribalism.

I grew up tribal just like many of us, but my tribe wasn’t based on race, it was based on where we were from.  We were from the hood.  We were proud to be from the hood and dressed like it to make sure people knew.  We wanted to carry the tribal markers of thugged out gangsters, making sure people knew that we were not to be taken lightly.  Getting looks from old white people was a point of pride.  Knowing that we had made them feel uneasy humored us.  Especially because we were also raised with good morals and values.  Despite the way we dressed, we weren’t the type to cause trouble.  Ironically, we were much more the type to hold doors open for others and walk old ladies across the street.  Maybe that’s why we got such a kick out of it.  But how were the old white people supposed to know this when all they had to go on was the way we dressed?

This is where I think it’s important to discuss what I’ve started to call tribal markers.  I had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday which I found to be illuminating and extremely impressive on their part.  We’ll call this individual Taylor.  Taylor has had a tough go of it, having been bullied excessively in school for being different and not having a strong support system at home to help rise above it.  Now in his 20s, Taylor’s navigating his sexuality with what seems to be a lack of clarity and certainty.  From what I understand, Taylor’s not quite sure where he falls on the spectrum of gender or even which gender he’s attracted to.  He’s exploring those dynamics and I truly admire it.  Around me, Taylor’s always been fairly soft spoken, and very kind.  At times, I would even notice him going out of his way to be nice to me.  Picking up on some subtleties in body language and how he interacts with me, I could tell that Taylor was struggling with something around me.  I had some ideas as to what it was, but didn’t focus on it since he had always made a clear effort for things to be positive between us.  Yesterday, he apologized for being weird around me.  He told me he was dealing with a lot of misplaced hate as a result of being bullied when he was younger.  With most of that bullying coming from straight white males, Taylor learned to identify them as the enemy, and that had unintentionally extended to myself.  He apologized because as he put it, in a way, that was a form of racism.  I thanked him for bringing this up, complemented the courage it took for him to do it, and told him I genuinely admired his weirdness.  It was my most honest answer and I’m very grateful to have had that conversation.

For the record, I tried to write this without using the word ‘he’ or ‘his’ and it’s just not how the English language is built at the moment.  I’m not big on compelled speech or having to memorize 50 new pronouns, but I certainly see the value in introducing a single non-gendered pronoun.  Anyways, I’m pretty sure he’s identifying more with the male side of that gender spectrum right now so I don’t feel like a total ass.  Carrying on..

I really appreciate the perspective Taylor shared with me because it helped me confirm part of my theory around tribalism and tribal markers.  Growing up, Taylor was bullied, I assume predominantly by straight white males.  As a result, Taylor saw a pattern that was worth being protected from.  Of course not all straight white males were bullies , but if he perceived that all the people who bullied him were straight white males, where do you draw that between us and them?  Here, he was faced with someone who carried all the tribal markers of someone who would harm him, but who has treated him with nothing but respect and appreciation.  I can’t understate how much I appreciate him facing this the way he did.  Not only does it show a tremendous amount of personal growth on his part, but it gave confidence to my strategy of just being a good person and waiting this kinda stuff out.

I’m familiar with what discrimination looks and feels like because I grew up as a minority.  For the most part, that discrimination faded away in my teens and 20s.  Now in my 30s, it’s back.  This time, it’s because I’m a straight white male.  Add the fact that I have a background in finance and drive an SUV, I seem to tick all the boxes for an oppressor.  Yet I’m not oppressive… and in reality, I’m big on liberation.  I’m big on exploring and embracing our weirdness, whatever that may be.  I’m big on supporting others in their pursuit of happiness and do my best to bring positivity to the world on a daily basis.  So why is it that in the age of open-mindedness, progressiveness, and acceptance, that so many are so quick to assume that I’m such a shitty person?

Tribalism.

Throughout history, when times get tough, people get tribal.  The United States was probably never more united than they were during WWII.  Times were tough, but they had a common enemy.  My friend from Somalia said that as bad as racism is here, it’s nothing compared to the racism back in Africa.  In Africa, almost everyone’s black but there are different kinds of black.  As he put it, they’re super close with one another when they have a common enemy, but once they lose that common enemy, they go back to being racist towards each other.  In many ways, times are even tougher today.  But without an obvious enemy, we’re drawing lines in the sand for the sake of protecting ourselves from an enemy we can’t identify.  The rich vs. the poor.  Men vs. Women.  LGBTQ+ vs. Cysgendered.  Religious vs. Atheist.  Black vs. White.  Liberal vs. Conservative.  Democrat vs. Republican.  Left vs. Right.  Seriously…. when we get to the point of drawing the line between left and right, especially without any real or consistent definition of what left or right is, we need to take a second to think about what we’re doing to ourselves.  We’re picking a team and turning the others into our enemies in the pursuit of emotional safety, but in the process, we’re tearing ourselves apart.

When every major media outlet has that video of the black guys getting arrested at the Starbucks set to auto-play as soon as you visit the site, of course the video goes viral.  And when you don’t include the context of all the things that led up to it, of course people will assume that it was an act of egregious racism.  And when the internet outrage machine goes into maximum overdrive, of course Starbucks will overreact in hopes that their overreaction is more significant than the public’s overreaction and that this somehow puts everything back in balance.  This is all craziness, and doesn’t provide a solution to the problem, only more hostility towards a situation which people don’t seem to want to  invest the time into understanding.

Those two black men had every right to be the color they are and wear what they wanted to wear.  Starbucks had every right to enforce a policy of asking someone to leave if they weren’t willing to make a purchase.  The police had every right to ask them to leave and to remove them when they wouldn’t.  And those two black men had every right to choose this as a moment to make a stand.   What happened here is rich in details and things that we should be having real conversations about – but we’re not.  I wish we were..

Had I been in the shoes of the manager, I would’ve let them use the washroom and probably would’ve let them hang out even if their friend never arrived.  Had I been the black guys, I would’ve bought a coffee.  If I was the dispatch, I would’ve asked for more details and had I been told that they weren’t being violent, I would’ve suggested waiting a few more minutes before sending anyone over.  If I was the police, I probably would’ve bought them a coffee and hung out with them until their friend arrived.  But I’m not one to follow policy when it doesn’t make sense.  I’m one to try and understand the situation for what it is and act like an intelligent and compassionate human being.

… but that’s just me.

EQ vs. IQ

I was reading an article the other day about hiring practices.  The article discussed how people used to hire for IQ, until they learned that it was better to hire for EQ.  An example they gave was how brilliant leaders would rarely fail for a lack of IQ, but failed often for a lack of EQ.  Interesting.  The article went on to talk about how people are now hiring for LQ, or a learning quotient.  Now they’re talking my language.  In an age where your ability to acquire knowledge is worth 10x your ability to retain it… this is the age of learning.

But I digress.

What inspired this entry was the article’s brief comparison between EQ and IQ, suggesting that EQ is a better predictor of job performance than IQ.  I can’t help but disagree with that.  And I can’t help but think that EQ, as the general public understands it, has become overvalued.

Before the Justin Trudeau ran for Prime Minister, I remember hearing all these comparisons to Pierre Trudeau, his dad who had also held the role of Canadian Prime Minister.  The one which stood out for me was from John Oliver and it was about IQ vs EQ.  Where Pierre Trudeau was intellectually brilliant, Justin Trudeau had Emotional Intelligence.  I’ve been paying very close attention to the value of EQ since and I’ve noticed a few things.

I guess the first thing we should do is define the term EQ.  Google defines it as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” It’s the first time I’ve seen that definition and I quite like it.  Actually, I really like it.  Let’s break it down.  The first part is about self-awareness, self-expression, and the ability to control your emotions.  So often, someone who is highly emotional qualifies themselves as having a high EQ but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  If being aware of your emotions and having an ability to control them is part of EQ, that makes a lot of sense.  The second part is about being able to understand the emotions of others while handling those relationships fairly.  This is where things get interesting.

Emotions are part of the human blueprint.  To assume they don’t exist is incorrect.  To assume they can be suppressed indefinitely is unhealthy.  To be aware of, to be in control of, and being able to experience emotions seems to be the philosophy of emotional intelligence and I can get behind that.  Being able to understand the emotions of others, as a non-verbal language… I can get behind that, too.  Where I think the modern understanding of EQ falls apart is when handling interpersonal relationships judiciously.

I’m often criticized for being insensitive.  I’m also recognized as being very honest.

If you were presented with the option of telling someone what they wanted to hear and making them feel good about themselves, or telling them a hard truth and making them feel bad about themselves, which would you choose?

When people discuss individuals with a high EQ, they seem to be discussing people who are skilled at telling people what they want to hear.  It’s like a comedian walking into a room, being able to feel out the crowd, and then delivering the kinda jokes they want to hear.  When you hear what you want to hear, you feel good about yourself, and when you feel good about yourself, you tend to think highly of the person who helped you get there.  That’s what I see when I see EQ being discussed in the mainstream,and it’s wrong.

In the age of thought bubbles and echo chambers, we desperately need to move away from the people who are skilled at telling us what we want to hear.  Those who prioritize telling us what we want to hear are selfish.  For them, our long-term well-being is secondary to feeling good in this moment.  And feeling good in this moment almost always produces what they’re actually looking for.. a date, a sale, a vote.. and even a presidency.  And it’s extremely unhealthy.

There’s a 50 Cent song from back in the day called A Baltimore Love Thing.  50 raps from the perspective of heroin.  If you’d like to know what a relationship looks like when the other person cares more about making you feel good in the moment than your long-term health, that’s it.  And if you’re looking towards the other end of the spectrum, think exercise.  It always sucks at first, and the harder the exercise, the more it burns.  But the more you do it, the better you feel about and the healthier you are.

And this brings me back to my personal struggle, perhaps why this topic is of such interest to me.

Over and over, I’m labelled as low EQ because being capable of understanding and controlling my emotions is perceived as suppressing or not engaging with them.  Over and over, I’m labelled as insensitive because I’m unafraid of delivering the hard truths that help people the most.  Over and over I’m told that I’m not empathetic towards others because I’d rather motivate and inspire than offer blind support.  I’m done accepting those criticisms.

I am not without room for improvement, but I am not without EQ.

 

 

The Illusion Of Privacy

Every so often, I come up with an idea which I think is worth writing about.  When I do, I make a note and then come back to it when I’m ready.  This one is from December, but all the hype around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica suggested it was time.

There seems to be a fair bit of traction behind the #deletefacebook movement and I find that surprising.  But then, less so.

We seem to be in an age where we quickly look for someone to blame.  I can relate to looking at a problem and immediately looking to identify the cause, but there’s often a wide gap between the cause of a problem and someone you can blame.  In many cases, the individual being blamed, even when ‘justified’, is a symptom of a bigger problem that isn’t being acknowledged.  It’s why problems usually find ways to persist when you remove the symptom.

In a world where people are quickly looking to label the bad guy, I find a lot of people blaming businesses or technology.  Something something corporations are ruining the world.  Something something technology is destroying humanity.  I find this perspective rather challenging.  As far as I know, technology and business becomes rather hollow when you remove people from the equation.  In that sense, both are extensions of our own humanity.  Both are tools we’ve developed over time to help us accomplish more with less.  Understanding that these tools are a reflection of our own humanity, we accept that we can be capable of both good and evil.  From fireworks to gunpowder, from missiles to rockets.

What I’m getting at is that if we want to move past the blame game and start looking to solve the problems we’re facing, we need to look at the people.  It’s people who are behind the development of this technology.  It’s people who are behind the companies like Cambridge Analytica.  And it’s people who are allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by both.  So it’s about time we look at the people involved.

For the most part, I place very little responsibility on the tech developers at Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter.  Almost every piece of technology that’s made, is made to solve a problem.  If it doesn’t solve a problem, it becomes obselete.  Throughout history, people have shown a desire to be more connected with one another.  Technological advancements in transportation brought us from horseback riding to hyperloops.  In communication, we went from telegraphs to texting.  Along the way, we realize that we didn’t have to physically be in the same place to have a social interaction with someone.  To some extent, we realized that we didn’t even need the other person to be there at all.  Asian Avenue, Apartment 107, Black Planet, Myspace… all pre-cursors to Facebook and show a continuum of what we were trying to accomplish.  The internet gave us this great platform where we could connect digitally instead of physically, and it was a dynamic that we clearly wanted to explore.  Had it not been Facebook, it would’ve been someone else.  And to think that this evolution stops at Facebook would be be unwise.  Social Media wasn’t a lab experiment from Silicon Valley, it was a social evolution, started by, driven by, and consumed by people.  Facebook just happens to be the playground we chose to play in today.

The blade is a tool, indifferent to whether it cuts the flesh of your enemies or a dinner for your friends.  It’s the person who chooses how to use the tool.  Could Facebook have made it more difficult for Cambridge Analytica to do what they did?  Probably.  What happened to #DontBlameTheVictim?  Maybe it only applies to people..  Regardless, understanding what happened at Cambridge Analytica is definitely the fun part.

Cambridge Analytica was a firm who realized that Facebook could be used as a platform for modern political propaganda and did so with a high level of efficacy.  That’s it.  I’m trying to see why it’s more complicated and complex than this, and I don’t think it is.  Propaganda isn’t a new or foreign concept.  For as long as there’s been politics, there have been people trying to manipulate the message for the sake of political gain.  And America has probably used those tools more frequently and effectively than any other government in the last 100 years.  How much has been used against its own citizens and how much has been used in countries abroad is anyone’s guess.  But just as propaganda found its way into print media, broadcast media, and digital media, it would surely make its way into social media.

Cambridge Analytica looks like they may have been up to some other shady political tactics.  If they happened, it just strengthens the case that politics desperately needs to be removed from governance.  But politics is how the powerful stay in power so perhaps that’s too big of a topic to tackle here.  What is worth focusing on though is what Cambridge Analytica was able to do and why they were able to do it.  After having watched all the hidden camera footage from Channel 4, one thing stood out to me more than anything else – their goal of targeting people’s fears.

The only thing that Facebook really provided Cambridge Analytica with were details on the things that you liked and didn’t like.  The sinister part was when they took the details of each voter profile and used them to created targeted groups based on what they were most afraid of.  If you were from a southern community which had lost jobs to immigrants, it was ‘build that wall’.  If you were afraid of a change in gun legislation, it was ‘Hillary will take your guns’.  If you were concerned with political corruption, it was ‘drain the swamp’.  Whatever you were afraid of, they would play to your fears.  While most people know that making decisions from a place of fear isn’t great, not everybody knows why.   Turns out it’s literally the wrong part of the brain for making these decisions.  The part of the brain which governs emotions like fear, is different from the part of the brain which governs rational thought.  People are navigating this propaganda in an emotional state of mind instead of a rational state of mind.  Instead of being able to think critically and rationally about the content that’s in front of them, they’re thinking emotionally and looking for an enemy.

And this is where I let Cambridge Analytica off the hook.  They should be held accountable for what they did, but then, we should also be held accountable for what we let them do.

The first few times I saw a juicy headline on Facebook, I definitely clicked through.  Juicy headlines and misdirection have been around since well before the Facebook news feed so it’s not like I was being duped, I was just sufficiently curious.  But each time was a let down.  The headline was always better than the content.  So I learned to stop clicking on what was eventually termed ‘click-bait’.  Seemed straight forward.

Over time, digital publications like BuzzFeed and Vice started popping up on my timeline.  They were far more legitimate than the click-bait articles I was used to, but something else was going on.  These publications also realized they had tapped into fear.  The fear of being a racist, the fear of being a sexist, the fear of being transphobic, and perhaps most importantly, the fear of being on the wrong side of a movement which seemed to be based on the virtuous pursuit of equality.  Their approach was more nuanced than Cambridge Analytica.  Instead of pushing raw propaganda to their audience, these digital publications started editing interviews or not properly sourcing articles, looking to craft a narrative which their audience was hungry for.  They were more interested in providing a narrative which made you feel good about what you already thought.  When you think you have the moral high ground, confirmation bias can be a dangerous thing.

But not everyone fell for it.

Not everyone took Jordan Peterson’s Vice interview at face value.  Not everyone liked or shared memes saying ‘The South Will Rise Again’.  Not everyone saw a comment section where everyone was agreeing with them and jumped right in.  Not everyone avoided a perspective that challenged their own.  And for those who did debate, not everyone approached it as a battle of them versus us.  Some of us couldn’t help but look at it as us versus the problem.

The problem isn’t privacy.  The problem isn’t Facebook.  The problem isn’t even Cambridge Analytica or the shady politicians they help put in positions of power.  The problem is us.

The problem is us.

When tools stop working, people stop using them.  Propaganda is the tool, and it will be used as long as we keep letting it work.  If we #deletefacebook, I can all but guarantee that this propaganda will follow us whichever social media channel we choose to spend those hours.  If we put the team at Cambridge Analytica behind bars, I can all but guarantee that another organization will take its place.  So why is our reaction still to place blame instead of facing the reality that this is about accountability.

If you think that sharing information about yourself makes you a better target for people looking to take advantage of you, welcome to the world.  But there’s hope.. and perhaps things are darkest before dawn.

I’ve learned to live my life like an open book.  I’ve abandoned the illusion of privacy.  I understand that information is more valuable when fewer people have it, but I also understand that knowledge is most valuable when everyone has it.  Digging deep on why people value privacy, it almost always comes back to a fear of what others will do with their private information.  So I choose to live without a fear of what others would do if they knew everything about me.

And – it – is – glorious!

I really couldn’t care less if Facebook showed to the public: my health records, my genealogy, my personal finances, my relationship history, purchasing behaviour… all of it.  To some extent, I wish they would.  I would gladly take that risk to try and demonstrate that transparency isn’t itself a risk.  In reality, our ability to share more information with one another has been at the core of every big leap forward our species has taken.  From a spoken language, to a written language, to the printing press, to the internet.  We just seem to have momentary lapses in judgement where we’re afraid of what will happen when only some of us can access that information.

We’ve now arrived at a point where between Facebook, Google, Apple and the NSA, there isn’t much that isn’t known about us.  The data is already being collected and unless you’re keen to go live off the grid, it won’t stop.  Who gets access to that data is largely out of our control.  There will always be bad actors with innovative ideas on how to abuse that dynamic… which means we either have to accept that we’re screwed, or find a way to rise above it.  I choose to rise above it.

My choice is that when someone takes the time to learn about me, and to use that information to take advantage of me, I’m prepared.  Not only am I prepared to be critical of the information I’m being presented with, I’m also prepared to be critical of my own actions if I allow myself to be misled.  It’s not always easy and I’m not always perfect, but when you let go of right and wrong and prioritize the truth, seeing through the noise becomes much easier.

I think that everyone’s life will be impeded by dishonesty and misdirection at some point, but I think it’s worth considering that it’s our tendency to be dishonest with ourselves which impedes our progress most.  A fear of how others might perceive us and how that might impact our lives.  But what happens when we let that fear guide us?  What happens when everyone had the ability to project to the world what they thought the world wanted of us?  Social Media gave us that ability and we’ve used it to create noise.  It’s a feedback loop of confusion where people struggle to understand the disconnect between how we present ourselves and who we really are.  And the closer we get to facing the truth, the louder we yell ‘Privacy!’

Or we could just let go.  When I imagine a world that has abandoned the premise of privacy, I see a world which has embraced the value of transparency.  I see a world that has truly realized the value of honesty.  A world where every piece of information is always available to every person.  I can’t help but think about that being the ultimate equalizer.

 

Power Vs. Strength

When dealing in abstract concepts like these, it can be difficult to have a real conversation without first agreeing on how to define the terms.  I think that a lot of people use power and strength interchangeably, yet I can’t help but think that they differ in very important ways.

Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I was taught that quote by a very influential history teacher in high school and it has continued to echo through my mind since.  I can’t help but be reminded of it when I see people in positions of power put the needs of the few before the needs of the many.  It’s as if there’s something inherently inefficient about power.

When I think of strength, it’s similar to power.  But not quite.  Strength is almost like the potential of power.  Unused power.  A visual of strength does not require a display of aggression.  Perhaps there’s a duality here.  Is power to offense as strength is to defense?

It’s interesting, you could say that someone is both powerful and weak at the same time.  A frail old king is both re(g)ally powerful and physically weak.  Politicians are known for having political power but weak integrity.  Movies are constantly filled with villains who wield vast power, but lack a strength of character.  I’m not sure if I know of any villains who have a great strength of character, but wield little power.  In many cases, is that not the hero?  The unassuming, jacked, strong jaw line with a warm smile kinda hero?

Analyzing this in the abstract is usually a journey down the rabbit hole, but there are some examples that help me clarify what I’m thinking.

Name calling has gotten out of control.  For most of my life, I was taught not to feed into it.  To walk away.  To appreciate that the person doing the name calling is probably doing so because they’re battling their own demons.  It was tough when I was younger but it’s second nature now.  Now, when someone’s hostile towards me, I’m much more likely to view the situation with compassion than anger and I can’t help but think that makes me strong.  Moving through life, invulnerable to the malicious attitudes of others is really something else… I highly recommend it.

Yet I seem to be in the minority.  Rather than seeing it as an issue of personal strength, compassion, and helping someone move beyond their own issues, it’s about power.  The victim being name called is no longer interested in making themselves stronger, they’re interested in becoming more powerful.  This is the era of the victim shaming the bully.

If we could teach everyone the simple philosophy of not taking things personally, the effectiveness of name calling would disappear.  When something is no longer effective, we tend to stop using it.  We become stronger, we become wiser, and we move forward.  Instead, we’re more interested in giving the victims the power to hurt them back.  Laws are being changed for compelled speech.  What does being triggered in this context mean?  What happens when being triggered is an excuse to tap into that power?

I also can’t help but see this dynamic in women’s empowerment.  I remember finding out that I was a feminist back in university because I believed in equality.  It made sense to me that men and women were different but equal.  But I struggle to resonate with parts of modern feminism.  There seems to be this pursuit of equal outcome over equal opportunity.  A denial of inconvenient biology.  A tendency to deal in absolutes instead of nuances.  And what drives it all, seems to be a pursuit of power over the pursuit of equality.

I don’t think it’s that complicated either.  For decades, centuries, or millennia (however you want to look at it), men have been powerful.  They’ve ruled, they’ve warred, they’ve killed, they’ve raped, and they’ve pillaged.  Things are different now.  In an age of equality, women want to be powerful too.  They’re no longer looking for a seat at the table, now they want equal rights to be the asshole boss at the table.  I suppose that is equality, I suppose I’m just a little bummed out that there isn’t a motivation to be better.

I sometimes joke that I feel sorry for Hilary Clinton for having lost the 2016 election.  She could’ve been a role model for feminism.  She lost when she ran against Obama, but had the composure to pick her self up and run again.  Then she went up against one of feminism’s greatest foes, keeping her composure throughout.  Had it not been for Russian interference, she probably would’ve won that presidency.  She couldn’t have been a role-model for feminism, right?  One of the bigger reasons why Hilary lost, was because for many, she was indistinguishable from the Washington establishment.  She literally spent her entire career learning how to play within a corrupt, man’s world to the point where she probably played it better than anyone else – Just in time for the American public to be fed up with it.  I felt bad for women that they missed out on their first female president, but I had hope.

My hope is that the first woman to be elected president, be the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, locomotion of intelligence, strength, integrity and all the qualities of a great leader, but without the sacrifice of feminine qualities like compassion, intuition, and ability to nurture.  I want her to be able to set the bar.  Not just for future women, but for future men and politics in general.  I want her to inspire us to look up to women, not to reasons to avoid looking down on them.

In the pursuit of equality, women are looking at men, and trying to draw the line 50/50 through it all.  You don’t want it all.  A lot of it is garbage.  Please don’t take the garbage too.  We’d all be way better off if we could leave it behind, and this is an opportunity to do so.  This power isn’t something you want, it’s something that none of us should want.  We need to let it go.  But we need help.  We need a little leadership.

It’s not power that you want, it’s strength.  It can be tough to tell the difference when you look at the people holding you down and the most obvious difference between you is power.  But they’re not strong.  That’s why your strength makes their power irrelevant.

You can have a world where everyone is strong, but not a world where everyone is powerful.  For someone to be powerful, someone else must be powerless.  Strength however, resides within.  A world in which everyone pursues power is chaos.  A world in which everyone pursues inner-strength is peace.

Decentralized journalism

Had an idea the other day.  I think it could be a big one.

Decentralization is something I’ve paid a great deal of attention to over the years.  We’ve seen it tackle the taxi industry, hotels, and several forms of media.  Next, I’m keen to see how it tackles things like energy and currency.  In each case, the premise seems rather simple:  Make better use of the resources we already have, and let technology shoulder the workload of keeping things organized.

Every great business is a solution to a very real problem.  In this case, the solution is to the problem of modern journalism.  Currently, journalism places a greater emphasis on being first than it does on being right.  Sensationalism has replaced accuracy.  Journalism has become more about producing ammunition than telling a story.  And it needs to change.

There’s a curious link between humans, size, power, and corruption.  The bigger we get, the more power we’re inclined to have, and the more power we’re inclined to have, the more susceptible we are to corruption.  The news industry in America became tremendously powerful over the decades, and was far more centralized than most people realized.  Even today, organizations like Sinclair and Fox are making significant moves to expand their political reach.  Anytime an industry gets big and corrupt like this, it’s time for decentralization to save the day.

My idea is a news platform which would allow journalists to earn a living while maintaining their independence and their integrity.  While also holding them accountable.  I realized that while I knew the names of all these news anchors, I couldn’t name the author of a single article I had read in the last week.  The twisted thing is that I barely watch any cable news – and I real a lot of articles.  Why didn’t I know their names?  It was because they were promoted as secondary to the organization they were reporting on behalf of.  I wonder what journalism would look like if journalists were front and center for their work?

Similar to a Google news feed or Reddit, your feed would be a collection of news articles curated around your interests.  What would make it different though, is that the person behind the article would also be well profiled.  These individuals deserve to be recognized for the work that they’re doing.  By letting good journalists be closely associated with their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing and build a reputation for it.  By letting poor journalists be closely associated for their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing as well.

How these journalists would be profiled is a very interesting question.  An overall 5 star review system would probably be part of it, but maybe not.  Maybe the 5 star rating system is a better predictor of popularity than competence.  I know that for me personally, the biggest concerns in journalism are honesty and accuracy.  So maybe the first thing that gets added to the profile is a bullshit meter.  If you used alternative facts in a story you wrote, the people reading should know that and be able to hold you accountable.  And that becomes part of your profile..

Most of our news today is delivered to us through a TV personality, quoting another news organization, using a piece of information gathered by one of their journalists, who used an anonymous source to report what they heard.  By the time you hear it, you’re not sure what to make of it.  Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.  Who knows by the time it makes it to you.  But what if the journalist who broke this news, had an immaculate track record with their news releases?  What if they used anonymous sources?  Would you care if they’ve always been accurate?  Personally, I don’t mind the use of anonymous sources if they’re being verified by someone who I trust.  Not all anonymous sources should be treated equally.

So we would want everyone to be held accountable to the same standards of honesty.  How that would be accomplished exactly, I’m not sure.  I think it would probably do well to partner with an existing fact checking organization, but the best solution would involve the community holding its own community members accountable.  Something I enjoy thoroughly about the comment section on Reddit (depending on the subreddit), is that the most upvoted comment is often one that adds more clarity to the article.  Sometimes it’s for calling out the article on inaccuracies, sometimes it’s by providing additional sources to elaborate on a point.  I think that a community like this would be imperative to this platform’s long-term success.

The next thing I’d like to see on journalist prifles are accuracy of speculative statements.  If you have someone who’s always telling you how things are going to turn out, it’s important to know how often they’re right.  Those who are able to predict the future with a high degree of accuracy should probably be listened to more.  Those found to be crying wolf too often, should probably be heard less.  Allowing for people to be held accountable to these speculative statements will hopefully drive more practical discussions and limit unreasonable fear mongering.

However this profile ends up looking, it’s purpose is to give the audience context about who they’re hearing the story from.  It’s to help create an informed reader, while encouraging journalistic integrity.  Especially in a climate like this, I’m confident in the value of honesty.  I’m confident in the peoples’ value of journalistic integrity and honesty, but I’m also sympathetic to their distrust of large media corporations controlling the dialogue.  This would be a big step in separating the two.

I think this would have to work in tandem with a user profile as well.  One of the biggest issues we run into in modern media are thought bubbles and echo chambers.  Perhaps a way around that is having an algorithm track your bias.  For example, if your political bias shows that you’re off center, the algorithm would include some of the most credible articles that might disagree with your views.  A balanced perspective is key, and there’s no evidence to suggest that everything in your news feed should be something that you agree with.

Another element of this platform is that it would welcome all sources of media.  Podcasts are the new radio.  YouTube is the new TV.  This is about inclusivity of talent, and allowing merit to drive the spotlight.

Now how would you go about attracting all these high quality reporters away from their existing jobs?  Promise them the flexibility and freedom to write about whatever they’d like, at whatever place they’d like to write at?  Too easy.  Tell them they get to work from where ever they’d like, as little or as often as they’d like?  Meh.  Promise them that they’ll be the one’s who are recognized for their articles and that they have the ability to build a personal brand around their craft?  Maybe.  Or maybe tell them that they’ll have a 50% revenue split with all ad revenue generated by their articles.  Bam.

People might say that democracy is dying when Trump is elected while half the American voting population stays home.  Yet we’re liking, and up-voting more than ever.  I think we enjoy voting, it’s just that there’s a bit of a cost reward calculation going on.  Putting some big up-votes behind some talented journalists who aren’t afraid to put their neck on the line to expose those big truths… we could bring them to the mainstream.  We could make heroes out of them and remind ourselves of the ideals we should be striving for.  We could give journalism the home it deserves.

So where to start?  School news papers of course.  I\ve learned that when looking to the future, look to the kids.  Go to the high schools, universities and colleges, and show them how easy it is to move their school publication on to this platform.  Instead of having to run everything through the bureaucracy of a normal news paper or site, have your journalists operate independently.  Teachers might not be into it. Some parent’s might be concerned.  But that’s the point.  And the fun.  Have the conversations that they don’t want you to have.  Talk about the things that you’ve been told not to talk about.  Dig into the real.  And imagine how real that gets at a university paper.  And imagine the power of a platform like this taking hold at an academic level, and producing the fierce, confident, intelligent, rational journalists that are capable of providing us with an honest and accurate view of the world.

Wouldn’t that be something.

A Modern Marriage

I grew up wanting a high school sweetheart that I could marry and spend the rest of my life with.  Something about that seemed sensible and wholesome.  By the time I got to university, I was looking for brains and beauty.  I thought that if I set my standards super high, I’d be able to find a super awesome woman, and the rest would be easy enough to figure out.  As it turns out, compatibility and chemistry can be important, especially when I’m a bit of a basket case.

First girl I thought I’d marry laid out the ultimatum of 2 kids within 5 years, and working backwards meant that we were getting engaged in the coming year.  Considering that we had been together for less than a year, I couldn’t do it.  3 months after we broke up, she was engaged to another guy.  She’s still an awesome person and I hope that it all works out for her, but it was the first time I was really faced with the ridiculous concept of marriage.  Let me explain…

Marriage, as we know it, is a life-long commitment of a romantic relationship to another person.  Am I the only one who thinks that sounds absolutely crazy?

Maybe I need to back the truck up for a second.  With the exception of the last few years, I used to be a big romantic.  Flowers delivered at work, spontaneous cross-country surprises, breakfasts in bed, gifts from Tiffany’s… nothing made me happier than putting a huge smile on her face.  But just about all of my relationships lasted less than 6 months.  Once that initial stage of infatuation settled and the real dynamics of the relationship started to emerge, I would see issues.  Then I would try to solve these issues.  If I couldn’t solve them, I would try to put up with them.  Eventually, I would be disinterested or frustrated, and the relationship would end.  I can’t help but think that a big part of that is on me, but when I describe the situations to others, they usually agree that it just wasn’t the right fit.

Over the last few years, my time and my finances have been much tighter so I didn’t quite have the capacity to be the same happy-go-lucky romantic that I used to be.  Instead, I focused more on the inter-personal dynamics, trying to understand what it would take to build the foundation for something that would last forever.  What boxes would we need to tick over the next 2-4 years before we decided that this was what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives?  Physical chemistry was a must.  A deep friendship was a must.  An ability to work out our differences was a must.  Etc. Etc.  There was something that just wasn’t adding up though.

Back in my early 20s, I was watching this amateur comedian at a local bar… I think he was an English teacher.  He said that he had been with his girlfriend for about 20 years, but he still thought that marriage was a dubious proposition.  As he put it, he loved his girlfriend, enjoyed being with her, and wanted to keep being with her… and yet marriage still sounded like the most ridiculous proposition.  He went on to explain how marriage was first introduced when humans would barely live past 30.  That made sense.  Get married in your teens, have a few kids, and call it a night.  ‘Til death do us part is easy when you’re only going to last another 15-20 years.  When we’re expected to live into our 100s though…

Putting aside the idea that marriage was brought about in a manner that treated women like property, let’s just focus on what marriage today looks like.  I had this conversation with a friend’s girlfriend the other day.  I made the case that if our success rate for marriage was 50%, and that just about every couple enters into a marriage beaming with love, confidence, and hope, wouldn’t that suggest that we don’t have the capacity to pick life partners with accuracy or consistency?  She conceded.  But she protested, “What about the romance?”  There it is.

As with many things in life, I can’t help but think that a more logical approach would make for an emotionally healthier situation.  Her perspective on marriage was a little more traditional.  She thought that the grand gesture of marriage was romantic, and that committing yourself to someone for life was what helped you get through the rough patches.  There was something about taking that plunge into the unknown, together, that made it special.  I admire that.  But I also disagree with it.

My parents split when I was in my early teens.  Most of the families I grew up around were single parent households.  As an adult, personally and professionally, I’ve seen marriages breakdown.  There’s a yin and a yang to this dynamic.  All the optimism, hope, love and trust that usually exists during a wedding, is usually replaced by pessimism, hatred, and mistrust during a divorce.  When it comes to splitting the kids and the finances, things get downright ugly.

What about a prenup?  But that’s not very romantic.  The idea of getting married to someone is forever, and as soon as you introduce a prenup, you’re already planning for it not to be forever.  Well… if 50% of the time, it doesn’t last forever… what exactly is going on here?  If we took a more pragmatic approach to things, wouldn’t a prenup be standard protocol?  As I’ve often suggested to others, it’s best to make decisions about how to walk away when you still really love and want the best for each other.  It certainly beats figuring it out when all you care about is making the other person hurt as just much as you are.

So what’s the solution?  Glad you asked.

By no means will this be for everyone, but I can’t help but think I’m on to something with this.  First, you abandon the idea that marriage is forever.  If you’re 30 and plan on living to 100, appreciate the ridiculousness of being legally bound to someone else for the next 70 years.   If you want to make a commitment to that person, along with a grand gesture and a big party, you should go for it.  But maybe go for a 10 year commitment.  Say that for the next 10 years of my life, through thick and through thin, I want to be by your side.  If after 10 years, things are going great, extend that agreement.

If you’re planning on kids, and this is key, it should be a 20 year contract.  Parents really should do everything they can to keep their personal differences from disrupting the formative years of their children.  With a 20 year contract, it helps to emphasize that.  Not only are you making a commitment to that other person, you’re making a commitment to the kids.  You’re signing up for a team effort in raising the best damn offspring you can manage.  If you’re ready for a new phase of your life after your kids have moved out or are off to college, that’s cool.

The purpose of the contracts, agreements, or whatever euphemism you’d like to use, isn’t about putting a time limit on the relationship, but rather a minimum commitment.  It’s about understanding and accepting the knowns and unknowns that come with a decisin like this.   You can do your best to map out what the coming years look like personally and professionally.  You can set out who will contribute what.  You can make decisions about what happens with the finances if the marriage dissolves early, or if you reach the end of your agreement and want to go your separate ways.  It like a built-in prenup and I can’t emphasize enough the power of addressing this stuf when you still like each other.  The other things that you can tackle in here are things like infidelity or other deal breakers.  No landmines.  It’s really about building a long-term relationship on a stable foundation instead of unstable emotions and hoping for the best.

The next piece, and I’m a big fan of this, is screw taking anyone’s last name.  For the longest time, I was big on carrying my family name forward.  I can only see what I see today because I stand on the shoulders of giants.  What my dad did for me and my family will always be appreciated and will never be forgotten.  What his mom did for him, and so on and so forth.  I thought that carrying my family name forward would be the best way to honor them.  It’s bullshit.  The best way I can honor them is by taking everything that they’ve given me, and doing my best to make the world a better place.  The idea of a woman having to take a man’s last name, while a noble gesture, is rather silly.  The guy taking the girl’s last name is just as silly.  Hyphenating the name works for one generation, but what happens when that person wants to get married to another person with a hyphenated name?  Silly.  So what do you do?  Come up with your own last name!  Seriously.  I can’t be the only one excited about the idea of brainstorming with my significant other about our new last name.  You can come up with something that’s meaningful to both of you, sounds good with both of your names, and something that your kid can identify with.  You might as well come up with a new family crest while your at it.  Seriously, the more I think about this, the more it makes sense.  I think this would do a lot of good, on many levels.

Part 3, ditch the traditional wedding.  The idea of making everyone sit through a ceremony that we’ve all seen before, on uncomfortable church pews, in our best clothes, while we judge the parents who brought the crying baby… just doesn’t make much sense.  What makes even less sense is spending tens of thousands of dollars on hundreds of guests, at an overly fancy venue, with overly fancy food, all at a fat wedding mark-up.  Not cool.  You found someone that you wanna be with so bad that it’s worth throwing a party?  It’s a celebration bitches!  Treat it as such.  Throw the kinda party that you and your friends would love to go to.  Stop putting on this masquerade in the name of tradition.

Finally, and perhaps this speaks to some of my other motivations here… fuck the ring (pardon all this foul language).  Coming from a guy who’s spent thousands at Tiffany’s, I couldn’t be more confident in this statement.  For anyone who hasn’t looked up the history of the diamond wedding ring, it has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with marketing.  As someone with a business background, I can’t help but appreciate how effectively they were able to build an industry around the idea that the bigger the diamond, the more he loves you.  As a human being, I can’t help but be frustrated and annoyed that we’ve been this ignorant for this long.  What I do appreciate about the ring though is that it’s a marker that one wears proudly as if to say “I’m taken, and it’s awesome”.  I can get on board with that.  Does it have to be a ring?  Probably not, but that’s what we’re used to looking for so… maybe it does.  Either way, it definitely doesn’t have to be a diamond and that’s where things start to get fun again.  I used to be big on man made diamonds.  The girl could get a giant diamond, I wouldn’t have to spend much, and I would get the satisfaction of knowing I outsmarted the jewelry industry.  But why not explore a bit?  If you decide on a diamond for personal reasons, then go for it.  If you choose a different type of precious stone, or no stone at all, go for it.  Personally speaking, I’d love to have something cool like titanium carbide or maybe something made from tungsten.  Whatever it was, it would be designed specifically with us in mind.  Because when I look at the ring, it should be us that I have in mind.

We’re in an age where tradition is disappearing to make way for better ideas.  I reject the idea that being romantic means making poor life choices.  I reject the idea that a wedding is about anything other than celebrating their love.  And I reject the idea that marriage is anything more than a commitment where two people who love each other enough to consider a distant future where they’re still together.  I embrace the idea that this is 2018 and that it’s about time that marriage caught up to who we really are.