Back from the Depths

Back in December, I decided that enough was enough.  I had spent so much time in a holding pattern with the important parts of my life… waiting for key events to launch me back into the state of mind I enjoyed most.  I knew it wasn’t the best approach I could take, but I was smoking so much weed that I lacked the motivation to break that routine.  Until I started thinking more about Max.

Max was an ex-girlfriend from a few years ago.  We broke up because she was consumed with the idea of leaving a city she had never left and having a chance to explore a world she had never seen.  I’m glad I didn’t try to hold her back from that.

Last year, my whole world came crashing down and I was fortunate enough to have the time and space to reflect on all that had led up to that moment.  For me to understand all that had happened, I needed to be able to see through the noise.  The noise of the outside world, the noise of those who knew me, and even the noise of what I would tell myself.  To truly understand all that had happened, I had to prioritize the truth above all else.  What I found, opened my eyes in a way they had never been opened.

It was through that experience, that I learned to see Max in a much different light.  I thought I had always respected and appreciated her… but I’m not so sure anymore.  At least not in the way it mattered.  Back then, it was about what she meant to me.  Now it has much less to do with me, and much more to do with having a deeper understanding of who she was, and just being in awe of it.

One of the most important things I had learned about myself last year was that I needed to stop trying to force things into reality.  In many ways, it feels like I’ve spent most of my life swimming against the current.  When things got easy, I’d find ways to make them hard.  Many of my life’s accomplishments have been defined by fighting for every inch.  I think there’s a time and a place to fight for what you love, but I have no interest in living a life defined by conflict.  Nor do I have any interest in living a life defined by milestones, or accomplishments, or any other tangible metric.  I realized I wanted to live my life honestly, fearlessly, and with an open mind… and let the universe handle the rest.  And that’s when I couldn’t get Max out of my mind.  She lived by those virtues more so than anyone I’ve ever known.  In some sense, she had become my north star.

I couldn’t help but ask myself, what if we had another shot?  The first thing that came to mind was that I didn’t deserve it.  It was nice that I had gained a deeper appreciation for who she was, but I’d be embarrassed to reintroduce her to the rest of me.  Enough was enough.

I decided that even if it didn’t end up being her, she had set the bar.  For me to be with someone like her, I needed to be… better.  So I stopped smoking weed.  Started training twice a day, 6 days a week.  Started reading a lot more.  Started writing a lot more.  I was still in a holding pattern with my career, but I was determined to break that holding pattern for everything else.  It felt awesome.  So I decided to send her a note.  It was a YouTube video, on Christmas day, apologizing for my mid-steps and thanking her for all that she had inspired.

I didn’t send it expecting a response, but I knew it was likely.  It arrived about a month later and it left me with mixed emotions.  She was surprised, but happy to hear from me.   She said some kind things and then asked if I was up for a call, hoping we could have a real conversation.  I responded later that day saying I would be happy to make the time.  Then radio silence.

A week later, I separated my shoulder playing basketball.  The pain was pretty bad for the first week, enough to keep me from sleeping.  So back to cannabis I went.  Still nothing from Max.

A week after that, Facebook reminded me that it was an old fling’s birthday.  We’ll call her Mia.  I sent her a cake emoji, she sent me a cheers emoji, and we started texting for a bit.  We were both big into superhero movies so I asked if she wanted to go see Black Panther.  She was all for it.  Neither of us had been on a date in a year so we figured maybe this was what we both needed.  There was certainly a part of me that thought if I was going on a real date with a real girl, it would be easier to understand that Max probably wasn’t a real option.  Or maybe I was just hedging my bets on what was looking more and more like a disinterested Max.

Then Mia flaked out and went radio silent.  It’s why we stopped dating the first time, so I was tempted to write her off again.  Instead, I told her no hard feelings, that I hoped she was ok, and that if she ever wanted to let me in, I was curious to know why she was like this from time to time.   She apologized, said she wasn’t trying to be flaky but it was a combination of being really busy and a little awkward around me.  I asked her what she thought I should do.  She asked why I wanted to reconnect, so I told her.  She was into it, said we should probably catch up, and conceded with a smile that this was the original plan.

At this point I still hadn’t heard from Max, and I think my first reaction was being annoyed.  But I’m better than that.  Even if it had been a month, I knew she was likely busy, and I needed to be ok with not being a priority.  But I couldn’t help but reach out, so I asked what was on her mind.

She responded shortly after, saying that she was dealing with a few things and then offered up a rather disheartening email.  Knowing that she still cared about me and always being honest, she told me what she really thought about the video I had sent her.  In the video, I told her that I was on a new path, and that she was the only one who I knew who had the courage and ability to walk that path beside me and not behind me.  I was alluding to a path defined by the journey, not the destination.  A path defined by a compass of honesty, fearlessness, and open-mindedness, not milestones like income or assets.  It was a path I thought she was already on.  She took it as me thinking of her as an accessory to a path which I was taking.  It was frustrating to be misunderstood like that.  But I had to appreciate that her idea of who I was, was largely influenced by the person I was when we dated.  And maybe I was a bigger ass than I realized.

Truth is, as frustrating as that email was, it let me know that she was still exactly who I hoped she was.  She was brutally honest.  Talked about how what she wanted in a partner was a true equal.  Said that she could still see growth in me and was really happy for how far I had come.  She also apologized for taking so long to reply, but said it was a tough email to write because of how much she cared for me.  She wrapped up by saying that she was about to spend the next 10 days in Sri Lanka with some free time if I wanted to chat.

A couple more emails went back and forth and things were positive.  I could tell that she was trying to balance a few different thoughts and emotions, on top of all that she was dealing with in her in life.  If I were to guess what those thoughts and emotions were, I’d guess a lingering sense of disappointment from letting her down in our relationship, a healthy skepticism of where this was all coming from, and a genuine interest in my well-being.  She gave me her new number and suggested we chat on whatsapp.  So I did and we did.

Within the first few messages, I told her that I still wanted to respond to her last email.  She was still making assumptions based on who I was, and I was so eager to show her who I had become.  She welcomed the email, but didn’t respond to it.  What is it with people and radio silence?  Is it a girl thing?  A dating thing?  A me thing?  Am I still unreasonable today?  These are the kinds of things that drive me a little nutty, but I choose to react sensibly.  I took a night off cannabis earlier this week and went into full insomnia mode.  I couldn’t help but think of the situation.  I thought that perhaps it was unfair of me to put this on her at a time in her life where she had other things which were more important to focus on.  All I wanted was for her to understand what had happened to me and appreciate what it meant to the hypothetical ‘us’.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.  But just because that was important to me, doesn’t mean it had to be important to her.  So I grabbed my phone and decided to send her a message that would basically say no hard feelings, I know you have a lot going on, and if you ever feel compelled, here’s a link to my blog.  The hope was that when she was ready, she’d see the journey I took, and see the steps that I’ve taken to arrive at who I am today.  She’s also see my ENTJ Love Story which is one of my life’s most honest moments, and all about her.  Instead I accidentally hit the call button.

I hit the hang-up button like I was button mashing a Mario Party game but to no avail. The call never went through, but she noticed and asked what’s up?  I was a little tongue-tied.  It was difficult to express myself in short text messages, when she was still making so many assumptions about who I am, based on who I was.  We texted until about 4am, but most of that was me deleting and rewriting messages, desperate not to be misunderstood.

She told me that her stance on us was that she wasn’t in the right mindset to be thinking about it since she didn’t have a clue which city she’d be living in once she graduated.  I told her it might be an interesting conversation to have, but not one that I was ready for either.  Truth is, I still have more ground that I need to cover before I would consider myself ready to be in that caliber of a relationship.  What I did want to know is that if the path that I was on was aligned with hers.

When we broke up, we each recognized that we had things that we needed to work on.  And if we did, we could come back to each other and our relationship would be that much stronger.  At the time, I didn’t realize how much of that work was mine to be had, nor did I realize that it would end up being me that would be more compatible to who she was, and not her who would become more compatible to who I was.  But I didn’t know for sure, because all I had to work with was my memory of who she was.

She said it was tough to talk about because she would think about how we were before and it was like she was talking to a whole new person.  I breathed a sigh of relief… she was finally seeing what I was trying to show her.  Then she told me that one of our biggest issues was how dominant I was.  No one had ever described me as dominant in a relationship before, but it was easy to understand why.  I’m happy she said it.  She went on to say that I would push my point of view rather aggressively, and wasn’t the best at taking the time to reflect on my stance.  She was right.  But then she said that it seemed like I was doing that now… and my heart sank.

I conceded that I had issues.  Give me a woman who follows my lead and I get bored.  Give me a woman who challenges me and I compete to win.  Her emails reminded me of these issues, but they also reminded me of how far I had come.  I told her I hoped she’d have a chance to get to know this person, because she played a very real role in where I am now.  She said that she was happy, but was concerned that it didn’t happen until years later.  I responded by saying that I wasn’t in the right state of mind to learn these things when we dated.  I was consumed with becoming what I thought the world expected of me, not taking the time to figure out who I really was and what I had to offer to the world.  She said she was proud, and it sounded like I was on the right track.

And that was it.  We have no future plans to talk.  I have no interest in taking up any more of her time.  I don’t think she’s all that interested in putting thought into this either… but I know I’ve planted a seed.  What I wanted most was to know if any of what I thought or felt was real.  But once I did, I cared too much to do nothing, and knew better than to chase after her.  So I planted a seed.  I haven’t a clue what happens next.  I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me thinking about booking a ticket to her grad ceremony but I’m not sure if it’ll be a sign of stalking, support, or a grand gesture of romance.  Especially since my intentions are probably a combination of all three.  But then the pragmatic side of me says there’s at least a 50/50 chance that it goes horribly wrong.  But then the romantic says 50/50 are great odds when you’re talking about something this meaningful.

All I know is that having a chance to reconnect with her and put this out there has left me with a sense of peace.  The rest of my life still feels like the eye of the storm, but at least here, I’ve made progress.

I Used to be a Nice Guy.

As a kid, I think I was probably a handful.  But in general, a good kid.  It’s interesting because you might expect that a good kid would grow into a nice guy, and a nice guy would end up with a good girl and everything would work out. Somewhere along the way though, nice guys became not so nice.

I always had a close circle of guy friends, but back in early high school, I started hanging out with the ladies as well.  I genuinely respected and appreciated them as friends, but there would usually be at least one girl in the group I was crushing on.  As a kid, I really wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.  All I really knew is that if I spent time around them, I could probably make some progress.  I’d eat lunch with them.  Talk with them on the phone.   Help them with their homework. Help them with their guy problems…  And I literally got friend-zoned every time.

In grade 11, I met my first girlfriend.  We met at a driving school and I’m pretty sure she had both hands on the steering wheel.  I was lucky because she clearly knew what she was doing and didn’t mind that I was just along for the ride.  It only lasted a few months but at least I figured out how to kiss a girl.  My grade 12 girlfriend was about the same.

I could’ve very easily graduated high school a virgin.  Probably would’ve had I not been easy prey for a pair of girls who weren’t afraid to go after what they wanted.  Instead, I had a couple relationships under my belt and was ready for university.  I remember during orientation week, seeing a girl in my dorm who had the face of an angel, the body of a goddess, and the personality of a cartoon character.  We’ll call her Grace.  She was pretty awesome, and we started hanging out.  Just when I thought I may have been making some progress, she detoured towards an upperclassman.  Not only was the guy a legit womanizer, his personality was mostly cardboard.  It was extremely frustrating for me because I was athletic, I was academic, she and I got along really well, her friends liked me, her family liked me, and I was a nice guy.  Yet she ignored my interest to chase after a guy who literally treated her like an after thought unless he was trying to get laid.

Towards the end of my first year, I started dating our dorm’s resident busty blonde.  There was one point at which she came back to the dorm with another upperclassman, looking a little flustered.  I was a little suspicious.  He was the type to take advantage of a situation like that and she was probably the type to be into it.  We did a little long distance over the summer, where she cheated on me again with her ex back home.  As revenge, I strung her along until she thought things were good, then I broke up with her.  Effective revenge, but a complete dick move on my part.

Ironically, Grace started reaching out to me that summer, telling me about how I was the one she should’ve gone after.  To make matters more confusing, she had just gotten into a relationship with a childhood friend from back home, and the guy was actually treating her well.  She ended up sleeping with him, and then he ended up sleeping with her best friend, who happened to be a gay guy.  As entertaining as that was for me, I felt a little bad for her.

When we got back to school for our second year, everyone was back to being single.  I had been thinking about Grace a fair bit so I told her.  She didn’t have much of a response.  We went out to the big dance in the first week and within the first few dances, she was all up on another guy, so I decided to get all up on another girl.  We were mutually upset at each other’s behavior, and that seemed to undermine any possible momentum we may have had.  From there, she started pursuing a buddy of mine.  This guy was also a dick.  He was easy enough to get along with as a guy, but he also treated her like an after thought.  The more she wanted him, the more he didn’t want her.  I think they slept together a few times, but he had no interest in a relationship.  By the end of the second year, she was dating another buddy of mine who I shared a wall with.  He was much less of a dick, but also the kinda guy who partied way too hard to make it into his second year.

WTF was going on?  What did these guys have that I didn’t? In my head, I would go through the qualities that I had learned women respected:  Physically fit, good hygiene, doing well in school, good circle of friends, social status, respected women, polite, gentlemanly… what else was there?  Leaving university after my second year, I had concluded that women were more attracted and more responsive to men who treated them poorly than men who treated them well.  I knew that I didn’t completely understand the dynamic, but I was fully ready to give up on being the nice guy who was doomed to live out his days in the dreaded friend-zone.

When I got back home from university that summer, I really wasn’t focused on girls.  I was focused on being bad.  Money for school had run out and because of a few other issues between me and the university, they really didn’t want me back.  So I didn’t go.  Instead, I started doing the kinda things that bad boys do.  I spent the next 18 months with ‘the wrong crowd’, doing the kinds of things that people go to jail for.  My inner-circle knew what I was up to but for everyone else, I would just tell them, “don’t worry about it.”  And it worked surprisingly well.

I still wasn’t the type to chase after women, but I started noticing that girls were into me.  Girls who would’ve friend zoned me before were now interested.  My plan was working.

I didn’t even have a clearly defined plan.  All I knew is that when I was a ‘nice guy’, women weren’t interested in me.  When I wasn’t a ‘nice guy’, I was much more attractive.  I gave that a lot of thought.  Maybe the nice guy was too vanilla?  But then it occurred to me that for the most part, nice guys were harmless.  And harmless was unattractive.  There was a lot more to it than that, but maybe I was on to something.

When I got back to university to complete my degree, I proceeded to date 3 of what were probably the most eligible females on campus.  I thought the first was probably a fluke, right place at the right time.  By the third, I knew something was different from my first two years at the school.  I had manifested into the mysterious, hardened, conflicted, complicated guy who still managed to have a bright future, great friends, and a good heart.  Girls were totally into that guy.  I have to admit, it was a lot easier trying to figure things out as that guy than as the guy who could only watch from the sidelines.

When I graduated and came home, I started training in MMA 6 days a week.  I had watched a ton of it on TV and wanted to start competing ASAP.  Within months, I had added a new dimension to my personality.  I now knew that if I ended up in a physical confrontation with another person, there was a very good chance that I would come out on top.  I can’t stress how impactful that state of mind has been on every element of my life.  I spent the first half of my life avoiding violence, fearing that I wouldn’t know how to handle it.  I’ve spent the second half of my life avoiding violence, because I know how to handle it.  The confidence that comes from that state of mind was the final step in building myself into the ‘perfect guy’.

With all the information that I had collected in the first 25 years of my life, I had what I thought was a pretty good idea of what women wanted.  They wanted a guy who’s nice to them, but not to everyone.  They wanted a guy who’s good, but is capable of being bad.  They wanted a guy who can fight, but isn’t violent.  It was like they wanted someone who was a threat, but not a threat to them.  So I literally became the university educated, former bad boy, MMA fighter, investment advisor, who was complicated but with a good heart and a bright future guy.

It would be an exaggeration to say that at this point, I got every girl I pursued, but not by much.  I’ve never been the type for one night stands or picking up girls at a bar so that’s not what I’m talking about.  All I’m saying is that I haven’t been put in the friend zone since.

So how has that worked out for my dating life?  Am I happier?

For a while, it was nice.  Tinder worked like a charm.  Ironically though, the last time I used it was when I landed what many men would think was the holy grail of dating.  I ended up going on a date with a girl who had blonde hair and blue eyes, who looked like a porn-star, worked as a model, and on our second date, tried to bring another girl back to my place.  The second girl she brought back was way too drunk so I took her home, came back, and did the deed.   And felt so gross.  I literally had zero interest in who she was and I’m not the kind of person who looks to date or sleep with someone I’m not interested in.

It was like I had climbed this mountain of self-improvement, so that women would pay more attention to me, only to to realize that the person I had turned myself into was finally capable of landing the kind of woman I had no interest in.  Well then.

That was about 3 years ago.  I’ve had time to reflect.  With the rise of r/niceguys, I’ve thought a fair bit about the path I’ve taken.

The first thing that I had to face was that I spent most of my adolescent and adult life trying to become the kind of guy that girls would be interested in.  When I was young, I modeled so much of my behavior after prince charming.  The good guy, the hero, the gentleman, the nice guy.  That earned me as many female friends as I wanted, but no real relationships.  The girls I did date either got disinterested or cheated on me.  Once I realized being nice didn’t work, I modeled myself after the reformed gangster.  The bad boy, the outlaw, the guy who had seen some shit but didn’t wanna talk about it, and the guy who did bad but now chose to do good.  That earned me as many dates as I wanted, but again, no real relationships.  I was a fixer-upper that women were keen to get to work on, but I had no interest in being fixed.

There’s a dynamic here worth exploring.

There seems to be this cat and mouse game going on between men and women.  But who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?  As much as personal preference came into play, there would always be a few guys that almost all the girls were into.  There were also more than  a few guys who almost all the girls were never into.  To some degree, there was a male hierarchy, that was determined by female preferences in dating.  It was the alpha males and the beta males.


In an age where people are talking about women needing to be more powerful, I can’t help but think this is a dynamic we’ve yet to really appreciate.  Men, in their formative years, model so much of their behavior after what they think will give them the best chance of being with a woman.

As with most major issues in the world, I can’t help but think that this would be easily solved with the use of blatant honesty.  I think a good starting point would be for women to be completely honest about what they find attractive, and communicate how that changes over the course of their lives.  I suspect that most girls grow up thinking that they want a prince charming but as they start to grow into women, they start to realize that life’s a little more complicated than the fairy tales they grew up with.  Turns out that prince charming doesn’t actually exist, and even if he did… meh.  At this point, it becomes an exercise in women exploring what they do want.  It can be tough to be honest about this though.  Especially when you’re trying to maintain an image of innocence, sexual exclusivity, or any other quality that women tend to assume they should be projecting.  It’s not honest though, and it’s confusing the hell out of the guys.

Men aren’t off the hook.  Not even close.  Maybe, in a roundabout way, women facilitated the creation of the ‘nice guy’.  But seriously, how about we don’t play the victim here?  The modern ‘nice guy’ is no longer defined by being a good person.  He’s now defined by the pain and frustration that comes with years of rejection.  And perhaps a mistrust of women, betrayed by the nice guy philosophy which he was convinced would lead to that elusive girlfriend and social acceptance.  I understand where those emotions come from… I’ve experienced that same frustration… but get over it.

If you had focused on you, focused on becoming an interesting and accomplished individual with the patience to wait for the right woman to come along, you probably would’ve been fine.  Instead, you tried to become who you thought women wanted you to be.  You got it wrong.  You thought they just wanted someone who treats them well.  They want more.  A lot more.  They want someone they feel safe around, they want someone who can make them laugh, they want someone who can make them think, someone who can introduce them to new things, someone they can introduce to new things, someone who will truly understand and support who they are.  And etc., and etc.  Not to mention, they want to feel that physical chemistry.  If all you got is nice, it’s not enough.  If all you’ve got is nice, you haven’t earned shit.  Even when a girl says all she wants is a nice guy, they’re still not talking about you.  Until you’ve figured out who you are, found your reason for wanting to be a good human being, and are no longer projecting your issues onto others, you’re not ready for dating.

So what happens when you figure out that women aren’t really looking for just another nice guy?  Well I’m not sure if it’s the default, but a lot of nice guys are becoming assholes, thinking, “shit, well if I’m gonna get rejected, I might as well be an ass about it.”  And maybe there’s this sense of karma where you’re thinking, “You want to date a jerk?  I’ll show you a jerk!”  All that’s really happened though, is you went from the uninteresting nice guy, to the uninteresting asshole.  Or, maybe you were always an ass, but thought that being a nice was going to sweep her off her feet.  Stop it.  It’s not working.  It’s never worked.  It’s unlikely to ever work in your lifetime.  Focus on being a good person, through and through, and move on with your life.  That was my saving grace.  I was always more interested in being a good person than being a boyfriend.  While I was able to play the role of the disinterested bad boy, I think it’s unlikely that the girls I dated would’ve stuck around for as long as they did if there wasn’t more to it.

Thinking back on it all now, had I focused on being the best version of myself, it may have led to fewer relationships, but it probably would’ve led to more meaningful relationships.  Healthier relationships.  The kind of relationships which weren’t, in-part, defined by trying to be what I thought someone else wanted me to be, when in reality, nobody really understood any of  what was going on.

How Many Innocent Lives is a Police Officer Worth?

This is a very real question that we’ll have to try to answer in the near future.

Growing up, I had assumed zero.  I guess I was wrong.

I don’t like quoting stats because highlighting a single data point within a pattern can be misleading.  But 66 unarmed people were killed by the US police last year.  Up from 48 the year before.  I don’t know all of their stories.  I haven’t seen all the body cam footage.  But from what I have seen, something desperately needs to change.

I’ve known about the darker places of the internet for a long time.  I’ve watched the Yakuza chop fingers off, I’ve watched public beheadings in the middle east, I’ve seen military executions, and I even watched a Boeing exec get fucked to death by a horse.  I know what’s out there, but I don’t gravitate towards it.  When I watch, I see moments of weakness.  Moments of confusion.  Moments of darkness.  They inform, but they don’t inspire.  This year, I watched more footage of people being killed than any other year, and most of that was body cam footage from police officers.

I don’t watch them expecting to make excuses for the police or the people they’re pointing guns at.  I recognize that for all parties involved, it’s probably the most stressful moment of their entire lives and  people don’t always perform well under pressure.  What I try to do is understand what exactly is happening and how we could’ve avoided the loss of an innocent life.

In each video that I’ve seen, the person who was shot ‘reached’ for something.  Sometimes it was the waistband, sometimes the back pocket, but in every case, there was a motion that suggested to the police officer that they were drawing a concealed weapon.  That’s the moment where the officer went from pointing a weapon to taking an innocent life.  I think that’s a moment worth exploring.

I’ve never faced a situation like that before.  Perhaps it’s like pointing a rifle at a bear that’s getting closer and closer.  You don’t want to kill the bear, but you know that if the bear notices you, it’ll likely charge, and you’re unlikely to survive.  I always warn against making decisions out of fear.  It tends to use the least intelligent parts of the brain.  And I don’t think that analogy holds up anyways.  You can’t have a dialogue with a bear.  You don’t already have the bear in a position of submission.  You don’t have the other tools necessary to de-escalate the situation.  If that’s your state of mind in these situations, then they never should’ve let you out of basic training.  But that’s not what I’m seeing when I’m watching these videos.

I’m seeing people who lack the emotional stability to carry firearms.  I’m seeing people who have yet to grasp the value of a human life.  I’m seeing people grappling with their own issues while pointing a gun at another human being.  I’m seeing the fear that comes with a society who thinks everyone should be armed with deadly force.  I’m seeing a bad problem made worse with military grade weaponry.  I’m seeing a failure of training.  I see a corrupt organizational culture.  Worst of all, I see a problem that could be easily solved and that the police don’t seem motivated to fix.

All officers should be supported with an extensive psychological health program.  That starts with a screening process designed to keep the trigger-happy cosplay-commandos out.  Then it continues with ongoing evaluations and therapy.  We need to accept that the damage officers take out there isn’t just physical.  Rather than putting them through the shit and expecting them to sort things out on their own, we need to give them the tools and support necessary for them to stay healthy, inside and out.  If an officer watches his partner get lit up, or is first on the scene to something you think you’d only see in a Rob Zombie movie, we need to be there for them.  If that’s not something they can come back from, help them find something else.  And this all needs to be done by a third party which doesn’t have to answer to the politics of law enforcement.

The failure of training seems to be the one that everyone agrees on, including the police.  But it doesn’t seem to be working.  Perhaps I can make a few suggestions.  Don’t escalate the situation to the point where the person is so scared that they lose the ability to think rationally.  Don’t ask them to do something that might make them reach for something, when you’re going to assume that what they’re reaching for is a weapon.  I’d like to put that all under humanity 101 but here’s the real change I’d like to see:  If there are multiple officers targeting the same suspect, all with weapons-hot, wait until you can see an actual weapon.  You’re right, it’s only a split second between seeing the weapon and being shot at, but you should be trained to make that split second decision properly.

Mistakes will still be made.  Waiting until you see the weapon might mean a few extra dead officers.  But it’ll also mean that just about every single unarmed civilian who was murdered by a police officer this year would still be alive.  That’s the trade off.  A few brave souls who put their lives on the line so that the innocent may live in peace.  That’s what you signed up for.  That is your glory.  That is your honor.  Own it.  That is the proud and noble history of law enforcement.  What we’re seeing now is gang violence.

But that’s not going to change anytime soon.  Especially with the commander and chief excited about deploying more military grade equipment into local municipalities.  I can’t help but think that the general anxiety that the country is experiencing plays into this as well.  Protests, riots, terrorism, political instability, cultural divisions… maybe everyone is a little on edge.  There’s gotta be something else we can do.

I often say that if both people are looking for something reasonable, compromise is just a lack of imagination.  I think this qualifies.  Police officers would like to not be shot by a suspect who may or may not have a concealed weapon.  Suspects who are trying to comply, would like to not be shot whether or not they have a concealed weapon on them.  Police officers would like to not be at risk of being assaulted by a weapon as they try to place a suspect into custody.  Suspects who are trying to comply would like to not be shot by an officer while being placed into custody.  There’s always that risk that as soon as an officer takes his finger off the trigger, things go sideways.  There’s always a chance that when the suspect makes an unexpected movement, things go sideways.  So we need a way for officers to subdue suspects, without having to close the distance or take the finger off the trigger.  Tranquilizer darts.

I’m not going to bother looking up what’s on the market right now that might work because I think that if this was going to be deployed, it would have to be a custom job.  You’d need a compound that worked quickly, effectively, and left no side-effects.  When you approach the scene, and you can’t determine whether or not the person has a weapon?  Tell them that.  Tell them to go belly down with their arms where you can see them, and that you’re gonna shoot them with a tranquilizer dart.  When they wake up, they’ll be in cuffs in the back of a squad car and everyone can figure out what happened.  Crazy junkie on bath salts?  Tranq dart.  Guy pulls a knife from 20 feet away?  Tranq dart.  In just about every scenario short of someone firing live rounds at you, tranq dart.

The other solution that’s crossed my mind is gender equality.  The ratio of male to female officers in American law-enforcement is about 9:1.  I can’t help but wonder if the boys in blue would be a little less trigger happy if there were a few more girls around.  But women aren’t as big and strong as men, and etc., etc.  True, but are we so sure that size and strength are the most important qualities of a law enforcement officer?  Maybe thinking that size and strength are the most important qualities is an issue unto itself.  If we saw a 1:1 ratio of men to women in law-enforcement, I can’t help but think that the police would see a dramatic improvement across the board.  Reduced discrimination, reduced police brutality, and fewer shootings of unarmed civilians to start.  Right now, I see police walking the streets like the foot soldiers of law-enforcement.   In some of the uglier scenarios, they look like gang members protecting the turf of the police state.  I can’t help but think that if we encouraged gender equality within the police, they might just find their way back to protecting and serving.

Female Empowerment Vs. Equality

I grew up around feminists.  My mom, my sister, my sister-in-law… all very strong minded, outspoken, and ready to thrown down if you’ve crossed a line they think you shouldn’t have crossed.  Oddly enough, I didn’t find out that I was a feminist until university when I was teasing my friend about taking a women’s studies course.  He asked what my views on women were, so I told him that I thought men and women were equal.  He said that made me a feminist.  Oh? Sure, why not.

I’m now reflecting on why I didn’t understand feminism as a battle for equality when I was being raised by someone who considered herself to be a fierce feminist.  My mother spent a great deal of her life angry.  Angry at her father.  Angry at her brother.  Angry at my dad.  Angry at me.  There was also a lot of blame, and she placed very little of it on herself.  Men were the source of all her problems.  When I saw her brand of feminism, it wasn’t about raising women up, it was about putting men down.  It was about being hurt, being oppressed, and making sure that others knew about it.

Now I have a sister who thinks that a man is a rapist if a girl who has consented to  sex changes her mind mid-way, even if she doesn’t tell him to stop.  I also have a sister-in-law who condemned John Damore’s memo on social media, but said that she had done too much emotional labor around the topic to even discuss it.

I don’t think we’re still dealing with the pursuit of equality here.  This is about the empowerment of women, and those are two very different things.

I often joke around and say that men have had this coming for centuries and we’re just the unlucky bunch that have to deal with it, but sometimes it’s not a joke.  I’ve had women tell me more than a few times that because of what men have done around the world, and throughout history, women deserve to be more than equal.

More than equal.

Does that not suggest that women would be superior and men would be inferior?  Is that really the goal of feminism?  These dynamics have been interesting to observe because as I try to have these discussions and understand the rationale, I’ve found a lot of inconsistencies that demonstrate several different perspectives within feminism.  Some think that porn is the objectification and sexualization of the female body while others think that a women choosing to do porn is female empowerment.  Some feminists think that Caitlyn Jenner is a strong and beautiful woman, some think that she’s a shitty person.  When I see these inconsistencies, I try to focus on where everyone agrees and that usually illuminates what’s really connecting the movement.

When I think about this deeply, I see two separate movements: Female empowerment, and the pursuit of equality.

Female empowerment is defined by the collective hurt, frustration and powerlessness that women have been feeling for generations.  For them, powerlessness and inequality are the same problem.  To solve inequality, one must become more powerful.  With power comes the ability to right wrongs and protect those you care about.  It’s not the first time we’ve seen this dynamic in history and it’s probably not the last.  The problem with a virtuous  pursuit of power is that you start to think that any decision that makes you more powerful is a virtuous decision.  At that point, right and wrong no longer have any bearing.

The pursuit of equality has been my jam for most of my life.  It understands that there is a natural order to the universe and appreciates that we’ve just scratched the surface on understanding it.  It accepts that we’re all unique people with unique circumstances and this leads to the unique lives which we collectively call humanity.  If each of us lives a truly unique existence, then we should really only be judged on the merit of what’s in our soul.  In the pursuit of equality, eventually you understand that equality already exists, it’s simply our perspective on the matter which needs to change.

Perhaps I should be concerned.  There’s a lot of momentum behind female empowerment.  It’s especially interesting to hear men explain their affinity for it. Unfortunately, the problem with the pursuit of power over equality is that you’re more likely to end up with power than equality.  If the women of today are successful with that pursuit, what are they leaving for the next generation?  There’s a pendulum effect worth observing here.  If female empowerment leads to men being treated as the inferior sex, how long until male empowerment catches on?  If I was a feminist of today, that is not the future I’d be looking to create for my children.

The reason why I’m not concerned is because while fear is often louder, love is almost always stronger.  I suspect that while the majority of men and women today might not understand equality, they believe in it.  There’s something intrinsic about equality which resonates with people and it’s probably why we’ve been fighting for it throughout history.  Unfortunately, equality is the enemy of the powerful so the ruling class usually doesn’t take so well such things.  Fortunately for the rest of us, they’re on borrowed time.

A Brief on Spectral Thinking

I’m sure I’ll dive into this again at a later date as my understanding of it continues to grow but I wanted to unload some of these thoughts for now.

There seems to be a natural evolution of thought from binary, to categorical, to spectral.

You have men and you have women.  It’s one or the other.  Except for intersex.  So 3 categories and everyone fits into one of those 3.  Except there’s at least 9 distinct categories of intersex.  So 11 categories, and that’s it.  Except these traits are expressed differently in each individual so it’s as if everyone ultimately ends up in their own category and it’s way too complicated to have infinite categories so why not just a spectrum?

You’re either gay or you’re straight.  It’s one or the other.  Except for bi.  So 3 categories and everyone fits into….

You’re either smart or you’re not…

You’re either privileged or you’re not…

It’s either black or white…

You’re either good or bad…

So if spectral thinking is next level, what’s after that?  My guess is another axis.

Me Too?

I appreciate the perspective that I have on sexual harassment, not because I understand it, but because I am making progress in understanding it.

Back when I was working at the banks, we had a training program that they would send us out to Toronto for. By the third trip, our cohort had gotten to know each other and one night we were on the hotel rooftop having drinks. A bunch of us were standing in a circle and one of the ladies decided she would show some interest. She walked over to me, started whispering things in my ear, then started rubbing my chest, then her hand went in the shirt, then down the pants.. all while I kept up a conversation with the others in that circle. I was obviously getting a lot of looks, but I kept pulling her hand out my clothes, politely told her to settle down, and laughed it off. It took about 20 minutes, but she eventually moved on and took someone else back to her room.

This was 5 years ago and I want to share what I’ve learned. It was only recently that my experience occurred to me as an example of sexual assault because it didn’t feel like it.. and I think I know why.

Part of it is that I’m quicker to compassion than I am to fear or hurt. She had a husband and kids at home, but she was on a work trip, drunk, tying to bed a guy half her age in front of a small crowd of coworkers.. I knew she was probably going through a rough patch so I tried to handle the situation with dignity. I wanted her to be better off than when we met.

I genuinely think we could all use a little more compassion in our lives, but it’s important to understand that it was easy for me to arrive at compassion because I never lost power or control of that situation. I was twice her size. Even if she were twice my size, I wouldn’t be concerned that she could force herself on me. In my mind, I was safe from what she was trying to do, and it let me act with compassion.

Most women aren’t twice the size of the men in question. All that safety that I felt likely wouldn’t exist for a woman in that same situation. For many, I’d wager that safety becomes fear. As we continue to discover/understand what gender equality really means… physical stature and the physical safety that comes with it is still a very real inequality.

That doesn’t mean that we should feel bad for being men, but it is a reminder that as men, we need to step up.  If you have the power to harm, you probably also have the power to protect.  Imagine if instead of hearing about a high profile sexual harassment case once a week, we heard about how the men around that person stepped up and shut it down?  That’s a future I’m willing to help create.

Real Diversity

Google is a pretty big deal.  They hire cool people, they make cool stuff, and they’re arguably the world’s most valuable company.  I’ve been studying Google closely for over a decade and one of their most impressive assets has always been their organizational culture.

Recently, a Google engineer wrote a 10 page memo outlining his thoughts on diversity in tech.  Coverage of this memo made it to the front page of just about every major news feed and the  loudest commentary has been pretty one-sided… something to the effect of ‘how dare he?’

After I read the first article referencing the memo, I got the gist of what was going on.  A male employee said some things which suggested that men are better suited to work in tech than women.  Then I read a few of the comments after the article and got the gist of what was going on there too… men and women are equal in every way and to suggest otherwise is offensive, immoral, and shows a lack of empathy and understanding for the systematic oppression that white men have put on all other minorities since forever.


Recently, a well-known tennis legend suggested that Serena Williams was the greatest female player of all time.  Then he was asked why not the greatest of all time instead of the greatest female player of all time?  To which he responded by saying that she wouldn’t do nearly as well on the men’s circuit.  I thought that was a fair and accurate understanding of the situation and by no means diminished Serena’s legacy.  I think it’s also fair and reasonable that in order to claim the title of greatest tennis player ever, you’d have to be willing to compete against the best tennis players – regardless of their gender.

This all seemed pretty straight forward to me.  Men and women have evolved differently over the millennia and while women became better equipped to care for the family, men became better equipped for the role of hunting and gathering.  The evolutionary advantages which men have acquired tend to make us better athletes thus providing an inherent advantage when competing in sports.  If that’s true, is possible that other evolutionary differences exist between men and women?

One of my biggest struggles with romantic relationships when I was younger was that I expected the other person in the relationships to see and understand the world like I did.  Eventually I was given that book about women being from Venus and men being from Mars.  While I didn’t read it, hearing a few passages was enough to help me understand that men and women are wired differently and that it was important to keep those differences in mind.  While I think the most significant differences come down to the people themselves, the most consistent pattern I’ve seen in the difference between men and women is that men tend to lean towards logic while women tend to lean towards emotion.  If that’s true, wouldn’t men – on average – be better suited towards jobs that relied heavily on logic skills?

In the pursuit of understanding, I asked two of the most intelligent feminists I know about evolutionary adaptation giving men the abilities to do certain tasks better than women.  One said that she didn’t want to get into it because it was too much emotional labor.  The other was offended by the idea and then said that she was too reactive to have the conversation. Ironically, in the second instance a nearby cardiologist chimed in saying that she agreed with the evolutionary perspective but pointed out that there were always exceptions (like women being better open-water long-distance swimmers because of their fat distribution).

Back to the Google memo.   If you were just going to read headlines and comments, you’d think that this kid was a contributor at Breitbart and that his ‘anti-diversity manifesto’ was right-wing propaganda that was designed to prop up white privilege and repress visible minorities in tech.  None of material referenced in this articles actually showed that perspective and knowing that Google typically doesn’t hire right-wing nut jobs, I sensed a disconnect.  So I tracked down the original memo and read the whole thing.

It’s not that bad.  In fact, it’s kinda good.  The opening line is, “I value diversity and inclusion, I am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.”  There are several more points throughout the memo that provide the necessary context to understand that James Damore values diversity, and wants to see diversity in the workplace, but thinks that a diversity of the mind is more important than a diversity of the body.

In the pursuit of that point, he suggests that there are several reasons why we’re likely to see lower numbers of women in tech.  He acknowledges that there is a systematic oppression of women in tech, but says that this might only be part of the issue and that part of it might be evolutionary.  He goes on to reference several studies which compare personality traits between men and women, suggesting  – on average – women have higher levels of anxiety and don’t cope with stress as well as their male counterparts.  Ironically, I had actually reviewed many of these studies a couple weeks prior as I was exploring evolutionary differences as a result of the Serena Williams conversation.

Science itself is an evolutionary process and from what I’ve read so far, the scientific community has a consensus that men and women are wired differently.  Where it becomes more grey is in how that develops into aptitude.  I suspect that with the ground that women have covered in the last 100 years and recognizing that the female population in post secondary education now eclipses men, the next 50 years will look much different than the last 50 years.  If we do it right, both men and women will have the opportunity to choose the profession that they’re best equipped for – but I don’t think that means that every job will have a equal representation of men and women.

I think that equality is a core concept to any prosperous society but I do think that the populist understanding of equality needs to evolve.  Equality is about equal opportunity, not equal outcome.  In the world of equal outcome, everyone receives a PB&J sandwich for lunch.  In the world of equal opportunity, everyone is given an opportunity to make the sandwich they want to eat.

Everyone is born a little different and it is a life built on that deviation which truly makes us unique to the world.  Because we are unique, each of us has the ability to provide something to the world that no one else can and it is the delivery of this gift to the world which I think makes us truly happy.  I know that’s a bit abstract and maybe even a bit fluffy so on a more grounded level, we’re all a little different, we all have a unique aptitude, and deploying that aptitude in a manner that helps us get closer to our maximum utility is likely what will make us happy and fulfilled.  If that’s true, isn’t true equality giving everyone the opportunity to reach their own, unique maximum utility?  If tech is biologically better suited for men, reaching a 50/50 quota of men/women will mean women who would otherwise be better suited and happier doing other activities will work in tech and men who would be best suited for tech will have to work in another field because those spots have been taken.

As hard as it can be to make this connection for some, it always comes down to an equation of efficiency.  The most efficient course of action is to encourage people to pursue careers in fields which will help them reach their maximum utility.  That’s a career which would see them happiest, most fulfilled, and creating their greatest contributions to society.  A perfect society is one in which everyone operates at their maximum utility and I think that’s the ideal of equality that people are pursuing – many just haven’t figured out how to get there yet.

The last thing I’ll touch on here which may be the most important part of this conversation is the lack of conversation.  I think that what I’ve written here would suggest that I agree with James Damore’s assessment of women in tech.  I don’t.  I think that he references some valid information, I think that he makes some coherent points, and I think that he’s legitimately looking to advocate for an ideological diversity over a visible diversity because at the end of the day, it’s what’s on the inside that matters.  I also think that there are too many unknown variables to draw direct conclusions between evolutionary biology and aptitude for jobs that didn’t exist 25 years ago.  The social, cultural, academic, and systemic variables are key in understanding this dynamic and they’re changing faster than we’re currently able to understand them.

If understanding them is a priority for us, we need to invest in the discussions that will flush out the real questions and invest in the sciences that will give us that data to answer those real questions.  I don’t agree with James Damore, but I absolutely agree with how he presented his thoughts and it is a remarkable failure when our ability to challenge these ideas devolves into comments like ‘this doesn’t even warrant a response’, or ‘how dare he?’.  It shows a lack of understanding of the topic at hand, a fear of opposing ideologies, and reluctance to engage with someone who doesn’t agree with your perspective.  James Damore was fired from one of the most important companies in the world because he intelligently argued a perspective not shared by the majority of his peers.  In the pursuit of diversity, Google just took a major step towards preventing the diversity of ideas.