Truth & Reality, and why it matters (Part 3)

This marks my third attempt at trying to tackle a subject that I started over a month ago.  Part of me feels like it was a failure that I couldn’t do this in one try.  Another part of me feels a bit foolish for thinking I could create any semblance of a summary on the topic (regardless of attempts).  And yet another part of me appreciates that I took a crack at it and for having learned a few things along the way.

For over a month now, I’ve been asking myself why truth and reality matter.  I’ve been reading other peoples’ interpretations of the matter.  I’ve watched TED talks on it.  I’ve talked to friends about it.  And I’ve even revisited uncomfortable conversations where this was the theme.  I keep coming back to the same thing:

If truth and reality don’t matter, what does?

That’s the answer that popped immediately into my head the first time I asked it.  I thought it was a novel response, but also a bit of a cop out.  Answering a question with a question is always a bit cheeky and I was looking for something a bit more concrete anyways.  But I kept coming back to that.  Finally, I thought to explore that direction a bit further.  And as is usually the case, while in the shower, I made progress.

It comes down to this frustration of mine.  When people feel that we’re all entitled to our own truth and our own reality… that we don’t all share a truth and a reality… I lose the ability to connect with them.  The example that comes to mind first is talking to religious fundamentalists about the age of the earth.  The scientific consensus is 4.5 billion years old while various religious texts suggest only a few thousand years old.  If you were to approach one of these individuals and suggest that the earth might be much older than they believe, they might tell you that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  If you were to provide them with evidence which challenged their belief, they might respond by saying that god put that there to test their faith.  If you were to provide them with logic which challenged their belief, they might respond by saying god put you there to challenge their faith.  No matter what you might do or say, it only confirms their narrative.  Rather than continuing to try and understand the reality which we all live in, that person has committed to their tribe’s interpretation… one in which I struggle to find common ground.

I suspect this theme is well understood by those who work at mental health institutions with more extreme disorders.  When someone shares a reality with you, there’s an alignment.  With an alignment, things like communication, empathy, intuition, and chemistry are possible;  and can even become effortless.  When that alignment is absent.. I’m picturing a therapist trying to communicate with someone who has severe dementia.  They exist in two different worlds.  Both have a genuine belief that their world is real, but the two exist in vastly different interpretations of the same reality.

Without a shared reality, we lose the ability to connect with one another.  If we were chess pieces, reality would be our chess board.  If you’ve decided that you’re a checker, we’ve likely lost the ability to interact in a meaningful way.  And if too many people start to think they’re playing checkers, we lose the ability to play chess.  Chaos.

But how do we know we’re chess pieces and not checkers?  Isn’t it important to explore alternative explanations?  Is that not a primary purpose of freedom?

The hard truth is that we’ll probably never know for certain whether we’re playing chess or checkers.  The way in which our minds sense, interpret, and then hallucinate our realities, there always exists the potential that this is all a grand dream (or a simulation being run by advanced aliens).  And the hard truth we must accept is that this possibility will always exist and we must understand it to move forward.  Yes it’s a possibility, but one which has only ever existed in theory.  Everything we’ve ever observed would suggest that our reality is real.  Technically it is still an assumption, but it’s the assumption that all other assumptions are built on.  If we can’t agree on this, nothing else that we might agree on would have any basis in reality (because we couldn’t first agree on reality).

I often look at the universe through the lens of building blocks.  Matter has building blocks.  Math and physics have building blocks.  Even logic has building blocks.  When I’m thinking about connecting with old friends, things are seamless.  The building blocks of trust and familiarity are already there.  If I presented a new idea, it would be received fairly.  If the information was good and the logic was sound, my friends would look at that as an opportunity to learn and expand their understanding of the universe.  If it was bad information and faulty logic, they would make fun of me relentlessly.  Either way, this requires us to understand that we all live in our own interpretation of a shared reality.  What truly exists in my reality also exists in theirs and vice versa.  None of our interpretations are entirely accurate or complete, but some interpretations are more accurate and more complete than others.

If I were to try and have a conversation with strangers in which I was challenging their beliefs, one would hope that we would still agree on the basics.  Basics like the laws of physics, the value of logic, and that we all exist within a shared reality.  I would go so far as to say that if we all had a deep understanding of each, we’d be far more constructive in resolving conflicts and learning about the world around us.  Unfortunately, that’s not often the case.  Instead, I’ve found that people prefer to maintain their beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence or reason.  And that’s where you start migrating away from the reality which we all exist in and start to build walls around the interpretation of reality you’ve created for yourself.  While potentially harmless at times, I can’t help but think that this, as a way of life, is deeply counter-productive to humanity’s goals.

 

I think I’ve made a case for why reality matters, but truth isn’t necessarily the same thing.  I’ve been grappling with the difference between a true statement and a universal truth.  Coming up with definitions we can all agree on is important to conversations like these.. otherwise we’re using the same words but talking about different things.  It’s important to have that common ground.  While there are nuanced differences between a universal truth and a true statement, I think that from the right perspective, they’re both the same.

A true statement would be something to the effect of looking down at your shoes, seeing red shoes, and then saying that you are wearing red shoes.  But what if your shoes weren’t red?  What if you had a genetic variance that caused you to see your green shoes as red?  You would see red, meaning that it was a true statement.  But if everyone else saw green, are the shoes not green?  I think this is the nuance between a true statement and a universal truth.  A true statement is an honest recollection of your interpretation of our shared reality while a universal truth is something which is true for everyone, whether or not they realize it.  And I can’t help but think that they are still the same thing.  Something to the effect of when someone makes an inaccurate ‘true statement’, it’s an act which occurs in reality.  If something occurs in reality, that action is true to everyone; ergo, the statement is false but the action is true.

And perhaps therein lies the monumentally confusing feat we’ve been struggling with.  With all of our genetic and cognitive differences, we’re bound to interpret our shared reality differently from one another.  It’s like we’re photographers, all taking pictures of the same scene.  While only one scene exists, we’ll produce a variety of pictures.  Some will be a difference of perspective, some will be a difference of equipment, some will be a difference of technique, and some will come up with their own wacky shit.  That’s not just OK, that should be encouraged.  But we must remind ourselves that our pictures are not the scene.  Our pictures are glimpses of the scene, just as the worlds which our minds project are only glimpses of the world we all live in.

Logic is how we find truth.  Truth is how we find reality.  And perhaps finding reality is a good start to understanding our place within it.

Truth & Reality, and why it matters (Part 2)

I take small breaks from writing here and there, but this one was different.  I had written the first half of this entry with the intention of writing the second half shortly after.  I struggled though.  The rest of my life continued to bombard me with questions about what I thought truth and reality were.  I wanted to be sure before I wrote anything else.  I’m still not.  But fuck writers block…

 

Last night, I was hanging out with one of my favorite people who happens to be going through some of the same challenges I’m going through.  She came from a more conservative background, earned a business degree, worked in insurance for a while and eventually came to realize that there was a more liberal side to life that she had been missing out on.  She’s now a yoga teacher who recently competed her schooling on holistic nutrition.  She made the transition from the corporate crowd to what she calls the ‘woo woo’ crowd.  It seemed like she was pretty happy about how it was all going.. peace and love to everyone.  What could be wrong with that?

She dove in head first.  She was greeted by sisterly love, magic, wonder, positivity, gratitude and all kinds of good vibes.  From what I understand, it can be a very nice place.  But she started to struggle a bit during some of the teachings when things got a bit religious.  Ironically, much of this ‘new-age’ crowd borrows from ancient practices.  From crystal healing, to chakras, to rituals that largely sound like witchcraft.  At one point, she was at a yoga course which taught her to save the blood from her menstruation and pour it by a tree in a counter-clockwise fashion under a full moon.  I might have gotten some of that wrong, but the point stands.

She told me that some of this was starting to feel a bit ‘witchy’.  Something wasn’t sitting right.. and like that itch that you just can’t seem to scratch, she started asking questions.  Some of those questions were directed at her peers.  Some were directed towards me.  As the weeks have gone by, we’ve both been trying to reconcile the spiritual with the scientific realm.

We know that science exists because science is simply the practice of accurately explaining our reality.  If spirituality also exists, and exists within our reality, it can also be explained through science.  Again, just because it’s possible to explain something through science doesn’t necessarily mean that we have those answers today.  I think there’s something powerful to the idea that spirituality can be explained through science.  Perhaps this separates those of us who are looking for the truth from those who aren’t.

When I think about the idea of science explaining spirituality, I think of Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.  Reading that book is the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had.  It laid out the facts of the universe in such an eloquent way that you couldn’t help but feel a connection to everything else that has ever existed – A ‘oneness’ with the universe.  Simple facts like there being more bacteria cells in your body than human cells can make you question who you really are.  Suggesting that the same breath of air you’re taking now contains molecules of air which were breathed by the likes of Napoleon, Beethoven, and Lincoln reminds us of how interconnected our planet is.  And knowing that we are stardust brought to life… provides all the beauty, wonder, and magic that I need to feel good about my place in the universe.

What were to happen if I were to bring these ideas to someone who was fundamentally religious?  Would they keep an open mind?  Would they engage in a genuine conversation in pursuit of the truth?  If what was discussed made sense to them, would they consider changing their beliefs?

Probably not.

The scientific community has become fairly accustomed to writing off the religious crowd as unreasonable when it comes to challenging their beliefs.  They might be reasonable in other areas of their lives, but their beliefs are their beliefs.

Never in my life did I consider myself to be religious.  I spent most of my high school and university years considering myself an atheist.  Eventually, I realized that despite all the knowledge and understanding that humans have acquired over the years, we were still in no position to determine whether or not ‘god’ is or was real.  As far as I’m concerned, we’ve still yet to come up with a definition of god that we would all agree on.  I liked this perspective though.  It left the unknown within the realm of the unknown.  No undue assumptions.. no beliefs.. just an appreciation of what we know and a sense of curiosity and excitement for what we may learn next.  Add in a learned appreciation for a metaphorical understanding of the universe, and I started calling myself spiritual.

What I knew of the spirit was that while it may have no weight, emit no energy, or cease to exist when our physical bodies die, it was an intangible representation of what made us unique within the universe.  Perhaps there was a connection to the realm of philosophy.  That was an element of myself which I was glad to explore.

As the idea of spirituality started to grow outside of the religious crowd, I was happy.  Being able to understand what’s beyond what we can see and touch is important.  I was very much looking forward to connecting with these individuals and having these conversations.  While I’m glad to have this perspective and share it with those who would listen, I seem to be the odd one out in the world of spirituality.  As I’m starting to learn, spirituality has evolved into its own brand of religion.

When I think of the ‘spiritual crowd’, I’m starting to see them as a counter-balance of the religious right.  Both can be a rather delightful crowd of people, especially if they consider you to be part of their tribe.  But the further you go into the fringes of these demographics, the more radical their viewpoints become.  Hmm… maybe that’s what I’m up against.

One of the more extreme views of the left seems to be postmodernism.  As much as I’ve read, I’m still having a hard time defining it.  Perhaps that’s the point.  In the world of postmodernism, nothing is real.  And if nothing is real, logic and reason can’t really exist.  And if logic and reason don’t exist, truth becomes subjective.

…. And everyone lives their own truth.

There it is.

 

Originally part 2 was going to be my explanation of why truth and reality matters but it looks like I’m going to make this a trilogy.

 

Truth & Reality, and why it matters (Part 1)

Over the last few months, I’ve been bumping heads with the co-founders of my company.  Since I joined, the business has grown beyond their skill-set.  We’re now at the stage where we’re looking to clarify roles and responsibilities and it’s looking like I’ll receive the role of CEO after we close this capital raise.  In that transition though, it’s been challenging for the co-founders to navigate what it means to give up control of their business, for the sake of a better business.

A couple months ago, we brought in an executive coach to help sort things out.  Part of that process was a series of 1 on 1 interviews.  During mine, we touched on something that keeps coming up in my life.  Figured it was time to write about it.

One of the co-founders is a bit ‘woo woo’.  She’s an awesome person in so many ways and we get along far more than we butt heads… but we do butt heads.  As she would say, science and logic can’t explain everything.  As I would say, any true explanation is inherently scientific and logical.  I was hoping the executive coach would help bridge this gap.

When I did the 1 on 1 interview with the coach, I told her that I wished our co-founder would have a stronger appreciation for logic and my affinity for it.  I told her that logic in its purest form was the pursuit of truth.  She replied, “well that may be the case, but everyone lives their own truth.”  I paused for a moment, having heard that a few times before.  Something about living your own truth sounds noble, and righteous, and harmless.  But it didn’t sound very logical.  I asked her to elaborate.  She said, “My favorite color is blue.  That’s my truth.  No matter what you or anyone else may think or feel, that is true to me.”  Without thinking, I replied, “But if it’s only true for that person and nobody else, how true is it?”  She replied that this was going to become a very philosophical conversation very quickly and that we should probably get back on track.  I can’t help but think that we need to start making the time for these conversations.

I’ve given a considerable amount of thought to this idea of living your own truth and her example of someone’s favorite color.  I’ve always weighed it against the concept of truth from Plato’s Republic which behaves as a great illuminator.  One seems subjective while the other seems objective.  I was always under the impression that the truth was inherently objective…

When considering the example of someone’s favorite color, I think the word truth might be a misnomer.  Someone can say that their favorite color is yellow and for that to be a true statement, but does that make it a truth?  Maybe this is the difference between a true statement and a universal truth.  Or maybe there isn’t as much of a difference as I thought.  When someone declares that they have a favorite color, as long as it is in fact their favorite color, that’s not only a true statement but a universal truth.  No matter where you are in the universe or how you might look at it, that person has a singular preference towards a certain color.  I guess where I struggle is in suggesting an equivalency for the truth that is someone’s favorite color, and the truth that 1 + 1 = 2.  Technically speaking, both are true.  But one of these is a rather arbitrary statement of someone’s preference while the other is a fundamental building block of how we understand our shared reality.  I don’t think it’s fair to refer to them both as ‘truths’.

Many years ago, I was introduced to the idea of hallucinating your reality.  It was novel at first, but once I gave it more thought, it made so much sense.  Your body receives sensory input from our senses and our brain does its best to make sense of it.  It’s why certain types of brain damage can drastically change someone’s perception of reality.  It’s why hallucinogenics can change your perception of reality.  It’s how cognitive differences can change your perception of reality.  It’s why simple bias can change your perception of reality.  Your favorite color, in this context, has nothing to do with the qualities or value of that color, and everything to do with your perception of it.

I like the acknowledgement of everyone hallucinating their own reality because it really does remind us that our understanding of reality is only as good as our ability to perceive it.  It helps make sense of a wide range of perspectives and how cognitive differences can lead to honest, yet flawed interpretations.  There are several cognitive disorders which cause people to hallucinate things which only exist in their reality.  Is that a truth?  If that hallucination only exists in their reality and nobody else’s, is it fair to refer to this as a reality?  There’s a lot of validity to the old saying, ‘perception is reality’, but maybe this is where we need to work a bit more on understanding the difference between reality and our perception of it.

Perhaps truth and reality should be synonymous.  From my perspective, what’s true is  real and what’s real is true.  And that’s separate from perception.  What’s real is the shared reality we all perceive and look to understand.  That’s inclusive of what each individual’s interpretation of it may be.  But that doesn’t mean that someone’s interpretation of our shared reality creates our shared reality.  That would be like saying that because someone’s favorite color is blue, that blue is a superior color.  Yet I run into this all the time.

A few weeks ago, I was at our office with the co-founders and they brought in some special rocks.  They had talked about crystal therapy before and I was skeptical but never went out of my way to rain on their parade.  When they brought them out, they started talking about the energy they could feel from the rocks.  Then they asked if I would like to try.  I said sure, why not.  I followed their directions, tried to sense something, and got nothing.  I was told that I probably just didn’t have what it takes to sense that energy.  I laughed it off and we moved on.

Afterwards, I reflected on why I didn’t take crystal therapy seriously.  Generally speaking, it was because it wasn’t prevalent in western medicine.  I assumed that studies had been conducted and no verifiable evidence was found.  I had also seen more than one debunking show where someone went into a crystal healing session and came out rolling their eyes.  But in this day and age, it’s not enough to rely on the opinions of others.  For all the progress that western medicine has made, it’s deeply flawed in many ways.  It’s no longer reasonable to assume that something is without merit just because western doctors haven’t adopted it.  Reflecting on it now, that was probably never an intelligent assumption to make.

In this day and age, the world of information is at your finger-tips and it’s important to do the research ourselves.  So I did.

I found a study where a group was given crystals, were asked to meditate, and report back on any positive effects they may have experienced.  What they didn’t know is that some of the crystals were real and some were fake.  People reporting on things like tingling sensations, warmth from the rock, or a general improvement in their well-being had no correlation with whether they were holding a genuine crystal or a fake.  There was however a strong correlation between those who believed that crystal therapy was real and the perceived positive effects.  That strikes me as a rather simple, yet reasonable explanation.

Here’s where things get interesting though.  If perception is reality, and their bias towards the validity of crystal healing allowed them to perceive an improved well-being, is that not valid in some way?  Your state of mind can be one of the most powerful factors in promoting healing within the body.  If crystal therapy induces that positive state of mind, and that positive state of mind helps to heal the body, would it be fair to at least consider the crystals to be a catalyst?

This perspective seems to be the most reasonable of those that support this mode of healing but I can’t help but think that this also demonstrates the reality of crystal healing: its a practice designed to deliver placebo effects.  The scientific community and western medicine are quick to dismiss placebo effects when it comes to determining the efficacy of medicine.  Perhaps they’re right to do so.  I think it’s important to recognize the body’s ability to heal itself and to study this element of the human design to its furthest reaches.  That said, I don’t think that healing practices which have only demonstrated placebo effects under controlled conditions should be promoting themselves as ancient, mystical, new-age medicine.

I find it curious that everyone acknowledges snake oil as being a ‘fake medicine’ and that we should avoid recommending it to friends or family for its benefits.  If snake oil was able to act as a catalyst for the sake of delivering placebo effects, would that change things?  And if we can place crystal therapy in the same category as snake oil, why would the ‘woo woo’ crowd be so quick to embrace one yet so quick to condemn the other?

Yesterday, my co-founders showed up to our morning meeting and one of them brought out a pair of rocks which had been infused with ‘quantum energy’.  Admittedly, quantum physics seems to be beyond my intelligence so I hadn’t a clue what it meant.  That said, I was still skeptical that someone had ‘infused’ quantum energy into a pair of rocks that looked like they had been picked up at the beach.  They both held the rocks and said they didn’t feel anything from them, and joked that infusing rocks with quantum energy seemed a bit silly.  They offered the rocks over to me and I declined… something to the effect of “No… no… I”m good.”  And maybe that’s where I should’ve left it.  But I didn’t.

I told them about the study I had read after they brought those rocks out the last time.  I said that its very difficult for me to think that something like this is real when the science behind it would strongly suggest otherwise.  They reacted as if it was a personal attack.  Their responses included, “Not everything can be explained by science”, “I know what I know and nothing that you can say will change my mind”, “well how do you explain psychic mediums who talk to the dead?”, “well from my perspective, science and religion are the same thing.”   It was like being in the twilight zone.  Worse yet, I never seem to have a chance to actually have this conversation with them.  They’re always quick to say this is unproductive and we should get back to the meeting.  When I suggest setting some time aside to discuss this stuff, they tell me that they’re too busy for that right now.  Maybe I should just let them live in their reality while I live in mine?  That doesn’t seem right either.

“Not everything can be explained with science” is a curious perspective.  As far as I know, science is the practice of explaining things.  That’s not to say that science can explain everything here and now.  Our understanding of the universe is in its infancy.  So much so that every time we make a big discovery, we illuminate that much of the unknown.  But that doesn’t change that every true explanation of our reality is inherently scientific just as every true answer to the question ‘why’, is inherently logical.

“I know what I know and nothing can change my mind.”  I suppose this should’ve been a red flag.  Anytime someone says that their mind cannot be changed, you’re dealing with someone with a closed-mind.  I wish I knew how to open those minds.

“Well how do you explain psychic mediums who talk to the dead?” I responded with psychology.  I’ve seen mentalists break down the techniques that they use to work their craft and it’s absolutely fascinating.  Those who seem to be the best at this have a remarkable understanding for how the human mind works.  What I didn’t say though, is if someone had the ability to talk to the dead or read minds, why aren’t they putting those talents to better use?  If someone legitimately had those skills, it doesn’t make sense that they would be doing palm readings for $100 a pop or doing shows in Vegas.  If your intention was to make the world a better place, there are plenty of unsolved murders which the police could use a hand with.  If your intentions were to make money, the stock market would be low-hanging fruit.  This idea that psychics have applied their talents outside of these endeavors seems a bit convenient for me.

“Well from my perspective, science and religion are the same thing.”  She has a point.  In theory, science and religion are supposed to exist at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  In practice, it’s much less so.  I find that people often believe in science, that is, they accept it as true without understanding it.  Too often, I see scientific studies with poor methodology coming to questionable conclusions.  Yet to the untrained eye, this science is just as valid as any other.  That’s just not true, and I can’t help but think that this misunderstanding is a catastrophic failure of the educational system.  When you get people to believe in science the way they believe in religion, science becomes vulnerable to the same control mechanisms that exist in religion.

Earlier this week, a mining magnate from Australia was discovered to have been a primary source of funding for scientific studies aimed at denying climate change.  Last week a study funded by the dairy industry was released outlining that dairy was once again good for you.  We don’t have to go all that far back to remember the tobacco companies funding tobacco studies that suggested that tobacco was perfectly healthy.  Perhaps the individuals conducting these studies were scientists in title, but I have a hard time seeing them as scientists in spirit.  They were given a narrative to confirm and that’s not how science works.  Science comes from a place of skepticism.  You look to connect the dots to help explain how the universe works, and once you have a working theory, you do everything you can to disprove it.  Once you’ve done that, then your peers look for different and perhaps more creative ways to disprove it.  And if your theory is still standing after all that effort, the science community grants you a scientific consensus that says ‘yes, this is probably the best explanation available’.  But even then, your theories will be continue to be tested as our knowledge of that subject and the tools available to analyze it evolves.  The idea of this approach being applied to any religion seems absolutely foreign… as it should be.  Religion requires belief and faith.  Science requires understanding and skepticism.

I would be surprised if someone hadn’t come up with this before me, but I’m rather proud of it.  I can draw a rather simple line between science and religion.  Belief is to religion as understanding is to science.  To take that a step further, when you present new information to someone who believes something, they’ll adjust that information to fit their existing beliefs.  If you present new information to someone who looks to understand something, they’ll adjust their understanding to accommodate the new information.  When someone believes in something, there’s often nothing you can say or show them that will change their mind.  When someone looks to understand something, the only thing you need to show them to change their mind is evidence.

Sometimes I consider that belief is some sort of default of human cognition.  You have a certain perspective of the world, you feel more comfortable around information that confirms that perspective, so you seek it out and adopt it.  If your goal is to seek out information which confirms your view of the world, why would you apply the rigor of the scientific method? Why would you work so hard to prove your perspective to be untrue?  My answer is simple. it’s because truth and reality matter.  In part 2, I’ll try to answer why.

 

Dating: Navigating Good Intentions

I dated a girl for a couple months a few years ago.  We shall call her Mia.  She was lots of fun to hang out with and a very cool person, but was hung up on a few things.  I tried to encourage her to open up, hoping that she would feel more comfortable around me but it just wasn’t happening.  At one point, she offered to volunteer with her friends for a big event I was hosting.  She ended up having to go out of town for work and couldn’t make it.  She assured me her friends would still be there.  None of her friends showed up.  At an event where I was supposed to be socializing and enjoying myself, I was a full time janitor.  The event was a big success, but I wasn’t happy about how things went between her and I.  I told her that I was frustrated with what had happened.  She didn’t bother to reply.  After a few weeks of radio silence, I asked her if that was it.  She said something to the effect of the sex was good, but we didn’t really have much in common and it wasn’t worth pursuing.  I walked away and didn’t look back.

3 months ago, Facebook reminded me that it was her birthday so I sent her a cake emoji.  She crossed my mind from time to time, always in a positive light.  The girls I date seem to be into me for a variety of reasons… but I think it usually has to do with being a good person, driven, career minded, with a good group of friends.. that kinda stuff.  Connecting with my nerdier side happened happened much less often.  She was the exception.  Anime, cosplay, reddit, video games.. all that fun stuff was something we had in common.  These days, I really like that side of me, and it would be nice to be able to share that with someone.  Maybe that’s why when that cake emoji turned into a conversation, I was optimistic.

We made plans to go see a movie, but the day before, she went radio silent.  I don’t remember what her reason was.. maybe something about work.  So we rescheduled.  And she did it again.  I was disappointed, but never mad.  I tried to figure out what was going on and she replied with ‘why did you want to reconnect?’  Considering that our relationship before was mostly physical, I thought it was a fair question.  I wish she had asked that question before she ghosted on me twice, but these are her defense mechanisms so I did my best to be understanding.  I told her why I wanted to reconnect, that it had to do with the chemistry between us that we never had a chance to explore, the things we had in common, and just being in a place where I might be ready to take that step with someone.  I think she was happy to hear that, said she really wanted to hang out, and teased herself realizing it was a bit circle back to a date.  I was optimistic.

We made plans again, she got scarce the day before and the day of.  Something something, work ran late.  Something something, I’m really sorry.

*deep breath* 

I saw progress though, so I was willing to keep at it.  Then it happened again.  Pretty much the exact same thing.  And again, she was really sorry, acknowledged that she had issues around these things, reaffirmed that she absolutely wanted to see me, so we rescheduled again.  I was 0/4 over the course of 2 months.  I recognized that a younger me would’ve stoned-walled her after the first or second disappearing act as a function of my pride, or a need to protect my ego.. but that’s not who I am these days.  These days, I’m big on self respect, but small on ego and pride… if nothing else, this was a proving ground for that perspective.  My priority was understanding the situation for what it was, not using assumptions to protect myself from being hurt.  She continued to open up to me about things over text, saying that she missed me, that I was the only guy she was even talking to, that she really did want to spend time with me, and all the other things you would expect to hear from someone who you think wanted to go on a date with you.  And I don’t think she was lying.  I think she was very well intentioned.

After the fourth time she stood me up, I actually shared this blog with her as I had written about her earlier.  It was a window into my mind, to give her everything that she needed to know to make the best decision for her.  There was nothing more that I could do than be honest, transparent, and communicate my intentions.  She responded well, saying that she didn’t realize how much I had going on in my head and that it gave her a new appreciation for who I was.  Progress.  She seemed more motivated than ever to see me.  Progress.  So we rescheduled again.  This time she said that she would take the initiative, plan something out, take the lead.  I was cautiously optimistic.

The night before, I actually had a dream that she ghosted again.  I sent her a message that morning saying that.  I heard nothing back.  She ghosted again.  0/5.

FML.

I sent her a message saying that there’s a difference between someone who is good and someone who is nice.  Someone who is nice tells people what they want to hear and sometimes, they even mean it.  But when it comes to doing something inconvenient or difficult, they choose the easy path at the expense of others.  Someone who is good tells people what they need to hear, even when they don’t want to hear it.  And when it comes to making the hard decisions, they do what’s best, not what’s easiest.  I was fully ready to walk away at this point and was leaving her this message hoping she would reflect on it and not put someone else through this nonsense.

She responded saying that she had read more of my blog than just the most recent article about her.  She read my posts about a previous girlfriend (Max) where I had put her on a pedestal.. I think I even called her my north star.  The truth is I had a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for what I had learned from our relationship and was letting it inspire me to be a better person.  Perhaps I should’ve also written a follow up post about the whatsapp conversation that I had with Max where I realized that she no longer understood me the way I had remembered, and that our connection was no longer there.  Mia had read those entries, and had a very real concern that I was using her to fill the void that Max had left.  Even though Max and I hadn’t dated in a few years and she was on the other side of the planet with no plans of coming back, I understood that concern.  Truth is, I had that same concern when things were starting up with Mia.  But the more I connected with Mia, the less I thought about Max.  Max became an ill-fitting memory while Mia represented an interesting path forward.  But she didn’t know that.  We talked about it over text, and even had our first phone conversation since reconnecting.  I got stood up, but there was progress.

There was a wide disconnect between Mia’s actions and her texts.  Her texts showed someone who was making a very real connection with someone who she was genuinely interested in and wanted to explore a relationship with.  They showed that she was growing, overcoming her issues, and opening up in a way that she never had with me.  Her actions were of someone who was willing to lead me on who would then look for every excuse to not actually have to show up.  I never assumed that her finding these excuses was a reflection of her interest in me, but I also had to be real about her not being honest or open about what was really going on.  She knew that my love language was action, but it didn’t seem to matter.  But I saw progress, and growth, someone who did want to spend time with me, and someone who I still really wanted to connect with.  I told her that if I walked away now, I wouldn’t feel good about it.  I asked her what she thought we should do.  She still really wanted to see me… so we rescheduled.

That was last week.  Again, she was a bit scarce during the day.  I had seen this pattern before.  There was nothing to indicate that she was taking the initiative like she said that she would.  But then a glimmer of hope.. she texted back and said that she was still on for tonight and thought that she would wrap up work around 5-6.  I was never confident that it would happen, but I was optimistic.  Then she sent me a message saying that things were running behind schedule.  I was a little frustrated, but kept that to myself, doing my best to make sure that when we saw each other, it wasn’t dragged down by all the baggage of what it took to get here.  According to the texts, she was delayed because she was doing the tear down at a convention and her team had basically bailed, leaving her to do it all herself.  Had she asked, I would’ve been more than happy to help her out.. I like being productive and helpful, and it would’ve been an excuse to spend time together.  Instead, she said that she would probably be done closer to 9.  I said no worries, a late dinner it is.  9 came and went, still nothing.  In an act of optimism and committing to making this happen, I even drove downtown to make sure to when she was ready, I wasn’t wasting what precious minutes we had left on the road.  She messaged me closer to 10 saying that she had a couple things left to wrap up, I asked jokingly if that meant midnight.  She joked back and said no, hopefully not.  I should’ve known.

At 11, I told her that I still hadn’t eaten, most restaurants were closed, and we both had work in the morning.  I was done.  I had no interest in rescheduling again.  No interest in going through the motions anymore.  No interest in going above and beyond, when she wouldn’t do the same.  I told her that I would stay downtown (sitting in my car) until midnight, and she had until then to make something happen.  She was sorry.  It was a work thing.  She didn’t expect it would be like this.  She really wanted to see me.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

I told her that her words were hollow.  All that she had said showed me that she cared, that she was into me, that she wasn’t leading me on, and was genuinely interested in exploring a relationship with me.  Everything she did showed the complete opposite.  If someone was only able to see her actions, you would see someone who lacked integrity, who was self-centered, and incapable of being respectful towards others.  I don’t think that’s her.  I think she’s very well intentioned, but doesn’t understand that there is a wide gap between intentions and actions.  Most abusive relationships are between people with good intentions.  When a man beats his wife, he says that he does it out of love.  But he still beats her.  I don’t think she understands this.

I told her that I had gone above and beyond for her to get us to the point where we could spend time with one another, but that I had no interest in being in an unbalanced relationship.  This was her opportunity to go above and beyond for me, to show me how much this mattered to her.  To restore some balance.  She said that she had some ideas, but nothing that she could do within the hour.  The truth is, all I needed was to see her make the effort.. to see her in person.  Whether that meant staying up late after a long day of work, or taking a bus to my house at 2am.. if she was willing to make an effort to see me, I would’ve been good.  But she didn’t.  Instead, she told me that I was a priority, that she wasn’t leading me on, that she had opened up and communicated with me, and complained that work was getting in the way.  I disagree.  I’ve worked a more demanding work schedule than anyone I know, and that is an excuse.  If she wanted to see me, she would’ve found a way or made a way.  But she lacked the motivation.

My last two messages to her were:

“No matter what you’ve said, it’s always amounted to the same thing.  We make plans, and you bail.  Literally 6 times in a row.  Had I been in your shoes tonight.. I would’ve done everything I could to see you tonight.. even now.  It’s even why I asked you where you were.. but I can’t help but think that on some level.. you’re relieved to not have to”

“… I guess I’m heading home now”

She never replied back.

Had the situations been reversed, I would’ve made the effort.  I would’ve said fuck sleeping tonight, I need to see her because this is worth saving.  I would’ve driven, taxied, or bused or walked to her house.  Even if it was only for a moment.. to show I was willing to make the effort.  Even if she didn’t come outside, I would’ve taken a picture and sent a text showing that even if she was gone, I made the effort.  Maybe that’s why I stayed awake for an hour after I got home, looking over at my phone every 10 minutes.

Nothing.. And I’m done.

My most honest understanding of the situation is that she cares about me, wants to explore this relationship, and is genuinely positive about where it could go.  She’s well intentioned.  But intentions are only worth so much to a person unable to act on them.  A man who intends to love his wife but beats her instead is still a wife beater.  A woman who intends to be loyal to her husband but cheats on him is still cheater.  A girl who keeps telling a guy that she wants to spend time with him but bails every time.. is leading him on.  I don’t know if she truly appreciates that dynamic.  Maybe she’s not used to facing the consequences of her actions.  Maybe I enabled this by letting it go as long as I did.  Maybe she’ll think that it’s her job that held her back but if she does, she’s overlooking all the things that led up to this.  Had that happened once or twice, we would probably be in an awesome relationship right now.. but it didn’t happen once or twice.  It happened 6 times.  It was literally 3 months of texting with 6 attempted dates, and her finding a way out of all of them.  At some point, I hope she appreciates that.

Where things go from here… I’m not sure.  It would be easy to say fuck her for wasting my time.  Fuck her for every day that I spent excited to see her, and every night that I spent on my couch feeling shitty for being stood up.  Fuck her for making me think I was a priority and fuck her for making me think that there was something here.  But I don’t do easy.  The truth is those emotions barely register… it’s just not me anymore.  Instead, my mind is always open to the possibilities of the future and if anything, I’m compassionate to the struggles she has with being open, honest, and communicating when things get tough.  But the reality is that I’m no longer motivated to pursue this.  It’s not because I don’t think we have great chemistry.. or that there’s the potential for a great relationship.. but because I’m not capable of helping us get there.  That’s not something I can do on my own.. it takes both people to get there, and as far as I can tell, she’s just not capable.  Whether that’s a function of her job.. her communication issues.. her social anxiety.. maybe all of the above.. I don’t know.  What I do know is that I would’ve been happy to support her in figuring that stuff out, but she needed to make the effort and never did.

I mentioned the situation to a friend this morning, a friend who knew what had happened leading up to this.  The first thing out of her mouth was you gotta get away from that girl.  From any outsiders perspective, especially without scrolling through the hundreds of texts over the last few months.. it’s clearly an unhealthy relationship.  But with context, probably much less so.  I wouldn’t have put myself through this had I not been capable of doing it without taking damage.  I showed my friend her last couple text messages from last night and asked if I was missing anything.  She said that if work was such an issue, dictating whether or not she can have a social life at the drop of a hat, why is she working for these people?  A valid question, but with good jobs hard to come by these days.. not always a fair question.

This is when my friend echoed where I think my head is truly at.  I’m done investing time and effort into making something happen and if she disappears because of it, that’s unfortunate, but ok.  But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be open to her changing my mind.  Just because she’s demonstrated that she’s incapable of making me a priority, doesn’t mean that she’ll always be incapable.  The problem though, is that the list of things that she could say or do to change my mind is shrinking quickly.  At this point, it would probably have to be an action.  A big one.  My friend joked and said showing up to my office with flowers.  Why not.  The truth is I don’t really care what the action is… I just need it to show me that she’s capable of stepping outside her comfort zone and capable of having her actions reflect her intentions.

The ironic thing about writing this blog post is that there’s a chance she’ll read it.  I write things like this first and foremost as a therapeutic way of flushing out my thoughts on a subject.  It forces me to be honest with the situation and honest with myself, while putting an honest experience out there that others might resonate with.  That said, I knew as soon as I started writing it that she’d probably see it.  Whether she sees this and decides to return to her comfort zone, or sees this and finds motivation to finally have her actions reflect her intentions… that I do not know.  But I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope it was the latter.

 

Max just texted.  She’s in town for the week and would ‘love’ to see me.  Well then…

 

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.

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.

Interesting.

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.

The Busy Anthem

Apparently busy is the new black.

When I’m in the zone, I usually work from sun up to sun down.  When I was at the bank, the early morning was for responding to email, research, and taking account of any interesting activity that day.  The late morning was usually meetings or portfolio management.  Lunches were always overlapped with meetings.  Afternoons were usually filled with meetings or cold calls.  The early evening was hopefully the gym, but more likely to be a networking event.  I usually got home between 9-10pm.  Then I’d fire up the vape and tune out until I fell asleep on the couch.  And repeat.

Weekends?  Just extra hours to get more done.

Holidays?  Haven’t taken a holiday in 7 years.

I understand busy.  But I also understand bullshit.  Even when I was at my busiest, I always followed through on my commitments.  If I said I was going to be there, then I was.  You became part of my busy.  So why have we accepted busy as a valid excuse for being flaky?

I refuse.  You’re not busy.  You’re just not honest about your priorities.

In an age where people are averaging hours a day on social media and binge watching series on Netflix, I think it’s time to collectively admit that we’re not nearly as busy as we claim to be.  It’s not that we don’t have an overwhelming and unrelenting stream of things competing for our attention, it’s that we’re unable to be honest about how we prioritize.

Burnt out after a long week because you work a job that sucks?  Feel much more like crawling into the safety of your couch than heading out to an event?  That’s cool, own it.  Told your friends that you’d love to grab dinner with them but are looking at your bank account and would rather eat ramen? That’s cool, own that too.

We need to get better at being honest with one another because telling each other that we’re busy just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Beautiful things happen when we’re honest with each other.  Maybe we’d be more honest about our depression, or finances, or our lack of motivation to go outside when it’s raining.  Whatever it is, if they matter to you, just don’t tell them that you’re busy.