I’m Back.

I’ve been writing in this journal for about 18 months now and throughout that time I’ve taken a few small breaks here and there.  I wish I could say it was for a lack of time but that’s not the case.  It’s actually the opposite.  For the last several months, I’ve had an excess of time.  And I’ve learned that I struggle under those conditions.

For about as long as I’ve been writing here, I’ve been employed by a start-up that was extremely well positioned to do very big things in an industry that is likely to take off like a rocket.  I was genuinely excited.

I came from the finance sector, having worked in wealth management at one the most recognized banks in the world.  It was a rather conservative work environment where challenging the status quo would put you on the outs.  At my core, I’m constantly looking for ways to do things better.. and it just wasn’t a fit.  So I thought I’d test the waters on the other side of the spectrum.  Went from a massive company to a start-up.  Went from a 3 piece suit dress-code to a keep your suit at home dress-code.  Went from an overly conservative work environment to an overly liberal work environment.

I came in with the expectation that a far-left work environment would be all about support, individuality, openness, and being kind to one another.  I was mistaken.  I experienced more prejudice at that job than I had in any other work environment and it was deeply frustrating.  Despite being a straight white male, I grew up as a minority and experienced plenty of racism first hand.  Sometimes it was directed at me, sometimes it was a friend, sometimes it was a friend making the comments, sometimes it was me making the comments.  But we were kids.  Most of the time, we’d poke fun at anything available, just for the sake of teasing.  But it seemed like we had grown out of it by the time we were adults. Spending most of my time in environments which at least attempted a meritocracy.. it had been a long time since people wrote me off because of what I looked like.

I was told that because I was white, I was raised to be a racist.  I was asked multiple times why I drive an SUV (despite my last car being a hybrid).  It was suggested that the things I had learned in the ‘corporate’ world were inherently wrong and didn’t apply to their business.  I was encouraged to embrace crystal healing while told to keep my religion of science to myself.  Language like ‘pushing’ an initiative out to the staff, ‘hustling’ to get something done, or ‘fighting’ for favorable regulations would trigger the people around me, ending in a drawn out conversation about how my language is racially insensitive and inherently oppressive.  It drove me bonkers.

I did my best to understand what was happening and why it was happening.  It was clearly connected to the culture war between our current extreme political ideologies.  I was being seen as the enemy despite agreeing on most major issues.  Instead, it was like they were actively looking for flags or triggers which would allow them to cast me as the other.  Ok… Fine. I’ll kill ’em with kindness.  I was always careful to listen, always careful to apologize for how others felt as a result of what I said, and always careful to explain that while they may have taken offense, none was intended.  With the staff, it worked like a charm.  One even approached me after work one day and apologized for any subconscious prejudice they may have shown towards me.  As someone who was gender-fluid and had experienced a great deal of bullying in his life (from people who probably looked a lot like me), I understood where his pain came from.  I thanked him for stepping up and telling me something that clearly wasn’t easy, and then let him know that he had never been anything but kind to me.  Maybe awkward cold shoulder here and there, but really, barely noticeable.  We’ve gotten along quite well since then.  I wish I could say the same for the founders.

The founders are in their 50s, married, and very representative of a far-left ideology.  Had I not run into it myself, I may still be second-guessing if it existed in the way the right characterizes it.  And this is from someone who would probably fall left of center if I had to be characterized.  But because their ideology didn’t resonate with me, I was eventually told, “maybe you’re just not our people.”  That was the end of July.

There’s more to the story than that, but I think the picture has been painted.  Instead of abandoning the opportunity in front of us, I told them I’d take some time to do some soul searching and appreciated their patience.  I wasn’t willing to abandon my common sense or integrity either, but I wanted to be open-minded in how I looked to move past this.  I spent a few days away with some female friends, looking for some female insights.  I did a few days at a horse ranch where went on my first mushroom trip.  I spoke to mentors and advisers.  And everything led me back to the notion that I was probably be quite reasonable, and was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Compromise who I was for the sake of harmony in that work environment, or keep up the kill ’em with kindness approach, hoping they’d eventually come around.

The other unfortunate dynamic, or perhaps most unfortunate dynamic.. is that I was up against the founder’s dilemma.  Essentially, entrepreneurs looking to build a big business eventually need to choose between efficiency and control.  If your business is growing fast, there’s a good chance it’ll outgrow the skill sets of the founders within the first few years.  That’s when the founders need to bring in new talent, delegate the responsibilities that others are better equipped to accomplish, and then settle into a role within the company that best fits them.  Or if you prefer to retain control, you’ll avoid all of that to make sure nobody messes with your ‘baby’.  I’ve run into the latter.  Extremely frustrating for someone who was brought in for the eventual CEO role.  They had conveniently forgotten that though.

Frustrating for sure, but not nearly as frustrating as what followed.  They requested to stop weekly meetings.  They stopped involving me in key decisions.  In a lot of ways, they just stopped communicating.  Yet I was still drawing a modest salary from them and trying to stay as busy as I could behind the scenes.  Realistically though, I managed about 10 hours of work a week… probably could’ve been 3 if I had the need to streamline things.  I was overcome with boredom… and not the fun kind.. but rather a lack of opportunity to apply myself.  And man did that mess  with me.

I could see so much that needed to be done and I was more than capable of taking on those responsibilities.  But rather than making use of one of their best assets, they seemed to avoid me at all cost.  The only reason I didn’t start looking for other opportunities is because I knew that we’d be establishing a board of directors shortly and that the board was likely to hire me as CEO.  With that dynamic, I was optimistic we could all be successful and enjoy working with one another.  I suppose it was an exercise in patience, but far from an easy one.

With respect to cannabis, there’s a quote that resonates deeply with me, “I’m not an addict, I’m a user.  I alleviate boredom and occasionally heighten my thought processes.” That would be Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, one of my favorite fictional characters.  When I’m functioning at full speed, I seem to have little interest in cannabis.  It gets in the way of me getting things done at the level I want to do them at.  But when I have nothing to do… it’s like I want to reduce my potential so it’s more in line with my output.  Working 10 hours a week, that’s when I start smoking a lot of weed.  It dulls the frustration of not having anything to do.. but it’s a slippery slope.  At first it’s just an evening thing.  But when you wake up with nothing on your schedule and shit-all to do… wake-and-bake seems like a pretty good option.  By October, I was smoking about 4-5 joints a day.

And I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself, it’s not like I was doing nothing.  I was still doing BJJ, still doing yoga, still playing soccer, still consuming a ton of information, still studying the cultural and political climate, and still thinking deeply about the world and where it’s headed.  But for me, it’s like frosting without the cake.  These are all things I’d want to do in addition to a career.  As a result of the perpetual fog caused by heavy cannabis use, I was disinterested in reading my books.. disinterested in writing.. disinterested in a lot of things that I think are quite important to me.

The truth is that I don’t know what the future holds for me at the moment.  Last month, the biggest company in our entire industry approached us looking to buy us out.  As expected, the founders didn’t mention me in the acquisition talks.  Since I owned equity in the company, it was looking like I’d get paid-out somewhere between 6-7 figures and be on my way.  While I’d prefer the CEO role in the business under the bigger company, I was happy to take the consolation prize.  But then the acquisition fell apart… frustrating when I was never involved in the discussions.  And now the investors are questioning the ability of the founders to run the company in a responsible manner.  They’ve met among themselves over the last week and have decided that they’d like me to sit on the company’s board, have financial oversight, and engage with our investment banker to sell the company to someone else.  That conversation should take place sometime this week.  It’ll be very interesting to see how the founders react to that.

In the meantime, I don’t know what my role will look like with them.  Nor do I know where I’m headed next.  I connected with a friend who was also in the industry and we got about 90% of the way to working together.. but a municipal election went the wrong way and now we need a few more pieces to fall into place.  If they do, I’m off to the races.  If they don’t… it’s not a thing.  I’ve already started on a consulting website for my space.  Since it’s new, I’ll be among the first.  Might work.  But maybe I go check in with the recruiter I met in September who said he’d love to place me.  But in all seriousness, I’ve been obsessing about something else.

A few years ago, I started writing a screen play.  It started with the rise of Nixon 2.0 and was supposed to take place after 8 years of Hillary.  The idea was that culture and politics tends to experience a pendulum effect.  After 16 years of Obama and Hillary, we’d have something in the opposite direction.  I abandoned the script after Trump was elected.  I didn’t anticipate Russia or the electoral college.   Since then, I’ve still been searching for an outlet for my ideas.  This blog helps, but these are just daily thoughts that I’m looking to refine and articulate.  I wanted something bigger.. a project I could sink my teeth into.  I wanted to write a book.

This book has been on my mind for over a year now.  I’m not ready to write it just yet, but I’m getting close.  And I’m starting to obsess over it.  I know this from having seen it in myself and others… a healthy obsession is usually a sign of something you should absolutely put your time towards. Lebron is obsessive about basketball, Crosby is obsessive about hockey, Buffett is obsessive about investments.  This book is calling to me.

To get there, I need to accomplish a few things.  I need to stop consuming that much cannabis.  We’re now 5 days into sober November.  My body needs to recover from the stress load it was under.  I got a few supplements from the naturopath, cleaned up my diet, and am stepping up my physical routine.  I need to get my mind back to the level of clarity where I can do my best work.  I’m back on my brain training game, reading, and writing.  Daily.  But perhaps most of all, I think I need clarity on what my near future looks like because I don’t want to dive into this only to leave it on the shelf as my career takes me in another direction.  For that, I suppose I’ll need a little more patience.

Universe… if you’re listening.. I got a hell of a book in my head that I’d like to put into the world.  I think it’s going to do a lot of good.  If you could make sure there’s a path available for me to get there, that would be greatly appreciated 🙂

The Real Cannabis Conversation

As is often the case, I think the the most interesting conversation on the topic is the one we’re not having right now.   I find that as people argue, they become more interested in defending their perspective than understanding another’s and I think that’s a key issue here.  While there are plenty of conversations around how to legalize or how to criminalize, I think the real question is why we should legalize or why we should criminalize.  When we take a proper look at the why behind whether or not we as a people should have legal access to this drug, we have a great opportunity for self-reflection.

I think the first thing we should do define is the term ‘drug’.  When heroin is found in the streets, it’s discussed as a highly illegal and highly dangerous drug.  When morphine is found in a hospital, its discussed as a pain killer and part of the medical process.  Both are obtained from the Opium poppy.  When you remove all the bias, drugs are simply something you put in your body for a desired effect.  That means they’re a tool and tools are remarkably indifferent to how we use them.

So why do we takes drugs then? I think we do it to adjust our state of mind.  Even drugs with no psychotropic effects are still targeting state of mind in a less direct manner.  Consider using an over-the-counter pain killer for a sprained ankle.  The ankle is an injury of the body, but the pain that’s being addressed is a state of mind.  If the mind was unaware of the body’s pain, the painkillers would be unnecessary.  Even if you’re taking drugs to address an illness with no obvious symptoms, you’re taking the drugs to address the concern of a future illness – still looking to resolve a state of mind.  So what if the issue isn’t a physical illness?  What if it’s mental?  What if it’s social?

There’s  a fantastic Sherlock quote… something along the lines of “I’m not an addict, I’m a user.  I look to alleviate boredom and occasionally stimulate my thought process.”  It’s interesting because if you say that it’s something you use to limit boredom, it’s relatable but if someone says they’re using it as a coping mechanism, it’s a bigger issue.  What if it’s a mechanism used to cope with boredom?  What I’m trying to demonstrate is that we’re really just scratching the surface of what drugs are and why we use them.  All we know is that we put them in our bodies to get us closer to the state of mind that we want to be in.  There’s a tremendous amount of research to do there, and I think the answers we arrive at will speak volumes on the human condition.

So let’s bring this back to cannabis.  Why do I take it?  Primarily for sleep, to escape my thoughts, and to alleviate boredom.  I recognize that the closer my life gets to where I want it to be, the less I want to escape from my reality and the less weed I look to consume.  That’s my personal experiment at the moment, if I’m where I want to be mentally, then will I still look to change my state of mind?

A great question to ask when discussing marijuana is addiction.  Most people would suggest that marijuana isn’t addictive because it lacks certain chemical properties that create a physiological dependency like some other drugs.  While that may be true to an extent, I’d suggest that marijuana can be addictive simply because of it’s effects.  I’ve had weeks where sobriety was the enemy and it was hard not to think I was staring addiction in the face.  That said, if you dropped me off in a location with no access to marijuana, I’d have a few sleepless nights and then carry on.  It’s easy to think of hard drugs when you think addiction but in reality, many addictions exist purely in the mind.  I think that with sufficient research, one may find that a chemical dependency and addiction are two different things, one is one of the body while the other is of the mind.  If that’s the case, marijuana addiction is possible and likely very real.  We owe it to ourselves to be honest about this and bring this element into the conversation

It’s not often that a drug makes the journey from being an illegal psychotropic to a widely prescribed medicine.  If I were to take this all at face value, cannabis is a miracle plant capable of treating all kinds of illnesses.  While I think that’s a possibility, I’m more interested in seeing the research than jumping on the hype train.  I also think that the medical properties of the plant would be discussed less if legalized recreational access was available.  In the current market, most users have acquired a medical license from a lax medical professional to achieve access for recreational use.  I can’t help but think that if wine were illegal, people would also seek medical licenses with claims that wine extends your lifespan, protects against cancers, improves mental health, and benefits the heart.  They may even be right, but it doesn’t change the fact that they were just looking to unwind with some friends at the end of the week.

So what are the actual medical properties of marijuana?  The real answer is we don’t know.  There’s anecdotal evidence of it successfully treating just about everything from cancer to seizures but the reality is we’ve just started the research.  From what I’ve seen, I suspect there are very real medical properties in the plant but I that we need to understand what they are to a much deeper level before we embrace them to this degree.  For example, I can confirm that it’s the most successful sleep aid I’ve ever used but I must also concede that I never wake up refreshed the way I feel when I sleep without it.  From an introspective standpoint, I think what it does very well is it helps you shift into a more copacetic mindset and it’s that mindset which helps you better deal with things like pain, stress, and anxiety.  Beyond that, I’m looking to learn and making no assumptions.

So what about recreational use?  We’re most of the way there and the momentum doesn’t seem to be letting up.  Every once in a while, some old white guy will say something like ‘I don’t see how making these substances legal will improve anyone’s quality of life.’  I understand that mindset, but I also understand why it’s flawed.  The error is in the assumption that marijuana affects all people equally.  Some of us are easier to get along with when we’re stoned while others are simply far more productive individuals.  There are some people who shouldn’t be using cannabis and that’s OK too.  The solution isn’t restricting access to everyone, the solution is to provide access to everyone and letting us collectively explore the pros and cons.  We’ll make some mistakes and lose some good people along the way, but such is the nature of progress.

Someone might say that it poses too much of a risk but to them I would say that fear makes for poor decision making.  Too often the government treats the general population like a parent treats their children but in reality, the general population is representative of a collective intelligence which is often under utilized.  Look at what happened when we legalized alcohol.  Alcohol abuse has ruined lives while alcohol poisoning has take them.  That doesn’t make alcohol bad, it makes alcohol important.  It makes it important to understand why we drink, and what the real impact is.  Marijuana will be no different.  It’s just another substance, which if anything, is a reflection of ourselves.

I can’t help but think that the majority of those who are opposed to the legalization of marijuana either have a political angle, don’t understand the matter, or are simply afraid.  The solution to each is education.  We all need to know more about what this plant is and what it does, but we’re not going to learn what we want to know by leaving it in the labs because there’s more to it than that.  Marijuana should be legal for the reason that every other drug should be legal.  We shouldn’t be cautious around drugs because they’re bad or illegal, we should indifferent around drugs because we understand that the ethical and practical impact has everything to do with that specific drug and that specific person.  The level of research necessary to truly understand those dynamics requires a decentralized approach to research and fortunately for us, there are plenty of volunteers.

So at the end of the day, who do I think should be smoking cannabis?  Anyone who wants to, on the condition that they understand what they’re doing and why.  We know it’s a plant that gets you stoned and we know it has medical properties.  We need to know a lot more than that.  Part of that process is giving us the chance to explore – and that means legalization.  When it’s all said and done, we’ve tried it their way.. with the whole war on drugs thing… now it’s time to embrace freedom.  The freedom for people to choose how to live their lives.  The freedom for people to choose what medicine they use.  The freedom to choose how to deal with boredom and the freedom to experience the negative realities of poor decision making.  It’s all part of the same evolutionary process… this is how we grow.