maybe I'm wrong

Mental prompts. Every weekday.

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Neighbors: Part 1
It’s odd that we associate the word tolerance with big cities. It’s odd because if that’s correct, it means tolerance has an inverse relationship with population density, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would being around *more* people make me more tolerant? 

Many of us chalk this up to exposure - seeing more people obviously gets you used to being around different people, and therefore more tolerant, but that doesn’t quite add up. If anything, this constant exposure should be a reminder of how fearful I should be - how dangerous the world is because it doesn’t reflect my mental models. My negativity bias should be on overdrive with every seemingly crazy person who gets on the subway.
 
I can’t help think that survivorship bias player a role here. Malcom Gladwell talks about this in length in David & Goliath. The TLDR is that London officials were terrified that bombings during WW2 would destroy the economies, sending people into unproductive frenzies when they feared for their lives. This didn’t happen - instead, those that heard the bombs go off, but survived what they feared most, were left feeling more alive than ever. Maybe we live though this a little bit every day in the city.

Of course, data suggest this isn’t quite true either - maybe we’re overconfident in the kindness and safety of strangers. Maybe the caricatures of the city/rural divide are too easy.

And, in the end, maybe we just take whichever story makes us feel safe in the absence of control.
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Fallen Limbs
Pruning a tree does a few things. It redirects and refocuses a tree's resources and  removes material which would block sunlight, invigorating the undergrowth.

It's also destructive and painful. Trees do this to themselves only to survive, discarding material that poses a sufficient risk. When we prune a tree, it's for optimization, not survival. Maybe it's easy to prune a tree because we so clearly see the rewards without feeling the pain.

Maybe there's no way to avoid the pain that's required to redirect growth.
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Unlike
Most of the work we set out to create doesn't require to be liked by everyone. Uber and Disney need to be liked by everyone to succeed, but that thing you're making for a small group, to support a small team, does not. In fact, by being unliked by the audience you are not engaging with gives you the permission to focus on the people who care.

And how about you?

Maybe in a world where you are liked by everyone, you silently walk on eggshells to maintain that status. Maybe it's a true gift to be unliked by someone. To be given the permission to only care about opinions the people who really see you.
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Hypnotized by judgement
Judgement seems inherently human. There are too many symbols and too much context to really make sense of the reality that continuously floods our senses. It's much easier to label - is this good or is it bad. Is it scary? Is it wrong? If not now, could it be? If so, how?

We get so good at this as we age that we forget we do it - we forget the impact it has on the world around us and, more importantly, the impact it has on us. How exactly would you treat the judgmental voice you share a mind with if it was another person? How much would you let it control what you think and how you react?

And yet, we continue to listen to it's fearful, neurotic rambling day in and day out.


Maybe we're allowed to listen, but not obey. Maybe we're allowed to hear the voice, but decide whether or not it's reasonable. Maybe we're allowed to laugh at it.

And, if we're still around whether the judgement exists or not, maybe the judgement isn't really us after all.


This post inspired by The Untethered Soul
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Glass Walls
Our world keeps getting larger. Whether you want to be or not, you are connected with what’s happening on the other side of the world.

Sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes we revert back to what makes us comfortable - what reminds us of our story of earlier humanity, when our worlds were small. After all, small worlds contain fewer people, fewer contexts, and less intensity.

The internet is in a unique position to craft small worlds. Coincidentally, a collection of millions of small worlds can sometimes be seen as a large world, but maybe that’s not the case.

 Maybe even within the large ‘communities’ of facebook, twitter, and reddit, the small worlds inside are the ones that matter - the subreddits, the hashtags, the cohort of people you see regularly.

The problem with internet-based small worlds is that they exist inside glass walls, where the outside can peer in and (at least occasionally) cause chaos.

Maybe opaque walls are better, protecting your world from outside observers. But how many worlds have you discovered because you passed by a glass wall and saw what was inside?

Maybe that glass walls are necessary for connection.
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I speak for the trees
When did creating sensible rules on how we use a community's environment become political?

Maybe the problem stems from the words sensible and community.

A community of 2 can probably decide what rules seem sensible amongst each other pretty easily. This gets harder at 5 and 150, and even harder at 50,000. Maybe once a community becomes large enough the trust that your values are shared degrades, so other mechanisms and abstractions need to be put in place to agree on what's sensible.

Along the way, maybe the abstractions (which are useful for surfacing the niche voices of the masses) get in the way of defending the very things that all voices share.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” ― Dr. Seuss
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Sculpt
Creation, for most of us, means building something greater than the sum of its parts. Contractors and architects do this. Programmers do this. Painters do this. They keep adding and adding until it gets closer to what they're after.

Sculptors don't do this. They chip and chisel until it starts looking right. The work they create exists by removing material until the work is resolved.

Of course, it’s scarier this way - you risk removing too much. You risk ruining everything with a single strike.

It’s much easier to keep adding, to keep producing, to keep doing. When we do it this way, we never have to stop...

But we'll never be finished, either.
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Free*
There's no such thing as free lunch.

But that's not what we're told. Facebook is free. Youtube is free. Radio is free.

Of course, in truth, these things aren't free, they're free*.

*A cost which is obfuscated from your visibility and/or abstracted to a degree where you are not directly trading currency for it.

Whether this is good or bad is less interesting than asking, "is this avoidable?" The bedrock of media for as long as it's existed has been advertising (advertising was the purpose for the television, not the other way around).

Maybe advertising is the required cost distribution mechanism to get otherwise expensive technologies to the masses. But maybe it's not.
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Luggage
In the event of an emergency, leave your luggage behind.

I heard this yesterday on a flight during the safety brief. There's only a few reasons why this would be part of the script. What does it say that when a prompt is written to describe what to do when your plane might be falling from the sky, we need to be instructed that our stuff shouldn't be a priority?
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Lost in Adulthood
As a young person, structure dictates the way you navigate the world. Parents have rules; schools have grades; societies have strict norms for what is normal and not.

As an adult, many of us find ourselves with the privilege of less restriction, but without knowledge of how to use it. There is no reliable textbook for how to craft the career you want; how to build healthy relationships; how to decipher the endless stream of information.

What would the world look like if we replaced AP calc we had How to be happy 101? Maybe our education focuses too heavily on the struggle and maintaining the zero-sum systems that breed discontent.

Maybe it's our job to change it.
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