Getting Back in the Game

October 29th, 2013 No comments

At the end of last year I decided to take 2013 off and explore. Now that we’re deep into the fourth quarter, I’ve decided it’s time for me get back to work.

While I enjoyed having some free time, I also found what I’ve always suspected is true: I need to work. In fact, I’ve decided that I will never retire. The thought of endless free time without something meaningful and truthfully a little difficult to fill my day is depressing. I’m at my best — in Flow — when I’m solving a hard problem, and it’s especially rewarding to do it as part of a motivated team.

Here’s what I’m looking for. I will look at other opportunities but these are the sweet spots for me.

  • Senior technology leadership role – CTO, VP Engineering etc
  • Small company of 5-1o employees. I will also consider a “startup” within a larger company.
  • Business to business web or mobile
  • Strategic influence – not “my way or the highway” but I don’t like to just code for money. I have a lot of  experience in company building and want to make contributions at the macro level.

In terms of raw developer skills, I’ve written a lot of Ruby, PHP, CSS, HTML, MySQL and Javascript/jQuery. I’m quick to learn new technologies and enjoy the process. My softer skills include sales, marketing, public speaking, writing, mentoring and business development.

A note on compensation: I have a number in mind, but I’m very flexible. For the right opportunity I will even invest money in addition to time.

Also, I like to do trial periods to make sure we mesh well together. This could be as simple as spending some time whiteboarding ideas, or it could be something more formal like a trial project. Like you, I’m looking for a great fit that enhances our respective strengths, not just a paycheck.

So if you or someone you know might have a need for these skills on your team, shoot me an email at me@derekscruggs.com

Categories: Entrepreneurship Tags:

On Survival School

June 21st, 2013 1 comment

Last week I did a seven day survival school course in the Utah desert. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m a better person for having completed it.

Me after survival school

Me after seven days in the desert, though I did shower before this was taken

Among some of the things our 10-person group did:

  • Went more than 30 hours without food (and afterwards only got a single banana)
  • Went four additional days with limited food – it’s amazing how far you can go on a handful of oats, lentils, quinoa and GORP
  • Drank water from a nasty looking (and smelling) watering hole for livestock
  • Hiked with a forty-pound pack – not a backpack, but a wool blanket tied up into one
  • Hiked
  • Did not change clothes for seven days and six nights
  • Learned that “dirty” is a very relative term
  • Hiked some more
  • Learned about basic navigation via the stars
  • Learned about navigation with a topographic map
  • Hiked some more
  • Sat alone in nature for a night and a day
  • Again with the hiking
  • Learned to build a fire with only sage brush, a rock and some parachute cord (I really sucked at this)
  • Learned about different types of plants. This was the worst for me because it took me back to high school biology, which was my worst subject. All those random-sounding names for organisms…
  • Our group hiked approximately ten miles without the instructor, finding our way with a topographic map
  • Hiked ten miles alone, in the dark with no light, not even moonlight
  • Finished it up with sessions in a sweat lodge alternating with plunges into a cold pond

It was an incredibly challenging experience. So much so that on day three I cracked and told the instructor that I wanted to drop out. At that moment we were in the middle of nowhere, so he informed me I would have to make it to the end of the day before they could get me out. He encouraged me to stick with it. That night we did our “solo,” where they take you to a spot to spend the evening and the next day alone. (Truthfully, the solo is about 50% of the reason I signed up for the course.) Being alone allowed me to recharge and re-ground myself in the moment, and I was fine from then on.

What Did I Learn?

In all honesty, I was pretty bad at most of the skills. I joked that in a true survival situation, such as on a life raft,  I would be the first person to be cannibalized by the others.

But there was something about being in a situation in which All. That. Matters… is staying hydrated and putting one foot in front of the other. In that context, everyday things such as email and deadlines and vacuuming the bedroom seem infinitesimally trivial.

And while I did get something from that feeling of being close to nature, the main thing it gave me was an appreciation for civilization.

The area we were in was made up of beautiful, breathtaking sandstone mountains. You know the kind – layers of rock that make you realize just how old this planet is.

Sandstone Mountains in Utah

Can you believe that these were once underwater?

But the thing I thought about was the unseen layer – the layer of human culture that has accumulated over the last 150,000 years and which separates us from the truly brutal aspects of being an animal in the wild.

Now as I walk or drive around town, or even my townhome, I try to cultivate a feeling of gratitude for just how easy life is compared to a thousand years ago. This ease is a tremendous gift bestowed on us by countless generations of innovators.

Awe and Knowledge

Another realization I had is that what separates humans from animals is the sense of awe we get when looking at a beautiful landscape, or a starry sky. While I believe this is a fundamental aspect of the human condition, I also believe it is dramatically enhanced by knowledge.

It’s one thing to look at pretty lights in the sky. It’s another to know that those lights come from stars that are millions of light years away.

In the distant past, humans had practically no knowledge about the stars, or exercise, or nutrition or germs. But we wanted to know, so we made up stories to explain things. Gods, spirits, UFOs, “the ether” – all of these are attempts to explain the unknown. Most hypotheses have been discredited, and many more will be. Nonetheless, there is something beautiful about the desire to know and how knowledge impacts our ability to feel a sense of awe about the universe.

Categories: Travel Tags:

My New Daily Affirmation

April 26th, 2013 No comments
Destiny awaits us all

Destiny awaits us all

I’m not a fan of affirmations.

I tried them for a while several years ago. I would write down 5-7 affirmations every morning first thing, but I never really felt like I was getting anything out of the exercise. On the other hand, I have had a hit of financial success since then so maybe I’m wrong. Scott Addams, who I think is one of the most interesting thinkers alive today, is a believer and obviously has had truckloads of success.

Recently I’ve been reading The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman (I found it via this excellent review from Ben Casnocha). It’s an easy read that nonetheless delves deeply into fundamental ideas about human nature. If I had to boil it down, I’d describe it as stoicism meets Buddhism. These two philosophies have always resonated with me. Buddhism I’ve been vaguely aware of since I was a child. I first became interested in stoicism  while reading Tom Wolf’s exquisite A Man in Full.

The Antidote has a chapter about the role of death in happiness. Counterintuitive, I know. Burkeman suggests that we should all contemplate death on a daily basis. By doing so, we are less likely to fall into the trap of not seeing the happiness that is right in front of us. Much of what he writes in this chapter is based onThe Denial of Death, which I also happen to be reading. (Six-word review: very good, but also very dense.)

This is not a new idea. “Live every day as if it is your last” is a common inspirational message. Steve Jobs’ famous commencement address is often cited. The speech is indeed inspirational, but I think it misdirects somewhat.

Why? Because the meta-message of Jobs’ speech, even if he didn’t intend it, is that you too can become one of the most successful businessmen in history if you adopt his philosophy. You can change the world!

But what if you don’t change the world? What if you are just another insignificant blip? Is that failure? Should your happiness dim?

No.

“Live every day as if it is your last” leaves out the most important word: death. You will die. Oblivion awaits. Someday in the not-distant future there will no longer be a “you” to experience reality.

The point of thinking about death, I believe, is not to think about  ”success.” Rather, it’s to think about fear. Fear of losing your job. Fear of starting a company. Fear of introducing yourself to someone you’re attracted to. Fear of telling the truth in your relationships. Fear of ending a relationship that’s not working. Fear of failure. Fear of being alone.

In other words, fear of revealing your true self, your true desires. Fear of vulnerability.

The human mind is excellent at denial. We believe that we are immortal, and anything that challenges that belief is either avoided or transformed into a story of immortality (i.e. the afterlife). We use icons like Jobs, the Buddha and Jesus – who all appear quasi-immortal to us – to wish away reality. These people are all dead, and they will remain so for eternity.

(Apologies to any Christians who believe Jesus will return. My intention is not to start an argument. Suffice it to say that I personally believe he was just a very wise man who is now dead like all the others.)

It’s not just people. We use institutions, too. Monuments, culture, nationalism, patriotism, sacred books, the Constitution, presidential libraries: all of these reinforce the illusion of immortality.

Perhaps we could all learn from Woody Allen, who once said “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.”

So that’s all a prelude to my new daily affirmation, which I put as a recurring task on my calendar to pop up every day at 8:45 am:

Someday, perhaps today, you will die.
Categories: Personal Growth Tags:

Less Myth-making, More Reality

April 26th, 2013 No comments

via Altucher Confidential.

One time Barry Diller was visiting Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The topic of the meeting was to see how the greatest media mogul could work with the greatest Internet moguls.

It was like two galaxies colliding to create something beautiful when seen from light years away.

Larry Page was texting or doing something on his phone.

Barry Diller was disgusted: “Either choose me or the phone”.

Larry Page, without even lifting his head from his phone, said to the biggest media mogul in history, “I choose this”. Referring to his phone.

So Diller spent the rest of the meeting talking to Sergey Brin.

I love James Altucher, but I’m going to call bullshit on this story. This is just a little too just-so. If it happened at all, it was probably done in jest and they all got a laugh out of it.

This story sets up a myth: Great Man meets Great Man and Great Man wins.

The meta-story is: great men are not like you and me.

While that’s true on some level (I’m sure Sergey’s deep understanding of indexing lends an interesting perspective on the world), the reality is that most people, even very successful people, fail most of the time. Most of their ideas aren’t very good. But if you can execute well on one good idea, then it becomes an almost unstoppable train that overruns the bad ideas.

This is a very good thing: Powerful ideas can have powerful consequences, while most bad ideas have almost none.

This is a bad myth: It takes a Great Man to spawn great ideas.

We need less myth-making in the world.

Categories: Media Tags:

My Old Friend Depression

April 24th, 2013 2 comments

For the last couple months I’ve been in and out of an episode of depression. It’s partly because of relationship issues, but I think the primary reason is lack of purpose.

I knew coming in to 2013 that this was a risk. At the end of 2012 we decided to throw in the towel with StatsMix (fortunately a buyer stepped forward). I’m fortunate to be in a position where I don’t need a steady income for a while, so I vowed to give myself all of 2013 if necessary to figure out what I’m doing next. I’ve since looked at several opportunities, but none has really gotten me excited yet.

In March I decided to spend the month in New York. A friend of mine let me rent out his apartment while he was travelling. Big mistake. I basically drank too much, complained about sirens at 3 am and broke up with my girlfriend. I didn’t really do much except sit around the apartment, drink and catch up on Breaking Bad, Mad Men and House of Cards. I did eat lots of the great food New York is known for and go on a few spur-of-the-moment dates. But aside from a few side trips to medical marijuana conferences (a business opportunity I’m exploring), March was almost 100% unproductive.

At the end of that trip I went straight to Los Angeles for a men’s group meeting. This is a group of about 100 men who get together four times per year to work on personal issues (mental health, money, “life hacks” etc). I absolutely needed a brain reboot by the time I arrived. The first day was touch and go. I was overcome with fatigue (a sign of depression) and a general feeling of apathy about life.

Eventually I summoned the energy to show up and it turned out to be a great experience.

The theme of the event was dealing with emotional trauma. We broke up into small groups, and each attendee in my group had to get up in front of the others and essentially relive all the traumas they could remember experiencing in their lives. It was a powerful experience and I felt, well, purposeful, while helping out my fellow travelers. But ultimately I concluded that trauma is not the source of my problems. In particular I learned something I already knew: I had a great childhood compared to a lot of people in the world, and my struggles as an adult are garden variety.

Nonetheless the focused intensity of the exercises allowed my depression to fade away like morning mist, and I felt very present and productive. But as I told my group leader, the exercises per se didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had a purpose. They could probably have locked us all in a room and asked us to solve crossword puzzles for four days and I’d have gotten similar results.

Back in Boulder, reality returned. It was truly great to be back in my hometown after so much time on the road, and I resolved to get on the right track. Unfortunately the fatigue returned (I suspect from a juice diet I tried for a few days) and for about a week I was nearly catatonic.

About 12 years ago a friend of mine committed suicide. We weren’t close, but we had worked together, had a lot of mutual friends and had even contemplated starting a company together. I remember thinking how hopeless he must have felt in those final days, and how I wished he’d shared those feelings of hopelessness with me and others. I would not have been able to cure him, but perhaps he might have realized how common those feelings are and not felt so alone in the world.

So unlike in the past, I openly shared my feelings with friends. If someone asked how I was doing, I usually replied “shitty – I’m in a depression.” To a person they were empathetic and offered support in however way they could. None of them had a cure per se, but some offered to just hang out with me, and I think that feeling of connection gave me energy to start doing other things. Meditation, exercise, business networking etc.

One thing that’s different this time: I’ve decided to stay off medication. Zoloft has been a big help for me in the past. I went off it in February and am sure that’s part of the reason March was such a struggle. I’m going to continue staying off it for the time being, but I have my therapist on the speed dial if I ever get suicidal. (We actually talked one day while I was in New York and it was very helpful.)

Note: I am not anti-medication at all. I strongly recommend people try it when they are depressed. I’m just experimenting with being drug free for a while.

While I’m not out of the woods yet, I’m definitely on an uptick and hopeful that I can maintain the momentum. If you see me around town, don’t walk on eggshells. Ask me how I’m feeling. Or tell me how you’re feeling. I’m a big believer in the power of vulnerability and try to model it my everyday life.

And that’s the point of this post. I’m not looking for any validation. Rather, I hope that someone who is feeling down will find this post from Google or Facebook or whatever and realize you are not alone. If you have no one to talk to, contact me. I can’t cure you, but I will be your friend.

Hat tip to Brad Feld, who has been a role model for me on this and many other issues.

Purpose, Presence and Ego

December 19th, 2012 No comments

I recently attended a workshop by David Deida, author of Way of the Superior Man. If you have not read this book, drop everything and read it now. I am not joking. The workshop was transformative to me and affects me every single moment of every day. I have made subtle changes in the way I move through the world, and the results are amazing to me.

Here is a very basic summary of what I think are some of the most important concepts.

Purpose

Purpose is what drives men to succeed, and it is what attracts women. Period. All the other PUA, dark triad bullshit is just an attempt to act like you have purpose. Once you have actual purpose, you don’t need tricks.

What is purpose? It’s not your job, it’s not money, it’s not something huge like “solve world hunger” — though all of these things can indicate that you have purpose. Purpose is simply the thing that you feel compelled to give yourself over too, and the denial of which will slowly and inevitably destroy your capacity for happiness.

For example, if your purpose is to create music, but instead you are a lawyer and just stare wistfully at the guitar every now and then, you do not have purpose. You have money but no passion. You become resentful and depressed, wondering why having the “right” job doesn’t make you happy. Nothing will make you happy until you fully commit to your purpose.

(As an aside, purpose does not have to be lifelong. You can fully commit to a purpose for a few years or less, then find a new purpose. So don’t feel like you have to find the One Great Thing that defines your legacy. Rather, you’re looking for the thing you can commit to fully right now. Also, if you don’t know your purpose, just make it the search for your purpose. Commit fully to finding your purpose and you will embody it.)

Presence

If purpose is attractive to women, what keeps them interested is presence. When a woman says she wants connection, she’s talking about presence. Presence merely means that, when a man interacts with a woman and his environment, he gives himself 100% to that interaction. That doesn’t me he supplicates or puts her on a pedestal. Merely that he says exactly what he’s thinking and is not ashamed of it or scared to tell the truth. He treats everyone he meets — be it a homeless man or powerful leader — as a distinct individual worthy of his complete attention.

Ego

Ego is very important. It’s what keeps us alive in the face of danger, and can provide emotional rewards when validated.

However, ego has a way of fucking up your presence. It can lead you to deny your emotions, or say hurtful things, or act in a passive-agressive manner. You must constantly monitor your ego. Forever. This never goes away. Ever. Get used to it.

How to monitor your ego? Here’s a good trick. When you say something to someone in a conversation, ask yourself “Did I say that because it’s true or because I’m trying to impress (or hurt) the person I’m speaking to?” If the latter, take the time to process the emotions that provoked that behavior.

This takes a lot of practice. Things like meditation, exercise and yoga (my personal choice) can help with it. Over time you will find that life becomes so much easier when you learn to recognize the ego. It’s like living in High Def after a lifetime of shitty TV.

A Winning Combination

When a man has purpose and presence, he is powerfully attractive. That doesn’t mean every woman he meets will sleep with him, but a whole lot of them will want to, and he will not have to use a single canned PUA routine. He will find himself in the position of being the chooser instead of the chosen.

Also, by bringing purpose and presence to everything he does, he naturally stops worrying about what other people think. This is a powerful, energizing feeling. The world becomes something you explore, not something to fear. Relationships become something you embody and witness, not something you cling to or hide from.

But How Do I Apply This?

Start saying and doing what you feel, not what you think you should do. If you like her scarf, say so. If he’s wearing cool shoes, say so. If she says something funny, laugh. If it’s not funny, don’t laugh.

If you think she’s beautiful and it makes you weak in the knees, say that too. I’m serious.

Your ego will tell you not to do these things, but by letting your ego “win,” you diminish the experience of life. You live in the world of “what if?” instead of right now.

This takes bravery. But guess what? Women want brave men. In fact, they crave a brave man who will protect them in the same way men crave sex. It’s fundamental to their experience. Pre-conscious, even.

A brave man is not without fear. In fact, some things may terrify him. But a brave man knows that fear does not define him. Only purpose can do that.

Categories: Dating, Personal Growth Tags:

Have I gone crazy?

November 30th, 2012 No comments

Quick sanity check.  A few of my friends have reacted to my last few posts with something like, “wow, I see your point of view, but I could never have the balls to post that.”

I get why people might think I’m a little nuts, but there is a method to my madness.

First, some background. In the last few years I’ve traveled a path that allows me to take a lot of social risks. Obviously as an entrepreneur, risk is part of my DNA. But as a single man with no family to embarrass and no employer to fire me, it’s not really much of a risk at all. Rest assured, if I were married with children I would not post these kinds of things.

More specifically, if I were in a committed relationship I obviously would not be asking bloggers out on dates. Ergo the experiences that inspired those posts would not even been occurring.

Second, last weekend’s date is a super-specific case. It was with a woman who trades on her fame. She’s not just a blogger, but a lifecaster. Her life experiences are “content,” and she emphasizes that she will not see someone unless she can also write about them. While she was here, I asked her if the reverse was true, and she said yes. So, there was no violation of trust.

To reiterate: normally there is no way in hell I would write about my intimate relationships. This is an extremely specific exception that proves the rule. A unicorn.

Third, I do believe we are entering an era of more authenticity, and I just happen to be ahead of the curve (especially for men). Think of it this this way:

  • 30 years ago you couldn’t get on the Supreme Court if you smoked marijuana in college
  • 20 years ago you had to pretend you didn’t inhale
  • 10 years ago a guy who everyone knew was a recovering alcoholic who had used cocaine got elected President
  • 4 years ago we elected a guy who casually admitted to snorting coke in his autobiography
  • A few weeks ago marijuana was legalized in two states; many more are sure to follow that lead

So a pot-smoker in 1980 was a criminal. Soon she’ll just be a normal person. The person didn’t change, of course; the culture did.

Likewise, we have gone from a world where entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and celebrities were these mystical, magically successful people who we only read about in magazines; to a more authentic, warts-and-all view. Knowing that, for example, Ted Turner is manic depressive in my mind makes him more human, and reminds us that regardless of our achievements or lack thereof, the only thing that really matters is whether we can live with ourselves.

Or as Tyler Durden put it: You’re not your fucking khakis.

So I have a few more posts like this I want to get off my chest. Not because I’m especially insightful or an attention whore, but because they reflect who I am and what I think about.

Some people doubtless think I really am nuts. That’s fine, because I don’t need to be liked by everyone. If someone doesn’t like the real, authentic me, then I surely will not want to hang out with them either. Coming to that realization has been a turning point in my life.

Categories: Personal Growth Tags:

Confidence is Attractive. Narcissism? Repellent.

November 30th, 2012 1 comment

Please read this disclaimer before reading this post.

Note: this post is I-swear-to-$DEITY the last post about the date I had with the batshit crazy girl known as Jen Friel. If you’re sick of hearing about her, just skip this post altogether. But if you’re game for one final round, here goes...

I once asked my therapist if I’m a narcissist. She laughed and said, “the proof you’re not a narcissist is that you’re self-aware enough to even ask the question.”

A few years ago I dated someone who I now know has borderline personality disorder (she cops to this diagnosis on her blog, but I won’t link to it out of respect for her privacy). She did not start getting therapy for it until long after we split up. Not because of anything I did, but because she’s finally mature enough realize that only she is the common denominator in all her problems.

And I now realize that Jen Friel is a narcissist.

What’s interesting to me is how much I’ve changed in the few years between those encounters.

First, a little background. Narcissists have a way of dragging others into their problems, then making them feel responsible. For a good example of this, read the biography of Steve Jobs. One of his early girlfriends talks about his unique ability to make her feel like his bad behavior was her fault.

So the first time I ran into this, I did what Jobs’ girlfriend did: I blamed myself. Why can’t I make this person happy? It was only through lots of therapy that I realized it was pointless even to try. Which is not to say I don’t have my own issues to deal with, but the path to longterm happiness is this: focus on what you control and ignore the rest. I’ve slowly adopted that attitude in all my decisions over the past few years and I feel at peace and empowered in a way that I once thought was impossible.

So when Jen wrote about my scary eye contact, and suggested that I flew her to Colorado to get business advice, my reaction was to just laugh.

And that’s probably where this post should end, but because I’m an INTJ, I did some more introspection. INTJ’s are good at pattern matching, so I looked back on the weekend, compared it to my previous experiences and tried to figure this out like an engineering problem.

Finally, it hit me: she really does think she’s the center of the universe!

She will even admit this, in a way. She refers to this trait as “confidence.” Which it is, though magnified well out of proportion, and perhaps explains why so many movie stars are narcissists. In a business full of rejection, it’s very helpful to have a personal reality distortion field. Numerous times Jen referred to the truckloads of confidence she’s had since childhood.

But the true sign of narcissism rather than confidence is the story she tells herself about what actually happened. It consists of three proposition:  1) that I am attracted to her, 2) that I want her advice and especially 3) that this is anything approaching a conventional date.

Let’s deal with the attraction part first. (I was advised by a friend to leave this out, but I’m a guy and looks matter to us, so here goes.)

Physically Jen did not do it for me. She’s reasonably cute, but no more so than anyone else I’ve dated, and definitely not the kind of person that makes me think “Wow!” when I look at her. That’s okay, though, because I look at the total package, not just whether she’s pretty. I only wanted to share this for all you guys for whom this unspoken question is top of mind. (That is, every single one of you. ;)

Intellectually, she’s reasonably intelligent but speaks in cliches. To give an example, she responds to a lot of comments with “Absolutely,” which I find grating. Not because I hate the word, but because people who use that are typically on autopilot mode. They aren’t listening and considering what you actually say. They’re just acting out rituals.

Now, regarding business advice.

I’ll start with the obvious: On what planet could she possibly think someone would fly her across the country for advice?!

She seems to think I was pitching a startup to her, which is emphatically not the case. I have my hands full with my current startup. I am pursuing a side project about the entertainment industry, and it may have career ramifications down the road, but at this point I’m just curious to learn more about the industry.

This is what is commonly known as an interest. I also have other interests: salsa dancing, entrepreneurship, fitness, politics, psychology (yes, including depression), economicseducation reform and lately marijuana legalization.

We talked to some degree about all these interests because, you know, they are interesting to me. As with any date, I probed her interests as well and calibrated my conversation based on her verbal and nonverbal feedback. For her to zoom in just on the startup part and make it the centerpiece of our “date” suggests a highly inflated sense of her own importance. Sound familiar?

Bluntly, we did not have an actual conversation. Rather, she established an internal model of what the conversation should be about – her amazing business genius, natch — and processed the entire experience from that distorted viewpoint. It was confirmation bias to a shocking degree. Not just about a particular topic, but of the entire framework of our interactions. “I am a business genius. This guy is talking about business. Ergo, he’s a loser who desperately needs my brilliant insight.”

Finally, about the “date” part.

I suggested a date as a cute little framing device. A pretext for two adventurous people to take a risk. It worked out great for me in New York, which is why I linked to it in my original email to her.

An actual romantic connection, however, was extremely unlikely. Why? Well, let’s look at it logically by asking, “what is the most likely outcome of a first date from someone you’ve never met and who lives a thousand miles away?”

In the best-case, romantic comedy view of the world, we meet in person, are instantly smitten and next thing you know we’re making serious compromises in order to sustain a long distance relationship. While it can happen, I’ve been on enough dates and in enough relationships to know that this is a really stupid thing to even fantasize about. Odds of it happening: 0.000001 %

The most likely case: we get together, don’t really feel any attraction, but because of certain similarities (cultural tastes, career interests, we move in common circles) we develop a friendship. It could be shallow Facebook friends, or something more meaningful. I have a lot of friends in both categories. Odds of Facebook friends: 50%. Odds of something meaningful: 10%

Another case: we are both delighted to discover that there is mutual attraction, we have fun together, maybe there’s a romantic spark. But we are mature adults with our own lives that do not intersect very often, so we friend each other on Facebook, occasionally notice each other in our respective feeds and smile to ourselves. I have several friends who fit this definition. Odds: 5%

And the final case, the one I least expected, the worst case scenario: we repel each other. Not attraction, but loathing. I’m not the kind of person who has enemies, so this is really an edge case for me. Odds: 1%

Congratulations, Jen! You’re part of the 1%!

(Aside: It turns out Jen has compiled these statistics herself and they are about what I estimated.)

I’ve been on at least 150 dates over the last 3-4 years. Most of them didn’t get to a second date, some did, and a few blossomed into relationships. I got rejected quite a few times and did plenty of my own rejecting. Such is life in the dating market.

And we now know those dates included two narcissists.

The math: 2 narcissists/150 dates = 1.3%, roughly matching the incident rate of narcissism in the general population.

The first narcissist nearly drove me insane. The second one made me thankful for my own sanity.

 

Categories: Dating Tags:

Learn More Faster, But Not at School

November 28th, 2012 No comments

Quick comment inspired by this post about StartupSchool.

Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that every single college student should be required to do internships as a condition of graduation.

I speak as someone who has hired recent graduates, mentored interns and perhaps most importantly flailed around for five years after college trying to figure out what the hell I was doing.

Most engineering schools already require this via a co-op program. But I think that every major — poli sci, gender studies, even fine arts — should offer a yearlong internship program that allows the student to spend time working in business, non-profit and government to figure out where they fit in. And they should come away from it with these measurable skills:

  • How to run a meeting
  • How to create and present a slide show
  • How to persuade
  • How to understand the incentives and economics that drive organizational decisions
  • How to say “no”
  • How to write a short, actionable email
  • How to read a simple p&l statement and balance sheet
  • How to have a difficult conversation with a co-worker or boss
  • How to manage your to-do list (I’m partial to the Getting Things Done approach but there are other methods that may click better with different personality types)

These are all things I happen to be quite good at, but it took me years of floundering around to develop them. And I didn’t learn a single one of them during my crazily overpriced, elite-private-school education.

There may be other skills I haven’t thought of and perhaps even suck at. Please add your own in the comments.

(Now that I think about it, self awareness is a critical skill for every employee as well, but it’s hard to measure without going to therapy. Maybe in a mock interview where you ask people to describe their weaknesses?)

Categories: Education Tags:

Is it wrong to be attracted to writers?

November 27th, 2012 No comments

Please read this disclaimer before reading this post.

After the Jen Friel shit show, I asked a couple friends of mine to give me their honest feedback on that post. One of them, a close friend for over 25 years, is currently going back to school for a master’s in psychology. His overall opinion was that, when looking at my side of the story, I did nothing blatantly wrong.

Then we talked about my longtime attraction to writers (which I very clearly stated in that post). He said something very interesting:

My shrinky message to you would be, if you acknowledge that these female writers have seemed unstable and self-justifying in ways you probably don’t like or respect, maybe you should examine what is fueling your desire to pursue them.

I did some thinking about this and will continue to do so, but something bubbled up that makes me think this is definitely not a neurosis.

What is it?

The fact that I am attracted to male writers too!

Off the top of my head, here are some of the male writers I’ve enjoyed and corresponded with over the years:

  • James Fallows - I’ve been a fan of his for almost 20 years, going back to this article about Japan. I’ve sent him numerous emails over the years (he usually responds) and met him in person a couple years ago at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
  • Andrew Sullivan - I’ve followed him since — oh, 2001? — and also sent him many emails. He once ran a photo I submitted to his “View From Your Window” series.
  • Christopher Hitchens - Never corresponded with him, but he was one those rare writers who can say things you vehemently disagree with but make you feel smarter for having read it.
  • Mark Manson - Originally known as a PUA blogger, he’s evolved into something closer to Tim Ferriss (though I believe Mark is a better writer)
  • Neil Strauss – Extremely talented writer who I first encountered in his autobiography of Jenna Jameson and later The Game (about which I have another post in the queue)
  • David Brooks – I thought The Social Animal was brilliant, and I sent him a fan email saying exactly that
  • James Altucher – his willingness to be vulnerable is a role model for my recent attempts.  Also, we are the same age and have had similar careers, so it’s very much a fellow-traveler kind of thing for me.
  • Dave Eggers – also about the same age as me. Borderline too-hip in his style, but I can’t help but like it. I have a theory that people who like Eggers generally don’t like Tom Robbins, and vice versa. (I’m not a fan of Robbins.)
  • Ben Casnocha – a very clear writer who thinks deeply about creating a life well-lived. I envy him having figured out so much at such a young age.
  • Eric Ries – the guy has almost single-handedly changed the way we think about startups and has an extremely engaging writing style (he’s also an inspiration for my film production blog)
  • Paul Graham – a legend in startup circles who exemplifies how writing == thinking
  • Tyler Cowen –  he is first and foremost an economist (a field I love to read about), but he has an extremely dry wit that creeps up on you when you least expect it

Aside: the tagline for this blog is “Could you please be quiet?” This is an homage to Raymond Carver

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Now compare this with the female writers I admire:

  • Penelope Trunk - the poster child for vulnerability as a path to self-understanding
  • Moxie - she’s super judgmental and we often butt heads — she thinks I’m a narcissist — but her views on dating have evolved over the years and that’s been interesting to watch
  • Amy Alkon – she writes like a man. Super clever turns of phrase and a libertarian to boot.
  • Dana Spiotta - Stone Arabia was brilliant and I sent her a fan email thanking her for writing it. The main character really struck a chord with me, reminding me of a close friend from high school
  • Susanna Breslin – a recent discovery, though her blog is not her primary outlet

I belive the above demonstrates that I simply love great writing, regardless of gender, and it’s only natural that I would be attracted to women writers. But is that enough to say I’m not overly fixated on them?

Put another way, am I only attracted to writers?

No, and here’s the evidence.

  • My ex-wife was neither a writer nor much of a reader. She has many other great qualities that I fell in love with.
  • I also like dancers. I myself love both to dance and to watch dance performance. I even used to perform in a really cool dance group in Chicago. I frequently try styles outside my comfort zone. Just in the last few months I’ve taken lessons in capoeira, a yet-to-be-named style that combines dance and rock climbing, and salsa (at which I think I’m pretty damn good).
  • I like musicians, though I don’t seem to meet them as often. I studied music in college and still noodle around on drums and guitar. A couple years ago I hosted a house performance by The Autumn Film. (They played on my back patio. It was like a miniature Red Rocks.) The downside of dating musicians is they tend to have a tough lifestyle. They usually work nights and frequently don’t come home until very late.
  • And I’ve been attracted to people in other professions. In the past few years I’ve dated a chef, a Rolfer, a leadership consultant and a phsycial therapist skilled in the art of dry needling. Oh and an acupuncturist, too. (These disciplines are similar in appearance but very different in terms of the underlying theories – West vs. East)

I’m not crazy. QED.

Update: I’d be remiss not to plug my film production blog here. I have dated a screenwriter in the past, so obviously I’m attracted to people in that world too. So much so that I created a web site of interviews with them.

Categories: Dating Tags: