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Before you share an opinion on any topic, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Have I invested enough research into this opinion? Did I take the time to research relevant info by myself? Or did I hear something once with little support and abruptly agree with it? Is this an opinion I take seriously myself, or am I just following a herd?
  2. Have I used reliable sources for my data? Am I referencing sources with none or minimal bias? Did I check if there’s any proven, verifiable conflict of interest that’d make me distrust this source? Do this source’s fact justify their viewpoint, or does their viewpoint justify their facts? Am I checking these resources against other reliable ones? Am I holding this view just because someone who seems reliable said it, and didn’t check if they really are?
  3. Did I look at any opposing arguments? Have I looked at serious, reasonable counter-arguments to this viewpoint? Were the counter-arguments serious or resort to childish arguments like attacking the one making the argument instead? Am I willing to concede good points from the opposing side and moderate my position accordingly?
  4. Did I check my biases? Do I have any beliefs affecting my judgment? Am I looking for selective facts to justify a viewpoint I already have? Am I avoiding arguments that make me question my beliefs? Am I examining where my biases come from and how valid they are? Did I make sure I don’t have a strong emotional attachment to my opinion that keeps me from doing any of this?

Most importantly, am I willing to critically re-examine my views and admit I’m wrong?

If you didn’t do any of the above, but still feel you have a right to your opinion, so be it. But know I’ll have the right to take your opinion as seriously as you have and ignore it.

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January 20, 2017

Rest is not Laziness

Rest is not laziness. Rest is long-term productivity.

Short-term productivity is cramming as much work into as little time as possible. It leads to burnout and no good habits are built. It often stems from a burst of inspiration that doesn’t last, and can’t be sustained. One feels so good after that burst, they often stop and lose all their progress.

People focus on short-term productivity when they don’t rest. No work happens when one rests, so it’s easy for rest to feel wasteful. How can one be productive when they waste time doing nothing useful?

But rest is productive, since rest is what turns the snipped thread of short-term productivity into the continuous, winding thread of long-term productivity. The progress builds into serious change, habits form to keep this change growing with little effort, and that burst of inspiration becomes a steady stream of principle.

Productivity is an endless jog. Go full speed and you’ll soon collapse and lose your momentum. To get moving again it feels like you’re starting over and will likely never finish. It’s important to go at a reasonable and steady pace, taking deep breaths, and hydrating and slowing down when needed. That’s how muscle gets built, large progress is made, and the finish line is reached.

Resting doesn’t make someone lazy. Productive people know proper rest, at the right time and place, and makes them more productive in the long run.

Don’t feel lazy and undeserving for taking the time to rest. As long as you remember to get back to work once you’re rested.

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I’ll be honest, I prefer being an adult.

Some of my friends were so anxious about adult life, they considered studying more just to avoid it. I was a third through senior year at Syracuse University and was eager to graduate. I’d found a new career I enjoyed, and was tired of required classes and resume polishing. I wanted to give the adult side of life a shot.

Plus, my nightmares about getting lost in high school hallways before class, not studying for tests, or forgetting projects by due dates become much less scary.

Now I’m relieved adult life is actually better than school life for me. I focus more on what I enjoy, work deadlines are still important but happen less, and I don’t get meals from vending machines. Some bits I don’t like, such as paying for food and insurance, dealing with car issues, and being more “responsible.” But overall the pros outweigh the cons.

But there’s still some parts I wasn’t prepared for - lessons it taught me I wish I’d learned beforehand. So for my year-and-a-half celebration of adulthood, these are the five most important lessons I learned post-school. I pass them onto you, reader of a presumably similar age, in the hopes you learn them for your adult life too.

If you already know them, or are young enough to not care, please continue reading anyway as a birthday present to me!

You Don’t Need the Answers Right Away

My most frustrating times have been when I felt my life wasn’t exactly what I wanted, which was:

  • a career that’s financially secure, challenging, and helped others in need.
  • part of a professional community that kept me active, engaged, and networking.
  • a social life with new experiences and interesting people.
  • a popular online presence for creatively expressing myself.

If you feel lost for the first years as an adult, that’s fine as long as you still keep moving.

That’s a tall order, and I believed it’d come right after graduation. Turns out, progress is ongoing but (utterly) slow. Many in my generation likely feel the same. Either that expectation bubble pops, or one grows up increasingly frustrated that their high expectations aren’t met.

I can’t say when this realization will, or can, happen for my fellow millennials, but it happened for me early this year. I still haven’t given up on reaching this better life, but I’ve accepted three things:

  1. I won’t get there fast, if at all.
  2. I won’t know how to get there right away.
  3. It won’t be perfect.

Maybe someday I’ll get that “amazing” life. Maybe not. One thing I’m sure of is I don’t need to know how it’ll all happen right away. That’ll come in time, if at all.

This tough lesson leads right to the next one…

Count Your Blessings

Every person has certain things to be thankful for, some more than others. No matter where one falls on the spectrum, they shouldn’t take them for granted.

In my case I have lots to be thankful for. I went to a good school, have a steady job I enjoy, don’t have any major health or legal concerns, have a decent car for my own transport, have the time and resources to enjoy some hobbies, and know where my next meals are coming from.

I’ve got plenty of privileges, both in my identity and upbringing, and most outside my control. I owe where I am now to them. The more I think about how I got to this point, the more I realize I have little to truly be upset about.

While I have more than many, most people have at least a few blessings in their lives, whether its how they live or who it’s with. Whatever they are, be thankful while they’re around, because…

Assume Things Will Change

It’s easy to think that, once things are going well, they’ll stay that way. I’d get into a pleasant routine for a week before something throws it off - a car issue, a deadline change, or a sudden meeting. These frustrations have been the roughest of my young adult life.

The best way around them is to always assume change will happen at any moment. Be prepared for as many situations as possible. Most importantly, keep your thoughts and plans flexible.

Keep your thoughts and plans for life flexible.

This has helped in most of my life. I don’t get attached to any new technology since a better once often arrives later. I frequently reshuffle my schedule to avoid wasting time. I try to get the most important 20% of my day done as early so I’m freer for the rest. It’s all about freeing up options and possibilities so whenever the unexpected hits, one doesn’t falter (as much).

Our Habits Define Much of Us

Most people likely don’t think much about their habits. It’s not surprising, since by definition they’re actions we do with almost no awareness. This makes up almost half of what we do each day. Habits are worth caring about.

The biggest reason habits matter, in my opinion, is their effects build up overtime and will define a person. Over time, someone in the habit of walking every day will be much healthier than someone in the habit of watching TV each day. Habits of willpower, reading, and creativity helps a lot in the long run. Habits of impulsiveness, video watching, and consumption do the opposite.

Habits are the building blocks to one’s foundation. As a young adult, now is the time to change them. Otherwise much of life will be a struggle against them.

Live Authentically

Perhaps my favorite lesson is living authentically. But it sounds generic - what does it mean? A section from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” sums it up well.

The author Stephen Covey says people have a center we get our values from. There’s many possible centers: family, money, work, church, possessions, pleasure, even ourselves. Our center affects our decisions, opinions, motivation, and happiness.

Some are arguably better than others, but all have a common downside: our value and happiness all come from elements ultimately outside of our control. For example, someone money-centered is only as fulfilled if they have lots of money, and circumstances often limit this. No matter what we do, Covey argues these centers have limits built into them, and we risk not being fulfilled. We’re surrendering some degree of control over our happiness and value.

Live more by your own principles instead of letting people, items, or institutions control how you live.

Covey argues we should be principle-centered - living by prime principles to guide our beliefs, motivations, decisions, happiness, and value. This avoids the other centers’ issue - living based on principles means our value comes more from one’s actions and less than one’s circumstances. No matter the outcome, or where we go in life, we can still have a sense of happiness and value.

While I don’t believe one should base 100% of their lives around principles, I believe the majority of one’s happiness should be. We can’t ignore money and friendships, after all, but our lives shouldn’t fall to pieces if we struggle with them. Making principles the prime center of ones life helps ensure we live a stable, meaningful life that’s true to one’s identity, despite struggles or changes.


You may be curious the principles I base my life around. Well…that’s a post for another birthday!

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Lately I’ve been fascinated by language, and this led me to ask one big question: why is there so much religion in swear words?

On one of my favorite self-rambling drives, it struck me how so many popular expletives have a touch of religious language:

  • Holy crap!
  • What the hell!
  • God damn it!
  • Jesus Christ! (I’m counting this one)

I have a hard time believing these became swears naturally, since a few make no sense to me. Why is “Holy Crap” an expletive? A swear is normally used when we feel extremely good or bad. Yet “holy” is positive while “crap” is negative. The two cancel each other out and we have a neutral phrase unsuited for swearing. I must’ve missed the memo.

I don’t think it’s some kind of brainwashing, but I do think it’s affected people. It’d be hard for our swears not to affect our thinking. We use them when our emotions are highest, which makes those memories have a powerful effect on us. So would using subtly religious words during these moments subtly push us to religious belief?

Maybe it’s a stretch to think mere words could sway us this much, but language shouldn’t be underestimated. When it comes to our beliefs, if our thoughts are the most important part of them, our language is right after it. We can’t have thoughts without the language to form them, so the words we use directly affect the kinds of thoughts we have. It’s why in 1984, the Party was removing words related to rebellion - it would make rebellious thoughts impossible, thus rebellion itself impossible. It’s also why politicians are trained to pick their words extremely carefully, since the emotional effect of different words can greatly influence how we view an issue.

I like to wonder, if these types of curse words weren’t used, how much would the world’s religious views change? Would people today be more or less religious than they are now? My own guess is people would be less so, although I don’t know how much. As much as language affects the world’s religions, it’s only one factor.

Think about it: if some subtly referenced the zoo whenever they swore, the zoo would be much more important to them. They’d likely visit the zoo regularly, give money to their local zoos, ask their zoo for forgiveness after making mistakes, protest against businesses they think are anti-zoo, and say people who don’t go to the zoo are bound for eternal suffering.

It sounds crazy, but remember: don’t underestimate the power of language. A few different words and, in a few decades, everyone could be part of the Sacred Church of Zoology.

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September 26, 2016

Are we too Comfortable?

People today have lots of entertainment - streaming television, online games, extravagant video games, social media feeds, eye-catching news, endless music, and more.

Most often we hear these are good. They make us laugh. They inform us. They exhilarate us. They give us enjoyable memories.

But are they the best use of our time?

With so much entertainment at our fingertips, are we fulfilled or just comfortable?

I don’t mean comfortable as in “relaxing in a big chair,” I mean as in “comfortable with not doing something productive or meaningful.”

My biggest issue with all this entertainment is it gives us the illusion of meaning. Reading fluff news made for clicks makes us more informed than we aren’t. Interacting on social networks makes us feel more connected than we are. Watching dumbed-down or simplified television makes us feel more mature and rational than we really are.

These all feel nice but give a false feeling of moving forward. They make us feel like we’re fulfilling our potential when they’re just making us comfortable where we are.

But my logic raises this issue: do we need feelings like anxiety for a meaningful life? Would this meaningful life than be less enjoyable?

How does someone feel when they’re motivated to learn a new skill? Pick up an unfamiliar instrument? Write out their inner thoughts and feelings? Make something creative with only a slim chance of success?

Are they satisfied with life or just unconcerned with it?

For me, the motivation for coding in my spare time has been rooted in different anxieties. I’d make something new out of fear I’d need it in the future. Out of sadness that I’d never be as intuitive as characters I enjoy. Out of frustration that, no matter how cool I may make something, someone else will make something better.

See the Pen Hypnotic Spiral by Maxwell Antonucci (@max1128) on CodePen.

This is only me - I don’t know if everyone else needs to suffer, at least a little, to feel fulfilled or productive.

But I know there’s a big difference between feeling fulfilled and feeling comfortable. And the more comfortable we are, the less likely we are to feel fulfilled.

Please remember that before you watch that new series on Hulu.

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I’ve never been scared of death itself, only the times where it’s on the horizon.

To me it never made sense to fear death. A book I read in middle school described death as “a wall on a road that goes up for eternity, left for eternity, right for eternity, down for eternity, and is as thick as eternity.” No matter what we do, it will be there. That makes fear pretty pointless, since it’s meant to help people avoid danger. With a danger that can’t be avoided, fear won’t change much.

Whether or not there’s pain doesn’t affect this. The amount of pain I’d feel during death is equal to the amount of relief I’d feel from it. Plus pain isn’t exclusive to death - I imagine I’ve got as much pain in my future as I do pleasure. And that’s fine. If we didn’t have pain, pleasure wouldn’t exist. Likewise if we didn’t have death, life wouldn’t exist. The worse I’d feel about one, the better I’d feel about their counterpoint. It all equals a calm acceptance of death when it arrives.

So I don’t fear death. I fear when death is creeping into view but isn’t quite there. When you can measure the final distance between you and death. A rush to do the things we now don’t have time for. It throws questions of how we should act, how we should feel, if we did enough things right, if we did too many things wrong.

We have no time to answer any of those questions that need an answer when the distance is so short. The panic and realization of death without the peace of mind and acceptance. All the pointless fear before the acceptance. A clawing uncertainty.

All those feelings sum up my last week. The last week we had with Jasper.

He was getting slower and weaker. Eating less and always laying outside. Needed help just to walk across tiled floors. Every moment I was feeling that clawing uncertainty. Had I done something to cause this? What can I do now? What more could we have done to make him happy? What if this isn’t the end? Even worse, what if it is?

Painful as it was to think about, I could see something just over the horizon. The remaining distance now visible and getting shorter.

It lasted all the way until this morning. The vet said it was internal bleeding caused by a large tumor. He only had a few months at most. The best decision would be to peacefully put him down. Like a candle the uncertainty was blown out and I was left full of shadows.

I could only ask myself: now what? There’s no uncertainty or fear, so how do I feel?

All I knew was I didn’t want to feel the same as last time.

This “last time” was when our other dog, Maya, passed away. It was several years ago. I was at school in Upstate New York, studying in the library. There was a phone call, the news, and an empty line. Then a stale feeling in my chest.

No collapse. No tearing up in public. No rush of good memories. Just a stale feeling as my mind unjammed itself and went back to studying. It nudged me for the attention it needed but I didn’t give.

I hate the short distance between life and death in these times. But I hate something even more: the huge distance between my feelings and Maya’s death. A distance I never managed to close.

I didn’t want to feel that kind of distance again. So I held Jasper close, told him I loved him, kissed his forehead and let him lick my face one more time. The tears were coming but I couldn’t break yet. We drove home, cleaned some things up, and I called some family with the news. Then I went into my room and broke. The collapse. The tears. The rush of memories. A lot more.

There was no longer any fear, uncertainty, or distance. There were lots of feelings now. They were all bittersweet. I knew I was only so sad because I’d been so happy before, for so long. It took a while to balance out, but I eventually got to that calm acceptance. It slips in and out, but it will stay with time. Then I’ll be able to think about Jasper with a smile instead of more tears.


Being a short distance from death is terrible, but a huge distance is worse. There’s no terrible feelings, but no good ones either. When it comes to death, we shouldn’t regret having to close that distance with others or with ourselves.

Because avoiding death forever means avoiding life forever. Like a life with a loyal, quirky, and lovable dog that you will miss immensely but will have no regrets about.