Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Comcast Consumer Fraud and What to Do About It

I have the bad habit of blindly paying my bills without going over them too closely. I actually read my Comcast statement today and realized I have been paying close to $50 a month for the better part of a year now in hidden fines and fees for services that I never requested and am not using. Additionally, I have had to pay fees and fines for service interruptions and modem failures that were not my fault. By my own estimation, Comcast currently owes me somewhere between $500 and $700 for hidden fees, false charges, fines and flat out fraud over the course of the past year alone. This is ignoring the poor reliability, rude and inefficient customer service and general shittiness of the company as a whole. I am hardly alone in my suffering. Adrianne Jeffries of elaborates:

Comcast earned Consumerist’s “Worst Company in America” title twice, first in 2010 and again this year, 2014. It ranks at the very bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, underperforming even the rest of the cable industry, where “high prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service” are endemic.

Sadly, I live in the northeast, a.k.a. "Comcast Country," so I am used to this abuse as Comcast has monopolized the cable and high speed internet market in this part of the country for many years now. But I was horrified to learn recently that Comcast has expanded its market across the U.S. to the point where they are now the largest cable company in the U.S. in addition to being the worst company in America, possibly the world. And further, they are attempting to merge with Time-Warner to form a superpower that will enable still greater abuse.

Image courtesy of

Make no mistake about it, this is a pretty bleak situation for all of us. Even if they fail to successfully merge with Time-Warner to form a super-monopoly, they are clearly a giant. No, a monster.

Well, even monsters have their weak spots. Today I reported them for consumer fraud to my state's Attorney General office. You can do the same by looking up your state's AG office and reporting their crimes against you. Almost every person I have ever known who has been a Comcast customer has been billed for services not rendered and charged multiple hidden fines for things like "renting" a modem, even when they are using their own. Laurence Kotlkoff of describes his experiences in this article and they're all too familiar to many of us.

Oh yeah, there's one other thing I'm doing to fight the good fight: suing the bastards. Hit them where it hurts and that's right in the purse. You can sue the bastards too by getting a free lawyer (one who will work on contingency) from Consumer Fraud Legal Services. They've successfully done it before. You get to sue Comcast and then your state forces them to pay your legal fees for you.

Fight the power.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

White People Dancing

More tribute than mockery. White people are adorable, bless 'em!

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jon Jones Apologetics: Why You Should Not Hate Jon Jones

"I hate Jon Jones!"

If I had a nickel for every time I've seen that comment posted on a YouTube video discussion or message board, I could retire a wealthy man. Truth be told, initially I didn't care much for Jon Jones myself. Sure, he seemed a nice enough kid with a great attitude but at the end of the day he was just a little too superhuman for his own good. Here was this seemingly invincible giant wiping the floor with the toughest guys in the world and making it look appallingly easy. Watching a guy as tough as Mauricio Rua get tossed around like a ragdoll and pummeled senseless was surreal. It wasn't just that Jon crushed him utterly and completely, it was the astonishing, almost sickening nonchalance with which he did so. He made one of the deadliest and most feared 205 pounders of all time look like a complete amateur.

Let's face it, people like rooting for the underdog. Everyone loves a good Rocky story. So when a guy like Jon comes along who just annihilates everyone, it's tough to be a fan. Cheering for Jon as he crushes whoever finds himself on the wrong end of that incredible 84.5 inch reach feels a lot like cheering for a poacher in the act of clubbing a baby seal. It just seems so unfair. Where's the sport in it? And it's even tougher to be a fan when people like bitter former teammate Rashad Evans smear him through the MMA media, accusing him of being disingenuous which then gets picked up and regurgitated ad nauseum via Twitter, podcasts, forums, blogs, etc.


I'm ashamed to admit I was once one of Jon's critics and for reasons so stupid they defy description. How easy it was to dismiss his incredible accomplishments as an accident of dumb luck.

"Hey, he was born into an elite gene pool. His brothers are NFL players so he obviously has a genetic advantage. He's a natural athlete who could have played any sport professionally. It comes easier for him than it does for everyone else. His arms are too long, he's too fast, too graceful, he was born with all these gifts. It just isn't fair."

Yeah. No. Was Jon born with the genetic potential to be one of the most dominant fighters of all time? Yes, but holding it against him makes about as much sense as hating Michael Phelps or Michael Jordan for being born with tremendous potential. In other words, none. The fact is, you don't reach the top of any highly competitive sport without working extremely hard and being completely focused. This is especially true for a sport as fiercely competitive as MMA. Jon Jones has accomplished more than anyone in a shorter period of time than anyone because Jon was willing to sacrifice more than anyone.

You see the 84.5 inch reach, the natural athleticism, the money, the fame and dominant performance after dominant performance. What you don't see are the years of hard work and sacrifice leading up to these performances. You don't see Jon training 5 times a day for 8 weeks straight before every fight. You don't see the willingness to forgo a social life and live like a monk for months at a time, never going off of his diet, never sleeping in, never missing a workout. You don't see Jon studying tape of his opponents with his team, always searching for a pattern that might lead to an opening. Nor do you see Jon and his coaches studying tape of Jon for hours on end, looking for holes in his game and trying to shore up the leaks. Most importantly, you don't see Jon getting punched in the face, held down, smashed and submitted in training day after day for years on end and still coming back for more. The great Michelangelo said it best, "If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all."

Speaking from experience, it takes a ton of work to be a competitive martial artist at the absolute bottom rung of the competitive latter. Ignoring the tremendous courage it takes to compete in a full contact fight—courage 99% of the world will never have—the training is the really hard part. You get your ass kicked, you're hurt, you're tired, you're sore, you don't feel like training. There's no money, no glory, no attention, no fans and there sure as hell are no groupies. Competing as an amateur is tough. Competing as a low level professional on the regional circuit is even tougher. Making it from the bush leagues to the UFC is its own tremendous accomplishment. But to actually do what Jon Jones has done, going from complete unknown to the most dominant light-heavyweight champion of all time in just four years, is a feat almost defying description. It's like going from regional junior high basketball competition to winning an NBA championship and being named VMP in just 3 years. And then going on to repeat that feat four more times in the span of 365 days.

And now to address the common criticisms of Jon:

"He's coached by Greg Jackson. I hate that guy! He's a sport killer!"
Would anyone hate Greg Jackson were it not for Dana White's constant smear campaign? I have said it before and I will say it again, Dana White is a master of propaganda. He exploits people, lies constantly and has the time of his life doing it. Which is not to say he is Satan incarnate, or even that he has done more harm than good for the sport (he most certainly has not). Dana White has simply followed Vince McMahon's business model, very shrewdly making himself the biggest star of the company and (literally) positioning himself as the center of attention at every press conference. For every word a fighter speaks, Dana speaks five. He loves attention, loves being a celebrity, loves lording it over people in subordinate positions and ultimately, hurts himself and his own brand by letting his ego run amok.

"It's my way and no other way."
Dana wants the most exciting fights from the biggest names in fighting. When a guy like Greg seemingly obstructs this end, Dana takes great umbrage and makes it his purpose in life to destroy the obstruction. It is expected that Dana would trash Greg at every opportunity, and to his credit, he has done an extremely good job of getting the brainless TUF fanboy crowd to repeat his anti-Jackson propaganda all over the internet. Ultimately though, I believe Dana makes a mistake in devaluing the Jon Jones brand by trashing Jon alongside Greg. Dana costs himself money to make his light-heavyweight champion, a guy the company has a great deal invested in, look like a coward. Why would anyone want to buy UFC brand merchandise featuring a fighter that they hate? Likewise, if you are going to market Jon as a heel, it at least makes sense to make him a badass renegade heel as opposed to some coward. What does it say about your company if some gutless loser is the most dominant champion the 205 lb. division has ever seen? Oops.

"He's ducking Chael Sonnen. Jon 'Chicken Bones' Jones is afraid of Chael!"
The reason given for why Jon didn't accept the fight with Chael by Dana White was "Greg Jackson is a sport killer who didn't want the fight on short notice." I agree completely with Jon's decision to say fuck off to Dana—and anyone repeating Dana's propaganda—but not for the reason Greg has given. The fact is, Chael Sonnen has done nothing to earn a fight with Jon. Chael is a lay-and-pray artist with a UFC record of 5-6. Jon would wipe the floor with him in what would be the most one sided thrashing of Chael's life. Ask anyone who actually knows anything about the sport and they will tell you the same. Jon is a much better wrestler than Anderson Silva (who beat Chael twice, in case you've forgotten) and is considerably larger and stronger. Jon is more aggressive, has more versatile striking and in my estimation, superior conditioning to Anderson. In short, Jon would crush Chael like a bug and could do so sleepwalking.

Chael with his replica belt
Chael is an okay fighter and an extremely good talker who had nothing to lose and everything to gain from a fight with Jon. He talked himself into a title shot at 185 following three lackluster lay-and-pray victories. Following his loss to Silva, he got busted for steroids, suspended for a year, had a solid comeback vs. Brian Stann and an incredibly lackluster performance vs. Michael Bisping. And somehow this series of events qualified him for a rematch with Anderson? I think not. Chael has no business fighting for any title, let alone at 205 vs. the greatest champion the division has ever seen. Giving Chael a rematch with Anderson was as farcical as giving Brock Lesnar a title shot after only two fights and a record of 1-1 in the UFC. I could elaborate on this but Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports has already written a terrific article explaining how ridiculous it is to suggest Chael has earned a fight with Jon, let alone that Jon would actually be afraid of Chael. (He also agrees with me about what an effective master of propaganda Dana is and that the fighters really ought to unionize but probably never will).

"He said he doesn't want to fight Anderson. What a pussy. He's afraid!"
Personally, I tend to think Jon would be a huge favorite to win this fight but that's besides the point. Jon has little to gain by beating a guy from a lower weight class who is 12 years older than him, even when that guy is a legend like Anderson. It also takes two to tango and Anderson has said many times that doesn't want to fight Jon. He's also said that no Brazilian can beat him at this point. Quite an endorsement coming from the guy everyone agrees is the pound-for-pound best in the world. If Anderson has that much respect for Jon, maybe you should too...

"Jon Jones isn't genuine. He's a phony!"
You might want to ask yourself what exactly qualifies you to say with authority who the "real" Jon is. How would you know whether he is genuine or not without spending extensive time in his presence getting to know him personally? Or were you just repeating something you once heard Rashad Evans say after Jon became champion instead of Rashad? Jon said Rashad would be more bitter than ever after losing to him and it looks like he was right. Rashad treated Jon like a friend until Jon became a bigger star than him, at which point he set about smearing Jon at every opportunity to anyone who would listen. Doesn't that make Rashad the disingenuous one?

"He crashed his car! He had a DUI! Jon Jones is evil personified! THE SKY IS FALLING!"
I don't excuse this unfortunate incident but I do appreciate that no one was hurt, damage to public property was minimal and a lesson was most certainly learned. Much has been made of this one mistake but it generally seems that the people making the most noise about it are doing so to divert attention from their own wrongdoings. Chael Sonnen, for instance, has been attacking Jon on his Twitter page but anyone taking his barbs with more than a grain of salt are overlooking the fact that Chael is a convicted conman who is currently on probation for money laundering in connection to mortgage fraud. Get a clue. Chael is attacking Jon because that is literally the only way he can keep his name relevant at this point in his career. He's one step up from the Honky Tonk Man.

"He's cocky. He's too confident. I don't like that."
You need to believe in yourself to succeed in any intensely competitive field. If Jon started talking about how he's the greatest thing since sliced bread and his sweat cures cancer, that would be one thing. But the fact is he accomplished a hell of a lot very quickly and has a great deal to be proud of. Bluntly, he's earned the right to be a little cocky. And even then, he certainly isn't much more cocky than the next winning fighter, he just  gets more attention than the next guy. If you have never lived in the fishbowl Jon finds himself in as one of the sport's biggest stars, you have no way of understanding how every perceived flaw is magnified. Mountains are made out of mole hills and the slightest hint of arrogance gets distorted into something more. Why? Because as Joe Rogan explains, sometimes people want you to be a dick.


"I don't like the way he fights. He comes out crawling so people can't kick him. He kicks people's knees back. He waves his fingers too much in front of people's faces."
Tough shit. None of that constitutes cheating and if it approached the point where it could begin to constitute cheating, it's the referee's job to call him on it. Mainly the words I hear thrown around a lot in reference to these tactics are "cheap," "shady," and "fight like a man." David Sirlin explains why this is incredibly stupid far better than I could ever hope to in his excellent essay, Playing to Win:

"You're not going to see a classic scrub throw his opponent 5 times in a row. But why not? What if doing so is strategically the sequence of moves that optimize his chances of winning? Here we've encountered our first clash: the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules. These rules can be staggeringly arbitrary. If you beat a scrub by throwing projectile attacks at him, keeping your distance and preventing him from getting near you...that's cheap. If you throw him repeatedly, that's cheap, too. We've covered that one. If you sit in block for 50 seconds doing no moves, that's cheap. Nearly anything you do that ends up making you win is a prime candidate for being called cheap."

"Doing one move or sequence over and over and over is another great way to get called cheap. This goes right to the heart of the matter: why can the scrub not defeat something so obvious and telegraphed as a single move done over and over? Is he such a poor player that he can't counter that move? And if the move is, for whatever reason, extremely difficult to counter, then wouldn't I be a fool for not using that move? The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. The game knows no rules of "honor" or of "cheapness." The game only knows winning and losing."

To summarize, why do people hate Jon? They hate him because he destroyed their heroes and made it look easy. They hate him because they don't see the endless hours of hard work and years of sacrifice behind his dominant victories. Mostly, they just hate him because Uncle Dana told them to.

If you found this article interesting, stay tuned for a follow up article on the most unjustly hated man in MMA today, Greg Jackson himself.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thoughts on "Boring" MMA Fights: A Chess Analogy

Chess by Lilithia
You and I are going to play a chess game under very special conditions. You know going into this match that I am a FIDE Grandmaster who has spent the past 15 years of his life eating, sleeping and breathing chess. As you might expect, I am more than ready and able to capitalize on the first opening you give me and run away with the game. If you win, you'll be paid a trifling sum for your victory but it is understood you'll be that much closer to making the big bucks down the line. If you lose however, you'll be paid less and have less opportunities for big matches against notable opponents. You'll also be derided and outright mocked, not by your fellow players, but by the legions of chess "fans" who are quick to speak with tones of authority about what you should have done despite knowing very little about strategy and in many cases, having never even played the game themselves.

As a special condition of our game, the loser will be bludgeoned unmercifully with a sledgehammer, likely to the point of sustaining physical disfigurement if not life altering brain injury.

Under these conditions, how eager are you to make the first mistake? If you can effectively utilize a defensive strategy that I can't break through, which may even frustrate me into making a fatal blunder, what are the odds you will do just that?

Just some food for thought.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Badr Hari Discusses the Brawl with Peter Graham

I created a new YouTube channel for alternative sports a while back. Subscribe if you like.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

As my eyes open to a new world emerging, unfolding...

In the year 400 BC, Plato realized that were you to drag someone out of a cave who had lived there all their life, facing a wall the whole time and seeing only shadows cast by a flame behind them, this person would probably not recognize real objects. Instead, they would likely believe that the shadows, which were all they had ever seen until then, were real and the objects illusory. And if you were to tell this cave prisoner otherwise, they would not think to remark "You're very wise. I'm going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. You have no grasp on reality. Stop embarrassing yourself."
Immolation by Scott Kirschner

In the year 415 AD, Hypatia realized philosophy, mathematics and science were better ways of understanding the universe and man's place within it than faithful adherence to works of genocidal fiction. Alas, the angry mob that brutally murdered her did not think to remark "You're very wise, we're going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. Now we, your intellectual and moral superiors, will show our devotion to the teachings of Christ by tearing you to pieces. Ho ho!"
Hypatia by Charles William Mitchell

In the year 1610 AD, Galileo realized the earth was not the motionless center of the universe. As it happened, his ideas did not make him a particularly popular chap. And like Hypatia before him, his peers did not think to remark "You're very wise, we're going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. This is heresy!" Thankfully, unlike the wretched Hypatia, Galileo avoided a ghastly demise at the hands of a bloodthirsty mob and "only" spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

In the year 2012 AD, if you tell a creationist—that is, 25% of Americans—we're all from the same Lucy despite differences you see, they will not respond "You're very wise, I'm going to listen to you," but rather "What a fool you are. Everyone knows Yahweh/Xenu/other created humans/thetans/other!"

It seems to me that now more than ever, people don't really choose shadows or physical objects exclusively. Instead they sort of switch back and forth between believing the objects are real and the shadows are all there is as it suits their needs at any given moment. Technology is now serving up naive realism in 31 flavors:

"We're all going to die? I'll find the Heaven shadow. But now I'm bored. Hey, fuck shadows, what's on MTV? Hmm, wasting my life watching other people's wasted lives on The Real World is forcing a confrontation with existential angst. Not sure if want. I guess I'll find the God shadow now. No, that's not doing the trick, maybe try heroin? Let me text my dealer. Wait, maybe iPhone has a heroin app."

I tend to assume rather cynically we will destroy ourselves and 99% of all other species within the next 100 years or so. I'm just hoping we're at least collectively standing outside the cave by the time the whole popsicle stand goes kabloom. That is, as opposed to just staying in the cave and installing satellite television. And if we make it that far, who knows, maybe we'll decide against leaving the earth to cockroaches after all.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Reflecting on Trolling as a Pandemic

I speak as someone who has worked and played on the Internet since 2001, surfed the wave of its evolving economy, and been involved in various communities that have come and gone: I notice a change in the way we communicate, and I want to share what I observe.

A Brief History of Online Communication

At the beginning stages of the Internet, the population wasn't very dense, there were noticeably fewer trolls and social cliques were a little more open and not so serious about themselves. The Internet was mainly about getting to know your fellow man in different places and countries, of different persuasions, and of different social milieu that one wouldn't have a hope of meeting otherwise.
In my study of the Internet's history two things have changed on the user-end - traffic density and personalisation. Traffic density had the same effects on us as the metropolis had on us: Social claustrophobia. The next obvious step in the evolution of this medium was to decentralise further and build more use-specific websites. As website building became more and more accessible to us all, we could build websites with specific information and communities would grow around them. This was incredibly positive because we may be exposed to the strangers we wouldn't normally meet but have communities of people who didn't feel like strangers in comparison because of a common ground.
However this decentralisation has brought about an insular mindset online; another equally powerful expression of Man's social habits. A centralised place of meeting only took place on Usenet groups (by the end of the 90's they truly faced their demise), and in no way to the degree of MySpace or Facebook. MSN had a successful racket in the early 2000's as most Windows 2000 packages took users straight to and Hotmail, offering them a free email account and then suggesting gaming sites, shopping sites, and a community for teenagers called This is my only memory of a community that is anything like a carry-on from Usenet and a precursor to MySpace and Facebook. On this common ground 1,000's of young people came and went, discussed their lives, their loves, hooked up. Something that I call "genuine conversation" (consider the age range of the userbase) actually manifested. Bolt is largely responsible for spawning the evolution of Social Networks that eventually gave us hyper-personalised spaces.

It was 2003 that MySpace magically appeared out of MSN with a concept that took the "Friends" function and the personal page a step further. The page was where you landed, yours and everybody elses accounted for 100% of the dynamic content with exception to the chat rooms which were phased out. Like audio/video group chat, we collectively rejected open public chat. We had brought the Internet to a very insular level, we began to only find ourselves in the company of people like ourselves.

Collectives Distort Reality

Not to appeal to delusions of the past, but in the days when 99% of a community's website content was public discussion and static material, you were in less risk of surrounding yourself with people that you "authorize" to see what you're saying and communicate back to you. If, for example, you're a Conspiracy Theorist and one day you get a little bit too paranoid and spoke your mind on alt.conspiracy you're more likely to run into criticism that might make you think as apposed to today when you might not only be agreed with by your peers but you may infect them with your delusions. This naturally happens with every subculture and circle of friends. We've grown to only expect the reality we designed to come across our screens instead of the social world as it actually is.

What it Actually is

The state of the social world is Youtube.

Youtube is the one last bastion of diversity on The Internet - nothing compares to it, it serves EVERYONE in some way. The social strands might still be filtered to some degree, but eventually someone sees a Youtube comment from a person that they didn't intend on seeing and every minute of every day someone gets into an argument.

Argument consists of 60% of conversations that take place on Youtube comments. 39% accounts for people trying to prove a point to someone else or somehow show the other up. 1% of conversations are actual conversations that inspire happiness and bring about a learning experience for both people. I can say this with the utmost certainty because I haven't found someone in the real world who doesn't agree with me once they think about it.

In Conclusion...

I'm not here to say that "last night Man turned into a crowd of assholes", we live in a continuously shifting social matrix, we're coming to a point in our history and art where we can't hold up the old social pretenses anymore - we're being asked for more honesty and nakedity. The hurt and disenfranchised amoung us (see my article "Trolls and Evolving Human Consciousness") as well as the stubborn and plain nasty people in our society are the only strangers who seem to communicate lately and they communicate their insecurities and fears.
So I'm motivated to write this and simply observe without casting judgement and ask: What do we want to use the web for? Where do WE take this project? If you want join me in evolving with the challenges of our widening social matrix, consider this story:

One day I watched a Youtube video about a fat man in KFC getting angry screaming "Where's my chicken!" since the staff had misplaced, forgot about, or intentionally halted his order. I saw a comment someone made that I didn't agree with, I replied with the attitude that I don't know this person and I don't know for sure the 300 characters he had were adequate enough to do his whole personality justice. In other words, I didn't cast judgement, I just suggested he may be wrong.
He replied, clarifying what he was trying to say (this time without being a smart-ass), and I thought "Oh. He has a point here". I clarified what I meant, and then he took on board that I had a point also. He then told me about his experience working in a fast food joint, and we politely discussed life, work, primal instincts, the philosophic meaning to food.
After about 5 comments both directions I posted a profile comment to him saying thank you for the first ever civil conversation where I felt I was just talking to a normal person and neither of us were trying to "pwn" the other. He realised this was true and agreed that it was a beautiful experience.
We both went our separate ways with a new insight into how the Internet is actually a portal into the diversity and richness of the world we live in.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Evolution of Consciousness

"Just because you've been living this life the same way as everyone before you, your father and all these other corrupt politicians, that doesn't mean it's justifiable. Just because you can find examples all around you of people who've done worse and people who are doing the same things, that doesn't mean it's supposed to continue."

consciousness is the head by agnes-cecil
"It doesn't seem to be stopping with the evolution of culture. Our entire civilization is built on a foundation of unfixable bullshit. Our evolution—our cultural and social evolution—is so much slower than the evolution of technology....we have incredible technological capabilities but socially, we're just a bump ahead of where we were in the 50s."

"The life that leads you to be your dad—that's not where it's at. When you watch your dad drop dead of a fucking heart attack at 55 and you can scarcely remember him laughing 3 times, ever. And you go 'What? I'm supposed to be that guy? What the fuck is that?'"

"Our main problem as human beings is that we are in a stage of evolution; in an adolescent stage. We have potential to rise above that. To get to the top, to have just a little better view of what the world could be. And I think that's the potential that we have inside of us. We need something right now. Because the way we're doing it? We are just spinning our fucking wheels."
—Joe Rogan

New Video Album:

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Social Constructionism and Personal Sovereignty

She said "I know what it's like to be dead.
I know what it is to be sad"
And she's making me feel like I've never been born.

I said "Who put all those things in your head?
Things that make me feel that I'm mad
And you're making me feel like I've never been born."
—The Beatles, She Said She Said

Reverse Engineering the Dissonance

"It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see."
—Henry David Thoreau

For a long time I struggled with any number of limitations. I had feelings of incompleteness bordering on inferiority and a sick acceptance masquerading as a wistful remorse. In hindsight, I believe this had everything to do with a lack of introspection; I didn't think about thinking enough to understand what thinking really is.

To wit, thinking is merely a process of asking questions and answering them. Some thoughts empower us, many dis-empower us but they all start with asking a question and answering it. When you ask the same question enough times and come up with the same answer each time, you now have a belief. Our beliefs about who we are and what we are capable of absolutely govern our actions and any action taken on a consistent basis becomes a habit. Habits shape your life. Not any one thing you did but the things you've done time and time again, smoking a cigarette, playing a musical instrument, working out...who you are is largely defined by what you do on a consistent basis.

These days I'm at a very different place in life than I once was but still, at times, I catch myself asking the wrong questions. This of course only leads to terrible answers that lead to a state of anger, resentment, self disgust and a sense of stagnation. And I have to stop and ponder how I could still be asking such horrible questions, having such horrible thoughts and at times, taking actions so wildly out of step with those of the person I aspire to be. What I have found is virtually any time I catch myself thinking I am not good enough, smart enough or tough enough to face a challenge in my life, I realize the voice in my head imposing these limitations upon me is never my own. In fact, it's usually the ghost of a shockingly mundane experience in which I let someone else's perception of me become my own without even realizing it, let alone fighting it.

I, Sponge
I have a tendency to internalize things so at first I saw this as a personal shortcoming; a lack of personal sovereignty. "Wow, how weak am I if I let someone else decide who and what I am?" But some deeper introspection led me to reassess this conclusion. In fact, I now believe pretty much everyone on some level has a tendency to absorb what is around them, meaning unless you live on a desert island, your identity is inevitably a social construct at least as much as it is anything else. If you're reminded on a daily basis that others have extremely low expectations of you—be they teachers, parents, employers or anyone else (even mundanely, not maliciously)—why would you expect great things of yourself?

The Gift of Growth

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
—Wayne Dyer

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."
—Kurt Vonnegut

This has all been very doom and gloom thus far, but I have learned the wonderful thing is that this can and does work both ways. Someone else's perception of you as being more than what you are—or at least, more than what you have always seen yourself as being—can replace your own just as easily and seamlessly. I don't know if it is truly rarer or if it just appears that way since negative experiences are so charged in terms of emotional energy stockpiled, but it happens all the same. Of this I am absolutely certain. There is zero chance I would be the person I am today had I not had the tremendous fortune of meeting someone I saw as so far above me in every way imaginable...who saw me as her equal and in many ways, more than her equal. At which point I began to grow tremendously, without even realizing it, just trying to live up to being the person she seemed to see in me. It was life changing and completely carved out a huge part of my identity that lingers to this day, a full eleven years later; the part of my identity I love the most because it was a gift from someone I loved.

As fate would have it, the person who gave me this tremendous gift was essentially thrust randomly into my life only to disappear just as quickly. That's kind of how it works as a kid, people just sort of drift in and out of your life and your control over your circumstances is oftentimes limited at best. But there comes a time when every adult must take a look at their life and accept responsibility for everything they don't like about it, thereby empowering themselves to do something about it.

I think it's pretty obvious where I am going with this and brighter minds than my own have already said it more succinctly than I ever could.

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. The really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
—Mark Twain

"Advice for others: surround yourself with positive people you can learn from."
—David Blaine

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