The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Left Out

left out

You know that awful, helpless feeling of knowing that everyone thought of you, but thought twice? These chaps probably spent their lives wishing they could be part of the “normal” crowd.

Now, not many of us have troubles as evident as these fellows, but in a dog-eat-dog world it’s pretty easy to find faults. It could be that you have a funny habit, that you need to comb your hair, or maybe that you’re (forbid the thought) unique.

So, what are you supposed to do when you’re the odd one out? You don’t want to be a tag-along, or a complainer, and the natural response is to seclude yourself and stew. But when it comes down to it, stewing only makes you less personable, stressing the problem.

When I was a kid I learned a trick that helped me to stay positive: I thought about my most loyal friend. While it was natural to say “I don’t have a friend in the world”, this thought allowed me to add an “except…” to the sentence. Even though that friend was seldom around when I felt down, just remembering that there was someone who was still my friend made me feel better—still not great—but better.

Filed under: friendship, independence, interaction, loneliness, strength


What things in your life make you feel comfortable? Take a moment to think about them. If you’re at all like me, you probably just envisioned a loaded turkey sandwich, your favorite after-a-long-day chair, and a fresh-ground French press steaming in your favorite mug—or at least something similar. Well, whatever it is, I hope you’re experiencing it right now, because it may be the last time you ever do so with a clear conscience.

No, I’m not going to lay a guilt trip on you about how other people are utterly without our luxuries, as true as that is. Instead, I’d like to share my latest epiphany: being comfortable is bad for you.

Aside from the worldly attachments we develop when visiting our “comfort caves”, being comfortable is detrimental in another way. When we feel comfortable, we close our eyes to growth.

By deciding that we’re comfortable with our own levels of competence in our respective fields (be they professional or inspired), we stunt ourselves of the drive to exceed our previous performances. For example, my previously mentioned comfort-vices keep me from discovering new types of sandwiches, gaining new perspective from other seats, and finding out how much I really would enjoy kumquat tea (?). While these things are fairly inconsequential, you can see where applying the same principle on a larger scale might reveal one of human-kind’s greatest weaknesses: the lack of drive to improve.

Now, what were those things that make you feel comfortable? Think about them.

Filed under: comfort, ease, growth, influence, learning, strength

Losing is Such a Lovely Thing Indeed

Losing is lovely because when you lose, you’re tested. For example, playing golf is more a challenge of temper for me than of athleticism (though I do stink at the latter). Losing at golf means a poor scorecard, but a tried and controlled temper is much more valuable than any scorecard. When in competitive games like chess, losing means seeing someone else win, which, with study, can improve your game much more than playing an easy opponent and winning.

Filed under: conditioning, coping, growth, irony, learning, losing, strength, temper


When I was younger, I lived on Guam. My family would regularly go to the beach, and I thus developed somewhat of an understanding of the ocean—in a practical sense. I spent many hours playing in the waves, digging in the sand, racing hermit crabs and the like.

One day I went along with some friends who were going to a swimming hole with a diving tower. When we got there I saw the platform and thought to myself, “that doesn’t look so high.” Well, needless to say, when I found myself looking down from the hard concrete slab suspended above the ocean floor, the water in between didn’t seem as forgiving as it had from below. And so I debated. I worked up courage, and then lost it. My friends showed me how fun it was, but it still didn’t appeal to me, I told myself reasons, but I just couldn’t remember them when I peered over the edge.

While I spent time working up the courage to take the plunge, something else was happening, of which I hadn’t the slightest. On Guam there are 2 kinds of weather: rainy (really rainy) and sunny. This day was the latter. Now, I’m 1/4 Norwegian, and in Norway during the winter there is only one type of weather: dark.

While I was debating and mustering the courage to jump, the sun did a number on my white-as-chalk skin.

My point to this little anecdote is not that you should always wear sunscreen (although it’s not a bad idea), nor that you should seize the day and take the metaphorical jump. My point is that some things are just absolute. I could have debated that jump forever. There are a million reasons both to and not to jump (not the least of which was my gripping fear). What happened to me has happened to many people—it’s called “analysis paralysis.” I spent so much time debating that not only did I miss out on life, I suffered the consequences of removing myself from normalcy.

I’ve found that courage is one thing that is absolute. Either you have it, or you don’t. Don’t waste your time trying to talk yourself into things. Do them, or don’t.

Spend some time thinking about what things are absolutes in your life. When you find them, recognize them, even write them down if you must, but know that the recognition of these absolutes means you’ll no longer be prone to analysis paralysis. Your life will begin to rid itself of worry and wasted time.

Filed under: coping, debate, decisions, fear, growth, irony, jump, leap of faith, paralysis, ready, stalling, strength, sunburn


I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms


The other day I was thinking about hardships. Everyone knows they happen. Sometimes they’re nasty, sometimes deadly, and sometimes they’re just downright inconvenient. But what makes the difference? Well… right now I could go into the whole “severity of discomfort” spiel, but I won’t. Discomfort, while sometimes physical, is many times just a mental construct. When something wretched comes along, what makes it so wretched? Most of the time it’s just our own brains worrying. If the president of the United States were shot tomorrow, would there really be a good reason for me to panic? Would there really even be a good reason to stop doing what I was doing at the time?

Humans seem to think that getting angry, frustrated, or worried are good and natural responses to misfortune. They’re only partly right. Getting angry, frustrated, and worried are natural responses, but they are not good. Take a look at some of the wisest figures to ever grace our history books. Ghandi is considered one of the wisest people who ever walked the sphere. What was his response to misfortune? What about Mother Theresa? Same story.

The truth is, getting angry only makes you more angry, and worrying is just silly. Morgan Freeman—playing God—delivered it very well in Evan Almighty (which surpassed my expectations…):

”When someone prays for patience, do you think God makes them patient or does He give them an opportunity to learn patience? When someone asks for courage, does God simply make them courageous or does he give them an opportunity to be brave? When someone prays for their family to be closer, does God just do it or does he give them an opportunity to spend time together?“

When something bad happens, isn’t it just a chance to rise above the challenge where others would break down? If we can break our minds from the mold of anger, just look at the doors we open.

Filed under: anger, change, conditioning, decisions, fear, growth, independence, learning, living, loss, misfortune, opportunity, priorities, strength, trauma

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