Pre-Burned Bridges

When you burn a bridge, you notice. Lots of other people notice, too. But before a bridge can be burned, it has to be built – so if you’re burning bridges at all, you’re actually still doing better than some people.

Some people never even build a bridge to burn, and unlike the problem of burning bridges, the problem of not building them is so subtle that no one notices – maybe not even you.

Think about how you made the friends that you have. Likely they started as circumstantial – you worked together, or you went to school together, etc. But then you liked each other enough or shared enough interests that you started spending time together voluntarily and now you’re friends! It’s a neat process, but ask yourself – why doesn’t it happen more often?

Every time someone interacts with you, in any context, they’re making judgement calls. What you write, what you say, etc. It affects how they perceive you. But they aren’t very likely to tell you unless it’s positive. If they want to become your friend, you know. If they think you’re a jerk, they probably just move on.

Now, maybe that’s on them – you won’t (and shouldn’t try to) become friends with everyone. Or business partners, or romantically involved, or what have you. But if you do want more friends, business associates, or romantic partners than you currently have, the first thing to look at is which bridges you might not be building.

The False Mirror

Sometimes you think you’re holding up a mirror, but what you’re really looking at – looking through – is a lens.

And it’s a distorted one at that. It filters and bends and obscures. But no matter how you twist and change what you see through that lens, it never turns into you.

Don’t try to shave using a picture of someone else.


I think finding proper things to care about is a key component to a healthy life. I would caution anyone, however, against becoming obsessed with anything.

The difference between care and obsession isn’t just a matter of degree. I care about my children to a vast degree, but I’m not obsessed. What then is the difference?

Obsession is a dismissal of cost. I care about my children, so if one of them were to get very sick, I would be willing to sacrifice many things to make them well. If one of them needed a kidney and I could provide it, I’d do so in a heartbeat. What I wouldn’t do, however, is kill a stranger and take their kidney. The cost is too high.

Similarly, if I’m out at the park with the kiddos and one of them overestimated their native insulation and insisted to me that they didn’t need a coat, and then WHAT DO YOU KNOW they’re cold, I’m willing to run home and grab their coat. I’m not willing to take a coat by force from another kid at the playground.

I care deeply about certain aspects of my self-improvement. I want to be wealthier as I progress through life, but I’m not obsessed with wealth to the point where I’d steal or sacrifice family life, etc.

Obsession is a dismissal of cost. Only the object of your obsession matters; it’s exclusionary. It ignores trade-offs. Care, even deep care, is inclusionary – it uses the object of your care as one building block of many to create a foundation. Caring about the wrong things creates weak bricks in your foundation. But obsessing over even generally positive things is like stacking the same brick over and over into a single tower, rather than a strong foundation.

Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do

Creating circumstances that allow you to do things you wouldn’t normally do is a great thing. People talk about their ‘comfort zones,’ but you can bring that with you. Your comfort zone doesn’t have to be stationary!

The actions themselves are rarely the foundation of your comfort. Usually it’s the feelings associated with those actions, or the people you do them with, or the cost to make them happen. But those are all things you can wrap around a new action if you set it up right.

You can bring a few friends along. You can combine the new thing with old things. You can establish safety nets. You can mix and match all sorts of circumstances to let you explore the great wide world.

You can also just jump off the deep end, but not everyone will do that. And better to wade in the shallow end first than to never do it at all.

Future Suffering

Past suffering does not absolve you from future suffering. If only it were so.

You may have been lost for a long time. Then one day, you discover where you want to go – but that doesn’t mean you’re there. You may be many miles away. You’ve walked so far already, so it doesn’t seem fair that now you have to walk to far again.

But this is the way of things. Sometimes you can take past work and convert it towards your present or future goals. Most of the time, you can’t.

If you use that as an excuse to not walk, you stay lost.

Life Raft

A very small percentage of your thoughts are deliberate. The majority just pop into your head, usually in reaction to something.

Whether deliberate or not, those thoughts make you feel a certain way, and those feelings drive your actions. Sorry – I know you want to think that every action you take is directed explicitly by consciously-chosen and bias-free thoughts, but hahahahahahaha.

Those actions you take then create results in your life. Those results might be good or bad or in between or a combination and life is complex. But here’s the thing – the results then generate further outside stimuli.

Which creates thoughts.

So now you’re in the loop, the pattern. You see what’s happening? Feedback. White water rapids, carrying you along, mostly without your active consent.

But all is not lost! Get on that life raft. (That’s a joke, as you’ll see in a minute).

There’s a term for this pattern, called TFAR, which stands for Thoughts – Feelings – Actions – Results. But we can play with that acronym and flip it around and then it becomes RAFT, which I like better because it has a sort of symbolic ring to it.

The point though, is that you can interrupt this cycle and shape it in the future. You can work backwards from the results you want to see, in order to recognize the actions, feelings and thoughts that will get you there.

First, you need some awareness. Look at the current results – the ones you wish were different. What actions did you take that got you there? Write it down. Write it down. Write all of this, because it’s helpful.

Now, write what you were feeling when you chose that action. This will be uncomfortable, probably. Good.

Now, write down what belief led you to feel the way you felt. That’s the core “thought” that led to everything else.

Was that thought really and truly a conscious, deliberate thought? Or did you think that because some outside stimuli dropped that thought into your head, and you internalized it and it set off this whole negative chain?

Interrupt that cycle. Recognize it. Write down the result you wished had happened instead, now. Then write down what actions would have led to that result. Then write down how you’d have to feel in order to take that action. Then write down what you’d have to believe in order to feel that way.

Memorize that new core thought. Make that the internal voice. Write it on your arm if you have to. But the next time the original thought, the one that set off the whole thing, comes back into your head, you’ll be prepared. You’ll know to stop, and before the whole chain begins again, you’ll repeat the thought you want to be true. You’ll say it like a mantra, over and over. You’ll write it down a few times. Anything to embed it.

Then, like a planted seed, let it grow. Let a different cycle take over, a positive one. Get out of the rapids and onto the RAFT that you want.

Rain Dance

Sometimes, kids want to do things that are extremely kid-like, and that adults have a strong aversion to. Intentionally getting super muddy in the rain usually falls into this category.

I’m pretty neat & tidy. The word “freak” may have been attached there, unflatteringly, on more than one occasion. I love going out into the woods for extended periods of time, but in my normal day-to-day, I prefer to keep traffic in my home and immediate surroundings pretty scrubbed.

So I’m not very pro-mud, as a rule. But kids gotta kid, man. Some things you just have to say yes to.

Meet & Greet

I really love meeting new people. Not only is it an enjoyable experience, but like anything else, it’s a skill you can get better at.

Having an interesting conversation the very first time you interact with someone is a fantastic ability. It keeps you enthused about meeting people over and over, which has nothing but positive effects on your life. And if you’re interested, then you’re interesting as well. That helps you get to conversation #2 and beyond.

I’ve found that it’s not really about asking the right questions. It’s about presenting yourself in such a way that the other person feels comfortable giving interesting answers. Anyone can write down a list of unusual conversation-starters, but if the person you’re talking to feels like they’re being interrogated or you’re just checking questions off a list in order to seem interesting (rather than genuinely being interested) then they won’t open up.

Don’t just meet people – let them meet you. Your genuine self is worth getting to know.


When I hear people loudly espousing opinions that I disagree with, I keep my mouth shut. I have good reasons.

But when I hear people loudly espousing opinions that I agree with, I keep my mouth shut even tighter. In a sort of a mirror post to the one linked above, here are my reasons why I don’t generally admit when I agree with someone:

  1. I want to avoid echo-chamber reinforcements. I don’t really want to create a situation where I pull people closer to me just because they agree with me on certain opinions. Surrounding yourself with only extremely like-minded people is the way to a closed mind. I’d rather listen to everyone, establish truth myself, and live by it. Others don’t need to know.
  2. I don’t want my future silence to imply disagreement. If I keep silent sometimes, and other times shout “heck yes,” then my silence starts to mean something that I don’t want it to mean. I like reserving my ability to quietly observe.
  3. I don’t want to be associated with everything said by the person I agreed with one time. Agreement on one subject or issue has a tendency to creep into associations of all kinds. It’s one of the reasons I avoid political labels, too. If someone shouts “X” and I agree with X loudly, it becomes harder to distance myself when that person says “Y” and I disagree.
  4. Sometimes you don’t agree with someone enough and that becomes a problem. I remember reading an amusing comic where two guys argued because one of them really really liked the movie 300 and the other one only really liked the movie and that was of course a heinous offense. But that happens frequently! Sometimes I agree with someone, but they’ve taken the view to a point perhaps 5-10% more extreme than I would, and if I say “Hey, I agree with you almost entirely, except for maybe this minor quibble,” then I’ll get attacked worse than if I disagreed entirely. It’s a fact of life that heresy gets vilified far more than opposition.

So when will I allow someone to know that I agree with their position? For the most part – only in private, only if it’s someone who I trust to be a rational thinker, and only if there’s the possibility of good discussion as a result. In other words – rarely.

Of course, I have zero problem voicing my own opinions and views – heck, I do it here every day. And some of those views may be very similar to others you find elsewhere. That’s fine! If, by association, someone were to say, “Hey, Johnny wrote this and it’s really similar to this other thing written by this other person, I guess they agree on this topic,” then that’s just fine. Agreeing with a sentiment, opinion or view is markedly different from agreeing with a person, and I don’t mind the former.

Now, turn this around on me. I write things every day! Some of those things you may agree with. Some you may not. That’s good and healthy. It’s possible you may even agree with most of what I write – that’s fine too! After all, I write in the sincere hope that people will find benefit, and in order for something to benefit you it has to change you in some way, so in a way I do hope that my writing influences others, convinces them of the merits of my arguments. It may even be the case, as has happened once or twice, that you read something I wrote and agreed with it to the degree that you shared it with others. I’m okay with all of this.

But I don’t ever want to be unassailable. I write to expose my thinking to the elements. I invite people to disagree publicly and agree privately if that is their wont. I encourage people to agree with caveats, or agree with 50%, or agree but think I don’t go far enough! In other words, I sincerely hope that more than causing you to agree or disagree, these posts encourage you to think, and discover, and evaluate. Your mind has more knowledge than this blog ever will.

The Hardest Part

I’m generally a patient person, but there are certain kinds of waiting I hate.

I really dislike “active waiting,” where waiting is the only thing I can do. For instance, if I order something and it’s going to take a week to arrive at my house, that’s totally fine, because I can just live my life during that week. But waiting in line for something, where I have to just stand there until it’s my turn? Argh. Give me a deli-style “take a number” system any day.

I was thinking about waiting today because there are certain goals you can actively pursue and certain goals that simply take time, and can’t be rushed by additional action. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

For instance, you can’t build a meaningful relationship with someone – a friend, a family member, a romantic partner – any faster by doing it harder. Bonds are built over time. I can’t raise my children into competent and heroic adults any faster by trying to jam their days over-full of lessons and trials. They just have to grow.

You can work in your garden all you like, but at a certain point you just have to accept that you can’t make a tomato plant grow any faster than it wants to. You can help it be healthier, you can make it safe. But it gives you a tomato when it wants to.

I love goals that can be accelerated by action, but not every goal is like that. In fact, very few are! It’s a rare treat to get an attainable goal that’s entirely dependent on you and no outside factors. Meaningful patience is a challenge, but getting good at it is utterly rewarding.

Gratitude and patience are inexorably intertwined. If you are grateful for the movement, your goals become less about the end and more about the rewards of pursuit. If you are grateful for your children as the wonderful humans they are, then you don’t have to be constantly waiting for the next milestone you can brag about or celebrate. Instead of being impatient that your workouts haven’t yet yielded every result you want, be so so grateful that you have the health to even lift those weights or take those steps. Notice a few breaths each day, happy that they’re pulling you forward.