Questions about self-righteousness and humility

Self-righteousness–the antithesis of a humble person is not a good trait to have.

A core trait of an (outwardly) righteous person is humility.

So, does self-righteousness mean you are not a righteous person?

If I am a righteous person (objectively,) but I also think that I am a righteous person, is that a lack of humility? Is that self-righteousness creeping in? And if it is, am I even righteous anymore?

Does the humble person know they’re humble? Are they allowed to acknowledge it? Or would that be a lack of humility?

Would it be easier to be open to the critique and suggestions of others if we had a more open mind and didn’t think we knew the best way always? Humility leads you to have a mind that is open to the critique and suggestions of others.

Humility also will give you the confidence to live at peace when you are criticized. Even if you do take the attack personally, you’re not so self-righteous that a personal attack feels outrageous. It’s a peaceful thing.

Of course, you do need to have a strong and sharpened mind to know which critique you will take and which critique is complete rubbish. A strong mind can also rebuff (or completely ignore) the critique that falls in the category of personal attack.

I have questions about where self-righteousness begins and what bearing that has on personal humility AND the connection that has to mental/emotional stability.

People will question and criticize you (especially when you’re not around)

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this. It’s easier to commiserate on the annoying thing that somebody else does that “you just can’t understand.”

A few days ago I overheard a friend of mine talking smack about my blog posts. He said: “people who write blogs full of positive ideas and faux-self-help are full of crap and they really only do it for themselves.”

I am probably “full of crap” about lots of things, but that’s part of what makes learning new stuff more fun. Then I smell a little less crappy.

The friend is also correct when he says that I write these for myself. It’s my daily writing challenge and it allows me to play with thoughts and ideas that come to me while I read, ride(cycle), and think each day.

This reaffirms the reason I’m writing these posts and also that my friend can correctly identify things at first glance. I always knew I liked that guy.

Walking away from self-discipline

If you fail to walk the path of self-discipline you will begin to feel lost and out-of-control, loose ambition as you lose your motivation and drive to work, and fall into a self-pitying hellscape, and finally depression(or worse).

The recipe is simple but you are the only one who can implement it.

  1. Chase wisdom.

  2. Read and open your mind to explore ideas.

  3. Do the hard things first.

  4. Challenge yourself always.

  5. Challenge your fears.

  6. Deprive yourself of nice things.

  7. Workout, run, ride a bike, get up and move.

  8. Control your emotions.

  9. Wish the best and think the best of others.

  10. Outline a loose and adaptable plan for your daily activities.

I am sure this is the recipe to fortify your body and mind, kill depression, do better work (and more of it), and keep a high level of personal happiness in all situations.

Are you planning for the past or the future?

The data-driven analyst and the statistician are obsessed with what happened in the past as a means to predict the future. But if data of past disasters, wars, behavioral patterns are such a good predictor of future events, why is the world still so unpredictable?

I think the answer lies in the assumption that the future will only ever get as bad as we've seen the past get. We rarely plan for worse. Before WWI wars were straight forward and more localized (mostly), before 9/11 who would have thought planes would be used to such devastating effect, before the great depression of recession of 2008 would have seen those things coming?

Can the turkey accurately predict its population when it sees explosive growth in young turkeys, but doesn’t know Thanksgiving is looming at the end of November? Will his prediction be correct when he doesn’t know of that event?

We must build ourselves into fluid people who use the many small conflicts in life to prepare for larger aberrations–whatever they may be. It’s hard to predict what has never happened before.

Keeping things simple, keeping a fluid schedule, understanding your strategy for dealing with life in general, and embracing low-level conflict and difficulty will make you able to ride out the storm when something larger happens.

Sun Tzu talks about a rigid battle-plan that is shattered the moment the enemy doesn’t do exactly what you think and just like that your plans–and army–are defeated. He talks about having a fluid strategy instead of a rigid plan. This fluidity will wrap around problems like water.

When you throw a small stone into water, the water buckles and ripples and returns to normal. When you cast in a boulder you get larger ripples, but eventually, the water returns to normal as well. But the water had no means of knowing you were throwing anything stone into it.

So don’t plan for the future or the past. Plan on making yourself a person who is both resilient and who can become stronger in the face of chaos and uncertainty. Embrace these things and use the energy they stir up to make yourself and the world around you better and better.

The inn-keeper who cut off legs

In Greek mythology, there was an inn-keeper named, Procrustes who claimed to have a bed that fit all men perfectly. He did, in fact, have a bed that fit all men perfectly, because those too tall he cut parts of their feet and legs off and those too short were subject to the stretching rack. Sounds like a nice guy.

The story of this character is that we ought to take care not to play demigod and force things to fit into our arbitrary frameworks.

Instead of forcing something to conform to a linear line, let the zig-zagging happen, let the randomness explode forth, let it just be organic and see what strength and good comes from it in the end.

Treating our fellow humans as we would a machine is much the same. One is mechanical, one is organic. One is linear, exacting, never tires, and is resilient. The human is random, general, has an exhaustible level of energy, and is able to take a beating and get stronger from it.

Understanding this concept forced a moment of humility on myself. Not all things are exactly as you think they are. Maybe some of those arbitrary things you do or judge others for doing aren’t that big of an issue as you make them.

I am talking about things truly arbitrary. The difference between the objective, important things and the fleeting, arbitrary things is a different discussion.

Could you teach Tiger Woods how to golf?

A couple of days ago I had to make a “quick” trip out to West Virginia (roughly 5-hour drive from Philadelphia) and while driving did my best to stay focused and listened to some podcasts.

One was about developing a better speaking voice, but the guy who was doing the teaching sounded terrible. His voice sounded static, choppy, robotic, basically the opposite of a pleasant and flowing conversational voice.

I only made it through 17 minutes of the podcast before I couldn’t stand listening to his voice.

He did have some good ideas and tips about tweaking your own voice.

The whole thing got me thinking about teachers. Even the best sportsmen in the world have coaches and teachers that know how to do things but are not talented enough to do them. The elite athlete gleans the knowledge and has the ability to put it all together.

So should we ignore advice that somebody offers just because we deem their skill set less-than-great? Must you be one of the world’s best to offer training, advice, or opinion?

I think we must not lose sight of the ability of a great art teacher to understand the fundamentals being taught while maybe not being the most talented artist in his own class.

If the person is sharing value, consume the value whether they’re able to execute on the value they offer or not.

Even Tiger Woods has a golf instructor.

Does stress makes us live longer?

For the human body not to have acute, intermittent stress is to cause atrophy of muscles and a weakening of the mental state–(you do need time to recover between stressful events). You grow fat and lazy (and unhealthy!) in the absence of good stressors.

There are, however, bad stressors. Continual and nagging stress like self-guilt, a difficult boss, continual bills/debt, etc… are all bad because they give you no reprieve. Rest is paramount.

The more weight you lift, the more your bones and muscles anticipate will need to be lifted next time so they grow stronger.

Your mind also mentally fits itself to take on more difficult tasks the more you take on difficult tasks.

Take the Indian woman who has been carrying a 5-gallon jug of water on her head since she was a young girl. She’s 75 years old now and can still hold 50lbs up there. She has great muscle and bone strength and she lives in a continuous state of on-again, off-again physical and mental stress with periods of rest.

Compare that to the typical 75-year-old American who is two decades into retirement and living in a state of perpetual rest. He is growing weaker every day. His muscles getting flabby and his skeletal structure has grown weaker (not stronger!) He no longer has the will to challenge himself and his mind is losing cognition. He lives in the absence of stressors.

The key here is to have stressors (physical and mental) with periods of rest and recuperation in between. Weight lifters make really heavy lifts and then spend the rest of the time resting. Rest!

I’m not a scientist, but the optics of the absence of stressors and the weakening of the person (or society) that craves tranquility all the time is an interesting juxtaposition.

More than most things, I love reading

I love reading and at the moment I’m reading Nassim Taleb’s book “Antifragility”. I’m only 50 pages in and it might be the best book I’ve ever read.

He also writes with lots of big words. Here are a few new ones I’ve learned today in a non-precise, non-scientific understanding of them:


A theoretical phenomenon in medicine that a small dose of a poison or other harmful thing may produce beneficial effects at low doses.

Antidotum Mithridatium (roughly Latin for "The antidote of Mithridates")

This method to achieve immunity takes its name from its inventor, Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (134 to 63 BC) who built up his body by taking small doses of poisons, etc... to protect himself from being poisoned by an enemy. Strengthen your body or immune system by slowly building a tolerance to poisons or difficulty


A throne vacancy between two rulers or a pause in a continuous series of things.


Something that involves a chance or a process involving a random moving part or variable.


A person who pretends to have more knowledge of economics than they really possess.


This relates to the process of discovering things and solving problems through trial and error. Also relates to a person who will self-educate.


I wasn't really sure what the definitions I was reading meant so here is a copy-and-paste from a website I found: "Pathemata then, is what lies beneath, within, without, here, yet beyond, under, over and above language. It is the inherent and underlying common ground and movement (passion) of living beings, which for Plato and Aristotle necessarily involve suffering."


This is another deeply philosophical term that means, as far as I can tell, things that are actually, deeply true. Things that can be both learned and taught by a person. Not something simply listened to and adopted, but something that is learned and experienced.


This means being a well-studied person, educated, learned, etc...


This means an exaggerated growth without multiplying the number of parts in an organ or organism.


This is to soothe or appease or even reduce the intensity of a thing or person.

I love this stuff.

Do you eat your own cooking?

I talk about simplifying things all the time, but then I churn out blog posts that are 10 paragraphs long. So boring and unnecessary. Simple is better and usually more effective.

But it begs the question, do you eat your own cooking? Do you follow your own advice?

I look around and see so many people presenting themselves as “gurus” but have they ever actually done what they preach?

As I move forward, I’m going to start ensuring I put into practice the things I teach and preach as much as I’m able. Eat your own cooking and have some skin in the game.

This Navy SEAL taught me something about courage

I just finished a very quick read through the very nice book “Make Your Bed” by Admiral William H. McRaven and he shares a short paragraph on courage that I wanted to share here.

He recounts a story of swimming with Great White sharks and the fear associated with it when he says:

“ Our goal, which we believed to be honorable and noble, gave us courage, and courage is a remarkable quality. Nothing and nobody can stand in your way. Without it, others will define your path forward. Without it, you are at the mercy of life’s temptations. Without courage, men will be ruled by tyrants and despots. Without courage, no great society can flourish. Without courage, the bullies of the world rise up. With it, you can accomplish any goal. With it, you can defy and defeat evil.”

Riding a rocket to the moon

I’ve tried to stop saying, “it’s impossible”.

It is almost never impossible. It’s just that usually we can’t see a way how to get it done. Difficult problems require creative solutions and everything seems impossible until it’s done.

Remember, it was impossible to fly until the Wright brothers did. It was impossible to go the outer space until it wasn’t. It was impossible to produce a movie in your living room and share it with the world, but now we have iPhones, video editing on laptops, and a massive network called YouTube on which we can share videos.

It’s not impossible, I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

Wooden legs without the limp

When your back hurts a little after a long day of work, or pulling too much on the deadlift bar yesterday, or riding too many miles a couple of days ago, walk straight and without a limp.

Ever since I was a little kid I have noticed that the vast majority of people fall into a need-to-be-helped, want-to-be-helped, or do-it-yourselfer category.

For those who genuinely need help and who genuinely are not able to walk without a limp, you get a pass here, but the mental aspect I think still applies.

What I noticed about these different sorts of folks was that there was a massive difference in the way they were perceived and respected. Those who were confident, established, and willing to risk it and figure out how to make it through got heaps of respect. They were looked up to by most people.

The people who needed help fell in a sort of neutral middle-ground where people were aware of their shortcomings or disabilities and worked with them as best they were able.

The people who wanted the help nearly always wanted the attention that came with the help and in the process, they would always make themselves appear as lesser, as victims, or as hopelessly lost. There is nothing wrong with asking for help (in most situations) but to destroy the air of a well-adjusted, strong, helping, confident, reliable person always boggled my mind.

After observing several situations involving folks who behaved like this I promised myself that I’d walk without a limp even if it hurt a little more. I would be the pillar others could lean on, I would only ask for help if absolutely necessary.

I wanted people to look at me and see a complete package of stability, reliability, level-headedness, no dramatic theatrics at every little problem, and a person who exuded confidence.

I’m not quite at that level yet, but the attitude of showing no outward weakness (except occasionally) has served me extraordinarily well in many facets of life and business.

If I'm building my personal brand, I want it to be a strong and deep one.

Wear your diaper tighter and skin your knees

I’m going to try to write titles to my entries that sound funnier and more intriguing than the borderline-Tony-Robbins-like twaddle I’ve been writing for the past six months.

This is uncomfortable for me. I know, only 10 or 15 people read what I write, but it still feels weird to not be boring and safe.

Oh, wait! That’s the catch. That’s the thing I need to stop doing. I need to stop being so safe all the time. It’s boring and it’s not effective.

I’ve known in my head for a long time that to be truly outstanding I must get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

But in my heart, I have a hard time delivering and actually living out what I know is correct. Because it’s uncomfortable, I might fail, I might look stupid, and the warmth of just being boring and conforming in is an enticing lover.

I often try to take on tasks, jobs, and hobbies that push me out of my comfort zone. I’m working on taking up cycling and golf at the moment. I’ve never even been golfing on a real course (just that mini-golf stuff) and I used to ride a mountain bike around the block as a kid. That’s my experience.

I want to shoot par on 18 holes consistently and I want to ride my bike from Philadelphia to San Francisco. That’s uncomfortable to think about. More uncomfortable to say. And most uncomfortable to tell those in my family and friend circle I’m going to do.

Because I might fail.

There is always a risk of failure in everything, but by fully embracing the risks and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable bits I will be able to ride 3,000+ miles across this nation.

So wear your diaper tighter and more uncomfortable and fall down every now and then and skin those knees.

“It shouldn’t take you that long…”

Not too long ago I wrote an entry here about the uninformed critic who does not have your level of expertise but speaks with the condescension and hubris of a man with a thousand levels greater expertise than you.

It seems to me that the little phrase “It shouldn’t take you that long…” carries some similar gusto. It has this air of patronizing belittlement that I find bizarre.

Partially it seems bizarre because I think that some people do offer it as a genuine pseudo-compliment when asking for a favor, while many others say it to fill that awkward dead silence after they ask for a favor, and still others use it as a way to try to manipulate you and make themselves feel good about stepping over the line and taking spare time that you would have otherwise used for something you preferred to do.

But like the uninformed critic, often the person throwing this set of words in your direction doesn’t understand the time that it actually does take to fulfill the task they’re asking of you.

What may seem like a quick five-minute thing may actually be an undertaking that takes an hour or more.

It’s one of those phrases that I’ve tried to stop using altogether. I don’t know how long it will take you. I do value your time and even if it only takes five minutes, I’m asking for five minutes of your life. Also, if it’s such an easy thing, I should probably take a crack at it myself and if I can’t solve it then I have even greater respect for the time and effort you spend to correct the problem.

That’s all for today. Just a bit of a rant, I suppose based on a recent conversation and a pattern of behavior I’ve come to see over my past 10 years in the design and photography industry.

Perseverance without passion

“Keep your head up, kid! Things will get better soon!” I’ve heard that more than once in my life. The message is pretty clear. Keep going and never give up.

It’s a maxim that I hold near and dear as well, but it must be qualified by your passion in the thing you are to keep doing.

Perseverance is pretty awesome. It will separate you from all the posers and pretenders. You’ll stand after they fall because you had the grit and determination to keep going.

But if you have no passion in the thing, it is time to give up and find what you have a passion for. Perseverance without passion is a life of misery.

So get to work and don’t stop working and persevere as you discover your passion(s).

If you find the work to be like toiling in the hot sun, hit the eject button and find something else and persevere there until you hit upon the thing that is easy to persevere in because you have such a passion for it.

When we're afraid to fail

Most of us have a myriad of reasons why we procrastinate. Whether it’s a feeling of being overwhelmed, a fear of failing, a fear of looking bad, a fear of being vulnerable, and fear of other people’s judgments regarding the thing we do.

Or, maybe we’re just plain lazy, there are tons of reasons to prefer kicking back with Netflix than being productive.

Be a maker, not a consumer.

I do think I have a bit of laziness in my bones. It’s something I fight with and try to establish better habit by figuring out what it is I do when I’m feeling lazy and then what that activity does for me and then adjusting my response when I feel lazy to do something more structured and productive while still delivering that pay off my body or mind seems to be after.

But laziness aside, the fear of failure is strong with me. I think I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I always think I need to be more qualified and perfect to share what I know or share what I’ve done.

This leads me to spend months (or years!) tinkering behind the scenes when I could have shared so much with the world and people around me.

Don’t let perfection hold you back! Falling short of perfection is OK when you’re putting forth your best effort.

Falling short of perfection while being lazy or showing a lack of care for the work you do and whether you get better at it or not is the stuff that isn’t so good. Some form of perfection will arrive when we work hard and apply ourselves.

So work hard, be passionate, and damn the torpedoes that demand perfection!

Hating the downhills

I overheard two people talking at an event a couple of days ago about cycling. One person talked about how much they enjoyed riding hills because the downhill speed and rest from hard pedaling feels so good.

The response from the other person was that they only liked biking on flat ground because having downhills means you have uphills and that means harder work.

It started me thinking about the difference they both had in response to the same topic at hand.

One of them was willing to endure a little hardship (some would call exercise) for the promise of future pleasurable experience. Really just enjoying what was happening at the moment and not worrying about the difficult things.

The other person couldn’t focus on anything but the difficult bits and therefore chooses to miss out on the entire experience because of the perceived difficulty.

It was a little reminder to me not the let the fear of what could go wrong be a deterrent from doing what I want to do or doing what needs to be done. Also, it was a reminder to focus on the good stuff. It makes working with the difficult stuff much easier.

The costume of expectations

The costume of expectations is the worst costume of all.

The costume of expectations is the costume we wear when we pretend to be what we aren’t and build up what others expect of us.

But this costume is heavy and it isn’t you. You’re not ready for the over promises you’ve committed to and the white lies about how well you’re doing and what you’re capable of are mild exaggerations at best.

By pretending to be someone else to impress other people we set ourselves up for immense stress and ultimately failure under the weight of great expectations.

By building yourself to be what others want, you chain yourself to continue being who others want.

That’s the recipe to look back with great regret as you grow older and wiser.

Some peer pressure is good, but taking on a full costume will saddle you with little more than the expectations of others while you live a life of misery.

Rejecting the unexpected blessing

“Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t settle for something better.” That’s a quote by Chris Voss in his book “Never Split the Difference” and it’s one of these ideas that is very difficult to remember at the moment.

The moment when things take a bad turn or you don’t get what you want. We have the natural impulse to reject the new circumstances.

It’s far more valuable to work on the self-control to maintain a cool, poker face and examine the new information calmly.

You can still reject it out of hand if needed, but at least you keep your options open.

Often from the rejected remains of what you wanted will rise the things that will change your life, your business, your path through life.

The uninformed critic

When my two-year-old daughter shouted “She isn’t dead, just wake her up, dad” at a recent funeral, the reaction of myself and those around me wasn’t to scold or express indignation toward her.

She’s operating from a position of expected ignorance and we know her intention wasn’t to be provocative or inappropriate.

When you produce your work and it is subject to the bitter stings of criticism there is always something to learn.

It can, however, be particularly difficult to extract the helpful bits when you’re dealing with the uninformed critic. You know them, you might be one of them. The person who lacks self-awareness, who thinks they know better, and who doesn’t even know how much they don’t know about the matter at hand.

The ignorance paired with the arrogance of the typical uninformed critic will test even the most humble and meek among us.

The first lesson is to self inspect and be honest with yourself. Are you an uninformed critic?

The second lesson is how to deal with them. Do you get angry a the young child for saying something inappropriate at the wrong time? It won’t do much good and you know that she is the uninformed critic.

Maybe start to treat your uninformed critics with more kindness because they are not yet privy to the information you are. They need experience and knowledge. Maybe you can help them rather than start a war in the comment’s section?

I do, however, understand the frustration of dealing with the guy who is both arrogant and uninformed(and doesn’t even seem interested in getting to the truth of the matter). I think the lesson here is one of sunk cost and letting go what can’t be reformed or saved.