Basic Instincts

 

The television series, Black Mirror has a synopsis that’s summed up as “a sci-fi anthology that shows the dark side of life and technology”. I strongly recommend that you binge watch the six episodes available on Netflix. Go ahead, this post will be here when you return. There are a few takeaways from the show. One takeaway is the classic sci-fi moral, “just because we can doesn’t mean that we should”. The more important lesson (IMO) is that we must be careful not to allow tech to deplete our sense of compassion and our basic instincts. (If you saw someone stumbling drunk, would you pull them away from the busy street or would you pull out your phone to film it? Listen to your instinct for compassion. While no one will admit to it in a hypothetical, you’d be surprised how many would film the stumbler.)

What if there was not an app for that? What if Siri’s response was, “figure that shit out, Bro!” The last thing I want to do is vilify tech. I live near the tech capital of the country. I love that I can send some cash to my friend for last night’s drinks and respond to a text with an archived dick pic while standing in line at Trader Joe’s. I love technology. But, there’s a saying, for every one problem tech solves, it creates ten more (some technical, some moral). How many times have you wanted to go Office Space on the printer at your job after sending the same print job to it several times.

Technology is great; when it works the way it’s designed to work. When tech goes rogue or fails in some way, we have to ditch the calculator and reach for ye olde abacus. What I’ve noticed is that people have developed this false sense of security that there will always be some form of tech at their disposal to do their thinking for them. “WhyTF would I ever need to learn long division when there’s a calculator on my phone?” You’re right; your phone will never fail you and will always be made available to you. “WhyTF would I need to learn how to use a skin fold caliper when they just created a cool app that allows me to check body fat percentage with my camera phone?” You’re right; a camera phone will accurately measure body fat percentage every time. “WhyTF would I need to learn how to find north/east/south/west directions when my phone has GPS?” You’re right; Apple maps will never send you the wrong way. Something I’ve observed more often than not is that no one believes they’ll ever need to learn their way round due to the constant crutch of GPS. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I don’t know north from west.” “I have no sense of direction.” “I can’t learn north/east/south/west, that means nothing to me.” WTF? How many of your friends have said a similar statement to you? Have you said it? *Judgment Alert* There is something wrong with a refusal to learn something that could help you or those around you. I want to be clear, I’m not judging anyone for what they don’t know. I’m judging those who refuse to learn something new.

You’ve all heard the cliché that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Well, sometimes there’s no GPS or cell reception outside of your comfort zone. Don’t believe me? Take some more road trips that involve dirt roads through towns with low populations. One fallen street sign + no GPS + one flat tire = you and your instincts. Unless you’ve got one of those magical satellite phones like they have in the espionage flicks, no app will help you. I want to challenge you to develop that beautiful brain of yours.

Challenge #1: Stop saying what you can’t learn. “I’ve tried, I just can’t learn directions.” You can learn anything that matters to you. Make this matter to you before broken GPS forces it to matter to you.

Challenge #2: Acknowledge your direction at any given point in your commute. The next time you’re walking towards the sun in the morning, greet the sun with a salutation and tell yourself that you’re walking east. If it’s in the afternoon, the sun will be in the west preparing to set.

Challenge #3: Go out on a familiar (hiking/walking/running) trail and afterwards try to draw a map from memory. If you have a little crumb snatcher, bring them along and ask them to help. We all know that kids have great memories, we could learn from their passion for learning new things.

Your inspiration for the week can only come from your reflection. Get in the mirror and have that conversation with yourself about becoming a better version of yourself. I’ve written about memory before, now I’m talking about instincts. Vision is responsible for 70% of our sensory input.

Challenge #4: Sit down in a public place, close your eyes, and take mental notes of your surroundings. How much does that person weigh with those heavy footsteps? (You can guess, don’t try to confirm.) Which person was wearing the heavy cologne and how would you describe the scent? Rub your fingers across the place you’ve chosen to rest; what does your seat feel like? Does your food taste differently when you taste something for the first time with eyes closed?

Common sense is an uncommon thing. The smarter our devices have become, the dumber we are as humans.
Smart
Here’s a list of smart gadgets that should have stayed dumb. Tech and apps are designed to make our lives easier, simpler, and some would argue faster. Congratulations, you can now perform multiple tasks poorly as opposed to performing one task well (aka multitasking). Lao Tzu has been credited with the quote “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” I’m not suggesting that we all slow down, but we could learn something from that sage statement. I know that the world keeps spinning. I’m just suggesting that we reconnect with our instincts (not judgment, not assumption, instincts) on a regular basis lest they fade away indefinitely.

Many of you have been asking me how it was to go skydiving a second time or which time was better. For those that know me, you know that I don’t get in the habit of ranking experiences in my life. Spider-Man and Wolverine are different from one another; one is not better than the other. The same can be said for apples & oranges, French Bulldogs & Pit Bulls, Jill Scott & Erykah Badu, Batman & Superman, you get the idea. Skydiving in 2002 & 2015 were very different experiences. The first time was exhilarating. The second time was tranquil. That had more to do with where I am in my life than the height of the jump or amount of time spent in free-fall. I could spend 1,200 more words describing the experience. But, you should have your own jump experience (if the idea appeals to you, it ain’t for everybody). The fastest way to trivialize your daily gripes on the ground is to fly through the air at 120+ mph (terminal velocity). When you land back on the ground a lot of the small shit down here no longer matters. Here are some screen shots.

 

 

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Get Off Of Your List, Get Into The World

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have always wanted to do a lot of things. When I mentioned that I was going skydiving this weekend many people mentioned how they’ve always wanted to do that. I over hear people using that phrase in reference to so many things. I’ve started wondering aloud, WTF is everyone waiting for? What stars must align in order for people to do the thing they’ve always wanted to do? How badly do you really want to do that thing? Twenty years ago, I made several “things to do before I die” lists. Over the years, pop culture unanimously started referring to these as bucket (as in kick the bucket) lists. It was when that happened that the concept became stupid to me. I couldn’t tell you where any of my past lists are hiding. Perhaps they’re in an old journal. But, the reason they lost importance to me was because of the focus on death. I know that I’m going to die at some point. There are lots of things I want to do in/with this life. I don’t feel that I should prioritize the trips I want to take, my marriage to Scarlett Johansson, or the fears I want to overcome because of my inevitable death. Shouldn’t I be pursuing my desires because of the gift of life?

What do you want to do with this life? Imagine that you’re in an interview and it’s your first day on this planet and in this body. The person interviewing you can be a god of some sort (if that’s what you believe in), your parent(s)/guardian(s), or your own reflection (because you are the first person you must answer to for your own life choices). Now, answer the question and write down the first three things that come to mind. Once that’s done, go out and do those things. Don’t do them because you’re going to die. Unless you’re an immortal, your inevitable kicking of the bucket falls squarely in the “No Shit” category of life. “But, Jet! What if the three things I write down will take years to accomplish!?” Well, I guess you’d better get to stepping! With a question as big as what do you want to do with this life, none of the answers will be simple or easy to accomplish. So, ask for help. (Hint: Asking for help when it’s difficult to do on your own is a sign of strength.) Strength is a choice. There are 20 reasons that you can concoct not to do those things on your list of answers. Excuses are a reflex; half the time they don’t even make sense to the person stating them. “Oh, Jet, you’re adorable. I can’t take that trip around the world because I have kids! That’s not an excuse, that’s a fact and you don’t have kids, so shut your pie hole!” True, I don’t have kids. But, other people have kids and they’ve taken that trip around the world. They’ve even written books about it that you could use as a guide. Here’s one book link. Here’s another book link. I’m sure you can find others. So, that’s one reason that you have no excuses, someone has done it before you and they’re often willing to teach you how to do it.

My challenge to you is to stop calling your bucket list a bucket list. Don’t call it anything. Don’t give that sheet of paper or Google doc a heading at all. It’s good to have goals, but, whether you call them life-long goals or super awesome fun time goals, they’re still things that you want to do. My challenge to you is to replace your excuses with cited examples of people that have already done something similar to what you’re trying to accomplish. Not only is it true that you can do that thing, but that thing has already been done. My challenge to you is to change your language from “I’ve always wanted” to “I’m going to” with the caveat that if you’re caught saying “I’m going to” more than three times that you buy the goddamned plane ticket, set the reservation, or find some way to set the wheels in motion to make it happen.

In a few hours, I’ll be jumping out of a perfectly good airplane for the second time. I can’t remember if this was ever on one of my lists, I just know that there’s no feeling quite like it. The first time I jumped (over a decade ago in Georgia) the group was shocked at how calm I was before takeoff. I explained, “Of course I’m calm. We’re still on the ground.” If you ever come over to my place, remind me to show you the DVD so that you can see my face seconds before the jump. I was not calm in the sky.

If you remember nothing else… Know that the list itself is unimportant. The action and the experience means much more than writing down or crossing off words on a page. Know that setting the wheels in motion is no reason to get nervous; at that point you’re still on the ground. When next we meet, I hope to see you all out and about doing instead of always wanting to do. Enjoy your week.

For those of you that missed my performance on 8/14, here are some pictures taken by Audrey Penven and Patrick McCarthy. I don’t have any pictures from my performance on 8/20 because it was a XXX show and no cameras were allowed.

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Audrey Penven

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Photo Credit: Patrick McCarthy

Strength Is A Choice

Strength is not a matter of chance. Strength is not a matter of destiny. Strength is not a matter of genetics. (Your parents have well developed fast-twitch muscle fibers? Great! You still have to train. You still have a choice to make.) Strength is a choice.

There’s something that people have been saying to me for at least the last 15 years and I’ve always found it frustrating. I’d often hear this proclamation after suggesting that someone move forward in an emotionally challenging situation. While I know that it’s always easier to offer such advice from the outside looking in, I’ve always believed that we have a choice to move forward or remain complacent. When I would suggest moving forward, people would often say…  “But Jet, not everyone is as strong as you are!” I would always give the same reply. “That’s their choice. Anything I can do, they can do better.” I have many of the same excuses in my baggage that others hold. Growing up I was teased, I was bullied, and I’ve been betrayed by “best” friends. I’ve been beat up on the playground. Through all of those experiences, I still had a choice to make. I could have used those experiences from my past as my excuse for fear in the present. I could have used those experiences from my past as my reason for confidence in the present. I chose the latter. Strength is a choice.

My paternal grandfather died of a heart attack at age 59. He had six sons and seven daughters. Five of those six sons have all died due to heart attacks. None of them lived past the age of 43 (Forty-fucking-three). My dad is the last living son, he’ll be 81 this year. With that sort of lineage, I could have assumed a short life expectancy. I could have assumed that the trend ended when my last uncle passed on. My maternal great grandmother lived to see her 101st year. My maternal grandmother just celebrated her 92nd birthday. My mother will be 70 in February. I could have assumed that those genes would help to ensure a long life. I chose to care about what I put into my body and how I train my body. I chose not to wait around on fate or genetics to decide my end date. (Before any jackass comments below… Yes, I’m aware that a fit and healthy lifestyle won’t make me invincible. I’m not a superhero.) Nevertheless, strength is a choice.

It’s worth mentioning… There is a difference between health and fitness. While your level of fitness will affect your overall health, your health will not affect your overall fitness. While disease and lack of fitness are closely related, health and fitness are still mutually exclusive terms. So, the next time you hear someone suggest that they workout in order to be able to eat anything that they want, slap that fool. I love bacon and cookies. Running/lifting/plyometrics won’t negate the effect that bacon grease and refined sugar have on my body.

At the end of a (group exercise) class, I thanked a regular for trying. Perhaps you’ve heard, you never fail when you try. That’s mostly true. If you try to do a handstand and you fall on your ass, you have failed. Oh well. But, you tried. that’s what sets you apart from the average person that talks about how they wish they could do a handstand. In the sense that you have set yourself apart from the average lamenting drones of the world, you have succeeded. That success can be traced back to the choice you made… the choice to try. You haven’t failed, you have tried. There is a wide range of ability in most group exercise classes. By the time the class is done, there are two categories. There are the people that watched the exercise, shook their head, and decided to sit that one out or modify on their own because it looked difficult without attempting. (Why show up if you choose not to challenge yourself?) There are also people that aren’t as strong as the others in class, but still give it their all and try at every turn. That’s the person that I thanked at the end of class. I’ve seen her rehab herself from an injury and consistently get better and make gains because she keeps on trying. Her execution isn’t perfect. She may not win any competitions. But, she tries and tries again. She wins in my book. You’ve also heard that “there is no try, there is do or do not.” While that may be true, it takes strength to try before we do anything. Strength is a choice.

It’s worth mentioning… Someone may have tried that one exercise at a different time and they may already know that they are unable to execute. So, does that mean you just never try again? Ask a kid to do a cartwheel. Give them some encouragement for the parts they got right (don’t blow sunshine up their ass and say it was the “best ever”, just encourage them without over selling it) then watch them keep trying. Watch them try and try again because it’s fun and watch them get better. Find them a coach, or coach them yourself, and watch trying turn into doing.
It’s also worth mentioning… Trying can be dangerous when it’s one-sided. When you apply trying to a relationship and you’re the only one trying, you’ll have better luck ice skating uphill. Be strong/smart enough to walk away when you’re the only one trying to make a relationship work.

After a recent class, I received this message: “Thanks for a great class today, I’m glad I got in 😊 I’ve been feeling a bit out of it emotionally and physically and I always feel better after one of your classes-like I can do anything! Thanks!” This message meant a lot to me because I never know if I’m getting through to anyone. When I was in high school, I was the head broadcaster for the Comet Connection. We made the daily PA announcements. At the end of each broadcast, I would say something that i found inspirational in hopes of inspiring the listeners. My art teacher pointed out, “you know those kids aren’t listening!” I replied, “if I can get through to one of them, out of 3,000, then it’s worth it.” I keep trying to make a difference in the lives of those I coach. As long as they keep making the conscious decision to try, the conscious decision to be (mentally/emotionally/physically) stronger than their lamenting peers, and the effort to feel better, they will be able to do anything. Strength is a choice. Giddyup!

Strength is not a matter of chance or destiny.

Strength is not a matter of chance or destiny.

The World Ends Tonight! (See How We Dance TOMORROW!)

All of the movies are doing it, so why can’t we? That’s right, it’s time for Post-Apocalyptic Burlesque. Come to DNA Lounge after you loot your local Trader Joe’s to stock up on beer and Jo-Jo’s. The door staff will make sure that all who enter are safe from the marauders on the streets. Doors at 9pm and pre-show begins at 9:30pm. Watch over 20 performances that will burlesque the shit out of the idea of a scorched earth, nuclear winter, cyborgs from the future, road warriors, etc.! Here’s the link to buy tickets.

Friday, August 14 – Hubba Hubba Revue @ DNA Lounge in San Francisco

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Have You Had Your Stupid Today?

When I returned to college for my second degree, after close to a decade off, I felt stupid. I don’t mean the, “WTF have I gotten myself into?”, sort of stupid (although I certain had those doubts). No. The information that was review for the kids around me (that were born when I graduated high school) felt new to me. The kids treated most information as if it were obvious to them while I was trying desperately to remember basic algebra. Those little shits. It wasn’t long before I took comfort in feeling stupid. I knew that meant that I was way out of my comfort zone and that meant that I was living life instead of blogging about it. When was the last time that you surrounded yourself with smarter people? Obviously, you’re intelligent, you subscribed to this blog. But, there are different types of intelligence. For the sake of brevity, I won’t blather on about my opinion of the different types of intelligence. Just know that it’s a smart thing to surround yourself with people that are educated in various disciplines and then become a sponge.

How many of you are afraid of dementia or your mind becoming dull as you grow older? What are you doing to sharpen your tool? When was the last time that you attempted to figure out a riddle in order to keep your mind sharp? Here are two riddles for you (to answer in the comments below).

Your car has a 12V adapter for charging items that is positioned upright (as if it were a tiny cup holder). You accidentally drop a 1943 penny into the adapter. Due to the position of the adapter, the penny will never shake loose (unless you turn the car upside down). Due to the circumference of the penny, you’re unable to get it out with your fingers as it fills the hole (heh) perfectly. Tweezers won’t work either, due to the space. Even though the vehicle is off, the idea of sticking metal into a socket just doesn’t feel right. You have access to any items in your household or garage. How do you remove the penny?

Here’s an easy one. How do you put an elephant in a refrigerator?

[I’ll post the answers next week if no one gets them in the comments below.]

Memorization is another way that you can train your brain to stay sharp. You know that memory match game where the kid flips up a card and has to remember where they saw that face to match it later on in the game? Play that game, against a kid, and prepare to be schooled! Train your brain to remember things. When was the last time that you remembered a phone number? “Say what! Maybe you haven’t heard of these things called smartphones, Jet! Why do I need to memorize anything when I have access to all of this data in my pocket!?” Because smartphones are making us stupid, that’s why. Over the past year, I’ve gone back to face-to-face networking. I hand out business cards and I ask people to tell me their phone number. You should see the shock on their faces when I ask that they tell me their phone number. “What do you mean?”, some ask. I reiterate. Just tell me your number and I’ll remember it. “Are you a magician?”, one woman asked. No, I’m just choosing to use my brain. “That’s ten pieces of information!”, she insisted. No, it’s only three. The first piece is the area code and they’re often familiar. If it’s not a familiar area code, stating the metro area from whence the area code came will help it to stick. (Remembering L.A. may be easier than remembering a 310 area code.) The second piece of information is the three digit prefix that follows. You can just tell yourself that the clothes the person is wearing cost $223 dollars and there’s the first six digits. With the third piece of information, just imagine two digits stacked on top of two digits like a math problem. Once you see it in your mind (and perhaps make it into a mnemonic) it will be easy to remember those 10 digits. At some point, of course you’ll enter it into your phone. But, try dialing some numbers every so often. Ferret out the three most important numbers in your phone. Memorize them shits because your phone isn’t invincible. The area responsible for memory in the brain is the hippocampus. That’s easy to remember because, according to my Abnormal Psychology Professor, “If you see a hippo on campus, you’ll remember it!” (See what she did there?)

It’s worth mentioning… The WordPress editor didn’t recognize the word dialing and tried to correct it to calling. It’s a lost art on many levels.
It’s also worth mentioning… There is a very common lie that people tell in regards to their phones. Have you ever called/texted someone only for them to reply stating, “I’m sorry, I got a new phone and lost all of my contacts. Who is this?” It’s a lie. I’ve had PDAs since the days of the Palm Pilot. Backing up data was/is standard. These days, they even have ‘Save’ to illuminate the letter S in the elementary school alphabet posters. The kids are reminded to “always save your data!” So, you mean to tell me that you never saved your data and when you decided to get a new phone, the clerk at Verizon said, “Fuck it, you don’t want these old contacts, do you? Of course you don’t. No need to transfer them to your new phone.” (Another service that has existed for at least 15 years.)  Lies! “Hey, Jet! My phone was stolen and I lost all of my contacts!” Bullshit. See above for the common sense/elementary school practices of saving/backing up your data. Even when I had a cheap Nokia flip, guess how easy it was to plug in and back up my data? Don’t lie. Just tell me that I’ve been deleted from your contacts. I won’t take it personally and will appreciate it better than bullshit. I digress.

My maternal great aunt suffered from Alzheimer’s. I’m not sure if that was the motivation for my parents to create what I refer to as a “figure-it-out” household. Many questions went unanswered. Every question that I had yielded a pragmatic response or a redirected challenge for me to find the answer on my own. A stock response was, “figure it out”. While I found it frustrating at the time, I’m grateful for being taught how to problem solve. Perhaps that’s why I’m driven to coach my clients how to workout instead of just taking them through a workout. The other end of that double-edged sword of figure-it-out upbringing is that I have little patience for those that make no/minimal effort to figure things out. In the age of instant gratification, most people don’t make use of the tools at their disposal to figure shit out. Imagine handing an employee a memorandum only for them to stare at the words for five seconds and then ask, “what is this?” Read it! Imagine standing next to the ocean (while in California) and someone claiming that they didn’t know how to find West. WTF!? Imagine texting someone a link to a museum exhibit only for them to text back and ask where it was being held. Click on the goddamned link, the information is there! But, again, that’s my issue. I embrace deductive reasoning. As a Southern girlfriend once said, “not everybody was raised by yo mama!” True. True.

Here’s the point of this post: Use your brain. If you’re always the smartest person in the room, find some new rooms in which to stand. If you’re smarter than all of your friends, find some new friends. If your work no longer challenges (or never has challenged) your mind, find new work. Find a way to feel stupid so that the competitive spirit inside will ignite your desire to learn again. Treat your brain like a muscle and work it out. Memorize numbers, names, details, faces, and among other things… routes (how did you get back to the same destination before GPS?) As always, remember that strength is a choice. Choose to make your mind stronger.

Here’s a highlight from my week. I taught my kitten how to fetch. Check out this video.