The Act of Unbecoming

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Photograph by Keith Hardy

The Act of Unbecoming:

Today, I listened to Naval Ravikant’s conversation with Dr. Kapil Gupta available here.  Their conversation spans plenty of worthwhile topics and I wish to share with you the underlying topic of conversation, the act of unbecoming. 

Whether from G-d, nature or some other compromise, we are born alone, without personality and helpless.  Others quickly take responsibility for us and corrupt our nascent understanding of self-identity.  Voices are formed in our mind and we grapple with how to satisfy these helpers.

The early part of our life is the act of becoming, as we seek more external voices to fill our mind of what we should become.  We trudge forward, and discover these voices are not ourselves and begin the act of unbecoming, stripping away these voices.

Voice-after-voice, we remove them from our mind and begin to feel fear, as we cannot find the voice we call “our own.”  Terrified, many turn back and attach themselves to a voice and return to the act of becoming.  The courageous continue forward into the darkness and continue their act of unbecoming.

At the end of this tunnel lies neither what you expect nor desire; for if it were, it would not be there. 

The Noise

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Photograph by Mohammad Metri

The Noise:

Around both success and failure, there's something called noise. Noise is the "stuff" which occurs around events. Noise is almost never good.

In football, there's the Superbowl; it's the biggest game of the year. Coaches and players work tirelessly through injury year 'round; competing to become one of the two best teams, to then play in a single-elimination game. When the dust settles, there's a lot of noise. Already, a player from the winning team has called his team a "dynasty" despite their single Superbowl victory. On the other side, a couple of players from the losing team have already retired. permanently defeated. The noise from the Superbowl doesn't end the day after, but continues on for days, months and years. This noise prevents players on both sides from reaching their full potential.
We all have noise in our lives. We've failed. We've succeeded. Nonetheless, noise is just a distraction. It gets in the way of listening.

Noise doesn't matter; whether it's internal or external. It doesn't matter if you win. It doesn't matter if you lose. It's what you do moment-to-moment which matters. Today, I want to challenge you to seek out this noise. Where does it come from? How can you ignore the noise and listen carefully to the needs of yourself and the world.

No matter what we do, the noise will be there. It's a sign of hidden treasure. It's the 'x' which marks the spot. When we zoom-in; like a magic eye, it reveals the true image.

The Societal Compromise

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Photograph by Rupert Britton

The Societal Compromise:

In our daily lives, we’re gripped with both the issues of society and of the self. These issues differ significantly from society-to-society and person-to-person. Nonetheless, the approach to these issues remain relatively the same in both breadth and approach.

The rules of society (i.e. a community, a religion, a tribe, etc.) are governed through some compromise of subjective philosophies, let’s call this law. The main purpose of law is to create a society which is stable and sustainable. Its secondary purpose is to cultivate a community in-line with some sort of high-level subjective philosophy. In short, society exists to survive and thrive. Political philosophies which diverge from these two purposes will ultimately crumble. The reason: society’s law was created to serve, not limit the individual.

The rules of the individual are governed by the subjection philosophies of both society and the individual. Bound by law, the individual seeks out their own subjective meaning. At first, their view is skewed through the overwhelming legal (or dogmatic) requirements of society; although, they begin to find subjective meaning through their own personal experiences. They begin to question society and its subjective rulings.

This is ultimately the clash between the subjective approaches of society and the individual. It’s both significant and unavoidable. Although, it’s important for both society and the individual to understand the importance of the other. Society must understand all individuals are different and require different subjective philosophies and lifestyles to find meaning within their own lives, and individuals must understand society also requires a different subjective philosophy, in order to create the framework for individual freedoms.

When society fails to understand the importance of the subjective philosophies of the individual, it labels him a heretic, zealot or savage and when the individual fails to understand the importance of the subjective philosophy of society, they label it anachronistic, overly-restrictive or undeveloped. Both of these understandings are incorrect, for they lack understanding of the primary need and purpose of the other.

When society succeeds in understanding the importance of the subjective philosophies of the individual, it labels them a philosopher, an entrepreneur or an enlightened-being and when the individual succeeds in understanding the importance of the subjective philosophy of society, she labels it progressive, free and advanced. Society and the individual need one another and although their subjective philosophies may be incompatible with one another’s needs; through a deep understanding of the value and importance of both society and the individual, both may come to a unifying compromise.

In short, law and dogma serve the purpose of society; whereas, freedom and authenticity serve the purpose of the individual. A perfect society develops the individual through its subjective philosophy, ultimately freeing the individual to their own interpretations and philosophies.

So, when someone comes to you and says dogmatically, “So-and-so, said such-and-such is necessary for such-and-such." Remember to be compassionate towards their reliance upon the subjective philosophies of society; without forgetting the importance of your personal authenticity and philosophy. All things seek to undo themselves, including dogma. We're all growing.

Courage Within Limitations

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Photograph by Cecily Chenault

Courage Within Limitations:

Our perception is flawed and we should be skeptical of our own ability to perceive and understand the truths of this world.

At times, we find ourselves feeling superior to dogs; for when he frolics upon the flowers outside, his color-blindness limits his perception and true understanding of violets. This may be true, but if we accept our superiority in color-sightedness to the dog, then we should also accept our limitations regarding sight as well. For, less than 1% of all light is visible to the human species; not because less than 1% of light is colorful, but because of our flawed faculties of sight. We may indeed be superior to the dog concerning sight, but to pretend we have access to the highest meaning of color is nonsense. So too, when we believe ourselves Grand Philosophers when compared to apes and ants, we should remember, we too lack the ability to perceive much of anything whatsoever.

Imagine for a moment we were dogs; our philosophical tradition may be as follows: the dog worships the almighty master, for it is He who provides food and shelter. Over time, the dog seeks out a moral ethic; meaning, he accepts his purpose is to worship the master but desires to understand how best to do this. The dog notices when he greets the divine master at the door he's praised with a "Who's a good boy" and sometimes a treat. Certainly, this must be a sign from the heavens of correct behavior, as opposed to chewing up the Master's slippers. Some dogs reject such a Philosophy as hedonism and prefer an ascetic lifestyle of contemplating life in sun-beams through the window and even the couch when the master is away doing his masterly things; for the life of contemplation outweighs the virtue of praise and treats. In the far reaches of the earth, a dog once heard of an abusive master and after much contemplation determines one's master is chosen before birth through a calculation of previous lives deeds. This leads her to believe it is not the master which creates moral ethic but actually the master's Master, the real Almighty Master, who determines what one should do.

Just as there are limits to a dog's intellect; so too, our intellect is limited. Prior to seeking out truth, we must define what it is we seek. To pretend our relative intellect over other species grants us the authority to determine ultimate Truth is nonsense; instead, we seek out the truth of our limited perception but no further. This is not an argument against the study of philosophy but instead an attempt to understand the rules in which we play. We should fear not our limitations; instead, push against these limits with tongues out and tails wagging courageously into the world of philosophy.

The Journey

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Photograph by Zoltan Tasi


Like Dante, you came into existence with a question. Your question carries with it a journey. A special journey designed specifically for you. You’ll have guides, obstacles and insight.

A guide is a person who knows the path. She knows what you know not. This is important, as your journey requires you to evolve with the path. Over time, you will learn what the guide knows and move forward. A new guide awaits.

All obstacles are all self-generated. They exist to teach lessons. You will circle them indefinitely until you master them. Removing moral judgement from yourself and these obstacles alleviate most of the difficulty. Approach them head on. Understand them. Mastery comes quickly to those who approach correctly.

Insight comes from the natural order of the journey. It’s what you take home with you. It’s how you evolve. It’s how you will guide others.

At the end of one path begins another.

Respecting Subjective Meaning

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Photograph by Jon Tyson


While walking to work, I witnessed something special and encouraging about the human spirit. By the Starbucks on 28th and Park, there's generally a homeless gentleman nestled within the South East corner of this particular building. This is not terribly uncommon; as although there's no excellent place to be homeless, individuals around Starbucks will often find others willing to share a pastry or hot morning coffee. Daily, I see this man huddled under a warm blanket drinking his hot coffee and warm pastry. Although on this occasion; just like many others, this individual accidentally spilled his coffee in his humble quarters.

I've never been homeless but in my imagination; should I ever become homeless, spilling coffee would only cause me to move five or six feet to my left or right. Although, this individual took a fistful of napkins from his pastry bag and begun wiping the cardboard box from where he sat and the cement below. To the homeless man, this place was his home and carried with it as much devotion and care one carries for his or her own home.

As humans, we're social-intellectual beings who derive understanding through categorization and dissemination; meaning, we prescribe meaning to what we find influential or desirable within our day-to-day perception. Just as I place subjective meaning within my rented apartment; so too, a homeless man assigns subjective meaning to his self-designated property. Just as I take care to keep my home clean; so too, this individual takes care of his home. Despite the differences in quality, there remains an identical similarity in our approach to how we appreciate what we place subjective meaning upon.

What we designate for ourselves as meaningful should be taken seriously and with meaning comes emotional connection. At times, it may be easy for us to separate ourselves from others; due to the inherent differences in the quality of what we prescribe subjecting meaning to but the strength of emotional connection remains similar. Without a doubt, our humanity connects us to those different and similar and in this way we must remain respectful to others; no matter the perceived differences, for their meaning has no less relative value than our own.

One Last Breath

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Photograph by Matteo Silvestri


Sometimes, we’re called upon to sit and hold the hand of a dying elder. Someone we’ve spend time talking to and loving. Now, her eyes are closed and she’s laying upon her final bed. There’s no room for hope or miracles. She’s going to die here.

It’s like this. You sit and she lies down. She’s unconscious, but you talk and share stories about your times together. It’s nice to think about these things now. Her breath is consistent; in-and-out every twelve seconds, or so. You tell her how much you love her and how she’s going to a better place.

Others stop by. They say hi, something else and then bye. You continue talking. Telling her how nice it was for so-and-so to stop by. So-and-so is so busy with this-and-that and it’s so nice. You share another story or maybe tell her about your week.

The doctor walks in, looks at some charts and… there’s just no hope. Nothing to be done. But, thank goodness, it’s a miracle she’s breathing. It’s just what happens when you get to that age. You tell her a little more about your life. Maybe a secret, or something sneaky like that.

Time goes by. Her breath is consistent, but slowing. Maybe every fourteen seconds, or so. It’s easy to remember, because the little machine next to you counts all these complex things for you. It’s boring though. There’s just… nothing left to say.

Another hour goes by. Then two and three. Someone comes for a few moments, then leaves. Four, five and six. You’re so hungry… and selfish. This is so hard. I don’t want her to die, but it’s been so long. I have things to do.

Seven then eight. You tell some stories, but sometimes to the clock on the wall. You watch the little machine and see the numbers getting lower and lower. Slower heart. Slower breath. Slower electronic pulse… everything slower. Each shallow breath takes hours. It feels like days. Secretly, you want her to die. Not for you, of course, but for her own sake. It’s so uncomfortable in this chair… I mean her bed. She loves big lush pillows, not these shallow white ones.

Then it happens. The last breath. If you’ve ever heard it… it’s indistinguishable. The first time I heard it, I knew what it was before I was certain. It’s guttural. It’s taking every last piece of air out of those dry lungs for one last journey. It’s the sound of death.

And you’re destroyed. Just moments ago, you wanted this woman to die. You wanted to get back to your life. To your food. To your activities. But now… it’s over. You’d trade every last sandwich for another moment with her. Just one more breath, please God.

But, it’s done. You immediately understand how unimportant your shit is and really begin to understand what’s actually important.

Mayweather Vs. McGregor

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Photograph by Matheus Ferrero


Today, we saw an excellent bout between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.

In Mayweather, you have a man who’s undefeated, undeniably talented and experienced. With McGreggor, you have someone who’s unbelievably talented, strong but… in the end… an amateur.

In the early rounds, Mayweather purpously tired out the MMA Champion and easily wrapped it up in the 10th. This was his strategy. McGregor never had a chance.

I can hear the naysayers, “But, but, but… McGregor is younger, stronger and competes in a more difficult sport.” Who cares! He’s not a boxer. Skills translates from one sport to another, but never to the extent where one can compete against 20+ years of professional experience.

The lesson here: focus on professional experience and you’ll dominate.

The Right Tool for the Job

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Photograph by Todd Quackenbush


One of your responsibilities is to provide value to your customers when they want to hear it. But, in 2016 this isn’t so simple. We’ve all become far too unpredictable. Between Facebook, blogs, email or walking around the city; we no longer know where to find our customers.

So, what’s the right tool for the job? How do we best reach your customers and provide value to them? Ask yourself, “When and where do your customers want to hear about you?” Let me share with you a story.

When I first told my father I was moving to NYC; the first words out of his mouth were, “You have to get a pastrami on rye at Zabar’s Deli. He hadn’t been to the world famous deli in 20 years, but he remembered the experience. This was good information, but I didn’t step foot into Zabar’s for 2 years. The question is, “Why?”

I heard about them at the wrong place and the wrong time. I was on the verge of making a life altering decision and not really interested in a sandwich a thousand miles away. So, when and where do Zabar’s customers want to hear about them?

Zabar’s sells food; so, obviously before lunch and dinner. But, what are Zabar’s customers doing right before they eat? Well, about 15 minutes before lunch; they check their Facebook. Because, starting a new project would prolong their break and that’s not going to happen. So, 15 minutes before lunch Zabar’s should send them a little reminder that Zabar’s sells a pastrami on rye they’ll remember for next 20 years.

Different businesses’ customers want to hear from them at different times and different places. That’s what you need to think about. Then, provide that value and experience for your customers at the right time and medium.

The Approach

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Photograph by Jordan Whitfield


How we approach our customer determines our success. Also, different environments require different approaches. Take a moment and think to yourself, “If I were a customer, how would I like to be approached?”

Are you selling a computer to an elderly people? If so, they may want to be approached immediately, because their intuition for technology is often less obvious than younger generations. Whereas, selling that same computer to a college student is far more hands off. They want to sit and play with the machine and determine if it’s the right fit for them.

So, we require some demographic work here. Drill down and determine which demographic profiles makes up a majority of your revenue. Name them (i.e. Elderly Ellen or College Craig), and create a process on how to approach them. Consider their expectations, wants and risks are. Create an experience that suits their wishes.

Now, test it. Work it out and conquer that niche for yourself.