Throw Instagram into the Ocean

My friend Carter Moore deleted his Instagram account.

"I never really considered the long-term impact and influence it had on my life…"

I would do the same and delete my account once and for all but I've come up with an alternative solution that allows you to keep the account but level out the addiction.

Instagram is designed to be a sticky experience. Even with notifications turned off, it still shows those dopamine producing hearts every time you log in. It's hard to resist the temptation of identifying your likers or recent followers. People also blame Instagram for the explosion of of photo-sharing, arguing that Instagram is ruining photography. Perhaps Instagram is the scapegoat for much larger frustrations with our digital behavior.

Anyway, here here's a way to keep using Instagram without deleting your account while still enjoying the process of photography, the art of noticing, which is really what Instagram should be about.

Delete the Instagram app from your phone after you're done posting. Redownload it only when you need it to publish again.

That's it! And it goes a long way, not only preventing you from checking in to catch flying hearts but also will omit needless scrolling.

This process may be inconvenient but it works.

In summary: Download Instagram, log-in via Facebook, scan the first five photos in your feed (optional), upload your new photo, delete Instagram, and get on with your life.

Don't itch the scratch by keeping Instagram on your phone. Note: this same process can be applied to other apps including Twitter, Facebook, or Amazon, all which I only try to use on a desktop computer where I spend less time.

If you're still struggling with this proposed workaround, you can always do what Austin Kleon proposes to get more reading done: "throw your phone into the ocean." Or you can just delete your Insagram profile and call it a day.

Rise Above Bullshit!

In this video, philosopher Harry Frankfurt breaks down how politicians get away with bullshit.

Almost 100% of climate scientists agree that global warming is real while politicians continue to deny it.

How do bullshitters keep getting away with well, more bullshit?

Because bullshitting is lying with indifference. It's hard to put a finger on bullshitting because it's so creatively ignorant and fake. "Bullshit is a matter of trying to manipulate the listener."

As we get closer to some of the bullshitters running for the 2016 US election, it's nice and refreshing to hear some of the truth behind what motivates people to bullshit.

The truth is unpopular. But what matters isn't always what's popular.

Resist the bullshit, not with cynicism but with reality. Bullshit can be dangerous.

"A world without bullshit would be more interesting. It would be a world in which we lack the creative flair of the bullshitter but of which we'd have the fascination and wonderment of reality."

The Power of Habits

Habits come in all shapes and sizes but some habits are more impactful than others. Listed below are habits ranked from easies to hardest.

  • Easy Habit: Making the bed is a good habit. It's the first accomplishment of the day and can be just enough to get you to take other positive actions like cleaning up the kitchen.
  • Medium Habit: Brushing your teeth is a semi-powerful habit. Flossing, however, is the positive habit you're really striving for. Flossing gets into the nooks and crannies to remove plaque and prevent cavities. Ironically, the dentists never give you enough floss freebies to last more than 2 weeks.
  • Hard Habit: Exercise is a 'keystone habit,' the one habit that "sets off a chain reaction that changes other habits as well," according to productivity expert Charles Duhigg. Exercise benefits all aspects of your life, from bone health, to brain health, to a good diet and unnecessary spending.

Habits get you out of your own head. They resolve indecisiveness. A little bit of effort goes a long way.

"We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can." - William James

Photojournal 6 : DC

I should rename this blog post "train journal" to reflect the majority of photos I took while in commute. But there's good reason. I've been getting a bit bored of photography lately and instead exploring video production. I've highlighted a few videos below.

My approach for video is similar to photography: look for weird patterns in the ordinary. YouTube's Creator Studio also has some decent filters and royalty free music to apply to your videos.

Here's my YouTube channel if you want to follow this new visual experiment. I cross-post to my Instagram page as well.

The Art of Skywriting, an Interview with Madlib, Fighting Cynicism, New Tunes and More

Arts & Culture

One man will decide if the art of skywriting lives or dies

For Skywriters, the sky is their canvass. The smoke is their ink. But like Snapchat, their messages disappear, only to be preserved in memory by photograph. There are only a handful of people that can draw characters in the sky. Can the art of skywriting go on?

“The only bad part is that I can’t take my canvas of art away with me. Eventually it fades away. It goes with the breeze.” - Skywriter Greg Stinis

Madlib Lecture | Red Bull Music Academy (New York 2016)

Madlib is not afraid to keep his music real and raw, noticeably imperfect. Perhaps that goes back to his funk collection and growing up with parents who were also musicians: "I can't articulate music. I just do it." Below is a snippet on his process (23:30):

"Watchu expect man? It’s natural, if you sit there and think about it too much your shit kinda whack, it doesn’t sound natural. Roots of this shit is you just do it and that’s that. If you sit there and polish that shit for a week, I don’t know about all that shit.”

PLUS: Herbie Hancock on Miles Davis and Mistakes


Philosophy & Productivity

On the Soul-Sustaining Necessity of Resisting Self-Comparison and Fighting Cynicism: A Commencement Address

Just because it's easier and more practical to be a pessimist, doesn't mean we should go that route. Lazy people can be cynics. "Don't complain, make things," LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy once said. Or as Brainpicking's blogger Maria Popova points out in her commencement speech:

"Cynicism, like all destruction, is easy, it’s lazy. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincere, active, constructive hope for the human spirit. This is the most potent antidote to cynicism, and it is an act of courage and resistance today.”

PLUS: NYU psychologist/professor Gabriele Oettingen encourages you to rethink positive thinking.

Podcast: In Our Time: The Muses

The muse demands consistency. But you can't blame the muse for avoiding the work or being tardy. At the end of the day, the muse is really you. Invoking the muse is invoking the artist. As Jerry Seinfeld says,"Don't break the chain." For others, like author Steven Pressfield, the muses are still those creative Greek gods that love to cheer you on.

This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete. - Steven Pressfield, War of Art


Social Media & Tech

The self-fulfilling prophesy

A Google search represents who we are. Sharing on Facebook may represent who want to be. The mind is elastic. The algorithms of both platforms can therefore start to shape our desires. An Oxford philosopher examines the online advertising's impact on personal identity:

“We can be easily influenced, nudged, pushed and pulled. If this happens constantly, relentlessly, year after year, the relationship between our digital profiles and our selves becomes one of mutual interaction.”


New Music

Episode 88 | Tunes of the Week


Thought of the Week

"If you’re not making a mistake, you’re making a mistake." - Miles Davis

Henry Rollins on Entrepreneurial Art

"I'll take half the paycheck to have the artistic freedom."

Henry Rollins is a musician, author, actor, KCRW radio host, and entrepreneur. He's a creative machine. But what's his process? What are some of the things that inspire him to do the work?

For one, he does ALL the work. He calls up the local press to schedule interviews to promote his show. He masters the final albums. He hustles. He may delegate here and there but he owns the process.

"You have to be an artist lawyer you have to be an artist engineer."

For two, Rollins doesn't make stuff for the material goods. He wants to make money so he can make the next thing. If you're working for the material goods, you'll burn out. People that stick around just "love what they're doing and they would do it for free." They want to get better.

"I just don't want stuff. I just want to make stuff. I buy notebooks and pens so I can write more."

Thirdly, Rollins encourages creators to be honest about their art if they want it to be a means of survival. Art is a business, "there's fiscal realities..put your art out there but don't end up on the street because of it." Artists aim to appeal fans that got them where they are in the first place. You don't want to endorse any projects that go against your core artistic beliefs.

"It's your sincerity and dedication that lead to your sustainability."

And lastly, Rollings encourages people to make art now because the Internet allows you to create for a curious tribe.

"You live in the best possible age to be an entrepreneur and be eclectic."

Listen to Unemployable with Brian Clark: Henry Rollins on Entrepreneurial Art

Trust This Computer...?

Well, probably not anymore. We don't think about the consequences until we get flagged. Otherwise, we go about doing things with the slightest vigilance.

Trust is such a toss-up in the online world. Our logins are out there in the Internet waiting to be hacked. If Gmail wasn't so good at identifying spam, the inbox would be a mess.

Security is vague. Encryption is supposed to turn privacy into fairy dust. But if we freak out about the internet's dark lawlessness, every click or email submission we makes Big Brother stronger.

Trust this computer? Sure, but only if it tosses the cookies into the internet ether afterward.

Information is abundant and presumably confidential. The Internet holds the keys to our lives. We can only assume its good intentions.

internet, with a lowercase "i"

Even the New York Times agrees the internet makes more sense with a with a lowercase "i."

The internet doesn't need the extra attention. It's the pipes for global communication, the modern day railroad or phonograph, two innovations that also look ordinary in their lowercase form.

Internet etiquette itself makes uppercasing unnecessary. I've seen countless emails and blog posts typed all in lowercase. It's not laziness, it just represents the rapidity at which we communicate today. Even EB White would've adjusted.

Talking in real life is imperfect. We stumble on words, make incomplete sentences. Snaps are imperfect Instagrams. Expression is messy, and it shows from our vocal cords to our keyboards.

How Hope and Doubt Can Coexist

Hope is both the seed and encouragement of doubt.

It's human behavior to assume that things are more likely to go wrong than they are right. Why do you think we remember mistakes more than successes? Negativity can be a stronger emotion, but it doesn't necessitate a bad outcome.

"Cynicism, like all destruction, is easy, it’s lazy. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincere, active, constructive hope for the human spirit. This is the most potent antidote to cynicism, and it is an act of courage and resistance today.” - Maria Popova

Just because it's easier and more practical to be a pessimist, doesn't mean we should go that route. As I blogged yesterday, there are drawbacks to pumping up optimism - most notably, it can mask inner obstacles.

Hope and doubt are not mutually exclusive. They coexist to help guide our perspective.

Rethinking Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is encouraging but it's also prohibitive. By fantasizing our goals and wishes, we imprint false beliefs that prevent us from making pragmatic, corrective changes.

In this podcast, NYU psychologist/professor Gabriele Oettingen outlines the four steps for following your dreams: Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan or WOOP.

Here's the stragedy in more detail:

  1. Identify a wish: Identify your most important wish in the next 4 weeks.
  2. Specify best outcome: Identify the best case outcome of your wish (eg. You get the girl or the job of your dreams etc.)
  3. Name the inner obstacle: This one is going to hurt. Dig deep and ask yourself what's actually preventing you from achieving that goal now. For example, are you shy? Do you need more experience? Take a personal consulting point of view and ask yourself the tough questions.
  4. Make an 'if..then' plan: If the obstacle comes up, you promise to take this positive action to counter a negative inclination.

Balancing reality with what needs to be overcome is exactly the kind of 'mental contrasting' you need if you want to achieve your dreams.

The game of goal setting starts with a deep fantasy but ends with honest reality. What do you need to improve right now? What will you actually do when the challenge comes? Think action, not forced positive hopes.

The WOOP formula doesn't guarantee success but you may be a more confident than you were before. After all, luck is preparedness.

Listen to Hidden Brain: 30: WOOP, There It Is

Writing Is the Best App

I have a brain training app - it's called writing and it's the hardest thing I do.

The code of writing is practice. You can't possibly get writer's block if you force yourself to publish something every day.

When's the last time you got talker's block?

Writing is creating. It's an art, like painting and drawing except you're constricted yourself to letters that you're trying to weave together.

It's not the writing that bogs down writers. It's the editing. It's the painful process of crawling through the brain dump you just took on paper. As the marines say, "Pain is weakness leaving the body."

So why write if the process hurts so bad?

"Why write? To write. To make something." - Claude Simon

More on writing: The Blank Canvass

Sampa The Great - Queen Conscious

You know those artists that deserve a bit more attention than they deserve. Zambian born, Sydney-based MC Sampa the Great is one. She released The Great Mixtape last year which she described as "a search for creativity, laughter, purpose & rhythms." Fellow Aussie Dave Rodriguez made the beats for it, noticeably influenced by the likes of Dilla and Madlib.

Earlier this year she and Rodriguez dropped a follow-up album called The Great Weapon Chosen. "Queen Conscious" is one of the standout tracks, mixing a jazzy, psychedelic breakbeat against Sampa's lyrical imagination. An earworm, indeed.

The Blank Canvass

The blank page means go. Attack. Write for five minutes straight. Put "TK" (to come) in for things that need to be flushed out or fact-checked. But keep writing, jogging the brain.

Once you have everything down on paper go back and dig through the trash. It's like sampling music: pluck the highlights and play with them, recasting them into something new.

Never be afraid get into the weeds, get more specific, and explore the deeper angles of a thought or word.

The writing process is messy. It's supposed to be, like smacking paint on a canvass.. Writing is observing, splurging, and then editing. It only knows work and process.

So how you do write? You spill your thoughts first and then you go back and clean up the mess.

Madlib Lecture | Red Bull Music Academy (New York 2016)

I learned a few things about Madlib in this interview. For one, he doesn't like to hear his own music. That's the art of a cratedigger, always searching for the next loop.

Madlib also created those Beat Konducta records without visiting Africa, Brazil, or India. He travelled to those places by listening to the native records and as he does, sampled them to make the best parts dirtier. Madlib is not afraid to keep his music real and raw, noticeably imperfect. Perhaps that goes back to his interest in collecting funk records and growing up with parents who were also musicians: "I can't articulate music. I just do it." Below is a snippet on his process (23:30):

"Watchu expect man? It’s natural, if you sit there and think about it too much your shit kinda whack, it doesn’t sound natural. Roots of this shit is you just do it and that’s that. If you sit there and polish that shit for a week, I don’t know about all that shit.”

Madlib is "creating music constantly." He created "No More Parties in LA" on the iPad. A true artist never stops producing and honing their craft.