Josh: The Podcast, Episode 76: Culture vs. politics and a new year refresh

We talk about discussion points instead of shouting matches and changing your habits.

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Links
Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal | Flow Genome Project
Get a free audiobook at AudibleTrial.com/JKWD
The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod | Miracle Morning community
1 Million Cups
JKWD with Jon Vroman
Bull Street Labs
• Ben Shapiro's Culture Wars rant:

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Coloring outside the lines

When Hurricane Irma was coming toward us in September, we were scheduled for a trip to Central New York for a family wedding.

We were at the car rental counter when we landed, and inquired about adding days onto our rental if that became necessary — the day we were scheduled to return to Savannah was the day Irma was expected to hit the area, making our return on that day unlikely and our ultimate return day uncertain.

The clerk at the counter wasn't confident that we'd be able to extend our reservation, especially with the same car, but she suggested that we call the agency we booked the car through to check.

"Hypothetically speaking," I asked her, "what if our flight were to get moved to, say, Wednesday, and we just didn't bring your car back until then?"

She explained that if we were able to extend the reservation, it wouldn't be a problem, but otherwise, they'd give the car to someone else.

It took several go-arounds for me to make my point. We were scheduled to bring the car back Monday, and they could therefore rent the car to someone else on Monday.

In order for her to hand someone else the keys to the car, though, we would have to bring the car back. What if we didn't?

She simply couldn't conceive of someone not following the rules.


In a coloring book, the lines constrain an image, but not a palette. An object is offered, but the scene is not. Take this gorilla with a bow tie, for instance:

The gorilla has a proud expression on its face, but outside of the animal straightening a bow tie, we have no context. Coloring inside the lines augments the subject, but still doesn't give us any context. Did the gorilla steal the bow tie from a zoo visitor? Is there a formal dance at the panda display? Is the gorilla crashing the Academy Awards?

If you want to tell a story, it's the part outside the lines that is most important.


The law of the instrument says, in its most famous iteration, if you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

It's really a story about education — one early version says:

Give a boy a hammer and chisel; show him how to use them; at once he begins to hack the doorposts, to take off the corners of shutter and window frames, until you teach him a better use for them, and how to keep his activity within bounds.

Within bounds? That will sound familiar to my Masonic brethren.

In Freemasonry, when we speak of bounds, we're talking generally about "keeping our passions within due bounds," that is to say, even in the face of anger or frustration, we are to keep a level head and treat people politely.

What it doesn't mean, though, is to treat every situation in the same way.

We have leeway to come up with reasonable solutions. So too, the child with the hammer and chisel. There are times when it is perfectly reasonable to use a hammer and chisel.


You could use the face of a hammer to break the safety glass and the claw to pull a fire alarm. You could play pool with the grip as a cue.

You could use a hammer to open a bottle or can, set a broken nose or make mashed potatoes.

You could carry a thin sheet of hot metal.

Each case would certainly be within due bounds, if unorthodox. Except the setting a broken nose bit. I'm pretty sure that's exactly how they do it. If you've ever seen my nose and noticed sort of a re-curve in the bridge, that's an over-corrected broken nose, and it looks exactly like someone took a hammer to it.


Duncker's candle problem is a cognitive exercise in which a subject is placed at a table next to a wall. On the table are a candle, a book of matches or a lighter, and a cardboard box of thumbtacks.

The charge is to light the candle and walk away, but ensure that no wax drips on the table.

The solution is to empty the box of tacks, tack the box to the wall, and place the candle in the box.

The success rate when Duncker first proposed the exercise was fairly low.

If the same items are presented but with the tacks piled on the table next to the box, the success rate is almost 100 percent.


I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing the linear, inside-the-lines thinking that gives people trouble creating scenes around a coloring-book gorilla, makes Duncker's exercise difficult and makes it hard to understand that someone might not follow established norms is learned.

I know our education system is based on a factory model, though increasingly we have de-institutionalized ways around that, from MOOCs to on-demand boutique learning through sites like Udemy or Creative Live or The Great Courses Plus, to tutorials on YouTube on anything from changing your oil to installing a water heater to building a shed.

Without allowing creative thought and nonlinear problem solving to take a larger role in our development through schooling (and subsequently through our largely institutionalized workplaces), we're going to have fewer and fewer people to take the sorts of shots that Elon Musk, Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil are taking, or that Astro Teller is looking for over at Google X.

Let's think differently and make the world much more amazing.

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 75: Gratitude, racism and free bananas

We talk about hurricane recovery, racism in sports and where to get some free bananas in Savannah.

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Links
Hurricane Irma
Lucky's
Savannah JEA
Racist banner at Fenway Park

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No more bad art

It's going to be a few weeks of reaching deep for me.

Stephen King's advice to writers includes this important bit:

Write every single day.
 
"Once I start work on a project, I don't stop, and I don't slow down unless I absolutely have to," says King. "If I don't write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind ... I begin to lose my hold on the story's plot and pace."
 
If you fail to write consistently, the excitement for your idea may begin to fade. When the work starts to feel like work, King describes the moment as "the smooch of death." His best advice is to just take it "one word at a time."

Seth Godin blogs every damn day.

A few things converged recently in my life. We had an inspiring conversation with Jon Vroman. After I read his book, I picked up Bill Morrissey's Edson again. It reminds me a of few things:

  1. You can feel old when you're young, if you want. The story's protagonist is 37 and at the end of his rope when the novel opens.
  2. Life is short. The author died shortly before he turned 60.
  3. Share. Just as I was introduced to Morrissey by Tommy Shea (formerly of the Springfield (Mass.) Republican), Morrissey introduced me to Mississippi John Hurt.
  4. Give. Morrissey signed eight copies of his book for me one night after a concert and reading. That took some time for him, especially with a room full of people who wanted to talk to him, and he left me a nice inscription.

Around the same time, my old friend James O'Brien popped up in my Facebook feed with some new old music.

O'Brien was the first artist whose music made sense to me after 9/11. I always think about him this time of year.

His song "War Has Come" reminds me where some of my privileges lay, but also that they come with a responsibility.

It's easy to write a bullet. It does not hiss, it is not close to me. It's easy to write a wound. I've never clamped a femoral artery.

It also reminds me that art requires internal war — and is sometimes itself an act of war.

When I was on Cesspool, I was asked who my dream podcast guests were. I deferred. I've already interviewed Joan Jett and Bruce Campbell and David Clayton-Thomas and some other great talents. I said I wanted to have something to offer the Marc Marons and Joe Rogans of the world.

I've been sitting on that thought for five years, and I've done a little toward it, but not enough.

So I'm reminded, again, of John Baldessari's purge. It marked a turning point for him, but it was a calculated turning point. He didn't wake up one day and say, "Fuck this old shit I did, it was terrible!" He decided what would serve as a reminder of his past, but that didn't need to take up space for him anymore.

So I'm starting today, planning my purge. It'll probably be a weeks-long process, but it will mean improvements, I hope. In my life, in the content I produce, for the future, and for my legacy.

Onward.

More: Who challenges you?

Josh: The Podcast, Episode 74: Of hurricanes and immigrants

We talk science vs. politics, DACA, hurricanes and Jon Vroman.

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Links:
Harvey
Irma
Matthew
DACA
JKWD with Jon Vroman

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What passion and purpose look (sound) like

John-Speaking

In the early 2000s, one of Jon Vroman's friends challenged him to run an ultramarathon. That's two full marathons back to back — 52.4 miles — and Vroman hadn't ever run more than a couple of miles before.

One day on a training run, Vroman, who at that time was a successful sales coach, suggested they use the race as a fundraiser.

They had a hard time picking a charity so they did the next best thing: created one.

The Front Row Foundation works with terminally ill patients and their families to provide "front row moments" at recipients' dream events. It's not just tickets to the event. The organization makes an amazing overall experience, from limo pickups to nice dinners to meet-and-greets when possible.

Nikki, for example, suffers from HER2-Positive Stage IV Breast Cancer. She's a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan. Check out how Front Row Foundation hooked her up:

Vroman's gone on to become a speaker and coach, and is author of The Front Row Factor: Transform Your Life with the Art of Moment Making.

The book is really inspiring, and so is Jon. He graced us with over an hour of discussion over on the JKWD Podcast. Give it a listen and learn how to win a personalized hardcover copy of the book.