The world needs you: Remembering Tom Wolfe, and remembering to show up

I was talking to my friend Seth Horan about, among other things, the death this week of Tom Wolfe, the great journalist and author. [Aside: There will be a podcast with Mr. Horan; I just have some work to do on it. Patience, please.]

I asked if we, as creators, have a responsibility to live up to our heroes.

His short answer: no. Plenty of people are.

Which I guess leaves me to look in the mirror and wonder if maybe I'm not doing enough. It's possible, maybe probable. I could definitely do a lot more showing up, as Stephen King puts it:

Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

Or, perhaps more aptly, as Wolfe's contemporary Gay Talese — who, along with Joan Didion, as among the last of the founders of "New Journalism — says, I might need to get off my ass a little more.

I'm not going to do much reminiscing on Wolfe. I'm a big fan. He made a huge difference in print journalism. But his death is more a wake-up call for me to do some work than, say, Jimmy Breslin's. He felt like one of the last of a dying breed of OGs.

Michael Lewis: How Tom Wolfe Became Tom Wolfe »

One of the things I think we miss when we remember Wolfe and Breslin and Hunter S. Thompson and we think of Talese and Didion is that they made something new when they were young. Their brand of "new journalism" is said to have started in the early 1960s and became mainstream by the early 1980s.

If my work was in a pile of others' work on their desks, would my heroes notice my work?

I think I'm getting better. I'm not sure. I do know I'm going to keep at it.

So, fortunately, are others.

Seth mentioned Matt Taibbi as a strong newer voice. He has a wonderful new serialized novel out. I mentioned Chuck Klosterman. I forget sometimes about Douglas Rushkoff and Chuck Palahniuk.

And of course Cal Fussman, who wrote for Esquire for 25 years and recently started a truly excellent podcast.

Be it resolved. Get off my ass. Show up every day. Don't ship every day, necessarily, but show up and get something done. Grow. You, too. The world needs us.

Are there simply too many of us? Or could we maybe just take care of each other a littler better?

While I was being prepped for my recent procedure, we started with some small talk. But you know, that escalates quickly. I know what the nurses do for work, but when they ask me what I do for work, well...

We got to talking very quickly about the fatal shooting at a Waffle House in Nashville, which was still very recent in the public consciousness.

"Why does this happen?" one of the nurses asked.

"There are just too many of us, I think," I replied.

I know. I was undergoing a procedure to help alleviate a fertility issue so I can actively pursue making more of us. The comment here would commonly be, "so shoot me," but don't. People seem to be taking that literally these days.

When I was doing my thought experiment a couple of months ago, rolling back 50 years at a time to see how much we've advanced, one thing I found was that just 200 years ago, the population of the United States was about the size of New York City today.

That's crazy talk. Yes. There were "only" 20 states in 1818. But still, the total population of those 20 states was the same as are crammed into a single city in the nation's northeast today.

I wonder if one of the reasons we see shootings like Nashville and Parkland and others is that we're just not meant to deal with so many people around us.

Have you ever waited in Home Depot to get keys made? I'm not talking about showing up on Tuesday at 7 a.m. and having to wait for someone to figure out who's in the store at that hour with keys to the machine. I mean waited on a Saturday at noon when seven people are in line at checkout and five people want to have keys made and there's no room to form a line so everyone just crowds around and you crank it up to eight figuring if just one of these people dares to say they were here before you, you might just lose it?

Now imagine that you have no self-control. And maybe you have a firearm. How many of those people are dead, just because there are too many people waiting for keys? Too many people around, too much traffic on your way to the store...there are a lot of us.

I'm not suggesting you go out and start eliminating people, thinning the crowd, as it were. I'm really looking for us all to take responsibility for each other. It's really hard when there are so many of us. It's a lot to be responsible for.

But we have to do it.

I was born in 1976. At that time the world's population was 4.1 billion. Today, it's 7.6 billion. That's an 85 percent increase in 42 years. The "good news" is, annual growth is slowing down. The bad news is that the earth might only be able to hold 10 billion of us (actually, that's the high end of the estimate) If we think the slowing population growth will plateau at about 1 percent annually (it was 1.7 and 1.8 percent through the second half of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s), we hit critical mass in less than 30 years.

Just about everybody who might read this can expect to live another 30 years, so that should scare the hell out of you. If you can't expect to live another 30 years, you for sure love someone who does expect to live another 30 years.

Holy. Shit.

This might not be a call to be better stewards of our environment, or think about what we're eating. I for sure need to spend some time looking in the mirror on these and other things. I don't have answers there, but this little bit of research that I just did will certainly spur some looking around and reflection.

But it is a call to say, hey, you're gonna have less elbow room. People are going to continue to want to stay alive. People are going to keep having sex. We're going to have to be nicer to each other.

Better Humanhood Podcast, Episode 4: Recovery, hanging

We talk about my varicocele embolization, the ease with which we get drugs in America and upcoming opportunities to hang in Savannah and Syracuse.

The best things you can do to help support the podcast would be to rate and review it in your podcast app of choice — that will help more people find it — and if you know someone who needs the knowledge, please share it with them.

Join the Better Humanhood Facebook group »

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

Male infertility: Procedure done, recovery underway

NOTE: You may want to start at the beginning of this series. All posts can be found here.

We are a week out of my varicocele embolization procedure, and we're almost back to normal. Astonishing.

Everyone at Candler was wonderful. I'm not going to name any names, though, because I'm going to talk about drugs and wimps and what we expect from comfort.

Before the procedure, my wife thought to ask what we should do about pain relief. A physician's assistant told her ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as they would not send us home with narcotics.

I've heard the Bell brothers say ibuprofen and acetaminophen together work as well as or better than opioids and are not addictive, so that was my plan going in. I had some 500mg and 200mg ibuprofen tablets in the house, and I picked up some 500mg acetaminophen tabs as well.

Otherwise, I planned, per the PA's orders, to wear comfortable clothing, not eat or drink anything after midnight and to come in at 8am.

I stopped with the food and drink at 11:30 Tuesday night, finished working at 3 a.m. Wednesday, went to bed, woke up a few hours later to take the dog out and grab a quick shower.

At the hospital, I put on the lovely open-backed gown, got my prep talk, signed my waivers and a nurse offered me a Xanax to keep me calm until they got the Fentanyl into my veins.

Quick aside: I was journalistically curious about Fentanyl. It kills a lot of people, including Prince, Tom Petty, Slipknot's Paul Gray, Jay Bennett of Wilco, pro wrestler Anthony Durante (Pitbull #2) and a whole bunch of other people.

I declined the Xanax; I was already tired and pretty chill and, frankly, the fewer drugs they can give me the better.

The doctor stopped by to say hello, give a quick overview of what was going to happen and he promised to swing back and let my wife know when all was good.

The short version of what was going to happen: Give me an IV, stick a catheter in a vein in my neck, drop in springs to block blood flow in the wrong direction in the affected vein, let the blood find another way to get to my testicle that didn't involve a varicose vein and send me on my way.

They stuck the IV into my hand (not connected to anything), wheeled me into the operating room, had me scoot from the cot to the table, and then they did some stuff like shave part of my chest, put a tent over my face and tell me to turn my head to the left (I was all good with that stuff, but I guess some people at that point are freaked out, which is why the Xanax). Then they started the Fentanyl drip.

And let me tell you: I get it. I was aware of everything that was going on and I did not give a shit. And I guess it doesn't take much to kill you. I vaguely remember the doctor really liking the length of the springs so he didn't have to send too many in.

Apparently the doctor then left, told my wife he wished he could relax as well and as quickly as I did (I don't think anyone told him I'd had maybe three hours of sleep), and pretty soon I was awake and they were asking me to scoot from the table back to the cot.

They wheeled me back to hang with my wife. I had the IV in my hand, still, with nothing attached to it, and I was hooked to a machine reading my vitals. They told me they'd need to keep me two hours; after 10 minutes I was (in my head anyway) ready to go.

And then I had to pee.

They handed me a pitcher, and then began what might be the longest 45 minutes of my adult life to date.

The nurse told me I was supposed to lie flat, but that she would prop my head up a little because men typically have a lot of trouble urinating while lying flat.

That was 20 minutes of my life until a different nurse came by and took the thing measuring my pulse off my left hand and told me I could try rolling on my side.

And that was 20 minutes of my life until my wife figured out how to pull down the rails on the bed so I could get a foot on the floor

She's a life-saver, that one.

After about an hour and a half, my vitals had settled. My pulse was back at 54, which is a little higher than my normal resting rate, and my blood pressure was a high-normal 130/68, but considering I'd just had a procedure and was resting uncomfortably in a hospital bed, let's call that normal-normal.

They offered me the opportunity to walk myself the 15 feet to the restroom rather than take a wheelchair ride. I handled it just fine. Afterward, they sat me in a wheelchair, pulled out the IV, handed me a prescription for Percocet (despite the fact the PA mentioned they wouldn't give me narcotics) and wheeled me to my wife's car.

I was left with some gauze on my hand where the IV was, to come off in an hour, and a patch on my neck where the catheter had been, to come off in 24 hours.

Well that’s not my fave way to spend Wednesday morning but home and doing fine.

A post shared by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on


Now, unlike the Fentanyl, I had no curiosity about Percocet. I know it makes my mother vomit, and I know that codeine makes both my mother and me vomit, so there was a good chance that Percocet would make me ill as well. I also know it's highly addictive, and I have the sort of personality who totally got Fentanyl in under three minutes.

I spent the rest of the day just hanging out. My neck was a little stiff, like I'd slept funny, and I didn't have a lot of mobility thanks to the patch, but otherwise, I felt pretty good.

I took some ibuprofen and acetaminophen before bed, and then again when I woke up.


Thursday, my first full day out of the procedure, was a day of alternately relaxing and pacing. I took the dressing off my neck at about the 24-hour mark as prescribed, and I was moving slowly but I was moving.

Friday, I was moving a little better for a while, but I usually have the family over for dinner on Fridays and sitting in our wooden-seated kitchen chair for a while proved to be a mistake; Saturday I woke up with some soreness in my groin.

I worked both Saturday and Sunday, sitting on the recliner rather than at my desk, getting up every 20-30 minutes to move around, sometimes working from a standing position for 10 minutes or so at a time.


Monday came with no pain for the first time. I took the dog for a long walk, and when that was done, I drove downtown (the first time I'd driven more than about 50 yards), and walked for another couple of hours. I felt great.

Yesterday, I got to the gym for the first time, but took it easy. After taking the dog on a nice long walk before it got hot (you try being a black dog in 85-degree heat), I hopped on the elliptical for 15 minutes, lifted a bit (much lighter than I normally would lift) and walked on the treadmill for another 15 minutes. I managed to sit at my desk for work, with no pain other than a 13-inning Red Sox loss.


What's Next?

Now, we wait. Over the next few days, I should get back to normal; hopefully by the weekend I'll be able to get a short run in; I may have to take another week off racquetball and it'll take some time to get back to lifting full strength, I'm sure.

Since it takes about three months for new sperm to generate, I'll schedule a new seed test in late August, maybe early September.

Onward!

Better Humanhood Podcast Episode 3: Impending

We talk about an upcoming procedure to help correct an infertility issue, the Waffle House shooting in Nashville and the van driver who killed pedestrians in Toronto, along with our ongoing theme of walking in others' shoes and being a little kinder.

The best things you can do to help support the podcast would be to rate and review it in your podcast app of choice — that will help more people find it — and if you know someone who needs the knowledge, please share it with them.

Join the Better Humanhood Facebook group »

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

Male infertility: The procedure is upcoming

I'm right about 24 hours from my scheduled varicocele embolization. [If you're new here and don't know what I'm talking about, read the rest of this series here.]

I'm spending the day being more or less normal. I'll go for a long run, which, while it's normally something I do the second half of the week, is par for the course when I'm going to undertake something that's a bit different for me. Then I'll have breakfast, take a nap, walk the dog and go to work.

I'll stop eating and drinking before midnight, finish work at 3, get a couple of hours of sleep and get to the outpatient surgery center by 8, tired from a short sleep and no liquids for eight hours.

The recovery is supposed to be something on the order of 2-3 days. I imagine Thursday morning will find me somewhat groggy as the last of the anesthetics wears off; they're doing that thing where they put you mostly out, but they kind of expect you to fall asleep anyway (which, given my lack of sleep at that point, won't be an issue).

Since sperm take about three months to generate, we'll expect to do another seed test in mid-late August.

We'll check back in here when we're upright and thinking.

Who is on your personal board of directors?

When I was thinking about this, I thought, wow, this sounds like a Tim Ferriss question. Sweet. Turns out, it's a Tim Ferriss question.

Nevertheless, I think it's worth exploring.

Companies have boards for a bunch of reasons, but two prominent reasons I can name are (1) the founders don't know everything and (2) founders can get tunnel vision.

And so it goes with our lives. We're all just making all of it up, right? We make up rules for ourselves based upon our experiences and desires and sometimes we don't even follow our own invented rules. Why not look to others for some assistance?

My first three

My first three in are admittedly all white men. The reason for this is that I understand that part of their experience; I don't have to understand where they came from to understand where they got to.

They are Benjamin Franklin, Buckminster Fuller and Richard Feynman.

All three were creatives who synthesized ideas, followed their curiosities and created lasting work.

My next two

This is where I start to bring in some diversity; getting people of different backgrounds is important, I think. Ada Lovelace was an independently thinking woman in a time when that was hugely discouraged. She was involved in an industry — mathematics and computing — that is still, over 150 years later, still largely dominated by men. Not only was she fiercely independent, she was both brave and bold, as well as an autodidact.

George Washington Carver was born into slavery but grew up free. He was discouraged at every turn from even really being part of society, but became a scientist and inventor anyway. He was creative and courageous, and had to fight many uphill battles.

Who would you want offering you direction on how to steer your life toward more greatness?

Better Humanhood Podcast Episode 2: Back, for real

We talk a little bit about being kinder, a little bit about how to approach people you disagree with and a bit about male infertility.

The best things you can do to help support the podcast would be to rate and review it in your podcast app of choice — that will help more people find it — and if you know someone who needs the knowledge, please share it with them.

Join the Better Humanhood Facebook group »

Subscribe
iTunes
Player.fm
Google Play
Stitcher
Libsyn (RSS)
Subscribe on Android

Prove your can’t

A couple of days after I conceived of the title of this post, Rob Jones was on an episode of Jocko Willink's podcast titled I can't vs. I won't, so of course the whole thought process for the post changed.

And then I listened to David Goggins on Joe Rogan's podcast and got more inspiration.

And then I heard Li'l Misty Diaz on Cal Fussman's podcast. So it changed again.

Let's meet these people.

Goggins' dad was a sex trafficker, moving prostitutes across the border from Canada to Buffalo. He didn't believe in sending his kids to school — instead, they worked at a roller rink at night, then slept while their mom worked a bar until 3 a.m. Dad beat the kids and mom, and mom finally left when Goggins was 8, moving the kids to a small town in Indiana where racism was rampant.

He wanted to be an Air Force special operations agent. He failed the test twice, but got a tutor and managed to pass it the third time. He was also afraid of the water and after six weeks of toughing out a training program, the military tested him for sickle cell and found he had a trait for it, so they sat him out for a week.

Goggins had quit everything he'd ever done, so until he was sidelined, he wanted to prove he had changed. After he sat out his week, he figured he could push through the final three weeks, but his commanding officer (CO) told him he had to start the training from the beginning. He couldn't imagine going back through that, so he told his CO the sickle cell discovery scared him and he got a medical excuse out of the special ops unit.

He had quit again.

He went on to do a job that didn't require any work in the water, and put on 120 pounds, then left the Air Force and went to work for an exterminator. Eventually he saw a show on Discovery Channel that struck a chord with him and he decided he wanted to be a Navy SEAL.

He finally found a recruiter who would sign him up for the path. His prior stint in the Air Force helped him, but at 6'1" and 297 pounds, he had 90 days to lose 106 pounds to meet the weight requirement for the SEAL teams.

The next night he went back to work at the exterminator, and decided that wasn't going to be his life. He walked off the job and, as he puts it, became "a guy who didn't exist." He went hard. He sought discomfort. He lost the weight, got into the class and went through 3 SEAL hell weeks in a year. He didn't make it through the first, but he did through the other two.

After his service, he became an endurance runner and motivator.

Yes, these two photos are the same person.

Just wake the fuck up! I get asked all the time how do I do it- how do I find the motivation to workout everyday? Well, that so-called motivation died out 30k running miles ago. I'm sorry, there is no secret. Some people write books, articles, etc., on ways for you to find motivation to workout. Most of it is BS. I speak from experience. You don't become 300lbs twice in your life because you love running! Yes, some people love working out, well Merry Christmas to you. Personally I hate the shit! Every morning putting on those fucking running shoes and then stepping outside in the cold, hot, rain, snow, etc. You get my point. I’m just keeping it real! Yes, attitude is everything but shit still sucks! This is why in 2014 the obesity rates were 34.3% in men and 38.3% in women. The shit sucks...period! On your bad days, when you feel like a tortured soul, that is when you can really win the battle against yourself! If, on your worst days you can pull off your best performances, that's when your mind truly starts to shift! Win that battle and it will move the mental needle! It's easy to win when life's your best friend but when it's choking you out is when you truly grow. Sometimes there is no light at the end of the fucking tunnel but you still have to go in!!!! There may be no light at the end but, there is a better you! Start conditioning your mind to walk in the darkness. Trust me, the more you walk in it the better your eyes will adjust to it!

A post shared by David Goggins (@davidgoggins) on

Join me at 2pm EST/11am PST with @joerogan - http://joerogan.live

A post shared by David Goggins (@davidgoggins) on


Rob Jones joined the Marine Corps Reserve during his junior year in college as a combat engineer. He and his team would be responsible for using explosives and detecting buried IEDs. After graduation, he would be deployed to Iraq in 2008 and later Afghanistan in 2010.

After a landmine exploded near him in Afghanistan, he had both legs amputated just above the knee.

It took over a year for him to heal, and eventually he left the Marines with an honorable discharge.

What's a wounded Marine with no legs to do?

Row his way into the Paralympics and win a bronze medal, of course. And then cycle across the US. And then run 31 marathons in 31 days.

You can read in more detail on his website.


Misty Diaz is called Li'l Misty because she is about 4'4" and weighs 78 pounds. No, she's not 9 years old. She's an adult with Myelomeningocele, the most serious form of spina bifida, a condition described as "a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth." She walks with the aid of two pink crutches, or sometimes a walker.

Diaz' bio says she started entering races when she was 7, but in talking to Fussman, she says at one point she found herself broke, divorced and wondering what to do, so she signed up for a 5K and started off walking to the mailbox and back so that she'd be able to complete it (which she did, in around an hour).

Now she does 15-mile Spartan races. You know, the ones with the obstacles in them. She also holds some weightlifting records in her weight class.

#MedalMonday 🏅 #TeamWork - Aside from the @goliathgauntlet #OCR race being amazing 🙌🏼 - LETS CHAT ABOUT TEAMWORK ... - I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot. Together we can do great things! - There’s no way I could have gone this far in life without team work. 1. Starts with being a good leader (be the leader you would need in life) 2. Having clear communication. When I have a team I tell them what medial issues I might have and what leg is stronger then the other. 3. Define responsibility (in this video I looked at who had a stronger base..Jayme did. I needed a strong base in order to create a foundation) each one of my TurtleElites teammates had a big role in building this ladder. 4. Be positive and never give up! Is the perfect mix for an amazing team! - What I love about working with a team is we accomplish so much and learn from one another no matter what speed we always reach our end goal, we cheer for one another and hold one another accountable. - Keep working on those goals and create that team! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. #NeverGiveUp #LiveLife100 #Strong @peopleareawesome @medaladdict @bbigivingback

A post shared by Misty Diaz 🦄🐶🍕 (@lilmistydiaz) on


How are you feeling about "can't" right now?

I conceived this post while I was in the midst of what was then my longest-distance run and still remains my longest-duration run. A few weeks after this run, I went a mile farther, but did it about six minutes faster.

When you think you can’t, take another step. Then another. And another. #running #pr

A post shared by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

I've got nothing on Diaz, Jones or Goggins.

But let's talk about me for a bit, and about Goggins, specifically, because most of us are not ever going to have to deal with losing both our legs above the knee, nor are we likely to suddenly find ourselves with a birth defect we weren't born with.

There are three basic body types: ectomorphic, mesomorphic and endomorphic. Ectomorphs are long and lean. They tend to have problems putting on muscle or fat. Think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Mesomorphs tend to put on muscle very easily, and are often rectangular and lean. Think Dwayne Johnson. Endomorphs tend to put on both muscle and fat easily, and are often pear-shaped. Think Danny DeVito.

Elite distance runners tend to be ectomorphs; elite sprinters more often are mesomorphs. Endomorphs? We're likely to be elite post-run beer drinkers.

Yep, me and Mr. DeVito both, though to be honest, I don't know anything about Danny DeVito's drinking habits. Or his running habits, as far as that goes.

What I'm getting at is that running doesn't come naturally to me. It's actually very difficult. I don't start enjoying a run until I've been going for 45 minutes or so. At that point, I can finally zone out and not think about how awful it feels.

Of course, in order to run two or three hours at a time, you have to take a few 30- and 40-minute runs a week. [As I prepare for my first full marathon in November, I hope to just make my "shorter" runs over an hour and mostly cut out the annoying ones.] That means I enjoy one or two of my five or six runs a week.

Really, I do it because I'd probably weigh close to 250 pounds if I didn't. Not exactly an ideal weight for someone who is 5'2".

I got started because when I was going to get married, my future sister-in-law (my wife's brother's wife) said we should do a 5K every month until the wedding. We signed up for the Chilly Chili 5K, a mid-January run in Cazenovia, New York. It was 12 degrees at race time.

That was the last one she ran with me.

I did a couple of others, and when we moved to Savannah at the end of the year, I needed a new challenge, so I signed up for a half marathon and trained hard for it.

It wasn't easy. Easy would be sitting on the couch.

When I signed up for the race, if you had told me I had to run it the next day, I would have said, "i can't." I'm no Bert Kreischer, who barely trained for the LA Marathon.

But the fact is, I could have. Running is just one foot in front of the other until you're at the finish line.

Goggins found this out, as well. He could go in the water. He could go through SEAL hell week three times. He could run a 205-mile race, even though the first time he ran he weighed 297 pounds and only eked out a quarter mile.


What are you telling yourself you can't do? Have you proven you can't do it? Have you tried? I mean, really tried? "It's too hard" is not the same as "can't." You (most likely) can't flap your arms fast enough to fly. You (most likely) can't pick up a tractor-trailer and carry it to the nearest port.

You (most likely) can do basically anything you can conceive. Thomas Edison famously took thousands of tries to come up with a filament for the light bulb. When asked about all those failures, he is quoted as saying, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that didn't work."

If you're going to say you can't do something. You'd better be able to prove it. Think about Edison. And Rob Jones. And Misty Diaz. And David Goggins. And then try harder.

Jones sums it up best in in a blog post:

I suggest removing the phrase, “I can’t,” from your lexicon and replacing it with, “I can’t YET.” Do this, so that you don’t risk being on your death bed saying, “I didn’t.”

Oh, and in case you need more proof that you can, meet Kyle Maynard, a congenital quad amputee (that means he was born without arms or legs) who went on to become a high school wrestling champion and a mountain climber.

Male infertility: Varicocele embolization scheduled

Well, we didn't need the CT scan we discussed after all. The radiologist got the information he needed from the ultrasound I detailed in part one.

Short story short, I have a procedure scheduled for April 25. They're so certain in the effectiveness of this procedure for clearing varicoceles (not always a fertility problem), that when they're happy you're conscious enough after the anesthesia, they just send you home and don't contact you again (apart from billing, of course).

I'm sure I'll have a post up in the couple of days before, and another in the day or two after.