Taking a learning break…see you in the spring

Two of my favorite things to do are read and write.

While I've always found reading relaxing — thanks, primarily, to my parents, who, when I claimed boredom growing up, told me to go read a book instead of to go watch TV — I really love reading (and listening to) books for growth.

I write to make sense of things. To parse them in my mind. To explain difficult concepts to myself in a simpler form. Hopefully some of you have benefited from me doing that and sharing what I've learned.

I need a break to refresh that learning. The stuff I do here is what people often do on Sabbatical. So think of this as a reverse Sabbatical.

I also write to keep exercising my creativity muscle.

I have plenty of creativity to exercise scheduled in the next few months. I'm spending six months taking the Master Key Experience, which involves lots of reading and writing (and thinking). I want to pay more attention to the JKWD Podcast — it's really good and I think there's a lot of room for growth.

I have some thick books sitting on my shelf I want to get to, too, Antifragile and Tools of Titans (and I guess there's some new Tim Ferriss for me to track down, too).

I also want to learn some basic psychology. If you've got a recommendation, please pass it along.

And since New Year's is really an arbitrary date and you can start anything anytime, here is my annual posting of Doug MacLean's "Auld Lang Syne." Don't forget where you've been, but don't be afraid to leave it behind for where you're going.

Baby steps: The way back to creativity

If you've been listening to the podcast, you know I spend much of July dealing with some creative stumbling blocks. We even did an episode on it over at JKWD.

You'll notice the output didn't stop: A new JKWD every Monday. A new blog post ever Tuesday. A new Josh: The Podcast every Thursday.

Showing up and consistency are a large part of the battle against creative blocks. They're simple, but not easy.

Here we are, getting into August, and I have some thoughts coming back into my brain. It might be a month of short hits, much like Seth Godin posts about weekly (he blogs every day, but every now and then, a post is under 150 words — under 100, even — and brings a sharp jolt.

I'll be looking for more sharp jolts this month, and exceptionality as we move into fall.

Happy Tuesday.

Lessons from Everlast and Joe Rogan, with some Teddy Roosevelt tossed in

Two drunk/stoned friends after a podcast. @ogeverlast

A post shared by Joe Rogan (@joerogan) on

Everlast was back on Joe Rogan's podcast recently. It was another one of those podcasts that I expected to enjoy but instead learned a lot (see my notes from Bert Kreischer talking to Robert Kelly).

Everlast is a musician and rapper; if you're my age, you know him from House of Pain. Need a reminder? Have an earworm. He's been dead on the operating table twice. He has an artificial heart valve. He has a daughter with cystic fibrosis. He recently watched his mother slide downhill with Alzheimer's and then pass away.

Fame doesn't make you immune to the problems of the rest of us, is what I'm saying.

The followng video appears during the podcast. It's a better 2-minute clip to start things. The full podcast is at the bottom of the post.

There's some drunk babble. It kind of runs off the rails at the end. But there's a lot in here. You don't need to listen, but if these snippets move you, maybe at least hit play on that video at the bottom and give them a play.

• Be open to learning something new
• Culture is like an operating system; we gain perspective by loading new operating systems (visiting different cultures)
• Half-truths are turning people against each other
• Americans right now are part of the biggest reality TV show ever
• If you want to be a leader, you must let go of ego
• Sometimes you have to call out the bullshit
• It's easy to pick a team and then fight for it. It's more difficult — but more important — to find common ground
• Think for yourself
• Take a step back
Love
• Be compassionate. Sometimes people need to feel whatever it is they're feeling
• There are injustices in the world
• Anger doesn't serve you
• Sometimes there's a glitch in the matrix and you just have to deal with it
• Your life is normal
• Some people fight battles you'll never see
• "Compassion is the thief of joy" —Theodore Roosevelt
• Get joy out of what you do
• Show gratitude to those who helped you become who you are
• Invite inspiration in
• We need community
• Be happy when others are successful
• Find people to push you to be better
• Respect those who paved the path for you to be able to do what you do
• Don't become old and bitter
• Let people enjoy what they enjoy
• Let art evolve
• The way we've always done things is not a good reason to keep doing them that way
• Whatever you do, do it your way
• Get out of your own way
• Manage your attention the way you have to manage oxygen on a spaceship
• If it's not relevant to your life, it's taking up too much room
• Don't focus on things that rob you of energy and time

Here's the full podcast:

Reminder: You’re gonna die

One morning, there was a dead frog in the driveway, missing a leg and a half.

Not as a threat. It was just there.

We've heard frogs from the drainage ditch adjacent to the property, and the evening before we'd had a torrential downpour. There were plenty of puddles. The ditch was probably flooding, the frog hopped up the drain on our side of the fence, and probably met one of the cats that runs around the property.

And then the neighbor probably drove off and the cat ran away and left most of a dead frog in the driveway.

This was the same day that, just an hour or so later, I was heading to the doctor's office to get a prescription for epinephrine auto-injectors, since my previous ones had expired.

It's nobody's best day if you need to use epinephrine. Here's a story of the time I found that out.

I guess I was pretty close to dead, if I was knocked out for a few seconds but it felt like 20 minutes and the awake people in the room were calling the paramedics (except for my wife, who was observing in shock and panic).


Maybe this next one's better.

"I'm talking to her, and she goes, "Daddy, does the earth go around the sun?" And I was like, "yeah." She goes, "does it do it all the time?" And I go, "yeah." She says, "will the earth always go around the sun forever?" And i was like, "Well, no, at some point, the sun's gonna explode." She's seven years old. Do you understand how horrible that is? She started crying immediately. Crying bitter tears for the death of all humanity. And here's how I tried to save it. I go, "oh, honey, this isn't gonna happen until you and everybody you know has been dead for a very long time." She didn't know any of those things, and now she knows all of those things. She's gonna die. Everybody she knows is gonna die. They're gonna be dead for a very long time, and then the sun's gonna explode. She learned all that in 12 seconds at the age of seven. She took it pretty well. I was proud of her."

Tim Ferriss speaks to several podcast guests about having memento mori around his home.

It's a reminder that death gets to everybody, so if you want to be remembered as someone who lived, get to living.


I have a hard time leaving dishes in the sink when I go to bed. Waking up to yesterday's dishes puts me in mind of yesterday, and, frankly, whatever happened yesterday can't be changed. It might be OK to reflect on it if doing so improves today, but why not just take the five minutes to do the dishes and not have the reminder — or the work — waiting for you in the morning?

Yes, I definitely leave some chores for the next day. Sometimes I'll wait until I go to bed to run the dishwasher or put the last load of laundry in the dryer. Maybe it's the fact that these are longer activities that cover an aggregate of days. Maybe it's the fact that when I have a new day, the dishes or clothes are newly refreshed.

Not yesterday's grimy mess come back to haunt me — the physical, mental and emotional.


The point, here, is, remember that you're going to die. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not for a century. But if you keep putting off stuff until tomorrow, eventually one of the tomorrows you've been waiting for isn't going to show up.

Because you'll be dead. It's just how things go for us. It's something GoogleXer Mo Gawdat — who lost his son during an appendectomy, is an engineer and wrote a book on happiness — discusses with Lewis Howes.

If you want to be remembered for something you aren't doing, now's a really good time to start. As Kelvin and I discuss in this episode of JKWD, once you're dead, your chances at success go down a lot.

Go. Do. Be. Love.

Consistency, taking advantage of technology and what happens when you leave?

It's amazing how easy it is for us to stay connected these days.

We're at a point in time when many adults in the workforce don't remember a time when the phone was on the wall and when you left the house, you were gone. If you didn't turn on the answering machine, you wouldn't even know if anybody called while you weren't home.

Even if you did remember to turn on the answering machine, if it was in a not-so-obvious place, you might forget to check it until bedtime or so.

By this time, I've managed to spend the entirety of Trump's first 100 days in office without Twitter and Facebook on my phone.

I'm going all the way to zero for a couple of weeks. Email app? Gone. Instagram app? See ya.

In order for me to reach a point of moderation, I always have to go from wherever I am to zero — whether it's a change in the way I consume carbohydrate, alcohol or television.

I'll (most likely) be back in a few weeks with everything. While I haven't missed the idle checking I used to do of Twitter and Facebook on my phone, I do miss the ability to share a podcast from within the app or to share a thought in context (I suppose I could just log in on mobile web, but I always just put it in my notes app and wait until I get to a computer, and if I remember why I wrote the note, I'll share it).

We're in a time that demands consistency. I see it when I put the blog on hiatus, which is why I haven't done it in a while. Each time I disappear for a few months, the numbers drop off very quickly and it takes a really long time to build back up.

Fortunately, the Internet has figured out scheduling and feeds and such, so it's going to feel like I never left while I'm gone.

Apologies for my slow responses if you write, but I expect I'll be coming back with some fantastic stuff for you.

IN the words of a great bear, "TTFN."

#TryPod

There's a lot of stuff floating around in my head for more extensive blog posts coming up — I've done some deeper looking into our brains, I've recently read Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, and I didsome more window shopping at the library.

But I wanted to talk a bit about #TryPod this morning. It's a month-long endeavor to push podcasts as a medium.

If you're not on board with podcasts yet, give one a try. If you have a smart phone, you probably have a podcast app built in, and there are plenty more that are easily installed.

Here are a few to check out outside of the biggest mainstream ones:
Josh: The Podcast — That's my podcast. It comes out on Thursdays.
JKWD (Josh & Kelvin World Domination) — A podcast I do with the great Kelvin Ringold. It comes out Mondays.
Another Round — Tracy and Heben bring a whole lot for ignorant white dudes like me to learn
We the People Live — Josh Zepps talks politics with comedians and others
Pod Save America — Some Obama staffers offer inside-inside politics. It's slanted way Dem, but how often do you hear people speak who have worked on a presidential staff?

If you're already a podcast listener, what are some of your favorites?

Dining Savannah: Alligator Soul

Today, the 14th of February, marks the seventh anniversary of my first date with my lovely wife.

Valentine's Day. That should be easy enough to remember, right?

This year, we decided to celebrate at a Savannah institution, Alligator Soul. They had a New Orleans-inspired menu for Valentine's Day.

Let's start right off with this is a place that knows how to treat diners. They took our coats, sat us 15 minutes ahead of our reservation and brought us a little take-home gift with our names on the sticker.

Our server, Robert, knew both the food and drink menus.

I started with a Sazerac, my go-to cocktail when I'm at anew place. Not my favorite version in town, but it paired really nicely with the carving board we picked as a starter. [Robert also recommend a cocktail for the Mrs., which she enjoyed, but there's a story with it.]

We were treated to an amuse-bouche of cajun beans with dried chorizo, and here's where that cocktail story comes in. The cocktail itself was lemon and cherry and a booze or two, and milady tried it immediately after the very lively amuse-bouche. She said it didn't taste like anything, and she handed it over. I took a sip of water and tasted it, and told her she was out of her mind.

Lesson: Cleanse your palate. After doing that, she was quite happy 🙂

The carving board came with a bleu, a cheddar, and something Robert called "gruyere-style." All three cheeses were from Georgia, as were the meats — bone marrow (a first for both of us), some rich, creamy pork belly and an added alligator sausage. Mustard, balsamic, grapes, pear, honey and three kinds of bread (toast, lavash and papadam) accompanied the meat and cheese.

The Mrs. had a perfectly prepared bacon-wrapped filet (medium-rare), while I opted for the game bird special, a medium-rare squab. I was undecided between the squab and the duck, but I'm glad Robert recommended the squab, because, frankly, I can go to my local grocery store, turn on my oven and roast a duck. Squab is probably not going to be on very many menus I see in my life.

As we dove into dinner, Robert found milady a riesling (she's a white-wine drinker, despite the steak) that she was happy with, and I tried what they call a gentleman's flight — a rye, sour-mash and bourbon whiskey sampler.

For dessert, the Mrs. opted for a chocolate parfait with amaretto creme, served in a champagne flute, while I went for the banana beignets, served warm over vanilla ice cream.

We were in a small room with several other couples, and we all got to talking, which, in my experience, is fairly uncommon at a restaurant of this caliber. Among other things, we discussed where everyone was from, eating something like squab, and my pants.

If you can fit it in your budget ($45 was a reasonable gratuity for our meal), I'd highly recommend a visit while you're in town.

My wife got me the best #pants ever ❤😀👍

A photo posted by Josh Shear (@joshuanshear) on

How to get your FBI file

So here's a thing I did: Asked for my FBI file.

Certain kinds of government records are available to the public, but you have to ask. The types of records required to be made public are outlined in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Among those are certain types of investigations (the FBI handles law enforcement inside the United States; the CIA, by charter, is not allowed to operate within the US — I'm not so naive to think they might not be, but that's the way the agency was designed).

Some FOIA requests come in so often, the FBI has just gone ahead and posted them. You can just go read what the FBI has on Al Capone or Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King Jr. or Marilyn Monroe, should you need a rabbit hole to go down for a few hours. Or a week.

You can request a file on yourself or any dead person. You need some law enforcement reason or court order to allow you to request information on another living person (for example, you couldn't ask for my file).

You can do so by letter or online — this page explains how.

They'll do two hours of research for free; you'll tell them when you submit your request the maximum amount you're willing to spend on the request if it takes longer than that.

The electronic request system is available Monday - Friday from 4am through 10pm Eastern.

I sent away electronically for my file on a Wednesday afternoon, and had a letter the following Monday saying the FBI had no information on me they were required to share under the Freedom of Information Act, but they could neither confirm nor deny there could be other records or investigations on me (no kidding).

Aside: I worked at a federally chartered bank from 1997-2000, so I know there's a folder somewhere with my fingerprints. I have no idea if there's anything else in that folder.

For fun, here's the letter they sent me. Emphasis (bold) mine; incorrect usages theirs.

Dear Mr. Shear,
 
This is in response to your Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (FOIPA) request.
 
Based on the information you provided, we conducted a search of the Central Records System. We were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA. If you have additional information pertaining to the subject that you belivee was of investigative interest to the Bureau, please provide us the details and we will conduct an additional search.
 
By standard FBI proactice and pursuant to FOIA exemption (b)(7)(E) and Privacy Act exemption (j)(2) [5 U.S.C. §§ 552/552a (b)(7)(E), (j)(2)], this response neither confirms nor denies the existence of your subject's name on any watch lists.
 
For your information, Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirements of the FOIA. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(c) (2006 & Supp. IV (2010). This response is limited to those records that are subject to the requirements of the FOIA. This is a standard notification that is given to all our requesters and should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.
 
For questions regarding our determinations, visit the www.fbi.gov/foia website under "Contact Us." The FOIPA Request Number listed above has been assigned to your request. Please use this number in all correspondence concerning your request. Your patience is appreciated.
 
You may file an appeal by writing to the Director, Office of Information Policy (OIP), United States Department of Justice, Suite 11050, 1425 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20530-0001, or you may submit an appeal through OIP's FOIAonline portal by creating an account on the following web site: https://foiaonline.regulations.gov/foia/action/public/home. Your appeal must be postmarked or electronically transmitted within ninety (90) days from the date of this letter in order to be considered timely. If you submit your appeal by mail, both the letter and the envelope should be clealy marked "Freedom of Information Act Appeal." Please cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
You may seek dispute resolution services by contacting the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) at 877-684-6448 or by emailing ogis@nara.gov. Alternatively, you may contact the FBI's FOIA Public Liaison by emailing foipaquestions@ic.fbi.gov. If you submit your dispute resolution correspondence by email, the subject heading should clearly state "Dispute Resolution Services." Please also cite the FOIPA Request Number assigned to your request so that it may be easily identified.
 
Enclosed for your information is a copy of the FBI Fact Sheet and Explanation of Exemptions.
 
Sincerely,
[Signed]
David M. Hardy
Section Chief,
Record/Information
 Dissemination Section
Records Management Division

Enclosure

Enclosed: FBI Fact Sheet, Explanation of Exemptions.

See ya, 2016, you weird year, you. A right guid-willy waught for 2017!

Lemmy checked out at the end of 2015 after a short and almost entirely unpublicized bout with cancer. He may have foreseen something that was coming in 2016.

We opened the year saying goodbye to David Bowie and closed the year electing a reality TV star president.

We also said goodbye to the likes of Abe Vigoda and John Glenn and Umberto Eco and Harper Lee and Alan Rickman and Antonin Scalia and Nancy Reagan and Morley Safer and Garry Shandling and Merle Haggard and Prince and Muhammad Ali and Elie Wiesel and Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Michael and Fyvush Finkel and Alan Thicke and Garry Marshall and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Edward Albee and Glenn Frey and Leonard Cohen and Gene Wilder and Leon Russell and Gwen Ifill and Florence Henderson and Fidel Castro.

It was like The Great Hand-off. So many people who shaped news, entertainment and politics for the past 40-plus years are gone. They left it for us to figure it out. I don't have a lot of hope, but am hoping to be proven wrong on that.

We also said goodbye to too many people shot by toddlers, because the "gun rights" people and the "gun control" people are too stubborn to talk to each other about gun safety.

We started with white guys with guns taking over a remote wildlife reserve and ended with people coming together to try to save a Native community while getting fire-hosed in freezing temperatures.

We learned nothing about police-community relations.

Zika was a thing for a minute. And that's a scary thing that gives babies tiny heads. Remember Zika? Yeah, that was this year, and you totally didn't even think about it when you thought of 2016.

It was a crazy year for me. I started a podcast, then started another podcast, then ran a thousand miles. I got laid off and un-laid off.

Some of my favorite posts from the year (read: these took a lot of work and I haven't linked to them yet):

Lessons in leadership from Jocko Willink: Extreme Ownership and beyond
Election reform and the evolving myth of Two Americas (hint: there aren't just two)
What's the way out? Research in media, racism and lobotomies
The truth about media bias and what you should consider when listening to criticism of media
Unbiased vs. objective: The real role of media

What's ahead for 2017

I'm a little afraid for the world right now. I fear empowered white nationalists following both a Brexit vote and a Trump election. I fear we don't understand context and that our memories are too short. I fear that we're choosing teams, protecting our tribes and forgetting that we're one species.

But I'm also optimistic. People have a good habit of surprising me sometimes. So, here's to 2017.

Gratitude, and another year

I turn 40 on Sunday (that's tomorrow, if you're keeping track).

I knew I wasn't going to do a "40 things I've learned in 40 years" post. That seems awfully arrogant. I started on a "40 things I've learned in my 40th year" post, figuring I'd point out that there's so much to learn. That still felt a little too BuzzFeedy.

Not that I have anything against BuzzFeed. Y'all seem like a great group of folks. And I know you have a serious news division, too, but too little, too late, I'm afraid. Just I can't even take your serious news seriously because you're making most of your money from listicles. Which are not as good as popsicles. Except the ones with pictures of dogs. And sometimes cats. Maybe if we're talking green popsicles.

I seem to have gone somewhere different. Sigh.

Anyway, I'm 40. I have nothing figured out. I have some advice if you want it. I have some insight if you want it. Mostly that's just from living through some stuff. Don't eat a pile of refried beans before you get on a fast-moving carnival ride. If you're going to be home later than you thought, call your mother or your wife or whomever needs to know. Use the Oxford comma sparingly, if at all.

These tips probably aren't going to change your life. Like I said, I don't have anything figured out. I've learned some stuff. I've learned a lot of it in just the past year. I'm pretty sure I'm always going to be learning stuff.

I can tell you, though, that I'm grateful to have made it this far, for the life I have and the people I get to share it with.

And thank you for being here. I appreciate it. Have a great week.

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