Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for January, 2019

Is It Time to Leave Social Media? Sunday musings…1/27/19

1) Anoesis. A State of mind consisting of pure emotion or sensation, devoid of cognitive content. NOT what occurs while playing with the Man Cub.

Kid is seriously smart.

2) Greeting. “How’s it going?”

“Oh, you know, right between ‘don’t get your hopes up’ and ‘be careful what you wish for’.”

For the next time “OK” isn’t gonna cut it. (HT Frazz).

3) Social*. My Sunday newspapers are filled with articles asking whether one should uncouple from the various social media sites available to us on the internet. You know, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and their slightly lesser cousins Whats App and Snap. Visuals of index fingers floating over the “delete” button abound. Ever more earnest posts in all of the above ask for help in deciding if it’s the right thing to do, or if it’s the right time to do it. (As an aside, isn’t that kinda like asking the bartender and all of your barfly buddies if you should quit drinking).

Well…is it?

My initial foray into everything social on the internet was a blatant attempt to boost my business while at the same time creating a bit of a personal brand in that space. A funny thing happened on the way to that pretty blatant business play: CrossFit. Yup, my hobby and my fellow hobbyists all discovered each other “off-site” on Facebook. Where I once pretty much lived my CrossFit life only on the main page of CrossFit.com (and existed in a tiny little solo bubble as a CrossFitter in a large commercial gym), now the larger CrossFit community came to dominate my feed. Complicating this was the fact that the lifespan of my sons’ Box occurred in this period, and as any Affiliate member can attest, your gym experience extends outside the gym and into your social media worlds. FB was the same black hole that CrossFit.com once was.

Twitter is an interesting place. Here I’ve been a bit better at sticking with the original plan of using the platform for professional purposes. We post about our business, and my professional writing has found a nice little audience. Here, too, I have discovered a broader community of folks who share some of my other interests (economics, healthcare policy, sports), and these very interesting people make Twitter just as attractive as any other online experience I’ve encountered. There are times when I sit down to spend a moment looking at what’s going on there only to look up an hour later and wonder where the time went. I should note that I pretty much skip by any and all political commentary, and still Twitter devours time as voraciously as a Black Hole does gravity.

So what are all of these folks to do? Or me? Should I stay or should I go? The fallacy is that it has to be all or none for most folks. Only the truly addicted, those who ignore the humans in their presence in favor of the bits and bots on their devices need to seriously take on this question (and for the record, for them the answer is an unequivocal “YES”, you should delete all of that shit. Now.). For the rest of us, why is this any different from TV? Why aren’t we using Social Media in the same manner that we (used to) use the television? People never went to work, set up shop and turned on the tube. You watched it as a diversion AFTER work. Yeah, sure, maybe you gathered with friends to watch a show or a game, but you were interacting with people AND the TV, not the people ON the TV. Tough to keep a job if you spend 1/2 your time watching Wheel of Fortune.

Anyway, that’s my bid. Deal with SM like it’s TV in the 90′s. For what it’s worth it seems that I am the first person to propose that we look at SM this way. At the moment my FB usage is plummeting as I find that there are fewer and fewer people whose activity holds any interest for me. Like 99% of what’s in the old TV Guide. My slow withdrawal feels a lot like my experience with the comments and Message Board on .com. Twitter feels like a cross between business and research, both of which can be treated like “appointment TV”; I go there when it’s convenient. Neither one feels necessary.

There is an obvious benefit to a SM diet, and that is the massive number of minutes you free up for all kinds of other stuff. I experienced the exact same phenomenon when I stopped watching NFL football on Sunday afternoons. More time to read. More time to write. Full on commitment to each moment spent playing with the Man Cub, and for that matter talking with family members who now tend to gather for communal weekend dinners. Admittedly it can be a bit of a challenge to fill the time previously lost to SM, but so much of my sense of needing more time in my day to add something new or different or just fun really seems to have been artificial. How can I not have time to re-learn French when so much time has been spent in the FB rabbit hole? I’d made my minutes artificially scarce.

Today I built something with my hands. You can, too. Re-claim your minutes by putting SM in its place. Like TV.

I’ll see you next week…

 

* I acknowledge the inherent irony in the fact that most of you will read this through SM.

 

 

 

The Stages of Exuberance Sunday musings…1/13/19

1) Toddler. We are hosting the Man Cub for a few days as his parents prepare to move into a new house.

I. Am. Exhausted.

2) Strategy. Trample the wounded and hurdle the dead is neither a growth strategy nor is it a viable marketing tactic.

3) Snowpocalypse When I sit down to write I enjoy looking out over the lake as I wait for inspiration to sit down and chat. At the moment my view is blocked by 1/2″ of ice on all north facing windows at Casa Blanco.

The Ice Man cometh.

4) Irrational. Whenever a new technology or concept surfaces it is often met with irrational exuberance. Early adopters behave more like acolytes than simple adherents. Potential issues with the new idea are swept aside and those who propose that all is not so new or wonderful are labeled as too dense or simple to understand the brilliance of the new new thing. In a similar vein behavior by the creator of the new idea that would otherwise be a possible signal that all is not as it seems is either ignored or explained away without any real investigation. This particular phase is more intense and tends to last longer if it is associated with something that contravenes, and more so actively seeks to disrupt the status quo. A “cool kid” factor also magnifies the exuberance.

Rare is the new idea that does not then enter a phase one could call irrational dissaffectation in which both early adopters who become disillusioned and outsiders who become interested by the buzz created by the exuberance begin to look closely at not only the idea or product itself, but also at the behavior of both the “inventor” and the company that provides the service/product. The vehemence of this response is directly related to the buzz and fervor that exists among those who continue to be excited about the new thing. During this phase it is quite likely that there will continue to be newcomers to the technology who exhibit many, if not all of the characteristics of those people who claimed “first flag” discovery enthusiasm in the earliest days of adoption.

What comes next is either some degree of general acceptance of the new thing with a concomitant adoption into general use, or a slide into irrelevance as it becomes little more than a footnote in whatever historical space it inhabited.

As it happens both my professional life and a very large part of my non-professional activity each have a very significant player/thing that is entering this third phase. You may recall that I am an eye surgeon, in particular one who operates on the front of the eye. My expertise is in surgeries that both improve vision and liberate individuals from the need to wear glasses or contact lenses. In the LASIK world what was largely a PR battle between mechanical “flap makers” and those that created the LASIK flap using a laser was eventually won by the makers (and early users) of the laser. While I still feel that the introduction of the femtosecond laser to make a LASIK flap was a solution to a problem that had already been solved by 4th generation mechanical devices, the allure of an “all-laser LASIK” proved too powerful in the marketplace. Any “bad behavior” in the middle phase was marketing related. Even though it was more expensive, the laser won.

Cataract surgery also has a femtosecond laser entrant in the game. While the technology is actually quite stunning FLACS has never been shown to be more than slightly superior (if even that according to the most recent studies) to what it was developed to replace (the surgeon’s hands). Similar fear-mongering to the LASIK experience in the middle phase was buried in an avalanche of data reiterating the treasure trove of safety statistics and outstanding outcomes achieved with “traditional” surgery. Some really nice people got run over by some not so very nice people as companies were bought and sold. The most likely outcome as FLACS enters the third phase is that it becomes a niche procedure where hopefully the surgeons push back against industry in order to shield patients from predatory pricing; this laser is more expensive, and that has been its downfall.

When thinking about my non-professional activities over the last 12 or 13 years CrossFit is the obvious topic. In my entire life I have never been a part of anything quite so exciting as the first several years I spent in the CrossFit world. When I first found CF in 2005 there were about 100 gyms and maybe 5000 of us doing it on a regular basis. We were self-proclaimed fitness infidels, rising up against a cynical entrenched fitness orthodoxy and industry. Man, it was cool, and we were cool because of that. Not only did (does) it work if done properly, but we all had that same kind of first flag planted buzz you get when you discover something that becomes a phenomenon. Think being in your local in the 80′s and Nirvana is the house band kind of cool. It was like that.

CrossFit, too, is now in the earliest days of its own third phase. Having turned away from the strong (at least outward appearing) emphasis on CrossFit as sport, the company has pivoted back to something that sounds and feels more like what we all were doing prior to 2010 or so. Quite frankly I was personally too close to many of the primary personalities in phases 1 and 2 to objectively assess the players and how they played. Where CrossFit places its emphasis now is where I always felt it belonged, high intensity functional fitness as health rather than as sport. Which “laser” will CrossFit emulate as it leaves the stages of exuberance? What kind of laser company will CrossFit, Inc. be like if it, like the femtosecond laser, is proven to be only one among several ways to achieve the desired outcome in fitness and health?

In my day job phase three means a femtosecond laser for LASIK but not for cataract surgery. I am largely indifferent to the companies involved.

 

Sunday musings 1/6/19 An Older Me

Sunday musings…

Do you play the New Year’s Resolution Game? I do. Sorta. Kinda. I have a January birthday so it’s pretty convenient to work on being a bit better, or at least trying to be a little less aged (while rejoicing that I am still getting older) around this time of year. At the moment I am climbing out of the rat hole that is MyFitnessPal and trying to fit my numbers in so that I can track my actual nutrition consumption in my quest. To be honest I’m not sure if that was so much the beginning of a deep dive or a close encounter with drowning (in information).

Anyway…

Tomorrow I turn 59. Yup, that’s right…once again I stand on the cups of a “number” birthday. You probably don’t recall my angsty year as I was turning 50 (See: The Hard Turn at Mile Marker 49), but trust me, Beth sure does. “Are we gonna have another shitty year listening to you whine like when you were 49?” Or something to that effect LOL. For whatever it’s worth I really don’t see that coming this year. While I admit to a bit of frustration and a touch of sadness as my body takes on its new, decidedly more fragile mid-life form (bonus: soft = cuddly!), it all just seems to be OK. Just where I am at the moment.

Our lives are getting longer. At least for those of us who are not unlucky, that is. One need not be nearly as consumed with the fitness thing as I’ve been these last 10+ years to remain reasonably healthy and able. Really, all you have to be for the stage I’m entering is fit enough to walk after a tyke learning to ride a bike. Once your cubs have progressed past that stage you’re not keeping up, even if you fancy yourself a Masters athlete of some kind or another.

It’s easy to think of longer lives as being all about the years added on to the end and what they constitute. Natural enough, especially if you, like Beth and me, have aging or recently deceased parents and the endgame is forefront in your mind. In truth it’s probably more reasonable, and accurate, to think rather of those extra years being added to the middle of our lives, extending what may be the best part of the modern human existence (credit: Marc Freedman). Sure, we will all likely end up a shell of our former selves in most ways at the very end, just like our parents and grandparents, and probably for just as long. It’s that we are likely to enter that particular phase at a much older age, hence the “enhanced middle” years.

Turning 40 was pretty much a non-event for me for a couple of reasons. First, my darling Beth got terribly sick right around the time of my birthday. I mean ICU level care, are you gonna make it sick. That kind of thing really grabs your attention, especially if it is happening to the single most important person/thing in your entire life. That birthday pretty much never happened. But even before then a chance encounter on a chairlift in Utah had already smoothed out all of the speed bumps on the journey. A former NHL hockey player who’d found another success as a businessman shared his philosophy about being in his 40′s. He described this stage of life as the optimal intersection of experience and physicality. In your 40′s you are likely still rather fit and able, and you are therefore able to put into play all of the knowledge gained in the “learning decades”.

I liked that very much indeed, and it turned out to be pretty accurate as well.

So what about now, sitting on the cusp of 60? Good, bad, or indifferent it’s been quite a while since I’ve been on a chairlift, but if I were to close my eyes and imagine myself once again sitting next to this sage what might he offer about what comes next? Not gonna lie, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. If your 40′s and maybe your 50′s are the stage where experience meets your physical self then I think your 60′s (and hopefully 70′s) are that part of life where you are blessed with wisdom and time. Wisdom in its simplest form is the result of experience and reflection. Freed (again, hopefully) from the pressures that earlier life stages present one has time now to employ that wisdom in any number of ways.

Most of us have spent at least a little bit of time looking for some sort of meaning, or meaningfulness in the daily living of our lives. With any luck as you approach 60 this is somewhat clearer for you. I know it is for me. Those first four decades were about gathering and growing, and the last two for consolidation and contemplation on what I’d accumulated. Knowing, or coming to know what seems to be important among that “collection” should allow me to shed that which lacks meaningfulness. For example, things like grudges and the fantasy that they might somehow be avenged certainly find their way quite easily to life’s trash heap at this stage.

Where am I now as I sit on the cusp of wisdom and contemplate how I will spend the (hoped for) riches of time? Older, no doubt, but perhaps only that.

I’ll see you next week…

 

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