Make a Big Impact in Your Life

I owe all my success in life to effective communication. This includes my professional life, my love life, and my social life.

In this article, I’d like to share two tips for effective communication in your professional life.

It’s just three small tips with huge payoffs! Read on…


In my professional life, I work as a sales engineer, data scientist, and master of duct tape. I stick things together to make them work in a high technology field. It’s one of the most affirming and exciting things I’ve ever done in my life and I look forward to going to work every day.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?”

I didn’t go to school for computer science or data science, I have a degree in Civil Engineering. I worked as a Professional Engineer for over 20 years. So how did I get here?

I got into this field by luck, curiosity, hard work, and communication. I had started a blog on data mining that turned into a full-blown career in the startup world and data science, and I couldn’t have done it without communicating complex ideas simply and effectively.

It appears that recruiters are searching for those communication skills as well:

However, the difference between a good Data Scientist and a GREAT Data Scientist is often not found in their technical ability or their amazing mathematical genius. Data Science exists to provide a service to business and business is run by people. If Data Scientists cannot comfortably communicate with their non-expert colleagues and bosses, then their effectiveness is greatly reduced. They need to communicate easily with people, to understand, to interpret, to translate.

How did I go from “zero” to “hero?” By learning public speaking, writing with style, and making pretty pictures.

Take a Toastmaster’s class

One of the best things I ever did for my career was to take public speaking classes. Before those classes, I used to only speak to other engineers. When I typically started a conversation with them I would say, “I used a c value of 0.95 for that section of impervious cover.

They’d nod their heads and understand what I said perfectly. A non-technical person would be scratching their heads wondering if I was speaking in a strange language.

…I seem to make people cry a lot…

Over time I learned that it’s the non-technical person that was in charge of budgets and/or making business decisions. If they have no idea what you’re doing or you can’t persuade them that your project is critical, they’ll allocate time and resources elsewhere.

You must communicate effectively to non-technical people to persuade them for that important win, budget, monies, or decision.

So what’s the solution here? Is it making pretty images or large displays? Is it writing at a level for non-technical readers, or is it being able to speak clearly? The answer is all three.

Achieving proficiency in all three is completely feasible but it does require some time on your part.

How do you do it? How do you start? You enroll in Toastmasters.

Yes, you get your ass up in front of people and work toward becoming a certified Toastmaster. To achieve that status you need to give 10 speeches, each one with a specific focus.

The first one is the hardest, it’s the icebreaker. You have to get up in front of people and introduce yourself for 3 to 5 minutes.

Then you progress into speeches to inform, to persuade, or to evoke an emotional response (I seem to make people cry a lot).

My current career relies heavily on the skills I learned being a Toastmaster, as does my partner’s career too.

The best part about joining Toastmasters is that it doesn’t break the bank. Yes, there’s a membership fee but it’s nominal and you have clubs in churches, libraries, and schools. Just visit Find A Club link and enter your zip code. Done!

Joining Toastmasters all those years ago was the best thing I ever did, it yielded the highest professional return in my life for the smallest investment of time.

Elements of style

I met Robert in graduate school. He was a Canadian man in his late 60’s, retired, and living in the States with his wife. He woke up one morning and enrolled in business school where I was.

“Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

We hit it off and worked on many class projects together. Over the semesters he started to share his life with me. I was impressed and inspired by the life he had led up till then.

As a son of Chinese immigrants, he settled in Canada, worked in a dry cleaner, then owned a pizza parlor, started and sold a newspaper, and became a writer.

He was the most interesting man I’ve ever known up till that point and he remains a good friend to this day.

As our graduate life came to an end, we went down to the local pub for a celebratory drink. We had spent a good 3 years together, writing, learning, and presenting. We reminisced about all the good times and commiserated on the bad times.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

After the second drink, he reached into this bag and handed me a small sliver-looking book.

He looked squarely in my eyes and said, “Tom, this book made a big difference in my writing and I hope it does the same for you.”

Robert handed me a book titled “Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

It’s a tiny book that packed — and I mean packed — elements of writing compositions, style, and grammar.

Over the years that gift has made a big impact on my writing and I refer to it when I need to edit a lengthy text or just need some inspiration.

Thank you, Robert, you have no idea how your thoughtfulness has impacted my life.

Visuals, it’s about the visuals

The last item that made a big impact on my life is understanding that the majority of people in this world are visual learners. That means they learn best from pictures and visualizations.

A single photograph can inspire a call to action or change the narrative of war.

I took up photography many years ago as a way to express my creative outlet and have spent countless hours reviewing and analyzing photos.

In that time I’ve learned a few things about images and visualizations.

The most effective and powerful images are the simple ones. I’m not talking simple flowcharts, but the ones that are stripped down to their bare essentials and focus on my key thing, whatever that thing may be.

Every commercial and every advertisement we see seeks to focus your eye on one thing.

You’ll never remember all the Macbook versions out there but you will remember the Apple logo.

How many Nike shoes did you have? You’ll remember the swoosh first.

When you create visuals and images, you have helped the viewer train their eye to the most important part of that image. That’s how you make an impact.

To see a non-commercially inspired set of images, I suggest you visit an art museum. Walk around the halls in the different periods, see what images resonate with you.

I’m partial to the abstractive art and Wabi Sabi types of Art. I like minimalistic art because it makes a powerful statement that leads viewers to read into any way they see fit.

You will need to figure this out for yourself and see what works best in your career!

TL;dr

Sign up for Toastmasters. Learn to write better. Make pretty pictures.

Managing Your Time with Stoicism

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking

Lately, I’ve been reading Seneca as part of my exploration of Stoicism. As I get older and weepier, I’m drawn to philosophical things. I’m going to be freaking 50 years old in just over a year. If I were to die today, I would not want to go gently into that good night, but I would die satisfied. My life is awesome and I have a wonderful family and children. We live a life of adventure and I have a deeply meaningful career. Still, I want more! MORE!

I watched the video below and it made me pause a bit. I realized that I could squeeze more out of life if I paid attention to where I was wasting my time, so I wrote down in my journal a few big items that I need to work on. I recommend you journal AND watch the video below. I’ve added my keynotes for your reference below:

To live well we must be constant students of life

  • Seneca’s essay “On the shortness of life” reminds us that time is a non-renewable resource
  • Treat time as a commodity, people guard their property but squander time
  • The amount of time we get is uncertain, you could die at 20 or 100 years old
  • Death creeps up on time wasters
  • Make the most of time, it is an amplifier when used properly

Don’t invest your time preparing for life

  • Seneca pushes us to live right now and not to delay happiness
  • Your typical life is work till 60 years old, retire, and then be happy. Why wait for happiness?
  • What usually happens is you are too old to enjoy life when you retire and regret not making the most of life
  • Plan the big things in life but don’t delay living your life

Live life for YouR own self

  • Being busy with things we don’t like is the greatest distraction of your life
  • We waste time at jobs we don’t like, relationships we’re not happy in, etc
  • Invest your time into making a life worth living

Practice Premeditatio Malorum

  • While you waste your time by procrastinating, life goes on
  • Researchers call the dissonance of “short-term gratification vs long-term commitments” as time inconsistency
  • To fight this, use Premeditatio Malorum which is a form of negative visualization
  • Think of what could go wrong with your long-term task and then make plans to achieve it. This will offset the distractions

Make Long Term Rewards Immediate

  • The need to procrastinate is the most powerful RIGHT at the start of work
  • When rewards are years away (i.e. diploma, career, et), you tend to procrastinate
  • To overcome, you must bundle a reward at the start of the task
  • You can eat a piece of cheesecake when you lost 10lbs or give yourself time to browse the web once you finished those pesky spreadsheet tasks

Make the Most of your Free Time

  • Too often we waste our free time with stupid stuff. Gossiping, drinking at the bar, etc
  • There’s plenty of time to do everything we want if we just stop wasting our free time
  • We work hard to earn money and free time, so why waste that precious free time
  • Use your lunch hour to explore the city, write in a journal, play an instrument, read, etc
  • To beat mediocrity and start living your life, make the most of your free time

Spend time reflecting on your past

  • Present time is transitory (it’s moving), the Future is uncertain, and the past is unalterable
  • Seneca says to pay attention to the past, so you can be effective today
  • Personal note: Journaling is a wonderful way of capturing the past

Stop Wasting Time in Life’s Trivialities

  • We are all guilty of wasting our time on trivialities (Social Media)
  • Social Media sucks your time away
  • When you’re happy, you fill your time with activities that are valuable and meaningful to the vision you want for your life

Invest your time creating new memories

  • While you preoccupy your time with trivialities, death approaches that you can’t escape
  • Invest your time into creating new memories and philosophies
  • Memory is more enduring than grief (Ed. Very true. I call it Adventuring)
  • Memories may be fleeting but they deliver more happiness than anything else
  • Do yourself a favor and take on challenges and adventures, learn to play music, travel, etc

Invest your time in Philosophies

  • The Study of Philosophy is the most invaluable teacher
  • Study as much philosophy (current, past, etc) as you can because it will help you in your life
  • Your life will expand and your wisdom will grow
  • A Philosopher is a lover of wisdom: truth, virtue, life, and death

Seeking Bodhisattva

My posting activity has started to drop off again. This is partly due to a large workload and traveling schedule. I’m enjoying my work immensely but my blog is neglected as a result. A few weeks ago I even considered shutting this blog down because I feel like I’m like an “old man shouting at clouds.”

I’ve come to realize that my skills are not in coding but in communication.

I know that many people find value in my old RapidMiner tutorials and videos but my heart isn’t in making any new ones. My YouTube channel is also neglected partly because I work for H2O.ai now and because there’s so much free content on Machine Learning and Data Science out there now. I think that’s awesome.

There’s never been a greater time to get into Data Science and Machine Learning than ever before. There are so many ‘rock star’ programmers, Kagglers, and technologists out there now. You can’t NOT be amazed how fast the ‘AI’ space is changing, for better or for worse. I consider myself lucky to have joined near ground zero and love the fact that I’m a part of it now.

BUT.

I’ve come to realize that my skills are not in coding but in communication. Sure I code stuff, mostly to make my life easier and automating the boring stuff (great book BTW), but my expertise is best used elsewhere. Sometimes I don’t even know what this means but I feel alive when I talk to prospects or customers and help them go from a ‘zero level AI person’ to applying ‘AI’ to their problems and helping solve them. I seem to be good at connecting the dots and using tactics and strategies to solve problems. I think that’s the Engineer in me.

Someone scrawled on a wall “Be the Bodhisattva you seek.”

I’ve also become more politically aware and active over the past few years. The reason? Trump. I won’t devolve into right vs left discussions here as I find them useless BUT I’ve always been an environmentalist. This current administration has attacked so many people and groups because of their color of skin, who they love or identify as, and religion. There are so many fights to fight and mine is the environment.

Our entire planet is under assault from climate change, habitat loss, extinction, and pollution. All in name of money. Yet I’ve blogged about trading and investing. I’ve blogged about making money. Am I as complicit as credit card companies that approve gun transactions to a future school shooter?

While technically I’m not cutting down trees or killing baby seals, my recommendations, actions, and investments might support doing just that.

Am I part of the problem? Yes, I believe so.

Many years ago I took a course in world religions. I was most enamored with Buddhism, not in the classical sense but more of the Zen version. I learned about Bodhisattvas and how they chose to “out of compassion, forgo[sic] nirvana in order to save others.” Granted, I’m an atheist but I found Bodhisattvas interesting. Then I read a piece of graffiti that made me question everything. Someone scrawled on a wall “Be the Bodhisattva you seek.”

I can spend hours in flame wars with people on Facebook or Twitter about climate change and not change anyone’s position. I’ve realized that relating and compassion are much more powerful than attacking someone’s position.

I think I can help shape the dialogue in a healthy and sustainable way.

Everyone wants to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, and eat healthy food. It doesn’t matter what your political leanings are, I think this is a universal fact. However, if you tie this to work and jobs, then things get interesting. Let me give you an example:

“I don’t care about some endangered animal, I have my family to feed”

“Climate change is fake news because China wants us to be less competitive and you’ll lose jobs”

“The wind isn’t blowing tonight, so you can’t watch TV”

“There are so many job-killing regulations”

Take your pick or make your own, there are hundreds of these divisive messages out there. Why? Because of money.

As a former Civil Engineer, I can design water and wastewater plants. I’ve designed groundwater recharge systems and wetlands. I fully understand how humans impact the land, sea, and air AND I think I can help stop this onslaught. Armed with Data Science and AI, I think I can make an impact. I think I can help shape the dialogue in a healthy and sustainable way.

What does this mean for the blog? I don’t know yet but I want to become the Bodhisattva I’m seeking.

Humility and Equanimity in Sales

Dear Friend,

I’ve been meaning to write about the importance of humility and equanimity in sales. From my personal past observations, it seems these are attributes only a few salespeople have.

What are humility and equanimity?

Humility is defined as:

“a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.”

Equanimity is defined as:

“mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

The Monkey Brain

Recently I was enlightened by a sales colleague about the concept of the Monkey brain. It was from a book he read.

The Monkey brain is hubris, fight, flight, any emotion or reaction that ties us back to the days when we started walking upright.

Our reaction must be the same, always.

When you give a presentation, it’s the Monkey that says “you’re going say stupid things” or “you don’t look pretty enough.” When you sign a great sales deal, it’s the Monkey that says “YAH! I’m the King/Queen, nothing can touch me!”

The Monkey Brain is not enlightened. It is the attachment to this world, it is that prevents you from achieving moksha. It is what causes the downfall of many a Salesperson.

Leave the Monkey Behind

When you are in Sales, you are essentially asking someone to trade resources (money) for something you have to offer. Your offer must be more of a perceived value to that person that they are willing to part with their money.

This offer. It can be anything. It can be a product or service.

You must sell it so that your organization can survive.

It is the Monkey that goes out hunting for the tribe.

The Monkey gets scared if the potential sale appears to be falling through.

The Monkey parties when the sale goes through, just like if he killed food to bring back to the tribe.

The Monkey falls into the same trap every time because it is the Monkey Brain.

You must leave the Monkey behind.

Humility and Equanimity

Humility is not of the Monkey, it is an understanding that you do not understand everything. Humility is looking inward to oneself and finding that Monkey, hiding in your emotional trees and quieting him. Humility means that you will try your best and do your best, but not let the Monkey control your fears.

Equanimity is not of the Monkey as well. When the Monkey wins, he is elated and thumps his chest. When the Monkey loses, he gets angry and depressed. In life, we will win and we will lose. We will learn and we will make mistakes. It is how we react to the good and bad that is equanimity. Our reaction must be the same, always.

We are doing our job when we win and we are doing our job when we lose.

Be Humble.

Be Equanimous.

What If No One Ever Saw Your Photography?

I came across a curious YouTube video a few weeks ago where the creator went into a philosophical discussion about creating photos and having no one ever see them.

He referred to Vivian Maier, a woman that died in 2009. She had let her storage place lapse two years prior and all her contents were “won” by John Maloof, Ron Slattery, and Randy Prow. In her storage space were decades of developed and undeveloped film of her street photography work.

© Wiki Media Commons

Vivian spent all her free time photographing over decades and never showed anyone her work. It was only just before her death that her work was shown and took the world by storm.

Can you imagine a person like her in today’s world with an iPhone, Instagram, and Facebook?

I can’t.

She was a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved … She was constantly taking pictures, which she didn’t show anyone. via Wikipedia

She never posted her work on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. She never did it for the likes, recognition, or adulation.

If the right people didn’t find her work, after letting her payments lapse, she would’ve died in obscurity. No one, except her living relatives, would’ve known who she was and her odd quirks.

My initial reaction was “OMG, how lucky we are to know her work” but how many Vivian Maier’s are out there? And how many will we never know?

Why Shoot if You’re Not Going to Show?

In today’s FOMO world and siloed social media, we’re driven to create content and share our photographs. If our creative work is well received we might get a like or a comment. On the surface, this instant feedback is good. You can learn faster and course-correct as needed.

But the darker side to instant feedback is that you get hooked on it. You might tie up your entire self-worth or voice as a creative in little likes and hearts.

I find that incredibly upsetting. We are more than just social media likes and hearts, at least I’d like to think we are.

Plus, developing your style and your voice takes time. It takes making mistakes, falling, and getting back up again, time after time, to develop who you are as an artist and photographer.

Perhaps it might be a good thing NOT to show your work for a long time or even at all. You need time to find your voice and develop your style if you want to be an artist.

Some find themselves faster than others, and some — like yours truly — can take decades.

Here’s a mental exercise. What happens when you do show your work and it’s not well received? Do you then change your style to match what general society likes or wants? If you were to change, what is the reason why? Is it for the likes and hearts?

If you couldn’t care less about the likes and hearts then it begs the deepest and hardest question to answer, why do you shoot at all?

This, dear friends, is a question I struggle with. Why do I even shoot at all? What is my voice? What is my style? What is my message? Do I even need to have a message?

Box of Positives & Negatives

My partner and I moved our entire family to a new house 5 years ago. When we did I boxed up all my old positive slides and negatives in a box and promptly forget where I put them.

A few weeks ago I found them again and was amazed at some of the old work I did. Granted, I have to scan them in (and I’m lazy that way) but I held the positives up to the light and remembered.

© Thomas Ott

I found my old landscapes from New Mexico and my 3-week exploration of the desert Southwest. I found my scrap metalwork at Port Newark. I found my old flower work.

And I found 100’s of negatives that need to be sleeved and stored. A lot of work that I will reserve for the winter if I have time.

© Thomas Ott

That box of positives and negatives reminded me of Vivian Maier. She photographed and stored her work, never to be seen again. I photographed and stored my work and forgot it. Did Vivian forget her work too?

A Life Worth Living

If I died my family would probably throw them away, a large part of my life gone. I would hope they would at least look at them before they tossed them away, but the probability of that is very low because everyone lives digitally now.

My images, good or bad, are pieces of my life. They provide a window into my past life, a place where I’ve been.

Then there are photographs of me that other people have taken. One day when they die and their work gets thrown away, that photograph of me will be thrown away too.

Will my life have been meaningless? Watch this NY Times video, it hit me hard.

In a world where photography is cheapened, a world where we hustle, a world where we live and die by the likes and hearts, is there any true meaning to photography left?

I say yes.

Its meaning can take many forms but its first and foremost’s meaning is what it is for you.

This is you. When you snap that shutter, it’s you.

A self-portrait is you. A photo of that rock you took, is you. A photo of your loved ones, it’s you. A photo of your lover, it’s you.

This is it. This is your life, the wonderful meaning that is you. Photography is just another way to bring meaning to your life if you let it be.

If you let photography be the avenue for your self-discovery and your meaning then the likes and hearts don’t matter. They become noise around you, and you are the signal.

Your work matters, if it’s only for an audience of one.

A Resurrection of the Spirit

In Nietzsche’s “Human, All Too Human” he says that the Resurrection of the Spirit is based on the following:

On a political sickbed a people is usually rejuvenated and rediscovers its spirit, after having gradually lost it in seeking and preserving power. Culture owes its peaks to politically weak ages.“

After seeing the rise of Trump, the Tea Party, and the full-frontal assault on a woman’s right to choose and voter rights, there is a big attempt to preserve power by the Right in this country.

While we are not out of the woods with this level of Fascism in our country, and we need to root it out of the darkest corner and fight it tooth and nail, I can’t but help but wonder if we’ll usher in a newer American spirit.

There are bright spots emerging. My children are more open with their lives, they express themselves more. They connect and communicate with their peers in ways I never did at their age.

It’s not just the technical aspect of that connection, but it’s a big part, children these days are exploring the meaning of their sexualities, partnerships, social justice, and environmental justice.

While it remains to be seen, some of these idealistic kids will get into politics and eventually outnumber the old white-haired men that are desperately trying to hold on to power and nostalgia of an age that never existed for nonwhite people.

Yet, to get there will require turmoil and upheaval, and we haven’t seen the last of Trump-like Nazis, riots, school shootings, racism, and assault on women and minorities. Let’s hope that there are more good people willing to step up and “hold the line,” so we can build a new country, one that is more inclusive and kind.

I have hope that it can be done.

I’m Looking Toward 2022 as a Time for Renewal

Christmas is over and we hosted our annual dinner with my family as we do every year, except this year there was one empty seat at our table.

I spent the next few days in a daze thinking about my late father and something a woman said to me at his memorial.

I had just given a long eulogy about my father and the importance of reflecting on his life and the love he had for our family. How you can’t take anything with you when you die but only leave memories behind.

How it was up to us to make the best memories we can, ones where we will be remembered as good men and women. To be the best person we can be and how important it was to love and to share our love with our families and friends.

She came up to me as we were closing down the memorial and said some pleasantries, how much she liked my eulogy, and then said, “Well, you’re the patriarch of the family now.”

Patriarch.

The words didn’t hit home until I looked to where my father used to sit at our table.


What does even mean to be the patriarch of the family?

I don’t know but I can tell you that I’ve never been a man to shirk my responsibilities. My frail mother and aunt need my help now and I will step up to do my filial duties. To be there for them, to help them sort through my father’s belongings and find where he’s hidden his wealth.

I will be there, along with my sister, to help both of them navigate the bills, keep an eye on the house for repairs, and make sure they’re both safe and sound.

How does it feel to be the patriarch of the family?

I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now. I feel like I was given a crown to wear and I’m left with more questions than answers. My mother and aunt look to me now to help guide them because that’s what they relied on my father for.

This crown feels heavy but I will do my best as my father’s son to do my duties to my family.

Even if that means putting aside my grief for the time being.


It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve and I can’t wait for it come and pass. I don’t want to be awake to ring in the new year. I want to be in bed, with my electric sheets on, going to sleep early.

I want my partner to slip into bed next to me and put her cold feet against my legs. I want her to snuggle next to me and whisper “I love you.”

I want to wake up the next day and feel like I’ve been given a blank book, one with no mistakes in it. One where I can scribble, draw, make jokes, write about love, poetry, and so much more. I want to strengthen good friendships and cut out toxic ones. I want to do my duty as a son and as the family patriarch to the best of my ability.

I know that January 1st is an arbitrary day but this time it will feel like a fresh start for me, and if there’s one word to describe what I want from next year it would be “renewal.”

I want to heal from all the trauma that came to me this past year and feel the sunlight on my skin again.

The storm is over and the sea calms around me. The wind is picking up and as I unfurl my sails to catch the winds and let them carry me forward.

I look back and think of my father, I remember.

I turn and feel the wind on my back as my sails fill. Salt spray stings my face and I look ahead to the horizon and a new year for me and my family. I look toward renewal, hope, love, and laughter.

Dawn has finally broken and the sun is rising.

I write this with tears in my eyes.

We two have paddled in the stream
 from morning sun till dine
 But seas between us broad have roared
 since auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend
And give me a hand o’ thine
And we’ll take a right goodwill draught
for auld lang syne

Happy New Year.

Happy New Chances.

Here’s to the blank page, and a fresh start.

Doesn’t it feel wonderful?

I’m a Cult Survivor

And I’m ready to reclaim my spirituality

Where to begin? I was six years old when my mother told me on Christmas Eve that year that it would be the last time we were going to celebrate Christmas and give gifts.

I didn’t understand. My first thought was, “what? no more presents?” Of course, that’s what I would think, six-year-olds are so predictable.

Women were to obey the man…

That evening led to 8 years of no birthdays, no holidays, or anything remotely worldly for me until I left. It fucked me up for decades until I learned to deprogram myself from that cult.

My mother joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) along with my aunt. I have no idea how they fell into the cult, but they did and they took my sister and me along with them. I spent those years listening to mind-numbing cult programming for 2 hours every Sunday.

I remember how the JW’s would pride themselves on not having a leader or pastor. It would be some brother, never a sister, giving the sermon that day. Women were to obey the man, just like in the scriptures, and the man was supposed to lead the family. In turn, they all submitted to Jehovah.

…did mom really bleed from her you know what?

Some of the sermons were pretty light topics on how one bad apple spoils the basket, but others were incredibly damaging and shaped my thinking patterns for years to come.

I remember listening to one sermon about period sex. It wasn’t framed that way but as “if a man and woman laid together during her time, he would be unclean for “X” days.” As a 7-year-old, I didn’t know what that meant — did mom really bleed from her you know what? That sermon is burned into my brain and still messes with me to this very day!

Another sermon was about how the end of the “system” was coming through Armageddon and Jesus would ride a white horse and kill all Satan and his followers. That was a code word for all the undesirable people in the society like gays, prostitutes and drug users, you know the lesser ones that Jesus told us to help?

Want to play with wizard warrior toys? No, no, Jehovah doesn’t like that.

Do you have two mommies? Or even two dads? Oh no, you’re not going to paradise.

Yet the strange thing was that Jehovah, or at least the Kingdom Hall — don’t ever call it a church — sure liked money. And these old white-haired men called the governing body seemed to direct and organize things for all the cult members to follow.

Week after week, year after year it was drilled into my head that the end of the world was coming and end to the system. The political system, other religious systems, whatever system you can think of (solar system?) they were against it and it was always coming to an end.

Don’t you dare celebrate your birthday or a holiday!

Are you dying and need a blood transfusion, forget it and just die!

It’s taken me years to realize that our need for spirituality is not a bug but a feature.

Want to dance, nope it’s only for married people!

Register to vote? Forget that, it was part of the system.

Higher education? Why bother, Armageddon was coming.

Care for the Earth? Doesn’t matter, use it all up because Jehovah will fix it all.

That last sentiment scares me the most because they couldn’t care less about our earth. They think paradise is something outside of this world. I dare to say that the paradise they seek is right in front of their fucking eyes!

Paradise right here and right now, but we’re burning it alive. We’re killing the very paradise we know for this death cult and the 100’s of others nut bag religions that just don’t get it.

It’s taken me years to realize that our need for spirituality is not a bug but a feature. In the truest terms it’s a search for the truth, to seek our connection to something greater than ourselves.

I don’t know if that’s God or Goddess or something else completely but for me, it’s the awe I see in Nature and its creation. Maybe it’s just a quirk in our brains, messed up wiring from when we walked out of the sea and onto the land, but what I do know is that in my short time in this glorious world that we need to protect it.

We need to fight for paradise right in front of our eyes, not some fantastical place that you can only get to if you appease a bunch of old white-haired old men.

Fuck you. I reclaim my spirituality from you. You don’t deserve the paradise we live in.


There are resources to help you leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses, please visit the r/exjw support group for more information. If you’ve been abused by an elder, please contact the police directly. Good luck friend.

woman wearing white karati g under blue sky

How the Codes of Karate Can Guide Your Life

I practice Isshinryu Karate, better known as ‘whole heart style.’ It’s this ‘whole heart style’ business that I want to share with you today. Simply put, the whole heart nature of this style of Karate seeks unity with the Self and seeks our place in the cosmic fabric of Life and the Universe.

I will be sharing our 8 Codes of Karate with you, a simple philosophy that you can use to find unity with your Self.

#1 — A person’s heart is the same as Heaven and Earth

Eastern philosophies always seek to understand how we are woven into the fabric of the universe. As individuals, we often feel alone in this great universe, even if we are part of a family or in a relationship. What the first code of Karate tells us is that we must first seek unity with the Self.

There will be times to rest and times to run.

It’s the same as conventional sayings such as “follow your heart” or “there is a place in my heart” for something. Once you have found your personal unity, you become the same Heaven and Earth. You are woven into the fabric of the universe and you will feel at peace.

#2 — The blood circulating is similar to the Moon and the Sun

Similar to the first code above, in Nature, there are ebbs and flows. The tides come in and the tides go out. There’s a time to sow and a time to reap. You should know that you are the same. There will be times to rest and times to run.

…there will be times for you to fight or take a stand…

Knowing that energy, relationships, and life go through this process of ebb and flow will let you ‘swim with the tide’ as opposed to fighting it. You must not fight it but succumb to it and all will be ok.

#3 — The manner of drinking and spitting is either hard or soft

The third code of Karate is similar to the second one. If you haven’t guessed it by now, most of the codes build upon one another. This code highlights the Yin-Yang relationship.

In Karate, the Yang part (masculine) is often associated with punching, kicking, and being aggressive. The Yin part (feminine) is associated with blocking, moving out of the way, or redirecting energy.

Once we become unbalanced, we fall metaphorically.

This is the same in life, there will be times for you to fight or take a stand, and other times to block and move out of the way.

#4 — A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight

This code is much deeper than what you read on its surface. Yes, there’s a lot of balancing we must do when we execute moves in Karate, but your unbalance can be much more than standing on one foot.

A person’s unbalance can be things like overeating, speaking too much, or yielding to temptation too much. Once we become unbalanced, we fall metaphorically. If we eat too much junk food (unbalance), we become fat (weight).

Wisdom and happiness are not always black and white and it’s ok to be move through the gray colors.

This code asks you to strive for balance in your life. It’s ok to eat Twinkies if you like them, just don’t do it every day! Find those things that weigh you down and adjust your balance.

#5 — The body should be able to change position at any time

In Karate we are told to move. If you make a strike or parry, then move out of the way. The same holds true in life. Similar to Code #2 and #3 above, life is going to change and you need to adjust accordingly. The same can be said for your thoughts and beliefs.

Action speaks louder than words.

If new information or life shows you something different, you must not be too rigid but keep an open mind for new possibilities. Wisdom and happiness are not always black and white and it’s ok to move through the gray colors.

#6 — The time to strike is when the opportunity presents itself

One of the best moments in Karate is when your opponent makes a mistake and you see an opening to strike. You don’t think about it, you just act. Simply put, you strike. This Code is much more than just punching, it can be applied to all facets of your life.

Take the time to look at problems from all sides…

Opportunities come around every so often and there will be times when you must seize them or they’re gone forever. Offered a new position at work that you always wanted? Say Yes! Want to tell your significant other how you really feel about them? Do it.

Action speaks louder than words.

#7 — The eyes must see all sides

Code #7 builds on several of the other Codes, especially #5. Sometimes things are not as they seem and we can be confused or mislead. Take the time to look at problems from all sides and see if it really is a problem or a lie.

There are many people in this world that speak about things that are not true…

Another conventional bit of wisdom would be ‘walk a mile in someone’s shoes.’ Let’s face it, we all have prejudices that we must overcome, and understanding them is the first step to seeing a person or a problem in its true light.

#8 — The ears must hear in all directions

The last Code is similar to #5 and #7. You must carefully listen and seek to understand the true nature of a problem before deciding. In our hyperactive world, this can be very hard to do but it’s best to listen first before speaking or doing.

…do 50 pushups, 50 crunches, and 50 squats.

Expanding your listening ability to 360 degrees can help understand what a person is saying and if they really mean what they say. There are many people in this world that speak about things that are not true but in a manner which many people believe to be true.

TL;DR

If you have just skimmed this article without reflecting on the codes, then do 50 pushups, 50 crunches, and 50 squats.

If you have read the Codes of Karate and reflected on them, do 50 pushups, 50 crunches, and 50 squats.

The Donkey

Dear Friend,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Donkey. The Donkey is like the Monkey but worse. The Donkey is a metaphor, no Donkeys were harmed in the writing of this essay.

Master Foyan

Zen Master Foyan said “In my school there are only two kinds of sickness. One is to go looking for the donkey while riding on the donkey. The other is to be unwilling to dismount once having mounted the donkey.”

The Donkey is you. It is the world.

The Donkey

We all ride on our Donkeys. We all have our attachment to things.

Money.

Sex.

Love.

Acceptance.

Booze.

We ride on these Donkeys all our life, sometimes not realizing it.

Sometimes we realize the Donkey but we are too scared or comfortable to dismount the Donkey.

I am a Donkey rider too. I realize I’m on the Donkey, and I want to dismount.

It’s very hard to make the Donkey into a donkey.