I'm a terrible employee. You don't want to hire me to work in your office.
I'll show up late. I'll leave early. I won't attend meetings. Sometimes
I'll take two hours in the middle of the day to go sit in a park or ride
my bike. It's not that I'm not doing my job—I'll probably excel at
whatever project you give me. No, it's just that I'm a terrible employee.
I love to work. In fact, it's been hard, over the course of
the past month of sabbatical, to not compulsively
look for gigs. I love the challenge of a new project. I love to sink my
teeth into new technologies. I love to know I'm useful to somebody.
But I can't do that at your office. It's nothing personal. You probably
built a fantastic company culture. You play ping-pong and have free snacks
and give your employees excellent benefits. But it's not for me.
Sometimes I like to spend long, luxurious mornings writing and sipping
coffee. I love midday walks, making myself lunch, and the serenity of
owning my own time.
I love the creativity that comes in those moments sitting alone in my
apartment. Ironically, the most valuable thoughts and ideas tend to come
when we're doing the dishes or taking a midday shower. If I work in an
office, I wouldn't do either of those things.
"But Teejay, don't you need a salary? You could make $XXX,XXX/year plus
excellent health benefits if you took a job in your field!" I could, and
I have. I was miserable. I lived to work. I was addicted to my salary and
bought things in a misguided attempt to distract from my misery. I drank.
It wasn't for me. I'd rather make half a salary per year consulting
part-time and loving it than spend 50 weeks per year glued to a desk.
When you're addicted to recurring income, you acclimate to certain
luxuries. You buy new things each month. You eat out constantly. You take
exotic vacations. You justify all of these things in the name of
"deserving it" or "enjoying yourself" or "living a little". But in
reality, none of these things have ever brought me contentment. They might
bring you contentment—and that's great. But they're not for me.
So, if you're thinking of hiring me to work in your company, don't. I'm
a terrible employee.
I don't usually write about politics on this site because I like to
keep things constructive and jovial, but I had an epiphany last night that
I thought was worth sharing.
Ever since the 2016 election here in the US, I've felt an increasing
political divide amongst my peers and in society at large. I've also found
that the mainstream political left in this country has veered in
a direction which I cannot myself support, and that I've sought different
perspectives across the political landscape. I won't mention what the
specific policy positions are that have led me to this shift, since
they're irrelevant to what I'm about to suggest.
This growing political rift has led to violent confrontations in multiple
cities, including my own. It has led my partner and I into arguing about
our political differences instead of uniting around our shared values. It
has engulfed the country in an all-out culture war, wherein we disown and
disavow those tribes who disagree with us.
Our nation's bitter disagreements are about moral issues over which people
will almost certainly always disagree. Things like abortion rights, gay
marriage, religious freedom, globalization, and immigration.
As well, they're often about our immutable characteristics: race, gender,
class, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.
But what if our squabbles are actually the ruling class's means of control
and manipulation? What if, in all our fighting amongst each other, we're
not speaking truth to power but actually giving it more fuel?
Divide and rule is a strategy of gaining and maintaining power by
breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually
have less power than the one implementing the strategy.
creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent
alliances that could challenge the sovereign
aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the
fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for
political and military spending
Applied to US politics in 2019, we see:
news media promoting issues which seek divide the populace according to
race, gender, and sexuality
major political parties embracing this strategy of division, since it
serves the ruling class
growing tensions between racial groups and between the genders
diverting political spending and energy away from real challenges to
power (i.e., limiting campaign contributions and lobbying, financial
system reform, and universal social welfare systems) toward those that
distract and divide (i.e., racial and gender inequality, immigration)
This isn't to say race and gender issues aren't important. They are. But
they're also divisive and breed resentment. They incite the worst tribal
qualities within us. And the irony is that the strategies currently
employed will never unite us because they're designed specifically not
This strategy works from both sides. For instance, take gender. In popular
media, women are told they're part of an oppressed group in
America. Whether or not that's true is irrelevant to our discussion.
What's relevant is that they believe it. In believing this, an agenda is
set: rectify the gender gap. But men might not see things that way. They
might say women have been granted, by power of the legislature, all the
rights men have. They won the right to vote, the right to own property,
and freedom of movement. Men now resent women for their suggestion they
are oppressed. Women resent men because they feel oppressed. Neither
realizes they're being had by the real oppressor: the thumb of a ruling
class who has all the money.
You see these corrosive dichotomies everywhere in society. Feminists
fighting the patriarchy versus men's rights activists. Black Lives Matter
versus Blue Lives Matter. Leftism versus classical liberalism. Antifa
versus the Proud Boys.
Resentment toward diversity quotas for putting aside the principles of
meritocracy in the workplace in the interest of more racial equity. Anger
at white men for the fact they hold most positions of power. Outrage at
police brutality directed at young black men. Wanting to send all the
immigrants back to where they came from because they're taking jobs.
Resentment because you can't use the bathroom that suits your gender
identity. Anger because there's a man in the woman's bathroom.
It is in the interest of those in power to keep us disagreeing with one
another over issues that are inherently divisive so we don't focus on the
burgeoning concentration of political and economic power in the hands of
a few people.
George Carlin made light of this fact years ago:
They keep the lower and middle classes fighting each other. Now to
balance the scale I’d like to talk about the things that bring us
Things that point out our similarities instead of our differences.
Because that is all you ever hear about in this country is our
differences. That’s all the media and the politicians are ever talking
about, the things that separate us, things that make us different from
one another. That’s the way the ruling class operates in any society.
They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the low and the
middle classes fighting with each other so that they, the rich can run
off with all the f*cking money. Fairly simple thing, happens to work.
You know anything different, that is what they are going to talk about,
race, religion, ethnic, and national background, jobs, income,
education, social status, sexuality, anything you can do – keep us
fighting with each other so that they can keep going to the bank.
You know how describe the economic and social classes in this country?
The upper class keep all of the money, pays none of the taxes. The
middle-class pays all of the taxes, does all the work. The poor are
there just to scare the sh*t out of the middle-class.
Now, this isn't an appeal to conspiracy theory. I don't think there's
some meeting behind closed doors where the ruling elites gather and
discuss which incindiary news stories they'll publish in order to sow
unrest. No, it's more sinister than that. It's all about incentives.
News media organizations, now more than ever, are incentivized to publish
the most anger-inducing, crazy-making, Facebook-post-generating stories
they can. They rely upon our clicking their articles so we'll see their
advertisers' ads. Which headline would be more likely to get you to
click: one about campaign finance reform or one about a racial or
Okay, so if this is all true and we're being manipulated into fighting
with one another over issues with no solutions, what do we do?
First, we must banish the sources of these corrosive ideas from our lives
for good. The Washington Post, the New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC, and
the like are owned by some of the most powerful people in the world. They
don't care about us. The sooner we stop listening to them and heeding to
their agenda, the better. We should start to see news media for what it
Second, we must become more mindful when we're engaging in rhetoric about
issues that will perpetually divide us. This doesn't mean we shouldn't
speak truth to power about real oppression, but that we should frame
issues in a way that does not alienate those who might otherwise be proud
allies in our struggle. Engage more in discussion about issues that
resonate with everyone, like poverty, healthcare, infrastructure, and the
concentration of political power in the hands of the few.
Third, we must strive to engage with people whose viewpoints are
different from ours. But, rather than engaging politically about our
differences, we must seek to forge alliances apolitically. We must
recognize when we're engaging in an unwinnable fight over abstract
concepts and return our attention back to the real world. We'll never
agree on whether one race is more oppressed than another, but almost
everyone can agree that no one should live in abject poverty.
Fourth, we must continually ascend to take a bird's-eye view of our own
behaviors and retrain ourselves to recognize when we're playing into the
divide and rule game. One way I think we can accomplish this is by
recognizing when we're feeling resentment toward other people who are
different from us. Whether we're men feeling resentment toward women, gay
toward straight, or black toward white, it's a good indication we need to
take a step back and realize we're being distracted from the dark ruling
class strategy of divide and rule.
This week, my partner handed me a copy of The Artist's Way by Julia
Cameron. I was a big fan of the book in my early twenties, and in 2013
filled four Moleskines with daily morning
pages per the
As I've been revisiting the book this week, something stuck out to me. The
author suggests that, in the process of writing morning pages each
morning, we clean the cobwebs out of our mind's attic and are more able to
think and create as a result. To me, this idea is strikingly similar to
the recommendations of David Allen in his landmark productivity book
Getting Things Done.
The central argument of Allen's book is that we're walking
around with all these ideas and tasks rattling around in our brains, and
that our brains aren't suited to this task. It's better to get all those
thoughts and ideas and tasks out into a tool you trust you'll come back to
Gee, doesn't that sound a lot like morning pages, only with a business
productivity bent? What if instead of my todos being a repository only of the things
I have to do, they also included all the things I've ever wanted to do
as well? Wouldn't it be fun to have a running list of all the things,
whether realistic or outlandish, that you've ever thought of doing?
So I made a task list in OmniFocus called "Someday". I started small:
Start a personal wiki. Then I got a bit more lavish: Take a trip to San
Francisco. Eventually, I dreamed bigger: Renovate an old church to live
in.Take a rustic cruise to Alaska.Get a doctorate in computer
Wow! I'm not sure I've dreamed that big since I was in college. It's so
easy to get caught up in the duties and responsibilities of our day to day
life and miss out on the romance of our imagination in the process. By
giving myself permission to dream big and let go of my preconceptions of
what is "realistic" or "responsible", I'm expanding my horizons and
regaining my sense of imagination and creativity.
My hope is that eventually, I'll feel confident enough to promote these
imaginings out of my "Someday" list and into my "Current" list. Time will
Last week, I packed up my (virtual) things and waved goodbye to my last
bit of consulting work before the summer begins. It's been a very long
time since I had a good, long block of time with no real plans. I'm
excited at the possibilities for personal enrichment and renewal.
In exploring what it will mean to take a true summer
vacation, I've been thinking about how my digital
devices often take center-stage in my mind's eye, and how I'd like to
spend the summer exploring the tactile and the sensory, out here in the
With that, I've been re-evaluating how I use technology and whether there
are ways I can more often cross the digital-analog divide.
As well, I've been re-evaluating my relationship with giant tech companies
and seeing whether there are some David alternatives to my current Goliath
My hope is to re-ignite the magic of computing and creativity I remember
from the mid-2000's. There was a certain spirit about that time—one of
decentralization, of do-it-yourself hacker activism—that I think has been
lost in the age of big tech.
Gave away my Apple Watch
I bought an Apple watch a few months ago because it looked neat and
I thought it'd be cool to track my activity. But I found that it only ever
served to further distract me from the present moment. I'd receive text
messages directly to my wrist, which would distract me from whatever I was
doing and provoke me to dig into my bag for my phone to reply. I'd be in
my workout class and get a text, only to ruminate over it for the duration
of the class and know I soon had to respond.
When my parents came to Portland to visit me last week, I thought I'd send
my Dad home with my Apple Watch, since he enjoys the Apple ecosystem more
than I do. So far, I've really not noticed that it's gone.
Generally, I've carried my phone everywhere I go, and you probably do too.
The expectation that we're always reachable has become part of our social
fabric. When did we ever agree that it's not optional to carry a device
that enables anyone to reach us at any time?
I've been experimenting with leaving my phone at home most of the time. It
has required a bit of extra planning with my family and friends, but so
far the results have been generally positive. I feel more present and
attentive to the details of the outside world. I have to ask others for
directions or the time because I don't have a device in my pocket with all
When I do bring my phone out into the world, I try to keep cellular data
off and make sure it's always in my backpack, so I'm not constantly
tempted to check it. I also keep my text message notifications off so
I treat texting more like email and don't get distracted. Phone calls
still get through, in case someone needs to reach me due to an emergency.
Pen & paper notetaking and todos
Does anyone remember the Hipster
PDA? My friend Alex
Weber introduced me to the concept during college
way back in 2004. The idea is simple: Carry a stack of index cards held
together with a binder clip and use that to take notes and log todos.
I've been a die-hard OmniFocus user
for years, but it bothers me that I rely upon proprietary software for
a basic life function. So far, I'm enjoying the simplicity of carrying
note cards, and the versaility of always knowing I have some paper with me
No more paid streaming services
The pursuit of art is half its charm. I have fond memories of feeling
victorious when I'd bought a CD I'd been looking for or trading music and
movies with friends. Scarcity, while inconvenient, also encourages
collaboration and community. By being forced to go out into the world to
find new media, I interact with more creative people and get to support
As well, there's something magical about owning your own media. The fact
I cancelled my Spotify account this month and now have nothing to show for
it speaks volumes to how these services seek rents from users for limited
access. When you buy DRM-free files directly from the artist, you both
support the artist directly and get access to their work forever.
I'm excited to continue to question the way I use technology and hope my
journey inspires you to do the same!
I've struggled with depressed moods and anxious temperament for most of my
adult life. I'm grateful that in spite of my struggle, I've been able to
live a rich life full of great friends, a loving family, good food,
a comfortable living space, a dynamic career, and some creative hobbies.
For the past few years, I've tried everything I could think of in order to
find ways to cope. Talk therapy, yoga, fitness, self-help books, group
therapy, and sobriety were my frequent go-tos. I could never find anything
One day recently though, I had an epiphany. I realized that the pursuit of
getting better was, ironically, the cause of my depression. The idea
that I am depressed means I'm not okay the way I am. It means I have to
seek to be something different in order to be okay, even if I don't know
what the target is. I need "treatment", which in our culture means some
therapy and some medication. And if those don't work? Well, you didn't do
it right. You need more treatment. Different treatment.
It's enough to drive a depressed person into cascading spirals of horrible
depression. The idea that you're not good enough leads to depression.
Depression leads to seeking treatment. Treatment leads to a diagnosis.
A diagosis reinforces the idea you're not good enough.
I received a casual diagnosis from a therapist that I might have bipolar
II disorder. He also told me it was a lifelong affliction. When this
happened, I immediately had an identity crisis. Am I bipolar? What does
that mean? Will I need to be on medication forever? What started out as
me asking how to cope with my depression turned into a whole new identity
of confusion, victimhood, and powerlessness.
I ruminated about the diagnosis for weeks. It consumed me, making me
wonder whether I would always carry the burden of mental illness. It truly
became a part of me. I adopted a victim mentality and became more of
a burden to the people around me because I was even more convinced
I wasn't okay the way I was than when I started.
But I started to think more critically about such a diagnosis and the
ramifications mental health diagnosis has on its patients. Bipolar II is
marked by hypomanic episodes involving high-risk activities, the likes of
which I've never really experienced. It just didn't make any sense given
my lifestyle, and the diagnosis came after only a couple months of
Then, suddenly, I had a breakthrough. I realized that my identifying with
mental illness—my impression that there is such a thing as normalcy and
that I don't have it—was the illness. I knew I needed to let go of the
idea that I needed to be something else. To cultivate gratitude for what
I am, not what I think I need to be. To let go of the idea that someone or
something is going to fix me, because I don't need fixing.
I let go. And suddenly, the depression lifted. I felt good again. No
therapy. No medication. No self-help. Just some meditation, good food,
exercise, and letting go of the idea I need to be different from what
I'm not "disordered". I don't have a "mental illness". I'm eccentric,
exceptional, excellent, and unapologetically me. In letting go of what we
think we need to be, we emerge recognizing the perfection we already are.
My parents are currently in Miami and my mother sent me this photo of the
view from their hotel:
And my partner is currently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and sent me this
one from hers:
Meanwhile, I'm back in Portland. The Spring Fakeout has subsided, and it's
a very familiar 50 degrees and overcast here. It's supposed to rain today.
I have client work to attend to and will likely be inside most of the day.
If I size up my situation compared to theirs, it looks pretty glum. But
that's not the whole story.
My mother, immediately before sending her photo, told me she hates Miami
and doesn't really want to be there. And my partner had to suffer an
erratic sleep schedule to make it on her 6:00am flight to Mexico.
It's easy to compare our circumstance to those of our friends and family
and feel left out, isolated, and lesser-than. But the reality is that our
suffering follows us wherever we go. It doesn't care if you're on
a beautiful beach. It doesn't care how much money you have. No matter
where you are, comparing yourself to others will rob you of the magic that
manifests in every single moment.
The tourism industry exploits our tendency to compare our present
circumstance to that of others. They're aware that we'll glance at
a picture of a sunny beach and believe whole-heartedly that if we could
only be there, we'd be contented.
The reality though, is more complicated. Some people are content when
they're on a sunny beach, but they're probably the same ones who were
content in their prior circumstance. Some people take their misery with
them wherever they go and wonder why they can't escape it.
You and I have everything we need right here, right now. It's completely
normal to become envious—it's in our evolutionary makeup. But by gently
reminding ourselves that no one's experience is as ideal as we pretend, we
free ourselves from the delusion that things would be better if only we
were someplace else.
I'm sitting in a condo I rented for a week-long personal retreat in Bend,
Oregon. My partner is on her way to Mexico for a vacation with her friend,
so I figured I'd take this week as an opportunity to get out of Portland
for awhile and change my surroundings.
So far, I don't get it.
Bend is fine. I've heard great things about it. It's scenic. There's
a bustling downtown full of fun things to do. There's a charm here that's
not found anywhere else. Et cetera.
But I didn't sleep well last night. I spent an entire day packing,
driving, unpacking, and grocery shopping. I left the home I'd made for
myself in Portland—a carefully curated collection of systems for
living—and decided it would be a good idea to leave all of that for
a slightly different version of the same place.
I can see the allure of wanting to produce landmarks in your memories.
Things you've done that you'll remember forever. That makes sense to me,
and I'm sure I'll remember the time I spent a week in Bend more than I'll
remember the relative monotony of the weeks before and after.
But I'm beginning to realize that I just don't enjoy travel like other
people seem to. It's not only that I thrive in routine, even though I do.
I think too it's that I thrive in the act of homesteading—in building
systems for living that encourage economy and reliability. Travel is
completely antithetical to that ethos. It's wasteful, inefficient, and
Kudos to you if you enjoy traveling. I used to. I just need to make space
for my changing needs and desires. Travel used to be something I loved.
Now I'm not so sure.
This year, the stars have aligned to give me the opportunity of
a lifetime: I'm taking a summer vacation.
After five years of persistent saving, planning, building and dreaming,
I'm in a position where I'm able to take the months of May through August
away from client work to indulge in personal pursuits.
My plan has a few key objectives.
I want to learn to become comfortable with boredom and
uncertainty. By making myself unavailable for client work for a period of
a few months, I think I'll be able to sink my teeth into some sweet, sweet
boredom. I'll wake up and my day will be unstructured. I'll have to define
my own objectives. I'll be free to write, to read, to sit and stare out
I'm excited to practice reducing my day-to-day expenses. With the
luxury of full, empty days, it's unlikely I'll have the knee-jerk idea to
just go out to eat instead. Not constantly serving clients, I'll be
armed with the decision-making capacity to become an even more effective
I want to enjoy Oregon's lush and diverse landscapes. So often during the
summers have I wanted to venture out to explore Sauvie Island or take
a day trip to the coast, only to be pulled back into client work and
unable to enjoy its majesty. This summer, I want to give myself permission
to explore unencumbered.
And as well, I'm eager to push the big reset button on my life and
business. I've engaged in flurries of writing about and promoting my
business, but making it a full-time job for a few months ought to bring
about some massive changes and allow me to see things more clearly than
when in the day-to-day cycle of client work.
In the pursuit of having what we want now, we often set ourselves up for
never having it at all.
Risking your entire savings to start a company wrecklessly means you've
compromised your security in the pursuit of rapid growth, instead of
growing slowly while maintaining other sources of income.
Buying a Mercedes on credit (or worse, leasing it) will get you the car
you want now, but your future self might not be able to afford the
payments. Buying a lightly used Mercedes with cash from the person who
bought theirs new on credit, only when you can afford to do so and
maintain your financial independence, will mean you can drive a Mercedes
Trying to deadlift 400lbs when you haven't set foot in a gym in a decade
means you're likely to wind up doing irreversible damage to your body. If
instead you work with a trainer to learn how to deadlift 90lbs safely, and
over the course of several months, you'll eventually get the strength you
Marrying the person you just met online six months ago might get you
a spouse now, but you're less likely to have built a foundation of trust.
You're more likely to divorce, or worse, spend your life with someone
whose company you dislike.
The true reward of living is in the process—not the outcome. The
gratification from having exerted effort to achieve life's rewards is far
greater than the rewards themselves.