Thought Experiment

Email is a trap by Evan La Ruffa

In an instant-culture, the transition from idea to delivery is immediate. It's both convenient and incessant. It connects us but it also traps us. The wild part is, since we can get in touch immediately, everything gets raised to first priority.

The reality is, everything is NOT first priority.

Just because we can be super responsive doesn't mean we should be. To be super responsive, we have to be on alert. We have to be pending. We have to be waiting to pounce and reply.

But if we think about that state of being, it's not strategic at all. It reflexively reacts when we are dinged and pinged by email, text, messengers, Facebook, Instagram, and the rest of it.

If I was answering low-priority emails right now instead of writing, a whole variety of low-hanging fruit would be harvested to the detriment of a bigger goal.

Let's turn our alerts off and check email after lunch.

We've got real work to do.

Needing less by Evan La Ruffa

For someone who likes the finer things as much as I do, I see value in needing less. Overhead is a son of a gun, and I'm cognizant of the fact that what we expect to "have" can inflate over the years. Especially considering the reality that as we get older, we hope to progress, earn more, do more, have more free time, etc etc etc.

Where we are now is a springboard for a better tomorrow. The question seems to be, "what do we have to do or not do, to sustain the types of lives we want for ourselves and our families?" 

Budgets work in two directions and getting caught up in the maelstrom of things is a temptation most of us relate to. Needing less has to do with being intentional about how we spend our money, and perhaps having that awareness allows us to be more conscious about why we buy in and to what end.

What's more, forgoing a few things to ensure we have more time is a trade most of us would be willing to make.

Mindset and measurables by Evan La Ruffa

When it comes to self-critiques, one I've often had of myself is that I don't finish what I start. Part of being swept up in the feelings, the colors, and the vibrations, is that those sensations and input can completely supplant the need to finish anything. Simply, I love the idea enough that I've been less concerned with turning it into reality.

The thing is, I think that dynamic has also lent itself to a type of mental frailty that resides in some place adjacent to that concept of appreciation of beauty.

That frailty has allowed me to settle for less than the goal, too often. As I'm training for a half marathon in late July, I keep on reminding myself of one idea: 99% isn't enough.

Whether running 13.1 miles, publishing my poetry, submitting my photography to more galleries, or building a nonprofit development course, I want to get better at completing things.

It feels like an essential tweak that could yield exponential results, both in mindset and measurables.

Here's to experimenting with goals.

Real Darwinism by Evan La Ruffa

One of the main ways we can push the world forward is by applying takeaways from certain fields or disciplines, and overlaying them with new ones.  As in, 'if it worked here, it's at least worth trying over there.' Often times it's not a literal application, but a project-specific approach that is informed by findings from another sector. Darwinism has always been explained within a context of the evolution of species, but if we rotate that concept slightly, it has some interesting implications.

There's value in thinking about evolution primarily as something that happens within the span of a single lifetime, as opposed to the evolution of species over the span of countless lives.

The pivot isn't about traits losing out via competition, it's about ways of being losing out to better ones.

The question is, what is better?

What feels more important? Alive? Engaged? Connected? Happy? Fun? Meaningful?

Real Darwinism is personal.

And my hunch is, that it's all in those answers.

It's all on the inside by Evan La Ruffa

When THAT happens, I'll be OK... When THIS stops, I'll finally be good...

When HE stops annoying me, I'll be able to settle down...

When THEY do that, I get so pissed off...

With all we see happening in the world, from our layered personal lives to a larger context that can feel upside down, it can be hard to calibrate ourselves to all the input. Even so, if we let other people determine our mood, it's fair to assume that we'll be precariously placed on the edge.

The thing is, I can see how these mindset things come back to the chicken and the egg.

To move beyond our reactivity to outside perturbances, we need to be sure our way of thinking can help mitigate that. If we're not sure it will, we neuter the upside before we've ever started.

Whether good or bad, it's all on the inside.

It’s not what you say, it’s what you believe by Evan La Ruffa

The reason its alarming when people say repulsive things, is not because saying repulsive things is bad, it’s because BELIEVING repulsive things is bad. For as much as people rail against political correctness, that's really not the issue.

As Americans, we focus too much on being able to say whatever we want, when we should be thinking about what we believe.

It should bother us me more that we aren’t addressing the underlying cause of what people say.

Racism isn’t abhorrent because it is vocalized or written - it’s abhorrent because it's hateful, anti-human, & refuses to acknowledge equality, using an outmoded and disproven philosophy as its central tenet.

Lets question why people say what they say, not whether or not they have the right to say it.

More more more by Evan La Ruffa

For a capitalist economy to be considered healthy, it always has to be growing. More more more.

Even a hedonist like me has to acknowledge that the doctrine of "more more more" is not only a bizarre way to measure success, it's also unsustainable on a personal level.

Capitalist economies need to grow, but we don't really need more resources or things just because the calendar flipped over.

The reality is that capitalism (not mercantilism) without proper social investment is the most tantalizing of races to the bottom. Nations like Norway are a perfect example of ways to use economies as a springboard for education, infrastructure, and better systems, not just higher GDP.

I'm not ragging on commerce, but I am saying that our system relies on our merciless consumption.

What's good for America's economy is not necessarily good for us or our families, and that disconnect is more evident now than ever.

GDP means nothing to our households or communities.

And more doesn't mean more if we're being real about what we need. It means too much.

Perspective isn't fact by Evan La Ruffa

For those of us who are passionate, energetic, opinionated, motivated, or confident, it can be easy to give way to the seduction of our own guitar solo. After all, we're sure of our opinions and have worked out a great bit of logic to support what we think to be an inscrutable position. Despite our 'water tight' rationale, it's important to always be at least somewhat buffered by curious verification of our own motives or perspectives.

Am I setting up a straw man? Am I mischaracterizing? Do I have extra incentive to come out on one side of this debate? Have I rounded a corner when coming to conclusions?

Unfortunately for our ego's, perspective isn't fact.

Once we're realistic about the degree to which our beliefs or opinions aren't supported by facts, I venture to say we'll do a better job of:

  1. Being sure to read & research more to find the facts that support an informed stance, and
  2. Having the types of conversations that bridge gaps instead of dig them deeper.

If we're open to data, less sure of ourselves, and focused on our blindspots as much as the blindspots of those we converse with, perhaps we'll rebuild our ability to empathize and find more productive common ground.

Once we've told ourselves we own a monopoly on truth, the slope is already too slippery.

Selfish altruism by Evan La Ruffa

Sometimes I wonder if my altruism is selfish, and whether or not that matters. In a very basic way, I believe most of us lean toward one of the following worldviews:

  1. Life is hard and it's important to keep people out so they don't screw you, or
  2. By giving we receive way more than we ever could have hoped for.

I put the word 'selfish' next to the word 'altruism', mostly to get your attention. But there is indeed a volley happening between the way we view the world and the way the world vibrates with or against us.

If you think people will be trouble, they are.

If you think people will help you be more than you ever could alone, they will.

In that sense, altruism isn't actually selfish, but it is self-replicating and exponential. I can attest that I've found altruism or an emphasis on giving, to be the most personally beneficial factor in my life (that I'm in full control of).

For those of us who know that everything is going to be OK, we have the luxury of being able to focus on the positive ripples we can make, as opposed to clawing for our slice.

Since selfish altruism is really just altruism, I say we risk it.

Emotional symptoms by Evan La Ruffa

The dark side of individuality is the practice of acting as though our emotions are the only, or most relevant reality. If how we feel trumps everything else, we risk habitually convincing ourselves of a hugely selfish way of interacting with the world. Our emotions are symptoms. They're not "how things are." And really, how could they be? Any one person's emotions are the product of one intersection point with reality. It's hardly consensus.

That said, what should our emotional symptoms tell us? What process should ensue as the result of noticing our emotions and unpacking their origins?

Perhaps the way we feel really isn't that important.

Perhaps it has more to do with how our feelings affect the way we live. After all, two conclusions can certainly lead to two totally different actions.

If productive mental states open the door for productive realities, we could be well served by parsing emotional symptoms from the realities we ascribe to them.

Finding proof by Evan La Ruffa

We're often looking to prove a hypothesis, or more aptly, a deeply held belief, as opposed to just letting the data tell us what's going on. That's because we're all biased in one way or another, and that's not a bad thing, but it should color how we think about expanding our worldview.

What's more, there's no political leaning when it comes to people undercutting answers before they ever hear them. That happens on the left as much as the right.

We can find proof for anything, but is that really the point?

Only if planting your feet in wet concrete sounds promising.


Springboards for more springboards by Evan La Ruffa

"This just in..." is a phrase we hear every day. It both relates to the insanity of our 24 hour news cycle, and the rapidly increasing pace at which the universe expands and reveals itself. As we think we have the full picture, there's more to consider.

In that light, conclusions are really just springboards for more springboards.

And that's precisely the suspicion held by those of us who'd rather not ask the next question. We're timid in the face of uncertainty. We fear the possibility of receiving more than we bargained for.

But if we understand that we'll never have the whole picture, we automatically make our work more focused and our lives more practical. We can look at everything as a test in which we're open to the results, as opposed to hellbent on proving something.

Being willing to ask a question entails being prepared for the answer, but if springboards lead to more springboards, we risk a lot less.

And we stay on our feet.

What did your monologue say today? by Evan La Ruffa

Isn't it funny how our lives are one continual internal monologue about our relevance, uniqueness, and vantage point? We know we're part of various communities and can aptly be defined by certain labels, but we're always looking for a way to break into and out of those boxes...

"But, I'm different because..."

"I'm more this, that, or the other...' or 'I'm just like them."

The cool part is that we're always both completely unique and unwaveringly derivative. But I find it interesting that we're always looking for a way to fit in and a way to differentiate from the crowd.

The reality is, I'm not that different... and that's OK. At the same time, each of our unique experiences as humans are incredibly complex, beautiful, mundane, painful, fun, unbelievable, and intense.

There are so many stories in people.

What did your monologue say today?

The company we keep by Evan La Ruffa

Of all the ways to gauge community, one of the better ways has to be looking around and taking stock of the individuals around us. Communities are made up of people, and after all, shared values seem to dictate groupings now more than ever. When we evaluate everything from a politician's associations to our own social groups, we can figure out where we stand by honestly assessing the crew we've assembled.

To that point, we can use the following questions to figure out if we're where we should be...

Is there a disconnect between what this group values and what I'm trying to be in the world?

If I needed help, would anyone in this group be there for me?

And perhaps most importantly, can I confidently and proudly tell people who are not part of this group that I'm associated with it?

Whether or not we can speak up, wear our values on our sleeve, or compassionately pass those ideas on to others, is a good indication as to whether or not the company we keep is company worth keeping.

Harder to hate them for no reason... by Evan La Ruffa

When we look at election maps we see that we are divided between the urban experience and the rural experience in America. It seems as though where you live or where you were raised is a more accurate predictor of worldview than other identity politics we tend to consider as untouchable.

While the red state v. blue state divide is certainly real, it highlights something that is a lot more telling...

Regularly experiencing people different than ourselves makes it harder to hate them for no reason. The state by state schism itself is less important than what it tells us about diversity, inclusion, and regularly relating to people who are different than we are...

It opens us up, makes us more inclusive, and engenders empathy and compassion.

In this sense, people who live in cities need to visit rural areas and people who live in rural areas need to visit cities.

We can call it a 'Reality Exchange Program.'

You in?

The student and the teacher by Evan La Ruffa

It's interesting thinking about the way students and teachers interact. Even though the teacher is largely the person imparting knowledge and perspective, the greatest exchange happens when both parties know there is learning to do.

I had an interaction recently where the person I was chatting with looked at me as the teacher. I was having that conversation when the thought came up, "You can learn a lot from this person even though it's clear that right now they are hoping to learn from you."

I mentioned something along those lines to my conversation partner. I reflected that even when we play the role of the teacher, that it's important to allow ourselves to be taught.

I reflected on various interactions I've had playing either role, and my main takeaway is that the natural hierarchy can blind both the student and the teacher to certain insights, if they're not careful.

If the student thinks her teacher is bulletproof, she's sure to miss important critiques, parallel ideas, or valid negations of that school of thought.

If the teacher thinks she has nothing to learn, she's sure to miss out on important takeaways their youthful counterpart might offer.

Depriving ourselves of insight by blindly protecting our chosen ideals or thinking our knowledge can't be improved are mirrored oversights.

No matter what role we think we're playing, we're always both the student and the teacher.

Skills of the future by Evan La Ruffa

This political cycle has revived protectionist economic policies for people who feel the world is passing them by. Despite the rhetoric, anyone hocking these ideas knows damn well that the jobs people want repatriated are never coming back. The tide of a globalized economy took over long ago, yet we hear silly talking points about bringing back outmoded commodities like coal, an energy source and economic engine that anyone can see is on it's way out.

The future is digital & we should be embracing tomorrow's economy by focusing on digital skills.

Lets not mince words. I'm talking about training blue collar workers to use computers instead of machines associated with a bygone era.

Either we build an economy with workers whose skills will remain relevant or we can race China to the bottom of the manufacturing mountain while drastically reducing quality of life.

There's no going back. We might as well go forward.

Plenty of doubt for everyone (let's embrace it) by Evan La Ruffa

For as much as we hear about people building cool things and succeeding, there are 10x as many stories about the obstacles that created tension for people summiting their own mountain. To act as if there are plateau's where it's all figured out would be dishonest, but to act like there's no chance of getting to the top is just as unrealistic.

We're going to try things that work and others that fail, but if we surround ourselves with the right people, we have a much better chance of getting where we're going.

The reality is, easy has always been an option. It's the vocation part we're all striving for, no matter where our office is located or what yesterday looked like.

If we keep it 100 and share the less-than-certain moments, we'll achieve perspective and quite probably open ourselves up to the next good move.

After all, there's plenty of doubt for everyone (let's embrace it).

The struggle is real by Evan La Ruffa

The other day Lindsey (my wife and best friend) and I were driving somewhere, and I told her about a conversation I recently had with a few friends about business, entrepreneurship, and captaining your own ship. Positivity is my common default, but I also feel that I try to be forward facing about the pain points that create stress, tension, and anxiety in me.

I now realize I might just gloss over them.

In short, Lindsey said I should share more of those pain points. She basically intimated that I make the struggle sound good and that I should let a few more eyes and ears come into contact with the process of negotiating doubt.

To that end... I'm in a really tense place these days as I wait to hear about a deal for IPMM that would be a huge win for various reasons. Managing my own expectations while putting all the work in can spin me up sometimes.

As good as I feel about things, feelings don't put food on the table or pay bills, so I had better be turning them all into momentum.

Some days I'm down and some days I'm flush, but between loving the process of doing the work and learning, I'm able to feel good most of the time.

Even so, the struggle is real, and there are certainly moments when I wonder what the fuck I'm doing.

No wish will achieve my goals for me, so I better combine all this doubt, optimism, grit, limbo, hustle, seeking, service, and delight ... and do this.