Pride 2017

This weekend many members of the LGBT+ community are celebrating Pride. Despite struggles and some setbacks, the LGBT+ community has made incredible strides in pursuit of equality in the last few years. The current White House occupant has inspired and motivated many hateful people in the United States (though, I actually don’t think Trump has a problem with the LGBT+ community… or even really cares about social issues at all), but the tide is turning. Freedom and radical individuality where we each get to peacefully pursue happiness, have relationships, and identify as who wish is growing. Overall, things are looking up.

To be honest, I am torn about how to celebrate or participate in Pride. One one hand, I want to change my profile picture because my sexuality does have a little kink in it. My sexual fluidity, polyamory, and BDSM interest is part of who I am and something I am not ashamed of it (I do recognize that the latter too are not as applicable for Pride). I also want to show solidarity with those in the LGBT+ community that may not be in a privileged position where they can vocalize who they are. I want to continue to show support and raise my freak flag for those that can’t. I’m in a position where I won’t lose my residence, my job, or face violence by being who I am (part of that is because I can “pass” – see below).

But, I also don’t want Pride to be about me. Having a bunch of white, cis, male, straight-passing people running around with some self-congratulatory signaling feels strange to me. It also feels inappropriate to celebrate the progress that I haven’t worked towards. I think we should be primarily proud of things we do and I haven’t done anything to really help the cause. I have a similar issue with people who are “proud” to be American… pride in a geographic location that you’re born in that has not created any problems for you makes me roll my eyes pretty hard. I haven’t really faced struggles based on my sexuality so taking pride in it feels strange.

So I’m torn. Do I publicly celebrate Pride as an individual or do I spend my time sharing the stories and experiences of others? Do I change my profile picture as a show of support and to show I’m not ashamed of who I am, or do I stay in the background to prevent taking attention away from others? I don’t know… I really don’t know.

Dealing With Financial Security

I grew up in a pretty poor family. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but looking back I realize we were relatively broke (it wasn’t until I met my partner that I realized some parents actually do pay for college and cars and have money to loan their kids to buy a house… that a life without credit card debt is possible). I never really worried about where my next meal was going to come from, but we were on food stamps occasionally and all eight of us lived in a 2-bedroom apartment for a while. There were also periods where my family would go through the trash cans in the morning around the local park to collect aluminum cans to get the 5-cent deposit. My family and I lived with my grandparents far more often than we lived in our own place.There were people in my school worse off than me, but

There were rarely new clothes or school supplies in August and I could tell at the time that receiving those lists of “required supplies” for six kids stressed my mom out. If it was a good year I would have more than just one new t-shirt and a pair of jeans, in a way I was the lucky one because I was the oldest and got new supplies while my siblings got hand-me-downs. Well, that eventually stopped when I stopped growing and my siblings didn’t, I’m the shortest of the Neiger siblings and I’m sure my nieces and nephews will surpass me soon.

At around the age 12 or 13, I started working. I had a variety of jobs. I delivered newspapers for the city paper twice a week year round, I mowed neighbors lawns during the summer, and I helped my grandfather out at the occasionally rare coin and stamp show that he would display his wares at (in hindsight, I probably wasn’t actually helping my grandfather that much and the pay was way above market). I also set up a soda stand at the local baseball diamond and sold cans for about twice what I paid for them.

When I turned 15 I started working at a grocery store after school and I’ve been employed ever since… and ever since my life supplies were provided by me. I paid cash for my first car ($600 for a bright orange Ford Pinto), I bought all my own school supplies and clothes, and I purchased my own CDs and Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game cards. I don’t think I ever received an allowance.

I’m not a stranger to constant work, but the idea of having any wealth or savings is new to me. Despite those many jobs, I didn’t save a dime. When college time came around I couldn’t afford to go to a university so I went to a community college and I took out debt to pay for it. Community College lasted about a month before I dropped out and just delivered pizzas, blowing all my money on stupid shit.

As the years have flown by I still never had a savings account until recently, and it feels weird… almost uncomfortable. Debt I’m comfortable with, debt I’m familiar with. It doesn’t bother me when I didn’t have money I just stopped paying my student loans and credit cards. My credit score is garbage, but who cares? I’m not going to be buying a home or new car and I’ve never owned anything of real value for them to take.

But now, my life is different and I don’t really know how to feel about it. I’m caught up on all my bills and the debt collectors aren’t calling, and I have actual wealth (not a lot of wealth granted, but when I look at my Wealthfront and Coinbase account I know that I’ll be okay if something crazy happens). This wealth comes with a weird paranoia like it is going to disappear. I’m constantly tracking my income and checking my accounts daily as if I’m afraid it is all a dream and will disappear overnight. Every fluxation in the value of Bitcoin or my IRA makes me bounce between elation at my good luck and terror that it is all going to crash down.

It is weird not being poor, even when I know that I’m not poor because of my own decisions and hard work. Deciding to live as a minimalist and not having kids and not owning a car all lead to my financial situation being stronger than my parents (who are still underwater on their house), but it feels undeserved. I feel like it came too easily, and anything that came easily can disappear easily.

Maybe someday I won’t feel the need to wake up and check my accounts on my phone, but that isn’t today. Or maybe my whole life will be feeling like a yo-yo bouncing between joy and terror, with a financial Sword of Damocles hanging over my head.

I’d love to hear from you… (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH).

The Little Things – An Incomplete List

I’m feeling kind of “bleh” today. I don’t really know why, but there are many suspects. Maybe it is the rainy dreary weather, which means the Oregonian in me is truly gone. Or maybe it is because I ate two cupcakes last night and my body isn’t really used to sugar that doesn’t come straight from a fruit anymore. It is also possible that the relative lack of sleep last night it affecting me. I’ve also been spending too much time on Facebook, which definitely can’t be helping. Who knows, the reason is kind of irrelevant. It is just a fact that I am feeling bleh today and my urge to pick up a beer is pretty high (so far I’ve resisted that urge).

Luckily, I stuck with my daily routine. It was tough sitting down to meditate today, but I did it. I put my Headspace app on and listened to that soothing, guiding Australian accent and it really helped, specifically because I happen to be listening to the “Appreciation” pack. The meditation guide suggested that I focus on the things I appreciate, as normal, but this time he mentioned that I shouldn’t feel bad if the first thing that pops into my head is something small instead of something big. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a cup of coffee instead of your parents from time to time.

That gave me an idea, I wanted to list some of the little things about today that I appreciate. It is a given (or at least should be) that I appreciate my amazing partner, my dog, my family and friends, and living in the 21st Century, but my life is made up of mini-moments that each has something to appreciate. So, here is my incomplete list:

  • A friend of mine sent me some cash unexpectedly but the timing was good
  • The line at the bank was really short today
  • While cycling home from the gym I found my yoga mat that I lost yesterday, it looks like someone moved it safely to the side of the road and it is undamaged.
  • I was smiled at today
  • The machines and weights I wanted at the gym were pretty empty
  • While cycling home a nice driver waved me into to traffic so that I didn’t have to wait
  • I figured out a great coffee mix to enjoy during my morning reading
  • Five of my tomato plants and one of my pepper plants are starting to bear fruit
  • I was invited to meet with the leaders of a local housing organization that I’m trying to get on the board of directors of
  • I found out about a pretty cool ICO opportunity and I had some spare Ethereum to send that way
  • My body is responding really well to my workout plan and I’m almost at my target weight
  • I found a local therapist and a dentist
  • I feel like my Spanish language work is actually paying off
  • I can see two birds in the yard right now
  • I have friends who sell me their art
  • My peace lily has a half dozen beautiful flowers on it
  • I found a cheap flight from Orlando to San Francisco for a trip I’m taking in September
  • I was recently invited to return as a guest to one of my favorite podcasts
  • I’m wearing warm socks that I just got out of the dryer
  • Bananas

In closing, I need to listen to one of my favorite Stoic philosophers, Spose (video and lyrics below)

Look, I don’t have a mansion
I’ve never been to the Hamptons
It’s more likely you’d find me if you came up here and went camping
I got bills stacked like Jenga
Respected less than most singers
But you don’t see me sulk about or wallow in self-doubt and let that linger
Look, I still haven’t been killed
I got pills every time I got ill
I don’t got mils to top cough drops
Or a house in the hills
But I won’t feel sorry for myself
I don’t need anything opulent as long as I got oxygen
(Ya Mean)

[Chorus]
Tonight if you see me knockin’ on wood
That’s just cause I’m doin’ so fucking good
I don’t hate my life, No it’s goin’ alright
That’s why tonight you see me knocking on wood

I got all my limbs
I don’t got cancer, I’m superb
I never got kidnapped on my way to work
Got free education, Bitch I’m learnt!
But some people aren’t so lucky
Knock on wood

I don’t got HD Tv, But I got insulation
I got no Lamborghinis, But I got vaccinations
I got a microwave, I got some pocket change
But even if I didn’t, No complaints

[Chorus]

Peter Sparker back up in this bitch is on
Say free country, I can say what the fuck I want
Shit!
Bitch!
Cunt!
Fuck the government!
Buy my songs!
Some places you say Shit like this and you get your hands cut off

Lucky aren’t we?
All this time to get drunk and party, puke up food while kids are starving
All of Somalia, not one Arby’s
We’re popin’ water bottles, What!
We’re gettin tattooed, What!
Were gettin fat, takin naps, eatin mad food

[Chorus]

Look, I don’t have a mansion
I’ve never been to the Hamptons
It’s more likely you’d find me if you came up here and went camping
I got bills stacked like Jenga
Respected less than most singers
But you don’t see me sulk about or wallow in self-doubt and let that linger
Look, I still haven’t been killed
I got pills every time I got ill
I don’t get mils to top cough drops
Or a house in the hills
But I won’t feel sorry for myself
I don’t need anything opulent as long as I got oxygen
(Sing it!)

I’d love to hear from you… (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH).

Brain Dump

Today was a super busy work day and I had to prioritize that stuff over writing (sad panda). So, despite it being my fast day I haven’t been able to really sit down and do a blog post and my brain is kind of burnt out, but I gotta keep the habit alive and write every day. I’m just going to put some random stuff down that is in my mind instead of something more thought out.

  • The week of abstaining from alcohol is going well. At this point last week I had consumed 9 drinks, which is about half a pound worth of calories or ~$20.
  • Related to above (maybe), my food calorie consumption is down, my exercise routine is up, and I’ve hit all my meditation, reading, and work goals this week
  • I think both sides of the abortion argument should try to understand the other side better
  • One issue voters tend to be shortsighted, lack an understanding of how our federal government works, respond to signals more than substance, and generally make the country worse off
  • I’m so excited that it looks increasingly likely that medicinal MDMA will be a reality in the next 5-10 years
  • I’m increasingly annoyed with people who are wet blankets or like to do “drive by” negative comments on Facebook posts
  • I’m considering shaving my chest hair
  • I’m a little frustrated that my tomato plants aren’t growing that well, maybe I’m not being patient enough or maybe I planted them in a poor place
  • America is going to become increasingly less important on a global stage, both economically and politically, in the next century
  • I’m going to climb a mountain next year
  • I think it is time to start exploring BDSM in a more focused way
  • I’m starting to like my body again, which is kind of nice
  • I’d like to see more nipples on my Snapchat (@pneiger)
  • I wish I was more confident about my fiction writing

Okay, that’s enough brain dump for now.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me that I’m not living life correctly? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered here and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

The One Thing

I am currently reading through “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It isn’t a huge surprise that I’m reading a book like this, I tend to find a lot of value in reading books that try to encourage success and productivity. I’m usually reading something like this in addition to one work of fiction and one work of non-fiction.

Anyway, the basic concept of this book is that you should identify one thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary and then focus only on accomplishing that one thing. No multi-tasking, no balancing, and no shooting for mediocre targets, instead you focus only on one thing and then move on from that. We each have limited motivation during the day and if we waste it on unimportant things then we won’t accomplish what we want.

Overall, I’ve found it valuable and I’ve cut down my monstrous “to do” list into a few things that must be done. For example, I have three areas of life that I’m focusing on: work, physical health, and mental health. Each area has an activity that I’m focusing on for 66 days (because 66 days is the average time that you must do something daily for it to become a habit), in my case that means going for a run every day, writing a blog post every day, and meditating every day. When I finish the complete 66 days I’ll ask myself what is the next one thing to accomplish my life goals and then focus in on that again. Maybe it’ll be a daily weight lifting or yoga routine for my physical health, or studying a foreign language or musical instrument for my mental health, or writing a novel to advance my work as an author.

Well, in today’s reading I found something the authors said kind of interesting. They said that there is a specific order of life areas that work the best, specifically that focusing on things in this order will maximize results. The order is spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and finances. Basically, if you work on your spiritual life it will make your physical health easier, which will make your personal life easier, etc.

So here are the rough definitions of each life section:

Spiritual Life – How we interact with our community and our relationship with God. I’m an atheist so that last point is moot, but I do find value in the community and certain spiritual practices such as pagan ceremonies.

Physical Health – Exercise, healthy diet, and mental health. My diet and exercise are pretty solid, but there is always room for improvement.

Personal Life – This is personal growth in hobbies and skills and finding time for yourself.

Key Relationships – Pretty self-explanatory, family, friends, partner, etc.

Job – This is the area that focuses on accomplishing what you want to accomplish within your role at work

Business – This is focusing on how to move your business forward

Finances – Increasing net worth, investment cash flow, debt reduction, etc.

I find the order kind of interesting, but it makes sense. I currently don’t break down things in that way, but I think I’m going to next week when I hold a weekly staff meeting with myself and type up the agenda (a tip from “The War of Art”). I’m always looking for new habits and insights and techniques to avoid being stagnant.

Wanna hear my thoughts on some random controversial subject like abortion, circumcision, or whether IPAs are good? Got a question for me that is too personal to ask directly? Do you just want to tell me I’m a douchebag? Send me an anonymous message and I’ll respond on my blog! Just fill out this simple form on SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH) and if you need inspiration check out the previous questions that I’ve answered  here  and you’ll see that no subject is off limits.

Yesterday Makes Today Easier

Every Sunday I create and print off a checklist table for the week. It includes things like work I need to do, habits I’m developing, exercise routines, and nutrition goals. At this point, there are twenty-eight things I want to check off… and man it feels so good to make that check mark, particularly the final one of the day.

I’ve found this method of planning to be incredibly valuable for me, particularly as someone who works from home. Many times throughout my day I feel a little unfocused or distracted and having a list like this gives me something concrete to do. I can look down and see that I haven’t meditated, eaten enough nuts and seeds, gone Pokehunting, or written a blog post, this gives me options for things to get done.

When I look at this piece of paper and see that I’ve gone on a morning run for the last five days straight it makes me want to keep up that pattern. It is added motivation. I don’t want my laziness to be what breaks the daily trend of positive behavior, it is added motivation. Usually, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t work it starts a trend of negative behavior, taking one day off turns into two and then a week, and it is increasingly difficult to get back into my routine.

In fact, that is exactly what today’s meditation in “The Daily Stoic” was about, but it focused on eliminating bad habits as opposed to starting new ones. From Epictetus’ Discourses:

If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth… if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today , or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.

A psychologist friend of mine had a similar insight on a Facebook post I recently shared, but she brought some scientific insight. When we think about something repeatedly our brain wraps myelin around that connection, strengthening it and making it a more commonly used connection. Procrastinating today means tomorrow you’re more likely to procrastinate. Being jealous or angry today means that you’re more likely to feel those emotions tomorrow. Our mind loves efficiency, and by practicing habits (good and bad) those pathways increasingly become stronger and more efficient and, eventually, become the default path we take. Luckily, we have the ability to be aware of this and create new, healthier paths.

A Defense of Imperfection

I’m not a perfectionist, much to the chagrin of my partner (and possibly my boss). I’m able to be a perfectionist when necessary (especially when I’m getting paid), but it doesn’t come naturally and I will usually fight it tooth and nail. I don’t know why I’m this way, maybe genetics or maybe it is years of “schooling” that has encouraged me to just do the minimum necessary, but the reason isn’t important. I am solidly a “good enough” type of person, and I think that’s a good thing for two reasons.

You can’t pursue perfection and innovation at the same time.

Perfection is defined by someone else, usually someone who is invested in the status quo. The perfect way to garden or build a car or design a home is based on the patterns established in the past. Perfection is a conservative pursuit, it is the belief that the old way is best and we should just fall in line. That way lies stagnation.

It is the people who decide to ignore the rules that push advancement. It is those who are too lazy or bored or stubborn to read directions and do things the “perfect” way that are acting entrepreneurially. To paraphrase Henry Ford, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”. If Ford was seeking the perfect way to provide transportation during his time he would have become a horse trainer. Evolution occurs when imperfections enter the system and prove to be beneficial.

Perfection is inefficient.

Even if I must tread the same, boring, status quo path to make something “perfect”, it is still probably a waste of my time. We should aim for “good enough” because that will allow us to spend our time and resources on other things. When I was in college I could spend two hours to get a 90% on a paper, or I could spend ten hours to get a 100%. At some point, the payoff isn’t worth the price (knowing what I know now I probably wouldn’t have even pursued a 90%).

“Good enough” lets you move on to bigger things. It lets you spend you diversify your time and skill set instead of wasting it on perfection. Someday we may have eternity to perfect skills and papers and curry recipes, but we don’t yet. Time is finite and it is better to have 100 skills and a dozen recipes and write a thousand papers that get the job done than miss out on those opportunities trying to perfect one. Variety is one of life’s pleasures, it is a shame to abandon that for some unattainable goal. We should do enough to accomplish our goals, and then move on.

Welcome to the new website!

Hello, everyone!

With so many new projects and things happening in my life I decided to set up a new website to put everything into a central location. This is still a work in progress but soon I’ll have information about my upcoming book and I’ll start blogging again. I’ve also got some side-projects that I’m excited about. If you want to receive an email when I have updates on my book or side projects just fill out the form to the right.

Until then, feel free to reach out if you have any thoughts on the aesthetics of the page so far.

I’m really excited about this new chapter in my life and I’m thrilled to share it with the world.

– Peter
pjneiger@gmail.com