LaCaze Business Review

making sense of 21st century living

When I was a kid, every so often my mother would rummage through her vinyl collection and put a record on the turntable.

I smile when I think back to the times we listened to The Ventures Play Telstar. The pseudo-eponymous track “Telstar” is in so many ways a personal favorite, a song that takes me back like no other. A song I now most often enjoy alone.

I don't play vinyl at my house—I don't have a turntable or any records. Long gone are the days of putting on an album and letting it play from beginning to end to fill the space of a lazy afternoon.

But sometimes, when doing a mundane chore like washing dishes, I might pull up a playlist on Spotify and cast it to the Apple TV.

And while I don't have any memories of my mother ever dancing, dance parties are common at the LaCaze house.

Our experiences aren't exactly like the ones I had when growing up. But somehow, despite the years and the changes in technology, they're close enough.

#nostalgia

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Nature vs. nurture—which is more important? Where does one end and the other begin?

Will we ever answer these questions? Likely not in a way that can withstand even an ounce of scrutiny.

These questions—and others like them—are in my head as I read through Quiet by Susan Cain

The last decade or so I've spent fighting against my introverted nature. I couldn't help viewing my introversion as a defect or hindrance. The voices of others labeling me “antisocial” or focusing on all the things I'd likely never do, such as become the type of person capable of selling ice to an Eskimo, echoed in my head as I stretched to make myself something other than a wallflower.

The good news is I succeeded. To some degree.

I am now someone much more comfortable meeting new people and smiling through small talk.

The bad news is I can do so only in controlled doses.

But there's another piece of good news: I recognize and acknowledge these limitations.

As I get older, I am constantly reminded I have only so much energy for so many things. And I've reached the stage where my energy is best spent not on playing an extrovert, but on leaning into the strengths of introversion:

Observation.

The ability to see angles and possibilities others may miss.

Hesitation to sip the Kool-Aid.

These days I'm asking what parts of myself are worth the effort to improve, and what parts are better to accept. What parts of my nature should I lean into?

The message that people can change is powerful and inspiring. So merely accepting part of yourself as you are may seem defeatist.

But the effort required to change is best spent on things worth changing. And I'm not convinced compensating for introversion is worth the effort.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The introverts are all right.

#introversion

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We often talk about food diets.

Maybe even media diets.

But what about technology diets?

As I go down the rabbit hole of rethinking my relationship with tech, I am not concluding that complete elimination is the solution. Instead, I am asking how much and how often, in what forms, and what do we give up to gain in convenience?

And what are the best ways to unplug from time to time?

Getting rid of cell phones and Internet would make participating in the modern world nearly impossible (as Tom Johnson recently touched on). But we don't have to participate every second of every day.

—Thoughts inspired by the article “Technology is diminishing us” by Jonathan Safran Foer <— Recommend reading

#perspective #technology

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Why does it sometimes feel as if the world is made for extroverts? Is it because they are more likely to assert their visions due to their nature?

At times it feels as if introversion is a defect.

Who are these people who need time alone to regroup or process the world around them?

And then there are the fallacies mass culture perpetuates.

Like the idea that introverts have horrible social skills. Or that they're antisocial. Or that they can't lead others.

This last fallacy may be the most damaging because it hurts not only introverts but also those who may benefit from their leadership.

Introverts have potential to be thoughtful leaders. Their reflective tendencies help them step away and process situations with the benefit of time and distance.

It would be unfair to spread the fallacy that extroverts can't do the same. Lead Yourself First gives examples of how Dwight Eisenhower, a definite extrovert, relied on solitude to make some of his toughest decisions as a general in World War II.

Solitude is not exclusive to introverts, though it tends to come more naturally to introverts. The correlation is the same with extroverts and social qualities. Social skills are not exclusive to extroverts, though extroverts are more likely to have developed such skills as they tend to get more practice.

The traits of introversion and extroversion are not indicators of where a person will end up. The traits are more like indicators of the path a person will take to get there.

#perspective #psychology #introversion

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Too many people are quick to provide answers to all of life's little problems. They don't ask questions because they have it all figured out.

Myself included, at times.

In such an age, can we say we need philosophy more than ever before? Have questions ever been so important?

The long journey of personal growth and real change often starts with questions.

What does this mean? How do I feel about it? How can I change it? Can I change it?

But without questions, discovery becomes less likely.

Questions require a certain degree of humility by the admission you don't have the answers and by the acceptance you may not find them.

We know the old saying: First things first. But too often we've found the answer before we've bothered to ask the question.

Like, really ask the question.

And for the sake of discovery and not for the confirmation of what we already believe to be true.

With an open mind and a shut mouth.

And so we have to put first things first: We have to put the question before the answer.

#perspective #philosophy

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I've been rethinking my relationship with technology since I started reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.

After mentioning this book is usually when a blog tells his audience he's deleted his social media accounts and can now be reached only by smoke signal.

But this is not that kind of post, dear reader.

I appreciate that Digital Minimalism is not a book of prescriptive, one-size-fits-all advice for living with technology in the 21st century. While Newport himself is no fan of social media, he leaves it up to individuals to define their own relationships with the tech they use regularly. Newport's most important message is that you think about where technology fits in your life, not that we all reach the same conclusions and use or avoid all the same services.

Digital Minimalism is not a how-to guide. It is instead a guide calling its readers to develop their own philosophy about where technology fits into their lives.

After I started reading the book, I deleted from my phone nearly every app not related to calling, texting, or navigation.

Newport suggests suspending use of any problematic apps for a month. He refers to this time as the “decluttering” period. Once the decluttering period is over, you re-introduce the temporarily banned tech back into your usage and observe whether you think it still has a place in your life. Newport claims that often people realize they no longer need the tech, making their decluttering periods permanent.

I made it a week before I reversed my declutter, because I'm lacking in moral fiber. But I have kept most social apps from my phone this go round.

And though I have deviated from Newport's recommendations, I have started creating distance between myself and my phone. I've started leaving it behind in other rooms of the house. And my short break does seem to have made putting my phone down much easier when I know I need to.

My declutter has made me realize how much I prefer the desktop (or laptop) experience over the mobile experience in most situations. I'm an elder millennial, so I'm better with a traditional keyboard and mouse than I am with an onscreen keyboard.

I recently got a couple a couple used (or “previously enjoyed”) laptops through my job. The laptops are nowhere near the latest and greatest specs. They can't upgrade to Windows 11, but they run Linux just fine (currently Solus).

Still, these laptops are thin and powerful enough for everything I need. Ten or fifteen years ago, it would been impossible to think of how I could ever need anything more. Especially when you consider the near ubiquity of public wifi.

But now, in the age of smartphones, we want the same conveniences once reserved for laptops at our disposal through these devices many of us keep in our pockets at all times.

Perhaps it's easy to gush over tech like laptops when propping it against the smartphone. Perhaps the smartphone is a scapegoat, the villainous flavor of the week.

a robot from my sketchbook

I do not believe eliminating smartphones will fix everything. We would find a substitute for distraction, perhaps laptops and desktop computers.

But that's a problem we can address when we've improved our relationships with our smartphones. This acknowledgment makes us better prepared in the war for our attention.

While Newport doesn't say everyone should delete all social media, he doesn't hide his opinion that social media holds little to no value. These days it's fashionable to jump on Newport's side and crap on social media while ignoring any benefits.

The reason I fell in love with the Internet way back in the late '90s is the same reason I stick around on social media and related platforms in 2022: The potential for connection that's harder to find offline.

Connections made over the Internet are not a substitute for connections with my family and other people I see offline. While I can get along with almost anyone I meet face to face, there are very few I can nerd out with on anything that truly interests me. Or at least not to the depth I want to go. Also, I tend to hop from interest to interest. It's always nice to know I can find other parties interested in the same things, on the Internet, often in the form of social media.

Perhaps I would feel differently if I were part of some sort of establishment I could fall back on.

But I would be disingenuous to gloss over my gripes with social media, which relies on sloppy algorithms to decide which content is worth promoting. (I'm looking at you, Meta, LinkedIn, Twitter . . .)

When I think back to my favorite times in online communities, they were often in communities that hadn't yet been adopted by the masses. And while that may make me sound like an idealistic hipster who wants to keep his hangouts under the radar so that he can have them all to himself, I find my defense more practical than that.

The simple truth is that, in most cases:

Mass adoption = commoditization.

And once you start catering to everyone, you end up serving no one. And, at some point, the experiences all run together, as the users and their avatars do. And you get an experience similar to what you likely find offline, in which few of the experiences stand out above the rest.

Before reading Digital Minimalism, I was becoming convinced that a return to smaller online communities was the best path forward. I still believe that in theory, though I haven't begun practicing it as well as I should.

I'm not sure of the exact limits of this practice either. Obvious candidates include places like micro.blog and niche Mastodon servers. Maybe even the smaller subreddits. I suppose you can create an insular experience on Twitter if you follow the right people.

While I would like to see a break from the worst of Web 2.0, I'm thinking Web 3.0 is most likely not the answer.

Does that mean Newport's preference for walking away from social media is the answer?

I'm not ready to jump on that train. But I can't blame anyone who does.

I hope this essay shines some light on the need for philosophy—perspective over advice—in all aspects of our lives, even in technology.

#socialmedia #technology

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Note: This post is about a burnout experience I had in the last couple weeks, which inspired this attempt at ripping off Hyperbole and a Half.

Recently I wasn't feeling so great.

I couldn't point the finger at anything in particular, but something was nagging at me. Lingering. Like a storm cloud that insists on raining on me wherever I go.

(You know I'm in a dark place when I'm quoting Joy Division.)

I have a habit of holding things in and bottling them up.

I often don't realize I'm doing it until my mood's in the dumps.

Sometimes you just have to deal with whatever's getting at you. You can't fall apart over every little thing.

Thanks for telling me - Strip 1

But if you're lucky to have someone you can trust with your feelings, then you should open up and let them help when they offer.

Thanks for telling me - Strip 2

It's not on that other person to fix your problem. And sometimes simply listening is the best thing they can do for you.

Thanks for telling me - Strip 3

So many of us get upset when we feel as if people don't open up to us. As if they won't they let their guards down and let us in to the real them.

That's why our reaction to unflattering conversations is key.

Thanks for telling me - Strip 4

Life is best when it's shared with others.

Thanks for telling me - Strip 5

#sketches #mentalhealth

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You're just playing catch.

That's usually what you'll hear the coach tell the pitcher who can't get the ball across the plate.

You're just playing catch . . .

What other big events can we simplify to settle our nerves?

Having problems writing?

No big deal, you're just stringing some words together.

Terrified of your upcoming speech or presentation?

You're just talking to a room full of friends.

Got a big proposal?

You're just throwing some ideas out there.

Sure, the stakes are higher than the lackadaisical approach would suggest. But sometimes it helps to forget for a bit. At least until you've gained some momentum.

#perspective

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When you were young, you thought you could do all the things. You thought you had to.

Because to refuse was to admit you weren't superhuman. To admit you were less than. To let someone down.

But now that you're older . . .

You know you can be exceptional at only so many things.

And every new thing you add stretches you thinner. Robs your current obligations of your best effort.

So what are the few things you'll choose to be exceptional at?

#perspective

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Peter Hook (of Joy Division/New Order fame) has long been one of my favorite bassists. But recently he's become my solid No. 1.

Not because of his talent. Not because he was able to play unlike anyone else.

But because he chose to play unlike anyone else.

Being an artist isn't about what you can do. It's about what you choose to do.

Sure, there are specific areas where you can't be the artist. Most of us can't be professional athletes or fighter pilots no matter our choices.

But there are countless ways we can be artists.

We just have to choose how we go about it.

#perspective

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