The Breaking Point Saves the Day

When I look at the state of the world, it feels like we’ve been on a rather dark path for the last year and a half.  It’s as if the pendulum of change for the better has swung way back into shadow, and all the things that gave me hope for the possibility of healing planet, my news app reminds me daily that there is a lot of things to get upset about.


In turn, I’ve been feeling a familiar gravity of depression.  I have learned at this point in my life that if I feel this way - there are some effective ways to fight this sinking feeling.  One of my primary antidotes lately has been to inundate myself with inspirational, passionate, and all around successful people: Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Joe Rogen, Gary Vaynerchuck, Richard Branson, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chödrön… For the last month I’ve noticed that as I’m listening there is always a particular segment that my body goes completely still, and as I pay rapt attention as these wildly successful people talk about their failure.  A theme has been arising - everyone of them speaks about significant failure being one of the most important things that ever happened to them.  In fact I'm even told to relish it, embrace the creativity, and use this to steer my life.  I have heard many versions of a sort of quasi mystical intuition that sometimes life has a way of taking away what you want in order to give you what you need.  It may take a mental stretch to digest, but when we ride our nervous system’s stress, adjust our thinking to look for the lessons, and use the drawing board to allow for new strategies and approach - amazing things can happen.  

draingboard robert reich.jpg

On the microcosm this is my life right now.  Not so long ago I had to leave my sweet comfy County job (more on this in another post).  And with two kids, and a lot of pressure on my shoulders, I created this website I’ve been putting off for years, I started writing, I delivered a TED talk, and I’m helping to build a program in Jails and Prisons that I have been dreaming about.  On the macrocosm - the planet is at the same place. The ecosystem is ready to start violently bucking and making life harder and harder for humans to live upon it. And yet perhaps we can feel some hope as we sit at the brink… Perhaps this means this mean that we’ve got our best minds on job.  Suddenly it hit me today - I think I might have faith in us. Don’t call me an optimist - because the truth is - I see the bleakness of so many situations right now.  There is unquestionably a lot of room to improve on nearly every aspect of life on this planet.  But at the same time, I like trying on this feeling that maybe we can figure out our problems.  The feeling has a bit of a tingle to it in my chest area....


The big insight was considering the potential power invoked as humanity is cornered to survive.  As a much smaller example, consider what happens when we're on the edge of succeeding with any project.  I know first hand the creative competence summoned from this place...  I’m that guy who always finished his paper at 11:58PM when the submission cutoff was 12:00AM.  I actually tried to write papers in advance for stints of time - but I found that nothing was more efficient and creatively charged than when it was that day before - where I needed to clear my schedule, drink a bunch of yerba mate tea, and I would go into a zone.  And I’m not trying to brag or advocate for this method, but I usually got an A (which continued to feed this addiction to the last minute). I’m imagining some people can relate here - but my passion came through on that last day which sparked some serious creativity. Well - what if that’s what the world is waiting for. We have been comfortably numb for too long on the matter of our survival on this planet - and now it’s the deadline….

Here are some things going on that make me think this way:

Paul Stamets has figured out how to solve the bee problem:

And - how to clean oil, cure diseases, kill invasive disease spreading bugs, produce mushroom fuel, clean water...,

Oregon State University and others are figuring out good ways to de-acidify the ocean: & &

Michael Pollan is campaigning to put carbon back into soil:

Conservation International is teaching people solving global warming, and global hunger issues through all sorts of various means:

Peter Eisenberger has created an co2 air cleaning machine:

Elon Musk is open patenting electric cars and trying to radically change transportation: &  toURL=

And this was just the short list of ideas that have the potential to actually transform things like global warming and extend our timeline.  Now I’m not saying that this means we can relax - in fact I am suggesting the opposite: the sweaty, wake up with "the shakes," cortisol-laden stress-for-the-future is what could save it.  The failure of our species leads to the frantic out of the box opportunities for it to survive.  Is it possible that the precipice is where we need to be to thrive? That’s my hopeful thought for today...  In the comments below I welcome your own hopeful glimpses, skeptical rebuttals, or whatever other meandering musings you might have.