Friday, February 28, 2014

Voicemails from the Futures

On storytelling, climate change, and playfully exploring our futures.

There’s a glitch in the software system in the near future – what sort? How should I know, it’s in the future. The important part is that this glitch sends voicemails back to our time.

And what do we hear? We hear voices from the cloud of many possible futures. We are eavesdropping on the many parallel paths our world could take. We get to listen to the messages that people leave for each other – by turns banal, mysterious, tender, and terrifying.

—— Ready for a CHALLENGE? ——

Take a moment to think about what one of those voicemails might sound like.

PEOPLE: Who is calling? Who are they playing phone tag with? What’s their relationship?

THE AUTHENTIC FUTURE: What clues you in that this is taking place in the future? What’s different?

So why did I ask you to do that? Well, I think fiction can be a powerful tool to think about the future. Great technologists can tell us that when we network computers together it’ll be a powerful tool – but it takes writers of fiction like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson to help us imagine what that might mean on a personal level. Biologists can tell us that we can handcraft genetic code – but it takes an author like Margaret Atwood to help us envision what it could be like to live in that future.

This makes fiction an ideal place to explore an issue like climate change. We hear all sorts of predictions about what climate change will mean in twenty, fourty, sixty years from now – they represent the cloud of possible futures. Most of those take a 10,000 mile, global perspective. Hearing those figures, it’s tough for me to take it in – to really understand what they could mean to me, or to my friends, or children.

Let’s try something. Take a moment to revisit your voicemail. Has the climate changed in this future? How has your caller adapted? How does this show up in the voicemail?

—— Ready to be BRAVE? ——

Take the voicemail that you’ve come up with and call the FutureCoast hotline. Record your voicemail from the future.

+1 (321) 7-FCOAST // +1 (321) 732-6278

International callers – if the long distance is a problem, just record the audio and send it to: interact[AT]

Full Disclosure
FutureCoast – the hotline and the website where the voicemails are published – are part of a collaborative storytelling project created by Ken Eklund and me (Sara Thacher) with a National Science Foundation grant.

Thank you Listervians! We look forward to listening to your futures.

Sara Thacher, @thacher
Los Angeles, California

Thursday, February 27, 2014

32 days a ghost

A story for the readers of The Listserve:

For 32 days last fall I was a ghost. Watching people go about their day-to-day lives around me while time seemed to stand still. My son was born 41 days early and spent 32 agonizing (for me) days in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

One Friday night my wife and I were sitting on the couch relaxing after dinner when *POP* her water broke. 6 ½ weeks early. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Women having their first NEVER go early we were told. It did happen. We rushed to the hospital where our fears were confirmed: Her water had broken. My wife was not leaving the hospital until she delivered the baby, but it was not happening that night. Over the next 6 days we talked, hugged, and tried to stay calm. In the moments I found myself alone I cried. Fear of the unknown can be terrifying. For 6 days I was terrified, but I didn’t show it. I put on a brave face for my wife and the son I hadn’t yet met. Six days later, once the doctor’s felt the baby’s lungs had fully developed they induced labor. Nearly 24 hours later my son was born. A great size and weight for a preemie we were told.

The next 32 days were a haze of worry, nerves, smiles, tears, and joy. I went back to work, visiting the NICU every day at 5:30 AM before going to the office and again at 6 PM on my way home. My wife was there from mid-morning until mid-evening each day, and we would call the hospital in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, just to be reassured that he was ok. I was torn to pieces to see my son hooked up to IVs, a breathing machine, and a feeding tube.

I went through the motions each day, watching as others lived their lives and I could only sit and wait for my life to get going. It was impossible to explain to people how tired I was, how scared I was, and how I would just wish everybody would leave me alone. I ate crappy food, I barely slept, and I tried to put on a brave face. We were told he was close to going home enough times that, though I cognitively knew it would happen eventually, I had a difficult time believing it.
After 32 days my son came home, with no lasting medical issues or signs he had entered the world in such an unexpected way. A very wise nurse in the NICU said to my wife and I “If you don’t tell him he spent 32 days here he would never know it, despite that, you will be scarred for life.” She was right. He is a happy, smiling, drooling, amazing 5 ½ month old and each and every day I look with wonder and amazement as he grows and learns.

That’s it. A story from my heart.

If in parting I can share some unimaginative wisdom it is this:
Life is full of unexpected moments, some good ones, some bad ones, and some both good and bad. Getting through each day and starting over the next is all we as humans can do.

It’s ok to cry and ok to be scared. In the end it will all work out, or it won’t.
Feel free to share your story with me and thanks for allowing me to share mine.

Boston, MA

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Getting to know One Another

Wow! I never thought I would be picked, let alone know what to write. I look back at all the emails I have received since joining Listserve and I still can’t figure out what to write. I guess a good place to start is to introduce myself.

Hi, I’m Corrine and I’m 17 years. I live in Illinois with my aunt and our two cats. I started to live with my aunt back in September when my mom ended up in a nursing home. My mom is unable to take care of herself anymore. I go to visit her once a week in nursing home. Just yesterday (Saturday) we went out for dinner.

I like to do a lot of different things in my free time. I listen to music. My current obsessions are Tegan and Sara, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Tame Impala. I am also obsessed with Netflix. I’m currently working my way through Orange is the New Black and Supernatural. Both those shows will be the death of me. I also watch a lot of movies. I just watched The Boys Are Back. I hope to be able to get to the library soon to check out the book that the movie is based on. Generally I try to read the book before I go see the movie.

I also like to Skype/text my boyfriend A LOT. Well when your boyfriend lives 851.8 miles away you do tend to get a bit attached to technology. I can’t imagine having a long distance relationship before smartphones/internet was invented. We met online in IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel the night before Easter of 2013. He had sent me a message. At some point during the conversation totally out of character for me I said, “I think I’m falling for you. From there we exchanged numbers. I love him dearly and hope to meet him at some point. I don’t think it will be anytime soon. He just got accepted into fire school and will be becoming an official firefighter.

I love to get to know y’all but before I end this email I will leave you with a few of my favorite quotes:

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” -Bob Dylan

"I'm one of those people you have to watch or else I'll wander off into the woods and forget to come back" -Jack White

"In the future everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes."- Andy Warhol

My current favorite song is “ A Miracle” by My little Pony

What is your current favorite song

Don’t Forget To Be Awesome,

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It is cold out so lets talk about the heat

Hey, so I got picked to do the listserve and I was super surprised. I was sitting in my dorm building watching a movie, Step Brothers to be precise, and as soon as I found out I shouted in the middle of the movie to my friend I got picked. All of my friends present were amazed that I was chosen to write an email to so many people!

A little bit of background knowledge on who I am before I get to my story. I am a freshmen at the University of Minnesota and have no idea what I want to do with my life. I am originally from Colorado and I love the state. I wanted to spread my wings for college so I took a tour early fall last year of the campus. I loved it, middle of a city and it had 50,000 students. I couldn’t be happier! (If you can’t tell I love people!) Now onto my story...

So being that I took a tour of the University in early fall it was a nice 50 or 60 degrees out. I assumed it would be getting colder in the Winter but I enjoy the cold so I decided I would buy a new jacket some under armor and call it good. Holy balls was I wrong! I get to the university and find out my dorm room didn’t have AC. This is no problem in January, but when you arrive to the dorms and its close to 100 degrees out that is a problem. One more problem is when you have only heard how cold it gets you don’t really pack a ton of shorts. I was partying the first night with my new roommates, we went outside and I, in all my wisdom, was wearing jeans. The combination of heat, alcohol, and the overwhelmingness of college made me pass out. My roommates saved me before I hit the ground and put me to bed shortly after. I made an instant connection with them and I love living with them now. So kids if you want a good relationship with you roommates almost hurt yourself and make them help you out haha!

That is my favorite warm weather story so hopefully you got a kick out of it. If you guys want to comment on the story I could elaborate or just laugh at your funny comments. Shoot me an email sometime, about anything at all, if I don’t get to many I’ll email you back! Shout out to my friend patrick who is also on the list serve and I will be quizzing to see if he read my email!

Bye you guys!!!!

Dillon D.
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Have Nightmares

My nightmares typically reveal my fears of insecurity, especially about failures, what people think of me, the fear of being the last person on Earth as a pulsating sun speaks to me, going to the supermarket and collecting everything I want to realize I have no money. Then when I was younger it was the fear of public nudity that suddenly occurred in the hallways of my school.

Now, to live a nightmare. I've lost friends, I've been in the "hole", I learned to drink tap water again after years of filtered snobbery. I will share this so called nightmare... My laundry was all dirty so I looked in the closet to find a pair of black corduroy pants to wear to work. Work was a clean room, where I processed microprocessor chips in a "bunny suit" (a fully encased body suit). The button came off my pants so I grabbed a safety pin to attached my pants and rushed to work.

Two hours or so I was ready for a break, I left the line to go to breakfast and stored my bunny suit outside the clean room. I left the doors and felt a draft on my buttocks. I reached back to discover that my pants had deteriorated and my rear end was completely exposed. As I paused in disbelief, a woman chuckled behind me. I rounded the corner and wrapped my outer shirt around my waist. One other detail, I was not wearing underwear. I figured I could survive the shift, have a couple meals and after all I would be in a suit most of the day.

My next break revealed that the front of my pants existed only of a zipper strip and I found myself subjected to hobbling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame to the bathroom. I called my girlfriend and asked her to bring me pants. It was the longest walk out of the building and to the parking lot toward the car. Many rough, brown paper towels crumbling around my lower regions just as my pants did. I had a sudden fear that I could be arrested for public indecency.

I made it to the car and changed my pants, the problem resolved and relief delivered. I lived through a nightmare and immediately had a great laugh about it. Even better, I can't imagine how many billions of microchips were ultimately destroyed by a disintegrating pair of corduroy pants that were coupled up to a nude body. There's my story with one last of that redundant listserve repetitive wisdom that tires me.... Running away is so much more scary than facing whatever it is you fear.

Try to do the smallest thing you can to let someone know they exist, bye.

Jeremiah Rudnicki
Vermont, USA

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Science and Camping

Much like the rest of you, I had no idea what to initially write about. I thought about writing about what I do for a living, my interests, my hobbies, but all of them seemed pretty monotonous to a large group of people I probably don’t know. So I just decided I would write my favorite quote and my favorite, go-to joke:

Quote: The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…” –Isaac Asimov

This one strikes true to me after being a math major who worked over a year on a lab-based microbiology senior thesis about C. Diff. I found that things never went right when I wanted, and always went right when I least expected. I had a knack of ruining the simplest of experiences, but accidentally coming up with other results that yielded new insights.

Joke: Always remember, camping is intense.

Definitely a go-to, and those who know me well know that I will drop this line randomly on a fairly regular basis.

So if anyone has any interest in science, my senior thesis, camping, or anything else, feel free to respond and strike up a conversation! I promise, I will try to respond in my free time from studying for these god-awful actuarial exams.

Have a good day everyone!!

Zach Suter
Hartford, CT

Saturday, February 22, 2014

513 Days


I can sit here and bore you with uninteresting facts about me such as I was born and raised in a city that’s famous for dropping a dead carp on New Year’s Eve. I work for a company called “Trust Point, Inc” where I am a financial planner, dabble in photography, reading Hunter S. Thompson, John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski. I’m passionate about teaching basic personal finance, running and being on my motorcycle. But none of that’s important.

I love bringing to light and praising the accomplishments of others; and with that, I’d like to tell you about my best friend.

Even though he was 3 years younger than I, we grew up together, often going up to our family farm to help my Grandpa milk cows. He was more of a “Davey Crockett”, I was more of a “Michael Jordan”. Despite these differences, we always got along well.

After college he got a job in a small town working at a farm implement fixing tractors, combines and the like. I was working hard to finish my Master’s degree at UW-Madison and he would always stop over to my house on Sunday nights to visit, occasionally have a beer and complain about his co-workers or tell me about the farmland he was renting and raising crops on. I always knew farming was his 'dream come true', but I never told him; I was just happy to see him happy. Those were always the best days of the week for me; just him and me, shooting the breeze.
Later on, I moved to a city about an hour away but we remained as close as ever. It seemed to me the older we got, the better we got along. I was grateful and appreciative of having someone that shared my views, stories, and I could learn stuff from. He taught me about farming and I taught him about finance. Honestly, I had played out scenarios in my head of him and I growing old, drinking beer together, and complaining about how “…those damn teenagers are acting today”.

One autumn day, my fiancée was out of town so I came home from work, cracked open a beer, unknotted my tie, and my phone vibrated. “Jon’s been in an accident…don’t know much else”. Didn’t think too much of it; after all, this was the kid who rolled a 4-wheeler, flipped a snowmobile, and drove his truck into a ditch. I called the hospital where he was taken. The nurse said I should come by. I didn’t need to hear anything else. I knew.

On September 18th, 2012, my best friend, role model, confidant, and Brother was killed in a car accident. The car was driven by a 16 year old that crossed the centerline, clipped my brother’s work truck forcing it to swerve, roll, and eject him. It was 4:42pm and he was leaving a jobsite to go home for the day.

I work with Trusts, Wills, Estates, and retirement planning; never in a million years did I think I’d have to help my Father settle my brother’s Estate.

He’ll never see this e-mail, and he’d curse me up and down for talking about how great of a person he is, what a fantastic role model for my son he is, and how much I miss him. I always leaned on him when things got tough and I often feel lost and worried about living my life without him. But even though he is gone, I will forever carry on his work ethic, his caring, selfless, “give the shirt off your back” attitude. He always had time for others no matter how hectic his life got. I will forever admire that.

La Crosse, WI

P.S. Thank you Listserve Team for your hard work; I'll only ever get one chance to tell Sabrina that I love her with all my heart and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you in front of 25,000 people!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Such different worlds

Hello Everyone,

I can't believe I won. I mean, I never won anything in my life until recently. The only thing I won was a discarded medal from my school sports day that no one wanted and my friend thought it would be cool to take it. I still have it until now :) .

Anyhow, I am from Mauritius, a tiny island (48km by 60km) in the middle of the indian ocean. My dad ended up here when there was war in China and my grandparents got onto a boat and hoped that they would reach a better land and they did.

Mauritius is where I was born and after spending 12 years in London, I decided to go back home. I earn one fifth of what I used to earn back in London and I don't regret it at all because Mauritius is a lovely place to live where you have African descendants, Muslims, Indians, white and chinese all living together without killing each other off.

This is also why I thought that I should give the chance for someone else who doesn't have the same luck as I do to pass a quick message about what is happening in her own country which is Ukraine. I believe that everyone should have the chance to live in peace and not fear.

"Hi, my name is Nastasia,

Usually I have a normal job working in an advertising agency. But times are not normal.

Yesterday more than 70 of my fellow people were shot and killed by the government in Ukraine.

Shot in the head, shot in the stomach. Blood coloring the cobble stones red at Kyiv's main square, Maidan, where me and my friends have walked, ate ice-cream and danced at festivals over the years.

The government claims that these people were terrorists, yet I know what system they were fighting against. A corrupt, brutal and criminal bunch of thugs making the lives of ordinary citizens unbearable.

Let me give you some background information if you have the time:

In case you don't know what's happening in Ukraine, google "what is happening in Ukraine slideshare" - there's a link on presentation with a summary, last updated 16th Feb. It tells the story about a 3-month-long protest in the center of the country's capital against the criminal president's dictatorship, robbery and total legal vacuum nationwide, all for the sake of president Yanukovich's "family" wellbeing (is it normal in your country for a president to have a golden toilet bowl? no, seriously, there are photo proofs).

This protest was peaceful, but turned violent in November, after riot police shed blood the first time - against the few students who stayed at Maidan at night, singing songs and guarding the tents of protestants on the capital's main square.

Since 16th February (that presentation's last update) we had lots of stuff going on. Government's snipers on roofs of hotels in the center shooting unarmed peaceful protestants, more than 50 people dead, many of them with gunshots - in the head, heart and stomach (obviously bullets aimed to kill, not to stop). The official version is that this was an antiterrorist operation (in a country that never had a terrorist attack?), that the protestants are fascists, nationalist radicals who want to overthrow the legal government. The information war got to an absurd scale. They say, people are drugged and brainwashed. They say, they are financed by Europe and US. Road police stops cars who try to bring food, medicines and supplies for the protesters.

Yesterday by accident I wrote a Facebook post that suddenly got widely shared. Shortly, I joked that if someone doesn't know how to help people at Maidan, I can help with advice. Now, just 2 days later, afetr I got hundreds of messages "how can I help?", I manage a 1000 people group on Facebook, coordinating transport, purchase and delivery ofmedical supplies, generators for the field hospitals, etc. People send money without asking who I am or demanding reports on how money were spent. And there are loads of coorinating centers like that. This blind trust and wonderful self-organization make me proud of being a Ukrainian, though I have no Ukrainian blood in my veins (me parents are Russian and Armenian).

According to the official government's version, though, is that I am a Ukrainian nationalist helping fascists.

Dear world. Please, find and share the news from my country. Help spread the word. Contact your local mass media to cover what's going on. Find NGOs that gather financial help. Make us visible. We work and fight for the freedom we were nominally born with. We want to make our own choices and to manage our own country. During these 3 months we've proven we can do it. The clever way. The kind way.

And beware - passive political position that allows people like Yanukovich rule countries, break laws and murder the innocent, can suddenly make you a fascist one day.

Thanks the Listserve team for being understanding and willing to help, thanks Jonathan for letting me use his turn to speak to you, and Jesper, my Danish journalist friend, for helping to write this letter."

Oh by the way here's Nastasia's email if you would like to contact her: poslevchera[AT] and mine jonathansiao[AT] .

Jonathan from Mauritius

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Whole Life Changed

Freshman year of college is when my pain started.
The doctors prescribed me every antibiotic you could name, until I was throwing up in bed and couldn't eat a thing.

I walked around, wondering why I couldn't be happy like everybody else.
I wondered why I had to get a discharge from the Army, why I couldn't serve my country.

I wondered why my dad who has money says my doctor appointments were too expensive, but my mom who has no money paid for $500 doctor appointments out of pocket when insurance didn't cover it.

I wondered if it would be easier to kill myself by swallowing pills or by running the car in the garage.

I wouldn't say I'm exactly healthy now, but I don't wonder these things anymore.

Instead, I thank God for my pain. I thank Him for my mom, I thank Him for my church, I thank Him for allowing me to wake up in the morning. I thank Him for bringing me to my knees so I could realize that some people have it much worse than me. I thank Him for my amazing girlfriend who taught me that "when you know, you know." I thank Him for teaching me to enjoy the little things in life, because truly that's all we can do.

But right now I thank Him for allowing me to win the ListServe, because I know there's one person out there suffering from pain, feeling like nobody understands, like nobody will listen.

If you're that person, email me. Or email somebody. Find somebody who listens, who understands.

For the rest of you, don't be afraid to be different; to think, to feel, to be kind.

"I respect the kind of reject that wanna rebel, and just reflect."

Newark, DE

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

life & quotes

Hi everyone!

My name is Maggie and I'm an English major at Princeton University, currently in my sophomore year. I love writing, photography, traveling, meeting new people and being in the outdoors. I have no idea what I want to do with my life and I'm currently in full exploration. Sometimes it's hard feeling completely lost, especially when so many people are focused on finding that one set path to success -- but recently, I've been learning to trust myself, and it's been a fantastic journey.

2014 has been a great year for me so far. I've been learning how to be more genuine and authentic to who I am, and I've started to search for that same sincerity in other people as well. Instead of being all over the place and restless to meet new people or see new things, I'm beginning to see the value in simply investing in what I have and making more time for who truly matters to me. This has been a beautiful thing.

I want to share several of my favorite quotes with you. Hopefully they're relevant in some way or the other:

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” - Rumi

“Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.” - Miyamoto Musashi

"Where you invest your love, you invest your life” - Mumford and Sons

“There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.” - Jean-Paul Sartre

“Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is the center of the world.” - John Burroughs

“The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” —Vincent van Gogh

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but— well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” —Frank Lloyd Wright

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” - Louise Hay

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”—Rainer Maria Rilke

“Discover why you’re important, then refuse to settle for anyone who doesn’t completely agree.” —Fisher Amelie

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” - Sylvia Plath

If you ever want to reach out or have other quotes to share, hit me up at maggiezhangx[AT] :)
Also, if you're ever in the Princeton area and want to grab a meal, let me know as well.

Have a beautiful day,

Princeton, NJ

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On kindness, gender, and moving to a new city.

Hello, world.

My name is Valerie. I'm 19 years old and I live in Ottawa, Canada, but I'm moving to Montréal this summer for school. I work as a cashier at a grocery store. I am a transgender woman. I like good tea and bad coffee. I like waking up slowly to bright skies and frost on my window. I like warm summer nights spent with friends that go on and on, until everyone starts to feel dawn approaching and gets very candid, as if the sun might just not come up again. I like getting lost in cities I've never been to before - or places I thought I knew like the back of my hand until I met someone with a different map.

There's a couple of things I want to ask you to do, followed by questions.

First off I want to implore you to be kind to the people who serve you - your waiters, your dry-cleaners, maybe even your grocery store cashier. We know you're having a bad day. We've met a hundred people today who are having a bad day. Your frustrating ten minutes in line is my eight-hour workday. Practical suggestion: if you had to wait in line a long time, try helping bag your groceries if you can. I'm going to have to deal with that long line all day, but your two minutes' work just saved each person in line two minutes. In general, be proactive about making life slightly easier for the people around you, and you'll start to notice when people do the same for you.

Second, I want to elaborate on an earlier part of my introduction. As I said, I'm transgender. In the last couple of months I've come out to nearly everybody I know, including coworkers and the general public. For some reason I always expected that the most difficult part would be the few horrible people who actively hate me or believe that my gender is illegitimate. I actually haven't met very many of those people at all, thankfully. But what really makes my day difficult isn't the people who want nothing to do with me but the people who just don't notice or care that I'm not a man. Please, look at the person in front of you. Look at their nametag, what they're wearing, the impression they are trying to make on you. Someone in a dress and makeup, even if she has a deep voice, is probably trying to convey to you how she'd like to be seen and treated. You don't have to (please don't) make a big deal out of it. Just, try 'miss' instead of 'bro'. I know I'm the first trans person you've spoken to this week, or in your life. I know it's difficult. But you're the hundredth person I've spoken to today who's in your shoes. I've been told how difficult I am to see as I am ten times today.

Lastly: I am in need of advice myself. If you've moved to Québec from out of the province before, I'd love your wisdom on that process. If you live in Montréal, what is there to do and see and eat? Do you have advice on (re)learning French? What jobs are there for students with a tenuous grasp of the language? How do I avoid pissing off Montréalers? If you're trans, I'd love any advice you have on anything. If you're queer or trans or just think I sound interesting and live in Montréal, feel free to say hi.

Thank you!

Valerie Tardif-Jeffcott
Ottawa, ON, CA

Monday, February 17, 2014


Work hard. Sleep well. Read Proust. Everything else is just details.

Wyatt Kirby

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Oh no

Oh my god I won

When I subscribed to The Listserve, I was immediately afraid to win. I hate writing! I love reading though, so I took the risk of winning the Listserve lottery and subscribed. And now this is happening!

When writing or creating anything I always start to doubt myself. What if people don't like how I write? What if they think I am not creative? And this does not only apply to writing, but also to speeches, improvised acting, dancing, etc. etc.

What makes this kind of funny is the fact that I practice various 'cultural' hobbies. I do theater, dance and I play the piano. And I enjoy it really much, I just never 'create' anything because that makes me feel uncomfortable.

So now me, this person who hates writing, is supposed to write an email for thousands of people. I decided to ask my friends for help. That's what friends are for, right? I asked them what they would want to say if they could reach 10,000 people. Here are their answers:
(I don't think my crazy friends realized I would actually be sending this to 25,000 people, so enjoy! )

- YOLO ;-)

- My mom is the best mom in the whole world!

- Forget about what everyone else thinks ans says. If it makes you happy, do it.

- Thank you all so much for the $100 everybody sent to me.

- Please ladies, not all at the same time!

- Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones.

- The best things in life aren't things.


Thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed yourself as much as I do when reading all the beautiful Listserve emails. Good luck in advance for the future winners, I now know what you are going through.

Have a wonderful life!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A new turn?

I received the email about winning the lottery while I was standing on the platform of Oktyabrskaya station of the Moscow Metro. It was 30 minutes past midnight and I was completely shocked by the talk I had had an hour ago. I spoke with my ex-girlfriend about our future, no matter how weird it sounds.

Three years ago we parted and have not said a single word to each other for all this time. She asked me not to call her, and I have not. A few days ago we met almost by accident, talked for a while, went to the cinema and today had a dinner in a restaurant. As we set down to the table she struck me with the following: "I have a boyfriend, I am almost married, but I don’t want to be with him. What do you want from me?”.

Wow, to be honest, this was not a talk I was prepared for. We spoke about career plans, immigration, everyday domestic problems, money, children and treason. She has plans, she wants a stable future, but I cannot say I am ready for all that stuff.

And now I have to make one of the most tough decisions in my life for now: do I want to take a new turn in my life?

Guz Alexander
Moscow, Russia

Friday, February 14, 2014


I have no insight or wisdom for you today. But I have something better: statistics!

I've examined the content of all posts to The Listserve since April 2012 - thanks to Simon Weber for the archive! I'm not sure whether this is the beginning - if anyone knows how old The Listserve is, or who is behind it, I'd love to know. Anyway, I spent a couple hours hacking on the dataset with Python, so let me hit you with some SCIENCE FACTS:

First, the average Listserve post has 384 words, and the median has 356. The longest of all time was a 1,950 word rant called "Volatile Software" in April, 2012. The shortest of all time was a 2 word post in August 2013, which simply said "Be kind."

Here's a list of the top 10 words appearing in the Listserve, and the number of times they've appeared:
the: 9215
to: 7654
i: 6820
and: 6742
a: 6208
of: 5041
in: 3720
you: 3623
that: 3076
it: 2795

Well, that's not very interesting. Let's filter it to words that are 4 letters or longer and I'll pick out the top nouns:
life: 874
people: 788
time: 709
love: 623
there: 591
things: 540
something: 432
world: 400
good: 378
years: 366

Next I tried to parse the top locations out of the end of the email. There will be a lot that were missed due to formatting (emails that put the location somewhere besides the end, or just formatted the location differently). Here are the top 30 by city:
New York: 24
San Francisco: 20
London: 14
Chicago: 12
Los Angeles: 11
Portland: 10
Washington: 9
Brooklyn: 9
Toronto: 8
Seattle: 6
Boston: 6
Sydney: 5
California: 5
New Jersey: 4
Auckland: 4
New York City: 4
Cambridge: 4
Philadelphia: 4
Canada: 3
Minneapolis: 3
New Orleans: 3
Pennsylvania: 3
Stockholm: 3
Austin: 3
Montreal: 3
USA: 3
Vancouver: 3
Baltimore: 3
United Kingdom: 3
NYC: 3

Thanks to everyone who has written to the Listserve - I love reading your stories and [The Listserve] emails are the only ones I look forward to checking every day. Now, here's a random selection of words which have been used only once on The Listserve:

If you'd like to see more of the results or the code I used, you can find it on my GitHub profile, if you search for my name.

And now I will end with the most common 5-word phrases, which apply to this email as well:
I would love to hear: 18
I'd love to hear from: 13
love to hear from you: 11
I have a lot of: 7
I'd love to hear about: 7
would love to hear from: 7
best water skier in Luxembourg: 3


Seattle, WA

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Broken Watch

Look at your watch. It’s broken. Do you remember that summer night? A group you weren't part of, a world right next to your own but so different and apart that you couldn't possibly understand how the people inside it worked.

It was late, maybe midnight. You can’t know what time it is now. There was a thunderstorm, and a tornado watch—or a warning? What’s the difference?—and someone suggested a game of capture the flag. It was a stranger. They were all strangers. But you joined them, cast off your rationality for one night of mindlessness, because it felt nice, and because it seemed the thing to do at the time.

What time is it? You don’t know, the watch’s face is blank. All their faces were sort of blank, because they didn't know much, just the safe little world they’d grown up in, with themselves and no one else. No one strayed, no one questioned, no one forced truths upon them and made them see that the world was big, and not always comfortable.

You are sitting uncomfortably because you don’t know how long you've been sitting, or how much longer you’ll be required to. It’s not the sitting itself that’s uncomfortable; it’s the not knowing.

You've always been uncomfortable with any lack of knowledge. That’s why they were such a wonder to you. They were satisfied with ignorance, and though it made you angry, you envied them. They could come home and run around in the rain and laugh and drink, and wake up the next morning and kiss their mothers goodbye and get on a plane to some distant desert and stalk the day with a gun in their hands and a fire in their hearts. They could do it all and know that they were protected, even in death, by something greater than themselves. You envied them because they knew a love you had never known, and you were sure it didn't exist but that didn't make it feel any less absent. You always find yourself burdened by absences, whether it’s the absence of faith or of the time of day.

You sit here wondering what time it is. Maybe that knowledge would give you relief, or at least answer some of your questions, Yet you also sort of wish that you’d never had a concept of time at all, because then you wouldn't worry that you were missing something. Is a hole that’s never been filled really a hole? If a watch didn't work in the first place, can you still call it broken? And you begin to realize that maybe this crisis is about more than just a broken watch.

Ariel A.
Washington, DC

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


"When I asked my boyfriend what I should write, he simply replied 'everything'. I thought this was an asinine suggestion, but when I pressed further, he simply shrugged and repeated it. After thinking about this for a while, I thought; what is important? What does everyone have in common in here? What should I cover? Everything. Everything that ever was and ever will be. Everything that everyone thinks, feels, sees, or hears. All of these things is but a fraction of everything that actually is. A small fraction in our corner of the universe. Everything is important is a drop in the bucket of everything, and that perhaps makes our everything special. Everything is our home, it's the place that we have, for better or worse, chosen to share..."

When I asked my boyfriend what I should write for the listserve, he wrote to me the above.I liked it so much, I decided it was a an excellent idea to share. I guess that means he's on the listserve now too.

My own thoughts about everything... It is exactly what I thought it would be. In fact, Lauryn Hill tells us, "everything is everything." And she's not wrong.

So I guess the moral of the story is kids, if life has you down, remember that everything is everything.

Unrelated, but equally important: I've been looking forward to the chance to write on the listserve and like everyone else, I didn't know what to write. I originally had this rather narcissistic beginning, until I realized just how narcissistic... Yeah, that got deleted pretty quickly.

I wish you all less trouble deciding when your time comes. I wish you all the best of luck with all that you endeavor. And most importantly, I wish for you to have strength and durability in all that you do.

Beth Halel
Oakland, CA

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This is a hold up. Give me your inbox.

Two testimonies to our collective ingenuity:

1. I went to a bathroom stall and found a small whiteboard on the back of the stall door, with a magnetic dry erase marker attached to it. This was to mitigate the problem of bathroom graffiti by allowing people who feel the need to express themselves to do so in a way that is considered socially acceptable.
2. Someone had directly scratched into the whiteboard in order to vandalize it.

I think I had a good day today, but I try not to think about that. Just because I feel good doesn't mean that I'm doing the healthiest steps to handle my depression. The reverse applies too; I can have a productive and exciting day and still feel like shit the entire time. But one of these is better than the other, for me at least.

Overload this with salt, as you should probably only take advice from people you want to end up like. I try not to think about results whenever presented with things I can't control, so that my actions are more important than the actual outcome. For instance, in a poker game, there's always an element of variability. You can make a play that a hundred professionals would do, and still lose to some statistical anomaly when it comes time to reveal. The most important thing is that all 101 of you still played correctly.

My mood is sporadic, sometimes manic, and maybe its own entity, so it's extremely hard to figure out what's working or not. I just have to keep incorporating as many processes from what I've learned that will help as much possible. And it's all very personal to me, I want to figure it out myself, as hypocritical as it is to give you a huge gaping hint. (and if you're like me, and get angry when people tell you tips you already know, I'm sorry. I tell myself that they only mean the best. (I'm sorry again.))

It's probably because that's the best part- figuring out how to conduct yourself, learning what creates happiness for you and those around you, and like it's all one giant puzzle. Admittedly, I've noticed I laugh a lot more now, probably because I've spent so much time creating lens to view things in hilarious ways for myself.

The reason that I thought today was a good day was because I woke up in the morning on time and went to a photoshoot where I was able to comfortably crossdress and wear makeup in front of people I knew. Then at work I created two posters that my clients were satisfied with. Then I helped out with an event in which I had volunteered doing the MCing for, and bombed awkwardly in front of a full house- but found myself thankful for the resilience I've built from the experience of being on stage. Then I went home, jerked off, and then wrote this listserve email twice because I wrote the first one in a word count website that doesn't save text when you accidentally go back a page. Plus, my mood is okay for now, which I appreciate.

That said, I really hope that this email doesn't come off as some story with a happy ending about how I got better because of some oversimplified idea I have. I'm still doing fucking terrible. Happy endings are only sad stories that you don't know the endings to, anyway.

Then again, a scratch on a white board still prevents a scratch on the bathroom stall.

Anchorage, Alaska

Monday, February 10, 2014


Hi everyone!

Almost like a coincidence, I am today in the process of writing a list of my life rules, in order to achieve all my goals and become the person I want to be, and suddenly an email from the Listserve arrives to my inbox, like sent from heaven!.

My name is Javier Sanchez and I´m from Mexico City. I´m 26 and I work as an auditor in a Copper Mining Corporation. I love to work out at the gym, read LOTS of books and walk my dog.

But who really I am on the inside? I am a dreamer, a goal setter, a go-getter; so that is what occupies my mind all day, everyday. Stuff like: ¿How to become the perfect version of myself? ¿How to achieve the life I wish for? ¿How to lead, inspire, and help the people? I´m craving to know the whole world, and as a secret between us, my BIGGEST dream is to live someday in NY, but I still don't have a plan for achieving that u_u.
Such kind of things are my life quest.

I was reading the other day "The Great Gatsby" (which you should read if you haven't because its awesome!) and there is a part at the end of the book (no spoilers) where we learn which were the life rules of Gatsby because he knew from a very young age that he was meant for greatness.

So I decided today that I was going to start my own life rules, and so far they go like this:

3.- I sleep and wake up everyday at the same hour. At 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
4.- I work out everyday at 6 a.m. at the gym, except for weekends which I only run.
5.- No fat foods ever. That includes sugar (like sodas) or any fried food.
6.- Sundays are for cleaning the house, buy the grocery and preparing my clothes for the week.
7.- I´m a person of integrity and I live according to my values and principles. Some of they are: I never lie and I never take anything that doesn't belongs to me.
8.- I´m punctual to any meeting, and I do mean ANY meeting.
9.- I take care of my image a lot. That includes my hygiene, clothes, posture, smell, breath and calligraphy.
10.- I'm a gentlemen, in my way of talking and treating everyone.
11.- No one is allowed to treat me bad. Also I'm nowhere allowed to treat bad anyone.
12.- I´m 100% self confident.
13.- I´m never afraid to talk to anyone, nor to express my ideas (if they don't harm in anyway to any one).
14.- I never, and I do mean EVER will get drunk again (because I´ve done it and its the stupidest thing ever).
15.- I read everyday. My goal is to read 5 books a month.

That´s how far I´ve got. ¿What do you think about it? ¿Do you have any life rules?


Before finishing I will recommend two books to you. This are the ones that have literally changed my life and will surely change yours:
The 4 agreements - Dr. Miguel Ruiz.
The Laws of Success - Napoleon Hill

Javier Sánchez
Mexico City

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This email is not cohesive

Hey all...

So I'm actually American but I'm currently studying abroad in Ireland for a semester. I'm from Ashland, Oregon, where we have a really amazing Shakespeare festival (you should all come). In college, I'm studying comparative/international politics. I'm kind of obsessed with travel. So if you have any recommendations for unusual but awesome places to visit, by all means let me know. I also like reading, baking, doing puzzles (of all kinds), walking, writing poetry, and other activities that I can't think of right now.

I've also kind of abandoned my plans for the future. I haven't given up on my future or anything of that sort. Rather, I have just accepted that I'll probably end up bouncing around between locations/careers/goals because I'm easily swayed by chance. If you have any ideas of awesome jobs that involve travel, let me know!

Since I haven't come up with a cohesive idea of what to say, I'm just going to list some random thoughts that have popped into my mind over the last 48 hours.

If you are ever traveling in Jerusalem on a Friday evening you should go to the wailing wall at sundown and after the prayers look around for a random rabbi who is shouting orders at a crowd of confused looking young people. If you do this, you will hopefully be assigned to go to a wonderful shabbat dinner with a really nice Jewish family for free. It's awesome!

If you live or are traveling in Dublin, we should get coffee! (or if you're in Ashland, Oregon at some point in the future).

Real eyes realize real lies. (I didn't think of this)

I just heard an NPR piece about a Swiss company called Algordanza that makes diamonds out of the ashes from a cremation. Kind of creepy. Kind of cool. In a way, it's a beautiful idea.

Anyway, good luck with life!

Clara Kerwin
Dublin, Ireland

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I think it's fascinating that I signed up for listserve, wit...

I think it's fascinating that I signed up for listserve, without really expecting to win.
I guess I just thought it's so unlikely that I never gave it a lot of thought.

I'm a 22 year old Geology Student in Vienna, Austria.
All I want to say about Geology is this: We don't just study 'boring' rocks,
what's really fascinating is getting the big picture about everything on this earth, understanding how almost everything is connected.

What i really want to talk about is this:
I love good books, i really do! So some time ago i came to the conclusion that i should read more.
What I did was to try if I could read one book per week for a year. No matter how thick, just one book per week.
(I also kept a list and wrote down how many pages I had read, just to see how much it would be in average) So I ended this last year with book number 58.
And I'm continuing in this year with a new list.
The interesting thing is this: Once i got used to reading a lot, you wouldn't want to stop.
I read somewhere that people who don't read live just one life, while readers can live as many lives as they want in their books. Of course, you can't take that literally, but it has a very nice ring to it. And maybe even a bit of Truth?!

I will leave you with this: If you enjoy to read, make time for it. If you're really motivated you can try one book/week and see if you beat me.
If I should recommend one book to anyone, and it couldn't be more than one, it's this:
Khalil Gibran – The Prophet
Even if you have only very little time, please try to find it and read it (It's only about 100 pages long).
In my opinion, Khalil Gibran was not just a wise man, but rather something closer to a genius. A genius with a poet's soul, maybe?

Shout outs:
Samuel: for introducing me to the listserve!
Flo: for enjoying bad puns and joining the listserve on my advice ;)

To the rest of you: Greeting from Austria!
Feel free to write me!
Tell me what you think about 'The Prophet', or recommend some good books to me, or just write me for the sake of it :)

Michael Oester
Vienna, Austria

Friday, February 7, 2014

How can I best serve this country?

Tyler Durden was right: "You met me at a really strange time in my life." My life changed drastically in the last 72 hours, including this email. So, if I may, let me ask for a bit of help.

Here's my story. I am a 22 year old graduate of MIT from Scarsdale, NY. In 6 weeks I am supposed to leave for the Army Special Forces selection and training. It's been quite the curious road, initially declining service academies and attending MIT, then spurning more "traditional" occupations to enlist. I have spent months with family and friends trying to help them understand and cope with my decision. However, 16 hours before being told it was "my turn" to speak to all of you, I was informed that my application was placed on hold because my vision (I'm colorblind) wouldn't pass muster. It got me to quite a bit of thinking - I wanted to enlist to serve and help those in need in a direct manner. For those of you who find this incongruous, I urge you to look up what Green Berets actually do, look up unconventional warfare, and recalibrate from your visions of Rambo.

Aside from the discipline, camaraderie and everything else I sought out from service, I (admittedly, and somewhat proudly) naively believe that individuals who wish to serve must do so in both direct and indirect ways. Basically, don't just do hands on work like Habitat in more individualistic settings and forget about larger scale movements like grassroots campaigns and supporting larger causes. The converse holds true as well - don't stay large-scale without getting your hands dirty. My decision to serve as a Green Beret went to helping serve those in need currently under the yoke of oppression and without freedoms. I wished to dedicate a legal career after my service to the more large-scale.

Given the hold-up in my enlistment, I have been forced to now at least consider other opportunities while I wait to hear back, be it in the service or outside of it. As such, here's where I would greatly appreciate the advice and the help:

The more information about unique programs and opportunities to get my hands dirty, the better. Sure, everyone and their mother has heard of Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Those and many other famous programs are fantastic and I wholeheartedly endorse them and all of those who take part as people who, like me, are just trying to help make a difference and pay it forward.

But what are some of the "deep cut" type of programs, great things that deserve to be more widespread and have more participants. Especially pending my application's review, I may not be able to pursue my military career (at least not in Special Forces) and as such may ultimately choose to participate in those to fulfill my internal compulsion to do some good hands-on work.
That said, to hear a bit more about me, Special Forces, and why I choose that route over any other, ping me. I'd love to talk about it and hear all thoughts and advice.

Other quick hits:

1) Shoutouts to Jack Wanderman, also MIT '13, for getting me hooked on listserve, and Crosby Steiner for helping me find my words.

2) Whenever you want to get to know someone, particularly a mentor, there are three questions you really should ask:

a) What's your favorite book?
b) What's your favorite novel?
c) If you weren't doing what you were doing, what would you do instead?

3) To stay humble and motivated, consider the following:

No matter what you are doing in life, you were not the strongest or smartest or best positioned, but neither were you the weakest or dumbest or worst positioned. Always remember that whenever you hit either extreme highs or extreme lows to keep you even keel and humming.

De Oppresso Liber ("To Liberate the Oppressed," U.S. Army's Special Forces Motto)

Scarsdale, NY

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Story Time

Hey Listservers! Wow, my turn. I've been meaning to write this down for a while, I guess I just needed you all.

Sometimes in our lives, we are given a little extra time with ourselves. A time to think or reflect. For me, that time is the 45 minute drive back from my girlfriend’s house. The empty roads and dark night combine with the hypnotic beat of Tiesto, or whatever CD I have in, to create the perfect atmosphere for thinking about whatever pops into my head.

I recall one such night that stands out in my mind, I was driving home on the virtually vacant highway under the vast night sky, the beat pounding in the background, and I started to feel small. There I was, alone, insignificant, flying towards home in a little metal box across my little piece of our grand earth’s surface. It was a kind of solemn feeling, a little sad.

But then, someone passed me. Another person, driving a small black SUV, passed me on that otherwise empty highway, and everything changed. Who is this person? Why are they out driving so late? I don't know them. I wonder if they notice me.

I wonder what stories they could tell me.

There they were, busy living a life, full of stories, and for a brief moment, we were alone, together. Every human being is full of stories. In our little heads, we hold histories of our little chunk of this world. And when someone dies, in most cases, those stories go away. Each person is a treasure trove of anecdotes, captured for only a fleeting moment. That makes every death incredibly tragic, and every late night conversation, every stranger met, and every moment shared immeasurably valuable. And at that moment, I felt significant. I felt blessed to be alive, to be in a state where I can share and hear stories.

If you're reading this, you're also blessed. There are stories all around you. Find them. Call your mom, or ask your grandparents what life was like for them. Make it a point to meet a stranger. And if you're so inclined, take a moment to send me a story from your life. It doesn't have to be anything major, the little moments can be as valuable as the big. I'd love to hear from you.

You're alive. Go find a story. Go make a story. They're all around you.

David J. S.
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

a change in my life

for a long time, i needed the attention of strangers on the internet to feel good about myself, but i don't anymore.

have a good day,

Monday, February 3, 2014

The idea that suggests itself

Hello everyone,

the great thing about listserve is that it is based on such a simple idea.
I enjoy this random-based, non-hierarchical way of interchange since half a year.
Searching for simple ideas, for the idea that suggest itself, is what occupies me most as an conceptual urban artist.

One day I entered an art school out of curiosity, smelled its atmosphere and knew what I want in life!
That was 25 years ago and since then I got so many chances to develop and refine my artistic practice and have been able to travel the world with my partner as an artist couple for all kind of projects.

To me, art is all about dealing with freedom. To pick whatever is interesting or unsettled, to research on it and to create a comment through this vast variety of media available nowadays. I wish that everyone who feels the desire to express and to create finds the courage and the means do so. To succeed and to fail and to start over again. And I am convinced that cultural exchange is a superb contribution to foster mutual understanding on this shaken planet.

Try to appreciate art. Go for the weird things, the works that disturb or provoke you and learn more about their background. Talk to the artists and ask them about their motivation.
The art system might be difficult to grasp but every now and then one finds that touching piece which opens up a unique and unseen view of the world.

Art is love. Love art!
Truely, Stephan

Stephan Koeperl
Stuttgart, Germany

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Help Me Make a Difference!

Hello World! That sounds SO good to me. Considering I rarely get out of my routine, our neighborhood…rarely meet new people, I can’t stop smiling from the idea that I am communicating with nearly 25,000 people (if all read this). So here goes…

I come from a family where most relatives in my generation have sloughed off the dysfunctional aspects of life in which we were raised. Me? Racism is non-existent in my heart and behavior. I replaced the word never with more hopeful vocabulary because experience has shown me that hope, like enthusiasm, is sticky. So I touch everyone and everything and leave hopeful enthusiasm everywhere! Some of the most powerful words I own are YET! WHY NOT? and IF…

From the age of eight I knew that I wanted to teach. School was always our first play choice. When the weather was warm my sister, Donna, and I would hang blankets from trees to create walls. She pretended she ran the school…I pretended that EVERYONE, like me, LOVED learning. Hahahaha

Scratch that, and fast forward to 2014 where my goal now is not merely to teach and foster a love of literature and language, but to make a difference in a community where poverty robs kids of their dreams and gunfire is what happens outside, so most kids don’t play under the trees like I did. Increasingly for too many of my students, school is a place to socialize, eat (“meals” with conversation at home are rare), feel safe, and have access to technology.

I am awed, entertained, and educated every day by something technology brings into my life (like this Listserve). My teaching partner calls me the Wizard. But, it’s not magic. Technology is a way of life, so I do my best to find digital tools that are current, useful, and challenging and embed them into our learning practices. Technology is the only proof I need to show kids that do-overs are an essential part of life.

Music is another love that I pass on to students. My classroom walls are lined with vinyl album covers of bands they all come to know through what I call, Lyrics to Live By. Some quotes that generate hearty discussions:
• “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” -Rush, Freewill
• “If you can judge a wise man by the color of his skin, Then mister you’re a better man than I.” -Aerosmith, Livin’ on the Edge
• So often in time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key. -The Eagles, Already Gone

I know I’m not the easiest teacher. It’s a hate/love relationship we develop; kids hate the way I push, but eventually love the way I NEVER GIVE UP….and that’s what ensures, in spite of the fact that reading and writing are HARD (because learning became the least important thing on their plate years ago), kids show up every day and TRY something new…some even end up learning to love the power of words. I call that a win/win!

What would I like from my Listserve readers? I would like to know what words and literature you find powerful. What lyrics do you live by? (I love adding to my music collection). Write me and follow me, @Poeteacher on Twitter. Help me grow my Personal Learning Network. Teach me something new I can pass on to my kids @Calumet New Tech, the best kids in the world! (well, at least, my world). And let’s share strategies for how to make a difference!

Charmaine “Charlie” Wierzbicki
Gary, Indiana

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Stop seeking approval and be yourself

I have lived my life the past few years and now just realizing that I am being this “do things for approval guy” or “nice guy” that is neither truly me nor making me happy. I have realized over the past few months that this attempt to make everyone happy is not only hurting myself but with the people I interact with.

Some may say "Hey, being a nice guy is not bad and you will get what you want in the end." However, I find that it isn’t necessarily the act of being “nice” that makes you a nice guy. It is how we treat life and what we expect. Our act of being nice to people and our obsession with pleasing people causes us to expect the same in return. If we do not get it, we put ourselves down for feeling we didn’t get what we deserved. Whether we are with a group of friend or with our spouse, we do things that will give us more credibility and prevent ourselves from doing anything that may subtract value from us.

Part of this requires more empathy towards others rather than sympathy. We should fit ourselves more into others shoes rather than having them fit into ours. When we do things for others, we should do them for the innate good of the person. Now that can sometimes be tricky as doing something for others can always be good for them. It is also the avoidance of thinking that one day the favor will be returned to you.

Overall, I realize that being nice isn’t everything. It is this realization that we may be seeking too much approval from being nice and instead, living our lives to our own degree and helping our friends along the way.

Stephen Lu