tl;dr — I’m taking a break from my online presence

Here’s why.

I registered my first domain name in February of 1999. (It was, the one I use for my web design company and my primary email.) I’d already been designing websites for 4 years prior, and working with computers since I first went to work with my Dad sometime in 1976 or so.

For the past 20 years I’ve spent more and more time online.

And less and less time in the real world.

I’m trading the deceptive ease of online relationships for the messy complications of infinitely more satisfying connections in real life.

More time out in nature.

More time playing music.

More time with Best Beloved and our Little One.

More time sharing meals with friends. And taking my cooking from good cook to creative chef.

More time writing and studying the craft of writing, novels and music.

More time out in it and less time in my head.

Some Things to Note

If you know me in real life, you know how to get in touch. Do so, or wait till you see me later in the week.

Otherwise contact Sue ( or 715.296.0347) and she’ll know what to do.

Here’s what this is not about:

  • Nothing is wrong. Honest.
  • This is not a reaction, it’s an action. A choice based on deep thinking, meditation, and conversation with those I trust most.
  • It’s not about you. You didn’t offend or hurt me. Not now, probably not ever.
  • I’ll still be writing. A lot.
  • I don’t know when, or if, I’ll resume my previous online shenanigans, meaning posting everywhere, emailing like a dervish, living in social media. But don’t hold your breath.

P.S. from Sue – I fully support Joel in this decision. As his Chief Social Media Officer however, you’ll note that I’ll be managing his social media accounts on his behalf. So if you see his tweets or posts on his Facebook Author page, that’s me behind the scenes. ;)

Right and Wrong and Tolerance and Best

photo by Jose Bernalte tolerance. Personal freedoms. No idea left behind. DIY.

Everybody’s opinion is equal, and opinions are more important than facts.

I have seen people who can’t spell or punctuate properly, in the comments on Amazon, dismiss the writings of brilliant minds like Daniel Kahneman simply because they haven’t bothered to find out who he is and they happen to disagree with him.

It is popular to pretend that all ideas are equal. All roads lead to Rome. Every method has merits, and everyone should find their own path.

Tolerance is great. But there is still, often enough, a “best way” to accomplish something.
… more … “Right and Wrong and Tolerance and Best”

Leveling Up: Thinking Less Like Poor Folk

Poverty changes how you act, in non-obvious ways.

It’s clear that the good quality screwdriver which will last a lifetime, for $6, is better than the junky screwdriver you’ll have to replace in a year for $3.

What slips past folks who’ve never lived in poverty is that if your choice includes “and the other $3 will buy flour so you can bake bread all week, otherwise, you get no bread” then you buy the cheap junk screwdriver.

And then again next year.

Multiply that by every single small purchase decision you make and you’ll quickly see that when there isn’t enough money, it can be almost impossible to escape.

image by gvdvarst
… more … “Leveling Up: Thinking Less Like Poor Folk”

Practical Advice from ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman (An Actionable Books summary)

“Every significant choice we make in life carries with it some uncertainty.”

Thinking Fast and Slow, page 270

It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence and impact Daniel Kahneman has had on today’s thinkers. His TED profile says, in part, “Widely regarded as the world’s most influential living psychologist, Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel in Economics for his pioneering work in behavioral economics — exploring the irrational ways we make decisions about risk.” The list of books which are a direct or nearly direct result of his writing would be enormous. Even a partial list of his literary children and grandchildren here at Actionable Books is impressive: Drive, Freakonomics, How We Decide, The Luck Factor, Now, Discover Your Strengths, Outliers, Predictably Irrational, Uncertainty, The War of Art, Who Moved My Cheese?, A Whole New Mind.

Kahneman’s work, alone or with longtime collaborator Amos Tversky, is foundational to our understanding of ourselves. Credited with creating behavioural economics, the science of why we don’t make sense when we think about money, he won the Nobel Prize in 2002. The prize is not awarded posthumously, so Tversky is not officially listed as a recipient, yet Kahneman considers it a joint prize shared with his friend Amos. His love and admiration for his collaborator and friend is evident throughout the book. I suspect it prompted the book’s premise, our Golden Egg.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman (An Actionable Books summary)”

Practical Advice from ‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain’ by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young (An Actionable Books summary)

“[J]ust as our brains shape us, we can shape our brains.”

The Woman Who Changed Her Brain, page 8

For as long as I’ve known him, my friend T has had an odd mannerism. When I’d walk up to him in a group, he’d give me a blank glance and say nothing. When I’d join the conversation, he’d suddenly blurt, “Joel! Hey, how are you?” as if he’d just seen me.

In reality, that was when he’d first recognized me.

T can’t tell the difference between two faces any more than you can tell the difference between two sheets of paper. Until he identifies people by some other means, he doesn’t know, can’t know, who they are.

This creates challenges. When T goes to the airport to pick his wife up after visiting her mother, he has to ensure that he’s “picking up” the right woman, because he can’t recognize her. After a certain incident involving a woman wearing a coat exactly like one his wife owns, he’s learned to be circumspect when approaching women at airports.

Prosopagnosia is the fancy name for face-blindness. It’s one of many neurological conditions which Barbara Arrowsmith-Young has learned can be addressed with carefully crafted mental exercises which literally change the brain.

When T finally thought to mention this to me just over a year ago, I was floored. I have seen him accomplish amazing feats of recognition due entirely to amazing coping strategies. He spent his entire childhood learning how to recognize people. He was 18 before he realized that most people have a system in their brain which makes it the most natural thing in the world.

The two halves of that story, T’s coping strategies and my failure to recognize his condition, are the two GEMs below. Each side of the coin has a lesson.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain’ by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young (An Actionable Books summary)”

Practical Advice from ‘Priceless’ by William Poundstone (An Actionable Books summary)

“The same psychological tricks apply whether you’re setting a price for text messages or toilet paper or airline tickets.”

Priceless, page 7

This is not a book about coming up with prices, it’s about understanding them. More accurately, it’s about our fundamental misunderstanding of what prices even mean.

Poundstone frequently references Dan Ariely, Kahneman and Tversky, Richard Thaler, and others who will be familiar to those of you who like to read about how our brains work – and how they often don’t.

A series of short (2-5 page) treatises which build and focus as you move through the book, he begins with our cluelessness about prices, gives us some psychological grounding, shows us good and bad pricing in action, and gives us greater awareness of our limitations and how to shore them up.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘Priceless’ by William Poundstone (An Actionable Books summary)”

Practical Advice from ‘Imagine’ by Jonah Lehrer (An Actionable Books summary)

“[B]ecause we finally understand what creativity is, we can begin to construct a taxonomy of it, outlining the conditions under which each particular mental strategy is ideal.”

Imagine, page XVIII

How does creativity work? The very question is audacious.

We see two types of problem-solving: inch by inch, gaining ground on a solution, or the flash of insight, unforeseen. All arts, all acts of human creation are prone to this division.

Understanding that creativity is not centered in one portion of our brain, in a single specialized process, but a variety of sometimes unrelated processes, is vital to unlocking its keys.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘Imagine’ by Jonah Lehrer (An Actionable Books summary)”

Practical Advice from ‘The Luck Factor’ by Dr. Richard Wiseman (An Actionable Books summary)

“Luck is not a magical ability or a gift from the gods. Instead,
it is a state of mind―a way of thinking and behaving.”

The Luck Factor, page 165

We all know someone whose card is always drawn in the raffle, who gets tickets to the hot show, whose car never breaks down and whose marriage is bliss.

And we know their opposites, too.

Whether superstitious or not, most folks believe that luck is a mysterious force of the universe. Either mostly good things happen to you as you go through life, or mostly bad things happen. That’s true, as far as it goes.

But most of us believe there’s nothing we can do about it. And Dr. Richard Wiseman is here to tell you that’s wrong.

Luck, it turns out, can be changed. It can be controlled. Luck is a skill you can learn and a tool you can apply in business, in life.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘The Luck Factor’ by Dr. Richard Wiseman (An Actionable Books summary)”

Practical Advice from ‘How We Decide’ by Jonah Lehrer (An Actionable Books summary)

“The first step to making better decisions is to . . . honestly assess our flaws and talents, our strengths and shortcomings.”

How We Decide, page 259

We’d all love to think that logic and reason are the foundation of our choices. Gotta keep those emotions in check when we’re making life’s big choices. After all, when we’re buying a house or car, choosing a life partner, deciding what to eat or whether or not to have children, we want to make the best choice possible. Pure logic, we assume, leads to the best choices.

We’re wrong.

How We Decide uses the latest scientific research to explain brand new understanding about how our brain works. This information is vital to better decision making.

Here’s what you’ll learn: … more … “Practical Advice from ‘How We Decide’ by Jonah Lehrer (An Actionable Books summary)”

Shipwreck and Salvation

Consider this scenario:

Barton and 51 acquaintances share ownership and use of a gorgeous sailboat. One week a year, they each get to take this beautiful home with sails wherever they want to go. Sometimes a few of them join together and spend two weeks, three weeks, even a month out at sea.

One dark night when Barton is sailing, the boat starts to sink. He doesn’t know why. He does everything in his power to prevent it, but it’s beyond what he can do to keep it afloat. Reluctantly, he abandons ship and watches it go down. He survives unscathed, other than the deep-seated emotional trauma of his loss.

But that’s not the end of it.

shipwreck and salvation
… more … “Shipwreck and Salvation”

Make the Right Thing the Easy Thing

Last week we talked about why it’s so hard to save money, to lose weight, to do any of the things which require postponing present enjoyment to create benefits later. It’s easy to get lost in theory, in analysis of our biochemistry, in what is. What’s not so easy is doing something about it.

… more … “Make the Right Thing the Easy Thing”

Why Doing the Right Thing is Hard

My column on why I’m losing weight struck an unpleasant chord with some folks when I first published it. It’s common to hear stories of people trying unsuccessfully, sometimes for years, to lose weight.

Another angle on the same issue: When your income gets an unexpected and temporary boost, through a bonus at work or a project you hadn’t expected, do you bank the money, or reward yourself with a new toy or dinner out?

We experience it every single day of our lives: even though we know what’s good for us, day after day we do what’s fun, what’s easy, instead of what’s healthy and rational and good for our future self.

Do you ever stop to wonder why?

red thoughts
… more … “Why Doing the Right Thing is Hard”

Time is . . . Memory?

Fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs was a prolific writer, publishing nearly 70 novels in his 75 years. Burroughs was the creator of Tarzan, a much better series of books than the video representations and popular culture would lead you to believe. He also wrote the story of John Carter of Mars which is finally coming out of the obscurity it never deserved. He wrote seven different science fiction adventure series besides numerous western and historical fictions. His work revels in experimentation, with the question, “What if things were very different from what we believe them to be?”

time is . . . memory? … more … “Time is . . . Memory?”