Chains Invisible: How The New Slavery Stole Man’s Soul

Photo by 16210667@N02 [cropped]

Now that this year’s Independence Day fireworks are long gone, it’s time to hit you over the head with a hard truth:

It’s all a sham.

We are not “independent.” Not anymore.

When we were still a colony, our British oppressors posed a familiar, old-world form of threat.

Their oppression was singular, visible, and involuntary.

Now, 240 years later, we face an entirely new breed of tyranny.

Through a combination of our own growing sophistication, market forces, and scientific and technological advancement, this new form of oppression is infinitely more complex.

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It’s All Still Possible

You survey your life:

Where you had meant there to be health and vitality, there was the cancer diagnosis, or the chronic disease, or the debilitating car accident.

Where you had meant there to be a steady amassing of wealth, there was the job loss, or the bankruptcy, or the business meltdown.

Where you had meant for your life to unfold as a steady, unwavering rise, your sword felling an ever-widening swath of enemies, you yourself took arrows, and spear thrusts, your chain mail slippery with your own blood.

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Creative Work Is Fruitless Until You Do This One Thing

I put myself through college planting trees in the mountains of British Columbia.

And though the work was physically demanding, in one crucial way it was strangely easy:


Jam your shovel in, crack a hole, slide in a tree, kick the hole shut, done. Rinse and repeat ’till suppertime.

For most of history, this was the nature of our work: simple projects that were physically demanding but psychologically straightforward.

Dig the hole. Mend the fence. Fell the tree.

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What Jon Snow Knows About Male Guilt

Credit: HBO

“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

That may have been Ygritte’s favorite taunt, but as revealed a few episodes back on this season’s Game of Thrones, Jon Snow knows a great deal about male guilt, and how to reject the manipulations of those who would use it against us.

When Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen first meet, they circle each other warily, each wanting the other’s help, but unwilling to surrender their competing claims to sovereignty.

Daenerys tries to entrap Jon by reminding him that his Stark kinsmen had pledged to serve her family in perpetuity… and that on that basis, he was duty-bound to bend the knee.

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Why Men Must Push Beyond Freedom To Power

You long to be free:

Free of the never-ending debt.

Free of the soul-sucking job.

Free of the fat hanging over your belt.

Free of the raw, blaring NEEDS OF OTHERS clawing you from all directions.

But, common though it may be, this longing for freedom isn’t enough to move your needle… not NEARLY enough to usher in the higher life you crave.

For deep down, you know: freedom is not the endgame. It’s merely the pre-condition to what comes next.

It is the life AFTER freedom that matters… when freedom clears the path for whatever level of POWER you’re willing to shoulder.

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How Jack Failed

Photo by yellowskyphotography [cropped, altered]

Mack and Jack were remarkably alike: they went to the same college, had more or less the same IQ, the same level of drive.

Most remarkable of all, they married twin-sisters, making them brother-in-laws.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

For whereas Mack went on to create a life of abundance and freedom for himself and his family, with extended family vacations in India, Fiji, Australia… all while having spare time to play jazz violin and write poetry…

…Jack is still scrambling. His marriage seems always on the brink of collapse… his life always but one financial misstep from the abyss. His children, now in their early twenties and off to college, are polite yet distant… shivering with relief to finally be out of that house.

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Swim Every River

It happened just before midnight.

There was no moon, and the night sky was so clear you could see thick clots of stars in the Milky Way, as though earth’s atmosphere had been peeled back, exposing raw, unveiled space.

I stood on the high dive at some nameless lake near Blue River, British Columbia, the still water of the lake below so perfectly reflecting the stars above that it felt as though the leap I was about to make would be not into water, but outer space.

I took a moment to breathe in the cold air, to savor this exquisite moment, to marvel with gratitude that life was capable of creating these moments of utter magic… and leapt.

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The #1 Lie About Hustle And Grind (Or, Why Po Is The Dragon Warrior)

Yesterday I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 for the second time with my boys.

(If you haven’t seen it, it’s the ongoing story of Po, a fat, lovable panda who must fight the greatest villains in China, despite his glaring lack of training and talent)

As the credits rolled, my oldest son pointed out that Tigress was a better Kung Fu fighter than Po.

And he’s right: Tigress, Crane, Viper, Mantis, Monkey… they’re ALL better at Kung Fu than Po is. In fact, throughout the movie, they’re constantly saving Po’s ass… using their superior skills to fix his mistakes, clear a path, and save him from his own endearing idiocy.

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The Power Of Hell No

I was clipping my toenails on the porch when my 7-year-old son announced he couldn’t find his shoes.

“They’re there somewhere,” I said over my shoulder. “Keep looking.”

A few seconds later: “Dad, I can’t find them.”

“Keep looking!”

More scuffling. Then: “Dad, I checked my room and the shoe closet and the hallway! I don’t see them anywhere!”

“Son, if they aren’t where you think they’ll be, you have to look where you DON’T think they’ll be.”

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How To Give Your Soul An Italian Tune-Up

Woke up feeling like shit yesterday.

After drinking my morning coffee, I proceeded to stare at the wall for the next hour and a half in a slack-jawed, sponge-eyed fog.

Whatever the cause, whether business setbacks or something I ate or having stumbled upon Laird Hamilton’s Instagram account and suddenly wondering why the hell we moved to Texas instead of Hawaii… I was in a bad place.

Everything was wrong, everything was broken, everything was unfixable.

Finally, as the doves sang the sun up, I had the wherewithal to grasp at self-correction:

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