A new world: the Metaverse

Imagine living in a world where technology is so pervasive and intertwined in everyday interactions and experiences, and it is so immersive that it feels as real as the room you’re in right now. It’s not on a screen, but surrounds you.

That phenomenon has a name: it’s called the Metaverse. And I recently heard about it on a podcast. It was astonishing.

Listening to the interviewee, Matt Ball, talk felt like tuning into an evolved futuristic human sending a message back in time to tell us present-day people what his world is like. His words drew me into the future and I was awash with images of sci-fi world-like predictions and it felt like walking on the Starship Enterprise or something like that.

The Metaverse is not just virtual reality. It’s more than that. It’s various worlds and digital realities that will exist simultaneously, where people will be able to navigate and experience fluidly. It’s virtual reality (which replaces your vision with a whole different world) and augmented reality (which adds to your vision in this world, like using something like Google Glasses (remember those?) and seeing signs that aren’t in real life but can be seen with those glasses) mixed with other tech that likely doesn’t exist yet.

But most of all the Metaverse is a simulation.

It’s not real but it feels like it is, but in a way it is…real.

The technology appears to be decades away. But there are people trying to pull it forward, closer to the present—pulling tomorrow toward today.

Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, is at the forefront. His company owns and has nurtured the best simulation engine in the world called Unreal Engine. Many of the biggest games and movies run on it. Epic also owns one of the biggest games ever, Fortnite, which also runs on Unreal. And he offers it and many other services for content creators at a nominal fee, almost at cost, so that he can empower creators and the audience to improve the simulation experience and continue to innovate. Sure, that doesn’t create immediate value for his shareholders, but he’s trying to create the next big thing. And the innovation he’s nurturing, he believes, will drag the future closer to the present, actualizing the Metaverse sooner.

By the way, if you want to invest in Epic you can do it through buying Tencent stock. This company also developed Wechat, the largest messaging app in China, but also has a ton of other features like paying for your utilities, showing business profiles, and e-commerce, etc. It’s like WhatsApp on steroids. And Tencent has a 40% share on Epic, a privately held company, which means its stock can’t be bought on something like the New York Stock Exchange. But, if you bought Tencent, you would own a chunk of Epic. Tencent, you should know, is a Chinese company. So there is that added risk. And I’ll disclose that I bought and am holding their stock even before listening to that podcast.

You should also know that I’m not a financial advisor and this blog post isn’t investing advice. Consult a professional before you start plunking money down, or, at least, do some serious research. And, besides, the market could tank at any moment, since, you know, our economy is in the crapper and we’re in a pandemic.

Don’t be fooled by my words. I don’t know if I understand all of this entirely. But it fascinates me. And I wanted to share it with you because I had never heard about this before and it felt like it would be a welcomed distraction for you. And maybe, like me, you’ll find it otherworldly interesting.

Here are a couple articles about the Metaverse that you might find illuminating.

  1. From the Post.
  2. From Matt Ball.

See you in the Metaverse, friends.

Lots of love,
John

(Photo Credit: Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)


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Overcoming one of our greatest obstacles: ourselves

Our lives are determined not just by what we think but how we think.

Before I started writing I used to believe I couldn’t write. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that my high school papers, after being graded, had so much red ink on them that they looked like someone dragged a freshly killed animal over them. It was traumatic for me. And add the fact that I grew up in an immigrant family where English was a third language and Dr. Seuss wasn’t read to me, I thought I was doomed to be a poor wordsmith.

That frame of mind followed me all the way through college, into my career, and got worse when I started a creative agency, and reached all the way into my midlife.

But I was wrong.

See, in the cradle of our minds we nurture something that forms us all. It’s weened in the shadows of our psyche, hidden, growing into an idea or narrative that chokes our dreams and kills opportunities because we are often too afraid to challenge it.

This “how” we think is a framework of thinking that we all possess. They are the ideas that we have about ourselves and others and the world, that guide us.

They exist in the forms of memories, stories, experiences, phrases spoken to us in anger by loved ones, past failures, etc. And they hold incredible power of us.

Once I heard about puppies that someone was training and they used a gate to keep them in the kitchen. And one time, when the puppies were playing with the gate, testing the limits, it fell on them. And never again did they try to test that barrier. They were terrified of it even when they out grew it and towered over it; they dared not cross it.

We are those puppies. And we all have gates in our lives.

Even if we’ve outgrown them, they still feel like they tower over us and can hurt us, even if we can clearly see that all we need to do is jump a little and we would easily clear it. But, instead, the gate traps us.

But it’s not the gate that traps us but how we think of it.

You see, the puppies weren’t trapped by the physical gate. It was their idea of the gate that was trapping them.

The same was true of me: it wasn’t my bloodied high school papers and growing up immigrant that kept me from writing—no. It was my idea of myself that did that. And it held me back from doing what I enjoyed, loved, all because I was afraid of something I had outgrown.

What are your gates?

It can be anything. I’ve had friends who believed they couldn’t get married, or that they couldn’t be happy, or that they couldn’t get fit, or that God wouldn’t forgive them, or that the world is ending. Maybe you’re wondering if you can make it through this pandemic. There are endless options of the gates that imprison us.

To find out what they are, an exercise you can do it just to write down all of the things that you believe you can’t do but enjoy doing. Take time to slow down and really parse through your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and actually put them down either in your device or even on paper with a pen. Doing that will help you practice awareness. Wake yourself up to the way you see yourself. You don’t need to write Pulitzer Prize winning work. You just need to document your observations so that you can read it and reflect on the ideas and stories that are barricading you.

Also, you can’t do it alone. Often, we need help. For me, it was my wife and God. I felt like there was divine assistance that sparked my mind to see the possibilities, then my wife fanned the flame. There was a God given desire to write. And my wife had heard my musings and love for words and encouraged me.

“I can’t…” is too often said about this or that dream or possibility. But more often than not, it’s just a gate that fell on you when you were young.

It’s time to jump the gate.

Lots of love,

John


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Cookies, covid, and a confession

Three words likely have never been seen together, but there they are, in the title, all alliterated, and weird. Let me explain. A couple of weeks ago we shipped the most amount of cookies since the start of our Clean Cookie Company, but covid slowed our shipments; and we’ve got to own the fact that our packaging sucks.

When we got a surge of orders, we thought that we might need to refund close to a grand worth of cookies because we had never shipped that many cookies and performed a last minute packaging change. Yes, refunding all of those orders would have tasted bitter but we were ready to do it or ship out another round of them.

But we didn’t have to. The cookies got to almost everyone. However, it wasn’t all perfection.

One person said that USPS notified her that her package arrived but there was nothing on the doorstep. We’re still trying to figure out what happened to those phantom cookies.

But most friends, from what we’ve heard, received theirs and enjoyed the taste. Some of the cookies were uglier than others because of the ninety degree summer heat. But they got there, and they tasted fresh, which was a relief.

Covid caused massive delays. USPS had staffing issues. And what should have taken two to three days took five to seven. Not ideal. But considering the circumstances (that we’re in a, you know, pandemic), we were grateful they arrived at all.

We were also grateful that refunds weren’t necessary. But now have a different problem.

You see, our packaging isn’t great. Actually it’s terrible. Sure, it keeps the cookies fresh, which is great, but the material isn’t.

We vacuum seal the cookies in baggy plastic bags, which feels like a parachute of plastic, when we ship them.

And while I’m sealing them, my six year old is lecturing me about how much plastic we are using and how we’re killing the environment and how it’s wrong. Every word feels like a stab, because he’s right. And we’ve received similar feedback from customers, friends.

The truth is is that we’ve eliminated a lot plastic in our home. We use silicone and glass and steel instead for storage. And there’s a part of me that wants to justify that that’s good enough. But it’s not. And just because those bags keep our cookies fresh and good for our customers doesn’t make it fresh and good for the environment. We recognize that.

So we may not be refunding our generous and good customers, but we are looking to return our plastic bags. At least we are researching the best alternatives so that we can be good to the earth and still send cookies that taste like heaven.

We don’t have a good answer yet.

But, we are committed to finding one.

This Is One of the Smartest Things You Can Do

To get smarter you have to feel stupid, sometimes. You ask the obvious question, repeat something back, relearn something you think you should have already learned.

Sure, it can be embarrassing. But, to learn you have to be open to learning. And that means you’re not the master but the pupil, not the teacher but the student, not the expert but the amateur. But it’s worth it.

Your mind will bud, bloom, and flourish. And learning isn’t a flower that dies, it can blossom for a lifetime and can even leave an imprint on your friends, family, neighbors, strangers, and, even, future generations.

You see, the secret to getting smarter is forgetting about looking smarter, but loving knowledge so much that you don’t care about looking stupid to gain it.

That’s the smartest thing you can do.


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Learning From Failure Is the Key to Succeeding

Success is less about how you think of succeeding, and more about how you view failure.

Maybe you made a terrible investment, messed up your work, sent out an email that was meant to be private but somehow cc’d your whole division including your boss, have a terrible relationship with so and so, etc., and all you want to do is ignore it. (I get it.) But don’t. Resist pushing your failure away.

Instead, gaze into it. Look through the rubble. Find ways you could have, should have, done better.

And, by doing that, you can’t help but improve.

See, to grow, change, learn, we mustn’t shy away from our failures, we must study them. They are one of our best teachers. When you sit at its feet you will gain new direction, better solutions, fresh ideas.

Failure isn’t the end. It’s the beginning.

By studying your failures you will learn to succeed.


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Grow today

Just because a pandemic is driving us all crazy doesn’t mean you can’t grow today.

Try something new: Learn a new language, an unfamiliar musical instrument, paint a painting, write poetry, code, cook a strange dish, blog. Anything. 

Yes, it will make you feel like you have a dunce hat on, unsure of yourself, a beginner.

Beginning is awful. You’re almost always terrible.

And sucking sucks.

But starting is valuable. You might feel like an idiot, but it’s one of the smartest things you can do. 

You’ll make connections you never made before, discover new ideas, see life afresh.

Focusing on that novelty will occupy your mind helping you de-stress (one thing we all need these days). 

If you keep at it, eventually you get joy out of what you’re learning. It adds to your life, your skills, your work, the world.

It will make you better than you were before.

That’s worth it.

You’re worth it.


Want coaching?

I’m only taking on a limited number of people, like 3. But if you’re interested, contact me and let’s set up a time for a video call.

Whether it’s in business, career, relationships, life, I’m here for you.

The first thirty minute session is free.

If you want to proceed after that, I will provide pricing.

I hope to connect with you and reach new heights together.


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The frontlines of COVID-19—A love letter

To the nurses, EMTs, physicians, staff who are on the front line of this war, thank you for risking and sacrificing health, safety, comfort to ensure our health, safety, and comfort. You even sacrifice time with your family so we can be with ours. You are exposed so that we can be protected.

You are heroes.

An EMT we know goes to and fro, sirens ringing, carting people back and forth to hospitals on the bloody edge of this pandemic. And when he’s not saving lives, he allows himself to see his kids and wife from afar at an outdoor playground once a week or two to limit the possibility for him to expose them to the virus. And to remind them of his love he records himself singing to them and sends the videos to his daughters.

Sacrificial acts are everywhere.

They harmonizes with the melody of these times, coupled with the dissonance of pain and agony as an aria of heroism crescendos before us in humans performing extraordinary acts everyday, like this EMT.

In New York City, the eye of the storm, we know a world class surgeon who, repaired our baby’s cleft lip and palate, with his seven-figure hands, insured and well manicured, trained in plastic surgery to perform delicate carvings, is now caring for patients struggling for breath, drowning above water.

Now this surgeon answered the call to be on the frontlines because staffing is low from his colleagues getting COVID-19, so he stepped in to fill the gap, exposing himself to the threat.

He has children, a family. He has a great career. Nonetheless, he dives into the trenches. Even though he doesn’t show it, I’d imagine that he has fears. But he charges into danger anyway.

Many are jumping into it, risking much, risking all, to help their patients, them, us, me, you.

This isn’t about title, position, money. It’s about doing what must be done to save lives, stem the tide, help people.

Another friend is a nurse in Queens, and a new mother. We just saw her post a picture on social media. She looked like a warrior, masked, armed, ready to battle this invisible enemy who masquerades in human form, using our bodies as vehicles for its mayhem. And she’s at a Queens hospital attacking it with all of her wits, energy, body, spirit, soul.

To my friends, to strangers, to all who are fighting where the fight is bloodiest, fiercest, most dangerous, we salute you.

We honor you. We love you.

For the courage, valor, duty, honor, love that beats greatly in you, we acknowledge you.

You are the best of us.

You don’t just live to stay alive. You’re spending your lives to save ours.

If there is a silver lining in all of this darkness, it is this. It provides the world a backdrop for people like you to shine and radiate.

So we see you, and by your light we see.


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The best thing about losing

Losing doesn’t just mean you’ve lost. For, when you lose, you gain.

Whenever a friend leaves, you move away, get fired, close a business, it’s awful.

We hate it. We should, because losing sucks. No one wants to have something taken from them.

But what I’ve noticed is no matter what (or who) was taken from me, I’ve always gained in place of the thing I lost.

When one girlfriend and I broke up, then another, then another, then another, time after time after time, I gained insight into who I was and who I wasn’t. I realized I was too picky, too arrogant, too something. And I saw what was really important to me and what was superfluous.

And when I moved across the country, literally, from NYC to San Diego, for a relationship that eventually broke, it made me feel like the greatest loser.

But that was right before I would meet the woman who would ultimately become my life partner, my love, my wife.

When you lose, you gain.

During one of the hardest times in my career when I got fired from the only job I was qualified for, pastoring a church, I lost big. I mean I went to graduate school for four years just to have the credentials to start this career path, this calling. So when I was terminated, I went into a depression and didn’t know if I would ever come out.

But through that, I also gained an understanding of myself and saw that God was with me and loved me even when I felt worthless. He made me worthy. And when it seemed like I was useless, He gave me a new job that eventually led me to start my own business; and I realized this was one the best things that could have ever happened to me.

When you lose, you gain.

After my father died when I was in elementary school, I raged. Life was black. Darkness swallowed me. I was lost. But now, as a middle-aged man reflecting back on those events and my learnings, what I see is this.

I don’t know who I would have become if my dad was still alive. Would I be as much of a fighter? Would I see life the way I see it—incredibly precious? Would I have been humbled so that I found faith? I doubt it.

I do know that I would have been different. And I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the person I’ve grown to become because of the pain I’ve experienced.

Of course I’m not saying that I’m glad that my dad died. Death sucks. It always will.

But my meaning is that all pain, even losing the bedrock of your family, can strengthen you, grow you, and give you something you would have never gained without that horrible event.

When you lose, you gain.

The danger of losing is that you can get lost. It’s easy to lose ourselves to bitterness, anger, sorrow. And a dark season can become a life without light, where it’s always night, without a dawn.

But it needn’t be that way.

You can learn, grow, rise—gain.

There is work, though. Gaining doesn’t just come automatically. You need to be open to it. You need to look for it. As a miner who seeks for gold must dig, you too must sift through your mind and the world to find nuggets of knowledge, wisdom, insight after you lose.

For, in the rubble of losing, there are lessons to be learned about yourself, humanity, God, life. If you look for them, you will uncover them.

It needs to be sifted away from the debris of living and pain and bitterness. And there you will see it shining before you eyes, glorious and pure—golden and true.

The way you do that is by reflecting.

Reflection is the act of looking back on particular events, thoughts, feelings, and ideas that have occurred and searching for right understanding and learnings from them.

Sometimes this takes months even years to find the goodness. The death of my father and losing my career path took a long time to play out, and I couldn’t grasp any clear gains. But, eventually, I did.

Journaling, talking to friends, counseling, mediation, and sitting there and letting your mind wander helps.

That space and time help your mind open up to make new discoveries. And what you will discover is a new day, shining brilliantly before you, and more than that.

There will be a new you.

One of the smartest things you can do

Getting smarter isn’t about knowing everything, it’s about admitting what you don’t know.

“I don’t know,” is such a simple phrase, but many of us have difficulty saying it to ourselves let alone to others. It makes us feel weak, vulnerable, stupid.

But you’re not. It’s the furthest thing from the truth. Saying “I don’t know” is one of the smartest things you can say, because it’s the beginning of learning. It’s the trailhead to gaining more understanding.

To learn is the only way to get smarter. And to do that, you must admit that you don’t know everything, you must open yourself up to the fact that you’re not as knowledgeable as you want to be.

So the next time you are tempted to act like you know something when you don’t, remember this.

Not knowing isn’t bad; it’s an opportunity.

When unlearning is the greatest lesson

Unlearning is sometimes the best learning you can do. For often you limit the understanding of how high you can climb or how far you can go or how great you can become; but those thoughts are often untrue, wrong. Examine them. Dismantle those limiting notions, the dark stories from your childhood, those demeaning words someone spoke to you, that embarrassing thing that happened to you at school, those experiences that shaped you and taught you who you think you are. That—that’s what needs to be unlearned. You are more capable than you know. See yourself anew; and teach yourself to learn beyond what you’ve once thought you knew. Unlearn to learn your greatness.