The paradox of thought 

pessimism quotes, pessimism vs optimism, mental health awarenessThoughts are just thoughts. They are neither good nor bad. But it’s difficult to resist judging them. It seems that the harder you try to get rid of a bad thought, the worse it gets.

The key to battling negativity is accepting it. This paradox allows you to step aside from the worry and view it at face value. You can also use ‘Socratic questioning‘ to enhance your reframing; instead of berating yourself, act like you’re the one offering advice to an anxious friend.

Another tactic for conquering gloomy thinking is asking what purpose it serves. All the stress induced by politics — results you have no control over — accomplish nothing.

If you’re still stuck and need to get outside your head, meditate or do some breathing exercises. Tara Brach also has some excellent guided meditations.

When I want to escape the monkey mind, I turn on the app Focus@Will. It not only calms me down but helps me get into a productive flow.

In summary, there are four tactics for warding off pessimism:

  1. Accept the thought no matter how ridiculous or scary it is
  2. Gain perspective by using the Socratic questioning method
  3. Ask if the thinking helps you accomplish anything useful
  4. Breathe in and out, or whatever practice relaxes the mind

PS. Keep this in mind. Said cognitive psychologist Amos Tversky: “when you are a pessimist and the bad thing happens, you live it twice. Once when you worry about it, and the second time when it happens.”

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A tyranny of taste

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Movie critics, wine connoisseurs, jazz heads — these expert analysts set the standard for what’s good, bad, and kitsch.

But what’s popular is social. Trends are the result of the wisdom of crowds. The problem with the masses though is they’re usually wrong. Marketing serves them repetition.

Taste is a property of the mind. It’s individual. You can’t impose it. We relinquish our individuality when we outsource our taste to tastemakers and crowds.

Twitter’s soul decay

Rumor has it that no one–neither Microsoft, Disney, Salesforce, nor Google–wants to acquire Twitter. The common fear though is that the ‘media company’ as we know it today is going to change regardless of its new owner.

While it’s not clear how Twitter would disappear, or how your profile would renew, some of Twitter’s longest and most passionate users like Navneet Alang, find it hard to imagine a life without looking through the lens of the blue bird. Below are some of the highlights from his think-piece on the cultural and neurocognitive impact of Twitter.

On tweeting daily into the empty box:

Twitter has colonized my mind. Almost every day for just under a decade, I have checked the site, have tweeted, retweeted, been subtweeted. My mental map is the frontier surrendered, and Twitter is the empire. To become occupied by a social network is to internalize its gaze.

On tweeting out loud and developing an audience:

But a decade on, I still find myself thinking in the terms of Twitter: how each absurd, mundane happening in my life might be framed so as to be alluring to my audience, a potential employer, a date, or new friend. I still always carry my followers with me. In fact, I can’t get rid of them. They are like a ghostly companion, ever at my side. It isn’t just my tweets that have changed, but the way in which I relate to reality.

On the external impact of Twitter and other social networks:

We are always being reconfigured from the outside in. Just as the book shaped thought in a particular way, so too do the many facets of digital, each in their own way.

We might be nearing the death of Twitter but not the extinction of our inherent publicness–people still want to be influencers, celebrities, curators, and content DJs including myself. Twitter fulfills the natural urge to share and be reshared. It’s too culturally important to lose, despite all the nastiness, bullying, and offensive material, especially during this election.

Why doesn’t Facebook acquire Twitter and replace its tardy trends with live, real-time Twitter-fueled relevancy? It appears that everything good ends up in the walls of Facebook. Twitter’s plateau could spell the end of its elasticity as an open social network, proving that what matters isn’t always popular.

Listening to see

If you sharpen your listening, you can sharpen your vision. Try this: pick a sound to focus–the train passing, a nearby conversation, birds chirping–and you’ll feel start feeling more observant too.

You may notice how the light bounces off the train’s windows, the talkative woman’s curly red hair or untied shoe, or the health of tree limb hosting a bird’s nest.

The art of noticing starts with your ears and expands to other sensory areas. When you hone in on the sonic waves, everything else becomes transparent–it’s like watching an IMAX movie.

Listening is seeing on purpose. If you listen to your breath during mindfulness meditation, your mind calms down and creates a quiet zone for focus. Silence is a great canvass for your thoughts.

If you use your ears, your brain seems to work as well. Using one of the senses triggers the whole system like walking does in helping jog the mind. Make sense of the world, several senses at a time.

The 100% Rule, Ai Weiwei on Beijing surveillance, the California Typewriter, new tunes from Joy Orbison, and more

Pick of the week:  In 2009, former Yale professor and best-selling author William Deresiewicz addressed West Point cadets on the meaning of solitude and leadership.Read on…For tracks of the week, scroll down 🔻 


Arts & Culture

Ai Weiwei on Beijing Surveillance

One of the key traits of any artist is to protect against and take advantage of the contradictions. It goes back to what F. Scott Fitzgerald said about intelligence: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” In this video, Chinese dissident/artist Ai Weiwei explains why he calls Beijing his home.

“I wouldn’t think Beijing’s a prison for me. But Beijing is definitely a prison for freedom of speech.”

Trekking the Shikoku henro, Japan’s oldest pilgrimage route

Financial Times writer Barney Jopson went on the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan, a route founded and dedicated to commemorate the original 750-mile trek of Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. Also known as Kūkai, Daishi returned from studying in China in the late 7th century AD to help import Buddhism in Japan. Jopson biked the route but given the age of many of the participants, most prefer to travel by bus while others walk.

“There are no definitive counts but each year between 80,000 and 140,000 pilgrims — known as o-henro — are estimated to travel at least part of the route. According to one survey, around 60 per cent of them are over the age of 60. The vast majority speed around on air-conditioned bus tours but a hardy band of 2,000-5,000 are estimated to do it on foot, usually completing the circuit in 40-50 days.”


Philosophy & Productivity

Solitude and Leadership

A lot of people think thinkers can’t be leaders. But that’s exactly what leadership is: thinking. The leader of a group takes what they read and hear internally and externally and originates his/her own thought. They speak for themselves. As former Yale professor and best-selling author William Deresiewicz said in his 2009 speech to West Point cadets:

“If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.”

The 100% Rule

Half-ass efforts produce half-ass results. The same goes for 99 percent effort. If you don’t commit 100 percent to whatever it is–quitting smoking, writing a book, taking photography seriously–it’s going to fall to the wayside.

“99 per cent is a b*tch. 100 per cent is a breeze.” Jack Canfield, The Success Principles


Social Media & Technology

Clack-clack: California Typewriter, the movie

“Keep ’em typing!” says Kenneth Alexander, a typewriter repairer with over forty years of experience. He works for California Typewriter in San Francisco, one of the last surviving typewriter repair shop in the United States.

“If you want to concentrate, if you want to write in your own mind, write with a typewriter. You see the words hit the paper. There’s no distractions.”

‘That time when I…’

One of the ways mobile behavior has changed is that instead of sharing stuff at the moment, we edit and share it later with a caption like “That time I…”. According to Washington Post journalist Britt Peterson, the phrase, and its various iterations (“that time when,” “that moment when,” etc.) create immediate intimacy with your followers which is why it works so well for celebrities, who may not want to reveal their present location for obvious privacy concerns.

“That time I” works in real time to make readers feel like they’re part of an in-group, creating collective nostalgia for events that just took place. In some way, it’s a neat linguistic trick.”


New Music

  1. Tycho – Epoch
  2. CO/R – Bells, Walking
  3. Scntst – OTD (Break Mix)
  4. Lenzman – Don’t Let Me Go
  5. Kirk Knight – Young Ones
  6. Motion Graphics – Brass Mechanics
  7. Ash Walker Music – Dark Hour
  8. COMBAT! – Jacaranda
  9. Sam Gellaitry – Life
  10. Mood Tatooed – Outsider

> Listen


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Why everyone should blog

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

“Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.” — Neil GaimanClick To Tweet

I have been blogging for years (btw, I recently wrote a blog post about how to start one on WordPress) It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

“It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words. Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

'Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.' — Seth GodinClick To Tweet

PS. If you’re looking to start a blog, I highly recommend doing so on WordPress. You can also choose a one-click WordPress installation using Bluehost.

Newsletter: “Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.”

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1. Why train travel in the US sucks

“Amtrak runs 300 train journeys per day while France’s state-owned SNCF operates 14,000 train journeys per day.”

2. Do audiobooks count as reading?

“If you take the question from the perspective of cognitive psychology — that is, the mental processes involved — there is no real difference between listening to a book and reading it. So, according to that understanding of the question: No, audiobooks are not cheating.”

3. How reggae and punk influenced each other and passed the torch to grime

“It’s obvious what punk got from reggae. They liked the anti-establishment vibe, they liked the musical reportage quality of the lyrics. What reggae got out of it was exposure.”

4. Rock climber Alex Honnold demonstrates how to dance with fear

“If you don’t have any fear to begin with, there’s a lot less to control.”

5. Lo and behold, it’s Werner Herzog talking about technology again

“Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.”

6. How to make up your mind and decide

“You don’t need more time, you just need to decide.”

7. Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

“Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and into work without groaning and grumbling — something that you just can’t fake. ”

8. Celebrating World Photo Day with a twist

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”

9. Uber takes ridesharing next level with self-driving cars

“In order to provide digital services in the physical world, we must build sophisticated logistics, artificial intelligence and robotics systems that serve and elevate humanity.”

10. A collection of chair design by famous architects

“Almost everyone I spoke to says that a chair is a way of demonstrating an architect’s credentials as a designer to a wider audience.” — Agata Toromanoff, art historian

New Music
1. Coco – Big Bou Yah
2. Iambenji – I AM
3. The frightnrs- Gotta Find a Way
4. Kevin Over – Ok Villa
5. Jazzatron – Josue Funk

Listen to Episode 99 | Tunes of the Week

DONATING=DIGGING Please support wellsbaum.com by making a donation

“When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree.” | WellsBaum.com Digest

1. This too can be yours: Why ‘AirSpace Style’ is making all places look the same

“Digital platforms like Foursquare are producing “a harmonization of tastes” across the world”

2. The obsession with Kate Bush, explained

“I don’t believe in god, but if I did, [Kate Bush’s] music would be my Bible.”

3. This professor describes the future educated person

“In the online world the only thing you’re the master of is your collection, your archive, and how you use it, how you remix it. We become digital archivists, collecting and cataloging things.”

4. Avoid making backup plans

“For some people, not making a backup plan might indeed be beneficial in helping them put their best effort forward”

5.  Music is a performance-enhancement drug

“When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree.”

6. Google Photos frees up phone space automatically

“It’ll delete your photos off your phone after syncing them to the cloud so you don’t have get that 16GB iPhone nightmare that says “storage is full.”

7. Do we have to be sad to be creative?

“Using econometrics, he calculates that a 9.3 percent increase in negative emotions leads to a 6.3 percent increase in works created in the following year. ”

8. How teens and hipsters stain the resurgence of Vinyl

“I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor, I don’t actually play them”

9.  How libraries stay current in the digital age

“a modern public library can be a place of exploration, play, performance and creativity, as well as of contemplation, reading and research.”

10. Lance Wyman reveals his creative process in unreleased “designlogs

“The reason I started keeping log books,’ says Wyman, ‘was that I wanted a record of what I was doing. It’s my way of keeping in touch with the complexity of the design projects that I’m working on.”

New Music


1. Combat – Jacaranda
2. Elementz of Noise – Clock
3. Minor Science – Naturally Spineless
4. The South East Grind – Secret
5. BadBadNotGood – In Your Eyes

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WellsBaum.com Digest: Cargo shorts are uncool, woodpeckers help brain trauma studies, Jack White spins vinyl in space, and more

1. Cargo shorts, practical but uncool?

“Men want to be like James Bond. Bond never wears cargo shorts.”

2. Studying woodpeckers is helping prevent brain trauma

“When you’re hit on the football field, parts of your brain may fizz like a just-opened can of soda.”

3. Finding your long lost twin

“It is entirely possible for two people with similar facial features to have DNA that is no more similar than that of two random people.”

4. Artist Ai Weiwei flips off statues around the world

“Fighting is a symptom of life.”

5. A New Yorker cartoonists explain how they come up with ideas

“A rejected cartoon isn’t a dead cartoon.”Click To Tweet

6. Do you love the work or the idea of it?

“People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.”

7. Teju Cole on American exceptionalism, Black Lives Matter, creativity, and more

“If I say ‘black lives matter’, it means what it means. You don’t go to someone’s funeral and start shouting, ‘I too have experienced loss!’ That shit is obnoxious.”

8. Instagram clones Snapchat Stories, for the better

“Stories will encourage people to share more freely without the anxiety of likes…The Internet wants real, not fake.”

9. Derek Sivers on disconnecting

“Silence is a great canvas for your thoughts.”Click To Tweet

10. The ephemerality of new music

“everything is graded the instant it comes out. Consumed, and then promptly forgotten.”

11. Jack White launches the first record to play in space

“For the entire hour and twenty minutes of ascension, the Icarus turntable faithfully played Carl Sagan’s “A Glorious Dawn” on repeat”

New Music
1. Buz Ludzha – Basslines For Life
2. TIP – We Will Not (Prod. Mars & Mike and Keys)
3. Sev Seveer – CSG X CSG (megiapa X Sev)
4. Indian Wells  – Racquets
5. Fakear – Silver ft. Rae Morris (Bakradze Remix)

Listen to Episode 97 | Tunes of the Week

Walking is hard

Walking didn’t use to be this hard because we didn’t think much about it. But now we’re all walking zombies, staring down into our mobile screens. We use our ears and narrow field of view to warn us of impending danger.

Thankfully, designers are creating smart powered pedestrian pavement to save our lives from distraction and tunnel vision.

Walking used to be a sensory experience, a way of thinking with our steps. Now, we just walk for the steps, leaning on Fitbit to validate our activity levels. We replay snaps and photos when we get home to remind us the things we “noticed” on our journey.

“Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” – Henry David Thoreau

We used to walk with books and dream into the blue skies. But now those things are primarily viewed through our digital screens. We’ve sacrificed daydreams for an enhanced reality.