Run For Office

In 2015, John ran for the position 8 of the Seattle city council.

Early preparations (RL152)

When John was busy preparing for his campaign in April of 2015, he was still mostly formulating and thinking about stuff. The running around and attending of pie-eating contests hadn’t kicked into high gear yet. Instead he was trying to tackle the big issues and put forward a real program, which was a really satisfying, challenging work. On the other hand it was also kind of fraught because it felt like he had a big paper due that strangly didn’t have a clear deadline. In some ways it had been due 3 weeks before, but in some other ways he could just hand it in whenever he wanted. Furthermore he was not sure how he would be graded. John was busy with crunching a lot of data because running for office was not just a piece of theater for him which it unforunately is for a lot of the other candidates, even the professionals. At that stage 6-9 months out, maybe only 500 people in all of Seattle knew about the oncoming city council election. Once the initial announcement went around, people immediately and desperately want to forget about it for several months and the only ones who were really invested in it were those who have it as their profession or avocation.

Candidates who run for office because they are mad (RL152)

As John was in conversations with people who are used to talking to a lot of candidates, they asked him for his one issue that got him mad and that made him run for office. John finds this a flawed premise, but when he tells them that, they get this look on their face, John can see their gears turning and they will ask him if he is the intellectual among the candidates. No, John is just somebody who believes in democracy! If your city council is populated by people who got mad at the dogcatcher, you end up with a city council that is populated by mad people without a very broad sense of how things work. They were only able to yell about the one thing they were mad about and got several thousand people to agree with them, but all of a sudden those are the people we send to public office. Later on someone sidles up to them and tells them how dogcatchers actually get elected and that it is not anything like they were saying. Then that person has the choice to either recant and learn about things or smile cynically and continue to yell about dogcatchers because it still resonates with people and that’s what got them elected. This happens more often than not and it is why you have politicians who admit off the record that they know how things actually work, but they will still go out on stage and talk in the terms they know animates an audience.

Real-world solutions are complicated (RL152)

At a certain point, everybody wants to hear solutions and nobody wants to hear that solutions are complicated. Every time you pass a new law that you hope solves a problem, it creates four new potential problems. Prohibition solved a problem, but created 50 new ones. There are lesser examples, but they are only lesser because they are less ridiculous. They still created problem upon problem. Proposed solutions to housing leave John in aw because it turns out the housing crisis is a multi-tendrilled animal. Then there is a separate part of the political class who does understand the complexity of things, but they are the rye incrementalists who take the professional politician’s approach by doubling down on small-scale incremental little process-based revisions to current policy. You get either demagogues or you get people who are fully vested in the process and don’t believe in imagination. Somewhere between those two places you have this strange world where no progress really happens although you have a lot of people in public office who are talking about supporting Israel because that is what Jesus wants. There are 1000 examples even on the liberal side.

Practical solutions to infrastructure problems (RL152)

John is unwilling to speak exclusively in bullet points, but he is also unwilling to get chastised over and over for having a too adventurous idea kit. He has started to seriously talk about gondolas to people. There have been some studies about them and they are a really great idea, but you could never get the voters to go along with a big dream project like that. Imagine the people sitting in the room when someone unveiled a drawing of the Space Needle that they intended to build. People would look at it and go ”What is it? What is it good for?” and it was just good for going up in, but it was really expensive. Yet, they built the Space Needle! If you think about the Interstate Highway System: The original name was the Interstate Roads and Defense Escape Route Highway System (actually: ”Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways”) and a big part of the justification was to move troops around faster in case America was invaded by the Russians. If there would be a little bit of a warning by the civil defense horns, people could even get into their 1957 Chevys and drive out of the cities to escape the nuclear attack that was coming. This is how we sold what was going to be a $400 billion nationwide project. It would also be great to get out into the country on Saturday afternoons. They said nothing about this becoming the backbone to build the economy with trucking or opening up practical travel by middle class people. To build these things we tore down tens of thousands of houses and destroyed entire neighborhoods. People say that there is no way we can muster the collective will to move away from a fossil-based economy, for instance, but it is happening anyway! The question is how to get ahead of it and do it correctly instead of doing it accidentally or by happenstance.

Gondolas sound like a ridiculous idea that the weird rock candidate came up with, except that Seattle is a city built on seven hills which is basically an alpine resort in summer. People are talking about bike lanes, but in that whole conversation there is never any acknowledgement of the fact that wherever you want to go, it involves going up a huge fucking hill! The only peole who can ride bikes in Seattle are super-athletes. Portland, Oregon on the other hand is largely a flat city. People who ride their bikes are dressed nicely, they have a little basket with some bread and maybe a dog in it and they are peddaling slowly on their nice flat wide street to get from one flat place to the next. If you want to get from Downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill, which is 1/4 mile as the crow flies, you basically have to be dressed like you are riding the Tour de France, but you are not going on your bike with your suit on, ride up to Capitol Hill for lunch and ride back down. You would be drenched in sweat, not to mention the high chance of rain. If there was a network of gondolas however, you could take your bike in the gondola, take the gondola up the top of the hill, ride your bike up there and ride your bike downhill, which everybody loves. At night when it is time to go home, you put your bike on a gondola back up to the top of the hill. It is not crazy, but it sounds too fun to be real. It sounds whimsical until you picture the city 50 years from now when there will be trams and a funicular will be running up the steep hill. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it would be infrastructure that would actually reflect the geography of the town.

When John talks to professionals about his idea about gondolas in Seattle, they struggle to find reasons why it can never happen. John must sound like a flat earth person or a historical revisionist in a sense that some people don’t even know how to start a discussion with him. Should we all wear Dracula fangs and wear face tattoos? Anything else? It is so outside of what people think of as a conventional approach to such a boring problem. 100 years ago in 1915, there were still horse-drawn carts all over the streets of New York City, Seattle and San Francisco. John is sure there were all kinds of people in power who went after the conventional wisdom that there will always be horses in the city because there have always been horses in the city. The motor car is coming, but how do you take the horse away from the small independent farmer? Chicago later revolutionized around the idea of not having to throw literally tons of horseshit into the river everyday. It changed the whole sanitation system! John would like to talk to the last person in Seattle who built a barn Downtown to feed and care for horses during the day. There must have been a last person who was investing into horsecare products and services. Only 10 years later in 1925 there were not a lot of horses on the streets anymore. The system had completely changed!

Our contemporary equivalent to that is people driving their own cars. People are bad at driving! Driving is one of these strange things that seems simple enough and everybody believes they are really good at it. Yet it is very difficult to do well and almost no one does it well! Everybody driving their own vehicle results in tens of thousands of deaths, incredible waste and inefficiencies and total gridlock, but it will be going away in our lifetimes. When driving your own cars around is going away, it is going to change the conversation about every aspect of the city. It does not mean that cars are going away, but human-piloted cars are going away. Without human pilots, cars can be constructed without all this weight of saftely devices, because they will never touch one another again. They can be small and light and quick and battery-powered and quiet and they can move smoothly around the city. All of a sudden you realize that gridlock isn’t because there are too many people, but you could quadruple the capacity of the roads and everybody could move 10 times faster at the same time. The roads aren’t the problem, but the problem are the pilots. That is coming really soon!

Politicians don’t know about the Internet (RL152)

It feels like noone else running for the Seattle city council has even heard of the Internet, let alone self-driving cars. It is not a focus! There is still a lot of suspicion about technology at the local level of government and it is still regarded as a surveillance tool that cities are using to collect data. Privacy is a huge issue at the city level. Should the cops wear bodycams? But when a cop comes into my house and talks to me in the middle of the night that, is that video going to be uploaded on the Internet tomorrow? There is a lot of confusion about that angle. Even today, very few people are looking at the Internet as something that is about to explode in terms of usefulness as we use it to connect everything to everything. When that happens, the usefulness of everything will go up, because we will be talking about integrated systems rather than siloed, inefficient, work-duplicating garbage-piles. John pictures Matt Haughey on his bike, looking at his Apple Watch, trying to get his coffee-maker to work. He has downloaded 4 coffee-maker apps to his iPhone and it is not syncing up with his electric raser. He is at the bleeding edge of a thing that is going to happen on a municipal scale! We are also right on the cusp of solar energy finally penciling out. When Merlin was in college, you could get a solar powered water heater, but it was prohibitively expensive. It is completely bananas what you can do now for less than $20.000. We have come across the threshold where solar energy is as cheap as other forms. Stop thinking about the Internet as Facebook, but start thinking about the Internet as electricity and everything starts to change. The future never turns out the way anybody expected because we can only see it through the lens looking backwards.

We always evolve our cities in this game of whac-a-mole: When somebody does a thing that turns out to be shitty and we want to stop the next guy from doing the same shitty thing, we pass a law about this guy who built the thing and by the time the law gets passed 8 years later no one is ever going to build that thing again anyways, but the next guy is going to build something else that is shitty in a different way and not covered by this law. It is not that hard to go 20 years into the future, imagine what we want the city to look like and then reverse-engineer it. We do have that ability! We don’t have to build everything out of LEGO, rummaging in the box looking for one more green tile, but we can look ahead and redesign the grid. Seattle has really cheap electricity thanks to the dams in the mountains that 20 years ago were thought of as salmon-killing dams. They have given us cheap power. Another technology that is coming online is the molten-salt battery technology which would enable us on a municipal scale to build giant batteries that can soak up and store all the solar power and then redistribute it at night when the sun has gone down and everybody wants to turn their jacuzzi taps on. Storage is the problem, because you are generating a lot of power in the middle of the day when the sun is up, but you might not even be home at that time. If you can’t store it, you have to burn it off as garbage power. With these giant batteries of superheated sodium, cities can build a small grid to soak up the sun all day long and redistribute it at night.

As a candidate for city council you are not allowed to be excited about this stuff because it is so pie in the sky! The crazy rock candidate is talking about molten-salt batteries! What about a space station that has waterfalls? The Faroe Islands have already started to develop municipal scale battery complexes. There will be an American city that will be the pilot for this and that should be Seattle, but we can’t talk about it until enough people believe that the future is a real thing that is happening and that we are really on the cusp of a huge step forward accross the board . We don’t have to build more stables Downtown, but we have to think about the interconnectivity of everything!

People running for local office often come out of traditions and that is why it shouldn’t be surprising that the Internet-awareness is so low. What are the criteria of becoming the president of the United States?

  • You have to be a citizen,
  • you have to be 35,
  • no treason,
  • you have to be born in America and
  • have to have lived in America for 14 years.

Other than that there is no education requirement, no experience requirement and that is true for a reason! The founders understood that the more you make politics a profession, it invariably leads to an oligarchy where the only people who can practice politics are politicians and yet that is our instinct every time! People ask John why he runs for city council instead of some neighborhood council and his reply is that this is the job he wants! The conventional wisdom among this small group of 500 people who know at this early point in time that there is even a city council election coming up is that the way you get this job is to start at the college democrats, you work some campaigns and you spend some time as an activist. There is this kind of farm team mentality because people who go through those instances are the peoeple who often pursue elective office. Typically they are not reading Wired and they don’t have a podcast. John does believe the nation should be ruled by podcasters! Imagine the McElroy brothers in the US Senate!

A new approach to rent control (RL152)

There are lots of role models for Seattle. San Francisco had a wave of prosperity crashing onto the city and they have a traditional culture of ”Hey man, you are blocking my sun, man!” San Francisco is culturally very Laissez-faire about some stuff, but you almost need a permit to take a shit in there (which apparently many people get). Good luck trying to get your movie made in San Francisco! There is a reason Vancouver is thriving while nobody makes movies in San Francisco anymore. Seattle was experiencing a lot of the same problems that San Francisco had some years ago: Money is pouring in but the social services are not keeping pace, the rent is going crazy, the middle class is getting pushed out where everybody is making either $200.000 or $20.000. There is a Seattle-alternative way of experiencing this growth that is different from anywhere else. We have to believe in it and we will be able to impose our values on what is happening, but it does require Chutzpah and some will to take a step back and analyze the situation. We all know that the free market is just a thought technology that we all have been duped into believing. It works if you believe in it, but it doesn’t work if you don’t. It is just another idea and it is not legally bidning. None of those thought technologies that we have enshrined in law are any more legally binding than the laws we have written to enshrine them. We are capable of writing new laws and we are capable of envisioning a new form of city.

For example, there is a movement right now to try a new version of rent control which is much closer to actually controlling the rent by changing the abilities of landlords to rent according to what they think the market is. It is classifying ”rent” as a different category of service that is tied to the consumer price index, meaning rents cannot rise any faster than the consumer price index. How is that for a new idea? Old fashioned rent control just creates a new class of people with cheap apartments, not because they are virtuous or because they are needy, but because they were there first. This new vision of rent control doesn’t see rent as a thing like gold and diamonds where the market determines that an ounze of gold is suddenly worth $700 where a year ago it was $400. We all go along with that because we believe that market forces like scarcity are real forces like the wind. Instead there is nothing stopping us from saying that rents rise as people’s raises rise, but still in a way that is commessurate. The problem is that there are innumerable loop holes. Does it apply to commercial rents, too? The number one way people will find around it is by turning their apartment into condominiums and you are back to a game of whac-a-mole. Life is often like The Sims where you think you are fixing a small problem over here, but it could just be making seven new problems somewhere else that you can’t even figure out. It is butterfly farts everywhere you go! A butterfly will fart in China and all of a sudden you are paying $4500 for a studio apartment in Seattle. Because of how the way the wind blows accross the pacific, it will even hit Seattle first!

The one thing that John is scared about is the ugliness in this process. He doesn’t believe that ugliness is necessary and he doesn’t think it has any place in it, but yet it is there. He is not looking forward to the ugliness getting activated. It could come from anywhere and the closer you come to election day, the more John becomes a viable candidate and the more he is taken seriously, he is going to be a bigger target. John recently sat down at two big tables. One of them was with the Sierra Club. They interviewed him because they were trying to decide whom they are going to endorse in his race. Then John sat at a table with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. To get to that meeting John put the address into Apple Maps which took him to the top of a windmill out on the beach somewhere. This delay caused him to be 30 minutes late for the meeting while they waited for him. He was wearing a tweed suit and he appeared to be the guy who doesn’t know where Downtown is and who legitimately thought that the Chamber of Commerce had their offices in a windmill. John understood that there was no way they were going to endorse him, but all he wanted them to understand was that if he does get elected, they should feel that they can work with him. He believes in small businesses and the free enterprise. As he left the meeting and was talking to the receptionist, he could hear the whole room laughing and he wasn’t sure if that was because someone said ”We should totally endorse that guy!” or because they are full of fear or because somebody said something funny completely unrelated just to break the tension he had created in the room. They can’t take them as an unserious candidate because John raised more money in a week than any candidate had ever raised in Seattles history. The Chamber of Commerce is not going to pick John as their endorsee, but when he wins the election, he is going to show back up there and is going to say: ”So… funiculars!”

Three bullet points (RL153)

People who meet John on his political campaign often judge him initially as the guitar player who wants to be on the city council, the weird rock candidate who did a show at The Rendezvous last year and who doesn't have any experience! As soon as John sits down with them and talks for a few minutes, they all realize that he is a great candidate for this job and he can absolutely do it. Then they lean in to tell him that the words he is using are too big and he needs to dumb things down. John spends a lot of time ideating with these thought storms, but instead he just needs to have three take-aways, three bullet points, the quick-and-dirty. John has been fighting it for weeks! He spent a whole week on cold-calling powerful lawyers in town, saying

"Hi, I'm John Roderick, I'm running for city council. You are a big-shot lawyer or developer and I need to talk to you on the phone. I need you to have heard my voice, I need you to know my name and I need to hear from you what problems the big-shot lawyers and developers are facing in town so that I don't go into this gladiator contest unarmed"

After they talk to him for a little while, their voices get softer and they lean in to tell him that he needs his three bullet points, because that is all everybody is going to remember. It is like the chorus of the song. Nobody remembers the verse, everybody just sings the chorus. That part of it was blowing John's mind. It is still against his nature, even as someone who has written a book's worth of Tweets. John loves to communicate in 140 characters, but when someone asks him about his solution to the housing problem, a 140 character response is anathema to him. Instead he wants to talk about how the housing problem is too complicated to solve within a tweet. People are usually receptive to hearing that, but they want to hear the tweet also. John is learning by leaps and bounds! There are moments where he is learning an entirely new profession and also the language of it at the same time. It is like studying engineering and also studying French because the engineering school is in French. He is enjoying every step of that process.

Incremental politics (RL153)

There are lots of places in Seattle with traditionally very incremental politics. There are a lot of lip-service liberals who claim they are of course a liberal because they voted for this or that, but none of those people are imaginative. They never stuck their neck out, no one ever took a risk, but everybody it is just plodding along. It is the Dave Matthews story: The first time people heard a Dave Matthews song they think: "Huh, that is an interesting vocal style!", and he managed to build a massive cultural movement by not ever changing it even a little bit. He never picked up an electric guitar, he never made a Scar record, he never changed his name, grew a soul patch and made a Grunge album. Taylor Swift used to be a country star! She is not anymore and no one even remembers now that she was, but Dave Matthews just keeps on keepin' on and if you would take a song from his first album and one from the most recent album and put them back to back, they would sound like they belong together. It is comforting! The energy required of the listener just sort of ebbs. You just coast. Every once in a while something comes along that forces you to get excited. Maybe it really makes everything different all of a sudden and you either make that transition or you don't. That is exactly what happens to people in the political process: This is how it works, this is the tempo at which it moves, these are the people to whom we entrust this job, and therefore change can not possibly happen any faster than this. Obviously these projects take years and years of contentious budget disagreement to even begin.

People have a tendency to say "Of course I believe X, of course we should house the homeless, of course we should regulate the banks, of course black lives matter!", but it is very hard to do those things. They make people sound very sane, reasoned and realistic, because they are about a shift in attention and sacrifice, but what are we really willing to spend on those agenda items? What do we instead not spend money and time on? Then there are the saner heads who point to the budgeting process and say that this would be too disruptive. Even if there were aliens living under the Arctic ocean, controlling our one world government, you can't tell everybody about it, but you have to go slowly or it would freak people out! So much of the politics at the local or national level is done in that voice. "To really reform the banks is going to be too hard, it just is! Of course I want to! Call me back when you have a dumber idea for a television show!" Sometimes you have to say: "No, fuck you!"

The excitement for John in running for office right now is that it feels like it is the time on so many levels to say: "No! The market has informed me that my house 10 years ago was worth $200.000 and then 7 years ago was worth $400.000 and 5 years ago was worth $200.000 again and now it is worth $400.000 again, and you are telling me that this is the sensible way and that the market is the adjudicator?" It is like playing roulette with everybody agreeing that it is crazy, but "What can you do about it? It is the market!" It is not a single person, it is all of us!

Gatekeepers and experience (RL153)

During his foray into politics, John is encountering the entrenched class saying "What makes you think that you can do this better than those of us who have been doing this - and nothing else - for a long time?" The only hope for change seems to be that some people from outside these spheres with a good idea will be able to master the vernacular, put together the right team of smart people to help and actually do create something new from the outside. It happens infrequently enough, but when it does happen it is so exciting to us that we misapply the lesson and think we could do it as well. What role does expertise and experience play in different jobs? In paediatric brain surgery, expertise is the whole game. The only thing between the best and the worst paediatric brain surgeon is dexterity, a physical gift, and inspiration. Even the worst surgeon is still an incredible expert.

In the field of filmmaking, comedy writing and television producing, it is much more likely that the people who have the expertise, while admittedly having a useful knowledge base, are the gatekeepers who keep good ideas out. A lot of the people who green-light TV-shows are producers who are timid and don't want to make a mistake, so they keep making the same show over and over. People get a long way in politics by being timid: Don't step too far to the left or to the right, keep your nose clean, make the right friends. They ultimately care about what they do, something got them engaged initially, but then they get into the process of something that feels like the military or a big corporation: "You do what is done, you don't rock the boat and you get where you are going." It is very different from paediatric brain surgery, but people who occupy those jobs would like you to think that it was equivalent.

Expertise isn't the entire game in these rackets, but many people who do have the right motivation often encounter a preexisting system that they are not able to navigate successfully. Every year you see seeming crackpots run for office who actually are really inspired to make a difference, but then they are not able to navigate the game. We see it in corporate life all the time: John was talking to a good friend about her job the other day who works at a 25 person company where the CEO "is not really a visionary" Why do they even have a CEO? We are living in a world where companies of 25 people have a board of directors, a CEO, a CFO, a CTO, however many vice presidents and however many managers. Do businesses like that still have any employees? The CEO is 45 years old and his primary talent seems to be having the chutzpah of calling himself the CEO. You can get really far, potentially really quickly, and stil be completely self-deluded. Being virtually psychotic might even improve your chances.

Publicly changing your mind (RL153)

At every step in the way to make a change there are vested interests of people who tell you that you can't do that! The city is inside a county which is inside a state which is inside of a country and all of those higher jurisdictions have laws that apply to and affect the city. You can't just start to want to change the state law. John for example said that the police should live in the neighborhood they are policing, like in the old times. The guy in Chicago, swinging his billy club, walking down the streets in his own neighborhood. Then John started reading up on it and learned a few things:

  1. The state of Washington prohibits municipalities requiring officers to live in their own neighborhood. There was a time when the police union found it unfair and all these cases went to the Supreme Court. You can't just tell people how to live.
  2. Turns out: There have been studies in lots of municipalities, some of them do have requirements for police to live in the city, some of them don't, and the cities that require it do not have any better police outcomes, in some cases even considerably worse police outcomes. It turned out that the biggest factor for improving the police is high quality training for your police. D'oh! Of course!

This means that John's opinion on that matter was re-evaluated when he came against state law. We have already been through this and if you want to go to the state and propose a law, you can go down that rabbit hole, but what do you really want? The symbolic victory of it? Do you want to be able to say that you believe that this is going to work? Or maybe this is a tentpole of your campaign and you can't change your mind because it makes you look like a waffler? We have the expectation that politicians can't publicly change their minds. You can't say that you have read some things, talked to people who are smarter than you, and have changed your opinion about it! The new thing, which is to require our police to be trained on a higher level, is actually within our ability, it is measurable and it does not require us to change state laws, but what it requires is to convince all the people who have been your allies and who are still chanting to force the police to live in their own neighborhoods.

This means you have to go back to your original constituents, tell them you have learned some stuff, you like them to read some things, and they will call you are a sell-out and a traitor. Even if what you want is a better police department, the same thing they want, you have now crossed the spiritual line of challenging the thing that we all used to agree on and that sounded like the solution. It is a process of maturation that requires you to have some integrity inside. Some people really just want to punish the police or punish the developers or punish the banks and when you come back and say that this thing that we thought was going to help us is not as good a case as this other thing, people want the first thing still, because it punishes them more and that's what they want: To shame and punish the "bad guys". People who typically run for public office are the ones who exclaim that they are mad at the cement contractors because they are pouring shitty cement and we are going to punish them.

The wrong perception of the situation by outsiders (RL161)

Running this campaign for public office is extremely difficult from an emotional, practical and energetical standpoint. This is true for everyone! John overheard another politician say that he had a total nervous breakdown during his first campaign and was going to end up in a rubber room. It is so easy to call political candidates ego-driven and assume they do it all for glory because they like the sound of their own voice. Even for a total political voyeur and tourist like John there is no way of knowing how exposed you will be, how vulnerable you will be and how much you will be in front of people who are communicating to you in every way that the best you are going to get from them is a face like they are sucking on a lemon. Every day you meet 600 people and everybody is going to give you a lemon face. If you are lucky, you will remember to eat at the end of the day.

The idea that running for office is self-aggrandizing and will strike your ego the whole time is far off! If that is your goal, then just go on Facebook and post about your surgery and you will be getting more ego strokes than the President of the United States. John never had the feeling he would end up in a rubber room, but he got that human cornered feeling many times. Everywhere you look, something bad is about to happen and none of it is going to register as bad to people outside. John has spent his whole career being emotionally raw and it is rare enough to still be in that state as an adult, but now he is furthermore putting himself into a situation where people are squeezing lemons in his eyes all day.

Marching in the pride parade (RL161)

Everybody assumed that marching in the pride parade must have been an amazing experience, but the joy expressed by all those people was not directed at John, because he was participating as a political candidate. Trying to grab onto it and show himself there is the best he could do. He could have given back the joy by wearing an enormous feathered head dress and a G string and the parade would have become an expression of his liberation. So many people are truly expressing something real and powerful, while John's message was that he wants to be their elected representative. In almost any situation as a candidate you are carpetbagging, but people in this parade are not conscious of that fact or are not connected to that in their emotions. You are always carpetbagging unless it is an event that you have set up yourself for people to come and yell at you about street cars.

Back-door Buddhism (RL161)

By reverse-engineering Buddhism, John had lately been coping pretty well with the difficulties of his campaign. He was arriving at Buddhism in some back-door, meditative way that is very effective and sometimes involves some swears. Swearing doesn't seem to be included in original Buddhism, but when you are meditating, your mind is full of it and you think at first that you are not doing it right. You are trying to be present and you are trying to recognize all the notions you learned or heard. Ultimately you arrive at the mathematics of the soul: The core principles that are true across all religions, the core principles that are the equations the spirit is written in. You are in the particle accelerator of the spirit and it just breaks it down to the elements.

Caring about a thing as a whole (RL161)

John has never cared as much as a whole about a thing than what he cared about his campaign. When you make a record, you care about each aspect of it. It is hard to care about the record as a whole while you are making it. What you really care about are this bass part and that tambourine part that you are working on right now. You never waltz into the studio thinking that the tambourine part doesn't matter, but you go in with the attitude to get it right every time, because the tambourine is what lifts this tune. You are caring very deeply about the parts, but not about the record as a whole. Being in the studio is something really comfortable, as high-pressure as it is. It is some kind of knowable high-pressure while you are deep in the implementation details and doing of things. Running this campaign is the opposite of that for John. Few of the individual events in the campaign thus far have been moments on the level of "getting this bass part right".

Each time some of the other candidates appear in front of the Concerned Shoppers of America, they want to give their stump speech a little bit better and tailor it to the Concerned Shoppers, but there is nothing John wants to do less than talk to the Concerned Shoppers, not because he is not interested in hearing what they are concerned about, but because every one of these events are a kind of theater and the Concerned Shoppers are not going to tell John what they are really concerned about. There is very little real communication happening other than by accident. Every one of those building block events requires much more effort than what you get out of it. The compulsories in sports where you have to compete in order to be allowed to compete, are very similar to a primary election. Of course not every event can be the most important high-stake thing in the world - otherwise you'd perish, but you also have to take each of them seriously. Despite there not being an eternal, huge amount of long term gain from hitting it out of the park, there are potentially huge ramifications if it goes terribly wrong. It is worst kind of existential compressor/limiter: No matter how great it gets, you are just "good" and those 300 shoppers might consider you, but if you say something wrong or you fart, it could be potentially catastrophic, because now there is really some news to report on. Every single moment is an opportunity for somebody to stand up and say "When did you stop beating your wife?". Every morning you wake up in fear that this is the day the Internet gets at you.

Focus on winning? (RL161)

One of John's opponents has demonstrated a couple of times already that he wants to win badly enough that he is willing to attack John personally, but despite the attacks being kind of ineffective, he really wants it and keeps on trying. John learned to survive this by not only caring about the overall project as much as never before, but he also had to learn that he is ultimately fine with either result. If he wins, it is cause for celebration. If he does not win, it is also fine. It will be a profound lesson and experience, not personally as in the "what a journey"-style, but John has gained a lot of knowledge that is going to be useful to him down the road. Helping his people, his fellows, is one of his core principles and now he knows how to do that better. If John would focus on winning, there would be so many opportunities every day to do something against his believes and he sees what it does to people. There are hundreds of people in the consultant game who want to facilitate you making the wrong choice in order to win and they will advise you to unscrew your opponent's brake lines. If you on the other hand don't think about winning, then your goal is something else. John's goal is not to keep his personal integrity intact, because he already had his personal integrity intact before he started running the race. The goal is to work hard and strive every day to do the best job he can while keeping in mind that he is not willing to do anything to win. That's the only thing that gives John comfort. The anxiety will well up in him to a point where he has never felt so bad. Anxiety is a terrible feeling! Telling himself that he is not trying to win, but trying to do something else, trying to help, is getting him down the road.

John was looking for sympathy the other day (first mistake!), talking to his mom, and she told him that he had worse months than this and he survived worse than this! "So, survive it!". That is actually good advice, and it is very different from "You've got to win!" If you are desperate to have some thing and it is starting to seem less and less likely that you are able to get it, there is a constant and growing temptation towards more radical actions in order to get that thing, which is what John worries about from his opponent, who is somebody who thinks they can defend themselves by some kind of Daniel karate kick, mainly just blowing out their pants and landing on their face. Trying the most radical thing in the world just makes things worse. Getting advice from the outside is like the siren song of getting involved in all kinds of negativity and you will respond to what other people have said in order to show what you would do differently. You jump into somebody's @-responses, rustling around and showing how you are different, just to monetize the Schadefreude of somebody else's bad day. While it is alluring, does it actually help? The more you feel you are not getting closer to what you want, the more you are considering more and more crazy things in order to get there, and that is very anxiety-producing. He can hear other people's mantra, particularly when it gets down to the wire: "When you look back on this, are you going to feel that you did everything you could have done? Do you want to look back on this and feel that you didn't pull out all the stops?" For a lot of people, that means if somebody is running abreast of you or a little bit ahead of you near the finish line, you trip them instead of running your own campaign as well as you can and "May the best man win!" In American politics you get a healthy dose of "Here is my platform, here is my campaign!", but also "Did you ever look at the other guy? Did you really not notice how his nose is a little croocket?" Of course, that aspect is presented as a fair comparison "Look at the two of us and pick the best one!"

Having the wrong friends (RL161)

John has two friends in Seattle, pals whom he had known for more than 20 years and who are active in the political chatter. They will never run for office themselves, but they are chatterers on the Internet, well known public figures, and members of the nattering nabobs of negativism. Although they are liberals in every way, they are on the wrong side of the "$15 an hour"-argument, mostly because they are small business owners and thought about it from their own bottom line instead of the long term benefit for everybody. They did not sense in what direction the political wind was blowing, they came out vocally against $15 an hour and then they defended their public pronouncements long after it was clear that the public wanted $15 an hour and $15 an hour was going to be good. They should have thought about it and should have changed their minds. Quite a few members of the astonishingly large group of political operatives in their mid-20s have come up to John with a sneer and an ugly smirk, telling him that they are very concerned about his relationship with "these two guys". John's first response was "What do you mean? Those are my pals for 20 years!", but his friends are on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of politics. The ugly smirk was a way of communicating that within the political class it matters less what you say than who your friends are, even if you totally disagree with them. Among those people, your friends are considered a more reliable indicator of what you are going to do than what you say. The premise is that you are lying when you say things. What is true is who you break bread with. It was a shock for John, because he breaks bread with everybody! They judge where a person stands by looking at who their donors are and who speaks on their behalf on Facebook.

Most people running for office have been thinking about this their whole adult life. They have always made sure that their friends are the right kind of friends. They only associate with people in a narrow band of the political spectrum or the work that they do. But somebody like John spent his whole life sitting down at the table with everybody! There are people he loves, but whom he still finds reprehensible. The idea that his friendship with them would somehow compromise his ability to stand up to them is foreign, non-traditional and very suspicious to these people. The presupposition that the candidate is lying is astonishing to John, especially by these self-appointed political operatives who see themselves as the gatekeepers of the system. The only way that one could assume that everybody else is a liar is to first understand, believe and accept that oneself is a liar. This is the same with hypocrisy: The people who are most obsessed with hypocrisy tend be either active hypocrites or tend to just sit around waiting to be shown as a hypocrite. It takes one to know one! These are the people leaning in whispering conspiratorial advice to John. These are the people who see themselves as the beacons of integrity. They know the right decision and they are judging whether the candidates live up to this expectation, but then they reveal themselves as liars because they presume that everyone else is a liar. You realize that it is very hard to enter into this world and not agree to be a liar, not agree to presume that the other guy is lying, not agree to presume that who your friends are says more about your vote than what you say, and not agree that having an answer to everything is better than being willing to consider all the arguments.

One more month (RL161)

With one month left to go until the primary, John has to wake up every day and reaffirm these things. Reaffirming them is what allows John to get out of bed and go through the process. It is so divorced from doing whatever it takes to win that it feels like John is participating in a race with all the other candidates running on the track while John is swinging through the trees or flying overhead in a dirigible he made himself. In a month he either has made it through the primaries in which case he has won an election, won his first public vote and got the confirmation that the public does not play by the same rules as the political class. It will show that he is able to reach the public and that the rules of the political class ultimately only apply if you allow them to, or he will lose in the primary, in which case it proves that the political class knows how the game is played and the public makes choices based on the political class. In any case, this will be very instructive and very profound.

Generational shifts (RL161)

Another one of these young political people told John the other day that they need more diversity in the candidates. John is very lucky, because he is running in a race with 4 white guys, which turns him into the diverse candidate. They need more gender diversity, more racial diversity and - gesturing at John - more age diversity. John was at the age of a typical candidate and what they needed were more younger candidates. 35 was preferable to 45, because youth is also a thing that is discriminated against. It took John a second to realize that at 46 years old he had crossed a threshold to people in their 20s and was just at an indeterminate age. This is one funny business of the generation shift: Back in the days, you became an adult when you turned 18 and you would join a pool of adulthood. At the time there wasn't such a thing as a young adult. If you look at pictures of people in their 30:s in the 1930:s, they are trying desperately to look old. It was the baby boomers who were the first to make a distinction between being 30 and being 50. In a hunter/gatherer society, John would be at the end of his useful lifespan.

During the last few days, John spent a lot of time crouching in the dirt looking out over a mountain valley, imagining himself not in prehistoric times, but as a subsistence hunter in today's world. He had his ladies with him on the trail and he needed to keep this tribe going, defend it against wild animals, other humans, find food, work together as a tribe, but with the knowledge that one of them is 4 years old, and realizing that he is less useful to this tribe at 46 years old than what he would have been at 26. If this tribe were a bit bigger, like if there were 10 or 15 of them, it would be much better, relieving John from his role of being out at the leading edge with a spear, fighting against a bear or another tribe. He would instead have a lot more strategy, a lot more plan, and not to forget: his knees are bad. There is a tipping point in your mid 40s when your eyes go bad and your joints go bad and you realize you would be a drag if you were out on the savanna.

John's generation was the first generation that was raised with the idea that there wasn't just a static adulthood, but that you in the contrary weren't supposed to trust anybody over 30! Later 40 became the new 30 and then 45 was the new 35. They are the first people who have ever talked like that, which is crazy! It reflects how desperately we took graceful adulthood away and replaced it with this constant consumerist, striving, young-obsessed, desperate feeling. Now the dumb generation X that nobody likes are the test case again, baking in the hot sun, trying to figure out how to be 45. The yuppies did it in the grossest way possible, they were terrible in their 40s! If you think about when John's dad was in his 40s, they had rut so much devastation, but they were not thinking about their age in the same way and they were horrified when their children said "Don't trust anyone over 30!"

Now here is John, way over 30, hanging out with the wrong people.

Reading people and behavioral templates (RW13)

John has the ability to perceive multiple layers of a situation at once, the ability to hold two contradictory ideas simultaneously in his head without being confused and the ability to see the interconnectedness of things. That feels like a gift and is not a thing he trained to do, but it felt very much like learning to run really fast. What he did was read history, read other people and use his perception to learn better. Reading a thing and making a connection to something else was exciting to him, he would even see where the connections were incomplete and would then study and read up on the shadowy realms he didn't know. But what kind of gift is that? It is nothing you can see or measure! It sometimes even looks like spooky mindreading perceptiveness that can seem extrasensory. People look surprised and scared and ask how he did know that, but it was plain as day! If people behave like dorks, he will totally play that up!

There are templates and people are not that different from each other even though they feel that their problems are unique, but in reality they are out of a playbook. It is combinations of things that make situations unique, but the components aren't that different. Most people are not making those connections, they are not realizing that they have seen this situation before which means that this is a template. John has been doing that his whole life and built up a mental file cabinet with all these patterns. Coming into a totally new situation where he doesn't have a set of patterns to refer to is pretty unusual. While he was running for office, he was entering into a world where he didn't recognize some of the patterns, most notably the universal distrust of other people that infects politics. While John does have a whole file of trades of distrustful people, he hadn't understood that politics was a culture of distrust where people were reinforcing one another's distrust, presupposing that everyone shared the same mentality.

John normally lives in a world where people can be situationally distrustful when it comes to money or when it comes to their sex lives, but unlike in politics they are not presuming that everyone is lying all the time. If you do presume that, then you have to look for other signs and signals to determine how predictably someone is going to behave. For the longest time, John couldn't break out of a believe system where people would question absolutely everything he said, because according to them every politician says the same things even if they may sound different. People are pattern-recognizing! John filled in some of that information, but living in that world is not his preference. It would be an uphill battle for him to learn those signifiers. To learn them would mean to adopt them and you would at the same time lose your original believe that people are mostly honest.

This is why sociopaths dupe us: We assume they are speaking to us in the same way that we are speaking to them, especially in a situation where there is nothing to gain or lose. When someone says "I never masturbate", you know they are lying, but there is a reason why, probably because they are embarrassed. When somebody says "I have never cheated on my wife", you can believe that or not kind of based on the rest of their character. But if somebody comes into a room and is just lying to you about nothing, you are never going to anticipate it, especially if they start that way as a stranger, presenting themselves as a normal person, but it is all completely fake. A lot of people are duped by that. History reveals a lot! When you reassess the live of somebody who just died, even lies that they maintained throughout their whole life become visible. You apply that knowledge to your templates, too.

Blocking political critics on Twitter (RW39)

There was an influential website in Seattle run by 3 young snarky-progressive women who had said something aggressive about one of John's shows on Twitter and he just blocked them. Because they also wrote about politics they wrote a post about the fact they were blocked by a candidate. John had to un-block them and wrote them a personal letter with an invitation for an interview over a coffee, which they gladly accepted because they thought they would rip this city council candidate a new one. John met with them at "Fort Saint George", a strange little place in Chinatown and all three of them had pre-sneers on, waiting for him to hang himself with his half-bigged wit. By the end of the evening they were all total bros, they said they had misjudged him and while they can't endorse him publicly, he is a pal now. They talked about stuff off the record. You can't do that with every critic, because if you reach out to Pitchfork with that, they will just write another article about this ham-handed, pathetic attempt to influence them.

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