Wired This Way

Human Design Chart Fragment

Human Design is a mixture of Western and Eastern astrology, Kabbalah, and other things, and is a beautiful tool to help you know how you’re wired. I only discovered it last year, and it’s put me on a fast track to knowing myself and what I need.

Through Human Design, I’ve found out I’m a “generator,” which means I’m meant to hold space and support others. To hold back for the right moment, rather than act impulsively or churn stuff out quickly or win arguments—those things leave me soooo frustrated.

Human Design also tells me I’m a “quadruple split definition.” Only 0.5% of the population is wired this way. I won’t get into the mechanical details of what this is, or we’d quickly get lost. There’s so much on the Internet about Human Design if you want to geek out. There’s not much out there about this particular definition however, so I joined a Facebook group where generous folks helped me figure some things out.

To simplify grossly, a quad split has four different personalities (“channels”), all steering in different directions thinking about things in their own way. Because we have four different perspectives, quads process things slowly. It takes a lot of brainpower to make a decision. I like to think this is why I eat all the time, and why my Mom often calls out to me, “Earth to Stephen!” It’s probably also why I’m a writer by profession, a discipline that lets me mull things over until I can get it just right.

Since quad thought processes are so involved, if we aren’t careful we blurt out random things that make people go “whaaaat??” It may seem like we are out in left field, but we do have to check out the entire ball park before we can make up our minds. To my horror, I find that sometimes people act on my words even though I’m still only at Step 1 in figuring it out. I’m learning to keep my mouth firmly shut until I fully know what I’m talking about.

Because we are always processing, quad splits tend to be self-contained and a bit locked down. For example, reading novels or watching movies is a lot of work for me, because I dwell on every detail, processing it multiple ways. It’s exhausting and keeps me awake at night thinking about it, so I’m very selective in what I read or watch.

I wasn’t sure at first whether to pity myself or be excited by the quad split label. But knowing I was wired this way put in motion some big changes. I no longer force myself to make quick decisions unless they’re easy and obvious. I’ve conditioned myself to slow down and sleep on things. I trust that when the answer finally comes, it’s awesome and awesomely me.

By knowing that I’m uniquely wired to be this way, I honour others more for their own unique wiring. I no longer fear otherness in myself or in other people. I try hard not to envy, judge, or compare. I don’t stress over not doing things that are meant for other people to do.

I’m on a fast track now to knowing who I am and what I need, and that’s a great feeling. With this confidence, I am opening myself up more to the magic of new things and new people. I still have frustrating days, but they are getting fewer. Thanks, Human Design!


Note: I’ve switched web host providers because the other one was so painfully slow.  A big callout to my friend Erica H who moved me to hers and rescued me from purgatory. I’ve been able to freshen things up a bit and look forward to posting with ease, not dread. I haven’t changed the copy of earlier blog posts, other than removing those pretentious “The Point Being” conclusions.


It’s hard to rise above the conditioning that I will never be good enough, that this is a world of scarcity, that I live in a dystopia. But I’m getting there! Those stories are unfortunately true, in some people’s worlds, but in my own world there is love, creation, beauty, kindness, synchronicities. I try to focus on those things, to have gratitude.

I learn to be kind to myself. To be kind to others. To shut out the static and just breathe. To enjoy my body, my surroundings, my friends. To engage more with those who are flesh and blood, engage less with the ideas out there in the ether that aren’t real. The temptation to get stuck in an artificial mental state can be overwhelming. But that’s part of the world we live in, so I let it go and keep on learning.

I learn, with practice, to let my mind have fun engaging with the ether but not to take it all that seriously. In a vast cosmos where I am but a casing of water and dust on a thin rocky surface floating on magma, all those thoughts, those words, those ideas, those “isms,” those “truths” just can’t matter that much. They are but air: breathed in with urgency today, exhaled and dissipated tomorrow.

There are a few truths I live by. I choose to have love for others, not hate. I aim to do the least harm. I get more out of opening myself up than closing myself shut. I can always find joy and amazement. When I zone into the moment, it’s beautiful.

I surrender what’s not working for me outside of these truths.


My anger flares at the latest outrage,
Siren chants: war, death, disease, destruction.
Who to blame? Do I need liposuction?
I toss my device, my unease lingers.
I stare at the wall. Silent. Dissecting.
I breath in the air breathed before by those
I’m told to hate. I breath in deep, connect.
Exhale the stale, inhale the new. Release.
I surrender fear. It keeps me silent.
I surrender rage. I can do nothing.
I surrender pride. It holds me hostage.
I surrender thoughts. Let them float away,
They won’t interfere with my growing heart.
I choose love instead. Love can’t be taken.

Inspiration: Everyone out there forging a new world.


I recently saw Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. I loved this movie about tackling one’s issues through the awesome power of accessing other lifetimes in parallel universes to find the badass skills and tools needed for the current situation. It got me thinking about how rewriting is the key to changing one’s attitudes.

In my view, the movie reflects a few things happening in today’s world: the ADHD everything everywhere all at once of our complicated lives, the many world(view)s ready to ensnarl us, the sheer lunacy of all the moving parts we need to dodge, the desire to find out-of-box solutions for the things that just aren’t working for us anymore.

I geeked out and used the movie as a thought exercise. What might happen if I used this timeline magic to go back and rewrite past events that didn’t work out so well for me? Events where I made mistakes, or where my good intentions played out badly? What could I bring to those events then using the badass skills and tools I have now?

When I revisited my cringeworthy stories, I tried to see the other players’ sides, imagined other interpretations I didn’t think of at the time, recast the narratives to be gentler on others, and on myself. I asked myself what I learned from the experiences, even if the learning was tough. Even if the learning was simply that I never did those stupid things ever again, and never will. The events are in the past, so the memories and the attitudes are all that’s left. I can’t change the attitudes of others, but at least I can rewrite my own attitudes if they are holding me back.

A central theme of the movie is to find love and compassion for others, even if they are misguided and dangerous. The protagonist Evelyn will not harm her crazy daughter, even though she is being pressured to do it to save all the universes. She wants to find the keys to help her daughter change. In the crazy world of everything everywhere all at once, there are always more keys to try.

Evelyn discovers that unconditional love is the only way to defuse her daughter’s craziness, and calm all the universes. My thought experiment reminded me that love is at the heart of rewriting my own stories. Compassion, understanding, surrender, forgiveness—for others, and for myself. It’s only when your heart decides it’s OK that you can change the story and make it OK.

Keywords to explore: recapitulation therapy, ho’oponopono

Words (1)

Words in so many languages

In my previous blog post on technical writing, I talked about words being at the heart of human creation. They form the ideas that change our physical world. In this post, I want to talk more about how words create change, and how we can use the power of words to start creating change within ourselves.

Look around you. Unless you’re standing in the woods, chances are most everything you see was at one point a discussion between a few people, or an idea somebody got from talking to somebody else. The smartphone or computer you are reading this on. The car you’re driving. The newest breed of cat. Not much in our world is natural anymore. (Google “Anthropocene”). And all this because people keep asking, “What if I did this?” (“What if I get a cute baby python? Wouldn’t that be cool!”)

It’s not just the physical world of course. Our politics, our media, our laws, our knowledge, our perceptions  … EVERYTHING hinges on words. Words and the ideas they represent have supreme power in the human world, and they evolve and grow along with us.

It’s important to remember that words are just tools. They have no morality. They can be used equally for good or for bad. Your newsfeed is no doubt full of stories about bad players using words for all kinds of nefarious purposes, and whole industries are devoted to twisting words to create profit, or worse. (Google “Cambridge Analytica.”) And I’ve noticed that some leaders disavow or discredit the words they say at the same time as they use them to plant horrible ideas (“A lot of people are saying …”) Yep, people use words (and images) in twisted ways these days. It makes sense to be wary of the words you hear or read. It also makes sense to be wary of the words you use about yourself.

Watch your language!

The language you use gives you power, or robs you of it. If you are part of the 99.9% of humanity (estimated) who isn’t a hardened narcissist, chances are you use negative language to define yourself. It’s how most of us were raised, it’s in our environment, it’s drilled into us.

I catch myself using negative language about myself all the time. I am more on top of it now, but it is still a very easy trap to fall into. The “Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” (IBSC) planted in your head is ruthless if you let it be. “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t,” “If only I had done it differently,” “They are way smarter than me,” “I better not say anything,” “It’s what people are saying about me.” You may have similar edicts issued by your own IBSC.

The goal is to recognize when your ISBC is engaged, and try to stop it from wasting your time and energy. It’s an ongoing battle and takes lots of self-knowledge. The process can be helped when you’re open to getting kind feedback from others. (And, on the other hand, you need awareness to know when feedback is not kind and needs to be ignored.)

A few years back a sage teacher told me to write “I will try” many many times on a piece of paper, wrap it around a small rock (obsidian, to cleanse psychic smog) and bury it in the woods. This ceremony sealed it for me: I consciously avoid that expression now, or at least am aware when I say it. I shoulda listened to Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Speaking of shoulda, that’s another word that gives away your power. You can’t change the past, so don’t spend your time worrying about it. Focus on the now and what you can do to make amends and move forward.

I’m now working on the theory that all the non-committal words we use to beat ourselves up and feel inadequate (I’ll try, I should, I can’t) can usually be boiled down to “I don’t want to.” The wishful words (I wish, I hope, I pray, If only) can, if we are being sincere using them, be boiled down to “I want (but I dare not dream it’s possible)”. It would be an interesting world if everyone just said “I want to” or “I don’t want to.” A bit scary and in-your-face, but less complicated with less politics and way more achievement of personal and societal goals.

I’ve had great feedback from caring people over the years, and now I’ve started annoying others by pointing out when their words rob them of power. We all deserve better than to go around wishing and hoping and praying and never doing anything about it.

A very wise woman told me once that we as humans have the power to change everything in our world if we just change our thoughts. At that time in my life I didn’t understand what she meant at all. But she did plant an idea in my head, and now I see her vision. If enough people were more careful with their words and started to use them to change their way of thinking, who knows where it could lead?


I saw a guy in my trendy neighborhood rocking the perfect woolly black beard, sporting a black t-shirt emblazoned with one word in white all-caps: AVOIDISM. What a perfect word to describe just about everything these days, I thought.

Avoidism is so easy now. If somebody posts something we don’t like, there are tools to make sure we won’t see it again. It’s as simple as clicking the “Are you sure you want to block this person?” button. Poof! The icky ogre is gone.

Avoiding the icky extends to just about everything. Funerals are memorial services (“No icky dead bodies!”). News is curated (“Just give me what I want to know, no ick”). Nature is mono-cultured, with pesticides to rid us of all those pesky insects (“Insects are icky!”—I’ve known people like this). Meat comes conveniently packaged in pretty plastic packaging (“No icky feathers or fur”). I’m not saying any of this is right, but this is just the way things are, right? Avoidism is so … convenient.

I have to confess I’m as skilled at avoidism as the next person. I rarely bother with news stories I don’t want to hear. I cross the street to avoid “problematic” people. I avoid meaningful discussions on politics unless I trust the person I’m talking to is on the same page as me, so it won’t get all shouty. I’m not proud of any of this, but avoidism is a survival strategy. And it seems a lot of us are infected with the zombie avoidist bug where our desire to engage has been fried.

So what do we do to re-engage?

I could quote the Serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

And yes, this resonates. We should try to recognize what we can change and go for it, and not be foolish enough to beat ourselves up trying to change things we can’t. But I find this prayer insufficient. “Too problematic,” “Out of scope,” “Outside customary parameters,” “Not this department’s responsibility,” “Too many variables to include,” “Beyond normal risk tolerances,” “Needs further study”—our language is full of avoidist patterns of thought, serenely spoken, delivered with the ingrained wisdom that things cannot change so there’s no need to engage. But we all know things need to change.

So what do we do?

I recently read an article about Hillary Cottam, a British thinker and “social entrepreneur” renowned for her way of finding simple answers for difficult social challenges. She’s really engaged in things.

When she was at the World Bank, Cottam avoided the 5-star hotels and went into the field to figure out what they actually needed to make their lives better. In Zambia, she recommended a central pump (not a $140 million dam development as proposed). In London, she figured out that children weren’t settling down because their lockers were in a bully-infested dark corner of the school. By moving the lockers, bullying went down and academic scores went up. These sound like straightforward solutions, but it took lots of engagement to cut through the obstacles and make them happen.

So Cottam is an inspiration that there are simple solutions out there, and the people most affected already know the answers, if they spoke up. So maybe the Serenity Prayer still applies, but we need to focus on the words “courage” and “wisdom.” The courage to ask questions, imagine solutions, and speak up with the answers.

Alas, the article I link to above is negatively positioned as “There’s an idea that could transform Britain – but Brexit won’t let it be heard.” What a downer! But I found the mention of Cottam inspiring nonetheless. She is proof that there are people out there engaged with finding real solutions to real problems.


CN Tower in fog

It’s a human trait to torture ourselves with what we aren’t. Let’s call it envy. And I confess that I work really hard to suppress envy. It still creeps up on me when I compare myself to others and find myself wanting.

It goes like this: I wasn’t old enough (then too old). Not rich enough. Not forceful enough to be a high-powered Master of the Universe (and if we aren’t a Master of the Universe, then what are we?) I wasn’t muscly enough, then too muscled to be in fashion, back when skinny arms were a thing but maybe muscles are back in style again so am I OK now? You get the picture. I won’t go on … I don’t want to share ALL of my insecurities and I’m sure you don’t want to listen. 🙂

Then along came Instagram, and for a while my envy got even worse. That platform is designed to be a giant envy machine. If you feel remotely good about yourself, just go there and it’s guaranteed there will be somebody more ripped than you, certainly younger than you, traveling to gorgeous places, eating wonderful meals, and wearing all the right clothes. In short, it’s really easy now to feel crappy every day by envying other people’s images. Social media is designed this way and has created a whole new set of people called “Influencers” to do this to us.

And yet, maybe this whole Influencer overload was a good thing for me. Maybe through sheer overexposure it’s helped me understand that I don’t have the energy to compare myself to others all day and stay true to myself. Maybe I have finally learned simply to say, “That’s nice. But it’s not about me.” I can still admire people for their accomplishments. Why not? Influencers work really hard. But admiration doesn’t have to be envy.


If you admit to a wee bit of envy here and there, read on. Here are some things that help me overcome envy (on my good days).

Know yourself. Love yourself. See my previous posts. If you become your own best friend, you won’t be beating yourself up comparing yourself to others. If you are comfortable in your own skin, envy can’t take hold. It isn’t easy. It’s something to work on all the time. There are so many built-in traps against self-acceptance. But when you catch yourself envying others, stop and be gentle on yourself and remind yourself it’s their life, not yours.

Empathy. Everyone out there is trying to put on a good show. If you recognize that and feel for their efforts, if you humanize them, it’s way easier to see that their path is not your path, and their path indeed may be just as difficult (or more difficult) than yours. Six pack abs, when you’re no longer 28, take a lot of work and probably mean you’ve given up something else. Same with most successful people: they have made sacrifices to get there, and you chose a different path. If you try to understand a bit of what is motivating others, you may become more aware of what is (or isn’t) motivating you.

Laugh. Laughter is more fun than envy. So don’t take life too seriously. I don’t mean being cruel to people and making jokes at their expense (see empathy above), but we have to acknowledge that people go to some pretty hilarious levels to impress others. Whether it be $10,000 Gucci purses, or 0% body fat, or outrageous bear-baiting statements for the lolz, or hanging out of moving trains to take selfies … you gotta shake your head at some of the antics people use to get noticed. You don’t need to go there. Just have a chuckle over it.

Get busy doing what YOU want to do. I’m now busy chasing my own dreams, so have way less time to envy. Start doing the things you want to do and the things you are proud of doing, and you won’t have the time to envy others. You may not even have the time to hang out on social media for hours feeding your own insecurities. It’s working for me!

You may be one of the fortunate ones who is comfortable in your skin and never envied others. But if you’re still reading this, I bet you’re in my recovery camp. Whichever camp you are in, it pays to beware Envy. It will sneak up on you at any time. It may no longer be considered a sin, but it does mess with your mind and take away from your dreams.

Know Yourself (2)

In today’s social media storm with all its outrage and proudly held opinions and manic disregard for facts, we all need to develop a really strong sense of who we are. If you don’t know yourself and where you stand, it’s really easy to drown in a murky sea of fear and anger and emotional overwhelm. It seems the world is designed that way right now.

If you don’t know yourself, you can’t know what your passions are, and what your dreams are. You will feel powerless to create the change you need to grow. Isn’t it time to carve out the time to be with yourself, to ask yourself the questions that matter, to figure out the dreams that speak to you?


I won’t lie. It’s still really easy to lose myself, to float away in worry or dread as I stare too long at Facebook or check the news sites or look at my Visa bill. But I’ve developed a few techniques to keep myself better grounded and centered, and I’d like to share them.

Quiet your mind. Our brains are not meant to be processing all the time. We need to turn off our brain sometimes so it can “reboot”. So we are better able to process all the possibilities. So we are better able to dream. Good sleep is the essential component to keeping the brain healthy, but not the only one. I try all kinds of techniques to tune out the world so I can tune in to myself: yoga, meditation, biking, gym, walking, hanging in my garden, cooking, even cleaning.  Whatever works for you, as long as you’re letting your mind rejuvenate and refresh, away from worry and the daily grind and the bad news. And note well! Kicking back with your phone or iPad definitely does not count because you’re just keeping your mind overwhelmed with other people’s thoughts. You’re outsourcing your brain to them. Being online is not quiet time, it’s intense mind overload time!

Be easy on yourself. If you beat yourself up all the time, you are too preoccupied to dream. You are too preoccupied to even know how to dream. So just stop with the “shoulds” and “can’ts” and “I’m not good enoughs”. They are not helping you. It needs a whole separate blog or five to begin to tell you how I started to figure this one out. It was a personal journey. Of course RuPaul had it figured out already:  “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Let that sink in.

Weigh the advice of others. People are really good at giving advice, and can be a really good mirror to show you how you’re spinning your wheels or sabotaging yourself. A word of caution, though: you can easily give away decision-making to others. It is your responsibility to weigh all advice and decide if it makes sense for you and your situation and those around you, and act on it appropriately. Find a place of calm, place your hands over your gut if that helps, and ask, “Does this fit?” When your gut tells you that someone’s advice doesn’t seem right, accept their advice with grace and then just file it away. It may be relevant later, it just isn’t right now.

Have faith. I don’t mean religious faith here (although if your religion empowers you, that’s great!). I mean trying to go beyond the “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” and daring to dream that anything is possible. No matter how bad the situation seems, you won’t fix it by saying “nothing can be done” or (one of my least favorite expressions) “it is what it is.” If it’s something you want to change, change it! If it’s something you want to create, create it! You have the power to make something brand new if you dare to dream, and if you want to put in the work to make that dream a reality.

Journal. This year I started journaling every day. It’s kind of magic. I write down some of the nonsense in my brain—the doubts and frustrations and fears and anger—and then, usually on the same page, I’ve figured out the answer. At least, the answer for today (which is all we need to keep moving forward). My journal has become such an important part of my work on myself. It’s a way to turn “I can’t” into “Let’s do this!” I realize journaling won’t come naturally to everyone (I’m a frustrated writer, so it’s brilliant for me). And for some people–artists and musicians, for example—there are other forms of creative expression tailor-made for them. I’d still recommend journaling for everyone though. Words are perfect tools humans use to explore most every part of the human condition, and have great power to change our thoughts. Use them to create your own magic!

Those are a few things I’ve used to get to know myself. If you feel you don’t have the time to do any of this, don’t beat yourself up about it (See “Be easy on yourself” above). Even if you take just 5 minutes a day to check out and tune into yourself, that’s a start. Dare to dream. We will change the world for the better with our dreams!

Know Yourself (1)

“Know yourself” is a maxim that dates back to Ancient Greek times. And in today’s crazy world it’s more important than ever. The world is moving too quickly now to just tread water and pretend we are OK. If we don’t know ourselves, we leave ourselves open to others telling us who we should be. We risk being swept away.

Some people may not yet feel the need to know themselves. They may say, “Of course I know myself! I’m here!” Or maybe, “Why do I need to do this navel-gazing when I can just be doing things?” Or maybe, “Why is it important? I have others to tell me what I need to do!” Or maybe, “As long as I make money I’m good!” There are lots of easy ways to avoid self-knowledge.

And the meaning of “know yourself” has also changed, at least for me. I used to think it meant choosing a profession, the “what will I do when I grow up?” question. By this measure, I felt inadequate. Other people “knew themselves” from an early age: they knew they wanted to be lawyers or doctors or actors or musicians. But I like most people wasn’t so sure what I wanted to do, and told myself that what I really wanted to do was impractical, not easily monetized. So, by the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” yardstick, I felt I was a failure in the “know yourself” lottery.

Finally, I have figured out that “doing something” is no guarantee of knowing yourself. In fact, if we keep too busy on things that don’t matter to us, it’s really hard to get to know ourselves. It’s avoidance. To know ourselves is to know our values, our strengths, our limits, our passions. To know ourselves is to filter out what’s not important, and zero in on what is important. To know ourselves is to know our dreams so we can go after them. It’s constant but rewarding work. As we grow, there are more and more ways to know ourselves in all our complexity – and go after our dreams unapologetically.