Calling my shot part 2: embracing the grey

In 2016 I wrote a post titled, “Calling my shot.” In it, I committed to valuing authenticity and service over vanity metrics and popularity. At the time I worked as a speaker.

Since then I closed several financially successful businesses (more here) and learned to tame my inner demons (see here and here). I went to grad school (more here) and enrolled in a two-year certification program to become a meditation teacher (check it out here).

Today I’m a registered psychotherapist and in the process of being certified to teach meditation. 

Earlier this year I wrote a post titled, “I’ve changed (and why I’m taking a few months off from writing).”

I was trying to untangle two core issues that hindered me as a writer:

  1. I’m not the guy I was when I started this blog. The darkness that inspired some of my most popular posts doesn’t grip me like it used to.
  2. While I was in school, I realized that writing about the human condition, mental health, and spirituality in a way that is valuable, true, and responsible is extremely difficult.

We don’t actually know that much about psychology. Though there are endless studies that appear to be statistically significant, their reproducibility rate is an abysmal 36% (Open Science Collaboration 2015).  

Further, what helps some people heal and flourish can be harmful or a waste of time for a different person in a similar situation.

While this isn’t a problem in a therapeutic setting where the therapist and client interact, it is a problem for writers.

Suddenly, I found myself stuck. I struggled to thread the needle of true, helpful, responsible, engaging, and worth your time.

Should I write from personal experience? Should I write based on what the latest studies say? Is it ok to write about things that seem to work even though they haven’t been heavily researched? How do I factor in the myriad research considerations (reproducibility rates, applicability across different intersections, controls for various researcher and publication biases, etc.)? What about the ancestral wisdom that clashes with materialist perspectives? What about the clinical stuff that counselors swear by, but researchers fail to validate? What about the stuff that has an amazing research base but just doesn’t seem to work in the real world (CBT, I’m looking at you…).

Everything felt so grey to me. I agonized over this problem for months, before landing on a simple solution: I’m going to embrace the grey.

I love writing about the intersection of psychology, inner game, spirituality, and philosophy even though they often fail to agree on first principles.

I love writing for the artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, executives, students, misfits and rascals who want to face their demons, live vividly flourishing lives, help others, and stare unflinchingly into the void while making an ill-timed joke. It’s an embarrassment of riches that y’all read my shit.

We’re living through an era that no longer values traditional credentialing or expertise. This is a dangerous and misguided trend. With that in mind, I aim to hold my work to a higher standard.

Moving forward, when it’s not obvious, I will explain what type of article you’re reading and where the evidence for its potential effectiveness comes from. Life experience? Clinical experience? Philosophy? Ancestral wisdom? Research? A mashup? When I lean heavily on the research, I’ll cite my sources. When making controversial claims about health, healing, and flourishing, I’ll engage a peer review process similar to those used in traditional journals.

My goal is to share what I’ve learned as a clinician, a meditation teacher, and a dude in a t-shirt while also doing my due diligence.

As before, I plan to place all of my chips on the following bet: I will do the best work I can, make it accessible and trust that worthwhile things will materialize.

Open Science Collaboration (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science 349:aac4716. doi: 10.1126/science.aac4716

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