When pessimism comes in handy

📅 Today’s tip: Give everything on your schedule a back-up slot.

Sure, optimism is great, but it can also be a disastrous outlook when it comes to planning your day. You might plot out a space for everything on your calendar, but what happens when a work project takes a little longer than anticipated, or family demands cut into the hours you’d carefully carved out for yourself?

As the time-management expert Laura Vanderkam explains, a little pessimism can make a big difference when it comes your schedule. Assume something, somewhere, will go wrong, and give everything on your schedule a back-up slot. If you always have an alternate plan ready to go, you won’t have to extend the time you spend on work at the expense of fun.

📚 More from Forge on rethinking the workweek:

How to Pitch a 4-Day Week to Your Boss

To Get More Done, Work Less

7 Ways to Do a Workweek

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When pessimism comes in handy was originally published in Forge on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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What Do We Need to Live?

Requirements to sustain life: not much, really.

Water. That’s important.

Food. Also important. But we don’t need a special kind of food. Any kind of food will do. Any kind of food will keep us alive. Yes, there are a few exceptions. You can’t live on peanuts if you have a deathly peanut allergy, obvs. But those are—what?—the exceptions. Exceptions don’t invalidate a principle; they just show its limits.

What else? What else do we need to live?

We need protection from the elements: shelter of some kind. Warmth when it’s cold. A cool place when it’s too hot. Some protection from the extremes of nature. But it doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t even have to be ours. Shared, basic, dirty, clean, small, large, it doesn’t matter. And we need the kind of shelter that we wear: clothes, shoes. Again, any kind will do. It just needs to be functional to, well, function.

That’s it. Those are the basic requirements of life.




There are other things we need sometimes: care and medicine if we’re sick, assistance and aid if we’re injured or incapacitated. Those are situational needs for most of us. They come, they go.

Sustaining life requires very little.

So what’s all the fuss? All the work? All the effort for more, more, more? Is it about need?

Sometimes, sure! Sometimes we’re in a situation that requires more than usual.

But most of the time? No. It’s not about need. It’s about the illusion of need.

I live, currently, in a three-bedroom, one-bath apartment with my husband and our four kids. We’re looking for a bigger place, because one bathroom and six people is kind of awful.

But do we need it? No. We do not need a bigger home. We can believe in the illusion of need. We can come up with all sorts of reasons, and validate them by comparison and logic. Logic! Logic is such a great tool, so handy for justifying all the extra work we have to do to get all the things we think we need.

We don’t need that much.




We want more, don’t we? Yes! We want so much more.

Water and cold water and sparkling water and frozen water to put inside my non-frozen water! Also, I’d like things to add to my water so it doesn’t taste like water. And I’ll also have some hot water and things to put in my hot water so it becomes more than water (magical life-giving elixir) and then maybe some other things to add to the hot-magic-bean water and that should just about do it.

Food, but not just any food! Good food, fresh food, organic food, various combinations of food, snacks, fruits, no not that kind of fruit the other kind of fruit, vegetables yes, but please only vegetables that taste a certain way. And I’d like some special types of food that I use to enhance or disguise other types of food. Also, there’s some food I want that has no value for helping me survive (and may even make it more difficult to survive). Oh, let’s not forget the food that I won’t ever eat, those jars and cans and boxes that get shuffled around for months and thrown out when I move from this perfectly sufficient shelter to the other one that I like better.

Shelter! A perfectly sufficient shelter has walls, a roof, a floor, electricity, running water. Really, that’s a luxury shelter. The floor is optional. The electricity is optional. The running water is optional, too. You can get water elsewhere and bring it back to your shelter. But this is about what I want, and I want a good shelter. I want a luxury shelter. I want a better shelter than the one I have. Why? It won’t help me survive. It adds no necessary functionality. A house doesn’t improve your survival rate because it’s got fancier floors, more walls, a higher roof, and more taps from which to access that running water.

And clothes, the temporary, wearable, transportable shelter we take with us. We are weird about clothes. Not only are we insanely picky about them, we often pick the ones that hinder rather than aid our survival. High heels? Are you kidding me? Have you seen these things called Spanx that they sell for women? Necessary? No. Suffocating? Yes. Men: what is the function of the necktie? How does it help you survive?

Ah, you say. It’s because we are animals. Intelligent animals, yes, but animals nonetheless. We use our better food, better shelter, better clothes to attract a mate. To procreate.

Hm, okay. But you can live a long life without mating. Sex is necessary for procreation, yes, but it’s not necessary for life once you’re already here.

Ah, you say. It’s because we are social animals. We have an advanced civilization with many complex social rules. We use these things—food, shelter, clothes—to indicate our status in our society, to advance, to succeed.

Hm, yes. We do. We wear certain types of clothes to indicate what kind of group we belong to in this complex and advanced civilization. But group-belonging is not necessary for survival. It used to be, back when ostracization from the tribe literally meant death.

Did you realize you can live a long, healthy, happy life without belonging to any sort of group, these days? Fascinating.

All of these things—the better food, the fancier water, the bigger shelter—are to fulfill wants, not needs. We do not need more than necessary for survival. We want it. We want more than survival. We want comfort. We want connection. We want belonging. We want meaning. We want adventure. We want fun.

But what are all those things? Comfort, connection, belonging, meaning, adventure, fun, etc.? Where do you find them? How do you know when you have achieved them? How much more/better is needed to achieve those wants? They’re intangible. There’s no measure. There’s no standard.

You know because you feel it, right?

You know you have comfort when you feel comfortable. You know you have connection when you feel connected. You know you’re having fun when you feel like you’re having fun.

So, what do we want?

We want the good feelings. We want the feeling of comfort, joy, love, connection, fun. And we work hard to get ourselves the things we need in order to have those feelings. Sometimes we have to endure a lot of pain to get the bigger/better things we need so we can have the good feelings we want.

What if—just an idea, a crazy one, but hear me out—what if we paused our frantic rush for bigger/better/more? What if, instead, we spent some time thinking about the feelings we want to have? What if we figured out exactly what’s required to experience those feelings? More of them, lots of them, maybe even all the time.

We might not need to work so hard. We might not need bigger/better/more. We might find out that those experiences—those good feelings—are available right now, as we are, with what we have.

It’s certainly an idea worth exploring.

Annie Mueller is a writer, reader, seeker of growth, and transplant to Puerto Rico, where she lives with her best friend and their four children. Her crash course in self-discovery came from experiencing job loss, financial devastation, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, and major surgery—all in less than a year. She writes about creativity, personal growth, and spirituality; runs Prolifica, a content management consultancy for small teams and solo professionals; and sends out a popular weekly newsletter about feelings and freelancing. You can find more of her work on her website.


Image courtesy of Sebastian Staines.

The post What Do We Need to Live? appeared first on Positively Positive.

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Stay clear of Avoiding

Laziness can sneak in as well as conveniently end up being a routine. Damaging a behavior is no simple point to do, allow alone face beginning. When you approve that laziness might exist as well as it’s something, you recognize you’ve required to handle, however located a means to postpone out of doing it. Ever…

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Majestic and haunting red jellyfish lightning over Texas captured in brilliant photos

Scientists have been documenting rare phenomenon in recent years: streaks of red lightning that resemble the tentacles of a glowing crimson jellyfish hanging high from the sky.

These haunting spurts of lightning have been dubbed “sprites,” and are the product of super-fast electrical bursts that occur high up in the atmosphere some 37 to 50 miles in the sky, reaching toward space, according to the European Space Agency.

While sprites have been sighted over every continent besides Antarctica since their discovery in 1989, the phenomenon still isn’t very well known – they last mere tenths of a second, and generally are hidden from those of us on the ground by heavy storm clouds.

Stephen Hummel, an expert on dark skies at the Austin McDonald Observatory, managed to capture a perfect photo of these sprites on July 2 from his vantage point on a ridge on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.


Hummel snapped the photo while he was recording dozens of hours of footage throughout the year. On that July night, he had already recorded four and a half hours of footage before capturing the sprite – and he had also recorded some 70 hours of footage and stills including 70 sprites this year, he told Business Insider.

“Sprites usually appear to the eye as very brief, dim, grey structures. You need to be looking for them to spot them, and oftentimes I am not certain I actually saw one until I check the camera footage to confirm,” Hummel said.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4bNQBOlOhk?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

Sprites often resemble alienlike jellyfish-style creatures dangling from the ionosphere, or the layer that lies just above the dense lower atmosphere. In other cases, they look like vertical red pillars with thin, curling tendrils – and these are called carrot curls due to their resemblance to the root vegetable.

Sprites are difficult to see from the ground during massive thunderstorms because of the clouds, but also because they happen so far from the Earth’s surface – however, they are far easier to observe from the International Space Station.


Sprites were given their magical name by late University of Alaska physics professor Davis Sentman, who devised the name for this weather phenomenon due to it being “well suited to describe their appearance” and fleeting, fairy-like nature.

In some cases, the jellyfish sprites can be absolutely massive, with Hummel’s recent photograph depicting ones that tower “probably around 30 miles long and 30 miles tall,” he said. In some cases, the massive glowing tentacles be seen upwards of 300 miles away.

However, no all thunderstorms produce sprites – instead, they occur when lightning strikes the ground, releasing positive electrical energy that requires balancing by an equal and oppositely charged electrical discharge into the sky. The sprites also occur much higher into the sky than regular lightning, which strikes in between electrically charged air, clouds, and our planet’s surface.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp-8xp_3hqU?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

“The more powerful the storm and the more lightning it produces, the more likely it is to produce a sprite,” Hummel noted.

The red glow of the sprite is a result of nitrogen gas high in the atmosphere getting excited by the bursts of electricity resulting from lightning strikes.

As a sprite sparks, it turns red because of nitrogen floating high in Earth’s atmosphere. The gas gets excited by the burst of electricity and emits a red glow.


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Look Back at Where You Once Were

It’s the night before my 28th birthday, and by some strange birthday coincidence, I happened to fill in the last blank page of my diary tonight. And as I wrote in the small book I would never write in again, I felt so blessed to end it on such a high note.

I had nothing but good news to share in this last diary entry for my future self to read, and that warmed my heart. Good news like… I’m taking my first trip to Europe soon! I was published twice in one week on BusinessInsider! I’m making serious progress on my YA novel with my younger sister/co-author!

If I sound happy, it’s because I truly am. The final pages of this diary were written by a beaming, self-confident, and fearless writer Jessica.

But as I flipped back to the first pages of this same diary, I saw how different things were just a year ago.

A year ago, I was ready to quit my job as a receptionist at an animal hospital, officially crossing off yet another position from my list of career ideas. I didn’t want to go back to the mental health field, no matter how ideal it was for me with two psychology degrees. I knew going back to counseling would only make me more miserable.

I was anxious and worried all the time. Depressed was more like it, considering I’d find myself sobbing before bed from time to time. I wrote on the third page of this diary, “I guess tonight is one of those nights where I go to sleep wishing I could wake up as someone else.”

I wasn’t on talking terms with my parents. When we did talk, I picked fights with them until we couldn’t take any more of each other. Pretty much the only happy thing in my life was my partner, and that’s a lot of pressure to place on someone. I really wasn’t in a good place.

And here we are almost one year later, and I can’t help but tell myself,

“I am so proud of you.”

For many things, in both my personal life and in my career. But most importantly, I’m proud of myself for wanting a change in my life so bad that I finally stood up and fought for it instead of waiting for things to change on their own.

I could’ve stayed at that job at the animal hospital. I could’ve been too scared to publish my first article on Medium, and never found a place in this amazing writing community. I could’ve continued being friends with the people who didn’t really care about me.

I could’ve been too afraid to pitch to my first freelance client and my first magazine. (Funny story, I had no idea what freelance writer rates looked like, and I pitched my very first, poorly written, unedited story to a magazine, giving them a rate of $1.00 per word for a story of 2500 words. But at least I tried! Insert crying laughing emoji here.)

I could’ve just accepted that things weren’t ever going to get better. I could’ve stayed right where I was, literally and figuratively. And if I did, I would’ve missed out on all of the happiness I’m feeling right now.

I hope you’ll reflect on how far you’ve come, and how far you will go. Especially on the hard days. I know everyone’s journey is different, and our experiences will differ, but I hope you are in a better place today than you were a year ago. And if not, I hope you are working on getting there. I hope you believe that you will get there.

If you aren’t ending your latest chapter on a high note, I get it. I’ve had those nights where I wished things were different, where I wished I was different. I can’t say I know your pain, because no two wounds are the same, but I can tell you, you’re not alone. My messages are always open if you ever want to talk.

Tonight, I’m looking at this new chapter, knowing it’s going to start and end on a high note. I’m putting it out into the universe. I want to be hopeful and positive and confident about myself and my work.

So I will. I hope you will too.

Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas, NV. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from NAU and her master’s degree in family and human development from ASU. In 2018, she left her career in mental health to pursue a career in writing. She is currently working on her debut novel and a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium to read more of her work.

Image courtesy of Marcos Paulo Prado.

The post Look Back at Where You Once Were appeared first on Positively Positive.

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Snowden: Governments Using Pandemic to Build “Architecture of Oppression” Surveillance

Snowden Pandemic

(TMU) — In addition to quarantines and lockdowns, some governments like those in China, Taiwan, and South Korea have been using a surveillance strategy called “contact tracing” to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

While each country’s contract tracing program has slight variations, all of them are essentially cell phone apps that keep a running record of the user’s heath and the health records of all the people they come into contact with.

If a cell phone comes in close contact with someone who might have the virus, the user receives a text message informing them and then instructing them to self-quarantine for 14 days.

However, the quarantine is not necessarily voluntary, depending on where you live. In some countries, phones have been used as a sort of house arrest ankle-bracelet that will notify authorities if the person being monitored leave the house for any reason.

These apps are being touted as the way to end the shut down in both Italy and the UK and it appears that officials are going to be taking things in that direction.

At face value, it may appear that this could be a useful strategy in preventing the spread of disease, but privacy advocates and tech experts are concerned that this information could be misused and that the unprecedented surveillance capabilities could be kept and held by corrupt governments long after the pandemic is over.

In a recent interview with Vice, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed his concerns about the coming surveillance program, calling it the “architecture of oppression.”

“Do you truly believe that when the first wave, this second wave, the 16th wave of the coronavirus is a long-forgotten memory, that these capabilities will not be kept? That these datasets will not be kept? No matter how it is being used, what’ is being built is the architecture of oppression,” Snowden said.

Snowden recognized that the virus was a serious threat and said that the intelligence community was well aware that it was only a matter of time before a massive pandemic crippled the country, even back when he was working in the NSA.

“There is nothing more foreseeable as a public health crisis in a world where we are just living on top of each other in crowded and polluted cities, than a pandemic. And every academic, every researcher who’s looked at this knew this was coming. And in fact, even intelligence agencies, I can tell you firsthand, because they used to read the reports had been planning for pandemics,” he said.

Snowden questioned the positive numbers that have come out of China in recent weeks and pointed out that the Chinese government has been credited with reducing the spread of the illness because they took such draconian measures during the lockdown.

Perhaps their extreme strategy is not working as well as they say it is, but since the government maintained tight control of any information coming out of the country, it is impossible to say for sure.

“If you’re looking at countries like China, where cases seem to have leveled off, how much can we trust that those numbers are actually true? I don’t think we can. Particularly, we see the Chinese government recently working to expel Western journalists at precisely this moment where we need credible independent warnings in this region,” Snowden said.

In a statement published on Friday, Apple and Google announced that they were teaming up in a rare partnership to develop compatible contact tracing apps, which they claim will work on an “opt-in” basis.

However, according to Bloomberg, the companies are planning to eventually build the contact tracing into the device’s updates.

Apple and Google insist that you will still be able to opt-out of the program if you don’t want to participate, but it is possible that rankings on these apps could be used to gain entry into grocery stores or larger businesses and events once the economy opens up again.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5OAjnveyJo?feature=oembed&w=500&h=281]

“As authoritarianism spreads, as emergency laws proliferate, as we sacrifice our rights, we also sacrifice our capability to arrest the slide into a less liberal and less free world,” Snowden warned.

By John Vibes | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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