How Political and Social Intelligence and Personal Development Strategy Can Work Together


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Motivational speakers and other disciplines (eg. personal finance, health and wellness-related), and even some well-intentioned mental health clinicians who dedicate their energy to improving the lives of their clients, who I will term personal change professionals, have long bemoaned the lack of utility and the potential detrimental effects political and social information and rhetoric have on creating the change their clients need. (the term “client” is used here loosely as these solutions tend to be offered in a one-to-many fashion which has its own sociological grouping effects) In a way, this is deserved. Studies have shown an adverse correlation between negative news and work performance. However, to not account for the whole of the environment affecting a specific realm of a client’s existence does a huge disservice to the client and, needless to say, to society. For the purpose of causing “immediate change,” personal change professionals tend to use a deductive and reductionistic framework that does not look at whole systems within which their client lives (literally and figuratively), or if it does look at systems, only steps as far back as the interactions between behaviors the client adopts and other behaviors in their life. Our society and hence our problems are ever-increasingly complex. People are desperate for solutions for their health, finances, and personal relationships, and we need a new approach that considers all relevant factors to ensure the most people possible get the help they need.

Rule #10 of the “rebellion” on a website called “Nerd Fitness” encapsulates the problematic mentality (if I can steal the terms of this subculture perhaps in denial of being one) perfectly. “Too many people blame their unfortunate situation on the government, the weather, their genetics, global warming, the economy, their parents, etc. Not us. We don’t expect anything to be handed to us; we are not owed anything by anybody.”

The last part kind of seems like common wisdom but of course common wisdom would know where this reasoning breaks down, unlike a dogmatic code of forced exclusion of relevant factors. And I don’t know about you but I prefer the kind of rebellion that identifies problems in the system and tries to fix them, not ignoring the system and effectively blaming the victims. I do like motivation sometimes too. Hence, I greatly appreciate those who are able to understand that the person in a dispossessed or adverse situation still has agency and can use their own ideas and reasoning based upon their situation without “blinders” in order to help themselves and help to develop a new system that acknowledges and helps tp address adverse circumstances on a population level.

One of the greatest showings of how these two work together is the punk band H2O’s album FTTW.  In the song Black Sheep they basically put to a hardcore soundtrack (like many bands in the positive hardcore and straight edge scenes) some of the ideas of the self-help people, “I’ll never find my place in a 9-5 world,” and “gotta keep that PMA” (short for Positive Mental Attitude). Then, in their song Empty Pockets they attribute problems like crime to be “all because of empty pockets.” The really awesome thing about punk ideology (and it’s counterparts like skate culture) is that it doesn’t accept defeat but it also doesn’t ignore reality. That’s precisely what you need to do in these kinds of cases where social ills cause problems in one’s existence.

Now, how does the obvious get obfuscated in the information the public relies upon to improve their lives? It happens like this: in the cases wherein the problem is solely or primarily the client’s behaviors, the solution often works. The client gets better. Hence, this affirms the modality utilized by the professional and further entrenches them. If it’s not broken, why fix it?

Except that outside of these cases where the client’s situation improves, which in the instances of some modalities or disciplines (in particular personal finance), may actually be closer to edge cases than the most common case, the solution yields suboptimal results. Real life situations, unlike optimal conditions used to test methologies, rarely are dominated by a single factor that controls outcomes in a linear fashion. But the positive feedback from the ideal cases has settled and caused the professional to believe that if the solution does not work that it is the subject’s failure to properly implement causing the failure, not the inappropriateness of the solution or its failure to consider factors which are taboo or seen as the province of “social justice warriors” or “wimps who aren’t successful.”

To hide this, selection bias takes hold and results in the incessant parading of the successes to the point of insulting the capacbilties or even the humanity of those who are outside of the domain who are best suited to benefit from a modality. Mention “social justice,” “systemic failures,” “low socioeconomic status,” or even “regulatory obstacles” (ironic), and you are not of the elect who are predestined to the fate of success and only by ignorance of your own obviously true reality shall you prove yourself to be of the elect who will not face economic damnation in this life. Even though you are in circumstances that but for their existence you would be able to get yourself out of your problems, your wisdom will be proved in your ignorance and submission to the authority of the all-powerful guru. If this sounds more like philosophy or false religion than social science, that is because it is. The irony, of course, being that many of the “successful” practitioners of these disciplines on the Internet would berate me for spending time and money on a “worthless” liberal arts degree, which helps give me the knowledge to root out what they’re actually doing.

The solution is this: the personal change professionals are correct in working to first solve the problem at the level of the individual unit, in fact, creating solutions from the top downward by people who have no true familiarity with the circumstances of each person and community is the greatest cause of overcorrections leading to what systems thinking terms “fixes that fail” pathology. Fixes That Fail is the problem that plagues many policy interventions, particularly for social welfare issues. That and excessive bureaucracy that, in the name of accountability and consistency, expensively applies a solution that does not work well in unique, individual contexts (which thus amounts to a type of “fix that fails”). This is why I strongly endorse the use of a “DIY ethos” in the implementation of solutions to systemic pathologies. This is because you can have the freedom to be truly creative rather than be stuck in the mold of the system that probably created or contributed to the problem in the first place, tailor make a solution to each unique problem and context, test its limits, find problems and fix them, and then take it forward to as many people as it can help.  More importantly, you can see any newly created pathologies right there in the flesh before magnifying their scale by using them on a larger population. These solutions that are developed at the individual level should:

  1. Be attentive to the context of the person.
  2. Understand its contribution to the problem.
  3. Understand the cultural inclinations of the person and the community and how they relate to the solution being implemented.
  4. Incorporate these aspects of the problem into the solution by finding viable redirects around the flawed system or working with it better and NOT demand without good cause that aspects of the person’s experience be ignored, or worse mindlessly bludgeoned out of the person to make way for the culture, preferences, and ideology of the solution developer.
  5. Allow the greatest level of agency reasonably possible to the client.
  6. Be analyzed both in results and causes of results. When a solution works, know why it worked. Did it work because of specific factors in the client’s life that have nothing to do with the solution? What types of privilege does the client have? What did your solution do right for the client’s context?
  7.  (Possibly) become generalizable. Once you can see what worked and didn’t and why it did or did not, see what can be generalized, or shared with others. This is how you build a solution outwards to the system.

But working from the bottom is a pretty tough place to be. It’s frustrating and way harder for you than it is for someone at the top to flip a switch, so to speak. And that is where some of these personal change methodologies can fit perfectly into a strategy to empower the people working to solve a problem in their lives, then outward through their spheres of influence, and into the greater community. But they absolutely, positively must be cognizant of factors that would impede their efficacy and be implemented in a fashion that is adaptive to circumstance, not blinded to it. If the people you are listening to are telling you that your progress being proportionately slowed by having to work two jobs and making below the cost of rent in your area is “not an excuse” and makes you “lazy,” then you have my permission to ignore them. You’ve got two choices, find people who get these circumstances and understand individual deviation or use your own discretion to build in adaptations to your circumstances. The latter is harder to do and even though it prevents the fixes that fail outcome of quitting because you believe your minimal progress makes your efforts futile, it can create an opposite counterreaction of eliminating your drive to solve problems within the limits of your own level of agency and resources. The personal change professionals want you to believe this last part will happen the second you start looking at reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Making these kinds of adjustments and reasonably practicing a high level of freedom while making progress is the way a DIY ethos is supposed to work.

Bottom line is that solving social problems and problems in the collective is closely connected to problem-solving in individual contexts like that which the self-help field prides itself upon mastering. The two are inextricably connected and but for the attempts of salesmen to oversell and the personal and political biases of the generally successful people (merits aside) who proffer these solutions, this should be obvious.  The great hope here is that once you understand that the political/society end and the personal problems end are connected, you can use your own knowledge to solve both more efficiently and effectively than a blind methodology, hence getting a better outcome than the other side. You can also make sense of the world around you in the context of your own problems, which would otherwise send you to the side of the “not elect” for even having these thoughts of “negativity” enter your mind. An approach that deals with circumstances in a manner that optimizes (not avoids) the chance of attaining personal change objectives both solves the cognitive dissonance created by those who tell you to basically ignore the outside world and avoids the defeatism of those who believe that these kinds of problems can only be solved by a “switch” somewhere in the strongholds of political power.

Furthermore, for those who become part of the power structure of society, you don’t lose your roots and stop thinking about other people in favor of a model that basically tells you not to care about other people in a meaningful way because it’s bad for you. The world around you will still exist whether you make $10,000, $100,000, or $1 million a year and when you have that kind of power and influence it will help you in the long run to understand people in circumstances like the ones you are in right now. These will become the people your influence extends to and who will become a thorn in your side through politics and the media if you lose touch and do evil stuff with your “success mindset” blinders on. Through many diverse iterations, holding these two seemingly disparate ideas of real circumstances and real agency together will help to build a more just society, starting from our own agency and power.

Next time, I will explain how to begin practically implementing this approach to solve problems, from the inside or from the outside.

Welcome! – Intro Episode

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Welcome to the preview of my podcast Greyson Peltier: DIY Tactics, Gnarly Civics, and Reality. Before we get into what all of that means, let me ask you a few questions. The last few times you saw, heard, or read a political news story, how much did you feel like it was something that affected your life? How about the lives of other real people, whether they are down the street or across the world? And did these stories make the problem seem solvable? Lastly, if they made the problem seem solvable, how did the solution make you feel? To quote the Dirty Heads, does it make you feel good? Or angry? Or just simply “it’s too complicated, I’ll leave it alone”?

If thinking through any of these questions made you feel like there was something missing or that something just wasn’t right, then you are in the right place. And you are not alone. A study featured in the Harvard Business Review showed that people actually had decreased work performance as a result of negative news. Now add in the fake news of the day designed to make you feel awful enough to do stuff you wouldn’t do if you were outside its grip and you have a disaster waiting to happen…oh, wait a second, it has happened. Actually today, believe it or not, false stories outperform the truth on Twitter. That is an indication of just how far down the ideological shock, threat, and fight rabbit hole we have gone.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This show is engaged in nothing less than the creative destruction of the aforementioned paradigm. We take that irrelevant, distant news and replace it with something else. Now, what is that something else? Cute puppies, style advice, motivational self-help? What about all 3? Yeah, but nah – at the same time. We are not immune to fun stuff, because that is actually a good deal of what is lacking in the work of very well-intentioned people who have tried to do a corrolary of what we are doing, and part of what we do is empowering people, but it’s really not like anything you’ve seen because we destroy the paradigms normally used. And I like puppies.

Ok, let’s take it back. Is there an issue that is connected to politics, connected to the way society and its institutions function, that you wish you could bring attention to? Maybe it’s the fines your city gives out for the weirdest things, how your work underpays you because they run everything by an algorithm that is relegated to such a high status that it is totally unconscionable, or your health insurance and its multitude of problems. This kind of stuff can and does get news coverage, but it is often overshadowed by empty banter about tabloid topics superimposed on politicians, who are now spoken of with less dignity than Lindsay Lohan or Kanye West (and he’s a story in and of himself, we’ll get to him latter), that literally drive you crazy and make you feel hopeless or just simply numb.


And does this kind of coverage bring forth an actual solution to anything? The answer is probably no. When we do discuss those kinds of things, a scapegoat solution is often brought out that if you don’t engage in the intellectual gymnastics and performance art of political TV commentators makes no sense for the problem that reeled in your attention. We often times have no idea how much the broader parts of society and systems inside and outside our government impact our lives. How solving problems related to broken systems is as valuable as buying a new product that solves some problem in our homes. The value of fixing our collective reality.

Now, this isn’t a show where I yell about how my side of the aisle has all the solutions to all the problems of the world and the other side needs to just get lost. I played that game for some time on a show I used to have many years ago and I can tell you that it really does nothing. In fact, we are living in the evidence of this deficit of solutions, lack of creativity, excess of reactivity, and just general people in power not caring sometimes not because they don’t want to but because the incentives make them not care.

I found some alternative ways to look at issues, and solve them, and now we get to the weird title you just clicked on to get to this podcast. I will do a full show on my personal story but suffice to say that I started out as a far-right conservative and then started to realize that problems are real and we need to find ways to solve them. I wound up having some adventures in cultures that have nothing really to do with politics and seeing how they looked at big issues, brought it down to the people’s level, democratized the ideas and the solution, get things done, and overall look rad doing it. I realized these kinds of cultures had something special. A really good mix of the right principles from both sides of the aisle and beyond the aisle. Conservative independence and liberal communitarianism. Conservative diligence and liberal mellowness. This is how you get a system un-stuck. if we stay in either of these modes alone, we stay stuck and unable to do anything of significance.

A lot of my approach started with a concert, hint I mentioned the band earlier on. I accidentally started looking at the ways how artists looked at politics and the greater whole of society that feeds back into politics and the problems we see. That last part is actually something we forget and it changes the universe of potential solutions. Then, from these artists and their cultural background, I wound up looking at surfers, skateboarders, different kinds of creative athletes, people that deal with tons of risk and act creatively rather than in typical fight-or-flight like we do, the common people, when we look at fake news for example. Notice how I said “like we do.” I am not one of these awesome people, just to prevent any awkward allegations especially those involving the word “kook.” We’ll get into that later.

But how do they think differently? How do they look at complex situations involving threat, like most every divisive political battle of the day? How can they be strong, disciplined, and downright aggressive, be rugged individuals, and also be highly cooperative? These are some of the topics we will discuss and the ideas we will apply to the modern political and societal experience.

I know this all right now sounds like a really, really huge stretch that seems disjointed and doesn’t really relate to anything, but as we go through you will start to see the better connections between culture and society back into politics and then how we feed those straight back in reverse, unlike how we have it now where politics feeds back into society. This is the line we follow and if you follow that path then you will understand how things in culture feed back into politics. In fact, a lot of the recent political discussion has a whole lot to do with culture, most notably the debate on both the left and the right about identity politics. We will see some examples of how to bridge this divide and the conceptualization and analysis of this problem in coming episodes. That is why it is important to know that this creative approach we are using does not really lie anywhere in the political spectrum we see today.

From my analysis, this alternative method of of understanding and solving problems can be deduced as the following: remove the threat – meaning the supposed threat of people who are perceived to be causing a problem on a knee jerk reaction (think, on the right, people who are scared of immigrants because they feel they are taking their jobs, and on the left people who are scared of people who are upper class and white, for example, and not based on evidence but following a feeling), develop a vision, creatively address the problem at its lowest terms as close as possible to people involved in a problem, apply a great level of cooperation with other people, borrowing ideas from your community and all around and contributing ideas back like the way you would put together a bunch of music genres, apply a DIY, decentralized, freedom-oriented ethos to implementation even as you are implementing what would be, create and destroy at the same time.

Now that I explained the unique approach we will try to apply here, let’s contrast with politics as usual: act on the threat aspect of a problem, capitalize on it and assume that it is the whole problem, rile people up over it, implement solutions against the perceived threat at the highest, most governmental or bureaucratic level as possible, only let in solutions allowed by party donors or the political media elite (side note on political media: a person who might be on the show asked me once when I was trying to get into conservative political media instead of as how he put it “doing things,” and I can get where that’s coming from especially given his cultural ideas are likely those I just explained, but I saw that Fox News and talk radio had more power over policy making than people in politics, and look, we are talking about that all the time with the Trump administration, so I was right. Now let me back away from this self-aggrandizement), and destroy random things through unintended effects while still not fully solving the problem you started with.

Notice how in the creative shall we say “Gnarly Civics” method I first explained the center of power is on the people, but with politics as usual the center of power is those already in power. This is by design. The system is designed to feed itself and push everyone else out, to the detriment of society and even to an extent, paradoxically, those who are in power. This last part is the interesting part if you are looking to build partnerships, since they also have something at stake.

This is an interesting way to look at political problems, because the real problems, not the made up tabloid stuff that I talked about earlier, are real, not just systemically but in people’s experience. So when we talk about solving political problems, we are going to talk about working from the bottom up most of the time. Solving complex problems in our own lives, the lives of those around us, and build up to the system as a whole. Even though we are starting at the lowest level possible, we don’t stay there, we don’t do what motivational speakers do to politics and systemic challenges, which is deny their existence and  their impact on your life and effectively blame you for every problem in your life and expect you to just solve things on a strictly personal level with blinders to the collective and make yourself into a debt-free, extremely confident, super spiritual, jacked superhero when you can barely keep your lights on and are eating beans and rice, rice and beans to survive and still not paying off your debt. Yes, I listen to Dave Ramsey whenever I want to feel bad about not being rich. And yes, you are not the only person that thinks my Dave Ramsey impersonation is annoying. We will have a special episode all about motivational speakers, self-help, and society, and take some hints from punk rock on how to create a strong DIY individual and not just do that but bring it outward to the community without ignoring or just giving minimal passing mention to the brutal reality that has to be solved. Of course we will discuss policies and systems to analyze and understand but the real good work is often done from the bottom.

And that is done by applying a DIY ethos and DIY tactics from the smallest component up to the largest, acknowledging the real problems involved and informing our approach with the reality of the situation, and then using some of our Gnarly Thinking that involves a tremendous amount of creativity and adaptability, we build up to the institutions and systems, maybe doing a little “skate and destroy,” shall we say, to their ways, and speaking a bold, radical vision from a place of strength as best as is possible. And this is done within both an individual and community context. We’ll stick with our culture and our roots and call this “your crew,” and we’ll talk about building one as we go through this podcast. There’s this kind of magic place where community and individuality, strength and love, are in the right balance, but politically we call them diametric opposites, so we never see this. By the way, this is area of opposites is where those “snowflake” and SJW rants you see all over the Internet come into play. People will perceive, often wrongly, other people just complaining about random things they believe a reasonable person would find to be of no true significance and asking people to bend over backwards to fix them. With this kind of skewed perception and asymmetry of understanding, this often doesn’t go over well, no matter how legit the complaint is. Often times, people will take the few really bad examples that you can’t truly generalize out and use their threatened mind and generalize them to the situation incorrectly. One way you can break these perceptions is through counterexample and that is how liberal ideologies can use an infusion of the kinds of alternative ideologies and DIY ethos that we will be discussing here to implement their ideas without causing as much of this instant backlash. This really is key to bridging the divide because it shows the strength of an ideology and its adherents, which is a big step on the path to legitimacy, which is a big part of the path to success. The issue is that, true or not, there is a perception that these kinds of liberal ideologies are just imposing on people excessively and their adherents are so weak they cannot take care of their own issues. Punk and skate are the total counter-points in the spectrum of more liberal ideologies to this weak “snowflake” view, so greater integration of these ideological subsets when done appropriately can help with demolishing opposition and gaining trust on the opposite side of the aisle, if you play it right. That’s the key, you can do all the re-alignment you want to, you can actually be something totally different, but unless you use it in the right way a lot of it will be a waste. We will do a separate episode on this SJW issue and the alt-right’s counter reaction and how to solve both sides of the coin. There is actually a tremendous article in the New York Post about the “conversion” of a white supremacist that speaks a lot to the kind of cultural integration I will emphasize here, and I will discuss that in that episode. The solution, as it often is, is not what you think.

We are also going to look at the radicals of society. The artistic categories I spoke about fall in this category but they have made tremendous adaptation to turn that radicalism into something amazing, something we call in its political form Gnarly Civics – the kind of civics you need when things get gnarly, like just about right now. These radicals hold the key to our transformation as but often go untapped and often implode on themselves or are pushed out. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest wastes of society’s resources, and this repeats worldwide. Not working with and integrating the radicals of society in a meaningful way has consequences leading from divisive protests to all-out wars, here and at home. But there are plenty of counterexamples where the radicals of society have been integrated in a manner that doesn’t cause the nightmares we expect and does good that we can work from in order to accomplish this.

There is probably something you’ve noticed missing from all this political talk, albeit in a weird way, and it’s the focus of almost all other political sjpws. Voting. We won’t talk much about who you should vote for, though just a bit maybe during this election season. As much as voting is a civic duty and you should do so well-informed, much of the change we want to see in society, the change that will make our lives better, comes from places other than the ballot box. So we start with voting, and go further.

Now on a practical level, what can you expect from me and this show?

We are going to do a multiple part fundamentals series that explains complex issues facing our society, things that stick around, are what we call in media “evergreen.” Lay the foundation for what kinds of approaches we can follow. Next, we are going to try to interview some totally rad people who are from some of the cultures I spoke about, particularly from skateboarding which has intrigued me increasingly since I took a class on the subject of skateboarding and society with the US State Department’s Special Envoy of Skateboarding. Talk about a cool job title. We are going to try to get him on the show to talk about his work and some really innovative ideas for engaging our valuable youth that are disaffected by society to do awesome things. And I’m pretty sure he can kickflip, unlike myself. Seriously, I can’t skate. There are reasons for that and I might drop those on the YouTube greysoncpeltier.

There will also be some episodes posted weekly (I hope) on current issues worked through a framework of solving problems and reality, as well as taking some issues in-depth over multiple episodes. One of the ones I am really looking forward to is with my very own step-grandmother who has been placed in an illegitimate guardianship I will take your questions about just about any problem you are facing in society and how we can work to solve it individually and systemically. Because it’s not just society, it’s not just your attitude, it’s everything. So we can venture to say that to DIY our change, I could wind up talking about almost anything. You can send those questions to There’s also some fun and interesting stuff that will go on my YouTube channel before they arrive here. Some upcoming topics for the YouTube are the social problems of My 600-lb Life. You’ve got to see that one because if you’ve ever seen the TV show because you will never watch it the same again, I got into the show and noticed some fascinating points on how to best help people in these kinds of medical circumstances. Also the corporate social responsibility problems with Craigslist, and their management structure and some less-related stuff you may find interesting too. The YouTube will be a lot more casual, including things from my everyday life, how I sometimes do battle with political and social issues of myself and those around me but also how I do battle with myself and my weaker side. You might be able to learn something. Or just laugh at me. If you want to hear more of my un-produced and unrefined opinions, you can check there later on.


In Summary:

We are going to talk to people and solve problems. Maybe we will be able to visit the grounds of the problems in real life and document how we can make changes. The insurmountable will become achievable.
We do this with DIY Tactics – creative things that people can implement and do in order to solve the complex social problems everybody else calls impossible without some kind of attack ideology that won’t solve anything anyway without waiting for someone else.
We explain what’s going on and reason through it with Gnarly Civics, which is a special kind of civic framework that works best when things get gnarly and is the renegade thinker’s political framework of a radical vision, creativity, and universality, and the lens that gives you the knowledge and motivation to shred problems like crazy.
We develop the approach and measure progress by looking at reality. Not political numbers or delegates or the electoral college, but the things people really care about. This means you will hear something useful or at least interesting whenever you listen.

Please join me next time for our episode on the power of value, how it explains so many social problems, especially the student loan crisis, and how using the same principles as the most absurd As-Seen-On-TV product can fix our crisis of technology being seen as the solution to everything and many people being underpaid and stuck with excessive student loans while being placed on the sidelines of society without a paycheck for their valuable skills that can do plenty of good.