#10 - I'm Past My Prime💫
And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves
Happy Wednesday. Today is my big 1-0 issue. Thank you to everybody who’s followed my journey these past two and a half months. It’s been a joy writing these newsletters for you, and I’m just getting started.
If you know somebody who might enjoy the Long Way Home🏡 newsletter, please forward them this email, it would mean the world.
Check out components #2 and #3 on my Twitter. This week, the 🛳 Ship 30 for 30 community passed the halfway point for writing screenshot essays and publishing them on a daily basis. My major takeaway from doing this every day for more than two weeks is forcing yourself to publish really does defang the sharing process. Putting work out there is not nearly as scary as it feels.
In this issue of LWH🏡:
🎵 - No Ceilings 3 by Lil Wayne
🗞 - I'm Past My Prime (And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves)
📃 An Obvious Blunder By Paint Giant Sherwin Williams
Last week, Sherwin Williams fired part-time employee Tony Piloseno for "using work hours to make TikTok videos", despite having a wildly successful TikTok and Instagram page where people could watch him hypnotically mix interesting paint colours. Ari explains how much their reaction differed from the buzz-generating reaction of Ocean Spray in response to Nathan Apodaca's viral video of Apodaca skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice. Read here.
📃 A Newsworthy Ascent
Daily business newsletter creator Morning Brew has become a beloved brand among its ever-growing fanbase. Their ability to be funny, authentic, and transparent makes them feel more personable than the vast majority of brands, especially in the world of business and news. This fantastic piece explains how prioritizing engagement over acquiring new subscribers has kept Brew email open rates staggeringly high, despite going to millions of readers every morning. Check it out.
🎵 The Mixtape King is Back at it
Lil Wayne likely has the most impressive catalogue of mixtapes (collections of songs where rappers rap over other rappers' beats and release them onto the internet for free) out of any rapper out there. It's typical for Wayne's mixtape song to be more popular than the original, especially during his infamous 2006-2011 run. Despite a few rocky years, the punchline maestro continues to prove his remarkable rhyming ability, talent for finding original flows, and infectious energy. Listen here.
🎙 Can We Just Talk?
In the new podcast show Ask Big Questions, actress Rashida Jones and philanthropist Bill Gates tackle one big question per week, inviting on a knowledgeable expert to help add context and flavour to the conversation. Joined by Raj Chetty of Harvard University think tank Opportunity Insights, and Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, this episode will help reframe inequality, opportunity, and the future of both. Listen here.
I'm Past My Prime (And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves)
Most of us have experienced the strange pain of feeling like our best selves are behind us. We feel like in the present moment, we are simply not as smart, funny, attractive, and creative as we were in the past. We feel so strongly that our current lackluster self is not as capable or well-suited for making great memories as our past self was. Nostalgia yanks us to a simpler time that seems so full of laughter and fondness, and that reality feels a million miles away from where we are, wherever that may be. We cannot escape the feeling that we are living in a sad, dreary moment in the anthology of our lives—that we are a shell of our former selves, midway of life's long slide downwards.
Almost all of us feel as though our competence is in a perpetual state of decline. We believe that the unique skills and talents that make us worthy of attention and a joy to be around are in a constant and ever-growing state of disrepair. In our darker moments, we feel panic-stricken when we take our perceived rate of decline and extrapolate it just a few short years ahead of us and realize that before we know it, we will be below average on almost any metric worth celebrating in the first place.
Over the years, I have learned that this is an almost universal sensation. Given its ubiquity, I figured that there must be invisible forces at work pushing us to feel this way, year after year. Here are five logical reasons that I believe we all feel as though our best days are behind us.
1. Our horizons have expanded.
Our palettes have grown more nuanced and our concept of mastery is much more well-informed. We went from being a big fish in a small pond earlier in life (e.g., high school, small town, etc.) to a small fish in a big pond (e.g., university, big city, etc.). In our memories, we see ourselves as worthy of praise and admiration because in the past, our abilities were the best around. It's easy to feel like "best around" talents are universally masterful, but the best swimmer in a class of eight year olds will recalibrate her idea of her ability if an Olympian were to join her class.
When we are younger, we have a zoomed in perception of the world. To borrow an example from grade 11 calculus, we have a sense of local minimums and maximums without a sense of global minimums and maximums
As we grow older and become more educated, our field of view expands and we see that our local maximum was high but not nearly as high as some of the nearby peaks. Regardless of how deserving of praise and admiration we believe we are, there is someone who is better, faster, and smarter than us.
As our understanding of the world deepens, the limitations of our own skills become brutally clear. We go from being the smartest kids in our class to slightly above average at best once we reach post-secondary education. The same is true for any skill we may have. We might go from being the best piano player among our cousins, or best writer among our friends, to being middle of the pack once we meet others with similar interests.
It is difficult not to interpret this shift in rank as a decline of our own competencies. But in reality, we are simply developing a more well-informed impression of our current skill level.
2. The difficulty of our challenges has increased over time.
The world is wrought with much more complexity and challenge than we believed when we were younger. Our abilities have not deteriorated so much as our issues have increased in difficulty at a disportioncate rate.
Imagine being able to do exactly 15 push-ups in a row before collapsing. If we were to strap a 10lbs weight to our backs, it would be unrealistic to expect ourselves to be able to complete exactly 15 push-ups again. Admittedly, we would do fewer. Assessing our strength by strictly looking at the number of push-ups we are able to do without considering the context in which we do them is the same as assessing our ability to impress and succeed as the people and challenges around us change. We will inevitably think less of ourselves.
Over time, as our muscles develop, we will be able to do 15 push-ups with the additional weight, but it will require time and effort to strengthen our muscles enough to burden the heavier load to the same degree.
3. We no longer receive the same amount of vocal praise.
In youth, adults are routinely impressed by how much we have accomplished at our age. If we are particularly lucky, they may even inform our parents of their surprise. Adults applaud our maturity, our intelligence, our well-developed sense of the world. Similarly, mistakes that we make are written off as understandable, given that we are children, and that we will undoubtedly learn better in the coming years.
Somewhere along the way, we become fully formed adults, not adolescents wise beyond our years. Those that are older than us are much less inclined to vocalize their praise, and seem eager to give us constructive feedback. As young professionals, we are even vocal about our desire to improve, magnifying the issue.
We transition from hearing, almost exclusively, praise for our character, to hearing, almost exclusively, opportunities for improvement. The world becomes less impressed by our well-developed personalities and much less tolerant of our shortcomings. This over-represents our shortcomings and under-represents our skills and talents. As we grow older, we see less evidence for success and assume that is evidence for less success—a classic logical fallacy.
4. Our memories are imperfect.
We remember our most emotionally salient moments. Unless specifically prompted, we remember pure elation and deep pain, but not much in between, despite the "in-between" filling about 90% of our time. In nostalgic moments, we flooded with a highlight reel composed over a number of years and compare that to our relatively monotonous day-to-day, a grossly unfair comparison.
Emotional arousal secrets hormones (mainly norepinephrine) that hyper-sensitize nerve cells in the brain in areas responsible for the formation of new memory circuits. Emotionally salient experiences quite literally reconfigure our neural wiring so that we remember these moments more easily. Our memory is therefore full of peaks and valleys, giving the past a sense of adventure and vividness that we feel is absent from our current lives.
5. We think back to the past when we are already feeling melancholic.
We rarely think to daydream when we are feeling secure and reassured of our success. In our happier moments, we tend to be present. It is only when we are frustrated or disappointed with how things are going that we reminisce on past experience, almost instinctively. The sadness we feel in the present moment provides us a vantage point from which to view our past, and it is easy, in that state, to feel like we are thinking back to a better time, since of course, any time would be better than the one we are in.
To use our moments of frustration as reference points to evaluate our entire present day experience is deeply unjust to ourselves. We are quick to forget how naive, troubled, and confused we were when we were younger. Further, we forget how often we feel capable and educated in the present, not wishing to be any other version of ourselves than the version that we are.
Rosy retrospection (our tendency to recall the past more fondly than the present) and declinism (our tendency to feel as though the world is in a perpetual state of deterioration) plague us all to a varying degree. It is common and thus deeply human to believe these falsehoods.
All this to say, in a few year's time, we will look back to the exact days we are living right now and wish we were back here, too. The moments we are living through are worthy of nostalgia and being missed, even if we struggle to wrap our heads around that this very second, tangled in the best moments of our past.
In my prime,