Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Critical Mass Part III

Introduction to Part III

This is Critical Mass, a petition for the inauguration of NonPro space in our showing system. It seems the last twenty years have progressed to a point where this issue can no longer be ignored, that its time may finally have come. And isn’t that a wonderful thing? Adopting a new format promises new opportunities, expanding the excitement and diversity of our shows. Proactively attending to a systemic problem spells good things for all of us, too.

In Part I we analyzed the factors can created the disenfranchisement of the NonPro in the first place. In Part II, we got real with the issue of beta aggression and its byproduct, bullying, and how that negatively affects the NonPro cause. In this Part III then, we’re going to take stock of our collective attitudes about NonPro that have also worked to keep NonPro muffled.

Radiation Sickness

Beta aggression doesn’t just embolden bullying, it influences our attitudes, too. We’ve marched through the decades with such blinders on, haven’t we? So much infatuation with a ribbon or card, we blinded ourselves to the unintentional changes that were working against us. Or to put more fine a point on it—we shut down proactive change. Through our resistance, our apathy, our disdain, whatever the reason, we did a very good job of making sure a large segment of our community was muzzled. And now it’s come back to bite us as many warned it would.

In this, we need to admit something—our community has its own novel brand of discriminations which are strong, sweeping, systemic, and have the same false logic, fear mongering, and mistaken assumptions typical of prejudice. And yet we accept their truth as our reality or at least something to be begrudgingly tolerated. Why have they persisted for twenty five long years? It may simply be that many don’t recognize them for what they are, or perhaps “ribbon privilege” enables the rationalization “it doesn’t affect me.” But the truth is they affect everyone and in rather profound ways. And perhaps because these prejudices affect the NonPro most, we’re obligated to finally rethink them. Yet it behooves us to address them for our own sakes, too, since what’s good for NonPros will be good for all of us (something we’ll discuss in Part V). Time to get real with ourselves.

The first bias is the strident belief that “fairness” ensures quality and so upholds value, to the point where if something is perceived as “unfair,” people get quite riled whether or not it’s warranted. For example, we see it launched in attacks on judges, or against our peers when our fears, suspicions, and resentments pile up along with their prizes. But if we look at things more objectively, we see that for most cases there’s no real correlation between “fairness” and quality. Indeed, we have no consensual rulebook or fixed judging criteria. We can’t even consensually define LSQ. So a judge can literally use any criteria they wish, weighted any way they want. There’s also no confirmation whether they’re properly educated on that criteria either. Yet in this chaos, a ribbon is considered a factual statement of quality? The truth is the best we can say is that a placing represents someone’s random opinion at that moment given what’s on the table. That’s it. To attach a validation beyond that is to not fully understand the nature the situation and speaks to how skewed our prospects have become. To be sure, they’re now sustained by fear not reason, by self-interest not compassion, by cynicism not optimism—all the main ingredients of prejudice. Because most of the time, a model is bought or a ribbon is placed in accordance with someone’s honest assessment, but with criteria that may not match our own and in this ruleless system, isn’t required to. We all love a model for our own reasons. 

Similarly then, this bias works against the NonPro, being used to accuse them of simply wanting to stack the deck in their favor as if NonPro space would be intrinsically unfair to everyone else. But to assume their desire for their own setting is a means to simply scoop up armfuls of goodies is to misunderstand the problem. NonPros don’t want a nefarious advantage, something beyond what others have. They want equitable conditions matched against their peers just like professional showers have. But if we quickly assume that anything new to the status quo is simply a manipulation for an unfair advantage, how are we going to experiment, explore, and evolve into a more sensible showing paradigm? No wonder we’ve been stuck for so long! So it’s not to create an unfair situation, it’s to correct an unfair one. Yet this prejudice prevents folks from recognizing this, even to deny it caught up in the fear that fuels it. So rather than ensure fairness, all this prejudice does is promote suspicion, confusion, and exclusion, the very things we don’t need and which disadvantage NonPros even more.

This brings us to the second prejudice, the belief that people will engage in unethical behavior at the first opportunity. Truly, it always seems when things don’t go someone’s fickle way, they panic and call shenanigans without even considering how they may have misunderstood the situation or should consider it on a per case basis. We even see people getting frenzied over something they learned second hand, even third hand. Typically then, we see judges accused of unethical, biased behavior when placings don’t appear “right” to someone. But the truth is the judge is probably seeing things that are invisible to them and they’re just doing their job correctly. Why not just ask the judge? Or perhaps we’re seeing things invisible to them—we’re all still learning, remember. (Instead of freaking out then, that was a great moment to politely and discreetly have an educational moment.) What’s more, there are relatively few artists who consistently crank out the most accurate work and knowledgable judges tend to favor them for that reason. This isn’t an expression of unethical bias, but of doing their job properly, of making educated choices. And we can’t forget that many folks just aren’t aware of how judging actually works—it’s not as straightforward as it would seem. What sounds good on paper just doesn’t apply in practice! To automatically suspect others then is to literally interpret everyone as a potential enemy, and how is that conducive to consensus? Indeed, this knee-jerk assumption of unethical motivations—of guilty before proven innocent—helps to keep us divided. It creates an air of reckless disrespect and distrust, and a lack of civility as people become more shrill in their accusations and as more people are injured by them. It also makes us impatient with each other when a more tolerant response is the better reaction. It turns peers into opponents to be challenged, too, rather than potential friends to be embraced. And how fun is that? So when we automatically assume someone is up to shenanigans when not privy to the full facts is to fall prey this prejudice, and that helps no one, especially our own credibility. And—yes—there will be those few who are unethical and who will cheat, but they’re few and far between and usually ferreted out. The fact is, most people are honest and well-meaning so to fixate on the problematic few at the expense of everyone else is just overreacting. It’s time we relearn to trust each other again and even when a rare bad apple bobs up. Are we really incapable of rising above and moving on with our positives intact? Has our fear taken so much control that we’re simply incapable of thinking our way out of this? 

Even so, all this adds up to paint the NonPro with a particularly ugly brush. But NonPros aren’t some conspiratorial group. They don’t want to take advantage of anyone or the system. In fact, it can be argued that we’ve created a system that unethically takes advantage of them! If we assume that NonPros are unscrupulous in their motivations then, we’re simply being prejudicial. They’re no less trustworthy than anyone else. They’re our friends, too!

We come to the third prejudice which is particularly snippy: someone is just a wannabe if they’re not into high-stakes intense competition like the “real showers.” In other words, if they’re not utterly fixated on “perfect,” too, then they’re not worthwhile participants with invalid interests. They’re essentially losers. Because why bother? They’re not serious, are they? This prejudice usually burbles up in a number of sideways slams. For example, the idea that NonPros are the B-team because they’re just not “dedicated enough” to create the really excellent work is a common example. However, NonPro isn’t defined by quality because the truth is the work of many NonPros is brilliant! Another potshot is the idea that people who create their own pieces are somehow hokey or old-fashioned compared to those who buy the “real” work of Pros. For example, we hear this in the claim a region is particularly strong simply because a bunch of people there own Pro models, totally overlooking anyone who makes their own. Another veiled bash is the assertion that instead of “whining,” people should save up for one or two great models. This patronizing, out-of-touch response deliberately ignores four facts. One, financial limitations have a direct influence on our experience in this venue. Really, generally speaking, the less we can afford, the less likely we’ll find consistent success. Yet limited finances are unavoidable for many since this is a casual hobby with a fixed budget, meaning that their experience is essentially predetermined in the current system. Many people just cannot afford even a $500 model no matter the conditions. As such, this can drive someone to create their own models. As such, second, NonPros don’t want to compete with someone else’s work—they want to compete with their own, and on an equitable playing field with their peers. What’s more, none of this invalidates their participation, diminishes their value, or discredits their contribution to our community. Third, it doesn’t recognize that having one or two shots at success is very different from having many. Showing models with no rules, no consensus, no training, and no fixed criteria literally means it’s a form of gambling. What will the judge pin? Who knows. We can certainly hedge our bets with great work, but that’s no guarantee. Even the best piece ever created can do stellar under one judge but tank under the next. So even if we have a two amazing models, that’s still relatively low chances for success compared to someone who owns ten. And when someone can only afford to go to a few shows a year, chances are further reduced. Model horse showing is really about playing the odds and the odds certainly don’t stack up in most people’s favor. Fourth, it dismisses the concern in the first place, the validity of someone’s frustration with the status quo. Rather than considering their point then they’re simply labeled a “whiner” as if their reality had no merit when, in fact, it’s the canary in the coal mine. It’s essentially condescending victim blaming and it happens far too often in this venue. And it goes on and on. The fact is the NonPro is confronted on a daily basis by an undercurrent of disdain and indifference as if they were second rate citizens or “failed showers” despite being the majority of potentials.

The fourth prejudice is the idea that NonPro space is about handing out a bunch of ribbons to a bunch of second-rates which will water down placings overall—even diminish the value of everyone’s models. How in the world will ribbons earned in a totally different space—the NonPro—affect that of Pro? This is literally like saying the price of bananas fixes the price of curry combs. Ribbons aren’t a kind of universal currency—people pay attention to where they come from and how they’re won, in fact, obsessively so. This is pure fear mongering! Can we please stop fixating on the value of our models and think about the value of our collective experience? Yes—the money we've invested in our collection is important, but our investment in our community experience is important, too. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, in fact, they’re synergistic. Think about it—the better our collective experience, the more people are attracted to our activity and so the value of our models goes up. And even so, what’s wrong with handing out more ribbons? Really—how is that bad? This idea of being a “ribbon miser” to ensure quality and value is a fallacy because it doesn’t work that way in the current system. We all know of the undeserving winner just as much as the shower discouraged by this covetous obsession. And with the gambling setting, value is all over the map. In the midst of all this, we really should be giving folks any encouragement possible. This whole “they get! they get! they get!” attitude misses so many points when we need a lot more community-minded thinking. Because the truth is the more ribbons we hand out, the more people are encouraged to continue and that actually boosts showing, value, and participation. There’s this, too: high quality has become so evenly distributed nowadays that the idea of handing out only a few titles becomes ever more problematic as more of these pieces are created every year. So the idea that we should be tightfisted in our prize-giving to shore up an artificial sense of value is contrived at best and arbitrary at worst. This isn’t to say we need to be flinging out ribbons like ticker tape, but we can certainly loosen our grip on the bag. Because what’s more important is that people get some form of positive feedback and encouraging vibe for all their effort whether Pro or NonPro. Besides, a good placing under a great judge will always retain its value.

The fifth prejudice is that everyone else will have to suffer in order for NonPros to prosper, as if one had to sacrifice for the other. Perhaps some believe their goodies will be sacrificed to allow some to be given out to NonPro? This doesn’t have to be the case with targeted entry fees and smart development. Because NonPros deserve a competitive space where they, too, can feel the benefit of their efforts just like the rest of us. Creating a positive feedback loop is never a bad thing. Really, NonPro is about setting up a space for them to compete against their peers rather than being thrown into the Pros who have all the advantages. So it’s about equality. We got proactive to get artist resins out of custom because we thought that was an inequitable comparison, right? Yet we don’t recognize this very same disparity between the motivations and limitations of Pro and NonPro? It’s as if we have a willful blindspot with our peers, that we’re loathe to even consider how they may be suffering under a system that benefits us but disadvantages them. Because we already have one group sacrificing for another, don’t we? The NonPro has been sacrificing for the rest of us for over twenty years, and it’s time the playing field was made more equitable. But as we all know with any body of power—it’s loathe to share it. We can do better. We need the neighborhood tennis court. It’ll keep more people incentivized to create and stick around so our ranks don’t continue to dwindle. The goal of NonPro then is really to encourage and support the larger segment of the community not to deprive anyone else of opportunity. Equal rights doesn’t work that way.

Yet it also cannot be ignored that in the gambling setting, it’s advantageous for showers to keep the game exclusive by limiting the number of entries in any given class and participants at any given show. That is to say keeping entry numbers suppressed—either by exclusion or discouragement—increases each person’s chances of getting a ribbon (or NAN card). And if we’re all about chasing ribbons nowadays, this is perceived as a benefit despite the systemic damage it does to our activity. Because let’s flip this equation over—let’s create a boom in the number of showers—now the chances for any given model to ribbon in any given class goes down. This highlights the fact that what we have today isn’t actual competition, it’s rigging the system! And nowhere else is the system more rigged than against the NonPro where whole swaths of interests are being methodically disenfranchised for no better reasons than misunderstanding and self-interest. But let’s reconsider this—let’s institute NonPro. Yes—we have more showers, a lot more showers. However, they’re popped into their own space. That actually leaves more room in Pro for models to ribbon and new space in NonPro for those models to ribbon. In short, NonPro actually increases someone’s chances of ribboning, something good across the board.

The sixth bias is the stubborn belief that NonPro simply cannot be defined and is therefore an exercise in futility. Even more, that unless we have an irrefutable definition that scoops up every extravagant exception, we need to dump the idea altogether. It’s always seemed so strange that the community could come together so quickly to form NAMHSA—accepting the risks and loopholes that could be later be closed—yet refuses to do this for the NonPro situation. It could be that the idea’s bad PR simply scared people away and suppressed activism. It’s also possible that as it was originally envisioned, its massive governing bureaucracy was simply too overwhelming for the perceived payback—actually a fair assessment. And NAN was a big, fancy show, a decided perk for active showers whereas NonPro was about “those people,” something incongruous with our growing intensity. So maybe it was just bad timing? The idea that NAN have NonPro space may also have riled intense showers because—to them—having the “B-team” get the same opportunities just rubbed them the wrong way. But it also could have been done on purpose. It cannot be denied that some people seemed to deliberately complicate matters as a means to shut the idea down, throwing out every possible exception and wild scenario as if just one pothole meant the entire truck had to go off the road. Indeed, we’ve been oddly spastic to throw the baby out with the bathwater with the whole NonPro concept. Yet we allowed so much leeway with NAN yet none with NonPro? So much uncertainty with NAN yet none with NonPro? So much risk with NAN yet none with NonPro? The fact of the matter is no definition is going to be perfect and there will be some who fall between the cracks. That’s true of AO rules as well. There will also always be someone who tries to game the system in their favor. That’s true of everything, including NAN. But neither of these scenarios preclude the necessity and viability of the concept. We have to start somewhere and we can figure it out as we go along, even on a per case basis. Let’s keep that baby in the bathtub because we can certainly change the water as needed.

The seventh prejudice is that NonPros are just a bunch of sour grapes, sore losers who only want to whine about how they aren’t winning as many ribbons as we are. What a great way to shut down dialogue, huh? So very effective in discrediting another person’s reality, isn’t it? There seems to be some people who are really attached to the current showing system and therefore feel threatened by the DIY idea. But they forget—perhaps in their knee-jerk panic—that there’ll always be a very active Open Halter division, always a place for Pros and professional showers*. But the problem here is that showing currently only caters to the Open division—heck—it is the Open division. But that doesn’t represent the bulk of potential participants, the NonPros, and so our traditional showing paradigm isn’t servicing a large part of our community. And they just want to play tennis! (There are also vast numbers who cannot afford to compete as a professional shower which warrants its own discussion). In contrast, horse associations take Amateur Owner (our version of NonPro) extremely seriously. They keenly recognize that AO stabilizes their activity into a sustainable long-term activity and viable economy and so seek to encourage them with inclusive, active involvement. In a sense, the AO (NonPro) is the middle class and we all know how fundamental that is to the vitality of a consumer-based economy. The bigger their numbers and the more they’re included then, the more robust and dynamic the system. And like the real showing world, we have our professional trainers (professional artists), professional owners (professional showers) and AOs (NonPro) so why not simply jump to this new paradigm? We already know it works—and really well! Here’s the thing—the Open-only division may have worked in the past, but it’s quite obviously obsolete and out-of-touch today. It’s time to move onto a better paradigm, a more sensical showing system that includes more of our community.

[*It’s another prejudice to think that professional showers are “do nothings” who just buy a model and plunk it on a table as if they didn’t put any real work into earning their ribbon. The truth is it takes work and study to develop the finessed Eye to spot the great work—it’s not something we’re just born with. And just because it a more “invisible” skill doesn’t make it any less authentic or valid.]

Because here’s the thing—NonPros don’t mind getting beaten, they just want to be beaten their peers. Indeed, who wants to get blasted by something not even aligned to our same interests? Would we show an OF against an artist resin? Then why would we show an intense motivation against a casual one? A set of advantages against a set of disadvantages? And just because one is casual doesn’t mean it’s less worthy. It’s simply different. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to play tennis! I mean, I love to play D&D, but I just want to play the game not immerse myself obsessively in every tiny detail, lore, book, and rule. Or I just want to bake cookies not become a pastry chef. We have to start recognizing how different intensity levels determine outcomes and start respecting them. Participation is always more important than obsessing over the “best of the best” at the expense of whole groups of people, especially when we’re talking about a casual pastime. Indeed, if people aren’t having fun in their hobby, they’re going to find another one and there are plenty of options out there to fit any horse-crazy heart. Then what are we losing? We’re all diminished the moment someone leaves in discouragement or chooses not to pick up a paintbrush. And—no—this doesn’t make them any less dedicated or worthwhile. It means we’ve failed to provide a setting that makes sense to them.

Showing used to be about positives: incentives and exploration. But for most people in its current state it’s based on negatives: discouragement and entrenchment. And while a large part of our community are creatives or potentials, our system is designed specifically to demoralize creativity if not of the most intense fixation. In response, NonPro would offer a reinstatement of that incentivized setting for people to again explore their creativity without worrying about whether the outcome will be competitive enough to justify their time and emotional investment. With NonPro, we recreate that encouraging setting for the majority while leaving the high intensity for those who want it. It’s a win win.

Because there’s nothing wrong with competition—it’s a good thing. It's an impetus to improve and innovate and it provides a challenge to intense interests. But competition is only healthy under two conditions—that it’s peer-based and that it’s kept in balance with camaraderie, community, and fun. Instead, however, we’ve allowed competition to become the top priority at the expense of these balancing factors, resulting in a widespread unhappy sentiment. And we see this clearly with the plight of the NonPro since being forced to compete with Pros doesn't actually cultivate artistic drive—it destroys it. Strong competition only improves art and inspires participation when people compete within a context that makes sense to them, when it’s with peers. Being thrown to the wolves is hardly an incentive, is it? So initiating NonPro means two things here. First, the majority of creatives finally get equitable peer competition while the intense interests get to compete with their peers. And when the Pros are competing with Pros, that intense interest amplifies even more. A plus for that kind of focus, isn’t it? Second, this new playing field depressurizes the whole setting, reducing stress, suspicion, and anxiety so people can remember fun, camaraderie and community again, reforming bonds and respecting each other once more.

[It’s also been suggested that NonPros could focus on photoshowing as their outlet. However, this overlooks the fact that photography introduces its own exclusionary limitations. Equipment costs and technical know-how can be an exclusionary burden all its own, for example. And we want things to be more accessible, right?]

Because we have to wonder if AO is so popular in horse showing—demanded even—why hasn’t it been so with us? We’re supposed to be emulating real horse showing yet we’re failing on a fundamental level here. It’s these darned prejudices that give NonPro a bad image and make it seem like an unwieldy, unpleasant beast better left untouched. And maybe that’s also deliberate? Because if shows are a limited resource why would we want to share it with people who aren’t really serious? If we’re all about the best of the best, why would we want losers to have an equal shot at that prestige? If ribbons are a statement of value, why should second-rate quality be equally validated? And if NAN is a tough, qualifying show, why would we water it down by allowing hackneyed showers a shot at a cookie, too? Good grief! Is it any surprise that so many NonPros are demoralized, having being browbeaten with all this for so long? And it’s definitely prevented them from action and advocacy to boot. Truly, if any group has suffered overt discrimination in our genre—and so unjustifiably—it would be the NonPro.

Altogether then, it’s time we address our prejudices because their discriminatory influences are causing harm to this community, to our peers, and to our future. Tradition is nice, the status quo is comforting, and our expectations may be predictable, but we should never be married to them. Just because we’ve done something a certain way for awhile doesn’t mean that way remains relevant as everything else changes. Species, ecosystems, societies, culture, and technology evolves—and our venue is no different. Truly, if history shows us anything it’s that hanging onto an obsolete paradigm is only destructive. At some point it’s going to break and then where will we be? Isn’t it better to proactively reshape and adapt it as we go? A thing either evolves or goes extinct so which will it be? We’ve made big evolutionary jumps before and we can do it again…and again…and again. As often as we need. It’s important to realize that the last five years, ten years, twenty years are still just a snapshot of the whole scope of a bigger picture, including what’s to come. So what seems like the way it’s always been done isn’t necessarily the case—it’s just what we’re doing now. And a tremendous amount has changed in a very short time so it’s worth remembering that we’re more flexible and adaptable than we may think we are. So why not do so with better purpose in mind? We have a lot of wiggle room for everyone but only if we’re willing to rethink what we’re doing and why.

Conclusion to Part III

Confronting our community’s weaknesses won’t be comfortable, but it is necessary. In a very real sense, we have to address our foibles that continue to plague us not because they’re incidental, but because they’re symptomatic of core problems. But that’s good, right? The sooner we resolve them, the sooner all our days get better.

And we should remember that most paradigm shifts come with it conflict. Ugliness. Weirdness. Uncertainty. But they need to happen anyway. And after the tantrums, people adjust. After the confusion, people figure it out. After the chaos, things settle down. And there may be a step back, but we’ll eventually take two steps forwards. Give it time and it’ll take root. We need to shed our old skin and learn to feel comfortable in the new skin. We’ve done this before! This is often how change happens in human society and our community is no different. So the time is coming when those who want change will simply have to ignore the bullies and prejudices and just do their idea. Damn the torpedoes. Build something solid, plan ahead well, and wait for people to decide whether the change is more appealing than their fear—because chances are it will be. People just need time to adjust.

In Part III then we’ll explore the specifics of a NonPro category so we’ll have clarity in defining them. And it just takes a little shift in perception to do it!

“See the positive possibilities. Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination.”

~ Ralph Marston


Monday, March 19, 2018

Critical Mass Part II

Introduction to Part II

Welcome back to Critical Mass, a discussion about the pressing need for NonPro interests in our show system. In Part I we explored some of the factors that contributed to the disenfranchisement of the NonPro and how these factors changed the nature of our community for so many of us. Indeed, their story hints at the needed shifts that could guide us towards a better future for everyone involved in the arts and even the larger experience in the US. Because at some point we’ll have to address our tolerance of exclusion, stress, and intensity at the expense of those things characteristic of a happier hobby community like inclusion, fun, and camaraderie.

So as promised in Part I, we’re now going to look into the systemic poison that helped to insinuate this kind of thinking into our gestalt. Target this and we take the first step towards meaningful positives that can reshape today’s flawed structure. For that then, let’s consider some rather radical ideas to get to the heart of the matter, and while moments of introspection aren’t always comfortable, they’re often necessary to evolve into something better. Because—sure—we may have gotten way off track but we can bump this runaway train back onto the rails if we’re willing to sincerely engage the problems with an open mind, generosity of heart, and unafraid honesty. We owe it to ourselves, don’t we? To each other?


We have a problem that runs deep in our community, pumping out bad vibes in dozens of ways onto everyone in some way. And as the stress has ramped up in our community so it has, too, sometimes becoming so shrill as to define the very atmosphere at times. What is it?

We have a real problem with beta aggression. There—I said it. 

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Many of us were outsiders, the “weird kids” who typically weren’t part of the popular social groups. I know I was. Many people avoided me, thinking I was too strange and not cool. Many of us are still outsiders who don’t fit the mold. Being so, we know what it feels like to be excluded, to be devalued. We also know all too well the nature of peer pressure and how it feels to be manipulated so unwelcomely. 

So why are we allowing the very same thing to happen to our fellows, the NonPros? 

We have to recognize that the NonPro concept has never been popular among those married to the status quo. Whatever their reason, it seems there are those who want to destroy and discredit the idea by whatever means possible, and so we find some dismissing, bullying, and even denigrating those most vulnerable among us. “Power corrupts” could certainly be a fitting idea here, too, because it seems that when someone gets just a taste of success, all of a sudden they’re inordinately fixated on their own self-interests. So we may see shaming practiced without equivocation and peer pressure applied to coerce people into accepting inequitable conditions because—darn it—they should like it this way. This behavior just barges right over anyone who doesn’t fit the frame and plows over the concept whenever it peeks up. Perhaps it gives them a sense of once-denied power, of once-denied importance, of once-denied value. And we should remember that there always someone out there who weaponizes their emotions to get what they want.

Is it any wonder then why bullying is so typical in our venue? Let’s be honest here—it’s not a stretch to say that our community is now defined by its bullies just as much as anything else. We’ve literally allowed the lunatics to take over the asylum—especially online—and we wonder why change seems so difficult? Why our volunteers are so fried and rattled? When we allow an aggressive, self-interested malcontent to dictate the discussion, we’re handing power over to the wrong person. Indeed, bullies have such disproportionate power now they essentially run things through pressure points. But even more, they’ve primed the system to react to their spectacle in a way that shuts dialogue down.

In this, bullies seek to intimidate and terrorize. For instance, they use the insinuation that people are being dishonest or unfair if they’re not doing things exactly the way they “should” be done, a typical accusation lobbed at NonPro. Yet most people are honest and upstanding and there are different ways of doing things that are fair, too—and in the case of NonPro, more fair. Bullies also threaten repercussions if their way isn’t instituted even when those intentions ignore more pressing and universal issues, even reality itself. To think the status quo remains as a function of blackmail is rather unsettling, isn’t it? Bullies also use fear mongering to panic people into their way of thinking when none of their alarms are actually justified in most cases. This is truly an unfortunate form of domination because it exploits the vulnerability of already panicked people. Bullies rely on fear to get what they want—it’s their primary tool and weapon—so if we could quit the fear response we’d remove their power. Because to get NonPro underway, all this will stir up again so don’t be surprised—be prepared.

But manipulation can be trickier by taking on the guise of the victim as a way to passive-aggressively manipulate the situation. For example, we see this card played when someone behaves as though they’re being personally attacked when their errors in logic are pointed out. Lobbing the bomb “mean” to discredit and malign is a one such retaliatory tactic here. Martyrdom is a curious thing—so quickly it can turn into a spiky mace used to tactically bludgeon others. All this effectively diverts attention away from the issue at hand and squelches discussion—exactly the intention. But the sideways problem is this martyr tactic can make it seem like NonPros are whining when they chime in, which isn’t the case. As such, their dialogue can be shut down by a trigger groomed to spring at anything that sounds like “woe is me.” In response, framing how the NonPro concept is presented can be really important so it remains the rational, productive, universal idea it is rather than spun into the “whiny special interest entitlement” so often used to discredit it.

Bullies also tend to work the psychological angle rather than play to evenhanded reason. For instance, they’re good at attacking someone’s confidence, wearing them down into a puddle of self-doubt and questionable self-worth. If they don’t like our idea then, they’ll shout louder and louder, escalating in tone, insinuation, and accusation, to drown and shatter our resolve, making us question why we’re even trying trying to materialize it in the first place. Here’s the thing—most people have really great ideas only their nature doesn’t predispose them to go to war over them. Truly, most people here are peace-loving and aggression-adverse. But bullies live for war—they’re experts at starting and waging them, and even better at slash and burn tactics, leaving behind a bunch of human briquettes in a smoking crater wondering why they’re trying at all. It’s simply a war of attrition. And it’s always strange how some join in not realizing they’re being manipulated, too. In this, bullies are good at rallying mobs, whipping them into frenzies of assumptions, speculations, misinterpretations, anxieties, demands, and a bevy of indignations that can crush an idea before it even sprouts. And—boy—has the NonPro concept been blasted by artillery fire over the years. And it will again. But it keeps popping back up, doesn’t it? Like a Chumbawamba song. Even so, it does elicit bad memories over this, a lingering fallout. Clearly then, all this needs emotional and practical counter measures so the concept keeps moving forwards despite the volleys of expected cluster bombs.

But let’s be real here—destructive pressure can come from within the NonPro ranks, too. For example, “imprinting” is a common form in which someone tries to game the concept to fit their specific wants despite the bigger picture. They essentially try to shoehorn the requirements to fit their own special conditions even at the expense of their fellows or the feasibility the idea itself. Have enough NonPros do this then and the concept collapses in all the in-fighting. Then, of course, all the NonPro detractors get to smugly and gleefully say, “See, I told you so!” Always remember that not everyone fits into AO rules but it’s still big enough to scoop up most—and the same will apply to NonPro. And per case adjustments are always possible. On that note, another problematic sentiment is “the purity syndrome” in which the movement becomes too fixated on perceived qualifications that would make someone a “real” NonPro and disqualify those who weren’t. But NonPros are a lot of things, all of which are situationally variable. And creativity is messy! So qualifying every little aspect and pinning people down isn’t only impractical, it’s unfair. The better option is always looser. Along with that, another form is "ribbon fixation" in which someone becomes too focused on who gets ribbons and how rather than how NonPro serves the overarching interests, steering the concept right off a cliff. Let’s not fall into the same trap the larger community has plunged into! Always keep the big picture in sight. Do that and everything else works out over time. Another form of negative pressure is trying to establish a creative hierarchy in which certain forms of art are considered “more authentic” or “more worthy” than others. But creativity is creativity! NonPro does best to recognize all its artists as worth protection and cultivation on equal terms. Every artist is a “real” artist! And yet another form of internal coercion is “pigeon-holing,” of trying to dictate the outcome for a NonPro to remain eligible. For example, some wanted to ban original sculptures because they were “too advanced.” Others wanted to ban customizing because it was “too involved.” Still others wanted to ban resins because they were “too expensive” or “too good,” forcing everyone to paint OFs. But all this misses the point, doesn’t it? And those are huge chunks of potentials! It’s far better to just keep things simple and on point: if a person meets the NonPro criteria then their creativity—in whatever form it takes—is eligible. Don’t get in the way of the muse—clear the way for it. These things can be separated in a classlist anyway. At its core, NonPro always does best when based on inclusion because bigger ranks adds more weight to the momentum and that means a stronger presence in the future. (Wait for Part IV for a easy definition of NonPro.) Quite literally, NonPro cannot afford to make the same mistake of sliding into an exclusionary system. Instead, it has the marvelous opportunity to establish itself as a shining example of an inclusive paradigm and how well that could work. It would certainly be a shame to see that fantastic opportunity squandered.

In essence then, all of these negative pressures together have helped to groom the setting to take away the NonPro voice and to keep the NonPro concept suppressed right along with the rest of us. So perhaps it’s time to let it all go. Because it would be great to support NonPros when they practice activism for their cause! To listen to them, help them clarify their needs, to start meaningful dialogue, to help them develop solution-oriented strategies, to help materialize their vision and, even more, to allow them the space to make mistakes and correct them since the first steps will be wobbly. They need empowerment and support because so many feel powerless and voiceless. Let’s give ‘em a hand up! Soon they’ll discover they have far more power than they ever imagined and they’ll find their stride and start walking on their own.

It also suggests that perhaps our priorities could use some rethinking. How are we contributing to the positivity of our community? How are we forwarding progressive ideas that improve conditions for everyone? Are we a proactive part of the solution or are we getting in the way of those doing the pulling? We can also do our part by forming a proverbial human chain between those who would launch attacks against those who are trying to help themselves. It’s going to take a bit of effort and maybe be a little uncomfortable at times, but it’s so worth it! The benefits of a paradigm shift for NonPro are many, which we’ll discuss in Part V. 

What’s more, in learning how to help realize NonPro, we’d be learning about ourselves, too, wouldn’t we? Indeed, as a community, we’d be developing the tools needed to better deal with our social stressors and that’s beneficial across the board. Because, sadly, the equine collectibles community is an expert at poisoning its own well. At every turn, at every opportunity, it pours it right in and we all keep drinking. We never learn, we never change, and the poison just keeps getting poured in. If we could change one thing that would have the most positive impact right now, this would be it. We can definitely do better. There are so many wonderful people in this venue with so many great ideas and so much potential—we all deserve better.

Conclusion to Part II

Here’s the thing—this current system needs to evolve and that means asking “what if” again. And getting to a place where we can experiment and explore, to reconsider how we frame what we’re doing, is facilitated by addressing the NonPro issue. Truly, we can re-focus our intentions onto the inclusive and progressive while still preserving the popular aspects of showing because there’s plenty of room for more interests.

But it does mean we’ll be asked to be proactive. We’re going to need that terrific imagination we all have to concoct some fresh ideas for potential solutions. We’ll be asked to spearhead the change we want to see happen. We’ll be tasked with finding workarounds to limitations and obstacles. We’ll need to accept a bit of uncertainty for awhile as we test, weigh results, and make adjustments. Change takes effort but we can do this. We have to do this. Because in many ways, we’ve developed communal apathy, haven’t we? Yet it’s not so hard to understand when so many are disenfranchised, confused, and disillusioned. But there’s hope! We just have to look at NaMoPaiMo for its glimmer. So perhaps now is the time to turn this baby around—and what a wonderful feeling that is! To actually take control of our destiny, working together to reclaim our collective future. We can fix this.

In Part III then, we’ll turn the mirror back onto the community to ponder its own philosophical issues that also squash the materialization of NonPro. Indeed, this activity has this strange propensity to knock itself back down, doesn’t it? But it’s worth so much more and has so much to offer, and it’s time the community realize that. There’s a brighter future out there if we’re willing to believe we’re worth reaching for it. 

“The moment you value yourself, the whole world values you.”

~Yogi Bhajan


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Critical Mass Part I


A lot has changed in the equine collectibles world in twenty five years—and looking back with hindsight, perhaps too much. It seems we've literally forgotten who we are, spellbound in some sort of strange, willful amnesia. And so much so that newer generations may not even know this current state of affairs is a relatively new set of conditions, and those that represent the polar opposite of how all this began.

Customizing started out as a do-it-yourself (DIY) pastime, people creating their own models for the sheer joy of it. Live shows were rare and people usually came to have fun with others who shared their passions, enjoying what everyone brought to show off. In short, it was about fun and friendship, and showing was really just an excuse to gather together. It was about people not placings, about community not competition.

Yet somewhere along the way things changed and right under our noses. Curiously, sometime in the 90s the priorities flipped and became far more intense, putting placings above people, competition before community—and the fall-out splintered this activity to the core. Indeed, the tenor of the genre radically changed. Stress ratcheted up, fear began to permeate the air, and arts participation turned anemic. The DIYer inevitably got pushed out to the point where they literally have no place to compete now in any sort of playing field that matches their prerogatives. As such, we've been sloughing casual artists and countless would-be artists wholesale. This isn't a sustainable paradigm for the long-term vitality of this activity. It could even be argued that the entire future of this activity rests in large part on what we're going to do about it.

Alarmingly enough, however, this isn't a new issue. The call for DIY space is an old one, dating as far back as 1995 when people started to notice this toxic change. They warned us of the future we now face yet we did nothing about it back then. Will we make the same blunder now? There's a big difference between evolution and artificially propping up something that's not sustainable. And our current state isn’t natural or normal. Indeed, it needs an infusion of progressive ideas. In this, we can rethink our activity as better governed by The Five Cs: community, camaraderie, creativity, collecting, and competition. In that order. We need to poke competition back to the end of the line not because it’s a bad thing, but because it’s better when it follows rather than leads.

Being so, we’re going to look at the DIY issue in this five-part series and how it speaks to the need for a NonPro paradigm shift—and how that could save the venue from itself. Because it may be that something is finally changing, a rebuttal to the last twenty five years of this doubtful status quo. Indeed, NaMoPaiMo has nearly six hundred enthusiastic participants this year whereas NAN had a tricky time finding a chair. Could it be that "the times they are a-changing?" If so, let's learn from our past mistakes to consider how to best facilitate this needed priority flip. 

In this Part I then we’ll look at the background influences that congealed into the problems for the NonPro today. In Part II, we’ll consider how bullying has pushed NonPros around, beating them down. In Part III, we’ll pick apart some prejudices that keep the concept under thumb. In Part IV, those things that a NonPro is and isn’t will be detailed, and we’ll come to define it in a simple, straightforward way. Finally, in Part V, we’ll explore how NonPro can result in a cascade of benefits for everyone, and wrap up the series with some ending thoughts.

[Please know this discussion only speaks to CM and AR halter. Performance is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish which probably needs more consensus. OF is beyond my scope of understanding.]

The Plasma

If this activity started so inclusive, casual, and amicable, what changed it into something so exclusive, stressful, and intense? And how did this come to exclude DIYers? To tease out how this happened, let’s journey back in time to see how things compounded into a hoary web of conspiracy against them.

Now it could easily be argued that NAN was the instigator, and this isn't entirely untrue. By instituting green cards to qualify for The Big Show, despite the original intentions, what actually happened was an endorsement of quality. As such, they became something people chased after as a means to gain a level of more intense satisfaction, but also as an added value to their models. Put these two together and with so many plunging after them, and we have a cycle of addiction that amplifies more every year as the stakes rise. Intensity increases, stress levels go up, pressure surges, and what it takes to succeed becomes more and more inaccessible to more people. So even though the founders of NAMHSA had such wonderful, benign intentions, the far reaching consequences of this new quotient fundamentally changed the showing equation.

But the truth is that NAN was only a mirror for what was already happening in the showing gestalt, only serving to intensify what was already there. Indeed, there was a strong underlying drive towards more intense motivations that predicted NAN, and it would be this that would willfully disenfranchise the DIYer. How did this happen? If the environ was so low-pressure and playful, what skewed it so sharply towards high-pressure competition? 

It's actually not so hard to unwrap: low-pressure only prevails when everyone is on the same low-pressure page. That is to say it just takes one person with high-pressure intensity to tip the scale in the other direction. Think about it—the more intense they are, the more they win and so everyone has to adopt not only the same to keep pace, but even more to do better. Now we have a showing environment skewed towards competition full of participants ever more willing to jettison everything else to feed it. 

However, as intensity compounds, only a few have the means to develop the skills necessary to meet it. And that's the critical point: it's not that these few have more skill, they have more resources to develop that skill. For example, they have the rare opportunity to dedicate the necessary time towards their art to not only leap that learning curve, but to launch new ones. These became the professional artists—the Pros—folks who could spend their days fully focused on one thing: developing their artistic skills. In stark contrast, all other creatives—NonPros—had either a 9 to 5 job or full time school and so didn’t have the same opportunity for unlimited time. This served as the first functional barrier to the DIYer.

Being so, this advantage created a sharp imbalance resulting in ten serious repercussions. First, we now had two categories of creatives: the Pro and the NonPro. They were separated by their resources with one automatically disadvantaged through no fault of their own. It also means that the number of Pros was—and remains—small in comparison to the number of NonPros, and especially the number of potential NonPros. Even today, the Pros are the minority and the NonPros and their potentials are the majority.

Second, as innovation progressed at the unprecedented rate unlimited time gifts a Pro, the nature of our arts became far more sophisticated to become one that required uncommonly high intensity to create in the first place. That meant the NonPros were stonewalled since the intensity now required in this new competitive setting skewed everything towards the Pro. Quite literally, the interests of the minority were forced onto the majority.

Third, because this sophistication requires an intense investment and only a few had this advantage, supply could never come close to meeting demand, causing a practical problem with access. There was just never enough highly competitive models to go around. This had a two-fold effect. There was a sharp increase in prices—dramatically and quickly. Models that once cost $100 now cost $500 and then $1500 and more, all within a span of about ten years. This created a new financial barrier that made these pieces inaccessible to most, creating an even more unbalanced shot at success. In short, it became typically more expensive to successfully participate in showing further tipping the advantage towards professional artists. This sowed the deep seeds of fear as folks now perceived a future where they'd be pushed out of their beloved pastime simply because of the growing costs of participation—and that was the beginning of the love-hate relationship showers would have with its artists. Now—yes—it could be argued that people could just save up to buy one or two great models, and that was bandied about a lot. But this misses the point, which we’ll discuss more in Part III. Even so, relatively few people could end up with one of these limited pieces simply because they had the lucky or privileged access to get them, further disenfranchising even more people based entirely on things beyond their control. And quiet panic began to roil.

Put all this together and there began a widespread resentment showers had for other showers, or specifically “deep pocket” showers who could literally out-buy everyone else. And this wasn’t their pocket’s fault either—these people were targeted through no fault of their own as well. As a result, however, this fueled an ever frantic demand for "fairness" in how people procured these pieces, how they showed them, how they were judged, and even how many ribbons they won, laying the groundwork for the fear, animosity, and suspicion that would come to later characterize today's social setting. This was the contamination point of our collective well. And for the NonPros, in particular, this joyful activity quickly became one of collective stress, frustration, and displeasure, and over pieces that had nothing to do with their own interests in the first place. But perhaps more insidiously, all this seeded the idea that those who were once peers were now competitors not only in the ring, but for the very access to success. And antagonism grew.

Fourth, all this conspired to make the Pro the primary means to excel in this intensely competitive environment, making showers almost entirely dependent on them to participate with any measure of success. So what started as a NonPro activity now became one dominated by Pros. Subsequently, we saw the rise of the professional shower, those who had the financial means to collect their works paired with the intense motivation to develop that savvy Eye to spot the competitive pieces. And this isn’t a bad thing! There’s a lot of great synergy in this, they really enjoy it, and it’s a tremendously beneficial influence on this activity—but only if it remains a competition amongst peers. In contrast, however, this new showing paradigm that pitted Pros against NonPros now also pitted professional showers against them, too, and typically well beyond NonPro limitations.

Fifth, the collective knowledge base needed to understand the new sophistication of the arts was likewise intense as well, requiring a new layer of excessive investment. And all these changes happened so quickly! Predictably then, that knowledge base was slow to develop (and still lags behind in key areas) because it takes time to deepen, with a lot of disciplined hours of comparative study and typically in dry, technical jargon. It also takes significant financial investment to truly flesh out through workshops, books, classes, travel expenses, and time off work or school. The simple fact was then that most people just weren’t so invested either by motivation or practical means, things that are blameless in what’s supposed to be a fun, playful pastime. Yet this did mean that folks came to depend on Pros to furnish this knowledge for them as expressed in their pieces, making the venue further beholden to them. For example, a Pro knew how the Atlanto-Axial joint functioned, but the typical participant had never even heard of the Atlas and Axis bones. And because the knowledge base was now so intimidating and beyond the scope many, this actually stymied the desire for education rather than promote it. All this eroded the sentiment for NonPros even more, to the point of chastising them for not “doing enough to do better.” Literally a form of shaming, NonPros were silenced by peer pressure and deliberately cast aside and—by gum—they should be okay with that.

Sixth, this disconnection with the necessary knowledge base also meant that judging these pieces became more of a problem. Intensity simply outpaced most people’s understanding. Confusion, disillusionment, desperation, and frustration—even outrage—grew exponentially, causing the demand for "more knowledgable" judges to become quite shrill. Really though, who wants their $3500 model judged by someone who barely understands tobiano patterns or how a stifle works, right? But only a few judges had the adequate skills to do the job, leaving the rest—especially potential judges—at the mercy of an increasingly angry public. Accusations of bias, shenanigans, and ill intentions became commonplace and strident with such high-stakes. Yet the disconnection between the knowledge base of the typical participant and that required for high intensity work conspired against many who judged, and so many points of accuracy were simply invisible except to those few judges who could See them. And so judge shaming began, something still pervasive today. Smearing onto the rest of the community, of course, this affected NonPros as they were accused of simply wanting a pile of ribbons when they even mentioned a need for classes that catered more to their interests, as if they were being “selfish.” Apparently, they were supposed to miserably slog it out like everyone else, even when this morass didn’t match their sensibilities.

Seventh, as intense competition became the dominating priority, the expectation of live shows changed as well. No longer were shows allowed to be casual, friendly get-togethers, they had to be super-competitive, intense, and assuredly “fair,” and so now the resources and regulations required to put on a show today dwarf what was required in the past. Indeed, it may surprise many newcomers that live shows originally started as casual potlucks in people’s garages, living rooms, and backyards—even barns—where social interaction was the real impetus for coming together. What’s more, it was expected that at some point each shower would also become a host and judge, spreading the burden and helping more people understand how things worked from different perspectives. This encouraged cohesion and consensus simply because more people were on the same page.

So since live shows were once relatively easy and inexpensive to host, and often very local, costs were much lower, allowing more people access into them. And since these shows were depressurized, stress levels were much lower. Not so much today, right? Today investment on every level is quite high to both host and attend a show so they’re no longer the accessible, casual, friendly get-togethers they once were. Pair this with the blind fixation on intense competition and strident demand for “fairness,” as though a model’s value would bottom out without them, and we have a show environment now predisposed to be emotionally taxing. Even more, this is hardly a habitat that promotes the wellbeing or interests of the NonPro, further discouraging already marginalized folks.

Ninth, now that shows provided a validation of value and required more investment to attend—let alone do well in—they were no longer something we did together as a social event but became a kind of commodity, like a product provided to the consumer, even an entitlement as if showers were owed the shows they demanded “or else.” Quite literally, they became a means to an end either to gain access to NAN, legitimize a high expense, or inflate the value of a model. And the minute something appeals to avarice is the minute it becomes the most powerful thing in the room. So anyone proposing a tweak—for whatever reason—would soon meet with thinly veiled threats by many entrants who insisted that the activity cannot survive without their special brand of showing. No impetus to own hold their own shows or judge either, let alone even consider that another perspective was just as valid. It’s was all about their demands at the expense of anyone else. In essence, showers became so frozen with panic, desperation, and fixation, they literally couldn’t see beyond their own noses, even to the point where they were willing to throw their peers under countless buses. And so NonPros got covered in tire tracks. Yet in the past, showholders were almost revered and folks were grateful for their live shows, happy to have a show at all!

Finally, tenth, all this fear-based negativity essential stopped us from asking “what if.” Back in the day, “what if” was on so many lips and we were so open to trying new showing paradigms, new classes, new concepts, new approaches. We anticipated a need and we accommodated. We—as a community—were much more proactive and responsive. We just have to look at how quickly so much evolved between 1980 and 1995. But we’re not seeing that much, if at all today. Instead, we’re seeing entrenchment, dogma, fixation, denial. A distinct resistance if not outright hostility to “what ifs,” to new ideas and spins on a show, to how we regard all this and ourselves. People have now become inordinately unyielding and fearful—and fear makes people stop thinking, stop reconsidering, stop wondering, stop imagining, and stop innovating. Fear also throws up barriers between us, creating division, coercion, and corrosion, causing us to anticipate the worst in each other rather than embrace the good. This is incredibly toxic! Indeed, how judges are regarded nowadays is a clear symptom. The pervasive suspicion showers have of other showers is another. But we cannot evolve unless we’re willing to ask “what if.” And to do that we need a depressurized atmosphere to help people release their fear so we can all start asking this critical question. Above all, the movement for NonPro requires it so that people can shake off their fixations about it and start to reimagine the paradigm into something more inclusive.

The Meltdown

Put all this together and we have an activity defined by high-stakes, cut-throat competition rather than playfulness and community, by suspicion, confusion, and churlishness rather than fun and camaraderie, by exclusion rather than inclusion, by discouragement rather than encouragement, and by derision rather than cohesion. What’s more, in our fixation and our folly, we’ve even convinced ourselves that all this was actually necessary, that this was the “right” way to do things, that this was a normal and natural evolution. Indeed, we now believe that this exclusionary, high-intensity system is the ideal scenario for encouraging quality, innovation, fairness, and “better” competition. But if we’re really paying attention, we see this atmosphere has the exact opposite effect by discouraging the talent and the equitable playing field, chopping down the essential diversity and space, needed to amplify precisely those things. Indeed, what would today be like if we’d instituted NonPro classes twenty years ago? (Along with Novice and Youth.) And all this disintegration because we’ve decided that the minority should prevail at the expense of the majority, that competition and assurance of “best” is more important than anything else. This choice has left too many worried about their place in this, even the future of this activity. Truly, know it or not, none of this is good for anyone and especially not for the long-term viability of this activity.

Here’s the deal: competition as the #1 priority just isn’t a good fit. Instead, most people want fun as the top priority, and who can blame them? All this is supposed to be casual, social, and playful for most people—a true hobby. But that’s no longer the case, is it? It’s primary focus is now far too intense for most motivations and this paradigm’s ill-fitting points of friction and failure have been creating terrible blisters. Indeed, when the truth of the larger population is marginalized, we’re going to shed participants—and even more concerning—potential participants. How many NonPros are simply giving up? What are we catastrophically losing? And because our competitive arts have dwindled down to just the interests of a few, how many are choosing not to even participate at all? These people aren't vocal but we can better guess their numbers thanks to this year’s NaMoPaiMo. Honestly, we can no longer deny that this is a hobby for most and a profession for few. So can we really continue to allow the laser-focused interests of the minority to dictate the experience for the majority?

Think about it this way—tennis is a competition-based activity in which some are professional players but most actually just want to play for casual fun. But imagine if there was no setting to play for casual fun. Instead, everyone had to focus on cut-throat, high-stakes competition instead—that the actual hobby of playing tennis was about beating their fellow players rather than just having an enjoyable, low intensity game. Now imagine again if that participation in the pastime required great expense to even be successful. That’s exactly our problem.

The truth is that only a few want to pay Wimbledon when most folks just want to play tennis.

Conclusion to Part I

Despite what these trends have done over the last twenty five years, they’re only the byproduct, the symptom of a deeper toxin that was allowed to fester and course unchecked through our collective body. Instead, we cowered and acquiesced, perhaps even brainwashing ourselves that we were in the wrong. In doing so then, we willingly surrendered too much on the altar of competition, sacrificing the NonPro in the process.

In Part II then we’ll explore this systemic poison to help concoct an antidote—because we all deserve better.

“The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.”

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