Interview on Education


From Allister & Paine

Tell me about your background in education and how it inspired you to launch Praxis.

Isaac Morehouse: More than a decade ago, I was a frustrated college student.  All the best things I was learning came from working, and from my own study, not from my expensive accredited classes.  I discovered that getting good grades and gaining valuable knowledge were totally separate in the college experience.  I disliked the antagonism between students and their universities.  If it wasn’t tuition, fees, parking permit and textbook costs going up, it was poor quality instructors or new PC rules and bureaucracy.  You don’t see this in most industries; this thing where the producer of the good is not at all accountable to the consumer.  As long as the subsidized student loans and aid keep flowing in, the university does whatever silly thing it wants.  It all struck me as kind of a big joke.  I got paid on the job to learn amazing things that shaped me and stuck with me, meanwhile I was paying to sit in fluorescently lit cinder block cells where many of the people complained, half-assed the work, and didn’t want to be there – I’m not talking only about students.

I dreamed of one day starting my own college where work and class weren’t so starkly divided, where the relationship (and hence accountability) between the producer and the consumer was direct and immediate, where learners took ownership of their experience and didn’t pay for things they didn’t want or found no value in.

I spent the intervening decade working in and around college, nonprofits, and various educational andcareer preparation programs.  Most of these programs were free, and many of the students would say things like, “This is what I wish college was like!”

With the emergence of MOOC’s and the declining value of the college degree (it’s the new high school diploma), I decided it was time to revisit my old dream of a different kind of educational institution.  I put the pieces together – experience with dynamic businesses, a powerful collection of online resources and in-person discussions, mentoring, and self-guided projects, certified with oral exams (no multiple choice or memorization) – and crammed it in to the most compact and cost effective package possible.  A ten month-program with a net cost of zero (tuition being equal to earnings).

Explain the concept to me; what does it mean to ‘break the mold’?

Isaac Morehouse: Degrees are a dime a dozen.  No one cares any more.  What can you do?  What have you created?  Those are the questions that matter, and simply saying you bought yourself a degree from a university no longer signals those things.  There are plenty of reasons people go to college – as a consumption good (a four year party), to get knowledge, meet people, gain skills, find out what they like – but every one of these can be had better and cheaper elsewhere.  The real reason people keep paying to go is to get that coveted credential.  The degree is supposed to be a ticket to a good-paying job.

There are two problems with this.  First, the market is inflated.  Everyone has one and it doesn’t really guarantee you much more than a least common denominator kind of signal.  The second problem is, frankly, making a job the goal is kind of boring and not that secure any more.  You are not your job.  You are your own brand, whether you want to be or not.

You’ve got to think like an entrepreneur, whether you ever start your own business or not. I think humans are born entrepreneurs and the education system beats it out of most of them.  You’re rewarded for conformity, following rules, not questioning the purpose, not innovating around problems, not suffering big failures or benefiting from huge successes.  It’s a rigidly controlled environment that looks nothing like the market.

To break the mold is to take your education into your own hands.  Do what works for you, not the easy, well-worn path.

Why do you think alternative education programs like App Academy & Dev Bootcamp have such higher job-placement rankings than traditional 4-year universities?

Isaac Morehouse: Employers don’t know what they’re getting anymore if they hire based on a degree.  They look for experience and evidence of actual value created.  If you’ve got the courage to do something different from the herd, and you’ve done something specifically that demonstrates your abilities – like built a website or programmed some software – that’s tangible and valuable to employers, co-workers, investors, customers.

The VC firm Andreessen Horwitz says that, not only do they not frown upon entrepreneurs who have skipped out on the college conveyor belt, they actually see a positive correlation with dropouts and all the attributes they look for in a founder.  Soon, lots of people will be crafting education experiences for themselves outside university walls, but today there are first mover advantages to breaking the mold.

Talk to me about how you are single handedly redefining the concept of a ‘college dropout.’ What does that phrase mean at Praxis?

Isaac Morehouse: Who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to your goals, skills, ideas, interests, and experiences?  You can either move forward under your own direction, or get pulled wherever the current takes you.  Those who are conscious of this fact and are explicitly setting out to do the things of most value to themselves rarely find college to be the only or best choice.  If you go to college, I can’t really tell whether you’re actively in control of your journey.  Everyone does that.  It’s actually harder to not go that route today.  Doing something different sends a strong signal that you have taken ownership of your life.  That’s exciting.

I meet so many young people who look a little ashamed when they tell me they quit school to build apps, or start a marketing business, or learn to code.  They have paid a huge social cost to pursue something more valuable, and they’re still a little insecure about the fact that they don’t have an easy answer at networking events for, “Tell me about yourself.”  Guess what: I don’t really want to hear your major or educational status.  That tells me nothing about you.  I want to hear what you’re pursuing, what you value, what you can do for yourself and the world.  It’s hard to hone that in a classroom.

College is kind of a personal development moral hazard problem; young people defer the hard work of self-discovery and ownership of their professional lives because they think a credential will do the heavy lifting for them.  It won’t.  The sooner you learn that the better.

It’s not about being a college dropout, which implies you fell flat somehow, it’s about being an opt-out.  You opted out of a system that wasn’t built around you, and you crafted your own educational experience out of the best of what’s available to you.

How grueling is the Praxis application process?

Isaac Morehouse: About 10% of applicants get accepted.  We’re looking for work ethic and drive above all.  I call it the “sleep in your car” test.  You’re either willing to sleep in your car to achieve what you want or you’re not.  We don’t actually make you sleep in a car, but that’s the quality we’re looking for above all.  We have a short application on the web, and then a few phases of supplemental material we request if you make it past stage one.  There are two interviews, and if you make it that far, some interviews as we work to match you with a great business partner.  A lot of smart applicants don’t realize it’s not just about shipping off your application once and being done with it.  It’s a process, and we want to see the same promptness and professionalism throughout the entire thing.

Who are a few of your entrepreneurial heroes and why?

Isaac Morehouse: I’m going to get old-school here.  James J. Hill is one of my favorites. Hill refused any government subsidies, eminent domain land seizures, or special favors that all the other railways were lobbying for and getting. He built a better railway and outcompeted them purely on the market, while they all squabbled over tax dollars and made cozy with regulators and squandered money.  It’s a classic case of what happens when you’re focusing not on your customer and their needs, but on big political interests and their needs (not unlike what we see in higher ed.). Hill was accountable to customers and investors, the others were accountable to Washington power brokers.  He created value, they created corruption, graft, and waste.  I’m a fan of Cornelius Vanderbilt for much the same reason.

There are a lot of others I really respect and have learned from, but the danger of mentioning those still living and active is that they’ll go on to do something really stupid or offensive, then I’ll be asked to defend them! In general, I love entrepreneurs who work around stagnant status quo solutions the way Uber works around taxi cartels, or Bitcoin works around a screwed up banking and financial racket.

What value does Praxis provide to businesses that they can’t get anywhere else?

Isaac Morehouse: Businesses are hungry for good talent.  It’s hard to find.  Specialized skills can be taught, but raw drive, reliability, values, determination, and teach-ability are rare and hard to identify.  Praxis does that for you.

We send businesses top-notch young people who are ready to come in and help in any way they can.  These are individuals who don’t want to merely perform tasks, they want to understand the vision of the company and help you build it.  Many baby-boomers are getting close to retirement or slowing down and they want someone to grow into a leadership position.  They may not have a child who’s able or willing, but they want someone to pass their company and their vision off to.  Those are the kind of people we’re sending to our business partners.

Unlike interns, who are typically there for only a few months, and for whom it takes a lot of time and effort to find and manage, Praxis participants spend ten months in a business, we vet them and mentor them along the way, and many end up with job offers from their business partners after the program.  It’s a great, low cost way to get young talent in the door who can both create immediate value and get a ten-month test-drive for future compatibility.

Interview with a Nine Year Old

A little more than a year ago, I interviewed my son Nolan for this blog.  We had a lot of fun, and I thought I’d interview him again now that he’s a year older.

We followed the same questions from last year’s interview, but decided to change the format to audio.  Last year I recorded it but had to transcribe the whole thing.  This time, I decided to let the raw audio do the work.  Enjoy!

Interview with a Renaissance Man: Jeff Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is a pioneer in the emerging world of digitally driven freedom.  He’s been ahead of the curve in online publishing, building virtual intellectual communities, and exploring the myriad ways technology lets us live outside the state.  He’s a challenger of the status quo, and one who welcomes risk, uncertainty, and new ideas.

This radical, open-minded approach has greatly benefited me personally.  Some of the very first articles I ever wrote were published by Jeff.  I had no idea if my thoughts were any good.  I was a little embarrassed to share them, but I wanted to try.  I knew some other outlets that would never consider publishing articles by some kid with no credentials or reputation.  I emailed an article to this Jeff Tucker guy, knowing nothing about him.  He responded in minutes with a simple, “This is great.  I’ll post it tomorrow.”  That changed my life more than I could have realized at the time.

You’d think this forward-thinking convention-buster would be on the fringes of every social convention, yet Jeff sports a bow-tie, cuff-links, and a panache for gilded-age foppishness.  He’s an advocate of timeless ideas and traditions, and a fan of ancient religious music.  It’s not about newness or oldness with Jeff; it’s about what’s good, true, beautiful, and what allows humans to reach their potential and find fulfillment.

IMM: Would you say you have a mission in life?  What is it?

JT: Probably that is true. I’m constantly dazzled by the capacity of society to manage itself and constantly annoyed by the impulse to control it, an impulse that results in denying people access to life-improving material goods and services. I suppose I’ve made it something of a personal mission to draw attention to the great battle between society, on the one hand, and the forces of power on the other. This is also the theme of great literature, music, poetry, film, and this is the great lesson of economic science too. There are seemingly infinite ways to apply it, and I’ll never find them all so long as I live and write. But I’m going to keep trying.

IMM: Are you the same Jeff Tucker, in terms of core beliefs, as you’ve always been, or have you changed over time?  In other words, has your journey been a process of learning and realizing what new ideas are more in harmony with who you are, or has it been a process of changing who you are?

JT: I suppose we all have moments when we think back to what we were like as a teenager or a young college student. Sometimes we recognize that person and other times we think: “how could I have been so stupid?” There are certain traits I’ve always had. I love music. Even my elementary school teachers called me “chipmunk” because I never stopped making little musical sounds. Another theme is that I’ve never fit in well with regimented systems of social management. For example, I was in the marching band and hated its strictures. One day I just walked off the field in the middle of rehearsal, knowing for sure that I would never go back. That was a liberating moment for me because I realized, maybe for the first time, that it was possible to shape my own world through my own choices. I realized that the network effects in my own life didn’t have to be determinative.

Discovering economics was a big moment for me at the age of 18. And there are times when I look back at some of my old writings and wince because it is really clear that I was trying to sound like someone else, trying to affect a way that was not really mine. Not that there is anything wrong with imitation but it can be tricky to sort out what is valuable and needs repurposing from outright appropriation of attitudes and styles. I think this comes with maturity really. As with any skill, the key to thinking and writing is to gain as much broad exposure as possible, and then finally just forget all that and do the thing. This can be hard, though, because it means have trust and confidence in the product of your own mind. Also, I think this is why most people don’t write well: they are always looking over their shoulder, worried about revealing their ignorance. You have to get over that.

IMM: There’s a lot of talk these days about managing our personal brand.  You’re branded as a libertarian thinker and communicator.  Do you ever feel hemmed in by that brand?  Do you work to broaden it?

JT: I never really sought out this brand. I think I would struggle with any brand for fear that you sort of end up sustaining something others pin on your rather than enjoying the opportunity to change and adapt over time. Actually, when I started using social media, I did have something a problem that I dealt with. On the one hand, many people knew me as an anarchist radical and defender of free-market economic theory. On the other hand, there was also this huge sector out there that only knew me as an apologist for Gregorian chant in Roman Rite liturgy. I didn’t know which identity to choose. Finally, I just decided that I wouldn’t worry about it, and now I just post on both topics or any topics. This can lead to some curious engagement between diverse communities on threads!

IMM: Does being “out there” in the public eye ever bother you?  Do you segment your life between your public persona and your family and other hobbies, or do see it as a unified whole?

JT: Yes, I’m bugged by the public personality thing, because I’m most happy working alone in a tiny space and I’m happy to go days on end without contact with others. The truth is that I’m rather shy and internal. But eventually I came to realize that being a public person is something that just happens and you finally just embrace it. At the same time, I do try to maintain a private sphere, and I do actually work to maintain this. If I screw up or become the source of some calamitous public controversy, that is something I want to bear myself without dragging others in. Also, separating public and private allows me to have normal conversations with people without constantly being asked: what is the anarchist point of view on this subject?

IMM: You’re a relentless optimist.  What’s one recent development that’s most challenged your positive, progressive prognosis?

JT: Here again, I don’t really think of myself as exclusively occupying the optimist sector. It’s striking to me that people say this because vast amounts of my writing have consisted of kvetching about the terrible effects of government — material which can be very dreary actually! At the same time, I’m profoundly aware that in the great struggle between liberty and power, liberty enjoys the upper hand so long as we see any evidence of progress around us. Every advance that we see in civilization I treat as a sign that freedom is not dead but instead still thrives, and this thrills me. I love to see data about the decline of violence, malnutrition, infant mortality, and disease because these are all signs that liberty is on the march.

It’s interesting that you ask about recent developments that challenge optimism. This weekend I was seriously vexed by two recent developments. First, libertarian broadcaster Adam Kokesh was arrested and jailed for, so far as I can tell, just speaking at a rally. Adam and I are very different people but I respect his intelligence and his courage. I went online to see what people were saying about this. I bumped into a conservative forum in which the posters were cheering the police. Then I bumped into a white nationalist forum in which these proto-Nazis were saying that the arrest was great because Adam is Jewish. I nearly became sick reading those comments.

The second thing that bugged me this weekend was seeing how an emergent establishment within the sector of digital currencies is calling and lobbying for government regulation as a means of achieving some measure of legitimacy. I kept thinking: we wonder how it is that great things get destroyed. This is how. We are watching this in real time. Fortuntely Bitcoin can survive this.

IMM: What do you see as some of the common pitfalls those who want to make the world a freer place should avoid?

JT: Many people are tempted by the belief the answer rests with political activism, that is, by getting the right people in public office. This proposed solution can end up with a vast waste of resources. Nothing comes of it. Also, this approach fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the state itself. It does not really consist of elected officials. They are mostly the veneer, and their focus is their specialization: getting in office and staying there. They are the state’s iconography in effect. They are there for us to look at and communicate with, and they are happy to play that appointed role as a career builder. But the real machine consists of the permanent bureaucracy in charge of enforcing a century-old legacy of bad laws, regulations, and legislation. This machinery prides itself in ignoring elections and political controversies.

I’m actually far more hopeful about the capacity of commerce and technology to change the world than for political forces to do good for the world.

Another common error was identified very well by Leonard Read, and that is the tendency to think of ourselves as teachers and everyone else as our obedient students. Our job is to pass on our great knowledge and their job is to listen and be enlightened. This can create a condescending environment that is no longer plausible or compelling in a digital age in which ideas come from everywhere and are constantly remixed and repurposed. A better approach, Read said, is to think of yourself as a co-learner who contributes special insight due to a familiarity with the liberal tradition. Inviting others to explore and understand that tradition — because it is underrepresented in official institutions — is a more successful approach. Of course this always requires some humility. You know how old people always say that the more you know, the more you realize how little you know? It sounds like a cliche doesn’t it? Well, it’s true.

In terms of writing and research, I would like to see fewer attempts to re-write Human Action and more applied histories and analysis of contemporary events, and I would like to see more attempts to solve the practical problems that come with living under leviathan.. Sometimes as libertarians we make it too easy on ourselves by presuming that our only audience is other libertarians. We should imagine that we are competing with all existing ideas around out there, and make sure that everything we write stands on its own terms without ideological preconditions. We all need to be harder and more critical of ourselves and our work in that sense. It’s long past time for liberty-minded writers to come out of hiding and expose our stuff to the hardest criticism we can find. Every critic is a benefactor. We can stand the scrutiny.

IMM: How has your approach to advancing liberty changed over the years and why?

JT: I’ve always been driven by the desire to get as much information out there as possible through whatever way I can. This is one reason I like to write about presumably petty topics like gas cans, showerheads, and silly putty. These are topics that interest people, and if we can engage people on them, we can get our ideas out there. In fact, I don’t regard any aspect of life as beyond liberty-minded analytics. Nor do I think anyone is beyond persuasion. The longing for liberty is universal. It is just a matter of finding that aspect of each human personality that long to be free and working from there.

Has my approach changed over time? Maybe I’m less puffed up than I once was. I do look at some of my past writing and wonder why I wrote what I did. There are some book reviews extant in which I picked mercilessly on an author for one slipup, for one deviation. There is nothing wrong and everything right about challenging people’s ideas. But it is also possible to cross the line and do it with a desire to harm. As critics, we need to be careful to not create strawmen or attempt to whip up people in frenzies of hate against someone because of a disagreement. This strikes me as essentially uncivilized and unproductive. I now try my best to crawl into the thinking of my interlocutors and try to make points that they would find challenging and compelling. In other words, it is not enough just to presume the right point of view and attack those who deviate. You have to actually make the case in a way in which your opponent would understand — and this is a point I owe to Sheldon Richman. He inadvertently trained me to see this.

Liberal intellectuals should be the model here. And this is for a specific reason: we’ve all be treated very unfairly in the past. I read a book review recently of an excellent defense of markets and it was clear to me that the critic had either not read the book or had no interest in taking the author on directly. Instead, the critic just caricatured and smeared. We should not be part of such a game. The ideas of liberty are robust enough to stand on their own without having to resort to such tactics. In fact, it is a measure of how confident you are in your position that you can state your points calmly, clearly, and coherently — and apply them to anything and everything — without resorting to name calling, sarcasm, or accusations of malice.

Mises offers some words at the end of Liberalism that have haunted me since I first read them. He says that liberty will win the day through reasoned argument, not through parades, songs, uniforms, and personality cults. Was he naive? I don’t think so.

IMM: I’ve heard that major intellectual celebrities are a thing of the past because we’re in an age where fame is less centralized.  Instead of one Milton Friedman, you have dozens or hundreds of podcasters, bloggers, and other public intellectuals with smaller individual market share, but a more robust presence overall.  What’s your take on the way the marketplace for ideas has developed?

JT: I agree with this. The struggle to disseminate information and the struggle to shine the light of liberty are the same struggle. In the past, there were fewer opportunities to do this and fewer transmission sources for information. The progress toward where we are today goes back some one thousand years, which only the elites could reach others with ideas. Now they are everywhere. It’s like a sandstorm that never stops.

Ideas are not like physical goods. They are infinitely reproducible in that there is no need for a contest over the right to consume them.. They are malleable in that they never leave our minds in the same shape they enter. They are immortal in that they long outlast our physical lives. We are just today discovering the potential here in this digital age. None of this means that we won’t continue to have heroes and that is a great thing. But it does mean that we need not rally around  one person’s ideas as the only basis for belief or as the sole litmus test. The body of ideas called liberalism is naturally destined to have as many permutations as the free society itself.

IMM: You are a big advocate of information sharing.  Tell me a bit about your views on intellectual property and how you came to them.

JT: When I first heard the idea that intellectual property should be abolished, I thought it was crazy. I didn’t think it was really untrue in some strict doctrinal sense but I seriously doubted the merit of talking about it. I thought this was a bit like one of those weird libertarian puzzles like “what happens if you fall out of a window and grab someone else’s flag pole on the way down?” I just didn’t think it mattered, and I found the whole subject a bit embarrassing.

But once the US government made IP a centerpiece of its attack on the Internet and even its trade and foreign policy, I knew that I had overlooked something important. I read Stephan Kinsella and some applied work and I eventually came around completely. I think the process took me six years in total. It is a hard subject, one that reaches the the root of subject we all think we understand but probably we really do not.

Gradually, I came to realize something. Ideas are the most important commodity in the world. To control them is to control people. IP is nothing but a mercantilist leftover. But it is even more profound than that. Within the sector of ideas, we find something that evades the requirements of normal property. Ideas are non-scarce goods. They can be owned socialistically so to speak. You see the first notions of this possibility in the works of the Austrians but needed fleshing out more. In other words, this is a huge area with massive implications for economic theory and the future of liberty. The subject of IP opened up new vistas of thought. Actually, the subject changed my life and represented a fundamental expansion of the way the world looks through my eyes. We see in the world of ideas a beautiful anarchy and a vision of what can be for the whole world.

IMM: What gets you up in the morning?

JT: I wake because I can’t wait to be surprised by what the day will bring.

IMM: Thank you Jeff!

Interview with a Decamom: Heather Hinkle

IMG_8390How many people know a mother of nine with a tenth in the womb? I’m related to one. Don’t hold that against her. She’s got children between the ages 2 and 12, with one set of twins in there.

IMM: I guess the obvious question to ask a mother of (nearly) ten is, why? Are you trying to field a baseball team?

HH: No, I hate sports. I love children and so does John and we always wanted a large family. We (obviously) have left our family planning to God!

IMM: Did the experience of growing up with such an angelic and genius younger brother cause you to desire tons of kids?

HH: Quite the contrary…it really made me doubt the wisdom of humanity propagating. I’m always fearful of my children displaying ‘Isaac-like’ behaviors.

IMM: Do you ever worry that each individual child won’t get enough attention with so many in the house? How to you try to remedy that?

HH: It’s definitely something both John and I contemplate and my full thoughts on the issue would take up more time than your readers would want to give. However, ways in which we try to combat it are by taking the older children to a special store they like, such as a bookstore, or taking the younger ones to the play-land at the mall. It can also be something as simple as one of us playing board-games with them once the smaller ones are in bed.

IMM: Are people generally kind and happy for you when they see you with all your kids, or do you get dirty looks? What’s the most surprising comment you’ve gotten?

HH: It’s interesting, but we’ve found in the south that people seem the least accepting of our large brood. This manifests itself by complete disinterest/ignoring of us. I’m not sure why this is, but we were approached/asked questions a lot more whilst living in the midwest. Once a lady at a store basically forced me to take a twenty dollar bill from her, to buy something for the family and another time an individual asked John how much money he made!

IMM: OK, you’re a homeschooling mom with a massive family. The picture most people have in their mind is of a giant farmhouse and a bunch of kids churning butter, wearing bowties, and giving each other violin lessons. Does that describe your home life?

HH: Nothing you listed describes us…except the bowties, which we don religiously. I think most people would be surprised to see that we live in a neighborhood, have a relatively small yard and our house is decorated really well!

IMM: Hardest and most rewarding parts of having such a big family?

HH: My pregnancies are definitely the hardest part for our family to endure; I wish I felt well and enjoyed them, but it is the exact opposite. It’s a sacrifice for all of us to endure eight months of me feeling sickly. And the weight…ugh! I look like Martin Short’s character, ‘Glick’ for my last two or three months. It’s hard to pinpoint what is the most rewarding aspect, but one would definitely be watching the kids interact with each other and how much they enjoy it…when they’re not arguing, of course!

IMM: Do you ever feel constrained by the fact that you are primarily defined by the size of your family? Do you feel held back from going after other things you want in life?

HH: Not especially; I feel I have plenty of other interests, etc. that define me. There are definitely times where I feel held back from pursuing other things I enjoy, but on the whole I feel that motherhood has propelled me to be more creative, organized and good with managing my time.

IMM: How long does it take you to get everyone ready and out of the house?

HH: You’ll find out in a few weeks, when you and your lovely bride come to watch them! If we are talking Sunday morning, it’s about an hour-and-a-half to two hours from awakening to pulling out of the driveway. If it’s a normal day where we are just getting in the car to run an errand, it’s actually fairly quick, maybe 10-20 minutes.

IMM: How many loaves of bread do you go through in a week?

HH: Nine. I really have to keep my eyes out for good prices on bread, because we don’t care for Wonderbread and the like…though I’m not trying to besmirch their fine name. Buy-one-get-one deals are the best!

IMM: Do your kids seem to like being in a big family? Do any of them ever complain about it?

HH: Well, judging from the strained looks on several of their faces in the accompanying picture, I think it may be a hardship for them! They all really like it; they generally start praying for a new baby shortly after I have given birth! I encourage them to delay that prayer for awhile, so I have some time to recover and enjoy feeling well. In conversation you will hear them say, “They only have five children in their family”!

IMM: How many kids do you plan on having?

HH: As I said earlier, we leave family planning to God. But I hate vague answers such as that; my feeling is we will end up somewhere around sixteen.

IMM: Do you recommend having a big family to others? Are there some people you think would be better with a small family, or do you think it can work for anyone willing to try?

HH: I do think having a big family is extremely rewarding and I try to be encouraging to people about it, while still being real. I think most people would benefit from having a large (or larger) family, but the reality is you have to be extremely dedicated with your time, resources and emotional energy. People very rarely say they regret having another child, but more often regret not having had more.

IMM: If you could go back to just before you started having kids and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

HH: This is a tough one, but I think it would have to be ‘Everything is a phase that will end, but will move into another phase’. I know that wasn’t very sage; I wish I could say something that made me look smarter and others would consider hanging on their fridge.

IMM: In the midst of raising and homeschooling all these kids, you’ve launched a business. What was the inspiration? Can you tell me about it?

HH: My business is called Bliss and Brahm and it is a clothing line specifically for twins which will carry coordinating items for boy/girl multiples. It is in the very rudimentary stages, but is really exciting in the sense that I am doing this from start-to-finish, from helping to design the sketches for the pieces to getting them shipped out to the buyers. My inspiration came eight years ago when I was searching for matching outfits for my own boy/girl twins and could not easily find items. The name came from my twins’ middle names!

IMM: Do you have a website or Facebook page? When will products be available?

HH: I do have a Facebook page called Bliss and Brahm. I wish I had an incentive to offer your readers to ‘like’ my page, but I’m going to count on the fact that you have been pounding into them the positives of free-market and entrepreneurial business ventures and hope that will compel them! My website is slated to be up in early July and we are actually launching our first line of clothing in March of 2014. I realize that seems a long way off, but the world of fashion runs on its own timeline. In the meantime, my website will allow browsers to see our progress and weigh in with their own thoughts and ideas.

IMM: Thank you!

Interview with a Rabble-Rouser: Leon Drolet

Some of the most fascinating people and ideas are in our immediate circle of acquaintances.  I have enjoyed interviewing some of my friends for the blog, and I’ve learned interesting things by asking questions I don’t typically ask of people I already know.

Today’s interview is with my good friend Leon Drolet.  I worked for Leon many years ago in the state legislature, and it was, in part, his influence that helped turn me away from politics and to what I think is the more productive world of ideas.

Leon is one of the most honest, entertaining, and sometimes shocking individuals I know.  The last thing his self-proclaimed giant ego needs is more praise, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say he has influenced me in important ways.  He likes to joke that he takes credit for everything, but in my case, he is due some credit for some successes I’ve had.  Of course, I reserve the right to blame him for all of my failures as well.

IMM: I’ve described you as a rabble-rouser because, frankly, I don’t really know what else to call you. What do you say when people ask what you do?

LD: I usually tell people that I’m not sure what I do, but “it has something to do with ‘liberty’, I think”. My goal is to advance liberty in all ways I can be effective at it. Those ways are varied: often political, sometimes educational. Sometimes I write op-eds and engage in media interviews, sometimes I run for political office (I’ve been elected six times to state and local office). Sometimes I create public events like rallies and grassroots groups, sometimes I work to change laws and state constitutions through petition campaigns and elections. Sometimes I assist college students who want to learn more about libertarian ideas, sometimes I organize forums for libertarian networking. Sometimes I work on projects that engage the public on a specific libertarian concept – like civil rights being for individuals instead of for identity groups.  How can I describe all of the above in a simple sentence? So, I don’t – it is more fun to tell people that I do not know what I do.

IMM: Are you doing what you want to do?

LD: I try to avoid things I don’t want to do.

IMM: What is the theme that runs through your various activities and employments?  What is your goal?

LD: My goal is to find and implement ways for libertarian concepts to gain wider recognition and appreciation in society. And to have fun doing it. I’m not interested in drudgery, so I pursue that which I love in fun and interesting ways. Ideally, I would create and strategize and showboat and laugh through each liberty-advancing venture, but I have to do some less-interesting logistical and bureaucratic execution work. It would be nice to have staff to do the boring stuff.

IMM: You’ve been in and around the political game quite a bit, yet I know few people as dismissive of the importance of politicians and ready to downplay the role of politics in changing the world.  Is this a contradiction?

LD: I hope so. Oscar Wilde said, “The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.” and I need all the advice about appearing wise that I can get. I do political work because I lack skills more useful to society. Before I learned how social change really happens, I thought political change was key. So I invested in learning political campaign skills: how to best utilize resources in election campaigns, how to target voters and hone messages, how to engage others in the political process, etc. Those are among my skills now, for better or for worse.

IMM: What are some common misconceptions about politics?  What would people be surprised to know?

LD: People think politicians matter – and to prove it, they point to one or two politicians they think have mattered. While there are exceptions, 95% of elected officials don’t matter and the world would hardly change had they never been elected. Politicians’ decisions are molded by many factors around them. If you learn to see the forces that create a politician, you can predict what they will do 95% of the time. If you learn to affect the factors influencing politicians, you can steer a great many politicians. This is far more effective than trying to elect “good” politicians one at a time. “Good” politicians will still do bad things if the incentives aren’t right. Change the incentives.

IMM: You have a habit of making light of everything. There never seems a bad time to joke for you. Is this a conscious approach to life, or just the way you’re wired?

LD: Life is too precious to be bored and humor, especially the absolute worst cringe-inducing humor, is rarely boring.

IMM: Most public figures work hard to keep up an unoffensive image. You love being in the public eye, yet you don’t really sugar coat your radical ideas and sometimes unserious approach to life. How have you been able to get away with it?

LD: Tell people what you really believe and, if it is unorthodox, use humor. Especially self-deprecating humor. People appreciate humility and the ability to recognize (and to put into approachable context or ‘frame’) one’s own relatively less popular positions on issues or ideas. People respect someone, and engage them on their ideas, if the person is consistent and fun and humble. Of course, I am the most humble person the world has ever seen…

IMM: Can you sum up your philosophy?

LD: Customize life to fit your values to the maximum extent possible. Love and exalt that which is truly beautiful. Die proud of the life you led.

IMM: Have you always seen the world this way, or was it a journey?  Did you come by your beliefs easily, or with some difficulty?

LD: Like everyone, I evolved. The most important step in that evolution was recognizing that discovering truth is the highest value, and that logic and reason are the most reliable avenues to discover truth. Being able to recognize my biases and accept responsibility and be aware of my many deep flaws are the most difficult parts of my journey.

IMM: What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

LD: I want society to be a freer place because I have lived on Earth. My ego demands that my life have mattered – that people will be better off than had I not been born. I want to be proud of my life and to have enjoyed it greatly.

Interview with an Optimist: T.K. Coleman

It’s not hard for any moderately observant person to see the oppressiveness of the state all around us. We are taxed, regulated, coerced, controlled, patted down, pulled over, censored, cited, and sued anytime we step outside of the ever-changing boundaries prescribed by the political and bureaucratic classes. Many take umbrage at these violations of our innate human freedom and dignity. We engage in all kinds of activities to push back against the state.

It doesn’t always work, and certainly not immediately. It’s all well and good to try to change the world, but how can we live fulfilling lives in the meantime? The world as it is is unfree. Today, I’m going to talk to someone whose focus is not on how to make the world freer, but on how to live free in the world as it is.

My good friend TK Coleman, creator of the blog Tough-Minded Optimism, has the audacity to claim that we can be free here and now, no matter what the world brings — and he practices what he preaches. TK has an amazing mind, is a lifelong learner, and somehow manages to maintain a mindset of freedom and optimism in some of the most oppressive circumstances. I have learned so much from him and look forward to my daily TMO emails. He’s going to share his philosophy and how he finds a state of freedom while surrounded by a state of oppression.

IMM: First, tell us just a little bit about yourself.

TKC: I currently live in Los Angeles, where I’m actively pursuing my dreams in writing, entrepreneurship, and media production. I’m originally from Chicago, where I grew up in the era of the Michael Jordan’s Bulls dynasty. I’m the son of a preacher man. My father is a pastor, and the majority of my childhood involved being immersed in church services and other related activities.

While I wouldn’t describe myself as religious, I’m one of the lucky few pastor’s kids who grew up in an environment of organized religion without being emotionally scarred or turned off by many of its negative aspects. My academic studies and professional experiences range from philosophy and theater to financial analysis and public speaking. My true love is philosophy. I have a real passion for learning and contemplation. I enjoy pretending that things are more complex than they really are.

IMM: You recently had a horrible run-in with the police. Can you walk me through that experience?

TKC: Sure. Basically, my wife and I were heading out to a Hermosa Beach comedy club for a date night. It was around 7 p.m. on a Friday. We were pulled over by a police car about two miles from where we live. Two cops got out of the car and one of them approached my window, while the other approached my wife, who was sitting on the passenger side. When I let my window down, he asked me if I had legit identification. I answered, “Yes, sir,” and in an unexpected turn of events, he asked me to step out of the car.

Because I know that police officers are very sensitive to how they’re spoken to, I always speak to them with the utmost respect and cooperation. I’m not interested in giving them any reasons to interpret my behavior as threatening. So I politely said, “Yes, sir,” and stepped out of the car as instructed. The officer then put me against my vehicle and started to search me. He grabbed my wallet out of my pocket and sat it on top of my car. He asked me if I had a record. I said no. He asked me if I had any drugs or weapons on me. I said no.

Then he said, “This is how we do it in Los Angeles.” At that point, he walked me over to his car and began searching me more thoroughly. After that, he threw me in the back seat of their car, and both officers started to question my wife. One of the officers went inside our car and started searching around. I had no idea what was going on. They never told me why they pulled us over. They never asked to see my license. They never asked to see registration. After questioning my wife for about 10 minutes, they came back to their car and did a background check on me.

After my record showed up as clean, they let us go. I won’t sugarcoat the experience and say they were kind and respectful. They were rude and vulgar. They were physically aggressive with me, and they harassed my wife. They acted like bullies. At the end of the experience, they gave us no tickets, no warnings, no apologies, and no explanations. Just another day at the office for those guys, I guess.

IMM: Aren’t you angry at the police? How do you live free when something like that happens, or can happen at any time? Did that incident challenge your worldview?

TKC: While I certainly don’t condone the manner in which those police officers treated my wife and me, I wouldn’t describe myself as being angry with them. My absence of anger, however, has nothing to do with the cops. I am not angry, because being angry at them simply doesn’t serve me in a constructive way. Everything that I want, can, and need to do about that situation is more effectively executed when I’m acting from a state of composure and self-control. Since being bitter at those cops offers me no incentives of the kind I would be interested in, I choose to focus my attention in a life-giving way. It not only feels better, but it’s also a more creative and practical approach for me.

This might be a good segue into discussing a critical component of my philosophy. It’s captured in the phrase “Never let anyone steal your fire.” The basic idea is that we are autonomous beings who hold the unconditional power to dictate our inner disposition. While external forces may have the ability to impose unwanted conditions on us, we ultimately get to decide how we perceive and process the data of our experience.

Some people, for reasons as small as a bad night’s sleep to factors as grand as being a victim of abuse, are out there carrying around all kinds of potentially harmful thoughts. When we interact with these people, it’s extremely easy to let them determine our mood and, hence, our quality of life. Refusing to let anyone steal your fire means you don’t become a sponge for other people’s energy. It means you don’t allow your inner spark, your enthusiasm, your passion for life to be snuffed out by someone who’s taking their unhappiness out on you. If you let them steal your fire, they win.

Those police officers took control of my body, but they can’t touch my mind. They had the guns and badges, but I have the dominant vibration because I won’t give them the permission to influence my attitude. I win. They may have issues going on inside themselves, but I don’t take ownership of their mess. They’ve probably ruined lots of people’s days with their behavior, but not mine. When it comes to how I feel, I hold all the badges and the guns.

IMM: What was your response? Did you register any protest with the police?

TKC: Because of the way the situation went down, I wasn’t focused on their badge numbers. I was watching my wife the whole time. My focus was on her safety. Once they let us go, we got out of there. So I didn’t have much information on them. But I did call my local police department and the sheriff’s department, and they responded very respectfully to my concerns.

IMM: There are a lot of people that seek legal or political action or try to educate others in order to fight back against state oppression. Do you think that’s the wrong approach?

TKC: I have no problem with people who aggressively fight against oppression through legal and political battles. Some people get really fired up by that approach, and they seem to be quite effective at it. I say go for it. No matter what your cause is, you have to adopt an approach that charges you up if you want to have an impact.

I don’t think there are “right” or “wrong” approaches in a legalistic sense. I think there are approaches that are more or less effective in relation to desired goals. So if you have a way of going about life or politics or whatever, then I really have no criticism to offer. It’s up to each person to do the cost-benefit analysis on their actions.

Those of us who consider ourselves advocates of freedom comprise a diverse community. Some of us like to get out on the front lines and fight as political activists, while others prefer a more indirect educational approach. I’m pretty nondogmatic about all of this. If you support freedom, I support you.

IMM: Isn’t your worldview just naive, fairy tale stuff? It can sound like feel-good mumbo jumbo to someone who’s got a boot on their neck. Are you too idealistic?

TKC: Well, I should begin by challenging the distinction between the guy who has the boot on his neck and the guy who doesn’t. Lots of self-help gurus let people get away with this, and I think the results are tragic because they allow people to frame messages of hope in a way that’s significantly disadvantaged. If by “boot on your neck” you mean the experience of pain and suffering, then we all have a boot on our neck in some capacity.

Who’s the guy that purports to teach you and me a lesson on what it REALLY means to suffer? One person has money problems, while another has health problems. One person can’t find true love, while another grieves the loss of their soul mate. One person has all the money they need, but can’t overcome the trauma of a lifetime of childhood abuse. Another person grows up with the perfect family, but is constantly harassed and teased because of the way they look. I could go on and on, but my point is this: It’s easy for one person to use their particular experience of difficulty as the definition of what it means to struggle, but no one has a monopoly on heartbreak and hardship.

My suffering is as real to me as yours is real to you.

Whether we share the same philosophy or not, we all share the human experience of being vulnerable to death and disappointment.

It’s unwarranted to assume that optimists are optimists because they don’t know what it feels like to have a boot on their neck. That basically assumes that we would all be pessimists if we were only smart enough to realize how bad the universe actually is. I think it’s the other way around. I’ve never seen a pessimistic belief that was capable of surviving a few well-thought-out questions. So I think pessimism is the fairy tale. I think pessimism is too idealistic.

I became an optimist not because I have a ton of evidence for how awesome life is, but because I lack sufficient evidence to make negative judgments. I arrived at an optimistic perspective through the back door of skepticism, rather than the front door of faith. The real enemy of pessimism, in my opinion, is not positive thinking, but critical thinking. For me, optimism isn’t about deluding yourself with positive BS. It’s about refusing to delude yourself with negative BS. It’s about subjecting the doom-and-gloom perspective to the same sort of scrutiny we apply to the Pollyanna perspective.

So no, this isn’t about feel-good mumbo jumbo. It’s about feel-good mental judo. It’s about using your intelligence in way that’s healthy, productive, and personally fulfilling. It’s not about throwing your brain out the door. It’s about throwing your BS out the door.

Here’s another point: Either an idea is useful to you or it’s not. If it’s useful, use it. If it’s not, throw it out. Forget the labels. Use what’s useful no matter what it’s called. This isn’t a religion. Nobody’s required to believe anything that doesn’t rub them the right way. I haven’t received any messages from beings who’ve come from outer space, so there’s no special reason why you ought to listen to me. Your experience is your authority. If something works, there you go. If not, don’t waste your time arguing with me. I’m just some random happy dude who found his own way. Go find yours.

IMM: Isn’t it kind of selfish to opt for this Zen-like retreatism for your own personal happiness while people suffer all around you? Shouldn’t you take action to help them be free in the physical sense?

TKC: I personally don’t advocate retreatism. I don’t think we should all just sit around drinking green tea 24 hours a day, but I also would hesitate to join the chorus of those who worship the gods of guilt-driven, duty-based, obligatory activism. I think Howard Thurman nailed it on the head when he said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because the world needs people who have come alive.” I swear by that saying.

The real tragedy of charity in contemporary culture is not that too few people are helping out, but that too few people have an appreciation for the social and economic value of self-interest.

Now here’s another interesting point… I don’t think optimistic philosophy is causing the number of charity volunteers to decline. If anything, it’s the other way around. When you are afraid of the world, when you feel like a worthless drag, when you believe evil prevails over goodness, when you believe your life is harder than everybody else’s, what causes are you going to be signing up for? Who are you going to be a benefit to with that kind of mentality?

The people who are most likely to help others are the people with beliefs that reflect an inner sense of abundance. They see themselves as having something to offer (even if it isn’t money). They believe in their capacity to make a difference. They believe in the potential of those they help. Those are all the same ideals I advocate.

IMM: I’m a big fan of books and articles on economics, political philosophy, history and other areas that illuminate the problems of the state and reveal the power of markets. Do you think it’s unhealthy to spend so much time with these ideas? Would I be better off remaining uneducated about the problems of the state — in other words, is ignorance part of the “bliss” you’re trying to achieve?

TKC: I think it varies from person to person. If it gets you going in a constructive way to study those things, then study away. If it’s making you paranoid without adding benefits that offset the costs of your paranoia, then it might be time to find a healthier and more fulfilling hobby. A good analogy for this would be The Lord of the Rings. One character was able to carry the burden, while another was transformed into a demon by those same burdens. There’s nothing wrong, as a matter of principle, with putting your attention on so-called “bad news.” You just have to be your own judge and have a good feel for the burdens that you can handle.

If we’re going to say “Ignorance is bliss,” then we should be careful to define what kind of ignorance we’re talking about, because ignorance of one’s rights and possibilities, for instance, is certainly not blissful, in my opinion. I’m not actively pursuing ignorance as a spiritual path. For me, intelligence is bliss, understanding is bliss, and creativity is bliss, so those are the sorts of qualities around which I build my particular brand of optimism. Another way to put it would be this: Optimism is not the denial of truth, it’s the recognition that truth isn’t something we need to run from or be afraid of. When you take yourself seriously as a creative force, you can face the truth with confidence and composure.

IMM: So how do you balance being knowledgeable about the way the world works with not getting angry at its deficiencies?

TKC: For me, exposing my mind to the truth is not a discouraging exercise. If confronting the truth feels like you’re being whacked upside the head with a billy club, it may be because you’re beating yourself up unnecessarily, you’re communicating the truth to yourself in an unhealthy way, or you’re predominantly focusing on those parts of the truth that are most challenging to you.

People don’t feel beaten up and broken down because of the truths they discover. They feel beaten up and broken down because of the other truths they omit and overlook. If your encounters with truth are failing to increase your sense of personal freedom, the solution is not less truth, but more truth.

If you focus on the world’s deficiencies and stop there, then you’ll probably feel like crap. But why stop there? It’s intellectually dishonest to focus on what’s wrong with the world without acknowledging our rich history of overcoming incredible odds. It’s delusional to lie to yourself about all the crap that’s going on in the world, but it’s also delusional to lie to yourself about being unable to create positive changes. The truth is the truth, even when it’s not negative.

So for me, I find that balance by taking a holistic approach to my studies. I don’t limit myself to just one perspective. I study the problematic truths and the promising ones.

IMM: Any final thoughts?

TKC: My message to the world in a nutshell is quit trying so darn hard to be positive. Optimism isn’t about making positive assumptions, nor is it about forcing yourself to feel good. Optimism is simply the art of remaining open to possibility. In other words, what happens when we are no longer occupying the mind with our judgments, labels, and dogmatic opinions. When we are not trying to artificially make ourselves believe that life is great and when we are not busy assuming that it’s the end of the world, we are left with nothing but possibility.

That state of being open to possibility without judgment is the source of creative power, personal growth, inner peace, and pleasant emotion. Positive assumptions are needed only when you have negative assumptions that you’re trying to overcome. But when you drop your assumptions altogether, your soul stands naked in the open fields of possibility. And what you choose to create from that space is up to you.

Interview with an Eight Year Old

As part of my further exploration into the interview format, I decided to test it on my eight year old son.  It is pretty much uncut, except one long soliloquy I removed.  I thought it was enjoyable to do, and hopefully it’s fun to read.

IMM: Tell me about yourself.

NSM: Seriously?

IMM: Yeah, describe your life.

NSM: What about my life?

IMM: What are you all about?

NSM: Give me time!  [Long pause]  I don’t mean to brag, but I’m creative.  I kind of like machines.  I have a temper, that’s for sure.  I like Legos.  I suppose I find interest in liberty.

IMM: What is your passion in life?

NSM: Just being creative.

IMM: Do you look forward to growing older, or do you wish you could stay a kid?

NSM: I wish I could stay a kid for a long time.

IMM: What’s great about it?

NSM: One, you’re not a person who just has to do work, work, work, sitting in an office all day.

IMM: You think you’re the type who wouldn’t enjoy sitting in an office all day?

NSM: Yes.

IMM: What kind of thing would you enjoy?

NSM: Watching TV and eating snacks.

IMM: So you don’t want to sit in front of a screen at work all day, you want to sit in front of a screen on the couch all day?

NSM: [Laughs] Yes.

IMM: What’s the difference?

NSM: You’re not having to press buttons and do all the work and write articles and stuff.  All you have to do is sit there, relax, and watch the moving cartoon figures.

IMM: If you could work in a coal mine all day, or you could work in front of a computer writing and thinking, which would you rather do?

NSM: [Pause] A coal mine, if I get to use TNT.

IMM: What’s one thing people think about kids that’s not true?

NSM: That they’re so irresponsible.

IMM: Do you think you’re pretty responsible?

NSM: Who knows?  I can’t really tell, can I?

IMM: You think kids are more responsible than adults, or less?

NSM: More.

IMM: In what way?

NSM: In a way.

IMM: What’s your greatest triumph in life so far?

NSM: Hmmm…defeating Rocky Rhino on Zombie Farm.

IMM: That’s your greatest triumph in life so far?

NSM: Yes! I defeated Rocky Rhino!

IMM: What do you think your life will be like in 20 years when you’re my age?

NSM: Boring.

IMM: Why do you think it will be boring?

NSM: Changing diapers, doing workouts, writing articles for about fifteen hours…

IMM: Hold on, hold on.  That sounds like my life.  Do you think your life will be just like that?

NSM: Grownups all do the same thing.  That’s what makes it even boringer.

IMM: Grownups do lots of different things.

NSM: No, it’s all just a simple life.  Walk over, push button, write article for fifteen hours, go downstairs, do awful killer workout, lie down, forget something, go do it, keep forgetting things, never get a rest, and change poopy diapers.

IMM: OK, so what would you like your life to be like in 20 years, if you could do anything?

NSM: Maybe do some sports.  I’m getting interested in tennis.  Go down, swim at the pool.  Maybe call a few people.

IMM: You like to talk?

NSM: I don’t really know.  Just chill out, that’s what I want to do.

IMM: If you could take a trip to anywhere, where would you go?

NSM: New York city.

IMM: Why New York City?

NSM: Because it’s big, and there are hotdogs.  And there’s ice cream.  And there’s lots of different treats, and lots of fancy hotels.

IMM: Hot dogs and ice cream are everywhere, aren’t they?

NSM: Well, they come around a lot more in New York.  There’s a hot dog or ice cream cart strolling around just about everywhere.

IMM: Would you like to live in a city like New York?

NSM: Well, if I go on a trip there, I’d check it out first.

IMM: What would make you decide if it was worth moving there?

NSM: I just mentioned it.

IMM: If they had tons of hot dogs?

NSM: Yes.

IMM: What makes a place exciting?  It can’t just be the hot dogs.

NSM: Well, being around lots of cities and buildings, and fancy hotels, and restaurants and things.

IMM: Tell me something about yourself most people don’t know.

NSM: I can dance pretty good.

IMM: Why don’t most people know that?

NSM: I’m too shy to show them.

IMm: What makes you shy about dancing?

NSM: Geez, do we have to go there?

IMM: No.  What do you think is a good question to ask someone in an interview?

NSM: Wait…we’re recording this?  An interview about an interview?  [Pause]  Well, maybe ask someone if they believe in something that’s like a myth or something.  Take aliens for example, or maybe King Kong, or Godzilla.  Just made up things.  Just pick one.  Any one!

IMM: Do you believe in the Greek myths?

NSM: I believe possibly it could have happened.  Maybe it did.  We don’t know everything, and it’s not like we can just warp back into time and see for ourselves.

IMM: Would you like it if they were true, or would you prefer that they just be myths?

NSM: I’d like it if they were true, except for some things.  The gods were kind of gruesome…yeah.  The Minotaur ate human flesh. [Long story about Greek myths]

IMM: What about aliens?  Do you think they exist?

NSM: I think Martians exist.

IMM: You think there are people on Mars?

NSM: Not necessarily people.  Now, there are types of bacteria, but I mean, like, human-like life.  Maybe there’s some secret.  We don’t know.  It’s not like we’ve gone deep into Mars’ volcanoes or all the way to the center of Mars or anything.  We don’t know everything about the planet.

IMM: How likely do you think it is that there is intelligent life on Mars?

NSM: Ahh…pretty likely.

IMM: Even though scientist think it would be really hard to live on Mars because of the cold and lack of water?

NSM: What if there are creatures that can survive the cold?  What if they need it to survive?  What if they use ice caps?  Everybody says, “Martians don’t exist! Martians don’t exist!”  It kind of makes me feel bad.  I don’t always listen.  I still think about Martian theory, even though no one believes it.

IMM: Is there any evidence that would make you not believe your theory?

NSM: Not really.

IMM: Not even if you could go explore it yourself, underground and all?

NSM: Maybe.  But maybe if they weren’t there, it just meant they got too hot or too cold or got some kind of plague and abandoned Mars for some other outer planet or something.

IMM: You’re pretty connected to these Martians, aren’t you?

NSM: I want to meet a Martian someday.

IMM: What about aliens from other planets or galaxies?

NSM: I don’t believe they exist.

IMM: Really?  Why?

NSM: Because Mars is the most similar to earth.

IMM: What is your idea of a good weekend?

NSM: TV, not doing anything, TV, potato chips, hot dogs, staying up late, more TV.

IMM: Do you like to read books?

NSM: Some books.

IMM: What makes a book good?

NSM: Underwear.

IMM: So only books about underwear?

NSM: There are lots of books with underwear; Captain Underpants, Dinosaurs Love Underpants, and others.  But I like other books too.  Like Hoot.  It’s pretty interesting.  Never judge a book by its cover.  At first I thought it was some awful baby book.

IMM: Anything else you’d like to add?

NSM: [Long pause]…..uhhhh…mmmmm….no.

IMM: Thank you.

Interview with an Actor: Dominic Daniel


Dominic Daniel is a hard working guy in the entertainment industry. You’ve probably seen his face on national TV ads, TV shows or movies. I first met Dom when he delivered a powerful performance in a theater production at my alma mater many years ago. He’s an actor, writer, producer and forward-thinking creator in a dynamic and highly competitive industry. I’ve always been curious how people manage the thrive in Hollywood, and Dom was gracious enough to answer some questions.

IMM: Your life in one paragraph?

DD: A constant element of surprise. If you commit yourself to being an artist than that means mainly every thing in your life has to be flexible. And I thank God that my wife is so understanding.

IMM: Most people don’t really know what it’s like to be a working actor. Are you just having fun all the time?

DD: To be a working actor means you spend most of your time working to get work. Driving all around town for auditions (basically interviewing for work), getting doors slammed in your face constantly (you must have a thick skin), and then doing it all over again. The fun part is being on set for a couple of days, when you finally book a job. And the pretty handsome check that comes with it.

IMM: You have a pretty impressive acting resume spanning commercials, movies and TV shows. Does this mean you’re professionally secure now and work will continue to flow in, or do you have to continue to grind it out? Are you ever worried about getting the next gig?

DD:(See answer above). There’s probably only a handful of actors who are professionally secure, and I am not one of them. But I’m not really worried, although, it’s always a concern, of course, as a family man because this is how I feed my family.

IMM: What made you think you had the stuff to cut it as an actor? A lot of people go to Hollywood and end up waiting tables, so why did you think you’d be different?

DD: My mom told me shoot for the moon and if you can’t be a moon be a star. So I started out trying to be an astronaut and when that didn’t work out… Actually, it was really simple. I believed my entire life that God uses entertainers to spread messages to the world and I just knew I was a messenger.

IMM: What is your message?

DD: It’s kind of complicated but I can sum it up by saying that as only the messenger and not the sender, I feel that the overall message is about finding ways to help people connect. Most of the work I am doing right now as a writer/producer is all about giving a voice to different groups of people who we normally don’t hear from. And by doing so, close the gap between people of different backgrounds – race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, etc. – which I hope, will foster a stronger bond with the creator by exposing a greater design for life than the one we presently know.

IMM: What are some myths and misconceptions people have about the business?

DD: Well, a common misconception is that it’s easy and anybody can do it. But hey, you wouldn’t let a guy who decided yesterday that he wants to be a mechanic work on your car, right? Or a guy who’s never been trained, be your surgeon. Then why pay millions of dollars to a goofball who isn’t dedicated to working on honing his acting craft. And the myth that I always hear about is the actor who became an overnight sensation…only to find out that they’ve been a working at it for years before they became famous.

IMM: Do you see yourself as already doing what you love, or getting work that gets you ever closer to it?

DD: Yep, I get payed to use my imagination and expand the imaginations of those who watch me.

IMM: How much are you motivated by fame, and how much by the desire to create, even if no one sees it?

DD: I’d say I do what I love and everything else is just a byproduct of the work. For instance, I have been writing scripts and stories since I was 12 and out of all that time I’ve only submitted one of those.

IMM: Best and worst thing about being an actor?

DD: Best: It gave me the opportunity to meet my lovely wife and it keeps me sane. Worse: It can drive you crazy, mainly, because of all the people you have to deal with.

IMM: Thanks Dom. I look forward to continuing to follow your career!