What Gives You Value?

What Gives You Value?

As I’m preparing the outline for the next book in the DimWorld series, I’m working out the philosophical explorations that my characters are embarking on. This is one of my favorite parts about writing this series. My characters get to work on a concept and draw their conclusions over the course of their adventure, just as I have done in my life.

I have challenged my characters to explore the dark side of humanity and society, and find a way to solve some of those issues, at least for a group of people. Some of these things are issues that I’ve been examining for years and already have my conclusions. Others I’m trying to work out in real time as the books are being written.

This blog is about one of those issues that I haven’t worked out yet:

What gives a person value?

This is a question that is much more at the center of societal rifts than I ever realized. A lot of our biases and judgements are built around very vague notions of what it is that makes a person worth something.

For example: what is your opinion of someone who has been unemployed for several years? For most people, they have a very low opinion, especially if it’s a man. What is your opinion of someone who has worked somewhere for 30 years, and never missed a single day? That’s something that impresses us, right? Why?

Here’s a cliché description of someone that we feel obligated to respect: A single mom, working 3 jobs to raise her kids, and never took a dime of charity.

Is it the job that gives someone value, or is it their ability to support their family? Maybe it’s the commitment that we appreciate. Do we think more of someone who works 60 hours a week for low wages than we do of someone who works 20 hours a week for high wages?

Here’s an interesting contradiction: We look down on rich people who don’t give money to the poor, but we look down on anyone who accepts ‘handouts’ from someone else. What is it that we want to see happen? Is our real Utopia a place where everyone makes it, but just barely?

As a society, our historical purpose has been to be a workforce. As time and technology advance, far fewer people are needed to produce things. We are now at a point where the purpose of the masses is to consume, as consumption and demand are what drive the machine. However, we haven’t updated our biases and judgements to reflect that.

What are we going to do when we get to the point where machines do everything? Will we all sit around and condemn one another for not working 60 hours a week like we used to do? We are creating that world at a frantic pace. Our ideas about what makes us important must start changing. We can’t continue to measure ourselves against a standard that is no longer relevant.

In the evolution of a society, things happen in a certain order. Production starts with food, then goes to exporting resources like mining and logging. After that comes the production of textiles, then mid-range goods. Next is high-technology items like electronics and machinery. The next level is the production of information.

This is where we are. As we have moved through this evolution, our workforce demands which started out very high have gradually decreased. This is problematic, because our population started out very low, and has increased inversely over that same period of time. We now have more people than ever before, we need fewer workers than ever before (per capita), and we are still placing our worth on our employment status.

What gives you value? Maybe it’s time to give that some thought.


Author Justin Boyd LongJ. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the sidebar, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 


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is an interesting part of the human psyche. It’s one of those things that’s so subtly ingrained that most people don’t even recognize it until it’s pointed out. In my ever-continuing study of people, I’m starting to realize that tribalism is one of the core reasons that we all can’t just get along. It’s also one of the topics that I’m exploring in my dystopian fantasy book DimWorld: Foundation and the series of books that will follow it.

J. Boyd LongOn the surface, there’s nothing wrong with tribalism, or the desire to surround yourself with like-minded people. I’m very inclined to do that, myself. I’m naturally drawn, through my tribal tendencies, to people who are musicians, or writers, or artists, or environmentalists, or intellectuals, or scientists (generally of the astronomy persuasion, although I’ll listen in on a biology discussion any day as well). These are all things that I’m very interested in, so it makes sense that I would be drawn to others who are also interested in these things.


The problem with tribalism

comes when people get so attached to their tribe, or the group of people that they relate to and have bonded with, that they start rejecting everyone who is not in their tribe. Here are a few major tribes that people identify with:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Place of Origin
  • Political affiliation
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Income Level

Most of the problems in the world can be attributed to people rejecting (sometimes violently) others who are in different subcategories of these items than they are. Interestingly, people can often have multiple tribal similarities, but will still reject each other over one difference. For example, two people could have the exact same answer on the first five items on that list, but if one makes $32K a year and the other makes $120K a year, there is a good chance that they will not be great friends. Or, maybe they make the same amount of money, but one is an atheist. Or gay. Or from Iran.

In addition to these major tribalism categories, people find a wide variety of lessor things to be divisive over. How many people do you know who have the same answer to all six major things, but manage to fight over what brand of truck they drive, or sports teams? Zoom in even further: motorcyclists, people who enjoy the exact same leisure activity: the guy on the Harley looks down on the guy on the Honda. Equestrians (that’s horse people, in case you don’t know): people reject each other based on what breed of horse they have, or what sport they participate in. Academics: what school did you go to? It extends to every corner of society: clothing brands, which store you shop at, where you get your jewelry, how often you go to church.

How important is it really?


Why is it that we feel the need to fight over these things? Why do we need to kill each other over these things? Why do we sow hate and discord over these things? Perhaps one of the major factors is that we tend to assign too much importance to our own interests, and we don’t save any for the interests of other people. Another major factor might be that we tend to run on autopilot instead of thinking about what we’re doing, and why.

As a way to promote self-awareness and acceptance, here’s what I propose:

The next time that you catch yourself thinking negatively about someone else, check your reasoning. Is this person acting in a way that violates your moral standard, or are they just in a different tribe? If they’re just in a different tribe, maybe you can let it go, and let them do their thing without condemning them for it. After all, that’s what you want them to do regarding you, right?

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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It’s All About Adversity

It’s All About Adversity

Facebook reminded me today that last year at this time, my wife and I went to the Grand Canyon, and then up to Zion National Park. That prompted me to pull up the pictures and videos from the trip, and we spent a half hour laughing about various memories from the trip. Somewhere in there it occurred to me that my memories of the trip aren’t about all the things that went right, or smooth, or without unexpected challenges. My memories are in all the things that were bizarre, or tough, or painful, and things like that. I remember the adversity, and how we got through it.

For example, I don’t really remember much about the hotel rooms we stayed in that were nice, normal, clean, well-regulated-temperature rooms. I do remember the two, in one of which I almost froze to death in hypothermia-induced shock, and the other was just a disaster that you would only expect Clark Griswold to find in a National Lampoon movie from the 80’s. However, the normal hotel rooms did not give me anything to tell stories about, or reminisce about.

For you to understand the room I almost died in, I have to tell you about the entire day leading up to our arrival in the room. That was the day we hiked to the Kolob Arch up in the north end of Zion. If you don’t know anything about Zion National Park in Utah, I recommend that you do some research on it, as it is one of the most incredible places in the United States. The north end is for serious hikers only, and gets far fewer visitors than the south end, where anyone can ride the tram up to the various points of interest without walking more than ten feet. Naturally, as physically active introverts, we found the peoplelessness of the north end to be quite appealing. But I’m rambling.

The trail to the Kolob Arch is rated as Strenuous, and is about 14 miles round trip. Once you leave the parking lot, there’s no bathrooms, no water, no power, no cell phone signal, no people. It’s as remote as it can be. We were parked before the sun came up, as we knew we would probably need the entire day to make the hike. 14 miles is a serious walk on flat ground, and this was anything but flat. The La Verkin Creek Trail starts off with a 1,000 foot drop down into the Kolob Canyons portion of Zion, which means that when you come back after a really long day of walking, it ends with a 1,000 foot climb back up. The scenery is just unbelievable, and I won’t even attempt to describe it other than to say that everything is overwhelmingly big and just absolutely stunning. Total sensory input overload. Also, there is a stretch of bottoms that smells like the best cup of tea you ever smelled; as if you were an ant walking through a potpourri dish. Amazing.

Anyway, we made the hike out, ate our peanut butter and honey sandwiches, noted that the honey had spilled all over the inside of Erica’s backpack, took a thousand pictures, had an amazing time, and made the hike back. It rained several times that afternoon, but we were hot from the exertion of the hike (remember this: when a trail is rated as Strenuous, it fucking means it) so we didn’t bother putting on our raincoats. We got back to the rental car just before dark, and we were soaked, exhausted to our very cores, starving, exhausted, soaked, and exhausted. Also, I was worn out, in case I didn’t express that clearly.

We drove about thirty minutes south to the hotel we had picked out the day before. We dragged ourselves and our backpacks to the desk, checked in, and got our room keys. A brief glance around the lobby turned us right back to the clerk, asking for directions to the elevator, as our rooms were on the 2nd floor, and we had just hiked 2,000 miles or so. NO ELEVATOR!! No elevator? What hotel (and this was a modern day hotel, not a holdover from another era) doesn’t have an elevator? I didn’t even know you could build a hotel with no elevator these days! We climbed the stairs under the extreme protest of our bodies, as the thought of trying to find another hotel was too much to consider. We still hadn’t had supper, and I’m the kind of guy that has to eat on time or I get hangry.

We staggered to our room, opened the door, and walked into Antarctica. It may have been colder than Antarctica, but I couldn’t think clearly enough to make a proper comparison. Our soaking wet clothes froze solid instantly. I stared dumbly at the controls on the ac unit, but my brain locked down to the point that I could not function. I’m pretty sure that if Erica hadn’t been there to rescue me, I probably would have died while standing in front of the ac. She managed to find the power button and turn it off, and got us pointed at the bathroom. We were both shivering violently as we undressed, and climbed into a warm shower. I don’t remember a whole lot, other than my fear at my inability to think. I was in dangerous territory there for a few minutes.

We finally warmed up enough that hunger started surpassing the other ailments. Before we left to find food, I determined that the thermostat was turned down to its lowest possible setting, and the fan was on high. We set it to something more reasonable, and went out to eat. We stayed in that hotel for two nights, as we wanted to explore the area more the next day. The second night, when we returned to the hotel, (dry and much less exhausted this time) we found that it was again the coldest place on the planet. I know, I was stunned, too! What in the hell is that about? We determined that the housekeeper is either trying to murder people, or trying to punish the hotel with really high electricity bills for some transgression. I’m pretty sure it was the latter, and we were victims in their feud.

The other hotel that I will likely never forget is the Grand Canyon Motel in Fredonia, Arizona. (Look it up, it’s worth a gander!) We actually stayed at this one before the first one I told you about, so things are a little out of order here. Anyway, back to the Grand Canyon Motel: It’s rated 2.6 stars on Google for a reason. It’s very visually appealing to the adventurous ten-year-old boy inside me, as it’s a series of tiny log and stone cabins rather than a traditional motel, and it was probably built in the 50’s or 60’s. It’s the only game in town, and if you are on the North Rim side of the Grand Canyon, there aren’t a lot of choices. Again, this is the remote side of things, and that comes with a price. We walked into the office, and it was stacked to the ceiling in junk, like an antique store that collects a lot more crap than it sells. The junk was the second thing we noticed though; the first being the overpowering smell of ammonia and cat shit. We should have seen that coming, in retrospect, as they had a colony of cats outside that was impressively large, and obviously lacking in any sort of spay and neuter program. Even Erica, who is a crazy cat lady, was horrified.

We attempted to take small sips of air through our mouths and smile politely as we filled out the paperwork as fast as possible (no computers here, everything is the exact same way it was in 1960). We got our key and fled to the parking lot, eyes burning and stomach churning. It was only about $40 for the night, which seemed great initially, but I was starting to worry about the level of mistake I had made in this decision before we ever even got to the room. As we carried our backpacks inside, I could tell that the group of people drinking canned beer in lawn chairs in the common area were permanent residents, and some of them had probably been there for decades. Yeah, that kind of place.

It turned out that the cabins were in far better shape than the office, at least in terms of the smell. The cats didn’t go inside the cabins, so we had that going for us. I actually found it rather appealing, in my odd way of appreciating things like this. The furniture was a hodgepodge collection of mismatched things from decades gone by. The recliner was so stained up you couldn’t tell what color it was, and it sagged badly. The armrests on it were worn shiny, as only happens with thirty years or more of hard use. The small table had a wooden straight-back chair on one side, and a dirty, white, plastic patio chair on the other side. The mattress was probably bad when it was brand new back in the 80’s, and it was only a full-size. Erica and I are used to sleeping on a king size bed, and having our own space to sprawl, so that was interesting. I didn’t sleep more than ten minutes at a time before waking up with either a lump in the mattress poking me in the kidney, Erica’s knee in my back, or her trying escape my knee in her back. Good times!

We left about 4 am, which is 7 am Florida time, and cruised down to the North Rim Lodge of the Grand Canyon to watch the sun rise. It was absolutely incredible. It was also freezing! The sign on the side of the road told us we were over 9,000 feet in elevation (our house in Florida is about 70 feet, by comparison) and the rental car told us it was 31 degrees (it was 88 when we left Florida). The funny thing is that I really have to stop and think about that sunrise to remember it well, or look at the pictures. The same thing goes for the unbelievably beautiful trails we hiked for a week. In contrast, I remember both of those motels like I stayed there last night, instead of a year ago. I remember all of the challenges we had on that trip; Erica’s fear of walking on trails on the side of the cliff with a 1,000 foot drop only inches away, and how we managed to get her through those moments, me underestimating how much food I needed to consume in a day to not have a meltdown, how awesome it was that Erica and I rose to every one of those adversities and made the best of them, rather than making it a bad experience. I remember all of those hard moments with great clarity, and with great fondness. Those tension-moments that turned into triumph-moments that made the trip more exciting, and made us tighter as a team, knowing that we can rely on each other when the going gets tough.

When I apply this concept to my other trips, the same thing rings true. I don’t remember the amazing views, the great rooms, the flawless execution of a well-laid plan (oh yes, I am a planner!). I remember all the stuff that went awry, and how we handled it, and how we look back on those moments with joy, rather than exasperation. For me, life happens smoothly most of the time, and that’s the way I like it, but the memories are in the adversity. What’s the lesson here? To always make adversity into a positive thing when at all possible, because that’s what I’ll be reflecting back upon. I need to look at adversity as an opportunity to make my future self proud, to seize the moment and be the hero that I try to be for my wife (and the ten year old kid inside!). Embrace the challenge!

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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Hurricane Irma and the Power Outage

Hurricane Irma and the Power Outage

Oh my goodness, what a week this has been! Hurricane Irma wiped out the power grid here in Florida, and while most of the state is getting back to normal, my house is on Day 8 without electricity. Don’t feel too sorry for me; we do have a generator!

It has been a very interesting experience, both from the perspective of being without power ourselves, and watching others deal with it in various ways. To be fair, I’m separating the people who simply lost power, like us, from the ones who actually sustained damage to their homes from wind, flooding, falling trees, etc. That’s a whole different thing altogether.

After Hurricane Matthew came through last year and left us without power for 3 days, we decided to invest in a whole-house generator, one of the big ones that gets installed out back and comes on automatically when the power goes out. We live out in the country, with a lot of trees along our dirt road that have a habit of falling on the power lines during big storms, so we knew we were likely to lose power again in the future. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, except that we have six horses and two donkeys, and they require about 100 gallons of water every day. If you had to haul that much water every day from somewhere else, how would you go about that? It isn’t easy, I promise!

While we do have the capacity to just let the generator run and have power like things are normal, it costs a lot in terms of propane to do that. Also, we would burn through our 200 gallons of propane in about four days, with no guarantee of getting more right away. So, we have devised a schedule around our needs.

When I wake up in the morning, usually around 5:00, I go downstairs and fire up the generator. We let it run for about three hours while we work out, bring the horses in from the pasture to their stalls and feed them, eat breakfast, and shower. That gives the fridge and freezers time to run through their cycle a few times and recover from being off all night. We turn it on again at noon for an hour, 5:00 pm for about two hours so we can cook, and at nine for an hour before bed. This lets us do most of what we need to do (excluding laundry), while stretching our fuel capacity to about three weeks.

Here are some habits I’ve observed that I have, and can’t seem to break:

  1. Turning on the light switch when I walk into a dark room.
  2. Turning on the tap to get a glass of water, rather than reach for the pitcher
  3. Laying in bed at night wishing the ceiling fan was on
  4. Looking at the alarm clock when I wake up to see what time it is
  5. Assuming that the shower will be hot, even if I forgot to turn on the water heater earlier
  6. Expecting the laptop/phone to be connected to the internet at all times
  7. Believing that my phone will charge while I’m asleep

Here are some behaviors that I have managed to change:

  1. Stop opening the fridge to find something to snack on
  2. Stop using the bathroom (as opposed to going outside, as we do live in the woods…)
  3. Using the computer with 1 screen instead of 2
  4. Drive the diesel truck so I don’t have to wait in line for an hour at the gas station
  5. Get everything I need out of the fridge in 1 shot, instead of opening it 3 times.
  6. Turn shower off while I soap up to conserve hot water

Judging from Facebook posts I have seen, I’m not the only one going through this process! Facebook has been useful, in that we’ve been able to learn tips and tricks from one another on how to improve the quality of our powerlessness. Menu ideas have been especially insightful for me, as I am not very handy in the kitchen. Keeping a rotation of frozen milk jugs filled with water going back and forth from the fridge to the freezer will help maintain the fridge temperature when the generator is off, and that’s a really big deal.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I will probably break all of my old habits the day the power comes back on, and then I will have to relearn them all. That’s okay; I’m ready to give it a go! I miss the air conditioner at night, and I’m looking forward to not having to walk to the other end of the barn to start the generator every morning before I can make the coffee!

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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Self-Doubt: The Taboo Topic

Self-Doubt: The Taboo Topic

Self-Doubt: The Taboo Topic (and how to beat it!)

There is so much societal pressure on being perfect, or appearing to be perfect, that we all become alienated from the reality of being human. If you don’t have a strong figure to teach you about these things early in life, then you end up coming to the same conclusions that I came to: something is wrong with me.

As a man, I am expected to never talk about my feelings, with two exceptions. The first exception is anger, which can be displayed openly, and the second exception is an occasional admission of love for my wife, and once a year for my mom on Mother’s Day, both of which are done in private. Other than that, stoic is the word.

My dad was a rock, as were most of the adult men in my life when I was a kid. I had no idea that he ever felt anything other than rage, because that’s the only emotion I ever saw him display. So, I grew up with the understanding that a man doesn’t experience doubt, or self-esteem problems, or fear, or social anxiety, or the black hole of negativity, or any of that stuff. The problem was that I experienced all of those things. I compared my insides to my dad’s outsides, and there was only one possible conclusion, since we never talked about this stuff: something is wrong with me.

Today I want to talk about feelings

I want to take this opportunity to tell someone out there who feels the same way I used to feel (and sometimes still do), that it’s okay to feel different on the inside than other people look on the outside. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, young or old. You’re not perfect, but neither is anyone else. If someone looks perfect, it’s because you don’t know them very well. Even confident, successful people are less together inside than you think they are. They might not be a mess, but they have their issues.

The big difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people don’t let their emotional hang-ups keep them down. People who run big companies have just as many doubts about whether they are good enough to handle the responsibility as anyone else. They know, however, that they don’t have to be perfect. They know what their weak areas are, and they build a team of people who are good at different things to compensate for those weak areas.

How does that help someone who doesn’t have a team, you ask?

Immensely! The key part of their success isn’t in building a great team, it’s in knowing what their weaknesses are, and working on the ones they can fix. Self-awareness is the most important thing that there is. Self-awareness is the most common trait among great people, and the least common among the masses.

If you perform an honest self-evaluation, and answer the following questions, then you can grow into whoever it is that you want to become:

  1. What are my 10 best qualities? (Character traits, not skills)
  2. What are my 10 worst character flaws?
  3. What emotional instability is at the core of each of my flaws?
  4. What specific action am I going to take each day to turn my flaws into qualities?
  5. What are things about me that I can’t change, but that I need to always be conscious of in my decisions and activities?

Here are some of my answers to these things, just to give you some insight into how I approach this.


I get angry when people criticize my work or ideas, or suggest other ideas rather than accepting mine.

Emotional Instability:

Low self-esteem. When someone criticizes my work, I take it as a criticism of me, as if they are saying I’m not good enough, and I get hostile and defensive. This is because sometimes I secretly believe that I’m not good enough, and when something seems to confirm that, it really hurts, and so I attack back.


I want to turn this flaw into an openness to other ideas, so that I can grow and become better. So, when someone criticizes something, I will acknowledge that the hurt and anger I feel is a false reaction to the situation. Then I will listen to the reasoning, and give it a fair shot. I will remind myself that no one is attacking me, as many times as is necessary during the conversation. I will also remind myself that other people have good ideas too, and that it’s in my best interest to be accepting when they are willing to share them with me. I will remember that the contributions of others helps me become better at what I do.

Something that I can’t change about myself that’s important to know:

I am an empath. I pick up on the emotions of people around me, and they get magnified in my head, which can be overwhelming. This means that in a conflict, or serious argument, I am going to be extremely uncomfortable, and I’m likely to go off the deep end if I get involved. Even if I am not involved, and just happen to be near others who are arguing, I get very uncomfortable, and feel the urge to leave immediately.

This is the self-awareness that I have now that helps me find success. Before I knew these things about myself, I lived my life reacting to things blindly (and badly!). Now I know how to coach myself through things so I can respond appropriately, and I also know what environments are going to be bad for me. For example, a high-stress workplace where people yell at each other is not a place that I will be successful. I also know that being in a crowd of emotionally-charged people is a bad place for me, even if they are excited and happy, because the emotional surge will drown me. That doesn’t mean something’s wrong with me, it just means I have to be smart about where I go.

You might have more than ten flaws on your list to work on, and that’s okay. I had twenty-eight on my list when I started! By the time I worked my way through the emotional aspect of all of them, I realized that most of them were based on my insecurity issue, which was a huge relief. That meant I really just had to work on improving my sense of self, and that would fix a lot of my flaws.

I’m far from finished with that problem, but I would rate my self-confidence at a 3 out of 10 when I started this process eight years ago, and now I would give myself a 6.5, and that’s a huge improvement! I hope that this will help you understand two things:

1) that’s it’s okay to have flaws, even big ones
2) that you can do something about them, and be successful in life at whatever it is that you want to do

I know, because I did it, and if I can do it, so can you!

J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com 

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