Don't sacrifice what you love just to achieve your dreams
It's easy to lose yourself in your dreams. But better not to let your big ideas get the best of you, says Nick Offerman.
Nick Offerman is an actor, writer and woodworker, best known as the character of Ron Swanson on NBC's hit comedy series Parks and Recreation. His long list of film credits also includes The Kings of Summer, 21 Jump Street, Smashed, and Sin City.
Nick Offerman: One of the great secrets to maintaining a discipline in one’s life is that it has an incredible meditative or Zen quality to it. My character in this film, Frank, is a little bit obsessed with playing music and creating music. It comes out in sort of an ugly way in the scene on the porch at Toni Collette’s house where he just simply says—but it’s kind of nicely underwritten—he says “I don’t want to sell music.” And what I take from that is, he’s saying “I don’t want to be the salesman of other people’s albums. I want to be making my album. Even if nobody buys it, that’s what I should be doing.”
And I know that feeling firsthand. As somebody in the performing arts, when—it’s an ugly business, we’ve all kind of heard stories about, that are true about how much rejection and how superficial the business is. It’s very seldom merit-based.
So, for example, I’ve done very well. I’m very grateful for all the wonderful good fortune I’ve had. But me and my wife and all of our friends who have done well, we all have friends that we think are more talented than we are and it didn’t work out the same way for them.
And so one of them is teaching college; Their life took them on different paths. And so knowing that, people often ask me, how can I get my kid involved in show business?
And the same might be asked of Frank, you know. How can we make it? How can our band make it as musicians?
And I always say, I would advise that you take up woodworking, because it’s addictive.
It’s an addictive craft that is so satisfying, that doesn’t require the input of any corporate entities.
So quite frequently in Los Angeles when I would go to a big audition for like a TV pilot or something that like really would change my life, it’s incredibly stressful.
You’re just doing your best for days to keep your cool. You go do the thing and it’s invariably for a room full of bankers. It’s a terrible room.
Usually with me I’m trying to get a laugh and they’re all like—they all have their abacuses out and are like, “Well in Maxim magazine…. he has a mustache…. that’s 17 points….”
And you leave, and it’s just inscrutable. You’re like, “I have no idea how I did,” which gives you a lot of stress and a lot of agita.
So I would go straight to my shop and just start sanding a walnut table.
And after just an hour of that (and put on some music) and I would see the tangible result of this work that I had done.
That’s the thing is there’s no way to describe the sensation. There’s magic in it, whether you’re working with glass or metals or food or knitting or wood. You’re making something better than it was. It was a pile of stuff, and now it’s a lasagna. And you’ve done that with your magic powers.
And so that sensibility, that Zen I find so incredibly healthy.
Again, as a human being with foibles, when left to my own devices I will happily, especially when I was younger. I’d be like “Oh, I suddenly have the day off unexpectedly. Let’s go get drunk and go to the movies.” And that’s fun once in a while. I don’t disparage it, but it should be a special occasion. When you get to doing it with any regularity, that’s when it becomes unhealthy.
And so anything in this realm I have found it to be lifesaving.
And the thing is it’s antithetical to what we’re talking about business. And especially about show business. Show business, you’re supposed to hustle all the time. You’re supposed to beat people’s doors down and be flashy and selling yourself. And I was never able to do that stuff. If people weren’t going to give me jobs based on the merit of the work I was doing I wasn’t interested in selling myself beyond that.
And so—I didn’t do this because I was wise.
I did this, I tricked myself into this by listening to the right teachers, by going away and working in my woodshop.
That gave me a mellow demeanor to the point that I no longer cared as much about the TV shows. Also related to this movie, I mean this is the theme for me of this movie, is if you are having dilemmas in your life, if you’re experiencing loss or there’s any kind of trauma or tragedy, it’s something we all have to deal with at some point. As long as you focus on the love relationships in your life and the health of them – and that health could mean screaming at each other and saying “I’m sick of how you leave the toothpaste cap off!” or whatever it is. That is healthy. You’re working it out so you can live together and love one another, whether it’s your mom or your daughter or your spouse or your sibling. If you focus and maintain the health of those relationships everything else is going to be okay. You may lose your job. You may get another job. That doesn’t matter. Jobs will come and go.
But you want that love relationship to always matter. And in this movie my character Frank learns that if he makes the right decision and focuses on his love relationship his dream will always be there. His dream is playing music. He makes the right decision as a parent. Everything works out in a satisfactory way.
He doesn’t become a rock star, but his dream continues. And in my life by chilling myself out in my woodshop, amazingly when I got my big break they said “Oh! We love your woodshop. We’re going to make him a woodworker.” And somehow my woodworking, my antidote to show business became part of my persona. And now I have a campaign doing commercials for a glue company.
So if you want to get on stage, learn how to use a chisel.
Nick Offerman, star of the new movie Hearts Beat Loud, has some great advice about following your dreams: don't lose yourself in them. In a city like Los Angeles where the business of show puts glitz and glamor first and foremost, Nick was able to keep himself grounded by working in his woodshop, as he puts it, by simply "making something better than it was." It's incredible advice about staying focused and realistic. Nick's latest book is Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop and you can pre-order his next book The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History, too.
Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.
The first rule of Vulture Club: stay out of Portugal.
So you're a vulture, riding the thermals that rise up over Iberia. Your way of life is ancient, ruled by needs and instincts that are way older than the human civilization that has overtaken the peninsula below, and the entire planet.
By 2050, there may be more plastic than fish in the sea.
- 2050 is predicted to be a bleak milestone for the oceans - but it's not too late to avert disaster.
- Here are 10 actions the world can take to strengthen and preserve our oceans for generations to come.