Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: November, 2015

Unemployed in 2013, launching a company in 2015

The last two years of my life have been like surfing a runaway freight train with rockets strapped to it and no brakes.

Last night I had the privilege of being MC at the launch of I Can Network, an advocacy group run by people with autism, for people with autism. It’s a hugely exciting movement, and one I’m proud to be a part of.

Two years ago, just finding a job seemed like an impossible task, and it was inconceivable to me that I could ever help launch a company, or be a mentor for autistic teens, or do many of the things I have since then. I just didn’t think I was capable of such things. It blows my mind how much has changed for me in just 23 short months.

Of course, I didn’t do it alone; I met the most ridiculously awesome people along the way, who’ve challenged me to reject the limitations I placed on myself. That was what was holding me back; not a lack of abilities, but a lack of belief in my abilities. Many of you reading this have helped give me the confidence I needed to go on this extraordinary journey, and I cannot thank you enough.

At this rate, I can’t even guess where I’ll be in another two years, but I’m sure it’ll be a hell of a ride.

ASMR: The ‘S’ doesn’t stand for ‘Sexual’

I’ve talked in the past about ASMR, (see my entry on it here: which is basically a pleasant relaxing sensation some people experience in response to certain sounds. (And sometimes visuals too) Common “triggers” include being spoken to softly, the sound of splashing water, or the sound of materials like paper, plastic, and fabric.

While ASMR currently enjoys booming popularity online, where a flourishing community of ASMR artists create videos designed to evoke the sensation, it has yet to really attain mainstream recognition, in part because of certain misconceptions about it.

Perhaps the largest of these is that it is a kind of “fetish”, and that its popularity stems more from the attractiveness of the (mostly female) artists. While I cannot speak for all ASMR enthusiasts, nor for the artists themselves, I firmly believe this is not the case.

Detractors often accuse ASMR artists of essentially selling on sex appeal. Before I present any rebuttal to this, however, my initial response would be that even if this were true, so what? Is it a crime for these women to dress as they like, or to wear makeup if they so choose? Criticism of this nature seems to me to be rooted in sexism.

This attitude also assumes that the audience is overwhelmingly male, yet forums, comment sections, and social media suggest that the audience for ASMR is fairly balanced in terms of gender.

While the majority of ASMR artists are female, there are male ones as well. In fact, many believe that ASMR as an art form owes its roots to work of Bob Ross, whose 1983-1994 television show The Joy of Painting establishes many of the archetypal elements of ASMR, such as soft and reassuring speech, and talking the audience through a procedure. Now, no disrespect to Mr Ross, but I hardly think his show’s success was due to his sex appeal. (Well, at least not primarily!)

Personally, I don’t find ASMR sexual at all. For me, it’s more a maternal thing; it evokes the same feeling I would get when my mother would comfort me as a small child; that feeling of reassurance, comfort, and security. It’s like a kind of meditation or mindfulness exercise to me; it helps me get to sleep, or to de-stress when I’m anxious.

This idea that ASMR is simply a “fetish” sells an intriguing phenomenon and a remarkable community of artists short.

Bouncing the discus across the sea

There’s this scene in the 1960s version of Jason and the Argonauts (As opposed to the 2000 TV remake, which is about as enjoyable as a smoke alarm during a hangover) where a clever but not exactly muscular youth challenges Hercules to a discus throwing contest.

Hercules, being far stronger, (if Greek heroes are anything to go by, Zeus paid for his palace in Olympus by dealing steroids) throws his discus an extraordinary distance, hitting a far off rock. Then it’s the youth’s turn. His throw goes nowhere near as far, but then it skips off the water, and keeps going until it bounces over the rock.

I find this a good analogy for goal setting. If we set sky high targets and aim to get there in a single attempt, it’s easy to fall short, and either end up right where we started, or worse, slip backwards from the disheartening feeling of having “failed”.

On the other hand, if we take the same lofty goal, but break it down into a series of smaller milestones which we take on one at a time, not only does the end goal feel more reachable, but the steady string of little victories along the way is a nice confidence booster.

For example, if you start doing pushups, trying for a hundred on your first attempt probably won’t work. But if you start with 5, then go up to 10, then 15, and so forth, you’re much more likely to succeed in the end. This doesn’t just apply to pushing yourself physically either, but also to pushing yourself emotionally or psychologically also, such as facing a phobia.

If you build yourself up gradually, you may surprise yourself at what you can achieve.


Counterproductive Militancy

Yoda was onto something when he said that while anger is “quicker, easier, more seductive”, it can lead to undesirable outcomes.

The autism advocacy group I work for has been criticized a few times for not being militant enough. For example, we don’t attack organizations we disagree with.

We try to achieve change in a positive and constructive fashion, and deliberately shy away from anger and negativity. Some say this makes us too “feel good”, but the thing is, it works. People listen to us.

Don’t get me wrong; anger has its uses. It can motivate us to fight injustice, for example. But when you’re trying to win over hearts and minds, being overly aggressive tends to do your cause more harm than good, in my experience.

If you come across as antagonistic, you run the risk of turning people against your cause. When people feel attacked, they become defensive and unreceptive. They switch off. As the saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. (A saying I always found a bit silly; we all know what you’ll catch with honey is ants)

I don’t mean to discredit the accomplishments of movements, groups, and people who have used anger to drive positive change. It’s just not how we choose to do things, and especially not how I choose to do things.