Winter Update

Joseph Campbell & The Hero's Journey
Joseph Campbell (image source: odyssey.antiochsb.edu)

The last time I posted, I hinted toward something like a new podcasting approach aimed solely at continued learning. That led me to start learning about Joseph Campbell, who became famous for his work in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.

That took me to an overview of his Hero Journey work, a Netflix documentary named Finding Joe, and then a biography of Joseph Campbell by Stephen and Robin Larson called A Fire in the Mind.

What I thought was going to be one episode about Joseph Campbell and then 9 episodes on the Hero’s Journey has turned into a few months of just reading and researching about the man, himself. Joseph was so much more than what we know him for. He was a world-class athlete, a biologist, an author, a philosopher, a musician (of probably more than 10 instruments), an educator, and just an all-around thinker.

This is my long way of saying that I’m not even close to planning a podcast series and probably won’t be for several months. That said, I am having a blast and old Joe is giving me quite a bit to think and read about.

Back to the letters,

Steve

Bewilderment: The Childhood Benefits of Being Confused

I’m no child psychologist. I’m not a doctor, school teacher, guidance counselor, or even a mother. I have no formal education in the proper development of children. My only credentials whatsoever on this topic are my own upbringing, a keen observance of the world around me, and the fact that I am a father of five. Today, some might claim that being a father does not make me qualified to share my thoughts on parenting, but that is a topic for a different day.

I watch my children go about their day-to-day lives and often the questions they ask are fascinating. The questions that people ask, no matter the age, are an excellent indication of so many things – their thoughts, their emotions, their experience, their understanding of the world. Through those inquiries and the looks in the eyes of babes as they try to work out the subtle details of life that adults take for granted. It is that internal struggle that makes all the difference.

I was recently watching a show with my daughters called “Ann with an E”, a Netflix series based on the children’s novel, “Anne of Green Gables”. I watched little Anne in the first few episodes trying to assimilate into civilized culture, learning how to interact with the children at school and what it was like to have a family. She was confused in the same way that I remember being when trying to respond to any change, and it inspired the words you are reading.

We try so hard with our modern parenting ideas to protect our children from any discomfort. We forget though, that it was through similar discomforts as children that we were able to learn and grow. The stoics taught that we must embrace challenges and recognize them for what they are – an opportunity for greatness.

Bewilderment is an important part of development.

All for now. Thanks for reading.

Podcasting: The Ultimate Pandemic Growth Tool, or How I Did it All Wrong

I have seen an uptick in new podcasts since COVID-19 forced us into our homes for an extended period. It isn’t just podcasting though – people have felt compelled to take advantage of the perceived extra free time to take up hobbies, complete housework, learn to play an instrument, perform spring cleaning, and other activities they have been putting on the back burner for years.

As some of you may know, I hosted a podcast for about two years about a very niche subject in information security. I knew very little about insider threat going into it, but I found that:

  1. The problem kept getting brought up in information security conversation, and;
  2. There weren’t any podcasts already dedicated to it.

That was good enough for me and when WannaCry started making industry professionals around the world begin running in circles and flapping their arms, that sounded like as good a time as any to record my first episode.

When I began my journey as a podcaster, I knew almost nothing about it. All I had to compare against were the awesome podcast hosts who have both entertained and enlightened me for years. I wanted to be famous like them. I even wanted to have the option to make money from my content at some point. Podcasting was going to open doors for me and allow for my career to skyrocket very quickly… or so I thought.

Reality was quite the opposite. I spent far more on podcasting than I ever made. Even within the insider threat community and after spending several hours each week on my show, most people have never heard of it.

Podcasting became another job for me. I spent so much time researching and trying to provide content that people would find meaningful that I was burnt out. While it is true that my career and family life got much busier after about two years and I decided to stop making episodes, I was probably looking for an excuse at that point. It couldn’t have been very entertaining listening to me complain about my personal frustrations with the direction that the industry was going, anyway.

It wasn’t until later that I recognized the greatest benefit of podcasting – focused self-education.

Even though my motive for increasing my knowledge of insider threat and staying as current as possible about the subject was to “build my brand”, I can’t deny how much I learned from between my preparations for that first episode to today (a year and a half after hanging up my microphone).

  • After doing plenty of research, I was able to develop a methodology for improving insider threat protections in an organization.
  • I was able to call out the big software manufacturers for sensationalizing malicious insiders (the overwhelming minority in insider threat incidents) and spreading an incorrect narrative.
  • With the help of several others, I created an Insider Threat Protection Framework that companies could use to implement insider threat security controls and reduce risk.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I met some awesome people within the cybersecurity industry.

What if there was a different motivation? What if I hadn’t cared about fame or fortune and I just spent time trying to learn about insider threat and sharing my findings with others? What if I didn’t care whether anyone listened or not?

I wouldn’t have to abide by anyone’s schedule, and I wouldn’t feel compelled to keep the show alive long after the interesting bits came and went.

If podcasting on a specific topic is approached from this mindset, it removes the hardest and most frustrating aspects. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last and so many podcasts (like mine) don’t come to a definitive conclusion before they “pod-fade”.

If you are going to start any of these new hobbies or activities, try doing it in a way that reduces work and stays fun. Design your projects so that they can be ended as soon as you are finished, and without any guilt or regret.

All for now.