Modals, Mannequins & Metaphysics

Nov 23, 2018 read time

Wooper Swan illustration from Pictorial Monograph of Birds (1885) by Numata Kashu from

I. Forward

This is my attempt at an informal introduction of myself and my philosophies to the web distinct from my presence on numerous other platforms. For instance, my Instagram: @official_seanswanson. Some of those platforms give a peek into ‘what I do’ and only fragments of ‘who I am’. I’ve been tangoing with existential conundrums and am aware of how social media can hijack our brains into feeling a sense of dread and angst… so here I am reflecting and responding to that anxiety. I left out my long musings about video games, nutritional ideologies, and gym routines for another time. This is about the fundamentals.

Stoic calmness as a virtue. — Palmiers Du Mal — NY Fashion Week Winter ‘16

Here we are in November… Two-thousand-and-eighteen. Holy moly cannoli! Who else is blown away at how this year has unfolded? Politically, demographically, linguistically… (who doesn’t love adverbs? Throw that ‘ish on everything!) This has been a year of incredible tumult on many fronts… though I will not use my first ever Medium story to talk opinions and stances on such changes, however becoming of a millennial that would be.

While attending the University of Washington (more on that later) I wanted to flesh out a physical corpus of my take on the human condition but didn’t quite put my mind to it. The notes I have about my experience are scattered throughout note taking apps and in quarter-finished composition books. Now with a renewed interest in blogging I can include in my body of work thought out stories and insights instead of relying on snapshots and code repos alone to tell the full story.

If you’ve made it this far, I appreciate your patience. I am by no means a professional writer nor do I pretend to play one on the Internet but my hope is that my experience will be used as a reference for someone who is looking to change things up in their life. My name is Sean Swanson and this is what I’ve been up to recently; exposing in this introduction (so dramatic 🙄) the broader values that I hold dear to me that helped lead to some semblance of a reasonably successful 24 years of life. Enjoy!

II. Swanson who?

For those who don’t know me and care to read this, this current manifestation of myself is a web developing high-fashion runway and catalog model. That’s quite the distillation however. By now all you really could know from the retrospective forward and my “short bio” on my profile is that I live my life primarily developing and designing web applications first and walking the catwalk repping Burberry second.

There’s so much more to unpack at the core of my being but more context about my history, strategy & tactics, etc. is probably best…

I’m currently living and working in beautiful Seattle, WA. I 9-to-5 as an apprentice web developer under Ian Gilman, who’s an industry veteran. It’s kind of bananas to think about the sheer breadth and variety of projects we work on everyday at his office. My role as his amanuensis and student is a unique and very fulfilling position and surely not taken for granted.

I’ve only just graduated from General Assembly’s Web Development Immersive course back in March. So… to think that I’d be working on applications that reach such a wide audience, that push the boundaries of what’s possible in today’s browsers, and that are just good ol’ fun — so soon after beginning my career in tech is extremely fortunate!

When I’m not at work, I’m studying further topics in web engineering like 3D programming in JavaScript, virtual reality, data visualization and UI/UX design as well as auxiliary concepts like project management. (I’m particularly enjoying Three.js these days). These are the tools I love using to do my part and drive positive change in the world… a grand mission statement but that’s the idea!

III. Strategy & Tactics


Without argument my biggest strength is that I identify as an optimist. To maintain a positive disposition in the face of adversity has to be one of the most difficult but necessary things for human flourishing. To understand how shitty a situation is and then to resolve to rise above it is difficult. Being human is difficult. The acceptance of this challenge grants grit. And grit gets shit done.

How do I put that into practice though? There’s this feeling deep down in my bones that by striving unceasingly towards the pleasurable, the good life, the sublime, the more productive I am in all pursuits academic and athletic. From that place of consideration I am able to see the battlefield wholly! I’m able to plan my next move with fitness and what wisdom I’ve gathered and reflected upon. I think of life as warfare. I take this page straight out of The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I take note of the consequences of decision and combat despair at the thought of conflicts that arise on the seemingly infinite fronts. My strategy for success is to separate myself from the usual programming, the zeitgeist, and oftentimes my own emotional inclinations for sake of victory with as little loss as possible.

I’ve set myself up to derive an absurd amount of joy out of this battle, this life. My personal philosophy was adapted mostly from what I read during my time at the University of Washington (go dawgs!). I glommed on to the Stoics- Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger… these philosophers evoked a revelatory response in my curious, skeptical, and predictably impressionable younger mind. This was the lens I used to study the world and search out its truth (or if such a thing even exists). Unfortunately, it was my experience that the curriculum was limited to Western philosophy and left something to be desired… It’s really a shame that most courses I took featured European and North American philosophers. Turns out you miss out on a lot of literature that way.

What truths I didn’t discover in University I sought when I graduated. I grew up hearing tales of my grandparents’ extensive travels in Asia: Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand… (you name it, they’ve been). The deep history of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain mythology and mysticism that coexisted with early science drew my interest at an early age. Fueled by my disappointment of the lack of Eastern philosophies in my curriculum at the UW I took to reading Laozi, Sun Tzu, and The Gita post-graduation.

My philosophy is unique to me, but I’m not a self-made man. Modalities of thought are rarely original. Most of them are built upon ideas, principles, and rhetoric that was spawned generations prior. From that premise I synthesize the literature and in-class discussions with conversations in the wild and other life experience I’ve collected together into a framework with which I live my life. With such an armament no goal is out of reach.

The Morning

My day starts before dawn. This is a crucial time to show discipline. Starting with what you I call a “hygiene ritual” is very important to me. Good hygiene goes beyond bathroom habits. Breakfast and exercise is included in those rituals. If you know, you know… The feeling of being fully prepared for the day before the rest of the timezone rolls out of bed is- kisses fingertips *muah* bellisimo!

The goal of the morning is to get in the zone, my flow state, for as much time as I can before I start work. On a good day this means that by the time I head out the house and to a café near my boss’ I’ll have about 90 minutes of uninterrupted study time before I clock in. What I can get done in that 90 minutes stuns me every time! It’s paid off experimenting with schedules, bed times, nutrition habits, fitness routines to find out that 80% of my productivity comes from this slim 20% of my free time in the day.

If you’re reading the phrase “flow state” for the first time, please do yourself a favor and do some independent research. This phenomena is not unique to me. A favorite podcaster of mine, Tim Ferriss, put together a “best of”-esque radio hour episode where he talks to top performers like Chase Jarvis about flow state as the key to their productivity. For more information on this phenomena check out this TedX talk by Judson Brewer MD, Ph.D.

IV. Conclusion

I had a few different reasons for writing this piece:

  1. I wanted to practice my expository writing and in doing so was reminded of how fun it is. All y’all should try it out sometime!
  2. Fleshing out my thoughts on the world, especially philosophy and technology will help connect me to other minds who will share in conversation and challenge my assumptions. Cooperation is a crucial part of successful relationships but there ought to be a line of communication to discuss ideas.
  3. I intend to write more often and to turn it into a habit. This article is a time capsule! This entry will be what I use to measure my growth as a thinker in the years to come.

So I’ll just wrap up by saying I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn, Instagram, or GitHub. I’m usually around to chat about this that or the other thing! If you are interested about building something together, please reach out to me through the methods listed on my website!

This little introduction barely scratched the surface of what I am up to. I appreciate you so much for reading about it! I welcome any ideas on topics to write about in the future.

Have a lovely day! 🌞

By Sean Swanson on November 23, 2018.

Canonical link

Exported from Medium on August 21, 2023.