An Interview With Dani DiPirro Of “Positively Present”

What does it take to be positively present? What can we learn from colorful insights and messages that have been developed and procured in a prolific manner over the years? Dani DiPirro of Positively Present is a writer, artist, and optimist who has created content in the form of image posts, articles, prints, books, calendars, and more. Her material is “dedicated to helping others live positively in the present moment by providing readers with fresh ideas and innovative advice for making the most of each and every day”, and it is easy to see the impact and engagement she receives on public platforms.

She is the author of many books including Grow Through It, the impactful The Positively Present Guide to Life, as well as a variety of workbooks and e-books, and has been featured on sites such as The Happiness Project, Forbes, Glamour, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post Express. I have known of her content for many years, and she represents a content creator that continued forward to build up something substantial. When I see her content, it reminds me of what creativity can be when there is effort put behind talent over a long-term timeline.

Here is my interview with Dani (the images along the way are from Positively Present postings~, and some quotes are showcased from Dani’s responses):

Armen: As I have known of Positively Present since 2009, at first glance I saw it with a positive undertone because the name has alliteration and your full name has alliteration. Did you always see it heading in the direction it has, and did people of your past sense your content-creation nature?

Dani: I love that you noticed the alliteration! I’ve always been a fan of it (probably because of my name), but the concept of Positively Present came from choosing two words from a list. In 2009, I wrote a list of words I wanted to feel, and then chose the two most important ones from the list. The things I most wanted to feel were “positive” and “present,” which I combined into “Positively Present” when I created my blog. 

Though Positively Present has grown and changed a lot since 2009, the underlying purpose remains the same: to share what I learn as I try to live more positively in the present (something that, even after all this time, doesn’t always come easily!). 

Because I’ve always been focused on creativity (especially writing, which is what I studied in school), it’s probably no surprise to the people of my past that I’m doing what I’m doing now. 

the underlying purpose remains the same: to share what I learn as I try to live more positively in the present (something that, even after all this time, doesn’t always come easily!)

Armen: When I guest posted on your site in 2010 with the article “Stay As Wacky As You Want”, I was partially speaking of myself as a somewhat wacky character as compared with the general public. Do you have any wacky/atypical qualities that are important to you?

Dani: It’s hard to think of just one quality, but, as an introvert, I place an incredibly high value on alone time. I prefer to live alone, work alone, and do most things on my own, which I know a lot of people find to be a bit odd.

Armen: Your book Grow Through It (one of many you have put together) is “about how to stay positive in an increasingly negative world”. What does it take to grow from an experience, as opposed to going through an experience and anguish associated with it without picking up any tidbits to take into the future?

Dani: Life is filled with metaphorical seasons — periods of growth and times of loss — and we all go through these highs and lows. Prior to Positively Present, I didn’t focus on growth when I went through difficulties, but as I spent more and more time trying to be positive in the present, I discovered how important it was to look for the lessons in life’s challenges. Looking back, I began to see the patterns of life’s seasons and the ways we can use them to be more at peace with what’s happening — good or bad — in our lives, and I decided to compile these insights into Grow Through It.

I began to see the patterns of life’s seasons and the ways we can use them to be more at peace with what’s happening

Armen: I have noticed how your content has been put forward and you are more behind the scenes. Did you find this to be the sweet spot early on?

Dani: I generally prefer to have my work take center stage, as I want it to be unencumbered by assumptions and open for interpretation. Doing this has probably hindered the success of Positively Present in some ways — audiences love connecting directly with a person — but I hope it gives people an opportunity to more directly apply my words and art to their own lives. 

Armen: Your plethora of content is full of color and the imagery is very smooth and pleasing to the eye. I’m pretty sure a person would feel accomplished having made one of your images. How much do you see your large collection of imagery and enclosed messages as your personalized timeline of being, somewhat like how philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein made Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus for people to read far into the future?

Dani: Thank you! I’m very proud of the work I’ve done. Though I’ve never thought of it in relation to Wittgenstein’s work, now that you mentioned it, I can see how, if someone were to read through my work chronologically in the future, it would showcase my personal timeline of being, particularly related to lessons I’ve learned about being positive and present. I’ve grown and changed a lot — and I plan to continue doing so — so it’s my hope that the timeline of my work will live on long after I do and positively impact people in the future.

so it’s my hope that the timeline of my work will live on long after I do and positively impact people in the future

Armen: Are there any people that you saw early on or mid-way through the past decade that have altered the way you do things to a large extent, or have external influences not changed much of what you do?

Dani: I’m always inspired by other writers, artists, and creators, but the people who have probably had the most impact my work are the people behind the changes in the digital landscape. In 2009, blogs were one of the best ways to share content. Social media existed, but it wasn’t anything like it is now. The rise in popularity of visual and video content (and the decrease in attention spans — including my own) led me to shift my work in a more visual direction. Obviously my words, and the inspiring words of others, are still essential to what I do, but the ways I share them now are very different.

The rise in popularity of visual and video content (and the decrease in attention spans — including my own) led me to shift my work in a more visual direction

Armen: I see your postings as such a good example of how to make great use of social media and its various updates. What is one or more of the unexpected elements or opportunities that have come to you in recent years due to your prolific creative content?

Dani: Thank you! Social media can be a negative place, and I do my best to create a positive space for people to visit online. Almost every opportunity that’s come my way — from book deals to new friendships to magazine features — has been a result of sharing my content online. Because I try my best not to set expectations and to let my work take me where I’m meant to go, almost all of these opportunities have been unexpected surprises! 

Armen: You make these great clips on TikTok showcasing how you make your imagery – seeing those got me to try out a bit on a drawing app to make some cool colorful content like Dani. For your audience, how much do you seek to inspire, as compared with informing, putting at peace, or entertaining?

Dani: My focus has always been to inspire people by sharing what’s resonating with me or helping me at a particular moment. As I make my way down my a path towards being more positive and present, it’s great if I’m able to inform, encourage peace, and maybe even entertain, but my main goal is inspire people to think about the world from a different (hopefully more positive!) perspective, and to remind them that they’re not alone if they too struggle to stay positively present at times.

and to remind them that they’re not alone if they too struggle to stay positively present at times

Armen: Lastly, on average, how many hours a day are you positively present, such that you are in a flow state and making the great items the world can then check in on?

Dani: Every day is different but, on average, I probably spend about three hours or so actually writing and/or creating. However, I’d say I spend the majority of my days working on Positively Present in some way. Whether it’s engaging with my audience on social media, searching for inspiration online, or striving to be more positive and present in my daily life, I’m pretty much always focused on Positively Present in some way!

Thanks goes out to Dani for participating in this interview. All the pictures in this interview are credit to Dani and her many works. You can find her content on her website, her Instagram page @positivelypresent, Twitter @positivepresent, or her Amazon books/author page.

An Interview With Carl Zimmer

“Heredity is a lot more complex than most people think. In She Has Her Mother’s LaughNew York Times columnist Carl Zimmer dives deep into the ways that we pass along our genetic inheritance. Through history, science, and a boatload of personal curiosity (the book originated from questions he had regarding his own child, and he had his entire genome mapped in the process of writing it), Zimmer seeks to retell the story of heredity in broader and more inclusive terms than the ones we’re used to hearing. For example, who we become is determined by our ancestors’ genes, yes; but it is also a product of our own cells—for one cell can contribute to millions of future cells. How we treat ourselves, what we learn, and even how we feel, eventually contributes to our hereditary future. The forces at work are myriad, mostly unseen, and subject to variables that we barely understand. Zimmer is trying to help us here, to teach us, and in doing so he succeeds in entertaining us as well. –Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review”

I interviewed Carl with some questions about the book, and here are our interview questions:

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An Interview With Kevin Simler And Dr. Robin Hanson

We are guided by forces beyond the obvious, and these come from the elephant in the brain, which is the selfish undertone behind what we do. This concept  is explored in detail by Kevin Simler and Dr. Robin Hanson in their book titled The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life.

The book is broken into two parts, with one being about why our motives are hidden, and the second part being about how these hidden motives show up in everyday life. The key part of the second half is that it catalogs the undertones in various fields of life, like the educational system, use of body language, application of charity, and social laughter. I find the authors of this book to be very fitting to my style of reading and writing, and this made the book flow very well for me.

Author Kevin Simler has degrees in philosophy and computer science from UC Berkeley, and had started a PhD program in computational linguistics at MIT before joining Palantir Technologies as an engineer, engineering manager, and product designer. He believes in reduced sense of identity, allowing for open criticism of all aspects of a concept, and the values of writing to complement thought.

Author Dr. Robin Hanson is associate professor of economics at George Mason University and research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. He has done research in the fields of artificial intelligence, Bayesian statistics, and hypertext publishing. He has proposed alternative institutions to those that currently exist, supports rational discourse, and embraces upcoming technologies.

Here is my interview with both authors on topics of interest from concepts in The Elephant in the Brain:

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An Interview With Dr. Robert Sapolsky

Understanding of human behavior can explain most of what is happening on the Earth, and the decision-making and neurological components of our mind are explained in detail by Dr. Robert Sapolsky in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. It is a seminal work that covers how a decision is made, from moments prior, to years and centuries ago. What leads to something happening today? The book includes discussion on neuroendocrinology, hormones, brain activation and maturation, stress, morality, us/them dynamics, and much more. I took extensive notes on this book that I will review for some time to come.

Dr. Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinologist who is currently professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. His work has focused on stress, neuronal degeneration, and recently, gene therapy. As mentioned in the book, he has spent some years studying a population of wild baboons  in Kenya, examining environmental stress and the baboon’s stress response. He has received many awards for his decades of research and teachings.

Here is my interview with Dr. Sapolsky on topics from Behave:

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An Interview With Dr. Arlindo Oliveira

Science is changing how we look at humans as a whole, regarding our function and ability. Each day comes with new technology that makes us rethink things we have done for generations. Organisms have to become more and more sophisticated to stay competitive in a landscape involving both people and competent digital Dr. Arlindo Oliveira explores the concept of this changing landscape in his book The Digital Mind: How Science Is Redefining Humanity.

Dr. Oliveira is professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of Instituto Superior Técnico, the President of the institute, and a member of its executive board. He obtained his PhD from UC Berkeley, and has mostly studied in the areas of algorithms and complexity, machine learning, bioinformatics, and digital circuit design.

Here is my interview with Dr. Oliveira about The Digital Mind:

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An Interview With Dr. Jonathan Taplin

When it comes to adjusting quickly to user-desired changes, companies like Google and Amazon are leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. In his book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, USC Professor Jonathan Taplin details how these companies have usurped supreme positions of relevance in our hyper-connected society.

Professor Taplin is director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, was a tour manager for Bob Dylan and The Band, and produced film for Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, and Gus Van Sant. He is an expert in digital media entertainment, sits on the California Broadband Task Force, and is part of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Council on Technology and Innovation.

Here is my interview with Jonathan about Move Fast and Break Things:

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An Interview With Dr. Lisa Randall

Professor Lisa Randall is an American theoretical physicist working in particle physics and cosmology. She is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science on the physics faculty of Harvard University. Her research includes elementary particles, fundamental forces and extra dimensions of space. She studies the Standard Model, supersymmetry, possible solutions to the hierarchy problem concerning the relative weakness of gravity, cosmology of extra dimensions, baryogenesis, cosmological inflation, and dark matter. She contributed to the Randall–Sundrum model, first published in 1999 with Raman Sundrum.

Here is my interview with her about topics from her book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, which is about the universe and our understanding of the invisible dark matter in it:

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An Interview With Dr. Eliezer Sternberg

Eliezer Sternberg, M.D., is a resident neurologist at Yale–New Haven Hospital. With a background in neuroscience and philosophy, he studies how brain research can shed light on the mysteries of consciousness and decision making. He is the author of multiple books, including Are You a Machine? and My Brain Made Me Do It, and for the purposes of this interview, NeuroLogic, which is about brain activation and what propels us to do things.

The following is my interview with Dr. Sternberg about Neurologic:

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An Interview With Dr. Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members. Shermer engages in debates on topics pertaining to pseudoscience and religion in which he emphasizes scientific skepticism.”

Here is my interview with Dr. Shermer about topics from his books Skepticand The Moral Arc:

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An Interview With Justin Peters

Justin Peters is a Slate correspondent and the author of The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet. The book is about the life of Aaron Swartz, who was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS and the Markdown publishing format, the organization Creative Commons, the website framework, and the social news site Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami.

Here is my interview with Justin about the story in his book The Idealist:

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