Panning Your Brain For Gold

There are few things better for me than stretching out with a steaming cup of coffee, background music, and a blank page. I mean, the blank page part is pretty crappy, but the music and coffee make it all worth it. Sometimes you can set incentives to make less savory tasks more likely to occur. Beyond that, they might eventually become enjoyable.

My inhibition to regularly write a year and a half ago was not due to a lack of coffee. The blank page was absolutely terrifying back then. Not for lack of things to say, but for lack of experience saying things. Little did I know that more often than not I have to write first to figure out what I even think. Sounds paradoxical but it’s completely logical.

Everyone has thoughts, all day every day. I imagine everyone thinks in their own way, but we have some similarities. Thoughts come in from internal or external stimuli, our inner reptile brain processes quickly for threats, our mammalian brain then kicks in to tell us how to feel about it, and finally our neocortex attempts to derive meaning and draw patterns from it. Or something like that.

Knowing the exact process is nice, but seems incomplete. Afterall, just look around. That guy over there picking his nose surely can’t have a similar thought process to you. You’re so savvy and seemingly in control, except that your neurosis plagues you with insomnia. Which is less evolutionarily advantageous?

Each and every brain seems to come with its own precise flavor of which thoughts to regard more than others, AKA values. The nose picker values hedonistic pursuits more than societal acceptance. The insomniac values problem solving and comprehension more than comfort. Perhaps neither would agree with this assessment, but it doesn’t matter. Actual values always supersede expressed values.

For me, the blank page is a chance to find my actual thoughts versus my expressed thoughts. Having to mark up the pixels with tangible and (mostly) comprehensible brain ether is an investment. It is putting skin in the game of understanding my own brain.

I used to think that I had lots of good ideas and complex thoughts because my brain was always hyperactive. I was, and am the insomniac from above. Turning off the stream of internal drivel is a challenge, to say the least. Nor did/do I want to. Among the flow of conscious and subconscious alluvium are some gemstones, or so I perceive.

Writing whatever comes to my mind daily is akin to the prospector of old panning for gold. Every day starts with tons of cold rushing water and a shit-ton of rocks and dirt. And hopefully a few flakes of gold. A prospector will move hundreds of pounds of earth to locate a gram of gold. It is tedious, uncomfortable work. But it is their work. Nobody demands they do it, their product is theirs to keep, and they operate at their own pace.

It is easy to get swept up in the immediacy of each day and the swarm of distracting thoughts. What matters is focusing on the things that are of real importance to you. When you sit yourself down and force your mind to follow one thread of thinking through logically, it becomes infectious. Setting a pattern of methodical thought extrapolation will spread your focus and intention to other aspects of life.

For me, it’s writing. Maybe it’s songwriting for you. Or painting. Or spreadsheets. What matters most is focusing and recording your thoughts. They may seem absurd and embarrassing in five years or even five days but embarassment is a sure sign of growth. And what else are we here for?

 

Incentives: Welcome to Life

What a whopper of a topic. Fully understanding the intricacies of incentives seems like it require such a voluminous essay  that my instinct is to instead be flippant and brief. I’ll try to avoid either.

As with any of these posts about a word that everyone knows but doesn’t fully comprehend my slice of interpretation, let’s start with defining the term.

Yes, we all know an incentive is something put in place to motivate an outcome. I approach incentives specifically in the economic sense. And I approach economics in the sense of studying human action in the face of scarcity. So, for me, incentives are structures put in place to affect human action. They can be internally or externally placed to affect individuals or groups.

For the sake of bite-sized ideas, I only wish to focus on incentives set for an individual. And for the sake of feeling relevantly violated, let’s assume that person is you.

So, here we are, sitting in your skin as you read this on your screen. Interesting. Let’s jump forward five minutes when you’re done reading this. Now what? What are you going to do? Does hunger beckon you to dine? Will you start lambasting people in internet comment threads? Will you start writing your third symphony?

The truth is, I don’t know, and you probably don’t either. Though, I can safely assume that there is something you aspire to do in the near, medium, and long term. Near term being that you want a hot dog, medium being that you want a promotion in six months, and long term being that you want a family in five years. Nothing outrageous about those goals, trust me, I could have made this a lot weirder for you.

Incentives are what get you the things you want. Contrary to popular opinion, setting goals is not the best way to get what you want. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have ideas about your potential future. The main problem is that your future self will inevitably murder your past self as is only natural. Rigid goals set by a dead person somehow don’t make things happen.

Still, having a direction is inevitable. Even if that direction is your waistband growing outwards as you cash in trust-fund checks and eat Dreyers. Diabetes and coronary events are still milestones, even if they are not the expressed goal. Which brings up an important point: we all have stated goals and revealed goals.

It’s easy to tell people, and yourself, that you will only eat kale and eggs until you lose those twenty pounds. In reality, we all know that is not what will happen. Soon your fingers are tainted with sinfully orange Cheetos dust and Oreo crumbs will cascade down your shirt. All the while you may even double down on professing your kale fantasies to the world. In this instance, I think the goal of losing twenty pounds is still desired, but it is not as compelling once put into practice.

And this is why incentives are so important. Distant, concrete goals make terrible incentives. After a while they become oppressive as you can’t help but notice the daily pain from your sacrifice is only inching you towards those towering hopes, which, as life constantly reminds us, may never even come to be.

The universe is uncertain. Even if you find the love of your life, they could fall through a faulty sewer grate never to be seen again. Even if you spend decades to become the leader of whatever tribe you choose, a folk festival or a fortune 5oo company, you could get cancer and die three months later. This is not meant to cause a nihilistic spiral. In fact, accepting that chaos is inevitably makes victory all the sweeter. Just don’t be surprised at all the failures outside of your control.

With chaos in mind, try and sculpt your incentives to be a type of person that can adapt to derive meaning and pleasure out of a variety of achievements instead of becoming a complete failure because a distant pedestal toppled before you reached it. Even if you manage to get on that pedestal you must acknowledge that it can still easily crumble.

Set yourself up to be able to jump from pedestal to pedestal. In fact, there’s no reason you can’t be on a pedestal right now. Today. And this brings me to the best incentive to achieve your long term goal.

Achieve something today instead of tomorrow or ten years from now.

To be a professional skydiver, which method would you prefer? Studying for 600 hours in a class room and then doing a complex jump for the first time ever or doing 100 easy jumps, iterating and experimenting slightly on each one, and then on jump 101 trying the complex maneuver?

I know your answer, shut up. Unfortunately, almost all of us were raised and schooled with the first method.

We spend well over a decade memorizing algebra and French, then get tossed into the real world which in fact rarely requires algebra and French (which we don’t remember anyways), and instead demands fast paced, complex emotional human interactions and adaptive learning. When we are finally ejected into the world of paying bills and taxes, many people flounder. Hence why so many people go right back in seeking the warmth of the graduate degree womb.

The incentives of modern education are skewed to create more academics and teachers instead of useful employees an entrepreneurs. The morality behind this is not important for the scope of this essay, but the incentives are.

Our inculcation of memorizing facts to pass tests, is much like someone eating kale to lose twenty pounds. Even if they do it, they didn’t like the process, and are sure to drop it after the milestone was achieved.

The better incentive is to make a lifestyle that you don’t hate and inches you towards being a type of person instead of a specific person. Instead of writing a book ten years from now, be the kind of person who could write a book in ten years by writing small amounts regularly. Instead of losing twenty pounds in six months, find a way to lose a pound a week that you can live with forever (hint: the key is not eating more whole grains).

The incentive of incremental change towards an ideal is far easier to swallow than jarring, immediate shifts in behavior.

Well all have urges, goals, and desires, some subconscious, that we’d like to realize. As we go through life we begin to find that they shift and perhaps altogether disappear, replaced by imagined scenarios dictated by unforeseen circumstances. This is only natural. If you align your incentives to constant education and adaptation, you will still achieve your goals. You will simply be another person achieving completely different goals.

Welcome to life.

Urges

As previously mentioned, urges are uninformed desires that compel us to act. They are never wrong or right. They all have consequences.

An urge to fit in with a group is ancient. The actions you take to do so are what you’ll be judged by. You get to decide whose judgment matters to you. In this case it would be with the desired group. So, you might start dressing different, learning specific gossip and pop culture, all to align better with the new group. There is nothing wrong with following an urge but you cannot follow all of your urges. If you choose to accept the judgment of the new group do not expect all other groups to be open to your new approach.

The urges we follow are not the end of the road. There are options to reinvent yourself and pivot your desires. Maybe your urge is to follow as many urges as possible. All fine. But do not expect anyone to seek you out for something that requires consistency.

We cannot change the urges that live within us. But that does not mean they must rule us. I’d like to say there’s an infomercial solution out there to controlling urges overnight. Unfortunately, I don’t know it. Trial, error, failure, and learn seems to be the most tried and true method. Too often most people give up after the failure phase and instead skip right to the very optional guilt phase.

There’s nothing wrong with doing what seemed right only to find you were in complete error.

Once you begin to learn the patterns to your urges from countless results, micro and macro, you begin to understand how to order them. Forget Maslow. Between the blocks of his pyramid are the nuances of humanity.

Everyday we are tugged by urges, needs, desires, whatever you want to call them. Those who are helpless to their whims whether it be running after a bus even though they aren’t late, going on a date with someone they aren’t attracted to, or working in sub-basement B of the company, are like puppies surrounded by toys. Each and every one of these and all actions are backed by an urge. The urge to be efficient, the urge to be accompanied, the urge for security, all are natural and often against your best interest. None of them are inherently wrong on their own. It’s when they begin to get in the way of what your true urge is, when the problems begin.

I bet you’d like me to now lay out exactly what your true urge should be. But frankly, that’s your business. If you know it already, great. Keep it to yourself and do it. Talk is cheap. If you don’t know what it is yet, then keep running around the circle of toys until you tire. Just make sure you get back up.

 

Urges and Incentives

Sometimes I think about having children. Procreating with another human. I haven’t looked into adoption, but something tells me the odds of a single male in his late twenties being handed a child is unlikely. Which is fine. Child rearing is not an endeavor I’d wish to take on alone.

The drive to create offspring seems to be a fairly strong urge across our species. So much so that there are, at this moment, hundreds of thousands of people shopping for a relationship on their phones. True, the sole purpose of a relationship these days is not necessary to make a family, often it is solely the urge to copulate or perhaps to not feel alone.

All of these are still urges.

Urges are so vital to understanding one’s actions and often completely ignored, willfully or otherwise. They are often baked into our unique essence from a mix of nature and nurture. If you had a large family as a child, I assume an urge to create a family on down the line is more likely. Some of an urge is most likely informed by a portion of DNA that regulates hip size, fertility, hormonal levels. We all are quite unique, but not that much.

The urge to be loved, be comfortable, and healthy are standard across our species minus a few sociopaths, monks, and math teachers. Understanding the urges that inform your actions is vital to learning. Call it self-reflection, introspection, or wisdom, comprehending your urges is vital to happiness. It takes time and experience to understand how to align all of your urges so they don’t collapse in on each other and start a soul fire. An urge to eat empty calories, lay down all day and somehow be attractive to someone who is fit and active does not jive. Thus we get to how to align urges.

An urge is useless without the counterpart of understanding incentives. Incentives are internal or external structures in place to follow your urges. The horse wants sugary calories. The carrot is thus dangled in front of it. Urges, incentives.

You must understand if the incentive set up will help you achieve your urge. Beyond that, you must be alert to those manipulating your basic urges to achieve their whims.

Urges inform, incentives achieve. Both can be terribly incorrect with damaged or inaccurate inputs.

I think I’ll leave it at that for today and riff on urges tomorrow and incentives the next day. Or not, stay tuned.

 

The Greatest Debate of Our Times: How to Use The Toilet Seat

Look, it’s 2018 we’re all supposed to believe in equality. In San Francisco you will get beat to death with a sack of locally-sourced organic tangerines if you say otherwise. Which is fine for me because I do indeed believe in equality.

Beliefs aside, I act upon equality. Being of the standing persuasion in the bathroom, I lift the seat up to ensure that it stays clean. Seems like an obvious action, but believe me, there are many, many grown men who do not do this. They like to think they can make every last droplet through the constricted hole that is the toilet seat. But they can’t. The physics of liquid droplets coming out of a narrow…hose, does not allow for this. There will inevitably be collateral droplets covering the seat, which yes, I agree is gross.

The fact that there are slovenly standers among us leads to the cultural supposition that all standers are to not only lift the seat, but then put it down again. Right. That is the standard model. Countless sitcoms have riffed on it for perhaps the cheapest drama known in the history of humanity.

But how is that equal?

Shouldn’t I be just as miffed at coming into the bathroom and finding that I have to lift the seat as someone coming in and finding they have to lower the seat?

Apparently not.

Gentlemen, being for some reason unequal in this sphere are culturally demeaned if they are not the grandest arbiters of toilet seat elevation.

Yet, I have done no wrong. It is the rogues among the standing variety who just let it go regardless of seat position who cause the bigotry against even the clean, respectful standers. This is why I make it a point to always keep the seat up at a public location. True, it is unfair for the sitters to always have to be manipulating the seat position to down for themselves, but, I am doing a favor that I believe is often unseen and often maligned. I don’t trust the public. That fellow in a three piece suit may look elegant as he sips his chardonnay, but when you get him alone in a room with a toilet he very well might become a chaotic tinkle monster with no regard for the future seat of another.

This is why I propose that the default seat position, especially in public locales, be in the up position. Or, at the very least, there should be no default for equality’s sake. At home, you’ll have to sort it out.

Radical, I know. I don’t expect those without my intricate knowledge of the rogues and miscreants throughout our bathroom society to fully understand. But I hope that one day our society will embrace equality, and a step beyond that, learn how to use the goddamn toilet.

Singular Domiciliary

Two years ago I was living alone in a house paid for by the Nature Conservancy on Main street in Karlstad, Minnesota. The pleasure center of nowhere. But I enjoyed myself immensely.

I had never lived alone before in my entire life. I wasn’t even supposed to be living alone. My roommate and coworker had quit, leaving me the entire somewhat dilapidated two bedroom house. It was far from paradise, but it was closer than I had imagined.

Growing up with two brothers and being the youngest meant that I received what I needed and not always what I wanted. Prime on that list was space. I shared a room with my older brother until I was twelve or so. Not a big deal, but it wears on you.

My first semester in college I had a similar taste of solitude when my creepy roommate caught Mono and left school. It was nice, but I wasn’t as much an introvert back then and really didn’t like that dorm. People were always knocking on my door and it was a bit too communal to be considered living alone.

The next college domicile had two roommates, the next three, the next one reached peak roommate at six. That’s right seven people living in a house built in the fifties. To be fair, I was living in a tent in the backyard so they weren’t technically my housemates, but that’s another story.

Ever since college I’ve always lived with at least one other person. I’m not an antisocial curmudgeon, but I had no idea how much of a blessing solo habitation could be.

Midnight guitar practicing, pants optional, early bacon festivals, no squabbling over bills, dishes, or chores. Wait, there’s more: not having to partake in small talk, avoiding their friends coming over, different schedules and morning and night clamoring, full stove and fridge ownership, other’s pets you somehow become part owner of, immediate toilet access, man this list could really go on forever. But this is nothing new to you. It surprised me.

It seems natural though that most people are aware of the panacea that living alone can be. In fact, an unscientific study I just made up claims that 84% of adults would choose to live alone if they could afford to. And there’s the crux; it costs more to dwell independently.

The price disparity between cohabitation and loner habitation is basic economics and I really don’t feel the need to explain why. I won’t go around parading that my own personal domicile is a right because it works best for me. But it is a damn shame.

Now, I fully realize that many disagree with my penchant for household sovereignty. It surprises me when I hear people say that they prefer roommates over none. Perhaps they are sometimes fooling themselves because they know they can’t afford to live alone so why not believe it undesirable rather than be miserable.

I am not a miserly misanthrope about all roommates. I have actually quite enjoyed some roommates in the past. It is nice coming home after a hard day and talking about it over a beer in the kitchen or making a huge pot of stew that can be shared. Friends of roommates are also great ways to meet new friends. However, I find all of these cases to be in the minority of actuality. 24/7 human interaction saps me of my happiness. I need a retreat at the end of a day to create and recuperate.

What I’m really trying to say is that one of my life goals as paltry and abstract as it seems, is to live alone. For how long I’m not sure. I would think that at least a year would be fruitful to glean data from. My creativity and productivity increase for some reason when I can wake up with the knowledge that I don’t have to tiptoe when I’m feeling boisterous or contrarily be confronted by an incendiary roommate when I’m feeling dogged.

Why should you care about any of this? I’m not sure. But now you know of my desire and so do I. Sometimes it takes a bit of writing out my thoughts to understand what I really think.

Cheers!

 

The Clarity of Restraint

Hi! You’re probably a great person, right? You’re interested in many things but have that one desire that you’d like to accomplish. Maybe it’s getting a PHD in physics or building a stock car. Maybe you don’t even know what that thing is your seeking, but you know that something is there looming in the desired future version of you life. Call it an aspiration for greatness  or an underlying philosophy of improvement. Or maybe you’re just tired of being broke. What are you going to do about it?

The most simple answer is to say, “it will happen someday.” You can tell yourself that everyday as you dress for work, as you turn on the TV when you get home, and as you brush your teeth at night and still believe it. You can tell others you’re working on it, even though the last time you touched your project was four months ago for 45 minutes one sunny Saturday. The most dangerous part is that you might even believe yourself.

“Well! If I only had more time” you say, “if my job didn’t suck all my energy out of me” or “If I didn’t have a family” or the worst one of all “I’m stuck and don’t know how to proceed.”

Excuses are like weapons of mass destruction. Anyone can claim they exist, but upon closer inspection they seem to evaporate and you just end up in a twenty year war with yourself wasting effort in your delusions.

You’ve got work to do and it’s not being done. That is all that is happening here. Try and obfuscate it with comfortable excuses. Nobody will blame you because they’re all doing the same.

This isn’t a message of tough love imploring you to quit your job to follow your dreams. Quite the opposite in fact. I want to know what you are willing to do in spite of the fact that you have other obligations.

Everyone claims that they could be a painter, musician, writer, baker, dancer, explorer, yoga teacher, insert cool looking Instagram job, if they only had time to plan it out, practice, and learn.

Here’s the thing, you don’t have the time, so what are you going to do for your dream?

Will it remain idle and become a wistful imagination slowly decomposing through the decades? I don’t think so. As mentioned earlier, this is your thing. This is why you are here. Don’t let the lack of time seem like an opponent, instead see it as a blessing.

I know people who are independently wealthy and have the entire day at their command who also have dreams. And you know what? They still don’t get them done. They lack the impetus that is scarcity. You do not. You must choose to work at your goal because tomorrow will have as many if not more limits than today.

There is no better way to schedule, plan, and execute than within constraints. Limitations act as a frame to build off of. Use them while you have them because when you are successful they will fall away, leaving the structure of your dream free-standing. If you cease to put the same diligence into maintenance that you put into construction, your dream will not stand long.

Yes, it’s hard. Few will understand why you are doing what you’re doing. Your sacrifices will lead to further sacrifices as you gain traction. But you will have something that those who never had to struggle to realize their dream will have. The clarity of restraints to guide you forward in the most meaningful and efficient manner possible.

How to Keep Your Brain From Exploding

Let’s talk about the difference between just in case learning vs. just in time learning.

It appears that the phrase was coined by a fellow named John Cook about eleven years ago or so. I don’t know him, so we will forget he ever existed.

I first heard about this concept from Isaac Morehouse and it immediately resonated as one of those ideas that you’ve always known was true but never heard out loud before.

The summary: Just in case learning is picking up knowledge and skills for an unknown future use. Just in time learning entails parsing what needs to be known for an applicable task.

Of those two, just in case learning seems quite dumb. Why learn about underwater welding if you are a banker? And you’re right, it is a pretty inefficient way to approach the challenges of life. It is also exactly what most schools teach which informs my initial distaste of the concept.

It’s great and all that I learned about covalent bonding in chemistry, but I have not and most likely never will use that knowledge in my existence. But, the school district thought, “Maaaybe this kid will be a Nobel scientist so we better stress him out with tests and elaborate formulas.”

Many of you know how I feel about public schooling and expect an excoriating report on how their policy of just in case learning is completely out of touch with reality and is the reason why we have dumpster fire politicians. However, I may surprise you yet. Let’s cover just in time learning first.

To learn something as the need arises has countless advantages. I had no idea how to change the struts on a 1998 Camry, all I knew was that the mechanic wanted $1,400 to do it and that wasn’t gonna happen. Yet I still needed an automobile. The parts were $400 and the YouTube video was ten minutes long. The work took about five hours. Just in time.

Even if I had been taught how to change a strut in seventh grade, I probably would not have recalled the exact procedure fifteen years later and it would have been very broad and most likely not applicable to my car’s model. There are simply too many variables to learn about every specific car’s construction, correct tool usage, and types of struts to fit in our porridge filled heads. Keep in mind that is with all of the other stuff we are supposed to keep in our minds. Just in case learning seems to be insane when examined realistically. To be sure, it is an inefficient way to approach any task, but what if you don’t have a task?

Say it’s Saturday, you worked hard on a project all week at work, learning as you went along and stretching your brain with useful skills. You cooked a fritatta this morning which you had to find an exact recipe for. This afternoon you are planning a hike, and choose to look up the types of flora and fauna in the area to learn potential hazards. As you hike you read a topographic map to understand the elevation changes ahead of you so as best to prepare your water consumption. When you’re done you want to find the closest restaurant with the best nachos. When you finally get home you think you’d like to relax after such a tiresome day, but something is preventing you. There’s a little nagging thought that craves to know how to prevent muscles from feeling sore the next day. After thirty minutes pretending to be a doctor on the internet you determine that a soak in Epsom salts are the necessary prescription, so you put pants back on and drive to Walgreen’s to acquire said salts. When you are finally done with your soak, it’s time to read a book and go to sleep. But, what to read?! The just in time mindset craves something useful, but your day is done. There is another project in a couple of weeks that you might as well start learning for, but is that too far in advance to learn about? What is the delineation between ‘in case’ and ‘in time’? As you lay in bed with your eyes wide open pondering the meaning of time your brain then explodes from overthinking.

Yes, that was a fine bit of exaggeration, but my thesis remains. Just in time learning is more efficient that just in case learning but also has pitfalls.

You may think our Saturday man here is a stalwart of logical action and see nothing wrong in his numerous preparations. By all means when something is required of you, dive right in and drink in as much as you need to. What matters is knowing when to stop drinking and look up to notice that you part of an experience and not the entirety of it.

Jumping frenetically from one learning project to the next can become an addiction. It will make your check lists very sexy and your efficiency will increase up to a point. What’s missing is space to make abstract connections. Aimless pondering aka, curiosity.

Leonardo Da Vinci didn’t have an exact reason to figure out why fish are swifter than birds despite being in a heavier medium, water. He just wanted to know because it pleased him to. Never mind that he would use the principles gleaned from following aimless curiosity to later create specific inventions or pieces of art. The just in time camp would say he was wasting his time investigating the tongues of woodpeckers, but it is hard to quantify the lessons that lead to his numerous creations. Da Vinci was no stranger to just in time learning though. He was a quick study and highly adaptive creator. But along with practical applications he had a healthy appetite for the supposedly impractical wanderings of the mind.

Da Vinci had countless incomplete projects and harebrained ideas. If he could have focused his genius slightly more, who knows, maybe humans would have achieved flight four-hundred years earlier.

The same goes for any fastidiously practical person. Perhaps if Henry Ford had spent more time wondering about the principles behind the shapes of clouds instead of the best ways for his employees to be clean, the automobile industry might have had an entirely different future.

Perhaps there are simply two different types of humans out there, the granular and the general. I can’t say one is better than the other as I have only been myself my whole life and do what works for me. I do believe that a healthy mix of both is better than a pure strain of either. Actual tasks require hard knowledge to complete but informing hard knowledge with peripheral knowledge is the difference between perfunctory performance and creative innovation.

Will Money Make You Happy?

What is the correlation between money and happiness, if any?

Let’s clear up the air first and foremost, I am not, nor ever have been monetarily rich by American standards. I make the distinction between rich and monetarily rich for an important reason. Riches, wealth, whatever you want to call it are extremely subjective. The patient in the asylum who believes she is the queen of England is far more wealthy than the millionaire who sleeps three fitful hours a night and is heavily leveraged in stocks.

For the sake of this wordsplosion, I am going to assume that we’re talking about monetary riches. How important to your life satisfaction is having progressively larger numbers appear in your bank account as time moves on? I suppose the elephant in the room is asking exactly what you are sacrificing to increase those numbers.

I am not one to say that having vast sums of money makes you a good person or inherently moral. For every entrepreneur who has bootstrapped a solution that helped millions there is a fat crony and politician who extorted millions. Unfortunately, the two get conflated all too often, but that is not for us to discuss this time around.

There is certainly a cult of money worship the world over and it’s nothing new. Those who had the money ruled those without. Often without as much oppression as our Hollywood movies depict. It’s as old as pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, and the Medici’s. Historically, people are generally ready and willing to defer their own judgment to a rich ruling class. Perhaps we tend to view rich people as competent and more qualified than ourselves to solve complex problems. After all, they are rich and we are not, despite the ubiquitous desire to be so.

Of course, wealth distribution in the past was more on the crony side and less on the entrepreneur side. One of the most ancient rules of power is to never outshine the master, causing enterprising individuals to either be branded heretics or keep their mouths shut. Not that that happens at all these days…Anyways! Since the 17th-18th century, the government cronies of the world have faced constant revolution in their power game and concentration of wealth.

It’s hard to say exactly what unleashed the explosion of collectively repressed ideas and freedom the world over, but I think it was technology. Whether it was Gutenberg’s widely available printing press or the rediscovery of money lending leading to double entry accounting, the Renaissance happened and the world was never the same. Family’s such as the Medici began to concentrate wealth and people were happy to pledge fealty to them as they themselves became middle class from servicing the desires of the rich. Goldsmithing, painting, architecture, mathematicians, notaries, you name it, all arose to handle the requests of the rich on their own initiative (and unfortunately lineage at first). Still, there was now competition to get a contract which led to innovation. Let the cycle repeat and now here we are pocket computers and Bluetooth shoelaces.

Now, you’re thinking, “uhh, weren’t we talking about me being rich and my personal happiness?” Yes, you’re not wrong, but I had to lay some ground work for my own thoughts to jelly out.

Does money make you happy? The short answer is, no.

Having a purpose is what creates happiness. And also, not being hungry, covered in filth, cold, and lonely. But if you do things right, those should solve themselves.

It always comes back to purpose.  What makes you come alive?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

-Howard Thurman

So long as you are not an insane megalomanical asshat, bent on world destruction, following your desires will benefit others. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our days, but in general, helping yourself can only help others. This is why petty jealousy is so unfounded at the core. We can only succeed when others around us succeed.

It is foolish to wish misfortune upon others as we are only ensuring it for ourselves. Just because Steve Jobs made billions doesn’t mean I lost money, quite the opposite in fact. If the barista down the corner makes $200 in tips today, she will use it to better her life by following her purpose which means exchanging with others who’s lives are then bettered. It’s a beautiful system once fully grokked.

Still, it all comes back to having a purpose. I find that the people who are often the loudest antagonists to wealth have no clear life purpose. They wander from job to job, all the while letting life happen to them, and not really having the time to think about others or what they can do for them. How do I know this? Because that was me.

I will never forget how low I felt when I checked my number account balance one time and read “$0.36 cents.” I felt like a real depressed turd which in turn made me more self-absorbed which created a spiral of darkness. It’s hard to get your head out of your ass once it’s firmly set. I wasn’t a mean or evil person and I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I was a jealous person caught without a purpose.

Here’s the thing about purpose, it doesn’t have to be correct and final. Purposes change, what’s important is having one. Even if it seems selfish, it inherently can’t be. Unless it’s murder, arson, or some other heinous power trip. But that’s not you right? Right?! Good…

Once you have a purpose, you start to collaborate with others to make it so. This often turns into a job, whether employed by others or yourself, and inevitably you are compensated for your job. Your compensation is lower the less people you help. Selling sandwiches to 300 people a day seems like a lot of help, and it is, but selling software to 10 million people that repeatedly solves their problems, makes your work more valuable in our society. I think most anyone can do either job, but most don’t make software sales their purpose. Nor should it be. You should do what makes you come alive and I guarantee you will be compensated.

However, if you do desire a boat and a mansion, but really like making sandwiches, you have to choose which is really your purpose. Or find a way to make sandwiches make you millions, of which there are plenty of people who have. I know one personally.

There are countless ways to make money and buy what comes with it. If that’s your purpose, be a lawyer or a doctor and don’t complain that you hate your job because, your real purpose was the money all along. Which is fine, but kind of boring in my opinion. I tend to lean towards problem solvers and creative types. They always keep me guessing and improving my own purpose.

Money will most certainly not make you happy if it is not your sole purpose, which I think if we’re honest with ourselves, it rarely is. Being dead broke and bitter usually means that you either don’t have a purpose or have been avoiding it. There are countless wealthy, unhappy people, so, no, large numbers in an account don’t correlate to happiness. Then again there are many more poor people who are unhappy, so there is a correlation but not a causation. Happiness is not based in wealth, but purpose.

Money just so happens to follow purpose, so go and get you some.

Wisdom is Pain

Wisdom is pain.

We all strive to know the most to make our lives as pleasant as possible for their entirety. For some, this means learning enough about accounting to receive a healthy paycheck to raise a family and die surrounded by familial love.

For others, it means arduously cycling around the world for fifteen years. And in the process, maybe getting ringworm, robbed, and breaking your femur in a car accident.

Learning is important but more useful with an end in place. I know that familiar saying about life being a journey instead of a destination. But what about that journey is your day to day thoughts and imaginings? The destination is comprised of such.

Wisdom is a highly sought after and appreciated trait. Almost nobody is wise, least of all those who claim to be.

Wisdom is pain and pain is the result of a well-experienced journey. Pain results from not insulating yourself from circumstances beyond your control. What you can’t control can inform you and better teach you how to control it. Even if you never truly master it.