Rekindling My Love For Reading

Rekindling My Love For Reading

I first found the joy of reading when I was about 15 years old. I know, it's a little late. Let me explain. The thing is, I didn't grow up in an environment that exemplified the fun of reading. In fact, I grew up in an environment that did the opposite. Case in point, I grew up with friends that would make fun of me if I were caught with a novel on hand. It also goes without saying that schools sucked at making reading appealing. Despite those obstacles, I ended up being gravitated towards books once. 

I remember the first time I discovered the magic of books. It was during one summer in the empty library of the small town of Rugby, North Dakota. I went in there just because I enjoyed being alone and, since it was always relatively empty, I considered it my perfect place to be just that. Since I was there I thought 'why don't I start reading?' So I did. Now that I think about it, it's hard to believe that the first book I decided to read was Stephen King's The Stand. At more than 1100 pages long, I chose this book simply because it was the biggest book I could find. I just liked the challenge of it. Since it was Summer I had all day to read. And so I did. I averaged about 100 pages a day and I thought I was so awesome for it. The book did not disappoint. Not coincidentally, this was also the beginning of my love for horror. 

After reading this book, I kept on reading. I picked up some more King books and then some James Patterson and then some Kenneth Oppel. I even got into the non-fiction world. I was loving it. But then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. And by "Fire Nation" I mean high school.  

Once high school started, I read less and less frequently due to exhaustion. With class, homework and extra curriculars, I just couldn't find the time. There were waves during the summer when I got back into it, but for some reason it stopped being as fun. I guess I shouldn't pin this all on school, since my (let's say) suboptimal home-life was also not helping. It was like the fire in me that loved books was getting smaller. When high school was over I did start some books but never finished any.

There was still a part of me that loved books though. My high school days did not completely kill my yearning for books, but they certainly tried.

Fast forward to a year ago. My main source of education and entertainment has now been in the form of podcasts. I just found them a lot easier to get into. I knew however, that I was missing a lot of valuable pieces of content that were only in the form of books, so I thought to get myself a Kindle and try this reading thing again. So far I've found it to be a success. I've read quite a few full books for the first time in a long time. I've also read countless online articles that I never would have otherwise. I'm realizing now that the inconvinience of physical books has been a small but significant barrier for me.

Maybe it's the fact that I got a Kindle or maybe it's the fact that I'm escaping my depression (or maybe both), I'm just glad that I'm picking up reading again. I hope to someday regain that feeling of joy I had that first Summer. I miss it a lot. 

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Internal Motivation

When I was in high school, my basketball coach asked me to join the cross country team and I reluctantly said yes. At that time I hated running. I ran as a form of conditioning in basketball and track, but I viewed it as a necessary evil.

I remember, after every practice run or race, I told myself "I never want to do that again," but somehow I always found myself doing it again. Not surprisingly though, that was my first and only season of cross country.

This last summer I made the decision to start running as a way to get back into shape. Later, I ended up joining a running club. Miraculously I now enjoy running.

Back then I was barely able to run a full 3 miles without feeling like dying. Now, after five sedentary years and gaining 30 pounds, I am somehow able to run 8 miles consistently. Not only that - I went from dreading the next time I had to run to looking forward to it.

If you told me that I was capable of running 8+ miles straight back then, I would have called you crazy. Now I do those runs on a weekly basis. Also, I'm looking to increase my endurance to the point where I can do 18+ mile runs.

So What Changed?

It's not that I wasn't physically able to run 8+ miles during high school. After all, I was in way better shape back then. I would say that back then I did not have the same internal motivation. My reasons for running did not come from within. Rather, my biggest reason for why I ran was that I didn't want to disappoint my coaches. This was an external motivation, which could only take me so far.

This time around, it was solely my choice to start running. There's no external pressure to do it - I know that I can quit any day and no one would care or think less of me. It may sound counterintuitive, but this freedom is what allows me to stay motivated. That's because it lets me know that I'm doing it because I genuinely want to.

We all understand this of human nature: if you tell a person what to do, they are less likely to want to do it, even if they know it's in their own interest to do it. Also, if the person does it, they will most likely do a worse job than if it was through their own volition. 

During school (and I guess throughout my whole childhood) I got accustomed to being controlled. I was told what I should or shouldn't do and what I should or shouldn't aspire to. As a result, I lost touch with my own wants and needs - the things that wake up my internal motor. 

I think this is what happened with me and running. I felt the external pressure to run, therefore I didn't do so well. Now that I have no one telling me what to do and feel no pressure, I am more motivated than ever to be a better runner. Now, instead of having people push me, I have an internal motor that's faster and unrelenting. 

Making the transition between being internally motivated rather than externally hasn't been easy. After being externally directed for so long, it's taken me 5 years to realize that running is something I genuinely want to do. This is just one thing, but there are many other aspects of my life where I'm still lost. 

This is why I would urge parents and teachers to stop controlling children's lives so much. For about 18 years we push them towards what we want out of them and then when they're set free we expect them to suddenly become strong willed. This just doesn't make sense.

What we need to do is teach them to be in touch with and follow their own compass, because that's where they will thrive. 

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

Parents, Beware Of Your Power Lest You Abuse It

In the professional world, we are appalled when employers abuse their power. For example, we feel it is extremely inappropriate for employers to make romantic advances on their employees. This is because the employee would be afraid to say no, since the possibility of getting fired would be in the back of his/her mind. 

As we can see, employers have to act with more respect due to the reality of this power disparity. They have to be extra careful so as to not abuse their power. The greater the power disparity, the more respectful and careful the person of power must be.

The way I see it, there is no greater power disparity than in the parent-child relationship. Children depend on their parents in every way possible. They are completely defenseless and, unlike employees, they do not have the capacity to leave. That's why I believe children deserve the most respect and compassion we could give them. Just like in the employer/employee situation, it is extremely important for parents to be careful that they don't abuse their power. Unfortunately most people do the opposite.

Most parents believe it is perfectly okay to mold their children into whatever they want them to be. They implement many tactics that often run against the child's own wishes and they disrespect the child's autonomy. This causes many problems for the child in the long-run.

Parental abuse of power is not always as clear as inflicting physical pain. It can include more subtle things such as enforcing your beliefs onto them. Even more than the employer who makes a romantic advance, it is not fair to do these things to kids because they have an immense pressure to conform to your wishes.

We need to understand that kids are afraid to say no to you because they depend on you. 

Kids need to be reassured that you wont take away their freedom for being their authentic selves. This is where the importance of unconditional love comes in. Most people say they love their children no matter what, but they have a rather flexible definition of love, which renders the word meaningless. 

Just look at how we treat our children when they do something we disapprove of: we invoke guilt and fear, we threaten them, we neglect them, we inflict physical and emotional pain, we lie to them by saying "Santa won't bring presents this year" etc. To truly love a person you must first respect them, and those type of actions clearly show a lack of respect.

By abusing your power, you are raising a person who will continue to be a submissive people-pleaser and therefore become an easy target for abusive people. Either that or you will create a person who will use their own power as an opportunity to be abusive. I can't even tell what's worse. 

Most people think disrespecting their child's autonomy is the only way to raise them right. Well, I'm here to say that it doesn't have to be that way. Not only do non-abusive methods exist, but implementing them will give you much better results.

Check Your Rationality Before You Wreck Your Morality

Check Your Rationality Before You Wreck Your Morality

Intuitively, we understand that if we can get the same results with either violence or non-violence, then the method of non-violence is infinitely more moral. To clarify, here are some examples of goals and how they can be met with and without violence:

  1. Getting a girl -  I can kidnap one and trap her in a well Buffalo Bill style, OR I can make myself appealing, ask her out, and allow her to voluntarily choose to be with me.
  2. Getting a kid to do chores - I can threaten to hit him if he doesn't do it, OR I can negotiate or make a game out of it to help him want to do it.
  3. Bettering the education system - I can take money from people against their will and subsidize public schools, OR I can work for, create or support companies like Praxis, which make education cheaper and more efficient.

Notice that the peaceful solutions require more work and creativity. On the other hand, violence is an easy, one-size-fits-all type of tool. It simply doesn't require much critical thought, work or patience.

Do you want something done but you're too lazy, incompetent and/or sadistic? Well, have I got the perfect solution for you: violence.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say that corporal punishment is absolutely necessary for this or that when they haven't even read a single book on peaceful parenting. 

The lack of research is even more egregious when it comes to people advocating for government force. That's because people get their belief in government through social osmosis instead of through critical thought. Even people who don't care at all about politics are absolutely, 100% sure that society would collapse without government coercion. It's almost as if they were taught by schools run by governments. Oh, wait.

It really bothers me that most people argue for corporal punishment and institutionalized violence as if they've personally ruled out every voluntary option. It bothers me even more that those people are usually the same ones who claim to care about people. 

About 70% of the U.S. population still endorses corporal punishment and the love for government coercion is as popular as the love for hamburgers. Do you think all of those people thoroughly examined their options before reaching those conclusions? Especially when I consider how little critical thought is promoted in schools, I doubt it.  

The fact is, most people reach for the sword way too quickly. I attribute this to laziness, incompetency, and/or sadism. I mean, just think of the three violent scenarios I gave and see what applies with what. It's actually a fun thought experiment. 

Whatever the reason is, I don't think it's an excuse. If people support violent solutions when they didn't even look for voluntary alternatives, I think they are being immoral. So, here's my general rule that everyone who does not want to be immoral must follow: 

If you haven't properly searched for peaceful solutions, your default position should NOT be that a violent one is necessary. 

(Of course, this is provided that you have the time to assess your options - I'm not suggesting, if a crazy guy ran at you with a knife, that you stop and think of every course of action before shooting him)

Doing merely some research is not enough. To do this properly, I recommend that you thoroughly test all proposed peaceful solutions. I know, it sounds like hard work, but you should be happy to have a high tolerance before resorting to violence. If you don't have that then I'm afraid you may have a bad case of authoritarianism.

Notice how, with this moral rule, it is easy to not do the wrong thing. It is just as simple as not advocating for or committing violence when you don't know enough. You can literally do this in your sleep! 

If you're a person who has supported or committed violence without satisfying this rule, you probably want to demand that I show you a peaceful solution before you let go of your belief in the violent one. While I could probably point you to a non-violent alternative to some situations, the truth is that I shouldn't have to. 

That's because the burden of proof is not on me, but rather on the people that claim that the ONLY way to get something done is through force. It's not up to the girl to prove to me why I shouldn't kidnap her. If I belt a child to get him to do chores, it is not up to him to justify why I shouldn't have done it. The same goes with me demanding forced redistribution of wealth. I'm the aggressor, so why should the victims carry the burden? Sadly this simple truth of who should carry the burden of proof has been tragically ignored.

Okay, now that you know these things, there really is no excuse. Like I said, all you have to do is drop your support of violence until you do the proper research. That is, if you don't want to be immoral. Luckily for you, there are people out there that have devoted their whole lives to finding peaceful alternatives. Every resource imaginable is easily accessible to us by the power of the internet. So, go out there and explore. Once you let go of the limiting idea that violence is necessary, you might be surprised by all the possibilities. 

To make it easier for you, below are some useful resources that will help you discover peaceful alternatives having to do with parenting and socioeconomics. 

If you're looking for tips on how to get a girl voluntarily for a change, first of all I've had no success there so you're asking the wrong guy and second of all, there's probably no hope for you at this point if you're looking for reasons not to kidnap one. 

On Parenting

On Socioeconomics

  • Freedom! by Adam Kokesh. A fine (and free) book introducing voluntaryism.
  • pressingthebutton.com. A site that keeps an ever expanding list of alternatives to governments that already exist
  • FEE.org. It has great articles which illuminate all the good that comes out of free markets and the bad things that come out of government.
NBA > NFL

NBA > NFL

There are many reasons why I always liked basketball. One big reason is that it has a low barrier for getting involved: all you need is a ball and a hoop, plus you can play alone or with as many people as you want.

One less obvious, but I think more important, reason is because it cultivates individualism. Every player is empowered to change the course of a game. This power is not dictated by what position one plays. In football we clearly see that it is the quarterback who has the most power to affect the game. In this way, individual merit matters a lot less, because you can be the best kicker in the world and you will hardly get credit for a win compared to the quarterback. 

Basketball also cultivates individualism because it's a lot easier to identify each player along with his emotions. As an audience member, this lets you further appreciate the player as a person rather than as a pawn in a game. This is very different from covering him with so much gear and putting him far in the middle of a gigantic stadium, where it's hard to distinguish him from others let alone see what he is feeling. 

Also, I don't have the hard evidence to back it up right now, but it seems that the NFL is more strict with how the players can express themselves. How often do you see NFL players wearing ridiculous clothes compared to NBA players? 

To put it simply, it seems to me that the NBA is marketed a lot better than the NFL. They know individualism is what sells. 

So it will come to no surprise to me if there comes a day when the NBA surpasses the NFL as the most popular American sport. 

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

Stepping Onto The World Stage, Me

So It’s been about a year since I’ve set up this blog of mine and I’ve yet to post anything.

The main reason of why I’ve struggled to put anything on here is because I have severe anxiety. Basically I’m afraid to put my thoughts and feelings into the world and potentially being judged for them. There is a lot to say as to why I feel this way, which will have to be a topic for a future post.

So why do I want to publicly write about my thoughts and feelings if I am afraid of doing so?

Well, precisely because I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I want to finally feel free to express my true self (though first I have to do some digging to see who my true self is). I think confronting it in the form of a public blog is a great way to work towards that goal. Even if no one sees my writing, as a person with constant self-censorship in his system, this is a big step for me.

Besides that, there are so many benefits to writing a blog. Benefits which include:

  • Putting my thoughts out will allow people that think alike to find me, thus creating the kind of relationships I want to create. This might also weed out the kind of people I don’t want in my life.
  • Developing writing skills and creativity
  • Finding my voice / learning about myself
  • Documenting my progress in life
  • Building a good habit
  • Gaining confidence in myself

So obviously there are many benefits, but just for the purpose of analysis I’ll list my potential hindrances:

  • I could say the “wrong” thing and be crucified by the internet Justine Sacco style
  • Since I plan on being personal and honest, I will be more vulnerable
  • My beliefs will be out in the open and I may be ostracized by groups that dislike them, including potential employers

That’s all I can think of right now though I’m sure there are more.

Anyway, I understand that this is a double-edged sword. After thinking about this long and hard, I am confident that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Besides, I think that privacy is dead in this age and this blog is at least a way to control my “image.”