Be Mindful of the Invisible Reward

Sometimes we don’t experience the result of being diligent as a reward. This is unfortunate because it means we have poor incentives to do what’s best for us.

What do I mean?

Well, take driving for example.

Let’s say you drive completely safe — no unnecessary lane changes, no speeding etc.

So what is the reward for doing that? The reward is that nothing bad happens. Your life goes on as it always has, which is something you already take for granted.

From an intellectual perspective you can see the value of driving safe, but still the result of driving safe doesn’t feel like a reward. It takes a good amount of imagination to be able to see the alternate scenario where you weren’t as careful.

So What is the Solution?

I have two solutions: set up your own incentive and/or make being diligent as convenient as possible.

If you want to be diligent with driving safe, maybe throw your phone in the back seat so it doesn’t distract you. If you want to be diligent with working out, maybe get a work-out buddy. With eating healthy, get rid of all the junk food in your house.

You get the idea.

Sometimes it is very hard to find a solution like that. In that case you just have to keep thinking about it and eventually something will come up.

Instead of thinking this as a problem, think of it as an opportunity.

If you’re competing with other people, say in a sport or in the job market, this is an easy way to set yourself apart. All you have to do is be mindful of the invisible rewards of being diligent. By doing this you will run into less mistakes and inconveniences in the long run.

The fact that we live in a reality where these poor incentives exist means that there are opportunities for clever entrepreneurs to fill in the gap of making it more convenient to do the right thing.

Hey, maybe you could be one of those cool entrepreneurs, so get to solving some problems.

What’s The Deal With Ayn Rand?

What’s The Deal With Ayn Rand?

One time when I was in college, one of my philosophy professors made the point that there aren't any famous women philosophers. She challenged us to name one, so I immediately blurted out "what about Ayn Rand?"  To that, she made an annoyed face and responded with "well, she doesn't count." I don't remember her exact explanation for why she didn't count but I know it was something along the lines of her "being crazy."

This is not the only time I've noticed this contempt for Ayn Rand and her philosophy.

Just yesterday I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls where an Ayn Rand reference came up. Rory, who is known as a very smart and driven girl, praises The Fountainhead, explaining that she was 10 when she first fell in love with it. Then the other character condemns Rand.

after I watched the show, I listened to a podcast called Gilmore Guys. It's a podcast where two guys and a guest break down each episode. It makes my experience of watching the show much more fun. Anyway, in the break-down of this particular episode, they were "disappointed" by Rory's love of Rand's work. They didn't explain why though, I assume because they thought the reason was self-evident.

I don't understand this. 

So many great people love her books. Just like Rory, I've heard many stories of people reading her work when they were young and it being a huge positive influence in their lives. They talk about her as if she was the catalyst to their success.

This leads me to think that there's something very valuable to be gleaned from her books, but apparently most people don't see this. I think that they are so focused on what they don't like about her that they don't see the hidden treasure. And after so many testimonials like the one below I'm convinced that there is a treasure. That is why I'm determined to eventually read her novels.

Though I've never read her work, I know I've been indirectly influenced by her, since the people that influenced me say that they've been influenced by her. What I do know about her is that she likes the free market, individualism, and personal responsibility, so she's alright in my book.

I've never heard of a person being driven to become successful and take control of their own lives because they read Karl Marx or Bernie Sanders or any other collectivist. If anything, I think those kinds of public figures discourage people. After all, their philosophy stands on the idea that the power to better your life is outside of you rather than within.

Changing My Attitude Towards What I Consume

Today I just want to highlight 3 blog posts that I read from TK Coleman's Blog. If not for future reference, I'm also doing this to cement them in my mind by spending some time writing and thinking about them.

  1. How to Get Around Bodyguards and Make It to the Top Part I
  2. How to Get Around Bodyguards and Make It to the Top Part II
  3. How to Get Around Bodyguards and Make It to the Top Part III

I feel the need to save those words because I want to remember what I think is an important lesson. And I just can't say it any better myself.

I used to waste my time looking for flaws in things rather than ignoring them or extracting the value I could get out of them. For example, I've criticized movies or shows for being "anti-capitalist propaganda," I've dismissed thinkers for having (in my opinion) the wrong conclusion on a certain issue, I've laughed off quotes for not being applicable to every situation etc.

Those little reservations were guarding valuable truths, and I have been too skeptical to get through them. 

From now on I am going to choose to see everything I consume as an opportunity to learn and become a better version of myself.  Anything that doesn't have the capacity to do that for me (I'm looking at you, politics) I will simply discard from my life. 

How To Raise Happy Children

How To Raise Happy Children

If I asked parents what is the number one thing they want for their children, I bet most of them would say happiness. Some may have a roundabout way of saying it, for example they may say they want them to have a nice career or a spouse and kids, but that's because they think those achievements will lead to happiness. Either way you can boil it down to parents want their kids to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Despite the fact that this is their goal, a lot of parents end up failing at helping their kids attain happiness. Why is that? Well I think for most cases the answer is simple: the parents aren't happy themselves. This is a classic case of the blind leading the blind.

If you can't figure out how to be happy how the hell can you figure out how to make another human happy? You know yourself better than your kid after all. 

Children can tell if you are not happy, and so they know where your guidance will lead to if they follow it - it will lead to your life. So if you don't seem happy the rational thing to do is to not listen to you. I believe this is why kids become rebellious when they grow up. You simply don't have valid authority. They know that you are bullshitting when you promise them a great life if only they do what you say, and you'd be surprised how young they catch on.

I know that true happiness is hard to attain, especially if you don't have guidance from happy people. I don't yet have an answer for how to attain it for myself except that it has a lot to do with freedom. I also know about what doesn't work and one of those things is letting myself be controlled by, let alone listen to people that aren't happy themselves, whether they be my parents, school teachers or society as a whole.

I think it is crucial for any aspiring parent to find the answer for themselves before a child shows up. That is if they want said child to be happy.

Why It’s Wrong To Lie To Kids About Santa

Why It’s Wrong To Lie To Kids About Santa

I think it's safe to say that most parents use Santa as a way to manipulate their children's behavior. It's something that is deeply embedded in the Santa mythology. As declared in the famous song, "he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."

It's basically Santa lore 101 - the first thing you explain to your kid is that he brings presents ONLY to the good boys and girls.

How many parents do you think have threatened their kids by saying "do you want me to call Santa and tell him not to come this year?" I'm willing to say most parents who adopt the lie have reminded their kids of Santa's little rule to get them to do what they want.

In my case, I was told that how good I was is proportional to how great the presents will be. I stressed so much over this and it made the times when I made mistakes or failed to comply so much more painful.

This Santa lie is perpetuating the control of kids. It's even easier to control kids using this lie since the idea that this magical experience might not happen is a lot more powerful than being sent to their room. 

It also lets the parent dump the responsibility of being the person to emotionally harm their child, since they can say to the child, "It's not me who is threatening you of not bringing presents if you don't do what I say - it's Santa."

And forget about the immediate psychological stress that this made-up threat brings to the child. What's more harmful is the behaviorism that's involved. It's creating adults who seek external approval instead of internal, which is a recipe for an unhappy life. 

This post was inspired by the latest discussion from Praxis Philosophy Nights. It was an excellent discussion with great arguments for and against the practice of lying to kids about Santa.

The Dangers Of Determinism

The Dangers Of Determinism

In the world of philosophy, there is a huge debate between determinism and free will. The former says that our actions are determined by our past while the latter says that our actions can be chosen freely. 

I have nowhere near the amount of knowledge and wisdom to say which one is right. What I will say is that it would behoove us to act as if we did have full free will, even if it isn't true. 

That's because belief in determinism usually leads to inaction. Even though they may not know it, some people invoke determinism as an excuse to not improve their lives. You can see this with how they deflect personal responsibility: They may say "I was just raised this way" or "I couldn't get it done because of this other person."

That may be true - and it may actually be important to be aware of those causes - but what is more important is what you're going to do about it. 

Another problem with people that believe in determinism is that they fundamentally don't believe they can choose to change. Instead they wait for "the universe" to tell them when it's time for a change. They usually wait until they get a big health scare to start exercising or they wait until they get into a car crash to start driving more responsibly. Sometimes it may be too late.

Imagine how much better it would be if those people knew they could change their bad habit before a defining moment?

What we need to do, if we want to improve our lives, is to act as if we have full and unfettered free will.

Stop Chasing Symbols

I have a distaste for when people chase the appearance of results (or symbols). Most notably is when parents make their kids say things like "please and thank you." These parents think "my kid just said the words, so that means he must be kind and considerate, right?" Wrong. While it's true that all kind people usually say please and thank you, it is not true that all people who say please and thank you are kind. 

I feel like too many people focus on symbols way too much, which in turn leads them to forget about the purpose behind them. We focus on the symbol and then mistake it for reality. 

For example:

I often see people trying to chase the former because they think it must mean the latter. I also see parents and schools trying to push kids to achieve the symbol. The funny thing is that the more they try to force the symbol the more they stray away from what they really want.

I think this is tragic.

Stop chasing symbols.

My Moral Philosophy

My Moral Philosophy

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.