“I Don’t Know Why, But”

Not knowing things is perfectly normal. In fact, every human will inevitably go through life not knowing even a fraction of all there is to know. Publicly admitting what you don't know is often the first step of learning. It's commendable, but not all of the time. Sometimes admitting ignorance is not so praiseworthy.

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Being Mindful Of The Alternatives To Social Media

Being Mindful Of The Alternatives To Social Media

Many times, I find myself not knowing what to do with myself. I'm talking about those little moments of "free time" when I have no particular obligation or personal commitment.

Today I was going through that and, in that moment, my hand instinctively went to the letter R followed by the Enter button of my keyboard, which took me to Reddit. This mindless impulse has happened many times before. The sad thing is that after looking through the site I usually end up with a deep feeling of dissatisfaction.

Whether it's checking Reddit, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube it only turns out to be worth it about 10% of the time.  Sometimes I even find something that makes me feel angry or sad which is even worse. 

This needs to stop. Logically speaking, I should replace checking on social media with activities that are way more likely to be worthwhile. Doing this will make me mentally healthier and more valuable in general. 

A good way to make this change is to already have clear alternatives in mind or, better yet, have them written down so that, whenever I have the impulse to go on social media, I can instead look at an actual list. Because one of the biggest reasons for why I go on social media all the time is because I'm not fully mindful of the alternatives. So today I created that list.

This list of mine is made up of positive and fun things that I could do instead of checking social media. In my opinion, the more options I have the better, since that way I'm more likely to find something I'm in the mood for.

  • Walk my dogs - because in their eyes you can never do enough of that
  • Watch a movie
  • Go for a run
  • Play basketball
  • Read a chapter of Tribe Of Mentors
  • Read an article that I have saved on my Kindle
  • Read a chapter of a novel
  • Listen to a podcast - if you feel up to it, you can do it while running or walking the dogs!
  • Write a thank you letter
  • Call a friend
  • Talk to a stranger - I know you won't do it but hey, the option's always there
  • Answer some questions on Quora
  • Start or continue a post for my blog
  • Think of how I can improve this list (should I have more productive things or just more options?)

Side note: while I do think there's a place for social media, I think it's best used only when I have a deliberate reason. That way there's a pretty good chance it'll be worth it.

False Statements That You Should Pretend Are True

Even if they are technichally not true since they are absolutes, sometimes believing in these things can have huge benefits:

You are responsible for everything that happens to you.

This belief puts you in the driver's seat of your own life. It makes you look for what you could have done better so that you can improve next time. You see this mentality in a lot of great basketball players - even if the team loses the game because another player missed a simple shot, they don't blame it on them. Instead they say "it's on me, I could have done something." I think that's a sign of a great leader. 

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Believing in this makes it almost infinitely more likely that you'll be able to achieve your goals. Even if you end up failing, you will still get somewhere. As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

In the end, everything will turn out fine.

This gives you the confidence to take risks.

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.

Shyness Is A Result Of Trauma

Shyness Is A Result Of Trauma

"I'm shy at first, but once we get to know each other I can be very outgoing."

When people describe themselves, I hear that sentiment quite often. A long time ago I was someone who may have said such a thing thinking it was just a part of my personality. Now I see the tragic implications of those words. 

To understand the implications lets first define what it means to be shy. I'm defining shyness as being fearful of expressing yourself around others. This does not include introverts, provided that they aren't timid or nervous when they are with company. Introverts can be shy but not all are.

I happen to be both - for the most part, I like to be alone, but when I'm with others fear does prevent me from expressing myself properly. Because of this fear I have held back many moments of self expression. Basically everything that makes life worth living.

In short, I have refrained from expressing myself for fear of facing punishment.

So where does this fear come from? I believe that shy people were once sensitive children who developed this fear as a result of past traumatic occurrences.

Though shy people may not have a present reason to be timid, they once did. Shy people were once in an environment where, to some degree or another, it was dangerous to be fully themselves. This danger can come in many ways and from many people including parents, siblings, teachers or school bullies. 

Perhaps, like me, these shy people had their curiosity squashed, their propensity for being playful and loud tamed, their feelings exploited, or their unique quirks ridiculed. Whatever it was, I guarantee that they had an expression that was natural to them that others around them didn't like and so, much like a nail that sticks out, they got the hammer. 

Pretty soon they learned that not all of who they are is accepted, so they start to suppress their true selves in order to survive. But the problem never stops there; this self-censorship is then internalized. It stays with them as they grow, even when there's no possibility of retaliation. What was once a necessary adjustment in response to their environment has now turned into unresolved trauma.

Now you understand why I think this is tragic. It's almost even more tragic that there are people out there who think shyness is just part of their natural personality rather than a result of the trauma-inducing environment around them. Without this knowledge, they have little chance of ever reversing it.

I remember being outgoing and carefree once. I believe basically every person was born that way. It is not until they get tested, silenced, controlled, humiliated, scorned, and beaten that they become anxious and reserved. One of my goals in life is to reconnect with who I was before that happened.

My Favorite Album (Currently)

Listening to music is something I rarely have done ever since I discovered podcasts. As a result you may find that my music taste is of someone who got stuck in 2012 (the year when I basically stopped listening to new music).

Every once in a while, though, new music slips into my ears, and that is what happened with Maria Mena's album from 2015 called Growing Pains

I discovered this artist through her hit single I Don't Want To See You With Her. Maria's ability to be vulnerable by writing very personal lyrics combined with her voice got me hooked, so I knew I had to hear more.

With all of her insights and wisdom on relationships, listening to this album is almost like therapy. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be surprised if Maria has been through a few sessions herself as her album is filled with honesty and self-awareness. 

Though it's the most simple, my favorite song from the album is Where I Come From. It's a song where she expresses that she doesn't want to repeat her parent's mistakes.

I wish I could find more self-aware artists like Maria Mena.

Listen to the whole incredible album here.

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Why Your Book Recommendations Are Futile

Have you ever had trouble getting your family or friends to watch your favorite shows, read your favorite books, adopt a certain perspective? That's the story of my life. Sometimes I read, watch, or listen to something that I find so valuable that I can't help but share it in an effort to improve the lives around me.

I'd say my success rate is about 2%. I used to get upset when it didn't work, but now I don't because I have learned of it's inherent futility. Though I still do it just because the opportunity cost of mentioning something I liked is so low, plus that 2% can be meaningful. 

Why Is It So Futile?

You may notice that, when you tell someone "you should consume x" in an unwarranted manner, many times the person won't do it. They may show interest while you talk about it just to be polite but the interest usually stops there. Even if they do end up consuming it, they will most likely give you the lukewarm response of "I thought it was okay." In most successful introductions of mine, I can easily tell that the person didn't find it as important as me.

If you want to test this out, go to someone and show them a video which you thought was really funny. I guarantee you that they will not find it as funny as you did. I also guarantee that the person would have found the video funnier if they discovered it themselves. There's probably a study like this out there that I'm too lazy to look for.

Most times, the person is resistant to your recommendation not because they think they'll dislike it but rather because they simply don't like being told what to do and how to feel. If they consume something, they want it to come from an internal desire to do it. It gives them a sense of free will. There's nothing wrong with that - we all have the need to feel that way.

Successful recommendations where the person gleans the importance that you gleaned only work when they are already looking for it. The person has to have the same goal in mind that you had before diving in, and that goal has to be self-directed. 

I know certain books, podcasts, activities that can improve the lives of my family and friends but I know that if I try to introduce such things to them when they haven't asked for it they will get nothing of value out of it. Conversely, they have recommended things to me that I resisted for the same reason.

Despite the frustration that this brings, I wouldn't have it any other way. Discovering our own way through life is fun, it's what makes us different, it's how we derive our own purpose.

Knowing This, What Can We Do?

The best, if not the only thing we can do is to set an example. We could show the valuable effects we have obtained from trying such things.

If you want other people to see the value in exercising, all you can do is be happy and healthy and hope that people like those results enough to try it themselves. 

If you want people to read a book that you think is important, maybe write a review where you talk about the value you've extracted from it, post it on social media.

Make your thoughts and feelings known to the world and let people listen only if they please.  The important part is in doing this without being pushy.

And of course this wouldn't be an Erick Muller blog post if I didn't tie this topic back to children. If these things are true for adults, if we learn and discover the importance of things best when it is not pushed upon us, it is most certainly true for kids. This is why compulsory schools and authoritarian parenting is so backwards. Just like adults, children have an inherit need for freedom, so we should give it to them.

For more on this I'd recommend How Children Learn by John Holt. It's one of those books I wish everyone would read, so you must read it now! 

I'm joking - of course I don't expect that recommendation to work. In the spirit of following my own advise, you can expect a review from me soon. 

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.