Tag Archives: maturity

My Short Theory On Responsibility

To be responsible is to take care of yourself. And you can’t take care of yourself without thinking about yourself. Think about it. Ultimately, being responsible for yourself means being selfish. Now, all teenagers are selfish, but their selfishness is short-sighted. Responsibility requires the kind of selfishness that takes into account the future and the rest of the world. Responsibility is being selfish in a way that returns the most amount of good possible. Looking at reality in that light it’s easy to see that getting an education, holding down a job, and saving money are far more selfishly gratifying than getting stoned and playing video games all decade.

 

 

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Growing up and Becoming You
Happiness and Peace
Self-Esteem
Health
Drugs and Addiction
Achieving a Healthy Work/Life Balance
Leadership and Authority
My Tweets About Self-Help

Why We’ve Never Raised An Entire Generation Of Adults Ever

Once people become parents or are given power over younger people in their job, most people assume they deserve that power. They assume they’re mature, grown-up adults. But consider the parents, teachers, and bosses who lived 2000 years ago. Compared to people today they weren’t mature. Relatively speaking, they were idiots. Of course, from their frame of reference, they were the best thing to date. So they thought that made them the best thing in fact. In hindsight, it’s obvious to us now that they were ignorant children masquerading in adult bodies.

Now reconsider the parents, teachers, and bosses who are alive today who don’t have the benefit of hindsight to recognize their own maturity level. Look at how our leaders squabble and pick on weaker people like 5-year-old bullies. Look at how your average parent shouts at their children like a 5-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. Look at how the talking heads on television shout illogical, inane babble like 5-year-olds. Look at the television shows that get the best ratings: they’re all about sex, violence, and fame. These themes appeal to our base desires- the primal desires of unrefined children. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of working in the customer service industry you have to deal with adults throwing tantrums and bullying you all day every day.

 

 

The evidence points to a frightening and shameful conclusion. It’s not just that a few old people never grew up. It’s not even that a handful of old people never grew up. The evidence point to the conclusion that humanity has never raised a generation of full grown, mature, self-actualized adults. Ever.

Each generation only produces between 1-100 full grown, self-actualized adults, and I fear the number is closer to 1 than 100. Abraham Maslow would agree with me on that figure. The entire world is run by delusional and/or lying children. On the rare occasion anyone even starts to grow up, they get ostracized and even killed for being different and offending the beliefs and pride of the childish masses.

The lesson to be learned from this isn’t that we should hate ourselves for being so stupid. It’s not our fault we never grew up. The world got this way because we’ve never known how to raise a full grown, mature, self-actualized adults. We’ve never been able to create a textbook for life. Seriously. Try to find one book (or set of books) that systematically explains from beginning to parents how to effectively raise a child. You might be able to piece-meal the knowledge together for a wide array of separate sources, but you won’t find one coherent, systematic, logical instruction manual to raising children or growing up. There is no textbook for life. So the call to action here isn’t to berate ourselves. The call to action is to create two textbooks for life: One for how to raise children and one for how to raise yourself.

Once we’ve created these books we need to redesign our school system so that, in addition to learning rote knowledge, every year of school curriculum includes psychology classes that teach children about the stage of mental development they’re currently going through. The classes should go on to teach children what they need to know to overcome the psychological hurdles they’ll face during that time of their lives. In addition to helping them solve their personal problems, it should also provide a coherent, unified direction (or end goal) in their psychological growth.

To augment children’s psychological development, schools should also teach children how to ask the important questions in life and how to answer those questions systematically, objectively and logically. This will help children understand their place in the universe, the meaning of their lives, the value of other people’s lives and how to develop a systematic, coherent, unified, logical, objective ethical framework.

Despite the fact that enough knowledge exists in academia to accomplish this, we aren’t implementing it. Why? One reason is that knowledge is profitable. As long as money can be made by manipulating the intellectual market and creating a false shortage of knowledge, the adults who control intellectual resources can profit from them.

Another reason is it would cost an extraordinary amount of money to redesign our education system to the point where every child not only gets a solid education in the rote knowledge a human being needs to understand to succeed in our economy but also the systematic, holistic knowledge of psychological development a human being needs to master in order to become a mature adult. The ruling aristocracy would rather see our taxes spent on subjugating third world countries to exploit their natural and human resources than to raise our children to be full grown adults.

Another reason is parents aren’t willing to allow their children to think freely. Parents assume what they believe is true and right. Unfortunately, 99.9% of parents are children themselves, and their beliefs are immature, haphazard, illogical, and subjective. Parent tends to oppose any system of thought that challenges their preconceived beliefs.

Average citizens might be able to change the system, but today’s children will have graduated before the system could be improved, and another generation will be wasted. Even if we were able to change the system it would likely be so bogged down by bureaucracy, red tape, and compromises that it would lose much of its effectiveness.

However, the option still exists to create a personal growth-oriented education system outside of the standard public school system. We could create a virtual school on the Internet. This method would be cheaper, and the cost could be spread out across millions of donations. An open source, user-generated system would spread out the labor needed to create such a system and would allow for much of the work to be done for free by volunteers. It would also make the content available for free, anywhere, anytime. So anyone in the world (the site could be multilingual like Wikipedia could benefit from the content. The site could also generate a profit via advertising, affiliate sales, and merchandising.

Once the virtual system is in place, entrepreneurs could build brick and mortar weekend/summer schools where students could receive direct guidance and assistance in their studies. These could be paid for by grants, fees, sales, and donations. Effectively they would operate like churches…except instead of tearing down people’s understanding of reality and indoctrinating them with archaic, destructive ethics while wasting countless dollars on expensive alters, decorations, statues and sound system the students would be taught how to grow up into sane, wise, functional adults, and the money would go directly to improving people’s minds, which will improve not only their lives but the lives of everyone within their sphere of influence.

I have no doubt that a system like this will be created someday. The only question is how many generations of children are robbed of their potential while the old children we call adults grow up.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

Why You Should Have High Intellectual Standards

Universal Intellectual Standers: Clarity, Accuracy, Precision, Relevance, Depth, Breadth, Logic, Significance, Fairness

 

You are your life, and your life is who you are. What you experience is who you are. What you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, say, believe, think, remember, etc. is who you are. The quality of who you are equates to the quality of your life…and visa versa.

This is why it’s important to have intellectual standards. We all make excuses for the stupid things we do, say, watch, listen to, think, believe, etc. Whatever excuses we use they all point towards the same conclusions: that it’s harmless or even good to lower our standards, even if just for a little while. But it’s not okay. There are real-world consequences for exposing yourself to and partaking in mindless, low brow anti-intellectualism.

Even without getting into macro-sociological ripples the consequences are personal and immediate. When you watch a stupid television show like the Super Bowl, you’re lowering your quality of life immediately and irrevocably. I know it may seem fun, but so does crack-cocaine. Would you be right to justify crack-cocaine use because it’s fun? No. So why would you justify watching American Idol because it’s fun? They have the same consequences.

You can’t even use the excuse that they’re different because crack-cocaine will kill you. When you binge on stupidity and mindlessness it builds up in your system. Then, before you know it you’re riding a four-wheeler around a construction site drunk shouting to your friends, “Hey man, watch this shit!” Next thing you know you’re winning a Darwin Award.

But even without getting that dramatic, think about this. You have one life to live, and it’s a short one. Life is infinitely valuable. We need to make the most of it to honor our creator or at least for our own personal sake. If you spend your whole life watching dumb ass television and reading gossip magazines what have you really done with your life? You’ve wasted it and mocked it just as surely as killing yourself as a teenager.

Wallowing in the joys of low intellectual standards may seem fun at the time, but life is better than that. Life has more to offer, and if you take it up on that offer you’ll become a better person, and immediately you’ll live a more enjoyable and more meaningful life.

So don’t waste your time justifying low intellectual standards to your self, and certainly don’t push them on others. Because what you’re really doing is justifying a life less lived.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

My Approach To Thinking/Problem Solving

 

This guide details the steps I use to solve problems. It’s also an excerpt from my first book, “Why: An Agnostic Perspective on the Meaning of Life.”  This isn’t the only way to solve problems, but it’s a good place to start.

1: Ask a question.

2: Gather data

3: Identify the variables you have.

4: Identify the variables you don’t have.

5: Sort the data.

6: Apply formulas.

7: Ask sub-questions.

8: Question your answer.

9: Apply the solution.

STEP 1: ASK A QUESTION

The first step in this process is deceptively simple. Anyone can ask a question; the skill lies in knowing which questions to ask, and, once you’ve picked a question, knowing how to ask it.

In your finite lifespan, there are an infinite number of questions to ask and thus an infinite number of answers to learn. So which questions should you ask? You could try to answer as many of them as possible, but that would be futile. You could focus on trying to answer the hardest ones, but that would be foolish because the hardest questions aren’t always the most important.

You need to answer the most important questions first, and if you have time after that you can answer whatever questions you want. Otherwise, you’ll waste your life fretting over inconsequential issues while ignoring the questions that truly matter and have the biggest impact on your life and potentially every other living creature.

So whenever you ask a question you should also ask yourself if there’s a more important question you could be asking instead. And at some point, you should decide what the most important questions in life are. Then you should systematically answer them in descending order. Obviously, the most important question you can ever ask is, what is the meaning of life?

Once you find an important question to ask you need to make sure you’re asking the right question to address the heart of the issue. Psychologists, doctors, and mechanics have to excel at looking past the symptoms of a problem and identifying/addressing the root cause/s. If you’ve ever been married you’ve probably had arguments that could have been resolved much quicker if you could/would have just addressed the real reason you were angry at each other.

Politicians face this problem every day as well. You can’t eliminate crime by asking, “Should the death penalty be legal?” or “How many times should you be arrested before you’re sent to jail for life?” Sure, those questions address crime, but they don’t address the heart of the issue. So to focus on them is to hack away at the branches of the problem but never touch the trunk. To end crime you first need to ask, “What is crime?” Then you need to ask, “What causes people to commit crime?” Then you focus on that/those cause/s.

 

STEP 2: GATHER DATA

The second step of the problem-solving process is to gather data (a.k.a. variables). This isn’t just a good idea or something that’ll help when you get stuck in a rut. You have to do it. If you don’t articulate the data then you don’t have any information to deduce the answer from. So you don’t actually have an equation at all.

Intelligent investors know this well. They would never buy stock in a company without knowing as many variables about the company as possible. You wouldn’t marry someone without knowing as much about them as possible. A jury wouldn’t pass a verdict on a defendant without knowing as much about the case as possible. If you’ve ever bought a used car that turned out to be a lemon you definitely know the value of gathering variables before coming to a conclusion.

Sometimes we refuse to even try to find any variables or we refuse to acknowledge the variables that are right in front of us. This is why people say not to talk about religion or politics. It’s common knowledge that people have already made up their minds on these topics and refuse to think about them. So discussing them (analyzing the variables) is futile.

Half-heartedly identifying the variables in an equation can ultimately be just as bad as not identifying any of them. Just missing a piece of the puzzle can cause you to hit a dead end or make a wrong decision. This is easily exemplified in war. A general can know everything about military strategy, but if the enemy has one secret weapon or launches one surprise attack the tide of the war can change. Rocket scientists are no stranger to this fact either. When you send a spacecraft to another planet you have to calculate every equation perfectly or years of work and millions of dollars worth of research and design are going to end in disaster, which has actually happened.

The principle applies just as much to everyday questions as it does with rocket science. If you’re only half-heartedly articulating the variables in the questions you ask then you’re only half-heartedly thinking, and that will get you half-hearted answer, and that will either produce a wrong answer or no answer at all.

 

STEP 2A: GATHER THE DATA YOU HAVE

When you’re solving an algebra problem in a textbook you’ll sometimes be given a few of the missing variables to plug into the equation. In real life, you’ll also usually be able to identify a few of the variables of a problem immediately, but inevitably you’ll realize you’re missing variables. If you weren’t missing any variables there wouldn’t be a question to ask. You would just see the answer.

To be successful at solving real-world problems you need to be acutely aware of this fact. After you ask a question, the next thing you need to do is articulate the variables you have while keeping in mind that you probably don’t know all of them.

Lawyers, auditors, and consultants all pay special attention to this step in the problem-solving process. When they’re faced with a new job they immediately try to gather all the information about the issue at hand. They know that they won’t have anything to do if they don’t gather all the data available. Then, only once that data is collected will they be able to find holes or areas of improvement on the data system they’re working with.

What’s the first thing a detective does after arriving at the scene of the crime? He analyzes the crime scene to gather any readily available data. When the murderer is standing over the victim with blood on his hands the detective doesn’t have to think any further to solve the problem, but if the culprit has fled the scene the detective has a missing variable on his hands.

 

STEP 2B: GATHER THE DATA YOU DON’T HAVE

Sometimes you don’t have all the data at hand though. In that case, you have to try to gather the data you don’t have.

Imagine you’re cleaning your house, trying to put everything where it should be, and you see a dirty sock lying next to the hamper. No big deal. You know all the variables to the equation of “What should I do with this sock?” You practically unconsciously pick it up and put it in the hamper. But suppose you saw a gun lying next to the hamper. Then there would probably be some variables missing from the equation that you would need to identify before taking actions, such as “Is it loaded?” “How did it get there?” “Where is a safe place I can put this?” etc.

What if, when you found the gun lying next to your hamper, you didn’t try to identify the missing variables before taking action? What if you assumed you knew them? You might end up shooting yourself or someone else. You might leave it in a place that a child will find it. The burglar who dropped it might still be in the house. Never assume you already know everything.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office with an arrogant manager knows the consequences of answering questions without trying to identify the unseen variables. Many businesses have been bankrupt by managers who assumed they knew everything and consequently made faulty decisions. Even in businesses that don’t go bankrupt, an arrogant and ignorant boss can make life a living hell for the employees who have to cope with his poor decision-making skills on a daily basis. Socrates would have made an excellent manager because he believed, “I know that I don’t know.” Or “I know that I know nothing.” (Depending on the translation)

If you’re humble and wise enough to try to identify the variables you’re missing there are countless ways you can go about doing it. Detectives extrapolate clues from the variables they already have to point to the variables they don’t have. Inexperienced small business owners who want their business to grow recruit marketing firms who already know the variables involved in increasing sales to tell them what variables they’re missing. Students writing term papers just have to study their topic to death until they learn what they didn’t know they needed to know. How successful you are at identifying the variables you don’t know depends on how creatively and persistently you search for them.

Inevitably though, you’ll have to make many decisions without knowing all the facts. That’s life. All you can do is minimize the risk of making an incorrect decision by identifying as many variables as possible. Then, after the decision is made you should be mindful of your ignorance and be ready to jump back into the problem-solving process if it becomes obvious you did, in fact, make the wrong decision because you didn’t take enough variables into consideration. If you can’t identify enough variables it might be wisest to abandon the whole situation altogether. If you’re a politician who wants to invade a country that you know very little about the wisest course of action is probably to just leave it alone.

 

STEP 3: SORT THE DATA

So you’ve asked a question and identified as many of the variables as possible. That information is only good for regurgitating until you make sense of the data. In algebra, this means finding meaningful relationships between the variables. If somebody told you that A=B and B=C then you could easily see the relationship between A and C. They’re the same. In the real world, you also need to sort data by finding meaningful relationships between variables. But don’t worry. It’s not always that cryptic.

Suppose you just got promoted to assistant manager at your high school job. One of your new duties is to make the work schedule for all the employees. You’ve identified who works at the business, what shifts need to be filled, who has asked for days off, and who has any other conflicting schedules. Now all you need to do is to determine the relationships between each of the variables to determine who should work when.

Answering the question of who should work each shift should be easy if you have all the information at hand. However, sometimes the data set you’re working with is much more complex than that. In those cases, you need a more powerful tool to sort the data.

 

STEP 3A: APPLY FORMULAS

A formula is defined as:

“a statement, especially of an equation, of a fact, rule, principle, or other logical relation.”

Every field of study has its own facts, rules, and principles for making sense out of data. The reason for this is because every data set has patterns whether you’re talking about math, farming, psychology, interior design, engineering, biology, chemistry, dating, raising pets, cooking, fixing a computer, or anything else.

Without patterns, data sets are just chaos. Very rarely in life do you ever find complete chaos. So anytime you’re trying to solve a problem try to identify patterns and figure out rules to explain these patterns. If you’re lucky, somebody out there will have already identified the rules you’re looking for.

If you want to find a mate there are patterns and rules for dating. “Rules of the Game” and “The Rules” are books about dating based on formulas (though their accuracy is debatable). There are definitely patterns and rules for making money. The book, “The Intelligent Investor” is one big formula. There are patterns and rules for making music. It’s called music theory. Social skills are merely formulas for interacting with people. You might want to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” There are even patterns and rules for everyday living. Collectively, they’re called wisdom. Religions and self-help books are little more than formulas people have developed by analyzing the patterns in life.

There are also formulas for thinking. This whole chapter is a formula for thinking, but there are countless more sub-formulas. The more of those you can find or create the better of a thinker you’ll be. Here are a few examples of formulas related specifically to solving problems:

The simplest way to make the broadest changes in a system is to change the basics.

If you don’t know which direction to take when solving a problem then just shoot out in any direction, and eventually, you’ll find a pattern to follow or a clue to point you in the right direction.

Make as general and as vague of an answer as you can and then slowly get more and more specific. This way you can always reference your more specific answers against your vague ones to make sure they’re in line with your overall goal.

Consider the unlikely.

The first step to finding the solution is finding where to look.

Find a parallel or analogy of your problem.  Seeing the problem in a different setting may give you a better perspective to see an answer.

Consider the extremes. They’ll help you put the problem in perspective.

Ask if the problem you are trying to solve is one among many that stems from a more basic problem.  If you can solve the basic problem then you can solve a slew of other problems in the process.  Maybe the basic problem is one stem of an even more basic problem.  Keep tracing back.

A sign of higher-level thinking is being able to think in multiple dimensions.

Another sign of higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts.  A sign of still higher-level thinking is being able to associate facts from distant sources.

A complex problem often has multiple causes, which would require multiple solutions.

There are always at least three solutions to any problem, and if you can find three solutions you can find more.

Formulas are an indispensable way of making sense of mathematical and real-world data. Undoubtedly you already use thousands of formulas in your life to identify patterns in real-world data sets without even realizing it, but once you do you can consciously and systematically develop them. When you do you’ll be a much more powerful thinker, and as a result, you’ll enjoy a much more successful life.

A word of warning though, many of the formulas people use to help them understand the world they live in and subsequently act upon are wrong. Surely you have a friend who is always asking, “Why do I keep dating bad people?” Your friend is probably using a bad formula for choosing partners. Countless people have lost fortunes in the stock market using faulty formulas. Wars are lost and governments crumble because of inaccurate formulas. So if you find that bad things are always happening to you it’s probably not because you’re the most unlucky person in the world. Realistically, it’s probably because you’re using bad formulas. You should humbly and brutally reevaluate your formulas.

 

STEP 3B: ASK SUB-QUESTIONS

This step is where you’re going to do the bulk of your actual work. The easiest way to explain it is to start with an illustration and go from there.

What’s the answer to the problem, 12X34? Work out this problem on a sheet of paper, and you’ll realize that in doing so you had to solve the equations 4X2, 4X1, 3X2, 3X1, 8+0, 6+4, and 3+1. You had to ask seven sub-questions to answer the one question you really wanted to know.

When you think about it every step in an algebra problem is asking another question. The same is true with solving real-world problems. If you’re not asking more questions then you’re not getting any closer to answering the first question. So if you can’t get any further on a problem you’re working on then you need to ask yourself, “What questions have I asked?” “What questions haven’t I asked?” “What questions do I need to ask?” etc. You might realize that you haven’t asked any questions at all, in which case it’s no wonder you haven’t found an answer.

If a detective is trying to solve the overall problem of “who done it” then the sub-questions would be, “What is the motive? What evidence is at the scene of the crime? Who was the victim close too? etc.” A computer technician will ask himself a series of sub-questions when trying to figure out why a computer doesn’t work. “Was there an error message? If so, what was it? Is the problem hardware or software related? Have any changes been made to the system lately? Is the computer turned on? etc.” If your question is, “Which couch should I buy?” you might ask yourself sub-questions like, “How much money do I have to spend on a couch? How much room do I have? What colors match the room I’m going to put it in? etc.”

Each sub-question can even have sub-questions of its own. The better you can get at finding the right sub-questions for the type of issue you’re working with then the better you’ll be at solving problems.

 

STEP 4: QUESTION YOUR ANSWERS

The next step in the problem-solving process is to prove your answer (or anybody else’s answer for that matter). If you get the wrong answer on a math test you might have to take the class over. Getting the wrong answers in life can cause misery, insanity, injustice, financial loss, war, etc.

A lot of times we don’t want to prove our answer. We get the answer we want to hear and stick with it, but all this really does is create a fantasy world that keeps us from perceiving reality correctly, which causes us to answer more questions wrong because we’re stuck calculating future questions using incorrect variables. This results in the illusion of a rosy world, but in reality, it only propagates a dystopian society.

This is why it’s important to be objective about your answers. If you’re not objective about your answers then you’re not a thinker, and all your answers are going to be wrong.

“Objective” is defined as:

“Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. 2. Based on observable phenomena; presented factually”

On paper that sounds great. Nobody would say, “I prefer to base my decisions on emotional or personal prejudices rather than on observable facts.” But everybody does it. People go to mind-bending lengths to conform observable facts to their emotional and personal prejudices even if it doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes we do it loudly, and sometimes we do it quietly in the back of our minds.

Take this two question test.

1: What do you believe strongest in?

2: How often do you deliberately doubt and challenge the validity of that belief?

Ironically, the stronger we believe in something the less likely we are to question it. This type of stubborn faith is often praised as a virtue, but the less likely we are to question our beliefs the more likely we are not to take into account all the variables. The fewer variables we take into consideration the more likely we are to be wrong about it. So the stronger we believe in something the more likely we are to be wrong about it.

Furthermore, when you tell someone to have faith in something and that they shouldn’t brutally analyze it you’re really telling them it’s good to be uninformed. You’re being the enemy of truth. And for what? If we question an idea we’re not going to hurt its feelings. It’s not going to get back at us for cheating on it. All that can happen is we increase our knowledge and perceive truth more clearly. Whereas if we don’t question our beliefs all that can happen is we increase the likelihood that we’re wrong. When that happens there’s no end to the pain we can and will inflict on ourselves and others. There’s also no end to how much control we can give other people over our lives.

How many people do you think have read this and said to themselves, “I’m not one those people. I wouldn’t sell out truth for emotions or personal prejudices. I wouldn’t think less about the things I believe the strongest.” The people who say they won’t sell out truth are the most likely to do it. If you truly believe you wouldn’t then you won’t guard yourself against it. On the other hand, if you admit to yourself that you have and/or will sell out logic for a selfish answer you’ll be cautious not to let it happen again.

In fact, a wise person wants, yearns, begs to be proven wrong, because if you learn that you’ve been wrong about something then you can become right, and thus you’ll have gained. If you refuse to be proven wrong then you might keep your pride, but at the end of the day you’ll still be ignorant and will continue to make faulty decisions to the detriment of yourself and everyone else in your sphere of influence.

 

STEP 5: APPLY THE SOLUTION

 

On a math test when you solve a problem you simply write down the answer and wait to see if the teacher tells you that you got it right. In life applying the answer can be as easy as putting on the socks you’ve chosen to wear today or as complex as writing a book about the meaning of life. It can be as rewarding as choosing which foods you want at a buffet or as perilous as choosing whether or not to use lethal force against an attacker. The only advice there is to give for this step is to make sure your answer is correct before applying it. If you’re unsure whether or not to act or you don’t have the courage to act then you obviously don’t understand the situation well enough. If you did there would be no debate left. There would only be action.

 

THE LIFESTYLE OF A THINKER

Learning how to think doesn’t make you a thinker any more than knowing how to shoot makes you a soldier. Being a thinker is a lifestyle, and it’s not a lifestyle that’s only useful to a few people like the lifestyle of a soldier is only useful to a few people. It’s not even just a skill that can be useful to everybody in the sense that, for example, cooking is a skill that can be useful to everybody, but you don’t necessarily have to be good at it. Thinking is the way to be a successful, self-actualized person. It’s vital for everybody to master.

Why do some people make a lifestyle out of thinking and some people don’t? The answer isn’t genetics. It’s motivation. Either external circumstances forced them to come to a clearer understanding of life or they figured it out on their own. Either way, every thinker has come to some version of the same conclusion:

We’re thrown into this life with no warning and no preparation. We’re born lost. In fact, we’re so lost most people never even realize they’re lost, and nobody even tells us that. If anything, we’re encouraged to just accept the world for what it is and to not ask questions.

To make things more confusing for us, the few explanations and instructions we are given differ from source to source. It’s like trying to play a game you don’t know the rules to and where everybody you ask tells you something different. The result is that we spend our lives bewildered and in a daze. And in the end, all we have to look back on is chaos and anxiety.

But there’s hope. If we can make sense of the world we won’t be at the mercy of our environment. In fact, we can take control of our lives. How? We can perceive truth and empower ourselves using logic.

Being a thinker means realizing this and deliberately and consistently trying to make sense of the world you’ve been thrust into. It means the frustration of being lost and powerless fuels your curiosity to learn as much as you can. But this doesn’t just mean reading as many books as possible and cataloging the information in your brain. It means constantly looking at the world around you and questioning it. A curious person wants to know how everything works because the more you understand the more empowered you’ll be. So thinking isn’t a chore. It’s a never-ending opportunity to become more powerful.

The better you understand that the more you’ll want to think. Thus, the more you will think. The more you think the smarter, stronger, and happier you’ll be. The less you think the dumber, weaker, and sadder you’ll be.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

They’re Giving Away Free Super Powers On The Internet

Everyone has wished they had a superpower, like the ability to fly or run super fast, but superpowers don’t exist. There’s no hope of finding radioactive ooze or a magical totem that will imbue you with the ability to do anything out of the ordinary other than maybe get cancer.  We’re going to die in the same bodies we were born in, and that’s it.

However, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. You don’t need magic or fantasy to get superpowers. In fact, you’ve got the one superpower that unlocks all the rest. You’re a human, right? And you wish you could fly? Humans have already made flight possible. Do you want X-ray vision? Humans have already created X-ray machines that can do that. Do you want to breathe underwater? We figured that one out too, and scuba divers have been doing it for years. We can see all the way to the moon. We can shoot bullets out of our hands. We’ve got friggin lasers.

If you want a superpower, don’t go looking for mythical beings to give it to you. Go ask a really smart person who thinks a lot. Then they’ll study the universe we live in and reverse engineer a way to give you that ability using what we’ve got. All our technological superpowers came from the same source: people studying the way things work and thinking about it.

There’s something you wish you could do, and it’s probably not as exotic as flying. You might wish you could give fantastic back massages. Or perhaps you wished you were like MacGuyver and could make anything out of anything or like Sherlock Holmes who could solve any puzzle. Maybe you just wish you had the ability to keep your car running. You probably wish you were more seductive… or at least less socially awkward. The point is, there’s something you wish you could do.

Whatever it is. You can do it… or at least the next best thing. There’s just one secret to unlocking every power-up in the universe: STUDY. If you want to be able to do something new… you can do it if you research how to do it, and you can find that information online. Now more than in any other time in history, if you want a superpower you can get it. If you want to become a karate master who looks like a turtle, you can arrange all of that in a couple of Google searches. You can even get a sidekick off of Craigslist.

Learning takes a little effort, but what else did you have to do with your life besides make it better? If there’s something you want to do, then power up with knowledge or quit whining about it. If you’re not absorbing new powers, I have no idea why, because the solution to your limitations is right in front of you. If you want to get stronger, then learn and think, and beware that the less you do, the weaker you’ll be. If you don’t believe me, go talk to an idiot and see how hard their life is. Then go talk to Bill Gates and ask him how many superpowers his house has.

 

Picture of Batman and Ironman with the caption, "MONEY: Best superpower of all."

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Recommended Intelligent Books And Videos

I’ve had a few people ask me to recommend good, intellectual books to read and videos to watch. So I’m making an ongoing list:

Books

Documentaries

Movies

Pseudo Intellectual Junk

These will not make you smarter. They will make you feel smarter without nourishing your intellect. Avoid them or approach them with brutal skepticism.)

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Books?

These books are demonized in the Western World (some of them for good reason). As a result, they’re useful to challenge your conventional upbringing by looking at the world from the point of view of your culture’s enemies. Seeing the world from extreme perspectives will help you center your perspective and will help you understand how other people think. If nothing else, if you’re going to make enemies out of people who think differently than you then you may as well at least be informed about what it is they think.
 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also like these:

 

Knowledge and Learning
How to Think Like a Genius
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The Importance of Public Education
Flaws in the Public Education System
Improving Public Education

 


How To Read For Truth

The quality of your person is equal to the quality of the information in your brain. This means that if you hope to grow up and make the most of your life, you need to consciously and systematically undertake a lifelong quest to gain and refine the quality of knowledge in your brain.

In a Utopian society, the path of knowledge would be well paved and streamlined. Every level of education would be free for anyone of any age, and every curriculum would be painstakingly edited for objectivity and clarity. Unfortunately, humanity has opted to devote more of its resources to killing each other than raising each other.

The good news is that you live in the information age. Technology allows the average person access to more information than kings in ancient times had. Unfortunately, freedom of information has come with a cost. When production and distribution of information was largely controlled by wealthy publishing houses, information was expensive and had limited distribution channels but did a pretty good job of filtering information for quality. Today anyone can publish anything and put it on the Internet right next to the most professionally crafted literature humanity has ever produced.

As soon as the internet was invented, journalists started warning us that equal access to information distribution would result in a fog of white noise that makes it exceedingly difficult to find the quality information, and I’m sad to say that the situation is even worse than that. The problem isn’t just that there’s too much information written by amateurs who can’t write coherently and don’t do a professional job of fact-checking their data. There are news outlets with biased agendas bending the truth and misleading their consumers for their own benefit. Even the consumers themselves are guilty of mangling the truth by littering social news sites with their insane, or at least misinformed, editorial comments.

 

 

This situation isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and your life is your responsibility. So it’s up to you to sift through the white noise and misinformation to arrive at truth on your own. You can point fingers all day long at writers for not doing a good job of paving the way to truth, but you’re really the biggest obstacle standing between you and enlightenment.

As a child, your brain soaked up all the knowledge available to you in your environment like a sponge, but your ability to use formal reasoning didn’t develop until after you’d already established your perception of reality. In other words, during childhood, you just assumed that what you learned was true, but a lot of it wasn’t, and all of it was filtered through your subjective culture. This means you were doomed to grow up with a warped perception of reality. We all were, and to make matters worse, there may not be one true perception of reality. So not only were we born so lost we didn’t even know we’re lost, we’re probably doomed to be lost by degrees our entire lives no matter how many of our misconceptions we slay.

This is made all the direr by the fact that we don’t know what we don’t know. So the tendency is to assume that what we know is all we need to know (or close enough). You’ll find conceited people who are totally convinced of their intellectual mastery from every walk of life, from the most inbred redneck to the most ordinary office secretary to the most tenured professor… and they’re all wrong.

 

 

Every individual in the world will be guilty of being conceited about being smart at some time/s in their lives, which is bad enough, but when everyone in a society does the same thing, that behavior becomes a part of their culture. This is why every culture in the world tends to assume it’s the best culture in the world. Xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and patriotism aren’t mistakes only the worst humans make. They’re an inevitable product of the human brain. So no matter where you were born, I can guarantee you that your culture tends to celebrate its obsolete past and demonize beliefs and behaviors outside of your ancestors’ experience. Since culture tends to blindly label anything outside of its past experiences as bad, that means popular culture tends to demonize progress because progressive thought is inherently deviant thought.

Ironically, the fact that humans are born with their minds set to auto-reject isn’t a flaw in the design of the brain. Our brains are supercomputers that receive, process, store and recall an astronomical amount of information every moment of our lives. Our brains have to manage all this information while also operating a body that grows, generates its own energy, processes waste, heals itself and reproduces. This necessitates that the brain process information as efficiently as possible, which it does partly by saddling the subconscious mind with the burden of making as many decisions as possible. It does this by assuming that whatever it has done in the past to survive will ensure its survival in the future. This means we’re all born on autopilot. We learn schemas and repeat the same patterns of thoughts and behaviors the rest of our lives while tending to automatically reject any new and unfamiliar information and then reverse engineering reasons why afterward.

 

 

You can see the human autopilot function at work on any social news sites or internet forum. Go to any social media site and click on the “Comments” button under any news article. The more comment threads you read, the more you’ll see the auto-pilot/auto-reject phenomenon. The more forward-looking or creative the article is, the more of a backlash you’ll see.

Undoubtedly you’ve seen this behavior in real life. Have you ever met a person who contradicts everything anyone says? They’re probably smug and eloquent, but they don’t really stand for anything other than standing against anything anyone says to them. That’s because their mind isn’t tuned into searching for truth. Their mind is tuned into auto-rejecting everything and confirming their biases. Sadly, they’ll win every argument they ever have, but that won’t bring them any closer to the truth. It’ll just reinforce their belief that they can never be wrong. For all the effort they put into proving they’re right, they’re really building a wall around them that keeps the truth out.

When you’re looking for it, it’s easy to browse through comment threads and see people genuinely celebrating their superior genius by finding the most pointless flaws in the text in question and tearing apart anyone who challenges their irrelevant position. It’s easy to see grammar Nazis do this. It’s harder to catch ourselves doing it, especially when we don’t type out our arguments in a comment thread to look back over and get feedback from others on. More often, we just read or hear something and quietly bury whatever nuggets of truth we could have learned under smug, short-sighted, self-serving complaints.

I’m not saying this to sound smug by putting down stupid people. I’m saying this to warn you that everyone, myself included, has an instinctive drive to do this, and no matter how vigilantly we watch ourselves for this destructive behavior, we all slip, and the consequences are twofold. First, by tearing down other people indiscriminately just so we can win an argument we actually reinforce our opponents’ incorrect perceptions since the only thing we’ll have taught our opponent is that people who think differently than them are jerks.

 

 

Not only do we stop other people from perceiving truth, we stop ourselves as well. Here’s a perfect example. I published blog about how borders are inhumane. A self-proclaimed Christian responded in a comment saying opening borders is like taking the hinges off the door to your house; you’re just inviting the scum of the earth to come in. I replied that Jesus would have taken the door off the hinges to his house and let anyone in. He rebutted that Jesus didn’t have a house. So I was wrong. That’s when I stopped responding and deleted the whole conversation; it was obvious he wasn’t interested in arriving at truth. He just wanted to win an argument.

Technically, you could say he did win, because he was right. Jesus, in fact, did not have a house of his own after he started his ministry, but by winning that pointless, irrelevant, distracting argument, my opponent missed any truth he could have gained from the conversation. Sure, I’m at fault for not articulating my point better, but that just goes back to what I said in the beginning of this essay. Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t going to gift wrap truth for you and give it to you with a spoon full of sugar. The water is murky, but your education is your responsibility. It’s up to you to read for truth.

On a societal level, it’s important for every author or speaker to present factual information in a clear and understandable manner for the benefit of the masses. On an individual level though, you’re not going to read many books twice, which means you only have one chance to learn something from them. If you waste the opportunity nit-picking grammatical errors and technical flaws, then you miss the opportunity to learn the more important lessons in the text. Sometimes you could read 100 pages of bullshit with only 10 lines of useful, enriching information. You win the reading game by finding those 10 lines that will make you a better person, not by finding 1000 reasons you’re smarter than the author.

Even if you read 90 pages of garbage, you can still learn something by figuring out what the author didn’t say or should have said. One of the most productive intellectual exercises you may ever perform is to read “The Satanic Bible” and “Mein Kampf” for the express purpose of finding one useful piece of information in each of them. Afterwards, look at everything else you read with the same stoic, purposeful objectivity as you did when you read those two books. When you read anything, always ask yourself what useful truth you can tweeze from the text for the purpose of enriching yourself, and anytime you feel compelled to argue with an author of a blog, book or even another person’s comment on a chat forum, ask yourself what you really have to gain by tearing them down, and ask yourself if you’re really doing it in the honest pursuit of mutually beneficial truth or if you’re just auto-rejecting for the purpose to subconsciously proving your intellectual superiority to yourself.

 

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It’s Not Cool To Be Stupid

I was riding on a city bus yesterday when I overheard a kid in the seat behind me brag to his friend proudly, “The only book I read is Facebook.” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I’m not surprised people think it’s cool to be stupid. Since the invention of television, children have grown up watching shows that portray stupid people as heroes. If you expose children under the age of 10 to stupid role models, they’ll take their icons’ behavior for granted and mimic them. Their brains will soak it up and build neural pathways around it. So it will shape their behavior in ways they don’t understand even if they try everything consciously possible to dis-incorporate the stupidity they’ve witnessed from their perception of reality:

If you told a child they couldn’t watch stupid television programming during the most impressionable age-range of their life because it will warp their minds as surely as watching hardcore pornography and violence, that wise little kid will ask you, “Then why do adults spend so much time and money going out of their way to create stupid television programming and try to stream it onto every screen in the world?” The shortest answer is that adults are stupid and thus unreliable.

Don’t believe the hype. It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s stupid to be stupid. It’s uncool to be stupid, and there’s a very practical reason why. The world is a mind-bogglingly complicated place to live, and it’s unforgiving. You get one shot to build a successful life, and it only takes one stupid mistake to ruin everything. The quality of your life depends on how well you understand the world and how well you solve the waves of problems that wash past you every day. The only tool you have to solve those problems and make the most of your life is your brain. Being stupid is being mentally crippled. Being smart is being mentally healthy and strong. So whatever benefit there is to looking cool by being stupid are far outweighed by the fact that it will ruin the rest of your life in more ways than you could ever comprehend.

 

 

I don’t need to pull out philosophical reasons to convince you it’s uncool to be stupid. This isn’t a concept you have to take on faith or work up the strength to live by. This is a warning. Stupidity is what makes life suck. The dumber you are, the less you’ll be able to cope with life, the more you’ll fail and the harder your life will be. The smarter you are, the more effortlessly you’ll waltz through more difficult problems for bigger rewards. Living a confused, helpless life isn’t cool. Living a brilliant, fulfilling life is cool.

But it’s not all about you. The world is a small place, and everyone’s problems rub off on the people around them. Your stupidity makes everyone’s life around you harder. Even when smart people do something stupid, it makes everyone’s lives around them harder. When you’re old enough you’re going to be put in some kind of position of authority over people younger than you. Then your stupidity will have the force of God in those young people’s lives. Stupidity affects everyone, and it’s like litter. When everyone litters a little bit it all adds up to a trashy country. When everyone celebrates littering, the whole country goes to hell in a handbasket. Then we leave a trashy country for the next generation to clean up when they could have been building a better world (on top of the better world we could have created instead of creating mountains of trash.

It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s tragic to be stupid. You’re worth more than that. Your neighbors deserve more from you, and humanity needs more from you. Don’t be stupid, and don’t let your friends be stupid. Stupid hurts everyone, especially stupid people.

 

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Why It’s Bad To Be Stupid (The Alphabits Analogy)

Picture of a box of "Alpha-Bits" cereal. On the box is a picture of letters made from compressed whole grain flour

 

Note: If you don’t know, Alphabits are an American breakfast cereal made of processed grain that’s been shaped to look like letters of the English alphabet.

Your brain is like a cereal bowl. Gaining knowledge is like pouring a little Alphabits cereal into the bowl. The more knowledge you gain, the more Alphabits you pour in. Once you’ve got those Alphabits in your bowl, they just sit there, but if you pick through the letters and look for patterns, you can spell words by stringing letters together. The fewer letters you have, the fewer words you can spell. The less of any certain kind of letter you have, the fewer words you can spell. So it’s not so important that you have any Alphabits of the letter “X,” but if you’re missing a lot of vowels, you won’t be able to make very many words.

The more letters you have, the more complete sentences you can make. If you have enough Alphabits you could write a novel, or a how-to-guide or something profoundly wise and useful. If you’ve only got enough letters to write one page, then you’ll only be able to write relatively simple things.

 

Picture of letter-blocks from the board game "Scrabble" spelling out the sentence, "Amazing things are about to happen."

 

In this analogy, the Alphabits represent pieces of knowledge, and the quantity of Alphabits in your bowl represents how much you know. The words you spell by stringing your Alphabits together represent the complex ideas you’ve learned/figured out in your life.

The fewer Alphabits you have in your bowl, the fewer ideas you can understand. This is profoundly important because the sum total of the ideas in your head are what make up your identity and your perspective of reality. What’s in your head is your reality. The less you know the less you are… and the less you can become because you can only string X-number of Alphabits together in so many combinations.

The number of Alphabits in your bowl, or the lack thereof, limits the number of ways you can express yourself as well. If you don’t have many Alphabits, then your interaction with life, the universe, and the world will be through simple grunts and truncated messages, because that’s the extent of your total life-repertoire. The more you fill your bowl and the more you study the pieces the more beautiful and useful words you can string together and write deeper, more meaningful paragraphs. Why grunt when you can sing a ballad?

It’s not a chore to fill your bowl with Alphabits or take the time to sift through them and sort them. Stringing those Alphabits together is how you lay the road to happiness. Every idea you understand and organize into your greater worldview brings you one step closer to having a relatively complete understanding of who, what, where, when and why you are enabling you to understand how to get to where you want to be.

 

 

If you don’t pour any Alphabits in your bowl, or take the time to string the letters together into any words other than what you heard on TV, then your life is basically forfeited. You had the chance to make whatever you wanted, and you just let your Alphabits sit there while you complained about the taste all the way through breakfast.

That’s not cool. That’s not honorable or mature. That’s a pathetic tragedy. Stupidity is a pathetic tragedy. And yes, that makes stupid people a pathetic tragedy, but the call to action isn’t to sneer at stupid people. Stupidity is the consequence of stupidity. If you were born and raised with X-number of Alphabits in your bowl, and the people who served you breakfast never gave you more, and discouraged you from asking for more, and taught you it was wrong to “play with your food,” then how could you be anything other than a product of your environment?

If your parents didn’t spell it out for you as a child, someone’s spelling it out for you now. Your Alphabits are your responsibility. Fill your bowl, and study what’s in it, because when you die, what’s left on the table will be the product of your existence. I don’t know if we’ll be judged after death based on what we left on the table. I don’t know if there will be any consequences for anything we succeed or fail at in life, but I do know that while we’re here, what we do is what we experience. It’s what we have to look back on for the rest of our lives and what determines what we’re capable of doing/experiencing for the rest of the time we have left to live. So it matters here and now what you’ve done with your Alphabits. If your life sucks, and you want it to be better, I guarantee you that if there’s a solution to your problems then the way to find it much less use it is to either get more Alphabits in your bowl or study the ones you’ve got closer, and figure out what combination you missed.

So it matters here and now what you’ve done with your Alphabits. If your life sucks, and you want it to be better, I guarantee that if there’s a solution to your problem, then the way to find and use it, is to either get more Alphabits in your bowl or study the ones you’ve got closer and figure out what combination you missed.

 

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How To Solve A Problem With A Team

My collaborative problem-solving process:

1: Pick a speaker. The first person who volunteers gets to be the speaker. They receive the Speaker badge. They now act like a dungeon master of the group. He has the final say on who gets to speak and how long they get to speak. He is the authority that tells people what to do, when and why. The speaker can give the position to anyone at any time. A 50% vote can remove the speaker. The speaker’s seat cannot be vacant. The speaker draws his authority from the consensual agreement all players made by sitting down at the game and putting their piece on the board. Any member can leave at any time for any reason. The speaker is also the primary point of contact for receiving and conveying information between other groups and the public. But any member can speak to anyone whenever and about whatever they want.

2: Once all the players are the board and have placed their avatar on the board the speaker asks a question.: He says, “What is the question we’re here to ask?”

3: Each player provides an answer. Every player can take broad liberties in how they answer the question, but the question must be clear.

4: When everyone has submitted their final answer the group gets to see everyone’s answer.

5: The group identifies as many patterns in their answers as they can and turns in their answers to the host.

6: Everyone gets to look at everyone’s answers.

7: The process is repeated until an agreement on the answer is achieved.

8: When consensus is achieved the host will refine the answer into a written statement and will seek the turn-based agreement to refine the final answer.

9: When a final answer has been agreed upon and written down one of the team members will design a symbol for the question. One of the team members will make a piece for the symbol and put it on the center of the board. The question’s symbol piece on the board solidifies each member’s resolve to be a part of the problem-solving process and to do their best to work as a team member to accomplish a shared goal.

10: Once the question’s symbol piece has been put on the board and everyone has acknowledged the significance of the event, the host will ask the following question: “What are the variables in the equation.”

11: Each member will make a list of every variable in the equation they can think of.

12: They turn in their final answers to the host.

13: Everyone analyzes everyone else’s answers and looks for patterns and holes in the analysis.

14: The host refines everyone’s answers in a turn-based manner until everyone is in agreement on a final answer.

15: They make pieces symbolizing each of the fundamental aspects of the problem.

16: The host asks, “How do we solve this problem?”

17: Every member writes down answers and hands them to the host.

18: Everyone looks at everyone else’s answers.

19: Everyone looks for patterns and holes in the answers.

20: The host refines everyone’s answers in a turn-based manner until everyone is in agreement on a final answer.

21: The host asks, “What questions aren’t we asking?”

22: Everyone writes down their answers, turns them in and everyone looks at them. This goes around until everyone is in agreement to move forward.

23: They create a symbol and a piece for their call to action to solve the problem.

24: The host asks, “What part will each of you play in solving the problem?”

25: Everyone submits their answer to be analyzed using the turn-based method.

26: The host asks, “What is the first thing you are going to do to solve the problem.

27: Everyone submits their answers to be analyzed using the turn-based method.

28: After everyone has submitted their final answer the team breaks, and each player does not return to the board until they have completed their quest.

29: The process repeats itself until the final goal is accomplished.

Other useful videos on systematic problem-solving:

 

 

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The Meaning of Life
How to Think Like a Genius
Knowledge and Learning
Biker Philosophy
My Tweets About Philosophy 

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