Tag Archives: self-help

Wise Sloth Video List: Growing Up And Becoming You

This list comes from my essays on self help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 


Wise Sloth Video List: Health, Addiction, And Responsibility

This list comes from my essays on saving the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 


Why And When You Should Have A Problem With Authority

 

 

Modern Western culture is obsessed with leadership and authority. It’s shoved in your face from the time you’re born. Parents have godlike legal powers over their children, and schools have almost as much control over the movements and behavior of students as prisons have over prisoners. Going through school the brightest students are sent to leadership clubs, courses, and conventions. Businesses force employees to sign contracts that bind them to submit to the authority of their employer as if their employer were their king. Inside and outside of your home, school, and workplace your government forces you to obey laws written at the whim of politicians and enforced by police and military personnel. Every government’s public relations departments encourage its citizens to have faith in their political leaders and to believe that questioning your leaders is a sign of lack of respect for everything your country stands for.

If you don’t fall in line and obey your leaders you’ll be told that you “have a problem with authority” as if that were a sign of weakness and immaturity on your part. That point of view overlooks the fact that, from a cosmic perspective, all people were created equal. You’re not equal once you reach 18, get married, get a degree, get commissioned or elected. Everyone is always completely equal. There’s no way to earn the right to demand unquestioning obedience and reverence from other people with less age, or social, economic or political credentials than you. You can demand unquestioning obedience from other human beings, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to. That just means you’ve chosen to treat other people like a second class citizen to you. You can come up with all sorts of reasons to justify your actions that sound good on paper, but in the end, you’re justifying the unethical subjugation of your equals.

Granted, parents have a responsibility to raise their children to their full potential, and this requires discipline. School teachers have to maintain good order in classrooms in order to facilitate learning. Police have to maintain order on the streets, and politicians have to set boundaries for everyone within their jurisdiction. Life has to have rules because good rules are nothing more than good advice for how to fulfill your potential, and when an entire population follows those best practices, then society as a whole is able to accomplish greater things.

The thing about rules is that they were created by humans to help humans. Humans were not created by a dogmatic authority figure to follow rules. When a rule is illogical and counterproductive it negates its purpose for existing. Also, rules don’t draw their validity from the authority figure who wrote them. When a king, elected politician, police officer, teacher or parent tell another human being that they have to obey and respect their authority simply because they’ve been imbued with the right to control another human being they’re really just forcing you into submission to serve their own purposes. When an authority figure’s rules or orders are illogical, then the source of their authority is negated.

When an entire population mindlessly kneels before their self-proclaimed leaders they create a culture of servitude which undermines their own ability and responsibility to fulfill their individual potential. Plus, the next generation of humans who will grow up in this culture will assume that willful subservience is the norm. So they’ll mimic their elders’ beliefs and behaviors and pass them onto the next generation. In the process, they’ll also spoil their leaders into thinking that their ability to control others equates to their right to. This arrogance will inevitably blind them and cause them to behave irrationally, and since they’re steering society they’ll steer society in a counterproductive direction.

Celebrating and revering other human beings’ authority over you is equivalent to celebrating your own subjugation, and celebrating your own subjugation is immature and irresponsible because it limits your (and society’s) ability to fulfill your potential. It would be illogical and counterproductive to will that everyone should obey their self-proclaimed masters.You simply can’t make a categorical imperative out of this behavior

On the flip side, if nobody follows any rules then society will devolve into chaos, but that doesn’t mean that you have to choose between being a mindless slave or a marauding bandit. Just rules are based on just reason. The most utopian individuals are the most reasonable individuals, and the most utopian societies are based on reason. You have an obligation to think and behave reasonably regardless of what anyone else insists is reasonable. History has taught us that authority figures aren’t perfect. Despite their credentials, and because of the arrogance they tend to draw from their credentials, they can act as irrationally as anyone else.  Mindlessly obeying them is like giving a monkey a gun. Every tyrannical dictator who ever has and ever will set the world back was and will be held aloft by legions of faithful supporters who equate obedience with maturity. Tyranny cannot exist unless good men follow orders. So if you don’t have a problem with authority then you are the problem.

 

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

 

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

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.

 

 

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

 

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 

How To Tell Someone They’re An Asshole

 

Look, there’s something that everyone who knows you wants to tell you, but they don’t know how to say it, and frankly, they’re a little afraid to because they know how you would react to hearing it. What they want to tell you is that you’re an asshole. There’s no simpler or kinder way of putting it, but that’s what you are. And that’s not meant as an insult. This is constructive criticism, tough love. Look, there’s a lot about you that we like. That’s why we tolerate the behavior that makes you an asshole. We want you around. We just want you to stop being such an asshole all the time. We want to help you grow so that we can all have a better time together. But in order for that to happen, you need to stop being an asshole. And I hate to pull the guilt trip card, but if you really cared about us you would want to get your head straight out of respect for us so that we don’t have to live with an asshole.

Here’s what I mean when I say you’re being an asshole. Basically, it all stems from the fact that you only think about yourself. You’re so focused on the importance of your own wants that you walk all over those around you like a marauding zombie oblivious to the path of destruction you leave behind you everywhere you go. You may or may not realize it, but you’re prone to treating others with a lack of respect. This means you must not understand how important people are, because if you understood how important they are, you wouldn’t treat them the way you do. So before the night is over you should read these blogs that explain the concept your parents must have never taught you:

The Cosmic Perspective

The Value of Life

Karma Ghosts

It’s not hard to treat people well. All you have to do is look at things from other people’s point of view. When you’re standing around talking to people and milling about, stop and look at the people around you. Think about how your actions affect them. Imagine different possibilities of ways you could behave that would make everybody’s lives better.

When you start to do something that you know is going to hurt or inconvenience them, stop and ask yourself what your justification is. Whatever your justification is, I can guarantee it’s wrong. Nobody deserves to be yelled at, belittled, intimidated, screwed over, beaten or killed. I mean, look at you. You’re an asshole. You lower the quality of life for most of the people around you. Should you be yelled at, beaten or killed? No. As many vendettas as people could rightfully claim against you, nobody wants that. We want you to grow. We’d rather you learn from your mistakes than for us to have to punish you for them. The only reason we would punish you anyway is to teach you a lesson. Nobody has to get blood on their hands if you would just realize what an asshole you are and fix that.

You need to look at others the same way. You don’t need to go through life being an asshole to other people. You don’t have to be mean to get what you want. You don’t have to hurt others to get what you want, and you can go out of your way for other people without being rewarded for it and still be happy. In fact, the better you treat others the better you’ll feel about yourself and the happier you’ll be.

Look, I don’t know what happened to you in your past that made you be such an asshole. I’m sure somewhere down the line someone was an asshole to you. Or maybe someone passively neglected your needs the way you neglect others’ today. If you’re in pain then you have everyone’s sympathy. It’s understandable if you’re lashing out at the world out of fear and anger at the things that have happened to you. It’s understandable if nobody ever taught you how to act respectfully towards others. If people knew your whole story, they’d sympathize with you instead of resenting you. They’d understand that you’re not a bad person. You’re just a hurt person.

Or maybe the problem isn’t that you had an unfair life. Maybe the problem is you were pampered and spoiled growing up. If that’s the case you’re still a victim because your life of privilege has crippled you. Your arrogance and sense of entitlement deserve our sympathy, not the resentment we feel towards you.

At any rate, even if we could find the exact excuse that explains your behavior an excuse is not a justification. You can’t keep treating people like they’re less important than you. Your actions are your responsibility, and if you’re old enough to read this then you’re old enough to accept responsibility for your actions.

Nobody expects you to have a religious conversion right here and now. Just spend some time alone in a place you feel comfortable and do some serious soul-searching. Put your ego aside and question yourself objectively. Ask yourself what’s wrong with you instead of waiting for someone else to tell you. Once you figure that out then figure out a reason and a way to fix those flaws. When you’re ready to listen to other people ask them to tell you what they wish you would fix about yourself. When they tell you don’t argue with them. Don’t say a word except to ask for clarification and elaboration. No matter what they say or how off base or rude they are, when they’re done talking say, “Thank you for telling me how you feel.” Then walk away and think about what they said.

If you disagree with anything they said, have the wisdom and humility to assume they might be right. The reason you’re an asshole is because you’ve got something figured out wrong. So when other people tell you that you’re wrong about something, there’s a good chance there’s some truth to what they’re telling you. The point of discussing your flaws isn’t to win an argument. The point is to arrive at truth. Your way of arguing has a history of ending in violence. So you need to learn how to argue effectively before you have another argument. If you can’t take criticism without getting angry at the person in front of you then ask your friends and family to write you a letter explaining why you’re an asshole and what you can do to fix it. When you read those letters, read for truth.

Look, I’m sorry I had to call you an asshole, but you needed to hear it. Now that you’ve heard it you need to face the fact that it’s true and man up and fix that not just for our sake but for your own. And don’t beat yourself up over this, and don’t get mad at the person who sent you this. Take it like an adult. Use it, and move forward so we can all get back to making the most out of our lives. Thank you for listening.

 

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

 

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

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 

You Might Be Depressed Because The System Is Crazy, Not Because You Are

Suffering from high anxiety or depression is a sign of bad mental health. If you see a psychiatrist, they’re likely to diagnose something wrong with you and prescribe you pills to fix the problem,  but most of society’s anxiety and depression stems from the fact that the political and economic systems we live in are insane. So if you’re a logical, reasonable person, then the absurdities and abuses you’re subjected to will drive you to anxiety and depression. Think about these points:

Work places have totalitarian control over your life while you’re at work, and America has one of the largest prison populations in the world, but we’re told we live in the land of the free.

All day long the television and radio churn out commercials encouraging us to buy wasteful junk, and then we’re told if we buy that junk, we’re irresponsible and destroying the environment.

It’s fashionable to get drunk. It’s unconscionable to get high.

If you feed your family poison over the course of several years until they die, you can get the death penalty. If you run a tobacco company that poisons millions of people over several years until they die, you get a golden parachute.

The stock market is designed to fund companies at the expense of the investors, but when investors lose their money (in the system that was designed to take their money) the investors are told they were foolish with their money.

Houses cost twice what they’re worth and are so confusing to buy you have to hire someone to help you navigate the paperwork, and we blame the people who got tricked into buying houses that cost twice as much as advertised for the mortgage crisis.

A higher education is necessary to earn a living wage, but if you can’t afford a college education you’re told the reason you’re not earning a living wage because is because you’re lazy and worthless.

People are killing each other over which mythology is the most loving.

We’re taught that slavery is unconscionable, but almost all of our clothes and household goods are made by slaves in sweatshops.

Poor people work the longest hours at the hardest jobs, but we’re told they’re poor because they’re lazy.

America spends trillions on the industrial war complex to protect freedom, but America is the largest exporter of war.

Janitors have to take drug tests, but political leaders don’t. In fact, they have diplomatic immunity.

Police cars are designed to look intimidating, but they have the words, “To protect and serve” printed on the sides.

Shows like South Park and The Sopranos come with warning labels that say, “For mature audiences only.”

A man can take off his shirt in public, but women are told their chests are immoral.

Bribery is called lobbying, and propaganda is called advertisement.

When goods in a store are only sold at a 1000 percent markup instead of a 1200 percent markup, we’re told they’re on “sale.”

Banks call their investors “valued customers” but they charge you with fees for everything possible, even for not having enough money.

We’re told there’s no cruel and unusual punishment for breaking laws in the West, but going to jail is almost a guaranteed sentence to get beaten and raped.

The tax laws are so complicated you have to pay someone else to do them for you, and if you can’t pay your taxes or you fill them out wrong, you’re a criminal.

Workplaces use performance quotas to push workers to the limits of human endurance, and if that stresses you out you’re told it’s because you don’t have a positive enough attitude.

Self-help books and religious books offer ineffective, fantasy-based solutions to real-world problems, and when they don’t work, you’re told it’s because you didn’t believe in them enough or try hard enough.

Fox News is considered “news.”

We’re charged the highest possible cost for goods and services while being paid the lowest possible wages for our work, and we’re told that wealth trickles down and that supply and demand justifies our exploitation as necessary.

The celebrities we’re encouraged to emulate churn out mindless, idiotic, formulaic art. People who actually take stances on important issues are told they take life too seriously and should lighten up. And we wonder why the world isn’t improving.

We’re raised from childhood to believe romance and wealth are the most important goals in life, and when we spend our whole lives chasing them only to find out they don’t work in life like they do in the movies, we’re told we were childish for believing what we were taught on television.

Western society is a labyrinth of smoke, mirrors, contradictions, misdirection and dead ends. The lies and falsehoods are so ingrained in our society you can’t escape them. If you even begin to wake up to the reality of how un-user-friendly society is, it will cause you deep anxiety and depression, and when that happens you’ll be told by the television, your boss, your co-workers, your political leaders, your mental health professions, your religious leaders and maybe even your friends and family that there’s something wrong with you. And just like the military, you’ll be pressured to conform to their twisted mindset or be rejected and even punished by the brainwashed individuals who have given up the quest for sanity and given in to the status quo.

Anxiety and depression can be signs of mental health when the rest of the world around you is insane. If you don’t experience anxiety and depression, then you should be very, very worried, because that means you probably aren’t paying attention or asking the right questions, and that’s not mentally healthy.

 

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

 

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

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."

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 

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