Life Lessons April 2014

Decision Making

You pay a high cost for indecision — I was torn between going to two events 40 miles apart, so I decided I’d go to the start of one and the end of the other.  I naively believed that this meant I had found a magical solution to fit in both 50-50.  In retrospect, I realized that what I achieved in reality was the following: I was able to enjoy 30% of one event and 30% of the other, for a total of 60% of my potential life experience.  I lost 40% of my time to traveling and extra planning in order to pull it off.   There is a cost to everything.  Everything has a trade-off.  If you think it’s free, it’s only because you haven’t thought of what you’re loosing.  This is not meant to be depressing, but just for awareness, which experience provides: you learn what to look for.

Food is the highest priority — When you are late to an event and you haven’t had food, food takes priority over making it to the event on time because without food you can’t function, making the event pointless because while you are physically there, you aren’t mentally there so you are “missing” the event anyway.  Don’t torture yourself with starvation if you have a choice.

Last month I learned that food and water are required for life, even when you don’t want to spend money for them.  This month I learned that spending time on a social life is also required for life because isolation causes loneliness and sadness which interferes with productivity.  Furthermore, spending time on play is necessary for preventing exhaustion from overworking and for happiness, which is necessary for life and productivity.


When making a plan, sticking to what you know increases your chance of success.  For instance, if you always take Road A to McDonalds, then you have a good idea of how long it will take to get there so you know when you have to leave to get there on time.  If you’ve never traveled to McDonalds on Road B before, then it’s hard to know how long it will take to drive there and plan accordingly.  I made the mistake of planning to use roads C D E, none of which I’ve traveled down before, and expecting things to work out because I thought my time estimates were good enough.  This is risky and unreliable.  If you’re planning to use something you aren’t familiar with, you need to recognize the risk ahead of time.


of Awards and Ranking. In capitalism, you survive if you win the competition and you die if you don’t (Hunger Games!).  So for the sake of survival, I chased awards and ranking.  I hated that experience and so I learned to hate awards, ranking, and the whole system of competitive exclusion that capitalism represents.   Now that I got over that hate by accepting my external reality (Properties of Reality) and managing my rebellion (Manage Your Rebellion Intelligently), I view awards and ranking as an easy way to convince others of your former skill level.  It’s easier to say “I was ranked ___” than to say “I was unofficially ranked ___ based on this argument because I was rebelling, etc.”  I used to think that if the skill is part of my identity rather than externalized through an award or ranking, then that would be more meaningful–actions are a better proof.  While it is true that demonstrating skill is much more compelling than talking about it, it is also true that skill decays, and when your skill decays and you can no longer prove through demonstration your skill, it is more convincing to have a record to prove that you were once at a higher level than to just have your word.

of Investors.  I used to avoid investors for several reasons.  1. I felt it was a perpetuation of wealth inequality: because I was born poorer, I am unable to invest in myself and I have to give up profits to people who are richer even though I’m doing all the work; 2. I got this far without help, I want to finish without help and prove myself as self reliant that way. I see help as another perpetuation of wealth inequality because if I was born wealthier, I could pay for the help with cash and not have to give up equity.  Now I think about it differently: 1. It’s about buying time and opportunity with equity.  Time: I can work another 2 years and save up money so that I can start a company with my own money, but then I will have paid 2 years of my life: is the time worth the equity I’ll be saving?  Opportunity: Will the opportunity and circumstances necessary to succeed still be there in two years?  2. If someone can help accelerate your success, why say no? In the past I couldn’t afford it so I developed a distaste for it as a coping mechanism for being poor, but now that I can afford it, why hold myself to the disadvantages of poverty when I should be maximizing my advantages?  Going alone is good if you have no other choice, but when a better option presents itself, don’t be stubborn in your ways: adapt to the situation and capitalize on your opportunities.  Take help if it helps, don’t if it doesn’t.  (This falls into the theme of how the poor only learn how to save money, never how to spend, so they don’t use their money wisely: Investing – Rich vs Poor).  As you move up the socioeconomic ladder, what were previously luxury items can now be strategic investments.  

of Help from Others. I used to refuse help from others because I wanted to be self made.  However, I recently thought about my past achievements and realized that it is impossible to be able to claim that I succeeded without help.  I can certainly say that I worked hard to minimize the amount of help I received, but it was never the 0 help received like I was hoping to achieve, and so therefore I must concede that success doesn’t come completely from oneself, but is a combination of personal effort and external help.

of Right or Wrong (Good or Bad Guys). The bad guy is usually the loser in the movies/media/history because that’s what we’re taught: in order for the good guys to be able to justify their actions, the bad guys must be wrong.  Furthermore, bad guys are thought to be mindless, their thoughts and emotions dismissed.  Yet at the same time, they think the same way about us! It is just a matter of perspective what is right or wrong, and who won.


Finish what you started or make sure someone else does.  From an individual standpoint, it is better to start and finish one thing than to start a million things and make a lot of progress, but never finish any.  This is because you don’t get credit for the productivity until the task is finished.  However, when you’re on a team, not finishing it yourself is OK if the rest of the team works together with you to complete the task.  But, if no-one on the team helps you finish the task, then your productivity, no matter how close to the finish line you got, was zero.

It is better to be someone who completes a project than to be someone who works on millions of projects but never finishes any.  When it comes to your personal life, you are the only person who can work on it.  No-one else can learn math for you and transfer the skill to you without you doing any work: you have to put in work to acquire the skills yourself.  The same thing applies to personal projects.  No one else can complete YOUR life’s work and have the work still be completely yours.  So stop trying to do too many things at the same time, working really hard, and then reaping no reward or benefits because nothing is done.  Pick a reasonable number of goals and work towards them until they are complete.  Do not give up prior to completion.  Do not re-prioritize or refocus prior to completion.


Few people will stop and make an effort to keep you in their lives.  As a result, YOU must be the one to take the initiative and put in the work and effort necessary to keep the people in your life. Don’t say and do nothing as the relationship fades.  If people are slipping out, it’s both your faults, and since you can’t do their part for them, do your part to keep them in.  If you are worried that the relationship is not mutual if you’re doing all the work, then think about it this way: they can say no.  If they say yes, then they want the relationship to continue too.  If you don’t want to do all the work, then you can choose to bring it up with them or no longer be their friend.

If someone doesn’t contact you, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be your friend.  Lack of contact isn’t a denial of friendship, it’s just a lack of an active friendship.  Denial of contact is a denial of friendship.

Friendship is a state of affairs, but it isn’t ONLY a state–state is necessary but not sufficient for friendship. Actions must occur, or else the relationship is dead and not progressing or developing; relationships are like sharks, either they’re moving or they’re dead (Woody Allen’s analogy).

At some point your friends will start coupling up and you’ll see less and less of them.  Let them, it’s just a natural progression and part of life; do what you can to keep them in your life but realize that you need to lower your expectation of how frequently and available they will be.

Care can be detected with time spent.  Someone who spends time to figure out and try to help improve your situation cares more than someone who says “hope you feel better” in passing.  Importantly, you should recognize that someone who spends time cares, because often times people will spend time to try and help but not be able to, or they don’t help in the way you want and so you might feel as though they aren’t helping.  That is a more accurate statement than to say that they don’t care.  I used to think that if someone failed to help they didn’t care, because if they did care they’d do it right.  This isn’t true–it’s difficult to get it right, they tried and failed, that doesn’t mean they don’t care.   In relationships, effort is what matters, not results like in business (A Time and Place for Business vs. Personal).

Self Confidence

Insecurity is too frequently taught and reinforced by a society that doesn’t accept you for who you are.  Many children are taught to behave a certain way, and that all other forms of self expression are inappropriate.  As a result many grow up with the lesson that in order to be accepted, they must suppress themselves and instead act in a way that is “acceptable.”  What’s worse is that they in turn use the judging criteria they have for themselves on others and refuse to accept others who don’t also conform to their idea of acceptable standards, perpetuating a cycle of not accepting people for who they are.  What we end up with is a society where everyone isn’t free to be themselves and keeps everyone else from being themselves too.  It is extremely difficult to break this cycle but you must if you want to be yourself.  You break the cycle by finding someone who accepts you for who you are, proving that you are worthy of being accepted.  You find this someone by searching, and you begin searching by acting on your belief, which you must have, that there is someone who will accept you for who you are, and there is.  This will free you from acting in the way that others want you to act, so you can start living your own life, and not the life of others.


Normal is an illusion and a delusion that for some reason we all participate in. Everyone is unique.  It is normal to be unique, so don’t feel worse or inferior if you are different: accept yourself for who you are, then find others who do the same.   That’s better than not accepting yourself for who you are, and finding others who will also not accept you for who you are.
Often, people will make you choose between them and your personal happiness–parents will demand that you obey rather than let you live your life, or people will only accept you if you act a certain way.  In these circumstances, the problem is not you failing to achieve what is expected of you, the problem is them not accepting you.  If you make the mistake of blaming yourself, you will continue to be insecure and feel unworthy or unvalued.  This is not to say blame them instead or to never listen to others–you should let good advice improve your life, but you shouldn’t let advice damage your sense of worth and wellbeing.
Anyone can suffer from insecurity because insecurity is a skill that is practiced, it is practiced by finding something that makes you different and making yourself feel bad about it.  You will always find something that makes you different, accept it instead.
A lack of acceptance growing up cause you to hunger for acceptance later.  This may cause you to work very hard to get accepted, then ignore the acceptance when you get it because all you cared about was being accepted: you didn’t have a second step to the plan to follow through with.  This is a problem because acceptance is unproductive if you don’t do anything with it: Don’t waste your time chasing acceptance that isn’t relevant to what you personally want.  If you don’t want it, and it rejects you, forget about it.  Figure out what you want, focus on that and follow through with it.

Everyone is in some way poor compared to someone else, and is in some way rich compared to someone else.  Being rich or poor is not a constant part of your identity so don’t fall into the trap of attaching it too closely to your core identity.  Evaluate it case by case.


“If Tetris has taught me anything, it’s that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.” – image

I used to be motivated by superiority, and I used to like it because it would lead me to achieve success by becoming better than my peers at something.  However, I have found that superiority is not a good form of long term motivation for several reasons: 1. when you achieve superiority in something you aren’t passionate about, it feels boring and uninteresting. Oh great, I’m good at this skill that I don’t care about.  This is going to be your wall because unless you enjoy it, you won’t be able to achieve as much as someone who does.  Therefore if you’re going to be superior than other people at something, you might as well pick something that you’re passionate about, because then when you’re good at it, your creativity will take over to lead you onward. 2. Because you care more about being superior than what you’re doing, you’re likely to move on from one skill to the next as you master them, causing you to be a drifter.  This is fine if that’s the kind of life you want, but it typically means you never make a deep impact because whenever you get the skill to have potential, you move on.

This brings up the question of: what is your goal in life.  If you don’t have a long term goal to focus on, then it is easy to be knocked “off course” or to be sucked into the rat race simply because you had no course of your own to set sail to so you just aimed for what everyone else was aiming for.  While this is great for exploring, or for getting what others want, it’s not great long term: eventually you should figure out what you like and want and enjoy those things and work towards them.

Many of the people who believe in the evaluation system of school are those who want to use it to make others feel inferior. Or they want to justify their success and superiority over others.  People who protest the system are typically people who did not benefit from it.  At the end of the day, people need to be able to live with themselves by justifying their actions.  That’s why those at the top convince themselves they deserve more than everyone else, so that they can justify their superior existence; and that’s why those at the bottom convince themselves they don’t deserve their relative poverty and that the system is wrong, so as to explain their inferior existence.

The theme of my present life is control: better to be in control than to be out of control.  I used to want my life out of control because that way my potential wouldn’t be capped: rather than be able to say with confidence that I will perform between 60-80 units of ability, I wanted to say I can perform somewhere between 0 and infinity.  This worked in the past because my subconscious abilities were good enough that I could guarantee that at worst I would perform 60 units anyway, so by being variable it was all upside.  However, lack of consistent control over my ability was what kept me from being the best, because the best can confidently perform between 80-100 while being in control, and I could only randomly perform at that level.  Therefore this time, I’ll train it up with conscious control.

It’s good to build your character by doing things the hard way.  However, there is a difference between doing things the hard way and doing things the stupid way.  If there is a better way and you take the hard way, make sure you have sound reasoning as to why you decided to take this route and if not, take the smarter way.


Too much patience can turn into complacency.  It is important to recognize that some things take time, like mastering a new skill or finishing a large project, but at the same time it is important to recognize that that doesn’t mean you aren’t pushing yourself to do your best each day and trying to achieve what you want with haste. Don’t let yourself slack off when you realize you’ll get there eventually, you still have to work hard in the meantime.


To win a competition you must both have a vision and be able to execute on it.  Judges will applaud innovative ideas, but if you can’t produce anything for them to judge then it’s hard to give you the prize over someone who did; alternatively if you built something that isn’t interesting, then it’s also hard to give you the prize over something interesting.  It’s a balance.  In an established business, the CEO sets the vision and the employees execute.  The CEO doesn’t execute.  However in a start-up without a team or resources the CEO must either do both or get a team and money to do the executing of the vision.  This conclusion was reached with my new Perception of Investors and Help from Others from above.

Life Lessons March 2014

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