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Photo: Sublime Sunset

Sublime Sunset

My last work with the Sigma 105mm macro lens. This is a closeup of backlit clouds against a cotton candy sunset. The colors are my favorite part of this; the lens really brings them out.

I used to think sunsets were only good as panoramas, but it’s just as interesting to focus on a small piece of the sky.

Canon Rebel XTi, Sigma EF 105mm 1:2.8, 1/200, F3.2, 105mm, ISO200, 2008-09-04T19:48:58-04, 20080904-234858rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Fake Personal Development

Be suspicious of anyone who suggests these things.

Be yourself.

Coda for: give up on your life now. You’ve done enough. There’s no need to improve yourself anymore. You can just be yourself. Time to start stagnating.

They could be talking about the unchanging portion of you that makes you who you are. Your “inner child,” perhaps. But they’re not. When someone tells you to “be yourself,” he’s telling you to give up on personal development now. Don’t be yourself, change yourself. If you need to be told to be yourself, you obviously don’t want to be yourself to start with. That’s alright, because you’re outward appearance does not define you.

It’s no crime to change yourself. What the “be yourself” people really mean to say is “don’t let other people or society change you against your will,” not “refuse to change at all costs.” But if you’re at either of these extremes, work on coming back to the middle, not being yourself.

Fate is against you.

While it’s comforting to believe my lack of success is the world working against me, it isn’t true. For 99% of people it isn’t true. It’s also a limiting belief, because by subscribing to it, I’ve immediately put my fate in the hands of others. It may allow me to make more progress for a time, but ultimately I will have to give it up to reach the highest level.

The whole point of personal development is to take control, not surrender it.

Budget your time / money / life.

All budgeting is a kludge. Real people don’t need to live by lists and check boxes. If you need these crutches, you only need them until you develop your budgeting intuition.

Budgets are training wheels. After a few months of budgeting, you give up your training wheels. Every decision you make is so good, the consummate of your decisions transcends all lists and check boxes. If every purchase you make is needed and justifiable, why do you need a budget? To prove to your mommy that you’re not wasting money? If you’re so close to bankruptcy that good expenditures will push you over the edge, budgeting is the least of your problems.

Don’t spend your life in training wheels. Outgrow the training wheels.

This applies particularly to “getting things done” fanatics. These people spend 10% of their time working and 90% developing systems to budget their time. They’ve become so obsessed with budgeting, they’ve forgotten the real thrill that lies in doing.

If you budget $120 for entertainment, and you’re at the end of the month only having spent $80, what do you do? Most teens / twenty-somethings spend (waste) the rest of the money. Our government does this too, which is why they develop huge deficits but never a surplus. If you have a surplus, you have no budget anyway. You’ve transcended budgeting. Congratulations on your new budget-free lifestyle.

Count your blessings.

Coda for: accept other peoples garbage because you’ve had too much good fortune of your own. Give all your worldly possessions to bums on the street because they deserve them more than you.

Whatever stuff you have, you deserve to have. Most of you aren’t thieves. Don’t treat yourselves like thieves.

The truth is, you need your blessings to provide larger blessings to others. I can’t make much progress in photography by giving my cameras and lenses to a needy child who wants to explore photography. It’s more important for me to keep my camera, so I can produce art that impacts and inspires friends and strangers.

If it makes you feel good to count your blessings, go ahead, but don’t let other people take from you just because you’ve been blessed. If you do, you’re saying they can use your property and energy better than you.

Live every day as your last.

This is another kludge. Kludges aren’t shameful. When you’re building willpower, they’re all you’ve got. But you have to shed your training wheels eventually.

Pretending you’re going to die at the end of every day is ridiculous. It’s not something a personally developed person needs to do. It’s something a personally undeveloped person may have to do to develop his sense of purpose. It drives you to replace comfortable busywork with important action. But once you’re on the true path, such games become juvenile.

No, you’re not going to die today. You can if you’d really like to, but I’m sure you do not.

Other people can teach you.

Nobody can teach you anything. You can only be taught if you’re willing to learn, and if you’re willing to learn, you can learn without being taught. If you want to learn, then your teacher is no more than a director and you’re really home-schooled. If you think you need to go to college to learn photography, then you’ll never be a good photographer. You’ve surrendered your life to the will of others. You’ve already given up. If you want to become a creative, interesting photographer, you have to do it yourself. If this scares you, you can’t do it.

Sure, you can change your mindset to one that allows you to learn. But don’t think others can teach you what you refuse to learn.

I’ve found this applies especially to my college courses. If I won’t learn the material yourself, I’ve already lost the battle, because I’m leaving it up to my teacher to teach me, when all he can do is reinforce what I already know. If I can’t learn it myself, I’ve got nothing.

“I will solve your problems.”

No you won’t. Only I can solve my problems. You can give me suggestions and new ideas, but only I can absorb and implement them. I can know the solutions to my problems without ever implementing them, and I’ll continue to have problems despite your solutions.

The real answer is that any form of growth or improvement requires hard work, both mental and physical. If you need to clean off your desk and organize your possessions to move to the next level, then you’re going to be doing a lot of thrashing about for a few hours (or days, depending on how much stuff you have). This is a part of growing. Personal development is not all in the mind, and other people cannot do it for you.

Blame others.

You can easily fall into the trap of blaming your mother for all your life’s short-comings, or “society,” or your boss, or your hometown, or your skin’s color. These are all traps. They feel like a warm bath because they relieve you of responsibility, but they’re about to turn into a boiling soup that cooks you alive in your own cowardice.

No, you can’t blame others. There are no ifs or buts, and you are not a special case. It may be painful, but in the long run, personal responsibility is always the better choice.

Change yourself, not your life.

You do have to change your life sometimes. If you’re tired of your parents bossing you around, don’t meditate upon it for six hours a day. Come up with a plan to get away from your parents. If you can’t do that, then you’ll have to be bossed around a bit longer.

All the wishful thinking in the world won’t touch the lives of others. Personal development is useless unless translated into action. It doesn’t have worldly power in the theoretical realm, despite our wishes.

One of the main goals of personal development is to give you clear directions, thoughts, and purpose. These are all “mind games,” but they make you invincible when taking decisive action. It took a lot of decisive action for me to get up at 6 A.M. and write this article. I could’ve easily slept longer or played video games or wasted time trying to find articles like this instead of writing. I did look for a few minutes, but it yielded nothing of value, so I immediately started writing (typing).

I wouldn’t have written this a year ago, not because I was incapable of it, but because my mind wasn’t sharp enough. I could have the idea, but the idea would be useless because I would go nowhere with it.

The purpose of personal development is to get your mind working with you so you can become an unstoppable force in implementing your worthy objectives. It’s not about blaming your parents or blaming your past or blaming society. It’s not about handing your keys over to others. It’s ten times better than psychology, because psychology is mostly crap (sorry to my psychologist readers :grin: ).

When you’re not living to your full potential, it’s very comforting to not hold authority over your life. This is why so many people enjoy fascism and want more of it in the United States. It tells them what to do. Unfortunately, when you are living to your full potential, it feels silly not to control your life.

Personal responsibility may make you sick to your stomach now, especially if you’ve squandered a couple decades to the whims of others. But this doesn’t mean you should give up power over the rest of your life. When you crash into a car or drive into a lake, you don’t give up driving for the rest of your life. Even if (God forbid) you kill another person, you still need to keep driving to go places, because driving gives you freedom like no other.

Buses can’t match the freedom driving provides, just as blaming others can’t match the freedom personal responsibility provides. When you’re aligned with your truest intentions, personal responsibility gives you unmatched strength.

Photo: Light the Way

Light the Way

A car with yellow headlights illuminates the road on a dark, cloudy evening.

This car had lights that were unusually colored. I bet they had a yellow filter over them, but they looked brighter than normal too.

For editing, I decided to go with really warm colors, much more so than the actual scene. It gives a better mood than bluish tones. Also, I dodged the ground to make it look like the headlights are brighter, while adding contrast and burning the corners to make the scene more eye-catching. Because I shot this at ISO400, I brought out a good bit of grain with the editing.

I borrowed a Sigma 105mm lens from a friend to take this and other photos, which I recently returned. It was a lot of fun to play with. I might have to buy my own if I can save up $400. It’s hard, being unemployed and all, but it’s so worth it. :cool:

Canon Rebel XTi, Sigma EF 105mm 1:2.8, 1/160, F2.8, 105mm, ISO400, 2008-09-04T19:41:01-04, 20080904-234101rxt

Location: Golf Ave., Ormond Beach, FL  32174

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

The Perks of Having a Job

2009-12-20 Update: Having a job is not so bad after all. I apologize to those I’ve misled and encourage you to keep your job if you enjoy it or to support your family.

I know a lot of people like to tear down gainful employment in general, but there really are some good benefits to be had.

1. Guaranteed payment for your work.

If you own a restaurant, and it’s losing money, can you get out of paying your employees? No—you still must pay them for the work they’ve done. While you can let them go, you can’t refuse to pay for the work they’ve already done, even if you’re going into debt yourself. In this relationship, employees are in a much safer position.

2. Trading time for money.

In a job, it doesn’t matter if you spend eight hours cleaning a mop bucket or finding the cure for cancer. You get the same wages either way. Your pay has nothing to do with the value of your contributions.

You can use this to your advantage by wasting time and reducing the value of your contribution. This way, you can become a leech rather than an asset. It feels fun, because you know assets aren’t valued anyway. This brings us to…

3. Innovation is discouraged.

As a cashier, you don’t have to invent a new method of barcode entry or re-organize the checkout lanes to flow more smoothly. You just have to do a repetitive job reasonably well, and then you can reasonably expect to continue being employed. Though you can be let go at any time, you can reasonably expect to find a similar job elsewhere. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

If you do find a way to make the checkout process twice as fast, you can bet your fellow employees are going to be quite unhappy that you’re out-doing them. Even if they can easily pick up on the same skills you’ve developed, an across-the-board increase in efficiency will put some people out of jobs. Then, they’ll have the onerous task of securing jobs elsewhere, losing their beloved friends, and perhaps even starting over with lower wages.

Innovation cuts jobs. For example, in my Grandma’s time, people would go to the local cobbler to have their shoes repaired, often with nails and glue. Now, most people throw out shoes and replace them, because it’s cheaper and more efficient than having them repaired. The shoe-making process has been refined. Only rich people have their shoes repaired, and that’s only because they have shoes that are very expensive to replace.

If you’re interested in maintaining the current jobs, you have to be against innovation, because innovation will invalidate many current jobs. For the typical employee, innovation, renewal, and obsolescence are scary words. Don’t expect your revolutionary ideas to be accepted in an office setting.

The benefit here is that once you know innovation is unwelcome, the burden to innovate is removed from your shoulders. If you feel the inclination to do something new, you can easily remind yourself that you’d just be causing trouble.

4. No need to think.

While the unemployed enjoy the process of uncertainty, refinement, and discovery, with a job, you don’t have to think much about anything. You can easily lose yourself in your work, because your work is all predictable and planned. Instead of deciding the best course of action for the company, you’re told what to do by your boss. There’s no need to question it, because if you do exactly what he says yet something goes wrong, you can blame him for it and your boss’ boss will agree.

When you become the boss, you might be worried that you’ll start having to think. Fortunately, the chain of command is there to rescue you. You still don’t have to think, because you have plenty of bosses to tell you what to do. But you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile, because you know there are a few people who call you “boss.”

The bigger the corporation, the bigger the chain of command. You can work for decades through dozens of promotions without really becoming the boss of anything. Even though your title may read “Creative Director,” your position can actually be fulfilled by an android, or a computer program with enough “if” branches.

5. A policy for every occasion.

You’ll never be forced to make a truly original decision, because there’s a policy in the manual to cover everything you do. If not, perhaps two policies can be combined, or, in super-rare instances, a new policy can be created.

Of course, you must never dare go to the policy manual yourself. It must be filtered through at least five other people, and you must go to them first and then wait three days for a response. If you fix the hole in the roof without waiting three days for the policy on roof repair, you must be “disciplined.” Perhaps your master will go easy on you and opt for “verbal admonishment.”

If you read the policy manual, and you find that the computing security policy requires that all employees use unguessable passwords, but you know everyone is using their last name, don’t dare report it. When you report it, you’ll find that the true purpose of all these policies is to make everything a policy violation. Then, sanctions can be invoked against trouble-makers, while everyone else is ignored.

The policies are whatever they say they are. You’re just here to follow orders. It’s a cozy place to be.

6. Don’t fix a problem—get someone else to do it.

When I was working in a Volusia County library, I recall encountering a cryptic error message on the cash register. It was bad news, because there were patrons lined up to pay fines, and we didn’t have a working register to ring them up. While the librarian was asking her boss for advice over the phone, I downloaded the manual for the cash register and found that “EEEEEEEE” means to replace the receipt paper.

Delighted, the librarian told her boss how I found the solution. After listening for a moment, she looked at me and said: “We’re not allowed to look at the manual.”

When you work at a “normal” job, you can expect complete idiocy from the bureaucrats in that company. It’s even more idiotic if the company is part of the government (like the library system), because there’s no reason for the government to generate a profit. Public libraries get millions in tax dollars every year, and they repeatedly squander it through idiotic policies and pointless red tape.

If you have a job in one of these companies, it’s nice because the people above you love helpless people. They’ll pat you on the back when you go to them to fix a problem you could’ve easily fixed yourself.

7. A regimented life.

If you work 9-to-5, you can’t stay up till 4 A.M. every night. Instead, you settle into an unchanging rhythm, enforced by the rigors of your job. Feel more productive at 8 P.M.? Too bad; you can’t work then. You have to work when you’re scheduled to work.

Soon, your whole life becomes anchored to your job. Want to eat dinner at 4:30? Too bad; you work till 5. The weekend is a treasured time, but somehow you end up spending it talking about your job. Perhaps you even go out with friends from work. Either way, you keep spending time on your job, the same job where you’re stifled and bossed around.

Your lunch break is often mandated by company policy. It might even be scheduled from 12 to 1 or 1 to 2. When I work, sometimes I skip lunch entirely, but if I had a job, I’d have to eat lunch (or eat nothing) when they told me to.

The benefit here, once again, is that you don’t have to make decisions, because the decisions have already been made for you. Employment is the perfect refuge for people who don’t enjoy holding authority over their lives.

8. Detachment and mediocrity.

Since you’re not doing anything truly valuable or integral to the company, you don’t have to care too much for its success. You’ve seen people care too much about the company’s success before. They started to innovate, which eventually got them fired. You know the dangers of caring too much. You’re expected to be a mediocre person, who does a mediocre job in a mediocre way. Mediocrity is okay, because the company doesn’t need you. Sure, there are a few important, bright minds behind the scenes in every corporation, but they contribute enough that everyone else can be dead weight.

Instead of walking quickly, walk slowly. Instead of eating lunch in 32 minutes, use up the whole hour. Your job isn’t something exciting enough that you should be running back to it. It’s just a way to earn money: the only way you have.

Because your job doesn’t matter, you become detached from it. You spend the best hours of your day on busywork.

9. Friendship, dating, and social proof.

The people at your job are easy to make friends with, because they’re mediocre, soulless non-innovators just like yourself. You can easily get along with them by talking about the weather or current events. Don’t dare get into anything deep like religion, abortion, or financial politics. You know that friendships are based on superficiality. If you get into anything deep, you’re poised to destroy the friendship.

If you’re looking for a “compatible” partner, look no further than the office. The same mediocre, soulless non-innovators that are your friends can become your dates!

Plus, whenever you’re around strangers, you can connect with them by telling them you have a job. They have jobs too. They’re just like you! You can all be one big happy family of mediocre, soulless non-innovators.

10. Save for retirement.

When you have a job, our benevolent government deducts money from your paychecks. That money goes to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (coming soon: Iran and Russia). Once you’ve become old and decrepit from decades of unfulfilling busywork, the state will return the money it owes you, so you can live in comfort tending to small plants in your garden, waiting for death.

Need your money now? No you don’t. Obviously, the government knows how to save your money better than you. You know nothing. You’re a dummy. A mediocre, soulless non-innovator. Remember?

The employee mentality

With a “normal” job, you never really have to think, because you can leave the thinking to other people your whole life. You’re already doing that at your job; why not apply the same principles to other areas of your life?

Need spiritual fulfillment? Join a religion. As long as you pray (and pay) regularly, you’ll be fine. Nevermind that you could create your own religion for yourself that would be ten times more empowering.

Need entertainment? You should, after having a job for a while. Go to the movies, or pay for cable television. Then, you can watch the same garbage everyone else is watching and pretend to feel smart.

Need more money? Go to college and pretend to learn something. Then you can become the boss at your job. Don’t be scared—the chain of command will protect you from any real decision-making.

Have a problem? Pretend it isn’t there. Perhaps it will go away, or you’ll die before you have to confront it.

Why are you an employee? Can’t you become a freelance photographer, or start your own business selling widgets, or record a great music CD and collect royalties on it? If you can’t think of anything better, start a website condemning jobs, and make money off that. Plenty of people are supporting themselves without sacrificing their morals or their hearts. Employment is neither a rite of passage nor a badge of honor.

Why do you have a job? So you can die before you have to confront life?

Wayne Bray

Wayne Bray has reformed and I have agreed to remove this page to help him and his family move on with their lives. The mistakes he made in the sports memorabilia business happened over 12 years ago and he deeply regrets them.

Photo: Fiery Hearts

Fiery Hearts

I had this idea of drawing a heart with a laser pointer. I set the camera up on a tripod, set the timer to ten seconds, and then drew this with the laser in the 3.2 seconds the picture was exposed.

Actually, it wasn’t easy like that. It took me 50 tries to get right. Have you ever tried to draw a heart on the wall with a laser pointer? I did two of them, and getting them to look anything like hearts, timed to 3.2 seconds, is quite a feat itself. This was the best I could do. I like the hearts—they look jagged, which is good because hearts aren’t perfect, nor is love. Perfection just doesn’t exist, and life would be boring if it did. The only perfect state is continuous personal growth; you can’t become perfect and then stagnate, wallowing in your perfection.

I drew the hearts on a window because the reflections on the glass turn up much brighter in the camera. In Photoshop, I brightened the laser trails and heart outline to make it more distinctive, while adding contrast and darkness to the surroundings. This was at ISO1600, so the end result is grainy and riddled with artifacts, but spirited nonetheless.

When your hearts meet, let them have fire!

Canon Rebel XTi, Sigma EF 105mm 1:2.8, 3.2″, F2.8, 105mm, ISO1600, 2008-09-06T02:26:48-04, 20080906-062648rxt

Location: Thripp Residence, Ormond Beach, FL  32174-7227

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Photo: Lilac Dreams

Lilac Dreams

Lilac (purple) flowers at the Daytona State College campus. These aren’t lilacs, but I like the name so I’m using it to refer to the color.

A friend volunteered to let me borrow his lens: a Sigma EF 105mm 1:2.8. I have it till next week, so I’ve been taking pictures of stuff with the different perspective it offers. Everything’s so close; I can’t get any sort of landscapes with this. But it’s interesting to focus on the details, and I can get closer to flowers than I can with the kit lens.

While I take good care of my camera and lenses, one of the worries in borrowing a lens–or anything for that matter–is that it will break in your possession, or you’ll break it by accident. Breaking your own stuff isn’t so bad as breaking someone else’s stuff, because then you (generally) feel obligated to replace it. What happens more often is the lender will say you broke it when you didn’t. Or if anything goes wrong with it in a period of one month after you return it, the lender blames it on you. I’m not sure why this happens, but it seems to be a common human trait.

I believe it’s rooted in fear. We want a scapegoat for everything. People may even subconsciously lend items they know are about to break, just so they can blame the borrower when the inevitable happens. Obviously, this is something that you and me must work on overcoming. Most people are reasonable and down-to-Earth already; I don’t consider borrowing a lens from a friend high-risk. But, I don’t borrow by contract if it’s reasonable to buy the item instead. Contracts are bad because they’re generally with people you don’t know; it’s much better to lend an item to a friend on honor than to a stranger with the threat of law.

Borrowing is actually condemned in the Bible, and it’s not something people used to do commonly. You should borrow if you’re sure you’ll be able to produce a lot of value for the world from the loan. Unfortunately, this is very rare. Maybe one in ten-thousand loans comply with this stipulation. Borrowing (paying a mortgage) on a house is good, but too often people buy a house they can’t support. You should live beneath your means, because that’s the only way you can leverage your remaining wealth to contribute to the lives of others, effectively increasing your means. Living beneath your means does not include credit-card debt.

Editing on this photo involved adding contrast and vignetting. That bug on the left is interesting. I didn’t notice him till just now. He gets to stay, though.

Canon Rebel XTi, Sigma EF 105mm 1:2.8, 1/640, F5, 105mm, ISO100, 2008-09-03T13:03:40-04, 20080903-170340rxt

Location: Daytona State College, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL  32114

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Credit me as Richard X. Thripp and link here.

Your Blog is a Marching Wiki

When I think of a wiki, I think of a collection of articles that can be edited by anyone. But wikis have another core trait. If you’ve ever looked up an article on Wikipedia, you’ve noticed that practically every other word is a link to related articles in the wiki.

There are no direct links to external sites. All those are footnotes or references, appearing at the bottom of the page. But within the text, there are internal links all over the place. It’s a self-contained Internet.

I think your blog should be the same way. This isn’t reasonable until you’ve built up a good collection of content—perhaps thirty articles at least. But once you’ve done that, you should start linking to them whenever relevant. When I talk about artistic photography, I’ll link to my gallery, and when I talk about happiness, I’ll probably link to How to Be Happy. And when I talk about linking, darn it, I’ll link to The Perils of Redundant Linking. These links are redundant to people who read my whole blog from start to finish, but those people can just ignore the links. The larger majority skims two or three of my articles to take in the essential points, and for them, the links are invaluable, because they connect them with other subjects of interest. Because the links are contextual and manually added by me and me alone, they’re better and more relevant than what any search engine or group of people can offer.

I believe in subjective reality / multiple truths. Wikis are disconcerting because they try in vain to represent an objective reality by synthesizing and representing the beliefs of hundreds of people. Sometimes, it works, but within the whole wiki you always see incongruity. Certain articles read like advertisements, others are comical, others are dead serious. Some use weak language and weasel words like “may have,” “possibly,” and “back in the day,” while others try to be overly-precise, to the point of being inaccurate. I could say John Lennon was killed at 1980-12-08T22:52:52-05, and it would be very precise, but it wouldn’t be accurate. Even if I am accurate, my accuracy is unprovable. The point is, no two people have the same perspective on wording or accuracy. When you merge too many perspectives, you end up with a muddled mess. Sure, like Wikipedia, you can still be informative, but it’s nonetheless a mess. There’s room for someone else to come along with a clear vision and really share expertise with others. Committees don’t do this. One person alone, having synthesized the perspectives of the world in a way more congruent than any collection of people, shares knowledge more compelling and evolved than all else.

Your blog should be a marching wiki, meaning it marches forward without looking back. Ordinary wikis do not march. Old articles are constantly being revised, updated, and perfected. Many bloggers and photographers refuse to let go. They spend so much time revamping old stuff, they never create anything new. If you’re drafting a book, this is fine. But like publishing a book, I consider posting an article to my blog a singular act representing your beliefs and knowledge at a fixed point in time. Unless I find a typo, or a broken link, or I write something new that expounds heavily upon the topic, I don’t update the old post. When I update the old post, it’s just to correct those errors or add a link to the new post.

Substantially changing the content of old articles can be a good thing for your readers, but that doesn’t make it worthwhile. Your time is much better spent putting what you’ve learned into a congruent, fine-tuned, new work of art, rather than adding bells to an old piece. Rewriting your archives can even be a disservice to your readers, because those articles show your history and your beliefs at a previous point in time. Do you dare erase your past? Would you rewrite and dress up an essay from middle school for a college assignment? No—you’d write something new entirely, and it would be much more evolved than your old work.

If you strive for a faster pace of evolution in your persona and your writing, tending to your old work will seem as unusual as tracing your drawings from kindergarten. Sure, tracing your childhood sketches would garner you experience, but the experience of creating anew is far greater than dwelling in the past. Our time is limited in this life, so it is important to optimize our learning processes as far as possible.

Similarly, don’t go back to old articles to add links to new articles, unless it’s something really important. I’ve done it about ten times, and considering I’ve been blogging for eight months and have written hundreds of posts, that isn’t a lot. While I could go back to Investment and Efficiency and add a whole bunch of (relevant) links to newer work, including this article, it would actually distract my readers. Simply put, if I wanted to link to newer stuff in the older article, I would’ve written the newer stuff first. I didn’t, so the older stuff doesn’t need to reference the future.

When you establish yourself as a soldier on the march, you lift a great weight off your shoulders. No longer must you worry about maintaining continuity with the past. In fact, I encourage you to openly contradict your past—should it represent the evolution of your opinions, or a different perspective that is valuable to your readers. Don’t feel you have to explain yourself. Don’t write for the critics. Most people aren’t trying to shoot holes through your work; they want to share in the wealth of your knowledge. They’re just like you. It’s far more important to cater to the important people, rather than a vocal, critical minority.

Abandoning continuity is most important for beliefs, but also includes presentation. In some articles, I highlight key points in italics; in others I use bold. In my school essays, I underline. Sometimes I’ll use inline bold headings like this, while other times I’ll use large headings bounded by line breaks, which really draw the eye. In some articles, I highlight nothing, because everything is important. I don’t have to make a list of rules for myself to govern these processes. I do whatever feels right in the present context. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t match up exactly with my history.

Let your beliefs and standards be fluid like water, changing to meet the demands of different terrain, rather than rigid and inflexible like ice. Your important beliefs may turn to ice, but even ice can melt or break. If this happens, don’t resist it—recognize it as inevitable change: the only way to transcend your current level.

Finally, don’t create lists of rules for yourself. There are plenty of other people who are happy to do this for you; you don’t need even more rules. You are your own boss, and you control your own destiny.

Over-Emphasis

When you work in an area you love, you’re far more efficient than doing what you are indifferent to. Rather than all being general practitioners, by focusing on one aspect of life we can make much more progress than focusing on many. Instead of gaining a cursory knowledge of ten skills, we gain real expertise in one. While this can be known as specializing, or niches, I like the term “over-emphasis.” You over-emphasis your strong areas, while giving moderate attention or even no attention to your weak spots. You simply don’t develop in areas you have no talent for.

An example: it took me just as long to write Creon vs. Gilgamesh as My Life of Crime. The latter is a subject I’m passionate about (gaming the rebate and coupon systems of retailers), while the former is a mandatory school assignment. The latter is eight times longer, and each sentence is more interesting. The subject that is not my speciality is boring to read. On time vs. word count alone, I’m eight times more efficient in my area of over-emphasis than elsewhere. If you combine the appeal of the writing and presentation, I may be 100x stronger in my niche than outside it.

If you love to do something, dare to over-emphasis it in your life. Don’t create a blog for general photography tips when you really want to focus on computational photography. Don’t write an article on the totality of all the injustices in the world when you really want to focus on abortion. If you love taking photos of flowers and sunsets, don’t dismiss the field because it’s too common. While there may be 60 million other people taking photos of the same subjects, only one percent of them are fanatical about it. If you’re competing at all, you’re not competing with the whole world, and you have the advantage of offering a unique, creative vision, not mere boilerplate. I could choose not to write about personal development because the subject has been beaten to death, but then I’d miss out on all the personal growth I gain from writing, and more importantly, what my readers may gain from a fresh perspective.

The beautiful thing about over-emphasis is that it cuts through the noise. If you’re familiar with computer science, the signal to noise ratio is how much of your signal is garbage. If you have a high amount of noise, it’s like playing a record that’s beaten and scratched, or watching a t.v. show on rabbit ear antennas, snow and all. People often complain that because there are so many more people in the world, particularly online and blogging, that the field is too crowded. People start new blogs on subjects they think will be immediately profitable, even if they don’t care about the subject whatsoever. Don’t do this. If you pick what you’re passionate about, you can make things happen rather than waiting for others to make things happen for you. Instead of following the buffalo, the buffalo follow you.

In fact, the only way to live is to make things happen rather than waiting for luck to kick in. Even if you fail miserably, it’s much more fun and interesting than leading a regimented life.

If you’re going to wake up every morning and tend to the twenty-by-twenty garden in your yard, meticulously pulling every weed, planting new flowers, and growing small crops of tomatoes, then perhaps you should start a farm. A lot of people work nine-to-five jobs for forty years, and then they retire to do the same thing via yard work, crocheting, or other busywork. Doubtlessly, there are people with great ambition in these fields, but most of the retirees just work to pass the time. That’s why it’s “busywork.” Busywork is pointless work. It’s just to waste time, without getting anything real done. If you’re not doing something real, then what are you living for?

I don’t want to work nine-to-five for pay. Don’t even mention volunteering to do it. Why don’t more of the retirees travel the world taking beautiful photographs, or start charitable foundations with the wealth they’ve built up over decades of toiling? Because they refuse to over-emphasis anything important in their lives. They value procedures, tradition, submission, fear.

Public schooling puts our children through years of busywork. Memorizing lists of facts or writing mindless essays on classical literature doesn’t teach you anything of value. The whole point of public school is to condition you to be a drone. Then, you work nine-to-five forty years, tend to your garden for twenty years, and die a bleak death, while leaving a small sum to your grandchildren (who won’t appreciate it anyway).

Fortunately, I’m home-schooled. You can be too. If you can’t learn on your own, you can’t learn in college. If you succeed in school, that just proves that you didn’t need it to begin with. If the fate of your life rests with family, or friends, or your boss, or your professors, or the freemasons, then you’re failing your mission in life. But if you’re still living, you haven’t failed yet. “Failing” isn’t “failed.” Create the strength within yourself to become self-reliant and to learn where others only dawdle. Solve big problems while your peers submit to uncertainty. Work hard on what you love. You may be labeled with attention deficit disorder (or whatever the latest name is), but what you really have is an abundance of attention for the subject you over-emphasize. And that is courageous living.

Money and Love

What I made online, 2008-08

Just wanted to give you a little hint for how my websites did last month. My goal is $1 per day, and while I didn’t hit that every day last month, the overall total was $56.41, or $1.80 per day.

I can see I’m making a bigger impact on the world. In July, I made $20, so my income basically tripled last month. You can’t get that kind of raise with a regular job.

$53.73 was from Google AdSense; $2.68 was from this blog’s Amazon Associates commissions.

Of the $53.73, $1.54 came from Brilliant Photography and Personal Development by Richard X. Thripp. Th8.us made $2.30, DaytonaState.org made $42.63, and the Thripp.com users made me $7.26. Our hosting / domains bill is $15 per month, so I’m more than covered.

DaytonaState.org is targeted. A lot of people come from Google looking for information on enrolling in colleges, so the information appeals to them. On the other hand, Thripp.com is black-listed by Google, so this blog and others appear low in the search results. I haven’t done much marketing either, instead focusing on writing and producing new works of art, so that explains the low turnout. But in the long run, the richardxthripp.thripp.com is where the action is going to be.

If I was still working at the library, I would have made ten times more. But last month, I did no work. Even though I exhausted far more time and energy here, the energy comes back twofold. This simply isn’t a job at all to me.

When you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter how much time you “spend” or how much money you make. (You’re not really spending time; you’re saving it.) You’ll do it anyway, because it’s what you do. If you’re looking for something to love, photography is a good place to start, even as a freelancer. I wouldn’t do it myself; I’d prefer writing articles for free and making money indirectly. But every person enjoys different methods.

Also: when you love playing with LEGOs or battling in World of Warcraft, it still doesn’t matter, but the problem is you’re not helping anyone else. You think you’re doing what you love, but you just haven’t found what you truly love. When you combine ambition with a purpose that really makes an impact on people around you, you’ll find something you love far more than child’s play. It’s still play, but it’s play taken to the next level. You character has just reached level 100. He’s replaced hit points with love points.

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