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Self-Destructive Behavior

Behavior that is self-destructive in one context might not be self-destructive in another. For example, chopping off a leg is definitely self-destructive… but not if you’re suffering gangrene and will die otherwise.

Eating 10,000 calories a day is extremely self-destructive for a normal adult, as it will result in massive weight gain. If you’re an Olympic athlete, it may be just right.

If you’re so obsessed with golf that you’ve quit your job and abandoned your family, you’re self-destructive… unless you’re the next Tiger Woods.

If you have the wisdom to know the difference between positive action and self-destructive action, you will go far. Just because you are passionate about something does not mean it is positive. Plenty of people are obsessed with playing video games, watching sports, or gambling, but none of them have any commercial viability.

Society may consider behavior normal under some circumstances and self-destructive in others. Teen pregnancy is considered self-destructive, but having a child in your thirties is not. Boxing or stunt racing is destructive when done by amateurs, but a money-maker when performed by professionals.

Healthy self-esteem is a positive trait, but wild narcissistic arrogance is destructive.

Half the battle is avoiding self-destructive behavior: the other half is reading self-help articles. :wink:

Making Up for Lost Time

Wasted time can never be reclaimed, because you never have the opportunity to repeat the past. Therefore, you must make sure you are working toward your goals and making the best use of each and every day.

If you find you have wasted months or years of your life as I have, nothing good can come from dwelling on it, as this only wastes more time. The only thing we can do is learn from the past and not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

Average people waste most of their lives. Watching T.V., surfing the Internet, playing video games, reading fiction, pointless conversations, Facebook, day-dreaming, over-sleeping—eliminate this from the average person’s life and you will see their productivity triple. People who seem like super-humans are actually ordinary—they just don’t waste their time on garbage which takes up 12 hours of an ordinary person’s day. Even replacing television with doing nothing is a step up. Just call it meditation and you are instantly a monk or philosopher.

Anything important can be measured—save a few intangibles like intelligence. Schools and colleges measure your academic worth through exams and graded assignments. Employers measure your worth as a slave with performance reviews. And you can measure your productivity by recording how you use every hour of your time. Though this is something I’ve never done, I imagine it would greatly boost my creative output. There’s no point doing it now—I already know I’m nowhere near optimal efficiency—but in a few months small optimizations will become important.

Even recreation is essential. It should not be the result of procrastination, but a bona fide item on your schedule. “Multi-tasking” produces crap, not results. When you are working, whether your job is writing, painting, building, or cooking, don’t do anything else. Don’t work through lunch, ignore incoming emails and phone calls, don’t read pointless blogs, and don’t look outside. When you’re eating lunch, don’t do any of these other things, and the same for talking on the phone or taking a break. If you give your undivided attention to each item on your schedule, you will see massive performance gains.

Cutting off relationships with people who drag down your productivity is a positive step. Block that friend or coworker who forwards you 50 emails a day. Clear out your friends list on Facebook and Twitter: only keep people you know in real life and have seen recently. Banish energy vampires from your life. Surround yourself with positive people or no one at all.

Above all, never lose faith in yourself. You can do great things, even if you only have months left to live.

Practicality

Your success is tied directly to your merit. If your business is profitable with many customers, you’ve done good work. If your business hasn’t gotten off the ground and you’ve been working hard for a year, you’ve done bad work. If you are rich, you deserve wealth because you’ve provided services of value to your community. If you are poor, you got into your situation by providing no value, or never charging for it. If you provided value for free, it wasn’t useful. If it was, you would have received unsolicited donations.

If you are famous, you are an attractive, interesting person. If you are unknown, you are neither. If you’re a good author, you can get a publisher to pick up your book. If you are a bad author, you cannot. If you are good at playing the piano, you should be able to go into any Target or Wal-Mart and attract a crowd by bashing the keys. If you do not attract a crowd, you are a bad piano player. Or you aren’t bashing hard enough. :grin:

These paragraphs may seem laughable, but they are practical. They are true 90% of the time, but half the people who read them will not like them. Most of us have created a different model of reality—one based on chance, privilege, and divine right. All of these advantages belong to our competitors, and all of these reality models are used to explain our lack of success. They have no other purpose other than to vindicate us from the vagaries of reality!

Is this practical? Hell no!

90% of the time, success is tied directly to merit. 10% of the time, there are hidden or special factors to consider. The exceptions usually involve rich or famous people promoting unworthy people or products. However, if they do this too often, they become untrustworthy. They will fall from grace themselves. While most people might say that success is tied to merit only half the time, in truth the two are almost always correlated. People with government contracts still have to put out good products.

When I started writing about personal development over a year ago, I wanted to help people change their lives for the better while becoming a better person myself. I wanted to make an impact on the world. I wanted to give new perspectives on time and money, limiting vs. empowering beliefs, working for yourself vs. working for others, negativity, intrinsic value, happiness, and other topics. I wrote articles about many things—they’re each several pages long and still seem fairly good to me.

I haven’t made an impact. Most of my articles are skimmed by few people and read by fewer. I make less impact with 60 posts than a popular blogger makes with one. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve received a piece of critical feedback. No one ever says anything about whatever I write, even when I give out print copies, which I make a habit of. If I get a meaningful comment, it is the rule, not the exception. There is a grandiosity gap. The goals I set do not line up with the practicality of reality. Pretending that I’m changing the world is laughable. I haven’t even started. I haven’t made a quantum leap. I’ve worked hard, but I’m still on the launchpad.

How many goals have you set yet never reached? How many of them have stayed on the launchpad? How many projects do you work on each day that are still going nowhere? Are you being practical?

If something doesn’t work, ditch it. Don’t be trapped by dogma.

The posts I’ve written aren’t working. They appeal to the mind but they do not appeal to the heart. They don’t touch anyone. I may be writing in the wrong field—I have no life experience and am hardly empathetic. However, I am sticking with this field because I want more of both (life experience and empathy). Examining my circumstances practically, I see that I need to write shorter articles tackling lower level, practical concepts, rather than grazing high level, theoretical concepts which I hardly understand myself. I must adapt or die.

In the past two months, I’ve done a lot of programming on Tweet This, a WordPress plugin that integrates your blog with Twitter. Before I started, I considered working on Bookley, an open source library management system I designed over the spring. I never wrote code to let you search the catalog. It has no support for different library branches. You can’t set closed days and have due dates automatically forward. There are no alert emails for hold requests. It could use a lot of work.

A couple years ago, I would’ve considered Bookley my main project and Tweet This my side project. I’d add a few features to Tweet This while putting the bulk of my effort into a white elephant. Today, I chose Tweet This. It is purely a matter of practicality. No one uses Bookley and it is likely that no one ever will. Hundreds of people use Tweet This every day. If well-designed, Bookley is the type of software that would win an award. Tweet This will get no academic recognition, but it will always be used widely. It is the practical choice, and that’s where my effort belongs.

In 1942, the comedy team Abbott & Costello were at their peak, and their movies brought in $10 million at the theaters, even as America was going into a war. Movies like Hold That Ghost, Pardon My Sarong, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein would bring in more money than first-rate productions, even though Abbott & Costello were B-actors. A practical studio would have put all their money behind the team. The props and sets would be stunning and realistic instead of laughable. The movies would be in technicolor rather than black and white. Instead, Universal Pictures would paint the studio every time an Abbott & Costello picture was released. They would take the profits from the team’s movies and use them to fund sacred cows like Hamlet and Phantom of the Opera. Movies designed to win awards rather than sell tickets. Movies that interested no one received lavish funding and the best color film stock.

The same thing happened to The Three Stooges. Their short films are more popular than the features of their time, yet they were given second-class treatment for most of their careers. Is this practical? Of course not. More money would not have made them any funnier—in fact, it may have detracted from their appeal. However, we cannot consider this because it was not something the studios considered. A&C and the Stooges were simply considered second-rate actors. They did receive the proper recognition for their work, but from the public, not the studio executives. If the executives were any good, they would’ve let the Stooges lead the show rather than putting them on the back burner.

The practical choice is always present and often obvious. We only miss it when we are trapped by dogma. We overlook it when our model of reality is inaccurate. We choose hard solutions when practical solutions are readily available. We try to shock and awe when it would be better to get the job done quietly.

The practical choice is often the most obvious and readily available solution. You don’t have to look hard for it. Don’t make life too complicated.

The practical choice can change based on your situation. When you’re looking for a jar of peanut butter at the grocery store, the practical choice may be the store brand if you are poor, or a brand name if you are rich. Consider your needs and priorities. But don’t spend fifteen minutes selecting a jar of peanut butter. Be practical.

Eighteen

Today is my 18th birthday. While I wrote a long and pompous article for my 17th birthday, I will be doing no such thing this year.

18 is a bigger milestone than 17, because I no longer have to do business in my father’s name. I can open my own bank account, eBay, PayPal, AdSense, and other accounts. I can be drafted by the army (I sure hope that doesn’t happen). The police can tase and clobber me with impunity. And I can claim virtual independence from my parents and family.

This year has been highly unproductive. I took off six months, basically doing nothing creative, eating junk food, playing video games, reading blogs rather than writing them, taking bad photos, idling, and not being in school. I lived at a lower frequency of awareness for most of this year. I would like to say that it was a learning experience, but it accomplished little. The only benefit is that I feel more wise and less driven now. I thought creativity was ingrained in my consciousness, but I found that it is an applied skill. I am perfectly capable of creating nothing and contributing nothing to the world.

While I wrote a lengthy article in October about becoming a vegetarian, and maintained that diet for ten weeks. I stopped last December when I started loosing my sense of taste and smell. It was a combination of eating bad foods, eating very little (1000 calories per day), and not sleeping properly. I’ve always been a night owl and was struggling to get up at 8 A.M. five days a week for my college courses at the end of last year, so I was only getting three hours of sleep or not being able to sleep at all for quite some time. Sleep deprivation has harsh effects on your body.

I was going to stop eating meat again today but I forgot and did anyway at lunch. So I should be able to claim vegetarianism from the day after my 18th birthday and will eat vegetables at dinner today.

As I’ve written before, I have no love for animals; my only reason to not eat meat is for the sake of my health. Our small intestines are too long and our stomach acidity is too low to digest animal flesh. That’s why meat that is not heavily cooked and processed makes you sick. While prepared meat in small quantities is healthful and a good source of protein, eating it three meals a day—or even one meal a day—is bad for you and cuts years off your life. It’s much easier to eat no meat than to eat a restricted amount, because you know exactly where you stand.

However, I won’t claim to be a vegetarian until the end of the year because I’ve proven my lack of commitment.

Rather than graduating from Daytona State College this year I will be graduating next year and only taking Calculus II and Music Appreciation this fall. In a way this is a blessing in disguise—I will have time to be involved in social projects, the school newspaper, Phi Theta Kappa, and other college events, whereas I had limited time with a 15-credit workload. I completed an online computer programming course over the summer (with an A, fortunately), and my fall classes start on August 31. I will likely start blogging again at Daytonastate.org.

Since my classes are in the morning, I have been adapting to getting up in the morning. The past three days, I’ve gone to bed at 9 P.M., 4 P.M. and 7 P.M., and got up at 4 A.M., 2:30 A.M., and 5 A.M., respectively. I’d like to get up at 5 A.M. every day. I’ve done this in the past for several weeks at a time, but I’d always get involved in a computer programming project and drift, until I’d be going to bed at 3 A.M. and getting up at noon. I can’t afford to do that anymore. I must be more rigid. I don’t care what time I go to sleep—as long as I’m up at the same time early every morning and am not tired, I’m happy.

During my period of creative negligence, I did complete one project: Bookley, the open-source integrated library system, which required two weeks of programming. It is 4000 lines of PHP code and it works quite well. Eventually I’ll implement it for the public library I want to open in a few years.

I’ve written a few articles in the past month, and I’ve been posting new photos again, though far fewer than during the glory days. I want to write at least ten articles a month from this point on. There are still a lot of personal development concepts I want to cover. I find that I become more collected and driven writing about personal development than reading the work of others. It would be nice to hit 250,000 words on this blog at the year’s end (189,000 now), although the quality of my writing is more important than the quantity.

After five months of inactivity, in the past month I’ve released five updates to my WordPress plugin, Tweet This. It adds social bookmarking links to your blog posts, with an emphasis on Twitter. The new versions have focused on bugfixes and stability, while adding small yet important features. The next version, which I will start soon and complete by the end of next month, will add automatic posting of your blog posts to Twitter with a host of filtering options. The plugin will soon be a complete Twitter solution.

My talents and accomplishments must now be filtered through an adult lens rather than the lens of a child. I will not claim youth to impress others with my writing, photographic, or musical abilities. If my skills were exceptional at 15, they are merely standard now, for I do not improve at a rate commensurate with my age. In the next year I will accelerate my rate of personal growth through real accomplishments.

I do not feel young, and my future is a blank. I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years. I’m not interested in working for any company, but I may have to. “Have to” is a limiting term however. When you say you “have to” do something, what you mean to say is that you have chosen to do so. My blog is less popular now than it was last year and I am only clearing $35 a month from advertisements, though admittedly Th8.us is expensive to host. I can’t live on $35 a month. I could only hope to not require a job if I was making $1000 a month, and I’m far from that. I remain unemployed for now.

2009-12-20 Update: Do not follow my advice in the next paragraph. Stick with your family and take care of your family. Independence is less important than you think and you should not try to put distance between yourself and your family or friends. I was a fool for what I wrote below.

I live alone in a trailer in my parents’ back yard, which I moved into at the start of this month. I have a computer, Internet, bathroom, shower, sink, water, electricity, microwave, toaster oven, hot plate, refrigerator, freezer, bed, air-conditioner, and plenty of closet space. I spend most of my time here. Before, I lived in my parents’ house. It is very important to put distance between you and your family, because if you do not you will forever remain a child. If you’re turning 18 soon, move out—do whatever you can to get away from your parents. If you can’t get a house or apartment, move in with a friend. If you can’t do that, buy a travel trailer and put it in your parents’ yard, then move into it. If there are any out buildings or a guest house, those are also an option. Better yet, go to a college 500 miles away from your parents. If you cannot move out, move your computer to your bedroom. Go out more—without your parents. Start locking your door. Buy your own food. Make money online blogging, or get a job. Pay the electric bill. Get a driver’s license and a car, or share your parents’ car. Independence is not a psychological mindset. Independence is PROPERTY.

I have no friends and few acquaintances. I am in contact with no one from my previous workplace or college classes. I don’t call them and they don’t call me. If I said I’ve ever had a true friend, I would be lying.

I am going to change this year. I am going to create real connections rather than superficial socialization. I am going to be more emotionally involved—I don’t care if that sounds wimpy.

Sytems

When you have a large amount of data to sift through, it is often good to create an ironclad framework to manage the data. This framework will include a method of inputting new data, modules for importing and cataloging old data, and an interface to wrap around the whole thing. Collectively, it is called a system.

The problem with systems it they are often created to manage a dataset that is expanding rapidly now, but will taper off quite soon. The designer of the system assumes that the expansion will continue at its present rate, so he creates the system to manage a large amount of data and he designs a thorough catalog to expedite searching. The problem is that with more items, more cataloging effort must be spent on each item so that searches can drill down the necessary data over an ever-expanding dataset. This means the cost of maintaining the system increases exponentially. If the expansion rate drops rapidly, this can be the nail in the system’s coffin, as fourteen layers of metadata provides diminishing returns when you are adding three records a day.

When you picture a “system,” think of a photography catalog. You add more photos as you take them with your camera, importing them using a memory card reader. You add tags and keywords. You sort the images into folders or (preferably) virtual folders. There is a search mechanism which lets you search by folder, date, and keyword. You can search thorough a mass of metadata that is generated by your camera automatically upon shooting each photo. If any one of these components is flawed, the whole system crumbles. Being able to find a photo in two seconds is worthless if you have to spend five minutes cataloging each one. Having a stable catalog of photos sorted with tags and keywords is no good if you have to make a separate physical copy of each file for each keyword. You need a complete and well-rounded system that is versatile and low-upkeep.

Unfortunately, you are just as likely to under-estimate the expansion of your system. What if you’re using Picasa to manage 10,000 images, but then you get a job as a professional photographer and start adding 1000 images a day? You may soon find that Picasa slows to a crawl when you get to 50,000 images. All of the sudden, your system is no better than a pile of dirt, and you’re screwed because you can’t export your database. You have to use clunky ICTP embedding to get the data out, you have to find a new system, you have to adapt to its quirks, you must compensate for its short-comings and differences compared to your current system, and you must do this all under the pressure of impending deadlines. Still think systems aren’t important? How long can you get by haphazardly managing your photographs? Amateurs can do it. Professionals, no.

The biggest problem with systems is overhead. If you keep a to-do list, how much time do you spend doing the tasks on the list? How much time do you spend working on the list, including thinking of new tasks, crossing out old ones, setting deadlines, and revising the list? The time spent on maintaining the list is the system’s overhead. If your overhead is more than 10%, you may consider scrapping or greatly simplifying the list. If procrastination is not a big problem for you, try doing things in the order you please. Instead of storing the list on paper, store it in your head.

Other systems may have overhead greatly in excess of 100%. A public library’s catalog may take more time to maintain than the shelving, sorting, and transactions for all the items in the library. New records have to be cataloged to rigid standards by trained librarians with Master’s degrees, who may be paid upwards of $70 per hour. Items must be checked in and checked out and marked as damaged or missing when problems arise. While it would be much easier to have no catalog and just place the books on the shelf by the author’s last name or the Dewey decimal system, the catalog is essential for searching records and tracking items.

A to-do list, however, should have a much smaller overhead, as it is a simple system to a simple job. Always consider the value of the system you are putting in place. If its overhead exceeds its value, scrap it.

I used to keep my mail-in rebates list on a sheet of paper on the fridge. I’d write the date I mailed the rebate, the product and amount, and the expected date. When the rebate came I’d cross it off the list. At the height of my rebate frenzy (back when EVERYTHING was free after rebate), I had to expand the list from one page to eight pages (8.5″ by 11″), covering the whole front of the fridge. This was unwieldy, so I found a program to put the rebates on my computer and I started managing them there. I got rid of the paper list and keyed everything in. It was a disaster. The whole system didn’t work; I couldn’t search by expected date or amount easily; I had to use klutzy titles that relied on alphanumeric sort. I ended up losing $100 in rebates because I was so bad at keeping track of them. Admittedly, I chose the wrong program (I think it was called Rebate Reminder), but the problem was I chose a system with too much overhead that did not provide any benefits over the previous system. In many ways it was even worse; it gave me a fragmented view of the money I had on the line, while the paper lists let me see everything at once. Instead of being in control, I had no control at all. Systems can often be more trouble than their worth. Remember KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

Perfectionists fall prey to complex and weighty systems. When I used to pirate DVDs from the library, I’d have to compress the video from 8.5GB to 4.7GB to fit on a single-layer DVD (most commercial DVDs are double-layer, but the blanks are prohibitively expensive). For some reason I wanted to save the full-quality video for future use, so I’d make a second copy of the original files onto two discs. I have a stack of 100 of these in my closet that I’ll never use. It was a horribly idiotic thing to do. The copies, compressed to 60% of the original size, do not look noticeably worse than the originals on my 19-inch television set. I’ll never have a reason to buy dual-layer blanks and remake the discs; I’m not interested in watching any of the movies again anyway. In fact, if I had to do it over again, I might have just borrowed the movies I wanted to watch, watched them, and returned them. My Dad likes to watch the same movies again and again, but I find, as with books, that one viewing is enough. However, I’ll listen to the same songs over and over again on my MP3 player, especially if I’m programming or writing.

Whenever you create a system, ask yourself: is this useful? Will the data I’m organizing be useful to me in six months? Three? Is it that much slower to have no system and let the chips fall where they may?

I used to keep a meticulously organized accordion folder of all the receipts, rebate forms, school papers, coupons, and paychecks that I’d received for the last six months. Then I’d move to a new accordion folder, keeping the old receipts indefinitely. Now I put everything in a big pile on a shelf in my bedroom. Every few months, I throw out all the old receipts and coupons. I can count on my hands the number of times I’ve had to hunt down a receipt in that pile. With the accordion folder, it took two minutes. With the big pile, it takes ten. It’s still cheaper than sorting everything, because only rarely do I need anything in the pile. The overhead of a system is simply not worth it.

I used to take thousands of photos a month. Most of them were useless. I’d document the position of all the family’s furniture and can goods each month. I thought that would be interesting later. Turns out it isn’t. I had a huge complex catalog of these photos in iMatch which I used to spend a lot of time on. I haven’t accessed the catalog in nearly a year. Now, I take just a few hundred pictures a month—good pictures, and I use a program called Downloader Pro to sort them into folders by date automatically. Since there are so few photos, I don’t need to catalog anything. I just look through each folder by date with FastStone Image Viewer (a wonderful program). Sometimes, yes, it’s hard to find a photo. Without the overhead of a system, however, I spend more time behind the camera and less time behind the computer.

This blog is a system. It took a long time to set up. The overhead was 100% in the beginning, and as high as 50% till recently. Now, I’m adding practically nothing to the system (WordPress). No new plugins, no theme changes, no design changes. The system has matured and the overhead is now about 10%. I could still be fiddling with all the details, but I’d much rather be writing than working on the system.

Use systems. Don’t let them use you.

Time and Money

“Time is money,” the saying goes. You’re paid for your time with money, and you pay for the time of others with the money you’ve earned. Projects that don’t earn money aren’t worth your time, and projects that take too much time must make extra money.

While money can be replaced, time cannot. However money can be just as valuable as time, assuming it takes time to earn money. The alternate view is that money should not be earned proportional to time, but rather to value, such as through royalties, salaries rather than hourly pay, or fixed-input services like entertainment or computer software, where the initial cost is high but reproducing the item is cheap. This way, you continue earning money without further input of time. The ads on this site are an example of this: while I blogged nothing last month, I made $155 from advertising and affiliate commissions.

Most people spend too much time earning money or earn too little money for their time. The world is divided between work-o-holics, philanthropists, and lazies: capitalists and socialists. When I volunteered at the local public library, I learned that volunteering does not present a good money to time ratio. In fact, it’s a net loss, considering the costs of gas, food, and clothes.

While the IRS taxes “income,” there is really no profit to be had in income. While you may earn money at your job, there are countless expenses: your housing, your food, your car, your insurance, your gas, your clothes, your water, your electricity. It could be said that you have no income, because you’re losing as much as you’re gaining: you trade $50 worth of time and effort for $50 in cash. A large quantity of energy can be converted to a small quantity of matter, just as a large quantity of time can be converted to a small quantity of money. The conversion yields no surplus in and of itself. Most people, in fact, have very low net worth, despite $50,000-a-year salaries. Most of America’s cars and houses are heavily mortgaged, and much of that income is merely wasted on interest.

Ruthless pursuit of money will make your life miserable, but ruthless conservation of time will send you to the poor house. Being an extreme spendthrift will cost you time, potential, and efficiency, but lavish spending squanders your money and thus your time.

Conserving money

• Skip bottled water, $1.49 Cokes, candy bars, paper napkins, and other luxuries. Drink tap water. You’ll save and help the environment anyway.
• Don’t buy health insurance, car insurance (the cheapest if it’s required), home insurance. It’s usually cheaper to skip insurance, even if you have a few occasional emergencies.
• Buy discount postage stamps on eBay; I bought 1000 42-cent stamps for $345 recently, or 18% off face value.
• Reuse envelopes and boxes for shipping; you’d probably have a lot of them if you’d save them.
• Instead of renting or leasing a car, save up money and buy a used car, then keep it for ten or fifteen years.
• Don’t do “cash advances” or loans—have money ready in advance for emergencies. Interest rates on small loans can be as high as 20%.
• Shop at the supermarket, not the gas station.
• Don’t heat or cool your house. Wear big winter coats in the winter and go naked in the summer.
• Take advantage of coupons, sales, and mail-in rebates instead of paying full price for everything.
• Don’t buy books or movies. Borrow them from the library or pirate them instead.
• If you have a job contracting, save money by not reporting your income to the government. My Dad’s been “unemployed” for twenty years.
• Learn how to do basic pluming, electrical wiring, and home repairs so you don’t have to call someone out.
• Skip cable TV, satellite radio, and high-speed broadband Internet. Be bored if you have to. We have 768 Kbps down / 128 Kbps up DSL for $20 a month, and it’s tolerable.
• Buy a $10 Tracfone every two months for a cell phone. You’ll only get two months of service and twenty minutes with each one, and you’ll constantly lose your phone number, but it’s the cheapest way to have a cell phone for emergencies. Throw out the old cell phone or save it to resell.

Conserving time

• Buy good supplies, like pens, pencils, staplers, letter openers, and paper. They’ll work better and save you time in the long run.
• Learn to type faster.
• Set your computer to hibernate when you push the power button. It’s much faster than a full shut-down, and it saves your windows. I only do a traditional shut-down once or twice a month.
• Use a dual-head video card, so you can have two monitors and keep windows open on both. I have three monitors.
• Batch process email once or twice a day. It’ll save you a lot of time over checking email constantly.
• Buy a laser printer with duplexing. It’s much faster than an inkjet and you can print on both sides of the page quickly.
• Sleep polyphasically, taking small naps around the clock, to save six hours a day in sleep time.
• Throw out receipts and packaging immediately. Most are unnecessary, anyway. Even if you have to send an expensive electronic item back to the manufacturer for repair, they usually don’t want the packaging anyway.
• Get a filing system for your papers, and only file what you can’t throw out.
• Have a place for everything. Use the drawers in your kitchen. You’ll spend less time hunting for stuff.
• Disconnect your phone. Make yourself less available.
• If you’re not doing heavy work, take a shower every two days instead of daily. It’ll save water and time, and it’s better for your skin.
• Brush your teeth after eating breakfast, so they’ll be white past your first meal.
• Get a folder for coupons, forms, and papers. It’ll keep you organized and you can take it into stores without being suspected of shoplifting, unlike with zipped pouches. It’s the man’s version of a purse.
• Have an area in your house for your keys, wallet, belt, cell phone, pen, flash drive, shoes, and folder, so you can get ready to leave the house quickly.
• Avoid distractions by listening to music while working.
• Cook a week’s worth of meals at once, then refrigerate them.
• Buy a new, faster computer if yours is more than a few years old. Especially if you do photo or video processing, it will save you lots of time.
• Buy good batteries, so you don’t have to replace batteries so often.
• Stay accountable by keeping a journal of where your time goes.
• Instead of taking a lunch break, work through lunch at your desk, taking bites to eat between reading, typing, and mouse gestures.

Many people suggest hiring a $9-an-hour secretary to do mundane tasks such as paper shuffling and email. This may look good on paper, but it’s less effective than you think because you have to train someone new, and no one can do your job as well as you. Even if you make $20 an hour, that doesn’t mean you should out-source everything you can for less than that. You could be better off just doing the work yourself.

Got some other advice to save time and money? Post it in the comments.

Doing Nothing

I didn’t get anything done today. I was going to write an article about focal length on camera lenses, but I ended up spending five hours reading about it on dpreview.com, Wikipedia, this great explanation of f-stops, etc. It was interesting, and I learned quite a bit, but I still didn’t write anything. Writing about photography doesn’t feel like writing about personal development, because it seems like I can write whatever I want with the latter. With photography, I spend more time researching and worrying about technical details than writing. General ideas are more important. Really specific articles are beter than all-encompasing ones. That’s contradictory, but I’m sure it’s true. If you try to do everything at once, you’ll certainly fail. I can’t write an article called “The State of Digital Photography,” because there’s way too much to cover and I’ll never get started.

I was home with my parents and we had dinner together (sort of), which was nice. No turkeys were involved. I wonder how turkeys become food for us. It’s cruel and unusual. I ate a salad with lettuce, dark green vegetables of some type, cucumbers, black pepper, sea salt, and garlic dressing. It was delicious. Salad won’t nourish you much because your body can’t digest much of it, but it provides great vitamins, keeps your system clean, and tastes good.

I slept till 9 A.M. this morning. That messed me up. If you spend two hours getting out of bed and three hours reading nothing, then the rest of the day is shot. Being in college almost every day does build discipline. Having a job does too. You end up getting more done in the gaps between work than you would if you had all the time to yourself. Personal development is all about using your own time and resources efficiently, rather than relying on other people or businesses to schedule your life. To rely on yourself, you need discipline. When you have self-discipline, being bossed around by others is no less than silly.

Today, I learned how to play the song I composed for the piano on Monday. I’ll post it tomorrow. I’m going to spend a couple days with my grandmother starting tomorrow. She’s 102, so she needs my support. :silly:

I shipped out lots of packages from my eBay auctions yesterday, and more are going out tomorrow. A lot of stuff didn’t sell, and what did didn’t make too much, except for the Kodak ink cartridges and miniDV tapes which profitted me $50. Counting Craigslist, my total profit is at $150. Plus the $65 I made on ads on this site this month, and the stuff I sold earlier, I’m over $300, which is more than my old job.

I applied for a job at Office Depot. Dad and I go there so often to use the ink cartridge recycling coupons I mentioned in Selling Stuff, that I may as well work there. Working has a lot of perks, after all. Applications are really funny these days. There’s all these threats and psychological evaluation questions. I don’t take them seriously.

The best way to have a job is to not care at all about being fired or reprimanded. You can do that when you make money from other things or you have few bills to pay. Stay out of debt. Having a normal job can be fun for a time, especially if you have no fear. Then, you can do whatever’s best for yourself or the company rather than looking over your shoulder, limiting your dialogues with customers to two minutes, and memorizing details of policy. In fact, these are the people that do best in the workplace because they don’t take crap. They also do the worst and get in trouble, but it doesn’t matter. If you have a job which you cannot walk away from at a moment’s notice, you’re a slave. It doesn’t matter if it’s for your rent or your cable t.v. bill or your car. Being a slave is inescapable for a while, but you do want to constantly be working to get out of it. Taking Thanksgiving off is inexcusable. :grin:

Tomorrow I’m getting up at 5 A.M. and I’m going to take some cool photos and get stuff done, even if it kills me. I will not be participating in Black Friday. There was some guy camped out by the Daytona Beach Best Buy on Wednesday, tent and all, but I think he was just there to be a public spectacle.

Good night all. It’s okay to get nothing done once in a while. You can even get depressed about it if you want. It’s not the end of the world. In fact, it’s therapeutic. :cool:

Selling Stuff

I’ve spent ten hours today and yesterday listing stuff on eBay and Craigslist to sell. Mostly new stuff, much of which I acquired many months ago from rebate grifting, and more recently, small items I purchased cheaply through an ink cartridge recycling scheme, with intent to sell. Now, that intent is a reality.

A few details: I bought 6000 empty ink cartridges at an auction for $1080 two months ago, and me and my Dad have turned in 3700 of them at Office Depot for $3 store credit coupons. We have a box of them. You can only turn in 25 per day and use 3 per day, so each time we go there we buy $9.02 worth of stuff and get $9 off. Since the cartridges were only 17 cents each, it’s a safe, though tedious way to acquire small office supplies cheaply.

Recently, that program has changed so you can only turn in 5 per day and you get the store credit back all at once on a gift card at the end of the quarter. That won’t be till February, but we continue to turn in the 1700 remaining cartridges. I’ll be able to buy a computer or a new camera eventually.

With all these $3 coupons which I can only use 3 of per day, I’ve bought markers, new ink cartridges, and tech items on clearance under $9. I’ve been reselling them sporadically, but I just got the biggest batch listed.

What I found out is that it takes a lot of effort to create 30 auctions. I used to list things on eBay occasionally, but I’d get bogged down in details. I’d feel compelled to include every detail from the packaging in each description. I’d spend 30 minutes taking a product shot with the correct light. Editing it would take longer. I’d agonize over shipping costs and debate international shipping.

All this is not any good for getting anything done. I was tempted to spend lots of time on each auction this time around, because it feels comfortable to accomplish nothing when you’ve conditioned yourself to do so. But instead, I took the photos quickly, used the grass in my yard as a background, did quick contrast adjustments in Photoshop with keyboard shortcuts, wrote shorter descriptions without deep thought, and didn’t even bother with anyone but U.S. users. I have no qualms with padding my shipping charges. Everyone expects it, and with eBay taking 45 cents + 11.15% of each sale (eBay fees + PayPal), they can live with it too.

I got all these items listed:

130269823059 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 17:09:34 PST $0.99 TWO New HP 41 Inkjet Color Print Cartridges Ink No Bids Yet
130269825000 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 17:22:07 PST $1.04 12 Mini DV miniDV Digital Video Tapes 60 min Maxell NEW jmab55
130269827607 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 17:40:09 PST $0.99 HP 14 Black Inkjet Print Cartridge Genuine NEW C5011D No Bids Yet
130269828889 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 17:49:06 PST $0.99 HP 41 Color Inkjet Print Cartridge Genuine NEW 51641A No Bids Yet
130269829947 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 17:57:08 PST $2.25 THREE Kodak No. 10 COLOR Ink Cartridges Genuine NEW icon68
130269832130 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 18:10:54 PST $0.99 9 Fire Extinguisher signs, 2″ x 8″, NEW, Adhesive, Red No Bids Yet
130269833636 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 18:21:26 PST $0.99 Speck ToughSkin Black Sport Case : iPod Nano 2nd Gen 2G No Bids Yet
130269834796 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 18:28:50 PST $0.99 Epson T036120 T0361 Black Ink Cartridge NEW Genuine No Bids Yet
130269836184 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 18:37:29 PST $0.99 Epson T037020 T0370 Color Ink Cartridge NEW Genuine No Bids Yet
130269838624 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 18:55:53 PST $0.99 4 Brother Ink Cartridges: LC31C LC31M LC31Y LC31BK NEW No Bids Yet
130269840078 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 19:04:45 PST $0.99 5 Color Maxell Mini DVD-R 8cm 1.4GB Camcorder Discs NEW No Bids Yet
130269840974 Nov-17-08 Nov-24-08 19:10:36 PST $0.99 Sterling 56K V.92 PCI Fax Modem Dialup NEW Vista No Bids Yet
130269909687 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 05:44:38 PST $0.99 Uniden TCX 905 5.8GHz Accessory Handset and Charger No Bids Yet
130269913165 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 06:08:34 PST $0.99 Rosewill 3 Port Firewire IEEE 1394a PCMCIA Card Laptop No Bids Yet
130269915385 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 06:21:43 PST $0.99 Rosewill RCX-Z775-SL Intel Heatsink & 92mm Fan NEW No Bids Yet
130269916624 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 06:29:10 PST $0.99 Brother LC31C Cyan Inkjet Print Cartridge Ink NEW No Bids Yet
130269917125 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 06:32:27 PST $0.99 Brother LC31M Magenta Inkjet Print Cartridge Ink NEW No Bids Yet
130269956469 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 09:51:12 PST $0.99 12 Foray Chisel Tip Dry Erase Markers + Erasers Colors No Bids Yet
130269959625 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 10:05:36 PST $0.99 2 Maxell Digial8 / Hi8 Blank Camcorder Tapes 120 min No Bids Yet
130270022541 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 14:25:47 PST $0.99 Staples Slimline 4 AA Battery Pencil Sharpener NEW 0 Dutch bids
130270026644 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 14:58:17 PST $0.99 20 Office Depot DVD+R DL Dual/Double Layer Discs +Cases No Bids Yet
130270029195 Nov-18-08 Nov-25-08 15:15:51 PST $0.99 Eagle 3.5-inch PATA / USB External Hard Drive Enclosure No Bids Yet

These low-margin items aren’t profitable to sell unless you’re getting them for free; I don’t expect to clear more than $200 from all these items. Postage and eBay’s fees swallow up way too much. But that doesn’t mean you should hang on to this stuff.

When I was creating these auctions, I did things differently. Before, I’d preview each auction meticulously and check for errors in spelling, categorization, product details, shipping charges. Usually I’d find none, and it would eat up a lot of time. This time around, I listed the items immediately, reviewing them after. It went much more quickly, and the few little mistakes I caught, I fixed with eBay’s revision feature. Psychologically, that helped me work much more efficiently.

Most people have way too many things, even nice new possessions like markers or paper or computer supplies. It’s easy to hoard free-after-rebate items, gifts, and things acquired cheaply, but they end up gobbling up space without providing much return. The question to ask is not “could this item be useful?,” but rather, “might this item not be useful?” If the answer to the latter is yes, get rid of the item. Sell it at a loss if you have to.

This was my first time listing on Craigslist.org. The site feels something right out of 1995. The design is clunky and simple, warnings are in bold red capital letters, all pictures I upload are compressed as tiny artifact-riddled JPEGs. But there are people, lots of people in the Daytona Beach area looking for things to sell or selling things themselves there. Community counts more than presentation. The things I listed there are generally too heavy to ship. I expect to get bites pretty quickly, as I’m getting rid of this stuff way below retail:

Microsoft Comfort Curve USB Computer Keyboard 2000 NEW – $10 (Ormond Beach)
Samsung ML-2510 Black & White Laser Printer – $35 (Ormond Beach)
HP LaserJet 1018 Black & White Laser Printer – $30 (Ormond Beach)
Brand new Staples 8.5×11 Paper Shredder – $10 (Ormond Beach)
Case of Legal Size Copy Paper (8.5 x 14 in.) 5000 sheets New – $30 (Ormond Beach)
16 Port Fast Ethernet Switch 100Mbps NEW – $15 (Ormond Beach)
Ultra ATX Mid-Tower PC Computer Case Steel NEW – $20 (Ormond Beach)
Epson Stylus Photo R260 Ultra Hi-Definition Photo Printer – $20 (Ormond Beach)

I got all the printers free after rebate or nearly so, then used up the toner or ink and put them out in the shed. They take up a ton of space, but I started getting attached to them. “These are obviously worth a lot,” I’d tell myself. “I shouldn’t get rid of them—what if they become useful someday?” The fact is, if you have something that’s going to be useful to you, you won’t even have to ask yourself if it’ll be useful—you’ll just know it. Whatever you need you can just buy later anyway, and with the prices of technological gadgets constantly falling, it will be cheaper anyway. This also means that if you wait to sell stuff, you’ll lose more money.

From holding these printers and computer towers for as much as a year, they’ve already lost value. It doesn’t bother me. It’s much better to take action now than cling to the past. I could easily hang on to this stuff for many more years never doing anything. I could console myself by saying the items are too valuable to part with. However, that accomplishes nothing and serves no one. The space I’m reclaiming can be used for new stuff like photography gadgets or chairs or tables, or I can just leave it empty so the house doesn’t feel so cluttered. Printers that you never use take up a lot of space. They take up a lot more space than useful printers, even if their dimensions are physically the same.

I bought two cases of legal size copy paper a year ago. They were clearanced at Staples for $15 each, and it was just such a good deal I had to have them. Each case weighs 70 pounds, after all. It must be valuable. Surely it is, but to whom? Not to me. I have no use for paper that’s 14 inches long. I could say that I might in the future, but I’d be conning myself. Never in a million years will 140 pounds of legal size paper be worth owning. If I got them as a gift I’d accept them, but only to sell to someone else. It’s much more important to get rid of these space-eaters now, rather than deceiving myself into thinking they might become useful. I can always buy new stuff, but I can’t always get rid of old stuff.

You can make money selling your stuff, be it your creative art or the trinkets you’ve collected. It takes effort, though. I still spent too long writing all the descriptions and taking photos of all this junk, and I could never do this as a profitable business. I can rejoice that I am making progress in getting rid of a large amount of stuff and earning a small amount of money, because it would have been easy to get nothing done today. Don’t cry over wasted time in the past, but look toward what you can do in the present. It actually makes no different if you’ve been operating below the capacities of your talents for years or decades, because that is irrevocable now. The time in the future is also going to come to pass whether you like it or not. Thinking like this gives me a lot of motivation. I used this on my last physics exam, where I studied the problems and formulas for over a dozen hours even though I’m near-failing in the class. I could stay depressed because I didn’t put in enough effort earlier in the course, but that’s over and done with regardless of my feelings.

Now I know why people have garage sales and sell stuff so cheaply. Most people, myself included, go through six-month periods where they acquire lots of stuff. Everything I’ve bought has been at fair prices, even free, but most of it has outlived its usefulness or was never useful to begin with. When you’re evaluating an item to purchase, you must not ask “is this a good deal?” You must ask “will this item help me a lot?” If the answer is yes, it might be that you should buy it even if it’s over-priced. If you’re dying of thirst, it’s a great deal to pay $100 for a bottle of water. But if the answer is no, the item isn’t worth buying at any price. I’m starting to think in this manner, so I should be able to end the garage sale cycle right here.

The other key is to simply stop buying things. If you’re going to buy something to resell, it has to be something you’re going to list on eBay or at your own shop within the next day. If you aren’t committed to flipping it within the next week, don’t buy it. If it’s a really great deal, become committed. It’s quite simple. We just have the tendency to make it way too complicated.

I love my material possessions. I have a camera and lenses I used every day to create art, a computer with two monitors that lets me communicate my thoughts and creativity to others, a good color and black and white printer that does the same for hard copy, a piano I play occasionally, hundreds of prints of my photos I give out to people, clothes that I enjoy wearing. But the camera I had three years ago that’s now broken is not a possession I love, because it’s not useful to me. I should probably throw it out. It’s not doing anything as a relic.

Objects that have sentimental value usually have less sentimental value than you think. Having a whole bunch of small trinkets you never use on your desk is even worse, because they’ll stop you from thinking. I become a lot more productive with a clean desk, even if I’m just typing at the computer. I need to work on that.

At least move the stuff from your desk to a drawer, or under the table, or to plastic bins, as an interim measure. Throw out old receipts and paperwork. We burn them in our wood-burning stove. Moving things out of sight makes you more productive, but there’s a trap: you encourage yourself to fill your space with more stuff, while never getting rid of the junk you’ve hidden. That’s why no one can have a big enough car or house or apartment.

I want to settle this issue for myself now, so I don’t have to deal with it for the next days, months, years, decades.

If your house burning down does not seem such an unpleasant thought, then you need to clear out the clutter.

Please buy my stuff. When you do, ignore everything I just said about buying stuff. :cool:

Disparate Value

If I could just get my cat to wash the dishes and mop the floor, I’d have a cat worth millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter that you can hire someone to do the work for several dollars an hour. If the cat did it, it would be special and worth far more. Any sort of animal, for that matter.

Does that mean that the cat’s work is intrinsically more valuable than mine? Not in the slightest. In fact, it’s not as safe to have the cat do housework. Cats aren’t skillful homemakers. My cat has no proven track record, nor does her species. Who knows when she will tire of the work and start breaking stuff. She has to take naps every few hours. For the same work, a person should be paid far more than a cat.

Why then, is the value the cat commands so disparate, so far in excess of that of a normal person? Simply because it’s packaged in a unique, original, unheard-of form. People will pay you big money if you can do something that no one else can do, even if it’s totally useless. What real value do clowns contribute to the world–besides entertainment? If everyone is paid by the intrinsic value of their worth, clowns would get nothing.

To harness the power of disparate value, you need to be doing something that is eye-catching, entertaining, and different. It’s easy to have negative, disparate value. Just break a few limbs, and then see how hard it is to work efficiently. If you go to the bookstore and start ripping the covers off books, they really aren’t worth any less. There’s no unique information on the cover that the books’ contents cannot be without. All the informative and practical value remains untouched. Yet try selling them next to the others–or for any price at all, and you’ll see how disparate their value is. For no logical reason.

It’s easy to think of situations that will generate positive disparate value, which is a far better place to be at. Say I’m a typist. I type 75 words a minute, accurately, swiftly, and without losing focus. That’s a pretty good skill, but I’m not special. Lots of other people can do what I do.

Now let’s say instead, through some magical forces, I type 750 words a minute. When I type, all you see is a blur because my fingers are moving so fast, they disappear. The screen floods with text. If I was paid $10 for my efforts at 75 words per minute, would $100 be a reasonable pay at 750 words per minute?

Nope. I’m worth more than the aggregate of my efficiency. I could provide my services to businesses that need last-minute transcribing, at a high cost. Perhaps $1000 an hour would be more reasonable.

But in reality, I’d make far more for my talents, perhaps millions. Think of all the television shows and magazines I could be featured in. I could start a course to share my talent with others. Even if it was impossible to share, there’d still be plenty of followers who would gladly waste their money. The value (money) I can demand is disparate to the raw value of my services.

Let’s say I can only type 100 words per minute, but I can also play the piano, tune a guitar, write moderately-good articles, ride a skateboard, build houses, paint, draw, create websites, and do electrical wiring. All these things I do moderately well. Perhaps even better. If my mastery is quantifiable, I’m above 90% of the crowd with all these talents. Does that make me more valuable as a typist?

Not in the slightest. I may be a dynamo and a fascinating person, but those are worth nothing on their own. I’d be better off if I could have all my other skills erased from my brain, and replaced with the ability to type 750 words per minute. From a monetary standpoint, at least. The reason I keep coming back to money, is that it’s our primary means of representing value. Typing 750 words per minute should not trump an arsenal of normal skills, but it does.

If the Mona Lisa is worth $100 million, does that mean a painting 1% as good is worth $1 million? Nope. If I can define something 1% as good as the Mona Lisa, it’s a painting that you couldn’t even give away. 1% is not enough. Even a work of art 75% as good would not be worth half as much. One razor-sharp knife is worth more than a hundred dull knives.

Excellence is exponential. On a scale of 10, going from a 9 to a 10 is hundreds of times harder than going from a 1 to a 2. Anyone can go from a 1 to a 2. It requires nearly no effort whatsoever. But if you can make the jump to the top of the mountain, you have something of true, preferential value. Oftentimes, it’s better to pick one skill. One feverishly developed skill. You’re so good, you make everyone else in your niche look like piles of garbage. The problem I find with this, is that it doesn’t feel right to pick one skill. That’s why most people don’t do it, remaining uneventfully ordinary.

The best way, however, is to develop a suite of skills that all play off each other rather than being disparate. The underlying connections between them create a wall of strength rather than islands of weakness. Chaos theory in action. Often, this is the same as developing one skill, but from a different angle. This is easier said than done. In fact, it’s harder than becoming a one-hit wonder. But it’s a true path, a road you can look to every day with eager anticipation. I can never feel the same passion for practicing scales and songs all day long, or taking pictures from dawn to dusk. Picking one path is the best way to harness disparate value, but it isn’t human. People aren’t meant to stick to one thing. We think about everything: we ponder, analyze, reflect, multi-task, pray, think, forget, lose focus. Animals don’t do this. They work all the more efficiently for it.

All the things that “waste time” are actually our strengths. They endow us with our own disparate value separate from everything else in this world. I’m happy to be a human rather than a cat, or a bird, or a flea. Once you become happy and committed to your existence, you can leverage disparate value to unlock exponential growth. I’ll be with you.

A Series of Near-Hits

In life, it’s easy to go through a process called a series of near-hits, where you get close to the mark many times in a row without ever succeeding. An invisible wall stops you from reaching the goal, but you expend an increasing amount of effort for ever-reducing gains.

Sometimes, this is the story of a person’s whole life: a series of failures which were almost successes. “Failure,” of course, is a relative term. Perhaps he succeeded in supporting his family, but failed as a businessman. Perhaps he was a successful businessman who ignored his family. For my purposes, the shortcoming can be anything.

More often, the leech attacks you for just a day in your life, or perhaps in a minor hobby over a period of months. It could be just a few minutes. I had one of these experiences last week.

The night sky in my front yard was flashing with bolts of lightning; not a common sight in this area. Usually the sky flashes, but there are no bolts. As impressive as that is, it looks like nothing on film. This was different. I ran out with my camera, and, not owning a tripod, I braced the camera against the fence and took dozens of two-second exposures of the sky. These were the 15 best:

Mediocre lightning series

Click above to enlarge the thumbnails. If you can’t tell at this size, there are a bunch of shots of lightning; usually just a couple small branches across the clouds, or light in absence of a trunk. The top-right one looks good, but it’s blurry because I slipped with the camera. There is no bolt, so you can’t tell what it is except in this context. None of the photos are particularly good. They are a series of near-hits.

At this point, my excitement from seeing the awesome flashes had disappeared, and I was thoroughly ravaged by the Florida mosquitoes. There were a lot of good shots to be had, but magically I’d missed all of them. My outing was a complete waste of time.

It wasn’t really a complete waste of time; it just seemed it. Since I’m a photographer, nothing I do with my camera can be a complete waste of time, unlike for you non-photographers. I have an in-built advantage. However, if my next several shots are like this, the series of near-hits may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ll subconsciously sabotage my efforts because I’ll become afraid of taking a good photograph, or I’ll want to prove to my mind that the world is against me. Either way, it becomes a repetitive cycle.

Personally developed people enjoy exponential progress, because it’s so much faster than advancing linearly. While with 5 + 5 + 5 you have 15, with 5 * 5 * 5 you’re way ahead at 125. It’s a lot nicer to have your income double each month than increase by 2 dollars (unless you’re making pennies!). If you’ve ever played with a calculator, though you’ve noticed a strange thing happens south of 1. Instead of increasing, the numbers decrease. .5 * .5 * .5 is .125. If each multiplication is a day, continuing the trend, your progress goes down, each and every day. You can never quite hit rock bottom (zero), because you’re experiencing inverse exponential growth. Even if your calculator, after a few more operations, reads zero, you know it’s a lie. A “rounding error,” we call it. If your goal is zero, it’s forever fleeting.

This sickly kind of growth is exactly what a series of near-hits looks like. You get closer while never succeeding. It’s called logarithmic growth, and it’s the opposite of exponential gains. Whereas exponential operations race toward infinity without ever meeting, logarithmic operations reach for zero but never make it. There is an asymptote at zero; an invisible wall which can never be touched. The numbers get closer and closer, with more and more decimal places, but they’ll never match in a million years.

Evil, logarithmic growth

That’s a graph of logarithmic growth. And you want to avoid it. If your stuck in a cycle of logarithmic progress, a.k.a. a series of near-hits, something is wrong. You’ve got to try something new, because you’ve reached a dead end. In the game of life, every turn you waste in this downward spiral is one more turn off your life. It feels comfortable, because you can never crash and you’ll never hit zero, but it’s ultimately a waste because there’s no growth to be had in it. Your in a worse situation than stagnation, because you’ve been tricked into thinking you’re making progress. You could expend years stuck in logarithmic growth. Don’t.

It’s really easy to have “near-hits” in gambling. What they really are is wishful thinking. If the lottery numbers were 4-8-12-16-20, and you picked 5-9-13-17-21, you could say you were really close to winning a million dollars. You “almost” won. Surely, you’re on a lucky streak. You can’t stop; quitting gambling now would be foolish. But in truth, you were no closer to winning than if you had picked 1-2-3-5-6. Either set of numbers lost, unequivocally and irrevocably. There is no middle ground. Either you won, or you lost.

When you’re stuck in a series of near-hits, redefine life in black and white terms (binary) instead of shades of gray (analog). Analog has it’s place, but it’s a poor substitute for definiteness. You didn’t have a “near-hit,” you had a “complete miss.” You won’t hit till you do, and when you do, there will be no modifiers; it will be a “hit” and nothing else. Once you start thinking like this, you might give up entirely on some goals. It’s okay; that proves those goals weren’t important to you anyway. If you can survive many cycles of utter failure, then you know you are on the right path, because you have the strength to persevere through all hardships. “Near-hits” are just an illusion. They may try to waste your time and muddle your vision, but you shall triumph.

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