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Attacking Abortion

Fetuses are an easy mark to kill, because they can’t fight back. If each fetus was equipped with sharp teeth and snake venom to bite and kill the doctor while being aborted, it’s very likely that abortion would end, because doctors would be unwilling to perform them due to the immense danger involved.

Abortion is not a problem that can be solved at the same level at which it was created. All societies degenerate into slaughtering innocents sooner or later, but few institutionalize it, besides gladiatorial combat, witch hunts, sacrificing maidens to volcanoes, capital punishment for illegal drugs, and abortion in modern nations.

Abortion fits well into the Satanic agenda, because it sets a precedent for corrupt beliefs in individual lives. If you, a friend, or a family member has had an abortion, you may believe that infanticide is justified in certain situations, and that these women should not feel guilty. To form divisions, you may complain about women (the “others”) who “abuse” abortion as a form of birth control, instead of only undertaking it with a heavy heart. Instead of protesting the doctors who perform abortions, you may justify it by claiming they are only doing their jobs. That didn’t work for the Schutzstaffel officers in the post-World War II trials, so it shouldn’t work for hypocritical doctors in 2011.

In the same vein, pro-choice advocates refer to pregnant women as “women” instead of “mothers,” because they have to keep up the charade that the humans mothers are carrying in their wombs are no better than goiters or cancerous tumors. Mothers who abort their baby and then go on to have more babies will teach their unaborted children that the child(ren) they aborted would have had unhappy lives because of some reason or combination of reasons, i.e. she was working on her career, going to college, the father ran off, the baby wouldn’t have been loved, she wasn’t emotionally ready for motherhood, she didn’t have a job, there was no money, or she didn’t want to have a “welfare baby.” Then, her unaborted children will grow up and either 1.) carry the same belief with them to justify their mother’s abortion; 2.) carry the same belief justified by the Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton argument (“pro death”); 3.) become staunchly pro-life (“anti choice”); 4.) adopt some middle ground to explain the past and guide the future, i.e. be pro-life but say their mom made a mistake, or adopt situational ethics (kill babies during an economic recession and choose life during boom times).

Just because a child takes 9 months to be born and 18 years to grow up does not mean that is not a worthy investment. Even from a utilitarian viewpoint, we need more humans to continue the American way of life, to invent new technologies, to build new machines, to create new art, and to develop new philosophies. And from a human perspective, we should all be able to imagine what would have happened if our mothers would have aborted us in the womb — instead of being alive on the earth, there would be the emptiness of no earthly existence whatsoever. Fetuses are not supposed to be slaves, no more than the black people were supposed to be slaves to the white people before the 20th century.

The Bible says “God created man [men and women] in his own image” (Genesis 1:27), and said to us, “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and the fowl [birds] of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). It does NOT say “reduce your numbers,” “engage in homosexual relations to avoid having children,” or “implement policies of zero population growth once the population reaches 7 billion” (or 500 million, or whatever number).

In ejaculation, up to 500 million mobile spermatozoa are released in a solution of semen to reach the fallopian tubes through the birth canal and eat through the jelly-like matrix (ovum coat) around the unfertilized egg (ovum). One spermatozoon implants itself, creating a zygote (fertilized egg), which moves down through a fallopian tube by the beating of cilia and implants itself in the lining of the uterus to grow like a cancer for 9 months, creating a baby. In dogs, 39 male chromosomes combine with 39 female chromosomes, creating the seed for a puppy with 78 chromosomes. In humans, 23 male chromosomes combine with 23 female chromosomes (or 24 in trisomy-21, a.k.a. Down syndrome) to create the seed (zygote) for a baby with (hopefully) 46 chromosomes.

If you believe that a zygote or fetus has no value because it has only the potential for human life, just as each spermatozoon has only the potential for human life (when combined with an ovum), try disturbing a nest of sea turtle or eagle eggs. Then, you will see that the State cares more about an endangered species than humanity, because the State believes that we are too plentiful and need to be expunged.

Every breath you exhale increases the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but every breath that plants and the oceans (71% of the earth by land area) inhale decreases the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants and the ocean also create or help to create oxygen. Just because half the world is dying of starvation does not mean that you should not have children if you are living in a first-world country. It’s natural to want to have a family and have children, not out of selfishness, but out of both selfishness and selflessness simultaneously. If you believe life is beautiful, you are being selfless by having children, and if you believe life is decadent, you are being selfish by having children, but the truth is there are elements of good and elements of evil in the world, but we have to take the good with the bad. The worst option is not to fight.

Though nature may beseech us with hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and volcanoes, the reality is this is OUR PLANET, belonging to God first, humans second, and all other organisms and forces a distant third. We have the right to have children.

Review of “9 Steps to Work Less” by Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins' Book

9 Steps to Work Less and Do More serves up hundreds of practical suggestions. Robbins gives you advice on everything—from how to leave a voicemail to how many umbrellas you should own (pg. 150). After reading “always leave your phone number twice” and “speak slowly and clearly” (64-65), I knew Stever was being really thorough.

Why is it 9 steps? I really don’t know. 10 is a more popular number. 7 is a lucky number. Stever Get-It-Done Guy Robbins could even have called it “12 Steps for Workaholics,” but it’s been done before.

If you’ve read other books on time management or personal growth, there isn’t much new material here. This book may be a waste of time for anyone but the casually committed, because only they are likely to find new advice here. But, considering I was provided this review copy for free and never heard of Robbins before being contacted by his secretary, I should not be so harsh. “9 Steps” is a nice read with good tips. Stever also has a good sense of humor which you will find on every page of the book. I was more anxious to write this review than to actually read the book, but had I picked this up several years ago, before discovering personal development, I would have been engrossed.

“Stever Robbins” is a weird name. Everyone who reads it thinks “Steven” has been misprinted. “Robbins” as in Tony Robbins? I thought this was a pen name at first.

I started reading this book six weeks ago, and after 40 pages I quit and lost interest. I stopped reading on “daily action packs” in the procrastination chapter. However, I do need to write this review eventually, so I’m just going on what I read and skimming through the rest. This review is going to be short.

PAGE 69: Just ignore it: “Another way to deal with a full inbox? Ignore it.” — Stever has a lot of guts to say this, and he’s right. Most email should just be archived because it never needs a reply.

PAGE 77: Example of a bad email: “We need to gather all the articles by February 1st. Speaking of which, I was thinking… do you think we should fire Sandy?” — This is an awesome example of a bad email. I might have to use this myself.

PAGE 86: Learning how to say no: “Too many yeses overcommit us.” — This is also awesome. I can’t believe St. Martin’s Griffin let Stever use “yeses.”

PAGE 90: “Stop multitasking and start focusing.” I like this advice. More often than not, writers tell you to develop your multitasking skills, when in truth, you should develop your monotasking skills. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

PAGE 101: “A Sample Stever week.” This is a wonderful chart, and very simple. I like “Tuesday: 2 PM – 6 PM: write.” Only Stever could write for four hours non-stop. I find myself taking breaks every fifteen minutes.

PAGE 110: “When in doubt, throw it away.” I’m starting to do this all the time. When I’m done reading a magazine or a letter, I burn it. No reason to let it laze around the house.

PAGE 120: “Someday when I can afford an entourage, I’ll have a perky assistant named Okra who will keep track of everything for me. Until then, I use crutches to manage the complexities of twentieth-century life.” Sure, assistants are sexy, but 20th century life? Don’t you mean 21st century life, Stever? Perhaps you count from zero, or maybe this book was written in 1999?

PAGE 131: “The best ideas happen in the shower, because your brain is built to think when you’re doing something else.” This is why going for walks, playing music, and washing the dishes are such great hobbies. Whenever I’m stuck writing or programming, I find inspiration by setting the project aside for a while.

PAGE 143: “Movies the group absolutely does not want to see: Starring anyone whose last name is the name of a hotel chain.” But Paris Hilton is such a fine actor! I laughed at this joke.

PAGE 153: “Settle for ‘good enough” rather than wasting time on unnecessary perfection.” This is so true. Nobody cares how perfect your work is anyway. Most people don’t even examine it closely. Cutting corners is the best policy.

PAGE 166: “TIP: Hold an anteater by the hindquarters when combing its snout. KEYWORDS: anteater, comb, grooming, snout, thumb-reattachment incident.” Anteaters are so vicious…

PAGE 179: “Cut out the small talk. Let’s face it: we don’t have time for superficial relationships.” I disagree, small talk is the foundation of human relationships. As Data on Star Trek TNG noted, it fills awkward conversational gaps and aids in human bonding.

PAGE 195: “Get on someone’s radar screen by having frequent, though not necessarily lengthy or deep, contact.” Do you mean small talk, Stever? I thought you hate small talk? Perhaps you are confused.

PAGE 206: “Access to people is valuable…” This is so true. You can’t make babies alone.

PAGE 216: “Come visit me on the Web at www.SteverRobbins.com…” — He wanted to say “it’s ten times better than www.StevePavlina.com!”

PAGE 218: “ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Case Princes provided his apartment and his computer with amazing 2560×1600 monitor.” I love big monitors too. I have a Samsung 24″ widescreen LCD with 1920×1200 pixels. But 2560×1600 doesn’t actually tell us anything. The monitor could be a 19″ CRT with the resolution set extremely high. Please consider these technicalities in your next book!

If you wanted a proper review, I don’t have one. I’m just passing off a bunch of scribbled notes as a review. Now go buy this 5-star book. I know it’s only been two months, but we are expecting many more books from you, Stever!

Do you have a product?

You may be the most creative person in the world, but do you have a product to represent you? A book or CD? Something that can be mass-produced?

I have some print copies of my photos, and, well… that’s about it. So if I die tomorrow, I won’t leave behind much of a legacy. At the very least I should create a book of photos.

My father has a book that he has been unable to sell… but at least he has something.

If your product is hand-made crafts or paintings, you don’t really have a product because everything is dependent on you. If you get run over by a bus or someone saws your hands off, BAM, there goes your product. But if you have something that can be made by printing press or assembly line, then you have a product. Even computer softwater counts.

Time is precious. Create something now, or be forgotten forever!

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.

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.

Being Extraordinary

2009-12-20 Update: Being extraordinary is not necessarily positive, so be careful with this.

Extraordinary is an interesting word. It sounds like “extra” and “ordinary.” That means to be extraordinary, you have to be stereotypically ordinary, to the extreme. :cool:

Extraordinary people are usually extremely good or extremely bad. While ordinary folks get B’s, C’s, and D’s, extraordinary folks get A’s and F’s. They’re polarized on both ends of the spectrum. Being at the scary edge of the world is a much more interesting place to be than the safe and secure middle.

It’s not good to be extraordinary merely for the purpose of impressing others, because then you’ll do crazy stuff but have no direction. If you’ve set a mission that your heart loves, then you’ll have to do extraordinary stuff to fulfill that mission. If, however, you can meet your goals with ordinary actions, then the goals you’ve set aren’t your goals at all. They belong to other people. Those people could be your parents, your friends, or your perception of society in general, but they aren’t you.

Extraordinary people are not paralyzed by fear of failure. This is why they either fail or succeed. Failing once usually leads to succeeding—completely—the second time, through hard work and lessons learned in the first misadventure. Sometimes you’ll have to replace “second” with “tenth” or “44th,” but if you’re really trying, it doesn’t matter.

Once you stop fearing failure, you can eliminate excuses that justify your failures. Instead of handing control of your life over incidental circumstances, you take personal responsibility for your situation.

Some common circumstances ordinary people blame:

* Their parents.
* Their friends.
* Their environment.
* Being “ugly.”
* Race / ethnicity.
* Lack of talent.
* Lack of money.

There are many others, but this is enough of an overview. All these are excuses to justify ordinariness. They are all represented with disarming, demeaning beliefs and concepts. When you say that happenstance rules your world, you lose the burden of control. You become safely powerless.

Having an office job is an ordinary thing to do, because most people do it and it requires an ordinary amount of effort, relative to the alternative. The alternative is to be your own boss and pave your own path. You’re making a genuine contribution to your neighbors, and being paid with money, which you can use to convince others to contribute goods and services to you. This requires an extraordinary amount of effort and risk. Many times, what you think should earn money will be of no value to anyone else. You’ll keep learning, building, and improving until you are adding value.

The ordinary path seems secure, but it’s actually even riskier, because you’re not operating at peak efficiency. The bulk of your potential lies dormant. If you operate at 1% capacity for too long, change becomes scarier. If you do manage to unlock your potential while sticking with your ‘secure’ wages, you’ll make the same amount of money while producing far more for your employers. That’s bad, because if you received proper compensation for your efforts, you’d be able to plow that back into contributing more.

As my profits from photography increase, I’ll be able to buy better cameras and lenses which will give me more creative freedom. This will make it even easier for me to produce artistic photographs, which will make more money. A camera won’t make art for me—the best it can do is get out of my way while I create art. But a better camera will get out of my way even more. I’m in an upward spiral of creativity and abundance.

In the long run, it’s far safer to be paid what you’re worth, all the time. For a while, you may feel fine leeching as a government employee, but you’ll come to see that you’ve restricted yourself to ordinariness. It’s far better to contribute directly, even if you go into debt, lose your house, and live in the woods for a while. If you never give up, you’ll be extraordinary, and then you’ll rise far higher than your safe job would ever allow. A life of turbulence and adventure is more exciting than a life of safety and sameness.

Reframing the extraordinary

When I stopped eating animals three weeks ago, a lot of my friends were surprised. Apparently, becoming a vegetarian is an extraordinary thing. Many people want to do it. They see that torturing animals in our factory farming system is completely wrong, but they never take action to change it. Change starts with you. Only 1% of Americans are vegetarians.

Other people try to stop eating animals, but they do it for all the wrong reasons. They’re going along with friends, or following a new trend, or expressing their love of animals. They constantly have to control themselves, because when they see a crisp hamburger or juicy steak, they remember everything they’re “missing” by not eating dead flesh. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort to maintain their new practice, because they’ve chosen it for phony reasons. Usually, they’ll become “semi-vegetarians” (i.e. wimps) by eating meat occasionally, or by deciding that chicken and fish are somehow not animals. These are ordinary people.

True vegetarians, on the other hand, don’t have to exercise any self control. When they see a meatball or a collection of pork chops, they don’t feel hungry at all. Even though it’s a disgusting thing, they don’t feel disgust either. To a true vegetarian, a steak is the same as a rock or a pencil or a violin or a doorknob. It’s not something you eat. It doesn’t inspire fear or hunger or doubt or repression. It’s completely ordinary.

To be extraordinary, you have to believe the extraordinary is ordinary.

Not eating animals is completely ordinary to me. I can’t ever think I’m special or extraordinary for being a vegetarian. If my 14-year-old self met my 17-year-old self, he would think I’m extraordinary, but I hold no such opinions about myself. This way, I can continue to rise, instead of stagnating in narcissism.

Fighting ordinariness

In one of my college courses this semester (physics), I completely failed the first test. I thought I was prepared because all my other teachers make the exams far easier than the in-class work, but this one was just as difficult. We had to do six multi-step problems in fifty minutes, which is as fast as my teacher presents them.

Much of the class failed it—I got 43%, while the average was 60%. The tempting thing to do right away is to blame the teacher for not teaching properly, or for making the test too hard. “No one else did well, so it’s fine that I did the same.” If I was so bold, I could even drop out of college or give up on computer science, and I could go through life telling people that it’s not my fault because I had a really bad teacher. People do this often. College is supposed to be really hard and lots of people are supposed to fail. It’s completely ordinary to fail, but what isn’t ordinary is to accept personal responsibility for failure.

So after two days I accepted personal responsibility, worked hard, and got a 93% on the last test. I probably deserved a B, but my teacher went easy on me. I could consider this an extraordinary accomplishment, but the fact is this is the way it’s supposed to be. This is ordinary. My first grade was just way below average; far worse than ordinary.

We’ve had a cat for about a year, but she was a stray that just started loitering in our yard. We never came up with a proper name for her. I called her “cat,” my Mom named her “Vanilla,” and my Dad named her “Asparagus.” Those names are all fairly ordinary. Recently, we came to a consensus on a new moniker for her: “The United Federation of Cats.” She’s already enjoying and responding to her new title. It’s a completely extraordinary name. I bet no one has ever named a cat that, in the thousands of years that cats have existed.

“The United Federation of Cats” doesn’t even make sense, because she’s not a federation. She’s just one cat, and I don’t see how she’s more united than any other cat. Most names are short and arbitrary, but hers is lengthy and declarative. I think most cats wouldn’t even agree that she represents the feline community. It doesn’t matter, because extraordinary things don’t have to make sense.

You can bring the extraordinary into your life by doing unexpected things like this. Go sit in the woods and look around for a couple hours. Go to a store but don’t buy anything. Eat breakfast in the evening and dinner in the morning. Wear crazy clothes. Write stuff like this. Change your name. Do you think I got this crazy “Thripp” name by happenstance? We were the Parrishes, but my Dad was done with that name and picked out Thripp in 1986. A lot of people told him he couldn’t or shouldn’t change his name, but he did it anyway and proved them wrong. That was extraordinary.

Make sure that you don’t do heartless extraordinary things. You can murder a bunch of people, and that’s quite extraordinary, but it’s not what I mean here. It’s evil. Evil can only destroy, while good can only create or convert, and when it converts, it converts evil to good. If you’re not sure if something’s good, it’s evil, because good is always readily apparent. Choose the path with a heart.

Excuses of the ordinary

Instead of saying “I have no motivation,” most people say “I have no time.” You go to a businessman’s office, and he says he doesn’t have “time” to speak with you. What if he just said you weren’t interesting / impressive enough? At first, a lot of people would be shocked by his bluntness, even considering it extraordinary. But shortly, it would become a hallmark trait that, while abnormal as compared to others, is completely normal in terms of him. While others lie about not having time, he tells the truth about not having motivation.

When you have a lack of time, you actually have a lack of motivation, because you have 24 hours per day just like everyone else. Whatever is important to you can certainly fit within those constraints. What isn’t important falls by the wayside.

If you have a hobby you don’t have time for, you either have to drop it, drop something else, or do everything more efficiently to accommodate your new hobby. It’s really quite simple, but most people never apply it and remain ordinary. I don’t even apply it well. It’s harder to do than it is to type.

I did a few pencil-sketch portraits in 2006. They weren’t particularly good, but I enjoyed the hobby for a few weeks. Modeling reality in sketch-form helped me to see interesting compositions in photography. But I’ve dropped sketching now, because photography is so much more empowering for me. I could claim that I don’t sketch because I don’t have time, but I’d be lying to myself and you. I just don’t want to.

On occasion, people see what I’ve done here and ask me to develop websites for them. It would be a lot easier in the short run to tell them I’m too busy, but that would be an ordinary excuse. What I tell them now is that I don’t design websites for other people. It’s the truth—apart from a funny site for my Dad, I only work on my own projects, and I use far more time writing articles like this than developing Th8.us. Often my response is surprising. I’ll hear “can’t you put me on a list?” or “this is only a little bit of work,” but I don’t budge.

If I said I was too busy, I’d have them believing I’ll get to them eventually. I may think I’m “letting them down easy” or that they’ll “figure it out,” but it’s extraordinary to speak the truth right away rather than hiding from honesty. When you lie about being too busy, you set off a whole chain of events that brings you down progressively. Especially if you do it to ten or twenty people. Everyone you meet keeps asking you when you’ll work for them. You have to keep the busyness charade up even though you never really want to work for anyone. You want to write about working instead of actually working. Why not just say it? :wink2:

If you don’t speak the truth, many of the people you meet will only know the fake, “too busy” you, and life in general will become depressing. You might even feel guilty that you’re going to the beach or reading a book, because you’ve told so many people how little time you have. If you have so little time, why do you have time to play games or go for a walk? You should be working on something really great.

When you are honest with yourself all the time, you’ll be honest with others, and they’ll be supportive of you. Instead of using busyness as a ploy to keep doors half-way open for you, slam those doors shut. They were never half-open anyway. No one is waiting for you to become less busy. They’re waiting for you to become less of a liar.

This is a foundation for being extraordinary, and it works in dating, hobbies, friendships, finances, work, life, work-life, projects, school, driving. Anything you can think of.

Even though I don’t drive, I see often enough that when you come to an intersection, people who have the right-of-way wave you on. You look at them, and you can’t see what they’re doing through their dark-tinted windows, and for a few seconds you’re confused. Why are they not moving? It looks like they’re waving, but you don’t want to chance it because as soon as you pull out, they’ll gear up and plow into you. It’s their turn. Why would they forfeit their turn? After a few seconds (or minutes), you become tired of waiting and you cross through the intersection anyway.

Wouldn’t it be easier if people just followed the rules of the road, instead of doing you a “favor” by letting you go first? It would be more honest too, and everything would get done quicker.

Applying the extraordinary

At all my classes at college, I give out a 4-by-6 print of one of my photographs to every student each class day. People enjoy seeing what I’ll come up with next, and it only costs me about fifty cents each day thanks to free shipping + referrals from companies like Shutterfly and Snapfish.

At first, I was afraid of doing this. Even though I hand out prints in the five minutes before class begins, I didn’t think my professors would like it. They’re prefer nothing to be handed out. Most students don’t want pictures of roses and sunsets anyway. They’re too busy studying (notice the “too busy” excuse).

Despite this, I went ahead and started giving out prints full-time about a year ago. I didn’t have many separate classes then, but it was a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed it. The program continues to this day. I’d created plenty of reasons not to do it, but none of them came to pass. The voice that tells me to be ordinary gets quieter and quieter in my head, as my true, extraordinary voice comes out.

Many people tell me how impressed they are that I “have the time” to write these articles. “They’re so lengthy and in-depth! It must take you days to write this.” Sometimes it does, but writing 3000 words feels completely ordinary to me. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how much I write. If you look at a blank screen with the sole purpose of typing 3000 words, you’ll fail completely. You have to have a topic and a purpose.

When you start doing extraordinary stuff, many people will tell you they could do what you do. If you publish a book, friends will tell you they’ve thought about publishing a book. If you make a million dollars, people will say “I should do that.” This is completely irrelevant. It makes no different what other people can do. No man ever reaches the limits of his potential. The purpose of personal growth is to get you closer to the limits of your potential (what you “can” do), but you’ll never actually get there. The journey is what counts. Just because a billion other people can take a picture of a rose, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t. Only 100 million of them are doing it, only 10 million of them are doing a good job of it, only 1 million of them are broadcasting their work, and only 1 of them is me.

Extraordinary people live below their means rather than going into debt. Then, you can afford to take risks… but you can’t afford to take risks if you have a $3200 / month mortgage over your head and you make barely more than that. On the other hand, if you’re living in a tent in your parents’ yard, you can take risks.

You can actually take risks either way. Life is just one big risk. Security is an illusion. Let go of security, and then you’ll become extraordinary.

Talking to Rocks

I’ve found a powerful and time-saving technique for responding to long-winded critiques and challenges from others.

Give a short answer.

Not because a short answer is better, but because there’s no need for a long answer. A lengthy, elegant, point-by-point essay can be interesting, but it’s just more of the same because you’re engaging the criticism. That’s boring and expected. You give me any argument, and I can come up with a logical, point-by-point answer why it’s wrong. But when you fail to attempt this at all, you cut like a knife through your opponent’s inquiries. Basically, you’re saying, “your points are so pointless, they’re not even worth talking about.” There’s no need to say it so bluntly, because it’s just plain negative. A short, positive, deflective response is much better, because it has all the positive aspects of a negative response, but none of the ill will. It saves the time and energy of everyone.

This isn’t something you should do all the time. You will get great feedback and ideas occasionally, which you should not dismiss. Most often, these come not from your friends or family, but from people you don’t know. This is because strangers have a fresh, entirely unbiased interpretation of you. Unfortunately, 90% of all the criticism you receive isn’t worth a cent. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the people who say “your photography doesn’t make me think” or “anyone can do what you do, it’s all Photoshop.” I’ve gotten those comments before, and I’ve try to give an in-depth and convincing counter-argument, when really, I should be saying “Dude, you just don’t get it. I’m not making art for you.”

I’ve shared The Cancer Myth with people, and they’ve told me how I shouldn’t be pretending medical knowledge, nor supporting “treatment” that has not been double-blind tested / backed by the government / approved by Oprah. They’ll say stuff like “There’s no evidence to back it up. If what you say is true, then surely more people would know about it.” These people are rocks. You can’t talk to them. I’ve tried. I’ve written more about cancer in Conquering Big Problems, and I’m writing more about it here, but it doesn’t matter if I show a rock all this and a million case studies and a million eyewitness testimonials. It’s still a rock I’m talking to, and there can be no progress. [For my uninformed readers: cancer is a vitamin deficiency, the prevention and cure for which is vitamin B17, found in the seeds of apricots, apples, and other fruits, which you should start eating today. Apricot seeds have a hard shell. Use a nutcracker to get to the seed.]

Strangers, family, and friends alike are your brothers, because everyone is a part of the interconnected whole. But that doesn’t mean you should waste time talking to rocks when you could be connecting to people. Time is precious. There are 6.5 billion people in this world, and if you speak English, you can influence 1.5 billion of them. That’s a lot of people, and you can never live to help all of them. It’s a sin to waste your time on people who are rocks because they refuse to consider change.

Rocks are all around us. Don’t worry; if you’ve been open-minded to read this far, you are not a rock. A true rock would’ve left long ago. Rocks are not impermeable, but it takes tons of effort to overcome rockiness. It’s like painting a house with a toothbrush. You can’t make someone turn from a rock into a person. He has to do it himself, or consciously decide at the influence of others. Persistent pestering just makes a rock harden. Don’t dedicate your life to a rock; pick up and move on to the non-rocks in this world.

I meant to make this a short article, but it’s become decidedly un-short. When you have an open stage like a blog, you should go all out by covering a subject in more depth than anyone else dares to. You’re not just influencing one person. Through the magic of the Internets, you can be influencing tens of thousands of people everyday with just a few, permanent hours of writing. Plus, you easily be compensated for your contribution through advertising and affiliate commissions. It’s the business model of a newspaper, without the staggering printing bill.

The next time a rock attacks you, let it be like a knife through water. What you say doesn’t matter, because you’re talking to a rock. Say “Yeah, you’re right.” Not even a rock can argue with that.

Practical Applications of Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

Practical Applications of Seven Life Lessons of Chaos.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (190 KB).

Herein lies chapter-by-chapter applications of the concepts in Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, a crazy but eye-opening book by John Briggs and F. David Peat. I wrote this for the QUANTA learning community (daytonastate.edu/quanta) in April 2008, and have been using the lessons to be out-of-the-ordinary ever since.

Chapter One
To be creative, you should embrace the random, the “slip with the chisel on marble” (24), the chaos of the vortex which channels your energy. Creativity is not “a special ‘talent’ reserved for a few” (11), but rather a mindset. Forfeiting the “constricted grip of our egos,” our “fear of mistakes,” and our love of staying in “comfort zones” (29), we can approach something as mundane as baking a loaf of bread as “always new” (30). This “sense of newness” (30) lets us reach a higher level, rewarding as with “moments of flow and exhilaration” (27) by our passionate efforts in whatever craft we pursue.

Briggs and Peat relate the chaos-approach for creativity to the way of self-understanding in many religions: you go into the wilderness, be it a real forest or symbolic meditation. This de-clutters your mind; “by letting go of consensual structures, a creative self-reorganization [becomes] possible” (22). The new organization is based on “nature’s creativity” (19), which is like the random yet enticing patterns seen in clouds or galaxies. The authors support this with J. Krishnamurti’s words, among others: “truth is not a fixed point,” not even a concept; it “holds us all together,” yet we must each find a unique version of it (21). Paul Cézanne’s art represents the new truth, which revels in “creative doubt” (22). Each stroke changes “the entire scene,” questioning what he painted just previously (22). Chaos theory is a paradigm shift from objective reality to subjective reality, where we recognize that each person has a unique view of the world (truths), that natural processes are infinitely complex, connected, and indivisible, and that a Zen-like flow (clarity of mind) connects us with ourselves, not intellectual introspection.

Welcome to the Future Modern Architecture

I can apply the principles of the vortex to photography as an art form. At times, I have “obsessions with control and power,” spending hours assembling a scene like the photo on the left, my “fear of mistakes” (29) pushing me to put everything in its place under the guise of creating something. At other times, I walk around with my camera, taking pictures of everyday objects at different angles or under odd lighting, and the results, while not “creative” in the sense of building something new, are my most engaging works. I might spend thirty seconds composing the scene, but I am in the flow, which is “intense clarity about the moment,” and, most importantly to me, with “no concern for failure” (27). This is what I did with the photo on the right, which is a of an everyday building in the Daytona Beach College campus, but with a sense of clarity from the clear sky and nonstandard composition, and there I am using chaos theory. I should now do more of the right and less of the left.

Chapter Two
The lesson is that small efforts can have rippling effects across vast oceans. While the conventional wisdom tells us that the world is composed of “linear systems,” where “small influences” produce small results (33), it is often the case that the results are exponential rather than linear. This is the difference between 10*10 (one hundred) and 10^10 (ten billion). In this way, a thing is amplified, as in the metaphor of “the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil” causing “a tornado in Texas” (33). We can deeply better society through positive acts such as chatting the weather or smiling at strangers, because we are improving the social climate which we are all a part of using “subtle influence” (41)—our cordiality produces a feedback loop in others, for which they become more upbeat, positively influencing the people they encounter, and so on.

The authors explicate their concept with the meteorological experiments of Edward Lorenz. He made long-term weather calculations, but took a shortcut while double-checking the results: he rounded to three decimal places instead of six (32). The results were far different; while he anticipated a .1 percent error margin, all the steps in the calculations were dependent on the data computed previously, so the rounding error increased by orders of magnitude through the process. This is the way the actual weather works; small influences are magnified through “iterating feedback,” so an increased temperature or air pressure cycle may be the root of a hurricane. Nature works this way too; by killing off cockroaches, lizards may die, which may deprive snakes of food, which may eventually lead to the destruction of an ecosystem. Briggs and Peat teach us that we can use the butterfly effect to exercise power in our everyday lives, where we may seem powerless. Rosa Parks, who would not be forced to the back of a bus for a white man, created butterfly power, in which thousands of others boycotted the buses, leading to the eventual fall of segregation (28-29). This is chaos theory in action.

The principle I work by in library service is “do good always,” meaning that I look out for the best interests of our patrons, putting in effort to get them the information that seems most relevant and reliable, ranging from questions like “where’s the bathroom” to “how can I build a bathroom?” (I had that question last week, and was thankful to find that The Kitchen & Baths 1-2-3 was in the right place on our shelves.) I have gone to libraries where the librarian is rude or dismissive of inquiries, where I could get no help searching the computer databases, and where asking the librarian to look up the book for me seemed like an imposition. My grandmother, in searching for a book on health remedies, recently told me that she was told it was “not their job” to “train” patrons to use the neo-card catalog (computer terminal). I do not demean patrons for bringing in lists of popular movies they want to put on reserve, or for asking how to use a mouse or set up an email account on our public computers, and it is my hope that through the butterfly effect I am positively influencing the entire community.

Chapter Three
“Going with the Flow” shows us that groups formed from chaotic self-organization are “highly adaptable and resilient” (59); often moreso than their structured counterparts. John Holland argues that most of our laws, such as for “traffic, health and safety, [and] consumer protection” were not “planned in advance,” but came about in response to feedback loops, contributing to their hardiness (59). This shows that good systems evolve from the bottom up. Trying to control the “natural chaos of society” is ineffective, such as the Chinese communists’ attempted command economy, which caused “catastrophic shortages and famines” (60).

Organizations, including governments, corporations, and even our beloved Daytona Beach College, tend to become “increasingly mechanical and impoverished” (69), in that as they increase in size, policies evolve to treat people impersonally, like cogs in a machine, for the purpose of efficiency and formality. Unforgiving, check-box style employee evaluations make it so that “people are not allowed to . . . make mistakes without paying heavily” (70). While such companies champion creativity in name, their hierarchal structure is made for “preventing those creative qualities from ever self-organizing within corporate walls” (70), enigmatically.

Despite rigid structure, all organizations have “subtle influences and chaotic feedback”; they must have “strange attractors” to keep people, and are quite often “open, nonlinear systems” (71-72). When we stop working toward an “ideal” of a inflexible, mechanical bureaucracy, instead embracing fluidity, innovation, and other more human traits, we can harness our creativity as a whole.

I can apply the lesson to group interactions, such as in QUANTA’s activities and projects. David Bohm says that dialogue is deeper than discussion, where “we suspend our opinions and judgments in order to be able to listen to each other” (74). Too often I stick to my own ideas and reasoning while ignoring the input of others, so “suspend[ing] and transform[ing]” such “nonnegotiable convictions” (74-75) can make me a diplomatic mediator and a more reasonable person. I would also like to stop seeing “individuals [as] essentially separate particles” (78), but rather as connected cells in a larger body. If instead of assuming I must “break the ice” with strangers, I assume there is no ice at all, I can build better connections while harnessing chaos’ underlying links.

Chapter Four
Life often appears polarized as either extremely simple or unfathomably complex. Mathematical fractals, which appear infinite and random, are actually simple and repetitive (81). Chaos “bursts, uninvited, into our lives” (86), but can be a cleansing process rather than a feared intruder. Pythagoras is a good example; before him, the only known numbers were integers and ratios of integers, but he made things complex by discovering that a right triangle with a base and height of one has a hypotenuse of the square root of two, an irrational number (87). Such numbers are “bursts of infinite complexity, of total randomness inside an otherwise regular system” (88), because they continue randomly and indefinitely, carving their own space on the number line. The discovery was “scandalous,” at first, “suppresed by the Pythagorean brotherhood” (88), but eventually came to be recognized as a great step forward in our understanding of mathematics. In this way, chaos produces “renewal [and] transformation” (86).

Complexity is inherent in “the way things interact with each other,” but not so much the things themselves (89). This is a shift away from hard science such as molecular biology, which “abstracts and simplifies nature” (90), but we must recognize it to avoid fragmentation. Lewis Thomas argues that if we tried just to understand everything about a protozoan, we would find that we could never know everything about it, because that “would require understanding its connection to the entire history of evolution and the . . . environment” (91). This is complexity theory’s thesis—we cannot continue breaking the world into chunks.

What I see from this chapter is that the world is not black and white, but rather shades of gray, just as nothing is truly simple nor complex. Briggs and Peat write that we try to simplify during a war, seeing the enemy as a mere “evil brute,” while our side is infinitely virtuous (93). The enemy follows suit, but the “real truth” (if we may call it that) is somewhere in between. I am guilty of being overly analytical, which may lead me to a fragmented view of the world. Where I can learn to see nuances and subtleties is in my studies on the piano; I should accept some mistakes, off-tempo playing, and my own improvisations as my creative additions to the classical pieces I play. I will write more letters by hand; I get too caught up in my “digital strategy” (90) for the world that I ignore the feeling that is lost in typed text. “What’s between” is often more interesting than what is at the edges.

Chapter Five
Till the Middle Ages, art was seen as rational, in that it meant “seeing the spiritual connections in things, the rhythms and delicate balance or ‘ratio’ among subjects and objects” (120). Since the industrial age, rationality is viewed in a mechanical way, it being “the capacity to be logical, analytical, coldly objective, and detached” (120). Our “enlightened” view denies the “nuances and resonances” that exist in our world; organic patterns such as snowflakes, river streams, or even the “self organized chaos” found in “towns and villages” are conveniently ignored (123). Unlike widgets from a factory, each person, tree, or cloud formation is “self similar” (103), in that there are others like it, yet it is unique for having variable subtleties. When we accept this, we can appreciate the art that abounds in nature’s creativity.

The authors show us fractals in flames, ice, rocks, and clouds (101-107). Even our brains are fractal folds of neuronal tissues, each different from the rest (107). Like with Dionysus, rationality is creativity (121). One idea that comes from the mechanistic view is that we can “spray 50,000 tons of propane or ethane into the South polar sky” to heal the ozone layer (122-123), but if we step back to see that nature is complex and intertwined, we will know that “piling one technology upon the problems created by other technologies will only perpetuate the mind-set that is destroying our natural world” (123). The fading ozone layer cannot be fixed by kludges, but rather by going to the source of the problem (our pollution).

I can use this lesson in my photography. I have always looked at everyday scenes as being artistic, but have shot less still life and scenery at the coaxing of my photography professor. After the end of the semester, I will be getting back to my roots of “seeing the art of the world,” such as in the fractal patterns of roses, sunlight, cloud formations, and other elements of nature. My best creations come when I am not rigidly analyzing the frame, but instead composing for whatever looks good to my eye, and by doing more of this will be harnessing chaos theory.

Chapter Six
We think of time as constant and unchanging, a force that is “mechanical, impersonal, external, and disconnected” from ourselves (125). Our real perception of time, however, may be “composed of clusters of tiny discontinuities” (126), such as how “events happen in slow motion” when we are about to crash a car (127). The authors argue that this may not be the mere rush of adrenaline hormones, but really a “clear vision of just how things really are in the dimensions of time”; we abandon the clock and take on “fractal time,” with it’s “temporal nuance” (127). By using time “as a shopping basket,” we “lose the flavor of life” (139). Sadly, the modern corporation tells us “you’re supposed to be working all the time you’re here” (141), which leaves no time for reflection and creativity which would otherwise boost our productivity and spirit.

An example of elastic time is the psychiatric discovery that “a dream unfolds in the brain in only seconds,” though it may seem to encompass hours (232). “Our brains never remember an event in exactly the same way twice,” because each recollection “connects to the whole structure of our consciousness” (232), including our own awareness of time. The Polynesian islanders recognize this, with their afternoon fiestas being an “hour” that is “more than 100 of our minutes.” But when they are working fiercely in the morning, an hour may be “only a few tens of our minutes” (136), which demonstrates a truer definition of time—one connected to how much work we do and our internal rhythms.

While I live in a world of QUANTA assignments based on mechanical time, I can still disconnect in hobbies like photography, music, and shelving books at the library. I made a step toward fractal time in mid-2007, when I vowed never to wear a watch again. It served to keep me obsessed with the clock, even in lieu of pressing appointments, and so dropping it lets me focus on “the rich time of nature” (137). If I need to know the time, there are plenty of clocks on the walls.

Chapter Seven
With our long-standing “mechanical perspective,” we see ourselves as “no more than a collection of externally related parts” (162). This is like learning to drive a car from an owner’s manual and technical diagrams. We, just like the Earth, are more complex than the sum of our parts. Traditional Cartesian science avoids subtleties and intuition, but that is in fact where the most truth lies. To find unity, Briggs and Peat say that we should develop “an ability to reason aesthetically,” switching from “obsessive focus on control” to recognition of “emergence and change,” so that we may become participants rather than masters of our world (165).

The authors use the Native Americans as an example of inter-connectedness, with the story of a young man who would “travel across the United States and Canada attending powwows.” Despite not having money, “there was always someone to give him a lift to the next reserve”; he “trusted the system” of “all my relations” to support him (163). As a middle-aged worker, he does the same for other youths, keeping the tradition alive. In our psyches, there is a “sense of solidarity with the entire human race,” yet since the Renaissance, the prevailing ideology pins us as “isolated individuals” (162-163). The very definition of “consciousness” has changed from “what we are knowing together” to what we know as fragments (149). To rejoin the whole, we must tear down these imaginary walls between us by embracing the community as an extension of ourselves.

I am going to be applying this over my remaining year at Daytona Beach College, as I will be involved with my peers in Phi Theta Kappa, and more open to connections with others through the group skills from QUANTA. I am living compassionately instead of competitively, which involves diverting focus from myself, and instead helping others and valuing our community.

Work Cited

Briggs and Peat. Seven Life Lessons of Chaos. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

Investment and Efficiency

Say I have a plain text file of 500 dates formatted as MM/DD/YY and I need to change them to YYYY-MM-DD. There are a couple of options. I can do it all by hand, wearing out the backspace and arrow keys, and opening myself to the possibilities of typos. Or, I can find an automated way to do it. Say I’m slow, and it takes me three hours of fighting to find a good text editor and figure out how to use regular expressions to make the changes all at once. It would’ve been quicker just to do it all by hand. So which method is better?

Obviously, using regular expressions was much more efficient, but the overhead was much higher. There is a comparatively steep learning curve, and it takes a lot more time to figure out and implement than mere manual labor. But it’s an investment, and the investment is all up front rather than being spread over years. Some day I’ll need to do something similar again, and leveraging the experience I gained here will make it that much quicker.

Pursuing efficiency even when the road is bumpier and filled with pitfalls is a hard resolution to make.

Personally, I’d prefer to look for a creative and automated solution to a problem, even if it takes ten times more time and effort than doing it the normal way. The normal way is boring. Being engaged in the mind is always the better choice over being efficient in inefficient processes.

Take my How to give file names to your photos article for example. A pro-progress yet short-sighted person might ask, “Why would you waste time on something so trivial? Just give descriptive file names to your photos like a normal person.” But that’s not the point. The point is to find the better way to do things and follow through, even if the upfront investment is higher. Inventing is always more fun, even if the gains are minimal, for the coolness factor alone. I’d rather be creative but take six hours than to work efficiently but boringly in three.

This website is an example of high efficiency plus high investment. When I post a photo here, all I do is upload a file, link to it, write out a description and some keywords, and possibly a source image, which takes all of ten minutes. Then, an army of automated processes take over to start updating tag pages, category listings, RSS feeds, counters, galleries, posts lists, and more, site-wide and beyond. A URI is created based on my title, automatically (spaces turn to hyphens, etc.). The post counter in my sidebar updates. Three thumbnails with links are dynamically created with links: a small one for the header, a large one for the post, and a medium one for the gallery. The gallery is automated updated and every older photo is pushed back. The small thumbnail appears in the header randomly. The large one pops up right on the screen when you click, and all the code is handled on the server side. Photos pop up at the top of the home page, and at the bottom of the index.

My server automatically mirrors the post to LiveJournal and Facebook, serving as a running backup and giving options to my readers. An RSS feed is updated, and a third party called Feedburner sends out an email for my posts to 150 subscribers each day. Sites I link to are pinged, Google, Yahoo, and others automatically start crawling, and my new post starts popping up around the thripp.com network: on the main page, in the global feed, in the latest posts, and in every site’s sidebar. The local search engine is updated behind the scenes. Three of my other posts are displayed below the new photo through automated keyword matching. A printable, formatted version is created and linked to. The timestamp is saved. Archives by date are created. Social bookmarking links are added. A comments system and accompanying RSS feed pops up. When the second visitor stops by, a static HTML copy and gzipped (compressed) version has been created, and one or the other is automatically served up depending on what my visitor’s browser supports. It’s like magic.

The time investment for all this has been quite large. Despite doing almost no original coding and the extensive open-source community around WordPress MU, it’s taken my hundreds of hours to plan and design everything, to work out compatibility issues between plugins, to experiment, to debug, to get the software to do what I want instead of what it wants to do. I had to get a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, PHP, Apache, MySQL, SEO, etc. just to know where to go. Far harder than plugging away on deviantART. But that is someone else’s website, where they make the profits. You might think the efficient way is to forgo the investment and keep posting there. Then when I get banned on frivolous charges or get fed up with the service, I can move to Flickr or MySpace or SmugMug, confuse all my followers, and start the process anew. But to the leader’s mind, that is obviously the wrong way to go, despite the low barriers to entry.

The literal overhead for all this is very high. I even had to switch hosts recently, because the old one wasn’t cutting it with the weight of the processes. There are hundreds of files and scripts on my server, all handling different pieces of a dyanmic website. This is heavy and slow. But the efficiency outweighs it. It’s not efficiency in terms of computer time (insignificant), but efficiency in terms of human time (very significant). The most efficient way for the server is if I post a static HTML file with some text and one image. But this is no good for me, and it’s no good for my visitors. Computer time is always cheap, but your time is quite important. If a much faster or more complex computer can do what you do, even if it costs five times more, it’s worth it. This is efficiency triumphing over investment.

Efficiency is always the higher road, because it’s human. You don’t see cats coming up with more efficient ways to hunt birds. They spend hundreds of years on the same tried, true, and tired practices. They’re being quite “efficient,” but it’s done in a most uneconomical way, so much so that they may as well be wasting 90% of their time, if they were only using creative solutions in the remaining 10%, like weapons or camouflage or traps.

As an employee, you’ll often be stuck with methods that are battle hardened, but highly inefficient. Perhaps it is the library that has all its employees add bibliographic records by hand, because the administrators are too afraid to change systems. Or it could be the office store that focuses on pushing valueless warranties at the expense of its customers, the government agency that stifles thriftiness by requiring you to meet wasteful spending quotas, or the college that is afraid to shift to digital photography or online classes. Inefficiency is the way of the bureaucracy, just as it’s the way of animals and dull people. It’s easy to take the long, uncreative way; there’s almost no risk of loss because it’s a sure-fire success. That doesn’t make it worthwhile, though, because its accomplishments are meager and unspirited at best. To get somewhere, you have to invest time and money, even if it may yield no benefits.

Some organizations are more daring and better to work for. Google is known for that. But all of them are going to turn blindly against investment occasionally. The only way to avoid it is to work for yourself, and even then, doing the best thing rather than the safe thing is hard. Anything else is being penny wise but dollar foolish. Like my sociology teacher used to say: bureaucracies are hardy and resilient. So are cockroaches (except in that photo). Do you want to be like a cockroach? It isn’t worth it, no matter how much vulnerability you are shielded from.

You can use investing to garner efficiency in many areas of your life. Why buy a pack of cigarettes when you can save by buying the whole carton? If you’re a smoker, you don’t expect to suddenly quit, do you? Why publish your book through an on-demand press that charges $5 a copy, when you can get it for under $1 by doing a run of 5000 up front, and paying all at once? That’s what my Dad did. It’s expensive to start, but is going to save you so much in the long run. Unless you totally fail. My Dad hasn’t been successful. But if you don’t take the risk of committing yourself, you’re all that more likely to avoid success. You’ll be stifling yourself every step along the way, because your subconscious mind wants to prove itself right for not being willing to invest.

Investment is not a panacea; you must use it on things you are very committed to; things which have a chance of succeeding. I wouldn’t say buying $10,000 in lottery tickets is a good thing. But if you’re doing one thing well, you are efficiently losing money. It’s a much more efficient way than heading to the grocery store each week to buy just one lottery ticket. All those wasted trips…You could’ve just thrown away your money all at once and have been done with it! And that is the best choice, but only if you’ll be wasting the money anyway.

High investment narrows your focus. Instead of working willy-nilly, you pick a specific path and work at it incessantly. Being a jack of all trades is great, but gaining cursory knowledge of ten subjects can take as much time as becoming an expert in one. I’m trying to become an expert with my photography, at all costs. I hardly play the piano anymore, because it just wasn’t working out when I wanted to focus my attention elsewhere. I’m invested in being unemployed, because I want to make money off my passion without having to work (my work isn’t work—it’s fun). But if I stay on the fence and refuse to invest time, money, efforts, and resources, I’m guaranteed not to succeed. If I focus too heavily on maintaining dead hobbies rather than building my strength, I’m also squandering efficiency. The path is always changing, and old goals need to be abandoned unfinished to make way for the new. But this in fact is the highest investment of all: investment not for your comfort, but for your growth.

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