Living without stuff

Something new every Tuesday! And maybe Sunday


I've realized that I have enough pictures on this page that it no longer takes a trivial amount of time to load. This is undesirable when linking to a specific post with the id tag.

Future posts will have their own pages, and all that's on this page will be one big post called 'Older posts.'

I don't get why people tell social media everything so easily. Why do you want to tell Facebook what you like? Why always tell it where you are? Why do you so easily give your secrets away?

Do you want your friends to know what you like?

Maybe you appreciate that your crush likes a bunch of stuff so you can stalk them for when you ask for a date. Perhaps you hope that by posting your own likes, you hope that you too have someone planning to ask you out on a date.

What are they going to do with all of your likes?

I'm not sure, but it would be really interesting if you start seeing ads with music that you have liked in the background.

Or, they could offer advice to their client about you. Facebook knows that you like a certain DJ, that you took a trip to see him in festival last year, and that you have posted statuses that mention the DJ's name. They can tell the ticket master that presenting you with news that that DJ will be in town in four months makes you more likely to convert on the early bird ticket offer.

Even though this sounds scary, it does mean that you get to go see the DJ you like. Don't get me wrong, I can see the benefit of telling it what you like.

But the difference there is that you were interacting with the system, not another human.

You are interacting with the Targeted Advertising engine.

So, there is benefit to using Facebook as a content delivery service. You tell it you like, their machine does some algorithms, their business development people share it with their customers, and they get paid to give you more of what you like.

I like that.

But what if your intent is to actually inform your friends that you do like something. So that maybe you can find someone who will go with you to see that DJ who's coming to town in two months.

I wonder how good it is at that.

It's really good at being a content delivery service, though. And it'll just keep getting better as new use cases are found for your data. And don't worry, people are hard at work at this very moment trying to find new ways to get inside your head to give you what you like to make their company more profitable.

It's the challenge of Big Data - companies have more data than they know what to do with. In the age of zero-privacy, it's oddly comforting to know that, although all of my personal data is being collected and put up for sale, there's too much of it for current systems to process into valuable insights.

After all, you are the consumer. As long as you ask, content - physical or virtual - you shall receive.

It's a vicious cycle. You feed it new things all the time. It improves the machine. As you keep feeding it, the machine will just keep improving and content delivery will become more effective.

But what does it give you in return for getting all of your data for free other than consumables? Does it give you anything that will help you grow yourself? Or do the pockets of the financiers do all the growing?

I'd argue that the only way it can help you grow is through the human-human contact it has the ability to provide if used in such a way.

But there's no reason to tell it what you like if you just want your friends to know. You can just go tell them.

Plus, if you ask your crush out, the answer you get won't have anything to do with the date idea you proposed, It'll be based on you.

I have a confession to make.

I have this idea in my head that having a really nice, clean, organized desk is what I need to finally not be distracted, be really productive, and get a bunch of things done.

It's a really powerful thing. I envision an apartment. In this apartment, there's a nicely-organized desk.

No computer here

On the desk, there's a computer. The computer is also super organized. All of the things that I'm immediately working on are no more than two clicks away.

But how realistic is this?

Before we even go there, note that I'm thinking that some thing in the future will help me get more done. I'm yearning for a clean desk in an organized apartment hoping that it is going to help me with my problem of productivity. If I peel it back a little more, I'm telling myself that I can't solve the problem now because my environment isn't ready yet - I don't have a clean desk or my own apartment.

One, two, three... lies.

I'm just lying to myself. But it's the easy thing to do.

"Oh, you know, I just need to get these few things and then I'll be good."

"Oh, I can't do this yet because I'm not ready."

"Well, it's really just not the right time."

Well, time is running out, people!

I have a limited amount of time left in my life before I become too old and lying to myself like that is only going to create a bigger, more powerful ghost.

A good friend came over last night for dinner and showed me something that I thought was really brilliant.

He got tired of telling himself that he would do all these things to improve his life, but then forgetting about them, so he decided to do something about it. (Ahem, new years resolutions anyone?)

What he did: He listed out the activities that he wanted to do every day, like 10 minutes of coding, and if he did it, he would check a box off. This way, he'd keep himself accountable to the things he had promised himself to do.

The first row of his paper was the date. Below that was something that made me smile big time while scaring the shit out of me. Something that I've thought a lot about that I had never tried to express in a meaningful way was staring right back at me.

It was a countdown. A countdown of how much time he had left.

I had thought about this in abstract form many times (link to life timeline post) but hadn't ever put hard numbers to it.

Every day, when he checks off the box, he knows that another day is gone forever. Tomorrow, he'll have to check off another box. Even if he forgets to do it one day, he'll just have to check off two boxes the day after tomorrow.

No matter what he does, the count decreases by one. It's a wonderfully cruel reminder that time is finite, which I think we don't take seriously, especially when we're young.

I thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to copy it.

How much time do you have left?

I've previously considered that when I turn 60, I'll be 'too old.' I don't mean that I think I'm going to die when I'm 60. 60 is just an arbitrary age that I have picked. There's no rhyme or reason behind it. It might just be because 60 is conveniently the approximately the age at which you are able to withdraw money from your retirement accounts.

But those withdrawals are optional, and I don't forsee myself having to withdraw money at that age. At 70 years old, however, I will be forced to withdraw money as per RMD rules.

This is further assuming that I'm still going to be living in the United States when I reach those ages. America might not even exist in it's current form in forty years, and something bad might happen to my retirement savings, so I'm not exactly counting on having that available either.

Anyway, I'm going with the age of 60 for no particular reason other than that I want to.

So let's do a little calculation:

It is currently October 28, 2017.

I will turn 60 years old in 2052.

That means there are 35 years, or 12804 days, between now and my arbitrary-selected age of 60.

12804 days does not seem like that much time, although it is more than the 9477 days I have already been alive, but not by much.

The halfway mark to look out for will be when I have 11,141 days left, on May 19, 2022.

It becomes more real and more scary when you think about how much time you have left with real numbers. You start to feel like a number because you have a numeric attribute assigned to you, which is a reason many people say they don't like going to public schools.

So that's what I'm going do to: invent a new timekeeping system to keep me more accountable to myself.

As I edit this, the date is 12690, meaning 114 days have gone by since I wrote this.

Dang, that's over a year!

Is it? I guess I could make a year 100 days in my time. What do you call 100 days? Does it have a cool-sounding synonym the way 100 years is a 'century'?

Darn, WordHippo has failed me

I suppose I could just call it a year. A week can be ten days. So I have ten weeks in a year, just like there were ten weeks per quarter in college, which felt like a year anyway. I'd like to think I'm perpetually in college learning things, so this should work just fine.

Do it now. What you're waiting for may never come

Earlier, I complained that not having a clean desk in a nice apartment was hindering my ability to be productive.

Well, I don't have my own apartment yet, but I am currently using a desk, so I can very easily clean it.

This is what I have to work with:

Where did all the stuff go?

Due to an oversight on my part, I neglected to take a before picture of my desk hosting the following items:

Oh, there it went.

You can use your imaginatory powers to visualize what my length of table looked like with everything on it.

Right off the bat, there are several things that can be put in better places.

The loose change can easily be put in it's place because as it turns out, there's a designated place for things like that.

The tiny tool box too. It can go where all of the other tools and things go.

The can of sardines can be... eaten.


The wallet, floss, and keys are things that I carry with my everyday. I rarely have a use for them at my desk, so they need not be on my desk. I put them on a stool by the door.

Now, let's start putting things on the desk, starting with the most important things.

The most important things

That's pretty much it. It's a good thing too because they take up most of the space already.

I also use these things in a variety of different ways, and the space should be designed to support those uses.

For example, the taking-notes-from-computer position:

Important things are being written down

Then, there is the copy-from-notebook-to-computer that must happen for these things to reach your eyes.

2018 and still haven't implemented copy-paste feature

There are three things in the pile that I have on my desk because they are related to to-do items. I've been meaining to go through the two storage devices to check if they hold any important files (not likely since I've been living without them for years, on average). I just sold my car, so the Metromile Pulse is to be returned to Metromile.

These things are transitory in nature, but they should still be in my face to make sure they don't stick around for too long. A little to-do pile is created for these things in a visible, but not too inconvenient place.

Get that shit out of here

These three things can be stacked together, the water bottle can be put on the coaster, and the stack of cards can go... somewhere too.

Now, I have a something that somewhat resembles a clean desk. It's a lot cleaner than it was before, but you'll just have to take my word for it since there are no pics to back up that it didn't not happen.

I can even eat while proofreading the propaganda posts on this blog!

Hey, that's not propaganda...

Well, that was exciting. Turns out I didn't have to wait for a super-organized new apartment to have a more organized desk.

I'm sure now I'll be much more productive...

Often, when I think about offering my help to someone, my inner critic gets the best of me.

I think:

Oh, I wont be able to help them because I don't know enough about their situation.

Oh, they'll see through me and realize that I don't have the same experience that I'll be trying to help them through.

Oh, they'll figure it out on their own. The best way to learn something is to go through it yourself, anyway.

And then...

nothing. I don't reach out anymore, I don't bring up the topic again - I just hope for the best for them.

And I wish that this voice in my head would just go away because it's freaking annoying!

This is the voice of a ghost whose job it is to kill you. This ghost is taunting doing a good job and eventually it is going to get the best of me, unless I figure out how to work with it instead of against it. We need to work together.

I hear you, inner critic. I've figured out what you're up to. You're the voice that will keep me thinking of myself as a victim. The GRAND FINALE will be when you make me contradict myself:

Oh, I should have offered to help that person way back then because that was life-changing, and now it's gone forever.

WHAT?? Way back when you said I wouldn't be able to help them, now you're just contradicting myself!

But... you're right.....

You're always right. That's why you're such a powerful voice.

Well, at least I think you're right. You might not actually be right. You only says things that can't exactly be proven.

You're the voice of regret.


Would you like a new job?

What side of ridiculous do you want to be on?

Earlier this year, I stared on a side project for work. The side project was to make a marketing video for the company. I started the work in secret, because I didn't want to tell anyone about it until I had something going.

But somewhere after I got about 80% of the work done and had told my manager that I had been working on it and I would aim to show it to him at the end of the month, I stopped working on it.

Never finished it

Well, I finished today, but it is now five months later.

All I had to do to finish it was to add a voicetrack and a couple sound effects, and it had been sitting on my computer for five months.

Five months.

Even after I gave my manager a firm timeline, it still took me that long to finish what was probably the easiest part of the project.

So what finally compelled me to finish it today?

I wrote it down.

That's it.

I just wrote it down, and I made it happen. It made it happen even better than telling my manager to expect it soon.

The power of writing things down continues to amaze me.

I was reading through an old journal the other day, and I was amazed. A lot of the things I had written had actually become my reality!

After reading that, I just had to write something down in the journal I had been kinda-sorta keeping to solidify it's use.

This is a notebook. You write things down in it as they happen & need to happen. One central location for everything. Once it's full, you go to the next one. The cloud is for keeping other notes, not day-to-day things that you need to access frequently and quickly. It's too distracting to stuff stuff in a way that you actively need to access it in a computer with a web browser that has access to the internet...

... Ohy wait, what was I supposed to be doing? 1

You only need one notebook, too. No need for taking notes no comes-loose leaf engineering paper. That stuff is for doing homework problem sets on. I don't like assignments. Throw it all away. None of it is important anyway, and can be re-created if it's needed again.

BUT only one notebook. All others must go. It's the simplest way. This is also the tidying of sentimental items. Don't have moments. CREATE moments.

YOU CAN DO IT RIGHT NOW. One time, I finished just more than half of the pages. Just one time though. It was my first notebook (no it wasn't I had many more before that). I wrote similar thingsn in it as what's above on 18 Dec 2015. "Stuff only happens when you do things. You have to make it happen." Is that 5 years of thinking about it?

These are the instructions. What happens here gets pushed with other tools.

1 - Writing stuff here isn't any less distracting

More journal posts coming soon.

If you don't shoot, you have a 0% chance of making the basket.

But if you do, your chances increase to a number. You can't even multiply zero by anything to calculate the chance you have of making the basket if you do take the shot. It's incalculable.

The premise of needing to ascertain success before you start something is engrained in the way we think.

How many times have you heard someone you know talk about an idea, get super excited about it, then get bogged down in all the little details and conclude it won't work?

I see this all the time.

This is something that I struggle with myself. There are many projects that I start, but don't follow through to completion.

But for each project that I do start, there are plenty that I don't start because I convince myself that they will fail. When I think about it now, this sounds a lot like watching the baseball come at you and deciding not to swing because you know you're going to miss. I'd make a shitty baseball player.

Another thing. Have you ever been in a meeting where you've wanted to say something, but you don't because you think it might come across at stupid, then someone else says the exact same thing? To add insult to your own injury, everybody thinks it's a great idea!

Yea, me too. Then I'd go around for a while feeling half proud because I thought of something smart to say and half ashamed that I didn't speak up.

Next time, I'd say.

This is something that I'd like to work on for myself.

I'm too tired to write stuff right now so I'm going to stop here. I think this is pretty straight forward anyway.

What to do: Say more of what's on your mind. Feedback, questions, ideas that you have. The worst thing that can happen is that someone doesn't like your feedback, question, or idea, and will just tell you. Or they might get really mad and be passive agressive towards you for some time. But you probably don't want to associate with those types anyway.

What motivates me on a day-to-day basis? What's my "street level" motivator? This is a question from an online course that I took that was recently released on IWT.

This calls for an ordered list.

  1. Helping someone out, especially if it's a life-changing way. This makes me really, really happy and right away makes me want to help out more people. I got a message from a buddy I used to work with at the large enterprise software company.
    This text made my day
    I was walking through LAX when I got this message, after a long day of meetings that seemed to go nowhere. But getting this text made me forget about all that and feel really good - and motivated to help others improve their lives.
  2. Simplifying something. I was looking at my personal cash flow diagram yesterday and figured out a way to close a whole bunch of accounts. Every time I simplify something, I get a huge sense of relief and the feeling that I've saved myself a lot of future time.
  3. When people tell me their desires, dreams, and fears so I can try to find a way to help them. This doesn't always work. I'm actively trying to break the habit of being a good fellow because I'm starting to realize that most people create problems for themselves that they don't want to solve. If something seems too hard, it's easier to create a reason for why you can't do and blame that it instead of actually just trying to do it. There are so many mental barriers that we naturally put up as a result of our education, listening to what people around us say, doing what society asks of us, and listening to what our parents tell us. After years and years of this, it becomes really difficult to see what those barriers are: nonexistent. 1 But this, still doesn't stop me from trying to figure out what makes people tick.

Last Friday, I asked a friend what he would do if he didn't have to go to work, and could do anything he wanted, no limitation.

He said he would travel the world because he wants to develop a sense of worldliness. He knows that he has a much better life than a lot of people in countries that don't have the simple luxuries that we do, but he wants to be able to internalize it, and the he thinks the best way to do that is to go to countries to see how other people live. He recently thought about buying a new car, but said it's a dumb idea because most people don't even have the luxury of shoes.

What would you do if you didn't have to go to work, but money was not enough to travel?

Go back to school.

Doesn't school require money too? More money than traveling the world?

Yea, that's right...

Ok, well what if money was just enough to cover rent and day-to-day living expenses - take your life now and subtract the work. What would you do?

Go hiking.

He loves being outside, being in nature, and escaping from the day-to-day grind. It'll allow him to take a step back and re-evaluate his life and what he wants out of it.

And from there? Not sure! One step at a time.

I'll tell you a funny story:

Each quarter, each LOB of the small enterprise software company I work for put out a quarterly foward-looking planning and backwards-looking evaluation report. Last week, I saw something written that wasn't true; something was claimed to be finished when it was not - it made it seem like the project was largely finished when it had barely gotten started.

I called it out. 2

I left a comment on the document itself, then submitted feedback that the organizer had sent out. I thought about doing it anonymously, but it didn't make sense because the feedback was so specific and, because I was heavily involved in the project, people would know exactly who wrote it. No sense trying to hide something so easily discoverable.

I laid the exact status of the project - what had been done and what was remaining. A lot of work had been done on it, but several challenges had kept the project from progressing as quickly as desired. I worried that if the report was going to be the basis of the work that would be prioritized in the coming quarter, it would not get enough prioritization and would fall to the wayside until a last-minute ultimatum was given to get it done, the same thing that had just happened last quarter.

My feedback posed three questions:

  1. Is the quarterly report useful, or do we find it templative burden?
  2. Are we approaching the report the right way?
  3. What prevented accuracy in the report?

I gave a suggestion that we can make the tasks in the report project-based rather than time-based, that way there would not be the pressure to partially complete something before a deadline and claim it's fully done, just to able to say that it's done on time. Part of me felt that the report was written in futures language to please higher-ups today, and make it true later on.

Shortly after submitting, the HR person called a meeting with me, saying that she wanted to discuss the feedback.

I was the only one in the company, to submit questions on the report. Everybody had been asked. Only two people 3 had submitted feedback, which concerned her. She said that the points I brought up were valid and are in line with some of the challenges she has been facing in getting different groups to collaborate.

The next day, I told my manager about my feedback. He said that it might come across as contentious to a certain group, especially the team who was ultimately responsible for the project. His advice was to message them and give them a heads up so they were not surprised when it came up in meeting.

I did. It was a great idea. Later, I learned that the most optimal way to have approached the situation would have been to do that first.

Everybody that I messaged was already well aware of my feedback. The manager in change of the team responsible for the project ssaid it had caused a "shitstorm." In addition to all of the other stuff that was being demanded of the team, this was another blow to top it all off.

I apologized for that and told him to let me know if he needed any help.

I can't say for sure, but I think that most people would be scared shitless at this point, that their job would be gone very soon.

How can you go around calling people out like that? How could you cause such a shitstorm?

Surely there will be some reaction to what you did that will be directed at you. Maybe disciplinary action.


Yes, there may be. I may be called into a meeting and told not to do such a thing again. I may be reprimanded for what I did and the shitstorm I caused. I may be disliked by the manager that I likely caused to lose a few nights sleep.

But I don't care.

I don't mean it in the "I'm going to fuck shit up all the time because fuck the world" type of way. I mean that in the "I did what I thought was right" type of way. If someone wants to put me on trial for this, sure. I would have a very solid case.

The meeting was cancelled due to lack of participation. This caused people to go in and actually read the report and the comments that I had left regarding the status of the project. Twenty two additional questions were submitted.


The way many of the other questions we written pointed to a feeling of deep discontent with the way things were going, from why we hired a contract sourcer when we are already paying several recruiters to someone being uncomfortable that people had a beer on their desk while working.

Our CEO said that he had never before gotten so many questions. Instead of doing the normal live Q&A format, he wrote out his responses in a long email to the company instead of the normal live Q&A format.

Even if my question came across as contentious, I may very well have had something to do with the numerous problems others were having but had not said anything about - probably because they don't have FU money.

Quite the adventure that was.

To be truly honest, I kinda liked all the drama.

I have a friend who always asks, "Anything interesting happen at work recently?" Now, I have something other to say than "No, not really."

Guys, this is what having F.U. Money is all about. It's about the freedom to do what you believe is right, without letting economic fear stand in your way. And even if I did get the kick, whatever. I'd be just fine.

Strangely, not needing the job that you have makes you much more of a desirable employee that they want to incentivize to keep around.

If I didn't have to work, but money was just enough to cover rent and day-to-day liivng expenses, I would go to work just so I could cause "shitstorms" like that.


But only if, in the midst of those shitstorms, someone tells me that they appreciate what I did because it helped them and/or gave them new insigts.


  1. Making delicious food I've started having friends over for dinner once in a while. I say it's because cooking at home is better, cheaper, and healthier than eating out. But one of the main reasons I do it is because I like to make food that I want to gobble up. I don't think this is even very hard. It's easy to make a meal better than 95% of the restaurants in my area - it's already guaranteed before I even start cooking - and the other 5% that are comparable are so expensive that a trip there would break the bank. I like it when people eat my creations.
  2. Showing my dad that I can live a great life without his help. This is a big one. I'm not really sure what the motivation behind this is. It could be that I want to prove to myself that I'll be just fine without his support. A lot of my upbringing revolved around him trying to get me to do things, and when I didn't take an interest, him complaining about all the money and time he spent (wasted) on a stupid kid. I'm already living on my own, but this mental barrier is one that is still standing strong.
  3. Play games for hours and hours. I'm watching a Minecraft Longplay right now and would like to be able to play a game without feeling like I'm wasting time. A couple of friends got into playing Maplestory again. After a days of grinding late into the night, I stopped - deciding that right now was not the time to try to relive my childhood.

After writing down what motivates me, I feel like I have enough to visualize what my ideal day looks like:

> Get up when I wake up. No stupid alarm
> Standard breakfast, three egg yolks and a glass of milk.
> Meetings throughout the day will be with people that ary trying to improve their work, life, financial, love, living, whatever situation.
> Friend wants to grab lunch or go do something? Sure, I'll be there. Or, if it sounds stupid, no. How about we do something else instead? > Spend a good few hours immersed in gameplay. Or, if it's a nice day, take a walk and maybe lay on the grass outside in the sun which probably means I'll take a nap there.
> Write.
> Have a friend or two come over for dinner - go to the grocery store to pick up food for the feast.
> Cook and have great food and great conversation.
> Wrap up the night with whatever happens: board games; play with my cat; sexual intercourse; more conversation; watch a movie; read a book; write some more; think about work; play more games; write; lie on floor.
> Sense of relief when going to bed. Exhausted. But it's the good type of exhaustion. Plus, tomorrow, interesting things are happening and I don't want to be groggy or tired.
> Tomorrow should be great, but right now the bed feels so great and can't wait ... to ... fall ... zz ...


1. You can test this easily. Think of something you know to be true most people won't agree with you on. What usually happens when you talk te people about it? Usually an increbible resistance to your idea, right? This happens with so many topics i t's almost amusing. I've resorted to trying to explain the financial gain I get from people doing what they think is best for them (Will write a post on this). To this day, I'm that weird kid that cooked with a lot of butter and ate raw eggs. "Best not to eat Don's food too much because your arteries will get clogged lol!" People must think I'm dement. (go back)

2. FU Money made me do it. (go back)

3. Both people were me. I submitted a short question that poked fun at the situation in a humorous way using a company-specific phrase. I thought people might enjoy it. (go back)

The only way to handle danger is to face it.

If you see a ghost, walk right into it. Do not run away. If you do, it will eventually kill you.

Every once in a while you get the ability to look at your life from the third person and deeply think about what it is.

I got another jolt of reality last Friday right before leaving work. I fainted on the way out of the bathroom and slammed my head on the floor. My ears were ringing into the next day, and the back of my head still hurts. When I turn my head from side to side, I can hear and feel a slothing noise that sounds like some friction is happening between my skull and something in my head. I can't tell whether it's a new sound or not because it's never occurred to me before, but I'm pulling the hair on the back of my head trying to put things in their supposed place again.

I'm getting light-headed just writing about it.

Believe it or not, a month and three days ago a similar thing happened.

A group of friends and I were just about to start hiking into wilderness for a weekend backpacking trip. We were hanging around the bed of my friend's pickup truck for another friend to show up, talking and smoking. I had no more than three egg yolks that morning and a few sips of water. I was saving my provisions for the hike.

The combination of hunger, dehydration, heat, elevation, and smoking got to me. Slowly, everything became brighter, and soon just white. I couldn't see anything. The next thing I know, I'm waking up with three people in front of the sun looking over me asking if I'm all right. It took me a while to come to and recognize them...

It felt like I had woken up in a different world. Like I had just pressed START on my controller. The ensuing three days of backpacking kept that feeling going.

When we got out of the wild, sat in our cars and drove back to our normal lives, I promised myself that I would try to keep the feeling of life being like a video game alive as long as I could.

It just felt much better to live that way, pretending life was a video game.

Last Friday I pressed START again. But there weren't any strange circumstances to point to like the day of camping. It was just a normal Friday night.

To me, it was a reminder of a few different things.

We're not invincible
We've all heard people older than us tell us this - most often probably in regards to drinking. "I used to be able to drink like you, now I can barely have one! Enjoy it while you still can." When people have told me that, I'd look at them funny, thinking, What. I don't think I'll lose this ability as long as I take care of myself and keep my body in good shape. You must have fucked up somewhere.

It's not that the person is trying to put a damper on my day, but is just saying that aging is a normal part of life, and things actually do start going down the metaphorical hill after a certain point. Our components start to break and processes degrade long before we actually die. They say the ringing in my ears are sound frequencies I'll never be able to hear again.

There's more to life than this, but you have to get after it
Whatever it is that you might be waiting for - promotion, raise, better quality of life, more time to do the things you love - it's not going to come automatically no matter how hard you wait or desire. The couple of weeks before my hard reset were very stressful, and I was disappointed at how things were going with the project I was working on. I wanted things to happen, but they were not happening. Most of the things I wanted to happen were completely out of my control.

I was waiting for things to get better. Next week, new processes and guidelines are going to be put in place which will supposedly make things better. I knew that it was a pipedream when one of my best friends complained about the same things at his company, only his is five times bigger than the one I work for. When I heard him I realized I was being a naive little shithead. If I want my quality of life to increase and work to suck less, I have to do something about it. Or perhaps nothing. But waiting is a fool's game.

You can blame whatever you want for your problems
It's the easiest thing to brush the reason for your discontent at something or someone else, but nothing will happen unless you go and make the change. I can blame my colleagues for not knowing better, for wasting my time and for asking me to work on things that go nowhere, but at the end of the day, I agreed to spend my time doing it. Putting angry vibes in the world doesn't do anything other than get others to escalate and put more angry vibes into the world. Deflating is a really hard thing to do for people, so you'll have much better luck at it happening than if you wait for someone else to do it. Likely, it'll never happen and you'll storm out of the place full of contempt.

To get back to the first line of this post, I think it's about time something started to happen. I think it's about time that I did something more to improve my life.

Nobody else will do it for me.

I made a mistake today.

I work for a company that does Internet security and I sent login credentials to a publicly-accessible demo site over email, asking the recipient to change their password as soon as they log in.

I was providing access to a demo with client-specific information. The customer was then going to show the demo internally to a contact to introduce us to another person within the company.

I didn't think anything of it at the time. I had done it many times before.

This response came back from the customer:

"I advise that you use a more secure method of delivering credentials to such sensitive information.

If your email had been intercepted, the hacker would have had everything they needed to do significant damage.

I'm not sure I feel comfortable sharing this any longer.

Please delete the account"

The self-justification process in me instantly came up with many excuses:

The client wasn't the right person anyway, and just wanted a way to say no.

I told the client to expect an email from me with credentials in ten minutes, so he should have expected the email and changed his password quickly.

The account was small and the deal would not have been of significant size anyway.

But none of these made real sense in my heart. I had opted for convenience instead of security.

It was the stupidest of mistakes as well. My company had recently updated policy that instead of sending login credentials over email, we would tell users to go through the process of resetting a 'forgotten' password.

I thought about this while I was writing up the email, but i still didn't do it.

This mistake, occuring so conveniently during the time I was on the final chapter of Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), seemed like the perfectly timed test.

In the car on the way to the next meeting with my rep, I thought hard about what to do. I knew that I could either do nothing, say that the client's reaction was overblown, and that the value of the product shouldn't be affected because of my error.

Come on, the prospect is going to not move forward because of that? Lame.

I could have blown it off, let by-gones be by-gones and moved on. It would have been the easiest thing to do. Everyone else who heard about what I did would forget about it at some point. I'm not on someone's watchlist either so it wasn't like this was a strike.

But not me. I would carry the error with me for as long as I lived. It would become heavier, and heavier, and heavier until...

I told my rep that the mistake I made was incredibly stupid and I should have known better. Then, I said the same thing an email to the client.

And this was incredibly hard for me to do.

What ultimately motivated me to apologize and make it clear that mistakes were made by me boiled down to three things:

Whether I had admitted my mistake or not, I would never make the same mistake again when sending credentials because I'll never forget the feeling I got when I read the client's response.

So what's worse: to remember that feeling by itself, or to also have to remember the part about how I didn't own up to my error?

This is trivial, I know, but it's an example so perfectly timed that I just had to record it.

It's funny - when I told my rep that I felt really bad for potentially screwing up the deal, he rattled off a bunch of reasons why I shouldn't feel bad. Some of them were the exact same justifications I came up with myself earlier.

I don't need to worry about making mistakes if someone will come up with justifications for me. It seems that all I have to do is own up to them.

This bodes well for my goal this year to simplify my life.

It's very obvious that two people will draw two different conclusions from the same story.

What may not be obvious is that two people would write the story differently.

I think real critical thinking would be to try to figure out why the person wrote the story the way they did, and what they might be leaving out.

In school, we learned to 'critically think' through reading texts and answering the question,

"In what different ways can this be interpreted? Please use evidence from the text to support your answer."

But what if instead we were asked,

"In what different ways could this have been written? Please use evidence from the world to support your answer."

We might have learned critical thinking in school, but we did not learn to look beyond what was given.

When that becomes a habit, what you see is all you get.

What ends up happening is that we don't want to look beyond what we're provided with. We think, Huh, this must be all there is to it. It affects our life in ways that we don't and can't see.

And when someone comes along and shows us, we won't see. It's out of our comfort zone; it's too much to handle; it's not really what we want - staying in the Given World is what we want.

Wait, but what about the person showed us that there is something beyond the Given World?

Well, he must have had it coming all along. Nothing that we could have done. Because ...

We're all full of excuses.

And we know it.

The thing is, once we've seen it, we know it exists. It becomes a Given.

Of course, we could always just keep ignoring it. But, doesn't that sound like something that would cause a boatload of regret down the line? The things you know are within your reach but you never went after them.

What's the alternative?

I don't know yet, but I think this book is a good place to start.

I'm on a cross-country United flight.

After take off and reaching our cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign came off, along with the reminder to please keep it buckled if you're in your seat.

The friendly flight attendant came down the aisle reminding us that we have can purchase a meal from the food cart.

I have been flying with United ever since I was a wee little lad and have racked up nearly half a million lifetime miles. I clearly remember the time when United gave out food for free, even on short domestic flights.

Even to their lowly economy class customers.

Everybody got a meal.

You could even specify a food alergy beforehand and they would make sure you were taken care of. When you book a ticket today, the system will still allow you to specify a food allergy - a simple reminder of times past.

Heck, there was even a time when you were allowed to smoke on a flight. But good thing they changed that. Nobody wants to be stuck up in an airplane breathing in second-hand smoke for several hours. That was obviously a good decision.

But would you say the same about food?

What about charging you for your first checked bag?

What about charging you to watch TV instead of even having those overhead television screens?

Changes were made, but were they good changes?

Most of the changes seem to provoke complaints and anger from their customers, so it wasn't to make them like United more.

So what gives? Why were these changes made?

The first obvious conclusion is that United had to save money so they cut back on their habit of serving food to everyone. Maybe if they didn't do it, they would have had to raise their ticket prices to stay in business.

Nobody likes it when things get more expensive.

But did ticket prices fall?

When they started charging you to check in your first bag, did ticket prices fall?

When they partnered with DirectTV to annoy you into purchase content instead of giving it to you for free, did ticket prices fall?

For a long time now, United has slowly been removing benefits and introducing fees for all the little things that make flying enjoyable.

Was any of it done to give their airline passengers a better flying experience?

If you go back to pre-TSA times, you'd barely recognize the feeling of flying.

Again, I'm stating the obvious when I say United is a for-profit organization that is going to do what it can to increase profits.

In the same way that the above statement is obvious, the easiest way to increase profits is to either install a fee where there currently is not one, or remove a benefit that doesn't completely obliterate your customer base.

And do it gradually, because people are horrible at noticing gradual change, remember? (If you don't remember, go here)


They're just taking advantage of me! They suck for doing that. They have been my airline of choice for my whole life, and this is how they treat me now? What has the world come to?

Shit, but I am also taking advantage of them. I'm sitting at a window seat with two people sitting to my right. Across the aisle there are three more people. Each row in front of and behind me is full - so full that the flight attendants were asking people to check in their carry-on luggage without charging them.

They even gave out several hundred dollar vouchers for those who volunteered to take a later flight.

I tell you, that's madness.

But, the fact that my flight is overbooked lets us understand an important piece to the puzzle of why everything seems so shitty these days.

And it's not limited to just flying.

Global warming got you down?

Right-out-of-school job search very difficult?

Can't seem to understand why some of the largest companies are some of the worst human rights offenders in remote countries?

Are you annoyed that Trump is president?

I, along with each of these people on this plane, are customers of United. And by being customers, we are actively telling United that we are just fine with all of those additional fees and loss of benefits.

"So, wait, uhh, you're saying that if we make the decision to not feed customers unless they pony up money for a shitty cancer-inducing meal, they'll still buy our tickets?"

We are literally telling them: No problem! Keep doing what you're doing. You can take away my meal, but I'll still fly your airline.

I'll show you that I don't care.

Take that, United.

In addition, I'm going to use your WiFi, which I paid for to upload a post about how much you suck

"Holy shit Chad, you're a GENIUS!"

Somewhere, a United executive named Chad was handsomely rewarded for discovering and exploiting the psychological trick that keeps us coming back even when we know the shit is getting shittier.

And we're making him easy mony. We basically handed him a raise, promotion, and huge end-of-year bonus for saving the company millions.

That executive, hungry for more, then came up with phase two: install a fee for your first checked bag, instead of your second.

Oh, we can act make it a privilege to get your first bag checked free if you have status."

And all of a sudden, in addition to the feeling we get when we have to stand in the long economy to check in using machines while those with status get their own line with two people to help you, we wish we had status.

"How do you get status?"

Rack up more miles! Or pay for it.

"Oh, ok. You really think they're going to go for this?"

You better believe it.

And the shareholders love it! They think:

"United has done it again. Once more, they have proven that they have the ability to increase productivity, decrease costs - and the change in value of my investment shows it. I'm going to continue to invest because I believe they will continue to innovate and the stock will continue it's upward motion.

"Keep 'growing your business' United!"

But they are flawed in their conclusion. Sure, United might have innovated in other areas of their business not related to customer satisfaction - like investing in newer airplanes that use less fuel - but they haven't innovated anything in terms of the customer experience.

From the point of view of the customer, they have de-innovated it. Flying with United sucks. It is currently my least favorite flying experience out of them all. United employees speak more negatively about their employer than their counterparts at other airlines.

So why the fuck am I sitting 30,000 miles up in the air on such a shitty airline?

Three reasons:

  1. I have so many United miles which can get me several free flights to anywhere in the world - I can't transfer them and it would be a shame to let them go to waste.
  2. My company is paying for this flight - I get the miles while they pay for the expensive trip with VC money.
  3. Sometimes when I submit a complaint, United adds a trip's worth of miles to my account balance. Nice!

I've asked others why they continue to fly with United even though they complain about how much it sucks.

Their responses typically fall into one of these categories:
  1. It's convenient because they fly to where I need to go and offer a lot of routes.
  2. It was my only choice due to logistical reasons such as departure airport and time.
  3. The same as my reasons.
  4. I'm working on attaining status so I can be treated more like a human when I fly.

"Holy shit, Chad. You were right!"

The response to "How do you like flying with/working for United?" is always interesting.

I'm just fine with how shitty United is. I've come to realize a shitty experience in the air caused by some money-hungry executive isn't something worth spending any of my life complaining about.

But for those that are annoyed and would like to do something about it, I'm going to offer solutions, starting with the one that is guaranteed to work:

1. Stop being a United customer
If you are upset with a new or past United policy and would like them to stop with that bullshit, sending them complaints is not going to change anything if you continue to purchase seats from them.

To send a stronger message, simply stop sending them money for their product and let them know why. If you do this, the executive that made the brilliant decision to make the inflight experience more shitty in favor of higher profits will be reprimanded instead of promoted. Nobody will take his ideas seriously ever again.

"We're so sorry. Chad had the brilliant idea that our customers were stupid little sheep who'd keep coming back to us even if we kept abusing them."

Wall Street will see United's sales decrease, and investors will take their money elsewhere if they don't get their act together and win back those lost customers. You'll force United to keep you happy when flying the friendly skies.

That's it. That's all you have to do. This also will solve other problems such as global warming, joblessness, human rights, hunger, Trump, and all the other things people protest about.

If you think something sucks but don't do something about it, it'll continue to suck.

But if you're like me and don't mind that it sucks now, you won't mind when the brilliant executive makes his next pleasure-sucking move.

The market speaks loudly and clearly, and you are the market.

There's a dissonance you feel meeting one of your parents friends or a long-time-not-seen aunt again after a greater part of your life has passed.

"Hey, do you remember me? Oh my goodness, you've grown so much! Last time I saw you you were only this high! You've shot up like a rocket!"

No, I don't remember you. Have we met before? I feel weird for saying no because of the parental expectation for perfection, but I really don't remember. I don't remember all the times I blow my nose either, sorry...

The first time it ever happens, you wonder what the hell they're talking about with the thing about you having grown so much, because you've been here the entire time and your parents and friends haven't said anything about that, nor has anyone else in your life.

But after it happens a few times, you understand why and expect it.

Seeing that aunt again after several years? She's gonna say "Oh, my, how you've grown!" and you're gonna feel embarrassed.

Hopefully she's talking about height.


I've been following my very simple-but-boring investing strategy for a little over a year and a half now, and the price of one ETF in particular that I hold seems to never really change.

Today it closed at 129.52, up 0.42 for the day.

Being at 129.52, it must have at one point been at 128, 100, and even 40.

But when? For as long as I can remember, it's been hovering around the same price. I certainly would not be able to accurately point to when it was priced any lower.

What about a year and a half ago? Where was it then? Let's check...

At the start of April 2016, it was 105.48.

Wow! That's a big change. 1

But what's even more 'wow' is that I have been checking in on it every few days since I bought it.

I was checking it one and a half years ago with the same diligence as today, but without the help of historical data, I wouldn't have been excited about it today. Before I checked, I could have been described as 'a little anxious.'

Thinking about it now seems so strange. When it was at whatever lower value, I thought to myself the very same thing I did today:

This thing never really changes, does it?

Well, the price of a financial product is a very easy thing to check because the prices of these things are recorded very diligently. There's an entire workforce dedicated to indexing prices of things. Same goes for news articles, emails, social media interactions - you can easily go back in time and look at what you and others have said and thought about in the past.

But what about the things in your life that aren't actively recorded? How do you measure changes in those things?

Say, your feelings? If you tend to express your feelings on a regular cadence in writing, then you'll have something later that you can read to see if you've changed the way you feel about something.

I recently heard someone say "Wow, I couldn't believe I felt so strongly about that little thing before, I barely remember it now" after they read a diary entry from their high school years.

What about your experiences? Pictures capture moments, sure, but I don't remember the last time I looked back at those ten slightly-different pictures I took of something that seemed picture worthy at the time.

I don't think I'll ever understand why people take pictures of landmarks. When I went up to Christ in Rio de Janeiro, literally every single person had their camera machine pointed at something. If not the statue, then the view, the sky, or the description of something. There are professional photographers that have and will continue to take better pictures than anyone can capture on their shitty cameras. What exactly do people do with these pictures after they've taken them. Frame them and put them up on their wall?

You might say,

"but it's different if you're in it. It makes it unique!"


If everyone does, it, how is it unique? Maybe you feel that at some point you might need to prove that you saw that thing you saw. Other than that, I can't figure out any good reason for taking pictures of a landmark when you can Google the name of the thing to get pictures with a quality several times more superior to yours. If you must, I suppose one is ok. But at the rate people click, there's gotta be at least a hundred per day per person's phone for Christ's sake.

I took this. You won't find another one like it.

Anyway, if you do not have hard historical data about your feelings or experiences, it becomes extremely difficult - possibly impossible - to draw insight from where you've been, leaving you to rely on your memories.

But the brain is horrible at remembering things, so if you rely on it too heavily, it will lead you astray.

If you asked your aunt to remember what you looked like after she's seen you all growned up, do you think she could do a good job using just memory? How detailed could she get?

Could she point out exactly what changed and by how much?

"Well, I don't remember exactly, but you were a lot smaller!"

The details of what you looked like before are all mixed in her head now. Separating what she sees with what you truly looked like last time will be a tall task.

"See? Look at this picture of us back then. How time flies..."

She can do it easily with historical data.

You might think that you have a pretty good record going on social media. You can look back at past status updates, posts, photos, check ins, and everything else.

Take a few minutes to look back at your old posts and photos on Facebook and Instagram.

Who do you see?

Is it you? Or is the version of you that you want others to see?

Can you learn anything about who you really were back when you posted that thing?

What does it say about you?

How does it make you feel?

Does it make you feel better about your life now? Worse?

Do you miss the good old times?

What about all the things that you thought and felt that you didn't want to tell anyone?

The stuff that you would be scared to post for your friends list to see.

Your strongest, deepest, darkest feelings, thoughts, secrets.

The way that you actually felt about something that you wouldn't be able to remember by looking at the facade you've built on your profile.

How do you recall?

Can you?

If you can't, how do you move forward?

1. It's quite cool that I have done no work and the value of this thing I own has increased 22% in such a short time. Plus, it has bought me more of itself using the dividends it generates on it's own! (go back)

Life feels more and more like a video game: Objective based and with no real consequence for starting over other than having to redo the mission. Except every mission is different and you can't really redo the same mission.

And, as far as we know, when you die, you're done.

The feeling I got when returning from the backpacking trip has recently come and go.

Is the goal to have that feeling stay permanently?

Some people don't seem to understand the game of life. They will stand around the baggage claim conveyor belt at the airport as if their readiness will make it arrive faster.

Do they not have enough time? Are they trying to speed it up?

When you see your bag, you have a mass in your way. The people nearby you may move slightly in the other direction to make a bit more space, but their attention is still fully on making sure they don't miss their bag.

"Oewhop" followed by a slight movement in the opposite direction.

They don't play cooperatively on their own. Maybe asking them nicely for a favor will make them play cooperatively, at least for the duration of your interaction.

I recently read somewhere (where? I cannot remember!) that people are likely to like you more if you ask them for a favor. Moreso than if you are to do a favor for them. counter-intuitive right?

As Frank says, call any vegetable.

Let's watch some news today.

Remember, it's just news - don't get all hot and bothered by it.

It's just entertainment.

Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

My list of worries is coming along nicely. Every time I have a worry and remember what I'm supposed to do, I whip out the notepad app on my phone and write down my worry. It's strangely cathartic, because after I write my worry down, it leaves my mind for a time.

What I have so far:

If I could, I would buy EFX right now, and continue buying if it continues to drop.

Unfortunately, there is a potential for being flagged with insider trading because of my work. I'm relatively sure that the SEC won't care about a little fish like me, but I don't really want to put their algorithms to the test and have to deal with it if it does become a problem.

Yea, I'm a pussy. Their machine learning can't be that smart...

I think the market reaction to the cyber breach is way overblown and is not likely to affect their business in a substantial way.

The consumer is most affected because people may now be able to use your information to open new lines of credit, file a tax return in your name, or commit crimes using your identity.

But, Equifax's main customer is not the consumer. The consumer is the product. We are for sale. Their real customers are the companies that want to quickly pull your credit file so they can sell you a financial product. Why do you think it's soooooo complicated and troublesome to contact the credit agencies, when a bank that wants to issue you a credit card can do so INSTANTLY online without notifying you? Why do you think you are only allowed to pull your own credit report once per year? Until a recent law, you had to pay to pull your report.

As of my writing this, the stock sits at just above $93, down from $142 just before the news of the breach broke. So much negative press and undue concerns that Equifax is going to tank in earnings is pushing the stock price way down. It might continue to go down from here, sure, but its fundamental business isn't going to be affected in any major way.

They're going to go bankrupt! Nobody is going to do business with them anymore! Nobody trusts them anymore! There are two other companies that do exactly the same thing! They're giving away so many products for free!

Hmm, where have I heard the exact same news over and over again?

But it's all good. We can profit from other people's ignorance.

That's what I'm doing with the toothpaste industry!

I'm sad that I can't (cough am too afraid to) buy, but it's not the end of the world. There will be other huge negative press events that unduly depress a stock price that I can buy into.

For sake of mulling over missed opportunities, let's say I actually did place an order for $10,000 today. I would have been able to buy 107 shares at $93. I'll check back in a year to see where I would have been.

I did something like this last year. I bought 50 shares of SPWR at $10.77 last October. It wasn't directly following negative press event - I did it on a whim because I wanted to prove to a friend that a buy-and-hold strategy fairs just as well or better as day trading. Currently, SPWR sits at $7.64.

My lesson plan isn't going exactly as I had planned.

But in another month, I can sell it and use the losses offset the sale of some long-term gains!

Update: Two weeks later, on 22 Sep 2017, EFX closed at $105, up 13% from my pretend purchase price (when talking about the price of stocks people like to redundantly list the percent change because it sounds like another useful data point)

Update 10 Oct: Opened at $113, up 19%. Comparing it to SPWR, which is now at $6.84, down 36% from what I bought it at.

Update 3 Nov 2017: Back down to $108. Still up 16% from where I would have bought it. I also sold SPWR at a substantial loss and bot SNAP instead. Let's see how that turns out in a year.

Somebody might come to you one day and say,

"Hey there, I'd like you to come over to my house everyday. I'd like you to arrive before 9am and stay until 6pm. I won't feed you, but there are some good places where you can grab something quickly if you don't want to bring your own food.

I don't have any parking for you but the garage nearby only takes $400/month for a spot. There's a bus stop nearby if that's more convenient.

I'd like you to sit at this computer and perform various tasks. Some may be needed immediately, others will be project-based over a longer time horizon.

I'll need you to come in and do this every day. You can stay home if you get sick - a few days a year - and you'll have 3 weeks for yourself to do what you wish. Of course, you'll have to let me know well in advance when you'd like to take a break.

When you're here, I do expect you to do your best work and put in your top effort. I'll review your performance and give you feedback on how to improve your work. And please be friendly and work together with the others that come in every day."

"What the fuck? Why would I agree to do something like that? What's in it for me to come to your place everyday and do what seems like menial tasks in front of a computer? Why would I even spend time coming here to do all these things? Also, I have my own friends"

"Well, what if I offered you a decent salary that would allow you to do the things you love on your free time? You can pick up a few hobbies, travel during your 3 week break, buy yourself a car so you don't have to take the bus any longer. What do you say?"


Would you do your job if you didn't get paid for it?

Of course not. Why would anyone do a job if they're not getting paid? That's the point of a job! To get paid! Isn't it?

That's the point of your job to you. But not your employer. You're giving your employer something much more valuable - your time and skills - in exchange for a little bit of money.

How do you get someone to do something?

You could try asking.

What if they say no?

Offer money.

The convenience factor that money provides cannot be understated.

And it's only getting more convenient. Nowadays, people get paid with direct deposit by default instead of checks or hard cash.

This means that your employer is able to offer you a certain level of security that the number in the database that your bank keeps on the same row as your account number will be increased by a certain amount on a set interval.

But not too much. It has to be just enough that you keep coming back. Just enough so that you keep giving it your all.

Of course, you'll get better and better at doing the work that you do. At some point, you'll want something more challenging and rewarding. So you'll either ask your current employer to give it to you, or you'll go out into the market to advertise your skills and hope that another company will facilitate database transactions with your bank in exchange for your time.

But even when you do this, you'll find that it becomes just as before. You'll eventually want something new.

The only way out of the cycle and to really get rich is to do your own thing or get lucky.

But chances are, you're not going to be one of the few who win the company lottery (unless you can predict the future, but then you'd already be the richest person alive) so trading your time for someone else's gain is not going to get you where you want to go. But that's just fine, because life is a journey with death as the final destination.

So you can never really make it in life.

Not by getting the next promotion, not by breaking out of the cycle and doing your own thing, not by winning the lottery.

There will never be enough money in your bank account.

That's why it may be the greatest invention of all time.

Well, it happened again today. I should have known better, but I trusted this guy anyway.

I posted a pair of bike track pedals on Craigslist for $10, and Bob messaged me this morning:

"Hi, would love to come grab these, is the condition ok?" (10:27)

"Hey, yea. I didn't get around to take pictures of them last night but was meaning to.
They are in great shape, just have the usual wear from use.
I'm getting home at about 8pm today, would that work as a pick up time?" (10:32)

"Yeah that will work" (11:33)

"Sounds good. See you then. Here's my address. Heading home in a bit, on track to be home by 8 still" (18:51)

"Hey I'm sorry, but I can't make it tonight. How's tomorrow?" (19:41)

"Sure" (19:46)

Now, I feel like I really want to go out of my way to waste this guy's time. I had dropped what I was doing to make it home on time, even sent him a message when I was about to be on my way, but he didn't care.

I like to think that there's a special place in hell for people like Bob. But that's it. That's all. There's no point to getting upset because then Bob has taken control of my life by doing literally nothing.

He's not gonna be happy when he finds out I charge $30 for cancelling 20 minutes before the decided-upon meeting time.

Might as well just buy new ones at that price.

Fuck Bob.


Update: The next morning, Ron contacted me and said he was interested. He biked to my work and picked them up.

I never did hear back from Bob.

Update 2: Came back to read this post and remembered how much Bob sucks. Bob, I have some free time now, I'm going to memorize your number and when people ask me for it to send annoying shit, they're getting your number.

Update 3: Shit, I can't find your number. Still, fuck you, Bob.

This is the world that we live in.

A few people came over to take a look at the room for rent in the apartment this past week.

Thee of them were super interested when they were here, interested enough to sign right away. I told them I'd like to set up time for you to meet the roommates, so I'll be in touch with next steps. They were all excited to hear back.

The week goes by and the weekend comes. On Sunday, I reach out to each of them.

Two had already found and committed to other places, and the third did not respond until a week later, saying they had found a place.

In just a few days, they had figured out other plans.

I didn't give them what they wanted right away. They didn't ask. When I asked, I found out that they had assumed the worst.

The world of instant gratification and 'Me! Me! Me!'

Lesson learned. You almost always have to be the bigger person, do the harder thing, and business needs to get done right here, right now. There is no such thing as a follow up.

Simplify, reduce worry: Ask for a decision right away. If they can't decide, it's a no. Quickly filter out those that are going to waste your time.

I can't blame them though. They needed to find a place ASAP, so they'll take the first thing that falls in their laps. It's the easy thing to do.

But I wonder, what happened to common courtesy? What about having the respect to not waste someones time?

I wonder further, is this a new thing or is this how humans have always been?

I think it's the latter.

So, nothing to get all worked up about then!

I worry about the inevitable total indoctrination of the masses because I'm afraid of having to be forcefully indoctrinated against my will.

I had to write my first worry down here because I went off to set up my twitter account and got caught up in an internet wormhole.

Like, I think I'm going to sign up for a email account.

So far I've got:

Well, this list is going pretty well. I have two things on it and a reason for why I shouldn't be worried about either.

The first, I've detailed in an earlier post. The second won't happen for a very long time, probably long after I'm dead, so I should really have zero worry about it.

In between the time it takes to completely indoctrinate a whole group of people, a couple break free, see the light, make a lot of noise and eventually the whole plot fails. I think the millenial generation is too rebellious to become the indoctrinated generation. It might seem like it now, but when shit hits the fan and they realize that living life how they've been told will suck in the long run and the promise of the flowery, 'better-than-my-parents' life of consumption and materialism is not going to happen, we'll do something about it.

Hey, I should know. I'm one of them.

To have a successful total indoctrination, you basically need to have an entire generation grow up such that they don't ever develop the habit of questioning authority on anything. There are currently too many sources from which to pick up this habit. You'd have to have a child grow up completely separated from these sources in a purposefully designed curriculum that never entices them to ask questions.

Oh, how terrible it would be to have been born into an indoctinated generation. Knowing how my mind feels now, I could not imagine never having questioned anything. Life would be dull. There would be an endless supply of instant gratification, as long as you do exactly what you are told. You would own nothing - not even your body.

No matter how much it seems that everybody is indoctrinated already, there are those (seemingly growing in size) who are not. I believe that that is going to go on for at least a few more generations.

Ok, what is this, the Cold War? Who's going to nuke San Francisco? That would be very, very, very bad for business. If anything were to happen, it would probably be on a much smaller scale, like the TT Deal.

Regardless, this is not something that is in my control at all, so I should carry out my life as if it's not going to happen.

Ah, this is sort of me getting caught up in the news like I say everybody else does. The news makes me worry about things, even the news on the other side of mainstream.

To be perfectly honest, I know that the other side of the news is also written in a way to encourage page views and clicks. Sucks that it has to be that way, but it is. Can't blame them for it though, they gotta make a living.

I think the news is a big reason I worry about forceful indoctrination and citizens in San Francisco being attacked by the enemy.

If the news is a source of worry, then what I should do is cut out the news.

I've wanted to tell one of my coworkers to give up the news and because it'll make him happier not worrying about what celebrities are doing to negatively affect foreign policy and the latest name-calling tweet sent out by the USAC CEO.

Well, shit. Time to start eating my own dog food.

It's not that it's a bad thing to know about though. It has helped a great deal, especially when it comes to understanding something - but it didn't come just from eating what was spoon fed to me. I had to actively seek out materials that was outside of the "what I already think" bucket.

Most people don't know that the United States is a corporation listed in Dun and Bradstreet with jurisdiction to operate only within the District of Columbia.

Is it useful to know that though? Is anything in your life going to change by knowing that? You may feel resentful and less nationalistic pride, but what good does that do?

It could also very well be a joke.
Haha, I registered a company named USA Corp so people would think our country is a corporation!

In the context of my life, it's similar to knowing what's happened in the last episode of Game of Thrones.

Yes, I do know. But so what?

I think it's good to know for one reason, and that is to realize what life is. I now understand what my old manager meant when he said

"You have to build your own business"

It was confusing when I first heard this because I thought the business was the company's business. As in, you should be focused on building the company's business. I thought building your own business was a bit selfish because it would be a waste of company resources. After all, they're paying you, so shouldn't you be doing all you can do advance the business that pays you so that they can pay you more?

But that's missing the point. You need to build your own business because you're already assigned a job the minute you become a citizen. You will be kept just content enough that you don't question your job and don't leave or go on strike. Then, when you're no longer needed and tossed aside in a reorg, you're done. But if you build a business within the larger business, then you have the opportunity to flourish within the system.

Plus, as long as the business you build provides something of value, the larger business will depend on the buisness you built. That business will then help you to grow your business by giving you things like tax breaks for each person employed.

You can't beat the system, but you can use it to your advantage.

To use the system to your advantage, you first have to realize you're in one.

Well, I suppose you can beat the system by having enough people riled up to cause a revolution. But the new system that is put in place will have inherent human-nature flaws that can and will be exploited. So you still can't beat the system.

It's really hard to get ahead when you're working two full-time jobs, but only getting paid for one. It would be much easier if the job that paid you was part time.

Why do you think the super wealthy pay so little in taxes as a percentage of their income comared to most full-time working Americans?

They realize the system they are in, understand it very well, and use it to gain an incredible advantage. Just look at how that advantage has played out over the past 40 years:

Distribution of Family Wealth, 1963-2016 Click the image for more charts.

If you can build your own system, you can gain the same advantages.

Eh, indoctrination is voluntary anyways.

In the last post, I linked to a post I had written on DontDumbBeSmart. It's actually becoming a very good example of a project that I start but doesn't end up anywhere because I get too busy, lose motivation, or [insert other reason here].

And with most of my time now dedicated to work, it becomes harder to spend long periods of time writing blog posts that I consider good enough. During the little bit of time I'm not at work, I tend to want to kick back and relax or hang out with friends. There's always something that I want to write about in the back of my head though... [foreshadowing alert]

This is where this site comes into play.

I've set my goal for this year to simplify my life as much as I can. I also detailed that decision in another post I wrote on DDBS.

I wrote that it was really an incredibly vague goal, and I wasn't really sure what it meant or how it would work.

Vague goals are very hard to accomplish because there are no concrete things you can immediately latch onto and the measure of success is subjective.

'Getting fit' is a vague goal.

'Going to a specific gym M-W-F before work for one hour' is a specific goal. You can immediately do a thing like plan out your morning ritual to make it happen and it's easy to measure it's success.

Last year's goal was specific - it was a number-based goal. All I had to do was to get a number as close to another as possible. That was easy enough to do.

The thing I have to do is to translate my vague goal into a specific goal like the one about gettin fit.

But the problem is I'm not sure how to translate it.

I'll just try something and see if it makes sense. Can't hurt even if it fails.

I think one way of measuring how simple your life is by the count of things you worry about. If I spend too much time worrying about something, it takes away time from other things that I could be doing.

Plus, it's not healthy. Isn't worry related to stress somehow?

I should know. I don't feel good when I'm worried.

This is what I'll do: I will take note of all the things things that worry me. No matter what it is, big or small, I will record it. After two weeks of record keeping, I will review my worries.

I can retroactively start this list here (although I'm going to use a text editor on my phone for entry on-the-go) from the last post.

Last night's worry was, essentially:
- I'm worried about not finishing my work because my manager might get mad.

I realize that what comes after 'because' is important, becase that provides a starting point for further analysis which could help me rationalize why I shouldn't have that worry.

Everything should go on this list. Every time I have a worry, I need to pick up my phone and write it down. I need to create a new habit loop. Since this is a new habit, it should be easier to form than if it were an existing habit.

But wait, I already have worries, so this might actually be trying to alter a new habit. In which case, I need to identify and understand my existing habit loop.

Or I could just get started without overthinking the whole thing.

I can tell that I'm kind of addicted to porn because I thought for a split second that whacking it each time could be a good reward. Not very practical though. Imagine doing that at work...

The trigger is having a worry. Whenever I have a worry, I need to have myself associate it with a reward. What's a good reward? What can I reward myself with after having just written down a worry, phone in hand?

Hmm... What about posting the worry to Twitter? People get gratification when they submit something to the internet. But is it only if they get likes or people retweet? I'll get zero retweets. What if I find it not rewarding and stop? What if...? We can continue down the 'What if' hole a long time

Then I'll just change the reward...

I want to think of another reward so I have two options to choose between.

Can I motivate myself with money? I could allocate $20 for every worry I write down for something. But It would be my money, and if I were to do anything with it, I could just do it anyway.

Plus, money is a horrible motivator and might motivate me to come up with false worries so I can allocate more to something. And it's hard for me to be objective with my own worries.

I just read this: The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick

I can do something with emotional state.

The emotional state I get when I worry will remind me to take out my phone and write down what I'm worried about. After writing it down, I'll feel better about having written it down to deal with it later. That'll be the reward.

Hmm, I like the idea of posting to Twitter more. It actually results in the emotional state reward as well!

All right. Time to start a new twitter account, @livingwithoutstuff!

Let's say I want to go to my company's happy hour, but I promised to send something out by EOD today to a colleague to forward off to a customer. What do I do?

I get up and go to my company's happy hour.


You promised a deliverable, you should finish it!

I should continue sitting at my desk until I got the thing done, no matter how long it takes? What if everybody leaves by the time I finish?

But won't your manager get mad?

Maybe, but why should I care if someone at work gets mad at me? What is anyone gonna do? Am I going to get fired? Are they going to hold it against me when we're selling software to big ass enterprise companies that never have their 'automated business workflows' shit together? Are they going to not do business with us because we didn't get an email out on Friday night?

Let's try to look at it from the recipient's point of view:

You are manager of information technology at one of the largest companies in the world. You've been at your company anywhere from five to twenty years and you enjoy the work-life balance that your job provides. Your in-office hours are 8:00 to 17:00, and all of your coworkers know this. They know better than to ask you for something important at ten to four on Friday. You have a host of issues to deal with in your day-to-day, but you also have to stay on top of new technologies in your space, so you end up having to talk to a bunch of vendors that are always promising to fix most, but not all, of your problems.

Are you going to step away from your Friday night plans to go review what it is some little-but-quickly-growing-startup-with-the-latest-and-greatest-make-the-world-a-better-place-for-real technology company's sales team sent them?

Hell no. That's gonna happen on Monday... Maybe Tuesday, or by the end of next week at least.

Wait, was a vendor supposed to send me something today?

Well, I should probably get that out on Sunday before getting in... you know, just so that nobody asks why I didn't finish it...

So, I think one way to think about this is to start interacting with your customers the way they interact with you. You mirror them. If we miss something, we say "sorry it's taking longer than expected" and just reschedule the meeting or deliverable for another time. People reschedule meetings with people all the time, lol.

"Hey, sorry, realized that this Friday I was gonna be out so can we reschedule that meeting where I was going to come to your office where you have meetings all day every day? Sorry to ruin our relationship, hopefully we can meet next week instead. Thanks"

Nothing bad is gonna happen as long as I have FU Money.

And if it does, so what? I have FU Money!

I need to follow my advice a bit more. Work is getting to a point where it's becoming more annoying than interesting on a day-to-day basis.

I need to remember the lessons that FU money taught me last year and use them to restore balance to the force.

At this point I'm too tired to write.

When I sat in bed, my workstation's battery was 55%. Just before coming upstairs, I had a really strong desire to write. I got distracted with all sorts of different other tasks on the computer and didn't actually start writing this until 25%.

Now if I were to keep writing, it would be forced because my desire to get to sleep outweighs my desire to write.

So here are a few topics I thought about writing today:

  1. An interview with a Doctor on the radio full of cognitive dissonance
  2. Working for time is more efficient than working for money
  3. Why some people want to control everything
  4. What does the title of this page have to do with anything?


PS: I did enjoy reading and editing the previous post. It's now down to 14%

Recently I got caught up in something I always advise people not to do: I started watching the news and taking it too seriously.

It started because I got really into listening to Frank Zappa's music, which appears innocent and trivial on the surface, but it's really making fun of almost all of society, being so brilliantly deceptive that even the very people that the music calls stupid love it.

Then, I tumbled upon "other videos I might like" and some were documentaries of how we're all doomed for one reason or another and only have a few decades left before we all again decline into another worldwide war, this time due to the scarcity of critical resources.

Just have a look at my recent youtube history:

Start off with the normal cruft I listen to, along with some tunes that allow me to reminisce about college.

So far, just music.

Here we see a viewing of a video offering an explanation of Carl Jung's Synchronicity, before returning to the finer works "To All My Niggas" and "Drug Ballard."

I come back to the Youtube after a six week summer break.

During the early part of this time, I read a book called The Power of Habit and decided that I would set out to create a habit for myself.

The habit that I wanted to create was a daily routine where I would get up in the morning, have one hour to do my own work, and return home from work at a reasonable hour to get to bed in order to wake up early enough.

I experimented with a spoonful of honey as my reward if I woke up early enough the next morning.

This lasted consistently for a duration of about three or four weeks, after which point things would change, get in the way of the habit, and I'd find a lecture called "The Importance of Discipline".

Yup, life changed and for whatever reason, I couldn't keep up the habit. Maybe the reward wasn't good enough. Maybe the content of the work wasn't entertaining enough. Maybe I wasn't motivated enough to keep going on whatever I was doing.

I think it's the last one.

My intention with viewing "The Importance of Discipline" may have been to justify my reasons creating a habit, and look for clues as to how to improve my own discipline. But Youtube drew my attention to other videos I might be interested in, like "What Makes You a Mature Adult" and "How to Stop Overthinking."

Needless to say, it got me.

Whenever I watch John Oliver, I end up feeling depressed about the state of the world, so I would turn to old classics a few days later to help cheer me up.

Up next I would revisit the wonderful work of Frank Sinatra, Eminem, and the soundtracks of some of my favorite childhood games - Tony Hawks Pro Skater and Need For Speed (on repeat!) - with day stops back at Alan Watts and Hardstyle livesets every so often.

Here is where its gets interesting:
A colleague in marketing had sent out a Youtube video in order to internally justify the existence of our product. "This would be a great thing for our customers to understand" he said. The video he sent out is at the top of this next list:

It's a recording of a presentation given by the NSA TAO Chief on how they think about hacking into and spying on various adversarial groups without being discovered.

One of the suggestions after this video was made by someone doing producer's version voice-over comments of the TAO video, pointing out all the various ways he used deceptive language to say one thing but really mean another - The great irony being that a man is telling an audience exactly how his employer invades their privacy and they still applaud at the end of the speech.

This started me down the path that eventually got me to Frank Zappa, and from there, the rest is history (that we'll be reviewing).

After watching several we're-all-cyber-doomed-themed videos, I somehow stumbled upon "WHAT TUPAC/FRANK ZAPPA WANTED YOU TO KNOW" after which I felt lost and disgusted in humanity. How could we have gotten to this point where people are just a sheepish mass that are controlled, pushed around, and experimented on without their knowledge or any reprocussion for those pulling the strings? Doesn't anyone care? Deosn't anyone notice? Are peopel so ignoran? Does nobody want to do the right thing for the greater good of society?

How awful I must have felt after that. I went back to the Alan Watts lectures a few days later in attempt to find greater meaning and not feel so down about myself. If I could find an explanation of why things are as they are (It's all just human nature at the end of the day) I would feel better about what Tupac and Frank talked about. Maybe.

Maybe not. I seem to search upon Trout Mask Replica when things are all crazy and I need to listen to crazy music because everything else just doesn't really help.

It was the first thing that I put on the first day of August. Music by a guy known as Frank Zappa, having himself worked with Captain Beefheart, were in the recommended videos sidebar. An old friend's high regard for his music made me just curious enough to try to find out for myself what made his music so special.

I gave it a shot.

I got hooked.

For the next month I would consume as much as I could of Frank's music. Every chance I got, I would play it: At work, cooking, playing board games, in the car. It was perfectly designed for my consumption. It "spoke to me."

Of course, there would be days where I would put on the standard THPS soundtrack or Hardstyle sets, but I would continue to come back to Zappa.

If you'd like to take a break from reading this and constantly listen to Frank Zappa for a month, now would be a good time to give it a try and see how it makes you feel. This post will still be here when you get back. You can bookmark this link to come back exactly here. I'm not going to attempt to describe the feeling because experience is the fastest way to understand something.

After all was said and done, the topic of videos that I landed on was money.

Everything leads back to money. Check it out:

On the same day I finally grew tired of listening to Zappa all day, I stared watching videos about money.

At first, the topics were innocent and widely relatable. The gateway video was an early retirement update from Mike & Lauren who just purchased a warehouse. That lead to a video about how much Americans are screwed for retirement because of a lack of savings and a recent financial downturn (the 2008 one in this case).

Following this I watched some videos from BeatTheBush, who offers surprisingly simple and upbeat advice about how to save a lot of money while still being able to drive a sports car to work.

And then...


When will it hit? What should I do? I know that it's coming, should I sell now so I can lock in the gains? Will my 401k be all right? Should I really be in a Roth 401k? Gee, I should think about this some more.

Oh God, I'm scaring myself about my 401k now. Why have I tried to max it out every year? Is there something better I could have done with it? 60 Minutes ran a peice on why you should NEVER own a 401k! Is it all just another trap? I know they exist. Is this a trap?

Well, there goes the neighborhood. We're all living in the Matrix. Nothing is real. Everything is a construction. We're all rats running around and around in a cage for someone else's gain until we can't go on and fall over. At the last moment before we croak, we wonder what we spent our only life doing.

In order to escape from a cage, you must first realize that you are in one.

I should mention that none of what I was watching was overly shocking to me. I like to think I understand how the world works better than most people. While the way I have been writing may make it seem like I was going through some sort of enlightenment, I was merely watching these videos and thinking to myself "Yup, thought so. Makes total sense. What's wrong with people these days?"

I was consuming content that reaffirmed my already-accepted beliefs.

I wasn't really learning anything. Everything I was consuming was just reminding me how fucked up everything is and how helpless I am to do anything about it. Even if I wanted to, there's little I can do to convince enough people to take action to ensure a better future for upcoming generations. That battle is lost, and that makes me feel really sad.

But wait, So what?

The elephant in the room here is that I regularly try to explain to people that they shouldn't get worked up about what they see in the news because all that it's doing is affecting their happiness and outlook on life.

So what have I been going through this past few months?

How am I any different from the people who get caught up in mainstream media? Is what I have been watching really any different?

If the average person were to watch the documentary "SHADOW GOVERNMENT Who Rules America?" they would most likely brush it off as a bunch of incoherent gobbledygook and think I'm crazy to give it even an ounce of credibility.

But then, I'll turn around around to the latest news about how the President just made a horrible foreign relations blunder and call IT a bunch of incoherent gobbledygook that's designed to keep the masses entertained, disappointed, and distracted.

So, I'm a hypocrite. I fell into the trap that I advise others to avoid.

These things it the videos you see above are nice to know. It's nice to know how the world works. It's nice to know some of the psychological techniques used in manipulation. It's nice to know that severe resource shortage may be the driving force behind the next global upheaval.

But right now, So what? Who cares? How is worrying about this right now going to affect my life in any way?

All that it's doing is making me feel worse about something I have very little control over. I'm just like the person who feels disappointed after reading about America pulling out of the Paris Accords, or afraid about what might happen with North Korea.

What has this world come to?
What's wrong with people?
Why can't people just do the right thing and adopt my point of view?

These are the questions we all ask ourselves, no matter what type of news we consume.