The Power of Response

Life is complicated. You would think that simple tasks have simple procedures, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Life is difficult.

For instance, just a trip to the store can be difficult. There might be unforeseen problems like traffic jams, car troubles, etc. These things might not be your fault, but they still prevent you from actually achieving your goal: going to the store. It’s disheartening, but true: You don’t have control over anything… except yourself.

You can’t control everything. Period. End of story. You basically have two options: You can bitch that the universe is “rigged”, or you can simply accept it as fact while going about your business like an adult.

The great philosopher Epictetus once said, “We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.” Our response to bad situations is what really matters. Not in some arbitrary way either, but in the most practical, life-enhancing way possible.

Let’s say you’re driving to work when you suddenly have a flat tire. What will your response be? Will you get angry, cussing and kicking the car? Hopefully not. It’s probably a better idea to sit down to find a solution to your problem. Heck, you might even learn something from it.

Don’t use tough situations prevent you from doing what you set out to do. Turn bad into good. It’s well within your power.

Nobody Likes a Blunt Person

Some people are just downright blunt. You know the type: the people who spend their entire lives shocking everyone with what they say. They end up hated, perceived as arrogant, and miserable.

Of course, what they’re saying might not even be that shocking. Heck, it might even be mainstream. That doesn’t matter. Perception is what matters.

Take Gregory House’s quote “Everybody lies,” from the tv show, House M.D. That quote offends a lot of people. Of course, the idea itself isn’t what upsets people, it’s just the blunt way it sounds that nobody likes.

I’ll bet very few people would disagree with the statement: “People always choose to be their worst selves by engaging in constant dishonesty.” They may mean the same thing, but they’re interpreted very differently.

Rhetoric matters… a lot.

Softening your words makes you seem like a much more agreeable person, whereas being blunt gets you in trouble – big trouble – socially.

Don’t be blunt. Use pleasant-sounding rhetoric instead.

Friedrich Nietzsche and The Truth We All Seek.

Friedrich Nietzsche had already found it. He observed as the people around him spent their entire lives seeking this thing they called “truth” – a concept which they themselves had created. Unfortunately, Nietzsche had already discovered what they were looking for – the “truth” – but it looked nothing like how anyone imagined.

In a paper entitled On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, Nietzsche wrote the following:

“If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare ‘look, a mammal’ I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value.”

He later went on to say:

“At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man… Similar to the way in which astrologers considered the stars to be in man’s service and connected with his happiness and sorrow…”

Nietzsche realized that through mans’ own self-conceit, it was making the world in its own image, essentially playing a game with the universe.

Nietzsche understood how vain and pointless the whole game really is.

“When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding ‘truth’ within the realm of reason.”

Perhaps you and I can learn from Nietzsche’s observations. Perhaps by recognizing that we’re in charge of the concepts we create, we can avoid trying to find purpose in projecting our beliefs onto the universe. After all, by finding enjoyment in “discovering” the truths that we ourselves created, we’re simply wasting our time.

What I’m Studying: Human Behavior

I’ve been devoting some of my time to studying behavioral economics and phycology. I’m beginning to understand how people are influenced, and – at least, to a certain extent – why people do what they do.

My fascination with human behavior began when I realized how easily people could be manipulated. I had one of those Scott Adams moments (unlike him, however, I’m a bad cartoonist, so don’t expect to see any comic strips by me anytime soon). I decided to dive headfirst into the broad subject of human behavior.

Knowing that I wanted to learn more about what makes people “tick”, I decided to start reading books, watching lectures, and listening to interviews; and over the past few weeks, I’ve learned more than I ever expected.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve been studying:

  • Freudian Phycology.
  • Behaviorism.
  • Decision Point Theory.

Of course, this list may not sound all that impressive, but it really encompasses a lot. The practical usage is life changing. Hopefully, I’ll have time to write in-depth articles about each of them in the future.


The Power of Perception

Perception is so important. It defines you and makes you who you are or what you want to be. One of my favorite quotes is by Gustave Flaubert, who said, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” Things are as they’re perceived.

There was a recent experiment conducted involving 6,000 blind tastings of expensive and cheap wines. It revealed the huge role perception plays in preference.

The experiment showed that average people do not find expensive wine all that exceptional. However, people with “whine training” find much enjoyment in the whine with the highest price tag.

This was a groundbreaking find. It essentially proves that when people perceive things to be better than they are, a funny thing happens: They automatically become better.

Hopefully, you and I can use this information to improve ourselves. Perhaps by working on people’s perception of us, we can actually improve ourselves and help establish what is we’re trying to accomplish.

Starbucks Restrooms: A Quick Observation

Unisex restrooms are apparently a “thing” at Starbucks now. My guess is that some person in management realized that there’s no reason to make a single person restroom gender exclusive – and if that’s really the case, then they have my total support; It’s more convenient when poop rooms are open to everyone. But if their reasoning has nothing to do with convenience, and this change represents their disregard for the differences between sexes and their lack of understanding that gender as a concept is not subject to preference, then I’m totally against it.

On another note, Starbucks restrooms are super clean. 10/10. Would go take a dump again.

The Greek Statesman’s Guide to Becoming a Success

A long time ago, a scholar once asked the Greek orator, Demosthenes, what the three most important traits of speechmaking were. His response was clear and concise: “Action, Action, Action!”

It’s extremely easy to blow concepts way out of proportion. We lead ourselves to believe that there’s a special recipe for things like success, and with enough time and study, we can discover it. However, the lessons of history tell us that this just isn’t so. Success isn’t discovered; it’s created.

What do Steve Jobs, Ulysses S. Grant, and Thomas Edison all have in common? Each one of them blazed a trail to finish the task at hand. They may not have had an exact recipe for their success, but through hard work and determination, they reached their goals in the end.

Sometimes, all you need to do is take action. You might not know what you’re doing, but that’s to be expected. Just keep taking action. Do what Benjamin Franklin said to do: “Continue to reach out.” You’ll be a be a better man for it.

An Article on Decision Points.

When given the chance, people usually decide to behave lazily and slobbishly. Fortunately, understanding decision points could completely stop such bad behavior.

What is a decision point? Well, they can usually be applied to a situation where you are brought to awareness of a particular task of sorts.

Take, for example, a large bag of movie theater popcorn. Popcorn bags at movie theaters are huge — freakishly huge — and yet they are often gobbled down by the people who purchase them. Here’s the question: If the contents of that same bag of popcorn was divided into 2 or more smaller bags evenly, would people still eat the contents of all the bags? Research suggests that most people wouldn’t.

When one task is spread out into multiple segments (multiple bags), it creates a series of points. In each of these points, the person trying to complete the task becomes more aware and usually more conservative (awareness tends to have that effect on people). Hence, people choose not to eat a bag of popcorn divided into 4 bags, but don’t mind eating one bag of the same amount.

Essentially, a decision point is when someone starts taking more time for contemplation about the task at hand. It’s an important theory that has many practical uses.

Adapting Through Flexible Behavior

There are things in the world I hate, but I probably won’t hate those things all my life; I just hate them right now. Does this make me inconsistent? Not really. I just like to adapt.

I’m always amazed by the number of people who think that being concrete in their ways is a virtue. After all, things are constantly changing. Gregory House called it “one of the great tragedies of life.” Certain ideas that may have worked a few years ago suddenly stop working. Beliefs are always changing… as they should be.

“Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.” — Shunryu Suzuki

Slavery, incest, sexism — Each of these things were considered acceptable in the past until it dawned on society that they were too harmful or unneeded. Things are in constant motion, forever changing. Heck, even morality changes. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that you change along with it. Unless, of course, you want to end up being a slave owner married to a sibling in a time when that’s not acceptable.

As far as functional living goes, it’s important to avoid being too set in your ways, habits, or beliefs. Because someday, they may become distasteful or even useless. Adapt when you can while you can.