Archive for July, 2012

Fear Paralysis: the Fear of Failure is Paralyzing

July 29, 2012 Leave a comment

There are many reasons for failure to achieve goals and one of the fundamental problems is being unwilling to plunge into uncertainty. Just because one doesn’t know how to do something, doesn’t mean one can’t just try, can’t just do something and see what happens.

Like rigor mortis, it’s as if the fear just freezes blood and muscle, and kills—the slow death. From an unwillingness to face uncertainty, it’s a short step to becoming unwilling to face failure. Such a common, mediocre fear.

Do you read about how to do things without actually doing them? Do you read too much and do too little? ‘But I just want to make sure I do it right!’, you may protest. But you’re wrong: it’s just fear of failure. Or perhaps more accurately, fear of realizing ‘what am I doing what the heck did I just do I just made a fool of myself that’s not how you do it I forgot what I’m supposed to be doing what am I doing’.

Something I wrote in my journal weeks ago: “I could have been calling places all morning to ask if they have work. But I didn’t. Why not? Well, because I don’t know how to ask. How exactly do you ask if someone is hiring, in a professional way that doesn’t sound desperate?”

It’s Not A Trivial Problem. What If You Do Fail?

What if I called all morning and found no one hiring? What if I sounded dumb? What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I invited a bunch of people to hang out, but they didn’t show up? Or I just came across as awkward and stupid, and what if I found out I don’t really have friends? Or, What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I laid out step-by-step things to do to be attractive to women, but couldn’t learn how? What if I don’t master the art of seduction, ever, and miss out on awesomeness? Or, What if I felt like a fool and ended up with no results to show for it?

What if I took continuous, mentally tiring action and yet still converted book knowledge into life change? Just in general? Okay, this one’s a bit stupider. It’s a legitimate worry, but one I think I can (continue to) figure out.

Or what if, despite being the president of the club and having (at one point) visions for where I wanted to take it, what if I end up being a terrible leader for SHIFT? A mediocrity?–what if I don’t get things done?

And so on and so on.

A Partial Solution?

These fears need not hold you back. There are ways of ensuring success that have little to do with personality or fears or ego, and that focus more on behavior modification and proven principles for “self-modification for personal adjustment” in general (academ-ese for self-improvement), and I’ll write about them soon. But not today.

Today I’ll just note that you have to actually do shit and learn to not be hurt by rejection, perhaps by changing some aspect of the punishment into positive reinforcement.

To recap: fear of failure is killing me when it comes to finding a good job, building a social network, dating, leading SHIFT, and making changes. Like I said, this is not a trivial matter.


I think I can go to 20 places a day asking if they’re hiring. And I can do so confidently. And that’s that. I think I can perform ‘rejection therapy’, or ‘social skydiving’ … well, I’m not sure. I can certainly message on OKCupid, and have reasonably successful dates.

What’s this partial solution I’m discovering?

Surprisingly, I think it’s indifference. I just don’t care all that much if I’m rejected now. It doesn’t freaking matter.

What to make of this indifference? Is it simple depression? Or is it a deeper realization that rejection really doesn’t matter? I don’t know–maybe both–I shall find out.

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I shall write music every day

July 28, 2012 Leave a comment

For a long time, I’ve wanted to start composing music. I’ve been improvising for quite some time–though I admit my talent at even that is limited.

The goal today–and every day–is to write a very simple song, on the order of 30 seconds. That may not sound like much, but I hope to become familiar with the skill(s) of songwriting and scale up later. It’s so, so much more than just improvisation–you need to have (more) coherence and unity, and be able to process and perform lyrics and music together.

My initial frustration with songwriting is restraining myself, channeling the unbridled creativity of improvisation into something stricter. So many times–even in this short song–did I want to change things, just a little, because it was obvious to me how to make it sound a little better. But the problem is that if I do so, complexity grows–very, very quickly. And I don’t have the ability to cope with that if I hope to remember how to perform the song a second (or third, fourth, etc) time.

The lyrics took 10 minutes, plus a few edits. Coming up with the music wasn’t hard either. It’s recording it that’s hard, right now anyway. In the end, I decided I just don’t have the time to make it better than it is, but here’s the link:

Here is it is again; click on this text to hear it.

This first one is about 1 minute. (Too long! I can only handle 30 seconds for awhile.) First I wrote the lyrics, then the musical pieces of the song on the piano, then got out my electronic keyboard and started figuring shit out (it’s been awhile and I haven’t much used it).


Humans are so small

And the stars

So big

So big /

Try to imagine

You can’t

Imagine a star //

But yet…. //

Humans are so big


To a mouse – or an ant – or a bacterium //

But we can’t be big to a bacterium

Because it’s not like anything to be a bacterium…

Unless! //

Everything is conscious

Everything is alive

‘Hey bro, high five!’

You say to your hard drive. //

Except you don’t.

Because it’s not a-liiivvee. //

…. Right? ///

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Watch out for vampires!

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Some people are energy vampires.

They suck the energy out of you, the aliveness in your eyes glazing over in the grayer world that you have just entered.

You can identify such people by noticing, for example, when you feel noticeably less excited or more lazy. Energy vampires are not (necessarily) evil–often they aren’t even being critical. At the very least, though, they are apathetic, stuck in a cycle of fear.

We’ve all been there. Some stay there. The most depressed and hopeless are the worst. No, make that the second-worst. The worst are those who never give – those whom you care about who do not care about you. Children often fall into that category.

Whenever possible, cut ties with energy vampires. It’s a shame not to help people in need. In this post, though, my thoughts are on those who are too far gone; you need to consider your own well-being, too.

Have I just assumed the existence of some interesting concept (“energy vampires”) without demonstrating it? Yes, yes I have. I’m having fun today.

Psychologists have this construct called “self-efficacy”. Basically, it’s a measure of how much you believe you can do some (any given) particular thing. I hypothesize that there is a high positive correlation between low self-efficacy and being an energy vampire, though I don’t know how to test it, the latter being too vague (at the moment). Interestingly, like many things, there’s a feedback loop: the way you realize you can do something is by doing something, which becomes less likely if you don’t believe you can.

Do I believe some people are more conscious than others? I am sure of it.

Some people are more self-aware, and… more alive. If you like reading blogs like mine, it’s fair to bet you’re more conscious than others. But not necessarily that much more conscious, all else equal. Here I recall my own experience reading, reading, reading blogs, instead of writing (or, at this stage, simply deciding to write; deciding to write, as part of a set of decisions, has already upgraded my life).

One of the biggest problems is the idea that you should “be yourself”, at least when it’s taken in the sense that your current personality is sacrosanct and can’t change. That would mean that you change; what a shocking idea! Unacceptable, even.

But like other shocking ideas–like the idea that it is far more useful to analyze your behavior and others’ in terms of behavior modification principles or lack of skill, rather than as a lack of willpower or deficiency in personality–it seems to be powerful knowledge. But that’s for another day 😉

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How to Break Into A Field In 9 Months, According to Michael Ellsberg

July 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I read this fascinating article by Michael Ellsberg, best-selling author, on how to get the job of your dreams without formal credentials. It works only for ‘soft’ fields that don’t require a formal credential, of course (as law or engineering would)—writing, marketing, design, sales, entrepreneurship (yes, I know that’s quite general!), programming, etc.

It’s essentially about (a) self-education, (b) building a network, and (c) selling (ethically). And showcasing your knowledge and (later) knowledge on a blog (part of (c)) from the very beginning.

The first step, of course, is deciding what you’d like to break into. I am choosing to start with marketing, especially direct-response, and some programming: after some learning, I may get a better idea of what I like and could rock at. The rest of the process can be broken into a timeline of nine months. By the way, I am just summarizing that post above in a  way that makes more sense to me; that’s all I’m doing, so of course it’s not original content. Instead, I’m learning from the first master 😉

Months 1, 2

LEARN. And showcase it through blogging.

Start a blog that follows your journey of learning everything there is to learn in this field. Read two books a week. Aim for classics and practitioners’ books (vs theory). Write two blog posts a week detailing what you learn. You demonstrate (a) education and understanding of the field, (b) willingness to learn and curiosity, (c) writing ability, and (d) social media skills (if you do blogging right!) And–perhaps eventually–even (e) you will establish yourself as an expert and not just a job-seeker.

Time: Budget at least 10 hours/week for reading, and 4-10 hours writing.

NETWORK. Learn how, and start doing it.

Learn how. Watch this and read this. Most people do it wrong: you can do it right. Also read Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone – I really enjoyed it and he knows what he’s talking about.

Start doing it. Aim to find 3 business owners per month, hopefully that you already know, either offline or online. In these two months, have conversations with them. Find out what their challenges are….   then do your very best to start being of service to them. If done right, you will have six good fans. (If not, start over?–you seriously need to find people, and help them, for the plan to work.)

Time: 10-20 hours a week. Total: 30 hours/week for months 1-2 (productive hours, as the assumption remains throughout the post).

Months 3, 4, 5

WORK FOR FREE. Start practicing your work.

Key: Be super helpful. Offer small ways you can offer your services for free. Small business rarely turn down free services! (According to Ellsberg, as is everything else here.) It’s like a continuation of before, but more focused on your craft.

Say, “I’m training to become [X], and I’ve been meticulously studying the craft to learn how to do it well [link to your blog]. I’d like to offer you [some free services around X] as I build my practice. I don’t expect any payment at all. But down the road, if you like my work, perhaps you can refer me to other people you know who might benefit from it.”

Time: 20 hours a week (including networking to get the gigs).

DEVELOP CASE STUDIES. Blog about your experiences.

Blog about your experiences providing these services as case studies. Lessons learned, triumphs, mistakes, etc. Ask your client if you can use their name in the blog post, and show them what you’ve written before it goes up (so you don’t infringe on their privacy).

 Time: 5-10 hours a week.

FIND MENTORS. Reach out to the authors you’ve learned from.

Reach out to authors of the books you read and blogged about in Step 1, asking to interview them for your blog. The more time has passed since their last book came out, the more likely they’ll be willing to do the interview.

Time: 5-10 hours a week. Total: 50 hours/week, including 10 for reading/blogging and 5 for networking (months 1-2).

Months 6, 7

SELL. Learn sales by selling other people’s stuff.

Read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. [..] The focus is on deep inquiry into the customer’s actual problems, needs, dreams and desires — through asking the right questions and listening well.

Once you feel you have a basic grasp of the concepts in the book, find someone in your social economy (see Step 2) who has some kind of business, whether it’s products or services. [..] Ask if you can sell for them, with zero base salary. Perhaps you can get a commission, or perhaps not.

The point is to get practice selling (face-to-face) in an already-existing business–with pre-qualified prospects (as opposed to finding people to sell to in the first place). Interestingly, Ellsberg thinks that the pricier the thing you’re selling, the higher the “integrity, empathy, listening skills, and caring” necessary to sell it (so it’s better to start by selling expensive things).

Time: 20 hours/week a combination of studying the book and putting it in practice in a friends’ or acquaintances’ business. Total: 55 hours/week, including 35 hours from months 3-5.

Months 8, 9

SELL. Sell your own stuff: now you’re in business!

Everything is in place: know-how, social economy, sales.

Have individual meetups with 10 business owners — the ones within your social economy — over breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. Tell them about the portfolio of results you’ve achieved in the last seven months, both online and offline. Have honest-to-goodness conversations about their needs. If they have a need you can address, use your SPIN Selling skills to get them excited about the idea of working with you. {If they don’t, do your very best to connect them with someone who could help.} Tell them about the specific type of problem and/or business owner you can help, and ask for their best three ideas for meeting that kind of business owner. You’ll usually come away with several great ideas, and possibly even some referrals.

Time: ALL the time, when you include continuing some of months 1-7. Total: As much as you can and want to.

Does It Work? I Don’t Know! …   But do you have a better plan?

I’ve tried to distill what I’ve learned from this decade into something clear and simple that could be followed by a focused, determined person, in one year. If I were to do it over again, this is how I’d do it.

Follow-Up #1: What Do Employers Want?

Before reading Ellsberg’s article – but after deciding I would – I decided to brainstorm the skills that every good employer, regardless of field, would seek. That way I know what to develop in myself.

  • After figuring out what done looks like, the ability to figure out exactly what actions need to happen next to get there.
  • High output: doing a hell of a lot. The more actions and projects completed done, the better.
  • After figuring out exactly what the target client wants, the ability address their desires (rather than our own)…  and close sales.
  • Ability to figure out what (high-leverage) activities can be done, whether or not they’re in the job description, and doing them.
  • Ability to write, to the point and fluently.
  • The ability to communicate with co-workers and superiors in a way that gets things done and keeps people happy. No friction.

Next time: my plan and/or first progress.

I also need work right now: ideally, part-time. I had some full-time work until extremely recently (today), but I quit. I was miserable, and I don’t need it to survive. Even working at McDonald’s would be better than that work–far better, and in fact I would happily work at McDonald’s or a similar establishment; I would even love it, if it were near the station for a TRAX bus I use frequently (because that way I could make it to either the university or my favorite coffee place, SL Roasting Company, within minutes). Blog will have an update on my work seeking very soon.

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How to upgrade your life by losing your computer

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I just got my laptop back, after a week without it–it broke and was promptly repaired by Apple–and something interesting happened.

It’s so easy to waste hours upon hours visiting and re-visiting your favorite websites. And when you do that, it’s amazing how unenjoyable it becomes. It’s like an addiction, small-scale: the comforting stuporous buzz you feel from doing something repetitive and low-energy is a drug that demands more of itself.

Of course, it’s an escape. And apart from that, can enable bad habits… perhaps even a rather mild case of stalking if I dare admit it 😉 You know that saying that you don’t know what you miss until it’s gone? I feel like its opposite applies here: I didn’t realize how little I would miss it until it was gone.

A couple of days ago, for the first time ever, I came up on a new solution for what to do when I have nothing to do: grab books and read them. It’s that simple. And yet, despite a goal to read more, I haven’t substantially changed things until now. Before settling down on a nice couch with a stack of books, I hit on a new reading habit. Several days ago, I took a book with me on the bus–even if I read it only half the time. I read dozens of pages of a behavior modification textbook during self-imposed 2-minute breaks while doing the most boring data entry job ever.

What can you do? You can cut yourself off from your temptation, at least for a little while, let other, higher-quality habits seep in and fill its place, and upgrade your life.

With my laptop back, a strange emotion (or set of emotions) came over me. A sort of tense-ness. I was…   afraid. Afraid I would lose the battle to maintain my new habits; but also determined that I would. It feels so strange to say to yourself ‘I am going to win this’ when you’re talking about beating yourself up for doing something you thought you enjoyed.

I am sure that there are many other lower-quality habits that can be replaced with higher-quality ones, and I am sure that over time I will discover more of them.

Some low-quality activities, most notably mindless Internet crawling (and the terrifying part is that, for me, I eventually found that I could not control myself even when I knew I didn’t really want to), is that your clear vision of yourself becomes less clear; it becomes clouded. I find that my convictions ring hollow when I forget the meat of them and repeat only the words–becoming the image, not the real thing. Using the Internet is one of those things, if not the biggest thing, that makes me forget the discrepancy between my desires and actions. Perhaps like a lens that can’t see its own flaws.

P.S. An additional reason I feel trepidation–and, looking it up, it’s the perfect word–about being online is because I know I’ll be tempted to check out the Facebook and blog of someone whom I should forget about, at least for a little while.

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Weekly Review 2

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Looking Back

Last Week I …

Last week I discovered I absolutely love the Salt Lake Roasting Company. I think I’ll go there almost every day and get a mocha latte half the time (ouch on my budget). Last week I decided to focus on getting to GTD–and more broadly, getting organized–and I think I made a lot of progress.

In the last week, I’ve listed everything “on my mind”–all projects–and started filling out a complete GTD organization system. I’ve also completely organized everything digital: click on this MindMap (made early last week) to see how all my pdfs, notes, media, etc. are organized in Dropbox. One of the many highlights is that I’m aware of all the reading material I have, both academic and personal-development. If you’re academically inclined, you can see a list of 52 articles I can’t wait to read (someday). My Gmail is completely cleared out and organized, in a really simple GTD fashion. I took a screenshot of my inbox at zero and shared it on Facebook. Everything was added either to a tickler file, or as a project or action, or deleted or archived. I have like 3 Gmail folders now and just archive everything.

It should be noted that I was already somewhat organized before starting. My possessions had been reduced to 4 boxes (3.5, actually)–and 1 of those is entirely for a student group I lead. I had started to inventory everything that is a part of my life–see the MindMap here–doing so completely in the case of my online presences on various websites). I have a place for every physical thing I own. And I had only about 500 emails to deal with. Also, just before starting this week, on the day I made my first weekly review post, I cleared away most of my papers, leaving only a few that need to be dealt with. (On that note, the sum total of all non-SHIFT paper materials I own fits in a single folder, rather comfortably.)

 Last week’s goals were as follows: (1) plan and announce a SHIFT meeting, (2) write a UFT ( post, (3) read the first two chapters of Self-Directed Behavior, and (4) plan a social event with friends. As for (1), I put this off to the last minute, so I didn’t plan anything special. It took 1 minute to announce on Facebook as soon as I decided it couldn’t wait any longer. 1 minute! As for (2), whereas the above took one minute, this took literally hours. In the end, I decided to focus on the more elegant words of those I quoted in 4 or 5 block quotes from people like Yudkowsky and Bostrom. I’m proud of this post, published here as well (What Death Means to an Atheist). As for (3), I did indeed read the first 2 chapters of Self-Directed Behavior. I read it properly; that is, answering the ‘learning objective’ questions for each chapter. I didn’t go beyond this, however: most importantly, I haven’t yet decided on a self-improvement project to use the book for, something I should do right away if I want the book to be valuable. Finally, (4), I did not finish planning a social event. I asked a few people if they were interested in karaoke, which they for the most part were, so I could finish planning that early this week.

Areas of my Life Review. (I’m starting with just three.) Social. This week, just one social hangout. Immediately befriended hot Latina co-worker mostly via lunch at BK (unfortunately, she’s married.). 5/10. Intellectual. Read some self-directed behavior, but that’s it. 2/10. Productivity. Not much outside of my GTD notes (see earlier). As I put it on a FB status: “it feels *really good* to enumerate all your projects / commitments to self and others. It really does!… I am slightly surprised.” On a non-GTD note, I have some confidence that having a weekly focus is going to be one of the first significant keys–for me, anyway–to greater productivity and happiness.

In Other News. 1. I attended my first UCoR board meeting. UCoR stands for “Utah Coalition of Reason”, a coalition of all of the dozen or so non theist groups in Utah. I’m afraid I was a bit of a thorn :/ ..  I think Zach and Evelin are committed to it, and it was nice to meet Bob (H of U prez), Elaine (former UCoR director and former SHIFT prez) and Tiffany (events officer in A of U). UCoR, besides being just cool (to me), is significant because I plan on merging the relatively new blog with it, as part of their website. 2. At SHIFT, I finally met both Lance and Varun in person. I wasn’t expecting to, but was pleasantly surprised. I think I kind of let Lance dominate the meeting, but he was cool enough I was cool with it (this time). 3. I have had a fitness program recommended to me, which will probably form my week’s focus in 2-3 weeks. I bought tasty protein powder with the intent of eating every day (somehow).

Looking Ahead

This Week I’ll …

The next week’s focus will be SHIFT projects*, because I want SHIFT to be as active as possible and there are many opportunities for projects that will be passed by unless I act (or just decide) on them now. There are too many to list here, but I plan on making progress simply by having a list of what needs to be looked at or done and doing as much as I can each day.  (*P.S. SHIFT– the link is our Facebook group – is a secular student group I lead. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through it, and I really enjoy being in charge of it, which I have been since April 1.)

My other weekly goals include the following:

  1. Get in the habit of using my little red notebook properly as well as having a morning ritual (and night one), all of which will support GTD. These are the various parts, or habits: (a) a 15-minute Like-A-Boss morning ritual I’ve started doing that gives me high energy and gets me going right away, (b) spending 10 minutes looking at my weekly goals, calendar, and actions needed for those goals to decide what to do today, (c) using To Do and Done lists in my little red notebook, as well as the right side for things that come up, (d) constantly referring to the notebook to decide what to do next or write down something to process later, and (e) spend 5 minutes each night processing/organizing the items I’ve thought up during the day.
  2. Make further progress in GTD. (A) spending a few minutes coming up with protocols for how to decide what to do next (a decision that has to be made throughout the day) and for selecting actions from my next actions list for the day’s goals. (B) organizing my projects to reflect my goals. (C) moving a lot of projects (and actions) to ‘Someday/maybe’. And (D) finishing getting stuff from my few remaining papers into GTD.
  3. Decide what self-improvement project I will do concurrently with reading/doing Self-Directed Behavior, then do the exercises for chapters 1 and 2.
  4. Plan a social event (which can be late this week or early next week). (In addition to seeing Dark Knight Rises Thursday night.)
  5. List my car for sale: (a) for $999, with a new ad on KSL, (b) writing on a For Sale sign to put on the dashboard, and (c) investigating whether CarMax is a good deal for me.
  6. Eliminate website hosting for two old websites I no longer use: (a) ERC and (b) AdamTBri.
  7. Renew my FAFSA for 2012-2013.

Note: I plan on doing #s 5-7 all on Saturday. I’m only worrying about #s 1-4 Tuesday through Friday. That leaves items 2 (est. 2 hours), 3 (est. 2 hours), and 4 (est. 1/2 hour) to do Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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What Death Means to an Atheist

July 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I just published this on I figure it’s worth posting here too.

So there’s no God. Death is oblivion, then.

When you die, you die

There is no “soul” mixed in with the chemicals, just like there is no soul in a bacterium, a mosquito, a mouse, a dog or a chimp. There is no afterlife, no heaven or hell, for the chemicals that make up a human body.

This concept — this idea that a human being simply ceases to exist upon death — drives many people absolutely nuts. They cannot imagine it. “Me? Die? I am going to totally cease to exist? All my thoughts, all my experiences, all my relationships, all of my ideas and memories… It all simply vanishes and I am gone? Impossible!!!”

Nonetheless, that is the reality of the situation. [WWGHA]

What happens when you die

You may want to skip the next two paragraphs. It is an exercise in realizing that when you die, you die. Do not read if you have recently experienced the death of a loved one (or think you might soon). You have been warned.

Say this to yourself: I’m going to end up a corpse. It only seems so far away because it hasn’t happened yet. But the Grim Reaper awaits me.

The first stage: blood flows to the bottom of your body, leaving the rest white. Rigor mortis sets in–soon after you shit yourself. Soon, the body bloats as gas accumulates. The skin starts to peel off, leaving a small fissure where bugs lay their eggs, their maggots eating your flesh. The soft organs, including the brain, go first.

Morticians dress you up and make you up for the funeral long before this happens. But you’re still white, cold, lifeless. You still have dead eyes. Because you’re dead; you’ve ceased to be.

Your life, contextualized

Hypothetically, a gravestone will say, in the future: “Adam I. Lived from 1991-2071″.

Carl Sagan reminded us all that on the cosmic calendar, starting with the Big Bang and ending in the present–about to start a new year–modern humanity began at 11:59:59 on December 31.

The last second of the year. And you’ve been here only a fraction of that time. But even this doesn’t convey that there are many billions of years ahead of us, and you–even all humanity–may be only a little blip.

To give you some perspective, that hypothetical headstone should read 13,720,678,821-13,720,678,901. On a scale stretching from year 0 to about the year 100,000,000,000.

I know this is a tangent, but you know what’s worst of all? Even with medical advances, during the last 30 years or so of your life your body slowly breaks down–and eventually your brain. The fresh-faced, vital twenties and thirties quickly end in the long scheme of even your short life.

Death is bad. Really.

If a dragon ravaged our country, taking thousands every day to be eaten, would we call that good? Would we rationalize it as a fact of life? Read Nick Bostrom’s The Fable of the Dragon Tyrant.

Spiritual men sought to comfort those who were afraid of being eaten by the dragon (which included almost everyone, although many denied it in public) by promising another life after death, a life that would be free from the dragon-scourge. Other orators argued that the dragon has its place in the natural order and a moral right to be fed. They said that it was part of the very meaning of being human to end up in the dragon’s stomach. […]

… a small boy yelled out from the audience: “The dragon is bad!”

… “I want my granny back,” said the boy.

[Moral 1] A recurrent tragedy became a fact of life, a statistic. In the fable, people’s expectations adapted to the existence of the dragon, to the extent that many became unable to perceive its badness. Aging, too, has become a mere “fact of life” – despite being the principal cause of an unfathomable amount of human suffering and death.

The appeal of transhumanism

Just one of the values of transhumanism is life extension. There needn’t be death. We’re just not smart enough to have figured it out… yet.

Transhumanism isn’t scary. It’s just intellectually consistent humanism, as Eliezer Yudkowsky argues. There are no arbitrary bounds, no special cases: the more humanness, celebration of life, uniqueness, the better.

 If you believe professional bioethicists (people who get paid to explain ethical judgments) then the rule “Life is good, death is bad; health is good, sickness is bad” holds only until some critical age, and then flips polarity. Why should it flip? Why not just keep on with life-is-good? It would seem that it is good to save a six-year-old girl, but bad to extend the life and health of a 150-year-old. Then at what exact age does the term in the utility function go from positive to negative? Why? […]

But – you ask – where does it end? It may seem well and good to talk about extending life and health out to 150 years – but what about 200 years, or 300 years, or 500 years, or more? What about when – in the course of properly integrating all these new life experiences and expanding one’s mind accordingly over time – the equivalent of IQ must go to 140, or 180, or beyond human ranges?

Where does it end? It doesn’t. Why should it? Life is good, health is good, beauty and happiness and fun and laughter and challenge and learning are good. This does not change for arbitrarily large amounts of life and beauty.

 …. Now what?

Only an atheist can realize what death means

It means this is your only shot. If you think you have eternity, where’s the urgency?

It means that you give life purpose by maximizing that shot… right? Because then you die. And you like being alive; at least sometimes you do, and you can maximize whatever it is that you like about living.

Tangent: perhaps not obviously, it also means that rate of progress matters. Someone who self-modifies (self-improves) at 10 X the pace experiences a far higher quality of life when aggregated across their lifespan than the relatively stupid person….  or the person who doesn’t self-improve at all.

“Sensitive”? Nay, merely cognizant

I wrote about my thoughts on life and death–and my grandfather–after he passed away in late 2010. He was a law professor for thirty years. He was such a WW II buff that he wrote a book of his own. I thought that was so cool. He had a hacking cough from all his smoking; a prominent mustache; and a sense of humor I liked. I don’t know what my dad and uncle went through, but it must have been 50x worse. And it was bad. He was my favorite grandparent at the time, and I was his favorite. My dad wrote the obituary. As I wrote at the time “And that’s it. He’s gone. There is no such person as Dallas Isom any longer and there never will be, only a corpse, a collection of carbon and nitrogen and such things. To dust he returneth as we all will.”

As a youngster (read: just a couple of years ago), I was called “sensitive”. But is it sensitivity, or mere cognizance? To think about a human life!–Snuffed out forever!–the possibilities never seen, let alone explored; that glorious flower of consciousness, withered into ashes; that “candle in the dark”, irrevocably pinched out.

Hmmm…  Sensitive?…  perhaps.

The only problem with “sensitivity”, it seems to me, is when your thinking about living, and all its possibilities, instead of trying a few of them out.

We end up living the rest of our lives in a lie because we pay attention to our mind instead of our being: we listen to our own internal dialog instead of our gut feeling. We think, instead of acting. Instead of living in a world of perceptions and in the now, we live in an imaginary world of future scenarios or we remain locked in past events…  The tragedy of the human being is its own mind…  It is time to let our internal dialog go.

Life is not lived on the computer reading about how someone else is leading the life you wish you had. Steal the knowledge, but go create your own stories and experiences. [Some blogger, blog now defunct]

How to use the mind, then?

You learn how to use it appropriately. You learn how to think better; be more rational. You learn how to be happier, perhaps by reading the post How to Be Happy. And then you see that science confirms that quality relationships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness. So you focus on relationships, including expressing love, e.g. by making Nyan’s rules for optimizing affection explicit:

I hereby declare that you are allowed to love me. I will not judge you or hate you or stop talking to you. I will receive and return your affection happily and gently let you know if you push my limits.

You learn when you’re persisting only because of sunk costs; when effort exceeds benefits (for example, moving on mentally with a dead romance prospect). You learn that you can beat procrastination, and how to build the right habits to beat procrastination and such things. You figure out how to have more energy, and how to eliminate the stress of stuff and things-to-do. You learn that successful self-modification is possible by ditching the Tony Robbins and instead opting for something like Self-Directed Behavior (currently reading).

Why? Because when you’re serious, you’re going to self-improve right! And when you remember that you have one shot, then you become serious. (The trick is remembering over and over.)

Parting tip: if you didn’t follow any of the links–which you very probably didn’t–go back and follow the links.

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