Monthly Archives: March 2020

30% Is Better Than 0%

Life is full of choices.

At the best of times, you have a choice that gives you everything you want with no drawbacks. It’s the perfect choice, the one you’ve wanted for a long time.

But then something happens. Through no fault of your own, you can’t make the 100% perfect choice, and you’re forced to make a different choice.

Maybe there’s an option for 90%, or 80% of what you want. But often you’ll be faced with two choices you don’t want: the choice that gives you 30% (or less) of what you want, and another that gives you 0% of what you want.

When faced with a choice like that, remember this:

30% is better than 0%.

An imperfect metaphor to think about:

Imagine you’re back in school, taking a class. You have an important test coming up that will have a big influence on your final grade. Normally you’d do pretty well on this test, scoring 80% or more. But through no fault of your own, you’ve been unable to go to class or study for the whole week. Suddenly you remember you have a test tomorrow, and you’re forced into a choice between two options: study in the evening and take the test tomorrow (even though you’ll only score a max of 30% for your efforts), or stay home (and get a guaranteed 0%).

(You could also attend class and protest the test, but only a few people do that and most people will just get mad at you.)

The easiest thing to do is to just stay home and give up. The harder choice is to try to make the best of the situation, and choose the option for 30%. Maybe you didn’t study enough, and get 0% anyway. Or maybe you were pessimistic, and a lucky break gives you 50% (or more) on the test.

You’ll never know if you stay home.

I said it’s an imperfect metaphor for a reason. Most choices are more complicated than that. Often the “scores” aren’t clear, and these choices often involve loyalties, principles, or judgements about good and evil.

Still, when faced with something like this, the easiest thing to say is “Both options suck! I refuse to choose either one!” Sometimes you can do that, and move on. Most of the time, you can’t. You have to make some kind of choice, otherwise life will choose for you.

“I still don’t like it!” says the person faced with two terrible choices. “This sounds like ‘voting for the lesser of two evils!’ I refuse! I don’t want to vote for evil!”

Okay! Don’t vote for the lesser of two evils – vote for the best of two options. Alternatively, vote against the worst option. Just make a choice, because refusing to make a choice at all only helps you feel more in control – it doesn’t help anyone, even you. Especially you. And especially anyone else who will be affected by that 0% choice.

Be practical. Be pragmatic. And even when you hate the choices given to you…

Choose wisely.

101 Hobbies and Activities to Replace Gaming

Let’s say you spend a lot of time playing video games (or some other bad habit)…

…too much time playing video games. Let’s say it is interfering with other parts of your life, and that you worry you suffer from video game addiction. Let’s say you’re trying to cut back – and want to replace video games with something else.

With that in mind, I made a list of hobbies that can be used to replace video games for this hypothetical video-game-addict (sorted into a few general categories). If this is you, or are trying to replace some other bad habit, be sure to pick and choose.

[Keep in mind that some of these are difficult or impossible in the middle of a pandemic.]

Education and Skills – Anything to do with learning more, or improving a specific skill.

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Listening to podcasts
  4. Documentaries
  5. Public Speaking
  6. Debate
  7. Learn a second language
  8. Learn memory techniques
  9. Take classes (online or offline)
  10. Programming
  11. Trade Skills (Woodworking, Metalworking, Crafting, etc.)
  12. Learn how to give massages (your partner will thank you)
  13. Astronomy and Stargazing
  14. Lockpicking
  15. Pursuit Driving/Advanced Driving

Art and Creative Expression – Anything to do with creating something new, or experiencing art made by other people.

  1. Blogging
  2. Start a podcast
  3. Video editing
  4. Graphic Design
  5. Photography
  6. Photoshop
  7. Listening to music
  8. Learn to play a musical instrument
  9. Writing music
  10. Singing
  11. Improv and Stand-up comedy
  12. Poetry
  13. Acting and theater
  14. Sewing and making clothes
  15. Fashion
  16. Drawing
  17. Painting
  18. Sculpting and carving
  19. Origami

Social Life and Relationships – Anything involving meeting new people or forming new relationships.

  1. Reconnect with old friends
  2. Join a club
  3. Start a club
  4. Go to festivals and conferences
  5. Volunteering and activism

Money and Finance – Anything to do with making money or learning how to make money.

  1. Learn marketing
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  3. Start a business or side gig
  4. Become a coach or trainer
  5. Flipping/Ebay selling
  6. Investing

Health and Fitness – Anything to do with moving your body or improving your physical well-being.

  1. Sleep (no seriously, you probably need more)
  2. Martial Arts
  3. Bodybuilding
  4. Weightlifting
  5. Rock Climbing
  6. Group fitness
  7. Join a solo sport (Bowling, Golf)
  8. Join a team sport (Basketball, Volleyball)
  9. Parkour
  10. Running
  11. Biking
  12. Yoga
  13. Acroyoga
  14. Tai Chi
  15. Dancing
  16. Skateboarding
  17. Skydiving and Base Jumping
  18. Boating (Kayaking, Sailing, River Rafting)
  19. Diving
  20. Surfing
  21. Swimming
  22. Paintball
  23. Shooting
  24. Archery
  25. Wilderness and survival training

Games – Anything to do with games other than video games.

  1. Board games
  2. Tabletop games
  3. Rubix Cubes and puzzles
  4. Card games
  5. Chess and Go

Home and Garden – Anything to do with improving your home, or making the space you live in your own.

  1. Decluttering
  2. Cleaning
  3. Organizing
  4. Redecorating
  5. Plant a garden
  6. Cooking and baking
  7. Digitize your life (Lifelogging, Build a Second Brain)
  8. Architecture and design
  9. DIY skills

Lifestyle and Traveling – Anything to do with new experiences and seeing new places.

  1. Visit the library
  2. Visit museums and galleries
  3. Visit a restaurant you’ve never been to before
  4. Visit a town or city you’ve never been to before
  5. Travel to another country
  6. Camping
  7. Hiking
  8. Birdwatching
  9. Start a collection

Wisdom and Reflection – Anything to do with improving your mindset, or turning knowledge into lessons.

  1. Meditation
  2. Lucid Dreaming
  3. Start a journal or diary
  4. Make a bucket list (or Impossible List)
  5. Practice gratitude every day
  6. Reflect on life lessons you’ve learned
  7. Teach others what you’ve learned

There are literally hundreds of other hobbies you could pick up – but there is one activity that is more important than any of the above:

  1. Play the game of life to win – You only have one life. You can’t restart, or do things over. Wherever possible, avoid games where you learn nothing or win nothing in the end. Make your own game, and play to win.

You Can Control One Thing

There are hundreds of things we have practically no ability to control, change, or choose.

Death.

Taxes.

The past.

The weather.

The government.

Disease and disaster.

Other people’s opinions.

Whether they love you back.

The circumstances of your birth.

Some of these you have more control over than others – for most of these, it’s limited control at best. It’s easy to be frustrated by this, and say “What’s the point of doing anything? I can’t control anything about my life!”

But there is something you can control. There is exactly one thing you can control, change, and make choices for.

Yourself.

You can control yourself. You can change yourself. You have the ability to make choices, and affect the course of your life.

For everything else you don’t have full control over: you don’t have to have full control. You can make up most of the difference by finding ways of influencing life in your favor.

Influence Without Control

You can’t control when you die – but you can make healthy choices to delay your end. Some people even think that one day we will all Transcend death, but that day is not today.

You can’t avoid taxes – normally. Not to mention expenses. But you can make choices that improve your finances over time.

You can’t change the past – but you can think differently about it. Reflect, think about lessons you’ve learned, and change your future.

You can’t control the weather – but you can prepare for it. Watch the weather report, have everything you need to handle it, and know what risks you’re likely to deal with.

You can’t control the government – but you can influence it. Get involved any way you can. And be sure to vote – if your favorite candidate loses, vote for the next best thing, because getting 30% of what you want is better than getting 0%.

You can’t control disease and disaster – but you can prepare for them. The current pandemic aside, once it’s over you can do some research, learn some skills, and be ten times as prepared for the next Emergency as your neighbor.

You can’t control other people’s opinions – but you can influence them! You can learn How to Win Friends and Influence People, and about the science of Influence.

You can’t control whether someone loves you back – and that’s okay! As Mark Manson said in Models, “Rejection exists for a reason — it’s a means to keep people apart who are not good for each other.”

You can’t control the circumstances of your birth – something I know well, and will write about often in the future. Sometimes where, when, and what body you’re born into can radically impact your life, for better or worse. Sometimes life deals you a bad hand – but even if you’re dealt a bad hand, it’s still possible to win in the end as long as you don’t quit the game.

Play to win.

The Value of Being Prepared

“Be prepared! That’s the Boy Scout’s marching song

Be prepared! As through life you march along

Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.

Be prepared!” – Be Prepared by Tom Lehrer

If I’m going to take one thing away from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s this: the value of being prepared.

Very few people foresaw this pandemic. The early warnings from epidemiologists fell on deaf ears. Several people in the American tech industry (including Tim Ferriss, and the dozens of companies who pulled out of the SXSW conference early), and people in the online “rationalist” sphere were concerned about this long before anyone else. The US media? The US government? The majority of Americans? Governments and people around the world? The hospitals being overwhelmed around the world? All reacted to the pandemic rather than be proactive.

Self-Reliance

Maybe there are reasons for this lack of preparedness that only apply to your current government, or current media, but it doesn’t change the facts.

If you cannot fully rely on governments, media, hospitals, or your neighbors to prevent disasters before they happen, there is only one person you can truly rely on:

Yourself.

You need to be prepared for disaster, and already know how to react appropriately before it’s necessary. Better yet, you need to to be proactive, acting before disaster and giving yourself precious time.

While much of the modern world is dedicated to preventing disasters, you should prepare yourself for an Emergency. In a perfect world, you would never need to know how to survive in the wilderness or survive a natural disaster… but in a perfect world, pandemics wouldn’t happen.

While disasters can can be made less likely or unlikely, you still might be hit by a Black Swan. On a long enough timeline, unlikely events become inevitable, and the world can be transformed by these events in the blink of an eye. Most people are blind to these events, and only make sense of them in hindsight. You don’t have to be one of those people.

The sooner you can predict disasters beforehand, the better – but don’t just predict things: learn the art of Superforecasting. Make predictions, check your work, figure out where biases or lack of information prevents you from foreseeing the future, and improve your abilities. Your family and neighbors will thank you.

Get Prepared

Maybe the world will be relatively unaffected by COVID-19 in the long run – I doubt this, but stranger things have happened. If you (still?!) haven’t made any preparations for COVID-19, please get prepared. If the people worried about coronavirus are wrong, you’ll have some extra food, plus supplies for the next disaster. If the people worried about coronavirus are right… you’ll thank your good judgement that you were prepared.

Intro

I’m writing this in March of 2020. This is a weird time to be alive in general, but more specifically: COVID-19 (AKA Coronavirus) is sweeping across the world. As of March 21st (depending on the source) there are over 300,000 reported infections, and over 13,000 reported dead – it’s constantly rising, and it will be higher by the time you read this.

If you’re reading this from a future where COVID-19 wasn’t a big deal, I’ll be glad to hear it – but right now this looks like a pandemic for the history books.

What does a pandemic have to do with blogging? That’s not a trick question – I was planning on restarting my blog, but I wasn’t sure when. After thinking about the number of people who will be self-quarantining in the coming months, disrupted from their normal routines, I thought:

Why not restart my blog now? Why not give people something new to read right now, to help lift people’s spirits during the pandemic?

Problems of Previous Blogs

I’ll be completely honest (maybe more than necessary): This isn’t my first blog. I’ve had several blogs over the years, and this isn’t the first introduction to this blog.

Sometimes this blog had too many focuses. Sometimes this blog was really ambitious and 100% focused on one topic, but people didn’t like the topic. And sometimes this blog was split between self-improvement and world-improvement – when self-improvement always needs to come before world-improvement.

There were other problems. In the past I’ve been a perfectionist and procrastinator – I’ve often been more focused on producing perfect work than on producing any work at all. When I did write something, it was either a topic I’d been thinking long beforehand, or combined a bunch of smaller topics that were all easy to write about.

Admitting that feels uncomfortable, and might not be the “powerful” thing to do. Maybe so – that’s the past. I’m determined to make this the last introduction I write.

Goals of this Blog

Rather than make the mistakes of previous blogs, being overly ambitious or not writing very often, this blog only has a few goals right now:

  1. Write.
  2. Write consistently.
  3. Write about whatever is interesting or important right now.
  4. Write in order to clearly communicate what I think and believe.

Those are my goals… write now.

I’m not starting out with an ambitious vision for this blog, other than one man attempting to think more clearly (hopefully in ways that help other people). Even though I have a lot of things I want to write about (books, self-improvement, rationality, ethics, “man’s inhumanity to man,” puns), the most important thing is writing consistently, letting the work evolve and improve over time.

In Conclusion?

My name is Proteus Morrill.

I’m a writer (and more).

This is my blog.