The Ugly Truth

[Something I want to make very clear: I don’t endorse what I talk about here. I don’t think this is necessarily good, right, or fair. But I do think what I talk about here is true, at least most of the time.]

What is the most powerful way to improve how people treat you? What is the most powerful way to make more friends, date more people, have more career success, and have people treat you nicely wherever you go?

Maybe you should improve your social skills? Social skills are incredibly valuable, and they will improve your interactions with people – but there is an even more powerful way to improve how people treat you, one that allows people with terrible social skills to be treated well.

Maybe you should build and master skills in general? Mastering a skill (especially a popular or admirable skill) will earn respect from many people – but there is an even more powerful way to improve how people treat you, one that allows people with no skills at all to be treated well.

Maybe you should make more money, and have people admire you for your wealth? Money can make you (superficially) more popular – but there is an even more powerful way to improve how people treat you, one that doesn’t require being wealthy (even if being wealthy makes it easier).

Most of these methods are hard. Most of them aren’t fast. But there is a way to improve how people treat you that is incredibly powerful, can be much faster than other ways, and works even if you have little money, bad social skills, or no skills of any kind.

Here’s the ugly truth:

The most powerful way to improve how people treat you is to become more physically attractive.

The Halo Effect

Maybe you’ve heard of the Halo Effect (No, not that Halo. Not that Halo either). It’s a cognitive bias where positive opinions about one area of something tend to lead to positive opinions about other areas of that thing. With people, it means that the more attractive a person is, the more likely the people around them will assume they have other positive qualities.

Based on what I’ve seen, it means that attractive people have advantages in life, in areas that have nothing to do with being attractive.

Attractive people will get more dates – not just due to sex appeal (that part’s obvious), but also due to people assuming they have qualities of a great partner, even thought there’s no reason to believe that.

Attractive people will make more friends – not just from people who value attractive friends or secretly want to date them, but from people assuming they are better people.

Attractive people will be more likely to get a job offer – not just in jobs that require being attractive, but also in jobs that have nothing to do with appearance, due to the employer assuming they are more intelligent or a hard worker. On top of that, jobs that require being attractive will ignore negative qualities to get the most attractive candidate.

Attractive people will have their social skills be less of an issue – to a degree. Attractive people are more likely to be frequently approached by others (women especially, but men too), meaning they’ll meet new people regardless of their actual social skills. Also, attractive people will be forgiven more often for any social mistakes they make.

Attractive people will have their negative qualities forgiven in general. An attractive person can potentially be selfish, unintelligent, bigoted, violent, lazy, or a number of other negative qualities, and there will still be people who want to be around them. Obviously there are limits to how much being attractive will make people forgive your negative qualities – that said, if being attractive can make people ignore the fact that you’re a violent convicted felon, who knows what the limits really are?

What Now?

I want to be clear here: I’m not saying this is fair, or the way things should be – I’m trying to say that this is how it is, without justifying or resenting it. In a perfect world, attractive people wouldn’t be assumed to be more intelligent, hard working, or ethical than less attractive people.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

If you want to be a high quality person (things like virtue, intelligence, and other merits) you should absolutely become one – just be aware that having your positive qualities recognized will be harder if you’re less attractive. If you’re less attractive, many people will ignore your positive qualities, and may even accentuate your negative qualities due to the Horn Effect (the opposite of the Halo Effect).

Maybe you’re in my boat – not a model or a saint/genius, but you still want to be treated well and have your positive qualities recognized. The way I see it, you have three options:

  1. Keep being less attractive (or just not a model), even if it means people won’t recognize your great qualities as often.
  2. Hope that all humans become enlightened in the near future, overcoming biases like the Halo Effect.
  3. Become more attractive.

The first is what most people do. The second isn’t happening anytime soon. The third is proactive, trying to improve your life rather than reacting or hoping.

I can’t really give advice on being more attractive, beyond generic advice. It’s not that I’m ugly (maybe I am, who knows?), I’m just not an expert. Honestly, you probably have a better idea of what you can do to make yourself more attractive – and which ways of changing your appearance are consistent with your culture or identity.

Again: in a perfect world, being attractive would only matter to a few specific areas, and attractive people wouldn’t be seen as smarter or more ethical just because they look nice. I am NOT saying you should ignore every aspect of your self-development in favor of making yourself more attractive.

I’m saying this: if you become more attractive, life will be easier, and more people will recognize your good qualities more often.

“I want to go home and rethink my life.”

There’s a small scene in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones where Obi-Wan and Anakin are in a club, looking for the bounty hunter Zam Wesell. A drug dealer starts a conversation with Kenobi.

Death Sticks

Dealer: You wanna buy some death sticks?

Kenobi: [Mind Trick] You don’t want to sell me death sticks.

Dealer: I don’t wanna sell you death sticks…

Kenobi: [Mind Trick] You want to go home and rethink your life.

Dealer: I want to go home and rethink my life…

[It turns out that the death stick dealer is named Elan Sleazebaggano. Yes, really.]

It’s a small scene played for laughs. Usually Jedi aren’t supposed to use their force powers on random citizens (even drug dealers), and the Jedi Council probably wouldn’t approve. However, I think it’s worth examining this interaction a little bit, even if it’s just an anti-drug gag in between lightsaber action.

This man’s life has taken a turn for the worse. Whatever potential he had when he was younger, whatever dreams he might have had, it probably wasn’t being a death stick dealer in a seedy club. Who knows what terrible impact he’s had on the people around him – and who knows if he could have been one of the main characters in this story, if a few things had gone differently.

And then he runs into Obi-Wan Kenobi, who uses Jedi mind control on him without a second thought. With a small wave of Kenobi’s hand, the least likely Black Swan, this man has been forced to stop what he’s doing, go home, and rethink his life. Mind control aside, I’ll call that a positive.

Sometimes the world forces you to rethink your life. Sometimes the world gives you the opportunity to do so, and you can choose to take it.

Pandemic and Opportunity

Right now, COVID-19 is sweeping across the world. With billions under shelter-in-place orders, and only the most essential businesses open, life has basically stopped in several countries. People in countries that haven’t stopped completely have had their daily routine dramatically changed.

This is a crisis – and a rare opportunity.

Specifically, this is your opportunity to stop everything you’re doing, stay home, and rethink your life.

  • Who are you, at your core?
  • Are you happy with your career?
  • What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?
  • Are you happy with your relationships?
  • Is there anything you regret not doing, or putting off?
  • What do you want to accomplish in your life?
  • What changes do you know you need to make?

You have the opportunity to ask those questions, come up with some answers, and start walking in a different direction. Everyone is too busy with the pandemic to stop you.

This kind of change is hard, so let me try something to help you get started:

[Hand Wave] You want to stay home, and rethink your life.

Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People

If someone has bad social skills, is life easier for them, or harder?

Chances are you said harder. A person can have all kinds of other skills and great qualities – but if they have bad social skills, many people won’t pay attention to their great qualities, or will just avoid them altogether.

“Bad social skills” can mean a lot of things – awkwardness, being self-centered, rudeness, uncontrollable combativeness, etc. There are few careers or paths through life where those qualities help. Maybe they can find a career that doesn’t need social skills – the trouble is that for every career that doesn’t need them, there are nine more that do. I’ve come to believe that improving your own social skills is one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself.

Which brings me to How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

A Classic for a Reason

Win Friends is one of the best selling self-help books of all time. First published in 1936, it has sold millions of copies over the decades. If you ask anyone who reads lots of self-help books about books to improve social skills, they will almost always mention Win Friends.

It’s a classic for a reason: the principles are timeless, and anyone who wants to improve their social skills should read it.

The title explains the book: How to Win Friends and Influence People. You’ll learn the essential skills for handling people, making people like you, persuading people, and more.

The book has 30 principles for human relations, with what I see as three consistent themes:

  1. Make people feel good. Smile! Give sincere appreciation. Be a good listener. Be understanding, and see things from the other person’s perspective. Be genuinely interested in other people. Make them feel important. And always remember the other person’s name.
  2. Avoid making people feel bad. Begin in a friendly way. Avoid arguments at all cost. Never embarrass someone, and always allow them to save their pride. If a person makes a mistake, make it seem easy to fix. And above all, never criticize, condemn, or complain.
  3. Be indirect wherever possible. Ask questions rather than giving orders. Talk in terms of other people’s interests. Admit your mistakes easily, and talk about other’s mistakes indirectly. Let the other person think the idea is theirs, and let them do most of the talking.

If you’re like most people, you’ll read these principles and remember all of the times you broke them (I certainly did!). Even better, you’ll make plans to stop breaking them.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. These principles are hard to master – however, time spent doing so will pay you back a thousand fold in business, and in life.

Using the Principles

I’m going to acknowledge that many people criticize this book – some people say that the principles are only for manipulators, that sometimes you need open honesty rather than politeness, or that the robber barons (Scwab, Rockefeller, etc.) don’t deserve the praise that Dale Carnegie expresses for them. Many of the critics make interesting points, and other reviewers address these critiques well. I do address one important criticism at the end of this review.

The most important thing to realize about Win Friends is that these principles are tools – tools that can be used in all kinds of ways. Used at their best, you can use Win Friends to be a better friend, partner, and neighbor. You could use these principles with the mindset “I like this person, and want to treat them well.” That’s going to include things like being a good listener, and seeing things from their perspective. When you like someone, all of these principles are principles of how to be a good friend.

On the other hand, let’s be honest: Win Friends was written with executives, businessmen, and salespeople in mind. Warren Buffet credits much of his success to the teachings of Dale Carnegie. Win Friends has special advice for people in business, and anyone else trying to win a promotion or promote their career should pay attention.

It’s also possible to use these principles for awful purposes. If someone sets their mind to it, these principles can be used to manipulate, abuse, and harm untold numbers of people. Charles Manson also credits much of his “success” to the teachings of Dale Carnegie – who knows how many master manipulators also say the same?

Use these principles well, and use them ethically – towards others, and towards yourself.

A Final Caution

I believe these principles are incredibly valuable – however, there is a possible downside. It’s possible someone could follow these principles, and end up becoming overly agreeable in the process, or developing a weak sense of self – something that most people don’t want happening to them.

If you’re reading this, we probably value many of the same things: ethics, rationality, self-esteem, and being an excellent judge of character. We all want to win friends – does that mean tolerating unethical people, or people who are bad for you? We all want to influence people – how can we do it without forgetting who we are or what we believe? How can we follow these principles, while allowing for necessary rejection: rejection of people who don’t meet our ethical standards, and rejection from being open and honest about who we are?

Let me be clear: wanting to improve your social skills, win friends, and influence people? All good things! Just don’t forget your most important values in the process.

I recommend reading this book in the spirit of an old saying: “Learn the rules like a pro, so that you can break them like an artist.” Learn the principles of this book, and apply them everywhere you can – so that you break them if a higher reason demands it.

4 out of 5 stars. You can read more about this book on Amazon.

Writing Consistently No Matter What

The point of a blog is to create. Produce. Write. I talked about this a little bit in the Intro, but I’m not very good at writing consistently.

Barriers to Writing

Procrastination. Perfectionism. Writer’s Block. Disorganization. I’ve encountered my fair share of barriers to writing. I’m still trying to overcome those, and I bet I’ll encounter more in the future. None of them are fun. And I know there are even more barriers to writing – like deep poverty – that I haven’t experienced, but I’d rather not add them to the list if I can avoid them.

I’m trying not to approach this blog with some ambitious goal at the moment, but it’s hard not to imagine the grander possibilities of what a blog can lead to: millions of readers. Book deals. International fame and fortune. Groupies.

None of that happens if you don’t write consistently, and build up your skill as a writer. Even if you do build up your skill as a writer, that’s no guarantee that writing a blog will lead to fortune or fame. Or groupies.

The Goal of Writing Consistently

Like I said in the Intro, this blog doesn’t have any grand ambitious goals right now, only a few modest goals:

  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.

If anything big or important develops from that, fantastic. If I only build up writing skill, and apply it to something else, awesome. And even if the ultimate path I take through life doesn’t involve writing in any way, at least I’ll take some time to figure out (in detail!) what I think and believe.

The most important thing to do, no matter the outcome, is to write consistently.

As much as possible.

Everyday, if possible.

That’s hard. Really hard. In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, he calls all of the barriers to writing, and all of the barriers to creativity, Resistance. It comes in many forms, and if you want to produce good work, you need to find the methods of defeating it.

Advice for Myself on How to Write Consistently

I’m not an expert on writing, or productivity. Take any advice I give with a grain of salt. But right now, as I’m in the beginning stages of this blog, I’ve tried to come up with advice for myself on how to write consistently:

Set a writing schedule for finishing each piece or section of writing. Stick to it as much as possible. Right now I’m trying to always post something on this blog three times a week. As my own ability as a writer grows (and I find ways of fitting more writing into the day), I want to increase that.

Figure out when to write, and not just when to finish. People are productive at different times, and you may need to experiment to find when (and under what conditions) you’re most productive. To be honest, I’m writing this section very early in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but somehow I’ve written more in the past hour than I did the entire day before. Writing productively, or doing anything productively, can be tricky to figure out.

Have multiple projects that you’re working on at any time. If you just have one, and encounter writer’s block for that single project, you’ll get nothing done. But if you have multiple projects, you can just work on something else whenever writer’s block happens. I have no problem having multiple projects, since I…

Have lots of ideas to work with. Lots of ideas. Have dedicated brainstorming sessions. Choose the best ideas. If you have too many ideas, either stop brainstorming as much, or figure out a way to sort your ideas by quality and priority. Let’s just say I have no problem coming up with ideas.

Focus on quantity until you get quality. The writing advice I’ve heard again and again is that you need to write a million bad words to become a great writer. A million. At 500 words a page, that’s 2000 pages. If you wrote 1000 words everyday, consistently, it would take you nearly 3 years to get to a million words. Sometimes it’s not exactly a million words, or there’s ways of cutting the number down. But for now, it’s the number I’m going to strive for until I have reason not to.

Don’t worry if your first pieces of writing suck. Chances are they will suck. A lot. But you’ll get better. And over time, you’ll produce so much work that no one will even want to read your early writing. Not only will no one care about your early writing, but chances are the works people love will be the ones you’d never expect. Which is why I’m trying to…

Write about multiple topics. At least until you find the one topic that gives you the most bang for your buck. Write about different things. Write about what’s on your mind. Write about current events. Write the worst short story ever. Write a book review for a book you love. Write about things you would never usually write about to expand your writing ability. And then once you have the one topic or one kind of writing that has the most potential, write everything you possibly can about that.

There’s lots of other writing advice I could come up with. If any of this advice is misguided, I can’t tell you which – but that’s what I’m starting with. Only time will tell if that’s enough to write consistently.

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.