Jeff Bezos spends money better than you or I do. When we spend money, we’re basically influencing what someone else does with their time. There are certain tasks that are better for humanity than others, one would argue having someone spend their time to build a house, or cook a meal, is more valuable than banging buckets as drums on a downtown sidewalk or cooking meth.
In the book Bold, the authors mention that to fix developing countries you can fix certain problems such as giving a place electricity or better ovens and this solves a pile of other problems. This is in contrast to solving a problem like hunger by giving a free meal, which doesn’t really solve a problem for very long and also creates more problems when well fed people then have the strength to reproduce and create even more mouths to feed.
When a hobo is given $20, then that money commands more liquor store owners to keep showing up, make new stores, or brewers to get more barrels to brew booze in. When Elon Musk is given $20, that money commands a kid to stay in school to keep studying rocket science in hopes that Musk will hire him to help get us to Mars. Getting to Mars is likely better for the human race than brewing more booze.
This is why the government doesn’t want certain people to pay any taxes. The government knows that business owner will spend that money better than the government can. A regular wage earner will likely not spend the money in a good way that benefits a lot of the economy and society, and therefore the government takes it and spends it the best it can to encourage more people that CAN spend the money than them to emerge (ie. the entrepreneurs). The only reason we have a job working for some company where the CEO pays no taxes is BECAUSE the CEO pays no taxes. This is a highly incomplete view of this economic theory, but the point is to think about how money influences others to make humanity better (or worse).
Also, in terms of making things better, we should consider what things make us better vs not. If you have a hobby, like singing, drawing, painting, this may seem like a selfish thing, but many of these things can be performed or done for others and that brings joy to those other people enjoying the fruits of that person’s hobby and practice. Even things like philosophy, which are usually unemployable skillsets, may bring some value to others in terms of helping people see ways to progress mentally.
It’s probably worth considering the scale of what’s valuable and not. An example is knowing different languages is probably one of the worst things humans do in terms of making the world productive and better, and we’d all be better off if we just picked one language and everyone was taught that. Learning how to write in funny ways like cursive might be exceptionally low value. But learning government, even if someone isn’t going into politics, is probably higher value to make sure we’re not going down the path of a tyrannical government that destroys a society’s productivity. And maybe higher is learning digital arts like movie production, animations and image editing. And maybe the highest is learning chemistry, building trades, engineering, and software development.
It’s also interesting to note that some things may have nearly no value whatsoever. Like memorizing the latin names of animals, or perhaps even knowing how to identify certain bird sounds with certain birds. Does it make the world a better place to know how many eggs a sea turtle lays in a season? Probably not. This isn’t to be confused with whether something is profitable to know. Philosophy may not have much profitability associated with it, but if you meet Jeff Bezos and tell him some philosophical story of how people that do great things receive a lot of criticism at first from skeptics, and that’s the story that keeps him going, then philosophy is highly valuable to a growing society.
Even harder sciences don’t necessarily make the cut such as paleontology. If someone spends their days with a paintbrush delicately brushing away dirt from a bone, and we see that bone and then make predictions about it (ie. “It’s 20,000 years old!”), does it really matter? Granted, on some level everything matters, and also perhaps, nothing matters. But some things will matter to more people than other things. If you learn how to make a seed that yields 5x the crops, there’s a lot more people that such a discovery will matter to than finding another old bone. If someone discovers a technology and builds a business around it that comes to town and has 10,000 jobs, that may matter more than knowing how long a whale can grow to be.
The point is that there’s some things in life that matter to more people than others, and maybe we should focus on those things as a society. Beware of the piles of infinite information that don’t do anything for society or you, and simply clog your brain. And consider how when you spend a $1 how it can affect the world and how spending in certain ways vs others, controls whether humanity progresses or regresses.
If you consider yourself a little microcosm society, what things should it learn the most? What things should it try to compel others to do via spending money? What behaviors can start a flywheel of prosperity or happiness to begin to spin up?
“Stop playing those games and get to work!” – Alex Becker.
Becker will have you working non-stop, ignoring all your friends, and so on. For him, it works. But for many of us, we can find success by working hard and playing hard. People misinterpret that statement all the time.
Here’s a good way for you to actually interpret ‘work hard, play hard.’
Are you playing hard? Or just distracting yourself? Distractions make you not think about the things you should be doing (like work). Playing is a reward from the hard work you’ve done and is NOT a distraction to keep your mind occupied from being bored (and therefore realizing even more that you should be working).
Play hard – do the things you really love doing for fun.
Work hard – do the things you bring the most value to the table for.
Don’t distract yourself. Mindlessly watching TV is probably a bad idea. Going on a hike to a cool waterfall, clearing your mind, and “playing” is a good idea.
Most people live a life of distraction, which is unfulfilling but it’s both easy and minimizes the chance of pain (as well as pleasure).
Be aware of your distractions and/or inefficiencies.
Do you really want to be spending all that time walking in a parking lot to where you’re going? Maybe you should jog instead.
Do you really want to be spending time watching TV shows you don’t care about (eg. distraction)? Maybe you should work harder on finding a friend that you can hang out with having more fun.
Do you really need to make 2 grocery store trips (eg. inefficient) or can you buy extra and save yourself the second trip?
“Work hard and play hard” sounds like advice to make a lot of money and then blow it all. But really, the cliche is best to consider what’s between those 2 things, which is distractions or just tasks that are wastes of time (ie. tasks that aren’t really your work, nor are they play).
The cliche should be, “Work hard, do things you truly enjoy, and avoid wasting time from all the stuff in between playing and working.”
How much time are you wasting walking in parking lots, watching bad TV, being stuck in traffic, etc that maybe you can find ways to eliminate them so you have time to play more?
“Work on your mindset everyday!” the gurus will scream. But really, your mindset is just a permission slip that grants you the ability to move forward.
Granted, the real reason why people don’t move forward more is often mindset. But you can’t preach mindset advice to prisoners of war or to people that are slaves – that’s not what their problem is. These are extreme examples, but the reason they’re in their situation isn’t “because of their mindset.” This sort of endless “mindset” talk is just some guru selling a course.
The reality is mindset is you giving yourself a permission slip to move forward. Permission to fail, to take risks, to grow. Just like a road trip, you need a permission slip, but also the car to get there, the map to know where you’re going and so on. Permission slip is just a small piece of the puzzle, but it’s the piece that gurus can blame you the most for not having it and you can be convinced that they’re right.
Most people do suffer from a broken mindset that keeps them artificially crippled.
But once you’ve gotten the mindset stuff figured out and you’ve truly granted yourself permission to move forward, then you have to start moving on to the other things (ie. plans, strategies, tools, etc) to help you get where you want to go.
Have you been spending time endlessly working on your mindset, when in reality, you’ve already cleared that barrier and now ready to tackle the next hurdle?
In a different post, I mention that finding more problems is often strangely the solution. However, another way to go about that idea is to consider whether you’d like to solve a problem or eliminate a problem by making the problem irrelevant.
There’s usually an easier way to handle a problem, and it’s by noticing 4 ways to deal with it.
First off, the problem people say is the problem isn’t the REAL problem. It’s buried in multiple layers like an onion. The REAL problem is several layers of problems deep. Let’s say the problem is “I’m late for work,” which is not the real problem. The real problem is getting fired. Which the real problem there is not having a paycheck. Which that problem is not being able to buy groceries. Which the real problem is therefore actually going hungry.
Don’t look for the “root of the problem” unless you want to make your life hard and waste time.
People erroneously say something like, “The root of the problem of being late for work is you need to plan better!” But that’s not the real root of the problem, and that sort of thinking distorts your ability to better problem solve. The REAL root of the problem in this example is “starvation.” It’s also myopic to look at the root of the problem, when in reality, problems form in multiple layers and you can solve any of the layers of problem just as effectively as “the root.”
The secret is simple: Just ask why a problem is a problem and see if solving any of the other layers is easier to solve.
If you have bad traffic in a city as people commute to work. A solution is to build another lane. But if you wanted to make the problem irrelevant, you simply build flying cars that have no traffic jams.
Make the problem less severe: Build another road, change speed limits, etc.
Make the problem irrelevant: Build flying cars.
Solve a different layer of the problem: Allow remote work. Win the lottery and quit your job.
Then you must ask WHY it’s a problem. Let’s say traffic is a problem because commutes are boring and unproductive.
Mitigate the pain of the problem: Create autonomous vehicles so you can work / play while stuck in traffic.
As another example, let’s say turnover is bad in a coal mining company.
The 4 methods are:
Make the problem less severe: “Have a pipeline full of new hires at all times,” or “provide bonuses so they quit less.”
Make the problem irrelevant: “Automate the job with robots,” or “Stop selling coal and build solar panels.”
Solve a different layer of the problem: “Start a new company that doesn’t have turnover problems.”
Finally, why is it a problem? Because new hires take 4 weeks to train and the company loses productivity during that time.
Mitigate the pain of the problem (ie “Making the problem acceptable”): Put a better training program in place so that they’re up to speed so fast that the company doesn’t care if there’s turnover anymore.
Most problem solving books tell you to hit the problem from multiple angles to come up with creative ideas on making the problem less severe. But if you consider all 4 of these methods, one of them will almost always show an easier path.
One final example is climate change:
Mitigate the problem: Pollute less by using electric cars
Make acceptable: Wear gas masks
Make irrelevant: Colonize Mars and leave Earth
Solve a different layer: Invent a huge air purifier
What problems have you had where you wanted to mitigate / solve the problem directly, but it was easier to make the problem irrelevant, acceptable, or solve a different layer of the problem?
Gurus are always trying to tout that if you’re successful, you’ll be happy. The reality is these things don’t always coexist. We’ve seen many “successful” people kill themselves either intentionally or not (ie drug overdoses).
The data is in: Being successful financially doesn’t equate to happiness.
Gary Vee is always talking about “don’t you want to be happy?” and talks of all the millionaires crying in their lambos. I want to take it just a step further and consider the 10 year goal. The 10 year goal means that you’re not there yet – it’s something you’re striving to achieve. If you think the attainment of that goal will make you happy (and you’re not happy now), then being miserable for 10 years while you strive for it is probably a garbage idea.
Also, if it did take you 10 years to get it, whatever it is, it’s probably no longer what you want that would make you happy. Consider what you wanted most 10 years ago. Do you still want it just as badly? Probably not. Your desires change over a period like 10 years, so if you’re always striving towards a 10 year goal, you’re always arriving to it and realizing you want something else by the time you get there. Ten years is simply too long if your goal is happiness. If your goal is success, and striving for something that you don’t even care about or want anymore by year 8, then sure, the 10 year goal may be great.
Sometimes attaining the goal will give you a little hit of dopamine when you get there, but probably not, and is any temporary high worth 10 years of doing stuff you don’t want? Probably not.
Perhaps you should think about a 10 day goal. It’s possible to attain. You get a little dopamine hit in under 2 weeks. Your desires today will probably be somewhat similar in 10 days. And you can actually plan it out as opposed to having a 1,000 butterfly effects over the course of 10 years that throw every plan far off kilter.
What about Elon Musk’s 10 year goal to get us to Mars? Should he make a 10 day goal instead? I would reaffirm a few ideas, a) Elon’s happiness isn’t tied only to the attainment of that goal, b) Elon probably enjoys the process of getting to Mars nearly as much as the single moment when it occurs, c) Success sometimes requires long term goals like that, but happiness does not.
There’s no right way or wrong way to all of this, but it’s important to realize when we read motivational books to beware of blanket statements like “Set 10 year goals,” that may be great for someone, but terrible advice for you.
Are you trying to be happy, or successful? And have you blended these 2 terms in your mind? Do your goals change more often than 10 year periods? Maybe it’s time to change the timelines of certain goals? Maybe it’s time to focus on 10 day goals and actually be able to accomplish more?
“Figure out a way to make money doing what you love!” – Random guru advice.
This piece of advice can be good, but it can also turn someone’s life into a nightmare of distractions.
Seth Godin actually accidentally told us a very good way to approach money and passion. Seth was a passionate writer and made no money at first with it. He wasn’t trying to monetize his writing at first, he simply wanted to write, and a job (or credit cards) was just a means for him to make enough money to keep doing what he wanted.
If you focus on doing what you want to do, it makes things a lot easier. – Truth Cake
For example, Mother Teresa wanted to help lepers. If she thought, “Ok, I need a business plan on how I can monetize this skillset.” She probably never would have done what she wanted. Instead, she focused on doing what she wanted, and the money to be able to facilitate her continued travels and such came through other means.
While it’s nice to get paid to do what you love, sometimes trying to monetize an activity isn’t the best path. Instead consider ways to make enough money to continue to do whatever you want to do, with trying to attach some monetary goal such as saying, “I need to be make $100k doing it.” But why 100k? So you have enough money to do save up and quit and do what you love? Just do what you love now. Maybe it’s time to stop forcing monetization into something that isn’t monetized easily.
Granted, certain passions are easier to monetize than others (eg. programming vs basket weaving). So you can’t take blanket advice such as “get rich doing things you hate so you can afford the things you love,” or “monetize your passion,” or whatever.
If you’re passionate about working at the homeless shelter, maybe you should not try to force monetization into that as much as just doing it for free, enjoying it, and making money in some other fashion.
Is it easier to make money in another unrelated way to facilitate doing what you love? Or does it really seem like the best path is to monetize your passion?
“The definitions of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome!” – Bad Gurus
(FYI – Einstein didn’t say this ridiculous statement, as he was false quoted as saying this.)
The problem with a garbage statement like that is that it ignores 2 elements of every decision made:
- Probability of outcome.
- Potential for ramifications.
If you’re 100% certain of an outcome, then good decisions become bad decisions and vice versa depending on if your 100% confidence is valid or not. If you knew for certain of the winning horse in a race, then you should bet everything you own – that’s the smart decision IF you were TOTALLY convinced. But if you knew it was a 60% change, the smart choice would be a much smaller size bet that you could handle the 40% chance of loss.
Just like if you shut down an entire economy would be a great idea if you were 100% certain that millions upon millions would die. But if you weren’t 100% certain of that many people dying, you might want to not be quite so extreme in your actions such as halting the world economy.
Misplaced certainty is the root of many of the world’s worst decisions. It ranges from Hitler’s certainty that the Jews were a plague and his decisions to fix that, decisions for the US to invade Iraq, racism, and so on.
Certainty is the most powerful, and dangerous, element in your decision making process.
Tony Robbins correctly points out that it’s a massive motivator as well. If you were 100% certain of a certain outcome, you’re more likely to perform the behaviors to get to that outcome vs if you only thought you had a 50/50 shot of ‘making it.’
Sometimes going all-in on a poker hand is the right thing to do, but sometimes you lose the hand. Losing the hand doesn’t make your decision bad – it was STILL a good decision, because if you repeat that decision over and over, eventually the probability will be in your favor and you will win.
Same thing for making a sales call where they don’t buy something, you should still make another call and do the same thing again, because the outcome may be different.
“The definition of insanity is not considering that very few things have an outcome that is 100% correlated with a particular action.” – TruthCake
When you start hearing people rant about as if they’re 100% certain of something, the chance of something stupid coming out next is almost inevitable.
If you knew 100% that
staying at home would save lives in the next few months, that would definitely
be a great decision to be made. But if you knew that the ramifications of that
would be suicides and billions of deaths from world wide starvation, then
suddenly the decision to stay at home is no longer “good.”
It’s very counter-intuitive to realize that making decisions with good initial outcomes are bad if their secondary outcomes are worse.
If you want to be happy, the easiest way to get that feeling isn’t meditation, or being selfless, or finding joy in your own being. It’s cocaine. But that is a bad decision because of the ramifications of that decision.
Sometimes a good decision seems bad because of the initial event that occurs, but is bad because of the long term. (eg. Doing drugs, but becoming an addict).
Sometimes a good decision makes you lose, because of the probabilities are still favorable.
It’s weird to say something like, “Saving a human being’s life is a bad idea.” But what if it was Hitler we’re talking about? Or what if the way we thought we could save that person was to shoot all the tigers coming straight for him, and he still died a moment later even after we shot all the tigers?
A couple examples –
Good decision – Bad
Going all-in on a great hand in poker only to lose by some unlikely chance.
Good decision – Bad outcome:
Investing in stocks for the long term but it goes down the day after you bought doesn’t feel good – but it’s the right decision to invest.
Bad decision – Good outcome:
Putting your life savings into the lottery, but you actually win the jackpot.
Trying drugs and having the time of your life.
Repeating a bad decision leads to a good outcome:
Making a sales call where the first lead says no, and you make another call and they buy.
Bad decision, immediately good outcome, but horrific negative ramifications:
Dropping the murder rate by 99% by incarcerating the entire country.
When you stack up probabilities as well as the event’s ramifications, you can begin to make much better decisions, and also understand why other people are so terrible at decisions when they ignore both of these elements.
Think for a moment about the following…
What good decisions have you made that seemed bad at first?
What things have you done repeatedly and gotten a different, and better, result?
What seemed like a good decision and had great (or bad) initial consequences, but the long term consequences were poor (or good)?
What is this site?
Self improvement for smart people.
I follow business leaders, gurus, and philosophers and note things others missed that I’ve found valuable.
This site is my precious treasure chest of ideas on business, philosophy and life. And hopefully during your pillaging here, you get your mind blown.
My life’s goals are to help summarize the human knowledge base, dispel self improvement myths, and achieve a resultant and unrelenting state of 24/7 euphoria. I’m kidding, but we’ll still try!
Follow along on my journey!