Friends are those that challenge you and equally you challenge them so that you may mutually benefit from this exercise and grow together in life. Acquaintances are individuals who are more prone to getting hurt feelings during the friendship process, fall to the way side, and can choose to leave and cease communication. This is the law of friends and acquaintances and one shall only grow in life by having more of the former and less of the latter.
Some acquaintances couldn’t understand full well why Automation is crash over everything like a Tsunami and destroy this precious thing we hold dear to our hearts called the Middle-Class.
When debating this topic, the opposing party mentioned that “humanity has infinite potential, we’ve adapt to countless automation measures in the past, and will live infinitely fruitful into the future.” While is this a blissful outlook on whats to come, the reality is far from this case. The survivors have to learn to adapt at a much faster rate than the rate of automation. There will be victims of Automation and the victims will far outweigh those who somehow survived.
This is my response to the above thesis of “everything will just be fine”:
“For this to succeed I see all of the following to align:
1) Learning rate that naturally exceeds the average rate of those in the IT fields (aka they are smart or smarter than the average person applying to those jobs). OR dedication to throw away all your free-time to make up for the fact that you can’t learn faster than your competitors and the only way to get the same yield is by committing ever more time just to keep up let alone get ahead (Gatech syndrome)
2) Spend at least a couple of hundred or (thousand if you are slower) hours getting proficient in a couple of popular programming languages
3) Spend another couple of hundred or (thousand – same as above) of hours getting proficient in AI and ML/DP applications in those particular languages
4) Hope that others who embarked on this journey are now way behind their current skill level
5) Hope that the job flyer they’ve targeted still exist, if not, it exists at another firm and is still open to a candidate of the current skill level
6) Hope that their interview skills are on par or better than all other people running in the same race with more or less experience
7) Make it to final round of interview
8) Actually get an offer and accept it
Or know someone in the industry or do your own startup and hope to get funding. Both of which are much harder than the steps outlined above in 1-8.
Note: Media reports on outlier stories. It is easy to believe that everyone around you is a multi-millionaire/billionaire and that if you apply these 5 easy steps that you too can be rich beyond your imagination. After a couple of iterations of this non-sense and seeing rest of what you read is complete garbage, you know that to find stories on the 0.0001% and report the collection of these findings as the empirical truth for the other 99.9999% that have no chance of making it is fundamentally flawed.
Each step is a conditional probability and the total probability of success for all 8 steps to all be 1 is rather low. Apply this over the masses of people that will be displaced and you will find that a few might luck out and make the transition while most will fall on their swords.”
A buddy of mine made some revisions to my statements above by saying:
“This is a good fucking post. You’ve honestly summarized the last 6 or so years of my life here. I would tighten some numbers – for 2, definitely hundreds not thousands required for entry level. For 3, that is specialization, which can be done after first round retraining. Everything else I agree. I retrained in my free time while earning 30k a year over 3 years so ~100k investment based on my hourly rate is on point”
Figure out your own self worth, reflect on that, and determine your proper market valuation based on jobs that are coming into popularity not existing jobs that are deemed safe.
Stability is the egg from which hatches Automation. You want to be a part of the Chicken and less so the Egg that is laid. There are plenty of eggs in this world and a ton of new Chickens about to hatch when Automation comes into the spot light.
One of the main failures of Paper Tigers is that they cannot think independently for themselves and worship Elitists. However, as history has it, every single breakthrough in human history has been made through unconventional discoveries which often if not always goes against the views of the establishment and Elitists!
Most want to worship current Elitists because…? Well, their friends, family, or those that they respect follow the crowd and therefore they feel compelled to join the movement without much thought. This is why History is so illustrious with examples of individuals who’ve started movements and rebellions.
The world is filled with examples of cycles where the current establishment, in thought, government, or enterprise are constantly turning over; out with the old and in with the new. Holding onto the past or present precludes the development of the future. What is may not be in the near or distant future. Yet, however, we still want to believe in the current popular mainly because we fail to use critical thinking to think slowly on each and every decision; thinking fast is much easier in comparison so we feel less compelled to use higher forms of the thinking process.
What’s most challenging is when you are the ugly duckling going against the crowd and standing alone with your beliefs. Only when you can endure all the ridicule, mockery, and being thrown various labels can you shut out all the outside distractions and focus on the only thing that matters which is the self.
For anyone who has made in the past did not do so by strictly adhering to tradition as they would have become an ancient artifact themselves collecting dust in some dark corner of a museum.
Georgia Tech is like Trench Warfare. If the enemy doesn’t kill you the trench foot, mustard or chlorine gas will. It’s a lose-lose scenario for mere mortals (sane rational human beings) who get sacrificed as cannon fodder for the elite (conformists/tools) few that skew the bell-curve at each Mid-Term and Final. I thoroughly hated it there and resolved to detox elsewhere for my Graduate studies. The only thing that keeps you going in the classic case of Trench Warfare are good friends. Jims was one of those good friends that kept my spirits up during those rather hopeless and lost years. The saying goes: “Misery loves company.” 99% of Georgia Tech students are miserable and they all love to rag on how the school, facilities, and professors all suck.
Jims and I often find ourselves hating on Georgia Tech pretty hard. This was one of our favorite pass times between pontificating life and how utterly useless that shit is as well. We knew we were on the assembly line groomed for what will be 20-30 years more of relentless old and new ways to sell our souls to Corporate America. Yes, indeed, we hated life but we hated Georgia Tech even more than life itself! F**K Georgia Tech!
1. Normal people greet each other with some variation of the following dialog:
Person#1: “Hey, how are you doing?”
Person#2: “I’m good, thanks. You?”
Person #1: “I’m doing well, thanks for asking!”
Music continues along with the facade that life is just peachy. You see, these two people obviously did NOT go to Georgia Tech.
2. This is how two Yellow Jackets (current) greet each other:
YJacket#1: “Hey dude, you did an all nighter again?” (Yeah I said dude, that ratio is probably still shit. There aren’t any girls there, keep moving, skip go, don’t collect $200, and try again for wife-material at GSU, UGA, or Emory)
YJacket#2: “Of course man, you were in that [First Person Shooter or RTS] game all night with me and cramming for [XYZ whatever bullshit class you are going to get a ‘C’ in anyways due to some God forsaken Four Horsemen pyramid scheme]!”
YJacket#1: “Oh yeah… I must have forgot. Let’s pound some [ABC Energy Drink] and go fail that test together!”
Memory lapses are a regular occurrence after all nighters. Don’t worry, all will be well after you barfed out the information/solutions necessary to ‘pass’ that mid-term/final. Bro fist or High Five concludes this conversation.
3. This is how two Yellow Jackets(ghost of Xmas past) greet each other:
*The usual horrendous fake social pleasantries like anyone actually gives a damn*
OldJacket#1: “… so, aren’t you glad you aren’t at Georgia Tech anymore?”
OldJacket#2: *Blood boils, face turns into a volcano* “Georgia… Georgia what??? F&#*K THAT PLACE, I am so glad I am not in that [Mental Institution, Prison, Shady Shack, Saw# Movie, etc]”
OldJacket#1: “Spoken like a true Yellow Jacket!“
Yeah, f**k that place.
Jims and I play #3 quite often and we truly invent new deeper layers of Hell each time we get into the flow of hate. During our recent hate session on that forsaken place, we started to talk about how Georgia Tech is rigged just like the real Game of Life. Then it clicked… Georgia Tech IS the Game of Life!
Jims applauded me with my following assessment on how the Game is played at Georgia Tech:
“just like goddamn Gatech with fraternities that horde all the loot (old Exams, Quizzes, and HWs)
if you don’t start in those clans, you are severely behind.”
This is about the only real thing I learned at my over-priced, under-valued, under-appreciated piece of paper that collects dust somewhere in an obscure filing cabinet.
I wall-hacked back in the classic teenage days where everyone played Counter-Strike and happen to also cheat in Team Fortress Classic (Half-Life 2 Mod – see above video). After my remark to Jims above, I followed it up with:
“The only way to win in a rigged game is to cheat. That’s why I used wall hack back in the day.
Loved that Team Fortress sniper shit… LOL, spy vs spy? Nal man, hacker vs hacker! LOLOLOL
me: Hey man, you are wallhacking! cheater#2: Dude, so are you!!!”
Jims got a good laugh out of that one and I continued by saying:
“Takes a cheater to spot another cheater! LMAO!
but much is the same in the game of life… The ones who actually got up to the top, the Generational wealth, are all part of families or clans that cheated, horded resources, and didn’t give any of it back to the system.
when you [are] Rocky Balboa and make it to the top eventually, you can either: 1) Join them and start your own old money 2) Put all chips back on table (Gates + Buffett)
either way, as you are making it, pure grind or cheat codes used, you will start to see that these mfuckers were born with all the loot, cheat codes, and epic gear that no one else can feasibly get [even after] grinding a thousand life times!”
Sometimes being miserable, hateful, and cynic f from m*****r f*#king Georgia Tech has its perks. You get that sick clarity on life that others, who choose to stay in that masquerade, lack.
Now I need some time away from the keyboard to Detox from even recalling those dark times at Georgia Tech. Go forage for some berries or something but for God’s sake do NOT go to Georgia Tech!!!
All Hail Peter Gregory’s TED Talk (from HBO’s Silicon Valley)!
Imagine the following as the 3-Dimensional Shapes of Stories.
The Labels of the X, Y, and Z Axis:
Y-Axis: Theoretical for Y>0, Applied for Y<0
Z-Axis: Fortune Z>0, Misfortune Z<0 (Perceived)
Most telling of stories deals with the mental aspect on how characters overcome obstacles using a combination of the Y-Axis to yield the items on the Z-Axis while the X-Axis constantly moves from 0 (beginning) to 100 (end). Datamining various stories (MIT Technology Review), lines plotted in 3D, based on the above axis would yield contours of stories not simply plots to give story telling of humans true shapes.
I am sure there are infinite Axis that can be added onto the general X-Axis of time such as:
Character’s emotional response to Z-Axis
Accumulation, or not, of knowledge or wisdom
Change, or not, of each character
Generally speaking, the audience is most in tune with the How and Why the character managed to shift or remain stagnant on the Z-Axis. Why makes the story interesting to read and the How is explained by the Y-Axis.
This is the 3-Dimensional update to Kurt Vonnegut’s 2-Dimensional Shapes of Stories.
My good buddy, Jims, was the person who first got me to really think about the Game of Life. Beyond a simple board game, the real Game of Life is rather complex and any attempts to simplify it will be met with utter failure. It is what it is. Certain things can be clarified at best so I shall attempt to clarify the two dichotomous aspects of the Game of Life.
My friend Jims’ angle on this game is the following:
“My idea was more of a thought experiment about if life was a game, no one would want to play it, because there’s a lot of broken game mechanics in it. That it would ultimately fail. That the reason it hasn’t [become] free to play is because there’s a lack of competition from other games.”
Jims explains the structure, rules, and dynamics of this game very well when we discussed this topic at large in previous conversations. His above quote implies that the architects of the game has a very fat margin and wants to keep it that way. There is a lack of general competition to keep the game fair and interesting for all people certain people’s starting line is in absolute poverty while others are born with a silverspoon into an affluent family. The only way for the former to advance beyond their starting line is a ton of hard work and an amazing amount of luck and still never touch the starting line of the latter. Such games are obviously very biased, such is life.
The angle I took in my previous post on this topic was more of sarcasm, cynicism, facetious, and blunt. However, I did in very crude terms explain the rough idea of the theory behind the game itself which aligned with what Jims’ discussions. Jims told me that I leave the reader with a motivational and inspiring path that possess the fragrance inspired from heavy basenotes of Capitalism and a topnote of Meritocracy; this is the applied approach in playing the game itself vs the treatise of pure theory.
I felt it appropriate to draw the line in the sand and divide up the two discussions as separate topics and when appropriate intermingling when the music is right for the two to dance as one.
With Freedom and Self-Awareness, the paths to life are infinite. No one’s life is a straight line as it is impossible and boring without the ups and downs that takes us from evaluating the strategies and planning(theory) before going back to playing the game and the actual execution (applied).
While my previous post did have an overtone of Jordan Belfort/Zig Ziglar-ism (Sales/Inspiring/Pragmatic), it appropriately outlined majority of future topics.
Is the Game really stacked against us or can you actually do something about it?
Theory or applied?
You decide and à la carte use consume which ever body of knowledge and wisdom when appropriate.
Footnote: Future posts will be tagged with #Game of Life and Titled [GOL-T] or [GOL-A] for Game of Life Theory and Applied respectively.
A buddy of mine challenged me to think more about:
the Game of Life
Rules of the Game
Ranking and Points System
How to get to the next Level in this Game or the next one
1) The Game:
Life is a river, flowing one way, and a careful selection of routes can lead to greater bodies of water or dead-ends/standing water pooling into swamps or lakes. Moving water is better than standing water because moving water has a chance of getting to greater bodies of water or higher levels in life.
The Stages of the Game are as follows:
A. In the beginning of the game:
Life until end of highschool or college/gradschool is rather structured. Goals are very clear and many have been through this assembly line. The administrators of this game, teachers, parents, and coaches all know this game pretty well because it is predictable and the results directly and readily measurable. Watching candidates shuffle through the assembly line of school has become a scientific discipline where the measure of one’s aptitude can be easily summarized by a few metrics being the almighty Prestige of Institution and the individual’s Numbers such as GPA (Grade-Point Average) and Test Scores (SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc).
B. Mid game:
Get the paper(s), good metrics, be branded by prestigious institutions and you can be on your way to middle-class paradise (white picket fence, 4-5BR House in the Suburbs, a couple of cars, boats, jetskis, etc). You ran the race well in the lower tier divisions, finished College at some top 10 whatever ranking order (US News, Financial Times, etc) for your respective discipline, got a few years of work experience at big name Fortune 500 (FANG [NASDAQ], ExxonMobil, J&J, Coca-Cola, HomeDepot, SAP, etc) company, went back for a Harvard Business School (HBS) or equivalent M7 MBA, and reshuffled back into the system as a higher leveled player leap frogging your peers stuck on the assembly line by a couple of years worth of leveling (grinding).
At this point, you are tied down to a pretty hefty mortgage payment, owe a ton of student loans, got a spouse, probably have a few rugrats (kids) running around. Current risk tolerance is much lower than the beginning phases of the game, debt load substantial higher from the leveling required that helped you get ahead, and set to live and retire in your current home or maybe one level above it should you make Vice President, Director, Managing Director, or the coveted Executive-tier rank at a Major or Minor institution.
Some break down at this point and have a mid/quarter/third life crisis and ponder the meaning of life. Too bad, you are a little in over your head to change course and speed, because the cash-flow schemes don’t make sense with other options on the table and the bills coming in have to be paid. Those chains of debt keep reminding you of why you are where you are at right now and the only sources of comfort is the smiling face of your spouse, your children, and a wag of the tail from your pet. If you didn’t manage to start a family by now you might have already been Tango-ing with Xanax and Chacha-ing with various devilishly tempting flavors of Alcohol as you struggle to walk life in a straight line swiping left and right at the various mating prospects that you shopped and took home from the App store Meat Market. It’s not too late, or is it? Wake up, it’s time to get back to the grind, the system awaits your production!
C. End Game:
It’s over! You either know or made it at this point or you are simply doing the ‘road’ program waiting to collect various sources of social or company sponsored retirement packages at 59.5, 60, 62, 65, or whatever arbitrary set date as determined by mathematical models to keep the current system’s payout to influx of new cash sustainable.
Regardless whether you made it or not, you reflect on all the ups and downs of the past decades, the hours robbed away from the now trivial but then seemingly so damn important projects/promotions/merits/achievements/awards, and you wonder what to do now with this new experience of retirement; the unstructured, undemanding, and unrewarding afterlife as a cast-away divorced from exciting and engaging Corporate ladder climbing life. Free time seems like an infinitely long rope to climb to a peaceful life spent in indulgence of hobbies or a tight noose to hang oneself in absolute boredom. Isn’t life swell? Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon. Average age expectancy is around 85 and the rest is determined by how your body, mind, and genetics withstood the damage done to you by being a working Bee. Still remember where you kept your stash of Xanax and 9mm rounds? Finish your last Will and Testament and make sure you took out a life insurance policy. Enjoy your time or what time you have left on this Earth, you’ve done well and it will be all over soon.
In any competition, the rules are pretty obvious if one asks the right questions to determine how the game can be played. It basically comes down to this:
Get run over or worse left behind
At least this is how the game is played in a Capitalistic free-market society. You’ve seen examples of this in school where “Elite” students are heralded as Heroes and rest of the class a moving population of cannon fodder Losers for the successful. The Losers are told everyday and made aware of who the Heroes are and how the Heroes are infinitely better than whatever non-sense that the Losers can produce with their trivial lives. (But wait, didn’t some of these Heroes come from the lower-ranks once upon a time or deemed as losers by the media once upon a time before they made it? Shhh now, rest up, plug back into the Matrix, you didn’t just think this thought, erase it from your memory.)
Everyday, you either Advance or you get left behind. Produce or DIE. Simple as that. A group of individuals make up a company, a group of companies belong to a holding/umbrella/parent company, groups of big companies’ debt traded on exchanges, a group of the companies are aggregated together as an index to measure the overall health of the economies from various sectors, and the indices aggregated to tell the tale of the economic status of a particular Country. Everyday, economies get ahead or get left behind on a macro scale as determined by how the game is played on the micro scales between individuals up to the aggregated multi-national behemoth conglomerates.
Ask then the following questions to determine the rules of the game:
How do I get ahead?
What does it take to get ahead?
Who around my level do I need to leverage (or screw over) to get ahead?
How can I apply my talents to best exploit an edge?
Which mini-game(s) should I dedicate my time to in this big game of life?
Which Elite players (mentors/coaches/teachers) can help me level up quicker?
3) Ranking and Points System:
Capitalism made the ranking and points system pretty obvious:
You are either on that list or you are not. If not, try and try again.
Academia is now played through the battlefields of:
NY Times Best Seller
Ad Space on Harvard Business Review Articles or Publications on or below this caliber (Business Insider is the purgatory but still better than being straight up in Middle-Class Hell).
Academia is all about Impact Factor. Either your work makes a difference or it doesn’t and gets filed away into oblivion where no soul knows of your work in this life or the next. If you actually want to be well known during your life, you have to resort to shameless plugs in the methods listed above to crowd source your academic/mental aptitude insecurities and validate your life’s meaning. Think on Hero, think on, the Nobel Prize/Fields Medal/etc is only a couple of publications away. Keep dreaming!
4.A) How to get to the next Level in Games (Selection of Quests Available):
Corporations at any level want to prevent an Icarus situation. Icarus in Greek Mythology tried to take flight with a pair of wings made from feathers and wax, flew too close to the Sun, his wings melted and he fell to his death. Fly carefully if you want to fly high, avoid hot things that will melt your wings, and pack a parachute just in case. Corporations prefer you to remain as predictable as possible just like you were when you left the Educational Institutions so that you can be shuffled predictably from one assembly line to another, from one factory/warehouse to another until you leave the assembly lines and ship off to be sold/repurposed/recycled(buried in the ground aka Game Over).
A. Entrepreneur route (high-risk, high reward): If you somehow try to challenge the system (with your startup or idea), you will be converted into being one of them and join the elusive and exclusive club of the ultra elite (Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, etc). This is a complete IPO or buyout. If they don’t feel like buying you out entirely you will be allowed to survive so long as they want you to survive.
To complete this Quest you need to have (in no particular order):
Great innate talent(s)
Purposeful development of this/these talent(s)
Great Mentors/Coachs/Teachers/Peers to support all of the above
A bit of luck here and there
You want to make money? Learn sales and how to market products, services, and yourself. Hint: The closer you get to integrating the entire sales pipeline for your commission, the more money you stand to make. Be the person (company) that takes 95% of the revenue and flips the Salesman 5% for commission for a job well done. Be the person collecting the checks on your Yacht anchored out of your own Private Island in the Latin Americas and not the person still grinding when you get to your 30/40/50/60s depending on how you’ve played the Game.
B. Senior Level Employee route (mid* risk, predictable higher pay [120-400k USD/yr]): Slave away endlessly working for those who made it in the Entrepreneur quest. When effort, timing, and luck aligns you will be favored for promotion(s) assuming you didn’t leverage the nepotism card to get ahead in the game. An ideal end game is C-level position, else Senior Vice President or Senior Director, else Vice President or Director, else Senior Management or Senior Program Manager. The amount of your sacrifice has to be commensurate with attaining these ranks or you find the nearest bridge and promptly jump off of it because you failed to live up to your “ultra high”expectations that you’ve placed on yourself.
* = You will get to fire others before they fire you
C. Mid Level Employee route (high* risk, predictable okay pay [85-150K USD/yr]): Slave away to be the apple in the Senior Level Employee’s and Founder’s (Entrepreneur) eye. Promotions are far and few between because there is an ever larger and growing pool of entry level populating the Mid Level Pool (did I just hear a school bus backing up? Yep, there goes another innocent employee used to grease the tires on the bus that helped to advance someone else). You are fairly certain at this point that you aren’t going anywhere but your collection of DVDs/Blurays, 100″ Projector screen and Home Theater System, Semi-Luxury cars (BMW/Audi/VW/etc – by the way all made in the Bible Belt in good ole USA) keep you happy and off the ledge of the cliff. Having a spouse, children, and pets help as well. Hey, look at you, at least you might have a chance to maybe finish Senior level, right?
* = There are just too many of you and all the same, undifferentiated, and very replaceable if the Senior powers to be decides to cleanse the workforce to appease the shareholders on the next quarterly earnings report.
D. Entry Level Employee route (low* risk, unpredictable low pay [50-75K USD/yr]): You are the lowest person on the totem pole. You just got out of one game in the Educational Institution and you are trying to figure this one out. There are a ton of you around and you are ever so grateful but complain about the fact that your job sucks, hours are long, and you have a career that seems like it is going no where. There are too many people in the Entry level pool waiting to climb to Mid level waiting to climb to Senior. All your cool ideas are poached by the Corporation and you get flat fixed-fee pay off at least for your efforts or a pat on the back and “Thank You!” email from one of the Senior level(s) or Founder(s). You are too greenhorn to have an opinion, too naive to understand what’s going on, too young and still think you have your whole ‘life’ in front of you. Little do you realize that that’s exactly what the pool of Middle and Senior level all thought back in the day and they are still here today! Welcome to the [rat] race, here is your wheel to run on, get running.
* = You’ve got no epic gear to lose, no epic spouse or house to write home (parent’s home, not yours, you don’t make enough to have one remember?) about, and no epic experiences to be had. If you lose everything now, you can build back tomorrow, no harm, no foul!
4.B) Wait, what? That’s it? So how the hell do you get ahead???
Good question, how do you get ahead? The more you act and behave like the folks who are most successful in this game the more successful you become.
Want to run a company? Go start one!
Failed at startup? Good, try again!
Can’t lead worth shit? Good, join the military and learn some real leadership!
Don’t have any money? Good, go work a job on WallStreet or Military and save that money, try again!
Not going anywhere in life with your current group of friends? Good, dump them, get new ones!
Your peer group whining about the same things? Good, dump them, start talking to coaches, mentors, and teachers who are at least 10-20 years older than you preferably retirees 60+ who have more time available to share their life story and wisdom with brash and aggressive young lads such as yourself.
But old people suck, I don’t want to talk to them! Good, stay a loser and let others win for once and leave your whining ass behind.
Okay fine, but where do I find these old people to talk to? Good, finally came to your senses. Ever heard of grandparents or retirement homes? Volunteer your time and learn to give before you receive or take. Learn the power of opening up yourself to strangers and let them ripe your life to shreds so your life can be built back up together with a supportive team of experienced individuals.
You kind of get the gist of how to Win in this game by now.
Bottomline:Dump what doesn’t work such as useless activities, habits, and/or people in your life and fill it back up with useful activities, habits, and/or people. You will be on the right track to success by doing the above.
Life doesn’t get any simpler than that. Any deviation from the above truth is nonsensical waste of time. Have fun and go live. When you’ve figured out this life and can start to live it fully you can then start to ponder how to play the next game as you level up and what the next lifeis about.
Descarte once remarked “I think, therefore I am.”
Modern day social media clout hoarders often dubbed this as “I tweet/update/upload, therefore I am.”
Bruce Lee once said that life is about subtraction not addition. Take out the bullshit!
Smile, have fun, enjoy life, and live life by: “I am!”
Once upon a time the Ketuvim (כְּתוּבִים) was written. In it contained three poetic books called Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. It also includes a collection of five scrolls (Megillot) that has the book of Ecclesiastes. The introduction to Ecclesiastes the author is introduced as “son of David, king in Jerusalem” or better known as Solomon.
This book is a very good candidate to analyze and discuss with Shape of Stories as used by Kurt Vonnegut. All of stories can be mapped on an axis such as the one below:
All stories have a beginning and an end filled with a mixture of good and ill fortunes. Within each story there are sub stories that follows the same principle. This is how all stories are told since the beginning of time and some get creative by jumping around on the timeline to tell slices of the story in non-chronological order (i.e. Fight Club or better yet Pulp Fiction).
The story of Ecclesiastes is told from the perspective of a King who’s done it all and seen it all and can truly profess that “there is nothing new under the Sun.” Each pursuit begins with purpose, progresses to fruition, celebrated with delight upon triumph, and ends dismissive as a useless and meaninglessjourney. Each chapter is a mini story and each paragraph a sub-story that follows this story arc.
For instance, the story begins where everything is meaningless in a very bottom-line upfront approach in story telling. Next the author tells the audience that:
Wisdom and folly
There is an intermission where the element of time is introduced and different elements on the spectrum of human experience in opposing pairs such as:
Birth and death
Plant and uproot
Kill and heal
Tear down and build up
Weep and laugh
Mourn and dance
War and peace
Before resuming his negative stream of consciousness the author also gives a hint at the idea of infinity, eternity, and God. Along with these elements the author describes beauty, happiness, satisfaction, toil, and fear.
A continuous chorus of “everything is meaningless” is song constantly throughout the dialog to drive the point home to remind the reader of this “ill journey” on the shape of the story. The “ill journey” on this journey is eternal confusion and failing to comprehend eternity to be stuck in an infinite loop of questioning in a finite world without knowing how to migrate to the next level of infinity.
Before resuming to telling the next elements of meaninglessness the author runs through yet another mini-story explaining the meaninglessness of toil, dragging down the story towards “ill journey”, and then at the end offers a solution which is to journey in life with a battle buddy and never going it alone:
“Two are better than on, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Journey resumes and the list of meaningless continues with:
Advancement (Keeping up with the Jones’) [Part 1]
No way any normal man can keep up with a King, and no way a life can have meaning if a King cannot find meaning in it… Right?
Another intermission to remind man of eternity and “fulfill[ing] your vow to God.”
Meaningless list drags on with:
Riches [Part 2]
Can’t take money to the grave!
Your clout doesn’t matter worth a damn in a finite life vs. infinity
Now the entire meaning of life, major elements of it, and the toils and pleasures are all essentially worthless the author turns over a new leaf to then bring meaning back into all forsaken elements one by one. This is powerful for two reasons:
He got your attention by riding the story up and down the line of good and ill fortune
All your current perceptions and prejudices against all known things in life are now wiped clean
You are now a clean canvas
The teacher can start his lesson anew to build one up again
Each brick of the foundation is thus laid as follows (rising up from ill fortune to good fortune):
“A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance”
Metaphoric for internal self image and perception
Obey the King
Basic law and order
A common destiny for all
We all die (Sorry!)
Wisdom is better than folly
“Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. So I said, ‘Wisdom is better than strength.’ But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.”
People chase paper credentials and social status more so than real life wisdom (Even back in the day!!!)
Invest in many Ventures
Talks about diversification to hedge against risk
Observe market conditions to know when to throw down and toil, when to restrain oneself
Concludes with step-by-step investment strategies and the mechanics of investing
Remember the Creator while young
A troubled heart and anxious mind confuses the young
Message is to ponder about the infinity and see how small your daily problems are in comparison
Author after mentoring the young closes his Sales pitch by saying the hard earned truth is the most concise guide to a no non-sense life without any addition or subtraction from the principles outlined. Studying too much and reading too far into other texts in search of the distilled wisdom is a pure waste of time.
Major arcs in the story consists of a beginning where it is “ill fortune” with mini-stories of ill and good fortune and the story progresses to “good fortune” until the conclusion where it remains neutral like the glass surface of a still lake on a calm day. Stories conclude like this for only one reason and that is to leave the choice up the reader to willfully live a different life or remain the same as before even after learning of this knowledge.
The lights fade, curtains drawn, stage empty, and either the audience applauds or walks out in silence.
In this Four Part post I will explore how valuation is done on the individual and the difference between extrinsic, intrinsic, and universal perception of our worth in this world.
A Scene from American Psycho:
“Evelyn Williams: Thousands of roses and lots of chocolate truffles. Godiva, and oysters in the half-shell. Patrick Bateman: [Bateman narrating] I’m trying to listen to the new Robert Palmer tape, but Evelyn, my supposed fiancée, keeps buzzing in my ear. Evelyn Williams: Annie Leibovitz. We’ll get Annie Leibovitz. And we’ll have to get someone to videotape. Patrick, we should do it. Patrick Bateman: Do what? Evelyn Williams: Get married. Have a wedding. Patrick Bateman: No, I can’t take the time off work. Evelyn Williams: Your father practically owns the company. You can do anything you like, silly. Patrick Bateman: I don’t want to talk about it. Evelyn Williams: You hate that job anyway. I don’t see why you just don’t quit. Patrick Bateman: Because I want to fit in.”
Unfortunately, we will not discuss the movie American Psycho in full today as it is a topic for another day. However, we will explore the subject of conformity in today’s society and how we or society assigns us a value. For some, the valuation done by society is taken at face value equates to the value assigned by the individual to themselves. A few individuals disagrees with the way in which society values them and their talents and calculates their values differently. Both topics will be covered and differences expounded upon.
Part 1 – How Society and the World Values Us:
This video from The School of Life YouTube Channel best explains how society and our families (esp. Asian households) values most of us (9min video):
When asked about wealth the first thing that comes to mind is money for most people. They want to believe that the 1’s and 0’s stored in the database of various accounts accurately present your networth to this world. The universe cares not what your bank account statement says or most man-made metrics. What’s the worth of one small planet in a universe this vast? How much power can one man have on a one little rock if the entire rock is not even a speck of sand in the river of time?
Society values people and their net economic output and appropriately compensates them for their worth so that they can extract value from us in order to commoditize, market, distribute, and sell it to others for a profit.
The value assigned to you by your friends and families can also vary depending on how you were nurtured and which company of friends you keep. It can be either extremely motivating or powerfully destructive and this ultimately determines our outcome as a human being. We shall explore these ideas in depth in the following posts [Click for Part 2!].
I wasn’t much of a scientist or engineer but I found the stories of these great folks who were in those particular fields of study to be very fascinating. The man above is Richard Feynman and he is one of the most interesting Physicists I know. Feynman wrote an interesting book called Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character). He leads you through all the ways he thinks about life as a Physicist and an inquisitive person. He doesn’t particularly care for what others think of him, particularly his grammar, and just does things for fun! Give the book a read if you haven’t done so already as it is a worthwhile adventure.
Feynman never for a moment doubted his own abilities or his insatiable desire to explore the world regardless of what his peers or contemporaries thought about him. His self worth is determined by the size of his imagination and appetite for adventure. Obviously, this eventually resulted in him taking on wild vacations by putting a finger on a spinning globe and getting a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Guess it doesn’t hurt to be curious!
So, if Feynman can do it, so can you, right? Well… Not quite. Not to say you cannot get a Nobel Prize or have a lot of fun but you will never truly have fun if you live by the rules set by someone else and their definitions of attaining success. The following quote is widely associate to Albert Einstein. Regardless if that is true or not it is a good quote anyways:
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
This is how most people judge their own self worth:
It’s easy to gauge social status and worth by titles assigned at big Corporations and Institutions, current dollar amount in our respective bank and brokerage account, number of ponies in the stable (cars in the garage), square footage of the house(s) that we own, boats (yachts) on the dock(s), and planes (jets) in the hanger(s). That is a good way to gauge our extrinsic value without really looking at our intrinsic value. Usually, by harnessing intrinsic talents we can acquire a lot of extrinsic knowledge and wealth (i.e. Elon Musk). Society easily judges based on extrinsic value because it is easier than to assess the individual intrinsic worth. It’s quicker to check the people on Forbes 100 list than to read entire auto/biographies of those very same people.
One way to understand intrinsic value is to read and understand others, both living and deceased, through various forms of media available. Ultimately, you will find a character like Feynman who is naturally curious and inquisitive about the outside world and himself. You will understand that smart and rich people worry about the same things as you and I and much more by understanding how they think. Once you internalized this knowledge and acted upon it in some reflection you too will find your own self worth as determined by your metrics.
My highschool Math teacher Mr.Ben Cook once told me that:
“If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong!”
He’s an interesting character and reflecting on my own life I know he is right!