For Those Still Figuring It Out…

It’s okay to not have goals yet.

I started telling myself when I was 19 that I wasn’t going to force myself to have my shit together until I was 25. That’s allowed me to grow without pressuring myself, while acknowledging I’m going to start living more intentionally at some point. You don’t need to have anything figured out yet, but I hope you make an effort to start figuring out what you want to figure out. It’s not about accomplishing things, it’s about owning your own life. That what you do fits the image of who you want to be. You could spend every spare minute of your life just playing video games, and if you did that because you chose to because that’s what fulfilled you, then that’s a life well lived.

Especially if you’re young, don’t feel like you have to be a certain way yet, take time to learn about yourself and figure out what makes you happy and gives you purpose. Even if you’re 50, odds are you’ve got at least 30 more years left. If it took you 5 years to figure out how you want to spend the last 25, that’s still a lot of life left to live. You have the potential to be the best version of yourself, and it’s okay to ease into it. You don’t have to be perfect tomorrow.

A Quick Test.

Alright, I’ve got a test for you. I want you to open up Google Maps on your phone. Have it open? Great, now here’s your task. I want you to use it to design a poster for your favorite movie. You have five minutes, go!

Alright, time’s up, how’d you do? What do you mean Google Maps didn’t help you? It’s a highly sophisticated, powerful piece of software. It cost billions of dollars to make and maintain. I use it to get to work everyday and it never fails me. If you couldn’t figure out how to make something as simple as a poster there must be something very wrong with you. I can’t even look at you I’m so disappointed.

…Now, obviously that was ridiculous. Google Maps is great for doing what it’s designed for, getting directions and finding places to eat. but it’s not a design program, and it’s not going to help you make a poster, fix your car, or cook your dinner, though it might recommend someone to do that for you. Working harder or smarter wouldn’t have helped you do any better, because you had the wrong tool. If you had the right tool, a design program, or even just a pencil and paper, then how much effort or skill you put into it matters. But you have to have the right tool first.

What if Atoms Could Think?

What if an atom could think and perceive it’s surroundings. What would it make of the world it found itself in. It would see the other atoms around it, it might find itself attaching and detaching from other atoms. sometimes it might find itself constantly passing atoms, never staying in one place. Other times it might be stuck in one spot for long periods of time, and get to know it’s neighbors very well.

But it would be very hard for it to get a good sense of the larger system it’s a part of. It could be part of a stone, but it wouldn’t really know anything about the stone, all the atom would know is that it’s been mostly staying still for quite a long time. An atom could be part of a living cell. It would see lots of other atoms zipping by, in a wide variety of molecule formations, but it wouldn’t be able to grasp it’s part of a living creature.

It may have a much better understanding than we do of the smaller systems it can more easily perceive. It might have much better understandings than we do of how it interacts with it’s immediate neighbors, how the smaller systems of quarks and subatomic particles work together that we have a hard time grasping, maybe even smaller particles we don’t have the means to know about yet.

Likewise we may be completely ignorant of unfathomably large systems we’re members of but have no way to observe. The largest structures we know of, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, maybe the universe itself, could just be a small part of a much larger system we have no way of comprehending. We just see the other stars, galaxies, clusters, in the universe, and observe what we can about them. Just like an atom would just see other atoms and not the larger structure, we could be looking at a tiny, minuscule slice of a much bigger system and not realize it.

Human-Driven Cars Will Be The New Horse

I believe that the transition to self-driving cars in some ways will mirror going from the horse-and-carriage to the modern car.

Many people in the early 1900’s didn’t care for the automobile as it was becoming more popular, they preferred horses or walking. Eventually it became cheap enough for the common person to own one and the utility over the horse put horse-riding out of style. The car was faster, stronger, and easier to maintain. Of course horses are still used for recreation and sport, and you can hire a horse-and-carriage as a date night option, but virtually no one uses a horse as a daily mode of transportation.

Now we see fully self-driving cars are soon to be available to consumers. Many of the functionality is already there in some newer cars. Teslas can drive themselves on the highway and park themselves, and should soon be able to drive in the city. Already one of these cars is affordable to someone in the middle-class without too much financial strain, and they’ll only get cheaper as they’re more efficient to produce and they become more available to buy used.

There will definitely be some people resistant to making the change. A lot of people enjoy driving, some would rather stay in control instead of putting their life in the hands of a computer, though the computer will be much safer. I’m sure a lot of people liked and had emotional connections with their horses too, but the car won out. Eventually the utility of self-driving will put human-driving out of style. It’s smarter, safer, and gives you back the time you’d usually dedicate to driving. Of course they’ll still be used for recreation and sport, a plaything for the rich, but virtually no one will use one as a daily mode of transportation.

Monthly Resolutions

For 2020, I decided to do monthly resolutions instead of having one yearly resolution. I’ve been picking something new to try each month so I can experiment with different goals. I like the idea a lot more than having only one thing you make a big deal about changing each year.

With the New Year’s resolution, you might follow it for a month or two but a lot of the time you run out of steam and just let the goal fade away. You stop trying to better yourself again until the next year when you give it another go. I think a lot of the time we beat ourselves up when we slip up and then we let it go so we don’t have to face the failure anymore, even though it’s usually not a big deal. We also tend to set big goals for New Year’s resolutions, because we have a whole year to complete them. Then if we get a few months in and we haven’t made the progress we want, completing the goal seems more and more unachievable and scary, because now you need to make a year’s worth of progress in 9 months, and if you put it off more, 6 months, and so on. So then when we fail, it’s a big failure, and we feel even worse. One of the biggest problems I see with trying something for the entire year is even if you do make good on your progress, you don’t get the satisfaction of completing it until the year ends, and a year is a long time for most people to delay gratification, including me.

With the monthly resolution, each goal is made to be a lot more reasonable and attainable. You can focus on your goal for the month without pressuring yourself to be perfect about if for a lengthy period of time. At the end of the month, you can pat yourself on the back for doing a good job and renew your motivation for the next month. For the next month you can keep the same goal you had or you have the opportunity to go after new things. Conventional wisdom is that it usually takes three weeks to form a new habit, so a month is long enough to instill whatever your goal was into your routine. If it was going to the gym or cutting down on sugar you now know you have the willpower to make those changes. At the end of the month you can have a perspective switch that going to the gym isn’t something you’re making yourself do, or a punishment, it’s just something you do now. You’re someone who exercises. You’re someone who knows you’re able to turn down a sugary snack. Now you can take the pressure off yourself, and focus on improving yourself in a different way.

So what have I done for my own resolutions? For January I made the goals to write every day, and to not play video games unless I was playing with friends. I’ve wanted to get into the writing habit for a while, but have never been able to force myself to carve out the time. I only made the minimum requirement fifteen minutes so that I wasn’t intimidated to follow through each day. By not letting myself default my free time to video games, I forced myself to be more productive, and I was able to follow my writing goal really well. I wrote almost every day, and a lot of the time for much longer than fifteen minutes. Now that the month is over, it’s been a lot easier for me to continue to write and I’ve been continuing to do it daily for the most part.

In February I didn’t drink coffee in any form, but still allowed myself to have other sources of caffeine, like tea. One reason is I wanted to see what my body does if I’m still getting caffeine, but not from coffee. It also served as an exercise in self-denial, since I had been consuming around three to four coffee-based drinks a day. I noticed after I got through two weeks of no coffee, I felt clear-headed most of the time. I noticed my body would feel, not tired really, but bored. It’s like it’s just waiting for that quick go energy it’s used to but nothing is coming. In the third week of not drinking coffee, I started to really crave it. At first I thought to myself “two weeks has been enough, I could stop now.” But that was just me being weak. If this is actually an exercise in self-control then going through this harder point would be the point. I started drinking coffee again after the month was over, not as much as before, but at least a cup or two a day, and I immediately noticed the clear-headedness I was enjoying quickly went away. It pains me to say it, because I really like coffee, but I’m going to have to make caffeinated coffee a once a week treat. It’s such a clear improvement in my ability to think when I’m not on coffee that I can’t justify keeping my normal consumption. For March I bought an Excel course online and committed to learning it for at least half an hour a day, which I did.

I really like the variety and amount of skills I can work on with this method. I’m planning on cycling between different types of challenges like physical (biking, swimming), mental (meditating), nutrition(no snacks, fasting), and skill-building(magic tricks, learning a software). There’s a ton of stuff I’d like to work on and learn, but I won’t do anything well if I try and do it all at once. If I focus on one or two things at a time, I can actually learn each thing well and eventually get around to everything.