Who Makes the Culture?

 

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Photo by Adam Muise on Unsplash

 

The culture of a given place and time is filled with a variety of complex cogs and elements. Still, the origins of a “culture” arises somewhere; the memetics and development of fads and fashions of the time all have a beginning. So, who makes the culture?

First you can look at the artists. Without Kanye West, or Game of Thrones, or Harry Potter, the world would be a very different place. These artists and their art place a foundation to how culture is prescribed. Different echelons of culture take inspiration from different types of art as well; some communities may favor cultural expression with something like Game of Thrones, whereas others might take it in the direction of Sailor Moon or Black Dynamite. The important thing is that these pieces of art influence the direction of the subgroup in one way or another.

Of course, though art does define a good chunk of the culture, it does not define all of it. Current events, political or otherwise, also shape the society. Drawn out news fads can often leave a deeper, more subtler impression on the state as a whole. Turbulent political times frame the outlook of a society, which is then manifested within the culture itself.

So, in summary of these two points: we can say that artists “make” the long-form general culture, which is then, at fixed points, is affected by the stance of the current climate of events. This climate is the second largest factor towards developing the culture. I would then say, at a micro-level, group dynamics play the final solidifying piece in developing the culture. A group is given the art and the climate, and must develop their own unique narrative based on these concepts. And so, these three distinct layers form the final culture cake.

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What the Definition of Luck Really Is

 

 

Luck is a hard, complex thing. No successful person has ever (truthfully) said their success was all based around skill; there is always a wide amount of chance in every major victory. And yet, it’s hard to genuinely define this aspect – calling luck simply a factor of chance raises all sorts of complicated problems. What’s the “probability” of success? Is it the same as a flip of a coin? Can we statistically define luck? Is the probability of being “lucky” in starting a business really equivalent to the number of companies that last more than 5 years? More than 10 years? What about a heavily cited research paper? Or having a successful album release?

 

Of course, barely anyone truly believes that luck is purely a derivation of chance. And yet, I believe the fact that this is embroiled into the mindset of many people is precisely because of an improper definition of what luck truly is. The best definition of luck I’ve ever heard is that it is “created” with the help of two broad categories: consistency and opportunity. Opportunity itself is of many moving parts, and is responsible for most of the complexity of luck – things like current status, geography, education, network, etc. These pieces are mostly outside the scope of this article (though may be covered in detail in a later segment), so instead what I want to focus on is this first piece, consistency. Consistency, when executed properly, brings opportunity. The thing is that consistency isn’t quite an easy task in itself;  it takes more than a bit of operation. High-quality consistency requires exorbitant amounts of patience, proper long-term goal planning, and many, many extensions from the comfort zone. It also requires you to be able to tell if what you’re being consistent in is really worth you being consistent in it. Do you have the skill required for competitive advantage? Are you genuinely passionate about what you are doing? I feel as though all these questions, all these aspects, make up what luck really is. When people say luck, in reality, they’re giving a simple, generalized term for a variety of complex factors that are often hard to pinpoint. That being said, you’ll always find luck in opportunity, and you’ll always find opportunity inconsistency. Luck might feel like a hard thing to get, but remember; you only have to hit the home run once. And besides, if everyone was lucky, would any of it really matter?

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

 

How to develop intellectual success in future generations

 

 

Intellect is a complicated problem, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous posts. There is really no good heuristic or measure out there for what makes a person truly “intelligent” (if you say IQ is a valid example, I’m going to be mad; more on that in approximately 10 weeks). However, I do believe there is a method behind allowing for the intellectual success of a person, especially at a young age.

Let me give a bit of an example so what I’m saying here actually makes sense: let’s say you have a person who was born “very smart” (we’ll say high logical-mathematical intelligence) but was born into a situation where perhaps resources are thin; say a poorer neighborhood with parents who have not really succeeded too much historically in education or otherwise. Because of this, it is going to be really hard for the said person to now “unlock” their intelligence and go on to utilize it cause they’ve never really had a chance to. Because of this, the edge of their ability gets duller as time goes on, and the competitive advantage is lost.

Extrapolating this slightly, I think now that this same problem is very much correlated with the mindset problem I discussed a few months back. You can’t get into a healthy mindset as easily if you aren’t surrounded by people who have this mindset. It doesn’t just have to be parents; it also includes friends, teachers, and a general outside support group. Since it is so hard to have the mindset to “unlock” potential or intelligence, I feel as though this is an overwhelming problem; people don’t just ignore following a healthy mindset, some outwardly reject its existence and mock people who try following it. This all comes back to how intellectual success is so hard to come by in general; if generation after generation is actively pushing against it, other people are going to fall off and fail.

I wish I had a better solution to this problem rather than “just stop doing this”, but I don’t. I do think the internet has helped a lot in this capacity – it certainly helped me – in the way that educational resources are easy to come by and that people can more readily make “mentors” out of people they might not necessarily know but be able to read the blog or watch the podcast of. Still, most people don’t use the internet for this; they use it instead for cat pictures and video game streams. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, it can provide a more “medicated” view of the world and distract us from these alternate entryways into intellectual success.

Despite the fact that I do not have a clear answer, I do think things will get better. I do believe as more people learn – as more people get out of the vicious cycle – that this problem will begin to mitigate. I just don’t know when it will happen.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

What is the Purpose of Dreams?

 

 

To be honest, when I had put this down in my notes of things to talk about, it was a long time ago. So now I’m a bit confused whether “dreams” is meant to be in a literal or abstract sense. Are we talking Freud, a la the dreams you get from sleeping, or dreams as in wide, aspirational goals?

Well, why not talk about both? After all, I believe that both are truly important; and I believe both relate to one another greater than it might seem.

First, we’ll start with aspirations. The purpose of dreams, in this case, can be made apparent in setting ourselves to somewhere higher than we currently are. We may, in the end, not reach our lofty goals; it’s fine. It happens. But it can almost be completely assured that where you end up after all the pieces fall into place will be immensely greater than you were at the beginning. I’m a realist, but I’m also a believer in doggedly following one’s dreams, solely because of the places it will take you. I believe that following the bigger things in life causes us to learn bigger things about ourselves.

And I also think we learn bigger things about ourselves every night when we sleep. The concept of dreams has always fascinated me, though their purpose has always evaded me. After studying my dreaming habits for a few years, it seems that the only things that really come out of most dreams are just whatever was top of mind the night before. And yet… it’s not always like this. Occasionally a dream will come up from the depths and rocket punch you in the stomach. Sometimes it will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth, or an entirely blissful day. Sometimes it will cause you to despise a person, or long to talk to them. I believe these moments are when the power of purpose of dreams truly come out. I believe that this is an inner voice within us, deep below our consciousness, trying to point us to what we need to see. And I believe that this inner voice is the same thing that tells us what we must aspire to.

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Dangers of Obedience

 

 

One of the topics that interest me the most in psychology has to do with obedience, or otherwise the act of doing what we’re told. As humans, we’re designed to recognize figures of experts or leaders and follow their advice accordingly. It’s a natural instinct; the leader of the pack usually knows where to go for survival, and so we follow. However, like many of our natural instincts, it has now become mostly deprecated due to advancement in society.

 

One of the startling things about obedience is how easy it is construct a false figure of an authority and have people still believe it. Things like the Milgram experiment and the McDonalds strip call case intersect with micro-cases like lecture halls and national governments in the sake of people pretending to be someone they might not be. What I mean here is that much of what we’ve established in our society is based on this fundamental aspect of obedience; obedience to laws, or culture, or politics. And while there are obedience principles put in place that help all of us, there also exists many faults with principles. Some of the greatest tragedies, wars, cults, and scandals have occurred out of obedience, out of blindly following the pack without considering where the pack is going.

 

Always think before you act. It’s something you’ve probably been told since you were a kid, but let me throw an important spin on it; always think before you act on what someone says. Perhaps I’m a bit too individualist for some people’s tastes, but I believe you should always consider your own personal morals and principles before considering to act upon the will of others. I believe that with more active forethought we can avoid the dangers that come with obedience.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

3 Ways To Get Value Out Of Nature

Yes, houses are nice. Air conditioning is definitely good (especially coming from Arizona), alongside all the other amazing benefits of society and technology. That being said, there is massive value to nature that you can still find to this day. In this article, I wanted to talk about the three main positive benefits I think people can get from going out into the natural world just a little bit more.

Finding Calmness

There’s something eternally calming and meditative about being away from the bustle of the modern world. If a standard meditation exercise only takes us out of the world for a few moments, then being alone in nature is the ultimate meditation.

Learning from other species

People watching is fun, but watching the rest of the animal kingdom in its natural habitat is a wonder all of itself. There’s a lot you can learn from the strategies of other species; many technological advancements in subjects such as swarm intelligence and aerodynamics would not be made if not for observing how other animals do what they do. Of course, observing forest denizens isn’t just for finding an idea for your next invention; on a more philosophical level it can allow you to connect with others who call this world home.

Understanding the World

We make a lot of stuff up. Sometimes, it’s hard to realize that. In a world full of music, and deadlines, and business and governments, we take such abstract concepts very seriously; perhaps a bit too seriously sometimes. When you go into the forest (or whatever other natural environment you happen to be in), you’re matched with what the world was in the beginning, before we had constructed all these concepts. The only pieces of the puzzle that are real are the ones that are out there; the way the creek flows, the rustling of the leaves, and the games of survival among the animals who live there. These are the only hard and fast rules in life; the ones that we’ve created are mostly derivations. I can find some solace in this, and I bet some of you could as well.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. You can subscribe to it here.

The Difference between Quitting and Giving Up

 

 

I’m usually really bad at quitting things. Once I’ve gotten into something deep, it’s hard to stop it; even if I really don’t like it or it otherwise isn’t giving me value. I just hate the idea of giving up on something.

Part of this probably has to do with the fact that, when I was younger, I had the exact opposite problem. I was giving up on things left and right. I would think of a new great idea for a website, or a project, or a book, get really excited, work on it for about 2 weeks, and then hit a wall. And then never came back from that wall. Repeat ad nauseum.

For veteran readers of the blog, this might sound familiar. It’s something I brought up in my final post on the #100DaysofCode challenge. In the post, I make a promise to myself to continue climbing even when I’ve hit that wall. And while I’ve done pretty good at continuing to hit on things now, I’m starting to wonder; is there anything that you should give up on? And if so, how do you figure out what it is?

About two months ago I read Seth Godin’s The Dip, which I would say touches on this subject better than anything I’ve previously read (it’s also only around 80 pages). Godin essentially fully describes this sort of wall idea that I mentioned in the 100DaysofCode, and gives some outlines on how to tell the difference between quitting for a good reason and quitting for a bad reason. I’ve decided to take a bit of a spin on these ideas and write out what I think are the key principles to think about:

Does this project give me joy?

As a good rule of thumb, Marie-Kondoing your project list will work pretty well. Now, there are a few exceptions to this rule (we’ll discuss them in the next point) but overall if over the full scope of the project you can’t think of a single redeeming feature about it that gives you confidence or excitement, then its pretty easy to see that its probably not worth it. This is the heuristic I probably use most often, although it does need to be used with restraint; just because something does not give you immediate satisfaction does not mean it is worthless in the long term.

What am I currently getting out of this project? What will I get when this project is completed?

Opportunity cost is also a pretty good heuristic for deciding whether something is worth it or not. To gauge opportunity cost, you’d have to look at both short term prospects and long term prospects to decide whether something is good. If something has only a few short-term rewards but many long-term rewards, then it’s a good investment. If there’s no short-term rewards and only a few long-term rewards, then you may want to at least consider other options. This is where the exception from earlier comes into play; something might not necessarily bring joy, but still give you better prospects if you complete it. Sometimes, if the rewards are high enough, I can understand slumping through a project at least temporarily to get into a better position later.

Will this project help me achieve my long-term goals?

Always focus with the end in mind. Not every single one of your current projects will involve one of your long-term goals (at least not obviously) but you should always make sure that the path you’re going down currently will at least lead you into hitting those markers. Don’t have long-term goals? Then make some, and follow them. Long-term goals have been the de-facto best way I have made sure to stay consistently on track, and I’ll probably continue to consistently refine it into the future.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. I do want to point out that we have a brand new newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on. You can subscribe to it here.