Thoughts on Dating and Relationships

“Deserving” someone. The concept of “deserving” a desirable romantic partner, simply due to one’s innate existence, is absurd. This seems to be something that women espouse more than men. Of course, Western society continues to vapidly value women for their appearance while men are valued for their accomplishments. However, believing that one “deserves” someone, just due to existing, seems no better. I would instead propose that no one “deserves” anything when it comes to dating.

“Just be yourself.” Don’t be yourself. Change yourself. If “yourself” is a lazy alcoholic who accomplishes far below his or her capacity, whose word is mud, and who behaves neurotically when dating, then this is not someone you should want to be. The argument that I should “be myself” is more aptly applied to not compromising—not pretending my predilections line up with my date’s in a futile attempt to curry favor. If a date professes to me her great love for hockey, I am going to “be myself” and pretend I like hockey too. However, just because my natural tendency is toward overeating does not mean I should “be myself” and allow myself to become obese.

“Let’s just be friends.” When someone continues to be “friends” with someone for the possibility of sex, he has done so willingly. We should have zero empathy nor sympathy for vultures who offer so-called friendship on a foundation of resentment for not being repaid with sex. Also, accepting gifts from someone, which by definition are supposed to require nothing in return, should not be considered “leading on.” In fact, anyone who offers a “gift” expecting repayment is a hypocrite. Their “generous” acts are completely nullified.

“Dirty” old men. No one ever refers to “dirty” young men, even though they are dirtier (have higher sex drives) than old men. The idea that men should be attracted to progressively older women as they become progressively older is egalitarian, but perhaps not realistic (shown in a somewhat-dubious study on OkCupid messaging trends). Women who date older men, particularly in the free world, usually have a choice in the matter, and thus are culpable for aiding and abetting dirty old men.

Cheating. If someone “cheats” or is “cheated” on, they could have completely avoided this violation of trust by not entering into an exclusive arrangement. There is plenty of cultural pressure and perhaps psychological pressure by the monogamy-inclined to cajole others into exclusive arrangements, but refusing this pressure, like being vegetarian or transgender, is becoming increasingly acceptable. Hopefully, this will reduce the prevalence of cheating, although people who cheat do not necessarily plan to do so from the outset of a relationship. Overall, the idea that one can claim sexual ownership over someone else for years on end, in marriage or exclusive arrangements, is contrary to the desires of the flesh and prone to violation.

Dating “advice.” People are far too eager to offer vapid and often patently false advice on dating and relationships. Even “good” advice usually has no empirical evidence behind it. Most would be better off avoiding advice from family and friends whenever possible. A common rejoinder people like to use against me is my “failure” to find a girlfriend reflects on my bitterness and arrogance. This is reminiscent of “law of attraction” pseudoscience. It is neither efficacious nor helpful. Additionally, if advice is given, it should be male–male or female–female (among cisgendered heterosexuals). The world of dating is much different for women than men. An average-looking woman will often have men ask her out even while grocery shopping, while an average-looking man can go an entire lifetime without this happening. Women have to sift through hundreds of messages on dating apps (including many misogynistic messages), while men often have to send hundreds of messages just to get a few responses. Comparing apples to oranges is like comparing dating for men to dating for women.

Neediness. I am not convinced the opposite of “neediness” is that great. Seeing a text or message from a dating prospect, not having time to respond, and then forgetting for an entire week is common for me. I used to suffer from so-called “oneitis” where I would get stuck on a particular women (it’s only “oneitis” when not reciprocated). This is not something I consciously exterminated, so much as simply grew out of, despite having no meaningful relationships in my 25 years. So-called neediness is only a problem when your crush has much less of it than you. However, if you both lack it completely, there is no relationship—you will just go weeks without noticing neither has contacted each other. Michael Jordan does not have a basketball “problem.” A successful poker player does not have a gambling “problem.” One only has a “neediness” or “clinginess” problem if rebuffed. Moreover, neediness may be more of a habit than an indicator of irreparable brokenness. While it can indicate lack of self-worth, this is not always true. One partner being “needy” might be the best way to keep communication channels flowing. Of course, due to cultural and/or biological expectations, being a needy man is far worse than being a needy woman.

Financial Thoughts, July 2016

Here is a comment exchange between the author (“J. Money”) of the Budgets are Sexy blog and I, July 8–11, 2016, concerning vehicle purchase decisions and investing. I have been following J. Money’s blog for a few months now—I would definitely recommend reading it and similar blogs if you are interested in changing your financial perspective. My comments also elucidate some of my viewpoints on Toastmasters, financial concerns for college students, market timing, risk, and insurance.

Comment by Richard Thripp, 2016-07-08:

The brief Brexit crash was actually a good buying opportunity, though it is easy to say in hindsight. I think when adding money from a bank account via Vanguard, the transaction doesn’t post until the next business day, meaning the price you see now is not the price VTSAX will be at when your “buy” order actually posts.

I would agree given the much lower value your Lexus minivan shows for private sales that you paid too much. However, many others make far worse decisions—I have young friends who literally have 15%+ car loans due to not understanding how credit works (meaning, they didn’t have their first credit card or student loan until AFTER the car loan and got their loan at a used car dealership).

With such high liquid net worth, why do you choose to pay 3.45% interest plus credit inquiries when you could just buy the car outright? Why do you have an $1859 warranty, which is clearly a money-maker for the warranty guarantor, when you could easily use your savings as your warranty? I suppose you are benefiting in the 10% “mix of credit types” portion of your credit score by having a car loan, but this seems no more worthwhile to me than keeping a credit card you don’t use that has an annual fee, just to avoid the hit to your average age of accounts from closing it (which doesn’t even occur until 10 years later, as far as I know).

Even most rewards checking accounts do not offer a 3.45% return. Most outlooks for the stock market are tepid compared to returns in recent years. A 3.45% return with no risk to the principal is pretty good.

I’ve been reading your blog for a while. You are definitely still a half-millionaire since your net worth estimates are very conservative. You aren’t including the value of most of your possessions, and you have barely any debts. Very smart.

Response from blog author, J. Money, 2016-07-09:

Thanks man 🙂 Yeah, actually just got an offer for the blog and my other project which raises the worth substantially more, but I never count on any of that until it’s actually a reality so that’s why I don’t include that stuff (I turned down the offer, btw).

As for liquidating some assets to pay for the car, it’s too slippery of a slope for me – I never like touching investments cuz it would tempt me too much to make it OK to do for other stuff down the road. And I honestly don’t mind taking on some debt and paying for the convenience of it since I know I can pay it off at any time and manage it responsibly. Plus, my investments will make much more than 3.45% anyways over the years 🙂 And actually gonna spend some time and try and get it refinanced lower too as soon as the chaos winds down….

thx for stopping by btw – just checked out your site, your background is pretty impressive! especially in the speaking stuff – always admire that about people as I hate it. Keep hustling 🙂

Response by Richard Thripp, 2016-07-11:

Thanks for replying and checking out my site, J. Money! Toastmasters has been great… when I started 2 years ago I was super nervous but after being a club president and giving two dozen speeches I have improved greatly. It’s not really “public” speaking per se since you only have an audience of 10–20 people you already know, typically, so it’s a good segueway into more anxiety-provoking environments.

As for my education, financially I find it a very interesting topic. I still live with parents and have all my degrees (AA, BS, MA, starting PhD next month) from public community colleges / universities. This is so much cheaper than going to private institutions or moving away (though not as exciting). It must be awful to come out of undergrad with $100K+ debt which is quite common with pricey private institutions. Alarmingly, what is becoming more common is that people incur debt without ever finishing their degree! Might be a good blog post topic.

I can definitely understand the “slippery slope” dilemma, and I too think the VTSAX index fund will continue to yield more than 3.45% annually. Heck, it yielded much more than this over the past 10 years, even considering the 2008 crash.

I am glad you turned down the offer for your blog—I am sure it wouldn’t be as good. So many blogs turn bad when revenue generation becomes the #1 priority.

Best Regards,
Richard T.

Thoughts on Mindsets for Education

“Change your mindset, change your life” is the motto I put forth in a speech I gave in February 2016 about mindsets. In this essay written on July 1, 2016, I will put forth thoughts about what distinguishes growth theorists from fixed theorists. I will also elucidate several points of confusion.

Chicken or the Egg?

What comes first? Success or a growth mindset? Research demonstrates that encouraging a growth mindset leads to success. However, many highly successful people clearly have a fixed mindset. How did they get where they are without growth mindset?

One possibility is that fixed mindset just isn’t that much of an inhibitor of success. Nevertheless, research shows that even if fixed mindset doesn’t do much to inhibit success, growth mindset does plenty to aid it.

Somewhat paradoxically, it may be possible that successful people with fixed mindset either have high innate abilities or are predisposed to persevere. They may be succeeding despite their fixed mindset, but adopting a growth mindset might enable them to enjoy even greater success.

Mindset is not a panacea. While fixed mindset is a limiting belief and growth mindset an empowering one, one can certainly fail despite holding a growth mindset. A common example is trying to do too many things at once. Growth mindset is no substitute for sustained practice. For example, all the growth mindset in the world won’t help you master piano if you only practice 20 minutes a week.

People who have a growth mindset are probably not going to have a performance-avoidance goal orientation. They are not afraid of looking “stupid” due to asking “stupid” questions. They are not afraid of making mistakes in front of their classmates. Being called a “noob” does not shame them, because they recognize that mastery is a journey and that their skills will grow over time.

That is not to say growth theorists cannot be perfectionists, but when they are, it is often in a healthy way, unlike the debilitating perfectionism that prevents one from getting anything done that may be more common among fixed theorists. Growth theorists may be very detail-oriented, but their fear of being “not good enough” is diminished. They are not afraid to brainstorm. They are not afraid to make many false starts. When others chide them for dabbling, it doesn’t faze them.

“Compared to Others”

Comparing ourselves to others, particularly with respect to “talent,” is a common yet often counter-productive pastime. The main reason it is counter-productive is that there is nothing we can do about our fixed level of “talent.” While intelligence and talent may be growable, conventional wisdom says otherwise. Therefore, we typically conceptualize these constructs as having a fixed upper ceiling at conception, birth, or maturation. While our talent, intelligence, and opportunities can be reduced and foreclosed, be it by exposure to teratogens in-utero or early in life, poor education or nutrition in childhood, or heavy drinking in adulthood, conventional wisdom says there is no way to increase them. Just as one can kill but not resurrect, one can lose intelligence but not gain it. This is quintessential to the concept of fixed mindset.

If we believe intelligence has a fixed ceiling, are we likely to maximize? Will we reach our personal “glass ceiling”? Probably not! In fact, believing one is “just not good” at something is a powerful impetus to cease and desist entirely! The students who believe they are “just not good” at math often don’t even try. They never even ascend to the level of mediocrity that is purportedly their glass ceiling.

Clearly, prioritizing doing the best we can with what we have is a more productive alternative to giving up entirely. Unfortunately, reaching our “personal best” is often derided in a cultural climate that promotes beating the competition. However, the silver lining of growth mindset is that even though your glass ceiling (which may be as imaginary as the construct of infinity) may be lower than people who were born with greater gifts, this does not mean others are going to use their gifts. In fact, they may be looking further up the pyramid at people even better endowed than them, leading them to thinking: “What’s the point?,” and squandering their gifts. This is not unlike winning a race because someone’s car broke down, or because the other team didn’t show up. Nevertheless, a win is a win. In this way, a growth theorist can have the best of both worlds. (Not caring about being “the best” and yet being “the best” anyway because other, more “capable” contenders self-sabotage due to fixed mindset.)

How Should Teachers Apply Growth Mindset?

It’s very hard to impart growth mindset on your students if you hold a fixed mindset for yourself. At the same time, having a growth mindset does not mean you believe it is necessary, nor even worthwhile, to aspire to be a polymath.

Focusing on sharpening our strengths is often a better approach than reinforcing weaknesses. For example, I am completely inept when it comes to Apple products, including iPhones, iPads, iMacs, and Macbooks. I have never owned one, and in times when I’ve had to use one, it took me a long time to figure out how to perform basic tasks, and I didn’t see the appeal at all. While I could dedicate immense time and effort to mastering Apple iOS and OSX, I would much rather dedicate this time to learning a specialized skill on Windows, Android, or the LAMP stack. While I don’t have a fixed mindset for Apple, I can be a growth theorist without desiring to pursue growth in this area.

How can a child have attention-deficit disorder yet be able to focus on a complicated video game for hours? Just because a child is failing in school does not mean he or she is lazy or unable. It may just mean that the curriculum or instruction environment fails to motivate. Let’s face it: Even postsecondary education often manages to completely demolish the fun or intrigue in otherwise seductive topics. Blaming the student is the easy way out.

While the student may be partially “at fault,” plenty of “blame” may also lie with administrative and institutional constraints, lack of support, the curriculum, the teacher, and the public at large. Working around this entails not condemning students as irreparably damaged, but catering to what they find interesting in a program of study. Strengthening these interests can lead to broader overall interest in school. Video game developers have been using these tactics for decades, while educators remain behind the curve.

Changing our internal dialog helps. Stop deriding yourself in your head. Be more supportive of yourself. When talking to students, don’t say one student is “smarter” than the rest. Don’t offer to “go easy” on someone because they are having a hard time. Encourage them to keep learning, practicing, and growing. Just because they are doing poorly now does not mean they cannot grow. In fact, other students may have enormous head starts due to better education relating to socio-economic status, or simply greater effort or more rigorous teachers in prior classes. Everyone does not enter a class at the same skill level. However, those entering with a lower skill level can catch up with diligent effort.

Encouraging growth mindset may be one of the best examples of differentiated instruction in action, simply by virtue of withholding summary judgment.

New Job as UCF FCSUA Web Developer

I have started working as a web developer for University of Central Florida’s new Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. Check out the progress Dr. Rebecca Hines (sister of Cheryl Hines!) and I have made on the site so far:

The Florida Senate established this new program which will serve the whole state from its headquarters at University of Central Florida in Orlando:

Working on WordPress with GoDaddy IIS hosting (chosen by the previous developer) has been awful. GoDaddy is so much buggier and slower than my host, SYN Hosting. I’m hoping to get approval to switch soon, though we’ll lose money on our GoDaddy subscription.

The Pox That Is Multi-Level Marketing

Several years ago, I attended a job fair at Daytona State College that included “career opportunities” like Primerica and Vector Marketing (Cutco). The fact that Daytona State College would allow these fraudsters at their job fair reflects very poorly on the college. These shysters will invite you to an “interview” that is actually a sales pitch to you and dozens of other schmucks. Unlike a real job, to get started on your path to allegedly massive $$$ in these companies, you must make many “investments,” such as buying training materials and inventory, at inflated prices. To be fair to the fraudsters, the individuals who even attend such “interviews” are proven schmucks, because they failed to do any due diligence (e.g., a simple Google search of the company, you MORONS).

While multi-level marketing companies prey on weaknesses and insecurities, it is unfair to absolve participants of blame for their behaviors. Unlike religions, it’s quite rare for parents to coerce their children into participating in MLM companies. Participants enter of their own free will. There are few excuses for falling for MLM scams. I have very little respect for individuals who impose these scams on others through psychological tricks such as reciprocity bias and the foot-in-the-door technique. Unfortunately, because MLMs push participants (schmucks) to recruit more schmucks, this means I have very little respect for the vast majority of MLM participants.

I do a lot of commuting between Daytona Beach and University of Central Florida, listening to many audio books and podcasts during my travels. On an episode of the Productivity Show by Asian Efficiency from June 2015, Jordan Harbinger from the Art of Charm proposes the idea of a “Mark Johnson,” often seen at conferences and networking events. Mark Johnson is a fictitious character who pitches his business or services to strangers in an annoying way. He interrupts, derails conversations, forces his business card on you, and offers nothing of substance or value. This is apropos to how MLM participants market to family, friends, and acquaintances.

In America, MLM companies are so pervasive that you undoubtedly have friends or acquaintances who are involved with them. The ones I recall personally encountering are Herbalife, ACN (as endorsed by bankruptcy aficionado Donald J. Trump), and LegalShield. Typically, these salespeople abuse friendships by extolling the value of their MLM cult, perhaps convincing you to attend recruitment events and ultimately pay an exorbitant startup fee. The underlying “businesses” behind these MLM companies are blatantly frivolous and overpriced. In fact, these companies can only achieve profitability through an MLM pyramid scheme through which countless schmucks do nothing but waste time and lose money. Like the Ministry of Love from Nineteen Eighty-Four, MLM founders often cite a desire to “share” and “give back” in their “selfless” decision to found an MLM.

Of course, the schmucks yearn to move up in the pyramid, and the only way to do this is to recruit “downstream” schmucks who become even bigger schmucks by recruiting more and more levels of downstream schmucks who all funnel profits to the upstream members. Therefore, MLM Kool-Aid drinkers will always relentlessly corrupt any friendships they have for the purpose of trying to recruit a downstream supernode. Their friendship is as genuine as a prostitute’s “hello.” They dream of the six-figure incomes and island vacations that their MLM cult leaders mendaciously extoll, and the only way to get there is recruiting supernodes—workhorse schmucks who convince many others to join through good looks and/or sociopathic sales skills, thereby funneling profits to the supernode recruiter and funding six-figure incomes that require only four-hour workweeks, merely by virtue of temporal precedence. (My use of nodes and supernodes in this context is largely original.)

Your friends who participate in MLM schemes are vultures, much like the speculators who circled Washington in 1790, successfully lobbying the federal government for “assumption” of state debts while buying up these junk bonds at pennies on the dollar, only to have them repaid by the federal government at 100% of face value. The underlying motives for MLM participants are no different from speculators, lobbyists, ambulance-chasing lawyers, and anyone else weak or twisted enough to endorse a get-rich-quick scheme.

It is not uncommon to hear an MLM cult member brag about their massive income. If you look closer, you’ll probably see their house is being foreclosed on and their electricity is being cut off. Unless they are part of the 1% at the top of the pyramid, their claims are bold-faced lies. How does it feel to be friends with a scrupleless liar?

Multi-level marketing is a pox. Do not forgive friends for trying to ram Herbalife down your throat, anymore than you would forgive them for slashing your tires or poisoning your water supply. Slam the door in their face as they deserve. Hopefully, someday, they will wake up, but that’s not your problem, and trying to convince them is a fool’s errand.

Writing on education, psychology, and philosophy