Category Archives: Psychology and Philosophy

My Time Will Henceforth Be Forever Too Valuable to do X

In the summer and fall of 2011, shortly after completing my two-year degree, I worked as a secretary for a local masonry company. Among other inane tasks, I was asked to salvage scrap paper from printed pages that were no longer needed, by cutting the blank portions with scissors. Explaining that this was not a task worth $9.00 per hour was surprisingly fruitless. It seems that simply understanding the time-value of money may be a threshold concept for some.

As we progress through life, if we have any inkling toward personal growth, doubtlessly our time becomes progressively more precious. Tasks that previously seemed a good use of our time are simply no longer worthwhile. Hence, my time will henceforth be forever too valuable to do X. (While I do not wish to delve into interpersonal interactions here, this principle could apply to them as well.)

Making this determination is hard. Friends and family may protest against our newfound “laziness” or reticence (e.g., the construct of social drag discussed by Pavlina, 2006). However, the alternative is far worse—selling ourselves short by wasting precious, nonrenewable time on low-impact tasks is a travesty, perhaps remaining concealed to many people due to a conceptual learning curve.

It is said that people who grew up in the Great Depression often retained their fixed, scarcity-based mindsets in middle- and old-age, even when achieving high income and material abundance. That is, they would continue to do dumb things to save money, like reusing napkins or refusing to part with broken items. Motivational financial writer, Ramit Sethi, characterizes this as the dichotomy between spending less and earning more, and argues people are too focused on cutting back, even though the return-on-investment (ROI) for cutting back is often far lower than increasing one’s income. Similarly, the ROI on many of our personal, ingrained habits is often far less than our usual hourly income, yet we fail to recognize this. This is perhaps a form of financial illiteracy, and certainly a psychological quirk that largely hinders us.

From brainstorming at my keyboard, I came up with the following examples of things one’s time might be too valuable to do. Not all of these apply to me—as a lowly graduate student, I obviously haven’t reached the point of outsourcing my laundry and grocery shopping, but I recognize that when I achieve a six-figure income, I probably won’t be interested in doing these mundane tasks (in fact, it would then be antithetical to social justice to waste time on them, because a highly skilled person’s debt to society can never be repaid via low-impact tasks).

My time will henceforth be forever too valuable to …
clip coupons
scrape the last bit of food out of a can, jar, or other container
roll coins
receive pointless emails
receive pointless phone calls
go grocery shopping
do laundry
use laced shoes
do yard work
play video games
peel sunflower seeds
collect scrap metal, bottles, or cans
do other people’s work
put others’ interests before my own
use cheap, crappy products
keep clothes that don’t fit me
reuse cooking oil
put off upgrading or replacing essential items
save junk for unspecified potential future use
put up with bullshit (if I don’t have to)

From this proposition, two questions immediately emerge: 1.) regression (not the statistical version) and 2.) environmentalism.

1.) What about when one regresses, for example, due to being laid off or retiring?

Yes, if one’s income goes down or one’s propensity toward greatness falters, tasks that were previously a waste of time may become worthwhile again. However, this does not mean they were always worthwhile, nor that they might not become a waste of time again. The idea that retirement should be relegated to low-impact tasks is sad and unnerving. At the pinnacle of one’s achievements, with decades of accumulated wisdom, why would puttering in the garden be an option? Surely if one derives immense personal satisfaction, it may be a worthy endeavor, but few retirees are satisfied by busywork.

2.) What about the environmental impact of the wastefulness you are advocating?

For people who are highly skilled and charismatic, more good can be achieved by focusing their efforts on high-impact tasks, even if other areas of life produce more landfill pollution and carbon emissions. Consequently, it may not be hypocritical for an environmental advocate to jet-set around the world giving speeches; in fact, said actions may lead to returns that are orders of magnitude greater than the requisite costs. While I will not advocate for wanton wastefulness, within reason, a hard-working and highly skilled person is more valuable when employed at full capacity. There will always be plenty of low-skilled people to willingly perform low-impact tasks, with commensurate compensation.

Ponder on what has changed in your life in recent months or years. What activities, tasks, or even people is your time now too valuable to spend on? This is not to say that volunteering is bad, but you must be volunteering for the things that are right for you. Think: my time will henceforth be forever too valuable to do X. What are your X’s?

Dealing with “Haters”

Short essay I wrote today in reply to an acquaintance who was being unfairly criticized regarding life choices by a former friend:

I have run into many people who have said things like this about how I’m narcissistic, judgmental, rude, won’t accomplish anything, will always be disliked, etc. Typically they are people who don’t actually know me (like with your ex-friend in these messages) and are really just projecting their beliefs about me based on cherry-picking things I’ve done, Facebook posts, etc.

The most satisfying approach is to demolish these people by pointing out points where they’ve gone wrong or made bad decisions. Usually they are really easy to find, like with your friend… I don’t think ignoring it is the solution… If someone is saying these things to you, it isn’t their first time. This is how they treat people in general, most likely. They deserve a lot of pushback. It seems more common than not that people like this are pretty successful and get by just fine in life, unfortunately, so I don’t subscribe to the belief that “karma will get them” either.

Statement on Trump’s Victory and the Hypocrisy of Clinton Supporters; Follow-Up Comments

*** Edited on 2016-11-10 at 19:15 GMT to add paragraph breaks and follow-up comments I wrote to commentators on Facebook. ***

I have people literally cutting contact with me and women telling me I “voted to take all their rights away” and I don’t understand why it’s so much better to support a candidate who was proud to cause a child molester to become acquitted on a technicality, who supported drone strikes killing hundreds of innocent civilians, who perpetuated policies that systematically lead to the impoverishment of millions of people supporters claim she protects as well as hundreds of thousands of children who died via starvation (Iraq sanctions under the second term of her husband’s “two for the price of one” presidency), who attacked victims of her husband’s sexual assaults, and whose enemies mysteriously end up committing suicide.

Nevertheless I do not unfriend nor ostracize Clinton supporters. I did not trouble myself to make statements in favor of Trump during his campaign because I do not care to be subject to flame wars and ad hominem attacks from the massive populist support the democratic party enjoys among my peers (young people and the highly educated), but it is baffling that adherents to a movement using such inclusive phrases as “stronger together” and “love trumps hate” could be so vitriolic after suffering a narrow, technical defeat.

Supporters of Trump are not necessarily supports of G. W. Bush or recent Republican nominees; the Republican party is simply the only feasible vector for anti-establishment candidates (e.g., Ron Paul). Therefore, one can support Trump yet repudiate the warmongering and elitism of past Republicans, but the converse, while quite feasible for Sanders supporters, is untenable for Clinton supporters.

Below are comments I (Richard Thripp) wrote to commentators on Facebook on 2016-11-10. I am not including the commentators’ original comments because I do not have permission and also because what is being addressed is usually self-evident.

This is a well-reasoned essay about Snopes that argues it does not have the authority supporters claim nor is its value based on expertise, but that its search for objectivity (or its supporters’ search) is noble and fragile.

As for the Clinton body count Snopes article it’s full of logical fallacies. For example, appeal to lack of evidence and the either/or fallacy.

A quote from the Snopes article:

If the NTSB doesn’t find evidence of tampering or explosives, then that’s not what downed the plane, and we’re left with pilot error and mechanical failure as our choices.

This sentence and many others are replete with reasoning errors. “If evidence of something was not found, it didn’t happen” isn’t necessarily true; for example, evidence may have existed but been obliterated in the crash. There are certainly more choices than human error or mechanical failure.

Many other portions portray the argument in “us versus them” terms with “them” being “the conspiracy buffs” and their discredited and illogical claims. One recurring argument is it doesn’t make sense that people like Monica Lewinsky were not killed. This is a misleading argument as well.

Here is another quote from the Snopes article:

At the same time as Willey was killing himself, his wife was allegedly being groped by Bill Clinton. She said she’d gone to the Chief Executive looking for a job to help her family out of its financial crisis and found herself fending off his advances. Clinton admitted to the meeting but denied her version of what took place. Kathleen Willey testified in Paula Jones’ sexual harrassment suit against Clinton, but she never claimed that Clinton had her husband killed.

We don’t see any mention of power differentials between Kathleen Willey and Bill Clinton here.

We know the Obama administration has already been killing the families of alleged terrorists. In drone strikes, often there is not an opportunity to target only a terrorist, but others in the proximity must be killed to (e.g., as dramatized in “Drone Queen,” the first episode of Season 4 of Homeland). Of course, Trump may have inferred specifically targeting terrorists’ families, but backed off later.

There was a comma between my statement on drone strikes and on policies that lead to starvation and impoverishment. There are more recent destabilizing policies and sanctions that led to these outcomes under Secretary Clinton, but I was citing the Iraq sanctions controversy under Secretary Albright, appointed by President Clinton, relating to Albright’s statements on 60 Minutes, and I alluded to his claims in his campaign that his wife would share presidential duties with him.

As to the convicted child molester who Public Defender Clinton represented, there is of course more to the story (e.g., Snopes, Slate). PD Clinton wanted to be removed from the case; she used victim-blaming tactics because they are effective on juries and because expert witnesses recommended it; the prosecution’s mishandling of evidence was their fault; etc. She was “just doing her job” much like defendants in the Nuremberg trials. In Kohlberg’s stages model of moral development, this argument is at the conventional level, in my opinion. Of course this was 40 years ago and we all make choices we don’t like, but there is always another option to doing one’s “duty” when it happens to be unethical.

I addressed the Clinton “body count” and Snopes article in separate comments. Yes, I would contend the doubts about people in the Clintons’ orbit who have reportedly died of suicide are still not “case closed,” particularly due to power differentials.

Many of Trump’s views on foreign policy have a history; e.g., his 1987 editorial.

Trump “University” shouldn’t have been calling itself a university, but misleading business practices happen among progressive corporations too. For extra credit for a psychology class, I subscribed to the New York Times as an undergraduate. When unsubscribing, representatives of the New York Times blatantly lied to me on multiple separate phone calls saying the billing would stop, and it continued, in one case, even after the newspapers stopped coming. I ended up having to ask my credit card issuer to block any future charges from the New York Times.

The “confirmation bias” you talk about is ironic because the media is an echo chamber for “liberals.” (I would not call them actual liberals since they do not represent the principles of liberalism.)

I disagree. The supporters of Trump who are against the protected groups you mentioned are not representative. Sure, they may feel empowered now, but they have always had their cliques, online echo chambers, and regions of the country where they cluster. About 60 million people voted for Clinton and about the same (233,404 fewer according to the New York Times as of this writing) voted for Trump, who won a technical victory due to electoral districting. Lumping 59.7 million voters together doesn’t help further the ideals of liberalism.

Remember, Secretary Clinton and the Democratic party platform didn’t evolve to support various LGBT rights until recently. It’s not like they were supporting gay marriage 15 years ago. Even Obama was only in favor of civil unions, not marriage, during his initial campaign. Of course these are all political statements designed to be broadly appealing to a population with a significant minority in opposition to these rights, but nevertheless, progress is still being made.

I don’t think we’ll become refugees, and I think we will bring more heavy industry and prosperity back to our country under Trump. Moving factories to other countries doesn’t stop climate change—CO2 is now above 400 ppm even in Antarctica. It goes everywhere. Factories built in America will probably be less polluting than those built elsewhere.

Thanks; I agree with a lot of what you said, [name removed].

People can say all they want about voting one way or another in a manner that takes others rights away, but gee, isn’t attacking someone for making a choice trying to take their rights away?

America has a long history of attacking people for making choices. For example, colonists would tar and feather tax collectors for their choice of collecting taxes for the British Empire. But I agree that attacking people for their choice succeeds in suppressing their voices, though some blame should be placed on those who allow their voices to be suppressed by attackers, in some cases. For example, I often do not stand up for my opinions (nor even cite contrary facts) in many cases because I don’t care to be attacked, or in some cases, because I don’t have the energy or don’t feel like engaging in a vigorous debate at the time. Further, many people haven’t yet developed strong debate, reasoning, or logical skills. Debating with them is often the same as squandering one’s time. With a growth mindset, one recognizes these skills can be developed over time—people are not of “inferior” innate potential just for lacking certain skills at this point in their lives.

I agree that being kind is important and is often the better choice. I agree also that pigeon-holing people into the categories of “bigots” or “progressives” is neither helpful nor accurate. In addition, however, I would say our time as humans is extremely limited (in the manner of Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech); it’s a shame to waste time on people who despise us based on political issues, and people who would cut contact with me (about 10 so far) were all just acquaintances I had no serious friendship with. Had they gotten to know me better, they probably would have found other reasons to dislike me.

It is outmoded in 2016 to criticize someone for linking to Wikipedia. The Wikipedia articles I linked to themselves link to ample sources in their References sections. I used sources like Snopes and Salon that are mainstream and typically considered biased by the alt-right to lend legitimacy to my arguments. Some of Trump’s statements are indefensible, but so are actions and statements of HRC and spouse.

Ending a discussion with variants of “not worth arguing with you anymore” is a sophomoric psychological device and that doesn’t work well on me, and really shouldn’t be used by highly educated people. However, I respect your viewpoints and I also feel we have reached the point of diminishing returns here.

Give Yourself Every Possible Advantage

Giving myself every possible advantage (legal and ethical advantages only) is a personal principle that has emerged in my 20s.

In my graduate studies at UCF, I have so many advantages. I’m a native English speaker. My writing and math skills are superior. I am not burdened by children or a job. I happen to be blessed with excellent faculties and no learning challenges or disabilities. I can type as fast as you can speak. My skills in copy editing, writing prose, using APA style, and computing are exceptional. As a Graduate Teaching Assistant I have already been tasked with copy-editing grant proposals and manuscripts.

When preparing for the Education Ph.D. program over the summer, I listened to many hours of podcasts, watched numerous videos, and read hundreds of articles and blog posts about being a Ph.D. student.

I avoided transitions by going to the same institution and continuing to live with family. While this can also be a disadvantage, it cuts out a lot of work (e.g., paperwork), prevents me from having to establish new routines, and greatly reduces costs. I also don’t have to go home to visit family on the weekends, because I live with them (I am also advantaged by being an only child).

When I eat meals, I often load a video on YouTube, relevant to a problem I am facing in daily life, to watch while eating.

When driving, I listen to educational podcasts (currently Freakonomics and the Productivity Show).

Financially, I avoid high-interest debt. I buy or rent textbooks online, not from the campus bookstore. I avoid fees and seize opportunities such as promotional offers and incentives. I follow through and don’t miss deadlines, using tools such as text message alerts, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, and Gmail filters and tags.

At home, I have a fast PC with fast Internet and triple monitors, allowing me to minimize needless window switching and get more work done faster. I wouldn’t even attempt to do academic work on a dinky laptop with one monitor and the crappy built-in keyboard.

I leverage strategic procrastination to do things not too early, not too late, but at just the right time… if you do things early, often new information emerges later that nullifies part of your work. For example, professors have a habit of making assignments easier close to the deadline, in response to student inquiries or due to changes of heart. Doing work too early is counter-productive.

When I use dating apps such as Tinder and OK Cupid, I just click “like” on everyone and filter people out later, based on mutual likes. For men who are only moderately attractive, this is a great strategy that eliminates wasted time looking at profiles of women who wouldn’t even want to hear from us.

I enjoy staying up late and getting up around 11 a.m., so whenever possible I schedule classes and meetings in the afternoon. I even tell friends and associates that I am unavailable in mornings, because I know having to get up several hours earlier would diminish my productivity for the whole day.

I use tools including Evernote, G Suite, LastPass, BackBlaze, SyncBackFree, and a ScanSnap scanner to keep my digital files and workflows useful and organized.

When choosing topics for course assignments, Master’s Capstone projects, etc., I choose topics that are very interesting to me. This helps me maintain interest and motivation. I pick synergistic projects that build on my prior or concurrent works.

I organize references into EndNote X7 and am often searching this database to cite academic articles again in newer projects. I have nearly 500 references that I have read or skimmed in my EndNote database.

If I have a choice of professors, I check their ratings, biographies, syllabi if available, etc. I usually pick the professor who is “easier.” I’ll end up learning quite a bit either way, but having an easier professor is less stressful.

I went to public colleges and universities in my home state, rather than expensive and inferior private institutions.

I have a performance-approach goal orientation and am working on developing a growth mindset. My thoughts are probabilistic. I pander to rubrics. Rows of the rubric become Level 1 headings in my assignments. I read carefully. This is relevant even for professors. Grant proposals don’t get accepted if you disregard instructions. I know I can learn and improve with effort.

I use metacognitive strategies. I constantly question assumptions. What is important? Why? When experts say something “must” be done a certain way, I don’t take it at face value.

Giving yourself every possible advantage sounds unfair, but you are being unfair to yourself if you unnecessarily handicap your performance. When are you going to get serious? When are you going to take control? Your blind spots are my free lunch.

Brief Thoughts on the Reasoning and Debate Skills of People Who Post Rants on Facebook

It is always amusing that people post illogical rants on Facebook and expect an echo chamber in the comments section while pretending to be unbiased. On the other hand, Facebook is so full of annoying and unoriginal memes with words pasted on images that I usually visit with News Feed Eradicator (Chrome add-on) enabled. However, when I engage the illogical ranter, I always lose an alleged friend who proceeds to make ad-hominem attacks without addressing any contentious issues, and concludes by telling me to “fuck off” while simultaneously claiming to have the moral high ground. I cannot help but wonder whether this audacious level of hypocrisy is a Central Florida phenomenon.

Facebook does not offer a way to disable comments on posts. If you want a way to post contradictory and illogical rants without dissent, I would suggest a personal website or a blog with comments disabled.