Spend a Little Now to Save a Lot Later

Few people are content with spending money on things that don’t add value to our lives. We would much rather buy something fun or exciting, or maybe we live paycheck to paycheck and it’s hard to just put food on the table. Whatever the reason might be, we tend to want to procrastinate spending money on some very important things because it doesn’t seem like we can afford it right now or we have other priorities. There are times, however, when this approach ends up costing us more money in the long run.

One example of this is vehicle maintenance. No one likes having to fork over north of a hundred bucks on getting something as basic as an oil change because it’s a significant sum for most people that doesn’t really do anything that directly makes us feel like that money went to something meaningful. It’s just a regular expense that comes with owning a car, and we resent that we have to pay it. The problem is that when we don’t, we run the risk of something even more expensive becoming a problem as a result of our lax attitude toward keeping up with regular maintenance.

An important person in my life is going through this right now. She tends to procrastinate on taking care of her car, and in all likelihood that is the cause of the current situation in which she finds herself. The details don’t really matter, except to note that the issue likely would have been identified during the most recent service, had she taken the vehicle to get it done. One look at the battery would have indicated a fairly serious problem. If the hood never gets opened, it’s hard to notice any issues.

At any rate, the car broke down and had to be towed home at a cost of more than $150, and then she’ll have to pay a mechanic to diagnose the problem and get it fixed, and there is no telling how much that might be. And then, of course, it will need an oil change on top of all of that anyway, which always had to be paid anyway. It’s quite shocking just how quickly the charges can start stacking up when you’re dealing with something as complicated as a vehicle.

I can’t really chastise her about it, though, because I’m not much better. My car has been having transmission issues for quite a while now, and I haven’t taken it in to get it looked at. The suspension for my car is also really old and probably needs replaced, and it likely needs an alignment. All of these things are relatively small expenses that, had I taken care of them when they were single issues, would have been relatively affordable. My lame excuse has been that I can’t really afford to have my car at the dealership for several days, but we all know that’s not really a justifiable reason. I just don’t want to spend the money.

At the bare minimum, I do always remember to be sure and do my regular maintenance, partly to keep the car running at an acceptable level, but also partly because I know the people performing the service will be looking for things that are out of place because they hope to charge me for a repair. I can sort of justify not replacing my suspension for upwards of a thousand bucks because that’s a fairly major expense that I’d have to save up for. The same holds true with the transmission problem, because anything related to that is going to also be up there in the thousand dollar range. It’s pretty thin, I know, but it’s also the truth.

So the lesson here is exactly what’s in the title: spending a little money right now can save you a lot of money later on. This is true in many situations, not just vehicle maintenance. The recent car trouble is simply the catalyst for the topic, and there are many situations where this idea applies. Hiring a lawyer can save you from expensive fines, or paying a dentist to clean your teeth every six months might save you from thousands of dollars in dental work, or perhaps replacing that one part on your computer might save you from having to buy a completely new system because you didn’t let it set it all on fire. Whatever the situation, most of the time sacrificing a little bit now will save you a lot of trouble later.

What do you think about spending money on the little things? Would you rather just deal with problems as they come up, or do you try to stay on top of things? How much is too much when it comes to taking care of the regular expenses in your life? We tend to ignore many things that should be high up on our priority list, mostly because we convince ourselves they aren’t really that important. It isn’t until things go wrong that we’re forced to realize that is a mistake. It might be a good idea to reevaluate your own list to be sure you’re not putting yourself in a position to have something truly bad happen to you.

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Living With Algorithms

The internet has become pretty boring, if I’m being perfectly honest. Like most things that have been around for a while, you get to the point where if you’ve seen one thing, you’ve seen them all. Part of this is our natural tendency to become desensitized to things over time, but there is another aspect to how it all works that makes this phenomenon even worse. No matter how creative you might be, this thing makes it incredibly difficult to do anything innovative or new because the odds are if you aren’t adhering to it you won’t get noticed anyway. Of course, I’m talking about the almighty search algorithm.

There have always been gateways to content, so the internet isn’t really anything new in this regard. For most of history it was simply that getting anything published was nearly impossible because the technology for mass distribution wasn’t there. When we finally did learn how to spread information on a mass scale, it was up to the people who were able to print documents to decide what was worth putting to paper. In the last century, it was producers and book publishers who decided which ideas the public had access to. If your quality was good, your chances of success were fairly high because it was the work that determined your ability to get recognized.

This just isn’t the case anymore. With the ability for anyone to put anything out into the void that is the internet, there is just too much content out there for any one idea to rise up out of the murk solely on the merit of what it is. It is directly because of this that search algorithms were born, so that we simple humans can sift through nearly infinite information to find exactly what we’re looking for. As the programming has become more streamlined and intelligent, we don’t even really have to actively search for things anymore; the system does it for us.

While this is a blessing in many ways, it does have some unintended consequences that may not be worth the convenience. If you know anything about publishing content on the web, you are aware of the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is a set of principles that website developers follow to increase the chances of their content being recognized and displayed by the various algorithms being used by the major search engine providers. These rules govern how websites are ranked and judged, completely devoid of anything except the crunching of numbers.

This makes sense from a technical standpoint. With so much content out there, we definitely need a way of going through it all in a way that is much faster than what any human could ever do. Some sort of system is required to make it all work. The problem is that this is ruinous from a creativity standpoint because it forces those who do things like writing or making videos to conform to a single set of variables to get the best chance of their product reaching the intended audience. While it is certainly true that vast amounts of content will result in a certain amount repetition, it is this unavoidable conformity to the rules of the algorithm that causes the majority of so many videos feeling like the same old thing over and over.

As someone who doesn’t know enough about programming to even begin to tackle this problem, all I can do is complain about it with no solution. That’s not my favorite way of doing things; I was always taught to bring up a problem along with a proposed solution. The problem is that if people much smarter than I am can’t figure out a better way, what can I really add that would be meaningful? I’m sure there is a solution out there to the problem, but it likely won’t be figured out by those of us on the content side.

What makes all of this sad is that creators are at their best when they can simply focus on making good content rather than having to pigeon-hole their ideas into a single format. Quality will always suffer when it is forced into the assembly line process, and the algorithm has certainly converted what was once a free place to share ideas into a meat grinder of content. If you want to have any chance of getting noticed, you had better check all the boxes. It’s creativity by checklist, and how can we avoid boredom with that?

Like many things, technology has given us great things that has changed our lives, but sometimes the thing we come up with end up hurting us more in the end. While it’s great to have access to unlimited amounts of information, perhaps we should consider the idea that it’s all just an illusion. A lake might spread across the horizon, but if it’s only two feet deep then it isn’t much fun to swim in. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to have our cake and eat it too, being able to focus solely on content creation that is uniquely us while still getting the benefits of advanced search techniques, but until then we will simply have to live with the same old boring internet.

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You Can’t Save People From Themselves

This article also available as a blog at: https://anchor.fm/gunthrek/embed/episodes/You-Cant-Save-People-From-Themselves-e16n5ig

We often believe that we have control over our lives. The world has become much smaller and we have developed the ability to manipulate our environment, shape the events of the world and even begin our spread beyond it, out into the inky blackness of outer space. We have risen to heights our ancestors could never have imagined, and it is natural for us to think that as we move further into the future with new technologies and advanced ideas about society that we can exert our power to control our own existence. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem we run into with such thoughts is that we forget the one thing that has brought us to this point in time in the first place: human nature. How many times have people tried to implement some form of social control only to have it blow up in their face because the people simply couldn’t live with it? No matter how oppressive you become or how much of an iron fist you try to use, at some point people get tired of being forced to live their lives in a way that opposes their nature and violent rebellion inevitably follows. It’s simply human nature.

As smart as we like to think we are, we never seem to learn from the mistakes of the past. Here we are again in the twenty-first century, a significant portion of our population ready to bend their knee to submit to people who claim they know what’s best for us, all the while forgetting how this tired old scheme played out before. One would think with the incredible access to knowledge that we have today that we would see the patterns of the past and stop repeating them, but again that thought completely disregards human nature. We are creatures of habit, and we can’t avoid making old mistakes all over again.

Where does it come from, this inability to gain wisdom from our failures in the past? Arrogance, mostly. Human beings are supremely confident in our own superiority, never questioning the idea that no matter how much everyone else might be lacking, we are somehow better. You can see it anytime you get frustrated with someone over something “stupid” they did to you. Maybe it’s driving down the freeway and they’re just moving to slowly and you can’t understand why; or the cashier couldn’t figure out how to process your return; perhaps your boss tells you to do something in a way you think is inefficient and you can’t figure out why they can’t see it. Whatever the reason, arrogance is the source.

Just about every social problem in our world today comes down to arrogance; the pride in believing that our way is so good that everyone should be doing it like we do. This is why we treat people the way we do, because we can’t understand why they don’t just “get it”. We see them as stupid, sub-human. There is no understanding or analyzation or room for anything outside the specific way we want it to be. It’s the “my way or the highway” view of the world, and you better well comply or else.

What we always fail to understand is that you simply can’t save people from themselves. In our arrogance we will always believe that we know what should be done, no matter how much evidence you try to present. This is why governments of compulsion will always fail, not because they can’t have great ideas, but because there will always be people who disagree and will refuse to live under the thumbs of others. It doesn’t matter that your intentions are good; the simple fact that you want to take away their self-determination is enough to back them into a corner and instigate a fight to the death. The simple truth is that human beings don’t want to be saved; they want to live their own lives.

This is the folly of ideas like communism or socialism, or even any form of global government: the idea that we can all unite under one set of ideals. It simply can’t work that way. There are too many of us with vastly different ideas about what life is supposed to be like. With billions of individual people all wanting different things, how can anyone seriously think they can corral everyone under one banner?

Arrogance, mostly. It all comes back down to that. It is the arrogance of a few against the arrogance of many. We don’t care about your way any more than you care about ours. The only possible result from such grand designs is the collapse of everything you strived to build, not because the idea isn’t good but because human beings won’t suffer being caged forever. They might submit to your will for a while, but eventually the yearning for freedom will overcome the “need” for safety, and the system comes crashing down. It is inevitable.

So what do you do with this knowledge? Nothing, really. We are too arrogant to learn from the past, always believing we’ll be the ones to do it right. No matter how many times we set down the philosophy of individual liberty, some people just won’t get it. It isn’t in our nature to just let people be. We have to meddle, always believing that we know better. The only thing you can do in the face of such blind ambition is to prepare yourself for a fight, standing up for your own arrogant way of viewing the world.

In the end, it always comes down to pride.

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All Government Is Evil

“Men must be governed; often not wisely I’ll grant you, but they must be governed nonetheless.” -Captain Aubrey, Master and Commander

One of the biggest debates that has ever raged within human societies is determining which form of government is best suited to provide the kind of environment most of us seem to prefer. Many kinds have been tried since we first started gathering into large groups, from iron-fisted dictatorships like medieval kingdoms to full on democracies like ancient Greece. As we look back through time at the various ways in which people have chosen to regulate their lives, it’s impossible to come up with an option that satisfies everyone. There are simply too many people with different ideas of what they want to have one government for everyone.

The problem we tend to run into these days is one of arrogance. We get a notion in our head of what we think government should look like, and then rather than figuring out a way to join a group of like minded people and then live our lives the way we choose, we tend to think our way is so much more superior than any of the others that we have to “save” people from themselves by imposing our ideals onto others. This is true of nearly every government, including we Americans.

In reality, there is no perfect form of government. No matter how hard we try, there will always be some kind of negative that comes along with whatever form we choose to participate in. This isn’t because we can’t come up with a great system; the American form of government is quite amazing as written on paper. Our issues today come from not living up to those rules and expectations. It is because we are human beings that government always fails.

Every type of government is going to have some level of evil contained within it because it involves human beings. Many people seem to think that we can regulate people into being good, but they simply don’t understand human nature. We are selfish, uncompassionate beings who only really care about others when there is some kind of benefit to us, either because the person or people are important to us in some way, or it makes us look or feel good to help others. It is rare to see a truly altruistic act from a human being. If we understand this as a basic starting point, then we understand that any form of government we choose is going to have evil in it, and when you peel back all the different variables it pretty much comes down to the evil of imposition versus the evil of apathy.

Evil of imposition governments include any type that has some kind of overt compulsion by violent force to make people do what they’re told. Any form of oppressive state, from dictatorships to fanatically communist or socialist governments, can fall into this category. Power is typically concentrated around a small group of individuals who are charged with making decisions for everyone and then forcing everyone to comply. This form of evil reaches out to impose a specific way of life, often at the cost of the lives of those who disagree. It is an active evil that exists with the expectation that some people will end up dying for “the greater good”.

On the other side of the coin, evil of apathy can be found in any government where the people have decided that the individual takes priority over the group, such as we see in democratic governments. Quite different from imposition, the evil that ends up stemming from this kind of social configuration comes from people in society selfishly worrying only about themselves and ignoring the plight of others. It is a passive evil that pervades society, not actively hurting anyone, but leaving those behind who can’t figure out how to survive on their own.

Obviously, neither option can be viewed as an acceptable means of governing people. At least, it can’t if we share a common idea of what it is to be good and want that idea to pervade our social consciousness. If we can’t go all in on one form of government, then the uncomfortable reality is that there has to be some kind of mixture of systems that gets us as close as possible to what works best for we flawed human beings. There has to be a mix of individual freedom combined with some measure of forceful compliance.

That said, human beings have a natural tendency toward craving freedom of choice. A great many of the rebellions of history have been fought over people who have no power desperately fighting to gain even the smallest bit for themselves. It is one of the biggest repeated mistakes in history that power hungry leaders always seem to make, forgetting that people actually aren’t just drones to be controlled, but individuals with their own ideas about how life should be. They ignore that at their own peril.

Knowing this, it seems clear that whatever form of government we choose must lean heavily toward allowing people to live their lives as close to their own way as possible. This means they must have agency in the decisions that are made so they can feel like their voices are being heard and actually make a difference. This is the reason why the democratic republic form of government exists at all; it is a compromise between what is good for the nation as a whole and what is good for us as individuals. It is a careful balance that tries to satisfy both.

There is no perfect form of government because it involves people. Evil will exist in any system because evil exists in us. All we can do is choose the best system that has the best chance of working out based on human nature, not unrealistic expectations. We simply can’t conform to the oppressive will of others indefinitely, so it is better to simply let people live their lives and apply a system that encourages good rather than forcing it. It is only when we feel like we have a choice that we can be content. Otherwise, we tend to want to “rage against the machine”.

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Practice What You Preach, Especially If You’re a Public Figure

This is a pretty simple topic that doesn’t really require much extensive explanation, but I wanted to take some time to go over the dangers of hypocrisy, especially if you put yourself out into the world as a paragon of any given ideology. One of the worst things a person can do is to preach one thing in public and then go into their own private lives and do exactly the opposite. The fastest way to destroy your credibility is through hypocritical action, and it’s nearly impossible to regain any level of trust through this form of dishonesty.

Obviously, there is a difference between hypocrisy and agreement with an idea. For example, there are many virtues I extol here on this blog that I don’t necessarily practice in my own life. It’s perfectly fine to make a statement that things should be a certain way and accept that you’re too flawed to live up to it. No one is perfect, even though we strive to be. Where you start to run into trouble is when you start claiming that you’re an expert or authority on a particular subject, and it turns out you you live your life quite differently than you claim to.

The most public example of this right now, which is the impetus for writing this article, is the recent “beef” between the content creators of the YouTube channels Aba and Preach and the Fresh and Fit Podcast. The short version is that the members of Fresh and Fit went on a rant about a certain activity that they urge their followers not to participate in, and it came to light that they participate in it themselves. Aba and Preach called them out on it and a huge argument erupted online that resulted in threats of physical violence and other such nonsense.

The focus here isn’t really on the drama, but on the fact that a huge level of hypocrisy was on display by the Fresh and Fit team with regard to presenting a lifestyle they don’t necessarily live out in real life. The real danger of putting yourself out in the public space is being revealed as a hypocrite, and it is incredibly important to take great care to avoid any level of perception that you aren’t who you say you are. A private person might get away with a certain amount of hypocritical action, but a public figure is actively going out of their way to present a certain image. If you’re going to do this, you better well practice what you preach.

I’m sure the Fresh and Fit team will somehow survive this particular incident, because too many people today don’t place enough value on honor and integrity for it to really matter to them, but the right decision to make would be to put anything they say in the proper context; in other words, they have no credibility in that space anymore, so why listen to them? While I found their videos entertaining and found several kernels of truth in what they said, it’s difficult to maintain respect for liars.

If you choose to put yourself out into public for view by others, these are the kinds of risks you are taking on. The kinds of things you can get away with as a private citizen don’t fly when you’re on display for all to see, and you are inevitably held to a higher standard than the average Joe on the street. It’s not fair, but it’s just the way it is. If you can’t live up to what you’re preaching to others, it might be a good idea to not place yourself in a position to be judged on those values.

At the very least, don’t make it seem like you’re the master of it when you aren’t.

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The Rise of the “Catering” Boss

“Kill ’em with kindness.” Or at least that’s how the saying goes. In today’s emotionally charged environment, we’re seeing more of a shift away from the “get it done” attitude toward leaders who constantly worry about offending people. Many times this applies to the relationship between a boss and his subordinates, but mostly it shows itself in a manager’s relationship with those people he has decided it’s most important to please. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, we see all manner of fawning prostration as they try to make people like them.

This would be fine if they only kept these kinds of activities confined to their own area of effort, but too many times they allow this to bleed over into their expectations of their employees. It’s bad enough when your boss goes out of his way to bend over backward for a customer, but when he forces you to do the same it becomes nearly unbearable. The absolute worst of this is when you are asked to do things that aren’t part of your job description in pursuit of these shallow goals.

For example, I currently work as an administration and logistics specialist for a construction company. The purpose of my position is to provide office support for the staff and to track and intake materials as needed. Part of those responsibilities includes certain things that I really hate, like having to run to various stores to pick up things, which for me is a gray area, but it’s close enough that I don’t argue it. I fanatically avoid going to the store in person for my personal needs, only venturing forth when I simply can’t find it online or absolutely need something immediately.

I’ve spent a long time being frustrated by some of the things I end up having to do, but most of them are only just outside what I have agreed to do as part of my position, so it isn’t worth getting angry about. Recently, however, my boss has been asking me to coordinate getting lunches to some of the high level workers out in the field because they don’t have the ability to leave what they’re doing until they get back to their starting point. I don’t mind helping people out during situations like these, but my problem is that it is every single time they go out. This isn’t a situation where they unexpectedly ran over the time they thought and don’t have the ability to get food. My boss is just catering their lunches.

This really just rubs me the wrong way from a principle standpoint alone. Our normal field workers don’t get this special treatment. They’ve been bringing their own lunch to work for years, having the same kinds of restrictions because of the nature of the work the company does. At no point have we gone out of our way to, not only purchase, but deliver food to people in the field. The only reason this is even a thought in anyone’s head is because it makes the boss look good to the customer.

Being already disgusted by the suck up nature of this in the first place, you can imagine how frustrated I am that I have to spend time out of my day forced to not only place and pickup the order, but also to deliver it in person to the people in the field. Nowhere in my job description or resume does do the words “delivery driver” or “caterer” or anything related to food services appear. This is most definitely outside my job description, but like most things I just suck it up and do it because at this point it isn’t worth fighting over. I only have a few months left before my job runs out anyway, and making waves after four years is just pointless.

The purpose of this article isn’t really to complain about my personal situation, though it obviously helps a bit to vent about it. This example is meant to highlight the kind of behavior that has become more prevalent in today’s working force. In the past, you might expect this kind of thing if you had taken a job as a personal assistant, or perhaps as an intern hoping to ingratiate yourself into a large company. It was understood that these kinds of things were part of the job. But when you are in the middle of your career taking a job with an inferred list of job responsibilities, there should be no time when you are asked to do the kinds of personal servitude tasks like I described above.

Even in the Marine Corps, I was never asked to do something that was purely for the convenience of people who outranked me. There was always a unit goal in mind with every order. I’m sure my boss would probably argue that it fosters good will with the customer, so it’s good for the company, but frankly I find that to be a bunch of crap. These are grown men and women who can certainly figure out packing a lunch for the day like everyone else, and the only reason this is a thing is because we want to suck up to a customer. It’s completely disgusting.

Despite the personal rant, there is a message in here somewhere. Perhaps it’s to warn my readers that these kinds of bosses do exist and you should be wary of who you work for. Or maybe I just want to point this kind of behavior out to people who might be bosses in the future so they don’t participate in this kind of debasing activity themselves. However you choose to view this particular article, just try to understand this one point: employees are not your servants. Unless they explicitly agree to a very broad scope of duties, you’re not paying for their time; you’re paying for the skills you called for in your job description. No employee should be asked to do things they didn’t sign up for, especially when the goal is making yourself look good.

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How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

In a recent post, I discussed how our relationships are starting to fray due to the advent of certain technologies like cell phones, but that isn’t the only reason why things are starting to change in the way that we deal with the people in our lives, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Our newly developed dependence on instant communication and social media are terrible things to be sure, but they are only extensions of a more basic problem that some of us tend to have more than others. Were it not for this particular flaw of the human race, we might handle these new technologies better, but unfortunately we have and always will suffer for this age old problem: a constant need for attention.

While we all deal with this to some extent, the problem is clearly more highly displayed in women. Men, while we appreciate certain kinds of attention, rarely get much out of social currency all by itself. It is typically a means to an end rather than the reward itself. It is much like money in that we use it as a measuring stick for other areas of our lives. Social interactions on their own hold little or no value to a man, his focus being much more on his goals than how he is perceived by others. Perception is certainly important to a man, but it isn’t critical to him.

A woman, however, lives and thrives through her social interactions. Nothing is more critical to her than how the important people in her life see her, and to some extent even the people she doesn’t really care much about. There is a constant drive within a woman to satisfy this need for social interaction, and women can approach this common need in several ways. While we tend to think that most women build large networks of friends to satisfy this need, it has been my personal experience that many of them try to focus most of their attention on one person: their chosen partner.

This is where we run into a lot of problems in our modern social paradigm. If our goal is to satisfy the needs to two very different people in a romantic relationship, then it is critical for us to truly understand the needs of each party and the ability of each to satisfy the needs of the other. If a man places little or no value on social interaction, preferring to focus on goals and accomplishments, then he is ill equipped to provide what a woman needs in her socially based existence. He can certainly try, and many modern men do, but it is clear that most of us simply are not capable of satisfying this need. A divorce rate of more than fifty percent certainly speaks to this, and while this certainly isn’t the only cause, it is definitely a contributing factor.

One of my favorite quotes comes out of one of my all time favorite video games: World of Warcraft. In the game, you can play all manner of different characters, from humans to orcs to even playing an undead character. One of the more entertaining features of the game is the ability to have your character speak one of the pre-recorded “jokes” by typing in a certain keyboard command. Among the more hilarious of the jokes is spoken by the female blood elf, an apparently evil leaning race, where she says the phrase “how can I miss you if you won’t go away?” The joke is obviously meant to highlight the haughty nature of blood elves, but it certainly resonates with this particular topic.

A woman is always going to struggle when she places all of her social attention on a man. Most of us simply aren’t capable of putting that much effort into social interaction. A man doesn’t need to be in constant communication with anyone, even the person he has chosen to spend the rest of his life with. For many, like me, we value having plenty of personal time to focus on the things we are interested in. It doesn’t mean we don’t love or want to be with the woman we love; we simply don’t need the same things she does.

This is where we circle back around to the technology aspect of things yet again. In the past, a woman didn’t have constant access to her partner like she does today. A man went to work and didn’t speak to his wife until he returned home from the day’s work. Couples spent most of the day out of communication with each other, and by the time they finally had the chance to talk the day was nearly over and they actually had something to talk about. Men and women both went on outings with friends and couldn’t give their significant other play by play updates on what was going on, so the events had a two-fold pleasure in first having the experience and then being able to relive it later as they told their loving partner all about it in person.

It just doesn’t work that way anymore, unfortunately. Women used to have to just live with the fact that there would be certain portions of the day where their social urges wouldn’t be met and they had to be content with getting what they could when it was available. Now, they have a free pass into the lives of others, specifically their partners, constantly seeking the attention of their chosen companion because they feel like it should just be so easy for us to reciprocate. They don’t understand that we just don’t work like that.

My current relationship struggles through the fact that we’re not able to see each other in person very much because of our very different work schedules. She often asks me if I miss her, and more often than not the phrase that pops into my head is that favorite joke from the video game: how can I miss you if you won’t go away? This attitude doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with her, because I do, but if I rarely go more than two hours between interactions with you, how can I ever truly miss you? You’re always there, yearning for another social interaction, trying to extract energy from me that I don’t have to give you. I’m never given a chance to miss you.

The last several decades have been focused on trying to teach society about what a woman wants, and men have spent a lot of time and effort trying to learn. What is sad is that very little effort has been put in by women for the other way around. They assume that men are so simplistic that they don’t have to consider any of the variables that most men come with. Sure, we might have the three big basic needs of food, sex and sleep, but that’s just the first level of the pyramid. Once you get past that we still have certain ways that we work, and women would do well to start focusing on those things if they want to have truly satisfying relationships.

A man will go to the ends of the earth for a woman who truly values him, but won’t move an inch for one who makes him feel like he’s just there to service her. Most of the time the difference lies in that tiny line in the sand labeled respect, and for a man there are few things that are more important to him than that highly prized commodity. If a woman can learn to respect a man’s ways and bend her expectations to accommodate them, just as she expects him to bend his to accommodate hers, things can be so much better for both. It’s a two way street, ladies.

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Smartphones Suck…

This isn’t a new topic. Many others have gone over this ad nauseum, but as someone who has borne the brunt of the consequences for this brave new era in which we find ourselves, I feel it necessary to point out some of the drawbacks inherent in some of the new technology that we find ourselves living with today. We human beings are incredibly innovative and come up with some amazing inventions that drastically improve our lives, and we always seem to think that anything we create is going to be good and helpful. Unfortunately, we usually can’t guess the unanticipated consequences of the new things that we create and there is a massive shift in a negative direction.

The example for the purposes of this article is probably the single biggest change in the way our society works ever: the smartphone. For most of our existence, we relied on face to face communication to get things done. Placing ourselves in someone’s life required some physical effort in the form of either going to visit them in person, or by writing a letter and waiting for it to arrive. With the advent of faster methods of communication like telephone systems, things didn’t really change that much because we still had to put some traditional methods of effort into place to get that communication. It was still just basic communication.

Unlike the past where it wasn’t reasonable to be in constant communication every moment of the day, the smartphone has radically changed the way we view interacting with others. First and foremost, little or no effort is required to impose yourself on someone else because you can simply tap out a few words on your phone and then shoot it off into the void confident it will arrive. The person on the other end has little choice but to receive your message, regardless of if they want to or not.

It is this removal of a time and effort investment to communication that bothers me. The new normal is for people to be constantly talking to each other all day, every day. It used to be that you had to wait until you met up with someone before you could catch up on what was going on. Even husbands and wives had to wait until they got home from work to find out how their day went. Now, we get a play by play as it happens, constantly bombarded with the goings on of another person instead of being able to focus on what we’re doing in the moment, and then we wonder why there’s nothing to talk about when we’re finally together with someone. It’s all already been said.

When you have no reason to come together anymore, it creates a sense of isolation. There is no longer any reason to physically interact with anyone when you don’t have anything new to talk about. If you’ve spent the entire day experiencing what someone else is going through via your smartphone, once you’re finally in person there is no real interest in continuing a conversation. The natural instinct is to look for mental stimulation elsewhere, because you’re certainly not going to get it from the person you spent your day getting constant updates from.

The smartphone, while an incredible advancement in technology, is perhaps the biggest single factor in the increasing failure of modern relationships. Men, naturally somewhat isolationist by nature, have little patience for the incessant and constant desire for communication that women tend to obsess over. In the past, we had the buffer of space and time. Now, we have no choice but to be overrun by it. It creates a real sense of angst when we can’t even get away for a few hours without a text message sounding off on our phones along with the inevitable complaining when we don’t reply “fast enough”.

It creates an obligation to be “connected” every moment of the day, never having a moment that is truly for yourself. For someone like me who values my alone time, this is a huge problem that causes significant issues in my relationships. It isn’t that I want to be alone, but I can’t be tethered to my phone all the time, and people just don’t seem to understand that concept anymore. I yearn for the days before smartphones when there were natural blocks to such intrusions and everyone found it reasonable to patiently wait for communication from the important people in their lives.

Unfortunately, we can’t just turn back the clock. Smartphones are here and they have radically altered the way our society works. As we move into the uncertain future, these problems that we have now are only going to get worse and more prevalent. We have become far more “connected” than ever before, but in reality this is just an illusion. Human beings thrive on illusion, though, and the stimulation that many people receive when that text tone goes off is nearly irresistable.

It simply grates on my nerves.

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What Does a Man Need?

I’ve probably made this reference before, it being so common, but we all understand the idea behind the simple phrase “men are from Mars; women are from Venus”. There are inherent differences between the two sexes that stem from both physiological and social sources, and there is a lot of pressure from all directions for us to conform to these templates of human existence. Many people try to focus on the social aspects of these kinds of behaviors, but the reality is that it is baked into our genetic code. Whether you choose to believe it is by design or by millennia of evolutionary development, men and women are simply different.

Not being a woman, I can’t really speak to that particular experience with any sense of authority, or even a real sense of understanding. Men, on the other hand, are quite simple. Women seem to want to complicate things, and the modern man has succumbed to this skewed way of thinking, much to our own detriment and at a cost to the quality of our relationships. A man doesn’t really need much to be happy or feel important, but the things we need are critical to our sense of self worth.

Of utmost importance to a man is a sense of value being added when he does something. The idea of doing something “just because” isn’t something that sits well with most men. Busy work is probably the worst thing you can do to a guy because it feels like such a waste of time and energy. This is the reason why men tend to focus on projects rather than just doing random things, because he gets a sense of progression as he moves from one part of his work to the next. Few things give a man a sense of value more than getting something he sets his mind to completed.

It is this sense of progression that give a man his sense of value, not money. When it comes to being in the workplace, money is usually more of a marker for how well he has progressed through his career rather than an end in and of itself. It clearly defines how far up the ladder he has climbed and provides him with a sense of accomplishment, not because he’s worried about how many things he can buy (though he does) but because he wants to have some evidence that the work he is accomplishing is generating valuable results. Money is just a by-product of this.

This is why we see so many working men who make a good living yet still struggle with being satisfied in their work. Once a man reaches the point where money is no longer his limiting asset, or to put it more plainly once he’s past the point where the bill collectors are hounding him, his focus shifts primarily to yearning for getting satisfaction out of his work. No matter how good his job might be, a man needs to feel that sense of progression. Stagnation is the bane of a man’s ability to be content.

This is perhaps one of the most critical causes of depression in men today as we continue to move forward in this technologically advanced world that crams men into roles that are basically meaningless and provide no sense of real value. Most of the jobs we have today have little tangible result from the effort we put into them. They consist of simply a series of mindless tasks that don’t appear to really do anything, or in my case a lot of sitting around waiting on something to do and then being frustrated when those things turn out to be valueless, menial labor. A man cannot be content if his work means nothing.

The interesting thing about human beings is that we are creatures ruled by the forces of nature, despite our ability to think beyond it. No matter how hard we try to deny our biology, it eventually comes back with a vengeance to balance the playing field. As we move into the future and these issue continue to compound, there will come a point when the men of the world grow tired with the kind of mindless work that has become prevalent in our modern societies and rebel against the system in their yearning for meaning. It is simply a matter of time.

What do you think about the value of work? Is it enough to just get paid, or do you need something more from your efforts? How do you find value in the jobs that you do; is it even possible? Sometimes a change is required to break free from the negative things that grab a hold of us. It can be painful, but the first step in figuring out what to do is learning to truly understand the situation. At some point, a decision must be made and actions must be taken. It is wise to be proactive and prepare yourself for events like this.

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Nostalgia Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

For most people, our memories tend to be filled with a range of events both good and bad, exciting and tragic, meaningful and superfluous. Sometimes we have certain events that stay crystallized in our minds for the rest of our lives, the importance of the event so great that it shapes the course of everything that follows it. Regardless of how we view whatever memories we might have, we have a tendency to want to romanticize the way things “used to be”.

The crazy thing about this is that science has proven many times over that our memories are highly unreliable. When put to the text using objective evidence, most people are unable to recall even the major details of what we think would be highly memorable events. One example of this is when a hit and run accident was staged in front of a group of people and afterward they were asked to describe what happened. Few people could even agree on the color of the car, and no one was even close to getting a reasonable estimate on how fast one car hit the other. Human memory is extremely pliable and it doesn’t take much to shift the objective information we absorb through our senses into a new reality shaped by our viewpoint of the world.

It is this tendency to see the world through our own personal lens that causes us to look into our past and see value where the never really was any. No one likes to think bad things about themselves, and we all want to have amazing and positive lives, so it’s pretty natural for us to want to think that things were better than they really were. Many times we end up looking at our current situation and compare it to this false rosy image of the past and begin to believe that things were just better back then. Convinced thoroughly that we remember things correctly, we are unable to see that the past just wasn’t as good as we remember it to be.

An example of this lies in the very well known phrase “they just don’t make them like they used to”. While this does apply to a small number of things, this really isn’t a very good expression in our modern era. The reality is that most of the things from the past are far inferior to the quality and utility and safety of the things we have today. For example, many people love the look and nostalgia of classic cars, but when viewed objectively they were incredibly unsafe, had suspension systems that made them difficult to handle, and were very unreliable compared to modern standards.

The same thing applies to things like old video games, which most of us in the gaming community tend to romanticize quite heavily. We remember the feeling of how it seemed so amazing that we could do this incredible thing with computers at the time, and in our minds we remember that feeling of awe the first time we played something like Doom or Master of Magic. When we go back and play those old games after twenty years of rapid improvement, however, that nostalgia is quickly shoved aside when we see the comparably terrible graphics and clunky interfaces that make them very difficult to live with after becoming accustomed to the streamlined and beautiful games we have today.

In reality, nostalgia is rarely justified. New things are almost invariably better than any of the old things we used to have. Even the average car performs better than many of what were considered the super cars of the past, with top speeds and zero to sixty times not much slower than some of the most expensive cars from thirty or forty years ago. Games like Call of Duty or Neverwinter are far superior to the examples given above in both visual quality and economy of gameplay. Things are simply better today than they were before, and it is only our sense of nostalgia that makes us think that it would be better to go back.

Perhaps the best way to get the best of both worlds is exemplified in the classic car community. You can purchase something like a replica of the classic Shelby Cobra Mustang GT, which is basically a modern sports car with the classic body mounted on top of it. With this option, you are able to get that classic feel that your memory tells you is amazing while still getting all the good things we get from modern technology. Perhaps this is the main idea behind many of the video game remakes we’re seeing today such as Final Fantasy 7, where the story is mostly the same as it was back in the nineties but with much better graphics and an updated combat engine. New tech that caters to our old memories.

We all tend to romanticize the past, and there really isn’t anything wrong with that so long as there is no way to go back and verify the truth of things. Once we go back and actually look at something that used to be important to our memories, however, we get that dose of reality that shatters the nostalgia that made whatever it was seem so amazing. If we really want to experience the past in a positive way, it might be necessary to either remember it probably wasn’t as good as we think it was, or figure out a way to apply what we’ve learned since then to make the old something new again. Nostalgia is a great feeling, but it is rarely the truth.

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