Alien Planet

A story broke this week regarding a new planet in the fabled “ Goldilocks zone” between the planet and a star. Interested, I clicked on the article eager to read the details. Full disclosure, I am grossly incompetent in most things science as far as the advanced analytic mathematics used to actually make discoveries. However I appreciate the benefits this work brings to us as a species.

To my chagrin, the subculture that lies in the comment reply system was utterly pissed off. I started noticing a pattern in the comments and wondered how our society became divided in something as objective as scientific discovery. Well the common themes were: Environmentalism is good, Obama anger, Bush Anger, Global Warming is fake, Global Warming is going to kill us all, Politics, Liberals are bad, NeoCons are bad, Religious is dumb, Science is blasphemous, Scientists are dumb,etc. I swear these are the same topics that come up when any news article is posted. Why is it that comments typically devolve into this?

Comments are an entertaining unfiltered view into the minds of my fellow human beings. Sometimes while sifting through the crap, I find a comment extremely insightful and full of intellectual substance. Why do these individuals bother posting when the majority of the commenters just spew out talking points they heard from whatever “group” they attribute themselves to? Once in a while I’m pessimistic and believe that these individuals are either venting or trying to feel self important by correcting the logical fallacies present in ongoing dialogue. However, I honestly think some people want try to help others see the correct view whether by opinion or by fact. I will sometimes seeing a calm Christian debating with a pissed off atheist or vice versa, without ever disrespecting the other individual. Eventually the conversation becomes more structured and intellectual substance forms from the primordial goo that it is the comment reply system.

I wonder if great ideas will one day come from this phenomenon, but in the meantime I wonder if anyone who happens to read this can describe any interesting conversations they have had while commenting on an article, video, or other internet real estate.

Goals


I remember the constant nagging of my teachers all throughout my journey through the draconian halls of public education. Once a year, (although this stopped once I entered high school) we were assigned the task of writing a list of long-term and short-term goals. At the time, I was so short-sighted that I never took the exercise seriously. I would write things like: purchase X video game or purchase X action figure. This utter childlike naivety stayed with almost through my first year of college! I realized at that point that I had no direction in life. Instead I surrendered my responsibility for my future to my parents or school counselors. I was completely passive, until I finally took control of life. The feeling was scary. For the first time I realized that my life was in my hands and that if I failed I had no one to blame but myself.

So how does this relate to goals? Personally, none of my goals were really goals until I took responsibility for myself. Until I surrendered myself to the reality, that someday my parents would not be there to catch me if I fell, that society is too unreliable to trust with my future, and that the world in general is INSANE, my goals would remain empty, substance free ego masturbations.

Here is what is working for me with regard to writing goals and following through on them:

1. Define the Goal

The hardest thing about goals is actually having the balls to write them down. It’s much easier to avoid accountability when you keep the goal in your head and adjust it as perceived circumstances prevent the goal from being reached. When doing this you lose information on what is keeping you from attaining your goal. By writing it down somewhere, you are accountable to yourself. While you can still cheat and erase it and edit it without leaving notes to why you are changing it, it becomes a physical activity and increases the chances of you noticing that you are just procrastinating. Writing it down also allows you to be extremely detailed on what you want to achieve. For example you can break down a complex, daunting goal into more bite sized chunks. For me the more detailed I am in my goal writing the more achievable it seems because it becomes a tangible, solvable problem.

2. Set a Time limit

Time limits make the goal a reality in that they bring an abstract idea in your brain into space-time. Once the goal can be assessed in real time with quantifiable attributes you can begin to determine how prone to procrastination you are. I realized early that if I did not set a time limit I would never accomplish their goals. I think there are some people out there with the discipline to set goals and follow through without tethering a false sense of urgency, but I learned real quickly that I was not one of them. Another prize from setting goals is actually become more self aware of your individual strengths and weaknesses.

3. Assess the goal

It is important to develop a means to assessing the status of your goals. I am definitely a numbers guy. When coming up with financial goals I attach monetary values to the goals to give myself more of an incentive to follow through. For example one of my financial goals was to decrease my monthly expenses by $50 dollars a month. When I multiply that by 12 I realize that I no longer have $600 of expenses for the year. Taking it further, assuming an annual return of 5% adjusted for inflation, I would need to save $12,000 saved for retirement to maintain those expenses. Since I no longer have those expenses that amount can be reinvested or spent in another way.  This thus potentially reduces the amount of time and money I need in order to retire. That is definitely motivating for me.

4. Revise your goal

It is important to constantly revise your goal as you become closer to achieving it. It is a well known fact that humans are terrible at predicting the future. This is especially true with regard to human behavior. As accrue more and more relevant information, it is important to condition and further develop your goal. It is also important to realize that your goals do not exist in separate vacuums. They are interrelated. When revising your goals you may come to the realization that achieving one of your goals is undermining the achievement of a more important goal.

In practice when I first started writing my goals down I felt silly and did not take it too seriously, but when I became more successful at seeing my goals through I became a believer.

College pitfalls episode1:

I’ve decided to start a series of entries that go into detail on some mistakes I have made or have seen made in the name of pursuing higher education. While I am by no means an expert in this subject area, this is one of the few things I have accrued experience in simply by “fucking up” over and over again.

Is a college degree the right fit for me?

College is an interesting institution. The overall attitude of society towards college is one of respect. However it has become quite bloated in some regards and has led some people into a lifetime of debt servitude. Circumstance often asks the impossible of the inexperienced high schooler. How do you know what you want to do with your life when you have had limited to no exposure to the possibilities that life has to offer? A short solution to this is to expose yourself to these possibilities before you start college. Do not take someone else’s word as a guide to what your future holds. Just because you are good at math does not mean you should be an engineer. Just because you are a good writer does not mean you should major in journalism. Just because you are first chair in band does not mean you should major in music.

Before choosing a major, find out if the end-point of that road (a job or lack thereof) is where you want to end up. There are many avenues for this as professionals or enthusiasts are eager to share the details of their careers with aspiring students. At many Universities there are panels held for each various degrees with professionals that will explain how their jobs really are. Frankly I found them quite enlightening when I was going through my identity crisis as an undergrad. They will be brutally honest about misconceptions about the careers they have chosen. An example of this was when one student said he wanted to get into accounting because he was creative and wanted to use that creativity in setting up businesses. Obviously accounting is not a creative endeavor unless you are doing something illegal. However, this brings to point how little most people actually know about a field unless they ask someone who is in it.

The majority of people in the United States have been indoctrinated into the belief that to become rich or middle class a college degree is necessary. I was indoctrinated into that belief! The United State government has made it increasingly easier to get a college degree which has in turn made it extremely expensive. After graduating high school I had very little knowledge on how debt worked. I thought it was simply buy something now and then you can pay it later once you got paid. Once I learned that virtually everyone was in debt in one way or another and that the compounding interest is an extremely powerful force, I decided that maybe I should focus on understanding on money in general. Crudely simplifying the situation, debt can strongly restrict and/or increase your standard of living in amazing ways. The majority of electricians, plumbers, and mechanics, are in a better financial position than lawyers, doctors, and psychologists. Tuition at major universities is growing at a staggering rate at which point the earning potential of high-end degrees will be overshadowed by the debt obligations they will have to encumber in order to earn their first professional dollar.

There are memes everywhere in our society of people reaching insane levels of wealth without taking the predetermined path: make good grades in school, get into a good college, make good grades in college, get a high paying job, tolerate the job, retire, and then hope you die before you run out of money. You do not have to follow this path to make a living. Lo and behold you can actually twist and turn this formula as you see fit. I am working on that myself.