There are two things I know to be true:
1. I know family is more important than anything else. I didn't always know this. I am fortunate to have a wonderful wife who taught it to me in my 20's, vs. learning it on my death bed, as some do.
2. I know that some of the things I think to be true, probably aren't true. That one's a bit of a mind bender, but it keeps me curious about the world.
That's it for the things I know to be true. There are many things I think to be true.
I think the purpose of life, to the extent that there is one, is to create, and to be happy. To create a family, to create a better world for others, to make 'something from nothing.' Relaxed dinners with lots of conversation and great company make me happy. Many other things do too.
I think humans suffer from a lack of communication, and to the extent that can be resolved, much of human suffering can be too. When the rich live in gated communities away from the poor, when one religion does not tolerate another, when two races do not intermingle, or even speak, then the human psyche hardens to those it cannot understand. Communication, even if forced at first, resolves the world's most painful issues, and it creates environments in which many different types of people get equal chances, like in Egypt recently.
I think organized religion is generally harmful and hurtful when taken as a whole. Humans are imperfect, and religion classifies people into groups which then start having a hard time communicating with those who don't share their beliefs. I'm sure many people will disagree with me on this one. See point #2 above.
I think we are not alone, not only in our universe, but in all of them. Recent scientific discoveries give me hope. Possibly related to that: there may be forces greater than us at work. I like the idea that we temporarily borrow energy to form our beings and then release it back to the cosmos when our time is up. Overall, though, I don't think we as humans have the capacity to understand whatever may be greater than us, so I don't fret over it too much.
I believe at some point in the future the human race will figure out how to bypass many of the physical factors that limit our lifespans, and people will start to live long enough that time will take on a different meaning. People will look back and have a hard time understanding the limiting factors that constrain us today, like old age. I don't think I will live long enough to see this, though, and I'm OK with that. Maybe my kids will, or their kids, and that thought makes me happy.
I believe often people are afraid. They are afraid to be different. They are afraid to be wrong. Afraid to take a chance. Afraid to stand up for what they know is right. Afraid to be the first. And I think that's too bad. I try not to be afraid. It can be hard.
I find that often the best things I accomplish are when I almost gave up. Or right when everyone else has. Just showing up, and then just trying harder than anyone else is one of my most useful tricks.
I also believe there is a cost to everything. And that most people don't realize this. There's a cost to asking for a raise, to having an extra slice of cake, to not spending enough time with your wife... to anything. There's a cost to me spending the time writing this post, and to you for reading it. It's time that's spent and can never be recovered. I try to always make sure the cost is worth it.
I believe the most valuable asset we have is time. It's a diminishing asset and none of us know how much of it we start with. It's a motivating thought.
I think politicians need to learn to say "I don't know." They are dealing with some of the most complex issues on the planet, often with no formal training on the subject. I would trust and respect politicians much more if they didn't pretend to know all the answers and have opinions on everything.
I find that my political views are getting more conservative as I get older. I'm not sure I like that. I used to feel that being conservative was a cop-out. Its easy just to think about yourself. I have a conservative family member who once said "people should get what they deserve." That resonated with me. On the other hand, I'm just not sure that someone who was born addicted to crack because his mother used it would fare too well under that plan. I find myself conflicted about this.
I'd like to know what you think. Let me know in the comments below.
Wow, I love this guys' take on what he's learned: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/06/11/im-just-now-realizing-how-stupid-we-are.aspx , especially these:
"I've learned that strong political beliefs in either direction limit your ability to make rational decisions more than almost anything else."
I've learned that short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, whether it's in business, politics, investing, or work.
I've learned that debt can cause more social problems than some drugs, yet drugs are illegal and debt is tax deductible.
I've learned that self-interest is the most powerful force in the world. People in unethical, predatory, and nonsense jobs will do mental gymnastics to convince themselves they're doing the right thing. Those who criticize the behavior of "greedy Wall Street bankers" underestimate their tendency to do the same thing if offered an eight-figure salary.
I've learned that there's a strong correlation between knowledge and humility. People who spend 10 minutes on Google studying monetary policy think they have it all figured out, while people with Ph.D.s and decades of experience throw up their hands in frustration. The more you study economics, the more you realize how little we know about it.
I've learned that what looks like tomorrow's biggest threat almost never is. Most of what people worried about over the last five years -- inflation, rising interest rates, a double-dip recession, stagnant markets, Greece leaving the euro, a government default -- never occurred. The biggest actual risk for most of us was something few talked about: excessive pessimism.
I've learned that data can do more harm than good. There is so much data available today that you can convincingly prove almost anything by cherry-picking with industrial strength. This breeds confirmation bias, as people start with an answer then find data to back it up.
I've learned that a willingness to wait longer than other people is your biggest natural edge. If you can think about the next five years while everyone else is fixated on the next five months, you have an advantage that makes high-frequency trading, insider tips, and corporate loopholes look like a joke.
I've learned that Winston Churchill wasright when he said, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else." Congress is a basket case 99% of the time, but when things are truly at the precipice it gets things done.
fabuleusa ombunci mi ribamo te buinho arias ssadessas. probra te vafiania ncespel nos ignistamo o riameguis dotav raparro bien.
Joe, not a bad place to be! Very cool. Enjoy.
Agreed re: time -- the greatest diminishing resource that none of us know how much we start with.
Grant, thanks for your thoughts. I'd love to know where you fall on these or other items important to you.
Daniel, sitting in Guaruja Brasil reading your blog. TIME is absolutely the only limiting factor that we really face. Nice work with pointabout!
I am not overly surprised that you might not have heard of it, but I imagine you had some knowledge of Ray Kurzweil and his concepts of the technological singularity, no? The movie is interesting on its own, but his writing is immensely fascinating and influential. Some say he is an amazing futurist, a tech prophet even, and some think he is absolutely nuts. I happen to think that he is generally right in his predictions, but that his timelines are off and he puts too much faith in the outcomes.
It is amazing. It is immensely easy to assign anthropic value to the world around, to claim that it must have been made for us because we are here and everything is so finely tuned for us. But, of course, the universe just "is" and we just "are". We exist in this particular universe, potentially one of many, because the conditions are right for us to be here right now. It is not here for us and we are not here for it, but as a natural outcome of the universe's laws and the eons in which they have been running along.
The lack of human-centric meaning does not take away from the awesome beauty of the whole enterprise - if anything, and I think you feel the same way, I think it is an absolute gift to be able to experience life here on Earth considering the probabilities for its inclusion in the universe in the first place.
Dave, I haven't seen Transcendent Man (nor had I heard of it -- my friends call me a "pop culture retard" as there's not even a TV in our house) but I Googled it (here's the link for anyone interested http://transcendentman.com/) and it looks interesting. It's on my "to watch" list.
Thanks for sharing. Your points about what life has been like for much of the time life has existed really resonate. We're spoiled into thinking that life *should* be easy, when it's amazing that life even works at all. One thing I'm always blown away by is how consistent the world is from one day to another. Each day, the earth spins, the sun rises & sets, and temperatures stay within a narrow band that supports life. To the best I can tell, there's no rule set anywhere dictating this must be so -- obviously setting aside the physics and science that cause it all to work. But there's no reason a natural disaster couldn't change things drastically, and yet we as a species are able to rely on constants to the point they fade into the background and we can forget about them and how wonderfully amazing it is that everything works as well as it does.
Seems like you've been reading the thoughts in my head, Daniel...and that you might have attended a recent viewing of "Transcendant Man".
I agree with much of this, although I have a different take on what life is or is not about. I do not subscribe to the idea that life has meaning or that it even needs to. We are here, the universe exists, there are laws that govern reality and there is no more to it than that. We can construct lives of great meaning and import and evaluate those lives based on deep-seated and long-standing social norms and expectations, but that does not make those lives have intrinsic value in a universal sense (unless you believe in things like karma or an afterlife...which I do not). We are large piles of atomic particles or an almost infinite set of vibrating strings, just like everything around us and in existence, and the differentiation that allows our particular configurations of particles to have achieved awareness does not make us special or give our existence more value. We are merely a result of a long process of self-assembly, of entropy, and that process will continue whether we are part of it or not (I happen to believe we will increase the speed of this process through technology, but that is another discussion entirely). It is amazing to "be here", but being here does not mean anything about us at all.
I think that our brains fool us into believing that live is better than it is and that we convince ourselves that life has meaning and that we should architect our lives to have "worth". We want to be satisfied and happy and our brains are wired to fool us into thinking that we are and, by extension, others can be. Life is actually rather hard. For most of human existence, life was a long slog of terrible stuff briefly interrupted by moments of joy. We were either cold or hot, often hungry, roaming or building shelter, and just trying to stay alive. We scratched it out, started to thrive and were able to slowly develop technology and cultivate civilization...billions of years after the beginning of the universe. You don't even need to consider our entire history as a species, just consider what live was like for an average person 100 or 150 years ago and compare that to today. Is life even all that great for that majority of people on the planet today? The search for and belief in meaning allows people to have hope, to convince themselves that life is a better experience than it is, and to continue to go forward. But that does not make it real or change the fact that life can be, more often than not, not worth living.
Of course, none of this stops me from loving my wife and kids, having great friends, enjoying people and experiences and the life that I do have. I do not need there to be meaning to enjoy it, although my enjoyment is dampened by an existential angst that I've never been able to shake. And, despite what some might consider a bleak outlook, I consider myself to be happy and am still a progressively minded person with a big bleeding heart.
Nice post D....
I believe we come from completely different backgrounds and culture but I find myself to agree with pretty much everything you pointed out.
I especially liked the part about doubt what you're certain of, not giving up and the "negativity" of any organized religion.
Let's face it, we all have to be salespeople in some aspect of life - most of us just don't like it.
There are some people - myself included - who do like selling.
A great salesperson is just about 180 degrees opposite from a used-car salesman. A great salesperson is a trusted partner in business. And if that statement sounds as strange to you as it does to most people, you'll realize how un-great most salespeople are.
First, let me tell you about my background. I was selling sodas to construction workers in my neighborhood when I was 8 years old. I sold candy bars on my school bus in high school. I paid for college by licensing the University of Virginia's "V" logo and producing Frisbees with the logo, which I sold in the school bookstores (my self-portrait, at left, with my Frisbees in the window of one of the bookstores, dated 1996).
I spent 4 summers at GE while in college, working as an intern in the telesales department, where I beat the sales numbers of some full-time salespeople, selling Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) solutions to banks in Brazil. Since then I've been an Entrepreneur full-time; I've gotten massive amounts of press, including a cover in the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal, CNN, CNBC, Forbes, TLC, Discovery Channel, CBS News & many, many others.
More and more I feel like I'm getting closer to knowing my purpose. I wasn't too sure, still not too sure.. fully at least. But I know I just want more love, more love for everybody, I'm against all hate... I've learned to hate religion because I've learned the history of religion's relationship with separations, divisions, labels, force, who's better/ who's not, who's bad/ who's not/ let's judge them and throw stones at them type stuff.