Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time as a Currency

The money-time relativity is actually quite simple.
A friend of mine regaled me with his tale of frugalness when he spent $1 on a tie. I thought that was great, but playing the devil's advocate told me to analyze this a little further. Just how much freedom (or time) does $1 cost or buy?

If we assume a time-averaged annual income of about $100,000, we are able to come to a rate of approximately $48/hr. So if you are spending $1, you will be putting yourself about 75 seconds farther away from financial independence (retirement). Of course, there are so many things being assumed here (taxes, time-value, actual salary, etc.) that I don't even care to bother with because that's really not the point. The point is a shift in perspective.

Rather than looking at how much something costs in terms of dollars, it's a lot more useful to use a currency which is the same for every single person on earth. Everyone has only 24 hours in a day (somewhat), and that is universal for all human beings. If I'm about to spend $100 on an item, I need to be asking myself whether or not that particular item is worth delaying my financial independence (retirement) by more than 2 hours. That's an extra 2 hours I'm working for just that one item.

It's an interesting way of looking at things because you start to think about whether or not that extra $10,000 on a nicer car is worth it when you factor in the gas and other expenditures. Large expenses like mortgages or buying a house can potentially be setting yourself back YEARS.

For smaller expenditures, it also places casual items into perspective. An $8 Blizzard from Dairy Queen would require you to knock out an extra 10 minutes of work. In some cases, these things might actually be worth it. But when there are things which you don't necessary really need nor even really want, it helps to give yourself a reason not to spend.

Semi-related note:
I was walking around Dollarama the other day, and I recalled how I used to walk around stores like this looking for things to buy. I was always wondering, "hmm, I wonder if I can buy myself some happiness with any unnecessary purchases." However, I now have a different thought strategy. In a certain way, the consumer/producer dynamic can be viewed as a zero-sum game. And in that game, all advertisements are out to get you, to steal away your freedom so that the producers can have more of it for himself. Every time I walk into a store now, I have the battle mindset switched on. I find myself spending a lot less because of this, and am actually a much happier person.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Hierarchy of Sixes

I was talking to my friend from another law school the other day and she mentioned how she had a table of contents in her notes that she takes into the (open-book) exam. My immediate reaction is that any content not directly contributing to the transfer of knowledge is a waste of space and time (spent reading the table of contents). The next day, I thought a little more about why I structure my notes the way I do and the following is what I came up with.

I realized that I tended to keep all my notes in “packages” of four or six sheets of paper. I would also only have a total of three to six of these packages at maximum (ideally one package is best). The reason for this is that six sheets of paper allow for 24 pages when printed double-sided and double-paged per side (also make sure to use the narrowest margins practical). Why is this important? To answer that, we must consider the human psychological model of chunking.

In short, the theory of chunking basically says that we can only keep track of about six things in our head at a time. Six also being an even number can easily be halved (so you can think of information residing in the first or second half). After halving, it can then be separated into thirds which is also intuitive in the sense that you can call it "beginning", "middle", and "end" in your head.

So stepping back to see the big picture, chunking limits the human brain and the ability to know in your head exactly where information resides. Therefore, rather than print out a book, separate your information into packages or different levels (be careful not to have too many) of abstraction where you can intuitively operate within the chunking limit of six items at each level of the hierarchy. That being said, some people may only be able to operate with thee or four, in which case you should adjust accordingly.

Table of contents? I think not.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Finding Our Box

Four quadrilaterals.
Motivational statements are often boilerplate because of the fact that it is playing to a public audience filled with average people. However, let's consider how we can place this into a larger frame of understanding which provides even more practical applications. Let us consider an analogy by way of the infamous and often annoying phrase, "thinking outside the box".

Most people are content to live "inside the box" even though they hear people say that it's great to "live outside the box". They do not care much for it and they are fully happy without inquiring further. This is not only fine, but our very civilization depends on them.

For those who want to achieve "more" (whatever that means), they are looking for an impetus to "live outside the box". These are the ones that subscribe to internet publications of motivational quotes and phrases.

But you and I have been there; we've been inside and we've been outside and we don't see anything new. So we go a step further and ask more questions:
  • What is the box?
  • Why is it good to be outside of it?
  • Why do people suggest that we be outside of it?
  • Who defines the box?
  • Why does there even need to be a box?
Eventually we come to a conclusion that we can live our lives with the utmost freedom and direction by amorphously and dynamically defining our box and contemporaneously living outside and inside of it. But we also have to realize that we are not always one and complete. We are not isotropic pieces of meat and ideas which adhere to a single frame of mind. We are the child, the hero, and the sage all in one. And that's why the motivational slogans are important. It reminds the more child-like sides of ourselves to catch up and be earnest to go through the stages I've outlined above. Perhaps this is the realization that we all seek to reach, but even I find it extremely difficult. But that's what life is about, the struggle.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Baser Desires

The colour of desire.
The past few days have had me frequently at frustration as I struggled to balance my need for food against my need for learning and productivity. It was not until I spent a good three hours hiking through a park absorbing what nature has to offer did I realize that I was missing out on opportunities to harness the necessary stimuli that the human condition gives us. Rilke in his Letters to a Young Poet phrases this most wonderfully:
"Bodily delight is a sensory experience, not any different from pure looking or the pure feeling with which a beautiful fruit fills the tongue; it is a great, an infinite learning that is given to us, a knowledge of the world, the fullness and the splendor of all knowledge. And it is not our acceptance of it that is bad; what is bad is that most people misuse this learning and squander it and apply it as a stimulant on the tired places of their lives and as a distraction rather than as a way of gathering themselves for their highest moments."
Indeed, as postmodernist philosophy goes, a lot of reality or at least reality as we know it is dependent on our own subjective perceptions. If we are able to tweak that for our own personal development, then we would be that much more powerful.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Captain America

My thoughts on Captain America

I wrote the following when the major motion picture Captain America: The First Avenger came out in 2011.

Throughout the institutionalized education us westerners are mandated to participate in, we are often asked the question "Who is your hero?". I have often found it difficult to answer such a question, because it depends on what one defines as a hero. If a hero is simply a person that one looks up to, then there are myriad of people both fictional and real that many of us could name. I, however, believe that this definition is rather spartan and requires a more in-depth discussion necessitating a look into certain characteristics which I shall discuss below.

In order to explain my own personal views regarding the definition of a hero, I shall invoke the example of a recent figure depicted in the motion pictures. This figure is none other than the fictional but nevertheless valiant, Captain America. Originally intended as a fictional hero to inspire a nation against the evils of the Axis forces, his role in the minds of the recent generations have far exceeded the intentions of the original creators. We must understand, therefore, that there are ideals that Captain America embody which have proven to be timeless.

One of the characteristics that Captain America has displayed is his will to do good unto the world. Rather than fighting Nazis with anger and vengeance, he proves his mettle by stating that his reasons for going to war is simply to suppress the suppressors; An honourable cause for war if there ever was one. When knocked down, Captain America has the will and the belief in the necessity to stand up again. For as Theodore Roosevelt once said "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, for there is no effort without error and shortcoming."

Captain America may not represent my country, nor may he represent yours; but one thing that he does represent is the spirit within all of us to accomplish something worthwhile. How long have we lived our lives striving to achieve success? How long have we tried to define ourselves by following the expectations of the world? Our bodies are mortal, and our lives are short (unlike Captain America's). And so I leave you all with this quote of his:

"Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - 'No, you move.'"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Reading: Knowing the Structure

First set up the canvas by which you will attempt to work through the book.
When we are reading, we need a goal with context. We cannot sit there and consume information without a plan. This is true for reading non-fiction and fiction alike.

When we approach a new book, we should first seek to understand its structure. If it's non-fiction, look through the table of contents to see which topics are covered and how the ideas are arranged in a way that the author believes convey their message best. If it's fiction, look to find the total number of pages and chapters so that you can track yourself and fully understand which part of the plot arc you are at when you read.

This is important because it gives you context as to where you are going. Sure, some may desire not knowing anything about the direction of your reading, but in my opinion that is wholly ineffective. The purpose of reading is to put yourself into the mind of the author, albeit with your own personal expressions of understanding. Nevertheless, it is important for us to understand how the author has structured his work. Reading is a lot more meaningful once you understand the structure of your subject.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Write What You Read

You must write what you read if you are to remember it.
"Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -Sir Francis Bacon

Reading allows you to consume knowledge, but one of the best ways to consolidate this is for you to produce it in a form of your own expression. So how do we remember things once we determine something is important? One of the guides we can look at is the study of classical rhetoric, the art of speaking and persuasion.

Rhetoric can be divided into the follow stages:
  1. Invention - Let your ideas ferment and swish around in your brain.
  2. Arrangement - Arrange your ideas in a clear and easy to understand manner.
  3. Style - Incorporate style to make your message more convincing.
  4. Memory - Commit your message to memory.
  5. Delivery - Refine your mode of delivery.
While I can go into much detail about these steps, this brief description will suffice for now. Next we will talk about how to determine what is important when you read and how to approach different types of text.

Hyper Smash