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ORDER OF OPERATIONS

April 2nd, 2019

The order in which we should do things is incredibly obvious in some cases and nearly invisible in other cases.  For example, putting on a shoe has a fairly straight forward set of ordered operations.  It would be counter-productive to tie the shoe before putting it on.

 

But the order of operations for solving algebra problems is not so obvious or intuitive.  The discovery of such order certainly must have taken some testing through trial and error.

 

If we extrapolate an attention to order to much larger operations in life, we can find very important questions that in many cases, don’t even get asked, let alone pondered.

 

For example, having the ability to reliably pay one’s rent with plenty money left over, would be good to figure out before having a child.  And yet surely there are many people who don’t compare the two and fail to see a relation between the two things. 

 

The virtue of asking such questions comes from the fact that if operations are well ordered, each achieved operation makes the next operation that much more easy.   Or in the case of tying a shoe, we can see that an operation might be fundamentally necessary in order to achieve the next.  This is certainly true in algebra, and it’s a safer bet to assume that it’s true in all cases.

 

We can see how an inability to follow or even ponder an order of operations spells failure in many cases.  The inexperienced gentleman who meets a lady with crass and vulgar proposals is near certainly guaranteed to have a short interaction.  But it’s commonplace to realize that such playful proposals exist positively in long established relationships.  In such cases, the order of operations was taken with a bit more of a mindful approach.

 

Just as we have an order of operations with regards to our social dynamics, our health and wealth does also.

 

Someone who wishes to bench press 200lbs should forget about such if 80lbs is still a struggle.  In weightlifting, the order of operations is more obvious, akin to tying a shoe, but with wealth, the order may not be as intuitive as we think, nor what is broadcasted.  Often our idea of wealth centers around our ability to display and showcase such wealth, as with a big and expensive house, or a fancy car, or luxurious trips to exotic places.  Such displays of wealth actually eat wealth and thereby make one less wealthy.  This negative feedback loop might not apply to the ultra rich, as there’s clearly an escape velocity for such a thing, but for the vast majority of people, this competition of wealth signaling is a counter-productive strategy.

 

Meanwhile, someone who is willing to cut all extraneous costs that make up the game of wealth signaling are inevitably going to actually have that wealth instead of owning symbols of a time when one was able to acquire such symbols.

 

An important metric for sussing out an order to one’s operations is utility.  We can highlight this by asking: is a Ferrari useful?  Perhaps it is useful in altering the opinions of people who see such an item, but this is a poor use of utility as a metric.  The average used Honda Civic is more likely to handle a wider variety or terrain over a longer time line and greater distance with a relative minimum cost of repairs when compared to a supercar which quite literally demands high maintenance. 

 

The gentleman looking for the fruits of some sort of relationship would do best to start with a comment that merely rises the probability that the conversation will continue.  Such a tweak in strategy increases utility.

 

And with health, the weightlifter might ask: what can I do today that will initiate reactions in my body that make me more capable tomorrow?  All questions of fitness essentially boil down to such a useful, if difficult to answer question, but thoughtfully answering it in the most narrow way possible allows a person to figure out an order of operations more quickly than someone who already has a set plan that they imagine will work.

 

The most perplexing aspect of such orders is that many things we undertake can be accomplished with different orders or operations.  The point is not to apply such questions about orders of operation to everything, but to filter everything with a question about order to see if it’s an important aspect to consider before beginning.

 

This episode references Episode 285: Plan on no Plans.


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