Daily, snackable writings and podcasts to spur changes in thinking. Why?

If we wish to change the person we find ourselves to be, we must change our thinking.

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RESOURCEFULNESS

November 16th, 2019

 

 

The essence of resourcefulness is captured by a seemingly unrelated aphorism:

 

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

 

 

This aphorism is generally used to highlight preference differences between people.  But just a subtle step in the right direction casts this with a new perspective, in fact the aphorism is all about perspective.

 

The item in question, whatever it is, doesn’t change, but the way someone views it does.  This is the key to resourcefulness: it’s a matter of looking at what’s available with a new perspective, one that sees opportunity. It’s a matter of shifting one’s own perspective and seeing how that trash can be so valuable that it becomes treasure.

 

All of this hinges on pattern recognition. 

 

Our brains are pattern recognition machines.  It’s at the core of why we love music, which ultimately boils down to interesting manipulations of audio patterns.

 

When we say that a new artist is particularly innovative, what do we actually mean?

 

In essence, that artist has found a new way to manipulate the pattern. 

 

But before that pattern can be effectively manipulated, it has to be recognized and intuited.

 

This is easy to think about in music and it gets more difficult as we stray into other fields, especially when the terrain becomes multidisciplinary. 

 

For example, there are many people who are living paycheck to paycheck, and many of these people feel stuck, as though treading water.  All time is devoted to making enough money to simply get to the next month.  Such people might be all too aware of the pattern that has them trapped, but less aware of how the components break down into their own patterns.  Food is naturally considered essential and worth spending money on, and yet so many are overweight.  It doesn’t take a degree in metabolic studies to parse out that there’s an inequity here that someone might be able to solve.  And chances are that it’s a two-fer:  save money, and get healthier.  Rent is another big cost, and it seems to be getting more and more problematic.  Yet few honestly consider the possibility of alternative living situations.  Far cheaper options exist, even if they aren’t as comfortable. 

 

The larger point to take away here is that most people in a common difficult situation are simply following the mainstream pattern.  Resourcefulness means understanding that mainstream pattern in detail and then playing around with it in order to see what can be changed.  What can be torn out and plugged in different places.

 

Few people actually tinker with their experience of life in these ways.  Most simply take cues from the larger patterns of behavior that are obvious everywhere by the actions and decisions of others.

 

At it’s heart, resourcefulness is the realization that you have far more at hand than you thought.  It’s a matter of thinking about those resources in different ways, and finding hidden leverage in unconventional combinations.  The key is realizing that the pattern for using the resources we have at hand can be manipulated, and a new pattern can be found.`


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Podcast Ep. 580: Resourcefulness

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Tinkered Thinking


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LIFE IS A GIFT HORSE

November 15th, 2019

 

 

As the old saying goes: don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

 

 

The saying is anachronistic to be sure since we just don’t use horses anymore.  But the lesson remains. 

 

Historically, the reason why you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth is because the teeth of a horse change in appearance with reliable consistency as the horse ages.  To look a gift horse in the mouth is to check the age of the horse that is being given to you as a gift.  The practical value of a horse in this circumstance declines with age.  Simply put, a young horse is a lot stronger and therefore more useful than an old horse.  The modern equivalent would be to look up an item on amazon to see how much someone spent on the gift they gave you.

 

It’s rude, and that should be immediately evident, but there is an even deeper and more insidious problem with this urge and behavior.

 

The logic of looking a gift horse in the mouth seems that it’s to determine as soon as possible just how much you are gaining. But the point is more subtle.  The age and true value of a horse will inevitably be obvious with time, so why the urgency to look a gift horse in the mouth immediately upon receiving the gift?  The real impulse powering things here is the desire to know what someone else has deemed appropriate to give to you.  In essence it’s to see how much value someone else sees in you.  We give the most valuable gifts to those we value the most, and this trend decreases until we end up at the absolute minimum amount of charity that we’d give to some stranger or enemy.  So to look a gift horse in the mouth is to be curious about how someone else sees you, and how much they value you.

 

By looking gift horses in the mouth, you determine your own value through the eyes of others.

 

This is very dangerous, especially if you believe it.  It’s easy to imagine a bratty kid opening up a gift and looking at the parent, or relative or friend who gave it and saying quite cruelly: is this all I’m worth to you?

 

What’s so dangerous about this perspective isn’t it’s rudeness or cruelty, but what it indicates about how a person determines their self-worth.  Such a bratty teenager, or anyone who is overly concerned about the worth of the gifts they receive is getting their cue about self-worth from the rest of the world.  Such a person’s sense of self-worth is externally determined.

 

This is a dangerous step in the direction of victim mentality, which is marked by an overwhelming concern with how external forces have been unjust, cruel and painful.  This overwhelming concern generally gives rise to a feeling of helplessness which inhibits a person’s agency and prohibits any meaningful action that might make their situation better.

 

This belief that self-worth is externally determined unseats personal agency and gives up control of one’s circumstance to the randomness of fate.   

 

To look a gift horse in the mouth is either a step in this direction or it’s a subtle sign that someone has given up some personal agency. 

 

 

 

The quintessential gift horse is the life we have been given.  Almost everyone can bemoan the misfortune of not being born to wealthier, more intelligent parents in a country with better infrastructure and opportunity.  This is looking the gift horse in the mouth, and being disappointed with what you find. 

 

But let’s flip this whole situation inside-out and start with an unexpected question: 

 

do you like playing games that are too easy?

 

 

 

 

No, no one does.  Where’s the zest if it’s too easy?  Too easy means boring.

 

Let’s say life is a simulation - a game of sorts.  What does it say to be handed a life that is fit with every luxury and a seamless stream of easy opportunities?  This would mean that your game is on ‘easy’ mode.  The less luxury you’re born with and the more obstacles you face mean that your game is on a harder mode.

 

Now here’s the vital question:

 

In order to thrive, which version of the game requires more growth, accountability, ingenuity and use of personal agency?

 

The harder one.  The harder life requires a person to be more than their circumstances imply in order to thrive. 

 

Most importantly, difficult beginnings have a greater potential for adventure and growth.  The person who rises from a lower circumstance walks upon a deeper foundation of insight, knowing intimately a larger expanse of what it means to be human, and this toolkit affords ways of thinking that can reach far beyond those who were not so fortunate to have such misfortunes to overcome.

 

 

[The astute reader might realize that the title stems from J.D. Salinger’s final story in the collection Nine Stories, a story entitled ‘Teddy’.  The main character Theodore (whose name appropriately means ‘gift from god’) notes to himself at one point that Life is a Gift Horse.]

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 579: Life is a Gift Horse

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Tinkered Thinking


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CHASING SILENCE

November 14th, 2019

 

 

It’s a curiosity that our world is not more optimized around the issue of sound.  There is virtually no thought or effort dedicated to making anything sound proof outside of the industries that rely on recording, like the music industry. 

 

Everything we do produces a sound, and with so many of us up to something, there’s just about always something to be heard, whether that’s traffic on the main road, someone coughing on the floor above or some buzzing sound emanating from an appliance.  Finding a quiet space is difficult because it cannot be easily created.  For the most part it’s achieved by removing other things, like turning off the music, or by blocking them out, like wearing ear plugs. 

 

In this way, silence has something in common with attention.

 

We seem to be entering a period marked by wars over our attention.  Ads are everywhere, they are incessant, and more and more they seem to be tailored to anticipate our desires, thereby making it more likely that we will spend time and money in ways that we might not necessarily want to. 

 

Regaining a freedom of attention is like chasing silence, it’s a matter of removing distractions, blocking them out, and purposefully going to a place that might be so unfamiliar that it’s uncomfortable:  few people can sit alone with themselves for very long.

 

Attention, like silence, is not something you chase.  It’s something you cultivate, something you build, like a recording studio.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen smoothly.  It’s like managing the growth of a garden.

 

It cannot be forced.

 

but we can keep the weeds from choking the fruits of our patience.


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Podcast Ep. 578: Chasing Silence

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Tinkered Thinking


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A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: A DAY'S WORTH

November 13th, 2019

 

 

Here’s the deal:  I give you 1 Trillion dollars right now.

 

But the catch is you instantly become 90 years old.

 

Would you do it?

 

 

Most people don’t go for it.  And this question brings to light one of the rare instances when people truly internalize just how much more valuable time is when compared to money.

 

Let’s say you are 20 years old.  If you do the math, saying ‘no’ to 1 Trillion dollars means that each day is worth at least

 

$ 39,138,943.24

 

If you go even further and account for 8 hours of sleep, then each hour is worth

 

2.4 Million dollars.

 

Think about that the next time you crack a beer and throw on a rerun.

 

 

Let’s say you are 30 years old.  If you do the math again, then saying ‘no’ to 1 Trillion dollars means that each day is worth at least:

 

$   45,662,100.45

 

45 million dollars.

 

Already we can see the trend.  The thing about time is that it’s like food when you’re lost at sea: it becomes more valuable the less that you have.

 

Let’s say you are 65 years old, the traditional age of retirement.  If you do the math, saying ‘no’ to 1 Trillion dollars means that each day is worth at least:

 

 

$ 109,589,041.09

 

 

The worth of a single day in this thought experiment would paradoxically fund many fantastic lifetimes.  Of course, the catch in the thought experiment is that most people don’t see much in the way of potential and possibility when it comes to such a ripe old age, and therefore the gargantuan amount of money would be fairly useless as the chance to use or enjoy it would be severely diminished.  But here’s the other side of that catch: we are all headed that way anyhow. 

 

We have to stop occasionally and wonder if our day is being well spent.  And pay attention to that verb we use:  spent.  Look back on your day yesterday and imagine if it cost you 39 million dollars to live that day.  Talk about a spending spree, and for what?  Hopefully some of you will look back on yesterday and smile, but it’s easy to imagine that many will look the other way rather than let this query land as sensitively as it could.

 

Here’s another way of looking at it.  The wandering homeless person who sits outside of a coffee shop reading a book has a lot in common with some of the richest people on the planet: they have the freedom to determine their own schedule.  Most everyone else in between is bound by a time table set by others.  While obligations and responsibilities have most people pinned to this situation, that does not mean the situation is unalterable. 

 

Human ingenuity is a powerful force.

 

But most people sell themselves short on that one too.

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 577: A Thought Experiment: A Day's Worth

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Tinkered Thinking


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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.




METAQUESTIONS

November 12th, 2019

 

The ability to form a question is our most vital tool.  It might even be our only real tool from which we derive every other tool we’ve created.   Everything we’ve created has stemmed from some version of

 

how would I do this?

 

 or

 

what can I do with that?

 

Each step in the process is usually a new question about what we are doing.  And when we find ourselves stuck in the process, one useful thing to wonder is whether or not we have the best question in hand in order to proceed forward productively and efficiently.

 

This isn’t something we necessarily pickup naturally, but the ability to ask:

 

Why am I asking and pursuing this current question? 

 

Can save us loads of time that would otherwise be wasted.  We sometimes catch ourselves in this circumstance.  We’re wrapped up in our thoughts, perhaps we’re looking for something around the house that we’ve lost, but in the process we find something else we forgot we owned, and we notice that it’s broken, but easily fixed, and before we know it, we’ve spent twenty minutes tinkering with it, when suddenly we step back from what we’re doing and ask: what am I doing wasting my time with this?  Wasn’t I looking for something?  Oh yea…..


We can replicate this sort of reboot by having some meta-questions on hand:

 

 

 

Why am I trying to answer this question?

 

How am I trying to answer this question?

 

Should I be trying to think of a better question?

 

 

It’s helpful at this point to remember how Tinkered Thinking defines a question.  A question is an open-ended concept that creates forward momentum.

 

In that framework, just about everything we do can be viewed as stemming from some sort of question.  You go to your job in the morning because at some point in the past you asked yourself: how am I going to make money?

 

Perhaps it’s time to revisit that question.  For example, we can apply that third meta-question to this query about money.  That is: Should I be trying to think of a better question?

 

A potential example of a better question with regards to making money might be:  Am I aware of all the different ways that people are making money today?

 

This is essentially asking:  is my information about the world up-to-date.

 

Perhaps we apply that third metaquestion again:  Is there a better question?

 

And we realize that we can energize our thinking about new, potentially better questions by using another metaquestion:

 

Why am I trying to answer this question?

 

Essentially, why am I trying to answer this question about making money?

 

The logic is pretty simple:  So I can eat and pay rent and all that stuff.

 

But like a child equipped with a Why-Shovel, we can keep digging:

 

What’s the point of paying rent and eating, why am I trying to make those happen?

 

The answer here seems obvious but people often don’t face it fully.

 

The answer is, so you can live.

 

But living really refers to time well spent, not time grinded up at a day job.

 

So now we can return to the original question: How am I going to make money?, and rephrase it in a much deeper and potentially life-altering way:

 

How am I going to spend the time I have alive?

 

 


Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

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Podcast Ep. 576: MetaQuestions

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Tinkered Thinking


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If you appreciate the work of Tinkered Thinking, please consider lending support. This platform can only continue and flourish with the support of readers and listeners like you.

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Appreciation can be more than a feeling. Toss something in the jar if you find your thinking delightfully tinkered.