This blog will be a collection of ideas and information I have learned so far, that I want recorded for posterity, as well as an opportunity to form my own … Continue reading First post
My favorite logical fallacy lately
I was in college when I first learned about The Facebook, which was connecting college kids across the nation, and that was my first introduction to what would become Social Media. Since then, we have all seen the massive growth of Social Media platforms, and witnessed the results of giving everyone a platform and a voice. I am going to save the argument of the inherent benefits and ills of social media for another day. What I would like to focus on instead, is the inability of even some very learned people, to formulate the simplest of arguments, defaulting instead to several of many logical fallacies.
I will also pass over crapping all over our current educational systems in this country, but instead only point out that most of those reading this will likely have to google logical fallacies, which really just proves my point. Logical fallacies are errors in the logic of an argument, whether made intentionally or not, which can misconstrue the truth of that argument … or said more simply, they’re mental tricks. And while I intend write up my own explanations of other logical fallacies, I’m starting with false dichotomy as I just keep seeing them everywhere, and I feel the need to explain this idea to more people so we can begin to roll back some of the cult of ignorance that exists in this country.
So to breakdown the phrase false dichotomy, we’ll do the same thing I teach to Medic students, to look at the pieces of the words. Words ending in –otomy refer to something being cut, with –chotomy particularly referencing it being split, and then once we add the di onto the front, we specify that it is being split in two. A dichotomy then, in reference to an argument, would be an argument where two, and only two options are given, and what makes it false, is when more than just those two options actually exist.
And while this may appear a very simple logical fallacy, it is not always as easy as it appears to parse it out. Especially once you start mixing your logical fallacies, it can become much easier to lose track and miss something as straightforward as a false dichotomy. So much so, that people often label themselves voluntarily … Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, pro-life or pro-choice.
There is no reason that after more than 200 years of this democracy that our choices for leader are being whittled down to the two terrible options we are repeatedly being given. And regardless of what controversial topic we’re discussing, splitting ourselves into a false dichotomy only ensures we will continue spinning in circles around the issue rather than making any actual forward progress on a solution that works for the most people.
I know I find myself falling into this trap sometimes too, but I’m hoping by writing this, that we can learn together to recognize the cognitive biases and logical fallacies whose delusions we are laboring under. People have been discussing these fallacies and biases since at least as long as the ancient Greeks and Romans. They learned then, and we can learn now, that becoming aware of your own thoughts and how they can be manipulated, by yourself or someone else, will only improve your thinking. And it is my hope that more people thinking clearly will create better answers to the questions that have been plaguing us for centuries.
Why I rarely pick sides …
I was catching up on a recorded Zoom talk on mythology at lunch today, when the speaker talked briefly about how remaining stuck in a particular idea is foolish, as life is always changing, and my mind locked onto the idea as reasoning for a few things that have been bothering me lately. Between the recent removal of US troops in Afghanistan, or basically anything related to the response to COVID, the vast majority of what I have seen on social media has been people taking sides and lamenting how stupid the other side is. Another man in my men’s group through Man Unvicilized also had a more personal issue where someone immediately jumped to the worst conclusion about him, and then kept berating him while refusing to attempt to understand his side. I have been growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of considered responses and at people just unwilling to approach new ideas thoughtfully. So here is why I don’t believe I am liberal nor conservative …
The only thing that I know is guaranteed in this life is that things will change. I have certainly learned that idea myself, sometimes the hard way, when I didn’t want things to change. There are even many books and movies which all have a similar theme of learning to ride the waves of frequent change. This is why the idea of conservativism does not appeal to me … we know things are going to change, yet believe the answers of the past are always going to be right. “If only things could be the way they were, everything would be great again” … yet perhaps if we could incorporate the ideas and understanding we have gained since then, things could be even better for even more people. I am sure this is a difficult idea, as I know personally it can be hard to let go, but as I have grown, I have learned not to blindly hold onto the ideas of the past. There is actually a book written by Marshall Goldsmith called “What got you here will not get you there”, and I think the title says it all.
Now, before you try to point out that my refusal of conservatism is equivalent to a leap towards liberalism, I would like to offer my counter argument as well. While I may not like assuming what has worked before will always work again, I also believe we should be able to learn lessons from the past. Jordan Peterson was just discussing the “reason” for memory in a podcast, and states that it is not simply for recall, but to filter your recall into lessons which can allow you to make better decisions in the future. I do not celebrate change for it’s own sake, and do not believe we should immediately throw out all the learning we have gained from the mistakes of our past.
There is also an aspect of mental freedom here, which is frequently missed in this conversation. If you always do the opposite of what everyone else is doing/what you’re supposed to do/what’s expected, then they have just as much control over you as if you were doing exactly what they wanted. When you always do something, whether it is what is expected or the reverse, your decision is still being made by someone else. What I like to promote, and my personal goal, is freedom of thought. Learn from the past to forge a better future.
As silly as it might be, a lot of this conversation for me boils down to a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off … “-ism’s, in my opinion, are not good”. I truly just wish more people, on both sides of the aisle, or argument, or social media, would take more time to come up with their own thoughts, even if their answer would simply become “I don’t know”. And while I know most people will want to challenge me that they always consider both sides of an argument, I would like to challenge you back to note how often are you picking sides? Very rarely do great ideas fall into such a false dichotomy that there is a clear answer one way or another, so stop letting people convince you there is only one right answer. Choose instead to be thoughtful …
Learning from a broken ankle
I know I have taken my time growing up in a couple different ways, but I really should not have waited until 34 years old to break my first bone. I broke my ankle while rolling in Jiu Jitsu class at Kogen Dojo, and it has certainly been a roller coaster ride of emotions for the last few weeks. Fortunately, I have been pretty lucky in a couple ways. For one, I just broke it, and didn’t tear any ligaments or anything, which would have required even more rehabilitation, and kept me out of business for much longer. For another, having a fiancé who used to work in Orthopedics, meant I had an appointment two business days later, and surgery within a week of the injury. And there has been support all around me the whole time, from all my fiancé has done for me, to friends offering rides or even lending a scooter and a shower chair.
The first thing I have learned is just how much luckier I am than I ever really thought. I started to realize this with just how much luck played a part in my recent purchase of a house, and it has only doubled down with this injury. It has been interesting to finally witness my perspective shift, and to watch the growth of that which I focus on. It won’t ever be immediate, but I am really learning the exponential benefits of a growth mindset over time. I have even heard of a study about this, where they left gifts and cash outside a building after quizzing the subjects about how lucky they feel they are. Those who felt luckier actually found more of the gifts outside the building, despite them all being placed in the same location each time. Focus on your blessings, and watch your blessings multiply …
Along that vein, it is also curious how sometimes even subconscious thoughts can become reality much more quickly than we ever imagined. I had been working a lot of overtime before my injury, due to buying the house and getting married this fall, and had been thinking – dreaming – wishing about a break to catch my breath. Well, it wasn’t how I would have planned it, and it was certainly much longer than I was hoping for, but I’ve certainly had a break. There have a been a few times that synchronicities such as this have propagated in my life, and is starting to infiltrate my thoughts on perspective and fate. Be careful what you wish for, because just like in jiu jitsu, you might get more than what you wished for.
And despite a few dark days, where I grew impatient to get back to the life I am building, overall I am surprised at myself for taking to this so well. It has been difficult for someone who frequently builds busy-ness into his life to just rest and recuperate, but it has been good for me to learn to lean into that feeling. And my dips into that depression have been much shallower than they might have previously in my life. I have had to learn what are requirements for my day, and make sure to keep growing somewhere, even if I can’t physically do what I used to.
Mostly though, I have really learned what Scott McGee of The Sisu Way has tried to teach … that Health is wealth, and that Movement is a gift. Even if you don’t have much else, focus on those blessings, and watch your life grow from there.
To choose one’s attitude
We had a nice long talk tonight with my online men’s group, The Battery Pack, regarding the second tenet of the Man Uncivilized program we are a part of, which is to Be Your Brother’s Keeper. We talked about ways we can be there for each other, and ways we could have used someone to be there for us in the past. Some men are going through big life changes, while others are more settled but trying to find ways to help and guide others. I also broke my ankle just over three weeks ago, and finally managed to read part of the stack of books I have been building, and a common vein through it all struck me during our conversation tonight … helping others is one of the first steps you must take down the path of helping yourself.
The start of the conversation had me wondering why such a smart man would put a tenet about helping others so early in his list; shouldn’t you have to work on yourself more before you start worrying about sharing that information with others. Looking at it now, that was just my imposter syndrome sneaking in … probably something that also keeps me from writing for this blog as often as I would like to. What I realized after all my reading and our talk tonight, was that there is always going to be room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share what helped to get you here.
I even tried to search to see if there was a specific book or article which might best explain the benefits of helping others, or even to break down how helping others can help your own mental health, but one quick google search turned up too many results to try to list. Almost every psychology and self help book you would want to read has something in it about the cognitive and emotional benefits of providing help to others. Even if all you can do is provide a sympathetic ear for someone who needs to vent, I think you will find that lightening their load also helps you to lighten yours.
While most books reference this idea, the book that offered me the most help so far through my journey of breaking my ankle has definitely been “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. I have been meaning to read that book for years, and I am mad I waited this long to finally do so, as I highlighted more passages in that book than I did in my Paramedic textbook. I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from that book, as Mr. Frankl describes what I have been trying to say here much more eloquently.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The Real Hero of the Story
We meet so many assholes in the course of our day, I think it is easy to assume that almost everyone we meet thinks so very highly of themselves. But yet, almost everyone I have gotten to know deeply … everyone who shows some level of vulnerability and honesty … thinks of themselves as not good enough in some major aspect of their own life. And I was reminded of this again tonight, after a Zoom meeting with my men’s group. Pretty much every man there discussed some way they fell short of their own hopes for themselves, but for everyone else, their “failings” provided an example of the strength and depth of their character, and reminded us all of how hard we are working to better ourselves. It all reminded me deeply of one of my favorite literary characters … Sam Gamgee.
Sam is described as the simple gardener of our ordinary hobbit protagonist, Frodo Baggins, in the literary giant, The Lord of the Rings. Hobbits themselves are described in this series as folk who take to gardening, and especially eating and drinking, significantly more than any adventure you dare speak of. And despite this, the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, later described Sam as the main hero of the story. A man who created an entire world from his imagination … a world of Elves, Dwarves, Men, Orcs, and Ents … a world where he created several of his own languages, and an untold number of classic archetypes of heroes, still says that the main hero is the simple gardener of an ordinary Hobbit.
And yet, as you read the books, you slowly gain an appreciation for Hobbit folk, and for their simple ways. After all, only through his “plain hobbit sense” is Sam able to shake off the lures of the Ring, and the magic it possesses. This hobbit sense … this understanding of our place in our world … for so many it is a sign that we are less than our heroes in some way … and yet, it may be the very path we need to trod to become the hero of our own story. As Gandalf wisely advises Frodo, when he laments the Ring every coming into his possession … “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
May this be the reminder you need to become the hero of you own story … not because you are a mythical champion bearing a bright sword, or a magical wizard with knowledge and power, but because you are a simple man, or woman, who is choosing to do what is hard when it is necessary.
The Pareto Principle
I learned about this principle a few years ago listening to the Tim Ferriss Podcast, but have had difficulty incorporating it into my life, until more recently. The principle states that typically, 80% of the result, is the product of 20% of the inputs. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, think of any group project you have been a part of … and you will quickly remember only being 20% of a group, say 1 person in a 5 person group, but handling 80% of the work load. If you cannot remember a time this happened, then congratulations, you were not a huge nerd like me in school, and probably had a much easier time.
There have been many places this principle has been applied … whether fixing errors in computer code has shown that fixing the top 20% of bugs removes 80% of system problems … or in baseball it has been shown that the top 20% statistically impactful players on a team create 80% of the team’s victories … and even financially, we are currently seeing the results of the top 20% of the population controlling the top 80% of a countries wealth. While we can argue the relative benefits of any number of economic systems, the larger point I am trying to emphasize is how to use this principle for your own personal growth.
What small factors, say 20% of the time you spend in a day, could help you improve by 80% in a particular area of your life? What I like most about how Tim Ferriss applies this, are that his main goal is one of increasing the happiness and enjoyment of his life. And I do think focusing on increasing your overall happiness with your life important even for those who would argue that it is easier for someone like Tim, as he is already very financially stable. I would make the counter argument, that improving your financial situation, even by as little as 20%, could increase your comfort and enjoyment of your life by 80%, and the principle still applies.
Whether it helps you adjust the focus of the self-improvement of your life in general, or whether it helps you to choose to spend a little bit of time working off anxiety or stress, before returning to a main project, say something like buying a house and moving, using this principle as a thought exercise can be a great help. I chose today to spend my morning in physical activities that bring me joy and stress relief, and can now spend the rest of the day packing boxes and moving with at least a little weight off my shoulders. This principle may not impact 100%, but thinking in this vein, can help you focus on the items that have the greatest impact.
Like robbing my old home
While visiting with my brother recently, we got into a pretty deep conversation on a lot of old family stuff, and he gave me some advice that kind of blew my mind. It has also been popping up recently in some of the motivational/self help social media channels I follow. My brother first asked me if I met someone just like me, would I be friends with that person? When I answered yes, he asked me why I was still defending my decision not to use my degree, when that was over a decade ago, and I have clearly made a pretty sweet life for myself since then. The degree part was just the most relevant reference to the conversation we were having, but his point works on so many other topics, so many other silly points I feel defensive on. It was put like this in the one video I have seen … trying to hurt me, by bringing up my past, is like trying to rob my old home … I don’t live there anymore!
I almost feel silly for not seeing this earlier, especially with how much time I have spent having non existent arguments in my head with people who aren’t even that upset with me. How much energy I have wasted defending the choices I have made, or odd opinions I had years ago. Or how much I let it bother me when someone wants to bring it back up. I know full well that I am not the same man I was even six months ago, let alone six or more years ago.
So I am writing this now to allow myself to let go of the person I was. To recognize that I made the best decisions I could at the time with the knowledge and understanding I had back then. And while some of them may have been mistakes, I’ll never know how it would have turned out if I had made a different decision. And I’m still pretty pumped with the life I am making for myself. As the lyrical poet Kanye West once said … Cause I’m dope, and I do dope shit!
Becoming a Man, Uncivilized
To begin, let me clarify … Man Uncivilized in a men’s group founded and led by Traver Boehm. Per his website, Traver is “formerly a Strength & Conditioning coach, CrossFit gym owner, MMA fighter, bodyguard, and still a licensed acupuncturist, avid meditator and mediocre surfer”. He has also done two TED talks, How to make pain your guru, and the follow up, Why we need more Uncivilized Men. The second TED talk specifically explains more of the movement/group he is starting, and why he feels it is necessary, but please let me try to explain before I add why I decided to join.
There are many statistics I could refer to for you, but it’s late and I would rather not google such depressing statistics. What I think many of us can understand, without the need for statistics, is that men lead the league in a number of categories, most of which are centered around hurting others, but also hurting themselves. And while there has been a lot of conversation recently around the potential for toxicity within the framework to masculinity, very little is being discussed around the fact that men are also hurting themselves in record numbers recently. And what Traver, and others like him, believe to be the main cause, is unexpressed pain. It is a saying so commonplace lately to have become almost trite, but “hurt people hurt people”.
Traver also spent an interesting and enlightening year, dubbed his “Year to Live”, where he spent months on a hospice unit, learning from the sick and dying, as well as a full month in darkness and isolation, in order to better face down his own demons, in addition to several other projects centered around resetting his life after the loss of a pregnancy and the following divorce from his wife. I have been following him on social media, watching his YouTube videos and TED Talks, and even bought his book. This past month, I finally went all the way and signed up to join the Uncivilized Nation, and am currently working through my initiation process. We are starting with push ups and cold showers, as well as contacting others already in the group, and reading the book.
You might not know this, but I spent most of my school career wishing I could be the person I imagined myself to be. It is likely why I fell in love with so many fiction and fantasy stories where a wise and learned master comes to take a hobbit on an adventure, for example … or tell a young boy he’s a wizard, for another. Right at the tail end of college, and into some of the intervening years after, I learned that wanting things to be different would never be enough … you actually had to have to courage to try and make things the way you imagined them. This was when I started to really take control of my life, to choose my own path, but it took a while to get on the course, and there are still many times where I would relish some guidance. When I found Traver, it was like hearing ideas that had been in my own mind, but I had never had the courage to voice to the world myself. I frequently find myself frustrated when reality comes butting heads with my imagination of how I would like things to be, and the lessons I am learning from this group and this man show me better ways to either find the strength to make my dreams come true, or find an understanding of when I would be better served to work within the practical.
If you are remotely interested in leadership, both leading yourself and leading others, you need to find the books written by Navy Seal Commander Jocko Willink. His books are “Extreme Ownership” and “Discipline Equals Freedom”, and I might write separate posts about both of those books one day. And even if you don’t read those, if you ever need motivation to work out or to get up early, or to do something hard in your day, his YouTube and Instagram, combined with his gravel tumbler of a voice, will have you ready to run through a brick wall.
And despite all his books, blogs, and podcasts, what has most helped me in my own journey of motivation and self actualization, is one word … Good! I linked the video where Jocko talks about this idea on his podcast, and I absolutely recommend it. He talks about a soldier under his command, who every time he came to Jocko with an issue, Jocko’s only response was one word … Good! And after several times of this, came to learn that was what he was always going to say when something didn’t go their way.
This might initially sound like a crazy idea, to say “Good” to every problem or issue that comes into our lives. But as simple and counterintuitive as this appears, the “stopping power” (to steal a military term – maybe?), of this idea is substantial. When you’re becoming frustrated, getting angry, feeling pissed, some long dissertation on the practical benefits of changing your mindset is not what is going to help. This one word, can be dropped right into the middle of your own mental meltdown, and the weight it carries can turn your whole mindset around.
Tired because you stayed up too late last night, but still got up on time this morning … Good! You showed discipline and can go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight.
Really winded while running cause you’re out of shape but trying to get back into it … Good! You might not be in the shape you want to be, but you’ll be in better shape after this.
Frustrated because you know what good writing is but cannot seem to write to your own level … Good! The only way to actually get better is to keep putting it out there and trying.
Okay, that last one might have been for me, but there are still situations we can all relate to where we feel like something is wrong … because we’re tired, or winded, or frustrated, or scared, or a multitude of other emotions. But what all those emotions show is that you are really trying. If you honestly never felt one of those emotions in a day, you clearly didn’t do anything of substance that day. Don’t just exist, but really live … and learn to embrace some uncomfortable emotions as a sign that you are really living your life.
P.S. If you really are going through some hard times, and have bigger stuff going on than just when you went to bed or breathing heavy when jogging, I know this probably isn’t what you want to hear. Just know you’re strong enough to get through whatever it is, and I am here for you if you need, whoever it is reading this. You’re not alone …
Patient enough to get 1% better
I still have memories of Junior High School … getting frustrated with myself, whether it was because of a slip of my grades, or because I just did not know how to socialize as well as I wanted to. But the largest part of that memory was of simply wanting to be different. I wanted to be a whole different person, I wanted to be the person I imagined myself to be, like one of the characters in my favorite stories.
I eventually managed to make some big changes, and I am happier now with myself than I can ever remember being, but there is still a lot of room for growth. What I am finally starting to come to terms with, is the patience required for the kind of changes and growth I was dreaming of. I repeatedly made New Years resolutions to do all kinds of things differently, to start doing several things, and to stop doing even more. But what this path has shown me, is the interest that grows when you do something 1% different today than you did yesterday.
Anyone who has been through a few different phases in their life should have a familiarity with the rapid passage of time in hindsight. Hell, all it takes me now is a picture of Danica McKellar, my Wonder Years crush, to feel time just flying by. And yet for many, the feeling is fleeting, and we quickly try to move on with our day. But what I try to let that feeling remind me of is the small changes I made 5, 10, or 15 years ago that are still having an impact on my life today. And from there, what small changes can I make today, so that when I have this same feeling in another 15 years, I can reminisce with a smile.
What changes are you proud you made 10 years ago that put you on the path you are on today? And where can you be in another 10 years if you just start being a little bit different today?