The Balance between Business and Braininess

I have two main passions in life, which I am pursuing seriously and not just as hobbies: business and academics. I am also quite interested in bettering my artistic skills. I am passionate about ballet, painting, and writing. I am not very ambitious though with art; it’s a private, personal journey. Perhaps one day I’ll pursue them more seriously, but right now I don’t have the time. As for business and academics, the two are very, very different activities. Business is real world, practical, and all about action. Academics is in the clouds, impractical, and all about contemplation. They occupy very different mental spaces, and the more I do each, the stronger my desire for the other becomes.

Business makes me feel strong, capable, and powerful. It makes me feel in control of my life and like I can at once create useful value in the world and freedom for myself. It’s fun, like a game. The object is to steadily increase cashflow andmath-manipulatives maintain the organization of the operation and the happiness of everyone involved. When I go to a new place now, I think about its potential, its economic activity, and the constraints on its improvement. I want to realize my own potential. I want to build an empire. There’s something about building something from scratch that brings me a very deep satisfaction.

 

Academics, on the other hand, makes me feel intrigued, genuine, and existentially fulfilled. The pursuit of intellectual clarity speaks more to my soul; it represents a more fundamental part of myself. Perhaps a better word than academics is intellectualism, because academics implies the involvement in an institution devoted to intellectualism, but an institution is unnecessary for the pursuit of knowledge, and in fact, in many ways, institutions are increasingly stifling for continued intellectual development for more reasons than one. But that is another article.

Without intellectualism, my devotion to business would leave me feeling empty. Without business, a full commitment to intellectualism would leave me feeling cut off from the world, indulging in a kind of narcissism, and would otherwise leave another part of my character unexpressed. And so I am left to attempt to balance the two, which as I said occupy very different states of mind. It is difficult to switch them on and off. If I indulge in my obsession over business, I will spend every moment counting numbers, planning aggressive tactics, and doing everything in my power to make shit happen. I forget about the truth in the world. The world that is sitting there indifferent to my blind participation in society. And when I obsess over ideas, I grow uninterested in petty real world details and I forget about what needs to get done.

Both engagements at once increase and decrease my incentives in the other. They increase it because they are like yin and yang; one makes up for what the other lacks. They decrease it because they are each mentally addicting in the sense that I forget the other state of mind exists when I am preoccupied with the one of them.

This is a conundrum. I fantasize about being in an office full of books and paint and chalkboard scribbles while somehow being available to oversee my businesses. I still don’t know how much this fantasy is actually possible. But for now I see no other possibility for myself other than to try to realize it.

It is fascinating in itself just how different these two careers are and how it could be possible to do both. There are no rules for our paths in life, only judgments, fears, and perceived limitations. It is my personal philosophy, perhaps naive, that if you desperately want two different things, if they are not morally conflicting, then you should find a way to have both. If in them there lies a contradiction, then you should ask yourself if there is a real contradiction there and not just an imagined one, because we only have one life to live and the fact that we can choose exactly how to live it is a beautiful thing. Our path in life should be a creative one, not one fashioned for us by society.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Poor, Poor Rich

I have started to notice something while reading public discussions, Facebook comments, and other expressed sentiments, and that is that normal people tend to have a great deal of disdain for rich people. This is probably obvious to most. It’s common to hear people talk about ‘the rich stealing from the poor’, ‘exploitation’, and of course the catch-all Wall Street.

Business, perhaps surprisingly, is often times very fair. Every participant in a business relationship is accepting of their role. Unfairness does make its appearances, but very often it is the case that people take mutually beneficial actions. Profits are to be maximized, and so under that operating premise, labor, for example, tends to get displaced overseas where it is cheaper. Many say that these workers who make very little each day are being exploited, and yet they don’t know much about the conditions these workers live in and what they would otherwise be doing with their time. It is often the case that this new labor is a big step up for them, and the addition of jobs en masse provides a significant boost to their local economies.

Overseas workers are jumping at the opportunity to work for U.S. companies. Perhaps you should ask them whether they feel exploited. Personally, if I had the option of working as a farmer and working at a call center or factory for a U.S. company for relatively more money, it would be very obvious to me what the better option would be, and I would think it rather strange for you to call me exploited because of it.

What is it with this idea that the middle class has about the upper class, that they are mostly over-privileged, greedy, an unworthy of compassion if they are to ever suffer? This attitude speaks little of them and volumes to the person who is clearly resentful.

When Humans of New York posted a series on attendees of the Met Galla, there were popular “woe is me” comments disparaging the personal experiences of the rich, as if they have it made so well that they are unworthy of any further attention. Of course there was a backlash, “it’s Humans of New York, not Poor Humans of New York,” but none the less, the fact that this conversation arose at all was telling.

I always try to keep a distance from the conversations to understand the different perspectives, because I find it interesting that these perspectives exist at all, and I’m curious why they do.

The way that I see it is it’s ridiculous to consider rich people as being all of one type, sharing any qualities at all, other than happening to have much more money than they need to live on alone. They got this money for all different reasons. Some inherited it (within this camp there are plenty of assholes). Many earned it through deliberate and sustained hard work. Some choose to live simple lives despite their wealth, and some loose their minds and buy as much as they possibly can. They are all individuals, and everyone is different; everyone has a different story and a different character.

Somehow, when wealth is achieved, there is a piece of humanity that is lost in the wealthy individual through the eyes of the public. This lost piece of humanity seems to have been driven out of perspectives via nothing other than envy. It’s really rather sad.

Of course there is reason to resent those that flaunt their money and cry over losing a $60k diamond earring while wading in the water on the shore of a south Pacific island (of course I’m talking about Kim Kardashian). That is indeed absurd. But everyone suffers. Humanity isn’t lost to the wealthy internally, and humans are highly adaptable. Problems are always relative to ones own experiences.

Allowing oneself to respect the grievances and complaints of the wealthy, barring ridiculous reality TV fiascos, perhaps requires that one come to terms with the fact that you don’t have as much money as they do.

The thing is, the way to get rich if you aren’t already in this world, if we are to do so in a self-made and dignified manner (i.e. not marrying someone for their wealth or inheriting wealth), is to create value. If you aren’t making as much as your boss, it’s because your work isn’t as valuable to the company as his. Another way to think about it is successful entrepreneurs who turn billionaires tend to solve major problems, with solutions that are so big they continuously effect the lives of millions for generations. Steve Jobs solved the problem of the absence of personal-sized, straightforward to use computers, and because of that he changed the way we interact with the world. His solution was so fundamental that it led him to achieve a net worth of 19 billion.

Famous actors have one of the highest paid jobs in the country. They create a lot of value–people eat up everything they create, say, and endorse. They are famous for a reason. We make them famous, because we watch them, read about them, and talk about them. They affect our thoughts and our lives, and they are duly compensated. They also tend to work 15 hour days shooting films, flying all over the country doing interviews, and whatever else, barely any time at all for a social life. They live large but they pay the price, and part of that price is losing their anonymity, the sincerity of the people they attract, and the compassion of the many that envy their success.

Instead of complaining about the dastardly rich exploiting the poor, maybe look inside yourself, and see that you are free to create your own success, to create value, to solve problems, all the while retaining your right to the entirety of the human experience.

 

 

 

Is Human Behavior Unchangeably Hardwired?

Instincts are so powerful that we lose ourselves in them–they compel us, control us, and drive our desires without the requirement for any modicum of conscious awareness. They make us feel most alive, most “right”; in many ways, they make up the foundations upon which our identities are built, the center to which our personalities are relative.

Instincts are coded in our genes; they originate from past behaviors that guaranteed the preservation of those genes by driving us to survive and procreate.

Behavior in practice has changed over time, insofar as genes have continued to evolve due to sexual selective pressures as well as the effects of changes in our cultures. Cultural evolution is very similar to genetic evolution, with its analogous ‘meme’ behavior, a term coined by Richard Dawkins, representing cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

Research in the fields of genetics, neuropsychology, and paleobiology yields evidence that, despite drastic changes in our environments, cultures, technology, knowledge, and general realities, our deepest, instinctual genes have remained largely unchanged from the emergence of homo sapiens 200,000 years ago. People today still behave in ways that aided our survival during the Stone Age.

You can take the person out of the Stone Age, evolutionary psychologists contend, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the person.[1]

Sexual selection is the only genetic selection left in the modern world, as selective pressures for survival are no longer relevant in our society. Intelligence, physical attractiveness, and economic advantage still effect our sexual choices, although in the first world it is a growing trend that the more educated people are having fewer children and the least educated are having more, but that is beside the point.

What culture and social conditioning tend to do is not change instincts and emotions, but redirect, suppress, channel, and otherwise control the expression of them.

A good example of this is found in human sexuality. Sex is one of the most deeply ingrained instincts we have, short of our basic instinct to stay alive. But the impact that culture and individual psychology have on sexuality is quite extensive. I am not speaking of sexual orientation, but the ways in which sexuality gets channeled, directed, and expressed.

One theory for sexual ‘deviancy’, or abnormal sexual preferences and fantasies is that instincts, as strong and powerful as they are, must be channeled and compartmentalized to preserve the integrity of one’s social conditioning as well as one’s own ego and personal identity. A team of researchers in Canada recently found that, interestingly, nearly half of people surveyed were found to have at least one type of sexual perversion. [2] Perversion may just be a way instincts get channeled and expressed in a way that can be compartmentalized as a ‘game’, where behavior is reserved for certain roles that are kept at a distance from the participants’ primary identities.

In short, it seems instincts, at the core, are impossible to change.

To continue on the example of sexuality, in the Victorian era, there was widespread sexual repression, which is what likely caused the boom in the “hysteria” diagnosis, which doctors treated with handjobs, leading them to invent the first vibrators to save their hands from fatigue. [3] 

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[Cadence Theatre Company]

 

Japan is seeing an unprecedented decline in sexual activity, coined the “celibacy syndrome”. [4] It is an open question whether sexuality is getting channeled and expressed in other ways, in a Freudian sense within Japanese careers or online in Japan’s ever-growing online and virtual reality communities. And if it is not found elsewhere, it could manifest in the negative sense: as loneliness, despair, and feelings of alienation. However, if that is not the case, it is also possible that, after Japan’s economic and natural disaster history and its increasing urban development and cultural futurism, Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

Japanese people could be seeing a decline in the sexual instinct itself.

 

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Tokyo

 

What is interesting to note is that we have already seen a drastic change in human behavior. It happened during the development of the first cities. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans engaged in incessant tribal warfare until the development of the first cities, which was necessary for the development of civilizations. Cities allowed for more specialized activities to develop, but they required strangers to get along. People had to learn to extend courtesy and empathy to people that weren’t a part of their inner circle; they had to project their group mentality onto a much larger circle, which required humans to suppress their hostile natures.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Artist’s impression of two tribes at war

 

It seems that humans can change their instincts. It takes a very, very long time, and it requires significant social and circumstantial pressures–significant enough to override the very behaviors that allowed us to stay alive until this point.

This is good news, because human nature is horrible in many ways. We still exhibit tribal mentalities to the extent that war and racism are still very much alive. It is the hope of many of us that future generations will live in a world one day without destructive hatred, inspired by instincts no longer appropriate to the world we live in.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://hbr.org/1998/07/how-hardwired-is-human-behavior

[2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3484266/Are-pervert-Study-suggests-half-deviant-sexual-acts.html

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/20/young-people-japan-stopped-having-sex