Creating Your Own Counter-Argument

I loved this thread on Reddit asking readers to create a compelling counter-argument to one of their deeply held beliefs.

The best response was probably this one on marijuana use because it is so well researched:

I think smoking weed should be legal, but…

  • More teens will smoke. Teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are over 60 percent less likely to complete high school than those who never use. They’re also 60 percent less likely to graduate college and seven times more likely to attempt suicide. Source. Another source - Marijuana May Hurt The Developing Teen Brain

  • "Regular cannabis use during the teenage and young adult years is associated with poorer cognitive function (verbal memory, processing speed, cognitive inhibition, sustained attention)," Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Source

  • Heavy marijuana use causes poor memory and abnormal brain structure. Source

  • Marijuana use is associated with impaired sleep quality. Source

  • Cannabis during pregnancy endangers fetal brain development: Study shows that consumption of cannabis during pregnancy can derail how nerve cells form connections, potentially limiting the amount of information the affected brain can process, and with long-lasting effects after birth. Source

  • Smoking cannabis can shrink the size and shape of sperm. Source

  • The largest study of the effects of the main ingredient of cannabis has shown definitively that it can cause short-term paranoia. The Oxford-led research also, for the first time, identifies psychological factors that can lead to feelings of paranoia in people who take cannabis. Source

  • Marijuana has some addictive qualities. Study finds that 40 percent of those in an outpatient treatment program for pot use exhibited withdrawal symptoms — a hallmark of drug dependence.” Source

  • Smoking cannabis doesn’t make you more creative: Cannabis with a high concentration of THC does not improve creativity. Smokers who ingested a low dose of THC, or none at all (they were given a placebo), performed best in the thinking tasks that the test candidates had to carry out. Source

This sort of thinking is a great way to test your own beliefs and try to understand the beliefs of others.

Constantly reading / talking with people who agree with you will make you feel smarter, but understanding people who disagree with you will actually make you smarter.

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

Bill Cosby

Neighbors and the Age of Loneliness

The End of Neighbors:

It’s a new day in the neighbourhood all across the Western world. More than 30 per cent of Canadians now say they feel disconnected from their neighbours, while half of Americans admit they don’t know the names of theirs. An Australian sociologist investigating community responses in the wake of the 2011 floods in Queensland found relations in “a precarious balance”; neighbours were hesitant to intrude even in emergencies—leading the scholar to conclude that “we are less likely than ever to know” our neighbours. Quite right, too: A recent poll of 2,000 Britons found a third declaring they couldn’t pick their near neighbours out of a police lineup.

Loneliness is Killing Us:

Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults. Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50, and is rising with astonishing speed.

Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity. Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut. We cannot cope alone.

Close relationships with others are worth their weight in gold.

Outpace your worry with action.

Samuel Hulick

A Better Way to Network

Research has found that people who engage in “instrumental networking,” where the goal is career advancement, made people actually feel physically dirty. So dirty, in fact, that they thought about showering and brushing their teeth! 

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, suggests ditching traditional networking altogether:

Those who are best at it don’t network – they make friends.

Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people…When you help someone through a health issue, positively impact someone’s personal wealth, or take a sincere interest in their children, you engender life-bonding loyalty.

Connect with interesting people because they are interesting, not to get something out of them.

Re-Experiencing Media

Interesting comment on Reddit:

I rewatch anime (sometimes as recently as six months to a year) because I love discovering new experiences both within the show and within myself as I’m reacting to it. How do I feel this time around? Which characters am I drawn to and why? The show itself doesn’t change, but my experiences, my interpretations, and my emotions do. And I find that fascinating…

That said, rewatching isn’t for everyone. Nostalgia, “shock value,” plot twists, and initial reactions all start to lose their appeal the more you engage with a story. Certain things don’t hold up with time, but I find that if you let your relationship with a story evolve with you, then it becomes so much more interesting and enjoyable than what the story initially provided.

The author was obviously referencing anime, but folks like Seneca (in Letters from a Stoic) have argued that spending more time with a good book can be like spending more time with a good friend — there’s new things to experience each time around, even if it’s the same “source.”

Another great point made:

…someone told me that they thought it was silly that so many people chose to define themselves by the media they consume. I politely disagree.

Some stories stay with us. Some stories grow with us. And some stories come to define us - not entirely, true, but some meaningful part of us.

To me, paints a picture that it is very much worth re-visiting media that’s had a meaningful impact on your perspective.

Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.

Steven Kotler

I have to chuckle whenever I read yet another description of American frontier log cabins as having been well crafted or sturdily or beautifully built. The much more likely truth is that 99% of frontier log cabins were horribly built — it’s just that all of those fell down. The few that have survived intact were the ones that were well made. That doesn’t mean all of them were.

Mike Johnston

Interesting Take on the 7 Deadly Sins

When asked on Reddit, “What do you think the eighth deadly sin should be?” many comments seemingly missed the point that the “sins” are in fact forms of temptation that cause one to sin:

The 7 deadly sins are all motivators to sin. They are weaknesses of character that tempt us to commit actual sins. For example, wrath may lead to murder. Greed may lead to theft. Lust may lead to adultery.

So the name is misleading. The “7 deadly sins” aren’t sins at all. They’re part of the human condition. The person that gives into them, let’s those dark urges dictate their actions, will commit an actual sin.

The most upvoted “8th deadly sins” aren’t motivators at all. Deception is not a motivator, it is a sin. Willful ignorance is a symptom of pride, already mentioned by the 7. You’re asking for an aspect of human nature that could lead to a violation of the 10 commandments.

It’s hard to think of a motivator that would lead to sin. But I think I have one. Reddit may not like it, but it is a symptom of the human condition that if succumbed to, can lead directly to sin: Desire to be loved/accepted.

If you succumb to this urge, it can lead to all sorts of violations of the 10 commandments. Taking the Lord’s name in vain, not keeping holy the sabbath, and denying God’s existence.

tl,dr — 7 deadly sins aren’t sins. They’re human characteristics that lead to sins. For lack of a better term “desire to fit in” accomplishes this. That is, if you believe in the 10 commandments and all that jive anyway.

I found this perspective interesting even as someone who isn’t religious / doesn’t practice Christianity.

I disagree with the author, however. He seems to be describing a mix of vanity (pride) and lust for emotional affection.

My personal take on the 8th deadly sin? Fear.

The temptation to succumb to fear is strong and can cause us to make selfish or even malicious decisions — and it’s a temptation I don’t think is adequately captured in the original seven (which is surprising, because it’s hard to list a sinful deed that doesn’t stem from them).

Of course, fear is also apart of the human condition and is necessary to feel, like the other so called “sins.”

Preparing Your Kids for Financial Success

I love this answer from Quora; I don’t love how the question was about “being a billionaire,” but the advice in this response is gold.

I once had a venture capitalist (VC) tell me that I had come up with more legitimate billion-dollar concepts than anyone he’d ever known. I have friends who went from zero to billionaire status. So, I feel qualified to give you a straight answer. My answer will assume you want them to have the know-how, creativity and value systems to pull it off on their own. Plus, I raised my three sons this way.

Make them aware of the full range of life options. I told my sons of a remote beach in NW Australia where the climate is magnificent and you can pull lobsters out of the surf two at a time. Build a grass shack. Find a good woman. You’re set. At the other end, how did that guy build his love of crafting musical instruments into a $100M business? Take the mystery out of the steps it takes. The world abounds with opportunity to lead whatever life you want, but you have to demystify, demystify, demystify for them to be able to see what makes go businesses go.

Do NOT send them to public school NOR to the prep schools that are just our public schools on steroids. If you want conventional minds, get them a conventional education. Our oldest started working professionally at age 12. He skipped high school to work. He worked at a corporate branding company in SF Media Gulch. He did at least one project a year with an itinerant filmmaker. He traveled the Maya for several months assisting a woman writing a book, lived with Maya families and interviewed children in Spanish on their beliefs about different plants and animals and the Quiche (or Yucatec or Mam) name for them. He spent two winters in Luzern captaining a dive boat mapping wrecks in the lake. He shot a documentary film in Cuba. (This was not a rich dad buying opportunities for his sons—it was opportunities they earned.)

Teach a love of work. After you get rich you can coast some. Getting rich takes work. They will need to excel at physical work and have stamina. They will especially need to excel at mental work and be both flexible and tough.

Teach a love of people. The only way you get rich is by serving the real needs of others. You must have an affinity for others. My household was famous for all the people who came trooping through. People I met stranded at the airport. Japanese Homestay girls. Aux pairs. Local homeless guys dropping by for a shower and a meal. Chinese physicists and Eritrean guerillas had meals with us. Our sons’ friends were welcome at any time without prior arrangement. Make sure they understand that they are not above or below anyone else.

Teach generosity. Those who would receive much must be able to give much. My middle son (11 or so at the time) and I walked across Embarcadero from my office to look at SF Bay. There was one sole figure there, a man in his late 40s with one entire seam of his jeans ripped open. He was playing the spoons and playing them well. We got to chatting. He’d just been let out of San Quentin Prison that morning. I told him time to celebrate. We took him up to my office for a shower, out to buy some clothes and to dinner and gave him money for a room for the night. On the way home, I pointed out to my son that the money I gave the guy was nothing compared with the time we gave him. The only real wealth is the time you have, and whenever you have a chance to use your time well for others, do it and do it fully. Giving money without time can be a way of creating distance.

Teach the mental nexus. Here falls the shadow. Rational people do not become entrepreneurs. Like combat officers, one is constantly making critical decisions on partial information. One has to take steps without being able to see if there is support there. One must taste failure time and again and be inspired by it. One must be armed with a variety of rationalizations for continuing on despite doubt, buffeting, adverse opinion. Every successful new business gores someone’s ox, and those people react in nasty ways. The faces you see each day are now depending on you to make payroll. Pediatric oncologists must be mentally tough to deal with the suffering of others; entrepreneurs must be superhuman to deal with the tragedies they themselves can be the authors of. Trick is, you can’t teach that mental nexus if you have not lived it yourself. If you haven’t, then apprentice them to someone who has.

Lie, cheat and steal. I was shocked at my mother’s funeral when a brother flatly stated that he’d had a difficult time in life because he’d just assumed everyone was as wonderful as she was. The world is full of assholes and swindlers and your kids will need a radar for it, and they need to suffer the consequences so that they develop an arsenal of techniques for dealing with it. They need to be superb judges of character. You can’t teach good behavior by isolating them from bad behavior. There’s no satisfactory example here; let’s just say that April Fools was big in our house, and not just once a year.

Make them teen outcasts. Correlating highly with successful entrepreneurs is unfulfilled teen years. Basically, those who are dialed in by 18 stay comfortably dialed in. This is another reason to keep them out of high school. Another high correlation is Fs. Entrepreneurs are highly results-oriented and have little patience with those as process-oriented as teachers. I’ve talked with VCs who confessed to being a little disappointed if they don’t see an F or two on a possible CEO’s college transcript. I know I had ‘em.

Teach numeracy. Anyone who can’t do math in his head on the fly is going to have a difficult time being an entrepreneur and putting deals together. Schools don’t teach this; it’s a special, long-term effort.

No allowances. No “Joe” jobs. Nobody ever got rich working for a living. Trading your time for money is a loser’s game. An allowance just teaches a kid to lack resourcefulness—same for teen jobs. My wife and I played VC to our kids. They could ask for any amount of money they wanted but what’s the plan? what’s your purpose? what are alternatives? etc. etc. They learned to recognize opportunities and pitch them. [Add: If you are going to help them get job jobs, make it in sales—they won’t get far without the power to persuade, and it’s another thing they won’t learn in school.]

Get a grubstake. Fortunately, my kids went to school with the children of an immigrant couple who left the kids with relatives two straight summers while they went to live in a tent in Alaska and can salmon. They each cleared a wad of cash each summer, and after two years they had a grubstake with which to get into the start-up world. They found some scientists with a bright idea (one that everyone reading this is impacted by many times daily), started the company, got backing and they are billionaires. No grubstake. No billionaires. You can’t be a capitalist without capital and the willingness to put it all at risk. 

Worthy. Finally, the most important thing is they must be worthy. No backing comes to those who lack abundant evident character. I have found the best way to fine-tune morality is to put it entirely on them. Each time a moral decision is called for, it’s “Search your heart, son. You have to build your life around what is important to you. The only way I can help you is to tell you how I screwed up sometimes. But the sooner you learn to get in touch with your own feelings of what is right and what is wrong, the better.” (But be sure to model right over wrong like crazy to them.)

There is only one path to getting wealthy: exploit opportunity. The whole purpose of what I’ve stated above is to equip your children with the tools to spot and build on an opportunity to add value to the world. 

How will you know you’re on the right track? The vast majority of people you meet are inert. One in ten or twelve has scalar energy—they liven up the event. One in a thousand or so has vector energy—the ability to channel effort to a purpose and pull others in their wake. The only way a human being begins to become a vector force is to Find and Embrace His or Her Passion, and that can be a bit quirky. For example, our youngest has long been the butt of family jokes for his inability to tell a story. What did his passion turn out to be? Turns out his head was too crammed full of details for each story. Once he learned to animate, his stories were incredible!

You should be getting glimpses of that talent to pursue purpose with passion all along, but it doesn’t mature until adult years. It is such a rare thing that schools are not at all equipped to teach it. Even the best MBA programs teach you how to go to work for that guy rather than be that guy. So, if you can pull it off, you will not only have enriched your children, you will have enriched the world.

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