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May 2010

riot cops

There is a quote, much celebrated by activists, cynics, and political science students the world over, that I think could use a second look:

“It is no measure of good health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti

I like Krishnamurti, and I think he’s being misunderstood here, but I’ll get to that. Taken at face value, I disagree.

Activists, particularly those who nurture a general dislike for humankind at large, prize this snarky quote because it seems to validate the notion that only others need to change.

If our society is profoundly sick and we should refuse to adapt to it, then what is it that we’re supposed to adapt to? Or perhaps the sneaky insinuation is that some of us are already perfect, and no adjustments are necessary. Indeed, the implication of activism seems to be that it is others who need to correct their course — CEOs of petroleum companies, mindless consumers, fans of Glenn Beck, people who talk during movies or don’t use their turn signals — they are society’s sickness, and if they can be made to shape up, we’ll finally be sitting pretty.

Society does have its problems: crime, poverty, war, pollution, overpopulation and political corruption. It’s no utopia, clearly, but what is the best way to approach these problems?

Misanthropes and other “the-world-has-gone-to-shit” types would have you believe the solution is to identify the groups and individuals responsible for the “sickness” of society, and find a way to disempower them, expose them, or destroy them. With some grassroots support and some elbow grease they can get some new policies in place, install a new breed of political leaders, and usher into fashion a more progressive philosophy about how to govern, do business, and treat your fellow man… and in the mean time, sourly refuse to adapt to the human world as it is now, because that would only encourage the evil corporations and lying politicians who make it so troublesome.

But that won’t work. The “sickness” is not that some nasty people have come into power, but that human beings across the board are still working primarily from their stone-age instincts. The detractors of The Establishment are just as consumed by their own needs for personal power, righteousness, security and social dominance as the people they so proudly hate.

We are so newly removed from our original stomping ground that we are almost completely inexperienced with running civilizations smoothly. We’re much more efficiently wired to orchestrate a successful mammoth hunt than govern a nation intelligently. Civilization is barely out of the package. Read More

pearl in shell

Guest posts are rare on Raptitude, but today my friend and fellow writer Lisis Blackston has come out of retirement to share some of her wisdom with us. Enjoy.

Sometimes it seems like everything we say on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or even in conversations is either “preaching to the choir,” or “falling on deaf ears.” Readers and listeners have already decided what they choose to believe, and they pay attention only to whatever validates their predetermined opinions. They seek confirmation, rather than education or enlightenment.

No matter what they believe, they will always find that confirmation, because an argument can be made for just about anything. For instance, some “truths” are complete opposites:

“He who hesitates is lost” and “Everything comes to he who waits.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind.”

“Birds of a feather flock together” and “Opposites attract.”

So, why bother sharing our thoughts and opinions at all? Isn’t it a complete waste of time?

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. Tossing around ideas is a necessary part of our self-discovery process. Read More


You have the right to remain silent.

You may give up that right, and anything you say can be used against you.

If you choose to waive your right to remain silent, you are solely responsible for the consequences, be they burdens or benefits.

The right to remain silent is also the right to not remain silent.

Silence has consequences too, and they are easier to predict.

By remaining silent, you cannot make your identity known to others, you cannot connect with others, and you cannot impress upon the world your own unique thoughts and values.

But it is still your right.

You have the right to a purpose. If you do not have a purpose, one will be appointed for you.

Nobody lives without a purpose for long.

The institutions of work, society, and commerce will readily provide a purpose, in their own interests, to all those who have not identified purposes of their own.

Your purpose is the collection of values for which your life will be lived. They may or may not be your own values.

If you have not consciously identified your purpose, be assured that you have been serving somebody else’s purpose. Read More

Ever since I declared my Big Goal — complete self-employment by my 31st birthday — I’ve been flip-flopping about where specifically to start. Because I’m working with such a long timeline, it doesn’t make sense to chart out every action along the way, because I just don’t know how it’s all going to play out. It’s almost all new territory for me so I’ll need to be making constant adjustments the whole way.

So the “middle game” and “end game” of this goal are going to stay undefined until I get closer to them, but the opening sequence is to be decided now.

I am still abroad at the moment, so my workspace is constantly changing and never predictable. I have no desk and no filing cabinet, not much privacy, and often internet access is expensive or unavailable. There is also an uncomfortable internal conflict between my desire to make the most of my time abroad by sightseeing and socializing, and my desire to get this project underway.

Most of the sub-projects involved in my goal will have to wait until I return home, where I’ll have the stability and privacy to work, with fewer distractions. But I can still make one or two big strides between now and then.

I’ll be living out of my backpack for another six weeks yet. I’ve left New Zealand to explore Australia until I go home. Not that six weeks is a long time — I can’t believe I’m so close to the end of my trip — but I do want to get closer to my goal during this time, rather than defer it all until I get home. Enjoying my trip is the number one priority, but I don’t need sixteen waking hours a day to enjoy myself.

My goal’s general plan is clear to me, and I know that the first stage is going to surround establishing certain fundamental habits: writing habits, workflow habits, networking habits, and blog marketing habits. These habits will put me in a better position to complete everything between now and D-Day (October 8, 2011.) Any good habit established now will pay great dividends over the next eighteen months, and will facilitate the development of other habits.

In my research on habit change, one point keeps coming up again and again: the likelihood of your habit sticking decreases dramatically for every additional habit you’re attempting to change at the same time. If you only focus on one habit, a successful take is almost guaranteed, but trying to change five habits concurrently almost guarantees failure for all of them. Read More

Aw, I miss it already. I’ve spent the last half-year in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I’ve got thousands of photos to show for it. A few days ago I moved along to Australia, but New Zealand is still very much on my mind. I visited dozens of gorgeous and unique places there, but here are my ten favorites:

10. Napier

The first and only city on my list, Napier stands out among New Zealand communities. Much of its distinctive character came after a 1931 earthquake leveled the city. The rebuilding effort spurred the local economy out of its depression, and the facades were styled in progress-oriented Art Deco. It’s a city that values form and aesthetics, both natural and man-made. Exceptional weather doesn’t hurt either.

Beachfront greenspace Clean lines are everywhere in Napier Both evenings I spent there ended with a world-class sunset

More Napier pictures can be found here.

9. Punakaiki coast

South Island’s west coast feels a lot like the edge of the world. The beaches are violent and rocky, and the lush vegetation gives it a primal, wild sort of atmosphere. Punakaiki is a tiny settlement that exists for no purpose other than to service the hordes that come to see the area’s most striking feature: a unique coastal rock formation called Pancake rocks.

Beach walkway behind my accommodation “The Pot” — a tumultuous, football-field-sized basin in the Pancake Rocks The beach behind Te Nikau, where I stayed

Read More

Thought I should check in since I didn’t post my usual Thursday post.

I’m in the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, enjoying my last few days in New Zealand. I will be flying to Australia Wednesday, and will spend the last seven or eight weeks of my overseas trip there. Then it’s back home for the start of July.

I’ve been so excited about Australia that I almost overlooked the fact that my New Zealand experience is almost over. I’ve been here almost six months, and now I have to say goodbye.

My last hurrah is a solo road trip around the Coromandel. I just returned from the most beautiful drive of my life, up the rugged edge of the peninsula and back.

There doesn’t seem to be an internet Café anywhere in these parts, so I can’t upload today’s article without driving to Thames. I considered spending most of today doing just that, because I don’t like missing scheduled posting days.

But I chose to spend the day soaking up a bit more of New Zealand, and it was absolutely the right decision.

I’m writing this from the computer at the Visitor’s Centre. It’s a dollar for ten minutes and it doesn’t even have a USB port. I wish I could show you the pictures I took today. I will soon, both here and on David Goes Kiwi.

Anyway, I’m down to my last 48 hours in New Zealand, so I’ve got to go enjoy it. See you soon.

clock on a red wall

Two weeks ago David decided to log every single thing he spent time on, from sleeping to waking up, in an effort to identify unproductive, time-wasting habits. The experiment lasted one week, and this is what he discovered.

Well it’s over, and I have been properly schooled. I’ll never look at my time the same way again.

The logs themselves are not that interesting or surprising. I didn’t uncover any insidious habits that have been stealing hours from me every day (though email-checking is definitely taking more than its fair share.)

What I did with my time didn’t really shock me, but I gained some sobering insight into why I do the things I do, and how to make much better use of time. These experiments never deliver exactly what I’m expecting, but that’s good — I get lessons I didn’t even know I needed.

So where does the time go?

Recording everything you do has an interesting effect on the psyche. You realize that by merely doing things with your day, you are spending your life. So it stands to reason that you’d become more concerned with what you’re getting in exchange.

Some interesting discoveries:

It doesn’t really take a long time to make a decision, unless you are avoiding it. Time logging spurs prompt decision-making, because each time you stop doing something you have to decide what to do next. I quickly realized that normally I gravitate towards some gratifying or distracting activity like reading a magazine or checking email rather than just make a decision about what to do. There were a few entries where I spent 8 or 9 minutes “Sitting on bed, thinking about what to do” but for the most part I was able to decide how to spend my time within one minute.

This was a major revelation. I have avoided decisions in the past because I don’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of that decision. Of course, to avoid a making a decision is a decision too, but it isn’t necessarily a conscious one — it’s an unconscious habit.

I didn’t realize I had this habit. From the first day of my experiment log:

I’m already getting an idea of how this going to be. The first thing I notice is that I have to stop to think all the time. Each time I finish doing something, I have to stop and actually decide what to do! I didn’t realize that this is not the normal way I function.

I suspect this is somewhat normal. Does everything you do start with a conscious decision?

I had some completely incorrect conceptions about how much time some things take, and you might too. For example, doing laundry always felt like something that took a good hour and a half: 10 minutes gathering the laundry, 30 minutes in the washer, 40 minutes in the dryer, and 15 minutes folding. In reality, laundry only took 12 minutes: 4 to gather the clothes, take them downstairs, and put them in the washer; 2 minutes to go downstairs and move them over to the dryer; 6 minutes to go get the clothes, fold them and put them away. The rest of it is completely free time. That’s just a simple psychological misperception, but it has a big effect on whether I decide to tackle a certain task on a certain day. Suddenly laundry is a cinch. Read More

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