On The Road Again

It’s hot in Arizona. It’s too hot to ride. It’s time to get out of the heat.

It’s also time for a change. Much as I like the cycling around here, it gets boring to keep repeating the same few rides.

It’s a sad fact about human experience that we adapt to things that once gave us great pleasure.

Hedonic adaptation: The new job that once excited us becomes boring and we want another job. The new car we drooled over becomes just another car and we are excited about the next, better, car. The woman we enjoyed so much becomes less exciting and we want to experience the thrill of pursuit again – whoops, strike that.

Hedonic adaptation is evolution’s way of keeping us striving, keeping us alive and competing for the best genes to mate with. But it’s not so good for our state of mind.

Tanya and I could have done the Buddhist thing and learned how to let go of craving but that’s tough. Easier is to just leave town, get on the road, seek out new towns and new bike rides, cycle the less traveled (by us) roads.

The stumbling block, the one that caused us to previously cancel all our summer plans, was that my shins still hurt. But I felt hope when I heard the words of my physical therapist. He told me that he thinks my shins are no longer injured, but are in a highly reactive state called Central Sensitization – “a persistent, or regulated, state of reactivity subsequently comes to maintain pain even after the initial injury might have healed.”

I decided to believe him since that I like the possibilities his answer gives. I started riding again after 5 months of no cycling or hiking. I rode the flats for about 3 weeks, then rode 7 miles up Mt Lemmon. My shins still hurt, but no differently than they did a few months ago.

So we decided to go on the road again. Not only will it be stimulating to be in different places, see old friends, do bike rides we’ve never done before, but the anticipation is fun and the preparation absorbs us. Hedonic adaptation be damned.

Life is good.

Links and Other Clicks

Over time I will be updating a page about our cycling travels.

An explanation of Central Sensitization.

Here’s a wonderful, witty talk about pain by Lorimer Moseley.


Posted in Cycling, Engagement, Time Management, Travel, Vacations | Tagged | 2 Comments

American Exceptionalism – How We File Our Taxes

American politicians love to throw about the words “American Exceptionalism” and to use them as a weapon against other politicians who dare to claim that perhaps America can learn from other countries.

Which is sad.

It’s always sad to see the government of the people, by the people, for the people (1) refusing to do things that benefit the people. I’m referring to something that I’ve wondered about every tax season.

It’s always struck me as strange that for most people, the government already has all the information we need to fill in our tax returns. Most working American’s get a W2 at the end of the year and they copy data from the W2 onto their tax return. About half of Americans have a single bank account, and they copy data from that 1099 onto their tax return.

In other words they copy information that has already been filed with the government onto another form that they will file with the government. How crazy is that?

Let’s complicate things a bit. If people have multiple bank accounts they will get multiple 1099s. If they have a normal house mortgage, then will copy the interest from a 1098 form onto their tax form.

For many varieties of investment account they will get a 1099-INT or 1099-DIV, which have already been filed with the government. This just gives them more information to copy from one form to another and then file with the government.

For a least 50% of Americans there is no need to file a tax return. The government already has all the information it needs for those people. It could simply send a tax bill if we have underpaid, or a check if we have overpaid.

Many other countries already have a tax filing system that make life very easy for their people (2).

But we are exceptional, so we can’t copy what other countries do; we have nothing to learn from them. We have to do things in exceptional ways. Except that our way is exceptionally stupid.

As Derek Thompson says, “Letting the government do its citizens’ taxes is cheap, efficient, and accurate. Naturally, the United States won’t do it.

But we can hope. As Winston Churchill said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

Links and Other Clicks

(1) From Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But you probably already knew that 🙂

(2) Okay, now you really have to read Derek Thompson’s wonderful article that inspired this post: The 10-Second Tax Return.


Posted in Change | 1 Comment

AI and Immortality

I’m sitting around in Bali, feeling bored (1).

So it seems an appropriate time to finish writing this article, which I started a while back then put aside.

In the last few months I’ve been reading a lot about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Artificial Super-Intelligence (ASI), and robots, and how computers and robots will destroy jobs, and how we will all be able to spend our time being creative. It’s all very fascinating. And scary.

The Pessimistic Camp

The pessimistic camp worries about the future of people in a world of ASI. Some people argue that we can control AIs to care about humans, but many others are dubious. There will always be someone who wants to push the limits, bypass the safeguards, make a more competitive product, show what they can do.

As Eliezer Yudkowsky says, “As the old proverb goes, most of the damage is done by people who wish to feel themselves important. Many ambitious people find it far less scary to think about destroying the world than to think about never amounting to much of anything at all. All the people I have met who think they are going to win eternal fame through their AI projects have been like this.”

And there will always be militaries that want a more powerful and dangerous AI weapon and will do whatever they can to get it before other countries can.

I’m in the pessimistic camp.

The Optimistic Camp

One of the things optimists believe will happen when we get ASI is that the ASI’s will figure out how to make us immortal. They will figure out how to banish death.

I love to ponder this possibility, not because I believe I’ll live forever, but to think about the consequences.


So the first question is what happens to work if the machines take over and we live forever? Will people need to work in order to get money, or will society provide a Basic Income to everyone? Forever? (2)

If the past is any predictor of the future, the middle segment of society will be squeezed. Perhaps a few well-paid creative jobs will remain, and a lot of minimally-paid jobs. Perhaps this means that in an age of immortality many people will have to work forever at multiple minimum wage jobs in order to survive. What a dreadful thought.

But another possibility is that ASIs will simply eliminate all jobs. After all, a Super Intelligence will probably be able to do any intellectual job better than us, and devise ways to automate all manual jobs.

So ASI’s will probably make most, if not all, human work unnecessary. They will take over medicine, law, engineering. They will create robots which take over construction, plumbing, electrical work. And if we think that we will remain more creative than an ASI we are probably deluding ourselves.

But one of the things that keeps people sane is work. It provides meaning and purpose, even if we resent it and get bored by it.

As a student I worked on a construction site that was creating an oil pipeline on the Welsh coast. We worked 12/7 and everyone grumbled about the work but everyone showed up. Then some of the machinery broke. We still had to turn up (and get paid) because it might be fixed at any moment, but for 4 days we did nothing. This was when many people stopped showing up, even though this meant no pay. The boredom was worse than the work. By losing pay, people were paying to relieve their boredom.

So what happens if no one needs to work at all? If we are immortal? If we live forever?

Optimists say we’ll be free to create: to indulge in all those creative activities we would do if it weren’t for the fact that we exhaust ourselves working. I don’t believe a word of it. I don’t think most people are particularly creative. And even if they were I’d be scared: creative destruction seems to be a lot easier and more fun than creative construction.

So, mass boredom? Mass travel? Bingeing on new immersive realities created by ASIs? Watching mortal combat of criminals and lions in Coliseums? A drug drip? Sex robots? Being permanently hooked into an Ecstasy Machine?

But The Devil Makes Work for Idle Hands. There’s the possibility that people will simply start making trouble. They may want the adrenaline rush of danger. They may be driven by a need for status. They may be attracted to violent religions that promise meaning and an end to boredom. Whatever the particulars, there’s a good chance that the world could become a more violent place.

And how will society respond to people who threaten a life that would otherwise go on forever? What dire penalties would we impose? Would we go to war with other countries or religions that are threatening our citizens – and thus kill others who would otherwise live forever?

Knowing whatever they know about evolution, I doubt an ASI would consider us as more special than other life forms. So perhaps the ASIs would simply tire of our tiresome behavior and decide that humans are more trouble than they are worth.

There’s so much focus these days on the possible terrible consequences of Global Warming. But the possible terrible consequences of ASIs and the loss of jobs strike me as being a lot worse. Yet we pay almost no attention to them.


(1) I’m bored because I can’t exercise. I can’t exercise because I can’t seem to get my legs better. I had an MRI and a bone scan in Mumbai and both showed that my legs seem to be okay. But even the small amount of walking around town and sight-seeing seems to keep my legs in a state of pain and suffering. So the topic of what happens when AI puts us out of work is particularly interesting to me now. And I wasn’t bored while writing this blog post 🙂

(2) If machines can do everything why would one even need money? Maybe to buy status? Or to pay people who own resources (which would probably result in a feudal world where status and resources were inherited)?

Links and Other Clicks


Tim Urban’s AI article, part 1:  The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence.

Tim Urban’s AI article, part 2: The AI Revolution: Our Immortality or Extinction.

An article called: Deep Learning Is Going to Teach Us All the Lesson of Our Lives: Jobs Are for Machines.

The Wikipedia page about Basic Income.


Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom. A rigorous look at the field. Here’s a review of the book.

Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat. A book by someone who is very concerned about our future when we get ASI. Here’s a review of the book.

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford. Here’s a review of the book.


Posted in Change, Engagement, Retirement | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

You’ve Got to be Somewhere

“I can’t learn the piano. It will take 5 years before I’m any good.”  “I can’t learn French. It will take 5 years before I’ll be able to speak it well.”

Well, as they say, 5 years will pass, and at the end of it you’ll either be able to play the piano or speak French, or you won’t. But the time will pass either way. You’ve got to spend the time somehow.

Similarly, you’ve got to spend the time somewhere.

Tanya and I like to travel, but we don’t do a lot of “tourist stuff”. After a trip friends will ask if we went to Museum A, or saw the incredible Ruins of B. Or they will tell us about the 297 mosques they visited so they could see all the varieties of decorative patterns.

It’s easy to feel some guilt or shame when we admit that we didn’t go to Museum A or see the Ruins of B or look at any mosques.

So I remind myself that we are just living according to one of my philosophies of life: “You’ve Got To Be Somewhere.”

What that means is we are living ordinary life, just in different places, in different Somewheres. We are not on a 2 week vacation where we want to do or see as much as possible before heading back to work.

It’s not that we have an aversion to going to A or seeing B or looking at mosques, and if a place appeals to us we’ll go. But we don’t try to maximize our experiences(1). We are just living our ordinary lives, passing time, and choosing to do it in different Somewheres.


(1) We are generally satisficers. If we’ve gone somewhere for a specific purpose then we (or at least I) will act like a maximizer. For example when we visited St. Jean de Maurienne we went there specifically to ride all the big mountain passes made famous by the Tour de France and wanted to maximize that experience.

Links and Other Clicks

Article about Maximizers and Satisficers (possible paywall)

Article about Maximizers and Satisficers

Earl Nightingale quote about time passing.

Posted in Retirement, Travel, Vacations | 1 Comment

Those Were The Days

Ah, nostalgia. So sweet and so deadly.

Yesterday evening we went to a Dueling Pianos show and one of the songs was Those Were The Days. We, the audience, sang along to the refrain:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance, forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
Those were the days, oh yes those were the days.

Of all the songs played that evening this was the one that hit me hardest. Where Proust wrote In Search of Lost Time, I could have written In Search of Lost Youth. Thoughts ran through my head of days spent with friends on that most romantic of cliffs, Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, of weeks spent climbing perfect granite cliffs in Yosemite, of early days in Boulder, Colorado.

But youth was never as rose colored as memory has it. There was as much frustration as accomplishment, as much loneliness as friendship. Nostalgia is memories of things that happened tinged with dreams of possibilities that never happened.

Friendship was never as good as in the past, experiences never as rich, relationships never as close. Our memories of what was, are overlaid with all that might have been.

Nostalgia is a problem. In politics, when people long for the good old days and support politicians in their promises of a return to those mythical, never-were times. In our personal lives, when we let nostalgia for the past prevent us from creating a better future.

I don’t like nostalgia and I try to avoid it (1). I have a box of climbing slides from the 70s and 80s that I wanted to throw away twenty years ago but my wife wouldn’t let me. I have a box of old photos that I want to throw away, but Tanya told me not to. I don’t want to look back at these old parts of my life; both boxes are stored in the shed. (And yes, I tend to do what the women in my life tell me to do 😀)

For me, nostalgia is something to indulge in when I don’t have visions and plans for the future, when it seems that the only good days left are those in the past. I’d rather dream up and plan for a wonderful future so that I can enjoy the anticipation and then the present.

The past is good for giving us lessons that hopefully we learn, but it’s not a good place to live or even spend much time.


  1. Perhaps my only nostalgic indulgence is the scrapbook I’ve kept for the last 15 years, which I rarely look at and I keep just to remind myself of the events in my life. I’ve more than once looked through it and come across a theater ticket to a play I have no recollection whatever of seeing.

Links and Other Clicks

Posted in Change | 4 Comments

The Best Laid Plans

My friend Cat told me that she hadn’t seen me smile in a while. We were at a restaurant – and after a few drinks I was definitely smiling and laughing.

But I realized she was correct. I haven’t been smiling much. And I’ve been more irritable with Tanya than I (or she) would like.

The problem is I’m not exercising. I hurt my leg in mid-December although I’m not sure how. I researched shin splints on the Web and as a result I tried icing my leg, taping up my leg, stretching, massaging my shin, walking on my heels, using a foam roller, and riding my bicycle.

Riding was okay but the next day my leg would hurt more. Walking on my heels seemed like a good way to strength my shin muscles, but now my other leg hurts just as much. Now I have sore shins on both legs.

I had great plans for this spring and summer. Among other things I was hoping to cycle with friends in Death Valley, climb volcanoes in Bali, and walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Now I’ve canceled all these plans and our travel plans for the year are in flux. Perhaps I’ll focus on eating and drinking instead of exercise. Which unfortunately presents a problem because without exercise I need to eat less rather than more if I’m to avoid becoming round.

But perhaps I’ve been given a chance to learn what else can fill my days with joy – or at least contentment. After all, one day I won’t be able to do hard exercise, regardless of any injuries.

I’ve started doing art again. Over the winter months Tanya and I did three art classes (drawing, pastel, watercolor). What I most learned was that I don’t have the patience to develop the skills to do art that looks remotely realistic.

So I’m going back to my old style of stylized art. Hopefully art will be one way to fill my time with an activity that brings me satisfaction, if not joy.

I also started writing another novel but very quickly ran out of inspiration. No, that’s not correct. I’m a firm believer in what Chuck Close said: “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” It’s more that I fear I don’t have the skills or imagination to write the book. That what I’m writing is crap. If you’ve read Ann Patchett’s wonderful description of writing a novel, I don’t even have the dry husk and broken chipped body to start with, let alone a butterfly of indescribable beauty.

I understand that part of the problem is that I’m focusing on the result rather than the process. I need to focus on simply enjoying the act of imagination even if it goes nowhere, even if I have to backtrack, even if I end up throwing it away. This is difficult because one of the key motivators for most people (including me) is progress.

But a good life progresses in baby steps and shitty first drafts. So I’ve bought a book called 300 Writing Prompts to help me on my journey 🙂  And we’ve accepted that our travel plans will be very fluid and subject to change, even as we embark on them.

What do you do when you are unable to do the things that give you the most satisfaction in life?


The Progress Principle, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

This pattern is what we call the progress principle: of all the positive events that influence inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work; of all the negative events, the single most powerful is the opposite of progress—setbacks in the work.

Chuck Close:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to do an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction.

Ann Patchett

The book is my invisible friend, omnipresent, evolving, thrilling. During the months (or years) it takes me to put my ideas together, I don’t take notes or make outlines; I’m figuring things out, and all the while the book makes a breeze around my head like an oversized butterfly whose wings were cut from the rose window in Notre Dame. This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its colour, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see. And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page… Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing – all the colour, the light and movement – is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book.

Bird by Bird, by Annie LaMott

Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much. We do not think that she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her. (Although when I mentioned this to my priest friend Tom, he said you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.) Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow. One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do — you can either type, or kill yourself.” We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid. The right words and sentences just do not come pouring out like ticker tape most of the time. Now, Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning — sitting there, one supposes, plugged into a Dictaphone, typing away, humming. But this is a very hostile and aggressive position. One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.

Links and Other Clicks

300 Writing Prompts

The novel I did manage to write.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Travel, Vacations | 2 Comments

The Power of Gamblers

I was reading an article about the broken Pharma system – basically about how people like Martin Shkreli can jack up the prices of drugs by 5000% in order to make a fortune at the expense of the people who need the drugs. And how the government – Medicare, Medicaid – is banned from negotiating better prices with the drug companies – again making money for the drug companies at the expense of the people who need the drugs.

And it ocurred to me that in this country we give an incredible amount of power to gamblers at the expense of other people.

By this I mean that companies have many stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, the community in which they are located, and more – but give absolute priority to shareholders. The stock price of public companies is pretty much the only thing that counts. The interests of customers, employees, or the community matter only in how they affect the stock price.

In their early days, corporations were very different animals. Three examples: 1) a license to incorporate was only given if the corporation was doing something for the public good; 2) corporations were not allowed to make political or charitable contributions or spend money to influence law-making; 3) as well as sharing in the profits of the corporation, shareholders also shared in the losses.

But the people with the gold make the rules, and over time the rules about corporations all changed. Today none of those three examples is true.

Shareholders in a public company are not owners in the normal sense of ownership. They simply have a claim on aspects of the corporate assets. Shareholders are gamblers. They buy the stock in the hope that its price will go up and they can sell at a profit.

Unlike casino gambling, the winnings of share price gamblers are taxed on their winnings at a reduced tax rate (for long-term holds). Unlike casino gamblers, share price gamblers can deduct all their losses – sometimes as a carry-over loss to the next year.

Even activist shareholders, who you might think are acting a bit more like owners, are just gambling, but trying to affect the outcome of the gamble. They are like someone who plays roulette and who has taken a file and chisel to the roulette wheel in the hope of improving their odds.

I understand that a focus on shareholder value reduces the chances of hostile takers. Yet I also believe that the shareholder value dogma is hurting America and Americans. I don’t know what the answer is. Do you have any thoughts?

Links and Other Clicks

The article Pharma Bro Goes to Washington: A Congressional hearing with Martin Shkreli reveals the brokenness of the prescription-drug market. Sample paragraph: One reason our drugs cost so much more than they do in Europe is because there, governments and insurers have more power to bargain down prices with drug companies. Meanwhile Medicare, one of the biggest buyers of prescription drugs, is prohibited from negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

The article How the cult of shareholder value wrecked American business. This is the best and most articulate article I found about why shareholder value became the dominant dogma. Sample paragraph: The funny thing is that this supposed imperative to “maximize” a company’s share price has no foundation in history or in law. Nor is there any empirical evidence that it makes the economy or the society better off. What began in the 1970s and ’80s as a useful corrective to self-satisfied managerial mediocrity has become a corrupting, self-interested dogma peddled by finance professors, money managers and over-compensated corporate executives.

Another interesting article about shareholder value, focusing on how it has affected IBM. Sample paragraph: In 1970, Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine in which he famously argued that the only “social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” Then in 1976, economists Michael Jensen and William Meckling published a paper saying that shareholders were “principals” who hired executives and board members as “agents.” In other words, when you are an executive or corporate director, you work for the shareholders.

Article about the history of corporations in the U.S. Sample paragraph: For 100 years after the American Revolution, legislators maintained tight control of the corporate chartering process. Because of widespread public opposition, early legislators granted very few corporate charters, and only after debate. Citizens governed corporations by detailing operating conditions not just in charters but also in state constitutions and state laws. Incorporated businesses were prohibited from taking any action that legislators did not specifically allow.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Seeing Things As They Really Are

While doing art classes it’s become obvious how bad I am at seeing things as they really are.

In drawing class it was so easy to draw things as I thought they were rather than as they actually were. Getting the shape wrong, the proportions wrong, the relationship to other objects wrong.

In watercolor class it was so easy to see the colors as I thought they were. Leaves are green, for heaven’s sake. In reality they were a multitude of greens and grays and blues, and some almost black as they lay in the shadow of other leaves.

Art class showed me that I see things as I think they are rather than as they actually are. The eyes take in the reality but my brain takes the reality then makes shortcuts and ignores the complexity of the reality. I then draw what my brain “knows” rather than what my eyes see.

This made me wonder how much else of what I “know” is really just a shortcut that my brain made to avoid complexity. How much of what I “know” – about the world, about economics, about politics, about relationships, about people, about possibilities and impossibilities – is really just shortcuts created by my brain to avoid dealing with the difficult complexities of reality?

How much of what I fear – making a fool of myself, failing in some way, doing some house project – is just my brain taking a shortcut to avoid reality?

Art forces me to recognize the disconnect between reality and what I “know” because I can see that my artwork bears little relationship to the thing I’m drawing or painting. The output doesn’t match the input. With skill and dedicated practice I can bring the two closer together.

But other aspects of life rarely have an output that I can compare to reality, so I’m rarely faced with the disconnect. And so I don’t know where I have a disconnect. I don’t know what skill or what dedicated practice will bring my “knowledge” closer to reality.

How do I solve this? How do you solve this?

Posted in Curiosity, Habits | 2 Comments

Taking Action – Or Not – Part 3 (Superpowers)

I didn’t expect to have a Part 3, but while reading the Art of Taking Action I found two quotes that reinforce Oliver Burkeman’s quote in Part 1  about having a superpower.

Alternatively, they are about maturity. About outgrowing the belief that your feelings dictate your actions.

So here they are.

Oliver Burkeman (the quote in Part 1): To be able to do what needs doing, whether or not you feel like it, is pretty close to a superpower.

George Bernard Shaw: Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness but it is greatness.

Eknath Easwaran: Nothing in life is more satisfying, more masterful, than to be able to change our likes and dislikes when we need to. In fact, anyone who has mastered this skill has mastered life, and anyone who has not learned to overcome likes and dislikes is a victim of life. The statement we hear so often these days – “I like it, so I’m going to do it” – is a confession that that person is not free. When I say, “I am going to do this because I like it; I am not going to do that because I don’t like it,” what I am really saying is, “My hands are bound; I have no choice in life.”

May you too have superpowers!

Links and Other Clicks

Part 1

Part 2

The Art of Taking Action, by Gregg Krech.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Habits | 5 Comments

Taking Action – Or Not – Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, many of the mind problems that plague us are based on social comparison. Thoughts of not accomplishing enough, not being rich enough, not being pretty enough, not having enough interesting experiences, FOMO (fear of missing out). They are all related to comparing ourselves with others who seemingly have more.

Unfortunately we usually compare ourselves with the wrong people. We generally compare ourselves upwards – with those who have more money, success, looks, experiences – rather than downwards – with those who have less money, success, looks, experiences.

We also tend to compare ourselves with our friends and people around us. Rarely do we compare ourselves with Bill Gates or Michael Jordan – they are simply too distant from our knowledge and experience. So how we feel about ourselves and our abilities and accomplishments is strongly related to the people we know and associate with.


For me, not being in Boulder, Colorado, makes a difference. Boulder is an A-list town. At different times during the last few decades, it has been home to many of the best athletes in the country: marathon runners, cyclists, ultra-runners, rock climbers. As a result there are also many wanna-be A-list athletes.

Apart from my early days in Boulder as a rock climber pushing the limits of hard, scary climbing, there were always people who were better, fitter, faster, and did more than I. Boulder also has lots of very smart people and is often ranked as the smartest city in the U.S. based on the number of graduates and Ph.D’s. On top of that, it’s a rich town where people come after making their money elsewhere – several of my neighbors were investment bankers who moved to Boulder after making their fortunes on Wall Street. In Boulder it was difficult to not compare myself with others, whether in accomplishments, intelligence, or wealth.

Tucson, on the other hand, is not an A-list type of town at all. There are certainly very fit people here, but there’s a very different energy to the town. These are not the serious wanna-be’s, so I don’t get caught up in the comparison rat race. Tucson feels less competitive, more low-key and relaxed. It’s easier to do or not-do here, to take action or not-take-action.


Getting older also means acceptance – at least it does if one is wise 🙂  Most real accomplishments come when one is younger, as does the drive to accomplish. As I’ve got older, I increasingly realize I’m not going to accomplish as much as I once did. I simply don’t have the drive or the desire.

Having done what I want to do

In fact I’ve done a lot of the things I want to do. I’ve done most of the hikes and and bike rides I want to do in the Tucson area. I can always think of more to do but they are out on the less important, maybe-one-day fringe. I don’t do anything as fast as others might do, whether it’s riding up a hill or completing a long hike. I ride and hike at my own pace, but I finish things and that’s what counts for me. There are a few more hikes I’d like to do in Colorado but nothing I’m going to stress over.

As well as that, Tanya and I spent several months cycling in Europe last summer. I managed to ride most of the great Tour de France climbs in the French Alps, and the great Giro d’Italia climbs in the Italian Alps. There are still more climbs to do in different parts of the world, but if I could do no more, I’d be satisfied with what I’ve done.

Nobody Cares

A key life lesson is that few people care what I’ve done anyway. People are mostly focused on themselves and their own lives and their own happiness. No one thinks I’m any better a person for having accomplished anything I might have accomplished. At best they might be slightly inspired. At worst they might be slightly resentful. But their feelings will usually relate to how my life makes them feel about their life. Basically no one cares.

Taking the longer view, one day I’ll be dead and it will all be irrelevant. No one at all will care. No one will even know who I was. Of course, this attitude comes a little more easily as I get older and closer to death.


Part 1 talked mostly about how I sometimes feel I’m not accomplishing as much as I’d like. Part 2 talked mostly about why it doesn’t matter so much to me now.

But all the above is only a partial answer as we do need projects, things to focus on. We need to find things to fill our time, things that give us feelings of satisfaction and meaning. Boredom is a terrible thing, and the Devil Makes Work for Idle Hands. So it’s not a good life plan to just give up and not pursue worthwhile goals. We need to step up and find things we want to pursue, which sometimes leads to feelings of not accomplishing very much.

I think I’ve gone full circle here.

Do I sound muddled and confused? Well, we are complex creatures with multiple, often contradictory, motivations. There’s a great book called Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite, which talks about how “the human mind consists of many specialized units designed by the process of evolution by natural selection. While these modules sometimes work together seamlessly, they don’t always, resulting in impossibly contradictory beliefs, vacillations between patience and impulsiveness, violations of our supposed moral principles, and overinflated views of ourselves.”

But I think Walt Whitman said it best in his poem, Song of Myself.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

How about you? What are your thoughts on all this?

Links and Other Clicks

Part 1 of this two part blog post.

Part 3 of this two part blog post.

Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind, by Robert Kurzban

Walt Whitman’s poem, Song of Myself.

Posted in Change, Engagement, Retirement | Tagged , , | 5 Comments