Some frank thoughts from a millennial

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  • Mon, Oct 28, 2019 - 09:19pm   (Reply to #30)



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    behavioral biology, business plans


The status quo sure has a lot of momentum, doesn’t it?

Carving out some sort of new path comes about when you find things lacking in the current one.  At the same time, the new path probably needs to be grounded in the possible.  Taking into account physics, as it were.

You said “capitalism is an ideology”.  I agree.  At the same time, I believe this particular ideology emerged as a result of the human condition.  Let me explain.

In his 25-lecture class on human behavioral biology, Sapolsky talks about the following human (and non-human) hard wiring: fairness, the impulse to cheat, the even stronger impulse to detect cheating.  In addition, hierarchy also appears to be built-in; both people and animals have a keen built-in grasp of where they stand in their hierarchies.  Those at the bottom (example: Sapolsky’s baboons) suffer a great deal more psycho social stress than those at the top.  Climbing the hierarchy is one way to avoid that stress.

So we know capitalism as a system is incomplete.  However, if you slap a legal system with “actual rule of law” on the top, and you keep individual participants from growing too large, said system does seem to do a decent job of dealing with much of humanity’s behavioral biology.  [Sapolsky doesn’t say that – that’s just my opinion]

Any improved system should probably do an equally good job as capitalism + legal system.  Some examples:

People who work hard, like to be rewarded for their hard work.  (fairness, hierarchy placement).  People like to be lazy and get a free lunch and/or more than their fair share (cheaters).  People really hate freeloaders (detecting cheaters).  People like to appeal to potential mates (hierarchy placement).  People like to feel secure (hierarchy placement).  People like to achieve and win (hierarchy placement).  Not everyone has every impulse at the same intensity, but you will see all elements in even small groups of people.

Sapolsky’s class, in case you don’t know about it:

Just my two cents.


Last point: when developing a new business plan – which I’ve done a lot – I have found it is best to hold the initial brainstorming phase with positive, like-minded people.  That way you can have everyone build on the various threads to see where they lead.  The good stuff gets extended – sometimes what seem like dead ends can be routed around.

Dealing with challenges and risks is a later phase – also critical – but sometimes a person who is good at phase 2 may not be as good at phase 1.  (I’m remembering one particularly smart engineer who was a PITA during brainstorming.  His answer was always “no” which just wasn’t useful during phase 1).


  • Sat, Nov 02, 2019 - 03:38am   (Reply to #2)



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    re: very good questions to ask at this time in your life Cascadian

Wow, my post touched off quite the discussion. Sorry if the formatting is funky; I’m still getting used to this site.

response to ao:

“What was your education in?”

One of those fields now known as a “useless liberal arts subject”. I’d originally entered thinking to climb the academic ladder but by the time I graduated I knew I didn’t want to deal with a lot of the issues of academia in general and that field in particular.

“What are you doing now as an occupation?”

Ironically back in academia teaching English as a foreign language

“How much are you earning now”

~$45,000 depending on exchange rates.

“and how much do you think you need to earn to be content?”

Tough question. I’ve never thought about what ‘enough’ might look like for me.

“What would you like to do if you had your choice?”

I’ll probably stay in this field for now, but in my dreams I’d like to do go back to sustainable ag or something related.

“What are some of your life goals and plans?  Occupation, life partner, family plans, things you’d like to do in your life, etc?”

At this point I’m looking at permanent residency programs in other countries. I’ll probably try to settle down somewhere with a sane cost of living. I haven’t prioritized long-term relationships and potentially starting a family, but it’s something I’m thinking more about recently.

“Also possibly state what your life goals and plans would be if you knew nothing about potential future collapse and other things discussed on this site?”

Another toughie. Basically my whole adult life has been structured around these concerns.

“What are some of your talents and skills?  What are you good at and what are you not so good at?”

This is another I’ll have to take some time on. In general I’m pretty good with languages, so I’ll probably continue in this field for some time, or possibly branch out into translation or copy-editing. But I’m not very business savvy, so unlike many people in this field I don’t feel confident about opening/ franchising my own private education center.

“How many hours per week are you working now?  What are the maximum number of hours per week you think you can work over an extended period of let’s say 5 years?”

Actual working hours are about 25/week but I have a lot of discretionary downtime at the job site I could be making better use of. I’m considering doing a master’s which would consume most of the rest of my free time. I burn out around 40-43 hours.

“Where would you like to live ideally?”

This is a hard question that I have actually spent some time considering. I’m leaning toward parts of Latin America.

“What is your risk tolerance … low, medium, or high?”

Generally in life I’m pretty cautious.

“What is your energy level?  How much sleep do you need?”

My sleep has been bad the last year or so, with a lot of tossing and turning and lying awake when I want to be sleeping. But it’s improved significantly in the last month or two. I’m at about 8 hours. But I’ve never considered myself to be a high-energy person. I drink a lot of coffee.

“What is your state of physical and mental health and fitness?”

Mental – Pretty good. I learned a lot of techniques for getting my mind right during my teenage depression years. Physically – a couple of issues which I plan to get checked out/worked on now that I have good insurance. But what I need more than anything is to get a regular exercise routine going.

response to davefairtex:

“you are working outside the country in less-than-ideal situations that nevertheless brought you to the promised land.  How did that one happen?”

I’ve been working abroad teaching English. There is huge demand in the field, and if more US teachers were aware of it/ gave it serious consideration we’d really start to see a brain-drain. Most of the demand is in China, however, and although that country has a lot of great things to see and experience, it also has a lot of big problems: pollution, lax safety standards, scams, mass surveillance, and so on. Trump’s trade war was the last straw for me.

“Also – what wisdom have you learned from your journey?”

For one thing moving every few years forces you to become minimalist. Minus my ever-growing hoard of books, I could fit all of my possessions in three or four suitcases.

Living in less developed countries, I got to see just how detached younger Americans (and even some Boomers) are from practical, daily life, DIY skills by comparison. However, I have come to appreciate how proactive and hard-working Americans can be.

Americans also seem far more detached from one another, family, and community, which is really sad given our rich history of community organizations. As John Michael Greer points out, we’re one of the few cultures in the history of the world that expects 18-year-olds to go out and move into a new house and start a new life on their own. Or at least we used to. I have interacted with a lot of younger folks from the Philippines, Bangladesh, etc. who send money to their families back home, which is the complete opposite expectation of people from developed countries working abroad. Part of this difference is the economic circumstances I’ve been ranting about, but it also points to a more individualistic approach to family.

response to AKGrannyWGrit:

“Tell your folks no more gifts, just give you ounces of silver for Christmas and Birthdays.”

Actually, I’ve been thinking about buying my family metals.

response to NickAdams10:

It sounds like we’re in about the same boat. I hope we make strides toward resilience before the next hit to the economy.

response to vlierheimer:

I’m glad to hear you’ve got your children started on the right foot, but sorry to hear about your husband. A relative of mine recently lost everything in a house fire, but the local community stepped in to help in a similar way to what you describe.

response to Matt Holbert:

We’re on pretty much the same page. Though I’m working in education, there are so many misplaced priorities that drive me nuts. If I had my way ecology and systems theory would be required subjects early on. Sounds like a wonderful place you’ve worked on.

response to Ejohnson:

“I’m just another data point, but it feels like most of the other millennials I see on here are more comfortable or farther along in the “soft” forms of capital, while the older members of PP seem more advanced in investing. That’s a broad generalization, but I think it’s useful.

Maybe millennial outreach looks like how to parlay soft capital into hard capital, and a focus on escaping debt? Great topic, looking forward to future discussion.”

That’s a really interesting observation! If this is a fairly accurate generalization, I’d like to start thinking about how we can use this to our advantage.

Response to DesertIndigo:

“It would be helpful to have more advice aimed at folks just getting started. What career choices will make sense in the next 20 years or so? Does participating in traditional retirement plans make sense, or would it be better to take those contributions and invest in resiliency or precious metals?”

These are the kinds of topics I’m interested in exploring.

Response to Adam Taggart & ao:

This is exactly the kind of personal finance 101 I need. Thank you!

Response to Witt:

I love this idea. I think there is a dawning realization that not all of the innovative/alternative young people have to move to Portland/Austin/Asheville/Brooklyn or try to hack it on their own on a remote homestead. It’s quite conceivable that just a few hundred people involved in a healthy variety of trades could organize a move to revive a dying small town somewhere.

Response to Eric & spencer91189:

I’m glad to hear from people coming from a similar position as myself. It’s good to know there are more people out there thinking about these things. Our generation and those that come after have our work cut out for us in exploring alternative models and methods.


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