The Most Accessible Thing Jordan Peterson Has Ever Said

The bottling room at St Arnold Brewing Company – Houston, TX. Breweries have to be very clean to keep their precious product safe and delicious!

“Clean your room.” Such a simple concept, but so chock full of brilliance. I wouldn’t call myself a Jordan Peterson disciple. While I regularly find myself almost wanting to scream “get to the damn point, man!”, I agree with him a lot of the time, especially when he’s talking about using personal responsibility and discipline to improve yourself and the world around you. But I can’t abide his stated view that this personal responsibility must also extend to having children and that it is impossible to reach self actualization without doing so.

First, I believe we already have plenty of people on this planet to pose a serious threat to its continued support of us as a life form. The changing of Earth’s climate at a more rapid pace than has ever been previously recorded, war in all its forms, hatred, chronic and unnecessary freeloading, and many other problems seem to be progressing well enough without the help of even more people to further intensify the constant, and often brutal competition for the limited available resources. So I’m not sure that more procreating is the answer. Second, I believe one benefit of this sentience thing we’ve evolved is that we can make lifestyle choices for reasons other than biological urges alone. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone the right to have children, provided they have the resources necessary to take care of them and the intention of doing so. But I feel I can live a full, meaningful life and contribute almost anything I want to the world around me without ever reproducing. I guess we’re going to find out in any case. Frankly, my genetics seem to be average at best and ya’ll should probably be thanking me. But I digress. The man has a lot of very important things to say and “clean your room” is one of them. Why?

A lot of people dismiss Peterson’s call to action as too obvious or not enough to move the needle. But that’s the point. It’s an easy step one. Look around you, figure out a way you can make your surroundings better in about ten minutes, and do it. I believe that is closer to the exact words he used. And anyone who has ever dealt with depression understands exactly why we’re starting small. Sometimes anything more seems like an unscalable mountain and then the end result is the same inaction that has already been taking place. But just clean up a little in the room you’re already sitting in? That seems pretty doable.

A funny thing happens once you make that small improvement. Even in the depths of whatever you’re going through, you suddenly feel something different – a tiny sense of accomplishment. You took ten minutes you could have wasted and instead, you used them to impact the world in a positive way. Suddenly you notice something else that could use doing. It’ll take a little longer than the first thing, but those first ten minutes didn’t turn out to be a waste, so what the hell? Twenty minutes later, you look around your home and realize you’re really getting somewhere. That feeling gets addictive and before you know it, your whole house is clean and it didn’t take nearly as long as you would have guessed from your favorite spot on the couch.

But this isn’t just for people who have let things go a little at home. You can apply this concept to any part of your life. Let’s say your career seems to be going nowhere. You would love to take the next step in your career, but it would require you to go back to school and finish your degree, plus putting in a bunch of overtime, plus the position you want isn’t even open at your company. That is a big pile of obstacles and if you only look at it that way, you might rot in your crappy job for the rest of what will likely be a pretty crappy life.

But then you remember “clean your room.” What if you just went and asked the boss if there is anything extra you could do to help out? It would be a simple enough conversation and there is almost no chance of an adverse result, so you give it a try. The boss gives you some extra grunt work and you do it. You realize it wasn’t so bad and it actually made the day go by just a little quicker. So you do the same thing the next day. And the next. Eventually, the extra grunt work turns into something a little more challenging. You find yourself learning a new skill. Once again, it isn’t so bad and this time you even enjoy yourself a little. Fast forward a few months and the guy in the job above you leaves. Your boss approaches you about taking over the job. Sure, you would have to take some classes, but it turns out the company has a tuition reimbursement program and some of the classes can even be done on your lunch hour. Now you’re getting somewhere. But it never would have happened if you didn’t take that simple first step and discover in the process that it was easier than you thought.

Regardless of what you think of him, it is pretty indisputable that Jordan Peterson is a very well read, insightful man. He doesn’t just understand psychology, he knows how to apply it to your life effectively. I believe just about anyone could learn something from him. Yes, he is long winded and meandering at times. And yes, his voice might sound just a little like that of Kermit the Frog. But I’ve learned that valuable information can come from just about anywhere. And it can certainly come from this somehow controversial Canadian gentleman. It has for me in any case. If you’re struggling to get things moving in the right direction in your life, you may want to check him out and actually listen to what he says. You may be surprised.

Happy Friday, folks!

How Much I Spend on Gifts and How I Do It

A recent gift I bought myself to celebrate not having been fired – a giant chocolate Costco cake meant to feed about 27 people that mostly fed only one…

Happy Monday, everyone! Here is the latest post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, you can check it out here. I’ve been going into detail on one category each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $1200 on gifts. Of course, the bare minimum spending in this category would be nothing at all and a reasonable minimum would be maybe $200. But this is one of those areas that I’ve let get out of hand on purpose because I believe it gives me a very good happiness return on my dollar. Some of what I do in this area is pretty traditional and some of it is a little different.

I do give out birthday gifts to the people I’m close to. But those usually aren’t anything crazy – maybe $50 or so. And I’ve actually moved in the direction of taking people out to their favorite restaurants, activities, etc, more than giving out gifts for those occasions now. The other routine time I give out gifts is at Christmas – also pretty typical. But I’d say I spend no more than a total of $500 a year on those two types of gifts. And sure, every now and again I get invited to a wedding. My standard gift is $100 and while I do not bring dates to these things because it tends to give them the wrong idea about how seriously I’m taking things, if I did, my gift would be $200 instead. And if it were someone really close to me, it would be significantly more. But I don’t get invited to all that many weddings. And no, I’m not complaining about that.

Where do I spend the rest? Sometimes I like to surprise people with random things out of the blue. A girl I was dating for a while had a car with steel wheels and those horrible plastic hub caps and at some point, she lost one of them. So one day, I made a replacement appear. One of my favorite coworkers says a certain phrase in a hilarious way all the time so one day I bought her a coffee mug with that printed on it and had it sent to her. I find that these types of gifts, while not very expensive, tend to really brighten the recipient’s day. It’s nice to know someone was thinking of you even though it wasn’t a special occasion.

My favorite types of gifts to give out are also spontaneous, but often more expensive. Every now and again, something crappy happens to someone I care about. Maybe someone with a family to feed winds up in the hospital and I’m able to pay a few bills for him since he hasn’t been able to work and money will probably be tight for a while. Or maybe some asshole hits a friend’s parked car without doing the right thing, causing damage that falls right into that sweet spot the insurance industry has calculated so carefully – you know, expensive enough that a claim could be filed (likely resulting in a hefty premium increase), but barely above the deductible so that very little would actually be paid out. Most people are savvy enough to not make a claim in that situation by now, particularly with insurance premiums being as ridiculous as they are. But a lot of people also don’t have a grand or so laying around to replace a bumper, which means the damage goes unfixed. But I do. And if I can right that wrong for someone, it can go a long way to restoring a little faith in humanity – even if I have precious little of that myself.

The key with this kind of gift, however, is creativity. You see, I only do these kinds of things for people who would never let me if I asked. So often, this involves getting others close to these people involved. But if it’s possible to do these things totally anonymously, those are my favorite gift giving opportunities of all. Because the most important element of any gift isn’t being thanked for it; it’s making someone else’s life just a little bit better. And that tends to be infectious. And that’s why I don’t police this spending category too much.

What I Spend on Cash Donations and How I Do It

A bridge I encountered walking on a trail a while back – I don’t remember where exactly

Happy Monday, Everyone! This is the second post in my Annual Expenses series. If you didn’t see the introduction post that summarizes all of my expenses, check it out here. I plan to go into detail on every category with a post on one each Monday. Over 2017 and 2018, I spent an average of $2100 on cash donations. In most areas of my financial life, I feel pretty comfortable that I know what I’m doing. But since I have only been relatively wealthy for a few years now, this is one area where I’m just getting started and as a result, I’m still figuring things out. For that reason, any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated – even more than usual. So far, the money I’ve spent in this category has mostly gone to either charitable organizations or personal causes people had. I’m no expert on this yet but I have figured out a couple of things.

One, lots of charitable organizations are questionable at best in terms of the way they’re run and the percentage of funds that are actually put towards their causes. I’m not opposed to reasonable costs that are necessary to run an organization, including paying what the market necessitates to employ highly talented people. However, it is pretty clear that some of these organizations are excessively lining the pockets of individuals in one way or another, which is disgusting given that the money is donated for charitable causes.

Two, once you donate to a charitable organization, it will pursue you relentlessly trying to get more out of you. While I lived in Wisconsin, I donated to a couple of very location specific organizations whose mailers have followed me through two different Texas addresses already. It is baffling to me that no one in these organizations has made the connection that I’ve obviously moved and haven’t sent a dime since. I also wonder what portion of the money I donated they are going to spend on sending mailer after mailer before they finally (hopefully) give up. Is it really possible that the entirety of my donations will eventually be spent that way?

While I’m no expert at charitable giving, I have developed a few guiding principles for myself. First, I believe in making sure you are able to donate before doing so. After all, if you’re living on the edge yourself and you donate money, that could be the difference between your being independent and you needing help yourself, which would likely cost society more than your donation helped in the first place. As such, my donations have gradually increased as my personal wealth has and will likely continue accordingly. Second, I believe in helping those who either try to help themselves or have been dealt such a terrible hand that it is almost impossible for them to. I believe there is a distinct limit to how much money can help anyone – the “teach a man to fish” concept. I believe the capability to earn money is much more valuable than the result itself. So I’d be much more inclined to give money to someone who is dealing with a misfortunate setback or set of circumstances and would otherwise be a productive person than to someone who has never made a serious effort to do anything productive. Not only do I want to do the greatest good for society, but for the individual. I believe there is a huge psychological benefit to being self sufficient.

I don’t have any particular target in this area in terms of the amount I spend as it is pretty new for me. I think it is crucially important that people with resources help the less fortunate and I am certainly in that category. But trying to do so in a way that is both effective and not frustrating has proven difficult. I’ve had some success volunteering in local organizations, getting to know how they operate, and then donating additional money once I’m comfortable doing so. But that doesn’t stop the endless hounding from following me to the ends of the earth. I’m nearing the point where I will only donate money if it can be anonymous. I don’t itemize deductions on my taxes yet, so that isn’t an issue and I don’t care whether people know what I donate or not so recognition isn’t either.

Here is a particularly egregious example in my opinion. My alma mater has been after me since the day I graduated and I’ve never even given it a dime. My reasoning there is pretty simple. Tuition was raised by the state allowable maximum every single year I attended. This happened to be in the early part of the Great Recession and in spite of this economic backdrop, perfectly good buildings were constantly being torn down so fancier ones could be built in their place. This struck me as being very out of touch with both the mission of the school (presumably to provide a high quality education to people from a wide variety of backgrounds – including those who, like me, grew up relatively poor) and the reality of the times. A couple years after I left, it was discovered that the school had been sitting on a slush fund in excess of $100 million. I believe the tuition increases immediately stopped to avoid making the PR disaster even worse. But at no point was there any mention of doing anything to make things right with the students who had unknowingly contributed so much to that slush fund. Many of my former classmates seem to have similar reservations since they went through the school during the same timeframe.

If I were going to send any money in this direction, it would be directly to a student or group of students from a financially disadvantaged background who had already continued to demonstrate a good work ethic and continued to do so. I think both elements would be important for me and I would need a way to ensure that both were present to feel good about what I was doing. Additionally, I don’t think I would want to have my scholarship, or whatever form it took, be school specific. But I haven’t started looking into how to do any of that yet. Maybe it will be my first substantial charitable endeavor. For now, I typically donate a hundred or two when I see something that moves me to do so. Like I said, this area is a work in progress.