Video: Feigning Indifference to Attract a Man

Feb 032012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed feigning indifference to attract a man. The question was:

Should I act uninterested in a man to attract him? One common theme in romance advice is that a woman should act aloof and unattainable in order to attract a man or to get him to commit to a relationship. Is that dishonest? Is it counterproductive?

My answer, in brief:

It’s wrong to make people into conquests in romance. If you do, the kind of person that you’ll attract is not the kind of person that you’ll want to be with. And you’ll not be the kind of person that a good person will want to be with.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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The Cult of Busy

Jul 272010

I liked this article on The Cult of Busy by Scott Berkun, but this paragraph struck me as particularly noteworthy:

The phrase “I don’t have time for” should never be said. We all get the same amount of time every day. If you can’t do something it’s not about the quantity of time. It’s really about how important the task is to you. I’m sure if you were having a heart attack, you’d magically find time to go to the hospital. That time would come from something else you’d planned to do, but now seems less important. This is how time works all the time. What people really mean when they say “I don’t have time” is this thing is not important enough to earn my time. It’s a polite way to tell people they’re not worth your time.

I plan to wean myself of the too-easy habit of saying that “I don’t have time.” I need to be perfectly honest with myself and others: I’m not willing to make the time. That will be clarifying for me, as well as for others, I think. And that will help me make better decisions about how I spend my time.

Most of all though, I want to make sure that I’m “time-rich”:

People who truly have control over time have some in their pocket to give to someone in need. They have a sense of priorities that drives their use of time and can shift away from the specific ordinary work that’s easy to justify, in favor of the more ethereal, deeper things that are harder to justify. They protect their time from trivia and idiocy. These people are time rich. They provide themselves with a surplus of time. They might seem to idle, or to relax, more often then the rest, but that may be a sign of their mastery not their incompetence.

To hell with the altruism in the first sentence: time-rich people have time to devote to meaningful projects and activities!

Yesterday, I spent the whole day re-organizing my implementation of GTD in OmniFocus, so that I could gain much-needed clarity about my projects and commitments. That means that I’m extra-busy today, unfortunately. Yet it will enable me to be far more time-rich in the future.

Questions on Ethics

May 122010

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers on ethics:

Is it moral to copy music from a CD so you can listen to it on your MP3 player? Should this be made illegal?

(1) Yes. (2) No.

In my view, the owners of copyrighted products — meaning the people who buy books or CDs — are entitled to do what they please with those items, including copy them, provided that all those copies stay in their possession. In other words, copyright does not prevent them from copying per se but rather copying then distributing or selling those copies.

So a person can transfer a CD to his computer, even though that requires copying. That’s not a violation of the rights of the copyright holder, provided that he retains all copies, rather than, for example giving away or selling the original.

How morally culpable is a person if they were introduced to the works of Ayn Rand through illegally downloaded copies of her books but after having studied them they realized the error and purchased every single book they downloaded?

I’d say that such a person acted wrongly, but then they corrected that wrong, and that’s pretty much all that matters in this context.

More, that correction shows good character. It’s hugely important that a person be willing to correct his errors, rather than rationalize them to avoid guilt. That willingness to face the facts and act accordingly — even concerning one’s own moral failings — is the essence of good character. If a person can do that, then everything else is just a matter of time.

In Canada the gov’t has banned some satellite signals. If Canada was a free country people would be able to pay for these tv signals and watch them, but can’t because of the ban. From Objectivisms view, is it immoral to watch these channels in Canada?

I don’t think so, provided that (1) you don’t conceal what you’re doing and (2) you advocate for the lifting of the ban.

You are not morally responsible for the force wielded by others, nor obliged to penalize yourself for their sins — provided that you don’t sanction those sins. If you wanted to keep the ban in place so that you could continue to receive the signals for free, that would be immoral.

Ayn Rand’s essay on “A Question of Scholarships” in Voice of Reason is relevant to these questions. I recommend it!

Do you think that it is possible to enjoy rap music and not have a malevolent sense of life? I’m referring specifically to the type of rap in which the rapper boasts of committing immoral acts such as gunning down cops and slapping whores.

Yeesh! I don’t think that a person with a healthy sense of life could enjoy that kind of blatantly nihilistic rap.

I’m not condemning all rap. (I like a bit of it myself.) I’m not morally condemning the person who likes that kind of rap, as it’s not a matter of choice in the short term. However, it’s a good indication that a person needs to reshape his sense of life. If a person is unwilling to do that, then it becomes a moral issue.

As with all music, the question to ask is: Why are you attracted to it? What do you get out of it?

Have you ever donated to Wikipedia?

No. I’m routinely disgusted by their altruistic appeals for donations.

Plus, I’ve always thought that Wikipedia should support itself via nice little text ads relevant to the topic. As with people, no enterprise that can be self-supporting should make itself an object of charity.

[The posting of this answer to Facebook spawned some very interesting comments, including some from my old friend Jimmy Wales. My view is definitely somewhat more moderate now.]

If you need assistance from someone who doesn’t have any particular reason to offer it apart from good will, how would you go about asking them?

Very straightforwardly — and without any hint of expectations of or demands on the person.

Value-Dense Buying

Apr 142010

I’m delighted that Trey Givens found my offhand comment about “value-dense buying” of use to his thinking about his spending! Here’s what happened.

Back in early March, Trey blogged about the return of his credit card debt:

Last January, February, and March were not pleasant times for me as I struggled to pay off my credit cards. I was successful at it, but I did it in a way that just was not sustainable. Flash forward to this January, February, March in which I’ve managed to drive my credit card balance up to more than TWICE the total it was a year ago when I went on my push to pay them off.

I wrote the following quick comment in reply:

Your standard method of dealing with money (until now) sounds a lot like Oprah’s method of dealing with her weight: lose quickly by unbearable deprivation, then when the goal is achieved, binge binge binge. That leaves you worse off — physically and spiritually — than never going on the diet.

Maybe your finances need a paleo diet? Do value-dense buying and avoid the junk?

Anywhoodles, the solution isn’t “moderation,” but pursuing your financial goals while keeping the context of your other goals and values. That sounds like what you’re doing, so I hope that works well for you.

A few weeks later, Trey blogged:

Ok, but no joke. That’s EXACTLY what I need! I even said so myself that I’ve been thinking about my spending and saving in a very wrong way. “Value-dense” is the focus I need!

So Trey has decided that OCON, despite the expense, is worth the money. I hope so! (Personally, I expect to have a fantastic time at OCON this year!)

Mostly though, I hope that I’ve hit on a useful metaphor for thinking about spending. What do you think?

Weekly Reviews for Workers

Apr 132010

I’m delighted to report that the three new OLists — OProducers, OShooters, and OGardeners — launched without so much as a hiccup. One week later, they’re humming along nicely! Hooray!

As a taste of what these OLists have to offer, I submit the following informal essay, posted to OProducers on Friday by Santiago Valenzuela, on his sit-down weekly reviews with his workers. (He gave me permission to post it here.) It’s exactly the kind of good advice that motivated me to create the OProducers list.

In case you don’t know him yet, Santiago is the leader of 3FROG, the manager of OShooters, and an all-around good guy. Now, without any further ado, here’s Santiago:

I was reading all the fascinating posts about GTD’s “weekly review” and how useful y’all find it. It got me thinking about a management practice that I think fills a similar role in a different context that I’d like to share – weekly one-on-ones.

My understanding of the GTD weekly review is to get you “above,” conceptually, the day-to-day concretes you have to deal with and let you dedicate time to thinking about things that these concretes are supposed to be contributing to – longer-term goals, projects, etc. A one-on-one serves a similar purpose, I believe, in management.

Every week I meet with each of my people for our own weekly review. It lasts 15-30 minutes, depending on them. The purpose is for them to be able to air out any concerns, questions or information that I need to know primarily – though I don’t forbid friendly chatting either, as I feel that the more I know about them, their circumstances and what motivates them to work as hard as they do, the better. This serves three main purposes:

1) It lets me spend time with them individually, allowing me to better understand what drives them, get to know them more personally, and put any concerns they have on my radar.

2) It allows me to give them the “bigger picture” – how were sales this past week, how did our department do, what are my plans for the future growth of this department and how does this person fit into that plan, exactly?

3) It serves as a “bucket” – a place to put niggling things for either of us that are not pressing but should be discussed at some point – discussion about inappropriate behavior, a day where personal efficiency slacked, days off requests, updates on family and so forth.

The reason I compare it to the weekly review is because I often think of management as the conceptual level of productive work, if you think of productive work in terms of concretes (I don’t mean to demean the many specialists on this list who obviously are not working with concretes; it is simply a comparison.) With individuals stuck in concrete or specialist work all day, it is refreshing, motivating and assuring for them to have a small break each week to get “the big picture” and some one-on-one face-time with The Boss.

I found in my management travails that my guys were coming up to me for the smallest stuff – problems that they were clearly qualified to work on, or at least were not so pressing that they couldn’t wait – but wait until when? I think the issue was that they wanted that face-time with me. People understand, I think – on some level – that a departmental manager is their link to the “big picture” and they gravitate towards that in an effort to better understand where they stand, if the people above them understand how good a job their doing (or if there are any problems,) how the company is doing in general – what we would call the big picture. This is a real human need in productive work and I do my best to fill it for my people. In addition, the “bucket” of the one-on-one also saves time as we bundle all the small stuff that may take 5 minutes (or more) every day to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but takes 5 minutes in a week when bundled together.

I call the need to understand what is going on above you and get face time with the boss a real human need – and I think a rational one, just like a weekly review is a rational exercise on the personal level – not only for the theoretical reasons above, but practical reasons as well. It has increased honesty, trust and communication between myself and my team by quite a bit – it has been many months since I have had to deal with anything at all unexpected on the part of my team members. Personal efficiency has skyrocketed – by about 50% since I implemented one-on-ones, the reason, I think, being that individuals are inclined to work harder when they better understand how what they are doing contributes to an overall productive goal, trust their boss and know that their hard work is being recognized on a weekly basis, not just in terms of sporadic pay increases.

I think this would be a useful practice to adopt for most managers. In the 30 minute time usually allocated I give 10 minutes (the first 10 minutes) to my employee, the second 10 minutes to any issues on my end, and the last 10 minutes to discussing “big picture” stuff – growing the employee’s capabilities to make him more valuable to the company, how our department is doing, how the company is doing, etc. At first I had a hard time finding the time and justifying it to my superiors, once they asked – but now there is so much time saved in terms of issues that can wait until the weekly one-on-one, and so many efficiency gains, that the meetings justify themselves no matter how busy we are.

Does anyone else have a similar system? Or do you have similar problems with your direct reports? I would be very happy to help anyone who’s interested help roll this idea out, if my description of what happens and the corresponding results have piqued your interest.

I originally got the idea from manager tools, a podcast website, but I think they explain the rationale poorly (mostly in terms of concretes) and I’ve done some thinking on the reasons why its so effective, which I think I’ve hit on here.

That’s good stuff! Oh, and you can find the “manager tools” podcasts here.

Sex in Guest Bedrooms

Mar 032010

I was highly amused by this recent question and answer from Miss Manners. First, the question:

Dear Miss Manners:

My partner and I have been having a disagreement recently about the etiquette of having sex when staying in other people’s homes. I feel that it is extremely rude and should be avoided at all costs, while she feels that it is expected and normal, particularly if we are staying with friends/family for more than a couple of nights.

I asked my sister and her husband what their views are, and my sister informed me that they plan to have regular sex when they stay with us in our new home. She also informed me that other visitors would expect to do the same.

As our new home has my first-ever guest bedroom, which up until now I had been looking forward to having occupied by friends and family, I would be grateful if you would help clarify whether guests should have sex in guest bedrooms, and if this is conditional upon the relationship and length of stay.

Wow. Just ponder that for a moment… The man is so disturbed by the thought of his guests engaged in sexual acts with a spouse behind closed doors in his home that he’s now reluctant to invite them to stay. If that’s not prudery, then I’m not sure what is!

Care to guess what Miss Manners’ reply is? (It’s rather amusing.) She writes:

It is conditional on their not making it known to others in the house, before, during or after the event. Your sister has already violated this, but Miss Manners acknowledges that she can claim you provoked her.

That’s right. People with manners do not foist their sex lives on uninterested third parties. They don’t get it on in their friend’s kitchen, just because they happen to feel a bit lusty. However, what people do in private — including in guest bedrooms — is purely their own business. Just don’t break the furniture or wake the neighbors.

How to Find a Good Therapist

Dec 012009

I’m a philosopher, not a psychologist. Yet often the moral advice I offer touches on matters of psychology. My policy is that I’ll offer advice based on common sense psychology, albeit only in general terms. I don’t wish to act as anyone’s therapist; I’m neither qualified for nor interested in that.

Often, a person needs only moral advice, with a dash of common sense psychology. That’s what I can offer. Yet sometimes, a person has deeper psychological problems: to live well, he needs therapy.

That raises a question: How can a person find a good therapist? That’s a tricky question. A less-than-good therapist can be a waste of time and money, if not positively damaging.

Happily, psychologist Ellen Kenner offers some helpful on choosing a therapist in this article on her web site. If you’re looking for a therapist, I recommend reading the whole article. Here, I’d just like to comment on some highlights.

Dr. Kenner recommends asking three preliminary questions:

  1. What is your background and experience with my problem?

  2. What are your credentials?
  3. What type of therapy do you offer?

That’s just the initial evaluation. Dr. Kenner emphasizes that the patient must continue to judge the therapist and his advice. She writes:

In the early stages of therapy, observe the following: Is your therapist goal oriented? Do you work on specific goals? Does your therapist focus on solving problems? Is he or she a careful listener… rather then jumping hastily in with an agenda that seems off base? In therapy, do you look back at your past purposefully… or do you spend oodles of time rehashing your past with very little application to present or to the future[?]


Again, as you start therapy with the person you choose… ask yourself — “Does the therapist’s advice make sense to me?” Are you becoming more hopeful that your life can improve — not based on floating wishes, but based on facts and skills you are learning that help you cope better with your world? Do you regularly experience “ah-ha — now I see the picture more clearly”? Or do you shake your head and wonder where therapy is headed? Always give yourself permission to ask your therapist his or her reasoning for any advice you are given. You want to grasp first hand why you should follow any advice.

That’s very good advice! The critical point is not to lose your basic confidence in yourself as a rational, thinking person, just because you happen to be in therapy.

If you’re seeking psychological help, you might feel very confused and burdened and uncertain due to your psychological problems. You’re seeking help from a stranger. Your mind isn’t working right, and you don’t know how to fix the problem yourself. That’s not going to bolster your confidence in your own judgment!

So you might be tempted to cede your authority to any half-way decent therapist you can find, on the assumption that he/she must know better than you. Or you might be reluctant to seek therapy at all, thinking that you’d have to cede your authority to that therapist.

That’s a mistake. Unless you’re delusional, you can judge whether your therapist seeks to help you live more rationally, more purposefully, more honestly, more independently, and so on. If not, then you need to seek a better therapist, using Dr. Kenner’s advice. You can do that — and you should do that.

In short, you should think of your therapist as you would think of a plumber, mechanic, or doctor. You’re hiring the person because he/she has expertise that you lack — not because you’re a moron. You need to be sure to choose the person wisely, based on reasonable criteria. Then you need to judge the quality of their work, seeking someone better if you’re not satisfied. If you do that, you can find yourself a good therapist.

Oral Surgery and Evil Mothers

Jul 282009

As my twitter followers know, I had oral surgery on Tuesday afternoon. Some time ago, my gum on a particular molar (#19, in fact) receded beyond the point of safety. The surgery, performed by a periodontist, transplanted a section of gum tissue from my palate (i.e. the roof of my mouth) to that problem spot.

The surgery went very well, but now I have a bunch of sliced-up tissue by that molar, plus a seemingly massive excavation site in the roof of my mouth. All of that will heal up, but for the moment, it’s rather painful — even with the protective dressings around the molar and the palate guard covering the whole roof of my mouth. Plus, I’ve definitely learned the meaning and importance of taking drugs to “get ahead of the pain” via my own failure to take my prescribed Vicodin as soon as possible yesterday. I was only delayed by about an hour, but that made a difference, I think.

Anyway, that’s all just a long-winded way of saying that I’m not much in the mood for blogging. Hence, I’m going to lean on Miss Manners today, as I was totally floored by the woman in this column when I read it:

Dear Miss Manners:

My son got married two years ago, and please keep in mind that my daughter-in-law and I have never had a falling-out. We’ve stayed at their house overnight and were treated wonderfully. We get along fine because I do not want to be a meddling mother-in-law.

However, I’ve got some situations that I do not know how to handle.

1. First, tell me, am I wrong for believing that the bride should acknowledge her groom’s side of the family with a thank-you note for gifts, rather than making the groom write the thank-you? The way they handled it, she wrote the thank-yous to her side of the family and my son wrote the notes to his side. Is this the acceptable way now?

2. Does that also hold true on Mother’s Day? Only my son acknowledges me on Mother’s Day with a phone call, but the both of them acknowledge her mother and both her grandmothers each year by taking them out to brunch or hosting a brunch at their home. Even though we live in another state, I felt slighted again this year on Mother’s Day when all I received was a phone call from my son, no card, nothing. I was brought up to respect both our mothers on Mother’s Day with at least a card, and it was always the wife’s duty to keep the list and remember to buy the cards or whatever.

3. Would I be out of line by sending a thank-you note to my son thanking him for the phone call? I love my son dearly, and it’s not that I expect a gift, but I don’t think it’s very nice to call me up and tell me what they are doing for the other mothers and all I get is a “Happy Mother’s Day.”

4. I really need some answers because I feel that when they start having a family, I will be slighted again where the children are concerned.

Wow. That’s a woman determined to ruin her relationship with her son, then blame it on her daughter-in-law! Here’s what Miss Manners said in reply:

Unless you heed Miss Manners’s advice, you will indeed receive more slights. That is because you are manufacturing them yourself, and she is advising you to stop.

The premise on which you base your grievances — that a wife assumes all social duties because the husband is the sole wage-earner — has long been defunct. Couples sensibly decide for themselves who does what, and dividing correspondence by family is both common and sensible. You wouldn’t care to have Mother’s Day acknowledged by a card from your daughter-in-law and ignored by your son.

So if you expect more than a telephone call, you should deal with him. And not by a thank-you letter if you intend that as a reprimand.

Try saying “Your Mother’s Day excursions sound so delightful that I’d love to join you some time. Would it be convenient for me to visit at that time? Or if it turns out that I’m not able to, I’ll settle for a card.”

Sadly, I don’t think the woman will follow Miss Manners’ good advice — and she’ll make her son and his bride miserable in the process.

David Allen on GTD

Jul 312008

After many years of using David Allen’s Getting Things Done method of managing life, I cannot imagine living without it. So I was delighted to find, via Gus, a 45 minute talk he gave to Google introducing GTD. In the video, Allen doesn’t talk about the details of how the system works. (For that, you’ll have to buy the book. Given its power to transform your whole approach to purposeful endeavors for the better, it’s well the few bucks.) Instead, he’s giving a broad overview of why GTD works — unlike any other system of “getting yourself organized.”

The basic lesson: The mind has identity, and if you want your mind work superbly well in your pursuit of values, then you’d better develop a system of managing information, goals, and actions that respects its capacities and limitations. That system is GTD.

How To Work From Bed

Jun 272008

This list of “70+ Tools, Tips and Hacks To Work From Bed” looks pretty useful.

I’m not necessarily saying that this applies to anyone I know.

(Via BBspot.)

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