All posts by Tim

I'm a geologist that's spent the last 15 years building income streams and traveling the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the USA. When my ship didn't come in, I borrowed a row boat and set out to find it.

Cognitive biases part 1 – when the traitor is you



Betrayal is among the most painful experiences we can endure.  But it happens far more often than most of us would like to believe and in ways that may not be as obvious to us as they should be.

“Impossible!” you say?   Think again.

A friend recently shared a story about betrayal.    She’s an attractive young woman with a child in a small-town kindergarten.  A few weeks ago, she received a sexually suggestive text message from the father of one of her child’s classmates.   He followed up his flirtatious text with “Oops.  Silly autofill.”

The author of the text is a man my friend knows only in passing, but in their brief encounters she’d felt that he had a “creepy vibe”.   My friend didn’t reply to his messages but instead shared them with the man’s wife.   The wife was initially both outraged and apologetic, telling my friend that her husband has cheated on her in the past,  is addicted to pornography, and that she’s caught him sending inappropriate texts to other women.    She thanked my friend for sharing the text messages with her.

Within a day, the same woman called my friend to tell her that she’d been wrong, that the offensive text was really just an accident.   Her darling husband was the unwitting victim of a predictive text feature.  Silly autofill.

From the perspective of a more or less dispassionate observer, the man is a lying, faithless rake.

His wife is not dispassionate.  Faced with the difficult prospect of holding her wretched lout of a husband accountable, some subconscious process blinded her to his perfidy.  So she gets to keep her twisted status quo and he gets away with yet another attempted dalliance.

Is she crazy?

Nope.  She’s just human.  And it turns out that humans, favored as we are with our large mammalian brains, are afflicted by some serious mental glitches that can lead to some very strange blind spots.

The Human Mind: Very Puzzling

Selfish genes

Most behavioral scientists believe that the human brain has developed over innumerable generations stretching back to our prehuman ancestors.  Scientists call the glitches and blind spots that developed along with our brains cognitive biases.  A cognitive bias can be defined as a systematic error in reasoning that affects decisions and judgments.  Based on the principals of natural selection, brains with cognitive biases have better survival characteristics than brains without them.

On the face of it, it’s hard to see an advantage to traits that hide reality from us or that interfere with our ability to reason correctly.  But it may help to remember that reproduction, not rational thought or an accurate understanding of reality, is not just the primary goal but also one of the drivers of natural selection.  It may also help to remember that natural selection isn’t always a very nice process.  Just ask a dinosaur.  Or the wife of a philanderer.

If this makes you uncomfortable, you might consider reading “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.  In it, Dr. Dawkins explains how the messy business of biology is best seen from the point of view of individual genes.  Genes are molecules that have stumbled upon very effective, albeit self-serving, ways of preserving their existence through multiple generations.  Dawkin’s perspective helps us see that genes essentially create an organism around themselves that is designed to replicate the gene and pass is to the offspring of the organism that houses it.  Any trait, whether it’s cognitive, behavioral, or morphological, that facilitates the transfer of genes to progeny is favored and preserved.

Shortcuts with consequences

Cognitive biases didn’t develop just to make sure that we produce offspring.  Many of them arise from our tendency to employ heuristics, a sot of mental shortcut, that saves time and effort.    There are lots of different types of heuristics.  One example is the representativeness heuristic.  This might lead us to trust someone without learning enough about them to fully justify our trust because they remind us of someone that we know well that has proven to be trustworthy.  If you find yourself kindly disposed towards a new acquaintance because they remind you of your grandfather, your brain is employing this shortcut.

Heuristics are a necessity.  If we didn’t employ them, we’d become hopelessly bogged down in mundane decisions like whether to bring a raincoat for our walk in the park.  In general, we employ them successfully.  But sometimes they contribute to cognitive biases.

So here we are, the owners of what may well be the most complex assembly of matter in the universe, stuck with strange glitches that sometimes seem to betray us and at the very least often blind us to reality.  How in the world did we ever manage to create a technologically advanced society?

The answer is that our brains generally work pretty well, which is why we have smartphones, Tesla automobiles, and over 400 satellites in geosynchronous orbits.  Yes, our brains use heuristics, but they’re necessary.  Other than providing more opportunities for genes to pass themselves along and to facilitate faster decision-making, our cognitive biases don’t really do much harm, right?

If only it were so.

Despite our incredible technological progress, human cultures are deeply divided. And many of our interactions with those that don’t share our opinions about politics, religion, and even climate are characterized by rancor, confrontation, and sometimes brutal violence.

Is it possible that at least some of our social and societal dysfunctions arise from our cognitive biases and the blinders they produce?

Conflict and cognitive bias
Conflict and cognitive bias

The role of cognitive bias in social conflict

Behavioral scientists have recognized over 150 different cognitive biases. They’ve given them names like the Dunning-Kruger Effect, the Weber-Fechner Law, and post-purchase rationalization. They can be loosely categorized by four main problems that give rise to them: too much information to process thoroughly, inaccurate memory storage and/or retrieval, the need to think or act quickly, and the need to assign context or meaning to events.

One of the most pernicious biases is called confirmation bias. In simple terms, confirmation bias is our tendency to believe what we want to believe. And it is at the root of a great deal of trouble.

In 2004, Dr. Drew Westen of Emory University in Atlanta led a study into how confirmation bias works in our brains by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).  And although scientists warn us about putting too much stock on fMRI studies of the brain, this one is worth considering in no small part because it offers a very plausible explanation for human behaviors.

The Emory researchers found that when a test subject with a strongly held political belief was presented with evidence that showed their belief was not well founded, that information was not processed by the part of the brain associated with reasoning.  Instead, the parts of the brain that process emotion, moral reasoning, and reward and pleasure were accessed sequentially.

The Emory research appears to show that our brains bypass our logic circuits in an effort to retain a cherished belief. When our brains succeed in disregarding information that would challenge us to think more clearly, they reward us with a burst of dopamine.

In other words, we’re wired to reject sound arguments that call our fondest beliefs into question and to feel good about it when we do.

You may want to let that sink in for a minute, or even read it again and follow the links to make sure I’m not mischaracterizing the research.  It’s at least a little stunning if it’s true.

The best defenses

Hopefully, by this point, you can see why cognitive biases in general and confirmation bias, in particular, are really important and that understanding how they work could change lots of things for the better.

Confirmation bias is a problem for people that are knowledgeable and well-informed.  Imagine how it affects people that are neither.  It’s not a happy thought.

Thankfully, Americans are very well informed about the political and religious ideologies that we defend so aggressively.  Right?

Um, well, no…not really.   Based on polling in 2014 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at UPenn, only 36% of Americans can name all 3 branches of government.  And 60% don’t know which party controls the House of Representatives.  Which is probably ok since most of those don’t know exactly what the House of Representatives is anyway.

Well-informed or not, we tend to be very strongly opinionated and confirmation bias can help us cling to even the silliest notions.

silver lining
Silver lining

Overcoming cognitive bias

Once we’re aware of them, It’s pretty easy to see confirmation and other biases at work in the people around us.  But thanks to something called the bias blind spot, our brains work hard to ensure that we overlook bias in ourselves.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to overcome both our own biases and those in others.  As usual, it’s best to start with ourselves.

The first step in combatting our cognitive biases is to recognize that they exist.  By reading this article, you’ve already made some progress.  Don’t stop here.  This is a big topic with lots of well-sourced information.  It should be a mandatory part of public school curricula, but as far as I know, it’s not.  So educate yourself.

The second step is to consider all evidence with this idea in mind: how would I react to this evidence if it confirmed the opposite of what it seems to confirm?  This technique was tested by a research group working under Dr. Charles Lord at Princeton in 1979 and proved to be remarkably effective in helping partisans to more fairly evaluate information that could sway their opinions.  You can read more here.

The third step is to recognize that you’re more susceptible to cognitive biases when you have a strong emotional attachment to a particular idea or belief.  The wife that refused to see her husband’s philandering for what it was is again a good example.  Strong emotions are often a good indicator that your brain is or at least could be fooling you, and an angry reaction to some fact or evidence should be a huge red flag.   Make up your mind that you’re going to examine evidence that contradicts your fondest beliefs if for no other reason than to better understand those that don’t agree with you.  By committing to this simple measure, you’ll be well on your way to combatting at least a couple of pernicious biases.

The fourth thing you can do when you suspect that someone you know is under the influence of a cognitive bias is to resist the urge to tell them how stupid they or their ideas are.  In the book “The Influential Mind” by Tali Sharot, the author points out that it’s nearly impossible to alter someone’s opinion by arguing with them.  The best and possibly the only way to change someone’s mind is to simply present them with facts in a noncombative way.  When this is done in a spirit of camaraderie simply to share information, we tend to be far more receptive than when we’re being attacked as ignorant and gullible rubes.

Final Thoughts

Reality is complex.  It’s likely that we don’t have the capacity to accurately grasp it in its entirety.  That’s disconcerting at the very least, but it needn’t discourage us from trying to understand it as fully as we’re able.

Cognitive biases stand between us and a more accurate understanding of the way things really are.  They interfere with our relationships and color our opinions.  And they pit us against each other in too many ways to count.

There is little doubt that our biases have served the purposes of natural selection.  But as our technologies and cultures have begun to change radically over the course of decades instead of the millennia and even eons that have characterized most of our history, we seem to find ourselves saddled with anachronistic features that no longer serve our interests.

Overcoming built-in distortions in the lenses through which we see the world isn’t easy, but we need to make the effort.  Let’s get started.

The Elephant in the Room – Do Our Brains Work for or Against Us?


Who’s riding what?

We’re being taken for a ride

Dr. Jonathan Haidt (pronounced “hite”) is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s School of Business.  His doctoral degree is in social psychology, and his interests include the fascinating field of moral psychology (which overlaps with philosophy).  Dr. Haidt’s most recent book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” is a non-judgemental and fascinating examination of the inner workings of our minds, particularly the machinery that drives our political, social, and moral proclivities.

Among Dr. Haidt’s many insights is his comparison of the relationship between our conscious and subconscious minds to a rider and an elephant, respectively.   As he defines it, the elephant is all of the factors that influence our thoughts and behaviors below the level of conscious thought,  including our limbic systems which secrete and process neurotransmitters like serotonin, cortisol,  and dopamine .

He chose the elephant to represent the mysterious realm of the subconscious because they are big and powerful.  Dr. Haidt believes that the rider in his model accounts for about 1% of our behaviors and attitudes.   The rest is all elephant.

Until pretty recently, the neurosciences have not seemed  interesting to me.     After The Righteous Mind, I’ve been willing to set aside some of my biases and  pay closer attention to the mind sciences.   Maybe they’re not getting precisely the right answers, but at least they’re asking some very intriguing questions.

When I read Dr. Haidt’s description of the rider and elephant, I was perplexed and initially skeptical.  The idea that rationality would have so little control of my actions and decisions is deeply unsettling.  And that may be because the elephant doesn’t want me to know the extent of its influence.   But there’s something about the concept that seems accurate; it resonates in an uncomfortable way.

After reading The Righteous Mind, I undertook a little casual research.  I learned that Dr. Haidt’s model is well supported by his fellow neuroscientists, past and present.  Freud didn’t invent the idea of the subconscious, but he popularized it, and his work formed the basis for many of the later studies of the concept.  There seems to be no scholarly debate about the validity of the notion that we have both a conscious and subconscious mind.  Whatever scholarly debates still surround that idea seem to have more to do with the degree of control the elephant exerts over the rider and vice versa than with whether the concept is valid.  And  Dr. Haidt’s estimate is apparently not particularly controversial.

What we perceive as the rational, conscious mind is a great mystery.  For most of my life, I’ve assumed that it was the most important aspect of my existence and that my decisions and actions were directly guided by it exclusively.   When I read the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, I had to revise my understanding.  What I’ve thought of as impulse and intuition is much deeper than I’ve conceived it, and far more influential in my decision-making.

You may be wondering how the elephant might influence you in an unexpected or even an unhelpful way without you noticing.  One very good example is a phenomenon that the neuroscientists call “motivated reasoning”.   That’s the name for the process you go through when you’re presented with information that is at odds with a belief that you hold strongly.  Our elephants are very good at helping us to find reasons to disregard information that challenges cherished belief.  In examing this phenomenon, researchers presented subjects with a phony “scientific” study that puported to show a link between caffeine and breast cancer.    Women who were enthusiastic coffee drinkers found more errors in the study than women that were not, thanks to their elephants working behind the scenes to motivate their minds to continue to believe what they wanted to believe.


In Dr. Haidt’s scenario, our very big and influential subconscious mind knows its rider intimately, but we, the riders,  have only glimpses of it.  We sense its intentions only vaguely.  We don’t know exactly where it wants to take us or whether it will ultimately act in our best interests but we do know that sometimes it doesn’t.

Very Puzzling

Taming the Beast

As a geologist, I can’t advise you how to tame the elephant.  Actually, I’m pretty sure that it can’t be tamed.  I’ve come to believe that improving our understanding of it is vital, though, if we hope to have healthy relationships and reasonably predictable and stable lives.

Researchers like Dr. Haidt have made great strides in that direction.  Start by reading his bookThe Righteous Mind“.   It will give you insights into why you think the way you do, and it will give you empathy towards others with whom you disagree, whether it’s about religion, your favorite author, or politics.

I’m not claiming that I’ve mastered the elephant, or even that it can be mastered.  The elephant is complex and more than a little devious.  Scientists have spent lifetimes trying to develop tools that will help us wrest a little more control from these mighty beasts with only moderate success.

The less we know about it, though, the wilder the ride can be.  My advice is to start learning what you can now.  You’ll find that the knowledge you gain will improve just about every aspect of the ride.



20 things you can do to be more (or less) likable

Do you have a magnetic personality?


Social Butterflies vs Social Trolls

Humans are social creatures.  Our interactions obey rules that are often subtle and sometimes complex.

Our perceptions of others are formed quickly, and sometimes without much justification.  That means that other’s perceptions of us are likely as fast and unfair as ours are of them.   Most of us have had the unhappy experience of being misjudged by a new acquaintance.   It’s difficult and painful, particularly when we were hoping to make a good impression, as with a prospective employer or potential love interest.

The good news is that there are some things that we can do early in a relationship that can make us more likable.  Many of these are intuitive, and the most likable people we know probably practice them without conscious thought.   That doesn’t mean we can’t work to practice them with good results.

If you haven’t read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, you need to.  And if you haven’t read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, you REALLY need to.  These books are timeless and offer invaluable insights into ways to be more likable and avoid being less likable.   Both books were written in the 1930s and their authors have passed into eternity.  But they were men of renown, people who genuinely liked their species and wanted to impart the benefits of their success and experience to others.  They’re neither long nor difficult to read, so pick them up on Amazon as soon as you’re done here.

Behavioral scientists applying the scientific method through research have improved and added to the works of Carnegie and Hill, but their original material is still invaluable and much of what you’ll read, below, draws from their insights.  Science can explain the results of their research, but science is no substitute for the intuition, insight, and personal experience of the most successful and insightful people who have ever lived.  Carnegie and Hill fall into that category.


Traits that attract

We can’t ignore pulchritude (it means beauty, but I like the word so I used it instead) as one of the factors upon which we quickly judge others.    According to Dr. Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at Royal Holloway University of London and author of the fascinating book “Beauty Pays,” attractive people earn more than their less attractive peers.  And it’s too obvious that more beauty equates to higher likeability.

There are things we can do to increase our physical attractiveness, like styling our hair in a flattering way, choosing clothing that complements our shape and coloring, and carefully applying makeup in ways that accentuate our best features (although Dr. Hamermesh claims there’s a low return on investments in cosmetics).

Overall, though, while you can gently tweak it, you’re stuck with whatever pulchritude you’ve got (or lack).  However, you CAN make yourself LESS likable by leveraging this category downward.  This is done by shoddy dress, body odor, and poor hygiene and/or grooming.  And if you happen to have pulchritude in the top 5 or 10 percent of your fellows, you can cut the advantages you might otherwise derive by ignoring the advice I’ll share below.

The good news for the less pulchritudinous is that, while all of us are influenced to some degree by physical appearance, most of us take lots of other factors into account in addition to pulchritude.  And the better news is that we even tend to weight them more heavily, proving that beauty is indeed only skin deep.  In fact, research shows that the characteristics we value most in others aren’t related to looks or intelligence, but to transparency, openness, and empathy.

With that said, here are 10 things you can do to leverage those traits and be more likable:

Making Friends
  1. Take an interest in people.  This starts with asking questions.  No one likes to be interrogated, but sincere questions about where someone grew up, their occupation, their interests, are usually welcome.  Many of us think that every thought that pops into our heads is worth sharing.  Mostly, we’re wrong.  So ask gentle and unobtrusive questions, don’t interrupt, and pay attention to the facial expressions, tone, and body language of the person you’re talking to.  If your questions make them uncomfortable, stop.
    Be you
  2. Be yourself.  Most of us develop a pretty good b.s. detector by our 10th birthday.  If you’re faking interest or trying too hard, people will see through you and you will have turned a potential likable trait into the opposite.
  3. Be stable and consistent.  If you’ve experienced meeting someone who can’t focus on a single topic for more than a few seconds, you know why this is off-putting.  Pay attention to the person with whom you’re speaking, don’t blurt, and don’t change subjects without a reasonable segue.
    Body language is worth 1000 words
  4. Pay attention to your body language.  If you fold your arms across your chest, you’re signaling that you’re uptight and closed to new relationships.  Pay attention to your facial expressions, keep your face open and pleasant, no grimacing or frowning.  Lean forward just a bit, but don’t invade someone’s space.  A slight lean shows you’re interested and eager to know more.  You can get a few more tips here.
  5. Remember names.  This is tricky for many of us because we’re a little nervous when we first meet someone new.  It’s especially difficult if you’ve just been introduced to 10 new people, but if you concentrate on remembering names, make it a priority, you can do it, and do it reliably.  If you have to ask someone a second time so that you’re sure you remember, that’s better than calling them “Hey, you!” or nothing at all.  Remembering someone’s name the second time you meet them is important, so don’t be afraid to jot a new name down or ask Siri to make a contact or take a note.
    Smile warmly or don’t bother
  6. Smile warmly, which can take practice for some of us.  But since it’s better not to smile at all if it comes off as even a little sinister or fake (unless you happen to be Joel Osteen), make sure you master the technique before you practice on new acquaintances.  
  7. Be open but discrete.  There may be a perfect time and place to tell someone your ex-wife is a gold-digging witch spelled with a capital B, but it’s probably not within the first 20 minutes of meeting them.  There’s a balance to openness, as there is with stability and consistency.  There really is such a thing as too much information.  If you have reason to suspect that you’ve crossed a few boundaries with this one,  then be particularly circumspect about revealing too many personal details.  The rule of thumb is that you’re open primarily about the positive aspects of your life and that you save the more negative ones for your therapist.
    See me, feel me, touch me…
  8. Don’t be afraid to touch another person briefly if your relationship has progressed to the point where it’s appropriate.  Ok, when I say “don’t be afraid” what I really mean is DO BE AFRAID.   Before you touch someone, remember that this is the era of #MeToo.   Much good is coming from MeToo,  it’s calling attention to unwanted and inappropriate behavior.  If you’re at all fuzzy on what makes up unwanted or inappropriate touching, keep your hands (and other appendages) to yourself.   Some people are naturally tactile.  If that’s you, a friendly clasped hand or a gentle hand on a shoulder can release neurochemicals that produce a sense of well-being.  On the other hand, an unwelcome or clumsy attempt to touch someone when they’re not expecting it or don’t welcome it is deeply unsettling.   If you’re not confident in your ability to read others, don’t mess with this one.  Maybe you’ll develop it, but don’t feel bad if you don’t.
    Judge not…
  9. Don’t be judgemental.  That may mean that you have to ratchet back on number 2, above.  In other words, don’t be yourself if you’re a highly opinionated partisan and you’ve just learned that you’re speaking to a person that doesn’t share your opinion about a politician, public policy, or subjects of faith.  One of the things that make conversation interesting is hearing a new or different perspective.  We ALL have some things in common, if only because we share the same class, order, family, genus, and species.  Focus on the interests you share, not the values you may not.  And if you’re unsure whether you can have a friendly relationship with someone who voted for a candidate of whom you don’t approve, or attends a church that you don’t like, ask yourself what kind of relationship you have with your doctor – do you share her or his political and religious opinions?  And if you don’t, but your doctor is competent and caring,  does it matter?  If you answered yes, you may find that being more likable is a longer-term goal and that you need to deal with some more immediate issues before you get started with that one.  Maybe.
    Enthusiastic and fun
  10. Be enthusiastic.  Enthusiasm is magnetic and captivating.  We all tend to gravitate toward people who are passionate, especially when the passion is for life and love and good wine.  It’s wonderful if you’re passionate about a particular politician, or party, or religious worldview, and you should indulge those passions when you’re with family members or close friends that share them.  Especially if you’re absolutely certain that they really do share them.  When you’re meeting someone new, confine your passions to your hobbies, pastimes,  and favorite vintages.  We all want to spend time with people who are upbeat and positive and that love life.  In the end, your enthusiasm needs tempering.  Don’t let it be an excuse to dominate the conversation.   Engage your new acquaintances, and let them share their passions, too.

The preceding tips are tested characteristics that most of us like and find appealing in others.  But there are plenty of ways to change the polarity and repel people that we would prefer to attract.








Traits that repel

Most of us can write our own lists of unlikability traits and they’re likely way longer than this one.   Our individual preferences can influence what we find annoying or off-putting in others, but there are some more or less universal “don’ts” that are good reminders.  We mostly know these things intuitively, but some of them can be forgotten or ignored when we’re distracted.  You don’t need to commit them to memory, just bear them in mind.

The art of humblebragging

1.  Boasting cloaked in faux humility.  It’s easy to slip into some version of this if you’re not careful.  At least, I assume it is – I wouldn’t really know because I’m usually so interested in other people I don’t talk about myself.   Even though I won the Nobel Prize for Humility and once rescued the Pope from an alligator. Boasting cloaked in faux humility.  Ick.


2.  Outbursts that stop conversation and focus attention on you.   This is sometimes called emotional hijacking.  It usually takes the form of a self-centered display of unchecked emotion.  You know –  histrionics and melodrama.  Hopefully, you’re not a practitioner because it’s usually an indicator of neuroses and/or personality disorder.   If you’ve been exposed to an emotional hijacking, you know how draining and thoroughly repugnant they are.  Be aware that we can be guilty of smaller scale hijackings that may not involve tears or hysterics, but can still be pretty off-putting.   Ranting can fall into this category, and while we usually do it online, it’s a form of emotional hijacking that likable people avoid.


3. Being glum and somber.  As I mentioned above, most of us are attracted to people with enthusiasm and passion.   So it’s no surprise that the opposite is at least a little repulsive.   While life can definitely have plenty of moments where it’s hard to find much to smile about, people that smile anyway are universally happier and have more friends.  I’m not suggesting that you should fake it if you’re depressed.  Disingenuousness is even more repulsive than gloominess.  If you’ve got a good reason for solemnity, take a day or two to deal with it.  Get help from family, friends, or counselors of whatever sort you’re most comfortable, and then tackle life and new relationships again with a new zeal.

Don’t drop that

4. Name Dropping.  This is probably too obvious, but don’t ignore it.  Too many of us do it without thinking about how bad it makes us look.   It’s a form of the faux humility in 1, above, but it’s actually a little more insidious because it cheapens you.  It’s a like a dirty window into your soul; no one’s going to like what they see through it.  If you’re not worth knowing and befriending based on your own merits, then you’re not worth knowing or befriending even if you’re on a first name basis with the governor.


5. Gossip.  It’s tempting, especially when you’re troubled by someone else’s poor behavior.  But it’s a little like name-dropping, and a lot like faux humility because it ties you to someone else, and compares your goodness to theirs.   Avoiding it will put you in pretty rarified atmosphere because lots of us indulge in it at every opportunity.  One of the drawbacks of being a prolific gossip is that you are fairly certain that you’ll wind up being the subject of plenty of it yourself.  Stay above the fray, and you’re far more likely to be treated respectfully by friends and acquaintances when you’re not within earshot.

Put it away

6.  Keep the phone in your pocket.   Nothing says you’re neither interested nor interesting like checking your email or texting while you’re talking with someone, especially a new acquaintance.  Just don’t.

Too much information

7. TMI on SM.   That’s too much information on social media.  The phenomenon of the online disinhibition effect (ODE)  has swept through western cultures.  It’s the weird tendency we’ve developed for dropping most of the filters that we keep in place during face to face or even telephone conversations.  It seems that we get lots of subtle feedback from others during a typical conversation, whether through vocal inflection or body language that helps us understand when we’re losing someone’s attention, or saying something inappropriate.  When we’re hidden behind screen and keyboard, we can’t perceive the many obvious or tiny subconsciously processed signals that tell us how others are responding to what we have to say.   That’s led lots of people to make pretty poor decisions.  ODE can literally make us seem unhinged.  Avoid it.  Look at your social media accounts with a keen eye and delete posts that seem disinhibited.  If you think you don’t have any, ask a friend for help.

Don’t be closed-minded

8. Being closed-minded.  Being open-minded doesn’t mean that you can’t have opinions.  Even open-minded people can be too eager to share their opinions, though.  Open-mindedness means in part that you don’t hold mundane opinions too strongly and that you’re not just willing but eager to hear other’s views.  This is not to say that you need to be willing to compromise on your moral and ethical beliefs.  Just be willing to listen without condemnation.  And be aware that your body language and expressions can betray you, so do your best to be genuinely interested in even ill-informed opinions without telling those that hold them why they’re wrong.   This is particularly important in new relationships.

Putting it all together

Putting it all together

When making a first impression, looks matter.  If you dress and groom well, you’ll score some points early on in a relationship.   If you want to support that early advantage, be empathetic and judiciously transparent and open.  We respond favorably to these attributes.  If they don’t come naturally, practice them, but don’t be artificial.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly as easy to repel others as it is to attract them.  Boasting is near the top of repellant characteristics.   We are pretty good at recognizing it even when it’s disguised as humility.   You can avoid it by focusing on others instead of yourself.  Ask questions about other’s lives, their interests, their origins, and their passions.  Develop a genuine sense of wonder at our diversity, whether it’s cultural or simply based on interests and life experience.  We really are all as different as snowflakes or leaves.  Getting a glimpse into the mind of another person is a privilege and has many rewards.  Pursue the experience and you’ll reap the rewards.

Be sure to share your experiences, thoughts, comments, and ideas below.  Cheers!

Hack your brain: 3 ways to sharpen your focus


get smart

Is it really possible to improve your brain power?

I wish that I’d asked this question a long time ago.   Surprisingly (to me, at least), the answer is “Yes!”  Now that I’ve learned these relatively simple hacks, my productivity and work quality have improved dramatically.  If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, I’d have written dozens of books, completed far more of my own research, and launched a few dozen enterprises.  And that’s not meant as hyperbole.

We’ve come a long way from the days when “intelligence quotient” was the only metric by which we measured human cognition.  While we used to rely primarily on pattern recognition, today’s neuroscientists understand that general intelligence (g)  is comprised of a number of individual factors like fluid reasoning, visual and auditory processing, working memory, attention control, long-term storage and retrieval, and cognitive processing speeds, among others.

While the specific factors that make up our overall intelligence are pretty firmly fixed by genetics and other factors that we can’t change, there are some important tune-ups that can help us to get the most horsepower   If you ignore these hacks and the science behind them, you can rest assured that many of your peers and competitors will not.

Sharpen your focus, raise your income…

If you’re skeptical because you’ve read that intelligence is inherited from your mother, or that g is fixed by genetic factors, or you otherwise just don’t believe that there’s anything you can do to improve your cognitive performance, keep reading.  The jury is not out on this topic – intelligence IS heritable, but that does not mean that you typically perform at your peak capacity.  You may not be able to transform yourself from dull normal to genius, but you CAN boost your cognition in ways that will improve your performance including the quality and quantity of your work regardless of what work you do.

Intelligence, as measured by IQ, correlates very well with income and it is a good predictor of family stability.   Several studies also link IQ below 90 with criminal behavior, and at least one researcher believes that societies with low average IQ can’t sustain a democratic form of government.

Beyond the obvious immediate benefits, once you reach the age of 65, your chances of developing dementia due to Alzheimer’s or other disorders are about one in ten.   You can dramatically reduce those odds by following the recommendations laid out below.

So if you CAN raise your IQ, or g, and reduce your chances of dementia, hopefully, it seems obvious that you SHOULD.

Not only will you be better off, society as a whole will be better off.   And the more of us that value our minds and work to improve them, the better our families, neighborhoods, and whole cultures will become. So don’t just follow these methods for yourself, pass them along to anyone that might be interested.

But wait – it’s NOT a no-brainer

Improving the way your mind works has always been within our grasp.   Getting a STEM degree, learning a new skill, and solving complex problems are all ways in which we improve our cognition.   People have been leveraging their brain power for as long as there have been people and that’s why we have smartphones, bullet trains, and the ISS.

While the hacks I’m going to share with you are simple, not all of them are easy.  We’ve often heard the brain compared to a muscle.  While brain tissue is nothing at all like muscle tissue, they both improve their performance when they are exercised.  Be prepared to put some effort into improving your intelligence.  Just like bodybuilders that work out for hours each day, you’ll see better results with better effort.

You should keep in mind that human intelligence is a composite of the factors I mentioned above along with a few others.  These factors are sharpened to varying degrees the brain hacking techniques I’ll share with you below.

Some of thems are as simple as taking a pill.  Others require more effort.  In general, you’ll see better results in the long term than you will in the short term.  Persevere.

The five best brain hacks to sharpen your mind

1. Brain-boosting supplements.

Yes, I know that the supplement industry is rife with poor quality products, unsupported claims, unscrupulous advertising, and bad science.  At least some of those shortcomings can be applied to many other sectors of the economy, including the pharmaceutical industry.   But that doesn’t mean that all supplements are always bad.  There are a number of non-prescription substances that have been proven to boost cognitive performance and either slow or reduce cognitive decline.  Here are my top three:

a)  Sunflower lecithin –

Lecithin makes up about one-third of our brains.  It’s a type of fat, so if you’re ever called a fat-head, don’t feel bad.   Besides fat, lecithin contains a compound that our bodies require in order to produce acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter.  Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that allow impulses to be passed between the neurons in our brains.

Studies have shown that phosphatidylcholine, one of the several phospholipids in lecithin, can stimulate neurogenesis which includes the growth of new brain cells as well as creating new neural connections even in older adults.  There are almost too many benefits to list without making lecithin sound like snake oil, but it’s not.

Lecithin and phosphatidylcholine are in many foods, including eggs, meat (especially liver), nuts, and seeds.  But it’s nearly impossible to get the levels that create the best results through diet alone.  You’ll need to supplement, and lecithin from sunflowers seems to be much better than lecithin from soy.  NOW produces very reasonably priced gel capsules that contain 1200 milligrams (mg) of lecithin derived from sunflowers.  You can purchase them from Amazon for less than $12 for 200 caps. They contain 420 mg of phosphatidylcholine, along with a number of other phospholipids that have a range of benefits.   Country Life produces soft gels with 1200 mg of phosphatidylcholine alone.  Because there are other physiological benefits associated with sunflower lecithin, I’ve elected to take it instead of the phosphatidylcholine by itself.  The results have thus far been better than I expected.

Among the benefits you should experience from taking a phosphatidylcholine supplement are increased mental focus, improved memory, faster learning, improved motor skills, and better sleep patterns.   These results were confirmed in a 1975 study conducted by MIT.

Other research indicates that sunflower lecithin also helps heal liver tissue, and reduces joint and other internal inflammation.  Sunflower lecithin and phosphatidylcholine are very nearly too good to be true, but the effects are very real and the cost is minimal.

b) Fish Oil – Omega 3

You may have heard the old saying that fish is “brain food”.  There are many examples of folk wisdom that are nothing more than hearsay or urban legend, but several studies have shown very conclusively that Omega 3 improves brain function.  At least one study has found that fish oil and omega 3 supplementation correspond with higher volumes of brain matter in areas shown to be connected with memory and higher cognitive functions.  And yes, size DOES matter with brains, too, especially when the larger parts are involved with memory and cognition.

Fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega 3 fatty acid, that has been shown to be important for both heart health and neural function.  Unfortunately, there are some potential problems with fish oil supplements.  Some studies have shown a potential link between fish oil supplements and some types of cancer, including prostate cancer.

And since some supplements use low-quality fish from questionable sources,  an injudicious purchase may give you more than you bargained for.  But because Omega 3 oils, including DHA, are found in seeds and oils, like flax seed, flax seed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and in many types of fish and seafood, you can experience cognitive enhancement and slow or even reversed cognitive decline by eating more of those foods, thus reduce the need for supplements.

If you want to try a supplement, Carlson Labs Very Finest Fish Oil is not a bad choice.  It’s not the cheapest, but I’ve found it to be of high quality, and my memory and clarity improve noticeably when I take it.  I try to limit my intake to two teaspoons full 3 days per week, less if I’m eating lots of omega 3-rich foods.

Carlson Labs also makes soft gels that may be easier for some people to get down.  They contain 800 mg per capsule, so you’ll have to choke down 3 to get the recommended 2,000 mg.

c) Curcumin   

Curcumin is a component of turmeric, the spice that gives curry powder its color.

Indians have used turmeric literally for millennia, not just as a spice but also as a powerful medicine.

If you don’t take any other supplements either because of the cost, inconvenience, your own skepticism, or just plain obstinance, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor if you overcome whatever obstacles are preventing you from taking supplements.  This one does far more than just improve brain health.  And while I’m a big fan of healthy skepticism, if that’s what’s stopping you, it’s anything but healthy in this case.

In fairness to skeptics, the claims made about turmeric and curcumin are so broad and audacious that it’s hard not to dismiss them out of hand.  But an increasing body of research is bearing out many of even the more outlandish claims.

When it comes to brain health, curcumin’s benefits have not been studied as thoroughly as some of its other nearly miraculous properties.  Based on my own experience and curcumin’s  documented ability to stimulate the brain’s production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (a compound that causes the brain to produce more brain cells) it’s a vital part of a brain health regimen.    While that’s a pretty big benefit, it has also been shown to act as an anti-depressant.  These are two potent ingredients for increased intelligence and clearer thinking.  For just under $18 you can get Bio Schwartz’ turmeric with bioperine.

Although you can get curcumin by itself, there are other compounds in turmeric that seem to have a certain synergy, so I prefer turmeric.  The bioperine, which is essentially black pepper, helps your body to absorb the beneficial components by orders of magnitude, so however you choose to add turmeric and curcumin to your daily regimen, make sure to include pepper (aka piperine or bioperine).

Turmeric and curcumin should be part of every diet or supplement regimen.  If you doubt it, read this article listing 10 reasons that you should be taking it every day.  And there are no side effects, as far as is known, so don’t hesitate to start taking it today.

2. Brain Training

Here’s where a little effort can go a long way.  And while it may not sound like it, it can be a lot of fun.

Because competition for bright minds is fierce in both academia and commerce, the race to find ways to sharpen our minds has become just as fierce.  Naturally, that means that there are lots of unrealistic claims made about cognitive enhancement from various brain training programs.  And there are lots of programs.   Lumosity is one of the leaders in this pack, largely because they’ve invested heavily in a variety of promotional campaigns. To their credit, Lumosity’s website doesn’t make outlandish claims about the results that users achieve, although some of that may be implied in their advertising.   Lumosity has lots of competition, and while it’s possible that some of the games and exercises that Lumosity and other brain training websites offer can really improve your cognition, there is a lone stand out brain training exercise that has been shown by conclusive studies to actually improve general intelligence.  It’s called dual n-back training.

The n-back concept was introduced in 1958 by psychologist Dr. Wayne Kirchner, not as a brain training method, but as a way of measuring working memory.  Dr. Kirchner’s original method involved presenting a subject with a sequential series of shapes, letters, or sounds.  The participant was then asked to indicate when a current pattern matched an earlier one some number (n) of steps back in the sequence.  Hence the name n-back.

in 2003, Dr. Susanne Jaeggi and others developed a modification of Kirchner’s original n-back concept in which two sequences are presented to a subject in different forms, usually one audible and the other visual.  Although Dr. Jaeggi was interested in using this technique to measure working memory, which is a key component of g.  The double sequence is the primary concept behind “dual n-back” brain training.

Meta studies have shown that dual n-back training actually can increase general intelligence.  The amount of increase can be more than 6 points on a standard IQ test, which is pretty amazing.  You can read more here.

Dual n-back brain training focuses on challenging and improving working memory, but it has an overall effect on general intelligence.  You can start a regiment of dual n-back training at  It’s free, so there are no excuses.  Of course, you could spend a little extra time watching re-runs of Friends, but hopefully, you’ve already figured out that if you can INCREASE your IQ, you can also DECREASE it. Choose wisely.

Dual n-back training is an effective way to improve your intelligence, but it is not the only one.  Lumosity may be effective, along with many of their competitors.  As nearly as I can tell, dual n-back is the most effective.   But it’s important to remember that activities, like solving sudoku puzzles and reading nonfiction, may improve some of the factors that contribute to general intelligence.  Make up your mind to devote at least 15 minutes a day to one of these activities, and your brain will thank you for it.

3.  Pharmaceutical Nootropics – Modafinil

I’ve saved the best for last.  This does NOT mean that you should ignore the preceding two hacks but if you do, you’ll have impressive results with this one by itself.  Nootropics are drugs or other substances (like the supplements I listed in part 1, above) that enhance memory and/or general cognition.  I didn’t use the term for the supplements because I reserve it for pharmaceuticals, even though it can be correctly applied to any substance that can make you smarter.

There are plenty of nootropics on the market, including many claiming to be “natural” concoctions of herbs, roots, berries, vitamins, oils, etc.  This is a burgeoning industry, with more and more tech execs, students, engineers, coders, and others in competitive environments latching on to any potential advantage to sustain or advance their careers.  Caveat emptor applies to these, but with way more caution than you should use when buying a car or just about any other product. There are lots of bad actors promoting snake oil, so learn as much as you can before you try something that may

The one that has my undivided attention because I’ve tested its effectiveness personally is modafinil.  Before you read on, you should understand that I’m biased and that my opinions on modafinil’s effectiveness are dispassionate.  I fell in love with it when I first tried it, so even though I’ve read peer-reviewed literature about it, I’m fighting my own confirmation bias.   In other words, you should definitely do your own research before diving into this nootropic head first.

I’m not alone.  A good friend that started taking modafinil a few months ago tells me that his experience with it has been extraordinarily positive.  He’s an engineer, so his mental acuity is a vital resource, and it’s been significantly sharpened by this nootropic.

Modafinil was originally developed in France by neurophysiologist Michel Jouvet to treat narcolepsy.  It was approved by the USDA in 1998 as a prescription-only treatment for narcolepsy and for shift work sleep disorders.  It’s not clear when it became popular as a nootropic, but it’s become one of the most sought after formulations by nootropic users.  It’s often compared to the fictional smart drug NZT-48 depicted in the movie “Limitless” starring Bradley Cooper.  The US Airforce has officially approved modafinil for use by air crews on long or demanding missions including combat.  Athletes have used it in violation of doping rules because it significantly lessens the perceived level of effort required to sustain strenuous training.

The potential downsides of modafinil are relatively minor.  Skin rash and allergy are the only two contra indications listed by Cephalon, the US manufacturer.  Cephalon also advises people with cardiovascular disorders and/or cirrhosis of the importance of consulting a physician before taking modafinil.  FDA did report 6 cases of severe skin rash that may have been related to modafinil use between 1998 and 2007.  You can read more about potential side effects on Wikipedia.

Modafinil has been used safely by countless millions of people world wide.  It IS a prescription medication in most western countries.  Your doctor may prescribe it for you if you have narcolepsy or do shift work.

You may also order it from Duckdose by clicking here.   Duckdose is thoroughly reputable.  They’re shipments originate outside of the US, but shipping usually takes a week or less.

Don’t take my word for the effectiveness of modafinil.  Do your own research, and make your decision accordingly.  For me, modafinil has been life-changing.  Without it, I almost feel as though I’m in a fog.  It’s a familiar feeling, but I didn’t notice it until I took my first dose of modafinil and the fog lifted.

For me, modafinil has been life-changing.  Without it, I almost feel as though I’m in a fog.  It’s a familiar feeling, but I didn’t notice it until I took my first dose of modafinil and the fog lifted.

If you found this article helpful, please don’t hesitate to share it.  And we’d love to read your thoughts, opinions, and personal experiences, so please share them below.



Quit your job in 6 months (or less)?

Buck Flogging (not his given name) has put together a course that covers the central theme of this website, which is how to make the leap from the treadmill of the modern 8 to 5 rat race, and step into the rewards of entrepreneurship.

Buck has a masters degree from the School of Hard Knocks.  If you’ve ever taken any of their courses, you know that’s a tough program.  But he’s willing to share what he’s learned about the strange and wonderful world of online entrepreneurship.

He’s learned at least as much from his failures as he has from his successes, which should be true of all of us. Buck has had his share of both, so he’s a wealth of information.

I don’t recommend many courses, but this is one you can’t afford to miss if you’re interested in making the transition to freedom.  Buck will teach you all you need to know to quit your job in six months.   Not because you’re sick of it, but because you’ve developed income streams to replace what your earning there.   You can find the Quit in 6 course  at   You won’t want to pass this one up if you’ve ever wondered whether you could earn money online.

A few words about freelancing

Freelance for fun and profit
Freelance for fun and profit

At Transitions to Freedom, we monitor and evaluate technological, social, and economic trends.  Our goal is to spot opportunities for greater personal and financial freedom, and to tell anyone that will listen what we’re seeing.

The rate of change in nearly every sector we monitor is increasing. That makes is hard to peer very far into the future, because rapid changes leave an element of chaos in their wake.

Nonetheless, some trends are emerging so distinctly that their trajectories appear to be clear.  The new reliance on outsourced labor is one of those trends.

According to, freelancers now make up a whopping 34% of the US work force, which accounts for some 54 million people.  There are many reasons for this, some of them are good.

The good reasons are that flexible work schedules and work-from-anywhere lifestyles are giving people more freedom than ever to choose how and where they work.  The ability to compete and set prices also appeals to many freelancers.

The bulk of freelancers are millennials.  They credit social media and internet connectedness for the rise in freelance opportunities.

According to MBO Partners, the number of young freelancers has grown 1.9 million in 2011 to about 5.4 million in 2015, an increase of nearly 300%.   That’s a steep trend.

Other demographics are rapidly joining the ranks of freelancers as well.  The growth of this industry suggests a few underlying trends:

  1. The days of a “golden handcuffs,” pension and benefit plans that become more valuable the longer your tenure with an employer, are over.  Thanks to changes in regulations, including the cynically named “Affordable Care Act”, employers are reducing their costs by outsourcing.
  2. Loyalty between employers and employees, if it ever existed, is gone.  Disney’s recent decision to layoff a few hundred employees who were expected to train their cheaper immigrant replacements is but one example that many employers place their bottom line far above their human resources.  The message to employees is clear:  if you don’t place your own bottom line above loyalty to your employer, you may find yourself with no line at all.
  3. The skills and educational requirements that are in demand are in flux.  Your ability to stay current and development new skills as the market demands them is an important part of maintaining and expanding your earning potential.  This means investing time in yourself, which can include taking courses, reading, and networking.   Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Udemy and iTunesU are trending.  These sites may well be the future of higher education.

Successful freelancers have some pressures that employees don’t, including the burden of a much more complicated income tax reporting requirements.  It can also be challenging to keep a steady work load, especially as you’re starting out.

But the overall level of satisfaction that freelancers have in their work and lifestyles is considerably higher than it is for employees.  Couple this with the fact that your income is not fixed, but can be increased when you have specific needs by accepting more jobs or adding skill sets, and it’s easy to see why freelancers tend to be very satisfied with their work.

If you haven’t considered freelancing, give it a hard look this week.   It’s not a passive income, which should be your highest goal, but freelancing does offer much more flexibility than a 9 to 5 routine.



Skills that will earn you $1000 next weekend

freedom cut the strings puppet
No Strings Attached

The information age has blasted open the doors to remarkable new opportunities and lifestyles.  If you’ve never heard the term “portable income”, it’s a concept that should get your attention.  A lot of your attention.  The idea that you can earn more from anywhere adds a dimension of freedom that our ancestors only dreamed of.

Thanks to computers and high-speed internet, pretty much anyone can earn money anywhere by offering their services as a freelancer from any where that you can plug in a laptop and connect it to the world wide web.  That covers a lot of territory.

As you might imagine, some skills are in greater demand than others.  Matt Barrie, the CEO and founder of, an Australia-based site, recently shared some insights with James Altucher.   James is an author, entrepreneur, investor, trend analyst, and student of human nature.  If you haven’t read his “Choose Yourself” books, you should:

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

Meanwhile, has seen amazing global growth in freelance transactions.  According to Mr. Barrie, some of the most sought after skills and services include:

  1. Video production.  There is a large and growing demand for online video content to facilitate product launches, educate customers, and increase web traffic through engaging, sharable content.  Animation is popular, and surprisingly easy to create with the plethora of cheap tools that can be learned quickly.
  2. Website development and design.  Many publishers don’t want to take time to learn or implement web publishing skills.  With tools like WordPress, and the nearly limitless templates that can be used to create professional websites in short order, this is an easy skill set to learn quickly.
  3. Illustration.  One hot niche is in children’s books.  With the explosion in self-publishing, many new authors are flooding cyberspace with hopeful new works that need art work.
  4. Photoshop photo editing and other design work.  Advertisers need well-designed layouts and powerpoint presentations.  These again are fairly easy skills to develop, if you don’t already have them.
  5. Writing.  With a growing number of online publications and the increasing prevalence of email marketing, there is a big demand for well-written articles, sales copy, and entertaining content. This is a skill you can hone with practice and online coursework.

Earning money anywhere is a worth goal if you like to travel or would like to live in an area that doesn’t have many job or business opportunities.  With the skills I’ve listed above, you can at least supplement your income.  Many freelancers are earning full-time incomes, so it’s a very realistic goal.

If you don’t have the skills I’ve listed, or you’re not confident in them, you can and absolutely should develop these and others., iTunesU, and many other MOOC sites offer online courses.  Invest some time and money in yourself, and you’ll find that the dividends are far greater than just about any other investment you can make.


Tracking Trends – How emerging technologies may shape our future

Knowledge, innovation, and technology are increasing at an accelerating rate.  It’s impossible to predict exactly where this will take us in the next decades, but based on recent trends, human society is on the cusp of radical changes.

The following articles offer some surprising glimpses into the technologies that are poised to change the human race in ways we can’t predict, but that promise to be profound.

21 technology tipping points we will reach by 2030

If you think our reliance on smartphones and web-connected devices has reached it’s peak, you’re in for a surprise.  From web-connected clothing and glasses, to self-driving cars and trucks, to 3D printed consumer products, and even synthetic replacement organs, the world will be a different place in 14 short years.  If we survive the next 2.  Techinsider has the article here.


8 Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

DECEMBER 08, 2015

Loss of privacy may be an inevitable consequence of our increasing immersion in cyberspace, but did you know that governments are far from the only ones that are interested in invading yours?  The emergence of algorithms that profile your personality and buying habits are becoming remarkably sophisticated.  And ‘bots are now crawling through cyberspace at lightning speed to collect data, while quantum computing may make todays best processors seem like dinosaurs.  Harvard Business Review reflects on these and 5 more jaw-dropping technologies that are shaping a brave new world here.


6 technology mega-trends shaping the future of society

The digitization of matter, the emerging prevalence of the internet of things, and AI and it’s ability to analyze “big data” are among the mega trees that morphing our future into a science fiction scene that may seem stranger than any sci-fy conceived to date.  Read where the World Economic Forum thinks we’re heading in the next decades here.

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016

robot world

Deep neural nets will facilitate advanced machine learning that will allow computer networks to learn on their own, without human inputs.  This in turn will spawn some incredible new machine abilities, including autonomous devices like…well, pretty much anything you can imagine along with a lot of things you probably can’t.  Which is probably ok since, since you may sleep better remembering the world as it was rather than envisioning what it may become.  Gartner’s analysis should not be missed.  Read their projections for the short term future here.  


These are but a small sampling of some of the more immediately important changes that we’re likely facing.  How they will affect our day to day lives is anyone’s guess.  I don’t know of anyone that predicted the impact that smartphones and social media and texting apps would have on society.  Mark Zuckerberg is a visionary, but he couldn’t have known for sure how Facebook would alter human interaction.

The road ahead is looking very interesting indeed.  Don’t think for a moment that it won’t be bumpy.  My advice is that you buckle up, and stay informed. Start by subscribing to our newsletter.

Selling Time

selling time
You can spend all your time making money…The Eagles


Secrets of passive income

Life is the most precious commodity we have.  If you’re under thirty, it can seem like it will go on forever.   But it won’t.

The good news is that we now seem to have more time than we’ve had at any point in modern human history, thanks to advances in medicine, sanitation, hygiene, agriculture, etc.

For most of the last 500 years, the average person that survived infancy could expect to live between 35 and 40 years.  Disease and infection killed most of us long before old age got the chance.

The chart below shows how much and how quickly our lifespans have increased:

Life expectancy chart

You can find the original chart at which discusses the data in more detail.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with passive income, this is where we get to that.  The vast majority of us work for a wage or a salary.  This really means that we’re selling our time, the essence of our lives, for money.  We’re selling time that we could spend with our wives and children, or our parents, or traveling, or writing, or growing an organic garden, or volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or improving  our fitness and health.

This is an important secret of passive income:  If we’re earning a salary or a wage, we’re not just selling time, we’re selling our very lives.  No matter how good the pay is, we’re still selling something that we can never buy back.  It’s a secret that our bosses don’t want us to learn.  Fortunately for them, most of us never will.

Passive income gives us the freedom to SPEND our time instead of SELLING it.

Seeing income in terms of what we are REALLY trading to earn it helps to keep our lives in balance and our finances in perspective.  It’s one thing to pay $2,000 for the latest flat screen, but would we trade a treasured memory for it?   Most of us could have created some wonderful memories with the TIME that we’ve traded to buy things that may only end up costing us even MORE time.

Most people think of passive income as the privilege of the very wealthy.  One of the themes of period shows like Downton Abbey is that the landed gentry or the aristocracy had social status that not only didn’t require them to sell their time for money, it forbade them from it.  In centuries past, it was the privilege only of a relative handful of aristocrats to have  passive income and to spend their time instead of selling it.

Now we come to the second important secret of passive income: in 2016, anyone that wants to develop passive income can.

If you’re like most of the people I talk to, you won’t believe that last statement, but it’s true for literally the first time in human history.   It doesn’t matter whether we grew up in a trailer park or a mcmansion, anyone with the desire to live on a passive income can do it.

This is due partly to changes in culture that have broken down the barriers once erected by the aristocracy, but it’s mainly due to computer and internet technology and a huge shift in economic priorities.

Throughout history, business consisted of producing a good or service and selling them one at a time to buyers that needed and could afford them.  The market places were small in most cases, and totally limited by geography.

Today, we can produce just one product and some kinds of services and sell them over and over again without needing to manufacture, package, label, or ship a single physical item.  If that seems impossible, consider an ebook or an mp3 song, or an image, or a video that can be uploaded once, but downloaded an infinite number of times without raising your production costs by more than a few tens or hundreds of dollars.  And instead of a market that’s limited to a few mile radius from the place where products are produced, it is a simple matter to reach literally around the globe with digital products.

Anyone can write. That means you can publish an ebook.  If you have musical talent, you can upload and sell your music.  Once it’s uploaded, you can sell that one product a million times.  Not only is it perfectly legal, but your customers will all have gotten exactly what they wanted and what they paid for.

There are many, many more ways to develop passive incomes and we’ll go through the mechanics of developing them.  The most important thing for now is to REALLY understand the reasons that you should never be satisfied with any income that isn’t passive.

Before we go on, it’s important to point out that passive incomes are not necessarily the ONLY way you should ever seek to earn an income.  Developing good passive income streams requires many things, some that include experience, perhaps an education, and almost always capital to get started.

I’ve had a great career as a geologist that’s allowed me to see and experience things that I would have missed without a science degree.  I’ve been involved in offshore oil exploration, drilled on the North Slope of Alaska where I watched the Aurora Borealis nearly touch the horizon, I’ve explored remote mountains for gold ore deposits, and been involved with Superfund and other environmental cleanups of bay sediments, soil, and groundwater.

Those were all great experiences.   And all helped to contribute to my some passive income streams.  If you’re passionate about a particular career path, pursue it zealously.   The decision to pursue a degree in today’s rapidly changing economy is not an easy one, partly because not all colleges and universities are keeping up technologies, and partly because tuition and other costs are so high.  This is a vital topic that we’ll explore later.

Here’s the third secret of passive incomes: they’re not necessarily EASY to develop, but everyone that I know that has them agrees that they are worth every effort and every inconvenience.

If you make up your mind now that you’d rather spend your time than sell it, and if you truly understand that no one can pay you what your life is worth, you will make developing passive incomes the top priority of your life.

Stay tuned as we pick some specific strategies and blueprints for making the transition to freedom.  Our newsletter will give you insights, tips, and action steps for creating your passive income lifeline.  Sign up now.

Ending the commute

freedom road sign 2

Since over 70% of us don’t like our jobs, it’s worth considering a step that reduces our stress and discomfort.  Eliminating your commute might be just the ticket.

There relatively stress-free ways to work from home.  This will eliminate the cost of commuting, give you an extra hour of sleep each day, and give you more time to add other income streams.

Here are Five Ways to Work From Home As A Call Center Representative…Without Going Into Sales.

We’ll explore more work-from-home opportunities in the days ahead.  Working from home is a step on the transition to freedom, but only a step.  Since 93% of small business owners enjoy their work, and their incomes are often scalable, meaning that small business owners can increase their income by adding staff, increasing production, or adding locations.

Small business owners sell more than their time, and that’s a big step forward on the transition to freedom.