Consume Skills, Not Stuff

Instead of consuming more stuff, why don’t we consume more of our skills?

That little thought struck me yesterday, while I was sitting waiting in the bank, having loans advertised at me.

We all like to acquire new things. There’s nothing wrong with that desire; it’s a pretty decent developmental tool. But acquiring new things doesn’t have to mean buying new stuff. In most cases, new stuff is not the kind of acquisition that makes us happy.

For example: why should I buy a new guitar? A new guitar won’t help my skills, it won’t help me play any better. What will help me play better is acquiring a new song.

So I went home and ‘bought’ a new song by looking it up on the internet. I now ‘have’ a new song in my head and it cost me nothing. I can forever get pleasure out of my new acquisition, merely by sitting down and playing it.

Best of all, the song’s warranty won’t run out and it won’t break through overuse – in fact it only ‘breaks’ through underuse. What material stuff can you say that about? Certainly not my Argos toaster, recently replaced.

Some things need to be bought as stuff, like my toaster, but a lot of our desire can be slaked by picking up a new skill or by developing existing skills.

So from now on, whenever I desire something new, I’m going to think first of nurturing my skills.

Sleep Long: Be Awesome

Sleep 10 hours or more every night and you will reap huge benefits on your physical and mental performance and, not surprisingly, you’ll feel great! (You’ll also be less likely to get fat and die…)

Now, I’m not just making this up – science told me. Volume 34, Issue 7 of Sleep, in fact. More precisely, a snappily titled article, “The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players”.

A-ha. Basketball players, you notice. Yes, the fact that their free throw and 3-point field goal percentages both increased by 9%, might seem to be rather sport-specific, but they were also faster in sprints and had faster reaction times. Not only that, but their mood was also elevated, with increased vigour and decreased fatigue and the players reported increased physical and mental well-being.

That’s the carrot, anyway. So why not try to sleep a couple of hours longer at night for a couple of weeks and see what happens? It might be hard at first, but persevere.

And if you prefer the stick to the carrot:

  • Short sleep duration is associated with obesity
  • Short sleep duration is associated with greater risk of death

Off you go now – to bed with you!


You can access the articles here:
Sleep extension benefits: http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=28194
Sleep and obesity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18239586
Sleep and mortality: http://www.journalsleep.org/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=27780

Money

Money’s a funny thing. It seems to be the most important thing in all the world, essential to feeding and loving and living. Then, just when it seems more important than ever, you realise that it isn’t at all.

But surely money…

  • gives you power.
  • makes you feel good.
  • makes other people respect you.

Well, yeah it does. But it’s a short-cut.

It is easier to buy your power than it is to influence others by your actions. It is easier to spend on instant gratification than it is to spend your life content. It is easier to earn money than it is to earn the respect of others.

But this isn’t what I’m most concerned with. I couldn’t really care less if you want to spend money on power, happiness or respect. No: I’m worried because money is boring.

Here are some choices, with money or with imagination:

  • We could go to the cinema tonight. Or we could jump in the Serpentine and make out on the island.
  • We could go to a restaurant for dinner. Or we could rummage around the fruit and veg market after closing and cook up some free food on an open fire in the woods.
  • I could join a gym and work-out in front of a mirror. Or I could go for a run in Epping Forest, get covered in mud and see how high I can climb a tree.

Boring is the enemy and money is the friend of boring.

If you think about it, it’s obvious: money is what (stereotypical) accountants like best. Anyone who wants to live like a (stereotypical) accountant is welcome to their money, but me? Naw thanks.

This boredom can be overcome, of course it can. I’m sure you can think of a hundred interesting things to do with a hundred pounds. But how many people actually spend a hundred nicker on fitting out the local bus shelter with velcro so that all the morning commuters get their suits stuck on the sides?

Of course we don’t. That’s because money is part of a system and that system is boring. You can’t package up a sunset or a tree mud or a lake. People have tried, oh boy have they tried, but some things are beyond market forces.

Money is part of a boring system so we can only spend it on boring things. Rent, restaurants, retail. Drink it on a Saturday night, then dance it away at a club – who ever thought we’d pay to dance?

Do you think Zorba would have paid to dance?

Get More Sex #3: Politics

Great news for anarchists!

Sexual activity is higher among self-defined political liberals than among moderates or conservatives, and it is highest among those who describe themselves as ‘extreme liberals’.

On the other hand, sexual activity is also above average among ‘extreme conservatives’.

Here are the cold, hard statistics. First is the number of sexual encounters per year for the group, followed by the same number adjusted for differences in age, race, and marital status.

Extreme liberal: 73 / 72 sexual encounters per year.
Liberal: 62 / 62
Slight liberal: 63 / 60
Moderate: 60 / 60
Slight conservative: 55 / 54
Conservative: 52 / 54
Extreme conservative: 59 / 62

These politics are also reflected in the fact that the most sexually active Americans are far more likely than average to approve of premarital or extramarital sex, to see positive benefits in pornography, to watch X-rated films, and to favor giving birth control pills to teenagers.

But it isn’t always liberal attitudes that match up with having a lot of sex. People who own guns also have higher-than-average sexual frequency.


More: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_n2_v20/ai_20302952/?tag=content;col1

Get More Sex #2: Religion

Religion can be a minefield when it comes to having sex. But what are the stats?

A US study shows that Jews and agnostics are 20% more sexually active than Catholics and Protestants.

They also found that Baptists have slightly more sex than the national average, while Presbyterians and Lutherans are slightly below average.

But why? God only knows. I mean, I could speculate that it’s because there’s more shame and guilt associated with the Christian religions, but really I have no idea. Hell-fire and damnation tends to dampen the passions, somewhat.

Another study found that observant married Jewish women reported having sex three to six times per week more than twice as often as married women in general. Ooo-whee!

But there’s more! Statistics have also shown that people who rarely go to church have 31% more sex than people who regularly go to church. Not sure about people who never go to church.

Extremely devout people are also less likely to masturbate and use vibrators. Those who attend church regularly are less likely to become sexually active, to have multiple and casual partners, and to have extra-marital affairs.


More: http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-07-20/sex-statistics-who-does-it-the-most/#

Get More Sex #1: Wealth

If you want to have more sex, get rich or get poor.

People on very low incomes and those on very high incomes have sex more frequently than anybody else. Men earning a middle class income of £45,000 (US$75,000) per year average twelve fewer days of sex a year than men who earn about £15,000 (US$25,000) annually. Ouch.

I would hate to speculate why this might be, but I will nevertheless.

Low GDP has long been associated with high birth-rate in developing countries. But why? One possible answer is evolutionary.

A low income means an uncertain future for your progeny, compared to the future of sons and daughters of a person with plenty of money coming in. Poverty means inhibited access to medical care, education, food and many other things necessary to a secure life.

Therefore, in the absence of increasing wages, we have loads more sex in the hope that plenty of descendants will survive to pass on our genes through sheer statistical weight of numbers.

So why do the rich get loads of sex too?

One answer is that wealth has long been associated with desirability. If you’re rich and powerful, you are intoxicatingly attractive to the opposite sex, particularly to women if you are a man.

This doesn’t mean that men are any less shallow than women, just that we tend to go for a luscious child-bearing physique over a big bank balance.


Thanks to http://taraparkerpope.com/ for the fact.

36: A thought experiment to kick your ass

Yesterday I was 28. Today I am 36 years old.

I woke up this morning and I’d lost 8 years in a dreamless sleep. In the mirror, my face was a little more lined, a little thinner, my eyes a little duller. But not much had changed. I’d just lost 8 years of beating-heart life.

36 is a believable age. I could feel, today at 36, just like I did yesterday at 28. I know people who are 36 and they are not much different to me as I was yesterday. So why not?

8 years is a long time. Think of it all, reeling away behind me, all those days, suns and moons. And I’ve done nothing with it. I just woke up this morning, 36 years old, 8 years down.

Hits me in the guts, thinking of all the things I could have done if I hadn’t been asleep. I want to cry, I want to jump and run, I want to eat the world and leave marks.

I know I’m not 36 years old. But I could be soon and it needn’t be an 8-year dreamless sleep that I lose to.

The next 8 years I could lose on Facebook, in supermarkets, bored or brainless. I panic.

It’s a thought experiment.

But there is a deadline to life. Impending panic is a shock to start an engine. I feel it in my groin, in my guts.

So what is it? What thing would I jump to do if I did wake up aged 36 tomorrow? What one thing would make me think: “Fuck! Why didn’t I just do this sooner?”