How to be a millionaire?

When to cash in on the premise of „YOLO“? When is the right time to act as if it is your prerogative to experience all that is chaotic and dangerous, because you will not get another chance to do so? I see it as a downward spiral. The instant you decide to go „YOLO“ mode, then all your life’s goals are meant to be set to the background, as your chances of achieving them will get smaller and smaller. If you do something rash for only the one moment you live in now, then you sacrifice potential to gain greater combined pleasure from higher levels of happiness you will have in the future.

Don’t think that you will achieve your goals. Try thinking you already have…in the future. I use a method, where I write down my yearly goals in a form that I have already achieved them. For example: „this year I wrote my first short movie script.“ I act as the future me, who documents the accomplishments of the past year. Try using the same method for your bucket list and your monthly, weekly, daily lists. The logic is that my goals are set to become true, if I know they have happened to a future version of me.

I am a millionaire, but nobody knows it. Even I.

I am a millionaire, but nobody knows it. Even I.

For a simple example, I am a millionaire. Not at this moment, but 25 years from now. My plan is to invest 1500€ a year, achieve 20% yearly growth and reinvest all gained interest. I set the goal, wrote it down and started executing it. From the moment I came up with the plan, made the first move to make it happen and until I don’t deviate from this road, I think of myself as a millionaire.

It’s easy to think of life in past, present and future forms, but it’s not the only way. One could also argue that there is only this moment. And in this moment there is encompassed every other moment. May it happen in the future, be happening now or happened in the past. Or maybe there even is no present. Or maybe your present is longer that this exact defined moment.

It’s the premise of how we understand time travel – as we change something in the past, it creates an alternative way of things to happen. The key is that those changes don’t take time to happen. They happen the instant the past is altered. I think the same way of the future. Right now, the future is happening at the same time as the present. It’s changing for me with every moment. The next word that I write will change the future the moment I write it, but until I do that, I am living a future without that word.

The point of it is in how should we think of our future? And according to me, it should not be: „fuck it, YOLO.“ Every decision you make is amplified, because you are taking care of yourself for the rest of your life in every moment. Each good decision affects the future yourselves the same way as the present you. So until you make a bad decision, all your versions live a life where that has not happened for them. So in fact, you are not living only in this moment, but in every other moment to come, also.

And the answer to the title. . Just make the first step.


Should you live like it was your last day?

We all like to think that we are very rational people, that our decisions follow a constant set of rules and all in all have a pretty good image of ourselves. When asked why we act in some way, we usually have a rational sounding answer. We  can’t stand having no answer and we don’t love admitting making mistakes.

My friend, who self-diagnosed himself having Asperger syndrome, said in an ongoing discussion that at the last moments of hislife, it seems logical to him to choose having a banana over saving a family’s life. Explaining that the personal gain and expected value of the eaten banana goes up drastically, when your time is so limited – you basically improve your whole remaining life and also, you won’t have to face the consequent problems of guilty conscience.The act changes however, if you’re not going to die at the next moment – if he’d have more time to live, he’d save the family. Now I’m not yet able to perfectly interpret and understand what’s going on in his mind, but I got interested with the possibility of changing personal values when your own state changes. Do we have an inner code that we follow and how often and why do we change it?

Our decisions change, when our situation changes. From mathematics it should be fully logical. You would say that I’m a dummy, if I start thinking why the outcome of A + B is different than A*A + B or  B + D. But outside mathematics, drastic changes of world view seem illogical. Or is it my own rational instinct of holding on to previously made decisions and stay away from contradicting myself? Is the comparison itself so absurd that it wouldn’t come up in reality and my mind can not comprehend a situation, where I would choose bananas over people.

Staying on course of mathematics and physics, Daniel Robinson from The Teaching Company made a good lecture on Newton. As I interpret Isaac Newton’s philosophy, he  was dividing matters into two categories:

  • An ideal situation – the theoretical happening, where everything is “as it should be” and follows a concrete theory.
  • A practical situation – observations and real situations

Hypothetical and approximate results are not to be compared with the absolute truth – observations have variables. So Newton was an advocate of solving problems as ideal abstractions,  returning to the hypothesis and comparing observational data with the ideal theoretical solution and seeing how these two match up. “An idealised model of an imaginable world can be used to frame and test conjectures regarding the facts of the actual world.”

So, according to him, we could have an idealized code that we use to make everyday decisions and the ideal theoretical system should explain all practical situations.

The One Ring

One ideal to rule them all.
One ideal to find them.
One ideal to bring them all
and in the enlightenment bind them.

Following the idea of an ideal, we come to Kant and his moral imperative, which states that you should act in the way as you believe could be implemented as a common practice or law.  That is, find the theoretical ideal code and follow it always. And that means not giving in and no discussions on the “price” of the decision you make. The “price” can be explained by a little joke: A woman, who agreed to have intimate relations(oh, so gently said) with a stranger for a million gold coins, was asked if she would do it for two coins instead. She blurted, offendedly: “Who do you think I am?” The outburst was met with a calm statement: “Well, we made clear what you are, now we’re just determining the price.” So you either follow the rule always or you do not follow it.

That is the way people often act, however. And clearly illustrates the point which came into my interest in the banana case. There are many people who would take the million, but would offend to a smaller offer. Does that say that we don’t have the ideal or that this is just the practical world and we can’t see all the variables.

Now, I embrace the fact that we do not know the reasons why we act. Or that in most cases we go by the “gut feeling”. I think that’s perfectly normal and Kant’s imperative is the theoretical view of life and not quite a practical one. In practice, there are too many different situations and backgrounds to decisions that a presence of one golden rule is nigh impossible. But knowing about the possibility of it creates an interesting goal to work towards.

It’s amusing that people are using “I didn’t have a choice” defence so often. That means, they know they did something that does not go by the(ir) moral norm, but they had a reason for it. But that’s it. You had a choice actually, and you chose your way. You just scaled the options and found one is better for you than the other. It’s as simple as that. It may seem that your hands were tied, but you still chose to act in the way you did. To save their perception of themselves, they choose to believe that it was not them, who must take the responsibility and the situation was caused by something else.

So is the question “was it wrong” a good one? How to start measuring the correctness of these “I didn’t have a choice” decisions? Is there a way? I think that sometimes it is enough that people understand they have a power over their actions. You made a choice that didn’t correspond with your previous ideals. Maybe you should think about that and reorganise your perception of yourself rather than take a defencive stance? Take responsibility in you own mind. It only helps to grow mental powers as you are not shifting decision making away from yourself.