The Want-Need Relationship

It has come to my attention that many people believe that they can go through life happily not getting what they want as long as they get what they need. This is an odd belief and it shows a lack of understanding about the want-need relationship. Allow me to elaborate.

Do you need to eat food and drink water? You’re immediate answer is probably yes, but the correct answer is no. There is nothing that you inherently need to do. You don’t even need to breathe air. That is, unless you want to survive. You don’t need to eat food or drink water unless you want to live. You don’t need to have shelter unless you want to survive the elements of nature. You don’t even need to wear clothes unless you want to live in society, nudist colonies notwithstanding.

The want-need relationship is imperative to understand because without knowing what you want, you will never know what you need. Do you want to be happy? Then you need to live a virtuous life directed at being a good person. Do you want to be healthy? Then you need to eat a plant based diet and exercise regularly. Do you want to be loved and feel desired in your intimate relationship? Then you need to be a virtuous person, find a virtuous partner, and work to make sure each of you is engaging the other to be better every day.

Your desires are the guideposts by which you orient your life. The desires you have express your maturity and values. A child may desire candy and cookies, but that is because he doesn’t know any better. An adult who desires candy and cookies has a very immature mentality and does not value health or long-term happiness.

Philosophy should help you determine what it is you want out of life and how best to get what you need in order that you may experience happiness as often as possible. Philosophy is not merely understanding the want-need relationship; it is determining what you as an individual need so that you may accomplish what you want.

As you grow and change as an adult, what you need will invariably change because you will develop a more profound understanding of what it is you want out of life and why. Experiencing happiness is what we all want, but what it is that makes us happy is different for everyone. It is also different for the same person over time. Future you will undoubtedly need different things than current you needs in order to experience happiness, and what current you accomplishes will impact what future you needs. Future you’s understanding of happiness will be tempered and encouraged by what current you experiences. Philosophy will put into perspective the importance of knowing what you want now and in the future, and it will help you prioritize so that you may experience happiness as completely as possible. (I talked about the relationship between current you and future you in a previous post, here.)

If your desires are the magnetic poles, then philosophy is your compass. Understanding the want-need relationship is the equivalent of building a state of the art GPS system, launching the satellites into space, developing a cool interactive and user friendly interface, turning it into an easy to use app, and making sweet, sweet moolah. Money isn’t everything, but metaphorical money used to represent happiness? Those are the dollar bills to stuff under your mattress, stack in your safe, and hopefully have enough of one day to do a Scrooge McDuck style high dive into and swim around in. That is a dream worth achieving.

The Two People in Your Life

There are two versions of you that exist. There is the person you are right now, and there is the person you will eventually become; current you, and future you. At the end of reading this article you will be future you from the perspective of current you, and you will be a different person. Time and experience make the future version of ourselves different from who we are right now in this moment. Even if we do nothing but stare blankly at a wall for four hours, the person we are at the end of that four hours has changed, even if seemingly imperceptibly. You will at the least be four hours older, and perhaps at the most, someone who has achieved a profound understanding of themselves. You could have been meditating about your life during that staring, only you know for certain. The point is, we are always changing, and the only control we have is over the direction of that change is the choices we make.

You can do nothing to change who you are right now, but the choices current you makes will determine who future you is. That sounds clunky, so let me rephrase. There are two people in your life, the person you are, and the person you will eventually become. You have the power to determine who you will eventually become, and you can ensure that version of yourself becomes who you want to be by the choices you make in the present. It can be empowering and scary to realize the kind of power you have over the direction of your life and the future you will have. You have the capacity to become what you have always wanted to be, to be the kind of person that will make you happy. Eventually, current you will be future you, and when that day comes, will you be happy?

We must side track for a moment to define happiness. Happiness is a state of being. It is a kind of joyous satisfaction with your life that comes as a result of living the virtues that make you a good person. It is not the immediate satisfaction of your most base desires in the moment that defines hedonism. Happiness does not come from consuming the bowl of ice cream; it comes from knowing that you have the power to choose if you want to eat the ice cream, and if you do, it will not ruin your health. Happiness is self-empowerment and self-control. Happiness is not spending time with people in your life; happiness is knowing the people you spend time with in your life are there because they practice the same virtues as you. Happiness is knowing that you will become the person you want to be because you are already making choices that make you more like that version of yourself every day. But, how do we achieve happiness?

The first thing we must realize is that happiness is not an achievement, and it is not a destination. It is a state of being, which means it can only be experienced. So, how do we experience happiness? We must make choices every day that make us virtuous and good people. I say virtuous and good because I believe virtue is living in accordance with your values. If you value honesty and want to be virtuous, you must be honest and truthful with yourself and the people in your life. You could value hurting other people, and thus would be virtuous by hurting other people. But that wouldn’t make you a good person. In order to be good, you must virtuous in living the values that make one a good person. Those values may be self-evident to most people, but this is short list of some of them: honesty, integrity, trust, compassion, empathy, sympathy, kindness, generosity, courage, and magnanimity. That is by no means an exhaustive list, and to provide a complete list may take a lifetime of work. Another reality is that being virtuous and good also takes a lifetime of work.

The truth is, none of us will ever be perfectly truthful, perfectly honest, perfectly empathetic, and that is OK. We are human. It is more important that we try and are dedicated in our effort to achieve virtue than it is to actually achieve the ideal. Being virtuous is a skill, and like any other skill, it must be practiced if we are ever going to be good at it. You do not have to be excessively rigorous, but it is important to have a working understanding of your virtues. Otherwise, you will not know what choices to make. If you want to be an honest person, this means you must always tell the truth, no matter how embarrassing. Sharing embarrassing truths can be hard, but there are two ways to make it easier. One, you start with easy, little truths. Perhaps you tell your friend you secretly have a crush on the awkward person that used to work in the mail room, or despite how obnoxious your boss is, you respect and appreciate them for what they are trying to accomplish in the workplace. Two, you have people in your life with which you can share your truths openly and honestly without fear of judgement or reproach because they accept and appreciate you for the person you try every day to become.

This is another truth; achieving virtue is a life-long pursuit, and you must make choices every day that direct you towards being virtuous. You must practice every day, every time you have to make a choice. No matter how small the choice is today, it will impact future you. You may think, “Ah, it’s just one cookie, what could it hurt?” but it is not just one cookie. It is a value judgement about whether or not immediate gratification is more important than long-term success. If you are trying to lose weight, saying no to the cookie today will make it easier to say no to the cookie tomorrow, and after saying no to the cookie a few days in a row, you will feel so empowered that no cookie will hold sway over you ever again. Understanding the kind of power future you has the potential to wield must be an ever present idea in your mind because it will have a profound impact on the power current you is able to exercise.

Future you will eventually be current you, and if you want future you to be happy, successful, and the culmination of your life’s biggest dreams, then it requires consistent, diligent work from current you. It is not about some singular herculean effort, rather it is about a lot of little efforts every single day. One snowflake is not capable of covering the mountain, but when enough of them accumulate over time, and their fall is consistent enough, you can build a ski resort and make a lot of money. The snowflakes are your choices, and the ski resort is your happiness. Isn’t it time you started accumulating?

Better Lucky Than Good?

I first heard the expression, “better lucky than good” while golfing with my dad. I was so bad, and still am, that when I would hit a remarkably good shot, one of us would remark, “Better lucky than good!” For a long time I thought this was a good saying until someone else explained to me that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. That changed my outlook entirely. People that are successful are not lucky; they are well prepared and they sought out opportunities to succeed. If luck did exist, it would indicate that there are supernatural forces at work influencing our lives. In truth, anyone that is lucky has simply taken advantage of an opportunity that was presented to them.

Have you ever seen a guy with a beautiful woman on his arm? Did you remark to yourself about how lucky he was for being able to keep such company? What about someone like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; do you think they were lucky? I would argue that none of these people are lucky. No one is lucky. All people that are successful in whatever regard, are so because they prepared and seized an opportunity when it arose. They were also not simply sitting idly by waiting for an opportunity; they were actively out searching for opportunities. How many girls do you think the aforementioned guy dated before found the beauty on his arm? Do you think he didn’t spend any time accumulating resources to intrigue such a woman? Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t stumble into their success. They worked every day on it, and little by little they achieved greatness.

Successful people work harder, train longer, dream bigger, seek more opportunities, and sleep better because they know that as long as they keep working, their preparation will find the right opportunity. This is why I write every day. Writing helps me coalesce my thoughts, plus it is training for improved communication. As someone that loves communicating and teaching complex and challenging ideas, it is important that I am skilled at communicating in any medium available. I am confident that my writing will improve as I continue to prepare myself for the opportunity that I know is approaching. If more people shared this outlook, instead of believing that life is just going to happen, we would have a happier and more successful population. You are responsible for your life, your preparation, and how you respond to the opportunities you face. I hope you are prepared for the greatest opportunity of your life because it is not going to wait for you to be ready.

Curiosity to Explain the World?

Are you curious? Curiosity is defined as the desire to learn or know about anything. It is also described as inquisitiveness. Do you have an interest in learning about anything? If someone presents an idea to you, do you wish to learn more? If you meet someone new, do you like learning about them? More importantly, do you have people in your life that are curious about you and are you curious about the people in your life? Curiosity is a lifelong pursuit, and it is a great virtue to seek in your friends and significant other.

You are going to grow and change, and so are the people in your life. If you want to have long lasting meaningful relationships with them, you are going to want to be curious about them, and vice versa. Let’s focus just on your significant other. If you think you know who they are without continuing to learn and understand them, then you are going to lose sight of who they become. Likewise, if your partner is not inquiring about you, your thoughts and feelings, your preferences and why you have them, then your relationship is not going to work out.

Curiosity is more than simply asking, “How are you doing today?” or “How are you feeling.” It is asking, “When you learned how to play guitar, what was the hardest chord for you to learn and why?” And then it is asking, perhaps at another time, “What is your favorite chord to play, why, and how has that changed as you have improved in skill?” These seem like college essay questions, and they are composed as such here for the sake of brevity. The idea is that the questions will be broken into parts as you have a dialogue with your partner or prospective partner.

The goal should not be simply to learn the answers to the questions, but to understand your partner’s preferences and how they arrived there. If you are having a conversation about a challenge your partner overcame, you learn not just about their struggles but how they deal with them. If you are discussing a time in which your partner was extremely happy, you learn about what makes them happy as well as why it does. If you discuss causes or pursuits that are important to your partner, you learn about what matters, why it matters, and you start to understand their values. From this, you can start to understand their virtues as you spend time with them and experience the choices they make and actions they take. This is what leads to a meaningful connection and relationship.

It is possible that you will learn things about your prospective partner that are a turn off to you, but that is OK. You are not obligated to marry, or even like the person once you start to understand who they are. Curiosity can save you from making big mistakes in the dating world as well as help you find deep, meaningful connection. If the person you are dating is not consistent with their answers and actions, curiosity will help you figure this out really quickly. Likewise, if the person is very consistent, and perhaps more insightful than you would have imagined, curiosity will bring this to light. Additionally, if your prospective partner lacks any curiosity about you, it is at the least an issue that needs addressed and at most, a reason to end the dating.

Curiosity will also help you navigate the rest of the world around you. We live in a big, complex place, and the more you think you know, the less you will learn. Curiosity will help you understand the systems that are in place and if they are the best possible solution to the problems we face. It will help you assert yourself and find success on your own terms. You will notice curiosity as a recurring theme in my writing as my inquisitiveness helps me understand the topics about which I write, and hopefully it will help you understand them as well. Curiosity will also help you understand anarchy, so I hope you pursue curiosity as a meaningful virtue. Then, together, we can help humanity flourish!

Avoid Presumptions When Dating and Meeting New People

Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone to whom you are attracted, they seem to be attracted to you, and so one of you asks the other out on a date? I’m hoping the answer is yes, otherwise what I am about to describe won’t be entirely relatable. How did you feel? Were you excited? A little nervous? Dreamy perhaps? Even overly critical? These emotions all come with the flood of hormones that douse your brain in the evolutionary response to the prospect of procreation. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, all your DNA wants to do is replicate, so when you find someone that might want to replicate with you, your body is designed to tell you what you are doing is a good thing. What I want to talk about today is why biology is not always our best friend in these situations and how we can avoid mistakes.

When we meet a new potential love interest (we do this with potential new friends as well but to a lesser extent), we have a tendency to project our desires upon them. They may have a nice smile, so we hope they are kind. They may have soulful eyes, so we hope they are insightful or compassionate. They may have a great laugh, so we hope they are entertaining and funny. These are all attributes that we are projecting upon the person without knowing if they are attributes that they actually have. This is not a bad thing as it can give us valuable insight into what we are looking for, but it is important to be aware that we are doing it. What we do not want to do is presume the other person has these attributes without seeing them for ourselves.

If we presume the person is who we want them to be, two things happen. First, we make decisions and interact not with that person, but with the person we want them to be. This results in miscommunications at best, and horrible confrontations at worst. If you think Sally likes dogs because her smile reminds you of your aunt who loves dogs, and you take Sally to a dog park, you may be in for a world of hurt when she tells you that she is allergic or deathly afraid of the four legged furry creatures. This gets worse with personal preferences within the relationship regarding personal space and communication style. The second thing that happens is you miss out on the person as they actually are. When you spend so much time thinking the person you are dating is one thing, and they are something else entirely, you miss out on how your relationship could be different, even better, if you actually dated the person you need to discover and not the person you presume yourself to be with. This, of course, presumes the other person is not intentionally misleading you.

When you lie to yourself about the person you are in a relationship with, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are wasting your time as well as the other person’s, and you are missing out on the opportunity to appreciate another person for who they actually are. This happens because we want so badly to be happy and to find that person with whom we connect and truly appreciates us for who we are. This is an argument for authenticity within a relationship, but that is not where I am going with this. So, where am I going?

Do not place expectations on the person you are going on a date with. Instead, spend time getting to know them for who they are. Do not presume they are something they are not, and do not put the pressure on yourself of believing that the relationship has to work out, especially on the first date. It doesn’t matter if he is the cutest guy you have ever dated. If he cares more about his hair than why you cannot eat spaghetti because it makes you think of worms, chances are good it won’t work out in the long run. Certainly have standards, but don’t be too upset if those standards are not met. This is just one meal in which one stranger tries to get to know another for who they actually are while presenting their authentic self. If it works out, great! If not, you learned a little about yourself and about a perspective partner that you now know will not work out.

The Importance of the Independent Self Within a Relationship

I was talking with a friend of mine at work today about the importance of self-identity within a relationship. She recently went through a breakup from a relationship that lasted two years, and was having a hard time finding motivation or anything to get excited about. I started asking her about what hobbies she had or what interested her. She seemed to be at a loss for answers. This is not uncommon, but it is something that she needs to remedy if she wants to find meaningful connection and motivation for life. So often it happens when we are in a relationship that we lose sight of who we are as individuals. Certainly, when you enter into a relationship, your decision making processes change, but you should not forego who you are as an individual for the sake of the relationship. The right person will love you for who you are as a unique person, not for the parts of yourself you are willing to sacrifice for the relationship. A truly great relationship is one in which your partner loves you for who you are, not who they think you are, and you love them for the same reasons. This is the ideal, but how do we find it?

The answer lies within finding ourselves. What makes you special? What are your hobbies, interests, and meaningful life pursuits? More importantly, what are your virtues? Virtues are attributes such as honesty, integrity, curiosity, empathy, compassion, strong work ethic, and any other attribute that describes consistent actions that improve the wellbeing of the self and others. Lying, deception, anger, hate, these are attributes that do not make you or other people better, and they should be eschewed as often as they are confronted. If you find someone that is constantly lying to you or simply won’t tell you important details about their life, run away as fast as possible as those are huge red flags. But, I digress. Why do we need to know these things about ourselves?

Through self-knowledge we gain an understanding of the world. The better we know ourselves, the better able we are to know the world. How do you know if someone has empathy if you do not have empathy yourself? If you are not curious, a curious person may seem annoying to you. However, if you are consistently trying to empathize with others, or struggle to tell others the hard truths but do it because you know it will be better for them, then you are able to recognize these attributes, these virtues in others. Not only that, but you will appreciate them. So, when you are on your next date, and the person across from you stutters or mumbles because they are nervous, instead of thinking they are weird you will be able to empathize and sympathize with them, thus deepening your connection.

Hobbies, or more specifically personal pursuits, are incredibly important as well. Whether you are learning the guitar, running a chess club, or like me pursuing strength, your ability to dedicate yourself to a pursuit you value is reflective of your ability and willingness to commit to other things you value, such as a relationship. Meaningful pursuits teach you a considerable amount about yourself. You are going to face adversity. There will be chords you struggle to learn or weights you cannot pick up, but your willingness to persevere demonstrates your strength of character. It gives you valuable skills so when you get into an argument within a relationship, you are able and willing to work through the conflict. It teaches you that there is reward for your effort on the other side of that struggle. Personal pursuits also help you stay attached to your independent sense of self within a relationship.

It is very common for individuals to lose themselves within a relationship. People stop hanging out with their friends, stop playing guitar, stop pursuing strength; they stop doing the things by which they defined themselves previously. It is important to be fully present in a relationship and to fully give yourself to your partner, but you must maintain a self to give. You must resist the impulse to give up everything you are as an individual for the sake of your partner. This leads to two people melting into an arbitrary goo of what was once individual people. Neither of you particularly cares what you do, where you eat, what movie you see, how you spend your free time, or how you define your relationship. You simply end up on the couch ordering pizza and watching Netflix every Saturday night, complaining about how boring your lives are. You stop having sex, and then you stop having any sort of a relationship at all. You are an empty vessel devoid of all vestiges of uniqueness or purpose to life. You have to start over, and you have to start first by defining again who you are as an individual.

Instead, maintain your independent self, and bring that with you to your partner when you are together. If you love seeing live music, don’t stop that passion. The right person will go with you to shows, even if he or she is not that into live shows. This is because you are valued as the unique individual you are with the passions and interests you have, and your happiness is their main concern. If your partner likes obscure sporting events, watch them with him or her. The passion, excitement, and joy from your partner will make the experience far more enjoyable, regardless of whether or not you like seeing competitive cheese rolling.

For success within a relationship, find yourself first, and then be that person every time you are with your significant other. Your partner will appreciate you more for it, and if they don’t, knowing to move on becomes easy. Find your independent self, and you will find happiness.

An Opportunity Lost

I believe art is the highest form of human flourishing expressed, so from time to time I will share some of my art here. I am a hopeful romantic, and my art will reflect that. Poetry is one of my favorite forms, so I give you a poem:

An opportunity lost?

What was I thinking?

Your pretty face,

My heart was sinking.

I saw your smile,

No sense was I keeping.

An opportunity lost?

Why didn’t I speak?

What can I say,

My constitution was weak.

In that moment I doubted,

My outcome got bleak.

An opportunity lost?

Please heaven forgive!

To see you again,

What wouldn’t I give?

Yours is a face,

That makes a man want to live!

An opportunity lost?

I refuse to believe!

Please God I beg you,

Grant me reprieve!

And if I see her again,

In you I might believe.

An opportunity lost?

I will not let it be so!

I’ll find you again,

And this poem I’ll show,

And on to our future,

Together we shall go.

An opportunity lost?

I will not regret,

We locked eyes for a moment,

I will never forget.

I will hope for future moments,

We have yet to beget.

What We Really Want From a Relationship

Relationships are one of the greatest expressions of anarchy we experience every day. We have relationships with our parents, our friends, and our significant other, should we have one, and all of them have one thing in common; they are voluntarily chosen. As a child, you cannot choose your family, but when you become an adult, you are free to choose if you want to associate with your family of origin. You do get to choose your friends from day one, and you do get to choose your significant other. You also get to choose if you want to have children and start your own family. You must keep in mind, however, that the children you have did not choose you as parents, so you have to be as awesome to them as you can be so it is as if they would have chosen you. That is a story for another time, however, so before I get too off topic, I should get to the purpose of this post.

I spend a fair amount of time on online dating sites, and despite the fact that they are all set up like Amazon selling you the best version of possible partners you can purchase, I have not been successful in finding someone. I have, however, made some good observations. Most profiles of women read something like this. “Hi! I am an exciting and interesting person who does exciting and interesting things. I like a fun night out, but I also like to spend a fun night in. I like to go on adventures, but I also like to be low key. I’m looking for someone to share my life with!” Pardon my generalities, but that is how most of the profiles read. The reason for this is twofold. One, the person wants to appear as normal as possible, and two, the person wants to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. While this strategy increases the likelihood of receiving potential mates, it does not increase the likelihood of meeting the right mate. This leads me to my point.

What we want out of relationships is not to have some to share our lives with, or to adventure with. What we really want is someone that sees us for who we are, the good and the bad, and accepts us for all of it. This is true for friendships as well as for romantic relationships. We may advertise how awesome we can be for another person, but in truth, we do this because we want to find someone who sees how awesome we really are. We are not all awesome in the same way either. If that were the case, we would all be homogenous interchangeable sex robots with no particular regard who we spend time with, sleep with, or have kids with. Thankfully that dream of the authoritarian left is not a reality and life is far more exciting!

It is because we are all so unique that we spend so much time worrying about finding a special partner, and we put so much emphasis on the necessity to be seen for who we really are. Most people are not consciously aware of this necessity, but they pursue it anyway. Often their attempts at achieving it are misguided and backwards, but sometimes it does work out. When someone starts out trying to be as appealing to as many people as possible, the weeding out process gets extreme. However, if a person were to be as specific as possible with their description of themselves and what they are looking for, then perhaps we would all be better at finding that special someone. Of course, you cannot find what you do not know you are seeking.

If we are to find true happiness and a loving relationship with the right partner, we must be honest with ourselves about who we are and what we are seeking. Instead of being as general as possible in your dating search, be specific. If you like analogies, then try this one; dating is like traveling. You know you are going on a trip, and there is a specific destination intended, however, the vaguer you are, the more likely you are to get lost. If, on the other hand, you know the exact GPS coordinates of your destination, you will be sure to find it. Unfortunately, people are not points on a map, so finding who suits you best is not going to be that easy. This is why self-knowledge is so important. If you know what you like and do not like, what makes you happy and what does not, then you are more likely to find the person that suits you best.

You should never compromise who you are or what you believe for the sake of a relationship that you think will make you happy. This is a recipe for disaster. If you are not true to yourself, you will never be happy. This is as true in relationships with people as it is in relationships with institutions. This is why anarchy is so important in all aspects of life. It is also why it is so challenging. It is easy to believe you have no influence over large, distant, and seemingly powerful institutions like governments, and it is hard to believe how much power you have over the personal relationships in your life. When you realize that the governments have power only because of your tacit compliance with them, you start to see them for the house of cards they are. When you realize the people in your life are only there because you have chosen to let them be there, you start to see how powerful you really are. Embrace that power, and define your life and your relationships in the ways that make you the happiest. You owe yourself that much.