Loneliness vs. Being Happy. A choice?

“When a man of Scotty’s years falls in love, the loneliness of his life is suddenly revealed to him.  His whole heart once throbbed only to the ship’s engines.” – Star Trek

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The Boy at six.  How much fun is Christmas?

This week the Internet has been aTwitter® about loneliness.  It’s part of the cycle – it’s Fall, so it’s time for peak talk about being lonely.  Weight loss stories go year ‘round, but they peak after Christmas.  And the stories have a kicker.  “Loneliness is worse than ______ (obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, or, heck choose your own favorite disease to fill in the blank).”  The most recent article that I read seemed to focus on middle aged men, but I think it goes much deeper than just loneliness.  I think the roots are back to Hope.

When was the last time you were so excited that you could hardly sleep because of the day ahead?  That’s Hope.

I’m old enough I enjoy giving stuff more than getting it, but I’ve observed that kind of Hope, that level of anticipation most recently in The Boy and Pugsley.  The Boy is seventeen, and really surprising and delighting him at Christmas is difficult, now.  But Pugsley is twelve and would have the Christmas tree up in early September if we’d let him.  Pugsley dearly loves Christmas, and that spirit is alive in his heart, even when The Mrs. and I play Scrooge and Grinch®.  The Christmas Spirit (which is really just super-concentrated Hope) is naturally strong in the young.

I’ve recently discussed Scott Adams’ Formula for Happiness (LINK),

Happiness = Health + Money + Social + Meaning.

How does it apply to the young?

Health is (generally) a given.  When a child is sick enough that he leans over the side of his bed and throws up in his brother’s pants (which just happened to be on the floor there because they shared a room), he tends to remember that.  (My brother, John Q. Wilder, was not happy.)  Youth and vitality go together, since they haven’t had time to wreck their health yet.

Money is a hit or miss.  But (generally, again) money issues don’t weigh heavily on the mind of a kid.  They know that times might be tight, but they have no perspective to keep them up at night worrying about money.

Social?  In all but the extreme cases, kids have plenty of chances to interact with other kids and make friendships that last a lifetime.  Even shy kids.  They might not be friends with the popular kids, but they can have friends.

Meaning?  Yes, but like kids, it’s pretty shallow.  Being good is near enough what constitutes meaning for the younger set.  Meaning often comes from adequate performance and parental praise.

But as people get older (past their thirties), the equation changes.

Health:  Yearly you are reminded of increasing limitations, stronger eyeglass prescriptions, and less hair (except on the back, where it grows thicker than an Amazon rain forest).  Ow.  My hip hurts.

Money:  Generally people are better off financially as they get older, with the caveat that their peak earning potential may be in the past.

Social:  Friendships may have worn away through long hours and distance – most social contacts might even be at work.

Meaning:  Meaning likely comes from work, spouse, or volunteer organizations, or, in some cases, just making it to another birthday.

What role does hope play?  Hope is looking forward to time with friends and family, having goals big enough to be worthy of chasing, having plans of things you want to do and experience.  These things lead to enthusiasm and excitement in life.

What does the opposite side of the Adams Equation look like?

Despair=Poor Health(No Hope)+No Money(No Hope)+Alone Socially(No Hope)+Meaningless Existence(No Hope)

Despair leads to all the bad issues:

  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Sadness
  • Pain (real, not like needing a safe space in college because spaghetti is cultural appropriation)

It’s a lot like being a fan of a California NFL© team.

A sudden cratering of any one of the factors in the Equation of Despair can bring about a vicious cycle, leading to spiraling sadness.  This despair is dangerous – fatal if long enough and deep enough.  How many widows die within a month of their husband?  How many men die a month after retirement?

Whereas Hope can put you in a bad place and make you stay for too long (bad job/bad marriage/Raiders® fan), Hope is of then the only thing that will keep you alive when things go horribly wrong, as they absolutely will from time to time.

I think the key might be in being able to look at the world, not through the jaded eyes of experience, but by being able to maintain that sure Hope of a six year old on the night before Christmas . . .

Income, Happiness, and Bad AC/DC

“See, this is what we call an all you can eat buffet.  Here you can eat all you want for just $6.99.  That why everyone comes here on Tuesday nights, except for Kenny’s family because for them, $6.99 is two years’ income.” – South Park

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The purpose of having money is so you can afford to buy things like this. 

I remember having a negative net worth and still enjoying most parts of life.  I had my health, my youth, good friends, PEZ® and meaningful work.  I also remember sleepless nights worried about how I was going to pay this bill or that bill.  I clipped . . . coupons.  And used them.  I’m so ashamed.

Let me back up.

I was married before The Mrs., as I’ve mentioned before.  That relationship ended (which made both of us happy) but my previous spouse had been in charge of paying the bills.  On her last day in the house she handed me a bulging plastic grocery sack filled with bills.  She then handed me a checkbook in a blue plastic cover, the sides of the cover starting to crack at the point where the cover bended to open and close the checkbook.

“I have no idea how much money is in the account,” she said.

The answer was, “not much.”  The first bill I pulled off the top of the stack was a credit card that hadn’t been paid in several months.

Wow.

I got out a spreadsheet and started to add up bills.  I made a list of minimum payments.  I made a pretty ruthless budget ($4 a day for food for three?) and . . . went to work.  I took a loan against my 401K and paid all the back payments due on the accounts.  Lots of Hamburger Helper®.

But was I happy?  Well, yes.  My friends said that I hadn’t looked happier in years.  And I felt happy.

Now there has been no time in my life where I couldn’t afford to feed my family.  Were there times when I was a week of payments away from being at zero cash?  Certainly.  Did I have an emergency fund?  Not really.  I could have played the alternate-bill game, slowing payments for the electricity so I could pay the gas.  I could have maxed out my credit cards, sold family heirlooms, sold plasma, sold a kidney.  I could have averted bankruptcy for a few months.  Emergency fund?  No, a catastrophe spending plan.

Thankfully, it never came to that.  So, a negative net worth and a happy life?  Sure.  I was young:  the future was wide open.

But you don’t have to trust me.  Actual Nobel® Prize-winning economists (Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahnemann) did a study where they tried to measure the impact of income on happiness.  And, they found (in 2010 dollars, which were less plump and firm compared to today’s inflated dollars) that happiness was maximized at a household income of about $75,000 (that would be $85,000 in today’s dollars).  People’s perception of life increased with more money (they thought they were doing better) but they weren’t any happier.

I then began to wonder what factors might influence whether or not $85,000 is enough?

  • If you’re paying a huge proportion of your income on debt, it will prevent you from spending on other things.  In my personal example, I had debt, but I also had a plan:  work like the devil to pay it off.  Each retired credit card or past due bill was a little victory.  There are some forms of debt, though, that are worse than others.  The king of bad?  Student Loan debt.  While education is valuable, the only way to default on a student loan is to die, and I think that’s pretty extreme to get out of a bill.
  • Location, location, location. New Yorkians and San Franciscainites would scoff at $85,000 per year.  Their homeless rat-catchers make more than $85,000 on a bad year.  I tried to come up with a city that might be near the national average for cost of living:  I ended up with Reno, Nevada.  To replicate $85,000 in Reno would require $184,000 in Manhattan, and $143,000 in San Francisco.  I’m not sure that this really covers it, because the average house in San Francisco per this survey was $1,000,000, and the last time I looked, $1,000,000 buys you a house with 830 square feet in San Fran.  750 square feet in Manhattan.  My college apartment was larger.  No free range children there – you probably have to stack cages to keep more than one.
  • What does your future look like? This is going to impact your overall contentment.  Feel like it’s all over and the dark of winter of your life is at hand?  Or is it just dawn, and you’re looking at a warm spring day with a lifetime ahead?  Your perceptions of yourself, your potential, and your future influence your contentment.  Grumpy old men?  Yeah, they think that they’re at their winter and are angry that you’re limber enough to touch your toes.
  • Number of Kids/Parents to Support. Have you ever spent money to buy food for a seventeen year old defensive tackle/noseguard?  I have seen The Boy get up from a Sunday dinner and go directly to the fridge to see if there’s anything to eat.  How many ribeye steaks can you eat?  I’ve seen him eat three.  After three or four bratwurst.  These are not exaggerations.  I went shopping one Sunday with The Mrs.  We had a shopping cart filled with food.  She looks at me.  “This is just for The Boy’s lunch.  One week of his lunch.”  He has a little brother, Pugsley, who will soon enter Junior High and the high calorie consumption of testosterone and a teenager.  Then there’s college.  There are cars.  Spending money.  Have a dozen kids?  Yeah, $85,000 for the household seems a bit sparse – you might need to sell some for medical experimentation.
  • Medical Expenses. The Mrs. listens not to my entreaties that her insulin costs nearly as much as gold per shot.  She’s all, “Well, if I don’t take it I’ll die.”  The Mrs. has a really crappy pancreas.  But if you have medical expenses that are very high?  Forget insurance – it’s been awful for years – it’s like paint made for the government:  it’s expensive and covers nothing.  Have enough of these issues?  Jimmy Kimmel will cry for you, and $85,000 might seem woefully small.  Note:  substituting “homemade” insulin is not recommended.  The Mrs. did NOT think that was amusing.
  • Hobbies.  Sure, they’re optional, but we’re talking about being happy.  I like collecting 17th century glassware.  And then using it for practicing skeet shooting.
  • Spending Habits. Being on a budget sucks – the discipline it takes to plan and scrimp and save is rough, but it’s better than homelessness . . . .  Sometimes you don’t get to pick the Sam Adams® and have to just pretend Natty Lite© is awesome.  My previous post on the money philosophy of Mr. Money Mustache, Financial Samurai, and Early Retirement Extreme still applies (LINK).  Read it.

The Kinks understand that nobody likes being a cut-priced person in a low budget land . . .

So the $85,000 is above the median (half of the households above, half below) household income of ~$60,000.  As near as I can figure, $85,000 puts a household in the top 35% of income in 2017.  Again all of this research doesn’t prove you’re happy or unhappy at any income.  It just shows the sweet spot where additional income seems to stop adding additional contentment for most people.

I would (personally) guess a big predictor of long term happiness would be the amount of wealth that you had managed to save.  It would certainly add peace of mind, knowing that you had some long term money, and that would remove a lot of the day to day stress from unexpected events – job loss, sickness, needing to buy Cher concert tickets.

But can you have too much money buried in Mason Jars® behind your house?  Sure.  If it removes your incentive to work, does that remove meaning from your life?  I’ve seen more than one person retire and die a month later.  And you don’t have to be old to lose your purpose and give up, as Buzz Aldrin proves (LINK).  Not everyone will lose their purpose, and I really do recommend working until you’re sick and tired of it – that’ll get you in the right mindset to retire.

But higher income come with issues as well that might detract from the overall contentment that income earners get – don’t think that the $150,000 crowd has it easy.  Long hours.  Deadlines.  Job insecurity (average VP only lasts six years before being canned).  Travel.  Time away from the family.  Awful bosses (CEOs rank high on the range of socio-psychopath).  So, at some point, it’s probably better to live cheap rather than live a stressed out life.

Because the future is wide open . . . .

Some bonus content, since we’re thinking about cheap:

The following is almost nine years old, back at my old blog, Wilder by Far.  Here’s a link to the original post (LINK).

For your pleasure, I have transcribed an AC/DC™ tune Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, as written by William F. Buckley. Enjoy.

If you’re experiencing difficulty with the school principal
He’s making you quite sad
You wish to complete education without resorting to implied sexual intercourse
Here is a course of action
Grab a telecommunication device, I never leave my domicile
Contact me whenever it’s convenient
E-mail – Bonn.Scott73@acdc.com
I conduct my life through extralegal means

Hey

Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively

You are experiencing difficulty with your life partner
You have serious emotional depression over the relationship
He’s conducting a clandestine illicit possibly romantic relationship with someone with whom you share extremely strong interpersonal ties
You may feel so emotionally distraught that you cry
Grab a telecommunication device, I am currently not in the vicinity of other humans
Or come visit informally with no set purpose or agenda
Enter and remove thoughts about him from your mind
We will cooperatively either stage a fancy dancing party or partake of our own illicit romance

Hey

Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively

You have a female domestic partner whom you wish to no longer have contact with
But you lack courage to take action
Your domestic partner is continually argumentative and critical
Sufficiently so to make you question your mental competence
Grab a telecommunication device, leave your domestic partner without other human companionship
The proximate moment for you to exhibit some sort of courage is now
With reasonable financial remuneration, I would be glad to
a)perform a silent act of assassination while you pursue your own alibi or,
b)have an illicit romantic encounter with your female domestic partner
(the Internet is unclear here, I prefer version a since I see no reason version b would in any way bring the situation described to a favorable conclusion, but there is some scholarly debate)

Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively, yeah
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts and they’re performed inexpensively

Heavy quasi-stone masses intended to sink bodies when attached to the feet
Molecules containing triple-bonded carbon and nitrogen
Tri-nitro-toluene
Performed inexpensively

Ooo, common items used for the purpose of constricting the ability of a subject to breathe
Agreements to do wrong
Large differences in electrical potential
Performed inexpensively, eah

Nefarious acts, I will perform them without regard to what they are, performed inexpensively
Nefarious acts, nefarious acts, nefarious acts, performed inexpensively

Yaaargh

40 Things You Should Know.

“That’s a short list. That can’t be everyone you want to kill. Are you sure you’re not forgetting someone?” – Game of Thrones

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The W3 stands for Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise.  Get it???  Thanks, Dawn!

So, I’ve not done a list.  But, why not?  Jordan Peterson did one (reference LINK and LINK and LINK), so I figured I could do one, too.  Enjoy!

  1. Tell the truth. This will have the beneficial added benefit of changing your behavior so you’re not ashamed of what you do.    The whole truth.  Even about that.  And that.  People might not like you, but they’ll respect you.
  2. Showing up on time is important. It shows respect.  It also is easy to track, if you’re a boss wanting to get rid of people.  Even if you do a great job, you’ll be the first to go if you show up late.  Unless you bring doughnuts, and, honestly, that wears thin after a while.
  3. Don’t give up. How close were you to break-out success when you gave up?  Even Johnny Depp succeeded, which proves that anyone can!
  4. There are no friends like those formed in youth. There are no pretenses.  The cruel calculus of testosterone and estrogen has yet to set in.  Greed is not an issue.
  5. Be nice. Life is already really hard for some people.  Don’t be their villain, unless it pays really well, and even then karma is . . . tough.
  6. When you speak, you own the space between the words. You have the ability to turn your words into something amazing, since infinite possibility lies between one word and the next.
  7. Don’t do things you hate, or things that make you feel like a failure. Putting yourself in situations like that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  8. Apologize.  But only when you are wrong, which, if you read this blog, is rarely.  Never apologize unless you were clearly and completely wrong.
  9. Be of value. If you don’t contribute, you’re part of the problem.  Which problem?  All of them.
  10. Don’t make yourself into a victim. Almost everybody is where they are because of their choices.  Own your choices, and own your outcomes.  No one likes victims.
  11. If you really are a victim? Act like you’re not.  Because even if deserved?  No one likes victims.  And if you have enemies?  They’re mad because you’re living well.
  12. Opportunity is found where responsibility is neglected.
  13. Solve someone else’s biggest problem – that’s the road to wealth.
  14. Remember, giving someone something creates a debt in their mind. The larger the gift, the bigger the debt.  And nobody likes someone they owe a lot of money to.
  15. If you don’t want to go to bed because you don’t want to get up tomorrow? Fix your life.
  16. Have children and have them early. But only if you have a spouse.  And can keep your spouse.
  17. Cooking your own food is cheaper. And it gives time for conversation.  Some of the best conversations occur around the barbeque grill and the deck late into the night.
  18. Be tough when you have to be. To be kind when toughness is required results in tragedy.
  19. A pleasure repeated too often becomes a punishment, unless it’s Game of Thrones®.
  20. Beware of ignoring public opinion. Public opinion resulted in witch burning, the guillotine and Hula Hoops®.  You don’t want to be on the wrong side of opinion at the wrong time.
  21. Don’t see conspiracy when simple laziness, plain stupidity, or normal greed would explain the situation just as well.
  22. Schools used to be run by school boards. Now they’re run by unions and lawsuits – none of these groups have the students in mind.
  23. You don’t win ‘em all. If you’re the Cleveland Browns®, you lose most all of them.
  24. You are the sum of your experience, your intellect, your body, your surroundings, and the people you interact with. You also control your own change.  So, get up.    The you of today isn’t ready for tomorrow unless the you of today is changing to meet those challenges.
  25. Betrayal of trust is often unforgivable. Never trust someone who betrays you.  Forgive?  Maybe.  Trust?  Nope.
  26. Real changes don’t happen until an emotional experience occurs.
  27. You have your shot – would have and could have don’t exist. (Unless the Many Worlds Theory of quantum mechanics is correct, in which case all things happen, so have another beer.)
  28. The best (and maybe only) way to win at gambling is to own a casino.
  29. No matter how awesome your idea, it has no value unless you make it real. This takes risk, execution, and work.  Which is a lot more difficult than talking about your wonderful idea.
  30. Unless your boss is a good boss, your being younger and smarter than him won’t impress him, it will make him jealous or fearful. Neither of those things are good.
  31. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your (biological) parents. You’re not too much different than them.  At best, you can avoid their weaknesses.  At worst, you’ll follow every one if their downsides.
  32. Tip well, if you can afford it. Waiting on tables is tough work.  And if you do tip well?  They’ll remember you and take care of you.  It’s nice to show up and find the right bottle of wine waiting for you.
  33. You’re not going to win the lottery. Unless it’s the one that Shirley Jackson wrote about. (LINK)
  34. If you’re travelling in winter, travel on the top half of your gas tank. It doesn’t cost any more.
  35. Keep your napkin in your lap while at the dinner table.
  36. Always use deodorant.  And if in doubt?  Have a breath mint, too.
  37. Keep in touch with people who have helped you, so you can help them. And because you’re a person.
  38. If you have too much stuff – your stuff will own you. Except books.  You can have as many of those as you want.
  39. The only way that you can know another person across centuries is to read what they’ve written. Have you written anything worthy of reading by your great-great grandchildren?  No?  Get to work.
  40. You’re going to die, and we all die alone.  Understand that the only person with you throughout your life is . . . you.  Be prepared to keep yourself alive in any emergency you can imagine.  Otherwise you’ll never see the end of Game of Thrones®.

Jordan Peterson, Success, Bruce Campbell, and Roman Emperors

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise® we are lucky enough to have Dr. Jordan Peterson Week©.  This is the third of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK), and the second post here (LINK).

 

“Jamie, how many 29 year old record company presidents operate out of their mom’s trailers? Know what I’m sayin’?”- J-Roc’s Mom, “Trailer Park Boys

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Oil Tank Dennis Quaid (playing Sam Houston) knows a little bit about Oil Tank success, starting his own Oil Tank country and all.

I had intended on just doing three posts this year on Dr. Peterson, but will probably do updates from time to time, since his ideas are stone-cold interesting and I think I could do six weeks of posts on those ideas without repeating myself, but if I did that we’d just have to hand over the reins to Jordan, and I own the domain name, and I don’t think he’d share the revenues.

Elon Musk almost always has something going on, too.

Monthly updates about these guys?  We’ll see.

(By the way, Elon, GOOD JOB dumping Amber Heard, she’s really not worth a Prius®, dude.  I’m telling you – she is trouble and likely a Terminator® sent by James Cameron from the future to mess with your Mars (LINK) plan.  You dodged a bullet!!!)

The_Man_Who_Sold_the_Moon_Shasta_Ed

Now a 100,000% better with no Amber Heard. (image, Wikipedia)

But this is Wealthy Wednesday, and Dr. Peterson has a lot to say about success (and, it seems, almost everything else), which is reasonable given the unreasonable amount of success that he’s had, especially recently.

Today we’re going back to those forty points that Peterson laid out on Quora (LINK) in response to the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”  In the analysis on Truth last post (LINK), Dr. Peterson had 16 out of 40 points that related in some way to Truth (I know, we could quibble, was it 15 or 17, but why quibble, since we’re friends?).  Are there any of the 40 points that speak to success?

Yes.  Dr. Peterson speaks on things I consider to be huge when it comes to a deep, meaningful success that combines significance with economic success.  I mean, why would you want a Justin Bieber-level success if you could have success that mattered, like Bruce Campbell?

Bruce

A perfect gift for any occasion!

Peterson has several videos on YouTube® that directly tackle important personal development points that lead to success:  fear (and how to overcome it), the importance of having a routine, where to find the freshest and plumpest Pez®, and how success leads to even more success.  I encourage you to watch the videos.

But going back to the 40 points.  Many relate to behaviors (behaviours in Canada, eh) that lead to success.  These are quoted below (bold) with Dr. Peterson’s gracious permission.  My commentary follows.

  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. – There is always the opportunity to do things just for the moment, but when you work on what matters? That leads to long term success and value.  This means that, no, eating only appetizers doesn’t make a good dinner.  You need cake, too.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things.   Do them so you how to do them.  Do them because they are meaningful.  Do them because it’s right.  Doing them just to be seen?  Yeah, we wedgied that guy in High School.  That’s the worst kind of smarmy dude.
  • Pay attention. Sorry, dozed off.  Oh, yeah.  People notice when you take them seriously, when what they say matters to you.  If you’re not present in the moment, those that are will notice.  And you’ll miss important things.  “Hang on, honey, I have to tell Google that they should lower their price to $750,000.  They want a million bucks!  Stupid college kids.”  (Yes, that really happened, and he did not get the deal.)
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you. There is an implied Trustworthiness in this statement.  Be worthy of their trust.  Realize that Truth is not where you look, it’s where you find it.
  • Be careful who you share good news with. Bad bosses get jealous, and even good people get jealous.  Similarly, don’t appear too good to your boss.  A boss that’s intimidated by you is not generally a rational boss.  If you have to make that calculation, beware.  Likewise, sometimes your friends get a bit tired of hearing of an endless sea of victory.  Be real to them.
  • Be careful who you share bad news with. People who don’t like you (or to whom you just represent a tool) can use that news against you.  Similarly?  Don’t share your weaknesses.  Hey, Clark Kent – your boss does NOT need to know that you’re nearsighted and break out in hives every time you’re near a little kryptonite©.  Also, your bad news might be insignificant compared to someone else’s bad news.  Your very worst day might be better than the best day of the person you’re talking too.  “Oh, my, and the caviar was nearly off!  I made do, however,” won’t go too far if the other person can barely afford to pay their chauffer and their private pilot.
  • Make at least one thing better every single place you go. The right people generally appreciate this.  They see it, and it’s obvious.  If they don’t see it?  You know, deep inside, it was the right thing.  A guy was working really hard on making a concrete footer smooth.  I pulled aside his great-great-grandboss.  “You know that’s going to be buried, right?  I’m good if it’s a bit rough.  Heck, it’s really even better if the concrete is rough.  More friction.”  Boss’s response?  “It’s his work.  The man has pride in it.  I’ll let him own it.”  What a good answer.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. How many days do you want to spend being the you that isn’t the best you?  The first step is imagining.  Once you’re there, Von Mises (LINK) will take over.  If you see a better you, a path to get there, and believe that your action can take you there?  Nothing can stop you.  Unless you told your boss about the whole kryptonite® thing.
  • Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful. Good things will happen to you during your career.  Bad things will happen to you during your career.  People will step on you (if they can) to elevate themselves over you.  You’ll forget the contributions of great team members.  Focus on this:  You’re never as good as people think, or as bad.  You have had amazing help through your life.  “Don’t spend time hating the situation.  The situation doesn’t care.” (Marcus Aurelius, probably)

Marcus

Unknown Sculptor, Pierre-Selim (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Why is it that when I wear a toga to work that they think I’m a little off?  Marcus rocked his!

  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. This implies that you’re going to get rid of the fear of failure.  If you try, really hard, and fail, what will happen?  Mainly, nobody notices, except you.  And you get stronger.  It has been my experience that the harder I work at something, the better I get.  And sometimes I achieve results that are beyond anything I ever could have expected.  And other things fail, but I learn a little bit more each time.
  • Maintain your connections with people. Outside of graffiti artists, The Mrs., and Keanu Reeves, most of us don’t work alone.  Most of us depend on others to make us better, make us stronger.  There’s a natural pull for certain people (introverts and those under stress) to pull back, mainly when they need other people the most.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. The stupid form you just filled out?  Yeah, somebody had to design it, and they had a reason.  See if you can make the form better, after understanding why it even exists.
  • Nothing well done is insignificant. There is the possibility of beauty in the most mundane and base of tasks – cleaning a microwave oven can be significant, especially when it’s done well.  I can show you the fulfillment you will get from cleaning a microwave.  See you at my house on Saturday?  Only a minimal charge for this lesson.  (H/T M. Twain)
  • Dress like the person you want to be. True enough.  Some days I’m Homer Simpson.  I would just love to be involved in those wacky adventures!  Danger point:  If you work at a construction company and dress like an investment banker you will be mocked.
  • Be precise in your speech. Meaning is important, and certain people follow only concrete statements.  Precision in a concrete fashion is especially important to them – their brains don’t understand exaggeration for effect.  Likewise, when someone asks you a yes or no question?  Answer yes or no before you explain the answer.  They might not care why.  And precision in speech leads to truth.
  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Posture feeds directly into mindset and emotion, and in guys pumps testosterone up when done right.  Standing tall and strong like a superhero, hands on hips?  Yeah, you’ll feel like a superhero, and being a superhero is a great way to get important things done.  Especially if “things” is slicing up people with metal claws.
  • Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way — and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things. Bosses hate fear and like courage (good bosses).  They also understand risk.  They like it when you take appropriate
  • Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated. There will be times when you will see something undone.  Do it.  It will be noticed.
  • Be grateful in spite of your suffering. Nobody likes a whiner or wants to spend time with a whiner.  Nobody wants to hear a whiner whine except his enemy.  Everyone suffers.  To repeat myself, your worst day is better than someone’s best day.  Act like it.

Dr. Peterson is doing more than writing about success, he’s quarterbacked creation of a software suite called “Self Authoring,” (LINK).  Note that I am not as of this writing date getting paid if you sign up.  I’ll let you know if that changes.

The concept behind Self Authoring is to work through issues – fix yourself – by revisiting and writing about events in the past that were particularly difficult for you or in some way may be holding you back.  Additionally, there’s a focus on writing a future as well to create a meaningful goal or set of goals to work for, sort of an anti-nihilism pill.

Bill Gates probably doesn’t need this.  Those who are able to be pretty clear of their past and are able to perform at a high level already based on solid future goals are probably not the target market, though Dr. Peterson did say that one driving factor in designing and creating this tool was from requests by companies for ways to help their high performing employees perform on an even higher level.

When people write about their painful past, people experience long term positive impacts (compared to a control group).  Likewise, another group constructed and wrote about their future, and had similar impacts (when compared to the control group).  I have theories about everything, but I wonder if confronting past trauma made them braver?  I wonder if it allowed them to really examine what happened in context and they were able to trace the impacts to their present state?

In the end, Self Authoring is consistent with Peterson’s maxim – you have to fix yourself.

I wonder if that’s part of the mission of this blog?  I know that Orthodixie (LINK) (another blogger from my past, an Orthodox Priest with a Carolina accent, and no, I’m not making that up) and I would talk about how blogging let us mentally, “take out the trash,” and how much better we felt after we’d gotten something out on paper, even something unrelated to the things that were bothering us.  I’ll probably give the Self Authoring program a try.  I’ll let you know how it works out . . . but get yourself a Priest as a drinking buddy if you can.  It always amused The Mrs. when I engaged him in theological debate after wine.

Me, I’m still cleaning on my room, making it a little better each day.  I know that The Mrs. is very much looking forward to me being done with that.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, Truth, and Even More Truth

This is the second of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK).  The third post can be found here (LINK).

“J-Roc raps about gangsters and guns, pimps and hos and Compton.  The guy’s not from Compton.  He’s a white kid from a trailer park.  He should rap about what he really knows which is living in his mom’s trailer eating peanut butter sandwiches.” – Trailer Park Boys

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When I think that society is too complicated, I then remember that I couldn’t even take this picture without the help of the millions of elven technicians that live in my camera.  Then I cry.

As a reminder, Dr. Peterson is a psychologist that teaches at the University of Toronto, but don’t hold that against him:  he seems to be one of the good Canadians at this point, though a bit fixated.

On what is Peterson fixated?  Dr. Peterson seems to be obsessed, and not with Pez® or Japanese tentacle pudding cups like a normal man.  No, Peterson is obsessed with the truth.  Earlier this year in response to a question on Quora, (LINK): “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Dr. Peterson didn’t come back with a 250 page book priced at $43.50 (I’m talkin’ about you, Dr. Tainter (LINK)) but rather a fairly simple 40 item list.  I’d suggest you go over and read it – it’s not bad.  My list would be different, but you’ll have to wait for a new post for my list – this post is all about Peterson.

I’ve often heard it said, if you want to know who someone is, just ask them.  I was reading an article on the web where these psychiatrists were attempting to figure out a test to give people to determine if they had narcissistic personality disorder.  The best test they’d yet determined was to ask them, “Are you a narcissist?”

Narcissists seem pretty proud answering, “Yes, I am!  Because I’m so awesome!”

Nice.  So, with that in mind, let’s listen to Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Peterson’s first rule is:

Tell the truth. 

Simple.  I think we all learn to lie about stuff as soon as we learn about consequences.  We all start out as horrible liars, since being three years old doesn’t exactly pop us to the top of the “able to make up good, convincing lies” chart unless your parents are very, very stupid.

After playing with lies, if we are very, very, lucky we learn that lies are really, really bad.

I’ll tell you my story, because I’m just enough of a narcissist to think you might be interested.  Because I’m that interesting.

I’ve been divorced, and can attest that divorces are very expensive because they’re worth every penny.  My first wife and I didn’t have personalities that really matched very well.  To top that, neither one of us was very good at telling the truth to each other – it was like a US-USSR arms race where, instead of stockpiles of nuclear weapons, our Cold War involved an ongoing series of falsehoods aimed at one another.  She was relieved to move out.  I was relieved when she moved out and was replaced by Boris Yeltsin (for a short time).  It took tanks and a promise of vodka to get Boris out of the house long enough to change the locks.

Regardless, I could see the impact that lies and distrust had made in my life, and I made a personal vow that, no matter what I did in the future, I would always tell anyone in a future relationship the Truth.  No lies.   And I have told the Truth, regardless of the outcome to The Mrs. since we met.  One time I called home, late, while I was still at work.  I whispered into the mouthpiece, “Can’t come home right now.  Governor of the state is in the office right next to mine, surrounded by news media, talking to my boss.”

The Mrs. only reply was, “Okay.  See you when you get here.”

By this time, we’d been married almost eight years, so, based on my constantly telling the Truth during that time, plus during every interaction before we got married, I think I could have called up and said, “Honey, been picked up by a UFO, and they have Elvis and we’re going out for ribs and beer.  Be back before 11pm.”

This may or may not be what happened to me.

She might have believed that was what was really happening, but she would certainly have believed that I thought it was the Truth.

And this has paid off during my entire relationship with The Mrs., in dividends, though certainly she knows better than to ask my opinion on anything where she doesn’t really want a True answer.  Has it caused friction?  Very rarely.  It did today, because I told her my opinion, and was told (essentially) that she didn’t want that right now.  Sometimes Truth is not what we want.

But in every case, it has led to harmony and trust.  If you have a partner who always tells you the Truth, you know you have someone who is on your team, always.

But back to Dr. Peterson.

In response to the Question on Quora, he listed 40 points.  By my count, 16 of them (40%!) dealt directly with Truth.

Here they are, quoted with permission, with my commentary:

  • Tell the truth. Discussed above.  The core of Dr. Peterson’s points.
  • Do not do things that you hate. If I were to quote Shakespeare, I’d quote Hamlet here: “To thine own self be true.”  Oh, I guess I just did.  This is Truth to self.  Your hate (if everything else is set right) will be based on the dissonance of what you’re doing and your best self.  You’re avoiding Truth by doing things you hate.
  • Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act. Directly related to the above, the idea of having to tell someone, Truthfully, what you did prevents you from doing things you would be ashamed of.  Which would include eating a whole bag of Ruffles®, unless it saved an orphan in some way.
  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. Again, this is more “Truth to self.”  As my coach in high school said, “Wilder, when you cheat on those pushups, you’re just cheating yourself.”  I kid.  I never cheated on pushups in high school.  I cheated on squat-thrusts.  But, when cheat yourself from the Truth of the meaningful, you end up with the never ending squat thrusts of the expedient.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things. I had a boss who was always seen doing things.  In reality, he mainly was responsible for ensuring we had a constant Internet connection, mainly by surfing for things that amused him.  But if there was a way to be seen by his boss doing the “right” thing?  He would move faster than a miniature poodle on a porkchop to get in the credit zone.  I’m pretty sure he’s never been happy, especially since his strategy is to always look good, but he has none of the skills to create great outcomes.  My corollary:  Do things, and be seen doing them.  You can have both.  But never stop doing things.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. Again, the theme of being Truthful to oneself continues.  But this is aimed at being Truthful to the long term you.  If you cheat that you, you’ll always have regrets, and probably termites, too.
  • Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible. “Who says that fictions only and false hair become a verse?  Is there in truth no beauty?”  Okay, I stole that from the poem “Jordan (I)” by George Herbert, 1593-1633.  And that’s creepy, because I only learned the poem’s name or author tonight – to me it was just the title of a sub-par Star Trek episode (the one where Spock goes temporarily blind).  But outside of the creepy factor of researching a poem to find that it has the same name as the person you’re writing about, beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.  The elegance of pure math.  The sudden discovery of a True thing.  The Wilder corollary to this one:  ugly things around your house steal your energy.  Fix them.
  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Again, Truth to self.  I have seen people with amazing skills and talents just stop on their way upward – because they are afraid to fail.  I’ve done that myself, until a very visionary leader told me, after I’d explained what he wanted was hard to do, “Wilder, just do it.”  Nine times out of ten when he told me that, I achieved it.  The tenth?  He got fired.  But he got a severance package worth about $1.4 million.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. There is truth in beauty.  There is also truth in the stable social constructs that have created wealth, peace, and Pez® for thousands of years.  Tear them down?  It’s easy.  But can you tear them down and put up something even better?  Probably not.  Can you make them better?
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you. Again, Truth is your primary commodity here.  Friends who want the best for and from you will tell you the Truth.  Others won’t.  One time I saw the head of operations for a company walk down the hall with about three feet of toilet paper trailing behind his waistband, top center behind, like a big, white, fluffy skunk tail.  Nobody else saw him.  I didn’t tell him when he walked out of his office, somewhat flushed and embarrassed.  He made small talk until he realized I wasn’t going to say, “Hey, saw your toilet paper tail and I’m going to tell everybody!”  And I didn’t tell the office.  He was a nice guy.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. How is it possible that you have the answer to world peace, and there’s a towel on the floor in your room?  Or your son hates you?    Thought so.  Fix the things around you so you understand the Truth required to fix the world about you.  I’m still working on cleaning my room, so, my advice is suspect.
  • Be precise in your speech. Precision in speech means . . . you say exactly what you say you mean.  Which is?    The Truth.  And if you go back to Orwell, removing words, or making them mean things they don’t removes the ability to even make certain arguments through language, so at some point the Truth isn’t even possible to utter anymore.
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.  By not teaching Truth to your children you cripple them to find Truth on their own. And finding Truth by yourself is harder than finding a clean spot on Johnny Depp’s sink.  As smart as your children might be, they are not wise, and need you to guide them through Truth so they might find Wisdom, and through Wisdom enough money to pay for your retirement home some future day.
  • Do not hide unwanted things in the fog. We try to hide Truth from ourselves every day.  We look in the mirror and manage to not see what anyone else in the world can plainly see.  While there is no reason that you have to tell the world your deepest regrets, you should at least be able to see them and understand that they are True.
  • Read something written by someone great. Great people write Truth, that’s why what they write is great.  The more profound the Truth, generally, the simpler.  But a great writer can, in 200 pages, take you on a journey that wraps you around and through a path where you walk to Truth.
  • Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know. As much as we search for the Truth, we learn more every day.

Here is a Peterson theme:  Truth in a Post-Modernist context is always relative and always the product of the culture that created it.  It ceases to be objective Truth, and becomes a relative truth.  From the points above, you might predict that Peterson would reject Post-Modernism because it denies the very existence of Truth.  And you would be right.

The battle lines are set: Modernism vs. Post-Modernism and the very existence of Truth.

What amazes me is that it is clearly explicable in our world that there are objective facts that are True, yet in a Post-Modernist viewpoint, nope, not so.  Therein lies the ultimate fight between Peterson and Post-Modernism – Peterson is on the side of Truth, and his opponents deny that Truth even exists.

There are too many points, too many places where Truth is not the relative product of a culture to even begin to argue that truth doesn’t exist.  (If you must have an example:  there is a force we call gravity that causes mass to clump together.  Truth.  Gravity is not a social construct.  There are cultural Truths as well, but I’m not going to open that can of worms with this post.)

So, I’ll allow that the narcissistic side of my personality is pretty sure that you’ve enjoyed this, but the Truthful side knows that you did.

As for me?  I’m with Dr. Peterson.  Go with the Truth.  It’s a winner.

Jordan Peterson, Being Healthy, Slaying Dragons (where legal)

“Why don’t you get a life Rick? Why don’t you go to community college like Julian here? Hey, I got a good idea. You could teach, ‘Living in a Car and Growing Dope 101.’” – Trailer Park Boys (Which, in the editor’s opinion, are another Canadian menace)

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William Shatner and Pugsley.  Pugsley was thrilled.

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and we here at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise© have already had Elon Musk Week™ (LINK).  Given the great response to Elon Musk Week®, my editor (me) has assigned my writing staff (also me) and my graphics staff (again me) to Jordan Peterson Week™.  This is the first post in the series.  My second post is here (LINK).  And my final post is here (LINK).

Jordan Peterson is fascinating to listen to, and you can certainly do that, unless you live in 1995 or Arkansas, where video isn’t yet a part of the Internet.  YouTube has devoted a massive amount of computer disk space to cover the hours and hours and hours of Dr. Peterson’s fascinating lectures.  How much disk space?  Almost enough to cover 30% of The Simpsons episodes, or 571,231 hours.

I kid.  But Dr. Peterson is exceptionally popular despite the fact that some of his videos are an hour or two long, and the typical attention span is measured in fifteen second chunks, and he’s still popular tells you he’s saying something pretty important.  Heck, Dr. Peterson is Canadian and despite that, people take him seriously.

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You know who else is Canadian?

There is quite a lot of information content in his videos – they’re very dense, and often he will drop an amazingly wise bit of information and leave me to back the video up whilst I’m Stairmastering® with my hands and face covered in yogurt to catch his point again.  Why are my face and hands covered in yogurt?  To keep the cucumber slices in place, silly!

Peterson drops a truth grenade in every video.  In one, he indicates that most of his psychological practice cases don’t have any sort of a mental issue.  No real psychotherapy is required.  No years of sitting on a couch discussing cigars or tunnels and their meaning.  Nope.

And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar?  Audio only, but a classic.  I had this on cassette when I was a kid and it all went WAY over my head.

Dr. Peterson indicated that most problems were problems in living.  He brought up six areas where he would gently (or not so gently) counsel his patients to “get a life.”

“Get a Life” must be a course they teach in Canada.

Peterson indicates that there are six areas where his patients need to focus on getting a life (interpretations past the bold are mine, not Dr. Peterson’s):

  • Friends/Intimate Relationships – These are crucial relationships, and it seems (LINK) that the earlier they are formed, the stronger they are. I guess we hadn’t learned to pretend to be something we’re not, so those relationships are more authentic.  Everyone I went to High School with knows what well developed sense of self I have (though they called it “egomaniac”) and I don’t have to pretend to be humble (important in not scaring a boss to death).
  • Being a Part of a Career/Dominance Hierarchy – Having a career is important, in that it provides a sense of significance to what you’re doing. You have the opportunity, each day, to jump in and do your very best within the confines of a social network that doesn’t require BookFace® (unless you work at BookFace©).  Dominance Hierarchy is a term used by Peterson a lot.  This is driven by the notion that it is hardwired into us by a lot of years of biology and evolution.  In the past, (pre-monogamy) most human males didn’t get to mate and leave an offspring (think harems).  This (depending on your mileage) may have left a LOT of angry males only marginally attached to society, and a bargain of monogamous, single marriage in return for angry unmated males not rioting and breaking everything.  So, want to be the most dominant person in the room?  Sure you do.  Like a love for gluten, it’s hardwired.  And studies have shown that this is important (LINK).  Please remember, however, all the recent retirees that have this as their primary purpose and expire six months after retirement.  This can be a dangerous solo focus.
  • Have a Schedule/Routine – Pick a time, any time, and get up at that time, all the time. Every day.  This stabilizes your body’s innate circadian rhythm, which has a direct relationship on your mood.  Hmm, I’ve worked to make this better, but . . . (LINK)
  • Eat Something in the Morning – Dr. Peterson talks about a nice woman who only ate ¾ of a cup of rice every day and was starving herself. My breakfast looks a lot like dinner.
  • Personally Regulate Drugs and Alcohol – Peterson said “regulate” but by context he meant personally regulate. His other comment, “especially alcohol.”
  • Have a Spouse/Family – Family is important. Besides creating another group of people that should have your back no matter what, it also provides an anchor in time.  It is a link to the past from your parents.  It is a link to the future from your children.  And, it’s a link to BookFace® if you do it wrong.

Dr. Peterson said that being solid in three or four of these was absolutely necessary to by psychologically thriving.  I imagine that an extreme stress on any one of these by itself (think the retirees mentioned above) can be a pretty debilitating experience.  Keep in mind, also, that these presuppose a normal life in good times in Western Civilization, and not times that would make Dr. Maslow grin with the grim anticipation of NOBODY winning at his self-actualization game (LINK).

Looking at the list I can see from my personal experience that having three of these going for you is crucial to not being a neurotic moron appearing sane.  When times were tough at work?  I leaned on family and on friends.  When I was going through my divorce a zillion years ago?  I threw myself into work and leaned on friends.

What else does Dr. Peterson say?

Lots.

One big one is “Clean Your Room.”

And it’s not a metaphor.  It’s literal.  The act of cleaning your room – of making your place tide – provides a basis of stability.  It’s also symbolic – it’s hard to argue that you know the solutions to all of the world’s problems and need to organize a protest when you can’t even keep your room clean.  The simple symbol of slaying the tiny dragon (that’s a metaphor, unless you live in Westeros and are plagued by actual tiny dragons) of chaos in your life shows that you can be conscientious enough to actually get something done.  And you get a boost when you’ve actually achieved something.  Hey, I haven’t won the Nobel® Peace Prize™ (now on stick!) but, by golly, I don’t have to step over a rack of magazines to get to my bed!  Your work leads to something besides futility.

That last part is important.  I once had a conversation with a friend at work where we talked about the different ways that people view tasks:

“John, you and I get up in the morning and think, yup, I have got to shave this morning.”  He rubbed his chin for emphasis.  “Those guys,” he gestured in the direction of the group we were talking about, “get up in the morning and look in the mirror and think, ‘You know, I’m going to have to shave every day.  Every single day for the rest of my life.’”

And life can seem like that – a bit of constantly encroaching chaos.  Maintaining the discipline of cleaning your room keeps that sense of being a victim of life at bay.  “I can’t clean the room – I don’t have time,” and “I’ll get to cleaning the room on a long weekend.”  Those are statements of someone who has voluntarily made themselves a victim, and, really, is avoiding the truth.  Even five minutes a day, over time, will lead to a clean room.

My cleaning method is to pick a spot on an area, and then make that area perfect.  Then, the area adjacent to my “perfect” area looks . . . awful.  My favorite spot to start in the kitchen is the microwave.  The Mrs. chides me because, “Who is going to come visit our house just to look to see how clean our microwave is?”

Well, nobody.  But the microwave is truth.  Regardless of who sees it (or doesn’t see it), the microwave is now clean.  And I know the truth.

And this week, each morning before work I’ve cleaned on the master bathroom about three minutes.  In two weeks, that’ll be half an hour.  That I’ll never notice, partially because zombies on The Walking Dead have a greater self-awareness than I do when I first get up in the morning, plus their breath smells better.  But I’ve done something a bit different.  I’ve started the day having slain a tiny dragon; starting the day with a win.

And that’s legal in my state, as long as I have a permit.

Join me for more of Dr. Jordan Peterson on . . . Monday.  Get a life.  Or slay a dragon.

Eclipse, Game of Thrones, Chili’s Restaurant

“Or we could stare at an eclipse while screaming at it!” – Upright Citizens Brigade

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This picture of the Sun’s corona is courtesy of The Boy, the number 8, and the letter W.

Like millions of other Americans within a short drive, The Boy, Pugsley and I piled into the Wildermobile and headed for destiny.  (For the record, millions of Americans didn’t pile into my car.  They got into their own cars.)

Actually, it was a Marriott© instead of destiny, but I hear those things can be related.  This was no ordinary Marriott®, rather it was one strategically placed within 90 minutes or so of the Path of the Great American Eclipse, which would snatch from us, momentarily, the Suns Life Giving Yet Deadly rays.

We had packed our Solar Viewing Glasses, which we had gotten for free a week earlier at our local library.  “We” is really The Boy, who I had to threaten with the immediate torture of being pulled from the Matrix through restriction of his use of any device invented since 1907 should he not comply.  “Later” seemed to be built into his answer.  Take away his Tweeter® or his BookFace©?  Yeah, that would be like amputating a limb.

A week out at the library?  Plenty of eclipse glasses were freely available.  Three days out?  None.  Again, people do NOT plan.  It seems like that when it’s bright and sunny out, even when they know that winter’s coming, they don’t put up extra food or even minor emergency preparations.  After you’re observed people long enough, you learn that most of them . . . don’t learn.  (But not you, dear reader, who likely have an IQ high enough to give a normal person a nosebleed due to altitude sickness.)

The Mrs. was skeptical when I tried to get hotel reservations a scant week before, but Marriott gleefully set up the reservation.  Originally, she was going to accompany us, but the day before we were to leave for the hotel, we took a nap, and she slept through the time when she was supposed to take the dogs to the kennel for boarding.  The Mrs. sighed . . . happily.  I’m not sure she was at all excited about an eight hour trip into the deepest uninhabited part of Upper-Lower Midwestia just to not see the Sun.

The Boy, Pugsley and I planned (prior to leaving) on when and how we were going to leave on our great adventure.

My plan was that I wanted to get there so I had about 90 minutes to eat dinner prior to Game of Thrones (spoiler – Ned gets decapitated at the end of season one).  Pugsley, however, had configured some sort of alternate reality that involved us getting there at 3pm.  The Boy bought into this alternate reality and stubbornly wore his backpack starting two hours before I started packing.

Keep in mind, The Boy is nearly 17.

I think both The Boy and Pugsley were excited.  The Boy was even more excited when I tossed him the keys.  He drove us from Stately Wilder Manor to dinner, and then to our hotel.  My daughter, Alia S. Featherbottom (nee Wilder) was going to meet us, but forgot we were coming as she fell into a pit of Dungeons and Dragons®.

Now, as a general note, we don’t let Pugsley (12) watch Game of Thrones.  The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has watched the show.  Tonight?  Single hotel room?  He sat and watched Galaxy Quest with headphones on.  Although The Mrs. and I normally sit and watch the show together, in this case she and I texted back and forth during the episodes.  Here is an example exchange:

The Mrs.:  “There’s more walking in this episode than in The Lord of the Rings.”

Me:  “At least they’re not singing.”

After that I poured my heart and soul into (yet another) post about how stupid NASA is (LINK), but even I am beginning to feel a bit guilty – picking on NASA is a lot like hitting a kitten.  The Boy helped by doing my thermodynamics calculations.

I had carefully selected our site.  It was about fifteen miles from the nearest town, and it was on a nice corner where the line of totality exactly passed over.  It was perfect.  The only problem?

Clouds.  They were everywhere.  I pulled out my cellphone and had the path of the totality map up.  On another cellphone I had the cloud cover map.  I reviewed first one phone and then the other, cross referencing one map to the other, sort of like Columbus if he was having trouble getting 3G on the Santa Maria like I was out in the cornfields.  At least he had WIFI when the Pinta hit Hispaniola, right?

Plotting one map against the other while The Boy drove, I made a decision.  The GPS said to turn right.  I told The Boy, “Turn left.”

With that, we moved off plan.  We had gone rogue, chasing bits of blue sky.

We navigated farther west, and soon, bluer patches of clear sky were NOT obscuring the Sun.  We were getting closer . . . finally we stopped in a small town park.

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We pulled into position about 40 minutes before the eclipse.

The park was filled with nice, friendly people.  Which makes sense.  These are the type of people who are intellectually curious, and were patient enough to drive hours to a small town for a two minute eclipse.  These weren’t troublemakers.

The eclipse itself was sublime.  The Sun was a fat crescent, a slim crescent, and then it was gone.  There were some light clouds, but they weren’t a major eclipse of the eclipse.  We had chosen our site very well.

My biggest personal surprise about the eclipse was that it didn’t go completely dark – I guess I had expected that.  Venus was very visible in the sky, but the clouds surrounding us (35 miles away) were still lit by the Sun, and that lighting left me feeling like I was under the world’s largest sunshade, which I guess that I was.

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My picture of the Sun’s Corona.  I prefer Negra Modelo myself.

It had been an oppressively hot and humid day.  The temperature dropped a bit during the eclipse, and that brought out thick clouds as the water vapor in the air condensed out.  We got in The Wildermobile and The Boy started driving us towards home.  The worst traffic jam we saw took place at a T intersection about 30 miles south of totality, and it was about a mile of politely and patiently driven cars that took us about ten extra minutes to get through.  The traffic apocalypse foretold by Nostradamus did not emerge.

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The above fiberglass squirrels were all over this town, and every squirrel I saw was painted differently, but all of them had eclipse glasses on.  Who says Midwesterners don’t know how to party?

The Boy drove us back down to a Chili’s® restaurant 90 miles south of totality.  It looked like it was closed, with zero cars in the parking lot.  I jumped out to check the door, it was open, and they were open.  We ordered food, and the waitress said that there had only been one table that had been there for lunch.  Apparently, your willingness to eat at Chili’s™ is some sort of predictor for you to go to see an eclipse.

The Boy drove home, and I slept most of the way.

Most of the way.

On the way back I mused on the events of the day – we had seen a solar eclipse – our first total solar eclipse, and I was reminded of something I heard Tony Robbins say:  “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy experience.”

I guess my takeaway is:  “Being nice doesn’t get you Eclipse Viewing Glasses, but angry threats do.”