Apr 082014
 

Jason Crawford gives an excellent answer to the question: What can non-Objectivists and doubters learn from the works of Ayn Rand? I like these two points most of all:

If you feel burdened by unchosen obligations to your family, your friends, your community, or the world at large, Rand will help you see that the guilt you feel is unearned and that your own happiness is the moral purpose of your life.

If you feel like a chump for being honest and fair to others, if you feel that morality is impractical and that being unscrupulous is the only way to get ahead—Rand will show you that honesty, integrity and justice are in your own rational self-interest, and that a rational person seeks only win-win relationships with others.

Objectivism’s ethics of rational egoism makes possible win-win relationships with others — rather than playing the martyr or predating. That shouldn’t be so revolutionary in ethics, but it is.

Go read the whole thing!

Choose Your Associates Wisely

 Posted by on 13 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Character, Ethics, Justice, Relationships
Aug 132013
 

Last night when watching the excellent television show Major Crimes, I was struck by these words of wisdom from Sharon Raydor: “If you hang out with criminals, you eventually will become a witness, a suspect, or a victim.” Or, I would add, an accomplice.

Too many people think that they can immunize themselves from friends and associates of dubious character… somehow. It’s just not true. If you choose to maintain ties with destructive, crazy, malicious, negligent, irrational, or otherwise sordid people, they will splash their crazy on you, again and again. As a matter of self-protection, you need distance.

I said much more on this topic in the 4 August 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, in answering the question on red flags in relationships. It’s a long discussion, but I was quite proud of it. It’s particularly helpful, I think, to good people apt to get “taken in” by not-so-good people.

If you’ve not yet heard the episode, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page.

More on Arranged Marriages

 Posted by on 6 June 2013 at 10:00 am  Love/Sex, Marriage, Relationships
Jun 062013
 

As y’all know, I answered a question about arranged marriages on the 19 May 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. In reply, I got the following fascinating comment from an Indian fan of my radio show:

Your answer to the arranged marriage question was stellar! You were bang on target about the fact that a low divorce rate is not inherently good, if that is caused by a social stigma attached to divorce — which only means more people are stuck in a marriage. I grew up in India, and saw it a lot.

I would love to see you answer the follow-up question that you brought up at the end, namely that — is it okay to marry a person who I like and respect, but not love in a deep sense if I don’t think I will find a such a person? When and under what circumstances is it appropriate for a person say — I don’t think I can find someone who I will deeply love — and settle for someone whom he respects and thinks could be a good partner for the rest of his life? What factors should go into such a decision — age, location, etc?

I’ve seen lots of arranged marriages in my life, including my sister. I think they make a good pair, if not a great one. Their personalities are compatible and I can envision them respecting each other and being great partners in the journey of life. Given that I was and am continually exposed to arranged marriages, I am glad to see this issue discussed!

Initially, after discovering Ayn Rand’s ideas as a teenager and as a young adult, I was pretty rationalistic about them and was SURE that they did not work. They did not love each other before they were married and they cannot love each other after they simply get married dammit! But the more I saw couples in an arranged marriage, the more I started to doubt my certainty. I saw that both the guy and the girl were happy about the fact that they were together. I cannot speculate how deep their love for each other was, but they were happy that they shared each others company, and I could see that.

I would have shared the segment on facebook and twitter but that would mean a lot of love loss between me and all my Indian friends who have done arranged marriages! I at least wanted to write you a note to say that that was a great answer.

If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on individualism versus anti-social atomism, poor communication from the boss, visibility of disabled children, arranged marriages, and more – is available as a podcast too.

Also, the follow-up question mentioned — “is it okay to marry a person who I like and respect, but not love in a deep sense if I don’t think I will find a such a person” — is now in the queue.

 

(I wrote this for Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter back in September 2012, but it’s still relevant.)

A few days ago, I was riding my horse in our neighborhood arena while a father was attempting to teach his son to ride a bike in the grass. The father would push the son forward on the bike, and the son was supposed to pedal. However, even from a distance, I could tell that the son was getting scared and freezing. Instead of pedaling, he’d put his feet down into the grass and come to stop. The father had an excellent opportunity to talk to his son about overcoming fears.

Alas, that’s not what happened. Even from a distance, I could hear the father yell to his son in frustration, “If you’d only pedaled when I told you!” and “Why aren’t you listening to me?” Obviously, that didn’t help the boy pedal any better!

The father was making a very serious mistake in taking his son’s failure personally. He was seeing it as a failure to obey, rather than focusing on the son’s actual problem — namely, the difficulty of overcoming fears. As a result, the son was not only deprived of useful help about managing those fears, but also burdened with feelings of guilt too. Even worse, the father was telling the son that the son’s own judgment (including his fears) were not nearly as important as obeying the father’s commands. Oy.

Happily though, the father seemed to muster some better control over himself after that burst of anger. He stopped yelling, and the tension seemed to ease. Hopefully, he realized his error. Hopefully, he’ll stop himself sooner next time.

I’m not immune from the error of atttemping to dictate others — whether children, animals, co-workers, friends, or husband. I suspect that I’m not alone in that! So here are a few suggestions, which you can take or leave:

When you find yourself growing frustrated by the fact that other people aren’t doing what you’ve told them to do, remind yourself that they’re not likely attempting to spite you. Perhaps you didn’t give clear instructions. Perhaps you’ve asked too much of them. Perhaps they saw problems with your plan that you missed. Perhaps their goals don’t mesh well with yours.

Instead of stewing over their failure to obey, consider how you might be genuinely helpful. You might want to ask them if they want help. You might want to clarify your instructions. You might want to just keep your mouth shut.

Whatever the circumstances, acting like a petty tyrant is always the wrong answer. Nothing alienates rational thinkers — young and old — more quickly.

 

Here’s an interesting little story from Campaign Doctor Newsletter:

The famous New York diamond dealer Harry Winston heard about a wealthy Dutch merchant who was looking for a certain kind of diamond to add to his collection. Winston called the merchant, told him that he thought he had the perfect stone, and invited the collector to come to New York and examine it.

The collector flew to New York and Winston assigned a salesman to meet him and show the diamond. When the salesman presented the diamond to the merchant he described the expensive stone by pointing out all its fine technical features. The merchant listened and praised the stone but turned away and said, “It’s a wonderful stone but not exactly what I wanted.”

Winston, who had been watching the presentation from a distance stopped the merchant and asked, “Do you mind if I show you that diamond once again?” The merchant agreed and Winston presented the same stone. But instead of talking about the technical features of the stone, Winston spoke spontaneously about his own genuine admiration of the diamond and what a rare thing of beauty it was. Abruptly, the customer changed his mind and bought the diamond.

While he was waiting for the diamond to be packaged and brought to him, the merchant turned to Winston and asked, “Why did I buy it from you when I had no difficulty saying no to your salesman?”

Winston replied, “The salesman is one of the best men in the business and he knows more about diamonds than I do. I pay him a good salary for what he knows. But I would gladly pay him twice as much if I could put into him something that I have and he lacks. You see, he knows diamonds, but I love them.”

Few people are moved by mere recitations of technical facts. On the DiSC Personality Model, High Cs can be, but most others are left cold by that.  (Recall that in DiSC, D = Dominance, I = Influence, S = Steadiness, and C = Conscientiousness.  If that doesn’t ring a loud bell for you, review this post or this podcast interview before reading further.)

However, that doesn’t imply that the other DiSC types — meaning, the High Ds, Is, and Ss of the world — are indifferent to facts or blindly driven by their emotions. Rather, I suspect that for them (or rather, us), motivation involves stronger emotions, different emotions, and perhaps more emotional expression.

All motivation requires emotion, I think. (That’s major part of Aristotle “action theory”, and I agree with it.) For C’s, the requisite emotional motivation seems to be tightly bound to the facts: they want to be right, most of all. (Hence, if you’re in a conflict with a High C over who is right… watch out! I’ve seen some scary-strong emotions from High Cs when challenged.)

Ds can seem unemotional — particularly unconcerned with the emotions of other people.  In fact, they’re highly motivated by feelings of power and capacity associated with achievement.  It’s their (er, my) drug.

Among the two people-oriented types, Is and Ss, the motivating emotions will be quite different. For High Is the emotions of excitement associated with new ideas, people, experiences, and challenges will have the most motivational force. High Ss find that daunting, but they’ll be motivated by feelings of sympathy and care.

Importantly, such personality differences never override a person’s free will choice to think or not. Whatever the strength, content, and source of a person’s motivating emotions, he can choose to recognize the facts for what they are and think them through rationally.  If he wants to be happy and successful, he’d better do that!

As for practical advice, I’d like to limit myself to two quick points:

First, just because someone seems less emotional than you doesn’t mean that they’re indifferent, that they don’t care, or that they’re some kind of robot in human form.

Second, just because someone seems more emotional than you doesn’t mean that they’re unthinking, that they’re indifferent to facts, or that they’re some kind of wild-eyed emotionalist.

Other people’s personalities differ in a million ways from yours.  Some of those differences are ginormous, while others are minor.  If you attempt to read everyone through the lens of your own personality, the only result is that you’ll find most people quite baffling, if not seriously frustrating.  This issue of emotion in motivation in just one example.

That’s why the DiSC Personality Model is so helpful, I think.  It focuses on two major axes of difference — assertive versus reserved and thing-oriented versus people-oriented.  Those axes are of particular importance for communication and collaboration with other people.  By learning DiSC, you can understand yourself better, including your strengths and weaknesses.  You can understand and appreciate the ways in which others differ from you too. It’s a gold mine!

Jul 252012
 

I’ve often said that closets are hot, stuffy, and uncomfortable places to live. That doesn’t just apply to gay closets, but to atheist closets, Objectivist closets, and pretty much any other kind of closet. For a person to hide who he is, pretending to be something more socially acceptable, is deeply self-destructive. How so?

To hide who you are creates feelings of shame, often wholly unwarranted. It causes massive anxiety about being found out. It trains you to cowardice, betraying your values rather than standing up for them. It encourages you to focus on how others see your values, rather than why they’re your values. It creates strong incentives to lie, by implication or explicitly, to preserve the secret. It assumes the worst about other people, namely that they’d condemn or even disown you if they knew who you really were.

Closets, in essence, erode a person’s moral character, trust in others, and emotional well-being.

In a blog post for the Harvard Business ReviewCome Out of the Closet at Work, Whether You’re Gay or Not — Dorie Clark makes some interesting remarks about how social media destroys the pretense of closets. Basically, the connections forged by social media mean that “the boundaries are breaking down, privacy is a shimmering mirage, and we’re stuck in a world where you’re expected, and required, to be yourself.”

That isn’t merely good for a person’s integrity. It can help a person succeed:

While it’s not always easy to share personal news at work, it can have an unexpected payoff. As Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Karen Sumberg reported last year in the Harvard Business Review, it actually pays for GLBT employees to come out of the closet. They’re more likely to be promoted because they spend less time worrying about secrecy and hiding and more time focused on their jobs.

That’s hardly not surprising. The mental energy, effort, and anxiety required to keep yourself a secret from people that you’re interacting with on a daily basis can be overwhelming.

Does that mean that a person should share everything? Are people wrong to value their own privacy? No, of course not! A person being reserved is very different from a person stuffing himself into a closet. The reserved person will not share his thoughts, feelings, values, and activities with strangers at the drop of a hat, but he will share relevant information with people in his life. Moreover, he doesn’t quake in fear at the prospect others knowing him, nor actively work to hide himself from others. The closeted person does not share relevant information, does quake in fear of others knowing him, and does actively conceal himself.

Yet even for the reserved person, to be more open might be of benefit. Dorie Clark writes:

Many people still argue there’s a fundamental right to privacy. But post-Zuckerberg, that illusion has evaporated — and, as I wrote in a previous HBR post, that’s a good thing: closing the gap between one’s public and private images results in more people being honest about themselves and their lives.

Whether you’re gay or not, it’s likely that you’ve faced complicated privacy issues: should you friend your co-workers on Facebook? How about your boss? How should you present — some would even say “curate” — your social media persona? As [Anderson] Cooper’s example reminds us, the best answer may be simply to open up and erase the division between public and private. You certainly don’t have to share everything, but it makes for a better world if you share the most important things.

In my experience, my sharing more about myself and my values means that I’m much better able to find and connect with people that I like — and that’s a huge win for me.

Jul 102012
 

In tomorrow evening’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss DiSC Personality Types with Santiago Valenzuela. Santiago introduced me to DiSC, and I’ve found it hugely useful for understanding my own defaults and preferences, including in communication, as well as that of others. It’s far more useful, I think, than other personality schemes like Meyers-Briggs.

Here, before the broadcast, I want to introduce you to some of the basics of DiSC.

DiSC is a personality inventory focused on predicting behavior, particularly a person’s default behavior. Remember though, personality is not destiny. A person can always choose to act against the grain of his personality.

DiSC has two axes: (1) assertive versus reserved and (2) people-oriented versus task-oriented (or better, thing-oriented). Those two axes yield four personality profiles — Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. People are often blends of multiple types.

Here are the four quadrants, taken from this DiSC Basics PDF from Manager Tools:

Wikipedia summarizes the four types nicely:

Dominance: People who score high in the intensity of the “D” styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D” scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D” people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.

Influence: People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with low “I” scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.

Steadiness: People with high “S” styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High “S” individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low “S” intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low “S” scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.

Contentiousness: People with high “C” styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High “C” people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with low “C” scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and unconcerned with details.

You can take a free DiSC test. However, in my experience, those results aren’t nearly as accurate as the $27 test from Manager Tools. That test offers a detailed and useful report too. If you like, you can view my DiSC report (PDF). I’m the classic “results-oriented” pattern, meaning high D, lesser I, no S, and a bit of C.

For Wednesday’s broadcast, you might want to print a copy of Manager Tools’ DiSC Cheat Sheet: How to Be Effective with DiSC Every Day (PDF).

Also, I strongly recommend listening to the core Manager Tools Podcasts on DiSC:

You can find more awesome podcasts on DiSC in the full Manager and Career Tools feeds. (Those feeds are available to anyone who registers for free on their web site.)

I’m super-excited to talk about DiSC tomorrow evening — and I hope that you’ll join us! As usual, the live show airs at 6 pm PT / 7 pm MT / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET. Later that evening, I’ll post the audio on the archive page.

Apr 272012
 

I love a bit of silly, including in work. That’s certainly reflected in my own style of webcasting and blogging. Happily, lots of people enjoy that: I routinely receive e-mails expressing delight that I make exploring ethics and philosophy enjoyable, as opposed to feeling like a burden or a chore.

Recently, I discovered that MailChimp takes their form of silly to a particularly high level of awesome. Let me explain.

MailChimp is an e-mail newsletter service, and I use it for my weekly Philosophy in Action Newsletter. (Not yet subscribed? Gack! Get yourself subscribed today!) I’ve been really pleased with their offerings and prices. (They’re better than Constant Contact, particularly on price.)

I’ve also been entertained by their little touches of irreverence. So in their header, they’ll have their chimp logo say and link to something amusing. For example:

That links to this silly video of Chimpanzee Outtakes.

Even better, the bacon lance:

That links to this awesome video:

It gets even better than that, however. In my settings, I found this switch for “Party Pooper Mode.”

So yes, you can turn off the bits of humor in MailChimp. But if you do that, they’re going to poke a bit of fun at you, just one last time. I love it!

Some people, I’m sure, find such humor quite offensive. I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that a person can’t be doing good work unless dead serious. Yet a bit of observation easily proves that false. Particularly in customer service, a touch of humor can brighten a person’s mood and create goodwill. (Think Southwest Airlines!) The same is often true for dealing with co-workers, clients, suppliers, and the like: a touch of benevolent humor can make the work so much more enjoyable.

With the use of humor, a person must aim for that Aristotelian mean — meaning using humor “at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way.” That “mean” may depend on the individual too, as people differ in their senses of humor — often purely as a matter of personality, not morality. Of course, it’s good to be sensitive to the preferences of others.

So if you think that philosophy or business or politics or romance or sex or parenting or almost any other pursuit in life is TOO IMPORTANT to ever be lightened by benevolent humor… think again. Heck, even dour-faced rationalism can be funny!

RSR: Episode #20: Noticing Change

 Posted by on 28 October 2009 at 5:00 pm  Ethics, Love/Sex, NoodleCast, Relationships
Oct 282009
 

Hooray! I’ve just posted Episode #20. It’s a bit of an experiment for me, as you’ll hear.

In this episode, I discuss the error of expecting a spouse or lover to notice some change about you — and the proper approach.

Listen Now


    11:08 minutes

Download This Episode

 

Hooray! Episode #18 of Rationally Selfish Radio is ready and waiting!

In this episode, I answer three questions on romantic relationships concerning (1) friendship after a failed romance, (2) romance between people of very different philosophies, and (3) managing finances in marriage.

Listen Now


    26:46 minutes

Download This Episode

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