Am I still a tourist ?

Visiting 50 countries is on my bucket list.  I’m still at 35.  Three more are planned for next Spring.

This picture shows the countries I’ve visited:countries

Some I’ve visited for hours, some for days, and some for years.

How do I define a visit?  

If I sprint through Heathrow airport during a connection to Paris, did I visit England?  Can I include that on my list?  (I did that, and I didn’t include it.)

This is my rule for inclusion on the list:  a conversation, a meal, and a pee.  In order to have visited a place, I need to meaningfully talk to someone, eat something, and use the restroom.


In my view, foreign exposure is a range: tourist –> visitor –> resident –> citizen.

I did some research on this topic.  One study I co-authored (unpublished) indicated that breadth is more important than depth for developing cultural intelligence (CQ).  Visiting multiple countries for a short time each affects CQ more than living in one new country for multiple years.

That is why I visit as many countries as I can.  But for each of these countries, I can’t claim cultural expertise after a short visit.

Many people mistakenly generalize.  Someone visits the countryside of Ireland for a few days, then tells us how all Europeans prefer darker coffee, or that the European climate is damp.  This is an error.  One Irish town doesn’t represent Dublin, much less Kiev and Athens.


To understand a place as much as possible in a short time, I engage in three activities:

  1. Visit a local grocery store, to see how locals sustain themselves.
  2. Walk around the city in early morning, before the crowds arrive,  as shopkeepers prepare for the day.
  3. Ride pubic transportation.  If the country has none, commute the way common people commute.

 

I challenge you to visit as may places as possible, and to learn as much as you can while there.


Side Note:

As you can see from the map, my exposure to Africa is lacking.  If you would like to finance a trip there, please contact me at brock@BrockStout.org.  Economy class flights are adequate.


::: Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry. :::

I’m Not That Famous

I built new shutters for my house last year.

My old ones were old shuttervinyl shutters with fake louvres, purchased from a hardware store.  (“Vinyl” sounds better than “plastic.”)

new shutter

I bought lumber and built new ones.   I painted them black.  The new shutters attach two boards, and feature a diamond shape in the middle.

Very cute, you must admit.

It shows I’m creative.  But cute shutters don’t qualify me as eminently creative.

 


Picasso changed the way we think about painting.  He never made cute shutters.  Picasso would have endured living in a home with vinyl shutters, rather than be distracted from his calling.

Eminent creatives are different from every-day creatives.  I discuss this in my upcoming book, Glitchy People Save the World.  But if you’re interested, you can check out research on the issue, such as Sylvia, et al. (2011) or Batey & Furnham (2006).  

If I need to replace shutters in the future,  I’ll outsource it to professionals.


 

Batey, M., & Furnham, A. (2006). Creativity, intelligence, and personality: A critical review of the scattered literature. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 132, 355–429

Silvia, P. J., Kaufman, J. C., Reiter-Palmon, R., & Wigert, B. (2011). Cantankerous creativity: Honesty–Humility, Agreeableness, and the HEXACO structure of creative achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(5), 687-689. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.06.011

People Are Stupid But Harmless

It is very embarrassing to share, but this incident changed my understanding of how the world works.  

When I was in high school, I was a member of the Disco Club.  I learned all the moves.  I wore elephant bell jeans: the cuffs slapped each other everywhere I walked, providing everyone a distant warning of my approach.  I wore silky polyester shirts with at least two buttons open.  

Then, suddenly, the disco era ended.  

In an instant, my wardrobe switched to cotton.  Mainly Izod.  My music allegiance immediately transferred from the BeeGees to the B-52s. From disco to punk.  My entire value system quickly shifted.  The world’s crazy suddenly stopped, and we bought button-down collar shirts.

Now I know that about myself, and it is a part of myself I don’t like.  But the most disturbing part is that it wasn’t only me.  EVERYONE I knew did the same thing.  Everyone in my world instantly changed what they believed to be true.  They followed fashion, not principles.

But ever since that incident, I have been less alarmed by weird movements.  Alarming political trends, demagogues, disturbing fashions, and outbreaks of mass hysteria don’t stress me.   I’ve been alive long enough to know that the world will eventually flip back.

Do you suffer from insomnia because of a politician or some moral trend? Don’t worry, stupid will soon be replaced by another type of stupid. Relax. People are fickle in their stupidity.

Why You Should Join an MLM Scam

Every generation must re-learn that MLM (multi-level marketing or network marketing) is extremely profitable—for a tiny percentage of participants.

And that is okay.

One estimate is that 2% in any MLM organization make outsized profits, and the rest lose money.  That estimate might be high or low.

People become part of the 98% if they (1) care how their actions affect other people, and (2) are not born to sell.  The 98% are marks, or targets, for the 2%.

Yes, anyone can learn to sell.  But to sell complete lifestyle change, to sell religious conversion, requires a competence package that few possess.

I can sell, and have some of the other necessary skills, and I lost $70,000 in one year.  The company continually changed policies to benefit the 2% and harm the 98%, because they knew the 2% were their real customers and the rest of us were cannon fodder for the 2%.  I realized that I would never become part of the 2%.  So I quit.  Weirdly, I was again convinced to try another of those companies a year later.

Here is the good news.  Almost everyone who tries to make money in MLM becomes a better person.  I have seens hundreds of people try MLM, and they develop skills:
* ability to emotionally expose themselves and talk to people
* ambition
* basic self-improvement, sometimes even improved personal hygiene
* accounting and accountability
* basic marketing mindset
* long-range planning
* ability to discern good and bad opportunities

So even if you lose money, you still receive benefits (skills) that you can use in legitimate spheres of your life.


SIDE NOTE

Here are some definitions and clarifications.

MLM scam: Some of these companies focus on product, and compensate distributors for selling products. They are legit. But if a company’s focus is the payment plan for recruiting, it wants you as cannon fodder to keep people at the top profitable. The legal definition of Pyramid Scheme involves having a real product or not. If the product is a liter of fruit juice for $40, be suspicious.

Personal direct marketing:  These companies are almost 100% product focused.  They are not MLM.  Pampered chef, Avon, and various candle companies do not offer a path to wealth, but are legitimately ways to earn side money at home. (Some scams do offer huge profits for doing very little work.)

Cellular Level:  A common product claim from MLM companies is that their vitamins or fruit juice benefits your body “at the cellular level.” Clarification:  Everything we eat benefits or harms us at the cellular level.  Organic kale and lead paint chips affect us at the cellular level.


Stay Off Santa’s Naughty List

In my country, people practice a pretend belief in Santa Claus.  This mythical person delivers gifts to well-behaved children.  Naughty children, in theory, receive nothing.  

The definition of good vs. bad is fuzzy.  It is subjectively determined by parents in each household.  

In practice, however, poor children receive less, regardless of behavior.  Bounteous gifts are given by parents who are wealthy (or are divorced and trying to win affection, in competion with ex-spouses).


As adults, I wonder how we can stay off Santa’s “naughty list.”  How can we be better?  These are four common sins we can stop committing:

1.  Be less busy.  We need to put down phones, turn off televisions, and listen to silence.  Creativity requires quiet time.

2.  Stop using the Law of Small Numbers to make decisions.  Humans tend to make hasty generalizations based on small sample sizes.  We generalize about a race of people based on a single example.  And everyone knows someone who had a mean father, so we hate all men and publicly engage in gender shaming of boys.  Potential entrepreneurs often plan businesses based on what a group of friends might want to buy, and they fail.  

3.  Eat better.  To improve brain function, we should eat less meat and more vegetables (and no dairy).  Almost everyone should eat less sugar. 

4.  Be more humble.  Learning begins with humility, because only teachable people learn.  


That is my list for the new year.  Have a great year of continuous self-improvement.  What sins are you working to avoid?

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