The Itinerant Tern

A blog about things


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4. How much is time worth?

I spoke, today, with a lady of great esteem who was very upset about being paid less than a man. Being a white male in the U.S. has given me the advantage of never having to worry about discrimination except once during soccer team tryouts in high school. I felt bad about her plight, but having no skin in this game allowed me an objective thought process. How much should anyone's time really be worth when monetized?

The concept of trading time, effort, talent, etc. for coins has always been pretty vague to me. I understand converting my skilled labor into abstract, universal currency, because the farmer growing my future calories doesn't have any need for my drawings. Fine. I can also get behind the idea that there is variation in people's skills and abilities, so some dude's fastball is clearly worth more apples than another's. My meager understanding of why communism didn't work out tells me that we need an incentive to work harder or better than the next guy, hence variation in pay is good.

What boggles my mind is the wildly unrealistic and inconsistent magnitude of this variation. How many more loaves of bread could a man's time be worth versus that of a woman. One, two at most per week? Never mind that they are not even partaking in manual labor where you could maybe make an argument for a difference in valuation. How much do two loaves cost? It silly; there is no way to hand waive economics past this disconnect from reality. Our notes are legal tender... sure. We all believe they are worth some random amount of brownies, but I fail to understand how an hour of my life costs ten times as many grapes as some kid making my shoes in Asia. That's a lot of grapes.

So I was thinking about this silliness while my colleague vented. There's not much I can do to rectify this injustice, let alone the whole world economy, so I am thinking about my personal economy. How much is my own time worth to me? All of a sudden, things become much more clear. Money is freedom for me. I am willing to trade some of my time in order to gain a quantum of freedom of choice, travel, food,and interesting experiences. Suddenly I don't care how much I make relative to the next guy. If I don't earn enough for my goals, it's time to change my situation. If I make too much at the cost of my goals, lets shake it up until things are aligned. Easy. I'm going to sleep well despite our failing human condition.


On Meditations

I feel like I’ve always liked teaching. There is something about taking everything that I’ve learned, figuring out where the other person is struggling, and putting what I have to share into words that the other person will understand. I think that it is one of the most powerful acts in the world. Not only does it raise the student up to a higher level, but it also forces the teacher to develop a better understanding of the topic in order to really be able to explain it. I find that when I’m learning something new, the best way to turbocharge the process and to make sure that what I’ve learned sticks, is to simply teach what it is that I’m learning.

I remember doing this when I got really into playing the browser based game Tribal Wars. I started playing the game in order to ignore the shitty stuff that was going on in my life, but I ended up getting really into it and achieving world class success. At first, I felt like I was banging my head up against a wall. I didn’t talk to anyone in the game. I didn’t read any guidebooks on how to play. I played for hours and hours at a time, hoping sheer determination would bring me success. When no success was forthcoming, I decided to redouble my efforts. I would set my alarm so that I woke up at 2:00am in order to start a building, instead of waiting the extra 5 hours that it would take to do so when I woke up. I was in crazy obsessive mode, and the worst part was that I wasn’t getting any results. Initially I would be ranked top 100, but as time went on, everybody raced by me and I’d be lucky to be top 1000.

It all shifted when I was haphazardly put into a Tribe with someone who actually knew how to play the game at a high level and was willing to teach the other members of our tribe how to do so. I was ecstatic about my good fortune. I took to learning his system immediately. I followed it step by and step, and asked for advice as much as possible. To my surprise, results were forthcoming and it was far easier than I had ever expected. Playing the game at a high level required a shift in mentality. Normally you would collect and use the resources that your own village would create. You would use these resources to build new buildings, troops, and so on. Surrounding your village would be the villages of other gamers like yourself, but also many abandoned villages. These were the villages of players who quit playing the game for one reason or another. What would happen, is that their village would continue to produce resources, but they would just stockpile up. And you could only store as many resources as the size of your village warehouse could contain, so basically the resources would just go to waste.

What the top level player would do, is send their troops to ‘attack’ these villages. Often there would be no troops to defend, you would get to take home the unused resources from the village, and use these to build up your own village. This practice was called ‘farming’ and was absolutely essential. It became obvious to me why in the past, I could never keep up with the top 100 players. Because they farmed the villages around them, they had an income that was 10x to 100x greater than my own. Persistence would not solve this problem, I had to learn the secret rules of the game. Simply by following the practices of farming, I quickly excelled to the top 30 players.

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