Boycott Black Friday and Thursday

by Stephen Mills on November 26, 2013

The One World Trade Center is now the tallest building in the U.S. Imagine stacking 10 of them on top of each other and standing on the top. You would be several miles up where it might be hard to breathe. Then pull a hair out of your scalp and look at its diameter. The height you are hoisted into the atmosphere represents the age of the earth and that hair diameter (not length) represents your time on earth.


Now seriously do you want to waste one minute of the fraction of a blink of an eye that you are on earth in this mess? Think about how you and your family’s well being might be better served doing almost anything else.


Living Free – Freedom From Government

by Stephen Mills on November 22, 2013

I am a life long anti-authoritarian and lover of liberty.  From as long as I can remember, even as young as 4 or 5 years old, I simply couldn’t stand someone trying to tell me what to do.  As a young adult I became very concerned about the growing government encroachment into every part of our lives (something that has only increased since).  I thought that my freedom and liberty were being restricted by various government entities.  With perhaps the wisdom of age came the realization that in fact that the real loss of freedom was the result of my focus on the issue rather than the government intrusion itself.

You can live a mostly free life almost anywhere except under the most repressive systems.  I’m not saying that the government isn’t an force for evil and that things wouldn’t be better if it would get out of the way.  It certainly is and they certainly would be.  What I am saying is fretting about it or trying to do something about it makes it worse for you personally.

I make a decent income and have my entire adult life.  The government takes a big chunk of it and theoretically you could call that percentage of my life slavery to the state.  I used to look at it that way and it was very demoralizing.  Something like 40% of my life is spent as a slave to government – that kind of thinking.  However, that is the wrong way to look at it.  Now I simply eliminate the thought that I ever earned that money in the first place. I don’t even include that income as mine to begin with.  I view it as never having been earned in the first place and ignore it.  I have plenty left over and It doesn’t affect my freedom on a day-to-day basis in any significant way, unless of course I sit around thinking and fuming about it .  When my income was less the percentage confiscated was less and thus it really didn’t matter how little or much I made I still had plenty left over.  So as much as I’m philosophically opposed to this dreadful confiscation, it is my opinion we all can mostly just ignore it.

There may a million laws and regulations that nobody can keep track of.  Some of these may create a big headache for a few people.  However, there is very little from government that in any significant way restricts my freedom.  Of course if you focus on ridiculous specific restrictions, like I used to do, you can get yourself all worked up about it.  If I craved pot every waking moment and was terrified of getting thrown in jail for smoking it then maybe my life would be a living hell as a result of the government.  However, if I reflect honestly on it, on a day to day basis, there is very little I want to do that I am restricted from doing by government.  I submit that for most of you the same thing applies.  There are exceptions of course but not for most people.

I know a number of people including members of my own family who spend an excessive amount of time and stress tracking and fretting about all the government is doing that they think is wrong.  If they would stop watching Fox and ignore the government an enormous burden would be lifted from their shoulders and a world of freedom would open up to them.  When I finally realized this it made a huge difference in my life.  For the most part ever since I realized this I just mostly ignore the government.  I’m not in favor of mass movements but if there was a mass movement to just start ignoring government I would heartily endorse it.  Of course the same thing applies to those who think the government is not intrusive enough.  They spend their mental energy worrying about what the government is not doing.

I don’t deny there is much government evil.  When I do think about it, I am appalled by all the warring, droning, bureaucratic meddling, spying, and money creating.  However I can’t do anything about it and I’ve watched for 30 years while very committed people have been trying and failing.  If I could only get back all the hours I threw away doing the same.

Whatever the government does, focusing on it takes away your freedom to a far greater degree than whatever the government is doing that upsets you.  For the most part you can just turn off the political media and do something constructive with your time.  As far as breaking the law when it comes to personal freedom and not the violation of the rights of others, I recommend that anything you think you can get away with to go for it.  If you want to smoke some weed, the chances of the government doing anything about it are almost nil.  For a trivial example, I regularly ignore speed limits while driving (apparently like most of the rest of the other drivers on the road).  A huge percentage of the population gambles illegally.  Most of us break laws in one way or another.

If you want to live free, my advice is to ignore politics and government.  Focus on what you can do directly in your own and your life will immediately be a lot more free.  This is the worst fear of most politicians.  They fear apathy and non-participation far more than they fear opponents.  As long as people are passionately involved the winners claim they have a mandate and that we all give a damn what they are doing.  I believe a strong non-participation movement would do far more good than choosing between elephants or donkeys.

I’ve watched this political spectacle my entire adult life.  For over 30 years in which alleged conservatives have been in power for more often than progressives or liberals the growth of government has proceeded unabated. During that time there has been unprecedented increases in government intrusion, expansion, debt, death, and incompetence. Thinking it makes much difference in who wins is a delusion, but it is a delusion the “public servants” depend upon for their legitimacy.

If you forego alternatives in time and joy and freedom to worry about the government, you have only yourself to blame. I know whereof I speak.  I made this mistake for many years.  You have a choice to live free by simply ignoring the government and its meddling bureaucrats.


Why Life’s Big Events Don’t Matter So Much

by Stephen Mills on February 6, 2013

That dream job, promotion, mate, house, car, or dreaded breakup, surprise job loss, devastating diagnosis may not matter as much as you think.   Most of us dream about or alternatively worry about how big events in our lives are going to make us happy or bring us down.  A lot of research though actually indicates that it isn’t those big events that really matter as much as we might credit them.

The fact is that we usually bounce back from adversity and come down from our temporary highs relatively quickly and return to our baseline level of happiness in a process known as hedonic adaptation.  These big life events are quickly overwhelmed by the more mundane daily ups and downs.

It’s counter intuitive that the jammed up traffic, slow people in front of you in line, a rude clerk, overheard catty comment, argument with your teenager, etc. bring you down more than the big events, but counter intuitive or not, that’s what research shows.  These smaller and daily constant hits on your mood accumulate to overwhelm the big stuff.  The same thing applies to the positive events but it is worth pointing out that negative stuff matters more than positive stuff.  That’s why you need many more positive events than negative ones to thrive.

The takeaway is not to sacrifice your daily happiness for that big dream.  It will quickly be the norm and you will then be looking for then next big thing to satisfy your “I will be happy when …” fantasy.  You can deal with the small stuff by adjusting your response to them.  Maybe somebody should write a book called “Don’t Sweat the Big Stuff”.

Actually someone did write the book but the author Sonja Lyubomirsky called it The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does


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Sunk Costs, The Past, and The New Year

by Stephen Mills on January 13, 2013

Several years ago I wrote an article explaining The Sunk Cost Bias Mind Trap.  Since we are starting a fresh new year I thought it would be appropriate to remind everyone to avoid this costly trap.  I recommend you follow my link and read the original article because it is a better article, but I will summarize it here.

This is one of the hardest traps for me personally to avoid and I think for most others as well.  For example I love to read books and watch movies.  For many years if I started a book, I finished it even if I didn’t like it.  The same thing if I plunked down cash to go to a movie.  I never walked out of one.  After all my investment would be “wasted” if I didn’t finish right?  Wrong.  In fact it couldn’t be more wrong.

The central point is the past is the past and any investment that occurred in the past is already sunk, therefore the term “sunk costs”.  If you continue something because you have already invested time or money or some other resource in it, you are simply compounding your original mistake.  If I paid for a book and have read ½ of it and don’t like it, why should I continue to invest my valuable time doing something just because I have already sunk costs into that activity?  Those are gone.  I can’t get them back.  Then only important thing is what do I want to do now?  Where can I most enjoyable or profitably invest my time NOW.

I think my epiphany was Jim Carrey’s movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Since I liked some of Jim Carrey’s movies (something I don’t really understand), I went to this movie.  I hated it so badly I could hardly stand it.  After about 20 minutes I left the theatre because I realized that continuing to punish myself for my original mistake was irrational.  It was the first time I had done that and at the time I was going to multiple movies a week.  While it was obvious with such a bad movie, I realized the same thing applies to virtually anything.  If there is something better to be doing, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done up to this point or what money or time I’ve invested.  It’s all sunk costs.  It’s gone.  It’s what I do from this point forward that’s important.

So as you look forward in 2013 and beyond I encourage you to drop all of your attachments to your sunk costs from the past.  Those costs may have been sunk into relatively trivial things like books and movies or much more important things like relationships, jobs, etc.   However, the trap applies to the latter as well.  In fact the more important the issue, the bigger mistake it is to chase sunk costs.   It doesn’t matter how trivial or important the something you have invested in is in your life, the costs are still sunk.  Don’t compound your original mistake.


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To Your Perfect Health

by Stephen Mills December 24, 2012

We worry about the most unlikely things most of which are totally out of our control and yet most of us don’t do the one thing that we have almost total control over – eat healthy. Even most of us who think we are eating healthy are not. Therefore I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It far surpasses most diet books and it carefully explains the most important issues regarding what you should eat and more importantly why. It is heavily footnoted and is supported by a mass of scientific literature which is explained in terms everyone can understand.

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Why You Shouldn’t Believe Information Reported in the Media

by Stephen Mills December 10, 2012

This article is not a 20 second read and that is the point.  You can’t explain something complex without spending some time on it.  A couple of weeks ago I was moving around in the house in the morning with the TV tuned to the Today show.  I heard them introduce a story with something […]

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Lessons From the Shoeless and the Homeless

by Stephen Mills December 3, 2012

I would rather give $5 to an organization that actually has some qualifications and experience in how to help people. Organizations that give them something like a hot meal or a place to stay. Your $5 bill handed to someone begging for it may not go to food, it may go to alcohol, drugs, a quickie in the alley, or something else not likely to go viral if recorded by a tourist’s camera. Driving by a corner or seeing someone sitting on the sidewalk, we’re in no position to make the kind of judgments necessary to do the right thing. If you feel the need to help, think about it first. Maybe you would be better off donating to an agency in a better position than you to decide what and for whom something needs to be done.

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Putting Things Into Perspective

by Stephen Mills November 13, 2012

There are 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe. The universe itself existed for hundreds of millions of lifetimes before you were born.  Most of the mass of your body is made of stardust from stars that exploded billions of years ago. Your parents could have had a quadrillion different children instead of you based just on […]

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What Doesn’t Kill You – and What Does

by Stephen Mills June 26, 2012

Friedrich Nietzsche said what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m convinced what doesn’t kill you makes you afraid. This article is about what doesn’t kill you. I get so tired of the media inspired hysteria and hype. We worry about these non-threats due to the availability heuristic of the human brain that comes from dramatic images and stories we see in the media. We can easily bring to mind examples and it makes our brains think they are common occurrences.

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Seriously Were the 80’s Really This Bad?

by Stephen Mills June 24, 2012

Holy crap, I just don’t remember it this way.  Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.   Get Free Updates to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or via a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you on board. If you liked this article and think it might be useful to others […]

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