How You Played “The Sims” Says A Lot About You

Remember playing “The Sims”?

What a game that was.

You got to build your very own characters and live their lives etc.

It was an insanely popular game and as a kid I’d talk about it with friends who also played it.

Years later, I still keep in touch with these friends and made an interesting observation about them.

The way they played “The Sims” says a lot about who they are today.

And this kind of makes sense. After all, by creating Sims you’re projecting your own life on to these characters.

I’ll talk about my two close friends Jane and John who played the game a certain way and how their style gave a lot of signs about their interests and future occupations.

Jane the Architect

How Jane would play “The Sims” always amused me.

The moment she started playing she’d put in cheat codes to get as much money as she wanted so that she could put it to good use to built the most aesthetically pleasing house possible.

She’d be very detailed in how she designed the house and had a knack for designing a chic interior.

Jane would love to build these houses.

And once she’d finish her house – she was done.

She didn’t care about being the puppeteer to her own Sim-minions. She didn’t want to play the actual game.

“The Sims”, for her, was just about building houses. That was it.

As a young teenager, this is how she’d play the game.

Many years later, she enrolled at university as a student in Architecture and finished her degree three years after that.

John the Psychologist

John, on the other hand, didn’t really care about houses.

In fact, he wanted to start with as little as possible, so that he could work his way up and build the house of his dreams.

His very first house in “The Sims” was basically a square which had only the most essential things – a fridge, a few beds, a shower, and a toilet (there wasn’t enough room for the toilet to go inside so it was placed outside, against a single wall).

The interesting thing about John was that he’d choose to play with as many “Sims” as possible (I think at the time you could have a max. of 6 people in your family).

Not only did he love building relationships within the family, but also enjoyed building relationships with other Sims.

He was always fascinated about the dynamics and interactions between these people.

But also, he enjoyed the ‘rags to riches’ journey and investing in oneself to maximize their potential in all areas of life – social life, career, love, you name it.

And once he reached the top, he simply stopped playing altogether.

Years later, things clicked for me about John.

In real life, John was always social and built strong meaningful relationships with many people over the years that I’ve known him for.

Always caring and a great listener, he was always considerate of other people and I can imagine this was why he was so liked and popular with many.

Though he had many friends, a lot of these friends were very different from each other and hailed from different walks of life. He managed to get along with a wide range of people.

John actually went on to study Psychology at university which is quite curious when we piece all of these things together.

Is “The Sims” a sophisticated personality test?

Growing up as a teenager, you don’t know who you are or who you want to become.

It’s natural to feel a bit lost as a teenager because you’re just trying to figure things out.

It’s funny how some of those answers for Jane and John were hidden in the way they played “The Sims.”

After all, the Sims is a proto-life.

A projection of your current values and life as you know it onto these proto-characters.

So maybe The Sims is one big personality test.

By playing The Sims you will learn interesting things about yourself that you’ll only be able to make sense of in hindsight. 

Only over time have I managed to meaningfully connect these dots about some of my closest friends. And this makes sense, especially when we consider Steve Jobs’ words:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
– Steve Jobs

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Review: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

In this review I will basically talk about the most interesting things in the book and add my own thoughts and analysis.

“The Art of Work”

This book tackles the topic of finding our true calling. That is, finding out what we were put on this Earth to do.

Jeff mentions that everybody has their own unique strengths and it is up to us to figure out how we can use these strengths to add value to society and the world at large.

However, a significant portion if not most of the book talks about how to figure out what we were meant to do in the first place as many people may feel lost and directionless.

Here are the four main themes in this book to find out what your calling is.

1. Choose to act

By choosing to act, you immediately do three things.

One, you expose yourself to experience. This way, you try different things and figure out what you like and what you dislike, what’s for you and what’s not for you.

With action comes clarity.

“Practice can teach you what you are and are not meant to do.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

This ties in with what Thomas Jefferson once said:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

Two – by proactively choosing to act and figuring how you want to contribute to this world, you’re not leaving your destiny up to circumstance.

“But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” – Hunter S. Thompson

And finally three – by choosing to act, you expose yourself to possibility and opportunity.

“And if you are paying attention, you will recognise them [opportunities] for what they  are – chances to hear the call.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But Jeff also touches upon in his book how people tend to dissociate from others who they deem special to justify their own inertia. As Jeff puts it:

“We’d rather believe the fairy tale that says some people are just special. That way, we don’t have a responsibility to act.”

This is a terrifying, debilitating psychological trap to fall into.

I touch upon this trap myself in an earlier post of mine called “Extraordinary Person” which I had written way before I had read Jeff’s book. I talk about how deeming over over-achievers as “special” or “extraordinary” is a convenient dissociative psychological mechanism that makes us feel better about our inertia and lack of progress.

It’s easy to perform such mental gymnastics and the worst thing about thinking this way is that you rob yourself of the opportunity to become this extraordinary person yourself.

It’s comfortable to dissociate yourself in this way in this way. But comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing. Here’s Jeff:

“In an era where we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence.”

Watch out, for your own sake.

 

2. Look at the commonalities in your life

Whatever the experience we’re going through and whatever skills we’re acquiring, there will be overarching commonalities that should be treated as clues as to what work we were born to do.

Jeff says that “previous experience is conspiring to lead you in the direction of your life’s work” and for this reason “you must listen for clues along the way, discovering what your life can tell you.”

As a result, certain commonalities in our lives will emerge.

“Take time to look back at all you’ve experienced, and listen to what your life is saying. (…) A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you all along.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

You already have the answer to your problem. It’s deeply embedded in the unconscious part of your mind.

Elements of your deepest desires bleed into your everyday routine. They manifest themselves in your everyday of your life.

Maybe you enjoy writing? Or you have a penchant for communicating with others? Perhaps you are drawn to the thrill of public speaking?

You will naturally put yourself in the position to take advantage of these skills and use them on a daily basis. You will do it because you love doing it.

Look for the commonalities in your days. These are the clues your subconscious is giving you.

“Look at the major events of your life and write them down. Note everything significant you can remember, even the things that seem silly or irrelevant but come to mind for some reason. Don’t try to decode the meaning; just put down everything you can think of. As you reach the end of the list, look for a common thread, some recurring theme. (…) you will begin to see a theme, a surprisingly obvious thread that ties it all together.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But if we manage to miss the subtle calls of what it is that we were meant to do – we can always look back on the commonalities and connect the dots in retrospect.

Interestingly, this is very similar to what Steve Jobs mentioned:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

3. Anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted

As you go through life, you go through different phases which offer their own unique types of experiences.

Going through these experiences, you gear up with new skills and acquire wisdom along the way.

With every opportunity, you gain knowledge and experience – each from a different source – all of which you will be able to use later in life.

Though perhaps at the time of building up these skills they don’t inspire much confidence as to what their use may be, they will somehow come in handy at some point down the line.

As long as you keep putting yourself out there, collecting experiences and building skills – if it hasn’t already, at one point it will all just click for you.

In short – anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted.

4. Painful practice

Lastly, a great way to determine your direction in life and what your “calling” might be is to observe what the activities that you can experience through painful practice.

“Pain is instructive to the person willing to learn.” – Jeff Goins

That is, if you can do something when it’s not fun, when you’re exhausted and maybe even bored, but no matter how painful the practice, somehow you still press on, forever motivated, forever curious regardless, that is a strong signal.

Picasso experienced painful practice with painting and through the highs and the lows, he’d paint relentlessly, whatever the cost. Picasso was simply passionate about painting:

“If they took away my paints I’d use pastels. If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.” – Picasso

Closing thoughts

I will leave you with this final quote:

“Feelings are signposts to be trusted in your journey to your purpose. (…) Fear, indecision, not knowing – these are the obstacles that keep you from moving forward. And they never go away. But if you are going to find what you were meant to do, you will have to act anyway.” –  Jeff Goins.

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Ideas and Solutions on How to Save the Environment Using Science

I’m no environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination but here I am, writing my second post about the environment (my first one being about why recycling isn’t good for the environment.)

Science really changes people, doesn’t it? Or at the very least makes them more aware of how science can be used to benefit the world.

After all, there are two ways you can use psychology.

You can either manipulate people for your own benefit like pretty much all companies do to make you buy their stuff.

Or you can manipulate people for their own benefit like building addictive but educational products or using our inherent psychological biases to change how we treat our planet.

Today we’ll be talking about the latter, shinier side of the coin.

Using science to save the planet

Psychologists and behavioural economists know all about our biases, our psychological tendencies, and the consistent errors that we make because of them.

And this is why science can be used to hack our minds and instigate change for the better good.

But the only way to hack our minds is by changing the things in our immediate environment.

After all, our environment shapes the way we think.

A wonderful Edge talk with Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin has a telling excerpt on the topic:

Natural selection equipped us with the fixed rules — the rules that constitute our human nature. And it designed those rules to generate behaviour that’s sensitive to the environment.

So, the answer to ‘genetic determinism’ is simple. If you want to change behaviour, just change the environment. And, of course, to know which changes would be appropriate and effective, you have to know those Darwinian rules. You need only to understand human nature, not to change it.

So how do we save us from ourselves and help us change to ultimately save the environment?

Elke Weber from the Centre for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University has come up with a few solutions.

1. Gotta have faith in future benefits

Building anything that’s good for the environment or switching to more environmentally friendly solutions costs money.

And because of the costs, environmentally friendly actions seem terribly painful.

On top of that, the benefits of these solutions are uncertain, mostly because the benefits come over time and in dribbles. That, and also uncertainty snowballs into a greater and greater beast the more you look into the future.

But we also have an innate tendency of delay discounting in that we overvalue smaller, short-term rewards and undervalue larger, more long-term rewards.

But we just have got to have the faith that if we spend more now for eco-friendly stuff, we will most definitely see the future generations benefit for many many years.

Let’s just keep the faith.

2. Don’t guilt-trip

Guilt-focused messages are great to attract attention but are awful in maintaining that attention.

Though people might even feel some guilt, they just hide their head in the sand and pretend the messages aren’t there anymore. This is sort of behaviour is called the Ostrich Effect.

Nobody likes negative mood states so naturally such messages will be avoided.

3. Give architects the power

Let’s face it, architects and engineers play a huge part in what is in our environment and what it looks like.

They are the major influential decision makers and we should empower them even more.

Empower to do what exactly?

To design more sustainable infrastructure and buildings.

How would we go about doing this?

It’s no secret that humans respond well to incentives and the virtuosos behind pointy skyscrapers and modern glassy buildings are no different.

One way to incentivise architects, engineers, contractors and other groups who design and build infrastructure would be to grade and reward more environmentally friendly building projects.

For instance, projects that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the habitats of wildlife would be rated higher than projects that emit toxic smoky plumes into our air.

So if architects and engineers are rewarded for their eco-friendly buildings on a particular rating system, it is likely that this would in turn lead to more prestigious tenants occupying these spaces which only perpetuates the prestige of such buildings.

Of course, planning tools such as the Envision rating system already takes care of this aspect. But three decades-worth of behavioural research suggests this system could be improved upon using scientific insight.

4. Play on architect’s aversion to loss

But the point is that humans are loss averse meaning that they want to limit experiencing loss as much as possible.

If we have a system in place that rewards architects and engineers to build eco-friendly buildings, then the architects and engineers that don’t do that will lose a lot of reputation and stature.

So they’ll avoid practices that will have a negative impact on their professional careers.

5. Careful labelling

We have a knee jerk reaction to certain labels.

For instance, we wouldn’t react positively to the label of ‘carbon taxes.’

But if we frame them as ‘carbon offset’ labels, then these labels seem more palpable.

More palpable labels are the way to go.

6. Nudge to use energy efficient light bulbs

Nudging is basically incentivising people to perform a new behaviour by using psychological sorcery.

One way to get people/tenants to choose and use CFL energy-saving light bulbs over less energy efficient lightbulbs would be for architects and engineers to build buildings that can only use eco-friendly lightbulbs.

Then you’re pretty much forced to use CFLs!

7. Shift attention to the future

As humans, we are by default pretty selfish.

We care most about our own present wants and needs and perhaps that’s the reason why we need these sort of environmental solutions in the first place.

But science has shown time and again that we do have other-regarding preferences, meaning that we can be quite selfless and look out for others.

However, these preferences aren’t at the forefront of our value hierarchy.

One way to tap into this selfless attitude would be to induce legacy motivations where it’s not about us anymore but about the future and leaving a sound legacy for the future generations.

Closing thoughts

A lot of money is invested into training experts, scientists, behavioural economists only for the main decision makers to ignore them in the end.

They have all the tools.

Listen to them.

It’ll do the world some good.

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Still curious? Check out some more resources here.

How to Stop Roommates From Using Your Stuff

I want to share a pretty cool psychology experiment with you, you’ll love it because the insight you’ll learn will be able to help you fend off your roommates or dormmates from using your stuff.

Your pans, your bowls, your stapler etc.

I know, infuriating when they use them without asking, even more so if they use them and don’t clean up and just leave them lying around dirty, the bowls and pans at least.

On to the experiment then.

The experiment

Dan Ariely, renowned behavioural economist and author of great books like Predictably Irrational, slipped in to the dorms at MIT as part of the experiment and, floor by floor, planted a six-pack of Coke in all of the shared refrigerators he could find.

Over the next few days he would return to the fridges and check on the cans, keeping a diary of how many of them remained in the fridge.

Within 72 hours, every one of the cans of Coke disappeared.

The money however remained untouched for 72 hours until Ariely removed the cast from the refrigerators.

Is there an explanation for this?

Yes.

But before we delve into that, Ariely asks you to imagine the following to put things into perspective:

“Suppose there are no red pencils at work, but you can buy one downstairs for a dime. And the petty cash box in your office has been left open, and no one is around. Would you take 10 cents from the petty cash box to buy the red pencil? Suppose you didn’t have any change and needed the 10 cents. Would you feel comfortable taking it? Would that be OK?”

I’m not going to pretend that it wouldn’t be super easy to just take the red pencil and keep the 10 cents so let’s just skip to Dan’s conclusion:

“When we look at the world around us, much of the dishonesty we see involves cheating that is one step removed from cash. Companies cheat with their accounting practices; executives cheat by using backdated stock options; lobbyists cheat by underwriting parties for politicians; drug companies cheat by sending doctors and their wives off on posh vacations. To be sure, these people don’t cheat with cold cash (except occasionally). And that’s my points: cheating is a lot easier when it’s a step removed from money.

How you can use this insight to your advantage

In his other book Behavioural Economics Saved My Dog, Dan recounts how a reader of his, or rather a friend of that reader, used this scientific insight to his advantage:

“My friend said that in his workplace items such as staplers, tape dispensers, and so on used to be constantly taken from his desk. He then glued a coin onto each piece, and no one has taken anything with a coin on it in five years. Does this fit with your findings?”

Dan commented the following in response:

“This is exactly the point. It turns out that we can rationalise lots of our bad behaviours, and the more distant they are from cash the simpler it is for us to rationalise them. What your friend has done by sticking money to the items it to make it clear that borrowing the office supplies without returning them is not just about the office supplies, it is also about stealing cash. And with this reframing he made the action more morally questionable in the minds of the potential thieves.”

Closing thoughts

So you now know you can stick money on your personal belongings to keep people you live with from using your stuff.

Life is all about quick wins, isn’t it.

But I also hope that you’ve learnt something about the predictability of human psychology and how it can work in funny ways sometimes.

And that the explanations for the strange inner workings of our minds actually make a lot of sense, a lot of the time.

I just want to leave you with a final thought or two.

I realised that whenever I go to Sainsbury’s and use my Nectar card, I will always get a coupon with some sort of discount on some of my most frequent past purchases, like a discount for a bag of spinach I often buy, or triple Nectar points on my next shop, or £2 off when I spend £20 on my next shop.

A lot of the time though, I see people pay for their shopping but leave their freshly printed coupons behind…

I think you know where this is going.

Because sometimes these coupons are essentially free money (i.e. “£2 off on your next shop” coupon) – if you use someone else’s coupon to get a discount, are you stealing from Sainsbury’s?

Is it wrong to use that coupon and get £2 off your shop?

After all, it is one step removed from cash…

Well what if you had the opportunity to steal £2 in cash from a cashier in Sainsbury’s and used that to buy your shop?

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts…

Final thought with a different twist:

If you have a job and you’re getting paid X thousand pounds a year for your efforts – is that money just one step removed from slavery?

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You Were Born to Create

I was reading a book by Hugh MacLeod called Ignore Everybody over the weekend and loved how the words resonated with me, how they spoke to me, and even struck a chord in me.

So much genuine, honest, unfiltered, unrefined hard-earned wisdom and advice from a man that was passionate about one thing and that was drawing (doodling rather) on the back of business cards. At some point in his journey, he started a fantastic blog.

And then he was an overnight success.

Except it wasn’t an overnight success. It was only an overnight success to those that suddenly heard of his creative craft out of the blue, for the very first time. Overnight successes don’t happen overnight. You can read more about that here.

A cartoonist at heart, Hugh was drawing on the back of business cards for the better part of 20 years. But it was the authenticity in his blog writing that helped him build an empire.

The blog got popular and now he’s making a living of both his writing and drawing.

The Pissed Off Gene

In his book, MacLeod writes about the Pissed Off Gene. Here’s Hugh on what that is exactly:

“Back in our early caveman days, being pissed off made us more likely to get off our butts, get out of the cave and into the tundra hunting woolly mammoth, so we’d have something to eat for supper.

It’s a survival mechanism. Damn useful then, damn useful now.

It’s this same Pissed Off Gene that makes us want to create anything in the first place – drawing, violin sonatas, meat packing companies, Web sites.

This same gene drove us to discover how to make a fire, the wheel, the bow and arrow, indoor plumbing, the personal computer, the list is endless.”

-Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody

 

Tap into your Pissed Off Gene

In all of us, there is this deep-seated desire to create something and to leave your own mark on the world.

And there’s no point in being afraid of social pressures. Don’t be afraid of being judged, of people criticising you.

Because whatever that comes from you and comes from within will be the most genuine and authentic thing.

That’s why people gravitate to people like Muhammed Ali, Connor McGregor, or the art of Pablo Picasso.

Sure, Ali and McGregor have been and are polarizing figures, whilst van Gogh’s paintings may have been discovered only after his death but all of these guys have at least one thing in common.

They were true to themselves.

They were authentic in what they did.

McGregor is 100% authentic in how he carries himself and Ali stood for something that was bigger than him.

Both men had and have an aura about them a style in what they did.

You have a unique voice.

How you find this voice is a different matter.

How can I tap into my Pissed Off Gene?

A lot of your life is played out automatically.

Routines, habits.

That’s a good thing cause you don’t have to analyse and think consciously about everything you do, every second of every day.

It saves mental energy.

But because a lot of our lives are habitual, driven by our unconscious mind, certain things manifest themselves in our everyday lives, in everything that we do.

Notice the commonalities.

Do you tend to paint? Do you tend to write? Do you tend to play an instrument?

Even when you look back on your life, through the various phases of your life, you can spot some recurring themes.

You may be constantly changing, evolving, but maybe there are a few themes that constantly reappear.

Listen to these clues.

Devote some focus to those themes.

Your life is telling you something.

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Technology to Blame for Lack of Deep Connection?

It’s interesting to hear that technology is to blame on the inability of people to form deep meaningful relationships.

In a Western society, people tend to complain that social relationships are superficial, only concerned with surface phenomena.

And some might like to blame technology for this disconnect in human relationships.

After all, technology in the western world is increasingly becoming woven into the social fabric of our everyday lives.

Though technology may be at fault in some part, I think the fault lies at the given society’s culture.

Because individualist cultures always placed emphasised on the unit and not the collective.

Studies show that American children (i.e. individualist culture) take turns to play with a toy whereas Russian children (i.e. collectivist culture) share the toy with their siblings of friends.

And this attitude stems from the teachings of our mothers.

So this deep-rooted inability to connect, I think, is down to the individualist vs collectivist culture conundrum, at least in part.

And technology only exacerbates this problem.

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What Kind of Job Fits You?

It’s important to find a job that suits your personality makeup.

Here are some of things you should be looking out for when on the hunt for a job:

Are you smart enough?

In the hierarchy of competence, the higher you go up it, the demand on intelligence increases.

If you’re not smart enough to handle your position, you will struggle.

You will be a small fish in a big pond and you will not manage that well.

You will be miserable and make the lives of others around you miserable because of the stresses of your day-to-day and by not being able to properly cope, you’ll carry these stress into your personal life.

As Jordan Peterson puts it:

“Unless you don’t want to fail, don’t put yourself in over your head.”

How agreeable are you?

If you’re agreeable, you’d do better in a cooperative environment rather than a competitive one.

Are you creative?

Do you need to be told what to do at every juncture or can you proactively come up with creative solutions to problems?

How conscientious are you?

Do you enjoy firing on all cylinders when having to deliver on something or do you prefer lazily chipping away at whatever task is at hand?

Are you neurotic?

If you’re neurotic, you’d be better off avoiding high stress environments to maintain optimal mental well being.

How’s your stress tolerance?

Do you do well under pressure?

Are you able to master your emotions well in times of crisis?

Do you have adaptive coping mechanisms to cope with prolonged stress?

Do you have good stress-relieving habits when recovering from work?

How to maximise your chance of success

To maximise your chances of success and maintaining optimal well being, you have to figure out where you are on the scale in your intelligence-personality profile.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can aim to go for a job where you’ll be a big fish in a small pond.

Granted, you don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room because that would mean that you’ve outgrown that particular environment and the longer you stay there, the longer your growth will be stunted.

In other words, surround yourself with people smarter than you if you want to grow because you will learn a lot from them.

Of course you’d want to avoid being the dumbest person in your immediate environment because, though you’d be in a position to potentially learn a ton, that would still be a tough and stressful environment to be in.

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