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?


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?

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.


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.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.


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.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

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.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Growing With the Seasons

Life is lived in phases and your personality shifts with the seasons.

During the Spring and Summer seasons, you might find that you go out more and socialise more often, or that you exercise a lot more, and that you travel quite a bit.

During the Autumn and Winter months, you might notice that you tend to read more and immerse yourself in other, more introverted activities.

The changing seasons bring out different aspects of your personality and it would be wise to appreciate and honour these changes.

Now that we’re in the thick of Autumn, many people may be going into monk mode or nerd mode, delving into more introverted activities.

And that’s absolutely fine, in fact I’m going through something similar myself.

Think of Autumn and Winter as a time where you gather energy for the future Spring and Summer months where you will expend this energy.

And with the blossoming of trees with the beginning of spring, you too will blossom.

Here’s a video by Elliot Hulse that captures this idea:

Periods of immersion and periods of maintenance

As your personality and energy level shift through the seasons, you’ll also be alternating between periods of immersion and periods of maintenance.

In the Summer, you’ll be expending energy on outdoor-type activities such as exercise, social gatherings, travelling. It’s likely that these areas of life will be the areas you’ll be devoting significant attention to, that you’ll be immersed in. This is a period of immersion.

With total immersion to focus on your own tangible goals comes a certain short term sacrifice. After all, you’re investing your time and attention and focus into one area while decreasing all of the above in a different area.

The way I see it though is that if you invest your time into, say, travel, you’re raising your value so that when you’re in the mood to start partying and hanging out with friends, you’ll have a suitcase full of memories and stories to tell.

On the flip side, activities like reading may be put on hold, and though you might not be reading consistently, you won’t totally give it up and will maintain that area of life every now and then.  This is a period of maintenance.

Whatever season it may be or whatever phase of life you may be in, enjoy the phase you are currently going through.

 P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Mood Follows Action – How to Fake it Until You Make It

Imagine you’re in a funk, going through a slump, having a lazy day.

And for the life of you you can’t be bothered to do anything.

Ultra-endurance Athlete and author of “Finding Ultra” Rich Roll highlights that the common default mental position is to let a slump pass and just wait until you feel better.

But what Rich advocates is to take action in spite of how you feel.

So how do you shift how you feel about a scenario?

1.Take action in contrast to that feeling.

Be cognisant of the temporary nature of your current emotional state and realise that it is merely a ‘feeling’.

It is merely a feeling that can be easily reverse-engineered into something else.

Mood follows action. By taking action in contrast to that feeling is how you shift how you feel about a scenario.

And your brain will rise to the occasion.

2. Show up, especially when you’re uninspired

Even when you’re not feeling productive and can’t be bothered to do any work or if you’re feeling unmotivated to go to the gym for a workout – just go.

Just show up.

As Woody Allen once famously put it:

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

Just by showing up, you’re putting yourself into a productive, motivated mood.

Because even if you go to the gym while uninspired, the context of the gym itself will inspire motivation in you.

This ties in with pre-game rituals, like putting on your gym clothes before going to the gym just to summon that motivation to go.

A prime example of this is Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoon-strip, who puts on his gym clothes before leaving his house, getting inside his car, and driving off to the gym for his workout.

It gets him in the zone. I talk about these concepts in an earlier post.

3. Improve your posture, change your breathing

By improving your posture, you can actually breathe better.


Simply because your lungs are no longer pressing onto your diaphragm once you straighten up.

Why is it important to breathe better?

Strongman and Youtuber Elliot Hulse puts it this way:

“Breathing is the stimulation, both energetically and physically, of the intelligence in your unconscious, in your body, in your viscera.”

Elliot says that when you posture yourself like someone who feels good about themselves, you drive specific stimulation into the nervous system, and the nervous system immediately relays this to the brain.

It is an immediate feedback loop between body and mind.

In fact, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown that if you strike a V-pose, you can increase your testosterone levels by 20% and decreases your stress hormone levels just in 2 minutes.

Posture and depression

If you’re feeling a bit down, your body will follow and start slouching.

Feeling down or depressed isn’t just a mental thing, it’s physical as well.

In other words, depression has an embodied element to it.

This is also why if you’re having a crappy day, you should find some reason to smile.

It actually does make you happier.


There is a lot of science behind this cartoon.

People who experience depression also exhibit characteristic postures and movement that are an integral feature of their depression experience. 

Examples of embodied components of depression include reduced walking speed, smaller amplitude of vertical movements of the upper body, and hunched postures that elicit feelings of depression. 

As professor of Psychology Graham Davey, P.h.D puts it:

“These embodiments are not just reflections of inner feelings, they comprise an integral part of the depression experience because attempts to directly modify these postural features of depression also relieve the experience of depression.” 

This is why exercise is good to combat depression, not only because it chemically alters your brain but also because it eliminates poor postures that contribute to the embodied depression experience. 

We are however we act

What we do influences what we think.

“[W]e are designed to become in reality however we act. We fake it until it becomes real. Our core personality doesn’t change, but we quickly adopt the mannerisms and skills associated with our new status and position.”

-Scott Adams, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

A mood is just a mood, forever fluid and changing.

Take charge by acting in spite of how you feel and you will make great strides to changing your mood.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

Social Influence: An Essay (Part 2/2)

So far in part 1 of this essay, we have looked at majority influence of a group on an individual.

However, there are also everyday social influences that occur on an individual level between people.

Most importantly however, these techniques are deliberate forms of social influence, whereas the aforementioned in part 1 were implicit forms.

These everyday influences include: the door in the face technique (e.g. Cialdini et al, 1975), the foot in the door technique (e.g. Dickerson et al 1992), and lowballing (e.g. Cialdini, 1974).


When we consider the door-in-the-face technique, Cialdini et al (1975) illustrated its social influence qualities.

In this experiment, the researchers approached university students with a huge request of whether they would like to chaperone a group of juvenile delinquents to a zoo.

83% denied the offer. However, when the students were asked if they would like to sign up as counselors for minimum of 2 years – no one agreed.

When presented with the follow up ‘zoo offer’, 50% agreed.

This is an example of offering a huge request that will inevitably be declined but will lead to an acceptance of a much smaller request.


Another form of deliberate social influence is the foot-in-the-door technique, which requires individuals to express a small initial commitment that would influence them to partake in a larger commitment.

Dickerson et al. (1992) showed the effects of this influence in their experiment. In this study, the aim was to investigate if students could be influenced to conserve water in dormitory showers.

The researchers used this technique by approaching students on campus in a US university to sign a poster on conserving water. Those that did, were asked to be surveyed (a survey which was designed to make them think deeply about their water usage).

Then, there shower times were monitored. It was found that those that had committed to both poster signing and survey had shorter showers by 3.5 minutes across all over students.

This study shows how a small request can lead to a larger commitment and is an effective form of deliberate social influence.


A final influence technique is that of lowballing.

Cialdini (1974) demonstrated this technique in a university setting where he asked first year psychology students to volunteer for a study on cognitive and that it would commence at 7am.

24% agreeds to this. In another group, the same proposition was made, but the time wasn’t given. 56% agreed.

However, when the time was then presented to them (that the experiment is at 7am) and were told they could still back out – 95% of the students still appeared for that experiment.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.