Frequently Asked Questions, Part III

Customers sometimes ask us for life advice.  Which may not be a good idea as none of us seem able to sort out our own messy lives.  Anyway, here’s a collection of questions customers frequently ask.

Links to FAQ I and FAQ II.

Parenting
Q: What should I do about my kid?  He’s so fucked up!
A: Throw him out of the house (and ya’ll never do until it gets really ugly).

Q: How did my kid turn out this way?  I’ve always provided everything he needs, always told him to work hard, stay out of trouble, yada yada.
A: Your kid isn’t a robot.  He needs a compelling reason to do what you’d like him to do.  Also, your kid is in a school and social culture that promotes inflated self-esteem.  The self-esteem movement, which began in the 1970s, has made it difficult for most working class kids to stop making lame excuses, to handle criticism, to be sentient, compassionate, confident, curious.  Everyone is special, everyone is a winner, which means nobody has to work hard for love, wealth, knowledge, stable relationships.  This culture of inflated self-esteem is prevalent in working class social circles and has made it difficult for working class parents to develop their kids as working class parents had prior to normalization of self-esteem movement.  Parents who work against this system will be labeled abusive.  Interestingly, upper class parents do not subscribe to self esteem movement and do their best to shield their kids from this wacky ethos by sending them to pressure packed hyper competitive schools that never coddle students and would horrify the don’t- hurt-anyone’s-feelings-generation of parents.  Working class immigrants also do not subscribe to self-esteem ethos and thus try to send their kids to public schools with competitive IB programs. Working class Americans who reject the movement sometimes opt for homeschooling.

Marital Problems
Q: Should I get a divorce?
A: Yes

Q: Do you know of a good divorce lawyer?
A: Don’t get a divorce.

Q: Do you think my husband is gay?
A: Yes.  If you have to ask, then he likely is.

Q: If he’s gay, should I divorce him?
A: Huh?  That’s like divorcing someone because they prefer a firmer mattress.  Find a better reason before you get the vultures involved.

Dating
Q: I got drunk and threw up on the guy’s bed.  I really like him.  Is he pissed?
A: Yes, he’s pissed.  Not so much about you throwing up, more about you getting drunk on each of the first three dates.

Q: How should I act during the first three dates?
A: If it’s marriage you want, act like a responsible mom for first three dates.  Act like a tease on the fourth.  Act like a drunk slut on the tenth.

Q: But I know of guys who like it when a girl gets drunk on the first date.  Is it so wrong to get drunk on one of the first few dates?
A: You really want to marry that kind of guy?  Go for it, if you don’t mind a guy who doesn’t expect his partner to act responsibly most of the time, a guy who won’t make you a better person.

Q: Where do I take her on the first date?
A: Somewhere you’re certain she can afford so if date doesn’t go well, both parties can part without losing face. Make it easy for her to let you know that she’s not interested. And don’t assume she *wants* you to pay the entire bill, even if date goes well.  Douchebag thing to do is to go somewhere pretentious and expensive (usually overpriced and overrated) to show off, like Seastar or Ruth Chris, to make a big (rather than good, but that’s from my perspective, not necessarily hers) first impression. Start with modest and quiet restaurant until you know each other better. I often recommend establishments such as Maneki, Le Pichet, Tutta Bella, Tamarind Tree, Facing East — all priced within $20-$30 range. Ultimately, where you should take her depends on both your personalities and what you want to communicate to or learn about her.

Q: Should I ask her to pick the restaurant?
A: Probably not, as it would likely suggest to her that you’re irresponsible (afraid of screwing up) and she may think the two of you will end up with a “what do you want to do” type relationship.  You’re supposed to figure out what she likes.    Makes her feel special, makes you look good, like you have magical powers, when you get it right. All very sexist perhaps, but reality is that most women like to be pursued and tend to be very sexist, much more so than men. Ultimately, you don’t have to work within this system. There are many types of women. It’s up to you.

The Other Sex (apologies for being hetero-centric)
Q: My boyfriend is so weird. Can you explain guys to me?
A: Deep down, most men are scared little boys who just want to play with their toys in some corner.  (That’s why we have man caves).

Q: My girlfriend is crazy.  What’s wrong with her?
A: I’m convinced that two-thirds of girls between 15-19 are sociopaths (whereas most boys of that age are simply stupid). Some grow out of it, others will never cease to be manipulative and narcissistic. In short, there are many women who are sick and twisted.  Anyway, maybe you should ask what’s wrong with you, as you’re still with her.   

Q: What do men want in a woman?
A: Tomboy by day, sex kitten by night. All while being Mom on-call.

Random Questions
Q: Why won’t you hire my daughter?
A: Because she’s sick and twisted.  See above for more in depth answer.  

Q: How do you know she’s sick and twisted, asshole?
A: We have applicants take our behavioral and mental health test. In order to run a business, I have to be able to recognize reality about myself and others.  If I don’t, business will collapse.  I’ve learned through dealing with employees and hundreds of applicants that your girl-next-door daughter is in fact sick and twisted, and there’s a good chance she’ll be like that for the rest of her life if nobody calls her on her behavior.

Q: Are you saying that your stupid test knows my daughter better than I know her?
A: Yes.  Our test has proven to be remarkably accurate.  But if it makes you feel better, our test has never been scientifically validated and peer reviewed. Have her take a validated version of the test, like the MMPI, if you want more insight into your daughter’s mind.

Q: Are you saying that I’m a sick, twisted, fuck?
A: Yes.  Not because your daughter is sick and twisted — we all make mistakes — but because you don’t recognize that she is sick and twisted.

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Poor People Don’t Exist, There’s No Such Thing as Poverty

Imagine a world where everyone you consider poor no longer exists.  Would that be the end of poverty?  Or would those you consider middle-class become the new poor?  Now ask yourself if you prefer to be Charlemagne, who ruled France from 768 to 816 or something, or would it be better to live in the present, in Seattle area, making $20,000 a year as a McDonald’s cook, no children, basically living what many would consider a lower middle-class social and economic life? Would you prefer to be king in a world without plumbing, electricity, autos, planes, modern medical care, or internet, or would it be better to be almost “poor” in present day Seattle?

That poverty is a relative concept and “poor people” is a social construct isn’t a new idea.  In fact, it’s obvious. But too often, how we analyze and interpret the world is framed entirely by academic readings of government created constructs such as race, gender, economic class.  I’m not arguing that these constructs are useless.  Nor am I saying that these constructs necessarily foment racism, sexism, class warfare, nationalism, and so forth. They’re, when used appropriately, very helpful — think about why your doctor asks you to categorize yourself in terms of race, age, gender, etc.  But these constructs can also make it tempting to confuse cause and effect and difficult to find patterns of behavior that traverse social identity and place. It can spawn asinine public policy concepts such as “living wage” that ultimately promote a sense of helplessness among those who identify as or feel poor.

For instance, a recent Cracked.com article on the habits of poor people states that they develop shitty palates because they’re “poor.”  Author defines “being poor” as lacking what “normal” people have, as not having enough money to eat “well” (whatever that means), as being on food stamps. Being poor, author contends, is what causes poor people to develop bad habits, to act “poor.” The emphasis is on lack of money as cause.  Being poor is defined primarily in economic, not social or behavioral, terms. Lack of *enough* money causes the poor to behave as they do, not the other way around.

Forget about fresh produce or fresh baked goods or fresh anything. Canned vegetables are as cheap as a gang tattoo, and every poor person I knew (including myself) had them as a staple of their diet. Fruit was the same way. Canned peaches could be split between three kids for half the cost of fresh ones, and at the end you had the extra surprise of pure, liquefied sugar to push you into full-blown hyperglycemia.

Let’s set aside the fact that there’s nothing wrong with canned and frozen.  Not ideal, but they’re fine as long as they’re not over-processed. Anyway, the argument is that poor people’s palates suck because they don’t have money to eat better, to develop healthier palates. Bullshit. I’ve always found that fresh produce costs less than processed or prepared frozen and canned food (note that I’m NOT comparing fresh to canned and frozen counterparts, the comparison is with processed and prepared that come in frozen or canned form). I’ve found this to be true in LA, in Chicago, in New York City, North Carolina, Seattle, Paris, Taipei, even in the middle of nowhere in the Amazonian jungle.  Recent USDA study comparing cost of fresh produce to “junk” food corroborates my experiences.

Watch “poor” immigrants shop at grocery stores.  They don’t shop at QFC or Whole Foods or PCC.  These stores don’t sell produce, they sell a brand, a social identity.  That’s why these stores are increasingly located in neighborhoods insecure about their middle class identity. “Poor” immigrants shop at ghetto looking places with crammed spaces, a mess all around.  When they purchase produce, they’re buying a meal they’ll produce from scratch, they’re not thinking about  conforming to mainstream American expectations of identity.  They don’t have time to think about fitting into the American ideal, they’re just trying to feed their family as cheaply as possible and the best way to do that is to cook from scratch.  Not always the ideal produce that you get from farmer’s market, but it’s produce  that’s not processed.  They’re not interested in purchasing a brand — that’s for highly educated immigrants trying to fit in to American culture — they only care about making a satisfying meal that will feed an extended family of 8, 10, 12, however many they can pack into their living space. They eat well, better than do most middle-class Americans.

This isn’t philosophy class, so let’s not get sucked into discussion about the numerous logical flaws and inconsistencies in the Cracked article.  I just want to point out that great cuisine is most often created by those we’d consider “poor.”  No Le Creuset oven pots, no Viking stove, no Vitamix.  No electricity, no reliable running water. No grocery stores and certainly no food stamps. Who came up with chicken pate and pork rillet?  European peasants.  Sashimi?  Japanese fishermen.  Escargot, Southern bbq, steak tartare, chop suey…all invented by people who’d be considered materially and economically poor by Cracked author.

One of the greatest (post) modern chefs, Marco Pierre White, grew up “poor.”  So poor that before he was a teenager, he was hunting and scavenging for his food.  That’s how he learned to cook.  Scarcity, not abundance, forced him to be creative, to work for survival which later on, inspired his art. White was never poor in spirit. And that’s the way many so-called “poor” people used to be like in the US.  Old-timers have told me about eating the possums and squirrels they caught as children. Foraging for berries and dandelion. Figuring out how to make the toughest cuts taste good and tender.  They knew food, intimately. “Poor” folks can eat very well.  It’s those with “poverty mindset,” from any income group, who don’t eat well.

Being “poor” or living in “poverty” is an attitude, a mindset, not an economic condition.  It has nothing to do with how much money one has.  Someone with poverty mindset may only be able to get a candy bar out of a dollar.  Another person may be able to make a feast of stone soup, enough to feed 10, out of same amount.  There’s no limit to what the human mind can create. The possibilities are endless. There’s no such thing as a “living wage.”  We don’t know what someone can do with a square foot of living space.  We don’t know how many meals someone can make out of a dollar.  By insisting there’s such a thing as a “living wage” and a “poverty line,” we’ve given a lot of people an excuse to be envious, miserable, wasteful, and passive instead of grateful, optimistic, frugal, and creative.

This isn’t hippie or hipster nostalgia. I’m trying to not romanticize the past, I’m not saying European peasants had it better than today’s “underclass.”  I really don’t know who had it better, if 17th century European peasants were better able to deal with what we consider frequent loss and random acts of violence. I’m just saying that there’s something destructive, almost sinister, about inventing poor people and then telling them that they’re poor because they have few, if any chances, to increase their economic worth because their “poverty” will result in poor habits that will keep them from making enough money to break their habits.  If we want to beat this obesity epidemic, we can’t give people a reason to accept the status quo, to think that they can’t do anything to improve their lives. Obesity isn’t an issue of resources, it’s about making sure we don’t live in a “culture of poverty.”

So You Want to be a Porn Star: Making Juice Happen

New Year, new customers, some asking for advice on opening a juice bar/restaurant.  I’m going to stop telling *nearly* everyone to not do it, to never consider the idea again — Anthony Bourdain and others already shout that message.  Do it.  Fucking a, DO IT, FOLLOW YOUR PASSION!  This for those who want to do it. Fuck Bourdain, Ruhlman, and their negative message. They just want to keep the fun for themselves.

Most want to talk about irrelevant shit like recipes (“can I borrow some,” “where did you find them,” or the more thoughtful “how did you come up with them”).  Having the right recipes is the least of your worries. If you’re confident in your cooking ability, recipes will come to you serendipitiously, the situation will make it happen, just as it has for thousands of years for millions of cooks. If you’re asking me about recipes to start a restaurant, I’m thinking you’re a daydreamer who is wasting your and my time.  Daydreamers ONLY think about results, it never occurs to them to focus on the process — who they have to be, what they have to do — to reach results.  When they watch a great performance, they never imagine what it took, the thousands of hours of preparation and practice, the force of character necessary to make the performance happen.

Daydreamers consume, never appreciate, are rarely grateful. Dream builders focus on the process, they understand that the process is the result.  The process is the result, the process is the result, even if the result is failure. If you rarely daydream, great.  If you do, try to figure out how someone built something you like, whether it be a dish, a menu, a song, a house, a bridge, a personality, whatever.  Try to reverse engineer whatever it is you want to build.  Consider the motivation of the person(s) who built it. Not only will it get you to stop daydreaming, it’ll help you appreciate the world more, help you recognize reality about yourself and other people.

Which brings us to the second point. Asking about process shows me you’re concerned about recognizing reality, reality about yourself and others.  Daydreamers don’t recognize reality and you can’t run a business if you don’t see reality.  I watched a restaurant I invested in crumble fast because owners couldn’t see, refused to acknowledge reality, reality that was clear to all investors and most customers.  We pleaded with them to see and work with reality but they refused because it would mean challenging, and ultimately changing, their sense of self. They saw themselves as this and that, which didn’t match customer perception.  Don’t underestimate human self-esteem defense mechanisms. They are powerful enough to allow someone to lose everything than confront who one really is.

You want reality? How’s this for reality.  For a month, make a three egg omelet every morning. Make it in less than a minute.  If you can’t make a perfect omelet in less than a minute, or if the omelet isn’t perfect (runny, slightly burned, contains egg shells), find a mirror.  Now stare into your eyes and tell yourself that you’re a “stupid, useless cunt.” Three times.  Because that’s what someone is thinking every time you fuck up an order.  And even if that isn’t true, it NEEDS TO BE TRUE, you have to believe that it’s true. If you don’t, you’ll fail, I guarantee it.  “Stupid useless cunt” is what I call myself every morning.  Makes my piss smell good, helps me piss straight. If you can’t handle treating yourself this way, you’re not going to last a month owning and running an unbranded restaurant.

So you’re starting to or always have been able to see reality and you can deal with it.  Here’s another dose of reality.  Reality is that you’re a stupid, useless cunt and very few, if anyone, love you.  You think x,y,z love you, whatever the fuck “love you” means?  They likely don’t love you, they need you.  Maybe they need your money. Or they need your skills as a wing man.  Or your praise and flattery to confirm their (un) reality.  Don’t confuse need with love (and I believe love exists, but is never, ever cheaply and easily attained or given).  The sooner you realize that there’s very little love in the world — in spite of non-stop declarations to the contrary — and the sooner you understand that people are much more responsive to fear than to declarations of love, the sooner you’ll discover reality and be able to make lemonade out of it. Machiavelli was right, the hippies are wrong, it’s better to be feared than loved, especially in a world where love is commodified, cheap, almost meaningless. Fear, not love, makes the world go round.  Think about why this commercial introducing Apple Macintosh is so effective.

Link to Apple’s 1984 commercial

This commercial is effective because it exploits people’s fears, fears about their future and their identity.  It takes advantage of American obsession with individuality.  It’s telling you that if you don’t pay attention to the Macintosh, we’ll turn into an Orwellian society, no more freedom.  The message isn’t “Apple loves you please buy the Mac” because people don’t respond to love.  The message is “you need the Mac if you want to be who you think are or want to become” because people respond to fear, in this case, fear of losing one’s identity and so-called freedom.

Once you understand that few, if any, love you, and that it’s better to be feared than loved, you’ll either commit suicide or be able to get to work on making a lot of people to not only need you, but maybe even, if you’re really special, a few to love you.  You’ll be able to devote yourself to thinking about the wants and needs of others.  You may be able to figure out what they really want, not what they think they want. You’ll realize that love is earned, rarely given.

If you think I’m being cynical, if you’re not convinced that fear, and not love, makes the world go round, read Bourdain’s Medium Raw, which offers many short bios of chefs, including an entire chapter devoted to David Chang. Also read the bio of Marco Pierre White, Devil In the Kitchen. Understand what drives the best chefs, what makes them tick, how they think.  Often, it’s not love of cooking, that’s just a symptom, a manifestation of a deeper psychological crisis. More often, at the core, it’s fear, hate, rage, shame, fear, fear, rage, fear. A sick, twisted addiction to confronting fear, to beating it, often with rage. Why do you think David Chang, whom Bourdain considers the “most important chef in America” “hates you?” Not saying you have to be just like a crazy Marco Pierre White mofo to open a juice bar. I’m a mellow dude (stop laughing, I am!) and I don’t intend to win any Micheline stars or even a pat on the back. But you need to know what it takes — mindset and attitude — to reach the pinnacle of a profession if you want to survive in that profession.  You need role models to pull you in the right direction.  Because if you think it’s about smiling and being nice and friendly, you’ll be crushed.  Not saying assholes always finish first. Not saying your name has to be “Fuck You” to make it work.  Am saying that nice people are too petty, innocuous, and unoriginal to survive this (or any other) game. Nice people sit so they don’t get hurt.  Being nice is easy.  Being responsible isn’t (but is a lot more rewarding).  That’s reality.  Ask yourself if you’re willing to be a part of reality.

If you’re comfortable with reality, we’ll talk about the nitty gritty.  Like supply chain and inventory management, human resources, workflow processes.  Maybe we’ll talk recipes.  At times, I’ll remind you that just because you love cooking — currently one of the trendiest hobbies — and serving food and all your friends tell you you’re good at it doesn’t mean you should turn your hobby into a business.  I mean, just because you like sex and have a big cock or nice breastesses and a few people have told you you’re good at it doesn’t mean you should become a porn star.  You really think it’s that easy to get your cock up when *they* want it up?  You really think it’s that easy to make 12 kale salads in five minutes while handling four drink orders and have enough charm to keep everyone laughing and entertained?

And if you go through with it, remember that you’ll be paid and respected like a porn star.  Because in the end, unlike with engineers or mathematicians or surgeons, you do what most people can and in fact do, cook.  The only difference is that you get paid to do what you do, you can get your cock up when *they* want it up and you cum when *they* want you to. Most of the time, or enough so they don’t fire you. Are you still horny?

Hainan Chicken recipe

We recently began giving customers the option to add chicken to their salads, rice and beans, etc.  Customers have been asking how we  make our chicken, esp. how we keep the white meat so juicy, smooth, soft, and flavorful.

We cook our chicken Hainanese style.  Hainan chicken is a dish of Chinese origins and is popular in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore (national dish).  It’s chicken that’s either delicately poached or steamed, then placed in a ice water to lock in the flavors in the meat and give skin a jelly like texture.

Hainan chicken, good shit.

We do something similar.  We first brine the chicken in soy sauce, garlic and onion juice mixture for 24 hours.  We then gently poach it in a crock pot.  Never let the water boil, let it cook slowly at 170, 180 degrees.  The higher the temperature, the less tender the meat.  A five pound chicken should be ready in two hours. Chicken is transferred to ice water for 20-30 minutes, yada yada, it’s ready.  Hack into pieces with a big ass butcher knife. Leave bones on.  For instruction on how to hack chicken, go to a Chinese butcher and observe.

Bad ass knives

You’ll notice that the bones will be bloody.  Here’s why they’re bloody (from http://www.thermoworks.com).

According to a study conducted by Iowa State University, today’s marketed chickens are considerably younger and far more tender than they were years ago. Their bones have not yet matured and are still somewhat soft and porous. As the internal temperature of the bird heats up, marrow can – and quite often does – seep through the soft bone into the surrounding meat. The result is bloody and/or red meat.

When a young chicken is deep chilled, ice crystals form inside the bone. They expand and force the heme out of the marrow through the soft, porous bones. During the cooking process, the tissue will darken in color. Although the appearance can be off-putting, the meat is not harmed when this happens.

To combat this occurrence, restauranteurs are being forced to sell over cooked chicken to address the red blood color in the meat and around the bones. As a result, chicken is often dry, unappealing and tasteless. By and large, consumers are being duped into believing that bloody chicken is dangerous.

Dr. O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. of the Hospitality Institue of Technology and Management says, “If consumers were taught to eat safely prepared, bloody chicken, as they want to do with beef, they would be able to enjoy juicier chicken.” The trick is to learn how to prepare safe-to-eat chicken and get over our fear of a little blood in our birds.”

So it’s not a big deal as long as internal temperature has been brought to 165 for 15 seconds.  But for a restaurant, it is a big deal because customer perception is reality.  So we get rid of the blood by poaching the cut pieces again for just under a minute, or until blood is gone.  We’re basically overcooking it, but as little as possible.  We then strip the meat from the bones and cut them into cubes.  (Hainan chicken is served with bones on for reasons we won’t get into now).  The skin and gizzards are used to make either chicken pate or quiche, the chilled ice water and broth are used as stock.

As in other recipes, we emphasize gentle cooking, low heat cooking.  I don’t get the obsession with 350 degrees, when we seldom cook anything above 200 degrees.  Low heat means more room for error and juicier and more tender meat,  which in turn means eating fewer calories because one is satisfied with less.  Dry meat means more gravy, more teriyaki sauce, more of everything to reach satisfaction.  Eating less isn’t about denial, it’s about eating better.

 

Gluten-free raw carrot cake recipe

We try to use as much of the juice fiber as possible.  It’s a waste to throw the fiber out and our goal is to someday use all of it.  To make our carrot cake — a high fiber dessert treat —  we take the carrot fiber (you can also use fiber from other sources) and bind it with raw honey.  We add cinnamon for taste.  Just mix it together.  Add just enough honey so that it binds well.

 

photo (1)

Note the image of Gandhi, left corner.  Enter a caption

 

 

You can hand roll the mixture into bite sized balls, as we once did for catering event, or into a patty, which is how we offer it in the store.

The Frosting

The frosting is made from almonds.  Put almonds in blender — in this case, any blender will do, it doesn’t have to be high end — add a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and ginger, enough so that it blends.  You can make it runny or thick, whatever suits your taste.  Experiment with amount of ginger and lemon.  We generally don’t sweeten the frosting with apple juice or orange because we like the contrast between the savory tanginess of the frosting with the sweetness of the cake.  Pour the frosting over the carrot cake, as much as your taste prefers.

We’re not providing exact measurements because we don’t use measurements.  We just want customers to get a basic idea of how to make it and let them adjust the proportions to their taste.  Enjoy!

photo

Above is carrot cake with cucumber topping.  Adding something green, like a sprig of parsley, adds to attractiveness of finished product.

Economics 101: Work Ethic, Horny Rabbits, and Sharing Pie

I’m responsible for producing productive employees.  Those who don’t understand basic economics are more likely to believe in all sorts of asinine social theories that will gradually destroy their will to live.  I make sure my employees understand basic economics so they don’t develop self-destructive attitudes.  To that end, I tell employees a detailed variation of a story about the world someone once told me.

Once Upon a Time, in a Land Far, Far Away…
Imagine three people — Jeremy, Olga, and Malia.  Each are given two rabbits.  Jeremy, excited about his luck, throws a party, eats his rabbits and throws out the fur and bones.  Jeremy is left with no rabbits.

Olga, grateful for the rabbits, decides to breed them.  She soon has a total of 10 rabbits.  To celebrate her achievement, she throws a party and serves four of them.  She keeps the fur to make a scarf for herself. The bones are discarded. Olga has six rabbits and a scarf.

Malia also breeds her rabbits. Soon, she too has 10 rabbits.  Instead of eating them, she performs experiments on 6 of them.  The first experiment makes six of the rabbits sick.  She had to put them down.  She salvaged and stored the fur and bones. She dissected them, studied their physiology. Malia has 4 rabbits.

Jeremy, not having any rabbits, asks Olga if he can have one of hers.  She refuses.  Jeremy still has no rabbits.

Olga continues to breed her rabbits.  She soon has 20 rabbits.  To celebrate her achievement, she throws a party and serves 6 of them.  She saves the fur to make mittens and a hat.  Olga now has 14 rabbits, a scarf, hat, and mittens.

Malia continues to breed her rabbits.  She soon has 13 of them.  She performs experiments on 10 of them.  Eight of them get sick and die.  As before, she dissects them, saves the fur and makes some tools out of the bones, including one that will make it a lot easier for him to forage for rabbit food.  The two remaining experiment rabbits are remarkably healthy, vibrant.  Malia now has 5 rabbits and some tools.

The Welfare System
Jeremy, not having any rabbits, asks Olga if he can have one of hers.  She relents, gives him two, one of each sex, and tells him to breed them so he won’t have to ask her for rabbits anymore.  Jeremy is annoyed and humiliated but takes the offer.  He immediately eats both because he feels that he’s been without for so long.  He discards the fur and bones.

Olga continues to breed her rabbits.  She soon has 60 of them.  To celebrate her achievement, she throws a party and serves 10 of them.  She saves the fur to make a sweater.  She now has 48 rabbits (two were given to Jeremy) and a growing wardrobe.  She’s considering hiring someone to take care of the rabbits.

Malia continues to breed her rabbits.  Something happened to two of her experiment.  They have become so horny and fertile, they’re producing 10 times more rabbits than do the others!  Malia discovers rabbit viagra!!!  She now has 100 rabbits and feeds all of them rabbit viagra.  She throws a party, serves a feast of 20 rabbits.  She makes a coat out of all the fur she’s saved.  She’s so busy with research and development, she stores the bones and hires someone to make tools out of them.   She also hires someone to take care of her rabbits and to build rabbit houses so she can devote more time to research.

The Police State
Jeremy, still without rabbits, asks Olga for two rabbits.  Olga refuses and chides him for being irresponsible.  Jeremy explodes and calls Olga a “selfish, greedy cunt,” a “bitch with no feeling for other people except herself.”  “You’ll pay for this, bitch,” he tells her as he heads to Malia’s.  Jeremy asks Malia for two rabbits.  She too refuses but offers him a job cleaning rabbit houses that will pay him two rabbits per week. He grudgingly takes it.  He eats both rabbits immediately.  Seeing that Olga has so many rabbits, he asks her why she doesn’t pay him more since she has so much.  Olga reminds him that he’s lucky to have a job because he doesn’t have much experience caring for rabbits, as he eats them immediately instead of breeding them.  That sends Jeremy into a rage.  He storms away and tells Olga she’s a “greedy, cold-hearted bitch who gets her kicks from fucking with polite and nice hard working people like me.”

In the end, Jeremy makes a living stealing rabbits from Olga and Malia, even though it’d be a lot easier to breed the rabbits he once had.   To prevent theft, Olga and Malia fund a security force and build a prison to house Jeremy and others like him. Olga purchases rabbit viagra from Malia.  Olga hires more and more people to take care of her growing colony of rabbits.  She then opens restaurants specializing in rabbit stew, and starts a fashion line offering clothing made of rabbit fur.  Malia now has billions of   rabbits.  She sells as many as she can to those she thinks will use them well and continues her research and development efforts.  Her rabbit empire employs many, as there’s much work involved in caring for billions of rabbits.

The Point of the Story
Too many people think that economics is a zero-sum game, where for every winner there’s a loser, every resource one gains is resource someone else loses.  Those who think economics is a zero-sum game will develop self-destructive habits and attitudes.  They’ll believe it’s necessary to screw other people to get ahead.

There aren’t limited resources because human creativity isn’t limited.  We can produce as many rabbits as our creativity allows.  Some produce rabbits better than others, while others only consume them.  Anything is possible.  Someone may discover a way to use our piss to fuel our cars.  The point is, the economic pie isn’t static, it can grow or shrink.  The Olgas and Malias grow this pie.  The Jeremies shrink it because all they do is consume and destroy.  And then there’s the rest of us who help the Olgas and Malias grow the pie.  We nurse them when they’re sick, we feed them when they’re hungry, we entertain them when they need distraction, we manage their resources so they can produce even more.

There are those who envy those who own the largest portion of the pie.  If you’re one of them, ask yourself if you’d rather everyone share equally a tiny pie — size of pinky tip —  or if you’d rather have a tiny portion — size of your fist — of a huge pie half of which belongs to a few people.  I’ll take the fist sized portion and continue to do all I can to help those who are able to grow the pie.  I’d rather make rabbit stew for Malia than hang out with Jeremy.

  

Change your environment if you want to change yourself: on breaking and forming new habits

They say failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is 92%.  Let’s figure out why the failure rate is so high and what we can do to lower it.

Many think lack of discipline is the primary reason why resolutions aren’t kept.  True enough but I’m more interested in why so many of us lack the discipline, the will power to change ourselves.  As someone introducing and developing a new brand and new products to a demographic with conventional sensibilities, I have to figure out how to get people to break old and form new habits.  To that end, I’ve learned that most people are:

  • Creatures of habit.  Habits are comforting.
  • Conventional and conforming. Some will do fucked up shit to fit in with peers.
  • Scared and confused.  People respond to fear (and not to love) and leadership that promises certitude.

Think about commercials and propaganda.  Established brands such as McDonald’s tend to remind consumers that habits developed during childhood are comforting.  You-will-be-happy-after-fries-and-McNuggets. New challengers are more likely to instill fear — you-will-become-fat-if-you-eat-at-McDonald’s-and-not-at-our-establishment — or exploit people’s existing fears. They scare consumers into buying unfamiliar products (think Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial that introduced the Macintosh).   Up and comers like Whole Foods today, Starbucks back in the 90s, remind(ed) conventional and conforming consumers to shop at their stores if they want to be considered (upper) middle-class.

Keeping above traits and attitudes in mind, we can improve our resolution success rate not by *solely* trying to change ourselves but also by changing our environment. Granted, it’s not that easy for people to change their environment. People choose their environment out of habit and accident.  But success will be more likely if we understand ourselves not as living in a cultural vacuum, but as individuals influenced by those we spend most of our time with and the cultural environments we observe and live in. Ultimately, it’s easier to change the environment than to change who we fundamentally are.

We’re not going to stop being creatures of habit.  Habits free up mental energy to solve random problems. We would accomplish much less if we didn’t have habits. We just need to develop good habits so we operate efficiently, productively. Most are not going to stop being conventional and conforming.  That’s fine — imagine a world where everyone is Steve Jobs and Charles Manson — as long as we’re conforming to the right conventions.  And anyone who isn’t scared and confused is either delusional or stupid.  There’s a lot to be scared of. But fear can be good.  Fear can help people break bad habits and form good ones.  Fear is why we change for the better (or give up on life).

How Our Environment Influences Us
Instead of telling yourself to “lose 20 pounds” or to “exercise regularly” or to “work harder,” ask yourself to “find friends who are thinner than me,” “…friends who exercise regularly,” “…friends who work harder than me.”  If you really want to change yourself, change your environment.

It’s been said that one’s income is roughly the average income of one’s five closest friends.  Studies have shown that one’s closest friends have a profound influence on body weight.  Peer pressure works because we’re conventional and conforming. It isn’t just peer pressure that influences our habits.  Those closest to us influence our standards and values, they define what’s normal.  We tend to be friends with those who share similar standards, values, and vocabulary.  If your five closest friends work an average of 40 hours per week and you work 60 per week, you’re more likely to feel exhausted from work.  If they work an average of 80 hours per week, you’re more likely to feel lazy when working 60 hours per week, more likely to push yourself to work more, to meet the standard, the norm.  Most of us are conventional and conforming.  That’s fine, as long as we understand that we’re responsible for which conventions we conform to.

But I Like My Friends, I Don’t Want New Friends
Fine, keep your friends.  Some people achieve impressive goals in spite of being surrounded by mediocrities.  But if you do succeed, don’t expect them to remain friends with you because you’ll no longer confirm their version of reality.  One of the main reasons you are friends with your closest friends is because you confirm their version of reality and they yours.  You have similar standards. If you decide that drinking is bad for you and all your closest friends drink, some of them will take your abstinence as public criticism of their standards. Same thing will happen if you try to improve your palate and decide to stop eating at places like Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Some of your friends will ask why you’ve become so snobby, so uppity.    That’s why you shouldn’t assume your friends want you to succeed. They don’t want  you to succeed because it means losing someone who will help maintain their sense of (un)reality.  They love you as long as you confirm their sense of self, their reality.  They’ll hate you — even if they admire you — the moment you challenge their sense of reality. The envious ones will want to destroy you.

How to Change Environment
It can be difficult to change one’s environment because it requires one to break a habit.  I’ve watched many try and fail, even after acknowledging that you can’t become a scientist if you hang out with friends who watch Jersey Shore and act like Jerry Springer guests.  The pull of the familiar is too strong, even when one dislikes one’s friends. Easiest way to change environment is to move as far away as possible and start over.  If you want to be more competitive and tougher, move to New York City.  If you want to be more physically active, move to Denver.  If you want to become a pothead, move to Seattle.  If you want to be lazy, move to Hawaii.  Free from the familiar, you’ll find it a lot easier to put yourself in circumstances and situations that will force you to replace bad habits with better ones.  Find a demanding boss if you want to work harder (that’s why people worked for Steve Jobs).  Find a studious girlfriend/boyfriend if you want to become smarter.  Hang out with brazen careerists if you want to become an executive.  Join the armed forces if you want to be more disciplined and regimented. If moving isn’t an option, then surround yourself with the right books, books that reveal the mindset and attitude of those you admire, those you want to become.  Figure out how they think, use them as inspiration.  Your friends may work 40 hours per week and goof off after work, but it’ll be a lot easier to endure the tedium and loneliness of music practice if you know that Eminem does the same for 18 hour stretches.

Reward
Habits are formed when a behavior is rewarded.  If you want to start exercising regularly to lose weight, see what happens if you tell yourself to “find friends who exercise regularly so I can lose 20 pounds and fit into my favorite dress and attract more lustful attention.”  Once these rewards are realized will the new routine become a habit and the new found discipline and will power be rewards in themselves.