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How to Live and Not Merely Exist

How to Live and Not Merely Exist

Existence is confusing, but it’s pretty easy if you think about it. You don’t have to do anything—you already exist through circumstances outside of your control. Everything you do from this point forward is for your own benefit. With any luck, somebody along your path in life taught you to consider the benefit of others as well, but I’ve met enough people to understand that’s an optional feature in humans.

So if nobody knows why we’re here, how we got here, or anything else about life, why aren’t we all out there exploring and living it?

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fried-chicken

    What’s the Matter? Are Ya Chicken?

    It sounds unbelievable, but a lot of people float through life merely existing. It’s easy to dismiss these people as drug addicts or worse, but the fact of the matter is they’re human beings, and they’re everywhere. These people were made to feel small in their lives. They were told not to believe in themselves so often that they started to believe it; they slid through life until settling in a dead-end job as a cubicle monkey with neither status nor esteem attached to their name.

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    If you want to experience life for what it is, watch a movie: see how things aren’t going the way the main character wants them to? See how they’re scared or upset in some way and decide to stand in the face of fear to accomplish something? Why are you backing down from your boss if you truly believe you’re somebody special in life? Do you think Neo discovered The Matrix because he was too scared to take the right pill? Face reality: you’re going to die someday—we all do. You can either face it standing up, sitting down, bending over, or standing up. The choice is yours and yours alone.

    Do More Than You Say

    I hate repetition unless it’s something I truly enjoy. I could spend every day sipping cocktails and smoking bowls and blunts with my girlfriend. We could relax by the pool, kick it, and enjoy each other’s physical and spiritual presence every day without tire. Other than exceptions that are close to the heart, I hate having to repeat myself. It’s annoying when people don’t understand what you’re saying so you have to keep rewording it over and over until they get the idea. It’s so repetitive having to repeat myself because people weren’t paying attention the first time.

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    This goes with every situation in life: think about how much you start to loathe looking at someone’s Facebook page when all they do is complain about their lives or continuously talk about the same things over and over. If that’s the impression someone’s giving you, surely you’re giving that impression to someone else. If the world revolved around you, you’d have a lot more FB friends than you do, turbo, so slow down and think about this for a minute… if the internet is made of people, and social media is made of society, then maybe it’s possible nobody cares what I ate tonight for dinner or what species of parasite made a home in my woman’s uterus online any more than they are when I bring it up at a party.

    Take the hint: stop talking about what you’re going to do or what you did. Don’t fret about the past or future unless it’s with someone you care about (and even then, only during special times set up for such discussions). Other than that, focus on what’s happening in front of you right here and now. You don’t need to take a picture of your meal for it to taste good, and it’s not going to taste any better based on how many online “likes” it gets. Enjoy your dinner for yourself, and in the journey of doing so, you will have learned to live and not merely exist.

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    Want to learn more about life? Check out: Life Lessons From a Dying Man…

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    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

    It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

    Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

    “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

    In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

    New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

    There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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    So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

    What is the productivity paradox?

    There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

    In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

    He wrote in his conclusion:

    “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

    Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

    How do we measure productivity anyway?

    And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

    In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

    But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

    In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

    But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

    Possible causes of the productivity paradox

    Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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    • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
    • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
    • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
    • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

    There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

    According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

    Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

    The paradox and the recession

    The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

    “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

    This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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    According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

    Looking forward

    A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

    “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

    Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

    “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

    On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

    Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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