The State of Colorado Will Spend $20 Million On Trash This Christmas

There is a reasonable chance this holiday season that you will receive a gift that is wrapped in the upwards of four layers of trash.

  1. A gift bag
  2. Colorful tissue paper
  3. Wrapping paper
  4. Plastic wrap of unopened item

Now, let’s assume that the average person spends about $7 (reasonable sounding estimate) on all gift wrapping supplies each holiday season. To keep this local and relative, I am going to use the 2013 Colorado population data for my calculations.

Colorado population = 5.2 million

% over 18 = 76.5%

% 10 decrease for more conservative estimate

3.46 million * $7 = $24,220,000

Give or take five million, it is probably a safe assumption to say that the state of Colorado alone will spend about twenty million dollars in pure trash this holiday season. Someone please tell me that this is not insane.

It isn’t the first time that I have tried to look at the happenings of the world from the point of view of an alien. What do you think an outsider would think of this? What, you are telling me that these people spend their time to get money, which in turn they use to trade for something they end up throwing away, just to create an element of surprise for the things they are giving to their fellow humans? What the fuck?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the entire gift wrapping supply industry exists to make money, and as a whole people don’t care enough to question the necessity of putting trash on top of the presents we give to other people at the holidays. With this being said, I would like to propose alternatives to wrapping paper/gift bags for this holiday season. Besides the obvious of not wrapping the gifts at all, this list is for those still wanting to keep an element of surprise without contributing to the profits of the trash generating companies.

A towel(s)

Everyone has one. Most people have several, varying in sizes used for different purposes. You have a box of jewelry? No problem, wash rag. Shoes? Normal hand towel should to the trick. Something bigger? Bath towel baby. If need be, safety pin several bath towels together.

An old piece of plywood

Plenty of people have scraps of old wood lying around. Anything with some relatively large height and width can do the trick. Just stack all of the presents up against a wall and then lean the piece of wood over the top of the gifts. They will stay concealed until it is time for the recipient to find out what is beneath the barrier.

A tarp

Just put all of the gifts you bought for everyone underneath one large tarp, and be sure to label each gift with a sharpie so the intended recipient is obvious. Invite everyone over to your house that you bought a gift for and remove the tarp to reveal all gifts at once. Let your guests sort through who got what.

A dress shirt

This one is a personal favorite. If you position a shoe box in the center of the chest and then button the shirt, you can snuggly wrap the excess shirt around the sides, hiding it underneath the box. It looks more professional than the other items listed, and the recipient of the gift will likely get a laugh out of having to undo shirt buttons to reveal their gift.

The only limits to what can be used as gift wrap is the individual’s creativity. I guess maybe that is why we all take the easy way out and throw those rolls of wrapping paper into our shopping carts each year.

Call me a dreamer, but I can’t be the only one who thinks that the money expended on trash during the holiday season could be put to better use on something else.

Book Review: Reality if Broken – Jane McGonigal

Overview: I’ve played video games since I was a kid, and have been a fan of all types of competitive games my entire life. Given these two things, this book resonated with a deep and persistent passion. McGonigal explains the benefits of games and how they can benefit the human race in the future. People indulge in games because often times a huge part of normal life is repetitive, boring, and mindless. She uses real world examples of how games have helped solve problems and bring people together. She also helps smash the stigma that people often have about video games being a mindless escapist hobby. I can tell you that after playing all types of different games throughout my life, video games are far from mindless. In fact, there are few things that can be as mentally stimulating as video games.

Lesson: If we were able to incorporate the things that we have learned about games into solving major problems in the world, businesses, and other areas of life, people would have more motivation and reason to participate and enjoy the things that come with everyday life. We have a instinctual desire to work together and solve problems, we just need better platforms for doing so.

Important Passages (Per Sean):

The truth is this: in today’s society, computer and video games are fulfilling genuine human needs that the real world is currently unable to satisfy. Games are providing rewards that reality is not. They are teaching and inspiring and engaging us in ways that reality is not. They are bringing us together in ways that reality is not.

Collectively, the planet is now spending more than 3 billion hours a week gaming.

Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.

When you are in a state of flow, you want to stay there: both quitting and winning are equally unsatisfying outcomes.

In fact, it’s a truism in the game industry that a well-designed game should be playable immediately, with no instruction whatsoever.

A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we’re good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.

In our real lives, hard work is too often something we do because we have to do it—to make a living, to get ahead, to meet someone else’s expectations, or simply because someone else gave us a job to do. We resent that kind of work. It stresses us out. It takes time away from our friends and family. It comes with too much criticism. We’re afraid of failing. We often don’t get to see the direct impact of our efforts, so we rarely feel satisfied. Or, worse, our real-world work isn’t hard enough. We’re bored out of our minds. We feel completely underutilized. We feel unappreciated. We are wasting our lives.

The research proves what gamers already know: within the limits of our own endurance, we would rather work hard than be entertained. Perhaps that’s why gamers spend less time watching television than anyone else on the planet.

He was intensely focused, highly motivated, creatively charged, and working at the very limits of his abilities. Immersion was almost instant. Flow was fast and virtually guaranteed.

“The attainment of extrinsic, or ‘American Dream,’ goals—money, fame, and being considered physically attractive by others—does not contribute to happiness at all.”

We’ve been sold the American dream. And increasingly, it’s not just Americans who are giving up real happiness in favor of the pursuit of wealth, fame, and beauty. Thanks to the globalization of consumer and popular culture, everyone on the planet is being sold the same dream of extrinsic reward. This is especially true in emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil, where more and more people are being ushered onto the global hedonic treadmill, encouraged to consume more and to compete for limited natural resources as a way to increase their quality of life.

In one recent nationwide survey, more than 50 percent of U.S. adults recently reported that they “lack great enthusiasm for life” and “don’t feel actively and productively engaged with the world.”

In the economy of engagement, it is less and less important to compete for attention and more and more important to compete for things like brain cycles and interactive bandwidth.

Compensation increases participation only among groups who would never engage otherwise—and as soon as you stop paying them, they stop participating.

By the age of twenty-one, the average young American has spent somewhere between two and three thousand hours reading books—and more than ten thousand hours playing computer and video games.1 With each year after 1980 you’re born, these statistics are increasingly likely to be true.

We have a hardwired desire and capacity to cooperate and coordinate our actions with others, to effectively immerse ourselves in groups, and to actively cocreate positive shared experiences.

We are all born with the potential to develop collaboration superpowers. Scientific research shows that we have both the ability and the desire from early childhood to cooperate, to coordinate activity, and to strengthen group bonds—in other words, to make a good game together. But this potential can be lost if we don’t expend enough effort practicing collaboration.

The great challenge for us today, and for the remainder of the century, is to integrate games more closely into our everyday lives, and to embrace them as a platform for collaborating on our most important planetary efforts.

Could a Collaboration Economy Replace Our Current System?

I think it is pretty obvious that humans wouldn’t be here today if throughout history there wasn’t a strong sense of working together for the group rather than the self. With modern advancements however, it seems we have moved from the days of collaboration to days of trying to swing the biggest dick. We like to compare the amount and quality of the assets we have accumulated, and we are selfish with those things. The interaction between humans has decreased and diminished in quality.

Right now money dictates a lot of the things that we decide to do. Acquiring money is the most reasonable way to put food on the table and put a roof over our heads. The most common way to get that money is to go work for someone else and trade our time for the money. We collectively put in our efforts to make bigger things happen, but most of us wouldn’t do them unless we were getting paid for it. So, the question is, if money disappeared, would a world where we have to collaborate to survive lead to human advancement, or would it be human demise?

Obviously this is a big idea to try to process, and no one would be certain as to what would happen if we suddenly had to make a worldwide shift in behavior. But let’s just look at Wikipedia as an example of a voluntary collaboration effort. The success and mass effort that people have put into Wikipedia, without compensation, gives hope that if things came down to it, we would still thrive as a whole. In case you didn’t know, thousands or hours and people voluntarily spent their time to make Wikipedia into what it is today, and it wasn’t their “job.”

Let’s say in this collaboration economy an average week would look like this:

Monday: Work on something passionate about

Tuesday: Community work

Wednesday: Work on something passionate about

Thursday: Community Work

Friday: Work on something passionate about

Weekend: Social time

Based on the huge population the varying sections of what people are passionate about would probably almost be sufficient enough to cover a lot of the things that would keep society going. But, for the places where additional resources may be needed, we could offer rotations each week where people participate in varying tasks to contribute to things that are needed, but are tasks that few people are passionate about. Maybe on a Tuesday you have to pick up trash from your neighborhood. The next Thursday you are doing janitorial tasks at a school. Whatever it may be, the fact that the sole reason you would be doing it is to improve the lives of fellow humans, the intrinsic reward would be much greater than if you were doing it for money. Plus, with the different tasks for each week, people wouldn’t fall into the soul sucking cycle of daily repetition of mundane thing for years on end. This isn’t even considering the fact that most days you would be able to work on your passions. Progress would still be made, and we would have less focus on the menial shit that makes our lives more difficult.

Now, of course the ideas I just stated may not even come to fruition if currency died entirely, but I think things like Wikipedia show that we are wired to collaborate for the betterment of everyone. The combined knowledge of everyone in the world combined in one place is an insanely powerful thing. And to think most of it was created without payments to any of the contributors.

To ever get to a place like that something quite catastrophic would have to happen and the values of the masses would have to experience a large shift. Instead of ignoring our neighbors or trying to outdo them, we would need to know them and have to work together.

Even if all of our current systems fail, I think it is our DNA to find a way to survive by becoming one large thing, instead of separate opposing factions.

My Cell Phone is Awesome, But Life Sucks When It Won’t Go Fast Enough

On a recent trip to the grocery store I saw a lady complaining to a store employee about the fact that they ran out of unsweetened almond milk. The lady acted like her entire day, perhaps week, was ruined by the fact she wouldn’t be bringing the nutty milk home from that grocery store. That lady got to go home and sleep in a bed in a house with a roof and heat. If she was making over roughly $30,000 a year then she resides in the top 1% of the world (monetarily speaking). We are so quick to jump to complaining about our situations. Letting the most minute shit ruin our day. The webpage doesn’t load fast enough on your cell phone. The car in front of you is going 4 MPH slower than you want them to. Or heaven forbid, that grocery store that has thousands of different items on the shelves, ran out of one of the things that was on your list. We consistently fail to appreciate that we have it easier than any other time in human history. If you are reading this there is a good chance that you are a member of the global 1%.

I’m not trying to say that we are living in paradise, in my opinion mankind as a whole is falling way short of its potential. There are tons of flaws in the accepted systems and the design of those systems that we have created. We make life much more complicated than it needs to be. We fight meaningless wars and live our lives according to primitive ideals. A lot of the stuff in this world really does suck. Even more, we are tiny in the world. Even if we have great ideas on change that would make everything better, we don’t have the power or influence to make a difference.

But… you don’t have to worry about surviving a night in the open. You don’t have to worry about trying to kill an animal so that you have something to eat for your next meal. You probably can’t even fathom that the human species survived long enough to see all of the advancements of modern society. I know I can’t.

Eventually there is a good chance humans will be the thing that eradicate humans from the earth. But that probably won’t happen in your lifetime. So let’s appreciate the relatively easy lives that we are living. We have all of this awesome shit but we are so quick to complain when it doesn’t work quite as well as we want it to. Without having to worry about the basic components of human survival, we should appreciate all of the opportunities that this situation opens for us.

It brings up another interesting thing to ponder. If we complain about things even when they are as a whole awesome, have humans always been that way?

God damn it Marge, this patch of dirt that I am sleeping on tonight is way too hard.

That deer that we spent five hours tracking just doesn’t taste good enough by my standards.

Maybe our quality of life would improve if we had more appreciation for how relatively easy humans as a whole have it.

Decreasing the Monthly Nut

A big part of life revolves around sorting through what is a distraction and what is real. What is important and what is just fluff. Our society does a good job influencing the average person, making us think that we need this or we need that, we should spend our time doing X so that we can receive Y. We need to buy new cars, the American dream is to own a house. We need kids, need the newest xx product. We should watch the news, this reality television show, whatever. The monthly amount of our obligations, both monetarily and time wise, determines how much we owe to things that most likely have little value.

I think to successfully manage our lives we need to try to drive down our monthly obligations (or financial nut) to be as low as possible. The less time and money we owe to someone else, the less we have to worry about sacrificing in order to meet these goals. The more time and money we have to spend/invest in the real shit that matters.

It can be hard to manage. After all, it goes completely against this consumerism culture that surrounds us. I think a good practice to start whittling the obligation down is by thinking of everything as an investment. If I buy xxx, can it be used to create some sort of value in the future? Either intrinsically or monetarily? Will that value sustain into the future? Or if I agree to spend time doing xxx, will it help me develop as a person? Will that activity make me feel alive? Or are they just sunk costs. If either one or both of the answers to these questions is no, then it is probably not a good investment of time and money. Sure, there are some things we just have no control over, but for the things we do, I think it makes sense to think about them this way. Obviously we can let it slide on little things, but for anything that takes a significant amount of money or time, this way of thinking can help us make better choices.

In the end life isn’t about what we accumulate while we are here. That next-level BMW won’t mean shit once you are gone. Instead life should be about trying to create value for other people, focusing our time on this earth by doing the things we were meant to do. This is easier to accomplish when our monthly nut is less. When we aren’t stressed out about our obligations because we went in over our heads. We bought too much shit on credit and promised to spend too much time on things that we don’t need to be doing, or don’t want to be doing.

Bob Ross – The God


The title of the post says it all. For those who don’t know who Bob Ross was, he was best known for his painting show, The Joy of Painting, where he created an amazing piece of art in less than thirty minutes. When I was a young kid I used to watch his show at my grandparents house. I didn’t realize it back then, but I was watching a person who was an expert in the thing that made them come to life. I have spent a lot of time over the past few years writing and thinking about the importance of having the things you love doing make up the core of life. Last night I watched an episode of Bob’s TV show for the first time since I was a kid. Only a few minutes in it was obvious that Ross was one of those people who succeeded in having their life revolve around their creativity and passion.

The show is simple. It’s just him and a blank canvas, his paints, and his brushes. He dives right into throwing paint around the canvas, looking to be entirely random without much thought. He instructs his audience as he goes, ensuring them that it is something anyone is capable of doing, and if they really wanted to learn that there are classes available. It is a subtle form of marketing through a display of an incredible skill. The thing that is the most mind blowing is that he creates something amazing in an average of twenty-seven minutes. No erasing, no copying another image, just creation from the mind at its purest. It was inspiring to watch him work. It reminded me of the first time I watched John Butler destroying it on the guitar.

If anything it is just more proof that you can make a life for yourself by focusing on doing the thing you love. The first show debuted in the 1980’s and he passed away in 1995. Today his legacy still continues, as the classes he helped create and develop are still being taught today. He has helped cultivate a passion for painting in thousands of people simply by sharing his art and technique with the world. This is the importance of sharing the shit you do. You might not get 10,000 page views on everything you write, but you might provide value to someone, and you could change a life without even knowing it.

Go watch an episode of the show yourself, you’ll almost instantly understand what I am talking about.

In 2014 it is easier than ever before to make a Bob Ross of yourself. It all starts with mastering the thing you are passionate about and then finding an appropriate avenue to share it with the world.

Congratulations on that debt!

Have you ever found it awkward when a salesman tells you congratulations when you buy a car? Awkward because you didn’t really accomplish anything by agreeing to purchase an asset that is going to be worth less than what you paid for it the moment you drive it away from the dealership. And then most of the time you don’t even own the car, the bank does. Meaning on top of losing value, you will be paying interest for a period of months (24+) on a depreciating asset. And they tell you congratulations. “Congratulations Timmy! Not only did you make me some money, you added some debt to your books for the foreseeable future!”

The falsehoods involved with buying a house are even worse. The average person doesn’t buy a house, they obtain a mortgage. The bank buys the house, you agree to pay them back for it while you live there. Hence, when the realtor says “Congratulations Timmy! You are a homeowner!” They are essentially congratulating you for something you are not, but simultaneously making the realtor some money. Other than the magnitude of the purchase, the only thing that makes the congratulations on the house a little more substantial, is that it has the potential to be sold for more than you purchased it for. In the meantime though, being a mortgage owner, you will more strongly attached to the system, as you will go to desperate lengths to pay the mortgage each month (ahem, working a job you dislike for 30 years).

Combine the two of them, and you have the framework for the American Dream. Debt on the thing that will take you to and from the place you go to pay the debt on the other place that you won’t get to enjoy to its potential because you will be spending a ton of time trying to meet your financial obligations. The funny thing is that no one really tries to get people to look at it from this angle. Banks want you to buy houses and cars because with those purchases comes loads of interest for years to come. (This wouldn’t be as disheartening if statistics didn’t show that some 80% of people don’t care for their jobs).

The next time the selling facilitator of a vehicle or property tells you congratulations, look them in the face and say, “no, congratulations to you.” At least you might come off as being fully aware that each day you will be driving your debt home to where you will sleep inside of your other debt.

Don’t get me wrong, if you are financially able to kick the crap out of the down payment on a car or house then you won’t be at risk of becoming a victim to the system, but that isn’t the case for a lot of people entering into debt.