money

Lifehacks Squared: Lifehack Hacks that Will Further Hack Your Already Well Hacked Life  

The original lifehacker.

     This guy gets it.

  1. Don’t say “I think” in your writing. It implies a lack of confidence. Say “God revealed this absolute truth to me in a dream” instead.
  2. When you go on a first date, take your date to a sex shop. From then on they’ll associate you with sex.
  3. Attitude is critical. Many negative sensations can be reframed as positive ones. For example, stress is actually the same physiological response as exhilaration and being painfully constipated while doing jumping jacks is the same thing as super hot anal sex.
  4. Most people can’t tell the difference between competence and confidence. Never, ever admit you don’t know how to do something. It’s called leadership.
  5. Enthusiasm is infectious. Try to act really excited about seeing someone next time you meet and they’ll probably pretend to be excited about seeing you, too.
  6. If you’re at a meeting and expect someone is going to take you to task, sit right next to them. They’ll lose the pack mentality that makes them feel safe attacking you since you were sitting close enough to slip something in their drink.
  7. Try this old trick to combat anxiety before your next big presentation: drink four shots of whiskey 20 minutes before you begin.

    640px-A_Glass_of_Whiskey_on_the_Rocks

              Whiskey: Nature’s Xanax

  8. It’s a psychological fact that people are more likely to agree to a big favor if you’ve gotten them to agree to a small one first. Next time you’re hitting on a woman, borrow her pen before asking “Wanna bang?”
  9. When a group of people laughs, they instinctively look toward the person they like the most. Tell a joke to get everyone laughing, figure out who the group likes the most, then do your best to sabotage that person so you can take their place as the most beloved.
  10. When giving a big speech, combat your fear of public speaking by imagining everyone is in their underwear and that you’re kicking off a massive orgy. Pre-orgy speeches are generally short and to the point, so they shouldn’t make you that nervous.
  11. Next time you get sick, keep a “culture” of the disease by saving a jar of your phlegm and blood. When you need some time off work, wipe the culture all over your coworker’s desks (or better yet their food). You’ll still have an immunity to the disease, but they will all get sick. Nobody will suspect a thing when you call in sick, too.
  12. If you’re interviewing someone and they only give you a partial answer, remain silent and maintain eye contact. They will probably give you more information when you twist their arm behind their back until it nearly breaks.

How to Make Acting a Safe Career Choice

Trading Excess Potential Payout for Better Odds of Success as a Means of Making Dream Jobs Safer, More Feasible Career Options

One time when I was a child, our teachers gathered us in the gym to hear the principal speak about planning for our future. I don’t remember much about the speech, but one thing did stick with me: his talk about the foolishness of trying to become a professional athlete. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with being a pro athlete. His point was the same point most of us make to anyone who thinks they’re going to go pro in something fun: the odds that you’ll succeed are extremely low. Even if you’re an amazing player, even if you’re the best in your whole school, that odds are still stacked high against you. It’s a gamble, in other words, and you’re wagering a piece of your life. You’re putting a tremendous amount of time and effort into playing this sport, time and effort you could be expending on learning a more marketable skill, so if you don’t succeed you might not have a lot of alternatives. And odds are you won’t succeed.

This problem is inherent to all occupations that are what I call high-reward-high-risk careers (HRHR). I’m talking about things like acting, art, music, and, yes, sports. These tend to be fields that a lot of people enjoy doing in and of themselves and are highly competitive. Therefore, you must have the skill or luck of a god to succeed. They’re basically the career equivalent of investing in highly speculative stocks. Sure, there’s a chance you’ll become filthy rich, but more than likely you’ll lose your money. As with most financial things, prudent people take the smaller reward with safer odds.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no law of nature that says you must risk it all to pursue a dream job of this variety. Many people who want to enter these fields would be happy to settle for a simple living wage in order to be part of them. Sure, maybe some people are attracted to them because of the big bucks they see the top performers get (sports in particular), but the people who really love the fields don’t even care if they got rich off of them, they just want assure they won’t end up unemployed and homeless in the future before pursuing them as a career.

Take acting, for example. My girlfriend’s brother is doing a master’s program in Theater and wants to be a professional actor. He is well aware that the odds he’ll succeed are slim and that getting a master’s degree is going to saddle him with a lot of debt for a skill that’s not very marketable. It’s a gamble, but he does it because he loves acting. Not that he wouldn’t want the big bucks, but I’m sure he’d jump at the opportunity to make a living wage at it instead. The point is being able to do what he loves for a living, not getting rich and famous. If there were some way he could act professionally that just paid the bills he would be happy to take it.

I think there is such a way.

By the nature of HRHR careers, a few people get tons of reward and the rest get nothing or next to nothing. But, what if there were a way to spread that reward around, and therefore, the risk? What I’m talking about is a sort of HRHR insurance, though it would function more by means of a contractual vehicle between professionals than from a payment premiums in the event of disaster like most insurance. People who aren’t yet making the big bucks can’t, after all, pay premiums. The way it would work is a certain number of HRHR professionals get together and agree to pay a certain percentage of their earnings for a certain period of time (the agreement could last for life, but I think that’s a bit much) into a trust fund in the event they are successful. This trust fund, then is used to supplement the incomes of the rest of the parties to the agreement whose incomes are below a certain threshold so that they may pursue the work they want without having to worry about whether it pays enough for them to survive.

The underlying logic of this is that the odds that any given one of them will succeed are low, but get a big enough group together and the odds that someone in that group will succeed become quite high. For example, if you get 1,000 serious (as discussed below, strict screening with a high bar will probably be necessary for this to work), professional actors together, the odds that any given one of them picked at random will become a famous celeb and make millions a picture are low, but the odds that someone in the group will become a famous celeb making millions are quite high. It will certainly take some math and careful planning to figure out a feasible number with an appropriate standard, but as the group gets bigger there will be a sweet spot where it is big enough that success is all but guaranteed for at least one person in the group. And if more are successful, that’s all the better.

The real question, then, is whether the size of that group will be small enough that the people who do become highly successful will make enough to support the rest of the group. This is why screening is so important. The group itself must ensure that its size does not get so large that the potential payout makes it no longer worth it. Therefore, the group must screen applicants for quality and seriousness to ensure they actually have a halfway decent shot of succeeding, which may entail some very stiff competition. There is still no absolute guarantee anyone will succeed, but even if the group must be kept to a size to make the potential payout worthwhile, and that only gives them a 1 in 3 shot of someone in the group succeeding, that’s still far better than the 1 in a 1,000 or more odds they would get on their own.

Screening also goes to the issue of motivation. The problem is you might get some people who try to get on board one of these with no intent to truly try, but simply to collect the check when one of the others becomes successful. Screening these sorts out is, of course, no easy task, but it should be possible to limit these sorts enough to make whole project tenable. After all, most of the people who go into HRHR professions do so out of a passion for the field. How many artists or actors or famous musicians are simply in it for the money? If that was all they wanted they would be far better off going into investment banking.

So yes, even with something like this in place, HRHR occupations will probably still have some risk to them. The point isn’t to make this sort of thing risk free. No career is. Plenty of people go to med school and don’t become the type (or any type) of doctor they wanted to be. The point is to make it a reasonable level of risk. Functionally, it’s not much different than 100 people buying 100 lotto tickets and agreeing to split the jackpot. They increase their odds of success 100 fold while still expending the same amount of money and incurring the same level of risk. The idea is that they are willing to exchange some of the potential reward for getting better odds because they view the reduced reward as still worth it. Really, it’s a balancing act. They’re trading excess potential reward to improve the horribly low odds.

The beauty of these sorts of agreements is they cost people nothing extra on the front end to sign up. For HRHR pros, if none of them succeed they have spent nothing other than the time and effort of trying to succeed in such a career, something they would have expended anyways trying to become an HRHR pro. But there’s a good chance one of them will succeed and they’ll all get a moderate payout for doing what they love, which hopefully will allow them to continue doing what they love.

 

How to Get Your Employer to Pay for Your Electricity Bill

640px-Gluehlampe_01_KMJIn 2012, the average American household used 10,837 kWh, this according to the good folks at the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This equates to about 29.69 kWh per day. As anyone who has looked at their electricity bill lately can tell you, that’s a hell of a lot of juice to be paying full sticker for. Fortunately, there’s a simple, cheap alternative to obtaining your energy the old-fashioned, “on the grid” way. What, pray tell, is it? You get your sap of an employer to provide it, of course! It’s quick, easy and quasi-legal. Have I piqued your interest? Then read on!

Roughly speaking, a good car battery will get you about 100 amp-hours. This equates to about 1,000 watt hours, which, in other words, is 1 kWh. Like I said, this is a rough estimate, but given this information, the average American should be able to power their entire house for a day with 30 fully charged car batteries.

All you need is a place to charge ‘em.

As luck would have  it, most of us have access to an easy, free source of nearly limitless power. What is that? Why your employer, of course!

As I discovered a couple years ago, it is illegal to run an extension cord to an outlet in your neighbor’s backyard to power your house. The Dictionary Dan’s over at the District Attorney’s office call it “stealing.” Now, while it may be illegal to steal power from your neighbor, there is no rule against charging your batteries at work. At least not any place I’ve ever worked that was unaware of what I was doing. Never mind that most employers think of charging batteries as a cell phone or two. The point is it’s the best kind of legal: technically.

Now, I know what you’re going to say next: “Woah, woah, woah mister. Even if that does work and isn’t technically against the law, 30 batteries is a heckuva lot of car batteries!” Sure. I agree. 30 is a lot of car batteries. Carrying 30 car batteries to work would be a bit onerous, but who says it has to be 30? First, 29.69 kWh is for the average American household who does nothing to cut their energy consumption. If you’re running off battery power, you’re going to be significantly more energy conscious than the average American. You’ll turn off lights. You’ll buy energy efficient appliances. You’ll line dry your clothes. Just making some little changes like those to your consumption habits could easily bring you down to 20 kWh (or even lower). Moreover, that number is for an average sized family. If your home, apartment or shelter has fewer people living in it, chances are you use significantly less energy already.

Secondly, there are certain things that need to stay on even when you’re away from the house, like the fridge. Those things must stay on the grid and don’t need to be factored into your energy usage. If you really wanted to you could create a second rotation of batteries that stay home with you during the day, but for me leaving the fridge plugged in works fine.

So now we’ll say that you need about 16 kWh. 16 car batteries still sounds like a lot, of course, but keep in mind you don’t have to take all of them yourself. You and your life partner could split it eight and eight, and if you’re single you probably don’t need as much power anyways. Now eight car batteries doesn’t sound so bad does it? That’s getting down to a manageable size that could be fit in a single duffel bag you can keep under your desk or tucked away next to an outlet in the break room.

Of course, there’s still one teensy problem. How do you get 16 car batteries? They don’t just grow on trees. Well, there’s no easy answer to that, but keep in mind this isn’t spending, it’s investment. Those batteries will pay for themselves quickly. A new set would likely set you back in the $1,000-2,000 range, but that should last you for years before you need a new set. How much would you be willing to pay to get most of your energy bill paid by someone else for three or four years? I know I’d jump at the chance to do it for $1,000. Keep in mind, there might also be other, cheaper alternatives, too. You might be able to take them out of cars at the junk yard, or perhaps you could build your own batteries, like Walter White? Or hell, maybe you know some sort of dirt cheap battery source I’m not thinking of. The world is your oyster! All that matters is you plug in at work. And hey, maybe next you can save on your gas bill with all your boss’s hot air, am I right?1

The Tipping System is an Asshole Subsidy

I am a good tipper. I generally tip around 25% regardless of the quality of service. Only on rare occasions of exceptionally bad service have I tipped less, and even then it’s usually 15%. Never have I not tipped. This is all to say one thing: I am a sucker. I am doing my part to perpetuate a system that, in essence, exploits nice people like me. I am helping to ensure that all the douches, the self-righteous pricks and the cheapskates of America continue to have their meals partially paid for by the more generous. Well I for one have had enough. I say it’s high time we end tipping by demanding restaurants pay servers what their service is actually worth and letting them adjust their menu prices accordingly.

The main problem with the tipping system is this: it effectively lets generous people subsidize the meals of assholes. How does it do this you ask? Well, at restaurants the meals are priced based on how much it costs to prepare the meal plus a little chunk of profit. Costs to prepare include everything from the cost of food to indirect expenses like rent. A large part of these costs include money paid to servers for their services—or at least it would be if servers’ full wages were paid for directly by the restaurant. The thing is in most American restaurants, where tipping is the norm, servers generally get a small, below-minimum wage salary because it is anticipated that customers will pay them tips for their service which will bring their pay up to something reasonable. The end result of this is that because restaurants don’t have to pay their servers as much, they also don’t need to charge as much for the meals as they would if they paid the entirety of a server’s salary. Simply put, tipping is factored into the price of a meal. So when you don’t pay a tip, you’re effectively not paying for a part of the meal. Of course restaurants themselves don’t care much about this because it all evens out in the end. They just care about the average. However, since I am the rube bringing the average up, I care about this very much because I am effectively subsidizing the low tipper’s meal.

I know, I know. What about when the server deserved a bad tip because they gave bad service? My answer is: so what? The service was rendered. The money should be paid. You don’t pay the slow cashier less than a fast cashier. A secretary’s take home pay for the day doesn’t depend on how thorough her meeting minutes were. It’s not like service quality is just going to fall apart if people can’t tip. If that were true this whole country would fall apart because most people don’t work on tips. Employers can still discipline underperforming employees, as is the case in the vast majority of occupations. If a server doesn’t do the job to their employer’s standard, they should be fired. Simple as that. It is not the customer’s place to be judging the quality of service. It’s an inherent conflict of interest when the person judging performance also stands to benefit financially if they give a negative review. How would you feel if your boss, in negatively assessing your performance, were allowed to dock your pay and then pocket that docked pay for himself? Does that sound like a fair system?

In any case, most people don’t tip based on the quality of the service. They tip based on the type of person they are. My cheapskate friends will usually still tip like shit when they get good service and then use bad service as an excuse to tip poorly. Servers know this and know in most cases that going the extra mile isn’t going to get them anything extra. Sure, there are times when I’ve seen friends leave an uncharacteristically good or bad tip because the service was exceptional or terrible—I’ve done this myself—but those are rare cases, few and far between and not frequent enough to shape server behavior or be worth the cost of subsidizing dicks.

I realize tipping is a cultural thing and unlikely to end any time soon given the large quantity of assholes benefitting from it, particularly not from one post on a poorly read blog. But still, screw tipping. I’ll keep on doing it until restaurants start paying their servers a flat rate because I don’t think the servers should be punished for a crappy system (and seriously, if you’re one of those pricks who leaves a card about how you’re against tipping as a tip, you’re pretty much what’s wrong with humanity), but I’m not going to be happy about it.