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Human Energy Is Conserved

October 19, 2011
Every person has a limited amount of time and energy, as well as the ability to choose how to spend it. At every moment of our conscious lives, we are making decisions about how to invest our time and effort - how to spend our "human energy." We do this either explicitly, by consciously making a decision to change the course of our action, or else implicitly, by not choosing to change the course of our action. For example, right now I can either choose to continue typing this post, or decide that it is not worth my time and instead go read a book or work out. Likewise, I can choose at anytime (explicitly) to quit my job and move to a new city, or else (implicitly, i.e. by not making that choice), to continue in my current employment and residence. Obviously there are influences swaying our decisions, making one path simpler or another more difficult; but in light of those factors, the decision is always ours to make.

While it is certainly possible to spend your time and effort poorly, or inefficiently, let's ignore that possibility for a moment and first consider two people - two girls - that both spend their time and effort well, but differently. Girl A learns at an early age that her beauty and presentation matter, and out of the 60 hours a week she has free from school and sleep, puts ten hours into improving her look, while the rest goes to other typical activities. Girl B, on the other hand, is taught at an early age that her intelligence and education matter. She takes this to heart, and out of the same 60 hours a week, spends ten on homework and reading (over and above what Girl A and other typical students spend on homework and reading). The rest she puts towards other activities just like Girl A. So we have two girls, the same in all respects, except in their decision about how to spend those ten hours each week. Assume also that they are about the same in their natural intelligence and appearance.

You can be sure that by the time the girls reach the age of 18, Girl A will be getting a lot more attention from guys, while Girl B will be a lot smarter. You can also be sure that Girl B will probably be a failure with men, while Girl A will probably be stupid. Now, contrast them both with Girl C, who (ceteris paribus) spends those ten hours being lazy. I don't mean that she literally sits down and does nothing for ten hours a week, but those hours are distributed among the same daily tasks that the other girls do, because Girl C chooses to do them slowly, or she has to repeat them because she does them poorly. You can be almost sure that when she turns 18 she will be both a failure with men and stupid.

While I am sure you have your opinion about who is making the "right choice," that opinion is mostly immaterial to the point I am trying to make, which is that every person who spends their time efficiently has something to show for it. This is true in general - not just for women, and not just in terms of beauty and intelligence. For example, Guy A decided to spend his time practicing golf and is now semi-pro, while Guy B fostered his musical talent and started a successful band - or even Guy C, who has spent all of his free time just hanging out with his friends. While he doesn't have a talent in the traditional sense to show for it, he has strong friendships and will have good memories.

I think all of us recognize this phenomenon to one extent or another, intuitively. It was confirmed in my mind recently while driving past a small church in a tiny Italian village with my coworker. Sitting on a bench in front of the old church wall were several old men, in sweaters, caps and tweed jackets, just hanging out and talking among themselves. When we drove back past that same church a few hours later on our return trip, the same men were sitting there as if only a few minutes had passed. And from the nonchalance of their collective demeanor, it was clear that this was a typical occurrence, probably even something they did daily. I snapped this photo as we passed the second time:


The scene made me think that it is a shame that men in America don't do the same thing. It is incredibly rare to see old men with friendships so strong that they look forward to simply sitting together in the afternoons, talking and watching the world go by. If we, as a culture, set aside the time to do that each day, think how much stronger our social lives would be.

But then I immediately wondered "why don't we do that?" The answer was obvious: we don't do that because we don't have the time for it. That is, we don't choose to make the time for it. We spend it instead on enterprise or personal fitness. We work longer hours, get more accomplished, get to the gym and are probably in better shape. The Italians (and I don't think this is restricted to men) might have stronger relationships, but look at their economy - it is a mess; and it is a mess because they've chosen to sacrifice the hours that could be spent on industry or commerce on sitting outside the church each afternoon, or on longer (arguably better) meals, or (clearly better) fashion.

Again, my point is not to praise or criticize the Italians, or the Americans. The point is that different investments of human energy produce different results. Like all forms of energy, human energy is conserved. As long as it is spent efficiently, you will have something to show for it, even if what you have to show is not the most obvious thing in the world. The Italians have strong social fabric, great food and beautiful people; we as Americans have a strong economy and great achievements in sports and technology. Guy A is winning a big golf tournament this weekend, Guy B is about to release his first record and Guy C will have a huge attendance at his funeral and an amazing photo album. Each person has something different to show for their efforts.

So back to Girl A and Girl B. I suspect many of the girls reading this blog are closer to Girl B than A, which (partially) explains the emphasis I've placed on appearance in some posts. Your intelligence does not mean you are "deeper" or "better" than Girl A. Nor is Girl A better than you because she is hotter, or has perfect hair, or a great figure. It just means that while you were hitting the books, she was hitting the gym. In fact, the best investment of time and energy for a woman is one that cultivates intelligence and appearance, among a number of other life skills. If you actually are Girl B then you better get to the gym and the mall immediately and learn what "fit" means (for your clothes and your body). And if you actually are Girl A, you better spend some time at the library, learn how to stop saying "like" all the time and start thinking before you speak - and and get curious about life. (If you are Girl C, just give up, because you... oh, never mind, you already have.)

But perhaps more importantly, and at the risk of sounding really gay, the implication is that everyone has something to offer. As long as you haven't been sitting on your ass or living a repetitious life, or keeping yourself in a vacuum, your time and effort have yielded some form of knowledge, personality, or skills that are attractive to at least some men. I am not saying that some investments aren't more likely to score you a higher percentage of guys than others; but whatever your choices have been in life, you have something to show for it if you haven't been lazy. Learn how to make that "something" more evident to the men that will value it, or else convert it into something that the men you want will value. Then re-focus your energy on the areas of your life you've neglected while you've been spending so much of it elsewhere.

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