Essay: We’re All Just Dumb Monkeys

metal monkey statue NY

Human beings are stupid.

Shock and awe, amirite?

Let’s take a few steps back. The other day, I was watching the season premiere of Brain Games (an awesome show you should definitely check out). One thing that stood out to me was an experiment that was conducted on two monkeys. The first monkey was given a task: a researcher hands the monkey a rock, the monkey hands it back, and gets a piece of a cucumber as a reward. There’s another monkey in the cage next to him who’s given the same task, but instead is given a grape as a reward. Everything was good in the hood until that first monkey noticed something was afoot.

Oh you’re just going to give him grapes while I’m just given these wack ass cucumbers?

Well, that first monkey was none to pleased. While he was fine with them initially, he soon began refusing the cucumbers for doing the task. And I mean refused. Homeboy threw it back at the researcher, banged the rock against cage, and even tried reaching for the grapes through the cage.

Anger? Violence? Attempted theft? All just because something is unfair? If you’re good at connecting the dots, you can easily see how this is reflected in our society today.

Here’s another fun fact: We trust those that are genetically closest to us faster than those who are not. This is tied to survival for primates (other creatures too, but let’s stay on topic) and is tribalism at its very essence. This is why family members are (usually) seen as those closest to a person, especially the nuclear family. It’s likely the reason why if someone loses trust in a family member at an early age for whatever reason, they have a very difficult time trusting others overall. Most importantly, though potentially least valid because this is just my opinion, I think this is the basis for discrimination and mistrust at any level. Not the cultural kind we experience today, mind you. I’m talking about the mere existence of them.

It’s a leap, but not an unwarranted one.

Did you know that hunger increases the likelihood of a “fight” reaction during fight or flight responses?

Did you know stress hinders short term memory

Did you know people mirror the behaviors of others for reasons like wanting to be accepted or general kinship?

Did you know our brains constantly creates false leaders for all type of activities so it can be a follower? Even simple ones like walking at a certain speed or standing in a line.

I think most human beings don’t have a fundamental understanding of themselves and why they are the way they are. This hits us at a personal level, as well as society at large. I’m purposely emphasizing the word “understanding.” You can know all the facts you want, but understanding is another story entirely.

Do you understand why we have religion?

Do you understand  why we separate ourselves into races?

Do you understand why human beings have conflict?

Of course there are individual reasons as to why these things happen, but that’s not what I’m asking. Do you understand why these things exist? Do you understand why your brain and body act the way they do? Have you connected the dots? No? Well, congratulations; you’re officially a dumb monkey.

A dumb monkey with potential, at least.

Don’t feel bad; I’m a dumb monkey too. Ooh ooh, aah aah, and all that good stuff.

The only thing that changed with me is I can openly admit I don’t know anything. However, I’m understanding more about life each day. I look at humanity and I’m starting to grasp how we got to this point and why we have the problems we have. We’re too busy being dumb monkeys who think they know more than they actually do. I mean, sure, we invented a slew of cool things like the internet, space shuttles, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

Except that 2014 movie. Much like 9/11, we’ll never forget.

*cough*

Awkward.

…but we can’t seem to move beyond our biological makeup. Realistically, humans have never actually figured out peace no matter how many wars we have. We can’t stop being violent. We still hate. We still discriminate. Not all of us, mind you, and certainly not all to the same degree. But it’s out there.

On the flip side, we have absolutely beautiful things that are bred from the same DNA that willed racism into the world. We have love, happiness, creativity, and more. These are all awesome things, but much like our more unseemly qualities, these are also not constants and everyone experiences these to different degrees. This is all part of being human.  What makes us dumb monkeys is that most of us don’t realize we don’t have to be dumb monkeys.

Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?

The real thing that makes humans special is we have a choice to either follow our DNA or follow that thing in us that makes us more than dumb monkeys – a soul, a conscience, or whatever inadequate word you want to use for the thing that regulates our animalistic urges. People aren’t wantonly discriminating against people who aren’t genetically closest to them. There isn’t true survival of the fittest anymore. We aren’t all getting riled up just because “the man” feeds us cucumbers instead of grapes. However – and this is just my opinion – these things still exist in our DNA. But because our circumstances are different now than they were when we first evolved into homo sapiens, they manifest themselves differently.

Grapes become money.

Genetic proximity becomes racism and nationalism.

Ooh ooh, aah aah?

We apply the modern world to archaic hardware (our DNA) and this is what happens: humans self-throttle their advancement and we play the game of being dumb monkeys. Our software (our minds) have all the potential in the world, but our hardware (DNA) sucks. Imagine running Windows 8 on a computer from 1999. If that was even possible, you’d have to at least turn the display settings down and limit the number of concurrently running programs. It’d be a straight up nightmare.

Imagine all the low definition porn everyone would be watching!

Unlike computers, however, we can operate past beyond hardware. We don’t have to be slaves to our DNA, but I feel it’s not innate in all of use. Some, maybe many of us require a level of understanding to realize all discrimination is the same. Poverty is not a necessity. Freedom is not a privilege. Everyone in this world is just as (un)important as you. You don’t have to be a dumb monkey. You can choose to embrace parts of your humanity, not all of it.

I believe humanity will reach that potential one day. There are a good number of people that already have; the problem is the glut of folk who are straggling behind. Well, it’s not really a problem, right? Maybe we wouldn’t be human anymore if none of us clung to our DNA. Maybe we’d be something entirely different. I mean, can you even imagine a world without conflict? Can you imagine a world without hate? What would love be? What would peace be? Would those words exist?

Perhaps that’s the sacrifice of being human. Maybe negativity is the trade-off for all the positivity we experience. Maybe, the people who show the worst of humanity also involuntarily shine a light on the best of humanity. Maybe there will always be this battle of our physical (dumb monkey) and, for lack of a better word, non-physical (human) selves. Maybe all of our conflicts are a product of an evolution that is no longer taking place at a purely physical level. Maybe we’re done evolving as individuals and we’re now evolving as a collective. Maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing wrong with humanity and we’re all just doing what we’re meant to do, consequences be damned.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just a dumb monkey.

Previously: The Day I Admitted My Feelings for God

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Admitting When You Need a Helping Hand

marsellus wallace

Man oh man, my life is in a big transitional phase, folks. My girlfriend and I did a lot of talking last week and we decided a couple things:

  1. We’re applying for a fiance visa so we can get married next year.
  2. We’re moving the eff out of the US as soon as possible.

Not that I dislike America, but if we can have a life more suitable for us in another country, why not?

The thing with a fiance visa is it can take five to eight months for approval.

Ugh.

Then my girlfriend (and parents) made an excellent point. If our ultimate plan is to move elsewhere and start a life together, why are we going to spend money on separate apartments while we wait up to eight months (if all goes well) for a piece of paper that says we can get married. Wouldn’t it be smarter to save money in the meantime? I’m taking the opportunity to do just that.

In February, I’m going to do something I thought I’d never do in a million years (or however long I’ll be alive): I’m moving back in with my parents.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

As I’ve said before, being a self-earner can be rough. It also didn’t help that I slacked off SIGNIFICANTLY over the last three months while my girlfriend has been here (not that I minded at all). But now it’s time to refocus.

My goal in making money is NOT to be rich. I don’t give a damn about wealth. I care more about living a worry-free life. That’s wealth to me. Is it possible? Yo no se (or ‘I don’t know’ for los Americanos out there). Here’s the thing: for the last three months, I discovered what I want the rest of my life to be. I’m not trying to kill myself and waste life by giving my time to other people/things. I know what my priorities are and they don’t involve fancy cars and designer shoes.

So I’m moving back home and I’ll be moving out as soon as my girl gets her visa. In the meantime, you better believe I’ll be saving money like a madman and using our time apart to earn as much money as possible.

I know this isn’t really a tip or suggestion, but still, it’s a lesson I had to learn. I had to learn to be alright with accepting help from my family to attain a more significant goal. I have a lot of pride and I am more than willing to struggle in order to achieve something on my own merits. That’s stupid and inefficient. My school loans are expensive as hell and paying rent and utilities doesn’t help matters. Sure, I can do it, but it doesn’t get me to my goal any more quickly. It just makes the journey unnecessarily harder.

So let’s be zen about this and take the path of least resistance. My pride is nowhere near as important as my future with my girlfriend/fiance. I don’t know if you can take anything from this post, but if you do, just know that you aren’t the only one who has that pride. Let it go. And once you get that help from someone, do your damnedest to make the most out of the opportunity.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 2)

Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim
Photo Credit: Jeremy Lim

When I first started writing part one of this post, I really had freelance writing in mind. Very limited, right? Especially when writing isn’t where the money is. Not in comparison to other types of freelance gigs anyway. If you’re like me, you probably go for freelance writing gigs because they’re either what you love or what you do best. Maybe both. But it never hurts to have options.

According to Business Insider, these are the top ten highest paying freelance jobs on Elance and oDesk (by hourly rate):

  1. Patent Law ($112.20)
  2. Voice Acting ($72.70)
  3. Ruby Programming ($61.00)
  4. Startup Consulting ($54.00)
  5. Google Website Optimizer ($53.80)
  6. Investment Research ($53.20)
  7. Network Administration ($51.10)
  8. Statistical Analysis ($49.60)
  9. Amazon Web Services ($49.40)
  10. Legal Writing ($49.20)

Glad to see some form of writing made it into the top ten. Some other interesting ones are Database Development ($47.60), User Experience Design ($43.68), and Mobile App Testing ($32.90). I’m personally shooting for some mobile app testing and Ruby programming gigs, though I have to learn more for the latter.

So where do the writers out there stand? Craigslist, Elance, and the glut of content farm organizations would have you believe writing doesn’t pay squat. That’s true for those who are unwilling to dig deeper. That’s what we’ll explore next week. For now, explore other options! I believe everyone should follow their passion if at all possible, but if your goal is to make money, you have multiple paths as a freelancer. For example, my girlfriend’s visa expires in two weeks. I haven’t been on top of my game in terms of generating income while she’s been here so you better believe I’ll be busting my hump to earn as much as I can while I eagerly await her return.

Wish me luck.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 1)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Highs and Lows of Online Freelancing (Part 1)

elance-odesk

Happy post-Thanksgiving! I hope you all enjoyed the time off. I certainly did. Let’s get down to business, shall we?

So if you haven’t already guessed with all the self-earning posts I write, I make a portion of my income from freelance work. There have been times when I’ve told people to give freelancing a shot, especially when they already have a full-time job. It’s more so they can dip their toe in the pool instead of fully diving into these treacherous waters.

Because let’s be real, freelancing, like pimpin’, ain’t easy.

The biggest problem with online freelancing is the level of competition out there. You essentially have 7 billion people who may be looking at the same gig as you. Chances are it’s not that many, but you know what I mean. Because of this, potential employers/clients have the ability to hire those with exceedingly low rates. As an American, that sucks for me. And possibly you depending on what country you’re from.

Here’s the good news: people still pay for quality, something that exists less with cheaper payment. You simply need to get over the hump of building that freelancer resume. For example, I come from an eDiscovery background, but I’m doing mostly freelance writing. When I started, I was relegated to dirt cheap gigs that pretty much weren’t worth the amount of effort I was putting in. Still, I stuck with it and have slowly fleshed out my writing resume in order to open myself up to higher paying opportunities.

Sites like Elance and oDesk are great for beginners, but just know that many folks on there are shooting for rock bottom prices. You have to sift through the noise to get some good gigs, but your best bet is to go with a dual-pronged approach: promote yourself as you hunt for gigs. Let the internet know who you are as a freelancers. Have a personal website. Use social media. Join online communities. Do what you must to raise your stock so you don’t fall prey to the surplus of bottom-feeders out there.

There is a ton to write about freelancing and I plan to do so. Tune in next week; I’ll go into more specifics and a breakdown of the highest and lowest paying types of gigs.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Multiple Revenue Streams

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Multiple Revenue Streams

money tree

During the 33 years of my life, I’ve started more ideas than I can even remember. My first business venture started when I was ten years old. My buddy Ahijah and I began drawing our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics and sold them for a quarter.

Copyright infringement FTW.

Since then, I’ve had more ideas die and go nowhere than I’ve had successes. Many more. Over time, I began realizing what leads to a big part of failure: not embracing pre-existing strengths.

There was a point in my life when I was building websites as a part of a business my buddies and I started up. We got a couple clients, but I was way in over my head because I was learning as we went along. Eventually, I couldn’t fulfill requests and, unsurprisingly, the business died. This trend repeated itself numerous times until I finally broke out of it recently. Why was I trying to learn how to do things myself instead of partnering with people who could compensate for my weaker areas? Why was I even pursuing ideas that didn’t take advantage of my talents?

Every self-earner should be keenly aware of their skills and how to apply them to a money making idea. Sure, enjoyment should go into it as well, but skill is essential. Otherwise, you could easily lose momentum because you’ll eventually reach some hurdle that, for one reason or another, feels too daunting to overcome.

Embrace your strengths and exploit your skill set. If you want the challenge of learning and creating something new, good on you. I’ll worry about that later when I’m more established. For now, I’m just going to continue doing what I do best.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Embracing Your Strengths

My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: NY or Bust

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My girlfriend and I went to Central Park over the weekend and had an awesome time. After we got back home, bellies full from vegetable tikki masala and authentic New York pizza, we wondered what it would cost to live in New York for a while. Not permanently, mind you. Remember, I want to see the world. This would just be a cool start to a journey.

Here’s the thing: New York is expensive. Rent can get as high as nearly three times the national average. That’ll put a damper on a freelance writer/blogger’s wallet pretty quickly. But some people are doing it. Can I do it?

Well… I can, but I need to up my game when it comes to income.

With my previous income, I could easily afford a $3000 apartment. Now? I want to go for something more around $1200-1600. But I can’t do this haphazardly. I need to make sure I have a budget in place – one that still leaves wiggle room for disposable income. One tactic that I was using a few months ago, but have moved away from more recently is tracking how much money I need to make per day in order to hit my financial goals. This is a practice that worked for me exceedingly well when I first began freelancing. Otherwise, I’m fairly horrendous when it comes to budgeting.

The next thing I need to do is have a list of my monthly necessities/bills (Some of these are over-estimated):

  1. Rent ($1600)
  2. School Loans ($1000… sigh)
  3. Internet ($80)
  4. Cell Phone ($50)
  5. Metrocard ($112 30-day unlimited)
  6. Groceries ($200)
  7. Laundry ($50)
  8. Utilities ($100)

So this brings me to a total of $3192. I also want to save $500 a month and have $500 a month for random expenses (not just for going out but also pursuing other business ideas. That brings my final total to $4692. Let’s just round that up to $4200.

This means I have to earn about $157 a day (including weekends). That number doesn’t seem nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I’m going to do more research and return with a tighter estimate, but this seems doable until I feel like moving somewhere else.

Going forward, these posts will be super-focused on getting to that number (we’ll just say $160). Earning that per day as a freelancer will be a challenge for me at first, but I’ll be showing my progress and will be pushing to make this happen as soon as I can.

Stay tuned for more.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Redefining Wealth

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: 10 Steps for the Improvement of Project Execution

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo
Photo Credit: Steven Depolo

If you read my My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: Understanding Theory vs. Executing Steps post, you know I’m currently focused on the theory behind being a self-earner. The principles behind this can be applied to anything, at least in my opinion. These are all lessons I had to learn from either direct experiences or various mentors I’ve had throughout my life (Paul Hollister and Joe Lin).

Let’s talk about execution. I LOVE coming up with new ideas, hence my 100 Days/100 Ideas series. Unfortunately, ideas simply make for nice conversation and cloud talk without actual execution. It’s an obvious notion, but one that many people forget on their path to creating… anything.

My buddy Pat and I have come up with countless ideas that have gone nowhere. This basically happened because we discussed ideas to death rather than actually making moves.

But, Andre, how do I get out of that mentality?

Funny you should ask. It definitely isn’t easy. In fact, I had to go through a ridiculous number of failures before I actually realized this was a huge problem I have. Yes, I said “have.” It’s sort of like alcoholism; you’re never really cured, you just have to keep it in check. So here’s my own 10-step program to help potential self-earners get over the hump of being their own hindrance.

  1. Come to terms with why you aren’t executing your ideas. It’s tough for most people to be self starters for things they don’t like or are afraid to do. This is part of the reason why most jobs have bosses. A self-earner doesn’t have that luxury (or burden, depending on the side of the coin at which you’re looking). As such, this is something that plagues many folks. Some people have a natural ability to overcome this, but that’s certainly not the majority. I mean, if you didn’t have this issue, you probably wouldn’t be reading this post, right?You are not lazy.

    You are not stupid.

    You are simply a human being going against his/her natural instinct to only work when necessary.

    There’s nothing wrong with this. Accept it and embrace it. It’s who many of us are. Realizing this will make your life a hell of a lot easier as we go further.

  2. Take your idea and split it into 10 distinct checkpoints. Now that you have a better grasp on why you don’t execute ideas, let’s make your goal a bit more digestible. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by envisioning your idea as a single daunting task. Thinking of it as a ton of singular tasks is no less intimidating. Get off that train of thought ASAP.Try taking your idea and split it into 10 definable checkpoints. Why ten? Because it’s an easy number on which to latch. These checkpoints should be major milestones that specifically go toward the ultimate completion of a project or idea. Don’t forget to track the completion of these as they will be one of the motivators for your continued persistence.
  3. Prioritize your checkpoints. Some things need to get done before others.Duh.

    Prioritization is essential in execution because it keeps one from being mired in unimportant busy work. This is the same type of busy work that reinforces procrastination tendencies.

  4. Create small executable tasks to accomplish each checkpoint. Remember step two? Yeah, we’re applying that here. Why? Because a checkpoint is useless without executable tasks. These tasks should be small and manageable. A task should not be “sign up for social media sites.” That’s too vague and open for interpretation. Be concise and direct.Sign up for Twitter with X account name.

    Connect Facebook account with WordPress.

    These types of tasks are straightforward and don’t require much thought for completion. Also, they’ll help keep the forward momentum going. Simplicity is the key to increasing the the success of execution!

  5. Prioritize your smaller executable tasks. Notice a trend yet?
  6. Delegate tasks that you find difficulty in executing. Here’s the big reason why I love collaboration: it allows people to strengthen each other. Adding one or more people to a project can be seen as adding potential points of failure. But being the only person means you’re the only point of failure. Unless you’re perfect, this is a horrible model.Strategically work with those who compensate for the areas in which you are weaker. I, for example, am horrible when it comes to my knowledge of YouTube culture, though I want to venture further into it. My girlfriend is much more knowledgeable and has given me advice on how to move forward. Pat and I are separating work based on our respective strengths to accomplish a singular idea. Any areas where we are both weak will be outsourced. If you don’t have the means to outsource or you don’t have a viable partner/volunteer, that idea may not be the right one for you

    At least not right now. Timing is everything.

  7. Assign yourself daily executable work. I’m stealing this one from Tim Ferris. Your mornings should include a set of five or so executable tasks that go toward completing your ultimate goal, but do not take your entire day. This way you can make progress and not fall into procrastination. If you have a huge task that gobbles up all your time, you may lose motivation. And motivation is a precious commodity. It’s the fuel for execution, so don’t waste it.Don’t forget to track your daily tasks, even the ones you don’t complete. This way you will develop metrics on what you are able to successfully accomplish versus your shortcomings. Reevaluate the failures and just figure out how to get them done rather than giving up.
  8. Celebrate the achievement of checkpoints. Getting to a checkpoint is a big deal. It means you’re one major step closer to your ultimate goal. This isn’t just the completion of a task here. As such, you should reward yourself. Sure, the work isn’t totally done and it isn’t a reason to rest on your laurels, but if you don’t reward yourself, the work may become tedious because the actual completion then becomes the reward. That might feel far away. Even if the work itself is rewarding, why even risk discouragement or tedium?Go do something for all your hard work. If you’re collaborating or employing others, celebrate together. You deserve it.
  9. Find ways to efficiently complete repeatable tasks. Tasks that need to be done daily can quickly become rote, especially if they take a long time. Each week, question the efficiency of the completion of those tasks. Can the work be automated or outsourced? Is there a way to complete them in less time without sacrificing quality? This is the perfect time to do some reasearch on the internet and see if there are solutions or processes out there that will help in this endeavor.
  10. Ask yourself, “What could you do differently next time?” You may fail in executing an idea even if you try following these tips. Relax; old habits are hard to break. Just make sure you take something from that failure.What were your successes?

    What caused you to fail?

    What will you do differently next time?

    Be honest with yourself (it’s crazy how many people lie to themselves so their ego feels okay). Also, even if you haven’t failed, you can still take time to reflect and see what adjustments you would make to improve future projects.

Whew! That was a decent amount of information, but give it a shot! They helped me as I mature into a self-earner. I’m not saying this is the be-all, end-all o of advice, but I think it will help many folks that have ideas that never get completed. There will be more lessons in this series so stay tuned!

Peace out, party people.