Virtues before Vices

set of weights

I have a friend who’s a Gamer (video games, not the other kind), and he recently asked, “How do you have time to write, go to the gym, and play video games?  Don’t you work?”

“I dunno,” I told him.  “If it’s important enough, you just find the time.”

Now that I’ve had more time to mull it over, I think a more accurate answer would be: “You make time according to how important it is to you.”

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HILP yourself!

tsunami warning sign

There’s a concept I like to call HILP (High Impact Low Probability).

I consider an event or activity to be HILP when it has the potential to drastically alter your life, but whose chances of occurring are exceedingly rare.  In other words: High Impact, Low Probability.

An example of a positive hilp is, say, becoming an overnight millionaire from some phone app you created a la “Flappy Bird.”  It’s a life-changing event, but not one you can count on.

An example of a negative hilp might be having your business wiped out by the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis. Again, transformative in scale, while being rare and unpredictable.

I can think of at least 2 applications for this concept:

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Some people scoff at self-help, associating it with fake optimism and mental horn-tooting.  I get it.  I know it’s not possible to always feel happy, present, and fulfilled; to never feel tired, jealous, or afraid.

But for those who would find it altogether risible, I would ask them not to dismiss the forest because of a few rotten trees.  Just because Isaac Newton spent much of his life chasing the philosopher’s stone, doesn’t make bunk the rest of his work on calculus, optics, and gravity.

To me, self-help has never been about earth-shattering discoveries and previously unknown magic-bullets, but rather the gradual accumulation of infinitesimal changes that can transform our lives when viewed as a whole.

I think another reason self-help gets a bad rap is that some of its proponents have a nasty tendency to dismiss others’ claims of disadvantage.  No, poverty is real.  Death is real.  Accidents, disease, and family dysfunction are real.  Self-help should not be a weapon to bludgeon someone into self-blame and censorship; it is simply a tool to improve one’s lot, even if by a little (but sometimes by a lot) despite your starting position.

I once read that Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace both came up with the theory of evolution independently.

They both traveled to exotic places (the Galapagos Islands and the Malay Archipelago, respectively), observed the local species of flora and fauna, and sought to explain the cause of their differences.

The funny thing is that they were both stumped until each read Malthus’ essay on human overpopulation and applied its ideas to the species they were studying.  Many famous biologists have since noted how obvious evolution by natural selection seems and wondered why the theory took so long to formulate.

Can you imagine?  All because of some paper they read.

How many ideas have you come up with, dear reader, because of some random article you read, or some rare conversation you had?  How many stories of mythology were heard, how many interactions of schoolchildren were observed, before J. K. Rowling wrote the masterpiece that is Harry Potter?

Good output, it would seem, requires good input, and plenty of it.

Other times, you might have more than enough swimming around inside your head, but you just need time and space to process it, like cream separating from milk.

That’s where those long walks on the beach come in.


Dear Reader,

I just wanted to update you on what I’ve been up to these last 3 months.  A couple of days ago, I finished the much requested “Ocean Girl” chapter.  It was by far the hardest chapter for me to write and I’m happy/relieved to have finally completed it.  That leaves 2 chapters left for the 1st draft of my book.

Stephen King is very big on the notion that good writers must be good readers.  So in that vein, I’d like to share my thoughts on a few books I recently read.

The Dip by Seth Godin – I can’t say it’s a bad book, but I think this might be something you want to check out at the library rather than purchasing.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling – I don’t normally like to read fantasy novels, but WOW, am I glad to have taken a chance with this one!  The Harry Potter series would easily make my top 5 for best fiction I have ever read (especially Book 7).  Ironically, it makes me think of Atlus Shrugged by Ayn Rand simply because they are the exact opposite of each other.  One is all story, the other all style.  I would recommend both.

Fountainhead by Ayn Rand – I’m halfway through this, but I just can’t find the motivation to continue.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I just finished the first of its 5 book “trilogy.”  It’s fun.  And weird.  I like it so far.  I’ll update my opinion once I’m finished.

That’s all for now,


A. T. Bui

A Calloused Face

rough texture

Đẹp Trai Không Bằng Chay Mặt.
Good-looks Don’t Trump a Calloused Face
-Vietnamese (Street) Proverb

I had dinner with a friend last night, a friend who happens to be good-looking, fun, successful, and a massive pimp (or used to be)–sorry ladies, he’s taken.  And we started discussing why some of our mutual friends were successful with women–either happily married or SBC (Single By Choice)–while others were unmarried and SNBC.

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The title to this piece may seem to fly in the face of street sense and even hard-thought wisdom, but allow me to elaborate.

For now, let’s set aside the “Master Your Mind” part of the equation.

Many guys, including those whom I consider to be among my most respected and well-loved friends, readily grasp that getting the girl cannot be had without stepping up. That is to say, they understand you can’t have something for nothing.  You want the princess?  Go become the prince.

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