Personal Branding

There’s a fine line between actively building a strong personal brand, and coming across as a self-centered jerk. Learning to control your personal brand in a positive way is an absolutely necessary skill to have in today’s job market.

The world we live in today is fundamentally different than our parents. The internet has changed everything. When our parents first entered the job market, their degree was the signal for employers. At the time, that showed employers this person has skills and can add value to my company.

It’s not like this anymore. A degree is no longer a signal of competence. There is a market gap between the skills and abilities employers need, and what college teaches students. Students simply aren’t learning things that will make employers value them.

This means as young professionals, we need to find another signal. Many propose going to school for another four years to receive a graduate degree. The claim is that then the employer will know how great you are and you will be prepared to make a big splash in the job market.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If this is the road you follow, chances are the only difference after that extra four years will be double the debt. Is all sense of security lost? Are young people doomed to completing school and working at Starbucks for forever?

I’m actually very optimistic about this subject. What has happened to the degree is wonderful. It means we don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money and waste four years for virtually no reason. It allows us to gain control of our lives again. The only person responsible for building your credibility is you.

I’m far more comfortable knowing I need to actively work to create value than I am with accepting that I need to spend $100,000 and four years to get an entry level position.

My age group is faced with a curse. The label of the “student.” No one works to create a brand. No one thinks they need to. All they are is a student and thus have four years before they even need to think about their future. Start today.

This afternoon I’m giving a talk to a group of high schoolers in Pittsburgh. I want to pitch them on Praxis and gain leads but I also want to inspire them to start building a brand. It’s so easy to start. After the talk, the entire class could go home and build their own personal website in under two hours.

In order to own your career, you have to accept responsibility for it. Don’t hide behind another signal. Make who you are valuable based on what you bring to the table, your abilities, and accomplishments.

Quick Change

It’s somewhat incredible how fast our lives can change. The difference between this time last year and now is incredible. I didn’t even know what my plans for the following Fall were. Now I live in a completely new place, over 1,000 miles from home. I have new friends, a new network, new skills and new experiences.

It seems like this could be overwhelming. It’s been tough at times but I love my life. A regular week in my life is filled with challenges, fun, and responsibility. I feel like I’ve grown up 5 years in just a few months. One of the biggest differences is my mindset.

A year ago, I considered myself a teenager and a student. I didn’t know what I wanted for my next year, my future, and I didn’t really even know what I was interested in. I didn’t feel a huge pressure to know exactly what I wanted to do. Again, I saw myself as a student and assumed I would be for the next 5 years.

Now I take my career, interests, and skills very seriously. I work every day towards a short term professional goal. Less than a year later and I have a very good chance to land an incredible job with a company I love.

My entire life, social group, and work are completely different than last year. I still don’t believe this is the biggest change in my life. The things that have made the biggest difference are my skills and my confidence in those skills.

If you had told me I had to give a presentation for a class of college students 6 months ago, I would freak out. I’d be thinking about it for weeks. It probably wouldn’t go very well and I would have gone at least two weeks without a good nights sleep.

Now, I have at least one of those talks every week. The difference is that it’s not scary. I’m actually itching to get out in front of people and give a great speech. I have confidence in my own abilities and that’s helped me love something that used to terrify me.


Thoughts On Morality

Where does morality come from? Is it subjective to our personal beliefs and values? Is it necessary to believe in God to have a set of moral principles? I’ve always been taught a very specific and rigid view on where our morals come from. At first, I was really excited to be learning some different ideas on the subject.

I’ve lost a little bit of interest in the past few days. I settled on the idea that for myself, productivity, creating value, and growing as a person is what I should be focused on. Whether I believe in a God or not that seems to be the most direct path to happiness in this life and also perhaps in the next.

Speech #2

I had the opportunity to give my underage drinking talk for the second time last night. The more I speak the more I love it. Last night was something I have never experienced before. Every time I’ve had a speech they have gotten better. I’m very aware of my improvement and it really excites me.

Last night was beyond that. I’m used to dramatic leaps in improvement. Last night was an even bigger jump. It was like I was a different person than the first time I gave my speech. Absolutely everything about it was different.

First off, there was a larger group this last time. I think this really helped me. It made the discussion more exciting and for some reason, it was more comfortable than a smaller group. I had some technical difficulties before the talk even started. I have six slides for the talk but we couldn’t find the right cable to put the presentation on the big screen.

So instead of trying to show the presentation on my tiny laptop screen, I just decided to do the talk without any slides. This worked out really well for me. It helped me get rid of my fear of mixing up the structure like I did in my first talk.

I was so much more comfortable during this one. It was barely like I was given a speech. In my mind, I was just really excited to tell these students some cool stuff. The discussion was active and very entertaining. I do need to give some credit to my audience. They were fantastic. They were engaged, they laughed at my jokes, I couldn’t call on enough people before more hands shot up.

Getting that energy from the audience fueled me and made it even more exciting! I’ve really never felt that confident in a performance situation. I took piano for 8 years and despite being in countless recitals, I never had an experience like that. It gave me a rush. I was on cloud nine during the entire talk without a hint of insecurity.

After the talk was over I experienced my first post talk high. A friend told me about this the night before right after he gave an excellent speech to a group of kids from Duquesne University. All I wanted to do was run 5 miles or hit 100 mph going down Greentree Rd.

The jump from the last talk to this one was huge. If the first one was a 4, this one was an 8. It worked out great as a solid lead generator as well. I ended up with 5 new Praxis Pittsburgh leads to pursue in the coming weeks and months.

The only bad part of the talk was the fact that it was at 9pm. Of course, you would only find this on a college campus. We didn’t even leave the school until about 10:30. So I get home at 10:45 at night and I’m bouncing all over the house. I can’t calm down. I want to tell everyone about my awesome experience but everyone is asleep. I usually go to sleep at 11 or 11:30. Not kidding last night I didn’t even turn out my light until 3:45 in the morning.

Things I Learned From My First Solo Speech

I’m giving two speeches about the dangers of the underage drinking age this week. Both are in front of college classes of about 10-15 people. Last night I did the first one for Carnegie Mellon’s Young Americans for Liberty. Overall it was a lot of fun and a great discussion.

There are still quite a few things I want to do differently on Wednesday when I speak at The University of Pittsburgh. I need to clean up my delivery as a start. I skipped a section here and there, and overall the organization just wasn’t as solid as when I ran through it at home.

I want to address a common objection to my argument at the very beginning. I want it to be out in the open so I can immediately get it out of people’s minds. Other than a few basic ticks and quirks, most of the changes I want to make for Wednesday can be fixed with strong preparation.

When I was practicing before the speech, I had an experienced public speaker listen to me and give feedback. His very first comment was that I say um far too often. It took a couple tries but after a few minutes, I had gotten rid of every single one. At first, thinking about the ums made it worse. I was working too hard to get rid of them so when I did let one slip out, I was very thrown off. Just doing it a few times while thinking about the ums” in the back of my head slowly made them go away.

Too bad during my talk, they came back. I made the mistake of thinking that if I can do it in practice, it will carry over to my performance. I didn’t think about the ums once during my talk. Afterwards I was shocked to hear that throughout the course of the entire speech I said um nearly two dozen times.

I think my speech this Wednesday will be much better. Today and tomorrow I plan on doing some extra research for my talk, rehearsing my intro, and the reviewing the general structure of the talk. I also want to run through it ten times before Wednesday night. By the time I’m actually running through the talk I should have the structure down. My goal is to be so comfortable with the talk and subject matter that I can focus all my attention on things like cadence and body language.

Overall my first speech was a very good experience. It showed me a few of my weaknesses and it gave me confidence going forward. I wasn’t ever very nervous which actually surprised me. I feel like my main problem was just letting it happen without consciously thinking about exactly what I want to convey in each section of the talk.

Aside from the technicalities of how I could have improved I really enjoyed the talk. The Q/A was great fun and it started a lively discussion. I would like to get very good at this. I had virtually no experience in public speaking before the Praxis program. I’ve only had a few chances ever since starting but each time my improvement has been exponential.

I have some great opportunities to pitch Praxis to different groups in the coming weeks and months. I plan on blogging about each experience on here that night or the day after. I’m excited to see how much better I get within the next two months. I will let everyone know how it goes on Wednesday!

Earning Credibility With Your Audience

Tonight I missed a great opportunity to establish myself as an expert on the subject I spoke on. I spoke to the Young Americans for Liberty at Carnegie Mellon University. The talk was based on my article about underage drinking that was published on just a few months ago.

If there was one problem with my talk it was that I didn’t strongly establish why these people in front of me should even be listening. This is the most fundamental step in delivering a successful speech or presentation. There were several powerful techniques I could have used to make my points stronger.

The problem is that when you hear me arguing for the lowering of the drinking age, it’s very easy to dismiss me as just a kid that wants to get wasted. To avoid letting my audience think this I need to show them the real reason I’m arguing this position and what gives me the credibility to do so.

When I wrote my underage drinking article it took off pretty quickly. It sparked somewhat of a national discussion on the subject. That gives me a pretty solid voice on the subject. It’s also helpful to address any potential issues up front so you control their outcomes.

If I was actively trying to establish credibility I would have started out with the fact that I based the talk off of the Vox article I wrote. After that, it would be effective to address their potential objections right off the bat. Something like, “hey, so why should you kids listen to me right? The most argument against my case is that I’m just a young kid that wants to get wasted.”

After this, I should reinforce that while I do indeed believe it is a right of 18-year-olds to have a cocktail after work, the real reason I’m writing is to bring awareness to the risks out there for young people. This takes that possible hesitation in the back of their mind and it puts it in the palm of my hand. It’s also a very effective way to present precisely what my argument is.


Hayek on Social Injustice

I don’t believe social justice is moral. Today I was watching a video about Frederick Hayek’s view on the subject. He takes the anti-social justice case a step further than I do. He makes the claim that even the term social justice is irrational.

He uses the example of a family to help illustrate his point. Let’s say there is a family with one daughter and two sons. That daughter gets $100 a month for allowance and the biggest room in the house. The two boys only get $20 a month and are both cramped into a small room. Most would say that in this case, the father is a being unfair and immoral.

This is different from how inequality or unfairness works in a society. In society, someone’s income or value is decided by the collaboration of hundreds and thousands of different people and voices. In the real world, there isn’t one single person deciding the distribution of wealth.

Hayek claims this is the key reason for why social justice doesn’t make sense. For something to be just or unjust, it must be governed by a moral agent. In the case of the family, there was a moral agent, the dad on his own decided the distribution of wealth.

There isn’t one person deciding that in the economy. The distribution of wealth isn’t unjust or just, it’s illogical for it to be. The distribution is exactly how it should be according to the natural voice of the market.

Happiness: Hedonism vs. Flourishing

What do we think of when we think of happiness? In today’s culture, we tend to think of happiness as an emotion. I’d like to argue that it isn’t. It’s not the feeling you get from a beer buzz, good food, or drugs. Happiness is actually a state of being.

Aristotle describes happiness as flourishing. He says to be in a state of flourishment means if you died today, could you look at your world from 30,000 feet in the air and say yes, I had a good life. Now when I first heard about this I made the mistake of thinking okay so you reach the state of flourishment and then what? What do you have to work towards after that?

Flourishment isn’t one single point that you reach. It’s not even a state of mind. That implies that it’s mixed in with emotions and feelings. It’s a state of being. It is the constant state of arranging your life towards a specific end.

When Aristotle talks about happiness he says it starts with flourishing. Flourishing is to find exactly what it is that brings you fulfillment. This is where it gets complicated. I don’t even know exactly what it is that brings me fulfillment. I know I feel confident and satisfied with myself when I write an impressive article. Maybe when I complete a valuable project at work. I believe that is what I will look back on at the end of my life and be proud of.

On the other side, I also get pleasure from nicotine, sexual activities, and a glass of whiskey. That is the base pleasure side of happiness. It’s also what I would describe as the hedonistic side of Nick Tucker. I do believe it brings me that pleasurable feeling but if I look at one of those specific actions when I’m dead am I going to be glad I did it? Probably not, because it doesn’t stay. It’s a feeling and it goes away.

This is the difference between Hedonists and Aristotelians. Hedonists have the basic premise of what happiness is incorrect. It isn’t the constant pursuit of pleasurable feelings such as good food, sex, and drink. Happiness begins with flourishment or fulfillment. The way Aristotle describes it as the thing you will look back on and be proud of is the clearest way to make the distinction between the Hedonistic approach to happiness and the Aristotelian.

The Harm Principle

Today I watched a short video that explained John Stuart Mill’s harm principle. The principle says that no one can stop another person from doing something unless it hurts someone else. A person’s own good is not enough of a reason to restrict his action. This principle was apparently an important part of creating laws but clearly our judicial system doesn’t stick to it entirely.

This seems like a principle most people would agree with right? Unless what someone is doing is going to hurt someone else, stay out of it. That sounds like a nice normal place to live. From what I’ve seen, people don’t generally agree with this.

The average person doesn’t believe someone should have the right to weigh out the possible positives and negatives of an action. This is applicable in the drug war. Most people don’t believe if someone wants to use Methanfetomene they have that right.

But if they don’t have the right to choose their own fate and decisions, why should someone else? The principle stands firm in saying that even if there is potential harm, it is wrong to stop them.

I’m considered an adult. I work, pay bills, and live on my own. I’m not allowed to act like an adult in one single way. I’m not allowed to drink. Not in a bar, my house, a restaurant, nowhere. People don’t believe I have the right to choose what I believe to be a reasonable cost for what I’m receiving.

While the drinking age may indeed be in place to protect people 18-21, that does not give the government a right to force me to abstain from any alcohol. The fact that drinking has negative consequences for your health, especially when underage, is not a good enough reason to take away someone’s natural born right to do as they please as long as it isn’t putting anyone else at risk.


Why People Hate Trump

A couple days ago I was talking with a friend about the presidential campaign. It started because I had finally seen one too many Facebook posts about how everyone has to vote for anyone but Trump to stop him. I said I didn’t think Cruz, Rubio, or Carson would be better and that the only reason everyone is for them and against Trump is because of their image.

This isn’t abnormal. People don’t vote according to policy and instead, only pay attention to their brand. When it comes to most policies that candidates focus on, especially foreign policy, Trump is far less authoritarian and dangerous. But, that doesn’t matter because he acts like a jerk on stage. That’s what people see and care about.

In the end, people are voting for a few basic ideas or phrases. These points aren’t necessarily accurate at all. An average description of Trump might be businessman, racist, and loudmouth or obscene. For Carson, smart, humble, surgeon, and quiet. Cruz could be a politician, Z0diac Killer (look it up), and Republican.

People aren’t really thinking about what a candidate intends to do if he reaches office. They are thinking about the image their candidate shows and the message that it sends about them.

Don’t start thinking this is the fault of the voter. It’s an inevitable truth of the political world. A lecture in the Praxis Philosophy module helped me fully wrap my head around this topic. The lecture explained the general irrationality of politics and the myth of the rational voter.

So why are people politically ignorant? The problem can be broken down into three distinct premises.

  • Political information is costly. It takes a lot of work to become well informed. You have to watch debates, read policy plans, learn about each candidate and so on.
  • People accept costs only when the expected rewards exceeds the costs. This is a basic principle of human action and the foundation for all free market trade.
  • The expected rewards of political information are negligible. Voters realize their probability of influencing public policy is virtually zero.

So do people bash Trump unfairly? Are “traditional politicians” like Rubio and Cruz praised for the wrong reasons? Well sure you could say they are but it’s the most rational thing for the voter to do. The average voter has nothing to gain from becoming well informed and thus it would be irrational for him to make his choice of candidate according to anything other than his candidate’s basic image.

I knew politics was a little goofy but this took my opinion to another level. It really is basically reality tv. I might say it’s a very slight step above Jersey Shore but not much. If in the end everyone is just voting for the guy that has the image they most agree with how can we take it seriously? How can we take the president seriously? We can’t. We are fed this garbage and told it’s the most important thing going on around us at the time. It isn’t. Find something real to care about, or at least, accept that it’s the equivalent of caring who gets knocked off of the bachelor this week.