The Philosophy of the Sword

As a fencer, I find myself deeply rooted in the philosophy of what I am doing when I practice. There is measure, tempo, beat, rhythm, commitment, and balance. There is work, and there is pleasure. There is purpose, and there is recreation. While reading like something written by Lao Tzu, there is a definite wisdom to be had when practicing the Art of Defense, or any martial art; it is the wisdom of perfecting a skill.

In the modern world, we value competence, even when we don’t admit it. When we lack this competence, we look for other values to replace this core one, or come up with alibis for why we can’t become competent. This set of excuses does not work in martial arts, whether in forms, or in competition. This is because when practicing a marital skill, the exact level of competence in the art becomes readily apparent. In fencing, which is marked by speed, grace, precision, and calibration (control of how much power is in a blow) it becomes inescapable.

The sword is a weapon; in fact it was the first weapon that was designed specifically with the purpose of fighting other people. To date, it is the only personal weapon that can be used for no other purpose effectively (with the notable exception of the cutlass, which Americans call a machete when not used in warfare). To the fencer, however, the sword is not just a weapon; it’s a part of their being. To quote Lt. Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation in the episode “Reunion” when introducing his son Alexander to the Bat’leth, a sword unique to that series:

“No, no. Do not think of it as a weapon; make it part of your hand. Part of your arm. Make it part of you.”

This is what every fencer strives for; they seek to make the sword an extension of themselves. Fencer or Fighter becomes an integral part of their identity. This is because they are learning to do something that by its very nature is hard to do. It takes years of practice to perfect the art of defense; and I doubt there are any masters that would state it’s possible. However, in attempting to achieve that perfection, the fencer learns something that many of us have lost:

Perseverance, grit, and the pride of competence.

While I am not suggesting that everyone should go out and learn how to use a sword (although I do encourage you to take up a martial art for at least a year), I would encourage you to think about what such a philosophy of competence could do for your life.

In the meantime, I will continue working toward finding competence in my own art, even during these interesting times.

You Won’t Be for Everyone

As a content creator, you often find that what you produce is something you take great pride in. You live it, you breathe it, and you want your content to not only do well in the marketplace of ideas, but also to be genuinely enjoyed by your readers, viewers, or listeners. Sometimes, however, you run into someone that comes upon your content, and it’s not what they expect. Sometimes it’s because they ran into older content you made that was dynamically different than what you produce now; other times it’s because they were looking for something within your niche, but you didn’t provide them the information they were looking for.

Most people that run into that issue simply scroll on by; they realize this wasn’t what they were looking for, and continue with their lives. Others, on the other hand, decide that they need to let you know. In most cases, that feedback may be due to a genuine misunderstanding of what you were producing; for instance, criticism of an article that explains a procedure, but it’s for a different piece of technology than they were looking for, despite a similar or identical name (look for content on the Legend of Zelda and you’ll find yourself in a mess if you are imprecise in your search terms). Occasionally, you’ll find someone that decides they don’t like the direction your content developed in, and need to voice their opinion on it.

Rule #1: Don’t take it personally. Many people feel the need to express frustration, for any number of reasons, and in all likelihood you aren’t even the source of their underlying frustration. Nod at the comment and continue with your life. If you feel the need to respond, do your best to remain positive; biting remarks, sarcastic retorts, and the like do nothing to help the situation, and frankly make you look bad.

Rule #2: Don’t delete the comment unless it contains objectionable content. By objectionable, I mean the FCC’s definition of the term, OR the term as defined by the Terms of Service for whatever platform you provide content on. This allows people that search your content to know what criticisms you have faced for producing it, so they can provide constructive feedback if such feedback is needed.

Rule #3: Don’t give up. All too often we’ll find these comments inevitably come on the heels of a rough day; this can often rob us of our desire to continue on whatever path we’ve chosen to take. No matter what, you have to shake it off. Don’t let the negative feedback stop you; rather, let it feed your desire to build on what you already have.

Last but not least, while I have mentioned “haters” in the past, it is more often the case that the majority of these comments aren’t coming from true haters. Haters are people that are jealous of what you are doing, and the success you are building on by doing so. You will run into haters as you build yourself up, and you should appreciate every one of them; they tell you you’re succeeding. The majority of the people mentioned as the subject of this article, however, are just people that didn’t click with you. Thank them for their time, and keep on sailing.

It Won’t Be 100%, 100% of the Time

Those who have been following my work for the last two and a half years know that I try my best to put forward a positive attitude. I also encourage everyone that listens to constantly put their best foot forward, and drive themselves to do more, do better, do harder. “Embrace the Grind” and “nil satis, nisi optimum” (Latin for “Nothing but the best is good enough”) have been my mottoes from day one, and I have done my best to always put that foot forward. It may be assumed by many that I live that life 100% of the time.

I don’t. In fact, every day is a struggle to push forward and live that ideal. Life is traumatic by nature, and there is ever more in our lives that adds to that trauma, especially now. Coupled with an ever-growing number of addiction sources, from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, to the ever-growing social media addictions, the need for clout and recognition, and the desire for attention, our emotions are easily swayed by small occurrences that may provide us fame, or infamy. As a content creator, I am not immune to this; in fact it is stock-in-trade in the whole content creation sphere. That said, even though I too must ride the ups and downs of the analytics section of my Channel, and of course this site (when I remember to post /facepalm), I also have to navigate Real Life in a way that allows me to provide for my son.

With all of that on one’s plate, you can imagine that there are the emotional, and spiritual, ups and downs that are inevitable in life. While I am always pushing, and try to be upbeat in my work, it doesn’t mean that I’m always feeling that way. It just means that I know when I have to set those internal feelings aside, and continue grinding. Do I have off days at my day job? Yes. Do I have days where I forget to upload that day’s video? Of course! Do I have days where I am so bogged down at work I can’t focus and have a hard time getting anything accomplished? Hello, executive dysfunction! Does that mean I allow myself to get into a loop and rely on my difficulties as a crutch? Absolutely not.

When you are faced with a difficulty, or you run into a day where you have low energy, go through your mind and try to suss out what might be causing it. Did you drink too much? Eating the wrong things? Perhaps you need more sleep. It could also be external factors, such as concern over family, friends, or current events (especially if you’re hooked into the news cycle these days…).

No matter what the cause is, allow yourself to reset, then go at it again with renewed vigor. You are permitted to retreat, but only if it is strategic, and short lived. Any step back from what you are doing will cause you to lose momentum, so if you are forced to make that call, be willing to push that much harder when you go back to it; because you will have to. Doesn’t matter. Make sure you have your brainspace in order, then hit the grind again like a hammer!

What Really Matters

People often pontificate about “what really matters”. This is often described as interpersonal relationships with family, time with your spouse and children, or letting go and allowing yourself to enjoy life. It’s used in a way that subtly demonizes your efforts to get ahead, become better than you are, and achieve more.

Do not let this happen to you. Of course your family matters, and making sure to spend needed time with your children must be a priority. However, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend all evening with them; in fact, if you do, you’ll actually be hamstringing their own ability to explore their own world and define who they are as a person. Most children feel freer to explore when they are alone, something that becomes the center of most arguments once they reach the dreaded teen years. This is not advocating neglect; there is a balance to be struck. The key is to spend time with your children in meaningful, preferably scheduled, blocks of time, that allow you to focus on them for that time period, and then focus on building your success at other times.

See, children watch. They observe. They’re actually better at observation than most adults give them credit for. A child that watches their parent work toward building a good life for them, will likely seek ways to build their own success. A parent can help build on this by creating and allowing opportunities for the child to be challenged. Sometimes those challenges will result in the child failing; they will need instruction, or encouragement, to make another attempt. Sometimes you will need to show them, others you will need to let them figure it out on their own.

Sometimes, they will get hurt. Pain is something most parents don’t want their children to face, and in many cases will prevent them from doing things that are marginally dangerous in the hope that they can shield them from pain. This point is illustrated most, well, pointedly by Dr. Jordan Peterson’s rule “Don’t bother children while they’re skateboarding.” You must allow children to do things that can get them hurt, while attempting to avoid allowing them to do things that will get them injured. There is a difference.

Hurt is pain, scrapes, cuts, superficial wounds. Most childhood incidents involve hurt, where they come in with a scraped knee, sprained ankle, a cut, a bee sting (assuming they aren’t allergic). They pushed their limits, and they learned where they were. These hurts are often found during normal play that pushes limits such as bike riding, hiking, sports, skateboarding, swinging, monkey bars, nerf gun wars, foam sword fighting (you knew I’d work swords in here somehow), and roughhousing. All of these things are healthy things that push the limits of the child’s abilities.

Injury is when things are a little far. This is when you have to deal with broken bones, concussions, or the like. First, it must be noted that these things will happen. No matter how adverse to pain a child is, or how little they push their limits, they will run into injury at some point. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean the child necessarily did anything over-the-top; a missed landing after a trick that went bad, perhaps an unseen obstacle in the woods; a hole dug by a woodchuck (groundhog for those that don’t live in Vermont). No matter how it happens, that’s when you step in and do what’s needed to patch them up.

These experiences teach children what their limits are, and build the confidence they need to gain their success. In a world without rites of passage, we need to provide children, and adults for that matter, opportunities to push their limits and risk hurting themselves to prove that they can accomplish something hard. For me, it was three years of fencing training and a brutal ten minute test. For you, it might be doing the Spartan challenge. For your children, it might be a kick-flip. In both cases, you’re building on your future success, by building your confidence; and watching your children accomplish something hard, or having them watch you do the same and seeing that they can too, is what will build that confidence.

Because that’s what really matters.

Now Clean Your Other Room

Now that you’ve read my methodology for cleaning your house, so you can wake up in an uncluttered space, let’s talk about the other room that you’ve let become a mess: that’s right, your brain-space. This is the most important place to keep clean yet we spend very little time maintaining it; so much so that I went on an epic rant on the subject. We eat bad foods, don’t get enough sleep, and overindulge in coffee, alcohol, and other substances that don’t do us much good. I’m not throwing shade here–I’m as guilty as you are.

On top of that, the majority of us are infested. That’s right, there’s an infestation in our brains that causes us to doubt, to go down an unhealthy path, to not do what’s best for us. This infestation ebbs and flows, but it’s always with us. What infestation am I speaking of? Brain weasels, of course. The little bastards run around our head and make us second-guess ourselves, question our worth, and overall do less toward our goal because, well, what are the chances we’ll get there anyway?

We have to stop letting brain weasels have their way. We have to focus on improving ourselves and finding the success we deserve, because no one is going to hand it to us. No one can. Fact is, brain weasels encourage you to let life happen to you. They encourage you to slow down, to not put the effort forth. They contribute to executive dysfunction (though they are not, strictly speaking, the cause), getting off task, apathy, lethargy, and in more extreme cases, depression. To make matters worse, brain weasels don’t really exist, in the classical sense. They aren’t a creature that we can medically remove, they can’t be tamed or reasoned with. You can’t play the flute like the pied piper and drive them out. They are the sum of all of our excuses, doubts, and alibis for why we don’t do something.

So the time is now. Now you must go into your head, and every time one of these little bastards comes to the forefront, force yourself to execute the task you were aiming at. Word of warning: it’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be uncomfortable! Comfort is your brain’s way of telling you that you are not putting forth enough effort, or that you have found a place to stagnate in that you believe provides “enough”. It doesn’t matter in what discipline either: hobby, job, game, relationship, life. The problem is, entropy is a thing that exists; the instant you become comfortable and allow yourself to stagnate, that’s when things will begin to decay.

So now it’s up to you to take that next step, and get your shit together! Organize your life, start using a schedule, make ten extra calls today, stock five extra boxes, ramp up your enthusiasm, even or especially if you have to fake it! That’s the only way you are going to produce success, and it’s the first step to you having the life you really deserve.

Clean Your Room

There’s a long way on the road to personal success, and it starts with the first step. Cliched, I know, but work with me here. A person can only be as successful as the set themselves up to be, and the majority of us don’t put any effort into that initial set up. We eat poorly, often dining out more often than we should, or worse, prepackaged foods that have little in the way of nutritional value. We don’t get the sleep we need, and when we do, we’re more tired for it because our bodies aren’t used to it. We indulge in unhealthy habits, like smoking, drinking, late-night snacking (I’ve been, at one point in my life or another, guilty of all three). We don’t exercise. All of these things work against our mental state that would otherwise be pointed on the path to accomplishing our life goals.

What are those goals? Doesn’t matter. Maybe your goal is to make a million dollars; on the other hand, it might be to buy a house. It might be to get your kids through high school, or build a business. For some, like me when I started out, it might be to get off of welfare. The key is to start, and the first step is to clean your room.

I’m serious. Your bedroom, on average, is the room you spend the least amount of time awake in, unless you also use it like an office (guilty). It’s the first room you look at when you wake up, and the last room you look at before you take your rest. If the room is cluttered, or outright messy, it triggers something in your mind that immediately has a negative response. According to Libby Sander, psychologist and assistant professor at the Bond Business School at Bond University, it triggers a low-key fight or flight response, which induces a constant stress on our systems. This stress accumulates with the stresses in other aspects of our lives, which can lead to depression; I’m here to tell you: it’s really hard to be successful when you’re depressed.

So start there. This is your personal space. If you’re a creator that gets inspiration from clutter (uncommon, but it is a thing), do yourself a favor and restrict it to a room reserved to be a studio. Close the door when you’re not using it, and keep the rest of your space clear–so your mind can be too.

If you’re like I used to be, and keep a messy house, it won’t be easy to clean it up, and it won’t happen all at once, so I have an order that I suggest to make your life simpler; it’s how I did it:

Start with your room, cleaning out anything you don’t need, removing garbage or unneeded items and either relocating them or offloading them. Marie Kondo has a whole system when it comes to offloading things you don’t need–go check her out. Oh, and MAKE YOUR BED.

Then move on to the kitchen. Not only does this help with sanitation (and a dirty kitchen quickly smells, and that infects the rest of the house), but a clean kitchen just feels better.

Bathroom is next folks, followed by any other common rooms, such as living room and dining room.

Finally, any other bedrooms that aren’t occupied.

Oh, and if you’re not living alone, as few of us are, make sure the other residents in your home are on board. Not having everyone on the same page will make it feel like an uphill battle, and cause you to want to give up. Don’t.

It might seem hokey, and it’s annoying (trust me, I’m not a fan of spending a Saturday cleaning the house), but you’ll find your state of mind will benefit from a clean living space; and in turn you’ll be able to focus that attention more, on your work and future.

Three Important Skills Gamers Have but Don’t Use

Ten years ago, I worked in a convenience store, barely scraping by.  I used the experience I had gained as a hereditary grocer to move up into management, but overall I was only modestly successful.  I was always profitable; but my ability to manage people was non-existent, despite military-level leadership training. It was because I wasn’t utilizing the skills I had learned as a gamer effectively!  Then, after a 33 hour shift (that’s a single, straight, with no breaks shift, as salaried managers don’t have to be given breaks in some states), I walked into the bank with two days worth of deposits.

Filthy, tired, and staying alert only due to coffee and energy shots, I stood there waiting while the teller processed my deposit.  The Service Manager, who was in charge of the tellers, saw me there and noticed my state. “Julien, are you feeling okay?”

“I have been at work since 6AM yesterday.  Other than that, yeah, I’m fine.”

“6AM yesterday?  Why?”

After explaining the reason for the abnormally long shift (callouts in the Convenience industry inevitably means the manager is working), she offered me an interview for a teller position.  Why? Because she recognized something in me that all gamers have, but few of us utilize. I even outline it below; if you want to skip ahead, it’s #1 in my list.

It’s incredible to me that gamers are a font of untapped potential that even we as a community don’t realize.  We grind, day in and day out, doing something that we love, and yet receiving nothing for it. Why do we continue to pour hours on hours, chasing after loot and in-game currency, while neglecting the opportunities we have to use those skills in our analog lives and make real money too?

The problem is, the majority of us don’t realize the skills we’re developing for the real world by being gamers.  Gamers, on average, have a fast reaction time, rivalling fencers and eastern martial artists in their ability to see and react to incoming information.  This is especially true of those that play first person shooters, although raiders in MMOs often face similar challenges, often having to balance their reaction to incoming information with the situational awareness to make sure they don’t drag incoming damage onto teammates.  Gamers of all walks often have to solve problems, both simple and complex, quickly and with an understanding of the potential consequences of those actions. This is as true to the gamer in D&D as it is a COD player. Calling in a drone or gunship may take out the enemy, but if you also flatten teammates, it was a bad call.

Thus one of the biggest untapped potentials of gamers overall is our ability to manage teams and solve problems.  By developing this skill in the game, we are able to cultivate something extremely useful in the workplace. Here are some other skills that translate well from being a gamer, to being someone valued by an employer:

1) Resiliency

Although all of us are subject to the occasional rage-quit, gamers are amazingly persistent when it comes to accomplishing a task.  This means that no matter how difficult a challenge is, we go out of our way to continue chipping away at it until we taste success.  This is especially true of those of us that have played any of the Dark Souls series to completion, or spent hours on the NES playing the original Ninja Gaiden

We will hammer ourselves against a boss for hours, screaming, cussing, snapping controllers and keyboards, only to replace them and go back and continue fighting.  It is a rare challenge that we face that we won’t eventually go back and hammer at again, and yet few of us take that skill and do the same thing in the real world!  Why? Why not take that skill, that resiliency, and use it to tank the problems in the workplace, figuring out why you can’t overcome the skills gap you need to get that promotion, or sell a product?  It will benefit you in the long run, and your boss will definitely see the pressure you put on the tasks he or she gives you!

This doesn’t mean let your temper get out of control either; only a fool lets their temper overcome them when the time and place don’t warrant it.  If you’re angry, let your boss know why, and what you think it’ll take to fix it. If you’re missing a tool, ask for it. If they can’t give it to you, improvise!  Determine the best course of action and take it! It’s no different than choosing the right weapons, armour and strategy to defeat a boss!

2) Work Well with Strangers

Despite the tendency for gamers to be introverted overall, we work remarkably well with people we have never met, on tasks we have never seen.  This is easily seen at any Con where a group attend a D&D table, or you go to a Smash Bros. tournament and get partnered with someone because you went alone.  This one I can personally speak to; I was partnered randomly with someone at Sogencon for a Smash Bros. tournament, and we fought to the semi-finals having never met each other before through team effort.

This ability to react, adapt, and work well with people you don’t know, and don’t know the capabilities of, is exceptionally useful in the workplace.  It means you can be flexible, cooperate with new people, and manage interpersonal relationships on the fly.

3) Grinding

Stop rolling your eyes, I’m being serious.  Out of all of these skills, grinding is the biggest strength that a gamer can bring to the table of any employer.  Why? Because we keep at a thing until it’s done. While this could be lumped in with “resiliency”, I separate it because while resiliency speaks primarily to completing a singular, difficult task, grinding speaks to doing simple, repetitious tasks, consistently over time, to accomplish a goal.  While IRL this usually translates to something mundane, such as manufacturing, it has other places where it’s useful too, and some of them are lucrative.

Don’t believe me?  Ask anyone in insurance sales how many calls they have to make in a day.  Ask the delivery person how many boxes or bottles they throw. Ask the IT HelpDesk specialist how many low-level problems they solve for their coworkers.  This simple act of grinding is perhaps the greatest strength of gamers that we don’t take advantage of. We can grind out anything we put our minds to–we just have to take the time to buckle down and do the work.

This applies especially to people who play MMOs.  If you can grind for hours and hours in Entropia Universe or World of Warcraft, you can surely grind for hours at a job that actually is going to do you some good.  And this isn’t to say you can’t make money off being a gamer; but the grind to be a professional gamer is even harder than it is to grind away at a regular job, put the money you don’t need right away into an investment, and learn to spend your gaming time knowing that you don’t have to worry about money, rather than using it to escape financial woes.

And what results will we get from doing this?  Your life will be more fulfilled, you’ll enjoy your time gaming far more (as your stress will inevitably be lower), and you’ll never have to worry if buying a new release means a larger credit card payment.  We have some of the most desirable skills on the market, and as a community we don’t use them effectively!

Call to Action

I want you to take ten minutes, since you’ve come this far, and write down three things you have learned by being a gamer, and how they might benefit you in the real world.  Or you can go on Twitter and Tweet me, @julienmcbain, what just one is, and how you plan to use it.  You are the Scions of the modern age, and it’s time we took our place at the top of the world!  I’m going there. Will you be joining me?

If you like this article, make sure you subscribe to my YouTube Channel, so you can watch my McBain Moments every Tuesday and Friday, along with my gaming content.

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The New Colonist

Your first few days living on Calypso, or really any planet in Entropia Universe, can be both rewarding and overwhelming!  The platform has limitless potential, and often has thousands of players running around, hunting, mining, crafting, and talking to each other using one of the various chat options that MindArk has provided us to use.  In order to keep it all straight, and not get in over your head too quickly, keep the following things in mind:

1) Use the Starting Missions to your Advantage

There is a mission chain provided to you right when you get out of the starting zone, that takes you around a large part of the area to the East of Port Atlantis, and eventually takes you to the great harbor itself!  Not only do you familiarize yourself with the area, which is important for when you start to hunt and mine, but it also gives you the opportunity to gain skills and figure out the controls. Mission rewards, often in the form of ammo, is a bonus that provides you with the seed to start really developing your avatar!

2) When You Get to Camp Icarus, Talk to Alex Bukin

Alex Bukin has a mission chain for one of the best in-game starter weapons you can get: Bukin’s Spare Rifle.  Although slightly less powerful than the Onyxo you can buy at the Trade Terminal, it is Unlimited, and thus can be repaired and reused a limitless number of times!  Additionally, its ammo burn is lower and durability is slightly better than the Onyxo, making for more efficient hunting, especially if you amp it with a B101 that drops off of a lot of low-level mobs!  There is also a mission chain you can complete later to “Adjust” the rifle, so that it’s as powerful as the Onyxo.

In addition to the rifle you get as mission reward, you also get all of the skills you build in the process of doing them; those skills are critical to becoming a better player and more powerful avatar!

3) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Unlike most MMOs where the majority of players would rather watch you struggle, the population of EU is generally more mature and helpful.  This could be because of the real-money nature of the game; or it could just be because the dedication to the grind tends to weed out trolls.  In any case, if you’re lost, need help finding something, or even just need a ride somewhere, it’s often just a matter of asking in Rookie Chat.  Many of the players that spend their time chatting in Rookie are more than happy to provide advice, instructions, or get you out of a jam!

No matter what brought you to Entropia Universe, I want to welcome you to what is one of the most fun and rewarding games on the market today, and hope to run into you on Calypso!

Three Points for Potential Entropians

Entropia Universe is a very unique platform, and with it comes all kinds of questions that people are desperate to find answers to.

  • What kind of a game is this?
  • Can you really make money playing?
  • Why is everyone obsessed with “eco”?
  • Why the hell does everything have six eyes!?

The fact is, this game, while 16 years old, is a concept that has not been explored by a lot of game companies, and thus players, always looking for that safe haven to have fun, are reluctant to jump into a game that relies on what MindArk has coined as a “Real Cash Economy”.

An RCE game is no different from any other game, except for the one critical point of everything in the game having some form of real-world value.  This means that every shot you take with a gun, every swing of a sword, every mining probe you drop, will cost you money, even if it’s a really small amount of it.

On the other hand, every loot you gather can make you money, if you’re smart about how you sell them.  You can also sell a bunch of other services to players that can make you money for a lower cost, while still providing value to your fellow players so that you can continue to build a positive reputation on the platform.

While the number of ways you can make (and lose) money in EU is vast, and whole books could be written on the subject (I currently have a manuscript that numbers 12000 words that I’m contemplating the release of), there are a few critical points that need to be made if you choose to foray into this amazing, engaging, and downright addictive environment.

1. Don’t be afraid to put money into the game.

This is one of the biggest fears players have when they start playing Entropia Universe, because they tend to think of it like a casino, or other pay-to-win game.  EU is not pay to win, and you can in fact play for free, but if you want to maximize your enjoyment of the platform, and put a little speed in your progress, it’s important to be willing to put money in.

This does not mean put a reckless amount in.  This means be willing to put in every month what you would for a typical subscription-based game, say $20, in order to play.  You might even want to invest in a starter pack so you can get a bit of a jump on things; after all, most MMOs will cost you between $60 and $75 just to buy the game, and then you have the monthly sub fees; so what’s the difference?

2. Don’t be afraid to talk and ask questions

Rookie chat is one of the best sources to engage with the community and ask questions.  Unlike a lot of gaming platforms, EU has a fairly mature player-base, likely because it utilizes real money, and the people that play it tend to be polite.  Even those that aren’t will not usually go to the lengths that you’d find in other platforms when trolling you, or other players will shut them down.

If you need help, to kill a particularly vexing mob for a mission, or to run the Gauntlet instance, asking either in Rookie Chat or around Camp Icarus on Calypso, the unofficial newbie area, is the best thing to do; players tend to interact with each other on the grounds of enlightened self-interest, and if you pay attention to real life, that is generally the best way to interact with folks–it tends to keep all parties honest.

3. Don’t expect to make money

This may sound obvious, but there are far too many players that jump into the game expecting to profit off of their gameplay with little effort.  The point of a Real Cash Economy is that you can make money, not that you will make money.  Even when you do make money, especially if you use the free to play model, it will likely be in small amounts for a long time before anything groundbreaking occurs.  Now you can short-circuit this and start doing more faster by dumping more money in, but that doesn’t mean that all activities will be profitable.

You also have to understand that if you want to make money, you need to be willing to put the work in.  EU is an almost perfect life-simulator, if life included doing things more fun than working a “9-5” job.  Everything costs money, but you can make money too, and you have to learn skills by doing things over and over and over again.  Thus the way to making money in the platform, is taking the time, to grind the skills, at the cost it takes to do so, in order to reach a point where your activities are bringing in more loot than it costs.

There are also services you can provide (such as a taxi service, and for the love of Lootius don’t offer taxi services in a Sleipnir) that have a bit of a forward cash outlay, but don’t have very expensive upkeep costs.  In this way, you can build a reputation, a brand, or even a company within the game platform!

Whether or not you decide to take the plunge and attempt to play in this amazing world, is up to you.  I would encourage any fan of MMOs to give it an honest shot–say two or three months of average play time, to decide whether or not this platform is right for you.  I’m willing to bet that a larger number of you will enjoy the platform more than you thought you would; and will enjoy the process of becoming an Entropian.

I hope to see you in there!

Modern Debt Theory

It’s often said in the news and by pundits that America has a debt crisis, and it’s not entirely incorrect.  Government debt is spiraling out of control, individual Americans have on average $5700 in credit card debt according to Business Insider, and that’s on top of student loans, mortgages, cars, and regular bills.  There are so many theories behind how to utilize debt, or whether you should use debt at all, that it’s hard for new adults, in particular, to decide how to handle it. Ironically, despite the importance of credit, and how powerfully it impacts our lives, there is no class, training course, or program to teach individuals how to handle debt, how to read a credit report, or how to properly use both to their advantage.  This has been a major disservice to the American people, and when I approached schools in the state I was a banker several years ago, none were interested in having free seminars provided to their students. This illustrated to me that the education system has no interest in providing their students one of the most basic skills they need to be successful.

First off, let’s dispel a couple of common falsehoods.  Debt is not a crutch, it’s not evil, nor is it something that you should be ashamed of, if you’re managing it properly.  When used correctly, debt creates buying power and cash flow in places you would otherwise not have it. It’s as “Uncle” Grant Cardone says, cash is not king; cash flow is king.  Cash flow is generated using leverage, a term for properly managed and handled debt.  So the question remains, how do you leverage debt in an environment where every market force and advertising option appears to push the use of debt to purchase consumer goods?  The truth is, there’s no easy answer, especially in the highly inflated environment we live in today. In most cases, we are pushed into debt by things we need to live needing to be replaced on a regular basis, an ever increasing cost of living, and an unstable interest environment.  On top of that, young Americans are pushed into accepting crushing amounts of debt on the notion that it will get them good paying jobs in the future.

So how do you manage your debt, and achieve good cash flow?  You start by managing your credit cards appropriately. Credit cards are ideally the kings of cash flow, much as cash flow is the king of high living.  You make purchases on a card and pay the card off each month; this allows you to gain the benefits of the card itself (flexibility and rewards) without paying the punishing interest rates most credit cards require you to pay (anywhere between 12 and 30%). The goal of anyone with credit cards is to ensure they are paid off by the end of the month.  Now, that does not mean that this goal is easy, nor is anything worth accomplishing.  I can’t state truthfully that I have achieved this goal, although I work hard at it every month to retire debt (often set back by the middle class problem of having to replace decaying possessions that are required, such as clothes and vehicles).  That said, it is a focus, and it is one that I have continued to work on since I have had credit cards.

Other forms of debt include personal debt (non-credit card), auto debt, mortgages, and student debt.  Personal debt is the next-most abused, but is far easier to get out of than credit card debt as a rule because there is always some sort of terminal point for it.  Personal loans are often used to consolidate credit cards that get out of control, rein in interest rates, or reduce the amount of money paid on debt each month. They are also used for paying sudden, unexpected expenses, like tax bills, car repairs, home repairs, or medical needs.  The benefit to personal loans over credit cards is that they have a lower interest rate, and they cannot be added to without taking out and being approved for a whole new loan. This means that you can’t lose control of your spending by using this form of debt. That said, it is harder to get than credit card debt because the banks have to consider revolving debt as a factor.  Strategic use of personal loans can make your life easier; just don’t use them as a crutch to pay credit cards you’re abusing.

Other forms of debt really warrant their own articles, and I will make sure to devote some time to providing that information in the future.  The important point to absorb from this is that as a whole, debt should be used to cash flow you life, not as a crutch to buy things you can’t otherwise afford.  There are exceptions of course, such as when you need a vehicle repaired or replaced, a medical procedure, or a sudden expense you weren’t expecting comes up. Even then, you should make every effort to reduce your dependence on debt, and instead make your debt a tool, rather than a liability.

If you’re really deep in debt, and can’t find a way out, my uncle used the process Dave Ramsey set forth in the Total Money Makeover.  Although I have some issues with Mr. Ramsey’s methodology, as several of his methods violate the traditional thought on how money and debt should be managed, the results he produces can’t be ignored.  If you struggle with debt, taking the time to review his methodology is worth your time.

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