Author Topic: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"  (Read 6350 times)

hubstash

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NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« on: February 16, 2018, 08:56:46 AM »
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/opinion/sunday/tyranny-convenience.html

I think this article captures a lot of mustachian principles. The section about convenience making the alternative incomprehensible reminds me a lot of my older baby boomer parents, who are very much adherents to the "cult of convenience" - walking somewhere when you can drive is incomprehensible... Even though in many cases it is actually quite inconvenient to drive through traffic, find a parking spot, etc. Not to mention much more frustrating to be sitting in a car when you could be out in fresh air putting your muscles to use.

I also enjoyed this line:
"An unwelcome consequence of living in a world where everything is “easy” is that the only skill that matters is the ability to multitask. At the extreme, we don’t actually do anything; we only arrange what will be done, which is a flimsy basis for a life."

It's encouraging to see more stuff like this making the rounds in mainstream news.

hal

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2018, 06:58:32 AM »
After reading the article on my lazy Sunday morning, I came to see if anyone else had posted it yet. I absolutely agree that it encompasses so many Mustachian principles as well as some from the voluntary simplicity movement.

Avoiding convenience — or at the least, being aware of it and questioning it — applies to so many facets of life: transportation, cooking, entertainment, relationships, etc.

Also reminds me of this MMM article: Is it Convenient? Would I Enjoy it? Wrong Question.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2018, 04:54:21 PM »
Funnily enough I would say the article draws the exact opposite conclusions as that of Mustachiasm.

Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience. Even biking to work, it's less about doing the "hard" thing and more about time management since it's quicker (ie more convenient) to live close to work and bike then to live further away, drive and then go to the gym and ride a stationry bike as a workout.

They start out with the similar recognition that the world is filled with convenience and luxury but they diverge vastly after that. Pete realized he had a life of luxury and decided to pursue whatever made him happy. The author believes this luxury makes us soft and vapid. The entire premise that hard work is needed for a fulfilling life is very much at odds with the idea of retiring early since retiring early is about finding a way to live a life of leisurely pursuits.

Capt j-rod

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2018, 05:14:23 PM »
The cost and effort many times over shadows the real cost of convenience. On my latest project I have to jack up a sagging beam and replace the foundation. It is about 20' of wall. Everyone that has seen what I am doing wants a back hoe or mini excavator to dig the new footer. There is no easy way to get the equipment in without tearing out all the landscaping on the side of the house. Well while everyone else was talking and planning, I started digging with my shovel, and pick axe. The trench is narrower requiring less concrete, and at the end of day two I am almost done digging. Yes it sucked, yes I'm sore, but I rented nothing and have minimal disturbance to the house and landscape. Only a mustache would understand.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2018, 05:25:38 PM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2018, 05:37:57 PM by FINate »

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2018, 06:07:12 PM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.

Both cases are convenient since you are doing little work yourself. Though I would say doing it at home over the internet vs having regular meetings with an advisor still puts passive investing as the more convenient solution. But it's not really the point, the article is about putting in "hard" work, so presumably the author thinks one should actively manage their investments. Which is of course at odds with being retired, if you are spending hours every day making trades, then you aren't actually retired you have a job as a day trader.

Besides any argument for efficiency is an argument for convenience. The author even talks about how he thinks efficiency can be bad
Quote
With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life.

And that's why I found the article to be pretty un-mustachian. I choose what gives meaning to my life (And yes that can include doing hard/challenging things). The more efficient/convenient the non-meaningful things can be made the more time/focus I have doing those meaningful things.

But there is obviously a cost for convenience, and sometimes it's not worth paying. The big takeaway I got from this website isn't in deciding what is/isn't worth doing yourself it's about looking at the facts making an informed decision on whether to go with the convenient option or not.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2018, 12:08:42 AM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.

Both cases are convenient since you are doing little work yourself. Though I would say doing it at home over the internet vs having regular meetings with an advisor still puts passive investing as the more convenient solution. But it's not really the point, the article is about putting in "hard" work, so presumably the author thinks one should actively manage their investments. Which is of course at odds with being retired, if you are spending hours every day making trades, then you aren't actually retired you have a job as a day trader.

Even if you DIY the "hard work" of day trading you're still almost certain to underperform the market. Some may have the skills to do this successfully if they put in the time and effort, mostly around research rather than the actual trades. So yeah, even those with the ability to make a profit trading (very few people) are effectively trading hours for dollars...in other words it's a job. Generally speaking, passive investing is advised on MMM because it actually works, and it can work for everyone.

CCCA

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2018, 01:06:00 AM »
I think the key point is that challenge and difficulty can lead to growth, gratitude, learning and accomplishment.  It is also different for different people, however, how much benefits they get out of challenge and difficulty. 

And of course, at some point, if you've already experienced the challenge and difficulty, and have already grown, become grateful, learned and accomplished alot, maybe it's less necessary that they continue to be challenged and a little convenience is probably well deserved.  But for many, especially young people, who've grown up without many challenges, I think they may lose out of these positive benefits of inconvenience.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2018, 10:31:32 AM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.

Both cases are convenient since you are doing little work yourself. Though I would say doing it at home over the internet vs having regular meetings with an advisor still puts passive investing as the more convenient solution. But it's not really the point, the article is about putting in "hard" work, so presumably the author thinks one should actively manage their investments. Which is of course at odds with being retired, if you are spending hours every day making trades, then you aren't actually retired you have a job as a day trader.

Even if you DIY the "hard work" of day trading you're still almost certain to underperform the market. Some may have the skills to do this successfully if they put in the time and effort, mostly around research rather than the actual trades. So yeah, even those with the ability to make a profit trading (very few people) are effectively trading hours for dollars...in other words it's a job. Generally speaking, passive investing is advised on MMM because it actually works, and it can work for everyone.

Which is my point. The fact that investing is such an easy/convenient process is what allows for early retirement.

I think the key point is that challenge and difficulty can lead to growth, gratitude, learning and accomplishment.  It is also different for different people, however, how much benefits they get out of challenge and difficulty. 

And of course, at some point, if you've already experienced the challenge and difficulty, and have already grown, become grateful, learned and accomplished alot, maybe it's less necessary that they continue to be challenged and a little convenience is probably well deserved.  But for many, especially young people, who've grown up without many challenges, I think they may lose out of these positive benefits of inconvenience.

Challenges can certainly lead to growth, but I find the argument that having to wait in a line to buy tickets instead of buying them on your phone will lead to personnel growth to be pretty dubious. Those aren't the types of difficulties or challenges that lead to growth.

It's also fairly naive to think young people have it easy and don't have to face difficulty or challenges. I'd personally argue the opposite, they face more challenges and those challenges are harder to overcome then previous generations.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2018, 10:50:24 AM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.

Both cases are convenient since you are doing little work yourself. Though I would say doing it at home over the internet vs having regular meetings with an advisor still puts passive investing as the more convenient solution. But it's not really the point, the article is about putting in "hard" work, so presumably the author thinks one should actively manage their investments. Which is of course at odds with being retired, if you are spending hours every day making trades, then you aren't actually retired you have a job as a day trader.

Even if you DIY the "hard work" of day trading you're still almost certain to underperform the market. Some may have the skills to do this successfully if they put in the time and effort, mostly around research rather than the actual trades. So yeah, even those with the ability to make a profit trading (very few people) are effectively trading hours for dollars...in other words it's a job. Generally speaking, passive investing is advised on MMM because it actually works, and it can work for everyone.

Which is my point. The fact that investing is such an easy/convenient process is what allows for early retirement.

*Sigh* I don't want to beat the semantics horse to death, but it's really not about convenience or ease. It's about what works. If daytrading worked, that is, if there were empirical support that most people can make money through actively managed funds or through actively managing their investments then MMM would be all over it. It would be like having a lucrative side hustle, or doing the hard work of DIY home improvements. But that's simply not the case. The vast majority of people will lose money day trading and/or underperform the market in actively managed funds. Unless you are an investing wizard (very few are, and many who think they are are just temporarily lucky), then it is wasteful of both time and money to engage in such activity...which makes it inefficient on two fronts and it also happens to be inconvenient. 

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2018, 02:52:31 PM »
Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience.

Passive index investing is primarily about efficiency. Paying someone to manage your money for suboptimal returns (on average) is wasteful. That it happens to be convenient is a happy coincidence.

Both cases are convenient since you are doing little work yourself. Though I would say doing it at home over the internet vs having regular meetings with an advisor still puts passive investing as the more convenient solution. But it's not really the point, the article is about putting in "hard" work, so presumably the author thinks one should actively manage their investments. Which is of course at odds with being retired, if you are spending hours every day making trades, then you aren't actually retired you have a job as a day trader.

Even if you DIY the "hard work" of day trading you're still almost certain to underperform the market. Some may have the skills to do this successfully if they put in the time and effort, mostly around research rather than the actual trades. So yeah, even those with the ability to make a profit trading (very few people) are effectively trading hours for dollars...in other words it's a job. Generally speaking, passive investing is advised on MMM because it actually works, and it can work for everyone.

Which is my point. The fact that investing is such an easy/convenient process is what allows for early retirement.

*Sigh* I don't want to beat the semantics horse to death, but it's really not about convenience or ease. It's about what works. If daytrading worked, that is, if there were empirical support that most people can make money through actively managed funds or through actively managing their investments then MMM would be all over it. It would be like having a lucrative side hustle, or doing the hard work of DIY home improvements. But that's simply not the case. The vast majority of people will lose money day trading and/or underperform the market in actively managed funds. Unless you are an investing wizard (very few are, and many who think they are are just temporarily lucky), then it is wasteful of both time and money to engage in such activity...which makes it inefficient on two fronts and it also happens to be inconvenient.

I don't think the MMM crowd would be all over day trading even if it worked, though I'm sure some would. It might be semantics but I don't see how anyone could consider themselves retired if they had to spend a bunch of time day trading. At best it would be a semi-retirement. That's why it actually is about convenience, because all that time saved not having to day trade is what allows someone to be fully retired.

hal

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2018, 08:00:13 PM »
I get the points about passive investing being convenient, although I agree with the poster who said a better word might be “efficient.”

In any case, I think unless you have some major windfall or a very high income, FIRE does certainly embody parts of the article and its treatment of “convenience.” Choosing this lifestyle requires thought—and in some cases a certain amount of hard work. In my case, for example, I work hard and very consciously to maintain a good savings rate on a salary of $40k. Many mustachians work hard (and thus eschew convenience) by having side hustles.

It’s “convenient” (from a cognitive perspective) to just keep up with the status quo, to not think about alternatives, to keep up with the joneses, to take the path of least resistance. Yes, passive investing and FIRE can be seen in some ways as convenient, but that view is limited and doesn’t capture the multiple pathways to FIRE, IMO.

FiveSigmas

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2018, 08:20:41 PM »
Thanks for the link, hubstash. A very well-written article.

FWIW, the author freely admits that convenience isn't always a bad thing:

Quote
Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country. I don’t want to suggest that convenience is a force for evil. Making things easier isn’t wicked. On the contrary, it often opens up possibilities that once seemed too onerous to contemplate, and it typically makes life less arduous, especially for those most vulnerable to life’s drudgeries.

But we err in presuming convenience is always good, for it has a complex relationship with other ideals that we hold dear. Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side. With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life. Created to free us, it can become a constraint on what we are willing to do, and thus in a subtle way it can enslave us.

hubstash

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2018, 06:55:56 AM »
I think it is pretty misguided to suggest that FIRE broadly is all about convenience. Don't get me wrong, a lot of things about working a typical job (dealing with politics, meetings, commuting, waking up early and spending long hours at work, to name a few) are really inconvenient. But I don't think the point is to maximize convenience, at least as laid out by MMM.

Stoic philosophy and voluntary struggle/discomfort are big themes of the blog, and the linked post above "Is it convenient?..." is just one example. It has been said on the blog and in this forum (where I have been lurking for YEARS but only recently started to post lol) the point isn't really to just be able to kick your feet up and never work again.

Some of what Sorinth is saying about being "fully retired" sounds a lot like the dreaded internet retirement police. I'm not trying to counter-police here, but in my opinion that type of thinking is kind of a drag. For me the point of seeking FIRE is not to find a way to make my life comfy and convenient, but to be able to live on my own terms. To be able to pursue things that are physically and mentally challenging, that will lead to more personal growth than careerism.

Of course, if an individual values convenience above all and FIRE is their way to get there, more power to them. At least in that case it is a bit more likely the person is avoiding wasteful consumerism, which is another big theme of MMM and other FIRE/frugality blogs.

One of my favorite examples of MMM calling out the "alternatives are incomprehensible" type of convenience mindset inolved parents sitting in their SUVs (engine running) waiting for their kids to get out of school, when they lived within walking/biking distance. That sort of thing is both maddening and destructive.

Also, as others have said, the fact that index investing is an efficient and effective way to invest does not mean the whole "movement" is about maximizing convenience. The fact that many people on the FIRE path use real estate as a method to generate income seems to prove this to some degree. The whole process of getting into real estate is a lot of work. Once you put in that work it becomes relatively passive though.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2018, 09:45:17 AM »
I don't think the MMM crowd would be all over day trading even if it worked, though I'm sure some would. It might be semantics but I don't see how anyone could consider themselves retired if they had to spend a bunch of time day trading. At best it would be a semi-retirement. That's why it actually is about convenience, because all that time saved not having to day trade is what allows someone to be fully retired.

As hubstash alluded to, you may misunderstand what the MMM crowd aspires to. I'm busier in FIRE than I was working a corporate job. But it's work I choose to do: volunteering, managing investments (including RE), taking care of the kids, working out hard 4-5x a week, and such. This is fulfilling and meaningful rather than soul sucking. If I knew I could make a good side hustle out of day trading then I, and many many others here, would do it at least part time.

My goals in FIRE are not built around convenience. I bike the kids to/from school and all over town instead of driving. We grow many of our own vegetables. We almost never eat out and choose to make most things from home. We buy second hand when possible instead of the convenience of just buying on Amazon. We fix and repair things ourselves whenever possible.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2018, 09:15:09 PM »
I get the points about passive investing being convenient, although I agree with the poster who said a better word might be “efficient.”

In any case, I think unless you have some major windfall or a very high income, FIRE does certainly embody parts of the article and its treatment of “convenience.” Choosing this lifestyle requires thought—and in some cases a certain amount of hard work. In my case, for example, I work hard and very consciously to maintain a good savings rate on a salary of $40k. Many mustachians work hard (and thus eschew convenience) by having side hustles.

It’s “convenient” (from a cognitive perspective) to just keep up with the status quo, to not think about alternatives, to keep up with the joneses, to take the path of least resistance. Yes, passive investing and FIRE can be seen in some ways as convenient, but that view is limited and doesn’t capture the multiple pathways to FIRE, IMO.

Even if you prefer the word efficiency, the article straight out said that efficiency is also a bad thing.
Quote
With its promise of smooth, effortless efficiency, it threatens to erase the sort of struggles and challenges that help give meaning to life.

As for working hard, whether you are following mustachian principles or not most people work hard. The difference is more about what they do with the result of that hard work, save it or blow it by keeping up with the joneses. Put another way, who works harder the person who maintains a good savings rate and say works for 20 years and retires early, or the guy who doesn't maintain a good savings rate and ends up working till 65+?

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2018, 09:36:43 PM »
I don't think the MMM crowd would be all over day trading even if it worked, though I'm sure some would. It might be semantics but I don't see how anyone could consider themselves retired if they had to spend a bunch of time day trading. At best it would be a semi-retirement. That's why it actually is about convenience, because all that time saved not having to day trade is what allows someone to be fully retired.

As hubstash alluded to, you may misunderstand what the MMM crowd aspires to. I'm busier in FIRE than I was working a corporate job. But it's work I choose to do: volunteering, managing investments (including RE), taking care of the kids, working out hard 4-5x a week, and such. This is fulfilling and meaningful rather than soul sucking. If I knew I could make a good side hustle out of day trading then I, and many many others here, would do it at least part time.

My goals in FIRE are not built around convenience. I bike the kids to/from school and all over town instead of driving. We grow many of our own vegetables. We almost never eat out and choose to make most things from home. We buy second hand when possible instead of the convenience of just buying on Amazon. We fix and repair things ourselves whenever possible.

You are obviously free to do whatever you want during your retirement, and I'm sure it does involve hard work (Both in retirement and on the path towards it). But that's not really the point, your goals might not be built around convenience, but it is the convenience of the modern world that allowed you to retire early.

I don't know your exact path to FIRE, but some examples might include
The convenience of having all human knowledge 24/7 from home, ie the internet.
The convenience of having grocery stores near you stocked with whatever you don't grow yourself.
The convenience of passive investing replacing the need to earn money through a soul-sucking corporate job.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2018, 10:00:28 PM »
For me the point of seeking FIRE is not to find a way to make my life comfy and convenient, but to be able to live on my own terms. To be able to pursue things that are physically and mentally challenging, that will lead to more personal growth than careerism.

I think the misconception is about what convenience means. Convenience is ultimately about saving time, the more convenient things are the more free time you have. FIRE is also about saving time, it's about saving you from those 40 hours a week at whatever job you had/have. What you do with that time saved is entirely up to you and will determine whether you experience personal growth or not.

The author argues that saving time isn't always a good thing because of what people do with that time they saved. But it's a logical fallacy, it's what people do with that extra time that determine things like personal growth. Just look at all the people here who have found a way RE and save 40hrs a week who go on to do challenging/rewarding things. Saving time is universally good, what people do with all that extra time of course gives mixed results. For example if you didn't have the convenience of internet banking and had to spend a couple hours every month at the bank paying bills, cashing cheques, etc... you would have less time to say spend with your kids, how exactly would that lead to more personal growth? It doesn't.

Socmonkey

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2018, 01:45:51 PM »

The author argues that saving time isn't always a good thing because of what people do with that time they saved. But it's a logical fallacy, it's what people do with that extra time that determine things like personal growth. Just look at all the people here who have found a way RE and save 40hrs a week who go on to do challenging/rewarding things. Saving time is universally good, what people do with all that extra time of course gives mixed results. For example if you didn't have the convenience of internet banking and had to spend a couple hours every month at the bank paying bills, cashing cheques, etc... you would have less time to say spend with your kids, how exactly would that lead to more personal growth? It doesn't.

No, that is not the meat of the issue that the author wants to address. You might want to re-read the article. Here is a snippet that I found to most accurately describe what Tim Wu is warning about.

"It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides."

marty998

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2018, 01:58:28 PM »
"It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

I think they call this "building resilience".

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2018, 11:24:42 AM »

The author argues that saving time isn't always a good thing because of what people do with that time they saved. But it's a logical fallacy, it's what people do with that extra time that determine things like personal growth. Just look at all the people here who have found a way RE and save 40hrs a week who go on to do challenging/rewarding things. Saving time is universally good, what people do with all that extra time of course gives mixed results. For example if you didn't have the convenience of internet banking and had to spend a couple hours every month at the bank paying bills, cashing cheques, etc... you would have less time to say spend with your kids, how exactly would that lead to more personal growth? It doesn't.

No, that is not the meat of the issue that the author wants to address. You might want to re-read the article. Here is a snippet that I found to most accurately describe what Tim Wu is warning about.

"It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides."

Do you honestly believe that young people today have it easy? They face much more challenging situations then previous generations in many ways.

A simple example would be math at school. Having a calculator makes it easy, so what happens, kids are given harder problems to solve. It's one reason parents struggle to help their kids at school, and that lack of help from their parents just increases the difficulty for the child since he's lost access to a source of help that his parents potentially had.

If we use your mountain climbing example. Say the mountain climber takes 6hrs to hike to the top and back. The guy riding the tram takes 2hrs, he now has 4hrs more in his day. If he spends them say volunteering at a food bank, can you really claim that the hiker had the better human experience?

And just some food for thought here's some evidence to suggest that young people are actually volunteering more then their predecessors.
https://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2016/04/11/sharp-increase-in-young-peoples-volunteering/


FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2018, 01:21:49 PM »

The author argues that saving time isn't always a good thing because of what people do with that time they saved. But it's a logical fallacy, it's what people do with that extra time that determine things like personal growth. Just look at all the people here who have found a way RE and save 40hrs a week who go on to do challenging/rewarding things. Saving time is universally good, what people do with all that extra time of course gives mixed results. For example if you didn't have the convenience of internet banking and had to spend a couple hours every month at the bank paying bills, cashing cheques, etc... you would have less time to say spend with your kids, how exactly would that lead to more personal growth? It doesn't.

No, that is not the meat of the issue that the author wants to address. You might want to re-read the article. Here is a snippet that I found to most accurately describe what Tim Wu is warning about.

"It is also about how we face up to situations that are thrust upon us, about overcoming worthy challenges and finishing difficult tasks — the struggles that help make us who we are. What happens to human experience when so many obstacles and impediments and requirements and preparations have been removed?

Today’s cult of convenience fails to acknowledge that difficulty is a constitutive feature of human experience. Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place. We are becoming people who care mainly or only about outcomes. We are at risk of making most of our life experiences a series of trolley rides."

Do you honestly believe that young people today have it easy? They face much more challenging situations then previous generations in many ways.

A simple example would be math at school. Having a calculator makes it easy, so what happens, kids are given harder problems to solve. It's one reason parents struggle to help their kids at school, and that lack of help from their parents just increases the difficulty for the child since he's lost access to a source of help that his parents potentially had.

If we use your mountain climbing example. Say the mountain climber takes 6hrs to hike to the top and back. The guy riding the tram takes 2hrs, he now has 4hrs more in his day. If he spends them say volunteering at a food bank, can you really claim that the hiker had the better human experience?

And just some food for thought here's some evidence to suggest that young people are actually volunteering more then their predecessors.
https://blogs.ncvo.org.uk/2016/04/11/sharp-increase-in-young-peoples-volunteering/

So as to avoid generational squabbling let's lump Boomers, Xers, Millennials et al into one cohort called the Modern Generation.

Yes, the Modern Generation most definitely has it easy relative to the past. E.g. compare to the generation that lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression (and no, the Great Recession really doesn't compare). Just yesterday I was reading about the 1918 flu pandemic that wiped out 3-5% of the total world population (50-100 million people). Or, consider tuberculosis or what was called 'consumption' back in the day. It killed so many people almost no family was left untouched. Even if it didn't kill you, long stretches of your life would be spent laid up in sanitariums or other cure attempts. Previous generations were much much more likely to die on the job, and to die of infection for what today would be considered relatively minor. There were few if any job projections, no consumer protections, banks would periodically go insolvent wiping out all accounts.

In the scope of human history, we really live in rather awesome times.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2018, 01:25:01 PM by FINate »

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #22 on: February 25, 2018, 03:25:17 PM »
So as to avoid generational squabbling let's lump Boomers, Xers, Millennials et al into one cohort called the Modern Generation.

Yes, the Modern Generation most definitely has it easy relative to the past. E.g. compare to the generation that lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression (and no, the Great Recession really doesn't compare). Just yesterday I was reading about the 1918 flu pandemic that wiped out 3-5% of the total world population (50-100 million people). Or, consider tuberculosis or what was called 'consumption' back in the day. It killed so many people almost no family was left untouched. Even if it didn't kill you, long stretches of your life would be spent laid up in sanitariums or other cure attempts. Previous generations were much much more likely to die on the job, and to die of infection for what today would be considered relatively minor. There were few if any job projections, no consumer protections, banks would periodically go insolvent wiping out all accounts.

In the scope of human history, we really live in rather awesome times.

So people have it easy because they aren't dying of the plague? I think it's safe to say that this has gotten to an absurd level. But why even bring up lifespan? It has no bearing on whether a person had an easy or hard life. I mean if all I tell you is that person X died at 40 and person Y died at 80 you really think that means person Y had an easy life compared to person X? I mean person X could have been super rich and died in a freak accident, whereas person Y could've lived their entire life in poverty in some backwater village.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2018, 03:54:37 PM »
So as to avoid generational squabbling let's lump Boomers, Xers, Millennials et al into one cohort called the Modern Generation.

Yes, the Modern Generation most definitely has it easy relative to the past. E.g. compare to the generation that lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression (and no, the Great Recession really doesn't compare). Just yesterday I was reading about the 1918 flu pandemic that wiped out 3-5% of the total world population (50-100 million people). Or, consider tuberculosis or what was called 'consumption' back in the day. It killed so many people almost no family was left untouched. Even if it didn't kill you, long stretches of your life would be spent laid up in sanitariums or other cure attempts. Previous generations were much much more likely to die on the job, and to die of infection for what today would be considered relatively minor. There were few if any job projections, no consumer protections, banks would periodically go insolvent wiping out all accounts.

In the scope of human history, we really live in rather awesome times.

So people have it easy because they aren't dying of the plague? I think it's safe to say that this has gotten to an absurd level. But why even bring up lifespan? It has no bearing on whether a person had an easy or hard life. I mean if all I tell you is that person X died at 40 and person Y died at 80 you really think that means person Y had an easy life compared to person X? I mean person X could have been super rich and died in a freak accident, whereas person Y could've lived their entire life in poverty in some backwater village.

I use death as the most extreme example. Dying young of a terrible disease is about as bad as it can get in life.

But sure, if you want to focus on lifestyle, the generations alive today in the West have: clean air and water (no rivers catching fire), cars that are expected to last hundreds of thousands of miles instead of tens of thousand, the entire world's information at their fingertips, the ability to call/navigate/text/video at the touch of a button, access to information and investment vehicles that can facilitate ER, access to affordable fresh produce throughout all seasons of the year, employer and consumer protections (try reading about the meat industry in the early 1900's if you want to make yourself ill), for relatively little money the ability to fly to any major city on Earth in under 24 hrs, the ability to hop in a personal vehicle and drive across the continent without giving it much thought. I could go on. Life in our day in age is indeed an explosion of awesomeness.

hubstash

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2018, 08:33:49 PM »
I think you are confusing "complexity" with "hardship." While the increased complexity of our world can cause a lot of anxiety, alienation, etc. it doesn't mean people have it harder today than humans in the past. Aside from a few very unfortunate regions, humans have it much easier today than they have in the past. The fact that you cite math class as an example where people have it harder is a clear indication of how cushy life is for many people these days. Ha.

Do you really think lifespan has no bearing on quality of life? It's totally random? People who have an average lower lifespan are just as likely to be rich or fortunate as they are poor or unfortunate?

I don't even think you've made a coherent point other than you don't like the tone of the article. A lot of what I've just said reinforces the idea that there are many positives to convenience. Life is more convenient and less dangerous than it was in the past. However, many people have been conditioned to over index on convenience, to the point where they are totally lost. If only I had this next object of convenience, I could be happy. People need something to struggle toward. The fact that the struggle for many is no longer survival is fantastic.

One last thing, I just have to point out how comical the "people taking the tram to the top are going to use the extra time to go volunteer" point is. I understand, you are thinking of some sort of pure utopian utilitarianism. But no, they are going to use the extra time to grab a burger and check out the gift shop.


Ynari

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #25 on: February 25, 2018, 08:49:18 PM »
Arguing over whether or not FIRE is convenient seems like a red herring. To someone who finds themselves naturally aligned with frugal thought, it probably seems awfully convenient. If FIRE requires you to change the way you live your day-to-day life, it's absolutely not. (And while the discussion about how FIRE is only possible in our current world is interesting, it, again, seems like a red herring. It is "convenient" that I live in a time and place where investment is viable and accessible as a means of income, but I cannot change that through effort, so convenience just seems like the wrong adjective to describe it. I can, however, expend hours of effort researching and learning about passive investment, and then move on to something else once that study no longer proves challenging to me. Like learning how to express myself on the internet to strangers. :P)

Convenience is about effort, not time. I find walking more convenient than biking sometimes, because I don't have to think about locking my bike up or keeping track of it or managing my helmet or dealing with the cars that try to drive me off the road. Others might find walking inconvenient because the distance is too great or because they find it more convenient to sleep in. It's relative, and personal, and based on a wide variety of physical, mental, emotional, and circumstantial states. Total inconvenience (high effort) and total convenience (low effort) are two extreme states, and it is hard to be satisfied when you don't experience a variety of the spectrum.

I think ultimately the take-away is that doing something challenging is a valuable human experience, especially since the mere act of choosing it is contrary to our psychology.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2018, 10:24:26 PM »
I think you are confusing "complexity" with "hardship." While the increased complexity of our world can cause a lot of anxiety, alienation, etc. it doesn't mean people have it harder today than humans in the past. Aside from a few very unfortunate regions, humans have it much easier today than they have in the past. The fact that you cite math class as an example where people have it harder is a clear indication of how cushy life is for many people these days. Ha.

Do you really think lifespan has no bearing on quality of life? It's totally random? People who have an average lower lifespan are just as likely to be rich or fortunate as they are poor or unfortunate?

I don't even think you've made a coherent point other than you don't like the tone of the article. A lot of what I've just said reinforces the idea that there are many positives to convenience. Life is more convenient and less dangerous than it was in the past. However, many people have been conditioned to over index on convenience, to the point where they are totally lost. If only I had this next object of convenience, I could be happy. People need something to struggle toward. The fact that the struggle for many is no longer survival is fantastic.

One last thing, I just have to point out how comical the "people taking the tram to the top are going to use the extra time to go volunteer" point is. I understand, you are thinking of some sort of pure utopian utilitarianism. But no, they are going to use the extra time to grab a burger and check out the gift shop.

I never claimed people today have it harder, I objected to the claim that people today have it easy. They don't,but it is true that the challenges have changed and yes that means less hardship but more complex problems. But you seem to dismiss complexity as not having an impact on how hard life is.

Since you mentioned people are lost, let's take that as an example. What's harder walking 20km along a road to get home, or being lost in the woods but only needing to walk 2km in the right direction to get home? One is more overall effort and has more hardship but it's simple and straightforward, the other is less work but more complex. Simply saying it's longer to walk 20km so it's harder seems at best naive, a case very easily be made that the person lost in the forest has it much harder.

Complexity makes life today hard, and yes there are a lot of people that in the face of that complexity make the wrong choice and are left always feeling unsatisfied. But the right answer isn't self imposed hardship, it's doing things that you find meaningful.

And how exactly is it comical to suggest that it's because they have more free time, which if you read the article was even one of the reasons listed. The stats back up the fact that more young people are volunteering then in the past.

I use death as the most extreme example. Dying young of a terrible disease is about as bad as it can get in life.

But sure, if you want to focus on lifestyle, the generations alive today in the West have: clean air and water (no rivers catching fire), cars that are expected to last hundreds of thousands of miles instead of tens of thousand, the entire world's information at their fingertips, the ability to call/navigate/text/video at the touch of a button, access to information and investment vehicles that can facilitate ER, access to affordable fresh produce throughout all seasons of the year, employer and consumer protections (try reading about the meat industry in the early 1900's if you want to make yourself ill), for relatively little money the ability to fly to any major city on Earth in under 24 hrs, the ability to hop in a personal vehicle and drive across the continent without giving it much thought. I could go on. Life in our day in age is indeed an explosion of awesomeness.

Dying young is certainly a tragedy but it doesn't mean that the person had a hard life. If a 2 day old baby dies, did that baby have a hard life, did the baby who died after 2 months have a slightly easier life?

Clean air/water is actually a relatively modern problem, and for the record still is a major problem for lots of the world. I mean even in America, Flint still doesn't have clean running water, major cities around the world have smog problems, I think not that long ago Paris had to ban cars for a few days because of it. Compare that to say an Ancient Greek, he could find sources of fresh water and drink from it without worrying about it being polluted, he didn't have health problems from all the air pollution either.

Yes today is an awesome time to be alive, and tomorrow will probably be even better but the idea that we don't face challenges today is just absurd. The challenges are less likely to leave us dead, but that doesn't mean they aren't hard.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2018, 10:45:53 PM by Sorinth »

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2018, 10:45:06 PM »
Arguing over whether or not FIRE is convenient seems like a red herring. To someone who finds themselves naturally aligned with frugal thought, it probably seems awfully convenient. If FIRE requires you to change the way you live your day-to-day life, it's absolutely not. (And while the discussion about how FIRE is only possible in our current world is interesting, it, again, seems like a red herring. It is "convenient" that I live in a time and place where investment is viable and accessible as a means of income, but I cannot change that through effort, so convenience just seems like the wrong adjective to describe it. I can, however, expend hours of effort researching and learning about passive investment, and then move on to something else once that study no longer proves challenging to me. Like learning how to express myself on the internet to strangers. :P)

Convenience is about effort, not time. I find walking more convenient than biking sometimes, because I don't have to think about locking my bike up or keeping track of it or managing my helmet or dealing with the cars that try to drive me off the road. Others might find walking inconvenient because the distance is too great or because they find it more convenient to sleep in. It's relative, and personal, and based on a wide variety of physical, mental, emotional, and circumstantial states. Total inconvenience (high effort) and total convenience (low effort) are two extreme states, and it is hard to be satisfied when you don't experience a variety of the spectrum.

I think ultimately the take-away is that doing something challenging is a valuable human experience, especially since the mere act of choosing it is contrary to our psychology.

Effort certainly plays a part in convenience, but ultimately isn't being able to choose to walk because you have that free time to begin with. For example maybe it was the convenience of a vacuum cleaner that allowed you to clean your house quickly that gave you the free time to choose to walk rather then bike/drive.

As for how it relates to FIRE, there are a bunch of things we have to do it life, one of the big ones is making enough money to live comfortably. Most people have to spend 40hrs a week doing that "chore", but when we become FI we can have that task be one of total convenience using passive investing. We've taken one of the biggest effort/time sucks in a persons life and turned it into something of total convenience. Doing so doesn't mean we'vet lost out on challenges/meaningful human experiences, it's the opposite, it gives us the time to go out and focus on those meaningful things.

That's why FIRE is very much about convenience, the goal of being FIRE is to spend more time doing whatever it is you find meaningful. The more things in our life we can put on auto-pilot and not spend time/effort on the more we can go after those meaningful things.

FINate

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2018, 10:50:38 PM »
Dying young is certainly a tragedy but it doesn't mean that the person had a hard life. If a 2 day old baby dies, did that baby have a hard life, did the baby who died after 2 months have a slightly easier life?

Clean air/water is actually a relatively modern problem, and for the record still is a major problem for lots of the world. I mean even in America, Flint still doesn't have clean running water, major cities around the world have smog problems, I think not that long ago Paris had to ban cars for a few days because of it. Compare that to say an Ancient Greek, he could find sources of fresh water and drink from it without worrying about it being polluted, he didn't have health problems from all the air pollution either.

Yes today is an awesome time to be alive, and tomorrow will probably be even better but the idea that we don't face challenges today is just absurd. The challenges are less likely to leave us dead, but that doesn't mean they aren't hard.

Yes, I consider dying young a hard life...so hard in fact that they died young. A young death is, by definition, a very hard life indeed. All else being equal, if you had a choice would you decide to die younger or older?

Also, clean water is not a relatively modern problem. Read about the Paris sewer system and the conditions of the 1200s (https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/mapping-paris/Paris_Sewers_Page.html). It's only in modern times that we finally understand the science of microbes and the full dangers of dirty drinking water.

I never said we don't face challenges today. What I said is that we have things easier (or better, if you like) relative to the past.

mm1970

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2018, 12:34:44 PM »
That was very thought-provoking.  I think about it a bit within the context of my own life.

For sure, there's a lot that is more convenient for my kids.
- When doing research for a school project?  Google.  The internet.  No more schlepping to the library and looking up encyclopedias.
- Food.  Feel like nachos?  Just run to the store or the restaurant and get them.  Who cares if you have to drive there, the stores are open.
- Bored?  Nevermind looking through the bookshelf when you realize the 3 TV stations are Masterpiece theater and football - just pick up a tablet and play a video game!

So it makes it harder, in some ways, to make sure your kids have grit and resilience.  You have to make an honest effort to get them to practice those.  It's so easy to just load the dishwasher and washing machine and kick them out of the kitchen.  You can imagine the groaning and look I got when my 6th grader had to figure out the definition of certain words and use them in a sentence, and I pulled out the Webster's dictionary.  And yes, I did go there "you know when WE were kids, if we wanted to know the definition of a word we LOOKED IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY, and, in fact, your grandfather had one at the dinner table." 

As a large generation, we do have it easy.  My occasional "hobby" is watching (yes) Masterpiece Theater (my dad would be proud).  From Downton Abbey to Poldark to Call the Midwife, it really makes you think about how much WORK was involved in just surviving.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #30 on: February 26, 2018, 02:19:41 PM »
Dying young is certainly a tragedy but it doesn't mean that the person had a hard life. If a 2 day old baby dies, did that baby have a hard life, did the baby who died after 2 months have a slightly easier life?

Clean air/water is actually a relatively modern problem, and for the record still is a major problem for lots of the world. I mean even in America, Flint still doesn't have clean running water, major cities around the world have smog problems, I think not that long ago Paris had to ban cars for a few days because of it. Compare that to say an Ancient Greek, he could find sources of fresh water and drink from it without worrying about it being polluted, he didn't have health problems from all the air pollution either.

Yes today is an awesome time to be alive, and tomorrow will probably be even better but the idea that we don't face challenges today is just absurd. The challenges are less likely to leave us dead, but that doesn't mean they aren't hard.

Yes, I consider dying young a hard life...so hard in fact that they died young. A young death is, by definition, a very hard life indeed. All else being equal, if you had a choice would you decide to die younger or older?

Also, clean water is not a relatively modern problem. Read about the Paris sewer system and the conditions of the 1200s (https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/mapping-paris/Paris_Sewers_Page.html). It's only in modern times that we finally understand the science of microbes and the full dangers of dirty drinking water.

I never said we don't face challenges today. What I said is that we have things easier (or better, if you like) relative to the past.

First off there's is no definition of what a hard life is. It's purely subjective, and I think a billionaire who inherited his money and dies at 30 from a car accident had it easier then someone who lives in poverty their whole life where every day is struggle but lives to 55.

Paris having a bad sewer system doesn't change the fact that there was more fresh water available both overall and per capita. Very few fresh water lakes/rivers were dangerous to drink from compared to now. And the preditions are that the amount of fresh water available is going down year over year.

People have it better, but that doesn't make it easier. I mean you seriously think something like climate change is an easier challenge? It's arguably the type of thing that's wiped out civilizations in the past (ie the Mayans). Now we face it on a global scale.

Sorinth

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #31 on: February 26, 2018, 02:42:23 PM »
That was very thought-provoking.  I think about it a bit within the context of my own life.

For sure, there's a lot that is more convenient for my kids.
- When doing research for a school project?  Google.  The internet.  No more schlepping to the library and looking up encyclopedias.
- Food.  Feel like nachos?  Just run to the store or the restaurant and get them.  Who cares if you have to drive there, the stores are open.
- Bored?  Nevermind looking through the bookshelf when you realize the 3 TV stations are Masterpiece theater and football - just pick up a tablet and play a video game!

So it makes it harder, in some ways, to make sure your kids have grit and resilience.  You have to make an honest effort to get them to practice those.  It's so easy to just load the dishwasher and washing machine and kick them out of the kitchen.  You can imagine the groaning and look I got when my 6th grader had to figure out the definition of certain words and use them in a sentence, and I pulled out the Webster's dictionary.  And yes, I did go there "you know when WE were kids, if we wanted to know the definition of a word we LOOKED IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY, and, in fact, your grandfather had one at the dinner table." 

As a large generation, we do have it easy.  My occasional "hobby" is watching (yes) Masterpiece Theater (my dad would be proud).  From Downton Abbey to Poldark to Call the Midwife, it really makes you think about how much WORK was involved in just surviving.

We aren't there yet, but as a society we seem to be on a path where being willing to work hard just isn't enough. Granted a strong work ethic is always going to be important because it has a multiplier effect on skill/talent. So how to teach kids to have a strong work ethic is certainly one of the challenges parents face, and it's why I'd argue things aren't easier today then in the past as it's less obvious what is the right thing to do.

Doing chores like washing the dishes by hand taught kids how to perform mindless labor, which in the past was a big part of many jobs. Now being able to do that kind of work is much less important. So if that's all your kids learn it won't be enough anymore, so your job in preparing them for the future can be seen as more difficult.

mm1970

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #32 on: February 28, 2018, 01:30:16 PM »
Doing chores wasn't about teaching kids to do mindless labor because they may have a future job that involved mindless labor. It was about teaching them responsibility, self sufficancy, self relience, self sacrifice, humility, humbleness, perserverance, building character snd being productive and useful despite the task. All useful qualities regardless of their future jobs or life. "Convenience" often sidesteps many of those qualities by taking the easy path.

Having said that I admit to taking the easy path myself as If rather spend my time in other pursuits. But then I already learned all that character building.crap long ago so can be lazy now ;-)

Yes this. 

And everyone lives in the house, and stuff needs to get done, so everyone has to do it.

Dabnasty

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Re: NYT article "The Tyranny of Convenience"
« Reply #33 on: March 03, 2018, 05:53:27 PM »
Funnily enough I would say the article draws the exact opposite conclusions as that of Mustachiasm.

Many of the principles of FIRE are all about convenience. For example putting everything in an index fund that you spend 10min rebalancing a couple times a year is 100% about convenience. Even biking to work, it's less about doing the "hard" thing and more about time management since it's quicker (ie more convenient) to live close to work and bike then to live further away, drive and then go to the gym and ride a stationry bike as a workout.

They start out with the similar recognition that the world is filled with convenience and luxury but they diverge vastly after that. Pete realized he had a life of luxury and decided to pursue whatever made him happy. The author believes this luxury makes us soft and vapid. The entire premise that hard work is needed for a fulfilling life is very much at odds with the idea of retiring early since retiring early is about finding a way to live a life of leisurely pursuits.

I realize there's been some back and forth on this point but I'm just going to go back to the beginning and suggest you read some more blog posts if this is how you feel.

https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/10/02/what-is-stoicism-and-how-can-it-turn-your-life-to-solid-gold/

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/05/muscle-over-motor/

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/