not asking for advice

ctLow's Aphorisms

Aphorism: a short, truthful statement

All of these "aphorisms" I have invented myself. Many more please me, but I am only posting original (to the best of my knowledge) creations. Most of them occurred spontaneously in the course of conversation - and then recur for years to come! (Some I intend as irony.)

The Aphorisms

-and Corollaries (with some other principles)

  1. Enacting rules for improved behaviour without a profound and substantive implementation of a modern, progressive cultural transformation is like pouring water into a leaky bucket.
  2. It takes an exceptionally strongly confident ego to enable one to relinquish one's ego (when appropriate, which means much more often than usually evidenced)
  3. I know you haven't asked for my advice, so I'm only going to give you a little...
  4. If only I were a little smarter, I would qualify as an absent-minded genius.
  5. I'm not trying to be difficult - I find it effortless.
    • You catch more flies with honey - I don't like flies.
    • (The early bird gets the worm - I don't like worms, either.)
  6. The best defence is to be offensive.
  7. Life is messy; get over it.
    • By all means try to leave it a little tidier than you found it.
    • Life is also ultimately disappointing, despite the many highs along the way; living at peace with this is quite a trick.
  8. High emotion creates a tremendous amount of energy, but, like any powerful tool, needs to be wielded judiciously, skillfully and sparingly.
    • I'm thinking mainly of anger - learn to harness it, use it, control it (and yes, often even suppress it); don't let it control you!
    • Many people don't seem to question themselves when they feel angry, and behave as if their emotion, in and of itself, sufficiently justifies their resulting behaviour, be it childish - or dangerous. So: question yourself!
    • This applies to other emotions as well - anxiety ... even love - they are all normal, useful (inevitable) parts of life, but making decisions based solely on emotion seems disrespectful to our own intelligence.
  9. For team discussions, we often hear, "Make light, not heat." And yet, in the physical world, they are often inextricable.
    • (Use the heat for warmth, not for damage?)
  10. Opinions, like coffee, are best served strong - not burnt.


Thought processing
  1. Science Acceptance (or Denial)
    • Science is not perfect. Scientists disagree with each other, and what is less obvious is that this is normal and desirable. It's one of the important ways in which we advance.
    • Science changes, as new information comes to light. This is normal and desirable.
    • Science gets perverted to human greed and ego and stubbornness. This is normal but highly undesirable.
    • All of these things quite understandably generate skepticism, and what is less clear is that rejecting Science means rejecting the 98% of it which is very solid, because of the 2% which falls into one of the above categories (some of which are normal and desirable — not all). Overall: Science rocks!
      • (I completely made up that 98% number, but you get the idea.)
    • My personal belief is that Science itself has not done a good enough job of explaining the above.
    • (My analysis, above, does not discuss the also very significant problem of tactical science-denial for political purposes by people who actually know better — unqualifiedly reprehensible!)
  2. The more fanatically one holds a belief, the less likely it is to be true.
    • I chose the word fanatically, not fervently - please consider the highly important distinction.
    • The fervency with which you hold a belief also does not sway me. I try to evaluate opinions on their merits, not on how strongly you believe them.
    • I like to believe things because I think they are true - not because I like to believe them. In other words, believing something because it feels good or comforts me, I find absolutely, totally and completely unsatisfying.
    • When trying to convince someone of something about which you feel fervently, it helps to remember your manners!
    • ("The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." -Sir William Osler)
  3. This relates to ideology - be very wary of people with a whole opinion-set which they formed longed ago and have decided (for reasons of intellectual lassitude? comfort?) never to re-evaluate. This applies especially to politics and religion.
    • If an opinion does not arise from a reasoned analysis of the pros and cons, but sees only the pros, then it much more likely represents an ideology than a truly balanced point of view.
    • I decided this long ago, and will never question it.
  4. Beware of managers who want to make big organizational changes when things are running smoothly. Their implicit interests (status, money ...) often diverge quite selfishly (but obscurely) from those of the overall enterprise.
    • Good management usually requires frequent minor adjustments, but trying to distinguish when major changes have true merit can necessitate extraordinary insight and judgement!
  5. Participating (in anything) only when you can give it your complete and unqualified endorsement guarantees you a high level of isolation and disenfranchisement.
  6. Keep thinking, stay flexible, and pay attention to all of the available, pertinent data.
    • Always, always be completely prepared to refine or discard a plan as necessary (and this applies as much to small things as to life-changing decisions).
    • "Determination" is good, "stubborness" is bad - and distinguishing between the two is hard!
  7. Perform critical tasks (e.g. driving an automobile, 'spotting' for a water-skier, talking to your spouse...) in a state of relaxed alertness.
    • Both qualities are equally important - tension (or panic) distracts from and inhibits intelligent thought, but nonetheless stay completely focussed on and engaged in your task.
  8. I can forgive an opinion demonstrating almost any degree of stubborness, inflexibility, even arrogance - but first you had better be very, very sure that you're right.
  9. If something doesn't seem to make sense, then stop and find out what it is.
    • Musings like, "Hmm, I wonder why that's happening," often under-react to the situation.
  10. Acting out of ignorance is much preferable to knowing better and still doing the wrong thing.
    • That doesn't mean that ignorance is good! It's much better to know better. I mean "acting out of unavoidable ingorance ..."
    • Don't ignore inconvenient but accurate information!
    • If you're not sure about the accuracy of inconvenient information - find out!
    • You can lead people to knowledge, but you can't make them think.
  11. The more emotion you feel about a problem, the more detachment you require to deal with it. (This has something to do with maturity.)
  12. Evidence is not proof.
    • Many people make an observation and then erroneously link it to a conclusion, saying, "See? That proves my point!" What they mean is: "That illustrates my point."
    • Illustration is only evidence. Literally proving something is much more elusive!
  13. If in doubt, give too much information.
    • If not in doubt: don't!
    • One can choose to ignore extraneous information, but one cannot choose to integrate unavailable data.
  14. Learn when to broaden and when to narrow your focus.
    • Sometimes, as when driving a motorized conveyance, this has to be done moment by moment, and sometimes, such as when planning a career, at longer intervals.
    • This means that the two popular sayings, Don't sweat the small stuff, and The devil is in the details, are both wrong (and right).
  15. Humans possess the extraordinarily useful mental abilities of abstract thought and of creative thinking, and also carry the disastrous trait of not knowing when just to follow a well-thought-out and time-tested plan or policy.
  16. Traditions, although very valuable tools, should serve us, not us serve them.
  17. Keeping everybody in a project informed about what's going on is a lot of work, and is often neglected. But it's one of the most important jobs of the leader, and ultimately makes things run much more smoothly. Think of it as keeping your work space tidy.
    • Late at night, tired and alone, having hammered out a plethora of difficult details, your job has just begun - now engage sincerely with all of the pertinent people!
  18. Make sure when you design a framework to account for the actual work - and the workers.
  19. We often hear not to over-complicate simple things. Yet in a modern World, a greater danger is over-simplifying complex things.
  20. Spend some time at some point in your life in front of a mirror, making various facial expressions, so you know how what you feel happening on your face corresponds to how you look. It can make a big difference to your social life, and also makes you much easier to photograph!
  21. When arranging dates, specify the day of the week as well as the month and date - it's an easy but useful check, on both ends, that your other details are correct (surprising how often I find dates getting muddled).
  22. Just because someone else is in less pain than you, doesn't mean that they're not in pain; acknowledge their pain.


I wish someone had told me that ...
  1. Always be nice to people, which often means standing up to them.
  2. Our instincts towards closed-communities must have evolved for some good reason, but have become maladaptive in a world approaching eight billion people.
    • We have intellects: we must use them to overcome this.
    • Narrow community identity is often disguised as religion. No major religion teaches hatred (I hope). But how comforting it must be, to leaders of violent factions, to claim Divine Authority. But it's a smoke screen. I'm not buying it, and I don't blame "religion."
    • Legitimate religious leaders could do much more and be much more vocal in their denunciation of violence.
  3. The two qualities of intelligence and wisdom seem unrelated.
  4. The reasons some things fail is because we need to do them 100 times harder, and sometimes with a multi-generational time frame (i.e. more stamina than we budget for). We do them twice as hard, they fail, so we give up. Examples: indigenous reconciliation in Canada; urban public transit as a way to keep cars out of downtown; healthcare cultural transformation.
  5. Statistics! Statistics are often unfairly maligned, and we ignore them at our peril. However:
    1. Statistics by their very nature apply to populations. We can use our understanding of specific statistics to apply to individuals, but we need to understand the limitations of that.
    2. Statistics are only as good as the data upon which they're founded. Garbage in, garbage out. Collecting good data is an art and a science all its own, so one needs to study and to learn—preferably formally—how to do that; don't think that you can just "collect some data" and that it will provide anything useful.
    3. Statistics are only as good as the question asked of them. Asking intelligent, statistically-meaningful questions is an art and a science all its own, so one needs to study and to learn how to do that; don't think that you can just "ask any question" and that the answer will mean anything useful. (If it seems that this repeats the "data" caveat, then please know that it does not.)
  6. Qualitative research. Many scientists perform research using purely quantitative data—measure one variable, control all of the others, and out spits "the answer"—very tidy. They disdain qualitative research. However, many questions are non-binary, and involve "numerous unpredictable variables in softly-bounded systems inter-acting with each other in real time in unpredictable ways (which is "complex" as opposed to [only] "complicated"). Complex questions can however be answered, and they require qualitative research; learning how to that, as with many other things, requires formal training and is easy to do poorly.
  7. When choosing a prospective life partner, examine how they treat their parents; also notice how they treat children, waiters, and animals. Being charming differs greatly from being truly nice, and in the long run, niceness matters a great deal. Observe them during times of stress, preferably extended (not that you wish that on anyone), for stamina and strength of character, as well as for sustained compassion.
  8. It's hard to be nice! People often erroneously think that having "nice" qualities like love, tolerance, generosity or altruism, will be easy and will make them feel good; often quite the opposite is true, and being "nice" can require tremendous amounts of hard work, time, money, and can even be quite painful. (But it's still nice to be nice!)
    • If there's one thing I can't stand, it's intolerance!
    • I also hate negativity!
  9. Always try to be the person whom your romantic partner would still want to pair with if only meeting you now for the first time (to the best of your ability).
    • This presumes that you presented your true self during courtship, also a wise move.
  10. Some people's performance isn't very good ... it's just the best they can do.
  11. We hear from outdoors-people that if our feet are cold, put on a hat, but less often from indoors-people about what is equally true, which is that if your head is cold, put on slippers.
  12. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder.


Poorly Disguised as Humour
  1. There is no such thing as a good comb-over.
    • There is no such thing as a good comb-over. If I can leave just one concept it's this: please be merciful and lose the comb-over!
  2. Revisionist history: it ain't what it used to be!
  3. Whatever doesn't kill you might kill you next time.
  4. I know I talk too much, but as far as I know I only have one life to live, and I've got a lot to say!
    • It does bother me that it doesn't seem to matter too much to whom I say it. Whoever's handy suffices!
  5. If you can't be urbane, be sub-urbane.
  6. I’m all for reductionism as long as you don’t carry it to extremes.
  7. I find having a conscience a tremendous liablity...
    • ...from which I have so far been unsuccessful at extricating myself.
  8. Some women think that men have it easy, but the modern male faces unprecedented pressures: one has to be sensitive, caring, in touch with one's feelings and those of others, able to cry, and yet remain strong, show leadership, masculinity, and strength; there are very few such as myself able to attain that delicately powerful balance.
  9. My uncle joked about some people being "humble and proud of it" - I, on the other hand, feel very humble about my (occasional[?]) arrogance.
  10. I want things right away and am prepared to wait to achieve that.
  11. Soar where the "egos" fly.
  12. Beware of geeks bearing gifts.
  13. Someone is trying to silence the conspiracy-theorists.
  14. Tell those other people that we're not dichotomous.
    • The world is divided into two types of people; I'm the other one.
  15. Should I do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? I'll have to think about it.
  16. Build on high ground.


Aphorisms, from 2001
#ctLow #CharlesTLow -updated: 2022-12-10