If someone paid you 5 million dollars to move into the house down the street, would you do it?

How about changing your name?

If we don’t know what things are worth to us—in dollars or any other value scheme we care to use—then the only migration we’re likely to undertake is reactive, survival-based.

Proactivity, on the other hand, gives us autonomy. We can take advantage of opportunities sooner rather than later.

In Super Mario Bros, the timer runs out if we only avoid enemies by pressing the “A” button to jump in place. We can start by learning about this jump button but stopping there would make for a pretty lame game.

It’s much better if we learn to run forward and score points. We find extra lives, secret passages, power-ups, and we eventually get to the next level. Playing around with controls and constraints yields fruit. Hopefully, it’s also way more fun.

If we play around enough, we discover that a lot of things in life are reversible. Did you forget that you could change your name back again? That you could sell the house, pocket the money, and go back to where you came from?

It’s hard to mess with physics. Those rules are always going to win. Then there’s the law, which we also don’t want to push against. But maybe there’s something to studying and questioning these things, seeking understanding.

Perhaps even more so with the rest of the stuff in our lives and in our heads. What rules have we decreed for our kingdom of one? “I don’t want to be friends with people who disagree with me.” Fair enough, but have you tried it?

In a chess game, familiarity with the situation helps us make good decisions. The deeper our understanding, the better the decisions. It’s dangerous to play on without seeing the opponent’s plan, let alone our own.

Similarly, it’s dangerous for society when unconscious comfort is the default value system. Without thinking things through, recognizing then questioning our drives, we can’t do much better than animals or random chance. And because humans are powerful, we can often do far worse.

Life is motion, life is change, life is a landscape of advantages and disadvantages. Sun Tzu has survived a long time by recognizing the implications of this state of affairs.

We don’t have to be very original. But are we willing to open our eyes?

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