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The Conquering Instinct, Part 3 (final)

The Conquering Instinct, Part 3 (final)

I’ve been programmed to conquer. The code is in my name, my DNA, and my environment. Like a pit bull named Beast is raised to be a guard dog, I’ve be raised to be a roaming argument winner. I’ve been trained to be a good listener, so I can sniff out an argument with very little information. My senses have been finely tuned to spot potential weakness in the ideas of others. Finding disagreement and arguing my case is as natural as eating and breathing.

But, if I don’t learn to turn my instinct to conquer off and on at will, it will prevent me from reaching higher goals. It will make it more difficult for me to maintain healthy relationships.


Here we go…

Some weeks back, a friend and I were having a friendly conversation. He had just preordered a video game for me as a birthday present. Then we got to talking about some internet personalities we both follow. However, my friend told me that he had stopped liking a philosopher I respect a lot. Conquering Instinct: Activated.

After getting a little bit more information, I started to aggressively attack his position (or what I believed was his position). I had to apologize later for coming off as condescending. I realized that I had made a hasty judgement about my friend, so following my apology, I asked him to give me a fuller explanation of his disagreement with the philosopher. However, that developed into an argument about philosophy. I restrained my most aggressive instincts during our argument, but I viewed it like I viewed any other argument: a fight that I needed to win.

Our argument lasted a few days. During the argument, I often had the feeling that we were not really directly addressing each other’s positions. He gave me some information to support his position that I looked at. It was interesting, but not particularly useful. I didn’t feel it did a good job of making his case for him. My friend’s supporting references were attacking the philosopher I like. I knew that I was emotionally invested in the argument, but it didn’t prevent me from quickly dismissing his references after quickly scanning through them.

We went back and forth, mostly just arguing past each other. We probably repeated our arguments back and forth for four or five rounds. It was extremely frustrating. It reminded me of all the internet arguments back in my teens. I felt like I had a winning argument that was being ignored. After a few days, we decided to just end the argument since we didn’t seem to be going anywhere.



After a day or two to cool off, I reflected and did an autopsy of the whole thing to figure out what I was doing. What I came to realize is that, although a bit different from my parent’s tomato seed argument, our argument over philosophy had basically the same value. I was finally able to let go of the unsatisfactory ending to the argument when I finally asked myself, “Does it matter?” Whether I win or lose, whether I’m right or he’s right, will it really change my behavior? The argument was just a distraction, abstractions taking energy away from things that I actually cared about and needed to focus on. I was stuck in my head and disconnected from the world around me.

So now that I understand the problem, how do I reprogram myself to argue with the right intent in mind?

I think first it’s important to follow the wisdom of Peter Griffin:


Who the hell cares?

Before getting into an argument, I need to ask myself: How will this argument make me stronger? I want to feel strong by winning the argument, but in the end, even if I win, will I actually be stronger? How will the argument change my life and behavior for the better, whether I win or lose?

Whenever I feel my instinct to conquer turn on, I need to assess the potential value in the argument. I should also include my opponent in the process of assessing the argument, too. If I notice a disagreement between myself and someone else, I should first make sure there is actually a disagreement. If I establish an actual disagreement, then I need to ask them, “So what changes if I’m wrong and you’re right?” If the answers that either I or my opponent give don’t look so great, then I should just say, “Well then who the hell cares?” and move on with life.

Sure, one of us is closer to the truth. But is the difference so great that it makes it worthwhile to argue the point at all? If I’m about to get into an argument about the date that Dungeons and Dragons was released, I need to ask myself, “Who the hell cares?”

It’s just that simple. Save the conquering instinct and the risks it creates for the important battles. That’ll make for happy relationships and future children capable of being “wrong” when it doesn’t matter.

Winter Photography with my Flash

Winter time is often a tough season to take photos outdoors here in Japan. If it doesn’t snow, then all that you have are leafless trees and brown grass. The environment feels lifeless. It snowed a small amount yesterday, but wasn’t enough to have fun with. So, if the weather doesn’t want to provide me some entertainment, I have to rustle up some for myself.

In the past, I’ve used my wife’s Yongnu and even her monolights to do outdoor and indoor photography. I’ve done selfies, my wife’s portrait, and some product photography with her lights.


However, on Amazon’s Cyber Monday event, I procurred my first clip-on flash. I got the Godox TT600 for around $50 (5,000 yen). After getting it, I took it and my camera with me and my wife when we went on our nightly walks. I thought it would be fun to get some nighttime photography practice in.


One main reason why I chose the Godox over other similarly priced flashes was its ability to do high-speed synchro photography. Flash units have to be in synch with the shutter of the camera they are used with. If the shutter speed is too fast, you will have only part of the image exposed to the flash. Below are some examples of what happens when the shutter speed is too high.


That is a typical limitation that photographers have to adapt to, especially for any photography involving fast movement or bright sources of light (typically, the Sun). However, modern flash strobes and monolights have been incorporating high-speed synchro functionality. That allows them to synch with much high camera shutter speeds. Flashes without HSS have a maximum camera shutter speed of about 1/200-250. My new Godox TT600 can synch up to shutter speeds of 1/8000, much much faster.

What that means is that I can now take pictures that are backlit by the Sun and still get excellent pictures. Yesterday, I decided to go out with my wife and test it out for the first time. I took a small stand and some umbrellas with me. I was ready for a small outdoor studio shoot.

I’ve been aware of high-speed synch monolights for a while, but until only a few weeks ago, I had no idea that there were cheap clip-on flashes available with the same feature. I had seen expensive lights do the same thing as the photo above. I thought I would have to wait a while before I could take the pictures I wanted to take outside. However, now I and my Godox can go out and take some fun photos this winter.

























The Conquering Instinct, part 2

The Conquering Instinct, part 2

Forum battles

When I was a teenager, I used to argue a lot with strangers over the internet. Back in the early 2000s, web forums like phpBB and vBulletin were very popular (they’re still popular now, too, but they were probably more popular back then). Every individual website that wanted user interaction had a forum. Forums were used by gamers, aspiring writers, artists, etc. to share ideas and discuss things. I was active on a couple of gaming forums for several years. By active, I mean that I spent nearly all day, every day on those forums. When I wasn’t playing games or doing a small bit of studying, I was on those forums.

Of course, we talked a lot about games on those forums, but something I enjoyed just as much was arguing about politics. I remember long hours spent arguing about Israel and Palestine, the war on terrorism, capitalism vs. socialism, etc. I took the arguments very seriously. I spent a long time researching the history of the Middle East. I learned about UN resolutions, several different wars, etc. I was positive that I had the correct understanding of the situation in the middle east. My opponents seemed completely biased and stupid. They frequently ignored information I shared because of the source I used, showed empathy for only one side and unfairly attacked my side, etc.

I continued to argue with people I considered utter morons for probably close to five years before I got burnt out. Their arguments were predictable, they never changed their minds no matter what information or arguments I presented. Although I often felt like I “won” arguments, I started to doubt the value of the arguments if my opponents never changed or admitted defeat.

It never occurred to me that I, too, had predictable arguments, was empathetic to only one side in the argument, only accepted information from sources I considered legitimate, never changed my opinions, nor ever admitted defeat. In short, I and my opponent had far more things in common than I realized.

Later, I lost faith in my own side and found little reason to argue in favor of, well, anything. I took an apathetic stance, left the forums, and focused on my life and other interests.


Offline arguments

While I stopped taking an interest in political arguments for a while after that, I continued debates with family and friends in real life. Usually I argued with my dad. Although we often disagreed, we also often agreed, so it made arguing enjoyable. However, I still didn’t want to lose. Neither did he or my mom, in fact. They often argued about more daily-life things. Usually they argued about whether or not something in the past had actually happened, what someone did or didn’t do, etc. They never had major disagreements on big, important things, but they often would argue about small, trivial things.

Why would they argue about trivial things, you ask? I have a few ideas why. For one, my dad has a way of talking that can get under your skin. He frequently tells jokes that can only possibly funny to him. That wouldn’t be so bad—deafening silence after a bad joke is pretty funny to me—but he often forces others to participate in their own torture. In the middle of a conversation with him about some work-related problem, if he smiles and asks, “You know what you should do?”, 9 times out of 10 he has some extra unentertaining non-serious advice locked and loaded, waiting for you to reply with, “What?” The flow of the conversation is interrupted; how do you respond?

Let me ask, if someone you talk to keeps interrupting you by saying “Knock-knock” in the middle of a conversation, how do you respond? Answer: You stop talking to that person.

Now, let’s talk about my mom. You may be thinking, “That poor woman,” and you’d be right. I can understand her being a bit short with my dad and taking it out on him by being unrelenting in her criticism of him (which seems to glide off him like water off a duck’s back). If my dad says something like, “On Sunday, I planted some tomato seeds in the garden with your mom,” and my mom’s eyes get wide and bulge out a little, you know she’s been triggered.

“No, that wasn’t last week, that was last month!” she says, visibly offended by dad’s wrongness.

“Last month? We bought the seeds with some fertilizer last week.”

“No, *I* bought the fertilizer last week while you were napping! ‘We’ didn’t do anything!”

Depending on how badly one or both of them remember past events and any proof they might have to support their memory, the conversation can be a quick few lines, or it can be 3-5 minutes of the most heated debate regarding the who-did-what’s and deep analysis of the timeline of trivial events.

Neither wants to “lose” the argument. Neither wants to be “wrong”.

Neither stops to think, “Does it matter?”


Programmed to Conquer

So, in my online life, I fought never-ending, never-changing fights to prove that I was right. In my offline life, my environment passively taught me it was normal to fight to prove I was right, and that being wrong or simply not fighting wasn’t acceptable. If someone is wrong, you have to prove them wrong.

In a sense, you could say I was programmed to be right and prove others wrong. I was programmed to dominate and conquer. My online and offline interactions all encouraged me in that direction. My competitive and contrarian nature made it easy for me to find arguments where there might not be any. When I find a nice, meaty argument to chew on, I can hardly think of anything else.

And I, too, do not stop to think, “Does it matter?”





とても頭がいい人でも肯定文とマントラに興味があることは興味深い。スコット・アダムズという、ディルバートという有名なアメリカの漫画の漫画家は「How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big」(ほとんど失敗しても、大成功する方法)の中で、


元弁護士、ジャーナリスト、映画の監督、著者、そして、マインドセットの専門家であるマイク・サーナヴィチは肯定文とマントラで自分の独り言を改善する方法について、「Gorilla Mindset」(ゴリラマインドセット)という本の中で言う、