Steel Man Your Relationships


not my image

Have you ever been in an argument with somebody that doesn’t play fair?  Perhaps they don’t even address the point you’re trying to make, and instead, they twist your words in to something you don’t even mean, and in so doing, they make it look like you’re the jerk?  Of course you have.  We all have.

People use cheap tactics during arguments because they want to win.  You do it and so do I.  Have you ever had somebody argue that you hold a view that is not actually your view?   Instead, they are taking a distorted view of what you believe, twisting your belief in to something bad,  and then arguing that point to show that you’re wrong.


not my image

For example, John and Dave are debating whether nutrition or exercise is more important for getting in to shape.  When reviewing this example, don’t get caught up in who is actually right or wrong, rather, pay attention to the argument technique Dave uses.

John states, “Nutrition and exercise are both important, but exercise is more important because it actually burns fat and adds muscle.”

Dave states, “Six packs are made in the kitchen, John.  You can’t just dump buckets of grease down your throat all day every day and expect to get in shape because you did a jumping jack.  Clearly you’re wrong.”

So, even though Dave might have a good point about nutrition, he attacked a position that John doesn’t actually hold.  John never said he could get lean by dumping buckets of grease down his throat and doing one jumping jack.  Dave fabricated and exaggerated John’s actual position to make himself right. Dave, therefore, created Straw Man out of John’s argument. Not a good tactic.

We see Straw Man arguments all the time in politics, and it’s destructive when in pursuit of truth.  This can be seen in intimate relationships as well.  If you Straw Man your wife’s argument, you are essentially sacrificing her trust and respect in favor of winning the argument.  Straw Man works well for political enemies if you are clever about it, but is a dick move when it comes to people you love.

Try to Steel Man your next argument with your significant other.  Steel Man, as opposed to Straw Man, is when you state your opponent’s (or wife’s) argument to the best of your ability before you offer up your counter-argument.  When using the Steel Man tactic, you have to actually take her perspective, verbally state her position accurately and to the best of your ability, and then ask her if you are representing her position accurately.  Once you get the affirmative nod from her, then you can proceed to make your argument.

The Steel Man tactic is about as fair as it gets, and is much more likely to lower the defenses of the person you’re arguing with.  When your opponent knows you understand their position and aren’t trying to twist words via Straw Man tactics, they’re much more likely to listen to your point and potentially change their mind.  If they don’t change their mind, then you have at least demonstrated you care enough about their perspective that your relationship survives the disagreement.

Become Colossus, my friends.



Treadmills: Proof of Intelligent Design

hamsterI’ve heard human beings described as Pleasure Monkeys; primitive, reward-seeking primates that will gladly climb a tree IF there is promise of bananas a few branches up. We, like all animals, seek pleasure and avoid pain.  The way we speak, with whom we associate, what we do, where we work, what we wear; all of it can be viewed through the evolutionary lens of putting in effort to achieve a reward.  The banana in the tree.

I really like weight lifting.  It improves my strength, and the aesthetics my efforts produce seem to be appreciated by my wife.  Putting myself through the grinder of a hard work out is well worth it. However, there are other components to lifting weights that are important to me.

Suppose a sadist of the worst kind devises a highly effective, resistance training contraption that allows the user to perceive what pulling hundreds of pounds off the floor might feel like, as well as all the accompanying performance gains.   The downside to this contraption is all of the benefit would occur without the glorious payoff of  moving the actual weight that was previously unattainable.

There is something beautiful about achieving a personal record.  Loading the bar with weight, and then hitting a clean repetition with that weight for the first time is a payoff! Hearing the metallic clang of the plates as they settle against one another during each repetition is a reward. Feeling the knurling on the bar dig in to my chalked hands, and watching the bar bow gently under the tension I  generate are bananas in the tree for which this pleasure monkey will climb.

Why, then, do treadmills exist? Where the hell is the banana?  If I hop on the treadmill for thirty minutes and jog at a ten minute pace, I have gone exactly nowhere.  Did I run three miles?  I guess so.  I didn’t feel any breeze, though. I didn’t catch the scent of blooming flowers on the side of the road, either.  Just the cloud of Axe Body Spray the guy next to me doused himself with.  I don’t get to see the ever changing, beautiful, Utah landscape.  Just the gaggle of women standing in a crowd four feet from me yammering on about when to switch from breast milk to formula.

Obviously I’m missing something, as treadmills are clearly popular, but who are you people?  …and, why?  So, in short, evolutionary theory holds that maladaptive behaviors will be selected out of the gene pool, and yet, treadmills abound.   Darwin was wrong, guys.  There is a God, and he wants us to do cardio.



Civilize The Mind, But Make Savage The Body (part 2)


“Civilize the mind but make Savage the body.”
Pretty dope quote from a pretty bad dude. Dope enough for me to write twice about it.  I’m sure Chairman Mao was likely talking about how to make an ideal soldier, or leader, or generate some type of military might. I have no idea, as I did zero research for this post.

The way I look at it, “civilizing the mind” means developing a cultured, educated view of the world. Achieving a civil mind would involve familiarity with a history book coupled with awareness of current events. One would need the skill of learning how to think, as in the ability to maintain a view of the world that is reasonable and based on evidence. A civilized mind implies the capacity for keeping your shit together during stressful events, and acting in a manner that increases the chances of being accepted and admired by your social group. It also involves the wherewithal to know how to navigate complex hierarchies within business and culture, while maintaining personal integrity and not compromising personal values.

To make the body savage, one must be able to navigate their physical environment, and be able to adapt to the ever-changing situations that might, in one moment, call for the ability to pick something enormously heavy off the ground, and the next moment,  sprint for a short burst. Or run much longer if the situation calls for it. One would also need some general flexibility, agility, and of course, in order to make the body truly savage, one must have a general sense of how to choke a fool.
Some might call this approach “toxic masculinity.”  If so, please understand I am not calling for, or advocating aggression. The opposite, in fact. Rather, I’m suggesting we collectively expand and evolve the way we interface with the world. #lovewins, and stuff like that. In so doing, we simply need to recognize that we must also develop the capacity for savagery. That is, after all, what keeps us civil.



Boys and girls should have the same opportunities in life. In fact, I really don’t think there is a viable counter argument. Equality of opportunity between the sexes firmly belongs in the “no shit” category.  I’m posting this because the Boy Scouts will soon be the Scouts; meaning boys and girls are both admitted.  Before jumping to conclusions about my position here, please read on…  🙂

There are obvious benefits to boys and girls flying under the same Scouting banner, in that girls now get a chance to do all the cool stuff I got to do when I was a Boy Scout. Girls should absolutely be exposed to camping, fishing, tying knots, lighting the forest on fire, blowing up outhouses, and learning the vital skill of taking out swarms of mosquitoes with a cigarette lighter and a can of Off! The concept behind merit badges and attaining higher rank based on output is pretty cool too, I guess.
I’m speaking only from my personal experience and not trying to make broad claims here, but I think a lot of skills that I learned in scouting are better learned separately, unencumbered by the persistent distraction of trying to impress the opposite sex.  Johnny has a chance to learn some useful skills like finding a campsite and starting a fire.  Johnny will probably learn this stuff way more effectively if he’s not distracted; checking to see if Jenny noticed his pitched tent.  Furthermore, Jenny should be able to learn how to bait a hook without Johnny leering over her shoulder.  Most boys aren’t creeps.  Johnny, though?  Creep.

Here’s the deal… Johnny and Jenny get to see each other every day at school, go to the same parties, football games, dances, and ultimately, will have plenty of opportunity to work out the intricacies of male/female relations for the duration of their life. There is value in allowing boys and girls the option to develop along separate paths, knowing full well that those paths will eventually converge. So, in short, I’m all for equality of opportunity, and I’d up-vote an analogous, additional coed program. I simply think The Scouts meant well, but missed the mark for gender parity.



Inspiration for this blog came from The Joe Rogan Experience with guest Tim Kennedy.

Guerrilla Social Work Podcast

If you happen to check this blog, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted in a bit.  All my Killer J blog time has been redirected to a podcast.  I’m not done blogging, but that’s my excuse for the absence.  We’re on iTunes, Podbean, YouTube, and probably some other stuff.

Check it out!

Everybody’s An Expert

Have you ever met somebody that believes they are smarter, funnier, or more athletic than they really are?  Of course you have.  People like that are everywhere.  Hell, you probably are one of those people!  I know I “probably” am. 🙂  The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains this phenomenon, as it is a concept in psychology that presumes incompetent people tend to overestimate their ability in a given area.  Ask ten people if they consider themselves to be an above average driver, and I’ll bet most, if not all say they are above average.  That’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect at play.  How can everybody be above average?

The Dunning Kruger Effect is pretty easy to spot.  You hear it in everyday conversation:

While watching MMA with a group of friends, somebody will invariably say, “Why’d that guy let the other guy take him to the ground like that?  I’d have just punched him!”

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Maia vs LaFlare

“Just stand up!”

Watching football, “Oh my God, how’d he miss that tackle?  Just wrap the guy up and tackle him!”


“Just tackle him!”

Discussing politics, “All _____-wing people are complete idiots!  If they’d just _________, our society would be great!”

left vs right

Put your blinders on and pick a team. ‘Merica!

In medicine, “Doctors are idiots.  No way am I getting my kid vaccinated.  I know better.”

Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy, M.D.?

So, what can be done about a person that sucks at something, but thinks they are good?  They have to work on and develop considerable skill or knowledge in that given area in order for them to assume some humility and realize, “Hmm, I thought I knew about ______, but come to find out, I don’t know shit!”

Dunning Kruger

Dunning Kruger Effect (not my chart)

So, that self-righteous, finger-wagging dope that consistently rants about politics on your Facebook feed would have to humble themselves enough to genuinely learn the perspective of the “other side” in order for them to truly realize their belief system is based on a shaky, superficial understanding of things.  The mouth-breather watching MMA while yelling at the fighter on television to “Just stand up!” needs to get off the damn couch, step on the mat and get their ass kicked, i.e. learn, for a few months to realize what they thought they knew about fighting is laughable.

So, here is your challenge, dear reader.  Check yourself for incompetence!  Examine the beliefs you are certain you are right about, and open yourself up to the possibility that you probably don’t know what you’re talking about. The Dunning Kruger Effect doesn’t discriminate.  It can afflict all of us!

Challenge Yourself

We all have plenty of things to stress about.   Adding an additional, challenging thing to your life is probably not at the top of your list of things to do.  After a full day of nonsense, you probably want to plop down on the couch and call it a night.  There is some value in chilling out after a grind of a day, but when your “relaxation time” is continually spent being unproductive, it’s all too easy to fall in to a muted existence.  Many people enter a depressing pattern of going to work, paying bills, taking care of family issues, and then possibly disengaging their mind through the distraction television, movies, and social media provide before falling asleep only to do it all over again.  Boredom become the norm.


(not my image)

If you can relate to this, then pull yourself out of the doldrums by doing something hard!  Our minds are wired to make us feel great when we engage in a difficult task, struggle through it, and then achieve some sense of success.   Climb a mountain.  Pick up a foreign language. Learn effective ways to choke people.  Do something!