2013 was a big year. Beginning 2014, I imagined it would be difficult to beat it. In some ways that proved true, but in other ways I was surprised.
So here is a look back on the things I regularly keep track of to measure progress.
Obviously not the best improvement for an entire year's worth of work. However, it's not the most complete picture. I was actually crushing my workouts, particularly on the bench press, right up until my move to Singapore where everything took a huge nose dive for various reasons.
I believe if I had stayed in Dubai, both my bench press and deadlift would have finished about 20 pounds heavier. I say this based on my training numbers, which were themselves all about 20 pounds heavier than previous training weights and were moving really well. This area will be a big focus for 2015. Another year of stagnation is not acceptable.
I read 70 books this year, which is obviously a big decrease from the 108 in 2013. The total page count was a little over 15,000, which is actually a relatively bigger decrease than books read compared to the nearly 27,000 pages read in 2013.
The books which had the biggest impact on me this year were:
I see these as breaking down into three categories.
Books 1-4 are essentially books on morals and how we ought to live. I find this topic is the most interesting to me, year in and year out. Most of the other things I do in life are in-line with trying to figure out more about morals and good living. I could read or talk about this topic with anyone for hours.
Books 5-7 are mathematical in nature, but strongly relate to the first four. Much of the abstract mathematical topics in these books provide some of the strongest evidence for reasons against god, superstition, and belief in the supernatural. This is because they teach the tools of rational thinking and clear evidence-based decision making.
Interestingly enough, I have found this year, more than any previous year, that I've noticed many people use the words "analytical", "logical", or "rational" with a contemptuous undertone. They seem to attack these ideas as somehow less human or state them with the implication that people who embody these ideas are less understanding of how other people think and feel. This is absolute garbage and probably a good topic for an entire article of its own.
Books 8-10 are really about the importance of innovation and creativity. This year, I have been trying to figure out where my greatest "value-added" ability lies. Creation and the ability to create consistently seems to be one of the key factors that separates the value of people within society.
2013 was a very slow year of international travel, but okay for travel within the United States. 2014 was the complete opposite. I began in the California, moved to Dubai for three months of work, and then again to Singapore where I am for the next two years at the very least. While in Singapore, I visited Cambodia for a week with the school I'm working for as a field studies trip with tenth graders and then went immediately to Bali in Indonesia for a week long vacation. Lastly, over Thanksgiving weekend, I spent four days in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which was my favorite new city of this year to visit.
Overall, I traveled to five new countries this year and lived in two of them. Very fun! Very tiring! And very detrimental to dose gym gainz mayne! Travel and life consistency do not a happy marriage make. On the other hand, it does lead to some accelerated learning about life and other people with interesting new food and people.
Basically, my wife and I are in a much better financial position this year. We both have jobs. We are paying down student loan debt. We have some savings (although I'd love for them to be higher). We are on the same schedule and are able to vacation and travel together.
Looking to 2015
I will start the year by reading the same book I've read at the beginning of the last three years. That book is the The Hero Handbook. It is not special and doesn't offer any unique insight about the world. But it is short and contains good reminders of everything I find valuable. I can read it in an hour or so and get myself on track for the new year. It simply serves as a great anchor.
The new year will have a couple old focuses and a couple new ones:
Most importantly, "Win the play."
I talked about some of the benefits of intentional stress inducement in the last post on economic growth. After additional thought, I realized there is more to say about the utilization of stress in keeping various systems healthy. In fact, many systems have potential one-time, large downsides, that once identified, can be prevented through small, consistent stressors via acts of commission or omission.
I relate a lot of what I know about the manipulation of stress to the body. It's no secret that I have a pretty large obsession with strength training. I generally read at least one book a month on the topic and sometimes quite a bit more (see my recent reads on the Home page).
I think it's important to understand my motivation though. Since I love reading, learning, talking about, and watching acts of strength, most people assume it's because I just want to be big and strong.
This is false! I truly don't care how big I am or am not. What I care about is health.
Since I was a child, I've watched several of my family members succumb to health issues that they often had no control over due to genetic diseases. Others deteriorated because of their own poor choices and health behaviors. Watching all of them slowly lose their capability to perform various tasks over the years produced a strong desire in me to not lose my capabilities (a.k.a. freedom) easily retained through preventive measures.
Mark Twain has a quote on reading that is just as apt when it comes to a healthy body. “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” When I think of all the unhealthy people with no choice, such as my family members with genetic diseases, and all of the unhealthy people with a choice, such as a person riding around Walmart on a scooter because they have 40% body fat, I am reminded of Mark Twain's quote. These people have voluntarily given up many of life's opportunities and capabilities out of an avoidance of small stresses in the form of exercise, diet, fasting, and other small discomforts.
The man who does not run has no advantage over the man who cannot run.
This avoidance of small, consistent stressors in the form of exercise and diet leads to a lack of health and a much larger, single stress in the form of early death and capability loss.
So while strength training allows me to set goals and chase achievements, it is simply the carrot I use with myself to keep me moving in the right direction and toward a life of health and physical capability.
When it comes to the body, we know very clearly what problems cause preventable death.
Most of these simply involve abstinence from a particular behavior (smoking, drinking, driving, etc.), which is itself a form of small stress for many people. However, exercise is one form of physical stress that requires action.
The large stress we hope to avoid with the body is death. Relative to the small decreases in performance from exercise, which bounce back to higher levels of performance after recovery, death is one decrease in performance that does not bounce back. Death is not recoverable. It's all downside.
In the economy, the downside we're hoping to avoid is a recession. Recessions are large decreases in performance that often take a long time to recover from. It is equivalent to a serious illness that requires hospitalization, if we were to continue with the body analogy. Sure, most recessions don't kill the country, but they can certainly be the cause of "losing a foot" or a massive "loss in body weight" as the country's GDP drops.
How do we do our best to prevent these large illnesses and trips to the hospital that set us back for months or years.
We fucking exercise. We intentionally induce stress to the system to flush out weak points and help build immunity. This was my essential point in the last post, linked to at the beginning of this article.
By constantly stressing systems on a small scale consistently, we can usually prevent one-time, large stresses from ever occurring, which for the purpose of discussing the economy is recessions. I am arguing that recessions would be better prevented through intentional acts of stressing various markets. This would cause small, temporary decreases in these markets, but the stress would keep the markets healthy and pave the way for future growth.
Looking at personal finance, we have to consider what the large downside we hope to prevent is. What one-time, large shock to our personal finances would we want to avoid?
Loss of monthly income is typically the biggest shock that could damage most individuals and families.
If you suddenly lost your monthly income, would you be able to survive next month? How much stress would this cause?
What small, consistent stressors could we apply to our monthly finances in order to help prevent this larger stress from occurring?
By saving a small percentage of monthly income now, we suffer the small annoyance of not being able to use those funds in the present. This represents an act of abstinence similar to fasting or dieting as mentioned above in the section on the body. By engaging in this form of financial dieting, a loss of monthly income, while bad, will not represent a huge stress. You will have an emergency fund and the needed space and breathing room to find a new source of monthly income.
Individual Job Security
So what is the big stress we hope to avoid with our jobs? Being fired or laid off.
How do we institute small, consistent stressors with the hope of preventing this larger stress?
There is a variety of ways. Taking on extra work (that you do well), providing more working hours, accepting promotions or taking on other time commitments. All of these things add sources of stress to your life on a small scale by requiring you to do more, either through the intensity of work you perform or through the volume of work you do in terms of time.
However, they also develop you as an employee and a source of human capital. They add value to you and the company. As you grow in value for the company, your likelihood of being let go drops. Any small task that creates more work for you, but value for the company will be a small stressor today, that prevents the larger, drastic stressor of tomorrow when your manager has to decide who will be let go while the office downsizes.
Outside of corporate employment, there is also the possibility of self-employment. This is pretty much one long, continuous stream of small stressors. However, self-employment, once off the ground and reasonably successful, is perhaps the greatest form of job security. No one can fire you, unless all of your clients/customers suddenly decide your service/product is no longer valuable.
Of course, there are few breaks and few chances to slack off. You are entirely accountable to yourself and only yourself will give you orders and tasks to do. This is much more creatively demanding that having the tasks handed down to you from above. However, all of the stress that goes with being self-employed can be weighed against the often large financial and psychological stress of being laid off when you have mouths to feed, rent to pay, and student loan debt to help your kids get through college.
Self-employment is not an act of abstinence like dieting or saving above, but an active form of development like exercise. You have to constantly generate the motivation to get up and move forward. These acts of commission are often more difficult than acts of omission, so it is understandable why self-employment is much rarer than simply saving each month from the paycheck earned in corporate employment.
This will be the last example. However, these few categories of the body, economy, personal finance, job security, and now marriage are not the only ones. These ideas can be applied to any system that involves a potentially large downside. Once you are able to identify the large risk factor, think hard about what small acts you can take to prevent it, which may be stressful in their own right, but on a small and tolerable scale.
On to marriage. Marriage ends in divorce roughly 50 percent of the time in America. That's a big percentage. Divorce is also a large downside. Emotions, finances, relationships, and people's well-being all suffer as a result.
How do we prevent this big shock to our system?
I really hope you've guessed it by now. We perform small, consistent stress tests on it. These take the form of anything that is uncomfortable for the marriage. Difficult conversations. Difficult behaviors to commit.
One oft cited cause of divorce is infidelity. I firmly believe that if couples had more difficult conversations about this topic, it would be much less of an issue. What is it about infidelity that causes stress? What makes it unacceptable? Usually, it is accepted as cause for outrage because of Christian values and not some fear of sexually transmitted diseases. If it is a fear of being left for another, what causes this fear? Insecurity? Should we be married to spouses that are insecure in our feelings toward them to begin with? Should marriage be about feelings to begin with or financial and familial stability for raising children?
I am not at all saying that infidelity is always acceptable, but the blatant refusal to talk about it is the avoidance of a stress that potentially leads to a much larger one. It's the matrimonial equivalent of the person riding around Walmart at 40% body fat because they refuse to suffer discomfort in the form of dieting or exercise. Experience the discomfort of difficult conversations and behaviors in marriage. They won't kill you. In fact, they will do the opposite as everything in this post has pointed to.
Bertrand Russell won the Nobel Prize in literature for his book Marriage and Morals. It discusses several very difficult topics and conversations that would be beneficial for any couple to have. I highly recommend it as a starting point for looking at conversation topics that can act as stress testers for marriage and personal morality.
I finished the third chapter of Macroeconomics today as part of my A.E. Project, which focused on business cycle measurement. It discussed the the inherent irregularity and deviations from trend among macroeconomics variables.
All this is summarized in the picture above. The straight blue line is the long-run trend line for output. The irregularity and deviation from trend is represented by the green line which goes up and down in peaks and troughs.
If you've been reading my posts lately, this picture should look extremely familiar! It looks exactly like the pattern seen with progressive overload in performance development over time.
We control physical development over time by inducing higher and higher loads of stress on the body in controlled, incremental fashion and then allowing rest and recovery to take place. As the body recovers, it adapts to the stress it suffered from during the training session by overcompensating in the form of added muscular tissue, enzymes, bone density, and rate coding in neurons. This ensures that any future stress of the same intensity will be handled without much of a shock to the system.
If economic growth follows the same curve over time, why can't we manipulate it the same way we do with strength training through shocks to the system? Rather than waiting for irregular and uncontrolled deviations from the long-run growth trend, why not induce systematic shocks to the economy to ensure controlled growth?
I understand that the Fed does manipulate interest rates in an attempt at controlling growth.
However, I am suggesting that, just maybe, it ought to intentionally create small economic dips, where growth actually reverses slightly, rather than just slow the growth rate. This could hypothetically act the way controlled burning does within the field of forest management. Both forests and the economy are complex systems. Fires are a natural part of the ecology of forests and recessions (troughs) are a natural part of the economy.
Rather than wait for fuel buildup to occur (think sub-prime mortgages in the recent recession), it is time we think about taking the recessions into our own hands in the same way fire authorities have taken wildfires into theirs. Nassim Taleb discussed a very similar idea in regards to Switzerland's economy based on small businesses which fail (burn up) often, preventing larger economic problems (wildfires) for the economy as a whole in his book Antifragile - one of the best books I've ever read.
Dips will happen with or without planning. Fire authorities and meat-head gym rats understand this. Why don't economists?
Now, what do you do when you're in high school and someone asks you to run for student council? You say, "Sure." But then you don't run; you anti-run. Everything is done to deemphasize it because you don't want the embarrassment of trying and losing. So I said to myself, "Self, whether you lose because you didn't run for the Board of Governors or whether you lose because you ran hard, it's the same outcome. So let's really run hard. Let's get aggressive and try to get elected. And if you don't get elected, you don't get elected. Big deal.
That's the one idea I'm taking away from the book I'm currently reading by Brendan Moynihan. It seems simple enough, but the verbalization of it felt like it shifted my perspective while I was reading. It also reminded me of one of my other favorite quotes.
"Everyone wants to win the game. Just win the play. Win the play and the game will take care of itself.”
The above quote is from one of my favorite writers and strength experts, Jim Wendler. I've read five or six of his books, several of them multiple times, and that line is always the one that sticks with me.
Then there is the email I woke up to this morning from James Altucher, which contains the following,
B) A life is measured by what you did TODAY, even this moment.
Finally, Cal Newport quotes a student in his book How to Be a High School Superstar who states, "It didn't hit me until near the end of the project that this was a big deal. I was thinking about it step by step, saying, 'I just need to get through these next three hours.'"
Take Home Points
This is also the strategy I'm relying on with my A.E. Project. I've entered the self-education game with the goal of disrupting people's ideas about education, what it means, how we receive it. Now, I'm simply "waking up every morning, opening the shades, and pushing through all the things that make me want to go back to sleep."
I just finished reading chapter two from my Macroeconomic Theory textbook, which focused on measurement within the study of macroeconomics. The largest takeaway from the day is that measurement within complex systems are extraordinarily tricky. There is often no such thing as a perfect measurement. Even if we do assume a perfect measurement of a specific variable, it often doesn't give us the entire picture we are looking for anyway.
This is something I ran into recently here at this website. When it comes to website traffic, it seems nearly impossible to get a "real" count of the number of visitors. Weebly (the host used for this site) counts traffic differently than Google Analytics. Weebly seems to overestimate and Google seems to underestimate based on their two different methods of measurement. Neither will be the true value of visitors or page views.
This leads to a second point; trends are often more important than "real" figures. As long as you decide the on the measurement you wish to use and are consistent with one form of measurement, it is possible to gauge trends over time. This is true with economic growth, inflation, web traffic, or even body fat percentage (notoriously difficult to measure accurately without million dollar medical machines).
1. Two difficulties faced in the measurement of aggregate output using GDP are activities in the underground economy that is not counted and valuation of government expenditures. Since most government expenditures are not sold in the market place, they can be easily overvalued (e.g. a bridge built that no one uses) or easily undervalued (e.g. willingness to pay much more for national defense than the actual cost of wages, salaries, materials, etc.).
2. Federal defense spending made up 27.2% of government expenditures in 2011. This accounted for 5.5% of GDP.
3. Three problems in the measurement of real GDP are that relative prices change over time (affects the inflation rate, government transfers, and tax brackets), quality of goods change over time (e.g. cars today are much higher quality than in years past), and new goods that did not exist in years past (e.g. computers coming to market and adding huge previously non-existent value).
4. National wealth is accumulated in two ways: investment (additions to a nation's capital stock) and current account surpluses (implying a transfer of wealth from outside the nation to residents within the nation).
I officially began the A.E. Project today. I spent most of the morning at a nice cafe in Dempsey Hill, reading the course textbook on my wife's tablet. Yesterday, I discussed the potential downside of buying a Kindle eTextbook and needing a separate device other than my smartphone to read on, but today worked out just fine and, overall, it was an enjoyable experience.
I read through all of chapter one today, although the class syllabus technically just asks that you skim the chapter. I plan to read all or most of the chapters, regardless of the syllabus, since I am spending the money on the full textbook and not just sections of it! Just because the syllabus doesn't ask me to learn the material, doesn't mean I can't anyway. There are 18 chapters in this book, so it'll take about 18 days to get through. Of course there are other course readings as well.
A few selected answers from questions at the end of the chapter are below. I have typed the initial question from the book in bold to begin my answers.
Questions for Review
1. The primary defining characteristic of macroeconomics is that it focuses on the behavior of large collections of economic agents. It focuses on the aggregate behavior of consumers and firms, the behavior of governments, the overall level of economic activity in individual countries, the economic interactions among nations, and the effects of fiscal and monetary policy.
6. In a graph of the natural logarithm of an economic time series, the slop of the graph represents a good approximation to the growth rate of Yt (an observation on an economic time series), when the growth rate is small.
11. The five elements that make up the basic structure of a macroeconomic model are the consumers and firms that interact in the economy, the set of goods that consumers wish to consume, consumers' preference over goods, the technology available to firms for producing goods, and the resources available.
17. The principal effect of an increase in government spending is a crowding out of private economic activity. That is, the government competes for resources with the rest of the economy.
2. If I could turn back the clock to the time of the Great Depression, the experiment I would like to run on the U.S. economy would be to see the economic growth of the United States if only Democrats or only Republicans held office until present day. I am curious to see how the economy would fare if the decision makers were acting on one set of continuous core beliefs without the schizophrenia accompanied by the switching back and forth of two parties.
4. In Figure 1.6, unemployment changes more rapidly when it is increasing. Although, it doesn't appear to be a large difference. The rise and fall happen fairly symmetrically. Based on previous experience, the unemployment rate will again reach 4% after the 2008-2009 recession some time around 2020-2025.
8. In Figure 1.13, the severity of the 2008-2009 recession relative to previous recessions is about -3.5% deviation from trend in real GDP. This makes it more severe than the 1990-1991 and 2001 recessions, but less severe than the 1974-1975, 1981-1982 recessions, and of course the Great Depression.
As mentioned in a recent post, I purchased my first textbook for the A.E. Project as a Kindle eTextbook.
This was done for a few reasons:
So while the fourth one is particular to me, the first three are pretty universal. With those reasons in mind, I gladly bought the eTextbook version of my first course without thinking too much about it.
It turns out that the first (and largest) reason for my love of eBooks is voided with Kindle eTextbooks as you can't actually read them on your smartphone Kindle App or via the internet on the Kindle Cloud Reader.
Instead, you must download the Kindle Reading App to use on your PC or, according to the video above, a tablet of some kind. This is a large downside, as it essentially takes all the convenience of having Kindle in my pocket away and replaces it with me having to carry a laptop around with me if I want to read outside of my house. It also means I need to be plugged into an outlet, as my laptop usually dies after about three hours of use.
Rather than having a heavy textbook to lug around with no potential battery issues, I have a heavy laptop to lug around which requires constant charging. It's all the downsides of having a traditional book, without the upside of no battery!
Of course, if I am able to get my hands on a tablet ("Hello work iPad..."), this extreme downside could be eliminated as the battery life is ridiculous on the new tablets, essentially as long or longer than my smartphone.
However, even with the tablet, I will be taking an extra device with me everywhere I go. The beauty of smartphones today is that they are computers, cameras, books, email managers, and video and music players all-in-one. I'm so used to only having my wallet in one pocket and my smartphone in the other, that needing to take anything else with me when I step out my door is felt as a relatively large inconvenience.
Why I'll Still Buy eTextbooks for My Other Courses
Assuming the tablet version of the eTextbook works out alright, I will still buy eTextbooks for the other nine courses in my project. This is because eTextbooks on tablets, even with needing an extra device, are still lighter to carry around than most textbooks, have batteries that can last the entire day without needing to be recharged, travel easier between countries, can be read in the dark, can be purchased and read immediately, are cheaper, and allow me to heavily mark them up without my OCD kicking in.
In short, even with the downside, the other big upsides win out overall.
I'll be starting the reading for the course tomorrow and we'll see how it plays out in real life; perhaps, some other inconvenience or unexpected downside will pop up in the course of reading this first book. We'll just have to find out.
Today was my last day of work until January 12th, which is 23 days from now. I'm trying to finish a particularly difficult book in the next couple of days so that I can officially start the first course, Macroeconomic Theory, of my A.E. Project.
The book is Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. I find myself dozing off or zoning out through relatively long stretches of the book, which is uncommon for me and usually the result of difficulty, not boredom - honest, the ideas are really interesting, I promise! Even though it is a pretty big act of volition on my part to keep going, there is one simple reason.
This is a concept from strength training and is illustrated in the picture above. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress to the body over time. You can see in the picture that as performance comes to a new peak, a training session happens. This training session should result in a larger stress than previously encountered by the body causing a momentary dip in performance. After proper rest and recovery, your body adapts to the stress by supercompensating to a new local maximum so that future stressors of the size just encountered aren't seen as a shock to your body's equilibrium.
By gradually increasing the stress endured in a training session over time, with the proper rest and recovery between sessions, the body continually gets stronger (or faster, or "insert goal here").
If you do not expose the body to a larger stress, there will be no momentary dip, since the body is already adapted to all stressors smaller than the previous training session. The stressor must be large enough to elicit the dip or there will be no reason for it to supercompensate to a higher performance level.
This is why people that lift the same weight for the same number of reps for the same number of sets each time they go to the gym don't get stronger. The same applies to running the same distance in the same time frame and every other physical aspect you can think of.
It also applies to learning.
This is why I continue to read books that are just beyond my ability and cause me to strain and be uncomfortable. Even though Development as Freedom is quite difficult for me to get through, I know it is causing that momentary dip (recognizable as mental fatigue, zoning out, or other attention issues).
As long as I keep pushing, I will come out the other side. Perhaps not right away, but eventually.
This same idea is one of the largest reasons for me wanting to undertake the A.E. Project as well. I'm sure that there will be lots of strain and stress (the good kind), but eventually that will translate into a higher performance maximum, just like with the diagram above. Each course will act as a "training session" that my mind will be forced to adapt to.
Lift heavy shit. Read hard shit. Dip. Adapt.
Tonight was spent gathering all the course readings for the first course I'm tackling in my M.S. in applied economics project, which really needs a shorter name. M.S.A.E.P? A.E.P.? Let's just call it the A.E. Project for now.
Back to the course readings.
Each week is comprised of one or more chapters from the course textbook, as well as an additional one to three articles. I was able to purchase the Kindle version of the textbook with the GoFundMe donations I received this week. In fact, the donations paid for the entire cost of the book, which was awesome. So thank you to everyone who donated. Below is a picture and link to the course textbook if you'd like to check it out. It will be the main source of information while I study macroeconomics.
I was also able to download or locate all of the additional articles via a regular ol' Google or Google Scholar search for no extra cost and little extra time. So without further ado, below is the entire course readings for the online version of the Macroeconomic Theory course from the Course Syllabus Archive page on John Hopkins University's website. The Course Syllabus Archive page is the lifeblood of this project and the central reason that John Hopkin's M.S. was chosen and not some other school's.
Weekly Readings (Chapters Are from Textbook)
That's it. Doesn't really seem like much when it's all laid out like this, but I'm sure this will be quite a challenge. Of course, there are also problems to solve after each chapter reading, which is where many students get stuck in traditional classes.
Millions of people participate in the sport of running every year.
Many of these same people devote large amounts of their personal time each day. Spending an hour or two, before or after work, training for an upcoming race is not uncommon at all for many people.
In addition to spending personal time, hundreds of dollars of their own money is poured into the hobby each year. There are shoes to buy, running attire, race entry fees, and other special tools like fancy GPS watches.
Furthermore, for many it is not just about personal development and aerobic well-being, but also social interaction and a sense of belonging to a community of like minded people. People join running clubs that host social runs, train together in groups, even get together online and talk on forums.
Many of these people started running in high school or college with an organized team and a coach. When they graduated, they simply continued what they had been doing anyways. They realized they could find their own races to enter and that they didn't really need a coach to get the enjoyment that came with the challenge of setting a new personal best or socializing with a group of health oriented individuals.
Why is education any different?
This is the approach I am taking with the M.S. in applied economics project I am currently in the process of setting up and planning.
I will be devoting large amounts of personal time before or after work. I am sure that an hour or two, before or after work, studying for the "degree" will not be uncommon during this project.
In addition to spending personal time, hundreds of dollars of my own money (or yours!) will be poured into the project over the next six months. There are many textbooks to buy, each of which are the equivalent of a high end pair of running shoes. There might be some specialized software to buy for several of the quantitative courses as well, unless I can figure out how to ascertain them for free.
Furthermore, the project is not just about personal development, but also social interaction and a sense of belonging to a community of like minded people. People are starting to be more vocal within the self-study and unschooling communities. They are sharing information online and getting together to talk on forums and various websites.
Many of these people learned in highly formal settings for years within organized high school and college institutions (teams) with teachers and professors (coaches). When they graduated, they simply continued what they had been doing anyways. They realized they could find their own curricula (races) to study (enter) and that they didn't really need a teacher to get the enjoyment that came with the challenge of understanding a new and difficult subject or socializing with a group of intellectually oriented individuals.