Picking the right philosophy to solve your problems

I find that we humans sometimes become obsessed with philosophies that we think will help us overcome our flaws or that are the opposite of our weaknesses. We find the exact opposite of our reality and repeat it like a mantra. Sometimes, this works!

But have you ever found yourself repeating a mantra that doesn’t work? The problem persists? More often than not, we pick philosophies that only sound like the solution, but in actual practice they don’t work.

Sometimes you just have to keep striving and the philosophy will help you. Just because something takes a while to work doesn’t mean it’s wrong. But, sometimes you’re backing the wrong horse. Sometimes you’re trying a philosophy that really won’t help you.

I’ll use myself as an example. For years I felt powerless over certain weaknesses and habits and I sought a way to overcome them. Many talk about how you should “man up!” or “just do it!” or “pick yourself up by your bootstraps!” (a physical impossibility, you need something to push off of to pick yourself up, all you’ll do is tighten your boots if you follow that advice!). They say that by throwing agency and willpower at problems that you can conquer anything! You can be anything that you want! Like in the poem below. I once had it memorized and repeated it thousands of time. Hoping that it would give me strength:

by William E. Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

Sounds awesome right? Sounds epic? How many memes and songs are out there today that are all about “Look at the awesomeness of me! I can do anything!”

Well, the poem didn’t fix me. I fell prey to the same weaknesses over and over again. Anger. Selfishness. A desire to consume entertainment and mental stimulation to excess. I was powerless to break my habits.

Thomas S. Monson (one of my Church’s leaders) said: “It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life… But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement.”

I learned over time that I couldn’t overcome my flaws by agency alone. That poem didn’t give me power. Why not? Why couldn’t I “man” myself out of my weaknesses? After some new understanding, I found this other poem which was written as a response to Invictus:

The Soul’s Captain
by Orson F. Whitney

Art thou in truth the master of thy fate?
The captain of thy soul?
Then what of him
who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
and snatched thee from the raging flood?

Who bore for all our fallen race
what none but him could bear–
the God who died that man might live,
and endless glory share?

Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light
may pierce the gloom,
that thou might see aright.

Men are as bubbles on the wave,
as leaves upon the tree,
O’ captain of thy soul, explain!
Who gave that place to thee?

Free will is thine–free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.

Bend to the dust thy head “unbowed,”
small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

Whether you are religious or not, the example works. Both poems are used as a solution to a flaw: feeling powerless to overcome weakness. One says grit your teeth and be tough, the other says use your agency to rely on something more powerful than yourself. You need someone/something to help lift you.

I had felt powerless that I chanted “I’m powerful!” a thousand times. But now I know that I am powerless. And only through the surrender of my will and my life to God do I find power.

Now, by switching philosophies, I have made much more progress with my flaws. I’m not perfect, and don’t expect to be anytime soon. But when I encounter a weakness, I surrender the battle with it to God. I bend with the wind, letting it pass over me, letting God take care of it. And the wind doesn’t break me nearly as often.

Not my will. His will. Not my glory. His glory. Not my battle. His battle. Let go and let God.

There are others that I see chanting their mantras such as miserable people who say “Do only what makes you happy and you alone.”

Those who have hurt others that say “If it’s in the past it doesn’t matter, accept what everyone does, have no expectations” and say nothing of the need for repentance, forgiveness, and restitution for harm done.

Those who are promiscuous and say “This lifestyle makes me happy” yet end up wondering why they are so sad and lonely.

Likely the greatest and the most harmful is the modern philosophy: “To follow your impulses with no restraint is freedom” and those who repeat that often learn too late that following impulses alone with no control leads to a life of slavery to addiction and to habit, with no friends or loved ones, broken and weak. Lonely and alone.

If you take a hard look at yourself, past the lies you tell yourself, you might find that the mantra or philosophy you keep repeating isn’t yielding the results you want. You might see that you need to double your efforts and persevere, you might see that you misunderstand the philosophy you are repeating, or you might see that you are trying to implement a philosophy that just won’t work. The philosophy is either a lie, or a half-truth.

Good luck! Keep trying, or give it up!



What makes a corrupt civilization?


In fictional or real worlds, anytime a governing body has absolute rule, innocents suffer and die. The more innocents suffering and dying, the worse a civilization you have.

In fact, that is the true measure of a moral government and/or civilization. Do they see the deaths of innocents as a “necessary evil” to bring about change? Do they kill others in order to bring about some “higher purpose?” Heck, are they allowing people to die/killing them for no higher reason at all?

I just read “Trial of Intentions” where a governing group, in its efforts to increase intelligence, morality, etc. in people, tries to drive out old superstitious traditions, even to the point of bloodshed. They claim to be going for the greater good, but are willing to target a group of sorcerers because they think the sorcerers’ version of helping the people is outdated. They ignore the fact that the sorcerers have good intentions and do a lot of good, such as healing the sick.

In a world full of contention about the proper method of government, I think the finest test is to ask “How much are innocent or well-meaning people suffering in this culture?” When you look at the state of the poor, the weak, and the selfless, how are they treated? Are they helped? Protected? Ignored? Abused? Mistreated? Left to die? Killed?


Whatever highbrow philosophy the leaders spew, if they are murdering or abusing innocent or well-meaning men, women, children, then they fail the test.

Words alone won’t show you the heart’s intent. Actions will.

Use this as a little north-star when trying to ponder the proper kind of government or the value of a society, in real life or in fiction.

The less the governing body fears or has to answer to the common people, the more they are likely to abuse the innocent. The more they are likely to be a bad government. The voice of the people must be heard, and followed. Sometimes, the common people want what’s wrong. If that’s the case, then that civilization is doomed to self-destruction.

Useful Query Tips

The following tips were helpful in writing my query:

  • No longer than 1 page, 12 pt. font, double-spaced (most agents/editors want this length).
  • Keep the overview/hook under 200 words.
  • Don’t include the ending.
  • Do include the fun, the feel, the tone, and the unique voice.
  • State specific reasons why you are sending to this particular agent or editor (e.g. I met you at a conference/convention, I read that you like x on your blog or twitter, and/or I saw your posting in writer’s market. Show that you researched that agent/editor’s style and the books (and genres) they’ve represented).
  • Don’t include irrelevant credentials

My Query Letter

I haven’t sent it yet, (I still have that synopsis to write), but this went through 25 drafts with reviews from fellow friends and writers (at least the Hook/story overview section).

If you have any suggestions, feel free to comment. I just don’t think there are enough example queries out there. I’ll post an updated one if an agent/editor gives me any tips on improving it.


Dear [Insert name],

[Insert reason I’m sending to this particular agent/editor.]

Tirian lives for the thrill of conning gods. Not out of money, but out of endowments of magic. Using his training as a con-man, he convinces gods to endow him with the magic of a priest, then runs off with it. It doesn’t hurt anyone if he robs gods, right? He just wants to play with magic. Tirian’s fun is halted, however, when he’s caught by the god of corpus and forced to spy on the goddess of the mind (suspected of religious sabotage).

While spying, Tirian starts to see how priests help a god’s followers much more than the gods themselves. Not only that, but he also learns that his capture, his servitude, and the conflicting rumors between the gods are all part of an elaborate plot to distract them. Natusana, the new leader of Tirian’s homeland, does not want the gods interfering. She’s angry over centuries of prior oppression by other races, and has begun driving out and killing all those not of her race. When the gods learn he’s been robbing them and want him dead, he has to choose whether to go into hiding, or to risk his freedom by revealing Natusana’s genocidal plot to the very gods he robbed.

ROBBING GODS is my 111,313 word completed fantasy novel. It features a fun-loving thief similar to Eli Monpress in Rachel Aaron’s THE SPIRIT THIEF, and a hard-magic system inspired by pyramid schemes and modern physics (with powers such as thermal, kinetic, and electromagnetic energy; spacetime; entropy; etc.) similar to Brandon Sanderson or David Farland.

I’m Thomas Larsen (writing as Thomas Fawkes). My cell number is: 801-915-3751 and my email is: fawkesfantasy@gmail.com. I have a bachelor’s degree in English. Thank you for taking the time to review my query. I look forward to your reply.


Thomas Larsen

Microsoft OneDrive users: get out or upgrade before they delete your files!

ALERT! If you have Microsoft OneDrive, they just announced some rude changes. And if you don’t prepare, Microsoft may DELETE YOUR FILES.

“If after 1 year you fail to take action, your content may be deleted.”

First off, free accounts are being reduced from 15GB to 5GB. They say on their FAQ:

So, I do get my bonus storage?

But they also say “The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.”

My bonus storage: DENIED

Whats the difference between a bonus and a promotion? (Somebody with a marketing degree could tell me, but it is not immediately clear).

Second off, if you have the 100GB plan or the 200GB plan, those are both being removed and replaced with a whopping 50GB plan! Boo. (My wife currently has the 100GB plan for $1.99 a month…)

Third off, if you have the unlimited plan! …which is being cut down to 1 terabyte. Apparently people were storing 75 terabytes of movies and TV shows and…  Microsoft couldn’t handle the abusers. If you’re not prepared for abusers, don’t offer unlimited!

To simplify, you will now have 3 choices:

  • 5GB (Free)
  • 50GB ($1.99)
  • 1 Terabyte ($9.99)

If you have beyond those amounts saved (check your storage in the bottom left corner of the OneDrive home screen), you will need to save those files elsewhere. Microsoft says:

“If after 1 year you fail to take action, your content may be deleted.”

People are going to miss this, grandmas whose kids set them up are going to lose pictures of their grandbabies. They need a giant button that says: “Warning: Your storage is going to be reduced, click here to save excess files to your computer to save them from deletion.” Or, better, just grandfather the current users in the plan (like mobile companies do when they come out with a new plan). Don’t give the old plans to anyone new, but don’t punish previous consumer loyalty with file deletion.

I’ve really loved OneDrive. I love being able to open things in Word and click save and they automatically upload to the cloud. Now? Now I’m going to consider going somewhere else.

As Hook would say, “Bad Form!”



p.s. They say they’ll give you one free year of Office 365 with 1 Terabyte. Great! I can store even more stuff and have it get deleted because I won’t remember the specifics a year later! Oh and I’ll totally just fork up the extra dough, every month, to get past the hassle of saving.

p.p.s. If I have to have that hassle, I might just leave.

p.p.p.s Microsoft hates you

p.p.p.p.s Check out how Microsoft is trying to put out the fire like a dog peeing on a blazing skyscraper.

Pizza Magic

In talking about buying Pizza on the Sabbath (a friend at work had to do that today in order to feed a family gathering on Sunday, their kitchen was a mess because it was being remodeled), I said “It’s spirit food!” Pizza’s OK to buy on Sunday cause it’s holy. Right? Right? Bueller?

Then I thought, should I write a story with a Pizza-based magic system? Different types of pizza grant different powers? Cooked in a special stove? Desert pizza gives you ice powers, Hawaiian gives you water powers? 😛

The holy arts of pizza!

Feel free to steal that, I have plenty of ideas. 🙂