reversing entropy…and lessons we can learn from lukewarm coffee

I’m going to make a bold statement. I think the purpose of life isn’t in fact the number 42…the purpose of life is to reverse entropy. When you wake up each morning, ask yourself, “How can I reverse entropy today?”

I’ve been told one can’t reverse entropy, so I’m going to try to prove (un-scientifically, more common-sensically) that entropy can in fact be reversed and exactly how to do it.

More...

So what is this thing called entropy? If there’s a word I need a definition for, I usually go to a dictionary, or Google:

Entropy is on the decline, who would’ve thought?

It looks like the word entropy was popular in the 1960s, but has been declining ever since. Is it possible entropy is entropying?

One of Dictionary.com’s definitions:

A measure of the amount of energy in a physical system not available to do work.

So, if you’re asleep, you’re not available to do work. Maybe sleeping equals 100% entropy. Hmm…That’s not quite what I’m looking for. Let’s try Urban Dictionary. This is where it gets interesting and coffee gets involved:

In its simplest sense, the tendency for all things to go from order towards disorder. — Entropy

Urban dictionary continues:

The best example is a hot cup of coffee. You walk into a coffee shop and checkyour pockets that yes, you do indeed have some coin of the realm that you spent time and energy to acquire somewhere else. This coin is therefore concentrated time and energy or effort. You then walk up to the counter and order (key word here) a hot cup of coffee. The Barrista, who has an understanding of what you want, then reaches for a cup that someone spent time and effort making, and someone made an effort to clean. He then pours in this fluid that contains pure (hopefully) water that has been heated (we pay the power company for the heat) and poured over these magic beans that came from far away, with many people involved with ships and trucks burning fuel so that these beans could arrive here. This cup of coffee is indeed a highly ordered structure in the Universe. But today, instead of drinking it, we are going to perform an experiment. If we let the cup of coffee sit on the table longenough, say 30 minutes, what happens? It gets cold. The heat energy that we paid for is no longer concentrated in the cup. It still exists, but in the room not in the cup. This is a gain in entropy. If we let the cup of coffee sit there long enough, say 4 days, we notice that some of the water that we paid for has evaporated. It still exists as water vapor in the room (probably attacking the wallpaper) but not in the cup. This too, is a gain in entropy. By this time the Barrista will probably come along to kick us out, after all we’ve been here 4 days and haven’t actually drank any coffee. If he does kick us out then he will have to clean the cup, spending time and energy and hot water, to bring the cup back up to a useful higher energy state, ready for the next customer. This would be an example of negative entropy. But he had to spend more energy elsewhere to accomplish this.
But let’s say he doesn’t kick us out. If we are still sitting here watching the cup in about 30 years when the building falls over, breaking the cup, then this too is a gain in entropy.
I am one of the few people on the planet to tell you that negative entropy = life

Bullseye! There are all kinds of entropy being reversed in this example! Also a mention of “negative entropy” which is basically the same idea.

Back to my motto of “keep life simple” and here is my definition of entropy:

Entropy = things get worse over time
Reversing Entropy = making things better over time

Everything tends to get worse over time, your house, your car, your job, your marriage, your life, your toned abs, your government, and your bank account…UNLESS

You bust entropy in the chops, and reverse it!

A common business quote is “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

A paraphrase from a sister-in-law, “There is no coasting in marriage, if you think you’re coasting, you’re actually moving backwards. You need to work on your marriage every day.”

Business, marriage, you name it, entropy will take its toll if you don’t actively reverse it. You have to work on reversing it. Actually that’s the key:

The key to reversing entropy is to work, every day, to make things better.

When I first started putting this post together in my mind, applying work to entropy seemed to result in net zero, but the more I talked about the idea with friends, and the more I studied it, there is no net zero. I think it’s true that everything is either growing or dying.

If you’re coasting, maintaining the status quo, simply existing, the cold hard truth is that you’re passively regressing.

This brings new meaning to the church in Revelation 3:15–16:

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Some more lessons from coffee:

  1. Hot coffee takes work and is good for a few minutes but quickly becomes lukewarm coffee; it takes continual heating to keep coffee hot…or you can extend the hotness through a good thermos…or drink it fast!
  2. Cold coffee + work equals frappuccino which is also very useful…but then the ice melts and it gets watery…again, a fridge/freezer can extend the usefulness of cold coffee but without more work the value fades

Reversing entropy is a life-long process, every day, work must be applied to the things you value to make them better. Or they will get worse.

Example 1 — A house

I purchased this house a few years back for $170,000.

Maintaining this house would include mowing, cleaning, trimming the bushes, etc. None of that improves the value significantly. In fact, just keeping a house up over the years will usually lead to a loss in value. When a buyer walks into a house with a kitchen that’s outdated, they usually price in the cost to update the kitchen…the bathroom, the roof, the landscaping. Maintaining won’t do over the long haul for a house. It’ll lose value.

I think inflation can be applied to more than just money. If you drop $100 in the bank when there’s 3% annual inflation, at the end of a year, you basically have $97, then $94, 91, 88…The value of the money entropies(spell check is saying that’s not a word, well it is now!) To maintain the value, better yet to improve the value of your $100, you’ll have to work to invest it well.

Try applying that to your house. In addition to regular upkeep, over the years you’ll also have to make improvements to maintain or grow the value.

I decided to do just that to this poor house:

From this picture, it looks like entropy may be winning! But not for long! A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this house (literally, actually, I think there were some tears when we left).

Driveway!!!

As I write this post, it’s set to close for $220,000 in a few days. That’s a $50,000 increase from the purchase price. You may think it cost more than $50k to fix it up and you’re right! So not only did I walk away with some serious reversed entropy, I now am way smarter when it comes to flipping houses and real estate and home ownership. So any loss in $$$ resulted in major increases in experience. At least I’m hoping so, time will tell. I paid for that education dearly, but not nearly as some pay for college.

Example 2: A job

Your job: What’s expected of you

When you start a new job, what’s expected of you probably looks very similar to this, your duties and responsibilities grow over time. They grow negatively, because this is work that needs to be done. And what’s expected of you will grow. If you think of it in terms of entropy, if you left the work expected of you undone week after week, the disorder caused would probably begin to look like an exponential curve. It could get bad quickly. But let’s not let that happen. Let’s do what’s expected of us.

The yellow represents work completed — reversing entropy per se

At week 5, we add the expectations to the work completed and what’s the result? Now if you’re new, most likely you’ll not be meeting expectations yet, so the net result will still be negative.

The gray represents unmet expectations

Entropy is still winning. In order to succeed and flourish at your new job, you have to exceed expectations. Do more than is asked of you. Initiate. Recommend. Improve. Be proactive.

The green represents exceeded expectations
Under-promise and over-deliver. Always over-deliver.

Under-performance leads to updating your resume. Reversing entropy leads to a promotion.

You’re fired!
Promotion!

To become a Master Entropy Reverser, you must commit to a lifetime of learning, studying, improving, working smarter and harder, and lastly, studying relaxing. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Let’s apply reverse entropy to some real life stuff:

Faith: This one is tricky, because we humans are wired to think that we need to work for faith, but faith is a gift. The work here is reminding ourselves daily that it’s not about our works, but about the work of Jesus. And He said “it is finished.”

Family: Maintaining relationships is a common phrase when it comes to family. Maintaining is regression. Improving should be the goal. How can I improve my relationship with my family?

Work: “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” Jim Rohn is famous for this quote. Hone your skills, learn new skills, read, listen to podcasts, take online classes on Udemy, Coursera, Lynda. Find a mentor. Surround yourself with 5 people that are better than you.

Business: For business owners, my advice would be “work on your business, not in your business.” If you’re still working in your business, you’re doing it wrong and your business won’t last. Act now and quickly to free your time to work on your business.

Marriage: I heard once that you should get the equivalent of a college degree on your spouse. Study them, write essays about them, read books on becoming a better husband/wife. Spend time, spend money, don’t coast in your marriage. COMMUNICATE OR DIE, sir — oops, that popped into my head from military days. I think it applies. 🙂

Wealth: Do you want to leave an inheritance to your children’s children? Do you desire to give more, earn more, and live more? It’s no secret that the secret to wealth is spending less than you make. But there’s so much more to learn. Study investing, study money, study wealthy people, study wealthy people who committed suicide. Study the verse that says, “You cannot serve God and money” or “money is the root of all evil” or “money is the answer for everything.”

Student: In all your studying, don’t forget to study how to study! Memory retention, productivity, focusing, flash cards, key terms, practice tests…how did you prepare for the SAT/ACT? Did you do well? It’s no matter now, because you’ve committed to a lifetime of studying, and high school was many moons ago…basically the infancy of your being a student.

Leave a Comment:

2 comments
Crispy Doc says September 17, 2017

Appreciate the novel, provocative perspective. I’m certainly in the camp that mistakes are an excellent teacher, and that small failures pave a slow but important path to success provided that learning occurs. Thanks for sharing your home-flipping story. Look forward to your future posts!

Fondly,

CD

Reply
Joe says September 17, 2017

Thanks for reading, Crispy Doc!

Reply
Add Your Reply