Brain Bucks: The Market of the Mind

Faye Seidler
10 min readMar 18


Photo by Cris Saur on Unsplash

One of the most beautiful expressions of math in nature is the golden spiral. We see this in nautilus shells, flower pedals, and even the expression of galaxies or massive storms!

It can make us feel like we’re part of something more or that there is some grand design to the world. But what it should convey is that we can reduce all of reality down to numbers. And once we do that, we can start financially investing in all kinds of abstract concepts.

Let me explain.

Financial investing is a system of wealth acquisition and growth. We often think about these systems solely in how they can make monetary profit and that’s foolish, because these systems can be applied to absolutely everything. So, long as we can convert something to value, we can apply it to the slick oiled machine of financial investing.

That’s right, we’re slowly working our way towards compound interest rates of the mind. Excited? I am.

So, last year I wrote that there is literally no difference between emotional and financial investing. I’ve passed every Turing test they’ve thrown at me since that article and I’m back to tell you how “Executive Function” is just another kind of “finance” to invest. In this article, we are going to discuss making some real brain bucks. Or Mind Money? Thought Tokens? Cognition Coins? Whatever you call them, we’re going to get you more!

So, first things first, what is Executive Function anyways? Well, dear reader, it’s basically our ability to do anything. Self-Control, Emotional Control, Flexibility, Task Initiation, Organization, Working Memory, you name it. Loosely speaking it is the cognitive processes that allow us to interact with the world.

And given our brain is just electric bacon piloting a meat and bone golem, sometimes we experience Executive Dysfunction (ED). This is where all those fun things we mention above like “Task Initiation” stop working.

The way ED plays out often means a person can want to do a task, but they don’t. Maybe that’s fold laundry, maybe it’s working out, doing the dishes — whatever it is they can’t do it. They can’t rise to the occasion.

A lot of people don’t understand and can’t relate to ED. It doesn’t make logical sense, right? You do the dishes or you don’t. Fucking Yoda. So, they see it as being lazy. But ED can stop you from even eating.

We obviously don’t avoid eating because we’re lazy. I’m not sure anyone would ever claim that. And we have to understand that major component so we can work our way backwards and understand it’s the same thing whether it’s eating, doing chores, or getting out of bed.

It’s legit real scary, because you lose the capacity to even interact with the world no matter how much you want to. All the power of a mind and no ability to scream, ha ha!

So, basically it’s no different than being financially broke.

You know, if you think about it. A person could want to eat all day long, but no money in the bank, and good luck getting fed. ED is your mind bank being on zero.

Now that we understand that, we can understand how we lose and gain Cognition Coins!

Accruing Executive Function Wealth

The good news is that our participation within the biological systems of the world give us a ton of passive benefits to physical and mental health. I’ll remind the reader I am not a robot, this is simply how I usually describe humans.

“Our” bodies are sort of like a well running communist system. Our heart, lunges, and digestive system do all the work, providing free loading cells with blood and oxygen no matter what they do!

You can understand this oxygenated blood system as a sort of free universal basic income of biology. That isn’t important to this article, but it’s fun to think about!

(You can even imagine if our body was run like a free market capitalist system and how only the truly ‘in-demand’ cells would get supplies. The amount of wasted cost on duplicate organs alone!)

Anyways, our bodies do generate passive mental and physical income in the form of executive function and physical wellbeing. We then often trade this passive internal income for external income of monetary value by trading our mental and physical health for labor.

This is how the flow of biological health, to labor, to money works. Money is sort of a storage of physical and mental wellbeing frozen into value. Quite beautiful really, sort of like a blood crystal currency if our world was only slightly more magical, but still as capitalistic.

Many of us often produce a surplus of physical and mental income, so we can donate some of it in exchange for money and it’s no big deal. We also can’t really bank physical and mental income, so it becomes a use it or lose it sort of system for the tragically mortal.

This means in a healthy system, a person can keep on accruing monetary value by making little contributions of their mental and physical wealth. This works well, until someone has to over exert themselves and goes into debt and starts accruing overdraft fees and increasing credit limits on their mind money.

Everything is great until you need to declare mind bankruptcy.

Losing Executive Function Wealth

First thing to know is just like in the world of monetary wealth, anyone can go broke and once you’re broke it takes a lot of effort to climb out of the hole.

The mind hole.

Let’s say everyone generates 1,000 Thought Coins every day as a baseline. And you just need 750 to get through a full day of work, take care of your kids, do a hobby, and go to sleep.

That’s pretty good. But if you have an especially stressful day that’s going to cost you more. Let’s say the day is so stressful it costs you 1,500 Thought Coins, well now you’re borrowing 500 from your future assets.

You wake up the next day with just 500 Coins and you’re now going to have to borrow 250 just to make it through the day. One stressful day is something you can recover from pretty quickly, but what about a week? A month? Years?

Some people are in so much debt, they burnout. This is executive dysfunction, this is executive bankruptcy. And since you need to be trading your Brain Bucks over for things like task management on a job, so you can continue bringing in the monetary wealth that’ll get you food — you can quickly spiral out of all of your resources.

But that’s just accounting for stress. Anxiety, depression, or trauma can all give you semi-permanent daily charges to your mental and physical acquisition of wealth. Anxiety is like a credit card of executive function, depression is like your brain starts saving all incoming credit leaving you broke on the day to day, and trauma is just a straight garnish on your wages.

And not only that, people can also steal your executive function by delegating mental tasks to you. Imagine you’re raising three kids and having to think about their school, what they eat every night, when you need to take them in for various healthcare appointments, and you’re cooking and cleaning for them, and your husband spends his time in “The Den,” really practicing some mindfulness, and you don’t know how much you want to resent him, but some part of your mind is definitely working on revenge in the style of a LifeTime Original movie, but for now your pasta is going soggy, and you know what, you’ll just become a ball in bed. I was actually making you feel the stress by making more and more dense paragraphs! Wasn’t that fun!

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

(If your wife has ever become a ball, now you know why. Some women master this to fight space pirates. Anyone can be a ball, but we call it the “Second Shift” because typically women shift into balls. Wait, I’ll need to check my notes…)

Becoming a Mental Millionaire

That last item above is really important, because if you can become absolutely crippled with the mental labor of other people, it means you can also delegate your mental tasks to other people. Buying a meal from a restaurant is transferring all the mental and physical labor of meal prep to a company in exchange for wealth.

We often turn to delivery when we just don’t have the mental wealth to figure out our own meal.

A person can never just have a million Cognition Coins in their own brain. Even if they did, “our” organic brains are tragically capped. But, they can through wealth purchase that power. Let’s say you rent out a home and you make a thousand dollars of profit a month on it, but you have to actively keep the place in repair and talk to the tenant about complaints. Isn’t that just terrible?

What if you instead paid someone 800 dollars to do that for you and you can get 200 dollars free. It’s basically alchemy at that point, because you can then start generating wealth without any input of your own physical or mental labor!

I think we can all continue to bemoan that there is no soul crystal currency, but I think we can agree money is just about the next best thing!

And honestly, most of us aren’t renting out our second home. So, what do you do if you’re low on the Thought Tokens? How do you really start investing them in a way they’ll go as far as possible? I’m so glad I pretended you asked! What a clean segue into my next and final section!

But before that, I just wanted to say the point of this section was just illustrating how we transfer our wealth into making up for a Cognition Coin deficit. We pay other people to handle services we normally could, but we’re too exhausted to do so.

Unfortunately, when you’re in poverty, you’re often constantly juggling between all these things just trying to survive. Sort of like the most horrify game of Tapper one could imagine. What will break first, your body, mind, or bank?

People are spending so much money on coffee, because caffeine is basically the closet thing to liquid executive function. But its all deficit spending and the market will crash eventually. How are banks doing these days? Ha ha.

Investing in Your Mind

A lot of people don’t get that we even have Brain Bucks. You see this when someone suggests a person with depression should just go out there and socialize or exercise. I think if someone never zeroed out their mind account, they can have a really hard time understanding what it is like. Especially if they’ve only ever had to deal with stress and not with clinical depression or anxiety.

Telling someone who’s in mind debt about socializing or exercising is like telling someone working minimum wage they just need a nice compound interest stock option and they’ll be swimming in soul crystals in as little as thirty years of continual investments. We ain’t buying it Jane.

So, what do you do? I know you depend on this little Medium Writer to tell you the secrets of the universe. I get that. I get my responsibility. And what you need to know is what I already taught. Your physical and mental health are assets and together they make up your quality of life. If you don’t connect to that on an emotional level, then at least realize they’re worth money and you have value.

Then ask yourself, what are you spending them on? Because if you’re trading an overwhelming amount of your physical and mental health for a job that isn’t quite giving you a quality of life, that’s a bad deal. If your partner is stealing all your mind money, how happy do you get to be in the relationship footing that bill?

We contribute our time, labor, mental, and physical health for an abstraction of that as either dead presidents on fun paper or little numbers in a bank account. Those numbers being high is only as valuable as the quality of life and stability they’re affording you.

And not to break capitalism, but therapy will make you a lot more happy than a fancy car. Just saying.

A lot of us don’t have good choices on the table. I get that. The only thing I can say is when you do have agency, when you do have a choice, is try investing in you as much as possible.

We all need to eat and have a home, but aside from that take the sick day you need. Ride the attendance score where you’re comfortable taking it and put in applications in other jobs. If you feel you’re grinding yourself to the bone and you’re spending your entire night recovering from your day, really try to find anything else.

When we put all that mental labor towards a job, we’re not putting it towards the things we care about: our family, friends, hobbies, or ourselves. And if you’re not investing in those things, they can’t grow or give you a return on investment.

And if you don’t get this yet, I want you to think about how easy it is to interact with your best friend and how hard it is to interact with a stranger in terms of just mental work. How hard is it to do a hobby you’ve been practicing for ten years and one you just picked up when considering mental stress?

That is what mental investments do when they pay off, they make it easier for us to engage in the things we love. They can become so easy and fulfilling they actually give us more mental energy to do other things. They enrich our lives, give us opportunities for growth, and give us resiliency to respond to high Cognition Costing life events.

So, there you go, just another thing that financial investment techniques teach us about the world.



Faye Seidler

I write essays on literature, pop culture, video games, and reality. A throughline of my work is metanarrative horror and defining what it is to be human.