3-2-1: On Personal Responsibility, Overthinking, And Systematic Demotivation
Wisdom Wednesday #5
It's time for your weekly dose of wisdom (I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's still Wednesday to me ;P )
Here's 3 Idea-bites, 2 quotes from others, and 1 big-idea to think about this week.
"Work harder" is no longer a viable strategy and using it is likely doing you more harm than good. The world is changing faster than it ever has and absolutely zero of the institutions designated to prepare us for it are anywhere close to keeping up. The "plague" of "overthinking and under-doing" is not a character defect of an entire generation. It is a reasonable and completely natural response to a uniquely unstable (cognitive) environment. There are ways to effectively navigate this new, hyper-cognitive, hyper-complex world, but I can assure you: if legacy institutions and conventional wisdom knew them, you wouldn't be where you are.
A desire to change other people is only an admission of one's own perceived inadequacy. Implicit in the desire to change others is the belief "It's too hard for me to change, so I'd rather just convince you to!". It is contradictory to think it'd be any easier for them (and horrendously Karen to suggest they "do what you say not what you do"). We only complain and outsource blame because to take responsibility and become great ourselves requires a level of self love few have. Hard truth: the problem is not other people; it is your beliefs about yourself. Fix those. Lead by example. Those who want to, will follow suite. Those who don't, weren't going to change anyway.
The most psychologically destructive thing you can do is tell yourself you are a helpless victim and the world is perpetually rigged against you. And this actually becomes more the case the more valid your victimhood is (because its becomes even harder to break free from the ever enticing short term fix of "its not my fault"). What would you say if you saw an American 1%-er complaining about unfairness and how life is rigged against them? You'd probably find that pretty annoying. News flash: Every American is a 1%-er compared to the rest of the world. Most negative things you say about your (relative) 1%, could be said about you by 99% of the world's population. Every day you compare yourself to the American 1% you disempower yourself. Every day you acknowledge the great gift you have, you empower yourself to deserve it. Doing the latter is hard for sure, but it (and thoughts like it) will do far more for your mental well being than any societal changes (that you'll be lucky to see on your death bed, I might add).
"The idiot sees the world as good VS evil. The cynic sees the world as evil VS evil. The truth, that no one seems to be able to see, is that the world is, and always has been, a battle of good vs good."
— Norm McDonald
"It's not an accident that the axiomatic western individual is someone who was unfairly nailed to a cross and tortured. It's like: Yes, right, exactly!
“So what do you do about that? Well you don't get together in a damn mob. Cause all that does is allow you to be as horrible as you can possibly imagine and suffer from none of the consequences.
“There's a deep idea in the West: Pick up your damn suffering. And bear it. And try to be a good person so you don't make it worse.
“You don't want to be someone like that. Do you have a reason to be? Yes, you have lots of reasons to be. God, there's reasons to be resentful about your existence; Everyone you know is gonna die. And you too. And there's gonna be lots of pain along the way. And lots of its gonna be unfair.
“Its no wonder you're resentful. But act it out and see what happens. You'll make everything you're complaining about infinitely worse.
“There's this idea that Hell is a bottomless pit, and that's because no matter how bad it is, some stupid son of a bitch like you could figure out how to make it a lot worse.
“So, what do you do about that? Well you accept it. that's what life is like: it's suffering. That's what the religious people have always said: Life is suffering.
“So what do you do in the face of that suffering?
“Try to reduce it. Start with yourself. What good are you? Put yourself together , so that when your father dies you're not whining away in the corner and you can help plan the funeral. And you can stand up solidly so that people can rely on you.”
— An excerpt from my favorite clip of Jordan B Peterson
I have plenty of original content stocked up but this week I feel more compelled to share some excerpts from the 1995 essay, Industrial Society And Its Future, with some unbelievably poignant points about the struggles of motivation, agency, and self worth in the modern world.
"Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized. Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power. But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one's power."
"Nonattainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if nonattainment of the goals is compatible with survival. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression... Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals."
"For most people it is through the power process — [of] having a goal, making an AUTONOMOUS effort and attaining the goal— that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go through the power process the consequences are (depending on the individual and on the way the power process is disrupted) boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, abnormal sexual behavior, sleep disorders, eating disorders. etc.”
"We divide human drives into three groups: (1) those drives that can be satisfied with minimal effort; (2) those that can be satisfied but only at the cost of serious effort; (3) those that cannot be adequately satisfied no matter how much effort one makes. The power process is the process of satisfying the drives of the second group. The more drives there are in the third group, the more there is frustration, anger, eventually defeatism, depression, etc ... In modern industrial society natural human drives tend to be pushed into the first and third groups, and the second group tends to consist increasingly of artificially created drives."
"In response to the arguments of this section someone will say, "Society must find a way to give people the opportunity to go through the power process." For such people the value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities. As long as the system GIVES them their opportunities it still has them on a leash. To attain autonomy they must get off that leash."
That's all for today!
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