5 Lies Society Loves to Tell: How to Build a Finely Tuned B.S. Filter
You’re being conned on a daily basis. There’s no better way to put it. What do I mean?
Think about it. Would you voluntarily end up with circumstances like these:
- Working a job you hate
- Saddled with tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt
- Outraged, sad, jaded, and cynical
- Without hope for a better future
When you look at this logically, no one would agree to have these set of circumstances. Alas, many people, maybe you, have your own unique combination of them.
Why? Because you are literally being conned.
In many senses, what’s happening to you right now isn’t your fault. I could just tell you to lift yourself up by the bootstraps, but without understanding the game that’s being played around you, success is had to come by.
I see so many people who are legitimately under a spell. Look at the way people fight for their “tribes” like programmed drones. They talk the same, even down to the exact phrases. Their belief systems are perfectly aligned, which is odd, to say the least.
What about you? How many of your beliefs would you say are your own?
Do you ever catch yourself parroting phrases you hear from the news? Do you share articles without actually reading them? Are people on the other side simply people who disagree with you, or are they your enemies?
Are you being programmed?
If you don’t think you can be programmed, you’re the most programmable type of person. The people who think they have the freest will tend to be the ones most under the influence.
I fight to understand what I believe, every day because I know how susceptible I am to influence. Do you? Or do you just coast through life believing the same things year in and year out?
I’m not saying that I have the answers to everything or I know exactly how society should be run — I don’t. But I definitely know it’s not this.
Before I get to the list, let me first explain what I mean when I use the word society.
The Emergent Property From Hell
“Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.” — Charlie Munger
“Society” isn’t an entity, per se. No, when I refer to society conning you, I’m talking about a collection of people, scenarios, and institutions that collectively fuck you over because of one thing — incentives.
For “society” — the group of people and institutions who need to control you — to maintain the status quo, they have you lie to you, constantly, to such an absurd level that you believe it.
And you do. It’s not even personal either. The incentives point here and it’s obvious.
I can say the following statements and believe them, most can’t:
- Buying a home may be a good idea or it may be a horrible investment and major liability
- Democrats and Republicans both have good and bad points in their ideologies
- Gun control isn’t a black and white issue nor do I think we know the root cause of these shootings because we can’t talk about it
- God may or may not exist
- Climate change is real, but the predictions of exactly what will happen are wrong because complex systems are unpredictable by nature
- I don’t know exactly how to run society because no one does. You’d have to run controlled experiments with parallel universes to know the truth
I’m not sitting in the middle on answers on purpose. I genuinely don’t know. I’m sure I’m wrong in many ways. But I know this.
The more certain you are, the more rigid your list of ideological stances are, the surer you are that not only you are right but people who disagree with you are evil, the more I know you’re being brainwashed.
If you can’t see how others even arrive at their positions, you’ve been trained out of your ability to think critically.
If hearing contradictory opinions drives you up a wall like it’s blasphemy, then you’re practicing a religion.
Do you get this?
There’s no culture war. This is a holy war.
One that doesn’t need to happen. But will continue to. Because most people don’t have compassion, understanding, or any level of nuance to their thinking. Because they’ve been trained not to.
Now for the lies.
The Media Are Truth Tellers
“The point is that fake news is hardly new. In fact, fake news is probably closer to the actual heritage of journalism than truth-telling is.” Ryan Holiday
I genuinely don’t know how people believe anything they read on the news. Don’t care which channel it is or which way it leans. All lies. Certain type of lies.
See, the news and media outlets don’t necessarily get the facts themselves wrong. Although they often do. But they are masters at spinning the truth.
Here’s a quick tell that will shock you when you understand how malicious it is. There’s a simple way to take a quote out of context.
Take an entire paragraph of what someone said, cut out a single word, and then create an entire narrative around the “quote.” It’s ludicrous and happens all the time.
Nassim Taleb illustrates this in his post called The Facts Are True, The News is Fake:
“In the summer of 2009, I partook of an hour-long discussion […] The discussion was about how to make society robust, even immune to Black Swans, what structure was needed for both decentralization and accountability, and how the system should be built, that sort of thing. […] I subsequently went to a Chinese restaurant in (London’s) Soho to celebrate with a few people when I received a phone call by a horrified friend. All London newspapers were calling me a “climate denier”, portraying me as someone part of a large anti-environment conspiracy. The entire fifty-nine minutes were summarized by the press and reported from a tangential comment that lasted twenty seconds taken in reverse. Someone who didn’t attend the conference would have been under the impression that that was the whole conversation.”
He simply, “asserted that one does not need complex models as a justification to avoid a certain action.”
He believes in climate change but thinks that models are error-prone. That’s it. Put it through the media game of telephone and by the time it gets to you, he’s a climate denier.
The news is fake. And it will punish you for thinking critically.
Look at the way the shows are presented to you — with countdown timers, roundtable discussions of nothing more than opinions, political highlight reels. Are you watching the news or ESPN?
Stop watching the news altogether and your life will improve times ten. Just trust me on this.
Politicians Care About You
“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” — Nassim Taleb
Do you know what cognitive dissonance is?
It’s where a certain set of facts just doesn’t compute with your reality so you distort it until your brain feels comfortable. People do this with politics all the time.
I’m apolitical at this point. But it’s interesting to see how people twist their brains to continue fighting for their tribe.
I read this article about all of these people on the “left” and the “right” partying together in the Hamptons.
Here’s an excerpt:
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner partied with billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, who rubbed shoulders with billionaire GOP donor David Koch.
Chuck Schumer and Kellyanne Conway were there. So were Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Ronald Lauder, Carl Icahn, Joel Klein, Cathie Black, reporters Steve Clemons and Maria Bartiromo, columnists Richard Cohen and Margaret Carlson, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Ray Kelly, Bill Bratton and Steven Spielberg.
They don’t care about you, dude. They think you’re stupid. I’m not saying that to be mean, but that’s what they think.
They’re playing war games on T.V. to get their bases riled up because that’s how you win elections. They’re all elites. They all live in the same neighborhoods (gated). They’re all rich. Do you really think they care about your concerns? Really? Really?
The real distinction isn’t left or right. It’s rent-seekers vs. everybody else. A rent seeker siphons money and power from a system without providing value. See: bankers and politicians.
They don’t actually do anything. They never have. But, because they’ve convinced you otherwise, you look at them as saviors. If you bow to the altar of sociopathic, incompetent, liars (100% of them, no exceptions), then what does that make you?
It’s All Gonna be Okay
Go work your 9 to 5. It’ll be okay. Don’t start a side business, make an extra income, and save money. It’ll be okay. Get a mortgage, and student loans, and a car note, and credit card debt. Nothing bad will come of that, no. It’ll all be okay. Just vote for me. It’ll all be okay. Don’t try to gain wealth. Wealth is evil (even though the people who tell you that all have it — dissonance ftw). It’ll all be okay. Focus on your individual responsibility? Nah. We got you. It’ll all be ok.
I’m telling you right now, if you live the typical American Dream — or as I like to call it, the American Nightmare — it will not all be okay. Not by a long shot.
It’s as if 2008–09 never happened. Like, how didn’t you get the message then? I got it. I was 18 then. I knew that I wasn’t going to live life like my parents did because I saw what it got them. It wasn’t good.
Wealth, autonomy, and flexible ways to earn and build aren’t selfish goals. They’re absolutely necessary. Wake up.
I talked about this in my article based on the book The 10x Rule:
There’s a quote from Warren Buffet that says, “When the tide comes in you’ll see who’s swimming naked.”
The 10x rule isn’t just an exercise in lofty thinking. It’s a hedge against the tightrope of average results.
There’s nothing wrong with average thinking, average planning, and average amounts of action…as long as everything goes smoothly. But as soon as situations go south, failure to set big enough targets causes massive pain.
Just look at these examples:
Most Americans grossly underestimate how much money they need to retire.
Many are living paycheck to paycheck and have no savings.
The average household has piles of debt (would you survive a repeat of 2008?)
Most businesses fail because they underestimate how much cash they’ll need to survive lean times
Almost all people with ‘revolutionary’ ideas severely underestimate how much effort it will take to execute those ideas
Living an abundant lifestyle isn’t just pleasurable, it protects you. Society emphasizes the virtue of mediocrity, but all morality aside, mediocrity is mathematically and pragmatically not good because it can all be swept away in the tide of circumstances.
I’m just telling you. If you don’t hedge, if you don’t create alternative sources of income, your life is not under your control. Just by literal definition, it’s not.
You are at the mercy of your employer, the government, and society at large if you fall for their message and hook yourself up into a bunch of debt traps with no escape plan.
You’re Super Duper Oppressed
What is stopping you right now from living out your dream? Money? Here is a list of side businesses you could start for $100 or less:
- Affiliate marketing blog — Get hosting for 5 bucks and a free WordPress theme. Make a profit selling other people’s products
- Freelancer — Used LinkedIn to pitch clients. Use the library if you can’t afford a computer or the internet as I did.
- Writer on medium.com — I make a full time living using this free blogging service. And you can too. Again, there’s this thing called a library with free computer access
- Garage sale flipping — Shoutout to Gary Vaynerchuk for this one
- Airbnb real estate company — Make deals with landlords to rent on Airbnb and take profits
- Website design agency — Pitch a web design to a company, get the money and hire a freelancer overseas to make the website. Take profits. No design skills needed
- Shopify dropshipping — $30 set up. Carry no inventory.
Granted, these things are hard to pull off. But, it’s your life.
You fell for the lie that you’re oppressed, helpless, and unable to do anything to fix your life aside from voting.
I am one of the top writers on Medium, period. It’s just an objective fact. I’m black. Ed Latimore, a personal development expert who promotes his work on Twitter, lived in the projects with crackheads. Also black. Another guy I follow, Chris Johnson, is a black army veteran turned millionaire who built e-commerce stores from scratch. My friend Shannon just hit $100k with her writing as a single mom. The person I learned blogging from, multi-millionaire Jon Morrow, is paralyzed from the neck down. Bushra Azar, a master persuasion expert who’s products I’ve purchased, created a million-dollar business from Saudi Arabia as a woman. My business coach who owns her own multi six and maybe even seven-figure business is a woman. I just went to a conference comprised of 90 percent women entrepreneurs, many of whom are doing amazing.
Stop with this oppression. I’m done with it. You’re psychologically oppressing yourself. Again, guided by the societal narrative that wants you to feel this way. Again, always look at incentives, not benevolence, when it comes to the behavior of people influencing you.
The oppression narrative is profitable. Just ask Shaun King. If your income relies on oppression exsiting, then it will always exist. If you can drive more clicks and views by overstating a narrative, then you’ll do it. Of course, oppression exists, but the magnified “sky is falling” version of it is all in your head.
There will never be so few stories that the media can’t cherry-pick enough to build a narrative. Are you following yet?
“But, But, Ayo! You don’t understand, I’m a left-handed Vietnamese Gemini. You don’t understand my situation!”
No, I do. Very well. You’ve somehow fallen for the lie that you’re oppressed to the point of helplessness in the most abundant period of society in human history.
That’s what happened to you. Whether or not you accept that, honor it, and do something about it, is up to you.
I’ve had people comment things on my post before talking about my privelege. One commenter even accused me of being an entitled white male. Yikes. I’ve been a convicted felon. Have you? I’ve been to jail. Have you? I grew up in one of the worst cities for young black Americans. Did you? I’m currently partially blind in one eye. Are you?
I’m fine. I’m winning actually. Not even in spite of all that. I’m just winning. Circumstances just are.
Now, there are some people who are really oppressed — the vast majority of which don’t like in the U.S. (never see those stories do you?)
But you’re likely not one of them. Truly oppressed people don’t have time to read blog posts, usually. They’re busy being desolate and what not. So stop. And then GO.
Success is Finite
Some people just don’t understand basic economics. They believe that someone has to lose for someone else to succeed, which is why they tweet about the evil of capitalism from their iPhone created by perhaps the worlds largest corporation. Ugh.
Now, I will tell you this. When companies get really big, yeah, they do some messed up stuff. No question. But this idea that you lack what you want in life because other people have it is nonsense.
What does Jeff Bezos have to do with whether or not you’re going to start that side project? Nothing. And, as sketchy as he may or may not be, he does help millions of entrepreneurs make an income. Myself included.
What does Warren Buffet have to do with the fact that you won’t go to night school, learn a new skill, and find a better paying job? Not a damn thing.
The point isn’t to glorify the uber-wealthy, but to simply get you to understand that they’re not causing you to live a life you don’t want. You are. Your circumstances are your circumstances. Maybe you didn’t earn those.
But, if you life a normal lifespan, aren’t in abject poverty, and take out the childhood part of it, five decades should be enough time to turn around the ship don’t you think?
You can only blame your parents for so long. You can only blame your employer, the government, and society for so long. Those entities and past situations won’t change. Will you?
What a Time to be Alive (If You Look in the Right Direction)
If I seem pissed off it’s because I am. I see exactly what’s happening. Slowly but surely society is trying to strip away the idea of personal responsibility altogether.
Life isn’t fair. But what are you going to do about it? Are you personally going to reinvent the state of existence that’s been around forever? No? Maybe you should focus on changing your life, then.
I’m the first one to admit that there are groups of people who are royally screwed in life. But it annoys me to see people who aren’t in those groups use that as an excuse. The fact that poverty exists for other people doesn’t absolve you for being lazy. Just admit, for once, that maybe you are just lazy. Is that so hard to admit? Just try hard at something for a long period of time and it will work!
You can be aware of social issues, even actively trying to fix them, without being obsessed with them and making them a blanket excuse for your lack of productivity, material resources, and spiritual contentment. That just doesn’t seem like a good way to live.
You can simultaneously acknowledge that luck plays a role in success and try to get lucky anyway. You can attempt to thrive in a society that, by definition, can never be a meritocracy.
Some people often make it seems like I don’t care. Like I’m turning a blind eye to society. The opposite is true. I know, I’m certain, that “society” as a collective . . . is fucked.
So actually, I’m doing the caring thing.
I’m telling you the truth and doing everything I can to help as many individuals escape the matrix and thrive.
It’s your only hope. Trust me.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.