Stay Focused on Your Mission (Even in Times of Chaos)
Here’s what you won’t see from me this week — I’m not going to go on a political rant, give a treatise about race and equality, or discuss anything going on in the news.
We’re going to keep things business as usual, talk about you, and help you find or stay on your mission. Why? Because staying focused on your mission should always be your number one priority. Even now. Especially now.
If you’ve been following my work for any period of time you should’ve expected this response. If you’ve read my book, you’d know the first two chapters cover this attitude in-depth.
In chapter one, I talk about why society doesn’t want you to succeed. I talk about the fact that society is an emergent property comprised of individuals with incentives that lead to the collective of society not wanting to or simply being unable to help you.
In chapter two, I talk about the fact that nobody is coming to save you, that your individual success, in the long run, will have little to do with the political regimes you’re under, even if politics plays a role in your life, which it does.
The cavalry isn’t coming. Nor is utopia. Nor is a society that meets every single one of your demands, tastes, and preferences because that’s impossible to do with millions of different demands, tastes, and preferences of each individual person.
Some people might look at my stance as cold. I look at it as unemotional. Remember what I’ve taught you.
Correct thinking is based on whether or not your thoughts are useful to you and help you get the outcomes you want in life. Incorrect thinking is at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive and dangerous.
I won’t share the details, but I found myself immersed in the outrage of current events. And they still piss me off. I ‘spoke out.’ I posted on social media, went on rants, vented my emotion, shared my outrage at the system, called for change, just like you.
But when I woke up today I realized that having those negative emotions and vomiting them out online, in lieu of trying to be useful, would get me nowhere and is ultimately self-serving. Some would say it’s self serving to remain silent, but is it? What’s actually better? Talking about a problem or putting resources and effort into actually solving it behind the scenes (something which I’m doing and not bragging about).
This article from Slate Star codex describes the misplaced efforts of outraged based activism, written during the time of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson:
Five million people participated in the #BlackLivesMatter Twitter campaign. Suppose that solely as a result of this campaign, no currently-serving police officer ever harms an unarmed black person ever again. That’s 100 lives saved per year times let’s say twenty years left in the average officer’s career, for a total of 2000 lives saved, or 1/2500th of a life saved per campaign participant. By coincidence, 1/2500th of a life saved happens to be what you get when you donate $1 to the Against Malaria Foundation. The round-trip bus fare people used to make it to their #BlackLivesMatter protests could have saved ten times as many black lives as the protests themselves, even given completely ridiculous overestimates of the protests’ efficacy.
The moral of the story is that if you feel an obligation to give back to the world, participating in activist politics is one of the worst possible ways to do it. Giving even a tiny amount of money to charity is hundreds or even thousands of times more effective than almost any political action you can take. Even if you’re absolutely convinced a certain political issue is the most important thing in the world, you’ll affect more change by donating money to nonprofits lobbying about it than you will be reblogging anything.
This sounds cold. And it probably makes you feel upset. You might be upset at me for writing this article and sharing that quote. It doesn’t take away the fuel of the arguments at all though.
I get it. I’m upset too. Angry. Outraged. But I also understand what moves the needle in life — incentives, resources, working within structures, and first helping others by not adding to the problem.
It’s okay to be upset about aspects of society, but what have I told you about screaming to the sky? The sky doesn’t care, never has, never will. There have been collectivist movements that have worked, but they were organized and took steps that move the needle. Shouting doesn’t do that.
Yet this is exactly what everyone is going to do.
I make no judgment on what you decide to do, but I ask you to ask yourself if your behavior will be useful to you or not? Where will bathing in outrage get you in the next few weeks?
Why do I mention a few weeks? Because that’s how long the news and outrage cycle will last. You and I both know it.
Structurally, nothing will change. People will feel better about themselves for releasing some of their emotions, but they’ll run out of steam. The vast majority of people won’t donate money, talk with leaders in their local community, pay careful attention to the part of the ballot beneath president, or have any sort of dialogue that does something. Mostly social media posts and hashtags.
So you can be ‘cold’ and focus on your mission for not just the next few weeks, but the rest of your life. Or you can pat yourself on the back for being upset about something you should be upset about (again I am), but end up in the same spot or even more behind because you let your outrage destroy your productivity.
You know me. You know I give you the hard doses of truth you need to hear instead of the things you want to hear. And right now you need to hear that now is not the time to get lost in the shuffle. It’s the perfect time to keep your feet on the ground and move forward.
When the pandemic struck, I noticed a bunch of writers, maybe rightfully so, pivoting all their attention to co-vid, writing articles about it, totally deviating from what made them successful and what their audience had become accustomed to.
I mostly kept on with business as usual. Why? Because reactivity is not a strategy for success. It feels good, it’s self-righteous, but it’s not a great strategy. Low and behold, many of those writers who pivoted have privately told me their revenue, audience, and writing skills even took a hit for it.
I care deeply about all the issues in society. I advise people to keep from being obsessed with the news only because I’ve broken that rule myself enough times to know the downside.
I’m informed. Not read-a-bunch-of-clickbait-salacious-articles informed. I’m the type of informed where I’ve read books and blogs you’ve never heard of, listened to obscure lectures, and have spent more time reading the news of conflicting ideologies that I probably should’ve.
I don’t come to the conclusion that the system is the system lightly. Trust me. I’ve thought about it, in-depth, for years.
What you decide to do this week, this month, this year, and the rest of your life is on you. Are you going to let your emotions win? Are you going to cling to a vision of reality that isn’t actually real? Or are you going to stay focused on your mission?
You can care about society and stay focused on your goals at the same time. If you to civically participate, really do it. Behind the scenes. Not on social media. Go to the town hall meetings, study the actual resolutions on the battles, volunteer your time and money, work with groups who are organized, have true intent, and have a real plan to effect change.
Focus on yourself, your family, your community, your local area, your state, and save the nation or the entire world for last.
On the one hand, people do really care about ‘society’ and ‘the world.’ On the other hand, people focus too much on vague, large, macro, highly complex systemic problems they have no real education or resources to solve because it absolves them of personal responsibility for their own lives. It’s easy to rail at the system with no real concrete solutions as to how to fix it. It’s 100 times harder to focus on fixing yourself.
You know what I’m going to spend this week doing? I’m going to keep writing about subjects that can help people on an individual case by case basis as I always have because I know I can’t save everyone.
I’m going to work on business efforts that are going to help myself and others make a better income so they can have sovereignty and the resources to affect real change. I’m going to tune out of social media and read old books about the recurring patterns in history so I can continue to see what’s coming next.
I’m going to keep living my life.
I suggest you do the same.
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