I have a strange set of beliefs. On the one hand, I firmly believe in the idea of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. I have a Nietzschean sort of outlook on what humans can accomplish — I think you can be your own personal ubermensch. On the other hand, I look at society as a totally rigged game — a game that makes it difficult to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and tricks you into giving up your individual freedom for the sake of the collective, and by collective I mean a handful of powerful people that control it.
2020 just accelerated the way I knew things were going to ultimately play out. The people who do everything right, everyday people, were going to find themselves on the wrong side of the societal equation. The wealth gaps would increases. People who relied on and trusted the system wouldn’t get rewarded for it. In fact, they’d get punished. Soon, very soon, there will only be two categories — rich and poor. This is why I encourage you to try to get rich. Not because there’s virtue in it, but because the middle-class lifestyle is dangerous and risky. And the politicians aren’t going to fix it for you. Isn’t this clear by now? Let me spell out exactly how this process works so that you come to the same conclusion as I do — escape the rigged game at all costs.
I once wrote an article called The Illusion of Safety: Why You Should Always Choose to Go Big. Here’s an excerpt from that post:
Stop looking at making a lot of money, having multiple income streams, and having a platform to promote them all as a luxury. Having 10x of the resources you need is a necessity.
Some people say I talk too much about making money, worldly success, and come off with a bit of an elitist air. Some people have the misconception that I don’t understand the plight of the average person in society, that I don’t care, that I’m turning my nose down on these people. The truth is the opposite. I care deeply. I’ve simply lost all faith in the system’s desire to help us.
Look at the pandemic. All but the upper classes got eviscerated. People with no cash savings couldn’t afford to live without an income. Those with only one stream of it saw that income drop to zero. With money printing and inflation, the value of the little money people did have went down. The corporations got a bailout and the people didn’t. Point fingers all you want — but I’m telling you these people don’t care about you, regardless of their side. The politicians on the left and right have the same exact goal — eroding what’s left of the little guy or gals power. It’s obvious.
Not only do I know about the injustices of society and the unfairness of it all, but I’m also probably more acutely aware of it all than you are. I don’t say that because I think I’m smarter than you, but because of the conclusions we draw from the situation. See many people think there’s a collectivist way out. I don’t.
I don’t shun collectivist thinking because it’s morally wrong. I shun it because thinking that way, putting trust in your leaders, and following the “American dream” will fuck up your life.
Make no mistake about it. This is bad. Let’s take the sheer loss of life out of the equation and just look at the economics.
All the too big to fail companies will get bailed out until the end of time — many of whom bought back their own stocks instead of saving their money. If you knew the depths of how this goes down, which some of you do, it’s sickening.
Those who owned assets made an absolute killing in the stock market because of the fed propping up asset prices. Look at the separation between the stock market and the real economy — they have nothing to do with each other. Not having learned a single lesson, these companies will borrow tons more money, basically for free, and get even richer in the process. All on your dime by the way.
See, because most middle-class people aren’t savvy investors, all their money will get eaten up by inflation while people with cash will get to put it into a stock market that will rise because of the federal reserve just printing money out of thin air. The government can take away your right to work, make you foot the bill for the economic recovery, and give you back pennies on the dollar.
Small businesses have been crushed. Businesses that people have poured their lives into will never come back. The punchline — many people now realize, maybe you, that their entire sense of reality is a sham and The American Dream is really the American nightmare. Right now you have a bunch of honest, hardworking, good people, many middle-class, who are shit out of luck through no real fault of their own.
I say no real fault of their own because it’s not as if people, you, just consciously chose to put yourself in a precarious position. I’m a self-improvement writer, but I don’t believe in the idea of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” in a vacuum. Absolutely not.
In order to do many of the tactics I talk about — start a profitable side hustle and turn into a business, create income streams, learn the online money game, and develop better mental models to help you thrive in uncertainty — you first have to undo the conditioning caused by the most successful, beguiling, and powerful marketing campaign of all time.
They start spewing the spin when you’re five years old and then when trick people into convincing their own progeny to do the same thing! Get good grades Johnny, Jane. Go to college and get a ‘stable’ job.
Oh? That entrepreneurship stuff? Risky. $100,000 for a degree with an amortization table that’d make you shit yourself if you understood it, no big deal. But that $1,000 business course on affiliate marketing? Total scam.
Hey, 18-year-old Johnny, Jane, here’s a credit card for you — damn near comes to you in the mail on your birthday. Don’t even have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex yet? No worries, we will loan you ten times the money we would a grown adult with a perfect credit score. Why can’t you declare bankruptcy on the debt? Who the fuck knows? Ha ha ha.
Maybe because it would crash the revenue of the government and keep colleges from skyrocketing tuition because, of course, this is the inevitable outcome of guaranteeing demand for a product. Ironically, many college students don’t even develop the sense to understand what I just said.
The crazy thing about it? We, the people, allow ourselves to continue perpetuating the propaganda. Parents who had underwhelming prospects in life by following the path will send their children down the same path. All because the psychological pain of escaping the system is too much to bear.
Next, you get to have an entry-level job. Don’t worry, you will get those golden handcuffs later, don’t worry. Being a single person on an entry-level salary is actually fun. You have a lot of money for your age. That’s the hook.
Next, you get married. Buying your lady that ring? It should be at least 3 months’ salary! The price? Seems expensive? No worries, throw it on a credit card. Wait, doesn’t De-Beers artificially limit the supply of diamonds to jack up the price? Shhhhh. This is the love of your life we’re talking about.
Next, you buy that house. The one within your means? Well, cmon now, this is your home we’re talking about — the core piece of your identity as a middle-class American — go big!
It’s your best investment, too — illiquid unless you take out a loan on your own equity, basically, zero gains above inflation on average, and break-even at best when you consider taxes, fees, and repairs. Don’t worry about those silly numbers. Your buddy Jim sold at the peak of the market and made a killing, so will you! And you’ll know what you’ll do with your profits? Put a down payment on another 30-year mortgage and pay more interest! Equity baby!. 2008? What?
All a sudden you have a family, a mortgage, a few credit cards (the wedding went a bit over budget and of course you had to do the Hawaii Honeymoon), and now you need the 2020 SUV because the safety ratings are off the charts.
Still, you kinda still sorta want to start that business, but you can’t quit your job because the healthcare system is such that you’re basically fucked if you don’t have said job. Yes, sure, they’ll get healthcare right, even though the largest Democratic super-majority in the entire country failed to pass single-payer in their state. No worries.
We have a new president. Time to heal. You’ve lived through several administrations with no real tangible chances in your life, but this time is different!
Your favorite politicians and pundits bark at each other pretending to have a serious debate over the “issues” — seemingly appearing as if they hate each other — yet they party together behind your back…left, right, blue, red, all having a swanky soiree in the Hampton wearing designer clothes probably funded from insider trading.
Your overlords are having a blast behind the scenes, while they tell you they’re fighting for you, even though their own districts are rotting piles of shit.
All they have to do is keep pimping the American Dream. All the powerful institutions have to do to keep you from upending the system is trick you into thinking that trying to fix the system is the answer. The level at which this propaganda works is honestly impressive. People put so much fervor into getting the right people into the system without realizing the incentive structure of the system is such that it will corrupt anybody you put into the system. I do think there are idealistic politicians who want good things for people — I think many of them started out this way. But the swamp is undefeated. Keep on staying woke. Keep on putting your faith in the system to somehow fix itself, even though every psychological bias, aspect of human nature, and incentive structure known to man, shows this is simply impossible.
Some people think I don’t care. Oh, I care. Some people think I don’t get it. Oh, I get it. I get it at a level so deep that I know the only answer is for you to save yourself.
There is a true American Dream. Even after everything I just laid out, I’m bullish on the opportunity for the individual. You don’t have to live this way, forever. Even if you’re caught in the trap of middle or working-class life right now, rife with pitfalls, you can still find your way out
But you’ll never do it if you keep playing their game and buying into their propaganda. I wrote about this in the opening chapter of my new book — Why Society Doesn’t Want You to Succeed.
See, the reason why you can’t defeat society is that society isn’t some fixed entity. It’s a combination of people and institutions. Like the mythical Hydra, cut off one head and it grows three new ones.
Society is an emergent property, the culmination of a bunch of problems:
- Agency problems — from bankers who look only to polish quarterly earnings in lieu of long-term sustainable strategies, to politicians who are incentivized to get elected in lieu of being civil servants, to managers of and CEOs companies who are incentivized to do more for their shareholders than the American people as a whole, to the series of institutions that rely on your lack of self-reliance to survive, to all the people in between who were just “following orders,” these individual instances of people ‘looking out for number one’ combine to fuck everyone ever.
- Confirmation bias — The general public probably does sincerely want to change, wants to be sovereign, wants to be free, but as I showed in the example of being sold the American dream, once you start to believe something deeply, it’s hard to change your mind, even if failing to change ruins your life. You’d rather be right than get it right, which is why you cling to your mirage of a worldview.
- Incentives — A corollary of agency problems. The right incentive structure damn near forces certain behaviors to happen. And let’s make a long story short and say the incentive structure of society as a whole is such that keeping you in the dark is a major priority.
Trust me. I’ve thought about this. For years. Hell, I started thinking about it when I saw what happened to my mom. And I always knew my only route to a happy life would be figuring out a way to circumvent the system altogether.
At a certain point, I realized the system just…is what it is. I didn’t arrive at that conclusion from an apathetic perspective, but a pragmatic one. Why waste energy screaming at the sky? You think your finger-wagging matters. It doesn’t. Your overlords love when you do it, too. Stay distracted. You’re doing their job for them.
The biggest middle-finger you can give to the system is choosing not to be a willing participant in the perpetuation of said system. In short, stop buying the societal bullshit and focus on leveling up your life.
Build that fuck you fund so no one can tell you what to do. Start those ‘risky’ projects so you can have real control over your life. Lead by example and show others the way out by focusing on your own development so you can save your life, save your family’s life, and maybe inspire other people to save theirs.
I’m hard on you because I care. I care enough to actually tell you the truth, The truth keeps you from being blindsided by a world that is much tougher and crueler than any words I can ever write.
Following the middle-class doctrine might not lead to some tragic existence.
No, in many ways, it’s great, enviable even. But you’ll always have to live your life on a tightrope. You’re always a sitting duck no matter how successful you think you are.
And you’re simply not free.
And that’s really all you want anyway. To feel free. To feel like your life isn’t just subjects to the whims of institutions and the tyranny of incompetent beaurocrats.
I take self-improvement extremely seriously because I know it’s a matter of life and death. When you understand this, too, you’ll start the journey you know you need to make.
Ayodeji is the author of Real Help: An Honest Guide to Self-Improvement