Nothing seems to make sense anymore. Kids are going to school online instead of in-person, there’s widespread protesting and rioting due to incompetent police officers killing black people, we’re required to wear masks in public, the stock market is thriving while the greater economy bleeds, and the two men running for office are in their mid-to-late 70’s and clearly have zero concern for dealing with the long-term consequences of their decision making because they will be long gone by then.
Just imagine falling into a coma five years ago and waking up today. Personally, I’d contemplate going back to sleep.
But are things really that bad?
The more I reflect on it, the more life seems like a game. Like most things in life, this game is subject to many small iterations and improvements over time. Yeah the wealth inequality gap is widening by the year and some people aren’t as blessed as I was in terms of our upbringing (thanks mom and dad), but even I would much rather be a poor person today than be in the upper class in the 1700’s or 1800’s.
Moreover, there’s been a massive evolution in terms of how we connotate the word “ambition.” This is in large part due to our relatively newfound ability to provide a living for ourselves via specialization — just ask any given TikTok star.
Back in the day it was sort of frowned upon to have the ambition to make it out of the social class that you were born into since ambition was perceived as delusional and greedy. If you came from a long line of blacksmiths, you wouldn’t dare follow your wildest dreams because everybody else would tell you to “just a blacksmith like your pops” since it was the safer, more predictable route. Contrarily, today we see people who were born into poverty literally going from rags to riches.
Time and time again, case study after case study.
The game’s been changed for the better. However, it seems like nine out of every ten people are still asleep at the wheel — floundering about like a leaf in the wind instead of standing tall and walking in long strides towards something. How can this be the case? Weren’t we taught as kids to dream big and shoot for the stars?
Personally, I feel as though we haven’t grasped an understanding of what exactly the game is and the rules that govern it. On the one hand, we have a larger capacity to dream than ever before. But on the other, we have a smaller tolerance for failure.
Maybe in a few years I’ll look back on this entry and laugh at it with a completely new set of perspectives on things. But at this point in time, here’s how I see things:
It is September 1st, 2020 — the first day of a brand new month. Twelve times per year I try to form new habits, think about who I want to be and what I want to do, and try to figure out how I’m going to do it. The vast majority of these efforts are a massive failure. But every now and again something sticks.
As far as I can tell, life is just the recurring process of throwing sh*t at the wall. And let me reiterate that most of it won’t actually stick. However, some of it does.
For example, here’s a brief list of sh*t that’s stuck on my wall over the past several years: I’ve given up video games (and never relapsed); started hitting the gym routinely (and have never missed more than two weeks in a row); took school more seriously (and graduated with cum laude); started reading non-fiction books leisurely (and read 30+ last year alone); gone all-in on becoming a fluent Spanish speaker and gaining cultural experience whilst abroad (check); become obsessed with longevity via diet (still a work in progress); became obsessed with finance (my degree in college); developed a passion for writing, bitcoin, markets, and Austrian economics; and this year I’m trying to say “sayonara” to the traditional 9-5 life and finally chasing the entrepreneurial lifestyle of my dreams.
Trying more things for the first time and thinking about it less is the essence of the game, and quite literally, it’s what makes one person different from the next.
Like, nobody is actually “original” at birth when you think about it. Biologically speaking we’re just a combination of genes that were passed down from our parents, grandparents, and so forth. So we’re just watered-down versions of our predecessors. Additionally, none of our thoughts and actions are really all that novel, either. After all, humans evolved about 200,000 years ago and we’ve been civilized for the last 6,000. Unless your name is Kanye West or Elon Musk, do you really think that your ideas are novel?
What does make one person unique from the other 7 billion on the planet, however, is their composition of traits, outlooks, and skills. When we make corny comments such as “noBoDY cAn COmPetE WitH yOu ON BeInG YoU,” we really just mean that it would be next to impossible for another person to have exactly the same experiences, takeaways, and insights that you have.
So while each individual trait, outlook, or skill that you possess probably isn’t original, the composition of the whole and degree to which you manifest them is.
There’s just one problem, though…
As humans living in the most comfortable times ever, we’ve developed a stubborn tendency to stick to routines. A lot of the time, we fight harder to maintain the status quo instead of trying to improve it. What’s more, we love slapping labels onto ourselves — and others — while putting everything into tidy boxes of safety and predictability. It is thus our propensity to put ourselves out there, try new things, and evolve that allows us to level up in this game.
I guess you could summarize the above with the “cast a wide net” cliché — by trying as many things as possible, the probability of finding what you want increases. But clichés have been diluted via overuse, so let’s keep running with this idea.
You don’t have to wait every year, quarter, or month to throw more sh*t at the wall. Since the past is always behind us and the future is uncertain, it is always “day one” in a sense. Every sunrise is a new start; today could always be the first day of the rest of your life. If you ask most business tycoons what the best part of becoming successful was, 99 percent of the time they will tell you it was the beginning — getting the biz off the ground, having hope, and having a strong sense of direction. And while it’s probably true that the future is likely to be very similar to the past, it’s equally true that outliers do exist. In my opinion, a life without outliers is like a dish without salt. Why not live with more hope, optimism, and spice? Why not increase your odds of being the outlier?
What’s more, with the advent of the internet we *literally* have most of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips. Not knowing how to do something is not the same as not knowing how to know how to do something. Not in the slightest. Sure, you may not know how to change a tire, roll your Rs, or finger paint right now, but you do know how to do a search on YouTube for the answer. Thus, knowing how to find the answer and actually being able to do something are one and the same.
The chief reason why most people are on the sidelines with their hands in their pockets is because they’ve failed to internalize the rules.
The first rule is that you must actually do things. This is a scary one — especially for the determinists out there — since a lot of us don’t like the idea that we’re ultimately in control of our fate. It makes us feel uneasy. The status quo is more comfortable, anyways. So, we turn to teachings and front-loading information into our brains instead of real action.
Just do it.
The second rule is that everything has a cost; everything is one. The cost of a law degree $145,500 on average and 3-4 years of your life. The cost of freedom is accountability. The cost of being a “people pleaser” are your own priorities. The cost of partying is productivity. The cost of getting in shape might be waking up an hour earlier in the morning. The cost of ambition is disappointment.
You simply cannot have one without the other; they’re two sides of the same coin.
In a world of abundance, entitlement, comfort, and “quick fixes,” we are under the illusion that failure and disappointment are bad. But the thing is, the very definition of disappointment is “sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes.”
You see, to live a life of little disappointment is to also live a life void of hope and optimism. And in my opinion, ’tis better to feel and fail than to not feel at all.
We have this inherent belief that we have to choose between being an idealist and a realist. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We don’t actually have to choose — we can ask for the world while simultaneously expecting nothing in return. If we just understood that disappointment is the fee that we pay for dreaming, being hopeful, being optimistic, and playing the game, then so be it.
You can either pay the fee and continue waking up in the morning with the feeling that the world is at your feet, or you can sit on the sidelines.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going I’m going to keep playing the game, accepting the rules, do my best to feel the disappointment when it happens, and continue throwing more sh*t at the wall.
Something’s gotta stick.