[ 6 min read ]
I noticed something interesting about how we (people) think that I want to share with you.
I decided to do it openly so that more people can benefit from this letter (or maybe even exchange of letters). Reminds me of an old fashioned exchange of traditional letters between two thinkers, philosophers, artists, scientists or business people.
Anyway, you talk a lot about all the bad things which end up crippling people in their adult lives. How they ruminate about the events of their childhood or youth and convince themselves that certain things could be possible for them were it not for those bad events.
You tell them that they can either A/ continue to ruminate and pity themselves (which will never produce good results, plus everybody has their shit about which they can ruminate, plus everybody always believes his or hers was special or the worst — because they lack perspective), or B/ they can do something about their lives despite the fact that those bad events happened in the past (and they will have the chance to live a better life).
And that’s a great advice in a world where the overwhelming majority of people lack perspective (or actually choose not to gain it — they’d rather be able to continue to ruminate and bitch about life because it’s easier that way).
What I would like to add to this (and which you could also tell your audiences, I guess) is that dwelling on the one missing ingredient, or trying to pinpoint this one bad decision or event which we would like erased from our past, and believing that a small change here or a big change there would only have made a positive difference in our lives ( i.e. everything would be much better, or even perfect, if X happened / didn’t happen, or if B happened instead of A), is completely pointless. It is a flawed line of reasoning.
This also applies to any statement to the effect of “Had I invested 500 thousand dollars in UBER back in, say, 2010, I would have made 300 million dollars.”. It makes both pointless — wishing bad stuff hadn’t happened to us in the past plus telling ourselves how everything would be just fine or great had it not happened, but equally regretting not having taken advantage of some great opportunity to make or win millions or transform our lives. None of it makes sense in my opinion.
Everybody has their fair share of this kind of flawed thinking — prior to making this discovery I told myself such fairy tales too.
It is ridiculous to assume that right now everything would be just fine or that our lives would be better, or even perfect, if only we, as young adults (20 or 30 years ago), had this greater awareness or improved knowledge about the world (something our parents or other adults could have taught or told us, or instilled in us), or the help and support of a superb role model / champion (way better than the ones we actually had). It’s our wishful thinking. Just as it’s ridiculous to assume that everything would be just fine or perfect (could only be better) if we eliminated this or that (this shitty part).
It’s far more likely that if we changed that one piece in that story (little or big, doesn’t matter) other things would change too. Perhaps some pieces would remain the same (or be only slightly different) but some wouldn’t — we can’t be sure what would happen. And thus we have no idea what the reality would really look like if we changed only this one piece. And nevertheless we always imagine this perfect reality in which we would live.
Wouldn’t you agree that the possibility that in this alternative, imagined life, we would exist, or that, if we actually existed, there would be nothing just as bad or even worse, is like 400 trillion to 1?
We fool ourselves that everything would be better. Because what? Because the universe knows what would be better for such and such and it would make sure that only good things would happen to that person?
Are you kidding me? If the universe knew what is good and bad for us and if it cared that we shouldn’t experience the bad, would we have the bad (would we ask questions What I wish someone had taught or told me when I was in my late teenage years/ early 20s?)?
We want to believe that everything would be better because it’s nice to at least know what went wrong and what the reality would be like if it didn’t. So when we write those alternative life stories (where the circumstances of our lives would be enhanced) almost nobody assumes that instead alternative (unknown to us) shit would happen. And it’s totally possible that it would happen. We could have lost our mother at birth, or both our parents a couple of years later in a plane crash, or been born a transsexual, or been a victim of 9/11, or been killed by a serial killer or a lightning or a landslide or an avalanche, or lost vision in both eyes, or lost the ability to speak, etc. Heck, it’s even quite possible that we wouldn’t exist — and if that’s the case, why worry about it at all?
No, none of it would happen. Why would it happen?, we think. Or we don’t even realize it could happen.
If only someone had taught or told me this or that, or been there for me, or supported (championed) me when I was in my late teenage years/ early 20s. If only father hadn’t yelled at mother. If only mother had been emotionally stable. If only mother and father had stayed together. If only I hadn’t been raised by a single mother. If only I had been born five years earlier (or later). If only I hadn’t married that woman. If only I hadn’t joined this gang. If only I had invested in that company. Nonsense!
The only place where it can work are fiction stories (in books or movies). When you’ve written a fiction book and thus created some reality pertinent only to this story, this reality is fixed. You can ponder what would make the story (the book, or the movie) even better and you can actually improve that story. Why? Because you have total control of it — you control all pieces. It’s a fixed reality which can only be changed by you, the author. Life doesn’t work this way.
But I don’t want people to get the impression that in general nothing matters and especially that things like hard work or trusting oneself or perseverance and overcoming obstacles don’t matter (and I guess some people will try to interpret this message that way — those who don’t like to work and wish everything that’s in one way or another beneficial to them would just happen in their lives). That’s not true and that’s not what I advocate. Like you, I too believe that nothing comes free and without hard work, without self-belief (despite being called crazy or weirdo or black sheep of the family), without doing the opposite of what is the norm in the society, and without perseverance in the face of the difficulties, noting extraordinary will ever happen.
Of course one needs those things to get favourable results — and we can regret not having put in the hours and made necessary sacrifices. Of course! But according to my understanding of the world and how everything works in it, it is still ludicrous to assume that had I done all those things my life could only have been better. Creating this favourable alternative life in my head and expecting that things could only have been better (because that’s how I envision it) is pure lunacy. I could have never been born, let alone been healthy, able-bodied, lived in a time of prosperity, peace, Internet, smartphones, and all those great opportunities. In other words, there is zero guarantee my life would be better.
I hope it’s helpful. I consumed a lot of your content over the years (found you through my friend who recommended your book and YouTube channel to me back in 2012 and became your fan instantly) and your ability to call on people’s bullshit (expose their excuses) is phenomenal, but I don’t recall hearing you use this argument in your talks or in the stuff you put out. Which doesn’t mean I am the only person in the world who figured it out or who could figure it out — I’m far from believing such nonsense. Plus, I made this discovery thanks to many other content creators (including you) who inspired me in the last couple of years and continue to inspire me still.
That’s why all regrets which are linked to some envisioned favourable outcome make no sense at all. They’re all pointless. What does make sense? Doing something about it when you’re not satisfied/ when you feel that your life sucks. This always makes sense.