Education in the school of life

Warning: Harsh Truths and Harsh Language

  • "Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? F*ck you! Go home and play with your kids. If you want to work here, close."

Lessons in the classroom of life are masterfully lectured in David Wong’s “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”…

  • “Feel free to stop reading this if your career is going great, you’re thrilled with your life and you’re happy with your relationships. Enjoy the rest of your day, friend, this article is not for you. You’re doing a great job, we’re all proud of you…It’s brutal, rude and borderline sociopathic, and also it is an honest and accurate expression of what the world is going to expect from you. The difference is that, in the real world, people consider it so wrong to talk to you that way that they’ve decided it’s better to simply let you keep failing… I don’t like it when it rains on my birthday. It rains anyway. Clouds form and precipitation happens. People have needs and thus assign value to the people who meet them. These are simple mechanisms of the universe and they do not respond to our wishes…’But I’m not good at anything!’ Well, I have good news — throw enough hours of repetition at it and you can get sort of good at anything. I was the world’s shittiest writer when I was an infant. I was only slightly better at 25. But while I was failing miserably at my career, I wrote in my spare time for eight straight years, an article a week, before I ever made real money off it. It took 13 years for me to get good enough to make the New York Times best-seller list. It took me probably 20,000 hours of practice to sand the edges off my sucking. Don’t like the prospect of pouring all of that time into a skill? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the sheer act of practicing will help you come out of your shell — I got through years of tedious office work because I knew that I was learning a unique skill on the side. People quit because it takes too long to see results, because they can’t figure out that the process is the result…Because in my non-expert opinion, you don’t hate yourself because you have low self-esteem, or because other people were mean to you. You hate yourself because you don’t do anything. Not even you can just ‘love you for you’ — that’s why you’re miserable and sending me private messages asking me what I think you should do with your life… Also, courage. It’s incredibly comforting to know that as long as you don’t create anything in your life, then nobody can attack the thing you created. It’s so much easier to just sit back and criticize other people’s creations. This movie is stupid. That couple’s kids are brats. That other couple’s relationship is a mess. That rich guy is shallow. This restaurant sucks. This Internet writer is an asshole. I’d better leave a mean comment demanding that the website fire him…Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that part? Yeah, whatever you try to build or create — be it a poem, or a new skill, or a new relationship — you will find yourself immediately surrounded by non-creators who trash it. Maybe not to your face, but they’ll do it. Your drunk friends do not want you to get sober. Your fat friends do not want you to start a fitness regimen. Your jobless friends do not want to see you embark on a career.”

So where is the embracing failure in a rant about people not succeeding? Using one of the all-time classic diatribes against failure as its centrepiece. The focus in this case is on embracing the failure of “fairness.” Its failure to meet expectations, its failure to be kind. As a seasoned sales manager myself, who may not have an “$80,000 BMW” (but I do have an $80,000 television set), I don’t approve of all of the words and style of Baldwin’s speech, but the spirit of “life is not fair, life is hard, get over it, and do something productive” is one I embrace completely.

Towards the end of the piece, Wong dissects all of the things people do to avoid embracing this failure. How may do you recognise?…

  • The human mind is a miracle, and you will never see it spring more beautifully into action than when it is fighting against evidence that it needs to change. Your psyche is equipped with layer after layer of defence mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly where they are — ask any addict…
    • Intentionally Interpreting Any Criticism as an Insult – "Who is he to call me lazy and worthless! A good person would never talk to me like this! He wrote this whole thing just to feel superior to me and to make me feel bad about my life! I’m going to think up my own insult to even the score!"
    • Focusing on the Messenger to Avoid Hearing the Message – "Who is THIS guy to tell ME how to live? Oh, like he’s so high and mighty! It’s just some dumb writer on the Internet! I’m going to go dig up something on him that reassures me that he’s stupid, and that everything he’s saying is stupid! This guy is so pretentious, it makes me puke! I watched his old rap video on YouTube and thought his rhymes sucked!" "When you get to where I am in life, you feel free to give me advice! Until then, you’re nothing but meat and guesses."
    • Focusing on the Tone to Avoid Hearing the Content – "I’m going to dig through here until I find a joke that is offensive when taken out of context, and then talk and think only about that! I’ve heard that a single offensive word can render an entire book invisible!"
    • Revising Your Own History – "Things aren’t so bad! I know that I was threatening suicide last month, but I’m feeling better now! It’s entirely possible that if I just keep doing exactly what I’m doing, eventually things will work out! I’ll get my big break, and if I keep doing favors for that pretty girl, eventually she’ll come around!"
    • Pretending That Any Self-Improvement Would Somehow Be Selling Out Your True Self – Misery is comfortable. It’s why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.
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