- Tepidness sounds worse – you can’t hide
- Dwelling the badness makes it worse
- It’s not too late to be good again
In the increasingly transactional dating world, there is a temptation to see and be seen as quickly as possible. This is especially true when you like yourself. I really want her to see how great I am! We are all always getting older and running out of time, but these pressures, I think, must be resisted a bit. For it is true that if you are true in who you are, it will necessarily be revealed in time. Same for her. There is real beauty in this revelation, a beauty that can transcend knee-jerk reactions we may have had when rushing to know and be known.
There’s this cute George Bernard Shaw quote:
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
If defeating age is really that easy, why would anyone stop playing? Injuries for one. Lack of time and general fatigue for another. Those two elements will be hard to hard to overcome, especially the first one.
A more malleable variable is the simple fact that we tend to turn less excitable in age. And it is excitement that undergirds playing – you play because you are excited to play.
The easiest path to excitement is novelty. In youth, experience is limited, which means there are many more firsts, which means there is a greater capacity for novelty, which all means you are less likely to fall into a jaded state of “been there, done that.” Still, the world is very large, so there’s always more to see. But BTDT tends to move beyond the literal – I’ve actually seen that movie and it’s bad – into a general dismissal of exploration – I’ve seen enough to know there’s nothing to see in that thing I’ve never actually seen.
Youth also equals innocence, an innocence defined by not having realized the downsides of risks. Once you have been burned enough times – an inevitable part of aging – BTBT is but one of many defensive moves used to remain safe. The status quo, however bad it may be, feels preferrable to change, since change can bring lower floors of negativity; the potential for higher positive floors is obscured by the possibility of loss.
It’s not that any of this is unreasonable. In fact, it’s the outright reasonableness that makes the logic so appealing to a mature person. But when rationality leads you to undesirable place, it’s worth considering alternatives, for rationality is often less a single thing than it is post hoc explanations proffered to make one’s decisions palatable. In this case, you now know that you are now biased to focus on downsides. This focus both makes the bad outcomes less likely and, if they do occur, more tolerable. You are indeed better prepared than you were in youth! So use this preparation to your advantage and let your mind wander toward enthusiasm and excitement.
For so long they cheered you with the purity of a pre-teen at a Taylor Swift concert. They celebrated even your tiniest accomplishments. They wanted you to be successful. They sometimes even believed you were capable of things you yourself doubted. And then, at some point, it all stopped. The purity was replaced by jealousy, and the words of encouragement were shifted to lesser folks. We love seeing people do well … just as long as they don’t surpass our own status. And once they do, He really needs a measly compliment with a title like THAT?! Probably had to know somebody to get the job anyway. LOL to those who think he got there with “merit.” And don’t get me started on wealth inequality. Tell me what he actually does to earn 20x more than that earnest janitor. I’m not seeing it!
But of course the same human needs for acceptance and appreciation don’t disappear once one owns an ungodly # of VTI shares. So here I am cheering and celebrating you. Here I am thanking you for the past two months of working together, which were my favorite at Bright. You said something this summer about me “thinking too much of you,” and I’m convinced you were/are obviously incorrect. Aside from my parents, I truly don’t think there’s a single elder I’ve learned more from than you. Here’s a little list of learnings that may well read like a fanboy writing T Swift:
Unless you buy face value, don’t buy any ticket to anything until a minimum of 36 hours before the show.
when there isn’t anger tied to the thing. Aggrievement, perhaps more than any other emotion, keeps thoughts endlessly circling. Like, it’s believing you’ve been wronged that makes “heartbreak” so devastating. How could she do this to me? TO ME? Similarly with contentious ends to jobs, friendships, events, etc.
What about regret? Wishing to have done differently certainly serves as a driver of many sleepless nights. But the solution is self-forgiveness, which is a bit easier than forgiving others, especially when those others should be apologizing and aren’t. Yet like self-forgiveness, the choice to forgive others can be made without any outside participation: free yourself from the frustration not because the other person is right, but because you sensibly desire mental tranquility.
Try playing with not being immediately identified as the thing you most like being identified as. If your identity is true – you like being seen as smart and you are indeed smart – it will be revealed in time. By getting there RIGHT NOW, you (a) close off the possibility of being other things and (b) pay less attention to your surroundings.
(a) Again, you still are what you are, but by aggressively leaning into your favored identity, other parts of your self are left underdeveloped. Those underdeveloped parts will induce some fear and discomfort. You’ll want to run back to the sanctuary of what has worked well for you. Hence the bravery of this experiment. The upside is a world expansion that comes from uncustomary perspectives and positions.
(b) When you are comfortable, you don’t have to pay much attention. You can hum along smoothly hitting the same beats you always hit. Your mind can wander. You’ve done this before. No big deal. When you jump out of a plane for the first time, your attention is razor-sharp.
You are a stud … and I’m unsure if you really believe it. Let’s find out by venturing through four levels of thinking that I just made up.
The lowest level is Regurgitation. Here, the best one can do is identify brilliant people to copy, and copy them with a bit of rhetorical flourish. Do this well and, at minimum, you’ll be seen as “competent.”
Not good enough, right? So climb the ladder hidden behind the mist and you’ll arrive on Error Detection. There was certainly some identification of troubled thinking on L1 in determining who to emulate, but here you realize there are mistakes in damn near everyone’s thinking. Mistakes that you, standing on these gorgeous marble floors (much better than the dirt on Regurgitation), can proudly correct with answers that appear in your mind. This thinker said X, but it’s actually X+.25, or I think this person straight missed that footnote on page 15 which renders much of this strategy dumb. On and on. Always something to find. Sit back, let others throw stuff out there, and then pick it apart. In the same way that editors are necessary for successful writers, a company without occupants on L2 will fail. Still, right or wrong, those occupants are not viewed as studs; authors get million-dollar advances, not editors.
Since a million dollars sounds cool, how about climbing that brick wall over there? Don’t worry, many of the bricks jut out just enough to count as footholds. Yes, I know your fingers are bleeding, but I promise it’s worth it. See, you have a nice rhythm now. And for just a second look up and observe the destination in the form of that human-sized hole in the ceiling. Motivating to spot your destiny, I know. I’m here for you. Your destiny, for now, is What Matters. Small children never make it to this floor. Think of those precocious, pugilistic 8-year-olds who are so good at finding the tiniest mistakes adults make only to be laughed off with Yes, I guess you are technically correct, but that’s about it. You fail to see what’s going on here. On What Matters, one has a comprehensive understanding of the mission, the players, and the incentives. No longer is time exhausted gaining status points by pointing out trivial mistakes when the overall intent is generally clear. The error can still be corrected, just with a smoothness that largely skips over right vs. wrong. You probably meant X instead of Y. Cool. No biggie. Let’s talk about X. This skipping is vital since time is ticking and L3 residents focus on cost/benefit calculations. Risks are everywhere, and there is always a cost to mollifying them. Thus, “we gotta do whatever we can” should almost never be uttered. Many times the costs outweigh the risks. Many times the costs grow as unintended consequences appear. And because of these realities, What Matters residents accept that you must tolerate certain risks, errors, and technicality violations in properly directing limited resources to areas yielding the largest returns.
- Be laughably hypocritical
- Pretend you can read minds and generally project a level of certainty you don’t deserve, especially considering there are some fairly obvious questions you are ignoring.
There you are with your shoulders a little too upright and a smile that’s a little too preening. This self-assurance stems from a belief that you are on THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. Like, you’d never kill a black man or grope a coworker. You know how to choose right and you do … at least in hypotheticals that will almost certainly never occur. Congratulations!
A rectangular sign. It’s not complicated like tax codes or quid pro quos. Three English words shine clearly in bold, black print. With a faux aura of naïveté, you slip the collar off your dog and prove to everyone you are the fraud we thought you were.