Escaping Failure

Why do people tolerate conditions that to an outside observer appear torturous and unbearable?

Because it usually takes a long time for things to go from good to average to terrible. The loosening of standards, the growing rarity of success, all stack up so slowly that we often find ourselves in a living hell with no idea as to how we got there, and no clear memory of when it all changed.

Perhaps this is why quicksand exists in our minds as an archetypal fear. Quicksand is that which kills you so slowly that you don’t notice until your head is nearly below ground.

No wonder standards, principles, and consistent strategies are the weapons by which failure and stagnation can be fought off.

Motivation, inspiration, and passion are too weak and unreliable a resource to be used in continuous personal growth. They are nowhere to be found when you need them most, and often lead us into self-aggrandizements and prideful displays of self-perceived talent.

Inspiration is what may propel us to create principles sufficient to change the course of our life. But it in itself is not enough. Motivation may be enough to get us up off the couch the first time, but it likely won’t be there the second or the third, or the other inestimable times we might need motivation if we are to take consistent proper action.

Emotion is the water that turns the solid ground to quicksand. Principles and strategies are the rope which we have either spun ourselves, or has been offered by a mentor. But with no rope, we are doomed to sink.

 

 

Life on Autopilot

Every organism aims at achieving maximum results with minimum energy expenditure.

Humans alone are presented with a conscious choice regarding how much energy they use in a day. Any individual can decide to spend many hours a day in vigorous exercise of the mind or body, or else in sloth and complacency with external forces. Few choose the former, but the ones who do often spend several years in a state of discomfort before achieving an exponential growth in available resources.

Many have marveled at the achievements of such “non-conformists” and attributed their success to a cultivated defiance of what is often called “autopilot” as if the high achieving outliers in our society live in a state of constant resistance to the overwhelming social pressures all around them.

What an exhausting existence that would be.

Rather, our capacity for “autopilot” is as useful to the art of living as it is to landing an aircraft. Every commercial airliner today still uses highly trained human pilots because rigid, structured systems of control are best used in tangent with a highly responsive, creative element. Such it is with our unconscious patterns of behavior, which we in large part control through the decisions of our conscious minds.

The key is not in discarding unconscious patterns altogether, but rather in selecting those patterns after conscious, disciplined consideration of your own goals and predilections.

 

 

The Good News

The good news is this isn’t some random mass of atoms, arranged by chance, without moral or logical consideration.

The other good news is that the previous statement is substantiated by scientific research.

The Universe, and more specifically at the level pertaining to Earth, Biology, is constrained by principles that become apparent at any non-quantum level of analysis. We look at fossils and wonder why every skeleton, from the smallest mouse to the largest whale looks so strangely similar.

We look at neurons, rivers, veins, and insect architecture, seeing the same patterns again and again.

That’s all well and good. But how does it help us in our daily lives?

The human mind is as much part of the Universe as a river and as the billions of neurons that are its collective components. Thus it too behaves according to metaphysical principles, though due to our pesky friend free will, we have some choice in the matter. The principles are not obvious, though we submit to them no matter our personal attitudes. But the human mind has the privilege of being able to fool itself. We trick ourselves into perceived positions of power, depression, anxiety, and frustration. Rarely in this day and age do we simply trust our biology and act without considerations for the ego and our cherished self-conceptions.

When lacking any sense of destiny or purpose, it’s best to trust in your ancestors. Each and every one of us come from a long line of competent, reproductively successful humans,  and before that, organisms of all kinds. Do you really think that was some sort of a coincidence or a mistake? By any measure, we are the best designed, most complex, best-equipped organisms on the planet. What good does it do us to wallow inside our heads, imagining potential futures, past failures, and present insecurities? What good would it do a termite? A chimpanzee? None at all. The termite builds, the chimpanzee gathers, the human innovates. Of course, this doe

None at all. The termite builds, the chimpanzee gathers, the human innovates. Of course, this doe

The termite builds, the chimpanzee gathers, the human innovates. All the tools are already inside your head. How much time have you wasted looking for them? How many days have been spent in idle regret or fantasy? And how many of those days are rationalized as “intellectual endeavors”?

We are animals. Animals with a brain so large and complex it can never hope to comprehend itself. So stop trying, and act.

 

Lift Your Weight

“The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.”

-Jim Morrison

The same sentiment was expressed by philosopher Jean Paul Sartre in a phrase that has been much repeated and misinterpreted:

“Hell is other people.”

Both quotes resonate with a truth known to all of us. We are social animals, forced everyday to have interactions with the most complex systems currently known; other human beings.

And of course, we ourselves are complicated and often self contradictory actors in the social world, both creators and destroyers of ourself and others. Those around us exert a social pressure that we in turn submit to, transmute, and exert back out. This occurs on the micro level within us, as different thoughts and drives compete for expression through the body, and also at macro levels in social situations as different people compete for dominance and control. The global culture itself is nothing but the final expression of this near infinite set of nested competitive frame works.

But in this jungle, 7 billion strong, full of tyrants, vagrants, billionaires, and prostitutes, who wins?

Who exerts influence, and crafts the environment to their liking?

Who dies still in love with the world, and with the world in love with them?

It isn’t the ruthless.

The Stalins and Hitlers of the world live desperate, paranoid, hopeless lives full of fear and hatred. They are not happy. They are loved only by the pathological. Any look into their personal lives and this truth becomes evident.

It isn’t the greedy.

The nature of greed is in wanting more. If one is greedy, one lacks. If one lives in a state of lack, they are not happy. To call a greedy person happy is to call a leaking bucket full.

But what of the individuals?

The people who, despite their pathologies, fears, traumas, and inconsistencies see in themselves a load bearing capability. They see that they could lift a great weight, and in the lifting make their own lives worth living, and their own pathologies worth enduring.

The people who perceive what is the most difficult, impactful goal they could attempt to attain, and strive towards it, social pressure be damned.

Power games crumble on contact with these sorts. Governments change and cultures evolve. The old games become silly as history looks back and thanks these individuals by way of the favorable narrative.

Hell is other people. Perhaps hell is the entire world, both internal and external.

But heaven is the higher ideal.

Heaven is the muscle by which we may lift the weight nature has assigned us.

Find your weight. Discover your difficulty.

Fight your most terrible fight, for yourself and the rest of us.

Justify your existence, and discover the world is a simple place.

Don’t Be Motivated

Why would a reasonable person attempt to do something incredibly difficult?

Why do our cultural heroes have lives that seem a ceaseless procession of self-inflicted hardship and struggle?

Strangest of all, why does pleasure easily gained make us feel hollow, whilst earned victories, no matter how small, make us feel that our souls are firmly rooted in the earth?

Because we can envision the future, and observe the present. Humans beings have the unique ability to consciously conceptualize our ideals. By our own free will, we can determine a goal and calibrate our present actions towards that goal. If that goal is not achieved, we experience frustration and despair.

Failure is the confrontation between our ideals and our actions.

Frustration, despair, and guilt are all facets of the same pain; that of perceiving that our framework for acting in the world is not adequate to meet our goals. Such a perception is difficult to accept and act upon, but doing so is the very essence of personal growth and progress.

Where in this model of human behavior is the need for “motivation”?

Hoping for motivation is putting the cart before the horse. The feeling of wanting to do difficult things is not cultivated out of thin air. That feeling is an inseparable consequence of selecting a difficult, concrete goal and moving towards that goal with an efficacious behavioral framework.

That is why failure is really no failure at all.

If you are failing, and adjusting behavior accordingly, you are necessarily getting closer to your desired outcome.

And not only are you moving closer, but you are actually accelerating.

But goal setting without proper behavior calibration is nothing more than fantasizing.

Action taking without close analysis of results is mindless labor.

Motivation in itself is just an emotional high. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t bring you closer to what you want. It’s only a feeling.

What matters is how that emotion is applied in action, and from what stimulus the emotion arises.

Are you motivated because you are accelerating towards your goal?

Or because to not be motivated would be to spiral downwards into a depression?

These are difficult questions. How could they not be?

Easy questions are not questions at all, for if they are easy one already knows the answer.

Easily achieved goals are not really goals but whims, shared by drug addicts and toddlers alike.

So expect difficulty. Expect failure. Relish in self-examination. Take pleasure in adversity, and above all, hold onto your ideal.

Because without a clear ideal to move towards, your life will lack more than motivation.

Meaning itself will whither and fade.