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Month: November 2009

Infinite Dots

Infinite Dots

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs

Here’s the best reason to do whatever you feel you have to do in today‘s world, without worrying about the consequences: today’s dots are infinite.

Fifty years ago, one of the strongest arguments to keep people on the safe path was predictability. It wasn’t that hard to foresee how many possibilities a person would have depending on what they studied, where they lived and which people they knew. This happened because the variables that influenced someone’s future (let’s call them “dots”) were very few. Money, heritage, and geography mattered. You could still challenge traditional paths, but the tools and reach were limited. Changing the world fifty years ago was harder than it is today, simple as that.

If you looked back and tried to connect the dots back then, the unpredictable ones were fewer. A linear path was easy to walk.

Now, the world is flat, globalization is happening and the internet is shortening the distance between each other. When the world truly is your oyster, every aspect of your life will get affected (and probably improved) if you decide to step out of your traditional boundaries. Thanks to today’s connectivity and the increasingly popular “world citizenship” mentality, the magnetism of people’s desires can bring them together fast and easy.

The process of dot connecting does not have to be hard, but it has to be consistent. With every little challenging step that you take now, you are opening the door to countless new opportunities. There are enough dots for everyone to reach an interesting life, but you have to keep opening doors.

You need to be strong, independent, and aware that you can’t know how things will work out. If you can see the outcome clearly, rest assured that you’re going after a boring and mediocre lifestyle. If you are trying to “make sense”, then you are going after other people’s definition of “sense.”

Lives full of exciting dots don’t make sense.

Happiness Hyperopia

Happiness Hyperopia

The concept of Happiness Hyperopia is very interesting:

Overestimating the benefits we think we will accrue at some mythical time in the future.

There are people who “suffer” from this condition. But there are also people who do not. I asked my friend Steve a long time ago: What is more likely to happen? Overvaluing or undervaluing the future?

Steve’s reply:

“My take is that it depends on who it is. For example, someone who does a lot of hard-core drugs or gets a facial tattoo is obviously someone who is likely to undervalue the future. On the other hand, the person who toils away in a miserable job just for the money that he theoretically will spend when he retires is someone who overvalues the future.”

While Steve may be right, those are extreme examples. They are not demonstrative samples of the rest of us.

My estimation is that most people do suffer from happiness hyperopia, whatever it is they do. You don’t have to be an executive that works 70 hours a week to overvalue your future. Happiness hyperopia is what feeds consumerism: the constant illusion of a better future. We become victims of this “condition” frequently, no matter how many times we have been disappointed before. We bought that device, we got that job, we dated that girl, only to end up looking for something else.

There are many reasons happiness hyperopia to be so prominent:

– Tradition would be one. The mentality that religion has impregnated in our culture for hundreds of years is all about happiness hyperopia. What’s religion if not a promise of a heavenly future as long as you pay your dues on Earth?

– The increase of our life span also has huge effects on our way to see the future. When people lived 40 years and the fear of war or many deathly illnesses was constantly present, there weren’t many motivators to wait, invest and play the “hope” game. Now, with many of those fears mostly eradicated, we can expect a wonderful future if we work hard enough. Not that this future will ever come, though.

– When one gets rational about this, one can’t avoid considering the “live now” mentality as the best choice. The problem is that “living now” is not that easy either, because dying now is hard. When you know that there’s nothing after you die (which more and more people are believing), there’s a lot at stake on living like a rock star. Basically, those that live the moment and undervalue their future aren’t ready to say their goodbyes before their undervalued future catches up with them, which usually does in today’s world. People get to live for many years regretting their past decisions.

In the end, happiness hyperopia is all we have. We can’t go any other way because we’ve been trained to overvalue our future.

Trying to be realistic and being ready to settle is the best choice. It will bring the most tolerant misery (or the most realistic happiness).

Ignore Reality

Ignore Reality

Our culture is seeing an explosion of social studies in the work environment, mainly focused on our irrationality and incapability to see the best logical response. We have been victims of our mind’s flaws since the beginning of time, but we are now fascinated to point out to everyone just how “crazy” we are.

Studies prove that tall people get further in the corporate ladder, women earn less, black people get interviewed for worse jobs, and many other harsh realities. I say realities, because they are true. They happen.

And they are completely irrelevant.

Just because they happen, does not mean they have to happen to you.

We are not getting smarter or hacking the system by knowing about these studies, we are just finding more ways to rationalize our fears and failures. Failing and blaming it on our physique is the ultimate excuse.

I remember when Ben and I were talking about IQ tests. I had just taken one, and after seeing my results (which I’m keeping to myself), I asked his opinion about IQ tests in general. This is what he told me (sort of, it was a long time ago):

“They are pointless. If you are dumb, you’ll only feel bad about yourself. And if you’re smart, what is it going to do for you to know that? It may even be get you to be complacent. We should ignore those things about us that we can’t change, and just work hard and believe in ourselves.”

Same goes for all these studies. Why does it help you to know these facts? The only positive effect that I could see is to motivate those that are on the losing side (and I’m skeptical about that). Feeling good about being a tall white man can’t help your attitude in any way.

There’s a bigger problem with these trends: they are statistics. Majorities. Generalizations. I’m between 5’7″ and 5’8″. Clearly not tall enough to succeed, maybe I should just kill myself. But until I hear of a study that says that 100% of a specific group of people suffers a certain negative effect, I won’t care about them. I just assume I am the exception.

Just believe you are that short, fat, ugly and lucky bastard that will power through.

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