Monday, June 03, 2013

Drawbacks of "Making It"

If you play your cards right, or just don't make any major errors in your life, you will "make it."

What does that mean?

Well, whatever your life goal was specific to you. 

You don't have to work for the man.
You have enough residual or dividend income to not work any more.
You achieved a "minimalist nirvana" allowing you to jet set around the world.
You won the lottery.

Whatever it is, in general, it means you achieved the goal you set out for yourself in life and can now enjoy the fruits of your labor.

However, like all things in life, nothing is perfect and everybody's life will have problems regardless of how happy and perfect it may look to outsiders.  And since a disproportionate percentage of my readers have independent psychologies and spirits, and are likely to head down this path, I wanted to not so much warn but "explain" what kind of problems you'll run into when you "make it."

First, understand any unique or different individual is so far down the right or the left of the bell curve that though highly talented in some areas, they are by statistical default the "outliers of society."  You, by definition of being you, will not fit or jive with vast majority of the population.  This is of course your primary strength, allowing you a different life, a better life, and a life not wasted.  But at the same time since you are so far down the tail of the curve, it is also very lonely. 

For example I climbed Desseret Peak on a beautiful Spring day in Utah.  The weather was perfect.  It was sunny, it was a perfect day for everybody to be out hiking.

How many people were on the mountain range that day?


One was named "Tom" who I met at the peak and the other 2 were some rookies who were trying to summit the peak starting in the afternoon (which means they would be hiking down at night and getting lost).  Aside from that, nothing and nobody.

The reason is simple.  Tom and I are too far down the right of the curve.  Neither of us had to work. Neither of us had kids we had to tend to.  And both of us were in the necessary shape to scale Deseret. Those three traits combined ensured there would only be two people on top of that mountain that beautiful day (and it was a statistical coincidence we were even on the peak at the same time).

The point is that if you pursue an individualistic lifestyle you will be to a certain extent peerless because only you are your own individual.  And dare you start to not only think, but live, outside of the box, there will be less contemporaries for you to meet and engage with.

Second, society is not geared or tailored for the individual. It is tailored for the masses.

My girlfriend and I were driving past the mall and I asked her,

"My god, how many people go shopping?  Look at all those cars!!!  What can those people possibly be buying?"

But then I realized it wasn't the thousands of people in the mall that were weird or odd.  It was me.  The only places I shop are Wal-Mart, the grocery store, and Amazon.  I never go "shopping" as if it's an activity, I only shop for the bare necessities because it's a chore.  The rest of society does the opposite, and society in turn designs itself around this, shopping merely being one small example of this;

Highways are built to deliver worker drones to centers of work. 
Work schedules are assumed to be 8-5.
You get health insurance with your employers
Restaurants serve breakfast during breakfast hours, lunch during lunch hours, and dinner during dinner hours.
Everybody goes to college
Everybody needs to own a home

The list goes on.

You buck this, you deny yourself the economies-to-scale benefits that come with it.

You self-employed?   To hell with you on many levels.  You can't qualify for a mortgage, you get to pay twice the social security tax and self-employment tax, you get to pay for your own insurance and society will view you as a loser just one step above welfare recipient.

You don't want kids?  Tough crap anyway.  Pay more in property taxes to subsidize other people's children.  Pay more in taxes in general as we provide WIC, EBT and welfare to people who had children they couldn't afford.  A sizable percentage of people won't want to date you.  And then there's always the occasional person who will claim you're selfish for not suffering their misery breeding.

You need to moonlight at night to work on your own personal projects?  Too bad, restaurants aren't open, nobody is awake, and let's not forget the social stigma associated with working as a security guard.

This doesn't mean there aren't benefits for working outside the Matrix (say, like never commuting), but it is to say you will not be able to avail yourself of how society is structured, even sometimes having to work against it.

Finally, arguably the worst drawback is what I like to call the "Shark Syndrome."

Sharks cannot stop swimming.  If they do, the lack of flow of water over their gills deprives them of oxygen and they die.  So even when sharks sleep, they are swimming.

Independent types like us are the same.

Either driven by poverty, the drudgery of a corporate gig, a disgust with society, or the intellectual curiosity and desire to push your mind and abilities to their limit, we are constantly pushing, working, and striving to succeed and "make it." 

The problem is "what do you do when you make it?"

Just stop?

The sad truth is to "make it" usually takes at least 10-20 years of hard work, discipline and effort.  And by that time (and combined with our types of psychologies) you simply can't stop.  You can't "turn it off."  It is not longer a pursuit to achieve independence and luxury, but becomes one of achieving excellence.

This results in the ironic situation of where you may have been brought up poor and wanted nothing more than to live a life of luxury, but after two decades of striving, working hard, and being innovative, that temerity and work-ethic has now become part of you, if not, fully defines you.  And even though you may have achieved the lax life of luxury you always wanted, you can't enjoy it because your mind won't let you.  It now needs to keep going.

This forms two problems for those of you who actually "make it." 

One, (and I believe this especially for men), you need "agency."  I had to look this up because Aurini with his freaking 217 point IQ keeps using words I don't know, forcing unwanted vocabulary lessons on me.  In other words you need purpose in life.  YOu can't just, at the age of 40, retire and sit on a beach.  Certainly not after the hell you went through to get to that point. You need "agency."  So even if you won the lottery and could just jet set across the world, the average man (and I am presuming woman) could not just sit there and eat bon bons all day playing video games.  You would need to get out and do something of worth or merit otherwise you have none.

Two, you are psychologically incapable of enjoying life and leisure, because it is the pursuit of that leisure, not enjoying it, that gives you the greatest joy. This is not necessarily a bad thing in that this constant pursuit of achievement results in becoming the "World's Most Interesting Man," because once you've "made it" you ask "what's next?"  But since you've made it, your next venture needn't be business minded or profitable, just something that is more challenging than before. 

This is a problem I (and you will) face in that my "new challenges" are not only NOT relaxing, but increasingly risky as well.  My 2,200 mile motorcycle ride (on a crotch rocket) from Wyoming to Phoenix, AZ was awesome, but not enough.  I will now be doing a 4,500 motorcycle ride through the Canadian Rockies (alone of course).  Doing a 20 mile hike in the Badlands wasn't enough, I had to transverse the entire park (nearly suffering heat stroke and almost falling into an underground cavern).  And even my daily chore list isn't enough, usually resulting in me staying up later than I should and depriving myself of sleep. 

Whatever the case, it doesn't stop as you need to constantly be going and you never let yourself relax and enjoy life.

THe solutions to these two problems are simple. 

First, ensure you always have something to do.  And I'm not talking about "cleaning the house" or "changing the oil," but projects that make you a better man.  Projects that provide you agency.  Writing a book.  Rebuilding a car.  Self-teaching yourself electronics.  Climbing mountains. etc.  And you're going to have to provide yourself your own agency, because it isn't like corporate America or the feminist-HR department is going to provide you agency, let alone rewarding agency.  You need to have an endless list of life-projects you're going to work on to carry you until you're dead.

Second, you need to take some of that self-control and discipline that helped you "make it" in the first place, turn it around and FORCE yourself to enjoy and relax.  Again, I am being a bit of a hypocrite here.  I actually have to FORCE myself to sleep till 10AM.  I actually have to FORCE myself to play video games.  And if you take my laptop away from me I cannot just "sit and enjoy a cigar."  It is probably only through booze I can force myself to relax.  But you must also realize, more importantly, that your body is not designed to CONSTANTLY go at the rate that helped you "make it."  It needs to rest.  It needs to relax.  YOu will only shorten your life expectancy if you can't turn it off.  It is here where getting into a good habit like FORCING yourself at least 2 hours a day of watching TV or playing video games will help.  It is here where making sure you get 9-10 hours of sleep a day will post pone your rapidly approach stroke or heart attack.

Again, I am the pot calling the kettle black in this regard, but when you get here and finally "make it" these are the new problems you will face in life.


Roberto Severino said...

This is a must bookmark post for me. It's exactly how my personality works. I'm an individualistic fellow who doesn't fit in with the rest of "society." Hell, I went against the trend of having to attend college right away and had to deal with some backlash from certain people in my immediate family about it.

On some days, it's hard not to get depressed about what's going on or realizing in hindsight about what an idiot I was when I was being lied to and mislead by literally many people that I knew. I don't even talk to anyone from my old high school anymore except one person now.

Right now, since I have nothing else to do this summer until my college orientation next month, I'll try to watch as much good quality TV as I can for a couple of hours while keeping up the drawing studies. In fact, I've started Mad Men quite recently and am finishing up the sixth episode of the first season. It kind of took a little while but the show is really starting to grow on me. I think I might have most of the seasons done in about a week or two if I really get addicted like I was with Breaking Bad.

Dr. Faust said...

Does he really have a 217 IQ?

earl said...

I have a new definition of the day I finally make it.

The day I take my last breath here on Earth.

Until that day comes there is always something I can better at.

Anonymous said...

holy crackers, there are 2 of us?

I fought this from my tyke years. It only gets harder as society solidifies around you and more conformity is expected of you. Get used to being depressed, cynical and alone. I went to college after the military. Only talked to 2 other students in 3 years. Hate the "herd". I'm sure I would have fared better being a craftsman of some sort. Happier too, and more fulfilled. That said, "there is no such thing as good advice".

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best posts by the Captain (at least, it struck a chord with me).

At 35, I have achieved everything I ever dreamed off as a teen: I quit my job a decade ago, I created my own internet business, traveled to more countries than I can remember, reached better health than I had at 20 (thank you Paleo diet!), and I am dating 3 gorgeous women, 19-23 yrs old, all 3 looking like victoria secret's models. Yes, 3: hate me!

What the hell do I do now? I just can't unplug - besides I love my business.

Who to hang out with?

It seems everyone is busy being a wage-slave (or a "husband-slave"). Regardless, as a libertarian, anti-feminist, pro-capitalist, self-made, retired, jet-setter, who sees Rome burning while the masses are sedated with TV and credit cards, I have absolutely nothing in common with them (not that I would want to anyway).

So: what now? Where are the others? (the Matrix metaphor is used so often, but it couldn't be more accurate)

Anonymous said...

This is why many celebrities end up as suicides or drink/drug themselves into history, because their goal has been met and there is no one to share it with other than parasites.
I suppose one could form some sort of group of "Interesting Gentlemen" and plan trips or have meet ups to compare notes.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. It is very applicable to successful people in general.

After I turned 45, I mentally unplugged, quit working out, etc. I figured, I've worked hard for this long, time to relax and enjoy it.

Now at 52 I'm overweight and bored. I'm getting back into shape, and seeking new challenges.

Life is a struggle until you die. At least, it should be. We need to have resistance to fight/push against. It's in our nature, otherwise, we turn into tree sloths. For some, that's ok, for successful people, it kills your drive and ambition.

Keep fighting the good fight. Even if you lose, the struggle (and the mindset thereof) is the payoff.

Paul, Dammit! said...

It's always nice to come here for some thought-provoking grist, especially where I find myself with irregularly-spaced batches of free time to fill.
Another outlier on the curve of achieving the dream comes, IMHO, from setting realistic, scalar goals, career-wise. I'm just not someone who can enjoy the decline, as I prefer a good struggle- I enjoy resetting my bar on a regular basis in multiple places. I work for someone else, yet I enjoy a long leash and ample compensation while also appreciating not having to worry overmuch in the medium-term regarding security. In my field (merchant marines- the guys who move ships), there's always something to do and places to go, and if your personality jibes with the lifestyle, the relatively high opportunity costs aren't a liability but an enhancement. Christ, I don't know how other married guys could stomach going home to your wife every night. I like leaving her for 60% of the time, mostly so her company is fresh the other 40. Same thing with familial obligations- when you know your time is limited, you do more with it and consume novel experiences to compensate for the lost time. After my time off, going to sea, well, when you're in a command position, is no imposition.

At any rate, it's always worth remembering that it's possible to hybridize your lifestyle- you can be a wage slave with a leash that stretches around the world before coming tight... so long as you have the latitude and foresight and the personality type to make the most of it.

johncoryell said...

This is not a great article. I don't get the self deprecating tone. I think that this comes from a very shallow psychology and understanding of human nature. So you will achieve your goal but remain unhappy because the pursuit of the goal was your true goal? What is this? You have to look further than that. I also don't get the idea that it would be great to sit on the beach and eat bons bons. I know he said we would not be happy even if we could, but if this were a person's goal then of course you're not going to be happy. I don't know anyone who wants that. At best it would be nice to do this for maybe an hour or two at a time, after you have got your work done for the day.
Why be independent if your life is going to be so much tougher? I think you can have your cake and eat it. I think you can work hard, be independent, and get all the benefits other people get along with the extra benefits if you reach your goal. I also think if your goal is to one day do nothing and have an easy life then your are just reversing your hard work, de-evolving. If your hard work is so sufferable that you want a life of leisure then do something else.
This article is stupid. For some reason, you think it is great to suffer. It's the ultimate first-world toddler-think - complain about life even though you have a great life. Want to suffer or pretend you are suffering when the work you do every day maybe inconvenient at worst. Why not enjoy what you have, enjoy what you do, and look for ways to improve your life if you think it doesn't measure up to the masses in one way or another. It's not always good to be so independent where you are a complete outsider.

Anonymous said...

"I actually have to FORCE myself to play video games. And if you take my laptop away from me I cannot just "sit and enjoy a cigar." It is probably only through booze I can force myself to relax".

I completely relate to this. I've pretty much "made it" and done some crazy, crazy things.

Yet, I'm constantly restless ...


Anonymous said...

This is a bookmark for me! I'm so glad someone else out there feels the way I do; I think I am going mad with all of these weak, conformist, debt-ridden drones.

"We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

"Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their derision. People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled -- otherwise it upsets their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

"We have discovered happiness," -- say the Last Men, and they blink.