There are things that we accept as God-given, but are simply not so.
Like, for example, the fact that the Earth does not revolve around the Sun, but both revolve around a common barycenter that is close to, but not completely, within the center of the Sun:
Sometimes these things take us a while to understand.
#1 – The more value you give, the more money you get. This can hurt!
20 years ago, I started my journey into science.
And I would think for a long time that working hard on something, studying etc. would be a guarantee for a good career.
Now, I don’t have a “bad” career. In fact, I got to all the places I wanted to be. So about that, I am happy. I fulfilled my dream.
But earning $40 – $50K/year after going through the rigors of a PhD and postdoc time is not super rich either.
It is, quite frankly, underperforming financially – and I am not an isolated case.
If you work for Google, Facebook etc. or any other tech giant, if you start in an investment bank, you will earn more right out of the gate than someone who becomes a professor in academia after 15 years of working.
Because “doing what you love” does not mean money comes in automatically if you only worked hard enough.
What counts is working on a product that is in demand.
That was the point I always overlooked. Why? Because you drink your own cool-aid. Everyone in Academia will tell you that your work is really important.
So much so that you expect “the system” to pay you more.
Then you let reality interfere and you open your eyes.
I think I really learnt that it is all about making a valuable product was when I read MJ DeMarco’s Millionaire Fastlane and started to learn more about online businesses.
Earning money with a website is not only much more common than earning money with a brick-and-mortar business, it is also much more transparent.
Entrepreneurship used to be a black box to me, now we can easily see what is necessary.
And first and foremost, every successful business has a product that is in demand. Then (still) comes hard work.
I think it just takes a while to shake off the belief that what you do is important.
Your mind will make you first doubt reality – thoroughly! – before allowing yourself to look into the mirror.
#2 – That people who tell you they are atheists may still believe in something – often the state.
The writing was on the wall.
While listening to John Lennon’s “Imagine”, my Dad remarked that a world where people stop believing in God would not work.
I did not believe that was true, because I only saw “believing” through the lens of believing in a personified entity. Like Allah, Jesus, Buddha etc.
I believed it is possible to be an atheists, because all you need to do is abdicate a specific God.
But of course I did not realize that people don’t need to have a personified God they believe in – they can believe in a specific form of government.
Many people still have the desire to submit to an authority.
They just don’t identify with traditional religious texts.
And if you are a statist, then you can claim all the time you are an atheist, because the state automatically reaches and envelops people.
You don’t need to define your religion.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t have one.
#3 – That people have to want to change to actually doing it.
You can only demonstrate how things work or worked for you when you follow(ed) your own advice.
Not through appeals or words.
I thought for a long while that if I only tell people the benefits of changing their life, embracing a mindset of abundance, walking more upright, starting their own business etc. they will recognize and do it.
But they don’t. Or if they do, it may take them a long while. Which is ok. In the end, you can only look out for yourself
If people like what they see you do, they’ll follow your advice.
#4 – That when you play by society’s rules, you may end up becoming enslaved to status.
Since we as human beings are afraid of future loss, pain or death, we become controllable.
Animals have little sense of tomorrow. You can not threaten them with anything that goes beyond the moment.
But you can threaten a human being with loss of freedom.
And with that, you can set up a society where a ruling elite exploits the masses by keeping them in check.
Through promises of future paradise and anticipation of hell when you don’t follow the rules of the church.
Through promises of getting provided for by the government and ostracization when you are against welfare programs.
You are never free unless you can own your own property. And you won’t ever be free, since you have to pay property taxes.
So if you play by the rules, go through school and get an education, work for the government or a corporation, marry, have kids and the retire at one point – you will never be allowed to take home what you earnt. You will only ever be given an “allowance” that will never be enough to buy your own property and be completely free.
And to make sure nobody saves enough money, corporations sell us the dream: that we have to own “stuff”, brand name items, a nice house to impress the neighbours and so forth. You don’t have enough money? No problem. Buy on credit!
And if you take on debt, you have to work that off. So you are enslaved to your stuff and the “status” that everyone tells you you have bought.
However, it goes further. You are not even allowed to speak your mind. Or you can try, but if you have a high-profile job – that gives you the money to buy that nice house – and you are caught saying something that is not sufficiently politically correct – you are under threat of getting fired.
You can free yourself from these invisible shackles. Thanks to the internet, you can start your own business and connect with like-minded people independent form any message that society puts out.
But you have to first unlearn all the consumerism and conformist thinking you have been taught to embrace.
If you don’t, well – ask yourself. Are your beliefs representing what you feel deep inside? What you observe in your everyday life? Is what the media tells you holding true to what is going on around yourself?
Do you really need the better car so you can impress your neighbor?
Is it a problem that people carry guns, or are they rather a good way to protect yourself?
Are all wars really in the national interest of your country?
#5 – That the lovable loser does NOT get the girl.
I believed in the Hollywood myth for a long while, and when I saw guys that hooked up with girls – I always thought they were just simply better looking or had a better output of pheromones and I’d never get there.
So after reading “The Game”, I went out to bars and talked to women – and I realized that those assumptions I had were simply untrue.
That learning experience radiated out into all other areas of life. Lifting the veil form reality then immediately makes you question the whole system.
Which, on the flip side, really means that the way society holds men down is through inducing scarcity with women. Go figure.
#6 – That snap judgements cloud our minds.
If we judge a situation or a person prematurely, we will gloss over some aspects of a personality we don’t immediately see.
When I was younger, I was judging some people rather harshly for being superficial. A friend pointed out to me that I did not know them at all and just made some major assumptions about their character.
Which freshened my mind.
It took me a while until I accepted that people are entitled to their own choices even if I don’t agree with them.
As Bob Dylan said: “But I was so much older then, I’m younger than it now.”
#7 – That snap judgements can give us a pretty accurate picture.
This is a two-fer.
The same way we may be wrong to confer our own moral principles on someone without seeing the larger context, we all make snap judgements, and they help us navigate through life.
In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how our subconscious mind perceives situations far more correctly than we would be able to do via conscious decision.
Art specialists can faster and more accurately judge if an artwork is real or a fake through their “gut feeling” than any scientific analysis could.
Our physiological state changes before we are even consciously aware of having made a decision.
If we are in danger, snap judgements are quite literally life saving.
#8 – That you don’t convert someone, but rather recruit.
You would think that selling something is all about convincing someone to buy something he did not think about buying before.
But that’s often not true. It is much harder to convert someone to your side than to extend a hand to someone who is already on your side.
In that way, a good sales copy will evoke positive emotions in someone who has already contemplated buying your product.
All these times that I tried to convince someone to follow me – futile.
#9 – That I really am a morning person.
I would always try to stay up late and think of myself an evening person, especially during high school.
But that really only was about HAVING to do the job. Not actually doing it best.
So Victor Pride’s “30 Days of Discipline” opened my eyes.
I just tried to get up at 5 am, and installed that habit in my life soon thereafter.
I can hardly think going back to waking up later (apart from a few exceptions, e.g. when I worked long the night before).
So much happier getting up early and starting to work right away.
#10 – That yearning for the weekend can be a sign of us really being unfree. And unhappy!
I also loved saturday mornings, because I got to sleep as long as I wanted to.
Well… that was an escape hatch from a world I did not want to be part of.
I mean, can you really say you love your job when you wish you could carve out small pockets of freedom in a saturday?
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What took you longest to understand?
What went the fastest?
Thanks for reading and let me know in the comments below!
(Images taken from Wikimedia Commons.)