Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes


If you stack yourself against the system, it only seems like the system is stacked against you.

I noted before that I grew up in a family of externalizers.   Everything was someone else's fault, preferably the fault of vague, unseen outside nefarious forces.  Even my Dad, who would otherwise seem like a rational guy, being in management and all, never owned up to his own malfeasance.  He changed jobs like most people change underwear, mostly because of his Irish temper, which he let get the better of him at times.  Each time he was fired - or quit dramatically - he would blame others for his woes.  It never occurred to him, even after he lost his fifth job, that maybe something he was doing was at least partially to blame.

My Mother and siblings were about the same way.  They would rail against the evil Republicans, or the Evil Banks or the Evil Corporations - never mind the fact that Dad worked for one such Evil Corporation, that was putting a roof over our heads, food on the table, and paying for their prep school tuition.   The system was rotten to the core!

When I set out in life, even though I was working for GM at age 18 as a salaried employee, I still harbored these sort of fantasies.   If I bounced a check, it was the bank's fault for charging me a $15 bounce fee.  Those banks were no good!

It took me quite a while to realize my attitudes were harming me and moreover were childish.  My attitude changed, I guess, when I talked with a bank President on the phone to get an investment loan to buy my office building.   They changed further when a friend of mine offered me a chance to buy founding shares in a bank he was starting.

My attitude also changed when I talked with friends who worked at banks, and they told me about the antics of some of the customers - bouncing checks one after another, which was sort of the same antics I did as stoner 20-something. My attitude changed also, I guess, when I stopped being a stoner.

Externalizing is fun and we all do it to some extent.   I still do it sometimes, blaming even inanimate objects when things go wrong.   Stupid toast!  Always landing butter-side down!   Although lately, I have become more philosophical about such things.  When some small tragedy in my life occurs, I just remember that the Westboro Baptist Church taught us: God Hates Fags.   That's why he made the toast land butter-side down!   Brilliant theology!   Seriously though, that always gives us a laugh when something goes wrong.

My blaming inanimate or even animate objects for being obstinate is something of a catharsis - a release of tension.  For example, if you've ever tried to put on a wet swimsuit, you know your feet just absolutely hate you.  "Hey guys!" the toes say, "He's going to try to put on a wet swimsuit!  Let's all get caught in the tangled folds of the wet fabric and make him fall down again!  That was so funny!"  It won't be so funny for them when I crack my skull on a table edge and their blood flow is interrupted.  Goddamn toes, always with the practical jokes!

But in a similar manner, we tend to blame unseen forces for our woes, and these sort of attitudes are self-defeating.  If you have any of the following attitudes, ask yourself why, and whether they are helping your life any:
1.  The big banks are all assholes and corrupt. 
2.  The company I work for is no good. 
3.  My boss is an asshole. 
4.  I hate my job. 
5.  The big corporations make too much money. 
6.  I would be rich, if it weren't for [the Fed, the UN, the banks, Bill Gates, whatever].
7.  The opposing political party is to blame for all our country's woes!
8.  My ex-spouse or ex-lover is a materialistic jerk. 
9. Anyone who succeeds in life has "sold out" to the man.
And so on and so forth.  Such attitudes are depressing, but comforting at the same time.  You aren't a loser!  It is all China's fault!  The President said so!

There are a lot of sites out there that claim that poverty is only a state of mind, and that success can be achieved by merely wishing for it.  Often these same sites want you to send them money, too. While most of these are a con-job there is a nugget of truth to what they are saying.  You can't "pray your way to wealth" but then again, if you have a more positive attitude about life, maybe things will start to go your way, mostly because you will have a more realistic attitude about life.

People whose perceptions of "reality" are closer to the real thing end up doing better in the world. The guy who can foresee market trends, for example, will clean up in the market.  The guy who buys into irrational exuberance, will always fail.  Thus, for example, if you "follow" some financial guru or read junk on the MSN Money page, you end up with a skewed sense of reality - and end up buying things after they have already shot up in value, and selling them when they go down.

The irrational guy was the one who bought an overpriced house with a "liar's loan" back in 2006 and held on to it when it plummeted in value in 2008.   He wanted to "get in on this real estate thing!" because everyone else was making money it seemed.  But he never did the math and overpaid for a property that had a monthly carrying cost three times the rental income.   Worse yet, he cashed in his 401(k) - paying a huge tax bill in the process - to forestall the inevitable foreclosure.

The lesson learned?   Big banks are bad!   He could have walked away in 2008 with his 401(k) intact, but instead made one bad choice after another.  Rather than learn anything from this, he externalizes the whole thing as the fault of the bank for enticing him with a liar's loan.   But he chose to sign it, rather than leave his pen at home.

You can't succeed in life with attitudes like that - period.  You can't be successful as an investor, an employee, an employer, an entrepreneur, a spouse, or whatever.

This does not mean, however, that changing your attitude will insure success - or that changing your attitude for ten minutes will change your life (and when that doesn't happen, justifies you returning to the depressed mode of living).

It means realizing that the entire world wasn't structured with the idea of thwarting you.  In fact, a lot of people want you to succeed.   But that doesn't mean they are going to hand you money or do your work for you.   They want to see you succeed - which requires effort on your part.  The bank isn't handing out free money samples today, but they aren't actually trying to impede your success, either.  Unless, of course, you want to take out some onerous loan for something you really don't need - like a fancy car.  In that case, the bank will be all-too-happy to screw you, but again, if you left your pen at home, you would not end up in financial trouble.

Sadly, it seems today we have a whole generation raised on the idea that all of our institutions are venal and vile, and that "free money" handed out by the government is the only answer to our "problems" - the problems of living in the richest country in the world, having too many electronic toys, too much booze and drugs, too overfed, and too overweight.  It is sort of obscene how people complain about life in the US.

But again, this disconnect between perception and reality.   The more clearly you perceive reality, the better off you are.   Sadly, it seems most people prefer to live in a world of delusion these days - and then wonder why their delusional world isn't working out for them.

Gee, I wonder why it isn't?