Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Seven Ineffective Habits of Highly Irrational People

Crazy shit causes crazy results.   Who would have thought it?

In the famous self-help book of the 1990's, the author enumerates the seven habits of highly effective people.   The book was a sensation at the time, lauded by some, ridiculed by others.  It became something of a Bible for the Yuppie generation.   Whether or not it is a book of common-sense that anyone could figure out, or the holy grail of corporate advancement - or just a bunch of feel-good gibberish that most of these self-help gurus spout - is beyond me.

But it got me to thinking.   Maybe the key to personal and financial success isn't in doing a certain seven things, but in not doing certain things that wear down on your life.  There are habits that highly irrational people seem to have, that drag them down emotionally, physically, and economically.

What sort of self-destructive habits am I talking about?   Well, these habits include:

1.  Believing in Something-for-Nothing (things that are convenient to you):  People who believe there are secret shortcuts in life often end up getting ripped off.  They fall for scams like stock investment schemes, get-out-of-debt schemes, and so on and so forth.  The common denominator is that they believe that you can achieve goals in life without having to work, sacrifice, or take risks.

And there are plenty of con-artists out there willing to sell them this idea, too.

2.  Believing in Conspiracy Theories:  Conspiracy theories are just time-wasters.   Studying the Kennedy assassination isn't going to pay off your credit card bill, it's just going to drain you of energy and squander your most precious resource - your limited time here on planet earth.

But in addition to that, believing in conspiracy theories causes depression, and they are used by people as self-justification for not even bother trying in life.   Why bother saving money and planning for the future when the whole system is rigged?   Just spend it all now, before the Illuminati take it all away from you. Right?

3.  Watching Television:   I was talking with someone the other day and they were gushing about their "favorite reality television show" and was flabberghasted that I had never heard of it, and wasn't a "fan" of the main characters.   They knew all the reality shows and could recount the contents of numerous episodes, which told me that they watched a staggering amount of television.

What was strange, is they thought I was "weird" because I didn't know the names of all these shows and the names of the stars.

But what was really sad, to me, was that they thought reality television was real.  They were recounting some episode of hi-jinks, and I said, "Well, you know that isn't real, right?  They edit this stuff or even script it."  All I got was a blank stare.  It was like I said Santa Claus and Jesus were made-up.  I was a heretic!

Television is a huge time-waster - the average American watches over 4 hours a day (and note, watching videos on your cell phone is just the new television).  But more than that, it promotes a lot of negative thinking - consumerism, giving up, borrowing money, ordering fast-food, and so on and so forth.  It teaches learned helplessness.  Why fix up your house, when you can watch the experts do it on TeeVee?

4.  Borrowing Money:   The poor believe that a loan is a way out of financial distress.  Sadly, many middle-class people believe this as well - that somehow getting money that you have to pay back with interest will solve your financial problems.

But worse than that, the poor like to borrow money to have wants not needs.  The stores that proliferate in poor neighborhoods loan out money at usurious interest rates, not so people can buy food, but so they can "rent to own" bling rims for clapped-out cars, or big-screen televisions for their section-8 homes.   These are not things you need to survive - they are luxuries.

Sadly, the middle-class increasingly falls into this trap, borrowing money for luxury SUVs, jet skis, and even vacations.   Money borrowed has to be paid back with interest, and a dollar borrowed makes you a dollar-and-ten-cents poorer - often far poorer - over time.

5.  Waiting for Social Change to Change Their Lives:   I run into a lot of poor and impoverished middle-class people who don't believe in making changes in their lives, but would instead rather change the entire structure of our society.   Why bother balancing your checkbook when there are "greater issues at stake?"

They hope that Bernie Sanders will win - and that Socialist Democrats (not just regular Democrats) will sweep the House and Senate (and the State houses, the Supreme Court, and the local Sheriff's office) and enact "guaranteed annual income", legalized marijuana, and a billionaire's tax.   Then, and only then, will a paradise-on-earth occur.  Their student loans will be forgiven, college will be free, and we can all be perpetual college students, getting degree after degree.

Sadly, this sort of thinking isn't limited to the Left.   Rightists argue that once the entire government is taken over by their ilk, we will live in a Libertarian Ayn Rand-style free world, where everyone will be "free" to do as they please, without the "hassle" of the government intervening in our lives.

Fundamentalists - Christian or Islamist - have similar theories.  "If only" their religion could take over the world, the world would be a better place.  All of these theories are basically totalitarianism or the idea that "if only" everyone thought and behaved the same way, the world would be a perfect place.

The problem with these ideas is twofold.   Even if such totalitarian forms of government or religion were enacted, the world would a bleak place, with no room for dissent, creativity or difference.  Our differences are what make us unique and what makes the world interesting.

But the main thing is, it is never going to happen, as people can never agree, at least for very long, on such schemes.   Even among Republicans, there are differences of opinion, as well as Democrats.   Islam will never take over the world, so long as Islamists slaughter each other over trivial differences in theology.  It is human nature that we differ.

6.  Heavy Drug Use:  And by this, I mean using milder drugs heavily, or using heavy drugs at all.   Sure, you might be able to smoke a little pot now and then and still succeed in life.  You may be able to have that 5 o'clock cocktail every evening and still advance at work.   But if you smoke dope first thing in the morning, and all day at work - or have a shot of Jack Daniels at breakfast, and on the job - odds are you won't have a job, or a career, for very long.

With heavier drugs - amphetamines, cocaine, opioids, well, your life expectancy may suffer as well. Sadly, these types of drugs can flood your brain with a sense of well-being and euphoria that it is hard to shake them, once you start.  And since you feel so in control, you feel you can control it.  Many famous comedians used a lot of cocaine, to be sure, but eventually there comes a day of reckoning with the drug.   Some get clean (and then are not funny anymore, like Steve Martin or Richard Pryor), others, like John Belushi or John Candy, just end up dead.

Opioids - do we really have to even discuss this?  It is like vaping - how many people have to have lung transplants at age 21 for this to seem like a really bad idea.  Plus it makes you look like a dork.   And certainly everyone has heard about the meth epidemic by now, right?

In a way, it is like this student loan "crisis" that every has been talking about for the last decade.   Everyone is aware of the problem, but today, at this very minute, some young college student is in line at the Bursar's office, waiting to cash his student loan check and maybe buy a little weed and a fart muffler for his Mom's old Honda.   All that talk about student loan debt - that's other people, right?  He's got this covered.

7.  Gun Nuttery, Survivalism, and End Times Theology:   All of these have one thing in common - a supra-formed version of learned helplessness.   The world is going to hell in a handbasket, so rather than try to improve your lot in life, you should instead hunker down and buy survivalist things - guns, canned goods, ammunition, and gold - for the inevitable meltdown of civilization.

The problem with this sort of thinking is obvious - to anyone who thinks.   Suppose the world doesn't end in your lifetime?   Yea, I know the preacher at the Snake-Handling Baptist Church said so, but he's been wrong about a lot of things.  Suppose you kick the bucket one day before the judgement day?  Suppose the government doesn't collapse - in your lifetime or your children's?

If so, you've spent a lot of money - thousands, nay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars - on a long-shot proposition.   Meanwhile, the very likely proposition that you will get old and retire and need that money is not anticipated.   Old canned goods won't sustain you for long.  And the resale value on guns and gold varies with time - often the people who buy these things buy at the peak, and sell at the valley.  It just isn't rational thinking.

* * *

All it takes to get ahead in life is to act rationally in an irrational world.   There are idiots, look around you.  A huge proportion of the population of the world is delusional.  People squander their lives fighting for "causes" that are not their own, or have no hope of ever succeeding.  Worse yet, if they do succeed, they make everyone even more miserable.

Look after yourself.  Be kind to yourself.   It is not "selfish" - it is your obligation to a greater society.

And our society would be greater, if everyone did just that.