Imbalance and Misaligned Priorities
March 11, 2018
Author: Bianca Yang
Everything a person does should be in line with their priorities.
A friend recently read a book which said, if you ask someone to do something, they will likely do it because they don’t have a plan for the day This implies most don’t have their priorities straight.
We have raised people to brush aside concepts like scheduling or working hard or focusing in favor of hedonistic philosophies. People think of things in absolutes rather than relatives, and even they do think in terms of relatives, they twist the relatives to be absolutes. The superhero became popular and loved because of his fearlessness, not because of his ability to overcome fear. Top atheltes were admired because they held the top positions, not because of their ability to fight against lack of motivation, boredom, physical and mental anguish to get to the top. No one wants to know the back story because it’s too “real”. It’s not glamorous enough to watch someone train for four hours a day in the gym and on the field and in the kitchen and back, day in and day out. It’s not cool to work hard, because working hard is for the peasants who do honest work. The elite sit in their offices all day and play petty mind games on supply distribution channels and negotiation and office politics. And the people who are average? Well, of course they also aspire to be elite. And if you, the average loser, ever become successful by winning the lottery or inherting some trust fund or marrying rich, you’ve got to hide any signs of effort you put into “winning at life” because that’s what Robert Greene said you needed to do to maintain power. And of course, don’t forget to make snide comments towards those people who you deem to be below you. They just don’t deserve to be in your position. Make sure you close off every one of your piercing yet casual remarks about how “of course the world is fair; everybody else is just not working hard enough” with one of those fake smiles that is meant to convey just how much you pity those fools who aren’t on your level. And you’ll do this because you’re one of those fools who’s among the dregs of society but wants to internally justify his current success by leveling out the playing field around him.
It is important to know where you are going when you set out on a journey. You do not need to be specific in your goal, because the journey will help refine your desires and wants, but you should set out with purpose.
I was recently browsing Hackernews for some book recommendations and came upon a series of comments about Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. (Aside: Why “win” friends? You could consider the act of making new friends a competition for another person’s time and attention, but this sounds just a bit sinister and manipulative. I think all the self-help books I’ve read, with the exception of Wooden’s and Andy Grove’s, have been quite sinister. Robert Greene is the pinnacle of sinister.) There was a bit of debate about how good Carnegie’s book is because some people felt that the book was too obvious. I felt the same way when I first read this book years ago, but I justfied the time spent by saying that he reminded me of many common sense principles I should be applying.
I take fault with the last sentence of the previous paragraph. If these principles are good, then I should internalize them and always behave accordingly. But, I, like most people, brush away the task of correcting my behavior by saying it’s hard. “I’m working on it.” “Please bear with me.” What I’m effectively saying is that becoming a better person isn’t a priority. By saying things are too hard, I’m also subscribing to the all too common idea that laziness is the good and common. “Eh, I’m lazy.” “How are you so productive? I did nothing this weekend!”
Give up this idea that your life is absolute. Every day is a new day. You are a changing being. Whether you like it or not, you must be at peace with the fact that you are growing older each day. You cannot grasp a single moment any more than you can grasp water. The harder you try to stay in the same position, the harder you will be thrown out of that position when the time comes. It is easier to constantly be moving towards something new, towards a newer you, than to try to fossilize your “glory days”.
Give up this idea that someone’s worth is their ranking. Give up this idea that you must be number one. Grow to love the idea of constant movement towards your priorities. One cannot fight and flow at the same time. Your performance is a metric you must keep in your heart at all times, as a barometer of how well you are doing relative to your life goals. Before you know it, you will either be where you want or you will be dead.
It is not orthogonal that one is academically accomplished and that one is a good person. They are not two sides of the same coin, because that implies a flipping akin to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They are part of the same, round, imperfect being. One who is a genius in colloquial understanding but lacking in emotional accommodation is only half human. You cannot fight yourself. Think of yourself as a sculpture. You can add clay to patch the broken parts or to add new abilities. You can also take the knife to yourself and remove inappropriate parts. Refine yourself on a daily basis; it’s fun.