Saturday, 15 February 2020

The easiest way to succeed in life (and why we tend to do precisely the opposite)

If you want to waste your life, you just have to devote your days to searching for things where there are not. A second formula for squandering your resources is to chase people that are unavailable. The same goes for attempting to travel to places that are not accessible.

I am not saying that you should never make mistakes. If you have initiative, and I commend you to have lots of it, you will certaintly make mistakes. Nobody possesses perfect knowledge. We all engage in pursuits that require a learning curve, and that's perfectly fine. You have to pay the price of becoming better, faster, stronger. That's healthy. That's effective.

However, it is heartbreaking when someone persists in trying to achieve impossible goals. Children will often engage in such attempts. So will mice trapped in a maze. Adults should know better than that. We know that our days on earth are limited. We know that, if we want to improve our station in life, we have to focus our attention and resources on priorities, not squander our days thoughtlessly.

Counter-productive behaviour frequently arises from self-inflicted blindness. People will sabotage their own interests when they allow their desires to obscure the facts of reality. The most widespread type of counter-productive behaviour is looking for things where they are not, and complaining that life is unfair, that growing successful is too hard, that happiness cannot be attained.

The key principle of personal effectiveness

The key principle of personal effectiveness can be enunciated in a short sentence: If you want cheap oranges, go to Morocco, not to the airport deli. If you want to get a high-paying job, go where those jobs are being offered and make sure that you meet the requirements. In order to get where you want to go, all you need to do is to take action consistent with reason. If you wish to increase your prosperity, take action accordingly.

If you want to succeed in any area of human activity, you should first spend some time reflecting about the easiest and shortest way to get what you want. Once you have figured out the best path, all you need to do is walk it, day by day, year after year. This principle, if applied consistently, can bring major improvements to your life.

A wise man in search of a job does not go to the desert. If you do that, you might get lucky and find the only opening available, but chances are that you won't. Imagine that you are working in a factory located in a small town that does not offer other employment possibilities. What should you do if the factory shuts down? You should not waste time hanging around waiting for a miracle. You should pack your things, get into your car, and drive to a place where companies are hiring.

Choose the easy way to prosperity

Choose the easy way to get ahead. Do not try to sell your products or services in places where there are no qualified buyers. In thinly inhabited areas, you can find large numbers of empty, inexpensive housing. Those houses do not constitute a good investment. If they are empty and cheap, it is because real estate developers had made a wrong calculation and wasted their resources building in the wrong location.

The easiest way to succeed in life is to focus your efforts where there are real opportunities. Putting up buildings on locations where few people are interested to buy is wasteful and disingenious. The lesson to be drawn is clear. You should concentrate your energies on places where there are real customers, real jobs, real wealth, real opportunities, and preferably, people who are really friendly.

If you are seeking warm weather, you should not go to Siberia. Some people do prefer to live in areas where cold temperatures reign most of the year. Those individuals may have good reasons for doing so, reasons such as cheap housing, low criminality, or low competition for jobs. Yet, if you hate cold temperatures, you should not imitate those persons. Instead, you should relocate to a place where you will find the kind of wheather you like.

A major philosophical lesson

Staying away from barren fields constitues a major philosophical lesson. You can choose to live wherever you like best, so make sure that you take proper action in this respect. Every minute devoted to complaining about lack of opportunities, bad weather, unfriendly co-workers, etc. is a wasted minute.

Do no waste your energies waiting for the world to change. Life is complicated enough as it is. Trying to adapt yourself to unpleasant circumstances or waiting for them to improve automatically will seldom make your life better. Instead, you should take the easy path to success and happiness: Stay away from barren fields, find fruitful land, and devote yourself to cultivating it, so that you can reap the rewards.


Image: Photograph of ancient drawing. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2019.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books

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Here are the links to two audio interviews just published:
  1. John Vespasian interviewed by Judy Hoberman on "Selling in a Skirt" about how highly-effective pople deal with disruptions.
  2. John Vespasian interviewed by Mike Burton on "Genuine Chit Chat" about rational living and learning from history.