Social Conditioning

Life, and Why We’re All Doing it Wrong

fun things 1

Look at that picture.

Questionable paint skills aside, this image sums up how we should be spending our lives; either doing fun things that make us happy right now, or doing things that will make us happy in the future.

You have the activities that make your life awesome, like playing your favorite sport, watching a good Netflix series, hanging out with fun people, or munching down on a delicious Schwarzwald cake.

Then you have the stuff that you need to do in order to make sure you can continue enjoying an awesome life in the future, such as making money, paying your bills, eating your vegetables, and just generally making sure you don’t end up homeless and/or dead by the end of the month.

Sometimes, you’ll even find an overlap between the two circles, where you’re both having fun and preparing for the future.

fun things 2

If you’re really lucky, you might even see a large chunk of your life happening within this zone of awesomeness. This would include working a job you love, enjoying the hell out of exercising, or just loving the taste of broccoli.

In an ideal world, you’d spend 100% of our time in this zone. That would be the perfect life; you’d enjoy every single thing you do, and all of these things would also be good for you in the long run. It’s the ultimate win-win situation.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and our lives aren’t perfect. We can’t always enjoy ourselves, and we can’t always be doing things that are good for future-us. That kind of balance is simply impossible to achieve.

That is, however, no excuse for our lives looking like this;

fun things 3
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Excellence Beyond Social Support

master plan

(Note: this is part 4 of a five-part series on achieving Excellence. For more context, and an explanation of why this series is happening, check out part 1: Excellence vs. Reason)

In the last post, I introduced the concept of external support systems, and how much we rely on them to do just about anything. To briefly summarize, this external support is made up of all the support we get from the world around us to help us live a decent life.

This support comes in many shapes, from the school system teaching us the things we need to know, to the medical system that brings us back to health when we’re sick, and even our social circle supporting us in achieving our personal goals.

The only problem is that most of this external support is only there to help us reach a certain point – usually mediocrity – after which it seizes to exist. Our schools help us pass the test, but no further. Our social structures help us get everything we need to live a decent, ordinary life, but not an extraordinary one.

Anything past the point of mediocrity, and we’re usually on our own.

This is, of course, a problem for anyone who wants to go past mediocrity and reach excellence.

It’s not easy to go from relying heavily on this external support, to tackling the problems of life all on our own. In fact, this is the hurdle that stops the majority of people from ever going too far beyond mediocrity in the first place.

All of this leads us to the following conclusion; in order to reach past the point of mediocrity, we need to stop depending on external support systems to carry us through life.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. We can’t just stand up one day and declare that, okay, as of right now, I don’t need any more outside help! We’re far too dependent on it to do such a thing.

What we can do, however, is replace this external support with a solid internal support system. A system that we control; one that doesn’t depend on the support of any outside factors that may or may not want us to succeed.

But in order to replace anything, we need to first figure out what it is we want to switch out in the first place.

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If You Want Excellence, You’re on Your Own

excellence

(Note: This is part 3 in a series of posts about achieving excellence. If you want some context for the whole thing, you might want to start out with part 1)

So far in the series, we’ve talked about how excellence can never come from reason, and how a certain degree of risk is essential in the pursuit of excellence.

But reaching excellence isn’t all about taking risks and being unreasonable. There’s also one major obstacle that needs to be overcome – an obstacle that tends to be the one thing separating the excellent from the mediocre.

That obstacle is learning to get by without the support of the world around you.

Let me explain.

Throughout our lives, we’ve depended heavily on the support of the rest of the world. We depend on others to teach us how everything works, to show us how to get a job, to help us get good at the things we suck at, to show us how to buy a car, find a partner and do our dishes, and to help us stay healthy and in shape.

We depend on these external support systems to help us do just about everything we do.

Unfortunately, these support systems only exist up to a certain point; mediocrity. Once we’ve reached that point, the majority of this support will seize to exist – and in order for us to keep going, we’ll be more or less on our own.

Your teacher will help you pass the test, but if you want to learn more, you’re on your own. Society will help you find a job – but if you want to start your own business and get filthy rich, you’re on your own. And your friends will support you in losing weight and reaching an average level of fitness, but if you want to get into better shape than them, you’re on your own.

This is where we’ve reached a magic threshold that separates the mediocre from the excellent. It’s the point where we’re forced to stop relying on support from the world around us, and start depending on ourselves to keep going.

Unfortunately, this is not an easy thing to do, seeing how..  (more…)

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The Risk-Reward Ratio of Excellence

(Note: this is part two of a larger series on achieving Excellence. If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you start with part one: Excellence vs. Reason for some context. Or just keep on reading – each piece works well on its own.)

In last week’s article, we talked about the inverse correlation between excellence and reason. Or, more specifically, how excellence can never come from making exclusively safe, reasonable decisions in life.

We also briefly touched down on the subject of risk-reward ratios; the inherent relationship between the potential risks and rewards of any given decision.

This article will delve deeper into this risk-reward ratio – and why it’s absolutely crucial to figure out your own preferred risk-reward ratio in order to consistently make the kind of decisions that will help you reach excellence in your life.

The Risk-Reward Ratio of Life Decisions

In its basic form, the risk-reward ratio of a certain decision follows a simple formula; the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential reward, and vice versa.

Safe, reasonable decisions carry a very low risk, which means they also tend to bring a comparatively small reward. Unreasonable decisions, on the other hand, usually carry a much higher risk, but also offer a significantly bigger reward.

This principle can be illustrated with the following image:

risk-reward

The risk-reward ratio (depicted by the yellow square above) contains the potential risks and rewards of a particular decision. What’s important to note about this box is that it grows (and shrinks) equally in both directions. In order for it to contain more potential rewards, it also has to stretch toward the left, and involve more risks. (more…)

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Excellence Vs. Reason

Excellence vs reason

(Note: this is the first part in a series of articles on the topic of achieving excellence. The rest of the series will be published in the coming weeks.)

We all dream of reaching excellence. Of being the very best. Of becoming rich, famous and admired. We dream of standing out – of excelling over those around us. We dream of being the greatest version of ourselves we could possibly be.

And yet, when it comes down to it, we almost never make the kind of choices that could help us reach this kind of excellence. We just don’t make the kind of decisions that could bring out our full potential, or make us stand out from the crowd.

Instead, we choose to follow reason. We choose to make the same reasonable decisions that everyone else in the world is making. We choose the security and stability of playing it safe over the chance of becoming excellent.

We choose to pursue a safe education, get a stable job, obey authority, make wise investments, never venture outside the safety of our own country, and quickly settle down into a safe relationship and a secure situation.

These are the safe, reasonable choices most of us will make throughout our lives.

But here’s the thing; reason and excellence do not go well together. Sure, reason might keep you safe, but it also puts a cap on how high you can reach.

Getting that stable job will probably make sure you can always pay your rent, but it won’t make you rich and famous. Never traveling outside your comfort zone will probably keep you safe from all the terrible things in the world, but it will also stop you from discovering the wonders of the world. And that safe relationship you rushed into will probably make sure you don’t end up alone, but it’s not very likely to bring you everlasting joy. (more…)

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