Social Psychology

Why Your Parents Don’t Want You to Excel

excellence

Here’s a fun question: have you ever asked yourself if your parents really want you to excel in life?

What about your teachers, your friends, and your government – do you think they want you to excel?

As depressing as it might sound, odds are that none of them do.

I know, I know – this probably sounds like your average paranoid “the-man-wants-to-keep-us-in-line” conspiracy theory. But if you actually think about it, it makes perfect sense; the people around you don’t want you to excel – and you can’t even blame them for it.

Let’s take a look at your parents, for instance.

Your parents probably love you with all their heart and whatnot, but they don’t want you to excel. They don’t want you to be the best you can be, and make the very most out of your life. Instead, they want what every parent wants for their child; safety.

And safety does not go hand in hand with excellence.

In fact, excellence is as far away from safety as you can get. Excellence involves taking risks, and risk means exposure to danger. It means potentially failing, losing everything, and ending up homeless. Or, worse yet, being unhappy!

No responsible parent would want that for their child.

Safety, on the other hand, means getting a good education and a stable job. It means following the tested path, obeying the norms of society, and settling down in a traditional relationship. It means doing what you’re supposed to do, fitting in, and avoiding those scary risks that might end up hurting you.

That’s what parents want for their child. Safety, not excellence.

(more…)

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The Unconventional Guide to Financial Security

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A few years ago, as I was backpacking my way through New Zealand, I had a chance encounter with a guy who would come to change my life.

His name was Peter. And, for the most part, he was just your average backpacker. He was hitchhiking from place to place, going wherever he felt like, and with nothing but a backpack and a cool hat.

But it wasn’t what he was doing that caught my attention. I’d met a thousand other backpackers along the way who were doing the exact same thing.

No, what made Peter stand out from all the rest was his attitude. More specifically, his attitude towards financial security.

You see, this guy wasn’t your standard straight-out-of-high-school runaway backpacker, seeing the world for a bit before they get on with their studies and career building. Peter was well into his thirties, with a long career behind him as a business negotiator.

And he was currently traveling the world indefinitely, without any kind of solid plans for the future. He didn’t have anything secure to return to, and he didn’t have a huge pile of cash that would sustain him for the rest of his life.

Socially conditioned as I was, I had one thought when I heard his story; This is a guy who’s throwing his life away.

Because as laidback and negligent as the backpacking culture may seem, most backpackers still carry concerns for the future. And most of them have something secure to return to –a promised job, university, or even their parents’ basements.

But this guy had nothing – no form of security whatsoever! He seemed like one of the most irresponsible people I had ever met!

But that wasn’t how he thought of it.

In fact, he didn’t worry about the future at all. He didn’t worry about blowing every last penny he had, and it didn’t matter if he spent a decade or more on the road. He didn’t even care that the company he worked for had long-since hired a new guy to fill his job.

And no, he wasn’t just another pot-smoking, don’t-give-no-fucks modern-day hippie either. He still cared – he just didn’t worry.

He didn’t worry about the future, because he had created his own form of financial security. A form that didn’t consist of hoarding away a big pile of money to live off of.

He had created his security by building a unique skillset that would always be valuable on the job market.

That’s how he could afford not to worry – because he knew that no matter what happened, he would always have the skills and knowledge he needed to land him a new job whenever and wherever he wanted it.

He had found a much stronger security than money. (more…)

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Taking Advantage of the Human Laziness

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If there is one thing we can always count on when it comes to the human species, it’s our laziness.

People are just inherently lazy. Whenever we’re faced with a choice, we will almost always feel compelled to take the easier way out.

Hell, if we had the choice, half of us would probably stay in bed and hide under the blankets for the rest of our lives.

And no, this isn’t because the internet generation screwed us up and made us all lazy, irresponsible layabouts. As much as we like to blame recent inventions for all our shortcomings, our laziness goes deeper than that.

It’s literally in our genes to be lazy.

It’s always been an evolutionary advantage to find and take the easiest way out of any situation. This allowed our ancestors to get through the day using as little effort as possible, and save their energy for when they really needed it.

But this article isn’t going to be some long rant about how lazy we are. Anyone who has ever spent an entire weekend in bed with an iPad already knows this. Instead, we’re going to look into how we can actually use this laziness to our advantage.

Because once we realize that laziness dominates human decision-making, we can start tilting the scales in our favor. We can stack the deck and make sure this laziness works for us, rather than against us.

Because if people can be counted on to choose the easy way out of any situation, why not make sure your way is that easy way? (more…)

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Acting With Authority

mathias ostlund authority

A long time ago, I spent some time working in a hospital. Or, more specifically, I was working for one of the patients who happened to be at that hospital.

At the time, part of my job involved getting food from the hospital kitchen once a day. There was only one problem though; I wasn’t actually allowed in the kitchen. Only nurses and permanent hospital staff were allowed to go in there.

So, whenever lunchtime came around, I had to stop outside the kitchen, shout in what I needed, and then wait patiently outside as they prepared the stuff for me.

Obviously, this wasn’t an optimal solution. I knew exactly what I needed, and I knew where to find it – all that stood in my way was some stupid rule.

So, on the second day, I asked the nurse who was working if I could just come into the kitchen and get the things myself, since that would be so much easier for everyone.

She just looked at me as if I was insane. Rules were rules – only nurses were allowed in the kitchen, damn it!

It looked like I was doomed to spend those precious minutes waiting outside that kitchen every single day, for as long as I worked there.

Yeah, fuck that.

It was also around this time that I started to get interested in social psychology – and I decided to try a little experiment.

So the next day, when the time came to get my stuff, I simply walked right into that exclusive kitchen. I didn’t ask, I didn’t give any explanation. I just walked in, held my head high, and acted like I belonged.

And holy crap, it worked! There were several people working there that day, and not one of them thought to ask what the hell I thought I was doing. I simply acted as if I had every right to be in there, and everyone treated me accordingly.

After that day, I just kept on walking right into that kitchen whenever I needed to. People got used to seeing me there, and no one ever questioned my self-imposed right to be in there.

That is, until that first nurse returned (the one I had asked permission from), and promptly threw me out.

This whole experience taught me two valuable lessons:

  1. First impressions matter. With that first nurse, my lack of authority was firmly established the second I asked for her permission. After that, it didn’t matter how much I acted like I belonged. She knew for a fact that I didn’t, and she was never going to let me back into that kitchen.

But far more important than this was the second lesson I learned:

  1. If you act with authority, people will treat you with authority. During those days, there must have been at least 30 different nurses who saw what I was doing, and only one ever decided to stop me. None of the others even asked if I should be in there – they just saw a guy acting as if he belonged, and treated me as if this was true.

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How to Confidently Tackle any Changes in Your Life

Tackle changes

Change is scary. It’s unpredictable, it’s difficult to control, and it often leads into unknown territory. No wonder we’re so terrified of it!

Unfortunately, change also happens to be one of the few unavoidable certainties of life, and there is no escaping it. Sooner or later, some unforeseen circumstance is going to turn your life upside down.

Of course, most of the time we prefer to ignore this fact, and pretend that everything will stay just the way it is forever. We tend to avoid change at all costs, hoping that if we just ignore the things that would threaten our peaceful little existence, they will go away by themselves.

But what if we started to prepare for change, instead of hiding from it? What if, instead of spending our lives in fear of unknown situations, we actually prepared ourselves to face them? What if we invested some time and effort into developing a set of skills and knowledge that would help us tackle any changes we might encounter in our lives?

Could such a thing be possible? (more…)

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