Friedrich Nietzsche said that human beings fool themselves to orient towards the future.
We tend to rationalize our sub-optimal choices in order to keep debilitating emotions at bay, and move forward with our lives.
“My children were meant to be born” utters one woman with an otherwise unhappy marriage.
“It pays well” utters another with a grossly unsatisfying job.
“If <undesirable event> didn’t happen, then I wouldn’t be who I am today”, says another.
Of course, things are for the most part, never perfect, and perhaps there is some utility in the deterministic world view that life happens to you, and by accepting this rather than fighting it, we can align expectations with reality and be more content.
But doing so also renders us likely to lead a very mediocre and unfulfilling life, and given that we only get one life (as best as we can tell), is this how we want to spend it?
We might never reach the peak of the mountain, but by virtue of reaching for it we’re more likely to have a more fulfilling experience of life than if we forever sat at the foot of the mountain by the relative safety and warmth of a campfire.
The world is full of people who decided to do exactly that. Settle. Rationalize. Accept.
And if you take their advice, you risk doing the same.
Misery loves company, and advice is often a representation of people’s own rationalized life choices.
Kanye West recently told Joe Rogan that “I’m gonna listen to kids before I listen to super programmed-out adults, and especially if that adult hasn’t done something that I am looking to do”.
Adults are indeed for the most part ‘programmed out’. They’ve long given up on their dreams. They’ve settled for a mediocre suburban reality, they stay in their lane and they don’t take risks.
As a result, they find themselves in what Theodore Roosevelt called that cold and timid place where souls know neither victory nor defeat.
So before you take the advice of someone, ask yourself the following:
If not, then you might want to tread carefully before taking their advice on face value and basing your life’s big decisions off it. You might also want to seek out people who do model the way you want to live and the things you want to do.
Steve Glaveski is on a mission to unlock your potential to do your best work and live your best life. He is the founder of innovation accelerator, Collective Campus, author of several books, including Employee to Entrepreneur and Time Rich, and productivity contributor for Harvard Business Review. He’s a chronic autodidact and is into everything from 80s metal and high-intensity workouts to attempting to surf and hold a warrior three pose.