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Most people spend more time learning how to make excuses in life than doing anything. They learn it in school (‘it’s not my fault! She did it!’). They learn it from their parents (‘you’re picking on my child!’). They learn it in their communities (‘why doesn’t the government fix this problem?’).

People learn victimhood at an early age, from their parents and from society. Once engrained, victimhood is a difficult disease to conquer.

Meanwhile, successful people don’t dwell on their failures. They don’t care whose fault is. They learn a lesson – if there’s one to be learned. They improve or change their own behavior – if there is anything to change. They try again, if necessary, and again and again.

If something really is someone else’s fault, successful people recognize that and deal with it. It’s not about turning the other cheek or ignoring the impact that others may have on you. But you can’t let others stop you.

You are in control of your own life; you are in control of your own success and failure. Stop making excuses.

If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying.

Fear of failure is everything (that stifles creativity and greatness). Every valuable lesson was learned through failure. Every single one.

It’s not all about failing in a safe environment, either. You have to actually fail. If something is worth striving for, it’s worth failing for; it often takes failing a time or two or a two hundred times to eventually succeed.

Teachers and parents need to learn this lesson. Without failure, no one ever learns resiliency. Without resiliency, no one has ever succeeded.

Success and failure are balanced and reciprocal states. But, if you don’t get that, if you are resilient, then failure will be terminal.

Do you have standards of acceptable behavior in life? Good. Most people do. Most people have boundaries that they believe shouldn’t be crossed and recognize behaviors that aren’t tolerable.

But what most people don’t do is equally enforce these standards, boundaries, and behaviors.

Do your family and friends get held to a different standard than your business associates? And are your business associates held to a different standard than the politicians whom you support? And are the politicians whom you support held to a different standard than the ones whom you don’t support? That’s the basic definition of hypocrisy. And discrimination.

People whom you like don’t possess some imaginary bank account of good behavior that they can choose to expend anytime they want to on bad behavior. Karma’s not a bitch – it’s bull.

If you don’t have standards for others that you equally enforce, you’ll never have standards for yourself.

The same goes for respect.

Fads prey on the human bias that new equals better. This idea is fueled by the belief that each generation is smarter than the last. People firmly believe in progress. “We have finally figured it out!” exclaims each generation after thousands of years of human struggle.

But new doesn’t always equal better.

Think about this: your ancestors were the cream of the crop. They existed and survived because they were better than the rest. Through trial and error they discovered the ideas which are most essential to human survival and those ideas rose to the top amid an infinite morass of competing but inferior ideas. It’s an age old struggle. It continues today.

Some new ideas will stand the test of time, eventually. But most new ideas are wrong. Almost all of them are wrong. Future generations will laugh at our stupidity just like we laugh at past stupidities.

Don’t get caught up in fads.

By fads I mean: postmodernism, behavioralism, frequentism, moral relativism, gender as a construct, outcome equity, scientism, addiction as disease, multiple regression modeling, statistical significance, alternative and complementary medicine, implicit bias, mumble rap, and all other such ilk.

Most research is meaningless and should be neither published nor celebrated. It’s conducted to learn how to do research and to practice doing “science,” but mostly to pad CVs. The process is a bit like students writing papers for their high school or college English classes  – it has to be done in order to finish the class, but the papers should almost never be read by anyone but the teacher and the student.

Unfortunately, our research journals are filled with research papers and studies that read like amateurish sophomore high school papers, and have even less value in terms of scientific merit. Imagine if every single English paper were published in journals!

The lust for a long CV has encouraged all sorts of machinations, none of them good. Garbage research, garbage publications, garbage volunteerism, garbage activities – none of which make a meaningful difference.

It’s okay to do research for the sake of research, just don’t publish it.

Also like CVs, our body of published research doesn’t tell the whole story: only the stuff we think is good, the successes and wins, are listed. We don’t put all the failures and catastrophes. The result is a hugely biased perspective for the consumer.

The moment you make any observation, you do not see the thing for what it is, you see the thing for what you need it to be. We all transfer some of ourselves onto the observation and our perception of it is formed in such a way to makes our brains feel comfortable. We are so good at this that we cannot be convinced that we have done it.

The deceit that one can observe any data objectively is responsible for most of the misunderstanding and error that happens in life. Science isn’t objective, data isn’t objective, judges aren’t objective – objectivity is a construct. We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we need it to be. We need it to exist in a way that confirms our understanding of the world in order to avoid cognitive dissonance. We reinterpret, reimagine, ignore, and invent reality in a never-ending effort to feel comfortable and see order where order may not exist actually exist. 

This doesn’t mean that objective reality doesn’t exist, just that you have to strive to see it in a way that might destroy your sense of self.

I would guess it takes about 7-10 times, on average, for someone to start ‘The Wave’ in a crowd at a game. Most try and fail to get it started at least 7 times before everyone catches on; then, it’s a huge success. Some people give up after four or five tries because they don’t know how many more it will take, or even if it will ever work at all. But others persist and become successful. The first several times they get excited about the prospect of how far it will go because some people join in but not enough to make it huge. But it keeps getting bigger until it catches on.

Of course, one person starting the wave won’t be successful without others’ involvement. I think that’s kind of how life works too.

Each of us are trying to start our own wave. We try four or five times; after a couple of times, things seem like they are going well, that we will be successful. Then we let doubt creep in, we feel alone, and we question how many more times we can keep trying to start it before we just sit back down, feeling like a fool.

But we can’t forget that others are counting on us to keep trying. Because they want to do The Wave too – but don’t have the courage to start it.

Most people make life too complicated.

Let’s say you have a goal. Good. But that’s not enough. Most goals are so onerous and grand that they are never accomplished. A goal is good, but subgoals are better.

A goal is a problem, like any other problem. How do you get there? How do you solve the problem? Those are the real questions. The creative thinking (and creative action) that can answers these questions requires breaking up something complex into its smaller parts

Take calculus. Calculus is really simple if you divide it up into a series of subgoal, subskills, or subroutines; work to master those smaller components and the rest follows easily.

Put another way, don’t try to perform surgery if you can’t tie a knot first, or build a cabinet if you don’t know how to use a saw, or pay off a mortgage if you don’t have a job, or get a date if you don’t know how to have a conversation.

Successful people usually have this one talent in common: the ability to see the parts for the whole and master them.

The problem with progress is it assumes that the current state is inadequate or incorrect. Worse, it assumes that the state being advanced toward is better. Progress or change for the sake of progress or change should never be a goal.

Evolution is an example of progressive process but it tends towards a functional homeostasis. Once that homeostasis is achieved, further change tends to be dysfunctional. We call it disease.

Technology is very progressive and will continue to be indefinitely. But morality shouldn’t be progressive. Ethics aren’t progressive. Rather, something is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. Morals don’t change, it’s just that most people alive today or at any point in human history lacked morals.

We shouldn’t usually use the word progress; change is the correct word. The word change doesn’t imply good or bad, just different. Many people can’t tell the difference between progress and regress or between building up or tearing down. Many times we won’t know the difference until it is late.

Can you make your opponent’s argument for him? If you can’t see your opponents’ viewpoint, understand it, and repeat it, then you cannot be firm in your own conviction (or at least you have no right to be firm in your own conviction).

Get out of the echo chamber. Echo chambers breed bigotry.

Try this: Make an argument against something you firmly believe with convincing support. If you can’t do this without being sarcastic, condescending, or smarmy, then you really have no place in polite conversation and reasonable discourse. You don’t know how to debate; instead, you excel at shouting-down and ending debate. You will never advance your own viewpoint, even if it is correct, and you will never progress from your viewpoint if it is wrong.

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