by John Hawkins | May 6, 2010 7:43 am
You have probably never heard these words and will probably never hear them again, but this article at Cracked is one of the best pieces of life advice I’ve ever read on the web.
Our society tends to focus on whirlwind successes. The Paris Hiltons, the person grasping: his : 15 minutes of fame, the lottery winner — but, they’re not the average success story. Most extremely successful people, heck, even most moderately successful people are successful because they are extraordinarily tenacious. Cracked’s David Wong brings this home:
Every adult I know–or at least the ones who are depressed–continually suffers from something like sticker shock (that is, when you go shopping for something for the first time and are shocked to find it costs way, way more than you thought). Only it’s with effort. It’s Effort Shock.
We have a vague idea in our head of the “price” of certain accomplishments, how difficult it should be to get a degree, or succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is almost always catastrophically wrong.
Accomplishing worthwhile things isn’t just a little harder than people think; it’s 10 or 20 times harder.
…It applies to everything. America is full of frustrated, broken, baffled people because so many of us think, “If I work this hard, this many hours a week, I should have (a great job, a nice house, a nice car, etc). I don’t have that thing, therefore something has corrupted the system and kept me from getting what I deserve, and that something must be (the government, illegal immigrants, my wife, my boss, my bad luck, etc).”
I really think Effort Shock has been one of the major drivers of world events. Think about the whole economic collapse and the bad credit bubble. You can imagine millions of working types saying, “All right, I have NO free time. I work every day, all day. I come home and take care of the kids. We live in a tiny house, with two sh*tty cars. And we are still deeper in debt every single month.” So they borrow and buy on credit because they have this unspoken assumption that, [email protected], the universe will surely right itself at some point and the amount of money we should have been making all along (according to our level of effort) will come raining down.
All of it comes back to having those massively skewed expectations of the world. Even the people you think of as pessimists, they got their pessimism by continually seeing the world fail to live up to their expectations, which only happened because their expectations were grossly inaccurate in the first place.
You know that TV show where Gordon Ramsay tours various failing restaurants and swears at the owners until everything is fine again? Every episode is a great example. They all involve some haggard restaurant owner, a half a million dollars in debt, looking exhausted into the camera and saying, “How can we be losing money? I work 90 hours a week!”
The world demands more. So, so much more. How have we gotten to adulthood and failed to realize this? Why would our expectations of the world be so off? I blame the montages. Five breezy minutes, from sucking at karate to being great at karate, from morbid obesity to trim, from geeky girl to prom queen, from terrible garage band to awesome rock band.
In the real world, the winners of the All Valley Karate Championship in The Karate Kid would be the kids who had been at it since they were in elementary school. The kids who act like douchebags because their parents made them skip video games and days out with their friends and birthday parties so they could practice, practice, practice. And that’s just what it takes to get “pretty good” at it. Want to know how long it takes to become an expert at something? About 10,000 hours, according to research.
That’s practicing two hours a day, every day, for almost 14 years.
Life is, was, and will always be hard. Even if we get to the point where life is like The Jetsons and we push a few buttons each day, life will still be hard because people’s expectations automatically adjust. Today, people feel deprived because they don’t have a nice car and they had to buy a regular 36 inch TV at a yard sale instead of a new flat screen.: : One: hundred: : years ago, the first television hadn’t been invented and Ford hadn’t started mass producing cars yet. Don’t even get me started on the internet, microwaves, and MP3 players. Moreover, all these cool little toys and high expectations we have? 50 years ago, many of these dream products and lifestyles either didn’t exist or if they did, you had to be John D. Rockefeller to afford them.
Additionally, I’ve read a lot of biographies and I’ve been fortunate enough to actually meet some really successful people in my field. Guess what? They have problems just like everybody else and for the most part, they don’t come across as significantly happier, more fulfilled, or less damaged than anyone else. They may have chosen to live their lives in a way that brought them acclaim and a certain amount of success, but there are always trade-offs. The salary a doctor or VP of a company makes is great. But, the hours they work aren’t so great. The enormous pressure they’re under on a daily basis isn’t so great. The years of preparation they had to go through to develop those skills isn’t so great.
That’s why a lot of people go through the motions, sit at home and watch TV, and then complain that racism, sexism, homophobia, the world being unfair, etc, etc, kept them down their whole lives. What horse crap. None of those things are significant impediments to success in 21st century America, but it sure is a whole lot easier to sit on your backside all day and talk about how great you could have been if you hadn’t been kept down. For some people, an excuse is better than an actual accomplishment because it’s less work and it lasts forever. Yes, there are a few people who have it easier than everyone else and a few people who have it harder, but everybody has a LOT OF WORK to do and if you choose not to do it or you choose not to make the sacrifices so many successful people have, then you only have yourself to blame if your life doesn’t turn out the way you wanted.
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