I have never found someone that clicked better with my worldview than Neel Burton, professor, philosopher, psychiatrist, author and so on ;-)
I will quote a part of his TED presentation (video above).
People in the depressive position are often stigmatized as failures or losers.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. If these people are in the depressive position, it is just because they have tried too hard, or taken on too much so hard and so much that they have made themselves ill with depression.
In other words, if these people are in the depressive position, it is because their world was simply not good enough for them. They wanted more, they wanted better and they wanted different. And not just for themselves, but for all those around them. So if they are failures or losers, this is only because they’ve set the bar far too high. They could have swept everything under the carpet and pretended, as so many people do, that all is for the best in the best of possible worlds.
However, unlike most people, they had the strength and the honesty to admit that something was amiss, to admit that something was not quite right. So rather than being failures or losers, they are all the opposite. They are ambitious, they are truthful and they are courageous and that is precisely why they became ill.
To make them believe that they are suffering from some mental disorder or some chemical imbalance in the brain and that their recovery depends entirely or even mostly on popping pills is to do them and to do us an immense disfavour. It is to deny them the opportunity not only to identify and address important life problems, but also to deny them the opportunity to develop a more refined perspective and deeper understanding of themselves and of the world around them and therefore, to deny them the opportunity to develop their highest potential as human beings.
Cu foarte multi ani in urma, venisem in Bucuresti sa cumpar un calculator pentru o cunostinta. Pentru ca se scumpisera componentele, eram la limita cu banii. Asa ca am carat acel calculator nenorocit cu monitor CRT, mai mult de un kilometru, pe jos. Dupa care am luat tramvaiul cateva statii ca sa ajung la Gara de Nord. Un chin stupid, ca sa nu platesc o calatorie “scumpa” cu taxiul.
Am livrat calculatorul si am castigat biletul de tren dus-intors plus cateva zile de munca sa-l fac sa mearga perfect. Cumparatorul a fost vag nemultumit. Mi-am platit mancarea si biletul de tramvai, dar am primit 2 pahare de cola drept rasplata. Apoi, mi-am dat seama de dimensiunea prostiei mele.
Au trecut niste ani. Imi amintesc prima conferinta globala de IT la care am participat impreuna cu o delegatie de companii romanesti. Era in Orlando, Florida. Pentru prima oara m-am simtit eminamente prost. Am avut sentimentul taranului irelevant, pe care l-am simtit mult mai puternic decat atunci cand mi-am refuzat o calatorie cu taxiul.
Unul dintre expozantii si participantii la acea conferinta era un american cu o firma in Romania. A avut decenta sa imi explice de ce suntem complet deconectati de realitate. Mi-a explicat de ce nu se varsa alune intr-o farfurie de plastic in care baga toata lumea mana. De ce unii dintre vizitatori erau fizic scarbiti de ofranda noastra formata din alune si biscuitei varsati. Mi-a explicat de ce e ridicol sa spui ca ai $60 capital social si 3 angajati, cand expui langa o firma cu 5000 de angajati pe 3 continente. In fine, mi-a explicat de ce noi suntem nimeni. A facut-o fara aere de superioritate si mi-a castigat respectul pe care i-l port si astazi.
Imi amintesc sesiunile de intrebari si raspunsuri de la conferintele la care participam incercand sa promovez Linux, Open Source si mai apoi cloud computing. Cand veneau intrebarile si comentariile stiam ca o sa ajung rapid intr-un punct in care o sa-mi fie ciuda, o sa vreau sa raspund taios si nepoliticos si o sa fiu nevoit sa ma cenzurez. Lucrul care ma infuria cel mai tare era lipsa de relevanta. Desigur, erau si intrebari bune, dar acestea erau exceptia. Ceva era putred…
Din dialogul meu cu partnerii straini mi-am dat seama rapid ca e ceva in neregula cu punctul meu de vedere, cu obiectiile si cu intrebarile mele. Cel mai des eram ignorat. Atunci cand insistam fie eram respins politicos si formal, fie mi se oferea un raspuns vag si nemultumitor. Era clar ca problema depasea expunerea mea, tinea de mine.
A fost nevoie sa calatoresc si sa am suficient de a face cu oameni de business din US ca sa inteleg problema fundamentala, anume unghiul romanesc.
In lipsa unui cuvant mai bun, denumesc unghiul romanesc viziunea si abordarea realitatii in discutii de catre cei crescuti in cultura romaneasca.
Invariabil, unghiul romanesc are urmatoarele atribute:
Adancime. Vedem mereu mult mai mult decat evidentul.
Neincredere. Orice observatie este marcata de frica, suspiciune si scenarii.
Detalii. Focusul este pe o problema a sistemului, pe un aspect incomplet sau incoerent, pe un detaliu.
Nemarginire. Totul este infinit. Orice poate fi maruntit sau extins pana acolo unde nu mai are sens sa faci nimic sau deja stii tot.
Nepractic. Finalitatea, implinirea, latura practica sunt la randul lor detalii, nu scopul.
Inteligenta. Exista din plin, dar este folosita in scopuri proaste. Nu face decat sa amplifice impactul negativ si sa hraneasca egouri mici.
Irelevant. Daca nu era deja evident, nu poti avea o pozitie relevanta cu atributele de mai sus.
Impotent. Cel mai dureros, unghiul romanesc te pune in pozitia de a nu actiona si de a argumenta la nesfarsit despre cum orice nu se poate.
Nu degeaba Miorita este balada nepereche a romanilor. Prezinta unghiul romanesc in toata splendoarea lui. Ciobanul afla ca urmeaza un atentat asupra vietii sale, asa ca isi face testamentul, vorbeste cu oile si delireaza, in mare. De ce trebuie sa gasim semnificatie adanca in asta? De ce nu se inarmeaza, sa se apere? De ce nu isi negociaza retragerea, cel putin? De ce e admirabila atitudinea sa?
De la americani am invatat cum se fac afaceri. In mod special, din interactiunea cu oamenii din jurul Google am invatat cum se trateaza unghiul romanesc: il ignori. Pentru ca nu are nicio valoare pragmatica, este o pierdere de timp ce trebuie evitata.
La intrebarile venite din unghiul romanesc poti raspunde in 2 feluri:
a) Ignorand pozitia si incarcarea intrebarii si formuland un raspuns practic, util.
b) Desfiintand intrebarea. E varianta nepopulara si interminabila daca ai de a face cu un public energic. Unii invata din asta. Eu asa am invatat, fortat.
Nimic nu e mai neplacut decat sa iti dai seama ca nu esti doar prost, ci si irelevant. Istorioarele de la inceputul articolului au fost pentru mine semnele de alarma in acest sens. Sunt bucuros ca am avut ocazia sa ma trezesc.
Alt produs al unghiului romanesc este ca ne plangem la nesfarsit. M-a lovit cand mi-a zis un (alt) american “singurul lucru care nu-mi place la romani este ca se vaieta mereu”. Evident, ma vaietasem si eu cu cateva minute mai inainte. Sa fie clar – a te vaieta inseamna sa te plangi fara sa oferi o solutie, fara sa existe o rezolutie, fara sa inveti inceva, fara sa intelegi ceva, fara sa schimbi ceva. Suna cunoscut?
Inca ma surprind adoptand unghiul romanesc, desi am facut eforturi majore sa il evit. O metoda de auto-corectie este sa ma asigur ca pozitia mea nu are atributele negative de mai sus.
Am plecat din tara fix pentru ca oricat de limitat as fi, nu sunt ciobanul din Miorita. Observatiile “scrii ca sa te plangi / te jelesti pentru atentie / doar faci pe desteptul” sunt inutile si aberante si vin fix din acel unghi romanesc.
Scopul meu e sa-i avertizez si pe altii, sa-i ajut sa se trezeasca, daca vor. Ca efect secundar, pot sa discut mai clar cu oameni de care imi pasa.
Cat despre afaceri si orice tranzactie cu romanii, mi-am promis sa fiu cat de retinut se poate. E imposibil sa faci ceva extraordinar alaturi de oameni care vad viata din unghiul romanesc. De aceea prefer sa lucrez cu straini.
Cata vreme activam in Romania am considerat experienta internationala ca fiind cel mai mare avantaj la orice interviu de angajare. 3 luni de Work & Travel in US fac mai mult in practica decat orice facultate romaneasca. Altfel, cultura romaneasca te formeaza pentru esec.
Inchei aici pentru ca cei care puteau sa inteleaga au inteles deja. Ceilalti nu ma intereseaza, la fel cum nu ma intereseaza o dezbatere pe aceasta tema. Puteti sa ma injurati linistiti, sa-mi aratati limitele, sa-mi tineti teorii interminabile, intr-un ocean de (j)unghiuri romanesti.
Mental toughness programs, motivational speakers, self improvement books have a common purpose: to make you the strong and motivated successful person that you want to become.
Maybe, at times, you find yourself apathetic, realizing you are a grain of sand in desert of life. Maybe you have big dreams, but the reality of your failure to make them come true is even bigger. Maybe you feel like you have wasted your life and time is running short. Or, maybe you have smaller problems that you deem important.
Do you need to get mentally tougher? Even more motivated? No, you do not.
Toughness is never the best way to approach a potential long confrontation with the unpleasant realities of life, your own shortcomings and unfortunate events that strongly impact you.
Think of how very tall structures, planes or even living organisms are built. They are not fixed, immune, unbreakable, possessing absolute strength. Such structures would not be economically viable, since the strongest materials or designs are the costliest. Even so, they would still be permanently eroded by outside forces and would ultimately break down totally. Rather, they all have built-in elasticity and components that ensure resiliency. They are efficient, long term.
You need to be resilient, not tough. You should have the ability to cope with both good and bad, and get back to a middle ground as soon as possible. You should be able to function pushed just by your natural, intrinsic motivation. You should be able to pick yourself up whenever you are down. All these are personal actions, done at a personal pace – faster for some, slower for others. External support may be helpful when you ask for it, insofar as you attribute value to it. However, the effectiveness of outside support is rooted within yourself.
If you do not possess the above traits innately, not even partially, then no amount of literature, speeches or techniques can help you. The only option you have is transformation, evolution. Note that a traumatic experience that you do not overcome, tough transformational, does not mean evolution. This may be anything severely impacting you, from an having an accident to having your first business completely fail. Getting rebuilt into a resilient person is then the main object of your evolution. This is a process that changes you fundamentally as person. The older you are, the harder such reconstruction process would be. This process is not a theory you can learn, nor is it a purely intellectual endeavor. Since this is a different subject, it will be explored in a separate article.
If you do possess the above traits, even partially, then you only need work on improving and applying your own existing resilience techniques. They are part of your philosophy of life and you can quickly discover them by introspection.
The idea that you need toughness and motivation is flawed. These are childish, idealistic views of desirable human attributes. Long term, such artificial stimuli do no work. To some extent, they are even dangerous, since they create unattainable models and impossible expectations that drag you down whenever you are facing serious, sustained adversity – that is, when you are most in need.
Remember that life is not a sprint, is a marathon. Treat it as such. Take your time. Be resilient!
Do you like counter-intuitive facts? What if I was to tell you that the drug pusher, the dishonest cop, the profiteer or the employer of child labour perform useful, productive services? More than that, they improve the morality of the free market and do more good than thousands of emotional “anti-you-name-it” activists.
How can this be right? It sounds completely insane!
I’m sure you will love this book. I am closing with a quote by FA Hayek, another popular economist many never head of, but which greatly influenced the modern world:
"A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economics frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and in showing the falsity of these stereotypes Block is doing a real service, although he will not make himself more popular with the majority."
I was walking home one evening and came upon a clearly depressed man standing at the edge of a bridge, looking like he was about to jump. I called out to him to wait, and ran over to see what was the matter.
It’s this country, he lamented. It’s falling into ruin and there’s nothing I can do about it. The election was the last straw. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.
Well cheer up, I said. We’re all in this together. Say, are you a conservative, or a libertarian?
A libertarian, he said.
That’s great! I said. See, you’re not alone. Are you a free-market libertarian or a libertarian socialist?
Free-market libertarian, he said.
Me too! I said. Paleo-libertarian or neo-libertarian?
Paleo-libertarian, he said.
Hey, so am I! I said. Chicago or Austrian school of economics?
Austrian, he said.
Me too, I said. Hayek or Rothbardian strand?
Rothbardian, he said.
Same here, I said. Are you a consequentialist or deontological libertarian?
Consequentialist, he said.
So I said: Die, you statist scum! and pushed him off the bridge.
Plenty of good, intelligent people make poor economic choices. You can spot lack of economic insight in their statements. Usually emotions and preconceptions undermine their judgment.
I finally came across a book on economics that tackles all the major issues, is very easy to read, while being very profound. Every subject has 1-2 pages. It summarizes the essence of what you would learn from reading the top 10 books on that specific subject.
Don’t plead ignorance on this issue. Don’t ignore the subject. I have heard all the excuses before. You’re not too old, or too busy or too knowledgeable in other fields so you can foul others or yourself into thinking you can ignore economics. Invariably, you will pay handsomely for the privilege of economic ignorance.
Note: I used to recommend Economics In One Lesson as the first book on economics people should read. It still is a masterpiece. Read it after The Concise Guide To Economics if you have not read any of them.
«In blurring the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, a democratic republic strengthens the identification of the public with a particular state. Indeed, while dynastic rule promotes the identification with one’s own family and community and the development of a “cosmopolitan” outlook and attitude, democratic republicanism inevitably leads to nationalism, i.e., the emotional identification of the public with large, anonymous groups of people, characterized in terms of a common language, history, religion and/ or culture and in contradistinction to other, foreign nations. Interstate wars are thus transformed into national wars.
Rather than representing “merely” violent dynastic property disputes, which may be “resolved” through acts of territorial occupation, they become battles between different ways of life, which can only be “resolved” through cultural, linguistic, or religious domination and subjugation (or extermination).
It becomes more and more difficult for members of the public to remain neutral or to extricate themselves from all personal involvement. Resistance against higher taxes to fund a war is increasingly considered treachery or treason. Conscription becomes the rule, rather than the exception. And with mass armies of cheap and hence easily disposable conscripts fighting for national supremacy (or against national suppression) backed by the economic resources of the entire nation, all distinctions between combatants and noncombatants fall by the wayside, and wars become increasingly brutal.»