Monday, 27 December 2010

public accountability


We've all had the feeling before that we'd like to change something about ourself. Whether it's looking in the mirror and deciding you want to go to the gym, looking at your bedroom and deciding you want to lead a tidier life, or whatever else. I think we've all also had the feeling that sometimes, it's really hard to take the first step.

I know I have.

I mentioned this inspirational blog in my last post. One of the posts that stood out (not only because it was the first one I read), entitled "Don't Know What You're Doing With Your Life" gives some interesting advice on how to take the first step, and also gives some ideas for subsequent steps. I recommend reading the post.

He writes:

If you try to become excellent, normal people will judge you. Fuck them. Seriously, I said it and I meant it. Fuck ‘em. I gradually quit drugs, drinking, tobacco, refined my diet, quit sugar, etc, etc. – every time I heard discouragement and crap from people. Fuck them. When I dropped out of high school, I heard discouragement and crap from people. When I dropped out of university to start building a company, I heard discouragement and crap. When I started traveling, I heard warnings and discouragement and crap. If you try to be excellent, you’re going to constantly be hearing warnings and discouragement and crap. Listen a little if the person seems to know what they’re talking about, but don’t be discouraged. If you’re trying to be expansive and they’re telling you to be cautious, they’re probably wrong and you’re probably right. No one else says this, so I’m happy you emailed me – I’ll say it. Fuck them. They’re not bad people per se, but people do terrible things. I quit sugar or starting eating healthier and people want to drag you back down, “C’mon, have one slice of pizza… it’s just a bite of cake… c’mon, you can have one drink…” – I still can’t explain exactly why people do it, but I think it’s to protect their own identity. As you become excellent, you show them what they could be, and it hurts them. Viscerally. So don’t be too upset, your excellence hurts people to some extent. Expect constant discouragement from normal people. Eventually you’ll build a social circle of high-achieving, ambitious, expansive, cool, worldly, giving, encouraging, awesome people, and then you’ll be successful and normal people will envy and hate you, but you won’t care because you’ll have transcended it. So yeah, discouragement and warnings and crap? We all get it on the road to success. Don’t take it too seriously. Don’t hate people for doing it, but don’t give in either.

I find this to be interesting advice, mainly because I'm not quite sure how to take it. I can acknowledge that people will try to hold you back, often without realising it or knowing why. This is a response that could be / probably already is the basis for psychological study, but also one I do not currently know enough about to discuss. The thing I'm not sure about is the implication that if your friends do this (intentionally or otherwise) you should leave them behind in favour of the "high-achieving, ambitious, expansive, cool, wordly, giving, encouraging, awesome people" you'll meet later. I'm friends with all of my friends for a reason: that each of them already fit most of the criteria outlined above, and we all have strong friendships that have been built up over time. Friendships I wouldn't give up for anything, let alone a bit of discouragement.

So while I would definitely recommend the post as a whole, I hope people will think twice (thrice, even) before abandoning any of their friends who are unable to fight their evolutionary programming and find themselves slightly jealous / disheartened when they see you improving yourself. Perhaps if this is the case, they need some encouragement themselves?

Something else I found helfpul is the idea of public accountability (an idea I've encountered before but was reminded of when reading Seb Marshall's blog.) If you set yourself a goal and fail, no one's going to help you achieve it / punish you for not achieving it if they don't know about it. The suggestion of telling someone about your goals so you can be held accountable if you fail to achieve them therefore, seems like a good one. (Unless you're Nick Clegg and the goal is abolishing tuition fees - OH!)

This being the case, I will be posting my new year's resolution to my blog in the hope that my single-digit reader base may thrash me into action should I slip up throughout the year.


  1. Hmmm... I don't think people offer you pizza because they want you to give in, pile on the fat and make them feel less guilty for not amending their own gluttonous lifestyle... I think it's more that they think you're missing out by denying yourself things.

    I'm the kind of person where I believe in cutting down, but not cutting out... Cutting out is only going to make you crave it more, whereas cutting down is just re-arranging your brain and what constitutes as "enough", an "average portion" etc.

  2. I don't know what I think regarding this. It's one of those things where IF people do do it to make them feel less guilty etc it's not intentional. One of our evolutionarily acquired quirks maybe. I don't fully agree with what he's saying - it seems quite harsh if you take it literally, but I found it quite interestig.

    And I agree with cutting down not cutting out! No sense in arbitrarily not having nice things. Plus it's a lot easier to achieve :p

  3. Good to know that your not abandoning us anytime soon :-)