Most of What Makes People Happy, Healthy, and Successful is Boring
People fail because success isn't entertaining enough
Different generations have different experiences, and it shapes the way they view the world. We could break down those differences, but for the purposes of this article, it’s worth focusing on one of the key ways our Internet-driven, social media-obsessed culture has changed the way we process the world.
Today, the average person’s attention span is much shorter than it used to be, and people are considerably more focused on being entertained than in previous generations. Unfortunately, a lot of the things that make people successful aren’t all that entertaining.
For most people, success is a long, hard, uncomfortable slog. It’s getting up early, staying up late, and staying focused on grinding. It’s doing things that aren’t necessarily that exciting, that you don’t want to do when you’d rather be doing something else. It’s not easy and at times, it can demand something close to obsession to achieve. Meanwhile, the average American checks their cell phone 262 times per day.
Everyone wants to be as rich, famous, and influential as someone like Elon Musk, but the real Elon Musk is putting in 80-90 hour weeks and has his calendar scheduled down to 5-minute increments. How many people flat-out come to Americans today and say, “You want success and happiness? Then you’re going to have to work harder than other people, have less fun, save more, sacrifice more, and grind endlessly, for years, maybe for decades, to get the things you want.” Is that the message people are getting in our society or is it, “Buy this/elect me/demand that this law be changed, and you’ll be playing life on easy mode instead of having to work for it?”
We live in a world where everyone seems to want to be incessantly entertained and we end up adapting to that. As I used to tell my staffers back in my Right Wing News days, “Your stories are competing for attention with cute cat pictures and the latest music videos, so any story you do needs to have an emotional hook to get people interested.” I think of that as Doritos journalism and it is now the rule, not the exception in our media – and no wonder. We have a population that spends their time reading through handpicked feeds of people they already agree with to find articles/videos/entertainment served up to them by an algorithm that has often had years to learn what they are most likely to click on.
Note what I said right there. People are not being fed what they need to know, what’s important for them to know, or what’s true or what’s healthy for them… they’re being fed WHAT THEY ARE MOST LIKELY TO CLICK ON. In turn, what information is churned out for the public by content producers? Again, it’s WHAT THEY ARE MOST LIKELY TO CLICK ON. It’s hard to blame the people producing the content for that, right? After all, if you’re trying to catch flies, you break out the honey, not the vinegar.
Although most people don’t realize it yet, this is turning into a massive problem for our society.
Why? Well, because as the late great Margaret Thatcher said:
Most of what makes people happy, healthy, and successful is boring. It’s trite. It’s things you’ve heard a thousand times before. The sad truth is that if you or I wrote down a list of all the things going wrong in our lives and allowed an average person to watch what we did day and night for a few weeks, they could probably tell us exactly what we’re doing wrong that’s causing us to fall short. An appalling percentage of life is no great mystery to a well-read person with a bit of life experience.
Want to be muscular? Go to the gym consistently and lift weights. Do progressively more weight each time you go in. Get a trainer.
Want to get good grades in school? Show up for class, pay attention, do your homework, study with friends, and get a tutor if you need it.
Want to get a raise? Show up early. Leave late. Work hard. Kiss the boss’ behind.
There are still plenty of mysteries, big debates, and unanswered questions in the universe, but there are also an awful lot of places where we KNOW the answers.
Dealing drugs? Bad idea. Trading out chips for fresh vegetables? Good idea. Finishing high school? Good idea. Living paycheck to paycheck? Bad idea. Starting smoking? Bad idea. Following a police officer’s instructions when he pulls you over? Good idea. Getting blackout drunk? Bad idea. Learning to drive a stick shift? Good idea. Getting into a fistfight on the subway? Bad idea. Tipping a waitress that gives you good service? Good idea. On and on it goes.
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