Discover more from Culturcidal by John Hawkins
Most People and Nations Fail Because Success is Slow, Boring and Hard
The best guide to success that no one would ever read.
I’ve genuinely considered writing a book about this subject – and maybe I will do it as an Amazon short one day – but I just tend to think it wouldn’t sell. Here’s the concept…
What if the secret to success in America is that there is no secret? What if it’s all really simple. Not EASY, but simple? What if most of us that go astray do it because we’re looking for shortcuts, easy ways out, and just get bored doing the right thing? What if most of us blow it in life because we are deliberately, knowingly choosing not to do the right things because they’re difficult or tedious?
You may be thinking, “Okay, give me an example.” But that’s just it. I could easily reel off lots of examples with minimal effort. So could you.
* “I get in fights with my girlfriend when I drink and sometimes drink and drive.” Stop drinking.
* “I can’t afford to pay my bills.” Cut down on your spending, ask for a raise, get a better job, or get a 2nd job.
* “I’m worried that my smoking is going to hurt my health.” Quit smoking.
* “I’m too skinny!” Join a gym and start working out.
* “I’m failing a class.” Spend a couple of hours every night studying.
“I’m always tired!” Start going to bed at a consistent time and get more sleep.
* “I wish I knew how to dance.” Watch videos on YouTube, start practicing your moves, and then start clubbing to get some practice in the real world.
* “I don’t have any friends.” Start going to places where people are, start introducing yourself to people, and ask them to hang out if they’re cool.
Similarly, if your goal is to be rich, does it make more sense to own a business or be someone else’s employee? If you don’t feel like you have a close enough relationship with God, do you go to church? If you want to get more informed about any subject from quantum physics to how to fish, have you tried reading a book or three about the subject?
You will consistently find that there is an awful lot of overlap between the people in America complaining that life is unfair because they aren’t getting what they want and the number of people who aren’t doing the most basic, obvious things to achieve their goals.
Granted, once you get to the highest levels, there’s no real roadmap to becoming Michael Jordan, Warren Buffet, or Ronnie Coleman. However, is that what most people are really shooting for in America today? Being the top 1% of the 1%?
On the contrary, if anything these days, most people seem to be aiming for nothing more than being comfortable, distracted, and entertained. Yet and still, it doesn’t seem to be enough, does it? How can that be? How can people spend every second of their free time outside of work and sleep playing video games, drinking, doing drugs, getting and giving likes on social media, watching pornography, looking at blockbuster movies, and endlessly surfing entertaining video clips, yet still be unhappy? Setting aside the fact that there’s no purpose to be had in that, psychiatrist Anna Lembke discussed the latest theory about why that doesn’t work in her brilliant book on addiction, Dopamine Nation:
One of the most fascinating findings in neuroscience in the last 75 years is that the same areas of the brain that process pleasure also process pain and that pleasure and pain work like a balance. So, if you imagine that in your brain, there's a teeter-totter, like something you would find in a kid's playground, and when that teeter-totter is at its resting baseline, it is level with the ground. When we do something that's pleasurable — for example, when I eat a piece of chocolate — then my pleasure/pain balance tilts just a little bit to the side of pleasure, and I experience a release of dopamine in my brain's reward pathway.
But one of the governing principles regulating this balance is that it wants to remain level, which is what neuroscientists call homeostasis. It doesn't want to be deviated for very long, either to the side of pleasure or pain. So that when I eat a piece of chocolate, immediately what my brain will do is adapt to the presence of that pleasurable stimulus by tipping my balance an equal and opposite amount to the side of pain. And that's the aftereffects or the comedown or, in my case, that moment of wanting a second piece of chocolate. Now, if I wait long enough, that feeling passes — and homeostasis is restored.
In other words, a life of hedonism is inherently unsatisfying because the more pleasure you get from sex, drugs, chocolate, or anything that produces a rush of dopamine, the more everyday pleasures cease to please you and the harder it gets to tolerate things that aren’t a lot of fun. This is part of the reason so many ads we see today focus on offering shortcuts to success. This one “trick” will help you lose belly fat, this supplement will make you healthy, this shortcut will help you get rich in a hurry. They almost never seem to work, but we keep on snapping them up anyway, don’t we? Why is that? Well, take the last one. How can you become a MILLIONAIRE?
If you are a 22-years-old, I can tell you how to be a millionaire and unlike those ads, it will really work. How? As you’d expect from the theme of the column, it’s slow, hard, and boring. Get a part-time job and save ALL of your money until you get to $10,000. Let’s optimistically say that takes a year. Then, invest that money. Although there are a lot of ways you could go, an index fund is probably a good bet. Over the last 30 years, the stock market has produced a return of 10.7% per year. So, let’s be conservative and assume that over the next 30 years it only produces an 8% return. Then, let’s assume that for the next 42 years, you put $225 per month in that account and don’t take anything out. If you did that, you would have $1,074,852.33 when you turned 65. Granted, that seems like a lot of money to save when you don’t have much, it takes a long time, there are lots of other more entertaining things you could do with the money, and it’s not guaranteed. But, if you want to be a millionaire, there’s a feasible way to do it that has a pretty decent chance of success. Now, people may not know these specific numbers, but compound interest isn’t exactly a cutting-edge investment strategy. People have known about it for a long time and every person reading this has heard of it. So, are there a lot of people in America doing it? Not exactly:
69% of adult Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account.
More than two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000 saved up. Worryingly, the majority of those with less than $1,000 in savings have no savings at all. Around 45% of adult Americans were unable to save any money in 2019.
Are you starting to see what I mean about success being slow, boring, and hard?
On a personal note, I feel comfortable saying I am an outstanding writer. I have been making a living writing since 2005, my book 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know was in the top 50 in self-help books on Amazon for a while and I’ve also been one of the most-read conservative columnists in America online. How did that happen? Well, I have natural talent in that area, started writing in high school, and I have been writing large amounts of content weekly and often daily for 25 years. I consistently wrote when few people were reading it, when I didn’t feel like it, and when I’d have rather been doing other things. My dedication to writing could fairly be described as somewhere between an obsession and a compulsion.
That’s the type of mentality it takes to be really, really good at things. Show me someone who has built a successful restaurant, is a great dad, is a jacked bodybuilder, a gifted ballerina, who’s an amazing architect, who’s truly brilliant at anything, and I will show you someone who put in an awful lot of hard, slow, and sometimes boring work to get good.
This should be obvious to all of us, but unfortunately, we human beings are very good at lying to ourselves. Want to know if you’re lying to yourself about what you care about the most in life? Ask yourself this question, “What are my top priorities in life?” Think about them. Write them down. Got them? Great, now think about where you put your time, money, and effort over the last month and ask yourself if you were someone else, looking at your life, what would you conclude your top priorities were based on what you actually did? If they don’t match up, then you have some work to do.
Along similar lines, how long have you been saying you are “about to” start doing something? I have a list of things myself. If you asked me a year ago, there would be an awful lot of skillsets I wanted to pick up that I still haven’t gotten around to starting. Learning to sing. Learning to dance. Learning to draw. Learning to shoot a bow. Learning to properly read scientific studies. Given that I don’t want to be world-class at any of these activities, it might not even take that long to become proficient at them.
Why haven’t I gotten around to these things? Why haven’t you gotten around to the similar list that you probably have? Because we have routines and habits and starting something new is hard, not necessarily a lot of fun, and yes, it can be boring.
You could even apply this to the government. Does anyone think we don’t know how to balance the budget? Secure the border? How to make Social Security and Medicare viable long term? We do, but we choose not to do it because it’s slow, boring, and hard.
Now whether you’re talking about government or a person, you might say, “This wouldn’t solve EVERY problem. Sometimes problems are more complicated than that!” While that’s true, the biggest problems are usually slow, boring, and hard. However, when they get handled, a lot of the other stuff either just falls into place or turns out not to be all that important. In fact, usually, when we spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with complicated issues, it’s either because we ignored the slow, boring, and hard stuff until it became a crisis or we’re using minor issues as a distraction to keep us from having to think about the slow, boring, and hard stuff.
Americans are increasingly a people engaged in short-term thinking and are determined to find a quick and easy fix to their problems. We’re like junkies who want our next hit as fast as possible, and we aren’t too particular about how we get it. Unfortunately, that’s not how successful people or successful nations think. Ultimately, the things that will have the biggest payoffs in our lives and for our country will be slow, boring, and hard. When we accept that and embrace it both as a people and as a nation, things will start moving in the right direction again.