Here’s the thing about fear.
Fear paralyzes. You find out that you have a problem. It is not that different from all other problems you have with a twist. This time, you know the consequences. Do this or that happens. So can be said about any other project in your life, from paying your rent to exercising but problems tend to have some form of clarity to them.
It puts you in a place and holds you there. It depresses you. It makes you believe you have made one step forward and now you are taking ten steps back. It is the emotional equivalent of building a house and then one room burning, having to rebuild that certain room.
Nobody wants more problems. You want less. Nobody wakes up in the morning say “I wish my world would be more complicated and I would be on the edge of disaster. My life is too boring otherwise”. You’re not likely an adrenaline seeker of this kind. And if you’re like me, the first reaction you’re going to have when something goes wrong is emotional. It is to blame or freeze or to be upset, all of which do nothing good for you.
The best solution for a problem is action. When a challenge or a problem or a situation or however you want to call it appears, the only course of action is to take a sequence of actions that is likely to solve it. Answering in an emotional fashion does not change anything and it steals away valuable time you can invest in solving this and moving on with your life.
This is easier said than done. If you’ve ever woken up just to sit there in bed, unable to sleep but unwillingly to go to the bathroom to throw some water on your face, you know what I’m talking about. This is a natural response of your body. Evolution programmed you to enter homeostasis in the moment a future threat is detected. This is in order to preserve energy and survive the harsh times. In the past, that future threat would have been famine or disease and resting made perfect sense. Energy conservation was a must. In the present, your threats are likely to be solved by calling / emailing / researching / visiting something or someone and not by sitting on your ass, shaking with fear.
When a new problem faces itself, life is about the same as before. What changed is your awareness that there is a new thing that you must do in your life. The solution, obviously, is to do it. It may be hard but you will grow by doing it. You’ll develop new skills or grow mentally or emotionally. You’ll train “muscles” and once your problem is solved, you will be a stronger person thanks to it.
This leads me to my second point – escapism sucks. Any form of escapism. If you don’t understand the term, I define it as any action you’re taking as a substitute to doing what needs to be done. Broadly this means watching YouTube videos, playing video games, running away to activities that are pleasurable in order to delay or ignore activities that you must actually do.
Escapism is an art and a science in today’s world. If civilization would focus on solving problems as effectively as it is focusing on escaping from them, we would have discovered FTL (faster than light) travel by now. We are not though. If you go to the App Store for your iPhone or iPad, the first page is filled with escapist activities. 90% of there is a form of entertainment that does not bring any tangible value to one’s life and is generally used not as a form of intentional relaxation but as I’ve said – escapism.
While there are applications to help you be more productive or exercise or educate yourself, the vast majority of what is sold on a mobile platform are applications that you can use to forget you have real problems that need solving.
The same can be said about YouTube. Yes, on YouTube there are channels are system theory and organizational networks and how to learn Mandarin and even about how to communicate better with others. YouTube is a platform you can use to educate yourself. There are even full seminars that cost hundreds of dollars found there. The problem is that 90% of what is consumed is not of value. It is mindless entertainment that can put you into a zombie state so you don’t have to face the harsh realities of life.
It is an opioid, a digital one. It is what Cesar and Nero gave to the romans in their reigns. They gave them entertainment and food so they are too distracted to actually notice the problems which Rome was facing. They build huge colosseums so instead of doing philosophy, people amused themselves of how gladiators chopped themselves in pieces. There was nothing heroic about it. Like the control systems that came up later (hint: religion), it was a tool to keep people from asking too many questions and gain too much self awareness.
Returning to our day today, almost all consumptions industries are designed to encourage consumption without any discerning interest in helping the individual. A burger joint wants you to eat as many burgers as possible and doesn’t care about your self-esteem if you get fat. An YouTube channel creator wants you to watch as many of his videos. He doesn’t care if you are procrastinating on something that absolutely must be done. A computer gaming company wants you to keep playing their game and they’re not going to stop you if you’ve played too much. No. They’re simply going to sell you more games.
We live in a reality where the engines of economy are working because you and I want to escape our problems to something more pleasant. Albeit this is sex (especially pornography) or food or mindless television, all of this leads to consumption.
I would like to ask you one thing. Imagine that everyone in your country would start living a good and effective life. Everyone would save money instead of spending it to get a jolt of happiness. Everyone would exercise and eat healthy, raw food. Everyone would go for a run instead of watching mindless TV. Everyone would sit in parks and libraries reading philosophy and bettering themselves (or just reading, period) instead of gossiping about others.
What would happen to the economy?
How many days would you give it until it would crash? One month? Six months?
Virtually all modern economy would go to hell. Most restaurants would close. Most bars would close. 75% of all Fortune 1000 companies would go bankrupt. The world would be a very different place to today. The big tabac, alcohol and food companies would go bankrupt. The government would not have means to pay salaries and pensions anymore. The hospitals would have to close as there’s not enough income to keep them open.
This is a sad fact about reality but the motion of the world is kept into momentum by bad decisions. You as an individual taking decisions that are not good for yourself is good for the economy and as an society as a whole. You killing yourself slowly creates wealth and money for other people. You watching a mindless YouTube video puts the bread on the table for a family of three that is working at that company or is working at YouTube.
Once you realize this, you also realize how fucked up society ends up to be. It is all basic economics. Look at the top 1000 Fortune companies and ask yourself if their products are improving your life in a real manner or are just keeping you away from doing what must be done. Ask yourself if in the short and long term, a company that sells you fries and coke is doing you well or bad. For me, body fat and teeth cavities are a bad thing.
I used to laugh when people talked with me about the matrix and how society works. I looked at them and thought “you’re a paranoid idiot”. Then I’ve got into business and started understanding the mechanisms behind everything and how there’s a lot more money to be made by catering to people’s weaknesses than their strengths. Of course, the moral justification to this is the that each person is free to do whatever the heck he wants. A person defending this system would say “you are in no position to tell me what is good for me or not. You believing that exercising is better than watching YouTube videos is just a personal prejudice and I decide what’s good for me”.
And that would be true. It is a personal prejudice. Personal improvement is not mandated by law. There are laws to not kill people but there are no laws to not kill yourself. There are laws that say you can’t harm on others but no laws that say you can’t harm on yourself. Yet, let’s be honest, that free arbiter tends up to be just a justification, just another form of escapism. While I don’t expect everyone to want to be a Fortune 500 CEO, I guess most people agree that healthy is better than not healthy and relatively intelligent is better than relatively stupid.
You worrying is good for the economy. You’ll end up buying more insurance and get a new credit card with a bigger limit. You having poor self esteem is good for the economy. You’ll run to the shopping mall and spend half your salary on clothes that do not change the perceptions other have on you not a bit. You not facing your problems is good for the economy. Video games company will sell you tools to keep you entertained for weeks. Video streaming companies will provide you with a limitless number of TV shows and movies to keep you along. YouTube will provide you with as much mindless entertainment that you can go.
So it is you not having any friends. It’s okay. Your friends at Facebook can solve this by giving you the illusion that you’re maintaining healthy social relationships with people that you may have never met, while in real life, you haven’t felt a hug for weeks or months.
You being weak is good for the greater good because a weak person is a good consumer. A weak person is reactive to the environment and will generally reacting by investing into something that’s high on pleasure (to act as leverage against the pain) and low on utility. But, the problem is that you’re not living for your society and you’re not just a pawn to be sacrificed in order for the gears of economy to work. You are living your life for the sake of your own life and maybe you should start taking decisions to benefit you, in a real manner.
And yes, I know how ironic is for someone specialized in sales and direct response copywriting to say this.