1. Whose Fault it is
Imagine this. You’re babysitting two kids. Hell, maybe it’s your own kids. And they’re running around shoving each other and doing usual obnoxious kid things. Then suddenly you hear a crash. You run into the room, and the super sacred $5 billion dollar vase that Grandma made with her bare hands during the holocaust was knocked off a table and broke into a thousand pieces.
Hey everyone, let’s play the blame game.
The two kids immediately point to each other and blame the other. They present their cases. They start whining and cutting each other off. Now, let’s say one of them seems to have a more likely story. Let’s say one of them is a little violent shithead and you have a hunch that it’s probably his fault anyway. What do you do?
Nothing. You either punish them both, or do nothing.
None of this changes the fact that both of them were running around and being reckless around nice, precious objects. None of this changes the fact that theoretically, both were behaving negligently enough to cause destruction. It also doesn’t change the fact that the vase is broken and is never coming back. One could even argue that it’s your fault for putting such a valuable item in a vulnerable place around kids (idiot.)
We spend a lot of our time and effort looking for whose fault something is, even when it doesn’t matter. You order a cod at a nice restaurant that is undercooked and sucks. You want to blame the chef so you call the manager over and go on a tirade. But who knows, maybe the cod was poorly prepared by the sous chef, or the manager himself didn’t store the cod correctly the night before. Or maybe they tried buying from a shitty supplier. Or maybe there’s a poor system of communication in the restaurant and so misunderstandings are prevalent and this affects how the food is prepared.
But no, the chef sucks, fuck him. Fire him.
As humans we all enjoy a scapegoat; we need a scapegoat. You see this most often with government. An entire bureaucratic system may be fucked up, causing continuous waste and inefficiency. So what happens? A few people get blamed and fired and the system continues. The public is satisfied. Someone is blamed and punished, so everything must be right again? Wrong.
There are times when it’s important to know whose fault it is. Like when engaging in chemical warfare. Or finding out who pissed on the toilet seat. But in most of the cases of our lives, it’s an inconsequential distraction. And it’s based largely on ego gratification and little on actual life improvement. What’s done is done. Accept it and move on.
2. Celebrity and Sports Gossip
These people directly affect your life in absolutely no way whatsoever. Your obsession and investment in them is worse than harmless entertainment, it is a way to live vicariously through the idealizations of who you wish you could be — if only you weren’t so afraid to get off the couch and actually do something. Yeah, there, I said it.
Or as Lil’ Wayne once said, when asked if he was concerned that people may look to him on how to live: “If you need a rapper to tell you how to live your life, then maybe you ain’t got no life.”
3. Sexual Jealousy
A lot of people get jealous and possessive in relationships. They don’t like their partner talking with someone else, or hanging out with members of the opposite sex without them. Some people get even crazier. They get jealous about things that happened before they met their partner. They get jealous about things that might happen in the future. Hell, they get jealous about things that didn’t happen but could have happened.
Sexual jealousy is a waste of energy and toxic for your relationship.
It’s really simple: either you trust your partner or you don’t.
If you trust your partner, then shut your mouth. If you don’t trust your partner, do everyone a favor and dump them.
“Well, what if I trust them but they lie to me anyway?”
Then trust that one day you will find out. Dishonest people cannot hide their dishonesty forever. Eventually it will surface and be obvious. And on that day, dump them.
The worst part of sexual jealousy is that it drives your partner to commit the exact actions in which you’re trying to prevent them from doing in the first place. Imagine you’re dating somebody and this person is insanely jealous. Everything you do they accuse you of lying to them or sneaking around behind their back. Every person of the opposite sex you speak to they accuse you of flirting or freak out that you’re sleeping with 10 other people.
What’s stopping you from actually cheating then? I mean, you’re going to get yelled at whether you’re honest or not. Apparently they believe you’re a dishonest person anyway, so you may as well get the benefits from being dishonest, right? What’s stopping you from cheating? Not much.
4. Being Right
There’s an old saying, “The man who knows everything learns nothing.” Let go of the need to always be right. This one is really simple. How do you learn and improve and become a better person? That’s right, by being wrong about stuff. So try to be wrong about stuff a little more often.
Besides, nothing’s more annoying than somebody who will argue to the death over some inane detail that doesn’t matter anyway. I like to punch those people.
(OK, I don’t really, but it sounded cool to write that. Don’t forget to share this article on Facebook and tell all your friends how this one dude punches people who annoy him and how awesome that is.)
5. National Politics
Pop quiz: name your town’s mayor and one representative to the state legislature.
No? Then please shut up about Bush and/or Obama.
Our lives are more directly affected by the results of local politics, yet nobody cares except old people, religious nuts and conspiracy theorists. Instead, we all want to focus on the big stage. In the US, there’s particular weight and importance placed on the US President, someone who ultimately wields less power than Congress, the Federal Reserve, or in some cases, the Supreme Court. But the president is an easily consumable personality. He’s easy to argue about and to blame for everything (see #1), when really the fucked up roads by your house, the poor medical funding, the zoning laws that are screwing up your neighborhood, the education crisis and the disaster relief are all city and state issues that you’re all but ignoring.
National politics matter, but they are given a disproportionate amount of attention and importance. National politics drive profits for the national media markets, therefore they get the air play. Since they get the air play, everyone loses their shit over them.
6. Trying to Impress Other People
If you’ve read this site at all in the last two years, you know how far this doesn’t get you. Take a moment and think back to the three most embarrassing moments in recent memory. Let me guess, at least two of them happened while trying to impress someone. Funny how that works.
Trying to impress other people is a natural human trait. We all want to put our best foot forward. The reason trying to impress people rarely works out very well is because human beings are wired to not simply look at surface-level behaviors when judging another person’s character, but to also look at their intentions and motivations for each behavior. So you can do a cool action, but if you’re doing it because you’re insecure and want people to like you, people will see through it and find you annoying. See: Bono from U2.
This is why one-uppers — people who take what you say and then tell you how they’ve done something bigger or better than that — are so annoying. They’re trying to impress us, to dominate us, to show superiority over us. And the fact that they’re trying to be superior proves to us that they’re not.
8. Being Offended
There are some people in this world who seem to believe that they have the right to never be offended, ever. This drives me crazy. Part of freedom of expression is that some people, some times, are going to annoy you or offend you. That’s part of life. And unless you’re inciting people to commit acts of violence, then you really can’t tell them not to.
Being offended is a choice. It’s the difference between getting upset about an insult and simply laughing it off. It’s the difference between trying to silence somebody else and simply acknowledging that they have different values than you do, even if those values are really fucked up.
I get comments on this blog all the time that I find offensive. I almost never delete them. Recently, I had a guy who made a sexist comment about women (the comment was to an article about dating, what a coincidence.) Instead of getting up in arms about it, I simply informed him that I thought he was an idiot. I probably offended him back. And now we’re not friends. It’s amazing how a free society works.
9. The Fact that I skipped Number 7 on this list
Get over it.
10. Buying a Bunch of “Nice” Stuff
I’ll spare you the Fight Club spiel. I’ve already written at length about how owning more possessions can limit your identity and happiness, and how wealth is determined by the quality of your experiences and not your assets.
But let’s look at this from a more practical point of view. What’s the point of buying a bunch of nice crap? 1) To impress other people. 2) To feel better about yourself.
We’ve already covered how well impressing people goes over. (Spoiler Alert: Not well.) Not to mention, what you’re also concurrently inspiring jealousy from other people, which just turns nice people into assholes. And then you might get offended! So that’s no good.
But let’s look at feeling better about yourself. There’s mounds of psychological research showing that materialism leads to greater rates of depression and less happiness in people. There’s a reason the US has some of the highest rates of depression and anxiety disorders in the developed world. That dependence on external validation to feel good about one’s self causes low self esteem and makes you miserable. So let’s just leave it at that.
Sure, buying luxury items can be cool and enjoyable. If you’ve got the money to throw around, there’s nothing wrong with it. But basing your identity and self-worth on the quality of your possessions and how those possessions stack up to others is a losing battle. Even if you win and have the biggest toys, you lose.
11. Waiting in line for 36 hours to buy some new product the day it’s released
Seriously, don’t you have something better to do? And if not, isn’t that a problem?
Go home, the iPhone 5 will still be there tomorrow.
12. Hiding Your Flaws
People fall in love with each other’s rough edges. Paradoxically, it’s our flaws and vulnerabilities that make us unique and endearing towards others. The more we’re willing to reveal where we come up short, the more intimacy and connection we’ll generate in our personal lives, and the happier and healthier we’ll be in the long run.
I’ve written at length on vulnerability, and a few years ago I based an entire book on the idea. But it really is amazing how our culture encourages more and more to live up to some impossible ideal, some empty vessel of perfection.
Of all people Mike Tyson recently said, “Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re successful.” You could replace “famous” in that sentence with “rich,” “beautiful,” “popular,” “intelligent” or a myriad of other adjectives.
Where does real success come from? It comes from being satisfied — not because you’ve reached some pinnacle or final destination of success — but satisfied with that constant process of improvement. It’s recognizing that life is riddled with faults and mistakes and appreciating them as much as the successes. Because when you appreciate your faults, they lose their power over you. Instead of your weakness they become your strength. And ironically, they’ll draw other people into you more than ever before.