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Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Simple Points for Those Who Insist We Are Hopeless Pawns

Let go of your self-fulfilling pessimism.

1) No matter how legitimately frustrated you are, you’re not going to accomplish anything productive by buying into a self-defeating philosophy that says “We’re all hopelessly screwed and nothing we do matters.” 

That’s not just a personal opinion. That’s basic logic. You can’t get something done unless you actually do something. If you don’t do anything, it makes zero sense to speak of getting anything done. You have the right to speak this way, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re some kind of revolutionary just because you’ve decided to stop participating in discussions about how to accomplish unconventional results.

2) Acknowledge the existence of bad stuff, but never ever use that as an excuse to stop trying to create good stuff.

Whenever I make any statement about how we’re not hopelessly screwed, I always attract people who feel the need to inform me of the latest news headline involving some sad or tragic story.

Don’t think you’re a revolutionary because you’ve decided to stop participating in discussions about how to accomplish unconventional results.It’s as if people think I’m going to say “What am I doing? We ARE hopelessly screwed! I just needed to hear ONE MORE story about some politician who was caught with their pants down before I could see the light! I totally get it now. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to stop working out, stop studying, stop working on my business, stop promoting entrepreneurship as a theory of social change, stop improving myself, stop trying to inspire others to improve themselves, stop being moved by art, stop creating value for my clients, stop teaching young people how to think critically, and stop trying to come up with new game-changing ideas. Instead I’m going to just go sit in a corner and spend the rest of my life letting CNN or whoever tell me what else I should be afraid of.”

Sorry guys. The latest headline doesn’t change the fact that we still need to get off our asses and get creative if we’re ever going to make progress. Self-determinism isn’t about denying or ignoring the existence of evil, corruption, and unfairness. It’s about refusing to give up. It’s about being the kind of person who insists on fighting for creativity and freedom until you’ve taken your final breath.

I get the whole idea about complaining being a potentially therapeutic and valuable exercise, but at some point you have to decide if you’re just going to be a person who only complains or if you’re going to be someone who complains AND creates.

3) A freer society is only possible through the efforts of those who try to do new things even if that comes with the risk of failing and being wrong. The act of trying to innovate around inefficient or oppressive systems is always a better alternative to doing nothing other than complaining about corrupt politicians.

Creativity never happens in a vacuum. Wherever creativity is expressed, it is also challenged or opposed. There is no such thing as being creative without having to deal with contrast, resistance, or discrepancy. Any efforts to create a freer society necessarily involves the determination to try new and risky things while simultaneously having to deal with a whole lot of unfair bullshit. There is no way around this. Creativity isn’t for people who need everything to be neat, fair, and promising. It’s for people who are willing to work their asses off even when things are shitty and stacked against them.

Don’t make life a false dichotomy between having zero power and having infinite power.I’m not saying “we can do anything we put our minds to” or “follow your dreams, kids” or “the world is a really magical place where wonderful things will happen to those who trust in the fairies and elves.” I’m saying we will never achieve any form of progress by adopting philosophies that tell us we have no choice in life other than to sit back and accept the fact that we’re all screwed beyond hope.

Don’t make life a false dichotomy between having zero power and having infinite power. Of course, we have limitations.  But you don’t have to believe that human power is unlimited in order to believe that it’s possible to reclaim some of your power if you’re willing to think critically, courageously, and creatively.

Instead of wasting your time bemoaning the fact that we can’t always get everything we want, start trying to figure out how you can reclaim just a tiny fraction of your creative power. You don’t need to be omnipotent. You just need to work and do something other than complain about how hard life is.

This first appeared at the author’s blog.

  • T.K. Coleman is the Education Director at FEE and a co-host for The Minimalists Podcast.