“If you’re not rich by 35, nobody will pity you.” – Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba
One thing I’ve noticed during my short stint on this earth is everyone’s priority on their own self-interests. On the outside, they will appear like they are team players and care about you, but at the end of the day, they are looking out for themselves. Obviously, close family members are the exception, but for the majority of society, self-interest trumps everything.
I recently read the book When Smart People Fail, and at one point a top-level executive describes his fall from grace. In his role, he had lots of friends and acquaintances who he dealt with on a daily basis. At one point he got fired from his position, and he was expecting most of these people to reach out to offer their sympathies. Instead, however, he said the opposite occurred. I’ll never forget the line. He said, “The vast majority were completely indifferent.”
Whoa. Think about that. Think about how many people you deal with on a daily basis. If you got fired from your job or stopped providing your product or service, would these people even care? Or would they take in the information, adjust, and move on to the next person who can provide it?
Why nobody gives a fuck what you do is because if you’re not doing something only you can do, you are interchangeable.
Your family and friends care, but they just care that you are safe and surviving. If you can sustain yourself without being a burden on them, they’re happy. If you just live in mediocrity the rest of your life, the vast majority will not spend an ounce of energy worrying about it.
In A Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl told the story about how once he got out of the concentration camps in Germany, he went back to the town where he lived. He saw some familiar faces, and started to tell them about how he survived the concentration camp, and how it was a miracle. Instead of his friends being elated for him, one of them just said, “Yea, it’s been bad for everybody.” Here Victor was, happy to just survive the camp, while the people he knew just downplayed the whole thing; essentially telling him he wasn’t special just because he survived a concentration camp.
This is the reason we need to start taking control of our own lives.
Nobody will tell you what to do, and nobody will get you where you want to be. When we grew up, we didn’t have a say where we lived. We went to the school closest to us, and our best friends were in our closest proximity. As we got older though, we can’t use that as an excuse anymore. In our 20’s and 30’s, we really start to see what we’re made of.
If we attempt to start a business and fail, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else, nobody will care. But if you do create something successful, the only thing the majority will care about is what value you can provide to make their lives better or easier. Who you are, where you came from and what your name is doesn’t matter.
If Mark Zuckerberg didn’t create Facebook, his family would be completely happy with finishing school, getting a job, and making money until the day he died. But while everybody else was partying, he was analyzing the world. Instead of just being another number, he realized he could create something that people would use. Nobody told him to do this, nobody could have foreseen it, and nobody cared what his name was.
The bottom line is: Are you an asset? It’s funny how we’re all walking around on this big, spinning rock in this vast galaxy, striving to achieve our society’s idea of success. It makes no sense what it’s all for, but there are rules to the game. And if you don’t play the game, there is no way you can win. Once we realize that nobody cares what we do, that’s when we can develop the freedom to look inside ourselves and figure out what is important to us. That’s when we realize the future is limitless.
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