A couple of months ago I bumped coincidentally into a remote family member at a railway station during a cycling tour.
I hadn’t seen this person for several years, so I didn’t recognize him at once as I turned round, he gazed at me shortly (somewhat surprised), apologized, and hurried to his train without any further words exchanged.
Sure enough, I had no actual interest to talk to this person, and it didn’t make a difference at all if he recognized me. The reason: I ghosted this family member many years ago since I couldn’t stand his passive-aggressive behavior and his substantial emotional problems any more (but that is a different story and not the topic in this article).
So far not remarkable. A lot of people have bad, mentally unstable or even toxic persons in their family periphery, which are better to be avoided.
But the mere shock was actually the appearance of this guy. Overweight, neglected-looking, unkempt, awkward and in no way relaxed in his motions. The kind of guy someone mean-spirited would pick out to bully, because he is an easy target for this (a short glance at him was enough to know it).
He didn’t present himself always in that pitiful condition (I knew by remarks here and there that he had problems with his career and his romantic life too). We grew up very similar, went to the same school, had an equal education, almost identical environment, the same friends.
As we were in our mid-20s, our paths yet separated as we decided to move to different cities. In the following years, things turned out rather good for me, but not for him, though we had seemingly very similar starting points. But what was the reason for this?
“Every decision is a slight edge decision”
I stumbled over an interesting book recently – The slight edge (author: Jeff Olsen). The best books tell you always what you already know, and the abstract of the core-concepts of this insightful work can be rendered as follows:
Successful people do the little disciplines – the disciplines that are easy to do, but are also easy not to do (like reading ten pages of a good book every day, or choose healthy instead of crappy food) – over and over and over again.
But important is good knowledge and a good philosophy, wherefrom one transfers learned knowledge into activity knowledge. Unsuccessful people usually don’t take much action because they fear failure and rejection.
Successful people do these little things over and over and over again, and eventually the compound-effect kicks in and makes them far ahead of any competition.
They are always taking full responsibility for their actions however the results turn out to be at the end, even if that seems not entirely fair at times.
The people you are associate with the most are crucial for your eventual success.
“You are the combined average of the five people you associate with the most”
Of course that is not my phrase. The Stoic philosopher Epictetus used it first probably, and you will have read it at times in books about self-improvement and -development.
For good reason.
Let’s get back to the mentioned family member here. Why did things turn out rather bad for him? Why is he worse off than me?
Because he hung out with the losers and the people without ambitions, and because he had a certain animosity towards people which were more career-orientated.
I remember vividly that one of his favorite preoccupations was surfing the net, social media in particular. He did that daily now, and for innumerable hours (while I was beginning working out a little on a regular basis).
As he was no longer living with his mother, his diet was now for the most part crappy and cheap carbohydrates, which he consumed regularly (while I made my first try as a cook; I am meanwhile a decent cook who loves to create his own food).
While I spurred my career through training, language courses and plenty of books (most of this was an iterative process and not very effective in the first place), he bellyached about minor stuff, blamed others for his failures, and abandoned one course after another.
Certainly, this didn’t make him a “failure” in a week or six months, but over a decade the visible effects of the slight edge were overwhelming.
He cared less and less about his appearance over the years. And seemingly he hadn’t made any effort to improve his vibe, as he still made the impression of not being relaxed, distressed and somehow disgusted by his surroundings.
Please remember, we had almost the exact same starting point, but his philosophy was bad, mine was good. I wasn’t superior in intelligence, looks or whatever. The only difference was my philosophy and the small things, that I did over and over again on a daily basis for years to come.
“If information and technology was the answer, there would be no problems”
A great paradox is, that though there is more information available than has ever been, the people are not better off in this era compared to a few decades ago.
People are more depressed, more overweight, they have crappy relationships, and fill their day with silly distractions like social media, porn, and video games (sometimes referred to as “instant gratification”).
There is something what information makes work for a minority of people, but not for the majority. One have to change the environments and associations to make them work.
But the slow way to success is unpopular. One can hardly sell anything with such an approach.