Going against the current can save your life

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash

Look around.

What do you see?

I see crowds joining the rat race, competing for scarce resources, and trying hard to keep up with the Joneses, all in order to achieve…mediocrity.

I see talented individuals with lots of potential surviving on the leftovers of the opulent society, pursuing the same old goals with minimal rewards. I see wastage, conformism, and apathy.

What I don’t see is people following their own path, pursuing their passion, escaping the 9–5 trap, thinking for themselves. I don’t see originality, independence, or guts. I don’t see the spark they used to have when they were younger and were able to dream.

I am a contrarian. I believe in human potential, unlimited growth, freedom, independence, risk, and lifelong learning. I believe that working for the man, getting a mortgage, watching TV 3 hours a day and getting drunk at the BBQ every weekend, is not the way to a happy and fulfilling life.

There is so much to learn, to improve, to share, to say, to invent, to write, and to live that settling for a mediocre existence is a terrible waste.

There is a difference between acceptance and resignation. Acceptance is appreciating what you have and be content with it but still look for ways to improve. Resignation is throwing the towel in, settling for unhappiness and quiet desperation.

It means questioning everything in your own life, in society and constantly wonder if there is another way.

Examples:

  • Most people get a college degree. What if you don’t?
  • Most people get a 9–5 job. What if you become your own boss?
  • Most people buy a house with a white picket fence. What if you rent?
  • Most people invest in their pension. What if you look for better alternatives?
  • Most people settle for comfort. What if you look for challenges?
  • Most people stop learning at 25. What if you never stop?
  • Most people are allergic to risk. What if you become comfortable with it?
  • Most people follow the standard diet. What if you find alternatives?
  • Most people watch Netflix every night. What if you read a book?

You get the picture. Clearly we are doing many things wrong as a society. Despite being affluent, we are not happy, healthy, or well off.

Why we settle for mediocrity?

We’ve been made to believe that comfort is the ultimate goal, the holy grail, the sure door to contentment.

It’s actually the opposite.

That nice car, the big house and that cosy job are what is making you miserable. The human mind and body are designed for challenges, for growth, and for improvement. By settling for comfort, you are spoiling your chances of a fulfilling life. Observe the Lyons in the zoo, is that what you want to become?

The moment we get some comfort, we get attached to it and we fear losing it. It becomes a constant threat and a source of chronic stress.

Fear is a very human emotion but it’s maladaptive. We developed it when we lived in the jungle and were surrounded by dangers. In modem society, there is no real danger, only imaginary, so we should get rid of that ancestral fear and live a full life.

Instead of worrying about losing your job, learn to pivot, develop some skills, and start a few side businesses.

It’s easier to learn how to make money than keep suffering about losing your job.

Standard education produces average citizens with average mentality. Education makes you a cog in the wheel, useful for the system at large but alienating for the individual. The system is there to make you believe you are a number and competing for the leftovers is the best way to have a good life.

That’s good for the system but, is it good for you?

In fact, it’s not even good for society either. The more mavericks, entrepreneurs, artists, thinkers, and innovators there are, the more value it’s produced.

We’ve been brought up to play safe, to avoid risk and to follow the rules but that’s a fallacy — the safer you play, the riskier it gets.

If you play not to lose, you lose

You rely on that safe job, as a middle bank manager, as your only source of income, but when you are made redundant at 50, what do you do? Play safe again?

Understanding and getting used to playing with risk is the safest way to live your life. They don’t teach you that at school.

Benefits of being a contrarian

  • It’s less crowded. Competition is fierce for mediocre jobs. Don’t compete, go where is empty and build your niche there
  • More opportunities. When everybody sells, you buy. When everybody buys, you sell. Property, stocks, or anything else, use buyer’s markets to your advantage and vice-versa. Surprisingly, people do exactly the opposite -buy high and sell low- but why?!
  • Becoming independent. By being a contrarian you learn how to handle risk, develop your abilities and become antifragile. Everything you do is an investment for the future. By becoming truly independent you can survive anywhere and do well.
  • Develop your intuition. By going against the grain, you have to rely on your wits, trust your instincts, and get to know yourself. Instead of outsourcing decision making to the crowd, you have to think for yourself and develop many skills that will become handy when you hit uncertainty.
  • Break the scripts. You’ve been fed with false narratives since you were little — study hard, go to college, find a good job, get a mortgage, pay you taxes, invest in your 401k, and so on. How did all that work for you? All that it’s a big lie, it doesn’t work, ask the millions that are unemployed now due to the recession. By being a contrarian, you protect yourself from all these dangers, spot the lie and create your own script, one that is actually useful.

Drawbacks of being a contrarian

  • It can get lonely. Safety in numbers is comfortable but going against the grain can be lonely. It’s the price to pay for freedom and independence. You can mitigate it by finding your tribe — like-minded individuals willing to connect — or, you can hang out with your normal friends, but don’t talk to them about your views, they wouldn’t understand. Some people can’t be saved.
  • It can be scary. Train yourself to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fear is part of life, get used to it, and learn to confront it otherwise, you’ll always live in fear.
  • Questioning. Have I taken the right decision? You have. Even if you fail, at least you’ll learn from it, what you want to avoid is indecision.
  • Exhaustion. Being a contrarian means always searching for opportunities and ways to improve. It can be exhausting. While others are relaxing on the sofa, you are constantly wondering. There are ways to control this perfectionism, like meditation or relaxation techniques. Learn to let go and avoid burn out

How to become a contrarian

  • Realize that you’ve been brainwashed since birth. Most of the things you regard as truth are just stories you’ve been told. Question everything, read good books, and challenge all dogmas.
  • Accept risk as a part of life. Everything is risky, especially safety. Get used to it and actively seek it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Every day, do something uncomfortable — public speaking, share your content, talk to a stranger — by doing so, you’ll become acclimatized to discomfort.
  • Confront your fears. Realize that failure, embarrassment or social ostracism is part and parcel of freedom and fulfillment. Besides, what you fear is never as bad as you think
  • Learn crowd psychology. In order to do the opposite, you have to understand how crowds work and what motivates them — basically fear and greed — Why people panic? When are they afraid? When they become greedy? By reading the situation and staying calm, you can time the market and benefit from it
  • Get inspired. Everyone you admire is a contrarian. Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Einstein, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Churchill, etc. You don’t get to change the world by being standard or average. You have to challenge the status quo and push the limits of what is possible
  • Realize that there are no limits. If people with less intelligence, resources, contacts, or skills have made it to the top, why not you? Realize that your biggest obstacle is your limiting beliefs. Get rid of those and the gates of opportunity will open for you.

Ways to be a contrarian

  • Don’t buy a house, rent.
  • Don’t get a car, cycle, Uber, or lease it.
  • Buy stocks when everybody is selling
  • Don’t get a job, work for yourself
  • Don’t get sick, live healthily
  • Take on fresh challenges every day
  • Keep learning till you die
  • Don’t watch the news
  • Read and write daily
  • Embarrass yourself often
  • Take calculated risks
  • Trust yourself. You will always land on your feet
  • Eat right. Don’t believe the hype. Do your research
  • Don’t get old. Refuse to age. Act and feel young
  • Live life to the full. Don’t hold back
  • Realize that you are going to die soon. Make the most of it
  • Don’t give a shit about other’s opinions
  • Be yourself

Conclusion

The world is a crowded place. By going to the beach during summer, to a bar on a Saturday night, or to Times Square for New Year’s eve you’ll be competing with millions for a piece of mediocrity.

Instead of following the well-trodden path, make your own. Surely it’ll be challenging at the beginning but then it will pay off many dividends.

Going against the grain is not easy but being a sheep isn’t either. Change your mindset and you’ll see a world full of opportunities instead of danger.

Unlearn your scripts and add new better ones. You only live once, you may as well choose how to.

Student of life. Trying to make sense of it all, be happy and help others achieve their dreams. Join me at: albertotheauthor@gmail.com

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