Stop being stupid, start being smart

Seth, talking about media. But he could be talking about everything — leadership, self-improvement.

The first step is to stop taking the bait. The second step is to say, “follow me.”

Leadership is obvious. If you want to lead, if you want to make a change in others’ lives (or let’s be correct here–create conditions that help others change their own lives), it’s a two-step process:

  • Stop doing the obvious dumb shit; then
  • Start doing the obvious smart stuff.

The obvious smart stuff is usually boring. Not sensational. Not immediately rewarding, except for its own sake.

The obvious smart stuff is not intellectually challenging. It’s block and tackle. Its simple. It’s learning how to add really really well, knowing that with that foundation will help you do calculus later.

The obvious smart stuff is usually obvious. Just look at what has worked for a long, long time. If people had an attitude and process two thousand years ago and we are still talking about it and using it today, the fact that this concept survived means it has value. I’m looking at you, Marcus Aurelius. But I could just as easily be looking at The Carpenter.

Or if you get your knickers all twisted when thinking about a long-ago person,* just ask yourself “what would my grandmother do?” She probably would have done something simple, practical, and decent. Do that.

You can’t see the obvious unless you sit, quietly, and allow the shiny distractions to spin away by themselves. What remains is what has always been true, and will always be true.

Carl Icahn’s twitter profile says it well:

Some people get rich studying artificial intelligence. Me, I make money studying natural stupidity.

If all you do is make a study of others’ stupidity–and avoid doing what they’re doing, you will be fine.

And the same for your own stupidity. Don’t try to be a genius. Just try to be not stupid.

Seth is telling you how to make change in society–combatting the corrosive effects of media.

All I’m saying here is that you can use the same process to change yourself. Stop the corrosion of self.

* By the way. On any given day I get my knickers twisted about dead people and what they wrote. I just worked my way through a real “contempt prior to investigation” block recently.

Seneca. Go read what people say about him–his personal life vs what he wrote. I realized that I could think him to be a hypocrite. Or I could think him to be a saint. It doesn’t matter to him–he’s dead. He doesn’t care what I think.

But what I think affects my life. And if I read what he wrote, and give appreciation to those thoughts, I improve. My life is better.

Conversely, if I refuse to read his essays because of what I think about what other people have written about what they say Seneca did 2,000 years ago, who is harmed? Me. For missing out on new ideas.

And how do I feel, while self-righteously judging a man dead for two millennia? Self-righteous. And we all know where that leads, sooner rather than later. That’s right–my own head gets more and more inflated with my own sense of grandeur until it explodes.