In the book, The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt writes about three “Untruths” infecting the minds of the up-and-coming generations…
Yes, the Millennials and “Gen-Z”.
(My worthiest goal since the beginning of the year has been to read at least book a week. This is one.)
– The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
– The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
– The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
The problems on college campuses have been covered ad nauseum.
My only “qualm” with the book, then, is this:
However exaggerated they may be, these “untruths” don’t just exist on college campuses.
They’re everywhere. People have (often unconsciously) always believed them in some way, shape or form.
They are popular because they’re comfortable. And don’t take much further thought.
The corollary “truths” to these ideas are also unsurprising. (Except #3. Most people won’t want to believe it.)
But they’re worth fleshing out.
To, at the very least, see how they might apply to your life today.
Thanks to Nietzsche, the first one is the easiest to debunk.
He’s turned it into a cliche.
FALSE: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
TRUTH: Anti-Fragility/Hormesis: Adversity builds strength. Chaos is your greatest mentor. Destruction is necessary. (The obstacle is the way.)
A friend recently said: “We begin searching for the meaning of life in comfort. We grow up when we find it in adversity.”
In the age of modern over-convenience, it’s a point worth hammering home: Growth comes from adversity.
Nature figured this out long ago.
Take the obvious example: exercise.
Exercise is deliberate damage to the body. If you looked under a microscope at muscle tissue during a workout, you might be appalled. The tissue is ripping and tearing. It’s total destruction.
Zoom in even further, maybe cells are screaming, packing their bags, cities are toppling over. Civilizations are being destroyed.
Then while you drink your protein shake, the survivors say, “We need to rebuild. We need to grow stronger.”
So they do.
It’s the most natural thing in the world. We see it all throughout history. Humanity is incredibly antifragile.
The worry is the modern world is breeding this impulse out of us.
Mostly because of the second untruth…
FALSE: The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
TRUE: Trust your feelings, yes. But not blindly.
Studies have, indeed, shown people who have a high trust in their feelings tend to be happier, better at making predictions, and make more money than those who don’t.
But it’s not as simple as just “trust your feelings.”
Feelings tend to represent large amounts of information about the world around you.
When you lack the knowledge necessary to make an informed opinion, says professor Michael Pham, your feelings can’t help.
Reason and feelings are symbiotic. You need both.
Obviously this applies in those times when reason betrays your feelings. (You feel like staying in bed all day, bingeing on Netflix, but you know it’s a bad idea.)
If something “feels right” for a reason you can’t verbalize, says Pham, you’re probably on the wrong track.
This takes the “woo-woo” out of your feelings. Demystifies them.
Again, none of this should be entirely surprising.
But this one might make you question how you view the world around you…
The Untruth of “Us Versus Them”: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
Comedian Norm Macdonald tweeted this…
If the world is a battlefield, Macdonald proposes, it’s one of “Good vs. Good.”
“This is actually really profound,” Scott Adams, creator extraordinaire of Dilbert says.
“This is the situation we find ourselves in. There are not two sides in which one is good and one is evil.
“There are two sides in which one feels that it is good, and it believes, incorrectly, that the other one is evil. But both are pretty sure that their version of the world is the good one.
The deeper truth is, and has always been, you’re in control of how you see the world. And how you look at it affects how you behave in it.
(Entrepreneurs see the world as a game of giving and receiving. Compare that to the diehard anti-capitalist socialist.)
Truth is always more effective than lies.
But, as always, the decision is yours.
[Listen to this; Artist “Akira” has created a hilarious video of Scott Adams’ “Good vs. Good” talk. See it here.]
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today