If you have an active dog, training it to go to its crate on command can save you a TON of hassle, because whenever the dog gets too worked up or hyper, there’s an immediate place to send it to cool off, drink some water, play with a toy and relax its brain.
But with a hyper dog, this training takes diligence. And it’s easier just to tie the dog up and walk away. Even if 2-4 weeks of solid training can save someone years of…ten minutes messed up here, ten minutes messed up there, a chewed up sofa here…most people are unlikely to make that investment.
(yes, all dogs are different, yes, some are easier to train than others, no, this isn’t about shaming people who haven’t paid for expensive dog schools)
The same can be true of my own inner hyper dog. My habits, my goals, my daily choices, are easier to just push to the side rather than make real, substantive changes in.
Recently, the Farnam Street blog, which I have found immeasurably valuable, shared a pamphlet written for life insurance salesmen called “the common denominator of success.”
My first thought was “what is Farnam Street doing sharing this stuff?”
And then I read it, and I was struck by how it framed a couple of things. Be prepared for some Mad Men era success talk:
“Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods and are inclined to be satisfied with such results as can be obtained by doing things they like to do.”
I’m not one to so easily divide people into camps of success and failure. And yet. This struck home with me, because there’s a real difference between trying to get the results you want and trying to create a situation where you can keep doing things you like. Trying to retain your current level of comfort.
This gets VERY true in the creative fields, I believe, not just after someone has moderate success but even when someone achieves moderate praise. The intuition is to cling to what has elevated you.
But it was this passage that really got me.
“Many men with whom I have discussed this common denominator of success have said at this point, “But I have a family to support and I have to have a living for my family and myself. Isn’t that enough of a purpose?” No, it isn’t. It isn’t a sufficiently strong purpose to make you form the habit of doing the things you don’t like to do for the very simple reasons that it is easier to adjust ourselves to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one.”
That was a smack in the face. A good one. It’s easier to accept the status quo – even if the status quo is one of struggle – than it is to create meaningful change.
Look, I’m not of the theory that everyone who struggles does so because they’re too lazy to change their situation. Privilege is a real thing, and I have a bunch of it.
But if we were to NARROW this statement to a slightly more particular scenario: I must ask myself – IF there were room in my life to create change for the better, AM I doing the things that will get that result? Or am I just battling to maintain the current status? To NOT LOSE?
Am I going to train the dog, or am I going to just tie it up?