Raging against the machine is in my nature. It annoys me to no end when I read about injustices such as government raises during our recent implosion. I once skipped a morning of work to demonstrate against an apparel company which used racist slogans. Up yours Abercrombie! As I age, I’m discovering a more peaceful side that just accepts things the way they are.
There’s a lot of messed up things in the world such as war, poverty, and corruption. Some things we can try to explain, and some things we can’t. And yet, I wonder if every irrational thing has a rational reason? Let’s look at some examples and decide for yourself.
The Kid Who Just Wants To Have Fun
Everybody knows that grades start accumulating in the 9th grade, and without good grades and SAT scores, the chances of getting into a good college, and therefore landing a desirable job goes down. Is it really so bad that Johnny High doesn’t go to Yale, and become a rich physician? What’s so bad about community college and working for $20,000/yr at a dead end job which he enjoys? Nothing at all!
Johnny High’s decision to not study hard in high school is perfectly rational. He chose to have a whole lot of fun, while other kids were miserable studying and participating in extracurricular activities to boost their resumes. When he’s 35 years old and still working at his job with the same salary, he’ll think back at all the fun he had in high school and smile.
Who’s to say that being a multi-millionaire physician and going to Yale is good anyway? He could end up incredibly miserable, with tremendous amounts of anxiety everyday as a doctor. Instead, Johnny High chooses to live a more relaxing life, and doesn’t care about money. If he did care about money, he would have studied harder. And if Johnny starts to care about money, he may go to grad school and give himself another shot.
The Lady Who Loves To Eat
Two years ago, my friend Shirley at 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 205 pounds. She was considered obese, and didn’t have a boyfriend. Sure she was out of shape, and longed to have companionship, but what she loved more than anything else was pizza, strawberry frosted cupcakes, and Mountain Dew. Food was her first love, and everything else came second.
Shirley’s decision to eat herself into obesity is perfectly rational. Shirley is proud of her body just the way it is, and therefore continued to consume copious amounts of food. A year ago, Shirley asks if I’d like to work out with her once a week. I say sure, but why the sudden desire to exercise? She mentions there’s a guy that caught her fancy at a party, and she wants him to notice her.
Six months later, Shirley is down to 150 pounds, and is happily going out with her new man. Pizza and cupcakes are no longer Shirley’s first priority, he is.
The Chain Smoker Who Enjoys His Lucky Strikes
Smokers know that smoking damages the lungs, instigates cancer, and shortens lifespans. Yet, smokers smoke because the pleasure from smoking outweighs the long term detriments. Smokers are willing to accept the pain of lung cancer for the buzz of nicotine.
After spending $100 on cigarettes a month for years and coughing up blood for weeks, a relative of mine decided to quit. The desire to live long enough to see his daughter give birth outweighed his desire for nicotine. It’s been 6 years since he last lit up, and grandpa visits his granddaughter every Sunday.
The Consumer With Seven Credit Cards
People realize that credit card debt is the highest debt around, yet thousands still don’t pay off their debt in full every month. Credit card debtors are willing to pay 10%+ interest rates because the pleasure they derive from the items they buy outweigh the burden of debt.
Eventually, the pleasure from buying an incessant amount of useless things wears off. Unfortunately, the payments still remain. Some go cold turkey and cut up their credit cards, while others find second jobs to accelerate their debt repayments.
The Mediocre Blogger
Consistent blogging is hard. If you want to create one of the best blogs, you’ll spend hours a day trying to develop relationships with others. You’ll submit to every single carnival, write tons of guests posts, publish more frequently, be absolutely self-less in promoting others, respond to all your comments and buy an iPhone so you can become a Twitter and Facebook maniac to keep in touch with your readers.
Yet, you realize blogging is a hobby, which shouldn’t get in the way of a vacation, a relationship, or your full-time job, which is what really pays the bills and allows you to reach financial independence sooner. You don’t let blogging take over your life, especially if you are the obsessive type. It’s OK to step back and not publish as frequently. It’s OK not to be the most popular and get all the awards. Your main goals are to have fun, meet some new folks, learn, perhaps make a little money on the side, and find your own voice. I love having a mediocre blog, and so should you. It means we’re balanced!
The Defunct Politician
Corrupt politicians exist because we let them exist. We elect corrupt politicians into office and allow them to take advantage of the system for their own good. If we don’t like what they do, we vote them out. The people of Illinois did just that to ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich, and impeached him for wire fraud and bribery. We are pumped that 1,700 people from the Department of Transportation now make over $170,000/yr from only one, two years ago. If we weren’t, we’d cause a raucous. Instead, I went online to learn everything about becoming a DOT analyst!
The majority of people voted for George W. Bush that’s why he did a second term. He may not have found the WMD’s, and sent thousands of troops in harms way, but at least he kept America safe from further terrorist attacks since 9/11. Apparently, the Republicans caused this entire financial mess, and the people voted for change. Whose now to blame for 10.2% unemployment, one year later? It’s rational to assume that most Americans want bigger government involvement in our daily lives, massive budget deficits, and higher taxes.
The Miserable Employee
The miserable employee is OK with being abused, taken advantage of, and underpaid by her boss. Everyday she happily comes in knowing that it’s just another day in paradise. The miserable employee stays at her job because her fear of the unknown is much greater than the misery her work and boss brings.
Fast forward five years later, the miserable employee continues to stay miserable at her job so she never has to take any risks and therefore never has to fail. The miserable employee, if she were truly miserable, would have found a new job by now. All her complaining and whining is just smoke screen, as she secretly enjoys job security more than anything else.
The Absent Minded
Finally, ever forget to do something you tell yourself to do just moments earlier? Damn, I forgot what I was going to write…. Oh yeah, for example, if you forget to pay your bills on time, it’s because bills aren’t important to you, and you are willing to pay late fees. You forget your anniversary because you really don’t care about such things. If you did, you’d have a present ready for him or her and waiting!
The next time you feel there’s something you should remember but can’t, tell yourself this: The reason why you can’t remember is because the thing you’re supposed to do is not important. If it were important, you’d remember!
From the examples above, it sure seems like everything is rational. We do things which seem wrong to others, but really makes perfect sense. The next time you start feeling pity for someone or questioning their actions, don’t. Eventually, everything comes back to center. If not, it’s because things are fine just the way they are!
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Updated for 2017 and beyond.