how your education and lifestyle keep you from changing


I thought this was an interesting 5-minute interview. I’ve listened to longer interviews with Vitale and I’ve concluded that although I might not like everything he does, he certainly seems to have his head screwed on right.

I spent some time looking for inspirational videos and music and whatnot over the last couple of days. I’ve been struggling with my client – in case that wasn’t obvious through my posts – and I think a lot of employees face these moments. I am not even an employee but I have times when I grasp the desk and wonder if I can grit my teeth through one more inane meeting.  Since I don’t have any long-term investment in the company, being patient with the fingernails-on-the-blackboard tenor of these meetings can be a challenge.

Two topics came up at work today: first, I opined that far too many of us (meaning corporate citizens) were planning on working until we die, with the odd luxury auto and plasma TV to console us along the way, and advertising and peer pressure combine to make us think this is normal.  Second, a co-worker expressed the idea that I’ve had before – namely, that a gargantuan and pervasive marketing push by higher education in America has convinced everyone that a college education is the be-all, end-all of the universe. I’m not so sure, as I’ve pointed out before, that being a college graduate is really worth it.  These two trends result in an overwhelming pressure on young people to get educations they can’t afford and then to remain stuck in jobs they don’t want to pay for those educations (and those luxury auto/plasma TV doodads).  Even if their educations are paid off, many people are afraid of “wasting” their education on a non-prestigious (i.e. non-corporate) job.  I think that most inspirational/motivational videos and books are aimed squarely at these people:  people who went too far down the path of the 9-to-5 life and are now looking for ways to get out of it.

Inspirational media has a comforting sameness, for the most part – everyone can accomplish everything, and the only sin is a lack of desire.  The one thing most inspirational videos fail to realize is that most people are deeply conflicted between realizing their spiritual/emotional/mental/physical potential and simply scraping by on the path of least resistance.  Knowing how to pull yourself out of settling for mediocrity is not easy for most of us.  Knowing that we should is something most of us need to start thinking about and learning, today.

12 comments

  • I think I agree with most of what you’re saying, but the “inspirational/motivational media” that is out there is just too damn salesy for me. It’s annoying, it’s cheesy (like you said: “you can do anything!”) and it tells people exactly what they want to hear. I think that good blogs (like this one) do so much more for people. They give the actual first step needed to go in the direction people want to go. This guy in the video wants to sell something. The people in the blogosphere want you to read their stuff — that’s a big difference.

  • I’m at work myself at the minute so can’t watch the video – I’ll have a peek later.

    The whole *you can do anything* self-help stuff is rubbish because (1) there are some things that you are not capable of doing, I don’t care how much you want it and (2) most of the rest you just aren’t going to do.

    I mean, I enjoy travelling. I would love to spend a year going round the world overland. I’m quite capable of doing it as well. But I’m almost certainly not going to, because I have other things that I want to do as well. Instead I’ll probably work a regular job and take exotic vacations every year. It’s not perfect, but it’s close enough. Where’s the self-help book that is that realistic?

  • I don’t think Plonkee has read the “the Secret”… 🙂

    So on this:
    “Even if their educations are paid off, many people are afraid of “wasting” their education on a non-prestigious (i.e. non-corporate) job.”

    Steve, am I right in thinking that you’ve worked mostly corporate? I ask because you obviously have that perspective. I work in non-profit, and I don’t know anyone who thinks they’re “wasting” anything (nor do they find their jobs non-prestigious). I think this is getting back to the title of this post in a way too – you are probably surrounded by corporate drones who loathe their jobs… and I’m surrounded by underpaid glorified interns who secretly wish they could sell out. 🙂
    But if anything, when I worked in corporate America, I thought I was wasting my life.

    But here’s what I’m thinking – a lot of people are average (or “mediocre”) and are happy with it. Or, they don’t hate it enough to change. Or, they pick their battles. Or some combination.

    I’ve been reading Pema Chodron lately – mostly because I’ve been searching for inspiration too. But unlike everyone else who says I need to make everything better, Pema tells me I need to just be.

    • deepali, yeah, I've worked solely in corporate jobs. Bubelah worked in a not-for-profit and swears – to this day – that it was the best job she ever had. I've actually hammered the UN with applications for a while now, so maybe I need to set my sights lower and find a local not-for-profit. But you're right – “just being” is probably the best way to approach life. Be happy with the way things are, not envious of the way things could be.

  • Working until you die sounds a lot more negative then it really is. To put this another way, do you really want to save your “best” days (assuming you hate your job that much) for when your health starts to deteriorate? I haven’t quite figured out how it should work, but a growing number of people are talking about “mini-retirements” when they’re young(er). If you don’t put off the fun for 40 years, why not extend your working years with regular breaks?

    Not only that, but people who are actually in retirement keep talking about needing something to do with their lives; not everyone is made for 24-7 entertainment. Taking those two ideas together, it doesn’t seem so bad to be doing something productive as long as you’re capable.

    Sure there’s some people who buy into a high paying job with the expectation that they’ll hate their life for a few years or decades, but once you’ve done what you need to do why not move on to something that’s actually interesting? In fact if it gives you a small income after you “retire” you don’t even need to stay at the hated job as long.

    On the main topic: A lot of this type of material goes way overboard, but I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that more people underestimate themselves than overestimate themselves so the overall message may not be that bad. On the other hand a lot of people “want” something as long as they don’t have to do anything to get it – probably because it wouldn’t mean that much to them if they did get it.

  • I know exactly how you’re thinking…. you’ve hit the nail on the head, I think, in some sense…. it’s definitely about how you frame it, but I think there’s a real point of sorts here. I can recall how much “happier” I was before I went to university. At the time I thought I was a slacker since I wasn’t following the traditional path. Now I’m on a very traditional path, pleased with it in a different sense, but definitely not having that carefree deeply happy feeling.

    One book I’d recommend is *Your Money Or Your Life* (I just wrote about this in a recent post).

    I do think college education can be supremely worth it if you know how to maximise it for what it can do effectively. I maximized mine to a substantial extent relative to where I was when I entered it. But I didn’t know all the options that I’m sure the more affluent and “connected” students had or knew about – you know, the 4th and 5th generation college kids. I was barely a first generation university student.

  • p.s. I just watched the video – it is good. Step 3 is very important. I must say I wasn’t impressed with The Secret but I do feel impressed by Joe Vitale.

  • I’m a college dropout and certainly unfamiliar with the corporate scene in any sense.

    So for me, The Secret is written for anyone limited by their own brain. This can be teenagers that work at oil change places or corporate people who work in suits every day.

    I once accepted that I was dumb because my best friend was “smart”. I once thought that I couldn’t draw or be artistic because that’s what my sister did.

    These are the limitations that Joe Vitale is talking about. People limit their true potential each and every day. I’ve never read his book, but I know what it’s based off of. “Think and Grow Rich” was written by Napoleon Hill back during the great depression and it carries with it the exact same points.

    You determine your life. If you’re satisfied with the 9 to 5 grind and working till you die, go for it.

    But if you want a more satisfying life, you can get it. If you want to let go of the social norms that say you need two SUVs, a plasma screen TV, and new clothes every month, you can.

    All this crap is just crap. It always was and it always will be.

    I work at home on a business I’ve built from the ground up. I didn’t need my college degree, so I quit. I feel a lot smarter, and am a lot happier without it.

    The problem is not that people don’t know what they want. It’s that they have absolutely no idea how to get it and are too afraid to think outside the box.

  • I’ve pretty much bounced around in a variety of jobs and have often done several consulting assignments simultaneously. It pays reasonably well, but I’ve rarely been a manager, worked at a well-known company, or held a prestigious title.

    That’s why I was flabbergasted last year when a former subordinate two decades my junior said, “I want a career like yours. You make enough money, and you’re doing so many different things that you’re never bored.” Perhaps many educated people just want the wrong things . . .

  • treadmill workouts

    Hmm – i don’t like inspirational media. I;m tired of “you can do it ” theme

  • I have just come to your website after hearing the NPR piece you participated in recently. I’m glad I did! I thought I was the only one thinking that college is not the panacea being sold. IMHO, with the internet really starting to get useful, education is dropping in value greatly. Heck, MIT has tons of courses recorded and on line! But the fees at Universities are not dropping in value.

    I think a cost-benefit analysis must be done before blindly signing up. Maybe if college were completely free of charge it would be worth the time and effort, for example. But not even in all cases.

    As for the successful guy in the video. I’ll need to learn more about him. Randomness plays a large role in our lives, and so it’s a little hard to accept any guru’s advice on how to succeed, but he seems interesting. Still, as Daniel Kahneman points out, “success=some talent + luck. Great success=some talent + a lot of luck”

  • deepali, yeah, I've worked solely in corporate jobs. Bubelah worked in a not-for-profit and swears – to this day – that it was the best job she ever had. I've actually hammered the UN with applications for a while now, so maybe I need to set my sights lower and find a local not-for-profit. But you're right – “just being” is probably the best way to approach life. Be happy with the way things are, not envious of the way things could be.