7 Myths: How Life Plays Tricks on You

Here I listed up 7 things that turned out to be mere myths after 6 months of experience in Helsinki. I do not argue these are of universal truth in them, although I think they can apply in many contexts.

This is Hot

Following blindly what’s hot is a very good indicator that you lack good self-knowledge. In other words, you do not know what you want and in what places you might excel potentially. Hot— aka trendy—implies that it’s going to cool down anyway. If you’re really lucky, you might be able to ride the flow and win. Yet if it’s not the case, chances are very slim that you will win the game. Simply because you don’t understand the nature of hotness.

What’s hot, by definition, means that there are many people in the scene— competitors— or that at least many people who will most likely join, as they know of the potential. If there’s no luck with you and most importantly alignment between what you do around the hot spot and what you are good at, it’s an absolutely insurmountable job to pull off.

Remedy → you first gain enough self-knowledge; what you value, what you need and want, what you can do well potentially, what you cannot do well, and so forth.

English is not for me

This argument is of a little controversy. I think English per se has little value. English is a means. Thus it is a force multiplier rather than a force itself. It can amplify opportunities and the value of them. And an interesting fact is that the perceived benefits of learning English only emerge in the form of opportunity costs. This is because there’s no value, if you cannot use it. So you have to assume that you can use the language, and the question is “What can you really get out of it?”.

There are three benefits. One is that you lose a chance to tap into a 1-billion-people network which mostly consist of smart and interesting people, if natives are put aside. Two is that you lose an opportunity to get top-quality contents in the world. I do not know for sure about the exact number but I believe over 90 percent of contents of highest educational value are either produced in English or translated in English. The last one is that you lose a ticket for scaling your dreams globally. If you’re not fully capable in English, you’ve already set up a high-enough obstacle in whatever you want to do internationally.

Remedy Start looking for a right environment. Note that nothing beats a good environment in learning any language. Good language-learning environment is designed in such way that you can practice what you learned, get feedback on them, and are always motivated to learn even more. Toastmasters worked for me.

He’s dumb and she’s smart

I do not believe there are many people who purely deserve the label “dumb” or “smart”.  It’s not really a binary issue and there’s much distribution, when put under microscope. That is, standard deviation of intelligence is not as high as people normally assume. Don’t get me wrong. People will surely differ in intelligence, but the difference is often fairly marginal. Einsteins are few and far between. So are Forrest Gumps. One thing to mull over is that dumb and dummy are different. Dumb means that your brain doesn’t work as well. Dummy means that you don’t have good experience or knowledge in a particular field.

Everyone is a dummy in some topics, but not necessarily dumb. In most cases, if you think someone is dumb or smart, it’s because the guy is a dummy on that topic or not. So what’s my point? You’re most likely not dumb, so believe in yourself and keep pushing hard yourself out of dummy stage on the fields in which you’d like to excel.

Remedy Believe in yourself. You’re not dumb. Put in 5,000 – 10,000 hours to grow out of dummy stage. This takes a leap of faith and you really need to believe in yourself.

But… it’s different from my plan

As David Heinemeier of 37signals said, planning is guessing. In most cases, plans are just a rough extrapolation plus wishful thinking. If things go perfectly according to the plan, it means either of the following two. First is when you’re super lucky. This is very unlikely to happen. Second is when you set too low a goal. If you eliminate risks completely, there would be virtually no chance for failure. And you will end up achieving a lot less than you can. Thus you should never too seriously believe plans. Plans are needed but you should be prepared to kill them, whenever necessary.

Remedy Take plans more lightly. Think of a plan as one possible path out of many. One way to break your planning nature is to become highly goal-oriented. In this way, you will almost be forced to check your original plan at the door, to hit the mark most effectively. You will wind up walking different paths, but achieve what you want more effectively.

Networking is bad

Networking is bad, when it’s done just for the sake of networking. When people think of networking, they think some snobbish people handing out some business cards to set insincere and purely interest-based relationships. Yet whatever we do with other human beings, by definition, can be referred to as networking. I think there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve your life by trying to be surrounded with good people.

The lesson I’ve learned through experience is “you are the average of five people you spend most time with.”, as Reid Hoffman said. You might think this is morally controversial. Yet it does not mean you have to hang out only with those who are smart or intelligent or rich or you know who else. If they have a moral problem or lack a social intelligence somehow, the people are not worth spending much time with. Healthy networking  keeps you under good influence.

Remedy Deliberately engineer your environment where you can meet many passionate and positive people. I think you don’t have to particularly look for the smart. Those breeds with 2Ps turn out to be smart.  Just by learning to say no to those who harm you or discourage you to do what you want, you will end up in a better influence sphere.

Monopoly is bad

Monopoly sets a price higher and produce less than the socially optimal level. Monopoly does whatever it takes to eliminate competitors and does not innovate in the absence of incentives. Economics 101, right? We are taught to believe monopoly in and of itself is bad. In fact, monopoly per se isn’t bad at all. It’s just one form of relations to competitors. And monopoly means you can have an exclusive influence over a certain thing or more. Looking around, in fact there are many different kinds of monopoly. Apple has a monopoly in the minds of geeks and IT guys. So is mom-and-pop business at your town in the radius of 100 meters or so— yeah, sort of.

Monopoly means an irreplaceable value. This means you have to be unique in at least one thing, in order to guarantee your value. The flip side of the myth #6 is an old tenet that competition is good. Competition is actually, more often than not, a highway to mediocrity. People can easily ditch you for your competitors and above all, you are very likely to fall into the trap called heterogeneous homogeneity.

Remedy Completely rethink monopoly. Your goal is not to be yet another Rockefeller, but someone of a unique quality or skills. To find your own unique strength, you need to understand yourself. Oh… Socrates!

People care about me

Sorry. Most of us are nobody. Don’t get me wrong. There are people who genuinely care about us; Family and close friends. And the dirty truth is that, although we don’t want to believe, most of others are not really interested in us. They cannot find enough time to pay attention to you. And even if they seem to— think about when people do for celebrities— I believe it’s only when there’s something relevant to themselves.

Let me say again. You are nobody. So am I. So why care what others think? What do you really lose, if you fail? You should be smart enough to do something really bold and audacious, when you’re still in obscurity.

Remedy Accept the fact that you are still nobody. Think the worst thing that can happen to you and imagine what you really can lose, if you fail on something. If you can and are willing to accept the loss, courage and challenge will be your second name.

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