Once, a friend asked me what I expected to happen in the next 10 years. When I made my best guess, he observed that it sounded like I was narrating the work of other people, rather than placing myself in the narrative.
I’d say this is one of the main mental blocks I’ve been working on.
Normally, I mentally bucket everything into two categories: things I can change, and things I can’t. If I can’t change something, it’s not worth thinking about, so I push it out of my mind. Then I just focus on the things that are under my control and do the best I can.
And I mean, this isn’t an awful strategy. It works fantastically for video games. You can’t change how video games work. Everyone gets the same source code, and although there might be exploits within that code, you can’t change the code itself. The systems of the game are God, and what happens happens. If you have disagreements with a game’s systems, you’re better off finding another game instead of trying to change them.
In the real world, the systems are not God. They could be fair or cruel, well-reasoned or nonsensical, but they aren’t static. We made those systems, and we can change them too. Sometimes I forget that and overoptimize according to rules that shouldn’t exist.
I think some people don’t have this issue. They have some base level of arrogance that if the world doesn’t work the way they think it should, then they’ll spend their time trying to change the world until it aligns with their expectations.
Here is an example: suppose there’s a person that only cares about squirrels. They think they’re super neat, and want more! They want squirrels everywhere.
Most people do not care about squirrels. The world is not set up to reward squirrel enthusiasm. And this hypothetical person could accept that the world just doesn’t work the way they want it to, and go on their merry way, and honestly, their life will probably be just fine. Alternatively, they could write essays and give speeches and cold-email environmentalists explaining why squirrels are excellent. This will probably piss off a bunch of people who don’t want to listen to the crazy squirrel advocate give Yet Another Squirrel Stump Speech, but it’ll drum up support too. Maybe their dreams of a squirrel-filled world will come true. Maybe they won’t. But no one can say they didn’t try to make the world care more about squirrels.
Yes, okay, this is a silly example. However, to me the broad strokes describe pretty much every successful political movement. At its core, politics is a contest over how the world should work.
Basically, if the status quo sucks, you don’t have to just complain about it with your friends. I mean, you should totally still complain about it. Complaining is fun, and if you have friends that push back on your BS, you’ll learn if your complaints are justified. But after you’re done with that, you can (and should) take agency to fix it. Like, actually fix it. Don’t stop after you come up with the first reason things can’t be better. Or the second, or third.
My guess is that most people reading this have more power than they realize. Not every battle is worth fighting, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the battles you could be fighting.