The Illusion of Control

One of the hardest things for people to understand and accept about their lives is that they are fundamentally not in charge of them.

We live in an uncertain world. We are surrounded by unreliable people. Indeed, we ourselves are unreliable. Our bodies are fragile; so, too, are our very minds. We cannot see the future; it is unpredictable. You couldn't account for every possible situation, even if you tried with both hands.

What makes a business work isn't the actual controlling of the future and the outcome, but the restriction of possible outcomes to acceptable parameters. And this can, when done right, look like you're in control of everything.

The only reason anyone knows how many times I've been late posting to this blog in the past six months is because I talk about it.

A few months ago, a friend of mine whinged at me that he had been in this industry for years and still wasn't making decent money. A couple days ago, he produced a video testimonial for another friend's product, in which he acts for all the world like he hasn't been trying and failing with one thing after another for years.

If you didn't know better, you'd think he walked off the street and bought that product and boom, he was successful.

Andrew "Dice" Clay
Badabing, the fuckin' thing's done.

This is, of course, bullshit. He wants you to buy the product. And chances are if you haven't got a few years of trying and failing under your belt, you don't have the experience and foresight he does. Will the product give you that? Will it work as well for you as it did for him?

Maybe. But he's not saying maybe, and neither will the vendor. They'll both say "yes."

Everybody is going around pretending to be in control. They're not. They've just figured out some way to make peace with not being in control. My friend with his video testimonial made peace with it by finding a little corner where he felt in control, and pretending it's the only place he ever was in this industry. He deludes himself into believing that, then goes out and tells other people.

This is a "scumbag brain" thing. Your brain will lie to you. It likes lying to you. It's easier than facing reality. It tries to deliver what you want. And that's a large part of how bullshit like "The Secret" works - confirmation bias.

If I focus on a thing, I will attract it into my life. Ooh, the thing I want is not coming into my life, I must not be focused enough. But look, there is a thing in my life - I must have been focusing on that!

"Law of Attraction," horoscopes, tarot reading, rune casting, psychic friends... same shit. You believe what you want to believe and see what you want to see. Your brain will alter your memory of reality so it feels like you got what you wanted.

If you go to my friend and say he's been trying and failing for years, he'll probably make an excuse. It's likely some variation on "well, I wasn't really serious before." And maybe that's true. I can't tell. I don't know how serious someone is or where their focus lies or what they're really doing.

"I have been blogging every day for six months," people like to say. Well, it sure looks like I have, too - it's almost six months now, can you believe it? - but there have been plenty of times that I queued up twenty-odd posts and took a couple weeks off, or just plain dropped the ball and didn't post.

But you can't tell that just by looking, except that I told you.

It's important to document your journey, because you will not remember it properly later. Neither will anyone else. You're not as in charge as you think. You're not as conscientious and as focused as you think. You are unreliable and unpredictable and living in an uncertain world, just like everyone else.

But everyone else - well, almost everyone else, anyway - is trying like hell to look like they aren't and don't.

We all spend half our lives doing stupid shit, and then we usually spend most of the other half trying to make excuses or cover it up. Imagine how much you could get done if you just admitted and accepted that half the shit you do is stupid.

After all, anyone who says they never do stupid shit is lying.