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It Works Both Ways

Someone, somewhere is jealous of you.

Yes, YOU!

According to at least one person, the life you are now living is the epitome of happiness and success.

Perhaps they see your life this way because they don’t realize how many problems you have.

Well, what if I told you that someone, somewhere sees all of your problems as “first world problems?”

How does that make you feel? Does that make you want to laugh at the thought of how absurd their judgments are?

Well, their perception is their reality.

It might be a big misunderstanding to you, but as far as they’re concerned, you’re living the good life.

The next time you’re inclined to assume someone else is “living the dream,” please remember this message:

If others are capable of overestimating your happiness, you’re probably capable of overestimating the happiness of others.


Neutrality Is No Friend Of Mine

What standards could a person possibly be held accountable to if they felt no sense of loss or gain by their choices?

I don’t trust the person who merely believes in doing the right thing. I trust the person who feels a sense of gain in their doing of the right thing. I trust the person who feels a sense of loss in their doing of the wrong thing.

I want nothing to do with the one who claims to be acting wholly apart from their self-interest.

Nothing is more frightening than the idea of an entity that feels no sense of loss or gain in the way they treat people.

Neutrality is just as dangerous as negativity.


Incentives & Integrity

The existence of an incentive is not evidence of duplicity, it’s evidence of humanity.

Zig Ziglar was fond of saying, “everything is sales.” What he meant was that all human interaction was driven by the desire to influence one another’s behavior in an effort to acquire some form of personal gain.

It is a common fallacy, however, to suppose that self-interest is only a factor when money or material goods are involved.

The automobile salesperson has clear incentives, but perhaps the actions of the professor, or the priest, or the politician, or the philanthropist are divorced, or less affected by, a consideration of their own needs, desires, fears, insecurities, tastes, and disgusts.

This is only true if we adopt an extremely narrow concept of self-interest that excludes all the intangible examples of exchange that take place in the marketplace of ideas.

When we expand our worldview to include intangible data like people’s desire to enjoy companionship, people’s desire to fit in, people’s desire to feel appreciated, people’s desire to feel secure, people’s desire to feel recognized, people’s desire to feel that their lives are meaningful, people’s desire to avoid the discomfort of having to live in a world with things that disgust them, people’s desire to feel beautiful, people’s desire to feel at peace with their conscience, people’s desire to feel like their lives are making a positive difference in the world, people’s desire to get others to think in accordance with their agendas, etc., we discover a very basic fact about the world that can be expressed in three simple words:

None are neutral!

Everyone who interacts with you is trying to influence you to think, say, or do something that will make them feel (or avoid feeling) a certain way.

Some people are selling products. Some people are selling ideas.

Some people are selling products for cash. Some people are selling ideas for cash.

Some people are selling products in exchange for intangible goods. Some people are selling ideas in exchange for intangible goods.

Some people are selling products without having your best interest in mind. Some people are selling ideas without having your best interest in mind.

Some people are selling products that will make your life better. Some people are selling ideas that will make your life better.

But everybody’s selling something and everybody’s out to get something.

This fact, alone, should never be advanced as a basis for distrust.

To desire is human. To engage in voluntary exchange as a means of fulfilling our desires is the logical outworking of our identity as communal beings.

Despising the presence of self-interest in human action is tantamount to despising our own nature.

The person who says “never trust a person who’s trying to sell you something” is trying to sell you an idea that’s fundamentally self-stultifying.

Should we trust everyone? Absolutely not.

But we needn’t think cynically in order to think critically.

Even If You’re Not Feeling Bubbly


One needn’t be cheerful in order to adopt a mature and self-determined stance in the face of creative challenges.

Succeeding isn’t always accompanied by smiling. And there’s much more to the creation of a flourishing life than the fleeting, fluctuating experience of having fun.

Sometimes we feel enthusiastic. Sometimes we don’t.

Thích Nhất Hạnh wrote, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.”

Unfortunately, we can’t always choose our feelings. Fortunately, freedom isn’t a feeling.

The power to develop and demonstrate mastery over our lives can be exercised in any mood.

Autonomy is a choice, not an emotion.

Even when we’re not feeling bubbly, we still get to define who are; we still get to decide who we’ll become.

Fallacies I See: “You ALWAYS Have An Answer!”

The Preemptive Strike Fallacy:

This fallacy is committed when someone assumes they’ve discredited your rebuttal to their arguments simply by forecasting the fact that you would dare to have a response at all. It’s usually expressed in the form of sarcastic statements like “I’m sure you’re going to have a response to this because you always have an answer for everything.” Then when you actually have a response, they say “SEE. I KNEW you’d have a response.” You are thus refuted by the sheer force of their predictive powers. By invoking this fallacy, your opponent in debate is free from having to address your actual arguments. Why should they? After all, they knew you’d have SOMETHING to say. The mere fact that you even had a response becomes evidence of its own invalidity.

Possible Underlying Concern:

Perhaps the person committing the fallacy has a legitimate concern that their conversational partner is an unfair debater who’s determined to have the last word no matter what. There are certainly cases in which this concern is justified. There are two things we should keep in mind, however, if we find ourselves feeling this way about the person we’re debating: 1) If we can’t presume sincerity on behalf of the person we’re debating, why argue with them at all? Why not just end the conversation as soon as evidence for their unfairness emerges? What does it say about us when we persist in arguing with people whose sincerity we mistrust? 2) Even if we’re correct in our judgment that the person with whom we’re debating is always going to have a response, that doesn’t mean their response in this particular instance is incorrect. No one is right all the time, but it’s still possible that they may be right this time. Dismissing people’s claims, based on the charge that they’re not as interested in truth as we are, is a very inefficient way of getting through to people. It’s far more effective to listen charitably, ask thoughtful questions, and explore the possibility of achieving a bit of clarity on the topic at hand.

Suggested response:

Well, I do tend to think quite a bit about the things I believe. So it’s not entirely unlikely that I’ll have some kind of response to many of the objections people raise about my points of view. But that doesn’t mean I’m closed to the possibility that I’m capable of being mistaken about things. If I am mistaken, however, I’ll need you to be patient if you wish to play a role in helping me see my errors. Since my beliefs are based on reasons that make sense to me at this time, I don’t want to hastily assume that I am wrong based on blind faith. If you wish to continue in our dialogue, I’ll do the best that I can to be open-minded towards the possibilities you suggest. I can’t promise that we’ll see eye to eye, but I can promise a stimulating and respectful exchange that will make us better thinkers and communicators in the process.

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