We have preconceived notions about how things should be and how the world works. Whether that is the common adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” or complex practices like meditation or intermittent fasting, there is something that might be irrefutable fact. But not everything is irrefutable fact. Nor is everything as debatable as we perceive. There are some things that most people take as irrefutable but turn out to be completely different as they first seem. This post highlights the five most common misconceptions people make in life.
Life is about the Destination
We see this all the time. People look at their lives compared to others’ and make it their goal to acquire the same level of “success” as others. It is the car you drive, the house in which you live, and the size of your net worth/bank account. Everything we do goes to “achieving the dream”, arriving at the destination. People tend to overemphasize the destination instead of the journey. This makes sense when geographical locations are involved. How many people actually care about the flight to Paris, France, when the real experiences rest in the “City of Lights”? Not many. But this mentality gets dangerous when applied to other things.
Bright lights and flashy toys have programmed us to prefer the event over the process. After all, who wouldn’t want instant riches over thirty years of ten-hour days? But there is not how the world works. The process matters because we can test certain strategies in the crucible to find what works and what does not. The real riches stem from the process. Take professional sports for example. How many people will look at Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps winning a gold medal as an instant occurrence? Be truthful. A lot, we guess. But those gold medals actually came from years of hard work in something that each was good at, and enjoyed! Is life really a gold medal at a world championship? Or, is it the growth made in the long weeks of hard work? We see life as the latter.
Life is not about the destination; it is about the journey. We once heard that living differs entirely from simply being alive. While a beating heart and breathing indicates life, it is what we do with that hearting heart and breathing that matters. We can either sit around attached to a TV screen or our mobile devices or use our time to create something, experience something new and document it, or gain inspiration from scenes from the silver screen. Which life sounds better?
We recently read Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Work Week (check it out on Amazon). After finishing the book, we learned that most people endure thirty or forty years of work just for the money and retirement. While having a financial plan is important to pay the bills, send our children to college or training camps, etc., work is not just a means to an end: success or something tangible liability in your garage. Life is about experiencing new things like visiting a new country and learning a different culture or developing a new skill. Life happens in the growth and novelty of experience. The French, Greek, and Italians have figured out this fundamental truth already. (Just watch Emily in Paris on Netflix to see what we are talking about).
Accordingly, we firmly believe that most people have a misconception about life in general. Life is a journey, not about the destination. For those who believe that life is a game, having complete freedom to do what you want and go where you want is a sign of winning the game. Why make excuses for a misconception?
“The Sky is Falling”
For all you Chicken Littles out there, the “sky” is definitely not falling. Rather, our perceptions about what we cannot get away with that fuels this “doom saying”. We recently learned that our problems are not as bad as they initially seem when viewed objectively. While there are real hotly contested issues, requiring real attention, most inherently personal issues are not nearly as bad as we take them. Rarely are there issues so pressing that they require radical attention. For example, work and personal emails pile up daily, but very few are so important as to merit immediate attention. The sky will not fall, i.e., you lose your job, if you wait a few hours to respond.
When viewed in a microcosm, things can seem like the “worse thing ever”. Just recently, one of close friends had to make a choice about whether to attend an event for a family member or not. In the immediate short term, the cons of going certainly matched the pros of not going. On the one hand, they would have more peace of mind. On the other hand, they needed to suffer the backlash and guilt trips associated with not going. Their decision certainly created a “sky is falling” distressing moment. But viewed objectively, the decision did not mean anything in the long run. Why? Because the decision coincided with the type of life they wanted to create for themselves.
If the “sky is falling” every day, then it is not falling at all. Those who have watched The Incredibles or How I Met Your Mother know the idea that everyone being super or that every night being legend, wait for it because this is a bit of nostalgia trip, -dary, is flawed. It dilutes that efficacy of the moment. Not everything we experience amounts to the sky falling. When we step back, we oftentimes recognize that very few things in our lives are so catastrophic as to immobilize us. The constant “sky is falling” mentality amounts to another excuse for not doing what must be done, taking a risk, or actually living. When viewed objectively, the sky is never really falling. One obstacle just motivates more concerted effort.
Worth is in How Much You Make or Own
Most people falsely believe what car they drive, where they live, or how much money they have defines their worth. For a materialistic person, those barometers show what value they add to society. Yes, Elon Musk may have redefined the automotive industry with Tesla and offered a possibility to explore space and the cosmos with SpaceX. But his net worth does not solely define his worth.
Worth goes deeper than money. It is how one uses that money and spends their time, as well as their character that defines worth. We all live under the assumption that respectable work, long hours, and high salaries show that we have “made it”. For the longest time, we at Rocking Specter thought that we are worth more when we make more. But that is only half the truth. While more money assuages financial concerns and allows people to do more things, we have found that money does not mean much when we cannot enjoy it. Thus, worth depends on how one chooses to spend that money.
The big house, expensive car, and shiny watch might show status, but there are not inherently worth that much. While there is a high price tag on something, true worth depends on a thing’s pricelessness. Something is priceless when one chooses not to trade it in for anything. A person making $200,000 per year could go out a buy a new BMW X-5 for approximately $66,000 or they can take a long weekend to Zurich, Switzerland, for the same price. The real worth is in the experience in a different culture, which has priceless memories that last forever. The BMW may only last fifteen years max with proper maintenance.
Because experiences are inalienable (cannot be transferred), the prices we pay for them actually pale in comparison to how much they are really worth to us. While owning a Porsche Cayenne or making $200,000 per year sounds nice, each thing does not fully encapsulate our total worth. We believe that this common misconception must give way to the recognition that life experiences and adventure define true worth. A well-traveled person can add more value to society than someone with only a large bank account and shiny things.
If Everyone Else is Doing It, It Must Be Good
We hear frequently that when some people zig, others zag. Those people who follow the crowd might stumble on something workable, but that something workable is where people often disappear into mediocrity. We followed the 2022 NFL Draft closely during the month of April and heard constantly that some teams needed X type of receiver or Y linebacker to remain competitive in a loaded conference. But those comments and tactics crowded teams to a baseline. NFL fans and experts saw it with the run-heavy offenses in the 1980s and 1990s, which shortened games and directed stress from quarterbacks. But legendary head coaches like Bill Walsh and Mike Shanahan zagged while everyone else zigged. They decided to put the ball in quarterbacks Joe Montana and John Elway, and both combined for five Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s.
And zagging while everyone else is zigging applies to and works in other industries. Love it or hate it, Jeff Bezos took e-commerce to the next level with Amazon while everyone else focused on brick-and-mortar stores. The kid from the middle of nowhere chooses to enter one of the most competitive legal markets in the United States, while the rest of their family contently carries on with their mundane lives. Even the bold artist who chooses independent art shows over teaching art history in a high school goes on to accomplish resounding success.
The last couple of years have taught us that people who crowd around the norm suffer greater competition and below-average gains in the middle than toward the top. While following mainstream trends assuages the “fear of missing out”, it causes more headaches than they are worth. Doing something different might seem scary, but it makes a tremendous difference in one’s life. Succeeding in something no one else even considered makes allows for extraordinary opportunities. It also eliminates the risk for mediocrity. Venturing frontiers that no one else is willing might be scary, but it exposes us to opportunities others cannot even fathom. It only takes the courage to zag while everyone else zigs.
We Should Avoid Criticism
While people are starting to change their opinions and actions regarding criticism, very few people willingly accept criticism of any kind. Whether it is because of the fear of ostracism or fragile egos, most people dread criticism of any kind. While that might be because of an internal belief of infallibility or an unwillingness to change, people choose echo chambers of praise instead. Those actions epitomize this misconception. Unlike what most would like to believe, we are imperfect beings. No one is created perfect, as we all have blind spots that only others can identify and tell us about.
We firmly believe that some criticism, like some types of stress, is good for us. While constant negative criticism connotes toxicity and should be immediately removed from our lives, constructive criticism allows us to see where we are lacking, i.e. what our blind spots are. We might struggle with hearing it at first, but understanding where we fall short goes a long way in allowing us to succeed where others might have failed. Constructive criticism teaches us to constantly improve.
That is the beauty of our existence; we can constantly improve. Otherwise, we are stagnating and falling behind while others are pushing pass us. Because of this external competition, we believe that constant improvement is the best internal competition. Our goal is to always be the best possible version of ourselves tomorrow. If we fall short today, or feel like we are getting complacent, we immediately seek impromptu constructive feedback. This internal gauge allows us to excel tomorrow in areas that we sucked in today. Note that this is not a strengths v. weaknesses discussion. It is about acknowledging our strengths and pushing ourselves to improve them.
Most successful people live for feedback and constructive criticism. A great NBA player, like Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, might have two consecutive bad shooting nights, but they will come back the following night and drop forty points on 54% shooting from the field. How? Looking at the opportunities they dropped and seizing them the next time around. They might also speak with their coach to see what else they could have done to remedy the situation. When we look at criticism, it is best to discern which type we are receiving and choosing to listen to the constructive while blocking, or cutting, out the negative. The common misconception that we must avoid all forms of criticism only creates a sense of blissful ignorance and an unnecessary regression to the mean. We hope that this post helps change that.
What other common misconceptions do you think most people have? Let us know in the comments.
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