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Journal FortKnox's Journal: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff 16

I'm almost through with reading a Christmas gift my father gave me, called Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... And It's All Small Stuff . It has quite a bit of good stuff in it on how to be happy and have a peaceful, calming lifestyle. Its changing my life daily with the simple points and instructions. I'm recommending it to everyone I know (amazon link for you folks. Its under $12, and amazon has 35 pages of the book for you to peruse!), and will probably buy copies and send it to my relatives for gifts (not presents for a reason like a birthday, but just a gift without a reason).

Anyway, there was a point he made that I'd like to ask you guys. Its philosophy, so everyone share their opinion (but don't get into a flamefest):

Life isn't fair. We all should know that by now. The question is should we strive to make life fair, or should we do the best with what we have?
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Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

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  • I say do the best you can with what you have. Most of the time you can't change what life hands you, but your attitude and immediate actions *can* be changed.

    "It's not reality that's important, it's how you perceive things."
  • Deal with what you have, but at the same time try to make life easier for others - especially friends - so that it evens out in the end.

    You can't change what you have, so theres no point in bitching. But if you see an opertunity to help someone you care about and maybe make their life a little better, why not?
  • Life isn't fair, and no matter how hard you try, it still won't be, the least we can hope for, is unfair in our favor.
  • The question is should we strive to make life fair, or should we do the best with what we have?

    Before answering your question, one must decide whether they are selfish or unselfish in nature. And it is not a "bad" thing to be selfish.

    Personally, I am selfish. I want to make life for my family and friends (i.e. my circle) good, so, I want to the best with what I have.

    • Life is a rational extension of hedonistic thought. Combine that with Maslow's hierarchy of needs- and your "hedonist pleasures" start looking more and more 'altruistic'- but make no mistake; I do it becuase it makes me feel good. ALL THE TIME.
  • To me, it seems that strictly adhering to a philosophy of "everyone should deal with what they have" is a bit unforgiving. A number of people are the unwilling victims of circumstance, and I see no reason why those in a position to help ought not. Conversely, striving only to make the world fair for everyone removes all sense of personal responsibility and leads to feelings of entitlement, which is counterproductive. I think the best philosophy is to work with what you are given, but realize that you can improve your possibilities and those of the people around you.
    • I agree... If you can improve your situation, do so. If not, deal with it. If you can help someone else, do it and you will be rewarded. I say that is God's blessing you for doing good, others call it karma. Whatever you call it, you should always be happy while trying to make your situation and that of those around you better. If everyone did this, no one would have it too bad.
  • by Xerithane ( 13482 ) < minus cat> on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @02:42PM (#5034232) Homepage Journal
    Another book: Life is a Game, These are the Rules. Good read, really low-key. I've mentioned to many people about Don't sweat the small stuff. Still haven't read it all the way through, but I've read quite a bit.

    Life isn't fair. We all should know that by now. The question is should we strive to make life fair, or should we do the best with what we have?

    You can't expect to have a good life, you can't expect to have a shitty life. You just have a life. Life isn't a thing, really. It's not good, it's not bad. It's you that makes it that way. It's you that says, "I'm happy" or "I'm sad." It's you that labels your world, and your environment.

    I've had a lot of bizarre things happen to me. I would label them as bad, because I would much prefer they never happened. On the other hand, it's made me who I am. It's helped me formulate an entire set of religious beliefs that I believe make a whole lot of sense. It's helped me be strong, so when hard situations come up I can deal with them. Again, it's made me who I am, and I'm happy about that.

    I have my issues, I trust people. I see the good qualities that people possess, without seeing that they will never use them. I can barely count the people that have tried, or did, screw me over for their own advantage. It's fine, maybe I did a little better in the world. It's over now, I am broke because of it, but that part is just money and I'll make more.

    My philosophies on life get broken down like this:
    • Only trust someone with a favor or promise that is worth less than your relationship with them.
    • Only truly rely on someone you can marry or fire. If you rely on someone who has small interest in helping you, you may get burned. Not worth the chance.
    • Never rely purely on yourself. You are better off having outside influence. It's easier to lie to yourself than other people
    • Make a habit to be a good person. Everything in life is a habit. Find the things you want to do, and start doing them regularly.
    • Always think before you speak. It's not worth the possible problems to not.
    • Never do anything where the reward isn't worth the stress of doing it. If you help a friend, make sure their friendship is worth it in the end.

    I'm sure a lot of people disagree with me. Especially on the "Never do anything where the reward isn't worth the stress" part. I'm going to expand on that, because it's hard to be concise.

    Even if you are helping a person you don't know, or know very well, evaluate what you are gaining from that and what you are losing. You do not want to put yourself in a weak position for them. Not unless they are worth it, in which case there is still a reward. You don't buy stock high and sell low. You don't do favors for people then let them kick you in the head.

    Also, Smile inside, it matters more than what's on the outside.
  • To justify a last minute gift from amazon and get free shipping, I also ordered Flow- the psychology of optimal experience [], and old fav from a few years ago.

    Basically, it's a psychologist trying to analyze Zen. Its a cute read. It's got inverse footnotes. Basically, nothing on the pages themselves (to make it easier for the lay-person to read) and then a list of references in the back based upon page number (so if they quoted some statistics on page 16, you go to the back and it tells you the source)

    A slightly different focus than "DSTSS", but related enough (both are fairly self help).

    Now back to your question: should we strive to make life more fair? Fair? Unfair? Nah,life just is. It's only our perceptions that make it fair or unfair.
    Now as for changing "life": Do you mean in a global universal sense? Don't get me wrong, I keep planets in orbit, but at the same time I'm aware of the insignificance of any and all actions.

    Now in terms of a more personal interpretation- should I "right" the "wrongs" that I see? Well, that depends upon your resolution of existential crisis. Why are you here? What is the point of life? There is none? Okay, so then its a blank slate. What do you want the point of your life to be? If you would like that to be "righting the wrongs", then YES, you should strive to make life more fair!!

    But if you accept the limitations on what anyone can actually do, isn't your quest to make life more fair the same as doing the best with what you've got?

    So given the redundancy of the options, the answer to your question is: YES. ;)
  • Life isn't fair. We all should know that by now. The question is should we strive to make life fair, or should we do the best with what we have?

    I agree with what many have already said and go for the "do the best with what we have". I think this can be difficult, but in reality it's the key to being content. On the other hand, people who are driven and often seen as "successful" are those who strive to make life more fair- take for example Martin Luther King Jr. The reward for them is seeing changes made and equality come. But in reality there are very few of us who are Martin Luther King Jr.'s-- at least in the approach we take to make things fair. Often those who attempt to make things fair are complainers, whiners, and just *want* to make it fair-- they don't actually do anything about it. Or if they do, it's done in a destructive way.

    I think perception is key. If you have the right outlook on things you can make just about anything fair because you can turn your negative situations into opportunities. And then you get a combination of both- striving to be fair, but changing what the definition of fair is perceptually speaking.

    Anyway, just some late afternoon ramblings. It's kind of funny you bring this up because I have a situation at work I can relate this to. We have a project deadline coming up in about a week. It's a pretty hefty deadline and naturally my part (mostly the web app side of it) is behind- it's recieved the least amount of resource and attention until this week. Originally I was having a hard time with that and kept getting the feeling of impending doom. However, I soon realized that I could try and turn things around.. Stay and work a little later, have a positive attitude, and try my best to meet the deadline. I feel much better about it now and I think our team is going to hit it. I guess that is one application of what I was just talking about.

    I think this type of thing is also what the Bible teaches in the book of Proverbs about Wisdom-- if you study it out, wisdom means the way you percieve and react to things more or less. Speaking of which, I'll probably post a JE on a study I've been doing soon.
  • The only reason I wouldn't buy this for myself is that I work in a bookstore and its a very quick read. The other problem I have with these "affirmation" type books is that most of it is pretty much common sense. See "Who Moved My Cheese" for another example.

    However, not sweating the small stuff is a key to maintaining a positive outlook on life. Ask yourself, "is this really going to matter 10 years down the road". If not, don't worry about it. OTOH certain things, especially with close friends and family will matter. These are the things you need to concern yourself with. I'm sure you will agree that the happiness and welfare of your wife and child are in no way "small stuff" that you don't need to worry about. If you can effectively distinguish the big stuff from the small stuff, you've got it made.

    The other key to happiness in my opinion is the degree to which you can forgive other people. You need other people to survive, therefore you form dependencies on these people. Inevitably, these people let you down. The way you deal with this is vital to your own happiness. You cannot change other people, no matter how hard you try. I find that 99.999 percent of actions that others take can be forgiven. So for me, forgiveness is an essential attitude. You can't change people by nagging them or berating them. The best you can do is lead by example.

  • This reminds me of economics equilibriums. Take, for example, free trade between two countries. Mathematically the cost drops for both parties involved (by allowing both to specialize in items, reducing cost, increasing quality). The problem is that this is the average. So an improvement for 80% of the populations involved is expected (and has been shown to be true).

    The problem is that there is always the lower minority that gets screwed. The example I remember is there are two countries (the US and Columbia) and two items (computers and coffee). Now the US can focus on computers and Columbia on coffee. But where does that put the Columbian computer makers or the US coffee growers? Out of jobs.

    That is the problem: life moves faster than the people involved. So you can spend your career preparing for a job that might disappear next year. And that does you no good when you have no training in anything else (take US Steelworkers as an example).

    Like you said, we all know life is unfair. What most of us don't know is that, in a fundamental psychological way, we want to believe badly that it is. I've mentioned this before: it's the Just World concept. What does this mean? That we will blame "victims" for their victimization in an attempt to make the world seem just.

    The example I bring up is observers of two people playing a game. At the end of the game the players flip a coin and one loses. So what do the observers say? The loser didn't work as hard! Even though the results (the coin toss) were completely random!

    A benefit is that psychological traits (such as Just World) can be thwarted through active realization (i.e. realizing you might be blaming the victim so reevaluate more carefully).

    In the case of life what should we do instead of blaming the Columbian computermakers? The problem is that you can't redistribute Old Money or prop up the Columbian computer industry for the sake of these folks. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of people wouldn't except it. No one wants to be forced to pay 50 bucks for a cup of expresso or 5000 on a Columbian PC. Sure, the impact on the majority is less. But summed up, they outweigh the offset minority. I believe the best solution is this:
    • Make them (or their progeny) Columbian coffeemakers
    • or American computermakers

    You do this by making New Money: create easy entrance for Colubmians into the coffee industry, support for those computer makers that will try to enter it, and improve the quality of the product. Also take your best and brightest and somehow let them go to the US to make computers there.

    If this was the way things worked, the world would be better for it.

    The problem: xenophobia and nationalism. No one wants to be coffeemakers. And no one sure as hell wants to help someone else make computers. The incoming Columbian computer experts would be blamed for taking jobs while the US government would be blamed for letting its "own citizens" down while helping their coffee industry.

    It is a Spanish Prisoner problem: the optimum requires both parties involved to drop their guard and open the gates. And if one of them doesn't, the other gets screwed. So no one disarms, no one flinches.

    In truth I think time will end up having one over on everybody (as long as we don't kill each other in the process). The US will have to finally give up on supporting its coffee growers. The coffee growers will make sure their sons grow up to be hackers.

    Sadly I'm talking in decades of time. Much longer than any political office or the attention span of your common prole. Other than that, I'm not sure what else can be done.
    • Hrrm... I guess I went a bit offtopic now didn't I?

      I guess the last part sums it up. Many optimization problems are a paradox: they only work in the most flimsy, altruistic and non-human senses. Through information you can try to make people more altruistic (in this case, make the majority realize they are shitting on the US coffee growers and give them a break) but in many cases you have to just find a stopgap and do damage control (humor the coffee growers, get their kids to college and basically stop the life support on the industry).

      In the end: be informed, treat all human life with value (including those many would jump to call inhuman), and don't sweat the BS (like everybody blaming the US for everything) because everybody else knows it's BS. I'm sure if everybody did those three things, we'd be alright.

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