Wednesday, May 02, 2020

Whose life is it anyway?

Giving in to dogma will cripple your identity

Thanks to Ririan Project, via Leon Ho at, for pointing me to this quote from Steve Jobs of Apple:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
There are many subtle ways that we are trapped into following someone else’s opinion of how our life should be lived. It’s not just the obvious pressures, like the norms of society, the demands of employers, or even the laws where we live. It’s the softer and more insidious urgings like these:
  • Wanting to be liked. Most people want to be liked by those they come into contact with. To be willing to be disliked, even by a few, is a price rather few people are willing to pay for staying true to their ideals. But it’s worth asking yourself whether it’s really true that being liked always demands quite so much conformity. Some people will dislike you whatever you do, and being seen as a doormat isn’t much of a way to show others your true value. It’s probably correct that too much conformity is as much a cause of dislike as too much rebellion.

  • Wanting to fit in. There is so much pressure to fit in, to be a good team player, to accept the will of the majority (or, more often, the tiny minority in power). Just recognize what is causing you to yield to this pressure. It’s fear. The fear of being excluded, laughed at, challenged, or even attacked. People who work really hard to fit in are extremely fearful and anxious. It seems as if being part of the team, never rocking any boats, should produce a quiet life. In reality, it causes constant anxiety about avoiding what others might interpret as either being too independent or getting above yourself.

  • Wanting to avoid blame. There are many people who are so afraid of being blamed for anything that they automatically follow every possible rule and always try to avoid doing anything that causes them to stand out. For them, “I was only following orders” is the best excuse possible, should any criticism be in the offing. Does it work? Not really. Instead of being blamed for whatever mistake was made, they usually end up being blamed for blindly doing what they were told: not a person who tried and got it wrong, but a person without any initiative—not even enough to recognize that what they were told to do was likely a mistake.

  • Wanting to appear respectable. In our society, those who question the norms are usually demonized as agitators, lefties, and people with dubious morals—or no morals at all. Creative people are alternately idolized (if they are successful) or laughed at as freaks and losers. Never mind the fact that just about everything the rest of us enjoy in life, from security to iPods, is due to the efforts of just such creative types. Only fear makes respectability look attractive. The more typical marks of respectability are far less pleasant: bigotry, small-mindedness, hypocrisy, and cant.

  • Wanting to please. This is the most insidious trap of all. It feels good to please people. It gives you a glow. Small children want to please their parents. Lovers want to please one another. What could be wrong in that? Only that the cost of pleasing others all the time is going to be the crippling or loss of your own identity. And that, over the years, hidden resentment from doing this can build up to the point where it destroys the very relationships you have tried so hard to preserve.

If you want to live in a better world—and who wouldn’t, seeing the mess this one is in—there’s no alternative but to play your part in changing things. You cannot leave it to others. That’s neither honest nor practical. As another quote from Steve Jobs puts it;
We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?

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Anonymous said...


Talk about a post full of awesome quotes! Needless to say, I am a bit of a rebel in this cruel business world. I think, eventually, people will come around and realize that all work and no play makes for a dull, dull life. Some people realize it early, some late. I figured it out 5 years ago when I burnt out. I'm not sure I fully recovered from it, but I'm in a new job (3 years now), in a new city, and I'm much more protective of my beliefs and my time. The result? I'm not the most popular person with management-by-numbers type managers. Go figure.

Great post. Thanks!


5:54 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Dan. Glad you liked it and found it useful.

Keep reading, my friend.

7:10 AM  
marti said...


This post is spot on. I have seen many people, myself included from time to time, fall into the trap of pleasing my parents, friends, co-workers, managers and the like. It's a road straight to hell. My Dad had an older gentleman working for him while I was still in university named John. John at the time had worked for the university since 1946. (It was 1997 :-) He truly lived the principles you describe here. No, conformists didn't like him all the time, but I certainly did.

And now when people criticise me for not having a good enough salary, television, car, motorcycle, whatever...I quietly laugh at their obvious futile attempt to get me upset. Because like John, I just don't let others' visions for success guide me in any way.

2:12 PM  
Herman Najoli said...

Beautiful post. One wise sage (Archimedes) once said, "Give me a lever long enough, and a place on which to rest it, and I will move the world". In my quest to put a dent in the universe, I found that the only tool in my hand was a toothpick. No one was ready to give me a stronger lever. As I tried looking for a place on which to rest my lever, all I could find was a grain of sand to act as my fulcrum. With zealous audacity (maybe some naivety?), I proceeded to try and move the world, only to find that it was me I needed to change first. Great post.

2:32 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

This post has been removed by the author.

2:56 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks Herman and Marti, I'm glad that you both enjoyed the post.

We're all tempted into conformity from time to time. The usual reason is wanting to be safe. The paradox is that conformity is actually a very unsafe state to be in. It makes you constantly vulnerable to other people's opinions.

Thanks for the example, Marti. A great comment.

You're so right, Herman. When change is needed, it's often best to look for what needs to be changed close to home first.

Keep reading, my friends.

9:43 PM  

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