“Where did our sages get the idea that man have normal desires? What made them imagine that man must necessarily wish what is sensible and advantageous? What man needs is only his own independent wishing, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.”
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
“Be a flame, not a moth.”
Depend on yourself, not others.
I heard our family’s car engine start. Weird. We didn’t have to be to school for at least another hour. I looked around. Everyone was either in the kitchen finishing breakfast or in the living room getting ready. The car’s tires screeched. We all ran to the window and watched the car speed off. Someone stole our car!
Actually it was repossessed by the bank but I didn’t find that out until later. My parents called the police and then called one of our neighbors to arrange a ride for me to the high school. I hated our neighbors. They always looked at me like I was some charity case. I felt stupid and helpless when I got in their car. “Did you hear our car got stolen?” I asked. They said they couldn’t believe it. But their tone made it seem like they could believe it. What was going on?
I walked into the high school and immediately told my friends what happened. WHAT! Are you serious?! They were genuinely shocked. I was shocked too. I’d never heard of a car being stolen in our town. It was too small and too rural for something like that to happen. That night I found out that the car was repossessed. Yep. The bank sent some dude to jack our car on a Tuesday morning.
My friends kept asking me if the police caught the guy who stole the car and I just kept saying no. I didn’t know what else to say. Ugh. How embarrassing. The worst part was I had to get a ride with my neighbors all week. I was completely dependent and there was nothing I could do about it.
The Virtue Of Self-Reliance
Self-reliance is a moral position. When you rely on yourself, you grow. You also empower others to grow. You show people that it’s possible to stand on their own and to make their own way in the world.
Self-reliance is a philosophy that’s been passed down for centuries as a thread through the larger themes of Aristotelianism, stoicism, scholasticism, transcendentalism, and objectivism. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 BC, believed that that A is A–that the world can be discovered and measured and applied to any purpose an individual chooses. He also believed that happiness based on rational self-interest is the overall sum game of everyone’s life. Why are we alive? To be happy. Happiness is the greatest of all virtues. If you want to live a moral life, make yourself happy. The end. I’m simplifying but you get the point.
From 55-135 AD lived a Greek philosopher named Epictetus who is like the godfather of stoicism. Epictetus believed that all external events are determined by fate and are beyond our control so we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. At the same time, everyone is responsible for their own actions, which they should examine and control through ruthless self-discipline. Marcus Aurelius (the old dude that dies at the beginning of the movie Gladiator) lived from 121-180. He’s like the father of stoicism. Aurelius wrote the book Meditations, which discusses virtue as an ability to control yourself—your emotions and decisions—no matter how crappy life gets. Is your boss breathing down your neck? Is your marriage in the crapper? Is your empire being attacked by Germanic tribes? Boo hoo—don’t let it affect your decisions. Don’t let it affect your ability to reason clearly.
In the early 1200s, a philosopher and theologian named Thomas Aquinas wrote several important commentaries on Aristotle’s works, reemphasizing the importance of action and reason in morality. Aquinas asserted that self-fortitude, or the willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, and intimidation, was a cardinal virtue. In 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a collection of essays titled Self-Reliance, which described the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and instead, follow his or her own instincts and ideas.
In 1964 a similar collection of essays entitled The Virtue of Selfishness was published by Ayn Rand. These essays were part of her objectivist philosophy, which was built on the idea that productivity and morality are one in the same. The more productive a person or an object is, the more moral it is. Take a look at the chair you’re sitting on (or any chair). The chair’s purpose is to support a person sitting in it. The better the chair fulfills its purpose, the more moral the chair is. The same can be applied to people. Objectivism’s central tenets are that reality exists independent of consciousness (A is A) and that the proper moral purpose of your life is the pursuit of your own happiness (rational self-interest).
How To Be Gloriously Independent
Self-reliance the idea that individuals have the power to determine their own quality of life. That’s the short version. The longer version is that every individual has the ability to control their internal state regardless of the external events they are faced with. No matter what happens, you can control your attitude and attention—your mood and focus. In other words, you can control your decisions, like the decision to be happy versus pissed or the decision to obsess on a positive goal versus dwell on a previous fault.
Self-reliance rests on the belief that things are what they seem. A is A, not B, the number 2, or the color yellow. You may not know the complete story behind something—how it works or what it’s purpose is—but there is a story. Everything can be broken down into the parts that make it whole. Everything has a purpose and the more productive that purpose is, the better. The key is that you are the only one who can control your purpose. Just like you are the only one who can control your attitude, attention, and decisions.
If you want to improve your life or the lives of people around you, focus inward first. Learn to rely on yourself. If you’re a mess mentally and physically, you can’t help anyone. The more independent you are, the more moral you can become.
10 Laws Of Self-Reliance
Relying on yourself will help you fulfill your purpose faster. It will help you take care of other people better too. You might think that becoming more self-reliant means acting like a robot or a selfish bastard. You might think that it requires you to build a compound and stock it full of food and weapons just in case the dollar or euro crashes, or there’s a zombie apocalypse. Wrong.
The key to self-reliance is learning how to achieve your goals and be happy without other people’s consent or permission. This is more difficult than it sounds. Self-reliant people follow a code. They follow a set of laws that keep them from becoming dependent and needy. These laws are the foundation on which independent lives can be built on.
Below is a list of 10 laws you must follow in order to live a self-reliant life. As you go through these laws, you’ll notice that selfishness and self-isolation play no part in them. Instead, they are bound together by an underlying theme of control, accountability, and action.
Law #1. Dominate your emotions.
You can either control your emotions, or be controlled by them. There’s no third option. One emotional mistake can destroy a lifetime of rational decisions. This is why it’s so important to rule over your emotions with an iron fist.
Someone or something will always be trying to bait you into an emotional decision that’s good for them and not-so-good for you. Every single second you spend engaging in meaningless drama that some dope dragged you into is a wasted second.
You’ll never be more powerful than your emotions. A strong emotion is like a blind, raging bull. No amount of reason can reign this bull in once it’s released. The only way to control the bull is to get in front of it—to decide which emotions to feel and when to feel them. Ignore idiots who tell you that controlling your emotions makes you robotic or cold. They’re baiting you—they’re trying to steal control of your emotions.
Don’t be a victim of your own emotions. Instead, dominate them. Determine how to feel and when to feel. Use your reasoning mind to choose your emotions instead of trying to reason with your emotions after they’ve chosen you.
Law #2. Use everything to your advantage.
Life is full of problems. No matter how well you plan, things will go wrong. No plan survives contact with reality. Bad things happen.
But, what if nothing was bad? What if you could flip every bad thing into a good thing?
There’s so much value in bad things that most people can’t see it. They’re too focused on the garbage that doesn’t matter to see how all of their garbage can be burned and used as energy or recycled and sold for money. They see the dead trees of a negative situation but they don’t see the forest that’s growing out of the mulch.
My neighbors in high school wanted me to feel bad about needing a ride. They hated that I was dependent on them but they liked it at the same time. It made them feel powerful. It made me feel disgusting. So, I got two jobs that summer and saved up to buy my own car. Then, I studied like crazy to pass my school’s driver’s ed program. I used the pain that I felt to my advantage–I used it to stop being dependent.
Start seeing the value in every thing that happens to you. If you’re stuck in a soul-sucking relationship, get excited about how amazing life will be once you pull the trigger and leave. If someone close to you dies, use the experience as motivation to honor them by living a full life. If some troll is airing your dirty laundry all over the Internet, take a snapshot of their posts and use it as a teaching point to your friends and followers.
There are no obstacles. There are only opportunities. The only thing that can keep an obstacle from turning into an opportunity is your own limited perspective. When something bad happens, flip it, spin it, and smash it until you can use it to your advantage.
Law #3. Invite loss.
Fearing loss will ruin your life. Inviting it, will make you invincible—literally—nothing will be able to hurt you. Losing a job, living on the street, a breakup, a divorce, death …imagine living without fearing any of these things.
As soon as you realize you’re about to lose something (like money), a part of your brain called the amygdala is activated. Once it’s turned on, the amygdala dumps a boat load of neurotransmitters and hormones into your system. It even changes the state of your brain waves. All of these things work together to make you stop the cool future thing you’re about to do and, instead, hold onto the past for dear life.
Don’t do it! Don’t change! STOP! Thanks amygdala.
Think about the last time you had to make a big decision, one where a big opportunity was in front of you. But, in order to take the opportunity, you had to let go of something else—like a job or relationship. Even if the job sucked and the relationship was garbage, your brain still told you to hang on. So you hung. And hung. Part of you was being pushed forward toward the new opportunity and everything you could gain and the other part of you was being pulled back by your amygdala in an attempt to hold onto and protect everything you could lose. This push-pull, or mental thrashing that you felt was your brain battling itself. One side wanted to pursue pleasure, the other side wanted to avoid pain.
What if you turned pain into pleasure?
If you find yourself fearing loss, flip the script on the mental hijack before it happens by inviting loss instead. Remember, everything can be used to your advantage. If someone is threatening to break up with you—great!—you hope they do. If your job is threatening to fire you—pleeease let it happen!—you’re ready to start a business in the morning. If you’re skydiving for the first time and worried your parachute won’t open—yippee ki-yay—you can’t wait to be the fifth guy in history who bounces off the ground and lives to talk about it.
It’s sounds crazy but there’s a method to this madness. By changing your focus and forcing yourself to get excited by loss, you deactivate your amygdala. You take control of the situation. People who have panic attacks use similar cognative behavioral therapy techniques to force themselves to have a panic attack. Once they’re able to have a panic attack at will, they no longer fear it. They move the experience from the fear-based amygdala to more rational parts of the brain.
The idea that you have to always be rooting for a positive outcome for the positive outcome to occur is ridiculous. Positive thoughts do not control reality, self-awareness does. Being able to use your thoughts and perspective in whatever way best serves you is what separates successful people from losers.
The next time you’re afraid of losing something, root for the negative outcome. Root for loss. It will center you.
Law #4. Need no one.
There’s freedom and energy in shedding the negative people that life piles on top of you. The only way to achieve this kind of freedom is to know the difference between wanting and needing other people.
Should you want to be there for other people who are going through a tough time and sincerely trying to better their own lives? Absolutely. Should you want to be around positive people who make you feel good? Of course. But you shouldn’t need these people. You shouldn’t need to always be giving your time and energy to someone else in order feel good about yourself. You shouldn’t need praise and validation from other people in order to feel valuable and successful. You should be the source of your own happiness.
Cut negative people out of your life. Choose your friends and family deliberately. They say that blood is thicker than water. Well …choice is thicker than blood. Choose motivated, like-minded people to be around, not haters who use guilt and fear to keep you around.
If someone close to you, even someone you’re related to, is holding you back—get rid of them. Move on. Stop empowering their behavior. Stop using them as an excuse to put your goals on hold. Some people you have to care about from a distance. Some people you have to step back from so they can fix their own problems.
Know the difference between being a helping hand and being a crutch. Quit trying to save everyone. You can’t. People have to save themselves.
Law #5. Live with expectancy.
Expect great things to happen. One of the secrets of self-reliance is expecting success. This kind of expectation does not come naturally. It has to be developed. Most people piss and moan when things are going bad and apologize and tremble when things are going good. In bad times, they focus on their problems instead of focusing on solutions. In good times, they walk on eggshells, anxiously waiting for the good times to end. This is no way to live.
Worrying is not an action. Worrying is not some kind of moral sacrifice that will prevent bad things from happening either. It’s a waste of time—always. People worry because they are either lazy or because they don’t believe in themselves. Stop fearing negative what-ifs and start expecting positive what-ifs.
The next time you find yourself asking, “What if everything goes wrong?” Reverse it and ask, “What if everything goes right?” Then lean into it by saying “Everything will go right because of XYZ.” Then execute on XYZ until you get what you want. Living with expectancy means knowing that you can create your own future—that you can get anything you want in life if you apply yourself correctly. If you want it bad enough, no one can stop you.
Law #6. Take responsibility for everything.
Responsibility is the gateway to freedom and influence. The majority of the population fears responsibility. They run from it, they shuck and sidestep it, or they put it on someone else every chance they get. These people think that avoiding responsibility will keep them safe or even bring them success. Wrong.
Practice ruthless pragmatism. There’s an old science fiction story titled The Cold Equations by Tom Godwin that takes place on an spaceship that’s transporting desperately needed medical supplies to a frontier planet called Woden. Over halfway into the journey a lone pilot named Barton discovers a stowaway on board—an eighteen-year-old girl. By law, all stowaways must be jettisoned into Outer space because each ship carries no more fuel than is exactly necessary to land safely at its destination.
The stowaway’s name is Marilyn. She boarded the ship because she wanted to see her brother who is on the frontier planet. Marilyn saw the “UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL KEEP OUT!” sign but snuck onto the ship anyway because she thought she’d only have to pay a fine if caught. Barton explains to Marilyn that her presence dooms the mission by exceeding the weight limit, and the subsequent crash would kill both of them and all of the colonists who need the medical supplies to survive.
That’s where the cold equation comes in—send the girl into Outer space where she will die instantly or keep her on board and doom thousands of people to death, including the pilot and the girl herself. No other option is possible. At the end of the story, Marilyn willingly walks into the airlock and is ejected into space.
Yeah, the story is a total downer. But it illustrates an important point. In life, there are cold equations. You get the job or someone else does. You get the girl or someone else does. You eat healthy and get in back in shape, or you stay fat and tired. You find a way to save or earn more money, or you ask for a handout. You don’t get to eat crap all day and get the confidence boost that comes with getting back in shape. You don’t get to ask for a handout and get the respect that comes with earning your own money. It’s one, or the other. Either way, you’re responsible.
Seek brutal feedback. The fastest way to start taking more responsibility for your life is to ask for feedback on how you’re doing things. Get advice from like-minded people who you respect or who have accomplished the things you want to accomplish. Ask, “What do I do well?” and “What could I improve?” Ask, “What can you count on me for?” and “What can you not count on me for?” Then, let them answer. Don’t interrupt. Just take it. Learn from it. Without feedback, growth is impossible.
Responsibility creates strength. When you take responsibility for yourself, or for a situation you’re involved in, you generate power. Start taking responsibility for your happiness, successes, misery, and mistakes. Own it all. Be ruthless. Be the beginning and the end of everything that happens to you. Stop giving away your power. Take it back.
Law #7. Develop a strong identity.
It’s hard to know who you are living in a world that values assimilation. Everything you see and hear is telling you to change who you are to fit someone or something else. Be more like the family you see on TV. Be more like the guy in the movie or girl in the magazine. Buy this toothpaste because 4 out of 5 people recommend it. Do what we say. Believe what we believe. Fall in line for this group of people or for this greater cause because they are more important than you.
What if nothing was more important than you? What if you were just as valuable as anyone or anything else? What if your goals were just as significant as the goals of any other person or group?
Constantly being told that other people are more important than you can turn you into a copy of a copy of a copy of who you really are. Over time, desperately trying to fit in will destroy you. Take a stand against conformity. Stop looking outward at how other people are living and start looking inward at how you were meant to live.
What are your quirks? What are your odd interests and unusual strengths?
Maybe there was something you were really interested in as a kid–something that came naturally to you but you stopped doing as you got older. Maybe there’s something that you find yourself thinking about in the brief moments of free time you have, something that wakes up a little bit when you’re alone and it’s quiet. Spend time with yourself until you figure these things out. Explore them. Name them.
You were meant to be recognized–not for how similar you are to the rest of the world, but for how different you are. You were given a name so that it would be known, not so that it would die quietly. Know who you are. Show the world who you are.
Law #8. Value energy over time.
Time is useless if you don’t have the energy to use it effectively. Too many people walk around thinking, “Man, if I just had more time!” Then, they go watch TV or gossip online. They go to the bar or some dumb house party because they feel guilty or because they want to escape their boring life for another couple of hours.
Most people say yes to everything their friends and family members want to do no matter how exhausted it will leave them. As soon as they say yes, they know they shouldn’t have. But, instead of canceling, they go anyway. People like this commit to the same things they hate over and over again until they’re stretched too thin to move. Then, when it’s time to pay the piper–when someone else or their own conscious asks them about their progress in life–they make excuses. “I’m too busy! “I don’t have the time!”
Lack of time is not the problem. Lack of energy is. When you’re energized, you’re focused. You’re productive. You have the ability to zoom out and discard the things that don’t matter and zoom in and execute the things that do matter. The only way to increase your energy levels is to avoid willpower depletion, or mental fatigue. The best way to avoid mental fatigue is to create better habits and make fewer emotional commitments.
Have you ever taken one day to completely unplug and refocus your life–just one day to create a strategy for your life instead of just putting out fires at home and doing whatever your boss tells you at work? If not, what’s stopping you?
Stop living out the same bad habits over and over again–checking emails, eating junk food, staying up late, absorbing useless information, and committing to things you don’t really want to do. Exhaustion is not a strategy. Ending every day completely drained and only having enough energy to wake up the next day and go through the motions is no way to live.
Law #9. Resist comfort.
Comfort makes people soft. Yet, comfort is what most people spend their entire lives chasing. They dream of the day when they can finally just sit back, relax, and exhale. Nothing more to do. No more desires to fulfill. Just a permanent state of letting go. Surrounded by other people who have let go too.
The problem is that people who let go die. Retirees who lay on some beach or live full time on the golf course drop dead within a few years. Studies show time and time again that people who achieve ultimate states of comfort like retirement have a higher mortality rates. Why?
I blew out my knee wrestling in college and within one week my leg muscles dwindled down to nothing. One week! That’s how your body and mind works—whatever you don’t use, you lose. This holds true for everything from decisiveness, goal-setting, and confidence. All abilities and states die without use. If you don’t practice it, it disappears.
Pressure, not comfort, spurs growth. Other studies show that plants stop growing at low levels of atmospheric pressure. They need higher levels of pressure to survive. This is because tension generates force. If you want your life to matter–if you want to create an impact–then you need to start generating more tension. This means you need to start getting uncomfortable.
Put yourself in difficult situations where no one can help you but yourself. Throw yourself in the deep end so your only options are to sink or swim. There’s no other way to grow.
Law #10. Enjoy your life.
Enjoyment is the meaning of life. Why does it have to be more complicated than that? Of course, this doesn’t mean that faith or traditions or family aren’t important. It means that they’re important only if you make them important.
You get to choose the source of your happiness and fulfillment. No one can choose it for you. Nothing is going to come along and make you happy without your consent. It doesn’t work that way. You have to make yourself happy.
Protect your joy. If you don’t guard your happiness, other people will come along and steal it. Or, they’ll ask you to give it up in exchange for their happiness. Some people will see you happy and excited about something and crap all over it just to bring you down and build themselves up. The only way to prevent this from happening is to be the source of your own happiness.
Forget other people’s opinions about your life. Forget other people’s opinion’s in general. Instead, trust yourself. Put your opinions first. Put your interests first. Put your happiness first. Only then will you lead a life that inspires others. The fastest and noblest way to effect lasting change is to lead by example, not by self-sacrifice.
Do you consider yourself self-reliant? If so, which of the above laws do you agree with or disagree with the most?
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