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Method Over Morality: Don’t Improve Yourself. Stop Trying to Become a Better Person.

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series Mediocre Excellence

“Much mischief results from our taking a moral position on matters which are not basically moral matters at all.” ~ Maxwell Maltz

“More defeats and failures are due to mental blindness than to moral deviations.” ~ Raymond Holliwell

不管白貓黑貓,能抓到老鼠就是好貓」 “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white cat or a black cat; a cat that catches mice is a good cat.” ~ Deng XiaoPing 1

“Dude. Enough quotes already.” ~ Imaginary Quote Complaint Guy

Within the narrow sphere of learning (getting used to) a language…

…any plan that requires you to become a better person in order to work is a bad plan.

Now, this may sound strange coming from someone who reads so much personal development (“self help”) literature and says such self improvementy things on his Twitter, and tells you to believe in yourself. But the more I read and the more I live, the more I’m convinced that it’s true. Looking back, anything I’ve ever done that worked fabulously, did so because I chose a better process. I never rose to the occasion, I simply boarded an elevator. The elevator did the rising: I was just there.

Don’t improve yourself. Stop trying to become a better person. It won’t work; it’s not worth it and you don’t need to. Perhaps you are bad person 2. But even if you are, you’re still good enough. Not good. Good enough. Adequate. You’ll do. Just like how any decent stainless steel fork is good enough as a fork. Is it sterling silver? Can it make phone calls? No. But can you eat food with it and do anything that a fork needs to do? Most certainly. It’s even a respectable weapon. I don’t think this fork needs to sit around hating itself because it’s not silver.

The proverbial hole will take any shape and you’re any shape. You don’t improve yourself. You improve your processes. A better process, or method or sequence of choices and environment settings. You’ll stay the same. All your flaws will still be there, visible under the microscope you insist on looking through. But you’ll get amazing results. And it won’t be luck and it won’t be chance and it won’t be magic. It’ll be good processes. Good systems.

And the best part is, you don’t even have to make your own system. You can just buy, borrow or remix other people’s. That’s the beauty of something like Neutrino; you don’t become a better person; you don’t become more “disciplined” in the common sense of the word; you start here, you shuffle an atom‘s distance over there. That’s it. Start where you are, work with what you’ve got. Repeat. End of story.

Let’s let Earl Nightingale get a word in edgeways here:

“The problem is that our mind comes as standard equipment at birth. It’s free. And things that are given to us for nothing, we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we value.

The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence…All these priceless possessions are free.

But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time.” [Emphasis added]

You haven’t dropped the ball: you are the ball. Without you, there is no game. $500,000 will get you a Rolls Royce Phantom or a particularly nice watch; it can’t even get you a prosthetic pinkie 3 that works as well as a so-called “regular one”. You come with built-in machinery that learns languages and heals itself; Siri can’t even reliably do computer stuff for you. 4

And you’re prepared to call yourself a loser and a failure and a bad person because what? Over what? Because you missed a move in someone else’s game? Really? You’re going to throw your king — you — under a bus to save a pawn…from a different game on a different board with a different chess-set?

Good move.

Method over morality. You don’t suck. Your processes suck. Don’t improve yourself. Improve your processes. Do not become a better person. Stay the way you are. Just make slightly better choices each time. 5

Series Navigation<< That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It WrongJust Do One: Lowering Your Standards and Using Patterns from Addictions to Achieve Success >>


  1. Technically, it seems that Deng’s actual words were: “黃貓、黑貓,只要能捉住老鼠就是好貓。“, so he was talking about yellow cats and black cats, but this attribution kind of stuck. It’s a long story.
  2. And you could go feel bad about that the whole day; you could commit suicide in a gruesome fashion and you still wouldn’t be helping me or anyone else out. I get 0 benefit from you feeling bad about yourself. It causes 0 improvement in my day, in my life. If you went and made something I could use and then put it somewhere I could get it, the world might actually be a better place. And, of course, the irony in all this is that if you think you’re a bad person, you’re probably not; you’re probably a very good person.

    There are bad people. I have met them. You’re not them. You have impeccable taste in websites.

  3. I haven’t really fact-checked this or anything. I imagine you can certainly get cheap(er) prostheses, they…just…suck.
  4. Even ignoring all singularity predictions, It’s always dicey putting down technology because technology basically always improves in the long run…guess who does the improving though? The point isn’t that technology sucks: it doesn’t. The point is that you’re even better than these things that don’t suck, but you don’t even realize it because you’re so numbed to the awesomeness..
  5. Kaizen (One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way)

  8 comments for “Method Over Morality: Don’t Improve Yourself. Stop Trying to Become a Better Person.

  1. April 11, 2013 at 13:08

    Thank you Khatz. I felt this was a really uplifting, informative post, enjoyed reading it, made some flashcards out of it, hope you don’t ever stop writing.

  2. Ana-chan S2
    April 11, 2013 at 16:43

    Never stop writing endeed! I love the things you write, they lift me up better than the standard self-help books around there!

  3. April 12, 2013 at 20:18

    I think this is the most realistic point of view I’ve ever read. Good article!

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