When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (or so I’m told — ‘coz you never quite know with these Internet quotes, do you?)
In life, oftentimes, the real choice isn’t between success and popularity, but between success and immediate popularity. It’s a toughie. Tougher, in fact, than the actual success path (“a day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work” and all that). Which is both good and bad, depending on how you look at it .
To me, that’s the real meaning of “delayed gratification” — the lonely gap between when the old social grouping rejects you and you’re again gratified by the acceptance of some new group.
I think we all have the power to establish and maintain good habits, but when threatened with the withdrawal of the camaraderie, admiration or love of our peers, that’s the real fork in the path; that’s where we make or don’t make ourselves. I imagine it’s where people who did keep on keeping on came the closest to cracking.
We can console ourselves with the knowledge that real camarederie wouldn’t have turned sour so easily. Although, that can feel quite hollow in the face of what seems to be the end of the world. And it is the end of a world, just not the world.
Maybe all the noise that adults make about teenagers and peer pressure is really adults projecting their own challenges with social resistance. Who knows? Anyway, enough psychobabble from me; I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
My point is…if you can either insulate yourself from or completely break through social resistance, then you’re well on your way to becoming unstoppable. For good or ill.
So, if in doubt? Screw ‘em. They’re replaceable. As callous as that may sound, it’s really no more callous than the open derision of people making feeble attempts to put you in what they presume to be your place. A place that’s invariably insultingly low. If anything, breaking social resistance is an act of charity, an act of love for at least one person — you — which is more love than your would-be detractors are showing anyone at the moment in question.
Social resistance is…it’s almost like a prank. I’m speaking purely in a metaphorical sense, but it does seem as though it’s all this sort of Zen-like episode of Punk’d on a massive scale, and the joke is on you. Mmm…Punk’d isn’t really the most apropos comparison; I was just feeling nostalgic about that show.
What I mean is this: it’s almost as though social resistance is difficult-seeming and difficult-looking by design, because once you can ignore, deflect or otherwise transcend social resistance, everything is, relatively speaking, a walk in the cake.
Maybe mental state alters behavior, and behavior alters mental state. And maybe the behavior of rejecting social resistance has profound effects on one’s mental state. And maybe these effects bleed into other areas and help us be more effective. And maybe that’s why we sometimes over-esteem celebrities and other people who have succeeded in one field: since experts can seem superhumanly good, we assume that they’re all-round superhumans.
I remember one time, writing out for an English friend, some of the various alternates of the sword (劍) character: 劍・劒・劔・釼・剣 … and she went “you see, I’ll never be able to do that [you must be magically talented]“…and it was kind of mini-heartbreaking because my intent had been to prove that any fool can learn kanji, not that I knew kanji. Daniel Coyle of Das Le El The Talent Code calls this the “HSE/Holy [Crap] Effect”.
Social resistance is like a matte painting of a formidable fence separating the worlds of those who do succeed (in many senses), and those who don’t. Once you realize the fence is fake, you simply walk off the set of the little Truman Show that had been going on and oh crap another pop culture reference. Thereafter, you may not become instantly unstoppable, but it will certainly take a heckuva lot more to faze you. By the way, “heckuva” sounds…Slavic if you read it a certain way.
So, it can pay to be a bit detached and solipsitic about it all. Like when your friends tells you about their drama and all you can do is laugh — you care for your friends, you’re just not taken in by the drama because you have the mental removal to watch it as farce. That kind of bemused detachment can be a great asset. And people may call you on it, and get upset at your lack of emotional abandon, but…more detachment will probably solve that as well.
The funny thing is, though, all of these ideas can be used to justify anything, good or bad. Then again, trains can be used for suicide, but we’re not outlawing them any time soon.
AJATT is often described as cultish. And it is, because I have carefully laid plans to whisk you all away to a compound in South America where we can watch anime and drink colored sugarwater. But really, what it is is that many paths, religious or secular, requiring significant investments of self, time and resources, are likely to at some point bring one into some level of conflict with common behaviors and levels of self-management that are considered “normal”.
Case in point: one or two of my Japanese friends sometimes make fun of me learning Chinese, yet these same kids — the same ones doing the mocking — also wish they knew Chinese, and even make half-hearted attempts (book purchases) in that general direction. Whenever we’re geeking out by my bookshelf, and things go quiet for a while, and the dust settles, they invariably sigh something we might loosely translate as: “dag, yo…I wonna know me some Chah-nese”.
If and when these conflicts occur, sometimes, compromise and negotation work. Other times, resolute boldness is called for. I don’t know which will be which for you. For example, I don’t object to people suggesting that my daily life be composed of a variety of activities. But I will happily walk, run and fly over, around and through people who think they have the authority to decide or even suggest the details (time, place and content) of those activities. Those are my “rules”, if you will. Yours may differ.
Let me give you a little story from the halcyon days of when AJATT was just me being me in Utah. My friends wanted us to watch Pulp Fiction together…in the living room. I like hanging out with people while not doing the same thing, so I was like…yeah, cool, whatever. I didn’t want to watch something in English, but I was willing to watch it with them, so I was going to read Japanese on my laptop while they watched. I often read and watch at the same time.
This compromise upset them. They wanted the movie to be watched in their way (laptopless) on their timetable (now). These were hardcore computer geeks; they knew about geeking out; they should have known better. In the end, after about 90 seconds of failed explanation, I simply went and did something else in Japanese. They got even more upset. About eighteen months later, one of the people who had been there apologized for the entire incident; in his own words, I had been right and he wrong; he hadn’t realized what I was trying to do; he now knew that I had needed to do what I did.
Rarely is all this drama an issue; usually, it doesn’t even come up. But sometimes you do have to choose between something you really want and like, and just being liked. Fortunately, when you choose the former, you do tend to get new likers. Either completely new people, or the same old people post-change-of-heart.
Do what you need to do. Do what makes you happy and comfortable. Getting the job done? Well, that counts as part of “comfort”. Sucking at Japanese made me uncomfortable. So, go become great at Japanese or whatever .