The Righteousness of Selfishness

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Social Resistance

You don’t go around forcing people to take money from you, do you?
So why go around forcing people to take your advice?

Your advice is worth its weight in gold, right? Time is money, right? So why are you spending both so lavishly on people who hate you and just want you to shut up so they can keep listening to themselves speak? 你黐線㗎? Have you gone mad? Have you gone Spartan? Why give the best who those who want and deserve it the least?

If your advice is truly valuable, keep it to yourself and reap the benefits. Be selfish with it. Be a jerk about your time and your advice. A big, fat jerk. People should be paying you to get either one.

Truly good advice should be like a truly good stock tip 1: it should work whether or not other people agree with you on it; it should work whether or not forum trolls and IRL trolls know about it and cosign on it. If you need people to know about it and agree with you on it for it to work, then what you have is a cult. Not valuable advice.

Do you know why most women don’t go around begging for it? It’s the same reason so many don’t fight in wars or bars: because they’re not effing stupid. Take a page from the chick book. Milk that advice like a patent. Save it for the ones who prove worthy.

Who is “worthy”? Well, it’s people who:

  1. Are desperately seeking or begging your advice, and/or
  2. Are willing and able to pay for it.

Needing your advice does not automatically make someone “worthy” 2. No doubt a lot of people “need” your advice, but if you simply give it to them, they’ll just:

  1. ignore it, or
  2. hurt themselves or
  3. (worst of all) hurt you with their venom and ingratitude

All three of these failure modes waste your precious time and energy. People who need the advice most are often in the worst state to take it; they say that even drug addicts have to be actively looking to get better in order to be helpable. You can’t just…go help them. They have to come for it. You wouldn’t try to force-feed your cat; if he’s not hungry, he’s not hungry. Don’t force-feed your wisdom.

So do share those ideas, but only with people and in contexts 3 where they will be welcomed, where you will reap real material and psychic rewards from them (not the Special Olympics medal that is “winning” an Internet argument), where you’re not just spinning your wheels. All of which is a very long-winded way of saying: no flame wars for you 🙂 .

Practical example time. If I have an IRL friend who comes and asks me for advice, I’ll give it; I’ll dish; I’ll spread my lips and share my bounty. But if I have an IRL friend who’s suffering, and struggling and could easily be saved by my advice but has not asked me for it (yet)? I keep that bounty on lock. I bite my tongue. No one wants your good advice unless they ask for it. I have ignored this heuristic before and it has…(drum roll)…never helped; they were harmed by it and I was harmed by it. They felt put upon and I felt…I dunno…just, icky. Unsolicited goodwill is worse than malice; at least you could have fun with malice, hahaha! It doesn’t matter how much they need it, they have to ask.

Doesn’t all that make me a blatant hypocrite? No 4. Why? Because…you came here. You asked by coming here. You solicited by staying here. If you didn’t like it, you’d be gone by now; one can’t even stay on to troll because this blog runs like a Communist country; trolls mysteriously disappear. Not even trolls, just people who don’t suck up enough go…missing 😛 . So, yeah.

Observe: those who came and left are served by the same work as those who came and stayed; I don’t write a new website for each beautiful person who comes here. So, I encourage you, yeah, give advice, but give it where it’s wanted and (if at all possible) in a way that saves you work and effort and heartache, where you’re not convincing but merely sharing and where, yeah, it’s a persistent artifact so you don’t have to repeat yourself.

And you don’t have to start a blog or write a book if you don’t want to. But, say you keep notes in text or audio or video form. Someone wants advice? Send ’em a copy of your notes (I actually used to do this; I had a pre-prepared email with links and notes in it; it was the AJATT before AJATT). Either way, make it…gosh…make it profitable for yourself: definitely emotionally (psychically) 5, and (if you’re so inclined, which I hope you are) financially as well. Not that you have to charge your friends, that can be awkward 6, but you could turn what you do for your friends into a product or whatever. Selling is good; money is good; those aren’t generally considered cool things to say, but they’re true: if money didn’t exist, we’d invent it oh wait, we did.

Which all sounds incredibly misanthropic, when it’s actually the exact opposite. Remember: most people, even — no, especially — the people who know you best and love you most, would be unwilling to give two bowel movements’ worth of stool…to hear about what you do or think; they want your love, not your opinions; they want compassion, not wisdom. I’ll betcha a million imaginary dollars that Stephen King’s family don’t read his books.

Such being the case, you’ll be far more valuable to and beloved by people as a listener than as a preacher. Most of the time. Am I being a hypocrite right now? Yes. But…again, the issue is not to shut up for the sake of shutting up, but to shut up unless and until the person, time and place demand it. In fact, a small but significant part of why I write here is so that I can shut up the rest of the time, and spare…I mean, it’s like forcing someone to have sex with you [=listen to your advice] just because you’re good at sex [=have good advice to give] and/or they’re going through a dry spell [=need it]. Not kosher. Not even…Reform Kosher 7.

And that’s why flame wars are so goofy, because you’ve got just givers and no willing receivers. No one, not even you — you know, the person who’s right, not that other idiot — goes into a flame war to listen or learn, only to “school”, to “teach” to “destroy”. They say that when the student is ready, the master will appear. Well, until the student gives consent, the master needs to keep his tongue in his mouth and STFU. Words that have no willing audience yet belong in a journal.

Anyway, that’s all from me for now 😉 . Would love to hear about your experiences… 8

Series Navigation<< Their Freedom To Hate → Your Freedom To Become GreatWhose Team Are You On? >>


  1. Here we go again with the stock similes…
  2. What if people need your advice but won’t take it but you still want them to have it? Well, then, you’re gonna have to wrap that advice in candy and totally disguise the fact that it’s advice. A lot of shady religious groups have figured out excellent techniques for this; many (most?) of those techniques are morally neutral, and so could easily be used for good. Apple doesn’t have “evangelists” for nothing.
  3. A journal/book/website of your own is one such place.
  4. Plenty of other things make me a hypocrite. But not this 😛
  5. I can think of nothing more emotionally unprofitable than a flame war. Lose time and energy and money? Coont me oot, son!
  6. Although, I’ve totally done it when I wanted “insurance” on my time as it were. And it was absolutely the right thing to do, in every case. People value things that cost money, even more than things that are free but worth more. That’s why you have people who eat McDonald’s but treat their cars like babies.

    Not only that, but…yeah, it saves you wasting your time. Concrete example: If someone asks you for free advice and you recommend an awesome book but they don’t get or read the book (but keep asking you for the same advice)…you need to charge! Heck, at least get taken out to eat, if that’s your thing. Because you’re not being listened to. So you’d better either stop talking, or start getting paid to be ignored (grown-ups called that being a “consultant” 😛 ).

  7. Zing! The Khatzumoto offense machine rolls on…
  8. Consent! Hanh? See what I did there?

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  11 comments for “The Righteousness of Selfishness

  1. June 8, 2012 at 00:39

    Khatz, out of all of us, I’m pretty sure *YOU* have given the most advice (including advising us to keep our advice to ourselves in this very post 😛 )

  2. Pingfa
    June 8, 2012 at 00:57

    Personally I like to think that if the advice is “worth its weight in gold” then it is worth letting everyone know.
    Indeed it is true that “Truly good advice should be like a truly good stock tip 1: it should work whether or not other people agree with you on it; it should work whether or not forum trolls and IRL trolls know about it and cosign on it” and that’s why I believe worthy advice is worth telling – even if they don’t agree with it, it can still help them. Even if their ego refuses to accept it, it can still positively affect them.
    It doesn’t have to be that the provider needs to tell people, but that the receiver needs to hear it.  

  3. Freddy
    June 8, 2012 at 01:47

    A friend, once told me to do this with my programming and tech know-how. I was of the type that just HELPED everyone out, and funny, soon as I started telling people that I would bill them for my time, the calls and annoyance stopped, almost instantaneously. And I love it that way.

    Good advice is definitely worth sharing, but one should choose the recipients well… very well. 

  4. June 8, 2012 at 12:55

    I believe it was Jesus who said, “Do not cast your pearls amongst swine.” Smart man.

  5. June 9, 2012 at 00:43

    The Buddhist in me suggests that advice should be freely given because even if people don’t appreciate it now, they just might someday. Speaking as one who is pretty thick-headed, I know this to be true. 🙂

    You don’t hit them over the head with it, but naturally you don’t want to withhold it either. That defeats the purpose of generosity.

    Look up the Four Bodhisattva Vows sometime on Google if curious.

    • June 13, 2012 at 16:21

      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.
      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.
      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.
      In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings.

  6. ライトニング
    June 13, 2012 at 02:06

    It makes me wonder why I even bothered to take all the time getting people to understand the method I use. I should have just kept quiet. Sadly I also told people about the SRS (How stupid was I) now there is more competition for higher class rank.

    • June 13, 2012 at 02:53

      >Sadly I also told people about the SRS (How stupid was I) now there is more competition for higher class rank.
      There is no competition with others, there is only competition with the enemy within 🙂
      lol but yeah, I know what you mean. Back in high school, I once showed a friend of mind named B-Dawg a cool Photoshop technique I came up with. He then showed a bunch of other people, and they were all like, “Omg! You’re amazing, B-Dawg! [fake name :P]”, and even the teacher was like, “Wow B-Dawg, great job figuring that out, you get bonus marks!”

  7. olimay
    June 18, 2012 at 07:32

    Taleb says: “You can focus your reputation or your actions but not both.”
    …and: “It is as difficult to avoid bugging others with advice on how to exercise and other health matters as it is to stick to an exercise schedule.”
    …and most importantly: “There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments. They are never the same.”

  8. Matt
    June 19, 2012 at 13:59

    As a social human being, pardon me if I like to discuss my interests amongst friends.  But my friends all know how little to take me seriously. 😉

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