This post is a follow up on my previous post: A Rigged Game, which itself was a response to Jordan Cooper's Full of Potential = Full of Shit… Jordan has responded to my post and now we're locked in an epic debate re: the Meaning of Life. Here's an excerpt from his latest post, Trees, Sharks & Change. My response is below…
I was talking to my friend Brett yesterday and he said something that made a lot of sense to me. He said, “you and me, we are like sharks…we like to be moving all the time, and if we stop moving we die…most people aren’t like us.” I thought about this for a while and I realized that the reason why I didn’t detect a shred of despair in my previous post (while many people read it that way), is because the state that I am happiest in is one of change. Through that lens, the reason I keep introducing what the most ardent critic, Matt Mirelis, would call “unattainable” accomplishments/timeframes as points of reference to measure my own progress in life (i.e. those who accomplish amazing things very early in life), is because with the knowledge that more is possible than what I have or am doing, comes the reminder to keep moving and never become complacent.
I think many people work towards defined goals in life (money, wife, house, kids, cars, corner office), and once they achieve them, they stop creating new goals and become complacent. I will call these people “trees” (once a tree grows to be a certain hight, very hard to move it). In this complacency, “trees” find happiness, but that is because they are not “sharks” as my friend Brett would say. Reveling in the satisfaction of what you are doing in the present or what you have done in the past is a recipe for slowing the rate of change in one’s life. This is a completely valid ambition, to reduce change, and some of my closest friends are unhappy during transitions, and extremely happy in routine…but “sharks” crave constant transition.
Ahh, hubris. Never fails.
Hmm. Where to begin….
Although the motive makes some sense, I think it is dangerous for you to place yourself in a separate class of humanity. The "sharks" vs "trees" categorization envisions a pretty static view of human psychology, your understanding of which seems deeply flawed.
The problem (that this model doesn't seem to account for) is that in reality, today's "shark" is very often tomorrow's "tree." Sharks swim and swim and swim and then, say in their 30s, begin to ask the question: What's the f'ing point to all this swimming and chasing and running and movement?
All too often, the answer is: there is none, there is no point. (Thoreau: Masses of men live lives of quiet desperation). And so, faced with this existential crisis, people attempt to give meaning to their lives. How? They have kids. And they become "trees."
Some people, of course, never figure it out. And they spend there whole lives on the shark treadmill, probably congratulating themselves for being so in shape.
But at the end of the day, what's the point? Are you hustling just to keep up, or is there some bigger meaning, some larger ends, some purpose for all this effort and strain and movement?
To imagine yourself on a pedestal, claiming you have some sort of different, special DNA than us mere mortals is a classic mistake of youth, a classic act of hubris. I think you're probably better off doing some more introspection and asking yourself: Why is it that so many "sharks" like me end up as "trees" later on? What is it about their worldview and circumstance that causes so many smart, ambitious people like me to end up thinking this way? How do I avoid this fate?
Because in truth, you're really not that extraordinary. You really don't belong to a separate category of human being, except perchance by luck of birth, education and economics. And that's not something you earned.
This frenetic search for the next, for the new––it is a classic marker of the highly competitive, outlandishly privileged, prep schooled elite. You and your friends alone have been given this special training, fed this special sauce that makes you "sharks," or so you have been indoctrinated to believe. I went to those schools. I get it.
And it is from this "sharkiness" that you derive pride and a sense of identity. And part of that is cool. You have been conditioned to run fast, to work hard, to constantly push. The same was true when I fought fire on a hotshot crew––we were conditioned to work, to push, always just go, go, go without question. It ain't a bad tool to have in your playbook.
But at some point, you gotta reflect and ask the question: What's the point of all this movement? To what ends do we struggle? Why am I working so f'ing hard?
And that's my whole point: Are you a shark simply swimming in circles because you need to move, because you have to move, because moving is all you know, because if you don't, you die. Or are you fucking going somewhere? Is there a direction? Is there a point?
PS You misspelled my name: It's Matt MirelEs.