November 22, 2014

February 15, 2013


An Interesting Article on “Effort Shock”

I didn’t really like the kind of “side trail” of the gnash against movie montages in this article over at Cracked.com [language alert for this article]. The point of movie montages is to show *how hard* the effort is to succeed within just a few moments of film time. I don’t think anyone can have studied the workout weeks of great athletes without realizing just how incredibly hard it is to be good at one’s chosen sport, even if the athlete is a prodigy and a natural.

But I like this man’s general thesis which is that most of the time we have expectations of “life” and “the way things ought to be” that our far and away outrageously wrong. I do see this a lot with some people in business—they believe that things ought to come a whole lot easier and faster than they do. My rule of thumb is that if you think something ought to happen in, say, three years—quadruple that and you’ll be closer to reality.

So, people bail on diets. Not just because they’re harder than they expected, but because they’re so much harder it seems unfair, almost criminally unjust. You can’t shake the bitter thought that, “This amount of effort should result in me looking like a panty model.”

It applies to everything. America is full of frustrated, broken, baffled people because so many of us think, “If I work this hard, this many hours a week, I should have (a great job, a nice house, a nice car, etc). I don’t have that thing, therefore something has corrupted the system and kept me from getting what I deserve, and that something must be (the government, illegal immigrants, my wife, my boss, my bad luck, etc).”

I really think Effort Shock has been one of the major drivers of world events. Think about the whole economic collapse and the bad credit bubble. You can imagine millions of working types saying, “All right, I have NO free time. I work every day, all day. I come home and take care of the kids. We live in a tiny house, with two shitty cars. And we are still deeper in debt every single month.” So they borrow and buy on credit because they have this unspoken assumption that, dammit, the universe will surely right itself at some point and the amount of money we should have been making all along (according to our level of effort) will come raining down.

All of it comes back to having those massively skewed expectations of the world. Even the people you think of as pessimists, they got their pessimism by continually seeing the world fail to live up to their expectations, which only happened because their expectations were grossly inaccurate in the first place.

You know that TV show where Gordon Ramsay tours various failing restaurants and swears at the owners until everything is fine again? Every episode is a great example. They all involve some haggard restaurant owner, a half a million dollars in debt, looking exhausted into the camera and saying, “How can we be losing money? I work 90 hours a week!”

The world demands more. So, so much more. How have we gotten to adulthood and failed to realize this? Why would our expectations of the world be so off?


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2 comments

One problem is overestimating one’s abilities. This is an increasing problem. Think of yourself as average. Most everyone wants to be normal but few want to be average. Average and normal mean about the same thing. People who realize they are average are willing to work harder than those who think they are special.

[1] Posted by Fr. Dale on 2-15-2013 at 08:55 PM · [top]

I will always remember my wife and I pulling up a long hill on bicycles. She was a three sport athlete in college. She told me at the top, “I don’t want to bike with you because I don’t like being out of breath.” Here’s a news flash to you athletes. Ordinary people like me think being out of breath is part of aerobic exercise.

[2] Posted by Fr. Dale on 2-15-2013 at 09:01 PM · [top]

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