“Letting go of ‘right and wrong’ is key step in opening the way to wealth and financial freedom. But being selfish and greedy is not. So just how do we walk that line.?”
“You’ve got to let go of right and wrong.”
This is something I tell a lot of the people who come to me for mentoring advice. And it’s often one of the hardest lessons to take on.
And often the people who find it most difficult are the same people who have no trouble making sacrifices to save an extra $100 a week. Get up an hour early to do some research, or practices new skills. Make time in their life for learning and attending seminars.
The framework of right and wrong is something that’s been ingrained very, very deeply into our psyches.
It starts in school, if not earlier. As soon as we’ve left the house we’re put in a world where there’s a right way to do things. And people are very quick to let us know if we’ve done it the right or wrong way.
You fill out a spelling test, hand it in, and it comes back to you with a score in a big red circle, letting you know how much you got right, and how much you got wrong.
And on and on it goes, through the schooling years. Maths tests, biology quizzes. Even when the task gets more complicated, like writing poetry or an English essay, we still pretend it’s a simple task, a matter of right and wrong, and you get a score, relative to a perfect 100. You got 85% right. 15% wrong.
The whole education system is set up on abstraction-based skill development. You construct an abstract context (Jane has 5 apples. She gives two to John…), and you can ignore everything else and focus on the skill you want to practice (subtraction).
And you know, I guess it works. We learn some skills.
Trouble is, most real world problems aren’t abstract. They exist in a complex world where everything is connected, and many things (including the future) are completely unknown. And if it can’t be made abstract, then it can’t be simplified down into a simple right or wrong.
And so there’s no ‘right’ answer.
And so a lot of people ask me about the ‘right’ place to put their money. But that question leads you up the garden path. One property has better prospects for capital growth. Another delivers better cashflow. How do you choose? It’s apples and oranges.
And if there’s a right way, it also implies that there’s a ‘wrong’ way. There’s a wrong place to put your money.
And I’ve seen this idea paralyse a lot of people. They’re afraid of getting it ‘wrong’. And so they spend hours and hours researching, reading things from all over the web, talking to every expert they can back into a corner at cocktail party.
And they get frustrated that all this work isn’t showing them what the ‘right’ answer is. They don’t feel any closer than when they started. They start to think that they must be stupid. Dysfunctional.
It doesn’t occur to them that there is no ‘right’ answer.
Because it’s not just the concepts of ‘right and wrong’ that we’ve bought into. It’s a whole framework for problem solving and decision making.
There’s a problem. Discard everything that’s not relevant. Work with what’s left. Find the ‘right answer’.
Q: Jane has 5 apples. She gives two apples to John. She gives one apple to Bob. How many apples does Jane have left?
A: What? Why did she give more apples to John? What’s their history? Or is she trying to hide her affections for Bob by giving him less apples? Maybe Bob wants to get his hands on John’s apples…
Grade: FAIL. Duane needs to learn to apply himself to the task at hand.
We’re not taught how to deal with complex problems where there is no clear right and wrong. And people, like me, who get fascinated by the big-picture, struggle through the system, or drop out altogether.
And the thing is, it’s possible to get through life without learning how to deal with complexity at all. If you want to keep replicating the context where someone tells you what’s right and what’s wrong, then you can get a job working for somebody. There’s a right button to push. A wrong lever to pull.
And so the school system sets us up to be wonderful cogs in someone else’s machine.
But if we want to get away from machines all together, we suddenly find ourselves in a complex world where there is no right and wrong.
And for a lot of us, it pulls the floor right out from under our feet. We’re completely lost.
And so I often find it’s the dedicated and the diligent who have the hardest time with investing “outside the system” – which, if you’ve been reading my blogs, is where the real money is.
And the people who thrive, folks like your Richard Bransons, did it because they just didn’t give a toss about the rule book. They don’t worry about right and wrong. They just do what they’re inspired to do.
And so we need to let go of our attachment to right and wrong. Soften our focus, and enjoy the complex big picture.
And I know this idea scares a lot of people. They feel like right and wrong are the two rails that keep them on the right track. If they give it up, then they’ll become a horrible person. They’ll become selfish, greedy, mean, vindictive, fat.
But look at this story. What are you saying about yourself? You are essentially a horrible monster who needs rules to stop you from eating babies and pushing old ladies over.
The people who make the rules, they want you to believe that.
(Think about that for a second.)
No. You are fundamentally and essentially a beautiful person. And if you realise that you’ve learnt some skills and you can let go of the ‘right and wrong’ framework, you’ll still be a beautiful person.
And suddenly, investing, and every other complex thing in your life, will become a whole lot easier.