If you hadn’t noticed, the big news around here last week was that this blog was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. I was pleased to see that a good number of new readers arrived at this site, and they are now digging through the archives and hopefully learning some new things. But I also received some sympathetic emails from friends, saying things like “Sorry about all the harsh comments on that interview. Keep your chin up. Haters gonna hate!”
They were talking about the many critical comments dropped into that stream of hundreds on the WSJ feature. While I usually avoid the comments section on any major media website (a key part of a Low Information Diet), my willpower failed and I had to go dig in to see if any extra smelly ones could be harvested from the bowl and featured here.
But the interesting part is not what complete strangers say about Mr. Money Mustache. It is that dozens of critical comments appear on almost every major media article, whether it’s about Barack or Britney, solar panels or oil fields. People just like to complain about everything.
You might already know how I feel about complaints. They are a complete waste of time, because the complainer is renewing his mental focus on his own problems, even while he wastes the time of the unfortunate listener who is stuck hearing the complaints. We could all take a great leap forward in life by simply instituting an “No Fucking Complaints about ANYTHING – EVER” rule, rephrasing them as honest questions and plans of action to fix the underlying problems instead.
So why do people keep complaining? I think I might have stumbled across the beginnings of an answer this year, and the results can be useful to complainers and non-complainers alike.
In books like Predictably Irrational, we learn about the strange nature of human psychology, and how many of the survival traits that served us well throughout most of our evolution now sabotage our attempts to live a good life in a world that is mostly safe and prosperous. The results are wide-reaching: politicians use cheap emotional tricks like religion and wedge issues to influence voters. People spend their lifetimes in debt slavery just to buy offroad trucks for personal use. Millions of lives are lost early to obesity and hypertension.
I read in one of these books that the “Hater” instinct is just another one of our predictably irrational strategies, originally based on mating success.
In our tribal ancestry, social status was an important thing. If you were the Alpha male, you had your pick of the women and a very good chance of successful reproduction. High-ranking women had access to the best genes and would end up with more robust offspring. Social cohesion was essential to ensure the group’s success, and becoming a social outcast could be fatal, because going it alone was not a wise strategy in ancient times. This may have created our strong fears of rejection and even public speaking.
But there was room for more than one role in the tribe. The Alpha male got to sit at the top. The Followers and Yes-Men gained social acceptance by respecting the boss and following the rules (also displayed in warlords and their armies). And the Haters built themselves up by verbally chopping down the Alpha behind his back. “Grok not so tough! Look at his flawed management and limited skills. I could easily defeat him.”
By demonstrating the courage to criticize the leader, the Haters lifted themselves from the bottom of the hierarchy, and hopefully gained the respect of at least one reproductive partner.
All this silliness may have made sense when life, death, and sex were at stake. But to see it applied in modern times to a financial blogger who attempts to share the benefits of a lower-consumption lifestyle with the rest of the world can be pretty funny.
Guys: Mr. Money Mustache is not stealing your women. He’s not taking over the tribe, withholding food, or compromising your reproductive success in any other way. He’s just a random guy sitting there typing some shit into the computer. He has only one woman, one kid, and he doesn’t even consume all that much of our shared resources. That leaves more for you. There is no threat here. Only an opportunity to raise your own status if you go out and do some more reading on the matter.
And this advice applies to haters and complainers in every niche. If you find yourself complaining about a situation, boss, politician, celebrity, or any other random person in the news, you can catch yourself early and avoid the hater trap.
You can acknowledge that your feelings are valid, because that strategy did work in prehistoric times. But you need to repackage that energy into something that works for you today, where opportunities are not controlled by “them”, they are controlled by you.
You’ll know you have made it when you get your own first batch of dedicated haters.
Further Reading on Mental Jiu Jitsu: