Toil to TOYL

The final chapter of Earn Everything covers a subject that may be uncomfortable for many of us. The title Toil to TOYL is intended to remind us to work hard to think of ourselves less. We should be saying to ourselves toil to think of yourself less in order to overcome many causes of frustration and conflict. It suggests that much of the meat of my misery is me. Many wise people have offered “We are our own worst enemies.”

Our ego gets in the way. Our natural perspective of the world is through our own eyes. We see the world through me, my, I. We view the world through our own lens, feel mostly our own feelings, and think our perspective is that seen by others. These tendencies lead us to overestimate our own contributions and capabilities. This chapter details a few mental biases which we are subject to which conspire to trip us up. Responsibility bias, the Lake Wobegon effect (illusion of superiority), and the Dunning Kruger effect are explored.

What started as a well intended effort in the self-esteem movement of the 70s and 80s has morphed into the madness of self-absorption amplified by Social Media. Many of us have been told that we are special or unique. We’re told how important we are. More of us are achieving honor roll in school, more are attending University. It’s not because we’re smarter. Yet, we feel important. The internet and social media has given us all a voice. We think we’re contributing to conversations and the conversation is improved with our input. This is artificial agency. We’re doing something but not actually making any difference at all. Social Media creates further challenges as it is common for people to try to project only the most positive things about themselves. We see the outcome of celebrity. We don’t see the work that goes into preparing. Author Austin Kleon refers to this as wanting to be the noun without being willing to do the verb. We want to play the part and reap the rewards without sacrificing and earning our way first. We see people living perfect and wonderful lives with fulfilling relationships. We don’t see the reality of their struggles. We feel we’re either getting left behind or have to try to compete on the same level. We worry that people are looking at us and we need to act such that they will be impressed. We spend our time putting on false fronts or we breed bitterness at the difference between what we see and where we are.

We stumble over our own feet and get in our own way in many ways. For example, when we get upset over little things. Paraphrasing Epictetus, if someone has provoked you, realize that you are somehow complicit in the process. Our response to something does involve us. If we react negatively to a situation, it’s because we chose to do so. Our flaw is fostered by a sense of entitlement. Our expectations are the origin of our pain. We shouldn’t blame others for disappointing us, but we should blame ourselves for having expectations over others we can’t control. Euthanize expectations from your existence in order to tame your temperament. Gratitude and Reframing discussed in Chapters 7 and 8, respectively, offer antidotes to this vulnerability. Being grateful is a way to think of ourselves less, as is, reframing.

Forget about what you can take and focus on the difference that you can make. Refrain from trying to rescue “rights”. Instead, try to rally for responsibilities. You won’t have the weight of the crowd behind you, but you’ll have the power of personal responsibility. It’s an individual journey, but the only way to meaningful change. By thinking of yourself less, you’re more likely to look out at how you can help others. This stance will help you give to get learned in Chapter 9. By doing this, you’re putting yourself in exclusive company. Thinking of yourself less evidences being W2D WOW – Willing to do what others won’t. Demonstrating your eagerness to earn things instead of expecting things will help you be a welcome addition to any team.

Thinking of ourselves less is one of the biggest challenges we face. A mindset is offered for consideration of MMIOO which stands for Minimize My Impact On Others. We don’t want to be the person in the drive thru ordering four custom coffees that will blow up the efficiency of the internal operation. I’ve waited, it’s my turn, I can order what I want isn’t a perspective that makes the world a better place. We don’t want to be the person standing at the top the escalator having a conversation with their friend while the rest of us pile up dangerously behind them. We want to do our part to stay out of others way. We want to recognize that we’re nothing special. We’re not entitled to anything. The world doesn’t owe us. The universe doesn’t care about us. This isn’t cynical or depressing. It’s empowering. We should be grateful for any opportunity we have to prove ourselves. We want to earn our way and demonstrate our usefulness to the world around us.

If we use this as a guideline to determine our actions, we’re likely to develop better awareness that we’re not the center of the universe. Improving our awareness just a little bit will help us steer clear of the biases that can cause problems. The result is that we’ll be happier, more pleasant to be around, and put ourselves in a position to give ourselves a chance.

C.S. Lewis “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”