Sloppy and Obnoxious

June 20, 2012

Listen to them with their chatter of far off places. Look at them with their luxury cars and expensive clothes. Always talking, talking, talking.

They’d like you to think they’ve got it all worked out, wouldn’t they? Just don’t look past the self-absorption, banality, and their deliberate little place at the center of attention.

Instead, think about what they are so often not: respectful or interesting. When Seneca writes that “slavery resides beneath marble and gold,” he leaves out the other attribute: stupidity. It makes you soft and sloppy and obnoxious. Don’t even get started whether they’re happy (actually do the math on the numbers these guys are throwing around)

We like to say with smug satisfaction “nobody lies on their deathbed and says, ‘I wish I’d worked more.’ Well, nobody really says “I’m SO glad I spent all that time skiing” either. Those things don’t matter either–they aren’t happiness or meaning. And in fact, they may be more dangerous because they feel like they do.

When we are young or inexperienced, we envy these people–or at least a part of us does. We unconsciously think we are supposed to be like them. The idea is to own a Rolex right? And be able to talk about what Abu-Dhabi is like, of course.

Or is it? What if the idea is to actually like yourself and the work you do enough that you don’t feel the subconscious desire to flitter around all the time. What if you don’t talk about yourself or (talk that much period) because you’re thinking about important things? What if the idea is to feel better in simple dress, to have no problem with a coach seat even if you could afford otherwise. The more I think about it, yeah, that’s the idea. That you may suffer less the less insufferable you are.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

20 responses to Sloppy and Obnoxious

  1. Sloppy and Obnoxious. I would also add pretentious, annoying and an American ideal

  2. I like what you say here a lot.

    Right now, I work part time from home, which gives me TONS of time to spend with my family. That’s a good thing, to some extent. I went to all my step-son’s soccer practices and games., for example. Really, I don’t miss a thing, except on rare occasions.

    But what eats me up at night is my list of things that I want to accomplish — that I know I can and should be accomplishing — that isn’t getting done because I’m spending so much time at home enjoying myself.

    They say no one dies thinking they should have worked more. That may be true, but only because we have a flawed definition of work. If we only think of “work” as the crap we do to make enough money to get by, sure… But what if we extend work to the stuff that we feel called to do from a young age?

    That’s the type of work that I would regret not doing. That’s the type of work that’s worth balancing with your family time.

  3. The first half of this sums up 90% of my friends here in L.A. I plan on keeping the other 10%.

    Check out comment #4.. can’t help but think there is a movement brewing here, and it’s not a anti-consumerism ‘hippie’ statement like we’ve seen before. If you’re under 40 chances are that within the last decade you’ve been put through both ends of a meat grinder and are seriously questioning why we should continue to do this to ourselves. I know I do.

    • LA is the WORST about this stuff. I actually wrote it on a flight back from LA

    • Not sure if this is at all coherent, but…

      Last night I was thinking about productivity, and the word “slavery” came to mind. My conception of human identity is that we are not monolithic individuals; rather a person is a set of instantaneous identities, momentary units like pictures in a flipbook.

      From this perspective, disciplined productivity towards a future goal requires empathy for the distinctly other entity of one’s future self. In fact, I believe empathy towards other persons in general is a spillover of this empathy towards future self (an inverted extension of Nel Noddings care ethics).

      Arguably, periods of undesirable work are an enslavement of the instantaneous identities that do the work, perpetrated in order to enrich the future identities that benefit. But to force these moments of discipline, “one” must consume the idea that they will pay off–one must have strong empathy for future selves.

      So it is hard to be productive without empathy. Screwing other people over thus goes against the underlying basis of our discipline (empathy), and de-legitimizes the sacrifice we make in partial self-enslavement.

  4. “When wealth had been handed down the generations according to bloodlines and connections, it was natural to dismiss the idea that money was any indicator of virtue besides that of having been born to the right parents. But in a meritocratic world, where prestigious and well-paid jobs could be secured only on the basis of one’s own intelligence and ability, it now seems that wealth might be a sound sign of character. The rich were not only wealthier; they might also be better.” Alain de botton

    Given your affinity for animal anecdotes, why not embrace some social darwin instincts and showcase some exotic plumage 😉

  5. Right on. A shaky self-image built on consumerism and distraction..

    “After a stressful experience that challenges their self-image, consumers tend to increase their overall consumption in order to distract themselves and “forget all about it.”

    “For example, a student might buy a bottle of “Smart Water” before taking a math test. A consumer might splurge on some expensive jewelry prior to attending a high school reunion to guard against the perception that they have not been successful in life. Another might purchase a designer suit prior to presenting at an important meeting where their business savvy might be scrutinized.

    “Prior to receiving any negative feedback, consumers select products that are specifically associated with bolstering or guarding the part of the self that might come under threat. After receiving negative feedback, consumers seem to increase their consumption more generally as consumption may serve as a means to distract them from the negative feedback,” the authors conclude.

  6. I enjoy your blog for the refreshers on Stoic principles. I’ve just graduated university and find myself in one of those real-world work places. I can’t believe how rampant this type of attitude is; way to call them out.

  7. “That you may suffer less the less insufferable you are.” You’re becoming more quotable.

    Like the stories in the margins and the images at the end of the chapters in 48 Laws, little phrases like these work great as memory triggers for the whole message. For me anyway.

  8. Fucking brilliant, man. This might be my favorite posts of yours, definitely top 3.

    People always assign more importance and meaning to those stereotypical, “meaningful” activities like “backpacking through Europe.” “Oh, take time off and go do ‘x’.”

    I’m not saying these things aren’t important, but working instead of going backpacking isn’t necessarily the wrong choice–it might even be the better choice in the long run, even though it’s often dismissed as such.

    Your post is great, though. You basically put down in text a bunch of nebulous thoughts I’ve had, but I never fully accepted them as valid because so many people say they’re not.

  9. A little take away that has stuck with me:

    “Why are you not working? Why are you dicking around? What are you doing that’s so much better? What are you struggling with? What’s important to you?”

    This is worth asking when people come out of the woodwork, remarking on your life and judging the decisions you’ve made against their own. The answer probably won’t be much.

    — quotable Ryan Holiday.

    I can’t transcribe all the details from the conversation, but this is one insight that is worthy of being shared.

  10. I’ve been uncomfortable of this attitude towards life as a ‘collection of experiences’ for sometime now. More so because I find myself slipping into the same vacuous trap from time to time and the hypocritical nature of my work.

    Ticking off a list of experiential ‘must dos’ as if they’re exotic stamps or baseball cards to add to your personality album misses the point of doing them in the first place.

    As Yug Ralphie put it – the experiences themselves aren’t the issue. It’s the fact that we seem more concerned about having done them and purchasing the t-shirt at the gift shop, so that we can tell people all about how interesting we are and ‘earn’ that all important validation from our peers.

    As I said, though my hypocrisy disgusts me as I type this, I’m beginning to appreciate that the work itself is the reward.

  11. Ryan,

    What an insightful post! I often find this the case on Monday mornings at the office when it seems all popularity/worth/happiness is measured by the ‘quality’ of the almighty weekend (or your ability to tell a compelling story). Facebook does this too us as well, constantly calling for bigger and better, a continual comparison to others.

    Thank you for point out that how obviously this is not the point.

  12. I tend the find the better people are those who don’t talk about themselves at all. Quick bits and a ball that keeps bouncing back. Personal satisfaction is not an awards ceremony.

    Great blog Ryan.

  13. nope I was going to do it

  14. jsut go past the walgreen’s on the left and you;ll see it, over by where jake used to live

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