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Own Your Life

One of the great sacrifices of subjecting kids to school is that it trains them to ask for permission for everything, from turning in work late, to changing to a different class, to more mundane things like going to the bathroom. It's a tradeoff, of course: condition kids to seek permission for everything, and by doing so enable a system to exist where they receive an education.

Maybe that's a worthwhile tradeoff, and maybe it's not. But the real harm in it, in my opinion anyway, is that when we leave school, we're still in the habit of asking permission for everything. That's dangerous.

A manifestation of this that I come across with frequently is the questions that people send me by email. Here's a paraphrased template, which covers a good 60%+ of the emails I get from strangers:

Spiraling Into Control

On nickwinter.net

I wrote this as a guest post on the Beeminder blog — comments can live there.

It’s dark. Warm. Safe. You’re in bed, about to fall asleep. Pre-dream hallucinations of commanding a mighty bear army are playing across your sated mind. Zz — wait — what about that CrossFit Beeminder?!

You forgot. You got behind. You skipped CrossFit yesterday, but Beeminder said that was okay as long as you did it today instead. You meant to, but life happened. At this point, you think, “I am sumptuously swaddled in my favorite luxury bedding material, it’s late, and there is no way I’m going out in the street to do the workout-of-the-day in the dark, by myself, in my pajamas. And Beeminder will just charge me $5 this time. Okay, deal. Zzz.”

But I think there’s a better way to use Beeminder. When this happened to me, I didn’t even have to think about what to do; I just found myself out there grunting my medicine ball against a telephone pole and jumprope-sprinting into gloomy rosebushes. [1] It wasn’t even worth considering losing my wager over the tiny matter of some physical discomfort. What wager? Not money — just the certainty that I will always do what I promise myself I will do.

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