On The Importance of Facing the Truth

The list of problems that don’t have their roots in a fundamental misunderstanding of how things actually are is a short one. The other night I was playing poker, and one of the guys at the table was a really bad player who thought that he was really good. He and I played a hand where I surprised him and ended up winning. He was furious, threw his cards at me, and mumbled for hours about what a bad player I was.

I’ve certainly played hands poorly before and gotten lucky and won anyway, but this wasn’t one of those times. I knew what he had, I knew what I had, I knew how much money was in the pot, I knew what my odds of catching the cards I needed to win were, and I could do the math to figure out that it was worthwhile for me to keep puting money in. All he knew was that he had better odds than me going into the last card, and I won anyway.

The guy proceeded to lose a thousand bucks or so, and I bet that this is a regular occurrence with him. I also bet he has no idea why he’s lost thousands of dollars at poker. He probably just thinks that it’s bad luck.

A few years ago I had an issue with reality as well. I thought: hey, I’m smart, smart people make lots of money, but I haven’t made lots of money. The easy solution to that sort of disconnect is to ignore it or blame it on bad luck, but a better strategy is to examine each piece and figure out which one isn’t true.

I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I know that I am reasonably smart. I also knew with certainty that I hadn’t made tons of money. I thought that you had to be smart to make lots of money, but upon further consideration I realized that being smart helps, but the critical element of success is hard work. That left me to face the truth that certain levels of success required very hard work, and that I wasn’t coming close to meeting that standard.

When you face the truth like that, you have no choice but to change. I became a hard worker and decided that if I ever failed at one of my goals, it wouldn’t be for lack of effort.

Looking back at other big changes in my life, I realize that they’re always accompanied by pushing past my own nonsense and trying to find the actual truth, whether I’ll like it or not. I realized that I would never be satisfied with any life path that required a degree, so I dropped out of school. When faced with the fact that I might be a nice guy, but that I was terrible with girls, I learned pickup. Even moving into my RV was due to the realization that efficiency and mobility were more important to me than space or status.

The hardest part of facing the truth is being willing to do so. We all come up with stories to pacify our egos, and confronting the truth often requires destroying those stories. The actual process is very easy– you identify an area where you aren’t totally satisfied, and you work backwards to figure out why not. Create a chain of assumptions, set aside the ones that you absolutely know are true, and then argue against the other ones. Sooner or later, one of them will break, and you’ll know what needs to change.

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Photo is a taxidermied deer covered in glass bubbles. You can’t make things like that up.

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