"Having Your Own Ethics is Lonely" is one of those posts that's been prompting people to comment long after it was written back in October of last year. Yesterday there was a very reflective comment from a reader who largely built out his own ethics, but is starting to realize it can kind of alienate you from other people to some extent. He was reflecting on what he ought to do going forwards.
Here's my reply -
There’s no easy answer to this, unfortunately. The more if you differ from mainstream ethics and viewpoints, the more it’s easy to lose touch with how other people think and thus it becomes harder to connect with people. There’s ways to counter-balance this to some extent, but there is a definite tradeoff you’re making. You might consider checking out Plato’s Allegory of the Cave if you’ve never seen it before – if you show someone that their view of the world is wrong and stunted, you’re going to get some serious backlash.
That said, it depends on where you’re at. There are ambitious, enterprising, free-thinking people in the world. They’re rare and they tend to be very busy, but with persistence and outreach and time, you’ll be able to meet and connect with a lot of people like that.
One last thought -
“You just want everyone to be perfect according to your own definitions about things.”
That’s a pretty sure path to misery, since the vast majority of people will never live up to your standards if your standards are set high. I used to be constantly disappointed that most people don’t even try in life, until I started trying to hold people to my standards a lot less. People are how they are, and that’s how things are. Try to find common ground with people, and learn and connect and do good things with them if possible. If none of that is to be had, then just keep it cordial.
Anyways, yes, the enterprising path is hard and lonely a lot of the times. How much it suits you to walk it is a very personal decision with no right answer. I wouldn’t wish the path I’m walking on a best friend or a worst enemy, since it’s brutal sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. How much do you want? Are you willing to pay the price, even when it’s heavy? It’s a very personal decision, there’s no right answers here.
I have just started following your blog. I enjoy what you write. My comment to this post is that everyone who enters your life, however breifly or profoundly, enters it just the right time and whether you get the lesson immediately or some time after is just your path. The "ambitious, enterprising, free-thinking people" and the ones "don’t even try in life" all enrich your life by either opening your mind to new ideas or confirming your decision to take the path that you are on. I think your realization not to judge others by your standards is a huge step forward. Living under other peoples codes of ethics is the same as living by other peoples judgements on how you should behave. I do believe the path to freedom is always worth it and I wish it on everyone I met. Most will never do it. I wish you happiness on your path, it should be an interesting read.
The biggest risk to becoming more intelligent, more motivated and more critical in your thinking is becoming distanced from others. People tend not to enjoy the company of successful people (or just motivated people) who question them. Usually i compensate for this by pretending to be less or being extra modest. It can make for a very lonely life.
On the plus side, you will find the few people you can tolerate, and if you keep in contact with them you will realize there are a lot more people out there on your level then you first thought. There might not be many people on your level in the world, but there are certainly enough to make it a place worth staying in and to make it interesting. The tricky part is getting out and finding them, they seldom will drop into your lap in large numbers.. Like everything else you achieve, good company takes effort to cultivate.
Two great comments on "Having Your Own Ethics is Lonely." First is by Roy, thought-provoking, and also, I laughed a lot at how his final sentence wraps it all up:
Hello. Your comment to Stefanie about creating your own set of values and ethic being lonely, look pretty much like the concept of the Ubermensch from Nietzsche. So I'll say that anyone following this path is on the right path to the next level of human development. And I'll go farther on this. I think that Nietzche closed the loop on human nature. Copernicus discovered that we were not the center of the world which was a blow to human hegemony. Then came Darwin stating that human was not special and we are just another can of animal. This was a second blow on human hegemony. Then came Freud stating that human is not even the master of his thoughts and impulses. Which was yet just another blow to human hegemony. And to finalize it all. Here comes Nietzche stating that there is not a single system of ethics that bind us all. No human system and certainly not heavenly system of ethic stands. Which to me is the last blow on human hegemony.
Have a nice day.
Then Ryan replies -
I disagree somewhat with Roy's comment. Humans are special, what separates us from other animals is the ability to reason. Its true that we posess animal instincts like all creatures on this planet, and so by nature, man is corrupt. I believe there are ethics that bind all people, like the persute of being happy through the possession of freedom, wich requires discipline over ones own actions, wich requires some form of ethical standards. Just because you think it, does not mean you must do it. If you have no disapline, you become a slave to others, like too much debt for instance, you feel the shame of failure when the bill arrives. But do you work to solve it, or make it worse? The point is that we all fail some time or another, but its how you deal with your failures that can make you a good or bad person.
Focus is the act of putting all of your attention and concentration towards a single act. It’s staying away from distractions like email and Twitter to finally get some real work done. It’s doing the hard work and putting your all into it. Focus is a cycle of abundance which takes less time than your normal, easy routine. Focusing leaves you with more time to recuperate your energy, which ultimately allows you to focus harder tomorrow.
When assessing your progress on producing things of real value (the best path to building a rewarding and well-rewarded life), consider your own capacity for hard focus. Most important accomplishments boil down to this single, often overlooked ability.
This quote is from Cal Newport, who believes that the ability to sustain focus for long periods of time is the key to success.
Let’s say you and your best friend run against one another. Your best friend runs for three hours a day, listening to his pumping workout music and looking on as the sun sets under the ocean. You, however, simply run in your neighborhood for an hour every day. But you’re different. You’re not the staring at the sights or the people, you’re focusing on your running form and your breathing, every single day. After a month, who do you think will be the better runner? You will, because you were focusing.