Author Topic: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism  (Read 45089 times)

windawake

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Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« on: June 06, 2015, 09:30:35 AM »
Regarding the newest post: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/06/05/success-even-after-self-destruction/

MMM is quick to point out that the Medium article is very complainypants, but that really rubs me the wrong way. I think the Medium article touches on (briefly) a very important, very relevant criticism of the MMM philosophy, which is that all of us who retire early or are on track to are RIDICULOUSLY PRIVILEGED.

Okay, okay, if MMM is only targeting people who have enough money and who waste it needlessly, then I guess this post is pointless. However, the idea that 'I worked hard for what I got', especially in light of the recent reader case study, is problematic. That user says he didn't finish a college degree, was a former addict, and ex-convict. However, he is also male and (I'm guessing) white, in America. Think about if he was black, a woman, transgender, a person with a disability, someone with a different background, different support, and different opportunities.

A lot of people work hard. A lot of people work really fucking hard and had hard fucking lives and continue to have really hard lives. A lot of people experience institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, etc. that prevents them from the opportunities you think you achieved from mere hard work alone. I understand that it's hard to target everyone, and yeah maybe some people need to hear that 'hard work is all it takes.' However, that completely disregards the experience of so many people.

I'd recommend reading this for a much better explanation of why 'I worked hard for what I got' is still completely laced with privelege: http://www.vagabomb.com/This-Comic-Will-Forever-Change-the-Way-You-Look-at-Privilege/
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Cpa Cat

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2015, 09:41:46 AM »
Look, I don't mean to mock, but I'm sure someone over on Tumblr is writing a blog about the underprivilegedness of :

Quote
Think about if he was black, a woman, transgender, a person with a disability, someone with a different background, different support, and different opportunities.

The person writing that blog is likely white and female.

That's not what this blog is about. MMM could write every blog post about privilege, but it wouldn't be particularly helpful to anyone. Not every blog post needs a big asterix and a footnote saying "* EXCEPT FOR PRIVILEGE."

MDM

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2015, 12:10:53 PM »
I'd recommend reading this for a much better explanation of why 'I worked hard for what I got' is still completely laced with privelege: http://www.vagabomb.com/This-Comic-Will-Forever-Change-the-Way-You-Look-at-Privilege/
Yes, that cartoon has been mentioned several times.  What is not clear (at least to me) is, if we assume privilege exists, what one is supposed to do as a consequence.  Any thoughts?

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2015, 12:44:24 PM »
Interesting cartoon.  I just don't like the fact there is no way to independently verify the story.  When someone makes incredible claims that aren't typical, it would be nice (like in mainstream reporting and journalism) to know if any significant details were left out or embellished.  Like that cartoon shows, it might not even be on purpose, but a flaw of limited perspective (or wanting something to fit the narrative).  Just seemed a little too easy for someone who REALLY screwed their life up...
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JetsettingWelfareMom

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2015, 01:22:16 PM »
I get the priviledge thing maybe MMM could have a disclaimer that says "results aren't typical" like those weight loss commercials...all kidding aside I see this from a different angle. MMM has wisely avoided posting about political or social topics, things like racial inequality, policing for profit, income inequality etc because at the end of the day he is status quo. The system is corrupt and heavily tilted against the little guy--that's the prevailing meme of our times--while MMM is doing this "Stop whining the American Dream still works I'll show you how" and there's a lot of people even supporters of MMM who are saying "The American Dream is dead." A deeper problem is that corruption has turned me away from the entire system I for one do not want to spend time away from my children even attempting to work my way up just to see my tax dollars go to droning people in Syria or giving bombs and guns to warlords in Africa...basically 99% of what our taxes are spent on I disagree with outright or have major qualms with the implementation of it. So I see the only solution as withdrawing my support for the system--they can't tax money I don't earn. MMM is partially there he talks a good game about lowering the carbon footprint (implying he believes those scientists) but no doubt in his Vanguard index funds he's got all those evil Monsantos and Syngentas and Goldman Sachs and all the FIRE companies that consume everything in their path. MMM seems to think highly of eugenicist Bill Gates and has even expressed support for the hugely unpopular bank bailouts...to me I love the homebuilding stuff but roll my eyes when he hazards opinions about how the world works for everyone else he's filled with the same contradictions as the rest of us...okay rant over...

Paul der Krake

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2015, 07:12:45 PM »
The person profiled didn't just work hard, he worked hard and smart, creating opportunities for himself. Bouncing back from prison is not some minor hurdle that can be erased away with "privilege".

Mad props to him.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2015, 07:24:15 PM »
The person profiled didn't just work hard, he worked hard and smart, creating opportunities for himself. Bouncing back from prison is not some minor hurdle that can be erased away with "privilege".

Mad props to him.

So you believe that he failed hard on drugs, ended up a hardcore criminal, and then got on-line, found MMM, and will be FIRE before many of those that didn't have those setbacks...  I don't know the details, but my nephew is working to become a surgeon and this guy is apparently just as FI, over the same timeframes... 
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sol

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2015, 07:37:05 PM »
I don't know the details, but my nephew is working to become a surgeon and this guy is apparently just as FI, over the same timeframes...

Achieving FI is about your savings rate, not your income.  That's the beauty of it.  It doesn't matter how much you make or how good your job is (both of which tend to increase with your level of privilege) it only matters how far below your means you decide to live.

While it's certainly easier to live far below your means on a big income you earned by being born a straight white male, I might argue that most people born into privileged circumstances have more difficulty with living below their means than people of more modest beginnings. 
« Last Edit: June 06, 2015, 10:43:21 PM by sol »

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2015, 07:48:10 PM »
I don't know the details, but my nephew is working to become a surgeon and this guy is apparently just as FI, over the same timeframes...

Achieving FI is about your savings rate, not your income.  That's the beauty of it.  It doesn't matter how much you make or how good your job is (both of which tend to increase with your level of privilege) it only matters how far below your means you decide to live.

While it's certainly easier to live far below your means on a big income you earned by being born a straight white male, I might argue that most people born into privileged circumstances have more difficulty with living below their means than people of more modest beginnings.
I do appreciate the overall idea you present.  Savings rate is what matters.  That it is privilege independent, not so much..
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 02:19:55 AM by EscapeVelocity2020 »
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Paul der Krake

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2015, 08:46:08 PM »
I do appreciate the overall idea you present.  Savings rate is what matters.  That it is privilege independent, not so much..
Even the hard-line, pull yourself up by your bootstraps-type conservatives, recognize that some have to shoot from half court while others just have an easy layup. There's also the blind midget black single mother, and she's still in the locker room where she can't even see the basket.

We're all really just arguing over how far you have to be from the basket for gloating to be acceptable.

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2015, 09:17:09 PM »
While I feel bad for the underprivaleged, I have a couple questions for the OP. How many privaleged white males are in america? Maybe 200,000,000; I'm not really sure but I think that's kind of close. Ok, now, how many early retirees? Rough guess, depending on your definition, maybe 1,000-20,000. I think the greater point of the article, and the point I'm trying to make, is people need to stop making excuses and start making shit happen.
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lhamo

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2015, 10:33:06 PM »
Of course we are ridiculously privileged -- and MMM strongly encourages those who are able to retire early to find a way to give back.  For goodness sake, one of his highly recommended books is Singer's "The Life You Can Save."  So why do people keep flogging this straw man who doesn't really exist?  Oh, maybe because he does his giving quietly and in the background, unlike many others.

And I beg to differ that that medium.com post is all that radical.   The author isn't really talking about the deeper rooted class and social hierarchies that make it difficult for anyone not already starting in the middle class to start on this journey.  The author  are starting from a premise of "but almost all college graduates these days [NB:  already an elite bunch] are coming out with $20-30k in student loan debt and only getting jobs paying $33k/year."  And then what does the author start griping about?

"Someone who loves driving for its own sake and buys her car based on that? Not stupid.

Someone who genuinely loves music and spends more on speakers than you did on your whole audio system? Not stupid.

Someone who won’t move out of a city they genuinely love even if it means a 45-minute commute? As long as they also genuinely love the job on the other end of that commute: Not stupid."

OK, fine.  Maybe you aren't stupid if you are 20k in student loan debt an making only $33k and you choose to buy a ridiculously expensive car or a set of speakers because your soul just can't survive without them, or live in the burbs of a city you can't afford to live in because you love your $33k job so much you can't imagine doing anything else.  If you have done the groundwork and made sure your spending and your lifestyle choices are 100% in line with your values and your long term goals, more power to you, baby -- drive that financed car back and forth to your job that pays crap with the speakers blaring and the  bass pumpa-pumpa-pumpa announcing to the world your completely devastating awesomeness.  But don't then turn around and complain that you just can't get a break and you won't be able to retire until you are 80 because the world sucks and you are a victim of an unjust system. 

If you read these forums regularly and carefully, you will see that most of the posters here really do care about people and want to help them find their way out of whatever financial (and other) troubles they are in.   We are generous with our knowledge and advice, helping people learn about ways to save money, find new career opportunities, generate side incomes, and generally just providing another perspective that helps people see their situation in a different way.  Unfortunately, all too often, the response that such support and gentle (or sometimes not so gentle) nudging gets is a "but I can't possibly..." or "but my family would never..." type of response.  I am not denying that people have significant challenges to overcome -- sometimes almost impossible ones.  But if they can't see themselves living a different life and making different choices, then they will just stay stuck in the same old ruts.

And re:  your comic lesson -- one of my best friends when I was growing up was actually the "Paula" to my "Richard."  She grew up in a shack with her unemployed dad.  No running water.  She had a really hard time, and we tried to help her/them as much as we could.   My mom still hires her dad (now in his 60s) to mow her lawn.   But she made it out of poverty.  It does happen.  Maybe not always or even not often, but it happens.  And part of that happening is because people like MMM and many of us on these forums are sharing our knowledge about how to make financial and other choices that will set a person up for success rather than failure.  Choices like not buying your dream car, but instead buying one that will get you from point A to point B for the next 5 years or so at a reasonably monthly cost.  Choices like waiting until you have generated a bit of side income to splurge on those high end speakers, and then finding ways to bring the price down (buying used, buying floor models, etc).  CHoices like working your way through school or learning how to apply (successfully) for scholarships and grants. 

And FWIW, one of the things I plan to do in my upcoming post-job free time is to work on issues related to food security and social justice.  So please don't think that all people who are lucky enough to FIRE are doing is sitting back on their butts eating bon bons all day.  Many of us care, deeply, about social issues and plan to use our newfound freedom to try to make the world a slightly better place.  And no one has to pay us a salary for our efforts.  How awesome is that?

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Insanity

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2015, 06:21:38 AM »
While there are some areas that are definitely spend thrifty, I am actually one who thinks we need to rethink the view of commuting in general.  It is sometimes a necessity as there are many factors at play.

Comparing long commuted to buy a new luxury car for someone in need of cutting back is crazy.  I would love to relocate.  My wife would not.  I dislike the house, the location is not all great to find sports groups for me, there are very few little kids in our neighborhood, and it leads to long commutes for me.

The pros - it is a great school district, close to main roads to get anywhere , and close to her parents.

Some people also change jobs.  Moving families every few years is not exactly ideal.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2015, 07:13:19 AM »
There are so many things I could say, but the real one word reply is choices.  Wherever we started out and wherever we are now defines the spectrum of life possibilities open to us.  Where we end up on that spectrum depends on choices.  What interferes with making good choices is what keeps people on the bad side of the spectrum of life open to them.  So whether it is a bad start, bad nutrition, bad health, lack of sleep, too much stress, whatever, the road to improvement is identifying the obstacles, figuring out a way to overcome one, seeing how much (if any) improvement there is, and then redoing the whole process over again with another.  And possibly identifying what is impossible so dreams are not misdirected.

A lot of what MMM posts about is related to this - where are you wasting your money (money spent without any life joy recompense)?  Too long a commute? Fix it - move, new job, whatever.  Too much money spent on toys? Adopt a more stoic (versus hedonistic) lifestyle.  What are the weak areas of your life, and how are they interfering with where you want to be?  Identify them, figure out possible solutions, apply.

If you think the big issues are societal instead of individual, what are you doing to fix them?  Complaining on this board may help you brainstorm what to do,  but just whinging will not help you or the greater good.
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Insanity

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2015, 10:42:00 AM »
Again the challenge with commute is that not all jobs are created equal and moving is not always an option without maybe divorce or other costly means.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #15 on: June 07, 2015, 01:39:20 PM »
As I felt with the 'mustachianism ruining marriage' reader post earlier (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/continue-the-blog-conversation/is-mr-money-mustache-ruining-your-marriage/msg346736/#msg346736),
this just does not seem like an ex drug addict felon posting to MMM: 

'Over the course of those months, I have noted a relatively infrequent but painfully vocal subculture of readers who fervently believe the Vital Tenets of Mustachianism (VTOM) are irrelevant to them, due to what they posit is a lack of fortune or privilege at their own less than ideal starting point.  I am here to refute the Waah brigade with my own tale.'

I copy and pasted that word for word (supposed email message), but it sounds a whole lot more like Pete than some other tattooe'd bad-ass working his way up and just finding MMM.  I really don't care either way, but I would like to high-light a little 'internet skepticism'.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2015, 01:41:16 PM by EscapeVelocity2020 »
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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #16 on: June 07, 2015, 03:00:54 PM »
While I feel bad for the underprivaleged, I have a couple questions for the OP. How many privaleged white males are in america? Maybe 200,000,000; I'm not really sure but I think that's kind of close. Ok, now, how many early retirees? Rough guess, depending on your definition, maybe 1,000-20,000. I think the greater point of the article, and the point I'm trying to make, is people need to stop making excuses and start making shit happen.

There are 320?? million people in the US, so assuming half are men, that is 160 million. 65% are white, which is around 100 million. So you're off by about 100 million. And, of course that assumes that 100% of white males are "privileged".

As to 1,000 - 20,000 early retirees? Maybe there are...in one medium sized city.

former player

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2015, 03:13:09 PM »
As I felt with the 'mustachianism ruining marriage' reader post earlier (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/continue-the-blog-conversation/is-mr-money-mustache-ruining-your-marriage/msg346736/#msg346736),
this just does not seem like an ex drug addict felon posting to MMM: 

'Over the course of those months, I have noted a relatively infrequent but painfully vocal subculture of readers who fervently believe the Vital Tenets of Mustachianism (VTOM) are irrelevant to them, due to what they posit is a lack of fortune or privilege at their own less than ideal starting point.  I am here to refute the Waah brigade with my own tale.'

I copy and pasted that word for word (supposed email message), but it sounds a whole lot more like Pete than some other tattooe'd bad-ass working his way up and just finding MMM.  I really don't care either way, but I would like to high-light a little 'internet skepticism'.
Or possibly just sounds like someone who has spent 6 months reading and re-reading all MMM posts and has assimilated the MMM style of writing as well as its content.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

lhamo

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2015, 03:59:32 PM »
There are so many things I could say, but the real one word reply is choices.  Wherever we started out and wherever we are now defines the spectrum of life possibilities open to us.  Where we end up on that spectrum depends on choices.  What interferes with making good choices is what keeps people on the bad side of the spectrum of life open to them.  So whether it is a bad start, bad nutrition, bad health, lack of sleep, too much stress, whatever, the road to improvement is identifying the obstacles, figuring out a way to overcome one, seeing how much (if any) improvement there is, and then redoing the whole process over again with another.  And possibly identifying what is impossible so dreams are not misdirected.

A lot of what MMM posts about is related to this - where are you wasting your money (money spent without any life joy recompense)?  Too long a commute? Fix it - move, new job, whatever.  Too much money spent on toys? Adopt a more stoic (versus hedonistic) lifestyle.  What are the weak areas of your life, and how are they interfering with where you want to be?  Identify them, figure out possible solutions, apply.

If you think the big issues are societal instead of individual, what are you doing to fix them?  Complaining on this board may help you brainstorm what to do,  but just whinging will not help you or the greater good.

And the area of choices is actually where a lot of recent brain science is showing that people under chronic stress are at a disadvantage.  Making constant choices is exhausting -- there is a real thing called decision fatigue.  It is what contributes to many of us making bad choices about things like spending, diet, exercise (i.e. not doing it) at the end of a long and stressful day.  Lower income people tend to be in a more constant state of crisis/stress than those with a financial cushion.  And they can't always automate their lives/choices to the extent that those of us with more resources can.  So are they at a disadvantage?  Most definitely.  But that makes it all the more important that they try to turn things around so that they are under less stress, can automate more, and are likely to make the choices that lead them out of their current situation rather than deeper into trouble.
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Cheddar Stacker

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2015, 07:24:58 PM »
While I feel bad for the underprivaleged, I have a couple questions for the OP. How many privaleged white males are in america? Maybe 200,000,000; I'm not really sure but I think that's kind of close. Ok, now, how many early retirees? Rough guess, depending on your definition, maybe 1,000-20,000. I think the greater point of the article, and the point I'm trying to make, is people need to stop making excuses and start making shit happen.

There are 320?? million people in the US, so assuming half are men, that is 160 million. 65% are white, which is around 100 million. So you're off by about 100 million. And, of course that assumes that 100% of white males are "privileged".

As to 1,000 - 20,000 early retirees? Maybe there are...in one medium sized city.

The numbers, which were all guesswork, are largely irrelevant. The greater point is we all need to make the most of whatever opportunities we have. Privaleged or or not.

However, if you think there are 20k early retirees in a medium sized city, you are mistaken. There might be 20K early retiree candidates in this entire movement. Or 200k if you are crazy optimistic. But the numbers are largely irrelevant and purely speculative.

Either way, it doesnkt change the argument. Stay positive. Do the best with what you have. Try to create more. Don't make excuses.
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Dee

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2015, 07:57:20 PM »
Ok, so for me the part of the current blog post that ties into this topic most if the following: "Again, I work like it counts, and it turns out all you need to do to get ahead is BE BETTER THAN THOSE AROUND YOU, which is shockingly easy, because MOST PEOPLE DO A HALF-ASS JOB AT MOST THINGS."

Who are these "most people" doing "a half-ass job"? Are they people doing their best but just not measuring up? Are they people giving what they can of themselves at their jobs but having little left for that, after their home obligations are met?

If it is "shockingly easy" to be better than most people at work... you are probably above average in intelligence or stamina or something like that. Which is great for those who actually are above average... but not everyone is.

I posit that there are likely loads of people who may appear to others to be doing a half-ass job but are actually going at it as full-ass or badass as they realistically can.

Sure, there are loads of others half-assing it our of laziness, lack of motivation or similar things, who would have the ability to perform better in their jobs. But they are not the only kinds of "underperformers" out there.

former player

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2015, 08:11:48 PM »
While I feel bad for the underprivaleged, I have a couple questions for the OP. How many privaleged white males are in america? Maybe 200,000,000; I'm not really sure but I think that's kind of close. Ok, now, how many early retirees? Rough guess, depending on your definition, maybe 1,000-20,000. I think the greater point of the article, and the point I'm trying to make, is people need to stop making excuses and start making shit happen.

There are 320?? million people in the US, so assuming half are men, that is 160 million. 65% are white, which is around 100 million. So you're off by about 100 million. And, of course that assumes that 100% of white males are "privileged".

As to 1,000 - 20,000 early retirees? Maybe there are...in one medium sized city.

The numbers, which were all guesswork, are largely irrelevant. The greater point is we all need to make the most of whatever opportunities we have. Privaleged or or not.

However, if you think there are 20k early retirees in a medium sized city, you are mistaken. There might be 20K early retiree candidates in this entire movement. Or 200k if you are crazy optimistic. But the numbers are largely irrelevant and purely speculative.

Either way, it doesnkt change the argument. Stay positive. Do the best with what you have. Try to create more. Don't make excuses.
In the UK it's pretty common for people 50 or 55 and up to have difficulty finding new full-time jobs, so there is a significant cohort of unwillingly early retired or semi-retired who are under the state pension age.  They might not meet the MMM definition of either FI or RE, but a lot of them will count as "early retirees" in terms of economic activity.  I would be surprised if there wasn't a similar situation in a lot of parts of the USA.
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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2015, 08:50:00 PM »

windawake

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2015, 09:31:07 PM »
I appreciate the discussion that's happened here, and I'm glad to see that many of you have thought about the issue from a perspective of privilege. I think it's easy to see other people and assume they're just like you, it's just human nature. I just think this is an important thing to consider, especially when talking about 'hard work is all it takes.' Sure, hard work is all it takes IF you've had certain opportunities in your life and IF you have had certain supports and IF you don't have serious limitations (mental illness, disability, etc.) holding you back.

What can we do about it? I don't know, besides generally working to end poverty, discrimination, and towards justice and equality for all. I think it's important to bring compassion and understanding when evaluating others' financial lives. I know I can be a judgmental asshole sometimes, and I'm trying to work on that in all realms of life.
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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2015, 03:02:40 AM »
As I felt with the 'mustachianism ruining marriage' reader post earlier (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/continue-the-blog-conversation/is-mr-money-mustache-ruining-your-marriage/msg346736/#msg346736),
this just does not seem like an ex drug addict felon posting to MMM: 

'Over the course of those months, I have noted a relatively infrequent but painfully vocal subculture of readers who fervently believe the Vital Tenets of Mustachianism (VTOM) are irrelevant to them, due to what they posit is a lack of fortune or privilege at their own less than ideal starting point.  I am here to refute the Waah brigade with my own tale.'

I copy and pasted that word for word (supposed email message), but it sounds a whole lot more like Pete than some other tattooe'd bad-ass working his way up and just finding MMM.  I really don't care either way, but I would like to high-light a little 'internet skepticism'.
Or possibly just sounds like someone who has spent 6 months reading and re-reading all MMM posts and has assimilated the MMM style of writing as well as its content.

Oh, this was totally a fake email.  It's obvious as soon as you start reading it.  Glad someone else pointed it out.  Not that it really matters.  He's probably gotten a few similar ones and came up with an amalgam.  But it's funny how "Ethan's" writing style is indistinguishable from MMM's :)  No one picks it up that well from a few months of reading.

Michael792

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2015, 04:31:06 AM »
Alright, I haven't read the rest of the conversation. I just want to post my own thoughts on this. People always say because someone is white and male, they're obviously privileged and got a lot of things without having to do anything for them.

I am a white male.

My parents made sure I ate and was clothed, even if it was hand-me-downs and very basic, home cooked meals. My parents both grew up in poverty and have remained in debt for the entirety of their married life (I think they're almost out of it now, after thirty four years). There were five children in my family, with me being the fourth. I was told that if I wanted anything in life, I had to work for it. My grades were expected to be high, and I was expected to go to college. I didn't have a tutor, because they didn't have the money and studying does wonders (not that I did it that much). I wasn't given money to spend on my own. If I wanted food at home, I had to work the land and the house. If I wanted money from the parents, I had to go do jobs for my dad's business from a young age.

When I went to college, I had never held a job outside my dad's business, in which I'd never been on payroll. I got my first job at a Taco Bell where I knew no one so I could pay for my second semester. By this time my older three siblings had left home and I couldn't get grants. I got only unsubsidized loans, which I refused to take at first. I paid that first semester out of my own pocket, with money I'd saved for the entirety of my time in high school doing odd jobs and working for my dad.

One day, I went to the financial aid office to ask about some help for my second semester. While in there I said, "Hello ma'am. I've paid for this first semester out of pocket, and all I qualify for is these loans. I can't make the payments on them with this interest rate. I've saved up money from a half time job this semester, but I need another two thousand dollars to make tuition for next semester. Is there any way I could get a lower-interest loan or a grant in that amount?" Her answer was "No. If you can't pay for the semester, you'll be kicked out. Have the money". Tuition, by the way, was at most ten thousand a semester. That's the most expensive housing and meal plans, along with the highest allowed course load. As I was leaving, a black man walked in and said "Bitch, I need $22,000." To this, instead of being offended or asking the man any details, asked for his student ID and said "We'll get that for you, sir."

As I was applying for college, fully two thirds of the scholarships I otherwise qualified for had requirements that I be a different race or gender or sexual orientation. I would like to posit that, at least where I'm from, white people are at a disadvantage. I graduated number seven in my class in high school, but at college I had to drop out and go military because I could not get good enough jobs to pay for school, and the financial aid office refused to help me.

In the late eighties and early nineties, my father was attempting to get a business off the ground. This was the same tiny one that I worked at for most of my life. He'd had big dreams to make it his only source of income, but because of what I've got to tell you here, he never was able to make it. He needed a bit of help to get started and make it what he wanted. He called the SBA several times a year for a couple of years, until the phone receptionists got to know his name. Finally, after being denied yet another time, he asked why they wouldn't give him a loan. It wasn't large, smaller than the maximum his credit would allow, and he had a good business plan with customers and a modest revenue, including a growth plan. However, to answer his question he was told "You're white. You'll never get help from us. Quit calling." And like that, they hung up on him.

Let me stress the fact that neither of my parents nor myself nor my siblings have never been given money, cars, jobs, connections to jobs, houses, or any other thing that would set us ahead of others in life. All we got was a place to sleep and eat, and a requirement (not encouragement) that we pay our own way, blaze our own trail, and go far in life. So fuck that. You can't tell me that because I look like other people that are privileged I am too. You can't even tell me that all of us on track to retire early are privileged, because I am. And, just so you know, I've never made more than $22,000 a year, and that was only one year. The rest of the time has been less than $11,000. I am not privileged. And neither are a lot of others. If you work hard and make smart decisions, you can retire early and rich, despite the media and your presuppositions.
I write over at www.risingascendant.com

Michael792

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2015, 04:43:04 AM »
Also, to continue the conversation on opportunity, I'll say something else.

A lot of people appear to think opportunity is something given to you by someone else. I'm sure it can be, but in my experience opportunity is something you make happen. I didn't have a job. Then, I went and applied and got back in touch with the company and then had an interview and then got back in touch with them and then I was hired. You know who wasn't hired? The people who waited for the company to give them a job. You have to work hard to get a job. You don't get to sit on your ass, send in one piece of paperwork, and hope they contact you. Not if you want the job. There is zero opportunity in that, or, at most, as much as you'd get playing the lottery.

Opportunities come from hard work. There's dozens of people who worked hard for years at something, then were suddenly "discovered" and then became "overnight successes". That shit doesn't happen overnight. It comes from years of dedication and persistence, and if you don't have those, then you'll never have the opportunity to expand (or move up, if you will) and be mislabeled as an overnight success.
I write over at www.risingascendant.com

matchewed

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #28 on: June 08, 2015, 06:26:25 AM »
All a person can do is work to improve their own situation regardless of the position on the court they are (to use Paul's analogy). There isn't much else to do. I get the argument that telling people all they need to do is be more bootstrappy sucks. But it is in fact the only thing that they can do. They have to be the ones looking to improve their own situation. I know it isn't easy, but no one will do it for them. To use one of my favorite sayings, "You can wish in one hand and shit in the other, which fills up first?" The point is that forward action is the only path. It is unfortunate that someone can try to move forward time and time again and never get anywhere. These things exist. If you are that person then there is only picking yourself up and keep going. If you are not that person then you are at a point where you are now generating a surplus that is more than enough to provide future security, and that is where charity comes in.

At the very least if you're capable of attempting FIRE then you should also be giving to charity IMO. You're life is a fountain of excess at that point that a small siphon won't change things for you but can change things for others.

brooklynguy

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #29 on: June 08, 2015, 10:14:54 AM »
Oh, this was totally a fake email.  It's obvious as soon as you start reading it.  Glad someone else pointed it out.  Not that it really matters.  He's probably gotten a few similar ones and came up with an amalgam.  But it's funny how "Ethan's" writing style is indistinguishable from MMM's :)  No one picks it up that well from a few months of reading.

Similar arguments have been made by internet conspiracy theorists that MMM is not a human person, but the fictitious face of a business enterprise concocted by a team of writers working diligently to ensure consistency of style and message across various platforms.  In fact, posters like you and the conspiracy theorists themselves may actually be part of the conspiracy, strategically seeding false doubt to circumvent genuine skeptics who may otherwise question why no one else is questioning the legitimacy of this just-a-guy-named-Pete-typing-shit-into-his-computer story.

I'm not quite sure why this type of skepticism develops to such extremes.  The explanation that one of MMM's readers simply assimilated his writing style seems perfectly plausible to me.  But I agree that in the end it doesn't really matter either way.

EscapeVelocity2020

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #30 on: June 08, 2015, 10:40:00 AM »
I don't know how this turns into a full blown conspiracy, I just read the email and wonder why these people sound so fake.  I mean, 'The Waah Brigade'?  It then undermines the novelty of the point, that there is a specific someone out there that has implemented Mustachinanism.  To me, it seems like more of the same, that living below your means is possible for anyone and Pete is just coming up with clever ways to play the same message that pretty much every financial independence blog has as its foundation.  But I don't think there are any conspiracies afoot.
Transitioning to FIRE'd albeit somewhat cautiously...

Ditchmonkey

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #31 on: June 08, 2015, 10:45:01 AM »
What is the point of articles like the one on Medium? The author doesn't want to make any sacrifices or get out of their comfort level at all to better their financial situation? Why is that news?

brooklynguy

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #32 on: June 08, 2015, 11:09:03 AM »
I don't know how this turns into a full blown conspiracy, I just read the email and wonder why these people sound so fake.

I didn't mean to suggest anyone in this thread is a conspiracy theorist level skeptic.  I was just pointing out that questioning the genuineness of the reader email is one tiny step in that direction, and I was deliberately a bit extreme in my language in a failed attempt at humor - I should have included some smiley's in my post.  I just find the skepticism about MMM in general kind of funny - the blog is not holding itself out as a Pulitzer-seeking news organization adhering to the highest standards of journalistic integrity.  Even if there is no guy named Pete, and no reader emails, the math and the message are still true.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #33 on: June 08, 2015, 12:24:20 PM »
What is the point of articles like the one on Medium? The author doesn't want to make any sacrifices or get out of their comfort level at all to better their financial situation? Why is that news?

The point is to generate 500 words to post on some unpopular website. Notice how there aren't any comments and only 4 people "recommended" it? Apparently not too many people were interested in that guy's opinion.

The editorial was likely written in 15 minutes or less with an additional 15 minutes of reading (the author probably read a different article about MMM, but not the blog). "My opinion of X is WORD VOMIT." It's the lowest form of writing cred - very little research or thought is required. The author probably gets paid $10 an article for web site content - if he got paid at all.

DecD

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #34 on: June 08, 2015, 12:31:15 PM »
...

Okay, okay, if MMM is only targeting people who have enough money and who waste it needlessly, then I guess this post is pointless. However, the idea that 'I worked hard for what I got', especially in light of the recent reader case study, is problematic. That user says he didn't finish a college degree, was a former addict, and ex-convict. However, he is also male and (I'm guessing) white, in America. Think about if he was black, a woman, transgender, a person with a disability, someone with a different background, different support, and different opportunities.
...

See this post from 2011:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/20/yeah-mr-money-mustache-good-for-you-but-what-about-real-people/

Quote
Not every person is a good candidate for the MMM way of life. If you’re already supporting a large number of children (or have other unstoppable life-and-death expenses) on a very small income, you are probably more frugal than me already and can gain very little from reading on.

But what I keep finding every time I meet new people, is that almost everyone has a pretty reasonable income – higher than what we currently live on – yet they all seem to be just barely keeping above the waves financially. Still others have a super-high income (defined by me as over 100k per year for a household – 50k for each person in a couple), yet STILL tend to borrow money for things like cars or even carry a credit card balance. These are my target audience! These are the people who have the power to start feeling like lottery winners on the gusher of income they are currently sitting on, instead of being a slave to their current inefficient spending patterns.

His target audience is stated here, and in many subsequent posts.  One dude in CO is not going to come up with a panacea to eradicate world hunger.  He's talking to folks who spend wastefully and find themselves in a bind because of it. 

Regardless of where you started from, spending mindfully will only help your situation.

It seems silly to throw out his entire idea just because it won't work for every American, or because there are problems it can't solve.  There's a subset of the population for whom it'll work brilliantly.

That aside, I found this post less interesting than some due to the somewhat defensive nature of it.  I guess that's the side-effect of becoming an accidental public figure- you end up dealing with a lot of opinions.

AJ

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #35 on: June 08, 2015, 01:06:21 PM »
Okay, okay, if MMM is only targeting people who have enough money and who waste it needlessly, then I guess this post is pointless.

Well, yeah a little. Did you miss this line in the blog post?

Quote
The point is WHY THE FUCK IS EVERYONE WHO MAKES EVEN MORE THAN ME STILL BROKE, EVEN AFTER 10 YEARS OF ADDITIONAL CRAZY INCOME!?!?

(Bold added)

I don't ever get the feeling that MMM (or the community) thinks that black, blind, transgendered, single mothers with no social support network or education should retire in 5 years or less. I also don't feel like "I worked hard so that's all you need to do" is what MMM was saying in that post. But it is disingenuous to say that hard work doesn't play a role - it's pretty obviously does. The vast majority of Americans are not in the difficult situation you describe, despite the fact that most belong to at least one minority group.

I did think the Medium article was complainy-pants, and it was especially funny (to me) because the author said, "If Mr. Mustache had started with (only!) $20,000 in student debts and gotten a job for $33,000 a year—still over the median per capita income—his story might be very different." I personally had over $40k in student loans, started my first real job making $35k <10 years ago, and am on track to FIRE at about age 35. Sure, it's 5 years later than MMM, but still. And I'm female in a male-dominated career field, raised by uneducated, poor parents.

When we are discussing policy, or institutions, or macroeconomic trends it is useful to look at the disadvantages different groups suffer. We should be working (fucking hard!) to end systemic racism and sexism and ableism and discrimination in all its forms. But when we are speaking to an individual, or when we are thinking about our own lives, it isn't helpful to dwell on the bad cards we were dealt. As individuals, we should make the best use of the cards we're dealt, create the best life we can, and use any excess we create along the way to help those who come after us.

Alright, I haven't read the rest of the conversation. I just want to post my own thoughts on this.

I always skip comments that start with sentences like this. Why should I read your thoughts if you weren't wiling to do likewise?

sol

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #36 on: June 08, 2015, 01:29:35 PM »
Why should I read your thoughts if you weren't wiling to do likewise?

Because they were entertainingly racist? And the anecdotes were obviously fabricated?  And some people just need to be shouted down?
« Last Edit: June 08, 2015, 01:56:09 PM by sol »

LiseE

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #37 on: June 08, 2015, 01:41:19 PM »
Two things to add here ...

  • from the blog post I quote MMM:
    Quote
    The point is WHY THE FUCK IS EVERYONE WHO MAKES EVEN MORE THAN ME STILL BROKE, EVEN AFTER 10 YEARS OF ADDITIONAL CRAZY INCOME!?!?
      This is really what MMM is about ... helping many who struggle financially even with crazy income.
  • A couple of my favorite movies for their inspirational stories :The Pursuit of Happyness (spelled incorrectly by design) ..... The Blind Side ......

There are countless stories about people without privilege overcoming adversity and beating the odds.  These are just two examples that come to mind but throughout much of what MMM writes is that all too familiar note of how important attitude matters.  Having a shitty attitude about your circumstances is going to get you no where period.  Have a great attitude, even when the chips are down .. chances are somebody is going to notice but even still, a positive outlook will move you in the right direction.

Even those of us with 'privilege' .. we've had ups and downs .. and have to adjust our attitudes or a mere downward trend will turn into a death spiral.

TheBuddha

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #38 on: June 08, 2015, 01:45:41 PM »
[...] it isn't helpful to dwell on the bad cards we were dealt. As individuals, we should make the best use of the cards we're dealt, create the best life we can [...]

Exactly. Like Kenny Rogers says in The Gambler:

Quote from: Kenny Rogers
'Cause every hand's a winner
and every hand's a loser
and the best you can hope for
is to die in your sleep
Debt-free as of 9/11/15. Paid off $50k in 3.5 years.




GuitarStv

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #39 on: June 08, 2015, 01:50:09 PM »
As I felt with the 'mustachianism ruining marriage' reader post earlier (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/continue-the-blog-conversation/is-mr-money-mustache-ruining-your-marriage/msg346736/#msg346736),
this just does not seem like an ex drug addict felon posting to MMM: 

'Over the course of those months, I have noted a relatively infrequent but painfully vocal subculture of readers who fervently believe the Vital Tenets of Mustachianism (VTOM) are irrelevant to them, due to what they posit is a lack of fortune or privilege at their own less than ideal starting point.  I am here to refute the Waah brigade with my own tale.'

I copy and pasted that word for word (supposed email message), but it sounds a whole lot more like Pete than some other tattooe'd bad-ass working his way up and just finding MMM.  I really don't care either way, but I would like to high-light a little 'internet skepticism'.
Or possibly just sounds like someone who has spent 6 months reading and re-reading all MMM posts and has assimilated the MMM style of writing as well as its content.

Oh, this was totally a fake email.  It's obvious as soon as you start reading it.  Glad someone else pointed it out.  Not that it really matters.  He's probably gotten a few similar ones and came up with an amalgam.  But it's funny how "Ethan's" writing style is indistinguishable from MMM's :)  No one picks it up that well from a few months of reading.

I like MMM.  I like the blog, and I agree with most of the stuff written on it.

The voice of the person writing this letter is identical to MMM.  It would be shocking to me to discover that this letter wasn't written by him.  I was saddened to read it.

brooklynguy

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #40 on: June 08, 2015, 02:48:46 PM »
I like MMM.  I like the blog, and I agree with most of the stuff written on it.

The voice of the person writing this letter is identical to MMM.  It would be shocking to me to discover that this letter wasn't written by him.  I was saddened to read it.

I'm going to backpedal a bit from my earlier posts in this thread.

Let's assume for the sake of argument the letter is fake--not embellished by MMM for preservation of privacy and/or enhancement of reading entertainment value or anything like that, but totally, completely made up out of whole cloth.  I suppose there are some "the ends justify the means" or (along the lines of my earlier posts) "this blog isn't the New York Times" arguments that can be made to defend that action, but if it were true then I would definitely lose some respect for Pete.

However, I still don't accept the argument that he necessarily fabricated the email merely because it sounds to our ears like it's speaking in the same voice.  I'm giving MMM the benefit of the doubt -- I'm sure the guy receives fan-mail by the truckload, and maybe I'm naïve but the possibilities that the reader in question adopted MMM's style or that some editing of his emails occurred both seem perfectly plausible to me.

actualethan

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #41 on: June 08, 2015, 03:04:03 PM »
Two trends in this thread caught my interest.  Although I have read many forum posts, I actually registered just to comment on this thread.  Hopefully I don't find myself eviscerated by forum veterans and come to regret my decision.
Firstly, with regard to the OP's assertion that "privilege" plays an undeniable role:  I agree, privilege is real, whether it be the support of a family with more money (I do NOT come from a family with money) or race (the OP is dead-on correct, I am a white male).  Would I have achieved less if I lacked this "privilege?"  Possibly, or at the very least it might have taken more time and more effort to reach the same place.  But it would not stop me trying, and it would certainly not be my go to excuse for not doing so.  If citing disadvantage as a reason to give up was my kind of thing, I would have ample ammunition.
Secondly, I was rather shocked to see that many people seem to think this story was written by MMM himself.  I did indeed alter the tone of my writing to fit the purpose, but I honestly thought the differences in our writing were not that subtle.  There were NO changes made to my submission by MMM (with the exception a few typos that he corrected). 

MDM

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #42 on: June 08, 2015, 03:10:43 PM »
Secondly, I was rather shocked to see that many people seem to think this story was written by MMM himself.  I did indeed alter the tone of my writing to fit the purpose, but I honestly thought the differences in our writing were not that subtle.  There were NO changes made to my submission by MMM (with the exception a few typos that he corrected).
Always good to hear the first-person version - thanks for posting.

Of course...how does one know this is the real, actual, honest-to-goodness Ethan of blog fame, and not some MMM-launched forum bot...? ;)

sol

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #43 on: June 08, 2015, 03:11:09 PM »
Dammit, someone beat me to it.  I was just contemplating whether I would squelch or fan the flames of the conspiracy theorists if I made a new account and posed as Ethan, claiming to be the origin of that content.

The internet is a beautiful thing. 

swiper

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #44 on: June 08, 2015, 03:13:47 PM »
Secondly, I was rather shocked to see that many people seem to think this story was written by MMM himself.  I did indeed alter the tone of my writing to fit the purpose, but I honestly thought the differences in our writing were not that subtle.  There were NO changes made to my submission by MMM (with the exception a few typos that he corrected).
Always good to hear the first-person version - thanks for posting.

Of course...how does one know this is the real, actual, honest-to-goodness Ethan of blog fame, and not some MMM-launched forum bot...? ;)

Proof  = Ethan, holding cheetos bag and MMM blog in background ;)

actualethan

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #45 on: June 08, 2015, 03:24:09 PM »
Secondly, I was rather shocked to see that many people seem to think this story was written by MMM himself.  I did indeed alter the tone of my writing to fit the purpose, but I honestly thought the differences in our writing were not that subtle.  There were NO changes made to my submission by MMM (with the exception a few typos that he corrected).
Always good to hear the first-person version - thanks for posting.

Of course...how does one know this is the real, actual, honest-to-goodness Ethan of blog fame, and not some MMM-launched forum bot...? ;)

Proof  = Ethan, holding cheetos bag and MMM blog in background ;)

Alas, I was painfully aware of my inability to offer anything resembling proof that I, actualethan, am the Actual Ethan.  How about this screenshot of my (secondary) gmail account, which clearly shows my correspondence with MMM stretching back to early May, when I originally submitted my story, along with a brief exchange after it was posted to the blog, and then finally followed by my joining the forum today? 

Also - I hate cheetos.

lhamo

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #46 on: June 08, 2015, 03:29:58 PM »
I actually have a question for you, Ethan -- how did you deal with your addiction?  That was one piece of the story that I thought could have been fleshed out a bit, and that would help explain your climb back out of "rock bottom." 

Hope you will join the next Seattle area MMM get together -- I'm going to try to put one together in July, most likely.

Wherever you go, there you are

swick

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #47 on: June 08, 2015, 03:36:17 PM »
Secondly, I was rather shocked to see that many people seem to think this story was written by MMM himself.  I did indeed alter the tone of my writing to fit the purpose, but I honestly thought the differences in our writing were not that subtle.  There were NO changes made to my submission by MMM (with the exception a few typos that he corrected).
Always good to hear the first-person version - thanks for posting.

Of course...how does one know this is the real, actual, honest-to-goodness Ethan of blog fame, and not some MMM-launched forum bot...? ;)

Proof  = Ethan, holding cheetos bag and MMM blog in background ;)

If he is, awesome, welcome to the forums - hopefully you'll stick around and share your experiences. If not - does it really matter?

If MMM embellished or amalgamated or fabricated - does it really matter? Is it really worth your finite time on this planet to argue/debate/get your underwear in a knot?

Every one of us is intelligent and capable of free thought and the ability to take away (or not) any message that anyone on the great internet posts and find the useful nuggets, or spend all their time projecting/speculating/theorizing minute details of the message or delivery -  which you are free to do, but is it really worth your time?   Will you be on your death bed wising you had had one more minute to dissect and theorize a random dude's blog post?

Bob W

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #48 on: June 08, 2015, 03:38:37 PM »
Ok, so for me the part of the current blog post that ties into this topic most if the following: "Again, I work like it counts, and it turns out all you need to do to get ahead is BE BETTER THAN THOSE AROUND YOU, which is shockingly easy, because MOST PEOPLE DO A HALF-ASS JOB AT MOST THINGS."

Who are these "most people" doing "a half-ass job"? Are they people doing their best but just not measuring up? Are they people giving what they can of themselves at their jobs but having little left for that, after their home obligations are met?

If it is "shockingly easy" to be better than most people at work... you are probably above average in intelligence or stamina or something like that. Which is great for those who actually are above average... but not everyone is.

I posit that there are likely loads of people who may appear to others to be doing a half-ass job but are actually going at it as full-ass or badass as they realistically can.

Sure, there are loads of others half-assing it our of laziness, lack of motivation or similar things, who would have the ability to perform better in their jobs. But they are not the only kinds of "underperformers" out there.

Having worked with 100s if not 1000s of people and supervised 100s -   I would say that 50% of the people are above average when it comes to work.

For me it always comes down to dedication.   Do you prioritize your job?  Do you show up?  Do you innovate and solve?  Do you sell?  Do you generate a positive team environment.  So it is easy to see how someone in the top 10% of employees stands out and is promoted.   You don't even need to be above 100 IQ. 

I think, the poster may be a very bright individual who was motivated, articulate,  worked smart and hard.   He also was lucky as hell --- don't underestimate that.   

My guess is that 50% of the people that read on this forum could be earning over 200K per year within one year in a number of sales and or tech positions if they so desired.   For example -- top final expense insurance sales people take home after taxes 200K.   They have to be self motivated, focused and work like a fine tuned machine. 

So yeah,  this success story is an anomaly but is also a real possibility.   

I for one am an example of the opposite story.   I had a cush government job and decided to give home building a shot.  You know,  be and entrepreneur.  Fail big time.  Then stock broker -- failed to have the stamina and time to be successful, although had I the time I could have been making 200K within 5-7 years.   

You hear about the success stories --- the failures don't sell.   But the truth is that MMM himself is an off the curve anomaly.   

But that doesn't mean we can't learn and strive towards that end of the scale.  We may fail to achieve at his or anyone else's level but we sure as hell can't win by sitting around whining about how the deck is stacked.  That is a guaranteed loser's game. 
Better living through math.

actualethan

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Re: Success even after self-destruction: A criticism
« Reply #49 on: June 08, 2015, 03:41:12 PM »
I actually have a question for you, Ethan -- how did you deal with your addiction?  That was one piece of the story that I thought could have been fleshed out a bit, and that would help explain your climb back out of "rock bottom." 

Hope you will join the next Seattle area MMM get together -- I'm going to try to put one together in July, most likely.

I honestly think doing so is MUCH harder in the real world.  I was fortunate, and I use that term very loosely and with no small degree of bitter sarcasm, to be completely removed from temptation long enough to get me (more or less) back to square one.  It is much easier to resist such temptation when you a) know where that road leads, and b) have moved past any physical dependance by way of years of forced sobriety.  Anyone who overcomes addiction out here in the real world should be commended, because it is no easy feat.  I also think good old boring willpower played and continues to play a big role; I am able to drink socially (weekends, holidays, camping trips) without being excessive or becoming dependent.  That would not have true of the former me, though back in those days alcohol was never my drug of choice.

Hmm, reading over what I just wrote it would appear my advice to struggling addicts is to just go to prison then switch over to hard liquor...?  Quick, everyone stop listening to me, I give terrible advice ;)