I’m deeply unsatisfied with the life I lead. Some people might find this strange.
I’ve got a girlfriend whom I love, and who loves me back. My income puts me in the top 1% for my age. I live in one of the most vibrant & fun cities in the world.
I’ve attained many of the markers of success that society agrees upon as valid. So why am I not happy?
Investor Naval Ravikant, sometimes called the “angel philosopher” for his thoughtful writings, gives a hint.
Future Grandeur (or delusions thereof)
I am an unhappy person (primarily) because I decided long ago that I was meant for more than what I’m accomplishing now.
I entered adulthood believing (against all odds & common sense) that I was meant to be like Napoleon, Bismarck, Churchill, Musk, or Zuckerberg (or Dorsey at least). Someone destined to define an era.
My teenage years were about as far from excellence as one could imagine.
When I turned 18, I was living in a residential treatment center for boys with Autism. Shortly before that, I was force-marched through the wilderness of Utah at a wilderness program called “Aspiro”, one of the cornerstones of the “troubled teen” industry.
Even then, in one of the most down-and-out situations a young man can find himself in, I still believed myself to be a world-beater. I was certain that I’d overcome the longest of odds to achieve what I can only describe as greatness.
Nothing To Sneeze At:
In some senses, I have achieved a lot! Shortly before I was ripped from my home & shipped away for psychiatric & therapeutic help, I assembled my own gaming computer & started toying with the Python programming language.
After my years in Utah, I taught myself how to write computer code, effectively without help, while paying $700/month for a room in Nowhere, CA & eating exclusively hamburger patties and boxed mac & cheese purchased at FoodMax, the cheapest grocery store in town.
I now work as a software engineer at a private equity firm in NYC, making a multiple of the salary that the countless teachers that wrote me off as a failure earn. If I stay the course, I’m nearly guaranteed to end up in the top 2% of both wealth & income.
For many, this is a success story! But not me. Not yet.
I’m reasonably happy with my income. There’s much more to life than how much money I make, though.
There are three big personal struggles I’m determined to conquer in the coming year. Confidence / social skills, financial discipline, and physical fitness.
Theory-Cope meets the reality of Praxis:
As you may know, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at a young age. This lead to a lot of social anxiety & what some would call trauma. It’s not easy being a weird kid, and it’s twice as hard being a weird teenager.
I realized about a week ago that I was deeply unsatisfied with my ability to interact with people, and strangers in particular.
Why? Well, I’d attended a party put on by Praxis Society in Tribeca, one I was not invited to. I somehow managed to convince security to let me in despite there being a list I wasn’t on, and when I entered the venue, I was floored.
Beautiful 20-somethings packed more densely than I’d ever seen in my life. Not the spergy, awkward men you’d expect from a libertarian-tinged meetup, but handsome, sociable guys & gorgeous women almost to the one.
The painful, frustrating, ugly reality (for now):
Those intelligent, vital, attractive people inspired a feeling of deep inadequacy in me. I’ve spent a large portion of my life using my “genius” & the supposed superiority of my “sophisticated” hobbies & interests as a coping mechanism.
The Praxis event laid that cope bare. People discussing philosophy, governance, & their ideals immediately next to a lively dance floor shattered any remaining perception I had of beautiful people typically being dumb.
My only issue with that incredible gathering? I wasn’t able to start a conversation to save my life. I didn’t even try! I was afraid.
I was afraid of saying the wrong thing – not even sure where I’d begin!
This is only a problem because I want so desperately to belong in that kind of crowd. If I were content with the lot I’ve drawn so far in life, I could just give up & let it go. I’m not going to do that, though.
My strategy for learning social skills:
I need to get better at this, and the clearest track towards doing so seems to be learning sales. The legendary Wall Street Playboys blog (now defunct) has opined on how sales skills apply to every aspect of human interaction, and I’m inclined to believe them.
If you are good at selling, they argue, you can make a more compelling case for receiving a raise, or to a desirable lover, or when handling [pick an interpersonal situation].
We’ll see how that approach treats me. If it doesn’t work, I’ll find another way. Someway, somehow, I will become the man I seek to be.
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