Every year, we spend more than a trillion dollars worth of time and attention on organized spectator sports.
The half-life of a sporting event is incredibly short. Far more people are still talking about the Godfather movie or the Nixon administration than care about the 1973 World Series.
Billions of people buying tickets and investing countless hours on something of absolutely no significance.
It turns out that this insignificance and the ephemeral nature of sporting events is the heart of their appeal.
Instead of having passionate arguments about things that matter, issues with consequences, topics where one can be wrong or right, organized sports are a tribal opportunity to vent without remorse.
We've taken that pleasure in insignificance and transferred it to celebrity culture as well. And then on to just about everything else, including science and governance.
Hence the challenge--because when we start to treat things of significance as if they're a spectator sport, we all lose.
Soccer hooligans are a real problem. But hooligans in science (yelling about their opinions, denigrating their opponents) or in world affairs do none of us any good.
Somehow, at least in our culture, we find relief when others are anxious too.
So we spread our anxiety, stoking it in other people, looking for solace in the fear in their eyes.
And thanks to the media, to the microphone we each have, to our hyper-connected culture, it's easier than ever to spread our anxiety if we choose. And when someone who seeks power offers to hear our anxiety in exchange for attention or a vote, it gets even worse.
It's worth noting that there's no correlation between the real world and anxiety. In fact, it's probably the opposite--when times are good, people with a lot to lose start to get that itch.
Absorb the anxiety if you wish, spread it if you must, but understand that it's an invention, and it's optional.
When you find a trick, a shortcut, a hack that gets you from here to there without a lot of sweat or risk, it's really quite rewarding. So much so that many successful people are hooked on the trick, always looking for the next one.
SEO, for example, had plenty of tricks as it evolved, ways in which a few worked to get rankings and links without deserving them.
Or consider the act of publishing a book. One approach is to spend a lot of time and money tricking the system into believing your book is already successful, which, the trick says, will lead to it becoming actually successful.
Or the simple trick to avoid belly fat, lose weight, get a promotion, find dates or make money overnight.
I could list a thousand of them, because the web is trick central, a place where, for a short while, the people apparently at the top of whatever heap you aspire to got there by finding and exploiting a trick.
There's a meta-trick that's far more reliable. One that works over time and doesn't depend on avoiding being out-tricked: Make great stuff. Satisfy needs. Do the hard work that leads to growth which leads to investment on its own merit.
It turns out that the trick-free approach is the best trick of all.
If you can learn it, it's a skill.
If it's important, but innate, it's a talent.
The thing is, almost everything that matters is a skill. If even one person is able to learn it, if even one person is able to use effort and training to get good at something, it's a skill.
It's entirely possible that some skills are easier for talented people to learn. It's entirely possible you don't want to expend the energy and dedicate the effort to learn that next skill.
But realizing that it's a skill is incredibly empowering and opens the door of possibility.
What are you going to learn next?
New podcast with Brian Koppelman
Classic podcast with Krista Tippett
Unmistakable Creative from 2015
The Your Turn book continues to spread. Have you seen it yet?
Early-bird pricing on the huge Titan collection ends in 9 days.
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