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Inconvenient Accountability

Do any of these sound familiar?

Books make you smart.

Weights make you strong.

Obedience makes you humble.

Fans make you someone.

Practice makes you perfect.

Video games make you violent.

Goals make you ambitious.

Money makes you happy.

A guitar makes you irresistible to women.

Donuts make you fat.

Reality TV makes you stupid.

Church makes you good.

A spouse makes you whole.

School makes you educated.

Being alone makes you lonely.

Certifications make you qualified.

Toughness makes you a man.

Possessions make you happy…

…we could on for a long, long time, couldn’t we?

None of these things are bad. Or good. They’re just things. Processes. States of being. Perceptions.

A book that just sits there doesn’t make anyone smarter. It’s just a piece of paper.

A goal is just a word if nobody’s acting on it.

Any of these things could be associated with happiness, sorrow, or however you want to break up positive and negative. But I don’t believe that they cause anything by themselves. They just exist. We are the ones who give them their power.

Saying otherwise lets us off the hook and takes away our nice, convenient excuses. And all that inconvenient accountability.

We determine what role things play in our lives. Being perfect is an illusion. Being better than yesterday can always be the reality.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Greg April 27, 2010, 4:45 am

    Reminds me of the song “Signs”
    “…And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply …”

    These also tend to be symbols that people use to characterize others. (i.e. people who read are nerds, people who enjoy solitude are loners, toughness makes you manly)

    You’re exactly right of course. We are not defined by a single appearance, interest, or object, and the corollary is also true. Yet too often, people try to define us by them.

    It’s a thought provoking post.

  • Joy Tanksley April 27, 2010, 7:16 am

    WHAT? I have to take responsibility for the quality of my life? Damn.

    (Guess I can’t tell you that your post MADE my day anymore, huh?)


  • ami April 27, 2010, 8:02 am

    No, you got it wrong. Donuts make you HAPPY. Sooo very happy.

    • Joy Tanksley April 27, 2010, 8:37 am


    • Josh Hanagarne April 27, 2010, 8:59 am

      I love donuts so much that it makes me blush to think about it. They are the secret of life everlasting.

  • Giulietta the Muse April 27, 2010, 8:02 am

    Hi Josh,

    All part of the if you do X, Y will happen myths. You’re right that we give meaning to our own thoughts. People who have few materials goods can be way happier than people who have everything money can buy.

    It’s all about feeling like you are enough on the inside.

    Thx, Giulietta the Muse

    • Josh Hanagarne April 27, 2010, 10:31 am

      I like to have stuff. It’s just not what makes me happy.

  • Srinivas Rao April 27, 2010, 9:20 am

    Donuts are awesome. I’m just about to go get some myself. They would probably make me fat without my exercise routine. i believe we assign meaning to everything in our lives.

  • Kathy April 27, 2010, 10:07 am

    Well said my friend.

  • Norman April 27, 2010, 10:21 am

    Weights make your muscles strong.

    Obedience makes you avoid your ambitions and settle for the status quo.

    Fans make you humble.

    Practice makes you realize how important the basics are.

    Video games make you violent, lazy, stupid: Miss out on real life.

    Goals make you ambitious and ambition is only valuable if it’s based in generosity.

    Money makes you… nothing. An unhappy person will be unhappy whether rich or poor.

    A guitar makes you irresistible to women if you’ve learned to play it and you’re able to have a conversation with them after you’ve finished your song. Otherwise, it’s just some firewood and wire.

    Donuts make you fat. Very, very fat. Eat donuts occasionally as a reward for all that exercise. Everything in moderation, including moderation.

    Reality TV makes you stupid because it reduces blood flow to the neo cortex. On a MRI scan, excessive TV looks a lot like alcohol or drug addiction (420!). Atrophy of brain tissue!! So, watch a lot of TV and get high to shrink you brain.

    Church makes you obedient, aids in group think and eliminates individuality.

    A spouse makes you… a person with a spouse. An unhappy (incomplete) person who gets married will be an unhappy person who is married.

    School makes you obedient unless you are willing to stretch the rules and challenge the system with your unique ideas. Dare to get a D.

    Being alone makes you lonely when you fear a social life. If you are very social, solitude in good measure is precious.

    Certifications make you qualified. Define and create your own certifications.

    Self honesty makes you a man.

    Possessions make you tied down.

  • Picsiechick April 27, 2010, 11:14 am

    I think each of the statements has a kernel of truth, that the item identified has the *capacity* to create the result. But it’s like alchemy: there must be another factor at play for the thing to be anything but a thing.

    And you’ve nailed it. That “other factor”, the catlalyst, the magic potion, *and* the vessel, *and* the flame beneath it – all of that is me (and you, and each individual). It’s all in the combination of all of our actions, and in our attitude, and in our *intention* that we create ourselves and our world.

    All this other stuff, including fabulous blog posts like this one, are fuel for the fire. 🙂

    Thanks for another great post.

    Hugs and butterflies,

  • Farnoosh ~ Prolific Living April 27, 2010, 11:17 am

    My fave is this: Guns kill people. Really? Then we should lock up all the guns for we could have mass murder on our hands… No, you are absolutely right. We as individuals are responsible for our own actions and blaming objects is an illusion that can make us feel better for a little while before truth sets in……..thanks for the great post!

  • Jeffrey Tang April 27, 2010, 11:41 am

    Authority is the same way at times. People flock to authority because it gives them plausible deniability for their beliefs. If someone attacks them, they can just point to the person or source of authority: “But he/she/it said so!”

    I think Clay Shirky wrote a post in which he noted that authority often serves to reduce the penalty for being wrong. It’s okay if I got my facts wrong, as long as I can point to the incorrect entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica that led me astray.

  • Mitch Seagon$ April 27, 2010, 11:44 am

    Damn Josh! That’s good. Nice to hear that other people are tired of the lack of accountability, and taking responsibility. I understand people have problems, but I don’t think we naeed to make excuses for everything.

  • Norman April 29, 2010, 3:36 pm

    You guys are all too smart for me.

  • Stephanie Smith May 1, 2010, 12:00 pm

    Nature versus nuture….the age old debate. My husband is a perfect example that we do NOT have to be a product of our environment. He was adpoted as a baby and abused as a child, but he is not a violent man, he would never strike a woman and he chose to be different. He says he wanted to chose to be someone other than who his abusers were trying to make him – and he is. He is the man who does the right thing, even when no one is looking. As they say, the “measure of character is what someone does for someone who can do absolutely nothing for them.”
    You are what you make of your life and your experiences, as you do not define yourself by your disease, neither should any of us define ouselves by any one thing.