Your Limits Don’t Matter

Did you know that you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to?

If you want to play in the NBA, you just need to practice until you’re good enough. If you want to be a world-class chess player, guitarist, pick-up artist, or chef, the same logic applies. Just put in the effort, put in the work, put in the sacrifice, and eventually you will achieve your goals. You might even be able to fly, if only you spend 16 hours a day flapping your arms.

Do I seem a little bit crazy today? Maybe I’ve been reading too many self-improvement blogs. Their consensus seems to be that there are no natural limits on what you can do and achieve in your life. The seduction and self-improvement community even has a name for the idea that there may in fact be an upper limit to what he can do. It’s called a self-limiting belief, and seduction forums are replete with posters decrying anyone who so much as admits their own mortality. Malcolm Gladwell, pop-PC/feel-good author extraordinaire, has decreed that the key to achieving anything is to spend 10,000 hours practicing it.

The reality is that we are not blank slates, waiting to have superhuman skills imprinted on us by practice and repetition. We are stuck with whatever genes we’re born with, and whatever early childhood experiences we’ve had. Intelligence is at least 50% heritable, and few if any skills and abilities that we might wish to acquire are any different.

If you’re short, you’ll never be tall. If you’re only moderately intelligent, you’ll never be a physics professor at MIT. If you’re naturally shy and socially maladroit, you may not ever be able to be the smoothest, suavest pick-up artist in the world.

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So how should we react to the knowledge that not every corner of the world is ours for the taking? Should we be depressed?

Not at all. You already knew everything I just wrote, even if you consciously denied it. Now that we’ve admitted that we have limits, we can make better life decisions by focusing on developing the skills we actually have the potential to master. I suspect that I’d be in a shitty spot in my life right now if I’d bought into the 10,000 hours rule, and decided to override my natural limitations and become an econometrics professor or classical musician. No one has the potential to do anything they want in life, but the majority of us have the potential to do something.

The other piece of good news (for you) is that we are living in what may be the golden age of mediocrity. Our generation is wasting away in front of flickering screens, drinking and smoking itself retarded, spending its formative years getting worthless educations in dumbed-down schools, and approaching life from a timid, cowardly, risk-averse mentality. In all likelihood, the world is full of people smarter, better looking, and more talented than you. But they’ll probably be playing Halo while you’re out conquering the world. Whatever your unrealistic goals are, your competition is so afraid and spiritless that you might actually be able to achieve them with mediocre talent alone, if you’re willing to put in the work.

And even if you don’t, so what? On my deathbed, I’d rather look back at a life of failure than one of shying away from challenge. Given the choice between uncertain success and certain failure, I’ll take the former every time.