Yes, it’s that time of year again. If you have made New Year Resolutions, good for you. If you have managed to keep them all so far, even better. If, like me, you don’t, whether from old age, cynicism, or from bitter experience, it may be, like me, that you consider the whole exercise pointless. If you want to change yourself for the better then you don’t need now to do it, but I appreciate that the symbolism of the changing of the year is pretty important. There is also the wisdom of crowds, and it’s a good time to try when everyone else does. But you also have to realise that if you really want to change something about yourself, it doesn’t increase your chances just because you decided to do it starting on New Year’s Day.
I always thought a good resolution would be to write a self-help book, but then I read somewhere that there are over 10,000 them published each year in the United States alone. They mostly follow a simple pattern, whereby the thing being changed – for the better we assume – is identified, backed up by some oft-cited social science experiments, packaged in some self-eulogising guff by someone who has paid a ghost writer to help him or her share with the mere mortals that he shares the planet with (and will pay for the book) why he or she is so great. The book usually starts with a helpful summary of why he or she is so great, is padded out with writing in large fonts and inexplicably blank pages between chapters, and with helpful illustrations why you are not (and probably never will be) as great as the author. As I said, it’s all a bit pointless.
Now if I was to make New Year Resolutions, they would probably go something like this:
1) Do Something!
Instead of waiting for something to happen, or worse, hoping that something will happen, try doing something, if only to pass the time.
2) Reading Is Not The Same As Doing
Sad, but true. Reading can load your brain up with all sorts of wonderful stuff, but then you need to go and do something about it. Reading for pleasure, escapism or relaxation has its purpose, but that is only for pleasure, escapism, and relaxation.
3) Done Is Better Than Perfect
Stop trying to create perfection. If you can do something now, and perfect it later (if you have the time) then at least you have the choice to improve it or reject it. Not completing something because it didn’t come up to your standards is hardly a way of achieving anything.
4) You Will Never Find Enough Time
Waiting for the right amount of time to do something is pointless – and in the meantime you are only wasting time.
5) Getting Fit Is An Abstract Concept
Being fit is a bit like being happy; you never realise you are fit/happy until time passes and you are unfit/unhappy again. Putting yourself in a situation where it is more likely that you will be fitter/happier is the only chance you have.
6) The Best Deals Are The Ones That Happen
Don’t cry over spilt milk. Chances missed, deals that fail (for one reason or another) did not happen did because of some cosmic masterplan (‘everything happens for a reason’), but because of definite factors that may or not have been your fault. Reflect, assign blame, undergo some self-criticism, correct if necessary for the next time, and move on. The past is over.
“What has happened cannot be made not to have happened. Hence Agathon is right in saying:
‘This only is denied even to God, the power to make what has been done undone.’”
Aristotle, Nichomean Ethics IV
7) Stop Using Pretentious Quotations
Even if you have read the book, the person reading will think:
- a) “Wow, he’s really intelligent” and you are setting yourself up for a fall, or
- b) “He can use Google well”
- c) “He’s obviously a thought leader.”
Either way you don’t gain anything of any value., especially from c).
8) Nothing Good Ever Comes From Social Media
Not strictly true, as I have a beautiful nephew as proof, but mostly true. The real world is found by engaging with the world outside, and the world outside your comfort zone. Go there sometime.
9) You Cannot Change Who You Are
You can, to an extent, change what you do, and how you do it, but denying who you are, for good or bad, can only make things worse, for you and for those around you.
10) Don’t Believe The Hype
When someone says nice things to you about you, they have a reason to do so, and it may not be all about you. So ignore them. Don’t care about what other people say about you, for good or bad, unless you recognise a truth in it, a truth that you can use.
I realise that these ‘resolutions’ could be interpreted as negative, cynical, or worse.
These resolutions are also very much geared towards shipbroking, where we know we cannot plan for happiness, and deals for that matter, but have to grab them when the moment arises. So, don’t be unhappy with who you are, where you are, or what you are doing. There’s little you can do about it until the moment comes. Just be sure that when your moment does arrive, you are ready to grab it with both hands. And that seems to be a better resolution than most: to be ready. This requires more work than most, but is probably the most rewarding in the long run. But as John Maynard Keynes said in a slightly different context, we are all dead in the long run anyway. So we may as well get on with it now.