3 Lies You Should Believe (and Two You Should Not)

Read just the titles first— see if you can guess which are which. 🙂

I am unique

I hate when people quote Fight Club— really I do. It’s one of those movies that’s good, but that people consider a religion when it was really just meant as entertainment (think Star Wars). But it’s true that you aren’t a beautiful and unique snowflake– what you are is a piece of meat.

When you die, nothing will happen. No one will arrange a 21-gun salute, and even if they do, guess what? You’ll be dead. So it won’t matter.

So you aren’t unique. But should this deter you from believing that you are? No. Our brains are pattern machines that detect omens where there are none and make stories out of everyday, mundane events. And your right brain must believe these stories even if your left brain thinks they are bullshit.

So believe that you are unique if it helps. It will keep you going. It must.

We are meant for each other

No, no, and no. You probably would have been fine with at least 5 other people on the planet, maybe even 50 or 500. This one happens to be the one you’ve ended up with, in a combination of circumstance, determination, and will.

It’s sad that people end up believing “meant for each other” stories. Like many of the beliefs here, they are based on humans having an amazing capacity for standing outside of themselves to look for meaning. Yet this one in particular needs to be wiped out because it is juvenile and detracts from the real quality of the relationship.

That we choose to be in a relationship with our significant other is so much more important, and so much more valuable, than us being “fated to come together.” It implies will in a world of chaos. It implies coming together to build something and strength in the face of adversity. It implies choice.

I can do anything I set my mind to

A mixed bag that is partially true and partially not. For example, I am lifting more weight now in the gym than ever. I am also writing more than I ever have in my life. I am flexible and can recreate myself every day, and so can you if you choose.

But there is a limit to this. So of course you can’t literally do anything, but you must believe you can, or you will set limits on what you can do. Because you won’t try, or because you won’t try as hard, you won’t get where you could have. And that failure will discourage and keep you down.

So this is false. But for the benefit of your future, you must believe it anyway.

There is a higher force guiding me

God, should such an entity even exist, does not care whether Natalie Portman wins the Oscar. He or she doesn’t care, either, if you get a raise. In fact, even if you were a “part of God’s plan” or whatever, that plan may end up getting you killed in a car accident or dying on the toilet. Oops.

People use the will of God as an extension of themselves. Have you ever noticed how it’s only people that hate gay people whose God also hates gay people? This “oh I happen to agree with God on everything, what a coincidence” attitude is so moronic I barley know how to put it into words. People assume that if they are a part of God’s plan, then they must be a BIG part of it. Whatever.

Yet as we said before, people need to believe in their own stories. People that do epic shit, when young, believe they are meant for something. Not those who believe they are mediocre. This lie is necessary to keep your eyes on the bigger picture.

It’s too late

This one is a favourite of people who have never done anything with their lives and have given up on achieving anything great. It sounds like a call from a fellow soldier on the battlefield– go on without me!!!– except, excuse me, but it was up to you what you did with your life. It wasn’t too late for you then, and it still isn’t now.

Too late, once again, implies a preset path of fulfillment that you missed. Personally, I was in fine arts school in college, and I dropped out to get a job at a failing dot-com right before the crash. I consider that very stupid. Yet here I am, a bestselling author with a widely-read blog who basically travels the world for a living. Not too shabby.

The truth is that there are many paths we can take, and we’re coming across them all the time. Too late for the NBA? Fine. Go solve world hunger instead, idiot.






31 responses to “3 Lies You Should Believe (and Two You Should Not)”

  1. Filip Matous Avatar

    Yeah love this. Have a spin on point one:

    Personally coming to terms that I am NOT unique was one of my best breakthroughs. Actually allowing it to sink in that I am completely insignificant was liberating. No knew me in the past, a few generations from now no one will know me either. Carl Sagan is right, from a few miles above looking down on the planet we are all insignificant. That’s totally cool.

    What I can do now is make my own purpose and help some people along the way. I came into this world with nothing and I’ll leave the same way so I might as well give my time away in the best way I know – just give it, love, work, laugh and enjoy the fact that it is near impossible that I exist.

  2. Richard Avatar

    I love “It’s too late”, I hear that so often, like you only have the first 10 years of your career to achieve where you want to be. What are you going to do with the other 40 years?

  3. NomadicNeill Avatar

    Yes self-delusion is an important thing to do, within reason. But ‘within reason’ should be somewhat unreasonable.

    Have you ever read ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be’ by Paul Arden. It’s very short, I think you’ll like it.

    Fight Club is an awesome book / movie and should be quoted all the time. Apparently the movie was a flop!

    1. Julien Avatar

      I’ve totally read that book, I buy it for people all the time. I may even have blogged about it here.

      @Filip– The way I see it, it’s the people that are alive now that matter, and making their lives significantly better.

  4. Jake LaCaze Avatar

    I agree with all of your points, ESPECIALLY the first three. The idea of accomplishing anything you set your mind to — of course, we can’t do everything. But as you more or less said, sometimes having a bit of ignorance can be a good thing and can allow us to accomplish more than we previously thought possible.

  5. Sarah Russell Avatar

    I love the “You can do anything you set your mind to” one. Can I do anything? No. No matter how hard I try, I can’t grow flippers, breathe underwater or remember where I left my car keys every day. Can I do everything? Again, no. I have a limited amount of time and resources, and just like everyone else in the world, my only choice is how I allocate them.

    The real power is being able to explore and refine to find the things I’m best at, and then choose to allocate my resources to pursue those things.

  6. Juli Avatar

    “We were meant for each other” explains more of my life than I want to admit.

  7. Kristen Avatar

    As usual, well done.

    I have to say that as a person that began a career later than most (25yrs old) and then changed that career at 30, I have had moments of “it’s too late.” It really isn’t.

    Unless a person has been totally sloppy with their decision making and/or been stuck in a phase of arrested development, not much is irreversible.

    Martha Stewart was a stockbroker at the age of 30, James Joyce a singer, and Michael Jordan played baseball. Imagine if they had all undervalued their potentials by believing that at 30 and “it was too late.”

    Thanks for keeping it real.

  8. Amanda Williams Avatar
    Amanda Williams

    God does care, and loves each and everyone of us. God even loves and cares about gay people. If He knows how many hairs are on your head, don’t you think he cares about all the other details of your life?

  9. Ryan Critchett Avatar

    Dude.. glad you’re saying this stuff.

    I align on many levels. I think too many people use “God’s plan” as a justification to not take action and develop a tolerance for discomfort.

    You make good points when you talk about believing something, specifically for the reason of inducing drive and pushing you further. I do the same shit. You’ll try harder if your brain believes something is possible, or that you have some inherent purpose.

    Yep, our brains are pattern machines. We do create abstractions about things and try to pin meaning to experience. Cool of you to be conscious of that.. and realize it’s a human function, not really a reality.

    Real post dude.

  10. Jelena Avatar

    Again great post:)
    My yes to:
    “I am unique”- we are all unique, just that do not make us special-our doings count
    “We are meant for each other” It is the true and when you find it make a choise to USE it(how big is possibility to find 5 or 50 who match so well?)

    My no to:
    “It is to late” – “Too late for the NBA? Fine. Go solve world hunger instead, idiot.”
    Great !!!

    My doubts:
    “There is a higher force guiding me”
    Sometimes you really cannot change your destiny, but it does not mean to give up(and judge other)

    “I can do anything I set my mind to”
    Stay realistic and see what really means.

    Thx 🙂

  11. Janet Oberholtzer Avatar

    Hi … been reading your site for a time … don’t think I’ve commented before, so “hi.”
    This article is right on the money. There’s many tensions we have to learn to live with life … but too often we swing the pendulum too far one direction or the other and then sit on our butts and do nothing.

    Instead we need to learn to live in the tensions … because that’s where the energy is. We need to believe that we can do anything and yet know the reality that we can’t. Even Bible-believing folks that often quote the verse “I can do everything through God who strengthens me” have to admit they can’t fly like a bird … no matter how hard they pray.

  12. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Interesting post, Julien, with some provocative nuggets, as usual. However, I disagree with #4. Not just the God part, but the idea that people who do epic stuff are believing merely in their own stories. More often than not, people who are “epic” are believing in a story larger than themselves – a higher power or existence into which they’re called to live. Just my two cents. Appreciate your perspective.

  13. Rohan Jayasekera Avatar

    Julien, how can I get myself to believe lies? Serious question.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Change your frame, that’s one way. These lies are false but they are useful.

  14. Social media critic Avatar
    Social media critic

    Deconstructing in 3….2…1:

    Point #1: Uniqueness

    Self-indulgent navel gazing. Either everyone is unique or no one is. You’re projecting your own problem with other people’s faith, and it’s even less pleasant seeing you place yourself egotistically above others who believe differently by dismissing them. Your own sense of fatality makes you sound like a teenage emo kid.

    Point #2: Fated to be with each other

    What’s sad is that you make a value judgement that other people who believe this is ‘sad’, it shows a narrowness of spirit and something of a fatalistic, borderline depressive approach. Are you hinting at your own lack of personal faith in personal relationships? Again, this sounds like a case of projection.

    Point #3: I can do anything I set my mind to.

    I find it interesting that you buffer your belief in this point by first bragging about your physical prowess at weightlifting as a method of self-validation. Then you engage in more self-promotion about recreating yourself everyday and writing more than you evert have. So apparently instantiating what reinforces your own experience reinforces a flag ego. This smacks of a fundamental lack of self confidence. Are these simply Theseus affirmations that you feel you need to air in a public forum?

    Point #4: here is a higher force guiding me

    I find it strange and almost an afterthought that you should add “should he exist” to the statement about God’s existence, given your assertion of our being ‘meat’ in your first point. You use toilet humor to deflect. Your tone narrow, borders on in ignorant (I am being kind) and then you attack others faith by calling it moronic and equating it with hate crimes.

    I’m not certain as to what problems you may have with people who justify their actions with faith, but you seem to be mistaking cause, effect, and intention.

    Please don’t blame the tool, or even the manner in which it is used. Your generalizations are easily just as offensive to some as those made by people who indulge in the same behavior you are decrying.

    Shame on you, Mr. Smith. Your terse dismissal, “whatever”, exemplifies much of what wrong in the world today and lowers you to the level of those you attack, and make no mistake, your statements are an attack.

    I don’t pretend to understand what you are trying to attack, but I see one in this case.

    Perception in social media is easily 90% of reality, wouldn’t you agree?

    Point #5: it’s too late

    “a favorite of people who have never done anything with there lives”

    What a sublime way to dismiss anyone who would dare disagree with you. It’s obvious you have no problems with looking back at this generalization (you are fond of attacking straw men, Mr. Smith, for they are not well known for their ability to fight back) .


    Again, this is an ego boost, almost Evangelical in nature.

    Strange, considering your stance on God, the afterlife, and such.

    What are you really telling your readers, Mr. Smith.

    Which lies should we really believe in and which should we disregard?

    Are you the New God?

    Who Trusts The Trust Agents?

    Why don’t you solve your own internal issues….


  15. John McLachlan Avatar

    Two thoughts on this post and really, some of the comments:

    1. Nothing riles up people who believe in God more than questioning the idiocy of such a belief.

    2. Your (Julien) most viscous detractors never leave a link to their own place on the Net. They are usually virtually anonymous. Interesting and gutless much like those who comment on newspaper site.

    One more: Great post.

  16. radman Avatar

    Come on – no quotes from Fight Club? You have to be kidding. (i.e., “Every word you read of this useless fine print is another second off your life” or “The things you own end up owning you.”) Then I suppose you don’t like quotes from The Departed either nor do you believe in them like:

    “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”

    Frank – aka Jack

    Oh well, nice reading though.

  17. Josh Hughes Avatar

    This blog post REALLY got me thinking, no pun intended. Keep up the great work!

  18. Peter Paluska Avatar

    I, too, noticed that the epic commenter did not leave a forwarding address.
    Anyway, Julien, I thought of a way to describe this post:
    “Punk Rock Personal Development”!

    Taking liberties, you know how it is. Whatevs. 😉


  19. Dan Avatar

    I love you, you angry, little man. Great post.

  20. Amy Tobin Avatar

    I love your writing. Your blog is one of the only ones I MAKE SURE I read. I hate the “idot” on the end. Love the idea of where the blog was going…

    Sometimes it’s ok to just be positive.

  21. Jeff Goins Avatar

    Agreed on the Fight Club blurb. Can’t ever do too much Durden.

  22. Kristen Avatar

    I like that someone actually disagreed with some ideas you have.

    I mean, I always find myself agreeing with you and then proceeding to kiss your ass.

    It’s about time someone offered some critical feedback, it would have been more awesome if it were actually valuable instead of just sounding like they just plain hate you as a person.

  23. jaime Avatar

    I too like that someone actually disagreed with you. All of the other comments seem to be stroking your ego just as you did throughout your post. I don’t have an internet presence or a “second self” and so, yes, this is also a virtually anonymous comment.

    An existentialist you may be, but a lack of spirituality and faith is a significant problem in our current world. You may be above it, but many more have simply turned to TV and social media instead of “God.” The masses are getting lost in the idolization of celebrity and themselves. A belief in something greater than our mortal coil might not be so ignorant after all.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Hi Jaime,

      I actually have no problem with disagreement at all, I find it very good to get challenged as long as it’s constructive.

      I do very much believe in something bigger than ourselves– it’s just the collective good of the entire planet and human race, not some outside force.

  24. Jaime Avatar

    Okay. I can get with that. Thanks for your reply.

  25. Gab Goldenberg Avatar
    Gab Goldenberg

    I believed people when they said it was too late to get into Digg … yet people got onto it after me and were successful building profiles. I think it’s partly people trying to protect their game from competitors, and naivete on the part of external people and/or newbies like me.

  26. Lori Avatar

    We are meant for each other: We have a saying in our family, “Herpes are forever, Love isn’t. 🙂

  27. Nafisa Kapur Avatar

    I think we all know and realise all this by now. How are you helping by blogging about it?!

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