Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains


I wanted to refer to my reblog of “Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains” in a PM to someone. But it looks like I never wrote it.

Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains

is an awesome blog post by PJ Eby, author, self-improvement guru, & LessWrongian, on his blog, DirtSimple.org . I can’t improve on it; I’ll just quote part of it:

In the movies, the villains typically:

– Have a vision and goals, for how they’d like things to be in the future

– Believe that they deserve — and are capable of obtaining — everything they want in life

– Proactively seek the fulfillment of their goals, and persistently work towards achieving them

– Are willing to plan and prepare for years, then execute that plan in a well-disciplined manner, having anticipated as many issues as possible, with well-thought out contingency plans

– Are very willing to delegate most tasks to their staff of loyal, highly-motivated employees…  who they somehow managed to recruit, train, and persuade to follow along with their shared vision.

Meanwhile, the heroes tend to:

– Be reactive, rather then proactive — they wait until something bad happens, then try to solve the problem afterwards

– Be reactionary, rather than progressive — they try to put things back the way they were, instead of changing them for the better

– Rarely promote a shared vision, preferring to work alone or with only a partner or two…  who they don’t trust with anything really important!

– Rarely anticipate the possible failure modes of their plans, to the extent that they plan anything at all!

– Use their talents and abilities rarely, for emergencies only, instead of keeping them in top condition or proactively using them to improve things

– Not believe they personally deserve anything good out of life, or that things will ever get better for them

… I didn’t really think all that much about it, until this past week.  It just seemed like an amusing, cynical observation about Hollywood: that movies are designed to make people feel better about their crappy lives, by allowing them to subconsciously identify with the “good” guys.

But that was only because I didn’t realize just how much this applied to me.

Or that on the inside, I was still trying to be the hero.

And that it was perhaps the single biggest source of pain in my entire life!

What’s good about being special?  “I’m better than everyone.”  What’s good about that?

– If I’m a hero, I won’t get hurt

– If I’m a hero, it’s okay that I’m alone or have few friends

– If I’m a hero, it’s okay that people look down on me, because that’s just my secret identity

– If I’m a hero, I’m strong on the inside, even if I seem weak on the outside

– If I’m a hero, it’s okay for me to strike at those who hurt others, the way they hurt me

All in all, the superhero fantasy was more attractive to my 7-year-old self (the approximate age where these thoughts originated) than I’d ever realized.  And consciously, it had never even occurred to me that they were anything but idle daydreams and escape fantasies.

I had no way of knowing that, when I adopted this superhero ideal, the following personality traits would come along with it:

– If you’re a hero, you’re just strong and successful and equipped… automatically — you don’t have to practice or work out or really do anything at all to become successful (Impatience with details and implementation)

– If you’re a hero, you should never use your powers (talents and abilities) for any personal gain…  unless it’s an emergency.  (Procrastination, not to mention failure to pursue non-work goals)

– If you’re a hero, it’s your job to right wrongs…  not to make good things.  (Perfectionism!)

– If you’re a hero, it’s your job to do the impossible, or at least the extraordinary…  so leave the ordinary things to ordinary people  (More perfectionism, not to mention elitism!)

– If you’re a hero, you have to rely on yourself…  so don’t share your secrets with anyone, or expect anyone to be able to help you with your problems…  frankly, it’s laughable that they’d be able to understand your issues, let alone help.  (Arrogance, closed-mindedness, and other a**holery)

– If you’re a hero, everything is serious business.  Deadly serious.  All the frickin’ time.  You can enjoy other people being happy, but don’t expect to have any free time that can’t be interrupted for something more important.  (Recipe for struggle, suffering, and general life imbalance.)

The post goes into more depth on how this subverted his attempts at self-improvement. I don’t know if his course or books or whatever it is he’s flogging are good, but I think this post is brilliant.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s