Monday, June 2, 2008

Avoiding or Removing Negative Influences

The great American secular humanist philosopher (I meant that) Warren Buffett was once asked what was the best part of being rich.

He responded that despite his many billions, he still subsists mainly off of Cherry Cokes and Hamburgers. He still lives in the same old house in Omaha, still drives the same old car, etc. He went on to make a bigger point about how now, more than ever, the way people in our society of varied means actually live (in terms of day-to-day amenities, luxuries, conveniences, etc.) has converged more than ever before. You might think that's pretty glib coming from America's second-wealthiest man, but if you actually listen to what he's saying, he's got a point.

But I digress.

Warren Buffett said one of the best parts about being independently wealthy was that it gave him near-total freedom to decide who he would spend his time with. In other words, if Warren Buffett finds a person obnoxious, overbearing, rude, self-centered, opinionated, or just plain annoying, he has the freedom to say goodbye because Warren Buffett doesn't *need* anyone.

What a cool answer. I doubt that's what most people would imagine it feels like to be insanely wealthy.

I'll never be Warren Buffett, but hey, there are degrees to everything, right? I know I can point to times in my own life where I wish I had been better at nipping others' negativity in the bud (or at least steering it away from myself).

The only time I've ever gotten into anything even resembling an actual, physical fistfight came during my sophomore year of college, when I started to scuffle a bit with a guy who was generally an unhappy, cynical, miserable type who felt the need to constantly belittle me out of some personal sense of insecurity. I don't regret the way I handled it -- I asked him so many times to stop that I lost count, and I continually warned him to stop the night that we almost fought (although conveniently he leaves all those details out when recounting the story, which should provide yet another reason to never come to fisticuffs with anyone -- you will always come out looking bad in the end).

So the point here is that I don't regret the way I handled the "micro-situation" but I screwed up bigtime in the macro picture. The point is this -- once I saw this person's character for what it was, I should have calmly, casually, and politely just told him to take it somewhere else. In other words, I allowed myself to get brought down into it time and time again until it almost bubbled into something worse, were it not for the intervention of two of our friends.

I understand that now, although I didn't at the time. (Although let's not forget the words of the great Canadian secular humanist philosopher Alanis Morrisette, who reminds us that we learn through our life experiences). And no, I did not *mean* that last parenthetical aside.

I realize that we're not all Warren Buffett.

We sometimes have bosses, co-workers, roommates, family members, or whoever in our lives that may try to drag us down into their own misery and/or project their insecurities onto us by turning every stupid, petty, trivial thing into some type of pissing contest.

If we let them do this, we must accept that some of the fault lies within ourselves.

I realize you may be *stuck* in a certain situation, but that doesn't mean you can't find a somewhat creative way to solve it or maneuver around it. Maybe it means finding clever ways to avoid a negative person. Maybe it means your own mental trick for tuning them out. Maybe it means somehow changing the scope of the relationship to make it more palatable for you.

Either way, it's essential to your own well-being that you do this.

If you let them, the cynical, the insecure, and the miserable would love to take you down with them.

So I implore readers -- find a way not to go.


KD said...

These words resonate with me-- I'm still learning how to not get sucked into other people's misery.

The New Englander said...


Glad you liked it. The part that sucks is that sometimes it may be unavoidable (the people at least). But the onus is on YOU to find a creative way to avoid the miserable side of the person, or to limit your exposure, or to limit the one-on-one time, or whatever it takes. If they're calling you to moan and groan, just stop answering...if it's a roommate or family member, try to change the subject..if they're doing it at work, just tell them you'd prefer to stay limited to professional topics only, etc.

I know this is way easier said than done...lemme know how it goes.