Your deductive powers are a gift from God or chance or a straight shot of sperm or whatever or whoever wrote your life-script. A gift, not earned. You do not know what I know because you have not earned those powers. You’re careless with those powers, you flaunt them and you throw them around like a brat with his trust-fund. You haven’t had to climb up all the greasy little rungs.
That quote, delivered expertly by Robert De Niro, comes from the film Limitless when Carl Van Loon tells Eddie that despite his considerable cognitive skills, he still needs Carl’s experience and knowledge to flourish. Limitless is a great film (about a guy who takes a nootropic pill and suddenly becomes a genius), but this particular theme is one that could have been explored further: the difference between ‘crystallised intelligence’ and ‘fluid intelligence’ (to use the technical psychological jargon) or the difference between knowledge and IQ. Effort versus natural talent. In the film, this interesting subtext is barely touched upon, though Eddie’s ultimate win perhaps suggests that the film adaptation was more in favour of intelligence (or just a Hollywood ending). In the book that the film was based on (The Dark Fields) there is quite a different ending that we could look at as the opposite message (I won’t ruin it for you).
Seeing as the film Limitless didn’t discuss the matter that fully, let’s take a look now at the difference between earned success and luck, and at why a pill like the one in Limitless wouldn’t necessarily be such a good thing.
Life Is a Journey
There are many other comparisons you can make here and life is full of analogous situations for that Limitless pill. This is in many ways the equivalent of building a successful business versus winning the lottery, or of training hard and working out versus taking steroids or using fad diets. In all these situations the end result is very similar, but the route that you take to get there is very different.
The reality is that given the choice, most of us would normally choose the latter route. People take steroids and start fad diets because they want immediate results. They aren’t interested in working out for years, only in getting the body they want right away. Likewise, most people would rather win the lottery than have to work long hours and place strain on their relationships potentially as a result.
Now I’m here to tell you that this is the wrong attitude to have, and that you need to change that way of thinking right away if you’re going to make the most of yourself. Here I will share with you why it’s almost always better to take the long route.
The Value of Experience
The thing is, that as Carl Van Loon points out, experience is something that’s far more valuable than many of us will realise and is often also more valuable than the end point itself. Let’s imagine for instance that you’ve won the lottery. Now there’s a good chance that you will be overwhelmed with your win and start spending that cash rapidly to celebrate – and in no time at all you’ll probably find you end up losing your cash and possibly getting into other kinds of trouble (addiction, debt and alienation are possible). Now that you’ve lost your fortune, you won’t be able to win it back or keep it going because you never earned it in the first place. What are the chances of winning the lottery twice?
On the other hand, if you are someone who has done the work to create their own business and found success as a result, then you will not just have your fortune but also the business that got you there and incredible business acumen. You will recognise the value of money and so be less likely to spend it foolishly, you will know how to sustain your income and invest and even if you did lose everything you’d have a much better chance of getting it back (and it would actually be easier the next time).
The same goes for working out. Take steroids or use a fad diet and you might notice some immediate benefits, but both these strategies are bad for you and neither will be enough on its own to keep you in your new shape. Then there’s the fact that you won’t really know how to train – and that you’ll possibly end up with a severe muscle imbalance or injuring yourself in the gym.
On the other hand, build your muscle up the old fashioned way – through blood, sweat and tears – and you’ll gain muscle that you can maintain and that is strong and long-lasting. Furthermore, you’ll have a tougher mental discipline, a better understanding of your own body and far more self-respect. You’ll be unstoppable.
In short then, it really is the journey that matters and not so much the destination. A destination is fleeting, whereas your journey is on-going. If you can find the value in that, then you’ll be much more successful in your efforts to improve yourself and your circumstances.