If you get anything out of life, let it be this: Everyone you interact with, anyone that you have a conversation with -- anyone and everyone in your life -- wants something from you, no exceptions. If anyone tells you otherwise, then that person is lying; if you believe otherwise, then you are lying to yourself.
Human beings are built to protect and look out for themselves first and foremost. This egocentricity is built into our DNA as a defense and survival mechanism that cannot be changed; it’s a part of our nature and will remain so until evolution no longer tends to it.
This gets even more interesting when we consider the fact that no individual can live or function outside a society indefinitely. Each of us relies on other people for our basic needs to survive -- without other people providing resources, we could starve, be killed or lose our minds.
How can nature be so contradictory? Quite honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe one day we will evolve out of our egocentric tendencies and focus on the good and longevity of a larger group of individuals. But until then, if we want to flourish and succeed in the world we live in today, we must learn to function within the current rules of nature.
Strangers Don’t Talk To You Because They’re Bored, And If They Do, It’s Because They Are Bored
Whenever you meet someone new, it is guaranteed that he or she either wants something from you, or wants to use you as a means to an end. Every time a guy walks up to you at a bar and offers to buy you a drink, he’s not just being kind. Every time a stranger talks to you in the streets, it’s either for directions or for “spare” change. (On a side note: Who the hell really has “spare” change?)
If someone you have never met before approaches you, it’s safe to say he either finds you attractive and wants to weigh the odds of getting into your pants, he wants you to give him something, he wants you to tell him something or he wants to simply interact with you.
A better way to look at this may be to ask yourself this: Have you, or anyone you know, ever interacted with another person solely for that person’s benefit and no benefit of your own, whatsoever? The answer is likely, absolutely not. Even when we get into the topic of philanthropy, many will argue that helping others is partly, if not wholly, done in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.
Although we may not believe in the idea that we interact with the intent to benefit from a person, who’s to say that subconsciously, the potential benefit isn’t the motivating factor for the interaction?
When It Comes To Business, We Are All Just Using Each Other
I was recently offered to run a new startup. I have a couple of advisors that I confide in, and listen to advice from, when I have important business decisions to make. One such advisor and friend heard the offer I received and warned me that I should be wary: The offer seems incredible, but I should be careful that I wouldn’t be used and later discarded. Of course, this is exactly what contracts are for: the avoidance of getting screwed down the road.
More importantly, the fact is that I am being used and I know it. I am being used for my experience, my knowledge, my skills and abilities, and my intelligence. I am very clearly being used. However, the fact is also that this “usage” is a two-way street. Just as I am being used for my skills and abilities, I am using the investor for his resources: both intellectual and fiscal.
This is what business is all about; it’s an “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” sort of deal. If the entrepreneur couldn’t benefit from me, he would have never approached me in the first place. If I didn’t think I could use that same entrepreneur to my advantage to further my success and my goals, then I wouldn’t even be considering the offer. He is using me just as much as I am using him and I am very much okay with that. For everything else, there are lawyers.
Love Seems Selfless, But It Never Truly Is
If there is anything selfless in the world, then it would have to be love -- unfortunately, though, that isn’t the case, either. It’s difficult to understand how selfish love is, being that the concept of love within our culture is always portrayed as being selfless.
I know that most of us feel that romantic love is a very natural state. However, the truth is that romantic or courtly love didn’t make its appearance onto the stage until about the fourteenth century -- only 700 years ago or so. Before that, we basically got together because we understood that in order for our species to survive, we have to reproduce… and so we did.
The concept of romantic love itself is rooted in egocentricity. We want to love just as much as we want to be loved. We believe that love can be the most amazing thing that we experience in our lifetimes, and I’ll have to say, we are probably right.
However, we have to understand that we don’t love selflessly. We love because we want to love. We want to be loved. We feel amazing when we find ourselves in love. All those selfless acts we hear about stem from these basic facts and, therefore, cannot be considered to be entirely selfless. But this is not a bad thing. If we understand this, then we can use the knowledge to our advantage and build healthier relationships.
The reason so many of us fail when it comes to love is that we have a misconstrued and unrealistic notion of what love is and what love is for. Just like everything else in life, love is meant to benefit you first and foremost.