Why are these treehuggers wasting their time?
June 14th, 2010 - 46 Comments
I love this open letter to the UC Berkeley students who were protesting cutting down trees by living in them.
(1) Consider what you are fighting for.
“How many trees does UC intend to destroy for its construction project? (Answer: 38). Is the coast live oak an endangered or threatened species? (Answer: No). Will the removal of these individual trees have any significant impact on the health of the overall population of the species? (Answer: No). Consider how many collective man-hours your campaign has devoted to saving these trees. Has it occurred to you that your time may be better spent focusing on (for example) the huge swaths of the Amazon that are cut down by loggers and developers every day? Are you choosing to protect 38 trees because you really think it is a significant, meaningful cause? I hope not–because that would be ignorant. It seems much more likely that you choose this battle because it is relatively convenient and riskless. Honestly–why don’t you sac up and take on a *real* environmental offender?”
You’ll find a lot of people doing largely meaningless things and justifying it with these 4 terrible words: “It can’t hurt, right?”
But it can. We’re cognitive misers. We only have limited attention and limited willpower. And with limited time, are you focusing on stuff that will make no difference? Or are you saving your limited attention and cognition for areas that will really make a difference?
How often do we pick things that are easy (e.g., saving money on lattes) instead of big wins? How often do we focus on things that make us feel good for the short term vs. things that will actually help us over the long term (e.g., learning how to automate your personal finances or how to make more money)?
Now, there is value in symbols. But few of us think strategically about the symbolism of our actions, while most of us (me included) simply do what’s easy and available.
Truly rich people know that they have limited resources and focus it on the things that matter. Beginners try to do everything and make an impact in very few areas at all.
2 questions for you…
What’s one area of your finances that you previously focused on…and it ended up being a big waste of time (e.g., lattes)?
On the positive side, what’s one area where you’ve had HUGE gains with a limited amount of effort (e.g., automation)?
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