What I’m about to share with you is a very controversial and harsh point of view about how the human society works. This is the story and reflection that led me to understand the entrepreneurial mind.
Be warned that I do not share this with people on a daily basis (nor I recommend you do) because not everyone is ready or interested in performing an in-depth reasoning about life.
Most people just prefer not to dwell too much on this type of matter. And I respect that.
But if you’re looking to be a game changer, a creator, an innovator or, ultimately, an entrepreneur, then go ahead and bear with me.
It was by reflecting and observing a lot of social behaviors that I’ve come to the conclusion that we can aim high; much higher than what our friends, and many times family relatives, expect from us. All we need is a reset in the way we think.
I thought this would be the best way to transfer to you the way I found my drive to becoming an entrepreneur as, perhaps, it can also help you underlining yours.
It is my belief that if you’re meant to push the human race forward, you will profoundly feel like the reasoning below could have been written by you.
Let’s jump right in.
Introducing ‘The Sheep on Autopilot Theory’
Some weeks ago I was watching for the second time The Count of Monte Cristo movie inspired in the famous book of Alexandre Dumas.
In this film I’ve noticed that Napoleon Bonaparte had a curious opinion about people. He used to separate us according to two major roles:
Kings or Peons.
He would say there was nothing in-between those roles.
We are either Kings or Peons.
This example made me remember of a theory of mine which I proudly called “The Sheep on Autopilot Theory” (in plural).
PART 1: The origin
I’m no particular expert on cattle, quite far from it actually.
But during the last years – approximately since 2014 – I’ve been stepping from time to time in this weird notion that human beings behave like a flock of sheep: walking together, slowly and safe, in the same direction and with the same set of options.
In fact, I’m not the first to think about this type of idea, I’m sure. Great authors and minds such as , , and have already addressed similar concepts years ago and were my main sources of inspiration.
The first three basilar aspects I’ve noticed are:
- We tend to do things without even questioning what we are doing: little habits and conventions that we cultivate our entire lives that can be very questionable.
- Our default behavior is to act on autopilot mode: the sum of the whole life experiences we’ve been gathering in our mind is guiding us every day automatically.
- We spend too much time addressing gossip and cheesy matters: chitchatting about people or deciding what is the best nails/shoes combination take too much of our time and we aren’t used to meditating and placing our current life status into perspective.
These are the facts I’ve been actively observing for some time already, and it’s because of those that I started thinking about what’s beneath them, in a psychological point of view.
So, let’s look at the following:
You agree the human being acts in a collective and social way, right?
As a matter of fact, this is the single most important reason why we’ve thrived up to where we are today, as a whole race.
Working and thinking as a group allow us to achieve anything.
But it can also lock us down to the same society baseline.
Would you like to know the story that definitely reinforced the idea that human beings behave like a flock of sheep?
When I was with my colleagues at the European Street Food Festival -we were creating a Burritos street food business called Walkamole -, in our first day of activity I’ve heard something that will always be unforgettable to me.
It was the first event of its kind in Lisbon; we were in April, the weather was great, and the Estoril’s Casino garden was full of people.
As a result, all the food concepts had a lot of people in queues. I mean long lines that could vary between 30 to 60 minutes waiting!
While I was walking around the garden, I accidentally heard one gentleman saying to another:
‘I don’t even look at those who have no queue; I only go to the ones that are full.’
Huh, Excuse me?
Also, later on, while I was helping my colleagues accepting the payments at our stand, I had the chance to talk with a lot of guys who stood on our 45 minutes’ queue.
Would you believe that each one in three customers would reach me and ask:
‘So, tell me, what do you guys sell here?’
I couldn’t believe.
What do we sell here?
This gentleman was 45 minutes standing in a queue burning at the sun without even knowing what he was going to eat?
Up to this point, I had no idea such thing was even conceivable.
I mean, I would never be in our queue for 45 minutes, standing in the sun and we tend to believe the society behaves the way we do.
Suddenly, it all makes sense:
The human being feels extremely well in crowds. It’s like those gentlemen’s life purposes were to be in that particular queue, side by side with dozens of people, gladly smiling.
For me, this sounds hilarious, but I believe deep down we know that all of us have been in a similar situation, at a given moment in time. It is a biological phenomenon; we can’t help it.
In fact, when you think about it, our emotional stability comes precisely from moments like these; moments in which we don’t have to reason about anything.
The moments in which we are mere sheep grazing.
PART 2: The implications in core life’s issues
I remember sharing these findings with a lot of people after the event because they were entirely new to me.
Based on them, the Theory started to gain shape. It seemed obvious, at that point, that the human mind is attracted by what other people do. We feel safe doing what others do, and so on.
So, I decided to test it: applying these assumptions to some of the fundamental life choices.
What about educational choices, for instance?
Eventually, you will end up agreeing with me that our educational and, consequentially, life path are “forced” upon us by our parents and the whole society since the day we were born.
Let us look at the following:
What do parents request from their children?
They request them to be excellent students.
But why does that really mean?
It means they should be able not only to become more educated persons but, most importantly, to enter a prestigious university.
And why does the university matter?
So they can find a good job, which provides them with the best monthly income as possible.
Can you start to see a standard process?
It barely makes me feel we are all programmed software:
We study to get a recognized degree, so then we can find a well-paid job. Afterward, we buy a car, a new house, we get married, children, and the entire cycle starts again.
Don’t get me wrong; I treasure the importance of each one of these moments in life. These milestones aren’t the problem; it is the living philosophy beneath them. The problem is not getting married, for instance. The problem is that if you do not marry the society will judge and criticize you. Or if you decide to abandon the university to find out what you want to do in life, your family might think you’re an irresponsible person that is jeopardizing his own future.
Now, how many of us wish to be unique? Don’t we all dream and hunger for a luxury lifestyle instead of the same old standard life plan?
So, why do we all judge others when they decide to do things differently?
This brings us to the next step:
What I found was absolutely killer – in addition to our temptation to continuously follow the masses – is the existence of an unyielding social pressure; the psychological pressure that derives from family, friends and the closest professional colleagues (the warm circle) and that is constantly dragging us to the sheep flock.
Well, to be more precise, this is not entirely accurate.
If you ask your warm circle if they think you should pursue happiness – no matter what it takes – they will usually encourage you to search for a better life and follow your path. It is a cliché.
Nevertheless, what is fascinating is that no one ever expects it to require so many tough choices. So when you tell them that you are about to take one of those tough decisions, they think you’re going nuts!
We all have a shot at living a dream lifestyle, all it takes is will and determination. But it is precisely in the most critical decisions that you will get judged and asked to stay where you are; where you warm circle knows it’s safe, stable and comfortable.
Let’s dive in the relationship with parents a little bit more, namely at the pressure they unintentionally apply on their children because here’s where all the sheep flock starts to be formed.
The large majority of parents will always wish you well and want you to be safe. It is rooted in parents’ biology; they simply can’t help it.
But because of this, they usually apply tremendous pressure to you, even without noticing. They want you to proceed in a bullet proof and tested path by hundreds of generations before.
Now, what parents seem unable to understand, is that safety means precisely the opposite of potential.
It is a very fundamental trade-off notion we usually associate to investments.
Without risk, there is no return. I believe you may find some exceptions, but this is pretty much the life’s rule of thumb.
Also, most parents don’t understand you will never be fulfilled if you do not follow a unique path.
No matter what you tell your parents, it is really hard for them to conceive it because they are stuck in their reality – as someday you and I will also be stuck in ours.
I’d like to share with you a personal example:
My parents have been working for the same company for more than 40 years already. If you ask me, they haven’t felt sad or frustrated one single day about their jobs because their entire career was built upon a standard that it is perfectly OK to spend 8 hours per day doing something that doesn’t necessarily fascinate you.
There is no need for higher standards; this is their reality, no questions asked.
That paradigm has changed for younger generations. Millennials have brought an entirely new perspective.
For my parents, it doesn’t matter whether there are things they hate in their jobs. Their generation managed to learn how to embrace all the bureaucratic crap they see every day, so they can have a pleasant life on the weekends – or sometimes only on Sunday afternoons.
So how do you expect your parents or anyone who is older than millennials to understand that you are not obliged to prostitute your time and that you have to search for something better?
That it is your life and you must get out of this old vicious pattern that will eventually only lead you to a dull and depressing life, with no fulfillment or whatsoever.
You see, we’ve only focused on the educational choices so far, but I guess you can already have a good grasp of what the ‘The Sheep on Autopilot Theory’ is all about.
It is no more than a symbol of the total social pressure exercised upon the human being that forces us to copy each other in every life’s aspect, in addition to our natural willingness to follow the masses and to do what requires less effort of our brains.
PART 3: THINK DIFFERENT
Now, there’s only one way to break free from the sheep flock: thinking differently.
Unfortunately, reasoning is something often seen as negative by several agents of our society. At least, it is definitely not considered to be cool.
Without wanting to sound too sarcastic, the fact is thinking requires a lot of work. And people hate it.
If there were no challenges to overcome, the entire humanity would still be living a simple, stable and quiet life, without having the drive to grow.
We all are drawn toward what is easy and demands less reasoning capability.
Given this, the entire human species is dependent on a few brave men that reason. We need courageous people that question the reality, challenge the status quo and think differently.
While the entire society will regularly kick these guys to be equal to everyone else, will criticize them, make fun and judge them, they will still be the ones who create the breakthroughs. They will be the ones who will push the human race forward.
‘Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.’