Are You Living Your Life…or Outsourcing It Away?
Tl;dr: when you pay someone to do something for you, called “outsourcing”, you not only lose money but prevents learning something new.
Do you have a gym coach?
Did you buy that Mac Book because everyone has one?
Do you anxiously watch the weather report?
Do you turn on the radio to listen to the news?
Do you repeat what you’ve heard on TV?
Do you book your holidays through a travel agency?
Do you go to the garage when your car breaks down?
Do you only undertake activities that have already been undertaken by one of your friends and are therefore considered “safe”?
Did you subscribe to a home delivery service?
Do you follow your governments’ dietary guidelines?
Do you call the plumber once your pipe starts leaking?
Are you investing in a “safe” mutual fund managed by a bank?
Do you count on the government for your pension?
Do you listen to the “most listened” songs on Spotify?
Do you ask the salesperson for advice prior to buying a car, a phone, a computer, etc?
Do you go to the cinema because “everyone has seen that movie”?
Do you follow your doctor’s advice to eat a high-carb low-fat diet?
Did you believe that the Netherlands would be flooded by 2015 like it was reported in that documentary?
Did you send your kids to school without doing a background check on teachers, the program, and the level of violence, hence entrusting your kids’ future to the government?
Did you ever read a book about how to educate kids prior to having them?
Did you get kids because your friends got kids?
Do you buy prepared dishes at the supermarket?
Do you believe in the religion you were raised in?
Do you choose your holidays based on Lonely Planet recommendations?
Do you read the books appearing in the FT top 20 books of the year?
Do you ever check what you’re being told, even if it comes from “experts”?
Do you ever pay someone to do something you could do yourself, including…thinking?
Are you vegan? (Sorry, had to :p)
Outsourcing Will Ruin Your Life
Outsourcing your life comes down to getting people to do stuff for you.
Whether it is fixing the washing machine, babysitting, or getting advice on what types of mortgage to contract, outsourcing has few advantages and many inconvenient (side note: when I typed the name of the article to see where Google ranked me, I was shocked to see popular news outlets writing guides on how to outsource your life. )
Consider this yet another “don’t do what the crowd does” article.
To fully grasp the dimension of life outsourcing, we need to distinguish the two different types that exist, one being more subtle than the other: material outsourcing and mental outsourcing.
Let’s first speak about material outsourcing.
Material outsourcing is paying someone to do something for you.
When you go to the restaurant, you outsource your cooking.
When you go to the butchery (one of my favorite activities), you outsource the hunting and cutting of your meat, not the cooking.
Generally speaking, easy activities you could do yourself are safe to outsource.
Should all restaurants in your city be closed, I assume you won’t die of hunger because you’ll still be able to cook pasta bought at the supermarket.
As such, you don’t depend on restaurants, they are nice to have, but not mandatory.
These types of activities are therefore safe to outsource as you won’t get completely screwed if your handler suddenly increases prices or refuses to outsource for you.
Similarly, there are activities you shouldn’t outsource or if you do outsource them, these are activities for which you should at least develop minimum skills to understand what your handler is doing so that you can still be in business in a worst-case scenario where outsourcing suddenly becomes impossible.
Changing the battery of your car, for example, is not something you should outsource because you should understand how your car works.
If you go to Iceland, you might drive hours without seeing a single soul, and without any mobile phone network coverage, there won’t be anyone to change the battery for you, should it break down.
You’ll be your savior, so you better know how to save yourself.
I believe as well that you should never outsource completely your own health (letting doctors decide for you) for two reasons.
Firstly, doctors don’t learn what they should at university.
To think that there are out there vegan or fruitarian doctors is appalling to me, it is the equivalent of a fat health coach, a bankrupt financial guru, a lawyer in prison, or a criminal policeman.
Secondly, doctors often specialize in one area of medicine and when one specializes, one tends to ignore the bigger picture that is however usually more important than just one part of the system, as explained by Vikram Mansharamani in his brilliant book “Think for yourself”, the inspiration for this article.
Similarly, you shouldn’t outsource the payment of your liabilities because the person that does so
might will steal from you (I tend to be rather pessimistic when it comes to human nature), charging you more than they should and paying themselves at the same time (that’s actually how pedophile and rapist Jeffrey Epstein made his money).
To simplify, you simply shouldn’t outsource an activity if the outsourced activity is so complex that you become entirely dependent on your handler and you shouldn’t outsource if the activity can be dealt with without outsourcing.
I personally believe that one should outsource as little as possible.
Indeed, doing it yourself has some advantages:
1. You remain in control. A very important criterion to me because I don’t trust other people nor do I like depending on others as it robs me of my power of initiative and takes my freedom away.
What if my handlers suddenly stop to do things for me, or just die, or both?
Relying on someone is the opposite of being free, and that is why I have never smoked.
“What if I’m in the middle of the jungle and I need the product I’m addicted to and I don’t have it, what would I do then?”, I thought as a kid.
I merely saw addictive substances as taking my freedom away, needlessly attaching me to something while all I was fighting for was absolute freedom and self-reliance.
Drinking/taking drugs/smoking or not was a no brainer for me (except for weed, which I quickly regretted).
I wanted to remain in control no matter what. So next time the dishwasher is broken, open Youtube and fix it.
The likelihood of having it working again will be entirely up to you.
2. You learn a skill you could help others with and potentially monetize. For example, my friend asked me about real estate because I’m good at analyzing the value of opportunities when it comes to housing valuation and economic conditions.
I didn’t charge him of course, but this is something I might be interested to develop in the future and skill I don’t need to pay anyone for.
If a dishonest real estate agent tries to scam me, I’ll know it.
Another example is Amazon. Amazon fell into the cloud computing business out of luck.
They built their cloud for themselves and subsequently realized they could help other companies with theirs.
eBay was also built solely for his founder, Pierre Omidyar.
Finally, Slack, a gaming company, realized they could instead of selling games, sell the messaging app they had built for themselves.
3. You save money because (in case you hadn’t noticed)…outsourcing costs! (This thought spurred a 30-minutes search on “how to build a house by yourself” in the middle of writing this article).
Sometimes, it costs a lot when the task is difficult, such as building an app, or a yacht.
Sometimes, it doesn’t cost so much, such as babysitting. Yet, the result is always the same: you pay.
If you add on top of that the fact that you also don’t have control over the outsourced activity and don’t give yourself the chance to learn it, you realize how big the opportunity cost is.
Ironically (or not), I have noticed that it’s the people that tend to have a lot of money that outsource the most and as a result, they can’t do anything.
I’ll give you an example of a friend I met during my studies.
This dude had parents that were so rich that whatever problem he’d encounter, he’d pay someone to fix it.
As a result, he could not do anything because money was the solution to all his problems.
He had enough money to take Uber wherever he had to go and could not (in the sense of wasn’t able to) take public transportation.
He had enough money to order takeaway and could therefore not cook.
He had enough money to pay the plumber and could therefore not fix sh*t himself.
As a result, he wasn’t only dependent on money, he was also dependent on the person he was paying to outsource his life.
Should he find himself without money, or without anyone ready to help him, he’d be factually powerless over his own life.
On the other side of the spectrum, my cousin, a successful entrepreneur, does everything by himself: from marketing to HR, from business operation to administrative work, from coding his website to fixing the coffee machine, he
did learned to do everything by himself and is now a resourceful entrepreneur able to help about anyone with anything.
The second type of outsourcing is mental outsourcing and it is more subtle.
While material outsourcing is most of the time effectuated in exchange for money, mental outsourcing is the opposite: “agents” (understand: companies, the government, and malevolent people) seek to outsource your decision-making for “free” (because of course, there is a cost at the end) by simply…telling you what to do: “click the link below”; “buy my shitty product”; “sign up now for this free crappy book”; “subscribe to our waste-of-time newsletter”; “come spend your money in my empty restaurant”.
Mental outsourcing is basically “decision-making” outsourcing.
asking others what to do being told what to do even if you didn’t solicit advice.
When you mentally outsource your life, you’re giving your decision-making power away to someone (or something) else.
First example: Google maps. When you follow maps, you’re not deciding to take this route, you let the Google algorithm decide for you.
The second example, watching a movie because it was advised by Netflix: you didn’t search Netflix yourself because you’re a lazy f*ck, but let Netflix decide for you instead.
Third example: listening to songs on the radio (ok, I’m exaggerating here, but you get the point).
I hated the radio as a kid and could not understand how people liked listening to it because you couldn’t choose the songs that were playing!
What do you notice about the three examples? These are decision-making types of outsourcing provided to you…for free.
Maps leads you for free, Netflix advises you for free and the radio itself is free!
Advertisements are also free!
Marketers are happy to tell you what to
do buy…for free!
Similarly, the government is happy to explain to you how to pay your taxes…for free!
And about any website are happy to explain to you how to buy from them…for free!
Now, not all mental outsourcing activities are done freely of course. Outsourcing your way out of paying taxes legally will be…rather expensive.
Advice on getting a divorce will also be expensive.
And a personality test to know what to study at university will most likely not be free either.
Free mental outsourcing types are the ones you want to beware of as it usually leads you to spend money in the end.
An ad is that: “we advise you to buy our products”.
The advice is free.
The result isn’t.
However, mental outsourcing that fixes a problem you have is in a way very much like material outsourcing: it is paying someone to think for you in a matter that concerns you directly.
Consultancy jobs, for example, or advisory jobs, are just that.
Resist the Pressure
Constantly throughout the day, we are being told what to think and what to do, up to a point where the choices we have left are very little compared to what we could have had without the constant interruption of all of these “voices”.
The social sphere plays a huge role as well.
From neighbors competing for the biggest car to friends competing for the latest iPhone, your environment coerces you into making decisions you wouldn’t have made otherwise.
Let’s not even speak of courtship practices, where guys learn skills they don’t like to please girls or go about to entirely change their personality to have more success.
This results in us taking decisions we wouldn’t take otherwise, letting “others” and external influences being in charge of our lives.
In a way, that’s what I tried to show in the article about Jean-Michel, an imaginary character reflecting the average Belgian.
Everything Jean-Michel does in his day is because someone else told him to, which is not in Jean-Michel’s best interest.
Society wants you to spend all your money so that the economy works, which is not in your best interest.
Society wants you to start working and slave your life away as soon as possible, which is not in your best interest.
Society wants you to watch reality TV and live in your happy consumer bubble while taxes increase and democracy decreases, which is not in your best interest.
I won’t even get into dietary guidelines, but will simply reinstate my argument that vegans are really the worse of what you can get: following the government and buying from the international agro-business while destroying their health and the planet at the same time.
It’s a typical example of people outsourcing their thinking away to external agents.
How to Think for Yourself
For starters, you should really think deeply if what I wrote here makes sense or not, because if you take 100% of this article with you, then I failed my mission.
The only thing you can do against outsourcing is doing the work yourself.
Stop trusting. Stop believing.
Be willing and open-minded enough to learn and do your own research.
I became a carnivore after one year of dietary research and would today feel confident to claim that the carnivore diet is a healthy (if not the healthiest) diet because I’ve done the research and know what I’m talking about.
However, should I one day notice that I don’t function as well as I should, I won’t hesitate to investigate and be willing to change my diet if empirical results come to darken the diet’s reputation.
That’s what open-mindedness looks like: don’t be dogmatic and adjust according to results, not according to preconceived ideas, fake dogmas, and useless ideologies.
The Bottom Line
Stop listening to the news, read them instead, and read them from different newspapers.
Watch documentaries, but check out who finances them.
Read books, a lot of books, about different topics, and ask yourself the question: “does this make sense? Do I agree with that? Is it believable?” and then, do your own research.
Beware of social media and the “filter bubble”, it confirms a vision of the world you already have.
Taking back control of your own life is expensive, but it is worth it.
This is your life and you should live it for yourself.
Not for others.