It is becoming easier to be a spectator in life than a participant.
Not only is it becoming easier, but it is also becoming more rewarded as well.
You only need to remember how your social media news feeds were after the 2016 election.
I have never seen so many people become “political analysts”.
Keep in mind that these were people who had no interest in or even knowledge of politics before Election Night.
A good amount of these people probably didn’t even vote.
As the world becomes “sterilized”, this behavior will become even more commonplace. It sounds like it’s no big deal, but trust me:
As Joe Biden said, It’s a big fucking deal.
Being a spectator in any arena of life is never going to catapult you towards your goal of success. It will probably even eat away at any success you currently have.
That’s because life is not a spectator sport.
In this article, I’m going to plainly make the case for why you need to stop sitting on the sidelines and get into the game for any arena of life.
I’ll also show you:
- Why being a spectator is vastly rewarded in our culture
- Why it doesn’t pay in the long run
- How to establish a strong internal locus of control
If you feel like a spectator in life, then this article’s for you.
The Impartial Spectator
A long time ago, a smart guy by the name of Adam Smith coined the term “impartial spectator” to refer to the ability to observe your own actions from a detached point of view (impartiality).
He said inside every man is an impartial spectator that helps to “course correct” a person’s actions when they veer from ethical boundaries.
This aligns with teachings on presence and detachment.
This type of spectator is good. It’s always nice to be introspective.
Adam Smith was an 18th-century man. Does it still hold up today? Kinda.
I’d argue that in modern times, “the impartial spectator” is more important than ever…but his influence has been blocked by the presence of external, less relevant, partial spectators.
It has gotten to a point where that impartial spectator, that watcher, that “still, small voice” within can be easily drowned out.
As a result, you can get to a point where all you hear are external voices in your quest for validation.
Why and how did we get here?
Here’s three main reasons why I think it’s easier to be a spectator than a participant in the modern era:
- Social media
- Idiotproofing the world
Let’s break these down:
Social media is friendly to spectators
As I said before, social media is a great tool. However, spending massive amounts of time on it and using it as a tool for dopamine rushes hijacks your ability to obtain success in the real world.
It is easier to “like” a picture of someone stuntin’ on the gram than it is to go out and replicate that form of material success yourself.
It is easier to destroy a politician than it is to run for office.
It is easier to tear someone down on Twitter than it is to meet them in real life and confront them.
It is easier to pretend and fantasize than it is to actually be the person you’re attempting to portray.
Screens are friendly to spectators
This one’s a little left field, but hear me out.
We spend a lot of our lives facing some sort of screen. We face screens on the computer at work. We face screens on the TV at home. We face screens on our phones.
We are observing things happen, not creating them in a three-dimensional space. We observe the lives of others, instead of living them ourselves.
We are what we repeatedly do every day. Therefore, you are training your mind to be passive instead of being active.
How much time have you spent watching other people’s lives and admiring celebrities through a screen?
Even sex is a spectator activity. You can watch other people have sex without you having to do anything whatsoever.
There’s no concrete evidence but I feel this has an impact on our psychology.
I used to be a HUGE gamer. I was high on the leaderboards for several different games across several different platforms. I felt a sense of accomplishment. I felt like I was on top of the world.
I tricked my brain into thinking I was achieving something when in actuality I wasn’t at all. I was just sitting back and letting real life pass me by.
I now think video games are a massive waste of time in general because they divert the desire for achievement into non-existent channels.
Idiotproofing the world is friendly to spectators
When the world is made to be idiot proof, the world will become overpopulated with idiots – Mark Twain
Our world is much safer than it was 100 years ago.
Most of the diseases that have plagued ancient mankind have been eliminated or put under control.
If you have a problem, you can solve it with a Google search or with a self-help book.
We have created a world where you don’t have to leave the house whatsoever. You can just stay safe and sound being a spectator.
When I was in elementary and middle school, kids would be roughhousing, fighting each other, being rowdy – stuff that boys do.
I see a bunch of kids on their phones, not exercising their boyish nature. Boys naturally want to fight, but they have been discouraged by their parents and society at large. I don’t even see kids playing outside anymore.
Confrontation is discouraged. It’s a lot more permissible to be passive-aggressive than outright aggressive.
All of this is teaching us one thing: you can live your life without any conflict whatsoever.
“If you do this, you can’t fail.”
This, in combination with “helicopter parenting” is a prescription for failure.
You can’t avoid the storms of life. That’s the human existence.
Our technological advancements have created a world that can separate you from reality if you let it.
Is this part of the reason why millennials more risk-averse than previous generations?
The rewards of being a spectator
“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.“ – Jackie Robinson
You will be rewarded for being a spectator, perhaps even more so than someone who is actually a participant. That’s just the culture we live in.
Low risk/”decent” reward – If someone’s company has a public meltdown, you will be able to experience the schadenfreude whereas the company owner has overwhelming feelings of sadness and failure.
There is literally no risk, no skin in the game from being a spectator of life. The other person is putting their soul on the line and you’re just sitting back taking it all in.
Relative anonymity – Cyberbullying is rampant. It’s to the point where many people have killed themselves over it. You can harass, taught, mock, and even threaten a person behind an anonymous comment or a screen name. You can shield yourself with the protection of anonymity. You can commit a crime without it being traced back to you. This creates a culture of zero responsibility.
Easier to talk than to do – “Actions speak louder than words” is a cliche for a reason. They’re really the only thing that matters.
You can say how you’re going to do something, you can talk about it, but until you actually live it and embody it, then they are just words, words…words.
There was a time long ago when your word was truly your bond. No contracts, no written agreements. If you did opposite, you could be locked up – or even killed.
Now, if you say something that wasn’t true, you can just take it back. You don’t really have any investment in it because you haven’t put your skin in the game.
All of these combine to create a climate of relative safety, where we being a spectator doesn’t really cost you anything….or does it?
Why being a spectator will destroy you
Remember those days in middle school or high school when boys and girls (mostly boys) would be lined up against the walls while the dance floor was virtually empty?
Then, one of your friends went out to the floor and met a girl, started dancing and having a great time.
You started laughing at him. But then you saw more people join in. Soon, you were the only one left.
In my opinion, being a spectator will harm you in the long run. Nothing great was ever achieved by a critic. It was always by the person being criticized.
Everyone talks about Jesus Christ, but no one talks about who speared him in the side.
Spectators are like specs of dust soon to be blown away by the winds of history.
It’s much more satisfying to be a participant – You would think the person who is watching the game has the most fun. Nope, it’s the guy playing the game. Feeling the bright lights beaming down on him, feeling the pressure, the anxiety, the man-to-man competition…these all create an environment where flow takes over.
Flow is where we feel the most fulfilled. When you’re engaged in an activity, you get a feeling of being “in the moment”. Certain parts of your brain are quieted, while others are more engaged. This creates a feeling of happiness.
That’s why they say: “idle hands do the devil’s work”.
More energy – You will only be given more energy when you use what you already have.
This goes true in the mental, physical, and emotional spheres.
You strengthen your cardiovascular system when running.
You strengthen your focus only by concentration.
You must do before you can have.
That’s one of the rules.
Why should a couch potato have more energy than an Olympic athlete?
A sense of pride – You feel good about yourself when you say:
“I didn’t succeed, but I gave it everything I had”
That feeling you have when you left it all on the table, when you’re emptied out – that’s one of the best feelings in the world.
It’s something that can’t really be talked about, only experienced. You’ve experienced it before, but we’re so accustomed to getting a reward for doing nothing that it doesn’t really happen too often.
No risk, no reward – There’s a tradeoff for everything you want in life, whether it be time, money, or other resources.
You need to put something on the line if you want to gain something else.
You go to work to get paid.
You work out to be healthier.
You go to school so you can get a degree.
You attempt to seduce a girl (and risk embarrassment) for a chance at some type of a relationship.
But you see…the modern world has pulled the wool over our eyes! We’ve been told we can have it all! We’ve been told that there’s no risk but unlimited upside!
This is foolish. Of course there’s risk. In everything. Even in being a spectator. It’s just that the risks come later and in different forms.
Yes, it’s risky to invest your money. Yes, it’s risky to drive a car. Yes, it’s risky to enter a relationship.
But wait until you see what happens when you don’t risk any of those things!Everyone talks about Jesus Christ, but no one talks about who speared him in the side. Click To Tweet
Stop being a spectator
You don’t have to wait until tomorrow before you stop watching life go by and being a spectator. You can start today. You are just delaying and letting every single moment drip by.
Here are some action steps for you:
Stop watching other people’s lives and start watching your own.
We spend too much time looking at what other people have. We see how their grass is greener, lusher, and more verdant than ours. We eventually come down to one conclusion:
I wish I had that.
Well, why don’t you?
Stop stalking people on social media. Stop watching the lives of celebrities.
Get rid of these things if you have to.
Start going to work on your dreams, your aspirations, and your goals.
I used to alternate between times of caring what other people were doing and not caring.
Now, I don’t care at all. Why?
Because I realized that giving those things attention diverted too much away from my goals.
You should be so focused on what you’re doing that the actions of the outside world doesn’t concern you. This is how you develop that strong internal locus of control.
You only have so much mental RAM. If you want to achieve great things, you need to marshal ALL of your resources.
Start taking action and responsibility
When you decide to start taking responsibility for your life, something beautiful starts to happen:
You start seeing yourself at the cause of rather than the effect of certain actions.
You start to actually take action and start executing.
You may not have been responsible for everything that has happened to you, but you are responsible for your response to it.
You stop having pity parties. You stop being a victim.
I know this because I used to be this way. I used to ask myself: “why me?” whenever something bad would happen because I thought I couldn’t fix it.
Then I started to realize two things:
- No one is coming to the rescue
- I have the power to solve my problems
You already know how this feels like. When you were a kid, all you did was take action. You weren’t hesitant. You weren’t anxious. You just did the damn thing.
You should realize the same as well. You are creative. You are powerful. You have virtually unlimited potential.
The trials and tribulations of life are just keys to unlock the doors to that potential.
When you take action, start developing an internal locus of control, and stop being a spectator – you will experience confrontation.
This is normal. You’ve been conditioned to avoid it – don’t.
One sentence can sum up this entire post:
Stop being emotional – start getting in motion.
I’m not saying don’t feel emotions. Rather, control them.
Be active instead of being lulled into a state of passivity like so many others.
When you start to develop a strong internal locus of control, the changes that will happen in your life will be amazing.
If you want a better life, there are SO many ways you can change it…instead of just sitting on the sidelines. You only have one life. Why watch it go by?Stop being emotional - start getting in motion. Click To Tweet
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt, Man In the Arena
I want to hear from you: how are you going to take action in your life and stop sitting on the sidelines?