I discovered Bayalis is The Answer a couple months ago when the author, Mrs. BITA started leaving hilarious comments on my posts. Curious, I clicked over and read some of Mrs. BITA’s posts. I immediately appreciated her honesty and profanity. My favorite writers are those that write in such a way that their personality shines though. Mrs. BITA has no shortage of strong personality, so I asked her if she’d like to write a guest post. She agreed, so I’ll shut up now and turn the show over to her.
Mind Wide Shut
The next person who tells me that I need to “keep an open mind” is going to fucking live to rue the day.
My mind is an exclusive club. You need to be on The List to enter. There is a bouncer of intimidating proportions at the door (and the fact that he is wearing an Ascot hat and can actually pull that shit off only serves to make him more intimidating).
A week ago a twit who labours under the delusion that he is an engineer sent me some of his code to review. Two hours after the original request he sent a follow up email reminding me and everyone in my management chain that getting this done is of the highest priority. I interrupted what I was doing, and like a good little worker bee, I jumped right on it. I waded through a few gadzillion lines of incomprehensible code changes. The blood vessel in my forehead started to pulse ominously. I then discovered that he hadn’t actually tested the fucking code before he sent it out (for the engineers out there – a null pointer dereference in a common code path). Puffed up with self righteous indignation I pointed out to my manager that the twit needs to keep his hands where we can see them and not on our product. His response?
“You need to keep an open mind, Mrs. BITA. People learn from their mistakes and grow.”
No thank you, Mr. Manager. The aforementioned idiot is not a fresh-faced intern, from whom a charming amount of idiocy is only to be expected. He has about four years of experience. The only thing that is going to grow here is the size of my ulcer if you force me to keep dealing with him as if he were a worthy development engineer.
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” says Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors. And most of the time the things they will try to put in it are pure unadulterated garbage.
What an Open Mind is Not
Keeping an open mind is oft extolled as a virtue. It is peddled as the means to personal growth. It is the gateway drug that will enable to you understand other people and appreciate other cultures. It will prevent you from being inflexible, unable to evolve and therefore doomed to failure. And there is wisdom in this.
In recent years it feels as if “keep an open mind” has become synonymous with “every opinion is valid” (nope, they are not).
An Open Mind is not quite the same thing as a dumping ground for any old idea that comes sauntering down the street.
An Open Mind is not one that gets all cozy with every passing opinion.
An Open Mind is not an excuse for an uninformed opinion.
An Open Mind is not an excuse for sitting on the fence and not ever taking a stand.
An Open Mind is not a Thought Slut.
Aristotle, bless his soul, said it better than I ever could, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” So the next time you’re assaulted by a new idea, feel free to respond thus.
I know that this is sometimes easier said than done. I was brought up not to question authority. Over the years it was drilled into me to listen to my elders and my betters (with heavy emphasis on the elder bit). And by listen they meant believe. Absorb without question. Even now, when someone in a position of authority asks me to jump, I have to wrestle with my Pavlovian response to respond with “How high?”.
I know better now. And if I know better, I can do better. “My name is Mrs. BITA. And I am not a Sponge”. It is not my job to absorb and assimilate everything. Rather, it is my job to question, to evaluate, to understand, to criticize, and then, in a few cases, to accept into my mind a nugget that will make me a better person. Or a brighter person. And on rare and special occasions, even both. I try to keep my mind wide shut.
And pray what, if anything, does this have to do with FIRE?
If you are a fan of this blog, it is for one of a few possible reasons. You have an obsession, bordering on the unhealthy, with prehistoric reptiles of gigantic proportions and Komodo dragons. You can’t get enough of Mr. 1500 in his mask (have you seen anyone about this? You really should). Or, like me, you are aspiring to a life of financial independence and early retirement (FIRE).
If you are a FIRE aspirant, your goal is a pile of FU money that you will guard and gloat over like a self-respecting dragon.
And, as any self-respecting dragon is aware, your treasure will constantly be under attack by pompous, pesky knights in shining armour and tricksy hobbits.
These knights will attack you with:
- “Your SWR isn’t safe at all. You will run out of money and die penniless and alone.”
- “The stock market is about to crash! Panic in the streets! Sell and stuff your mattress!”
- “This time it is different.”
- “The apocalypse is nigh! My friend has a friend who saw the four horsemen last night. Sell and stuff your mattress!”
- “If everybody starts investing in index funds, you are all going to be screwed. Sell and stuff your mattress!”
- A lance
For all attacks but the lance, guess what your best defense is? A mind that is firmly, tightly shut. For the lance I recommend breathing fire (FIRE?) all over that asshole knight’s face.
In the context of FIRE there is an inverse relationship between the openness of your mind and the size of your FU Stash.
Aspiring to financial independence can be extremely rewarding (achieving it, I imagine, even more so). It can be a lonely path though, and it certainly is a controversial one. If you are a traveler on the long road to a life of financial independence, set your compass, make up your mind and then close it to all comers.
Be a Good Dragon. Guard your Stash.
Be Curious. But Curate.
Keep your mind wide shut.
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