Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

-Henry David Thoreau

Joe Rogan: “That’s Thoreau’s quote – that ‘most men live lives of quiet desperation’ – that’s one of my favorite quotes ever, because it’s true – and I’ve been that guy. You’re just in this world where you just can’t wait to run away.”

Annie Jacobsen: “And how do people get stuck there – how do you think they get stuck there?”

JR: “Bills and commitment. You have an apartment to pay for, you have a car you leased, you have a wife that you have to feed, you have a child you have to raise. You have your mortgage. You have your this, you have your that…and that’s where it all comes from.”

AJ: “Where do you think opportunity plays into that?”

JR: “Well, the opportunity takes place, usually when you’re young and you have no responsibility. That’s when you have your options. Your options are severely limited the more you gather responsibilities. Like, if I as a 51 year old, father of 3, married man, pays taxes, has a house and  mortgage and a business and all that jazz, if I had to quit everything now and struggle the way I struggled as a standup comedian – it would never work.” 

“The only way I could be this person now is if I took that chance when I was 21, when I was dead broke and had my cars repossessed and all that stuff. That’s the only way that you ever get where you want to go. You have to take a path that’s dangerous and most people want to take the safe path. And the safe path leaves you stuck in ‘quiet desperation’ almost every time. It’s hell. It’s hell. You’re selling insurance or some other shit that you care zero about.”

AJ: “But can people just make that change?”

JR: “Yes, yes you can, but you have to plan it out. The way to make that change is you have to put aside enough money to give yourself a window. And then you have to have a plan, and you have to spend all your waking hours outside of whatever shit job you do planning your escape, and you have to come to the realization very clearly, that you fucked up – you got yourself stuck, so whatever you’re doing you have to do it like your life depends on it.  Whether it is…if you’re going to try and be an author and you’re working 8 hours a day, plus commuting, plus family responsibilities plus whatever else you have, whatever time that you have, you have to attack like you’re trying to save the world, like you’re trying to save your life, you don’t want to drown. That one and a half hours a day that you have to write – god damn – you better be caffeinated and motivated. You gotta go. You gotta get after it. You gotta have discipline – that’s what most people don’t have, those things, most people don’t understand what it’s like to really go for something and to know that the consequences of not doing that are horrific.”

-Joe Rogan Podcast #1299 with Annie Jacobsen, 1:04:00

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