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There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

One of the first things you are told or realise when you start in journalism or politics is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. In those positions, there is always something that someone wants from you. It’s a good lesson, and one that most of us would do well to bear in mind in many more areas of our lives.

Absolutely everything in life comes with a price. Even well-meaning, religious, philanthropic do-gooders attach a price to their deeds: the recipient must TAKE their offering, they should preferably be grateful, adopt the belief of the givers, think well of them etc. In some cases, it’s better if there are TV cameras present.

Basically even for the kind and generous among us, there is kick back to every apparently FREE lunch. It makes the doer feel better, it puts you off balance, and it establishes a debt, a connection, something you cannot undo later. The layers are deep, wide and complex.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Is genius born or made? Ask Malcolm Gladwell

I don’t say this because I am cynical or have no faith in human nature. Rather it’s because I believe deeply in the nature part of human nature. We are animals. We do everything for a reason. Usually those reasons have a lot to do with our own preservation. In the complexity of the modern self-conscious consciousness, preserving the ego, our internal image of who and what we are, is a very important facet of our self preservatory instincts… other people come in very handy for that kind of FREE lunch.

I’ll give you another example: GENIUS. The notion of genius is a prime example of how deeply imbedded our romantic ideal of the free lunch is. We firmly believe that there are people who are born with prodigious skills that enable them to do all the things we want to, and which explains why we can’t. Musical prodigies, maths whizzes: these are all genii. And of course, we are not. We didn’t get this FREE lunch so we are happy to kick back, watch sport on TV and rest our hands upon our collective beer belly.

The bottom line is that, whether genius exists or not, none of these people would be where they are without hard

Mozart Genius
Did Mozart really compose andplay top level piano at ages 4?

work. Being born able to play the piano, doesn’t have you composing sonatas at 4. Playing piano for most of the four years you are alive does. And anyway, has anyone ever seen the music for that piece? Did it really ever happen? Or is it just suitable anecdotal evidence of the existence of genius? Of the FREE lunch others get that lets us off the hook?

For anyone to be a brilliant sportsman, guitarist, poet, painter, dancer, mathematician, poker player or business man takes years and years of hard work. You build neuron pathways, muscle memories and tough, reliable habits and routines and that bring results that to outsider appear to be effortless magic. It’s not. There is no such thing as a FREE lunch. Your belief in a free lunch is what stops you achieving as much as they do, not any lack of genius
Get off the couch
Turn off the TV
You can have what you want
You’ve just got to DO something.