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The Opposite of a Role Model

By Morgan Housel – Dec 18, 2014 at 1:31PM

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People you don't want to be.

My wife worked as a technology consultant several years ago. She liked the job. She enjoyed the work.

Sort of, at least. One day she quit, abruptly and without much warning.

Nothing bad happened. No client ruined her day. No manager screamed in her face.

She just noticed that her bosses were miserable. They worked too much, rarely saw their kids, and always seemed stressed. They were nice people, but she didn't admire their lives at all.

Then she realized, wait: The career path she was on was specifically designed for her to become those people one day. That was the goal.

How do you stay motivated at a job where you feel bad for the people you're supposed to aspire to become?

You don't. So you quit.

Nassim Taleb has a great quote. "People focus on role models," he says, "it is more effective to find antimodels — people you don't want to resemble when you grow up."

I love that quote. And I can think of all kinds of antimodels.

That guy who spends 90% of his life in a stressful job he hates so that he can earn enough money to spend a few years in retirement stress-free doing something he doesn't hate as much. I don't ever want to be that guy.

The investor who relies on short-term market returns to fund his lifestyle. Way too stressful for me.

The guy who spends half his income buying stuff to impress other people without realizing that a third of people don't notice, a third feel bad for him, with the rest mostly indifferent. I never want to be him.

The investor who lets politics guide his investing decisions. Good luck, buddy.

People who can't detach from work once in a while.

People with no autonomy or ability to be creative at work. 

The guy I passed in the Mercedes this morning whose license plate said "U LUV THIS." I really don't. 

Anyone whose lifestyle relies on kindness of a bank renewing your debt. How do you sleep at night?

People who attribute their success to skill and their failures to bad luck. Nobody should admire these people.

People who earn a living on commission. You can be the most honest person in the world and you'll end up dropping your morals to make a buck. Sounds awful.

People who rely on someone else -- a government, a corporate pension, whatever -- to fund their retirement. You're relying on someone who doesn't care much about you at a time when you're must vulnerable and in need. 

People who think biases and bad thinking affects other people, but not themselves.

People who can't sleep eight hours a night, for whatever reason. 

Those who don't realize that some people are born on third base with A-Rod up to hit, while others are born in a destitute Indian slum, and think the difference in success between the two is due to motivation and intelligence. 

CEOs who think they're more important than their workers. Delusional. 

Aggressive drivers. Oh, we're so impressed! 

People whose aspirations grow faster than their income. They'll be running in circles their whole life.

People whose largest expense is interest. Your future will be spent paying for your past and the $900,000 salary of a bank's vice president. Hell no.

The person for whom, as Philip Wylie wrote, "you couldn't squeeze a dime between what they already know and what they will never learn." No desire to be them.

The writer who only gets attention because they write things that are intentionally offensive, divisive, fear-mongering, sensational, or insulting. We need fewer of them.

The Joneses. I don't even know who they are, but you can't keep up with them.

A boss whose only pleasure in life comes from demoralizing employees. There are so many of these people and I hope I never, ever become one of them.

Companies with dress codes. I'll pass.

Conspiracy theorists. Get a grip.

Guys who wear loafers and no socks.

Nope, never want to be them. 

For more: 

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns. 

Contact Morgan Housel at [email protected] The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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