Studio Zenkai

Bold and Clear, without excess • Kaizen 改善 • With Purpose

Studio Zenkai is dedicated to the craft of programming, hardware hacking, photography, machine learning and how to live sensibly.

Embrace vs Reject

When living in society, we constantly have to make choices: accept a job, buy a house, buy a car and so on.

There are many ways to make those choices, from personal preferences, constraints, opportunity vs cost and many others. To me, there is another way to decide: how you embrace society or how you reject it.

I live in North America, well known for its vast spaces, individualism, personal & economic freedom, opposition to strong governments, consumerism, and so on. Here, there is a belief that one can do whatever they want to succeed, as long as they do not hurt others. Entrepreneurs who work hard and take risks are celebrated. If you are not happy with your job, you quit and find a better one. Contrary to Europe, the government does not provide a safety net, is less involved in healthcare, and overall regulates less the market.

In such a society, you can succeed if you work extra long hours, have several side hustles, get advantage of the financial system by borrowing money from banks and investors, and also get a smart accountant and lawyer. You will then be able to buy the latest Ford truck, go to Disneyland every year, send kids to Harvard, and perhaps one day make headlines in the local paper. This is fully embracing the system. Embracing works best if the system endures, if there are no major events (such as a pandemic or a stock market crash), and if you know shortcuts to make your way to the top.

On the other hand, you could not identify yourself to the system. One could argue there is sickening focus on money in North America, that the current system promotes destroying the environment and taking advantage of it. Others could ask why one would work 80 hours per week or try to monetize your hobby when you could just live simply, be happy with what you have, and just stay with good friends and family. Others think the system is sick, and ultimately reject its core values. They will refuse to take a corporate 9 to 5 job, won’t buy the typical house in suburbia and will shun popular products sold by big brands. Rejecting the system works best if you know how to live outside the system, such as making your own food or building your own house, and as such think you will live longer and happier.

This position is not as crazy as it seems. In the past years, life expectancy has decreased in the US. The middle class has shrinked, to the point that being able to afford a typical house for your family is not a certainty anymore. Chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are on the rise, as well as deadly drugs. The environment is being destroyed. The list goes on.

So do you fully embrace the system, or to the contrary reject it?

Asking the question is important because it will deeply impact your life. Embracing the system systematically could mean “success”, maybe finishing your career as VP of a nice company, driving a fancy sports car, and live in a mansion. Rejecting the system could mean growing plants and goats in a farm in the middle of nowhere, homeschooling kids, a Little House on the Prairie lifestyle, and so on.

Personally, I have seen myself doing both. I have started several businesses and projects. This is embracing the system. I did not get an angel or VC investment though, which is rejecting the system. I have worked for a big corporation (Decathlon), but that at the same time, I also worked for a gambling operation located in a native reservation.

Recently, I got a condo in the city, contribute to a REER (Canadian equivalent of 401k), lease a car and happily send kids to public school. I also work in tech, which is currently one of the most lucrative industries. I pay taxes in advance and never got a ticket. One could say I am fully embracing the system. On the other hand, I also bought an offgrid property, where I can potentially shut off civilization and make my own “world” there. Heck, we stayed there during COVID waves, and as a result, noone in the family ever contracted COVID. I am also invested in crypto, and consider myself (partiallly) free from the financial system and the big industries.

I do all this because I believe the system works well in most cases, but is also deeply flawed, mostly because of its focus on short-term personal gains and its disdain of long-term stability. As such, one has to take measures to protect oneself from the excesses of the system.

What about you? Do you embrace or reject the system?