Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

Random Hippie Thought of the Day

We have a choice. We can choose to assume the worst in people, or we can choose to assume the best in people.

If we assume the worst in people, maybe we’ll be right most of the time. But when we’re wrong, we’ll devastate someone.

If we assume the best in people, maybe we’ll be right some of the time. And when we’re wrong, the worst outcome is that we’ll be naive.

Assuming the worst in people is a lot like capital punishment. It’s the belief that the damage caused by a few mistakes is worth the calculated good of hammering the rest.

24 replies to “Random Hippie Thought of the Day”

I don’t judge people at all, Hugh, assuming either good or bad.

I focus on what they say and do, and sometimes feel the need to correct them. Sometimes I’m harsh. Maybe too harsh. But it has nothing to do with my personal feelings toward them.

Everyone is the hero in their own movie. Name a figure in publishing, and they believe they’re on the side of right, even when saying and doing things that can so easily be proved wrong.

You’re one of those rare hero-types who is actively trying to change the world–and making a lot of progress–while remaining polite and concerned and sensitive to your opponents’ feelings. That’s your gift.

It can also be a curse when you take this stuff personally. You shouldn’t have to endure the rudeness of others when you aren’t being rude at all, and you shouldn’t let that rudeness influence you in the slightest.

Keep fighting the good fight. You’re helping a lot of people. If you piss off a few along the way, it means you’re dong something right. But it’s okay to block people on Twitter. It’s okay to ignore them when they’re criticizing you. It’s okay to avoid the negativity.

Some folks are just a big bag of dicks. Some folks think that I am. But one of life’s greatest journeys is to overcome insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.

You don’t have to smack people around like I do. But if you keep giving pinheads the benefit of the doubt, you’re in danger of internalizing it. That can lead to depression, self-doubt, and pulling out of the discussion when your voice is sorely needed.

You won’t change someone who is a jerk. No matter how nice you are.

Focus on changing the people who aren’t jerks, and who desperately need to hear your message, you big introspective hippie.

I’m naturally pessimistic, but when I was 12, I figured out that looking for positives in things and at least acting as if I assumed the best would keep me and others happier and healthier than the alternative.

I look younger than I already am. People think me naive, anyway. Why fret over it? (And it’s actually pretty amusing to see well-intended folks startled expressions when they try to ‘cue me in’ about what I’m ‘missing’, and I point it out to them before they can fully verbalize it.)

But on a similar vein, I’m the kind of person who will intentionally ask the dumb/obvious question when it’s the core of a disconnect between a teacher or speaker and much of the class/audience. Because of that, some folks insist I lack common sense and don’t understand things. Most think me a little strange. Not many seem to actually notice or realize what I’m doing, when I do that, but the end result—the bulk of the students/audience finally grasping what the speaker’s trying to say—is quite rewarding. :-)

My wife gets on me for not locking the doors to anything: House, car, other-things-with-doors. And yeah, my car has been broken into twice in the last year. But it doesn’t bother me. And I live every day without any stress or paranoia.

Of course, Amber has a doctorate and I’m a drop-out, so maybe I should listen to her. Her car is never broken into. :)

I have a book series (in my head) that deals with this exact topic–the idea that, in the story’s setting, at least, there’s no need to “lock our doors” because if we all took the time to think about it, we (many of us, at least) have more than what we need to live full & comfortable lives and it’s the hoarding of “things” that leads to so much conflict in the world. If we stopped hoarding, there might just be enough of everything for everyone. How nice would that be?

Now, I just have to finish the book(s) I’m currently working on, so I can get to these! Ha!

I live stress and paranoia free too, but I lock my doors! Is it paranoid to look both ways before crossing the street (“Man, those cars are out ot get me!”) or is it just plain common sense? I would think dealing with the ramifications of a break-in are a lot more stressful than pushing a button on a key fob anyway!

As to your post, good luck to you on your chosen path. I believe the middle road is the correct one: don’t assume either way. Judge people on their actions. That’s pretty much bulletproof.

You must live in a pretty okay neighborhood, Hugh. Forget to lock doors in mine, and you might end up raped, stabbed, shot, and dismembered. I lock and check locks. :(

My electronic music TA at UMass was the very eccentric Everett Hafner, who had been one of the founders of Hampshire College (a known repository of hippie-ideas) and dean of sciences there for some years before retiring and deciding to get a PhD in music.

One of the things he religiously insisted on when he was at Hampshire was no locks on everything, including equipment lockers in the science building. And indeed, they never had a theft. As soon as he retired, locks were added, and within days they had their first theft.

That might just be coincidence, but there’s something about the presence of locks that communicates the possibility of stealing.

Hugh, I’ve found that you almost always get exactly what you expect out of people. As such, I’m very careful about what I choose to believe about people.

Excellent post, Hugh. I am of the belief that if you try to look at things positively, you will just be an all-around happier person. Attitude is everything, right? I have always been one to look at my glass as half full rather than half empty. Because of this, I have recently been accused by a friend of “putting on a front”, being “secretive” because I don’t tell all of my business, or my family’s business. I just don’t choose to bash others, complain when things don’t go my way, tell people off, etc., as they do. And believe me, they are miserable for it. Some people mistakenly assume that to confront people, get your feelings out, talk to you about how they feel they have been wronged etc. helps the relationship or friendship. Wrong! They come away feeling better, or superior, while the recipient comes away with hurt feelings, sometimes irreparable. So, yes, I agree, that to choose to assume the best in people and in situations makes for a much happier life. Thanks for the post.

Unless you’re driving a taxi. Then you ALWAYS assume the worst. Makes for a pleasant evening as most of the folks pleasantly surprise you, and far less heartburn when they match your judgment call. ;-)

Sadly, some people are left behind on the platform while we successfully traverse life’s journey on a different train with a different destination in mind.

In other words, as our fame rises or our truth becomes clear, not everyone sees what we see. Instead, they see what they want to see, or choose to believe, and no matter how we try to help them see, they simply don’t! The simple truth is this; they don’t wish to change, or see what we see, or embrace the truth no matter how clear it might be.

C’est la vie, Hugh. Carry on with your head held high, with your eye on the prize because doing the right thing(s) and cheering for the cause(s) for all the right reasons and being a good person is all you can do and be. Not all people are. Sadly.

How sweet that Joe Konrath is the first to comment on this blog post and give you the brotherly love that you so deserve. Touched by that!!! Nicely done, Joe!

What Joe said. “You’re one of those rare hero-types who is actively trying to change the world–and making a lot of progress–while remaining polite and concerned and sensitive to your opponents’ feelings. That’s your gift.”

Stay the hero. Keep your head up and keep the courtesy and keep showing the data. Truth will out.

Hugh, Joe, everyone else.

Thank you for doing this. For putting yourselves out there, for risking criticism, hatred, etc. Right now, I’ve got my seven month old on my lap while my eight year old is wrestling with my two year old and my five year old is outside skipping through the tall grass.

My point?

Remember what matters, who matters. Ignore the rest. I appreciate what you guys do and I even appreciate how you do it.

Keep it up, Dan

Hugh,
My late Dad drove a ten-year old black Chevy Cavalier with a spoiler and many scratches. I think he might have just had an AM radio or possibly never turned on FM. He never locked this car. And the trunk leaked so when it rained it would be soaked.

His car was never broken into and the morale of the story for you is that your car is probably too shiny, too late model, too sweet to be passed up.

Look for the good, the miracle, the beautiful moment and work with what you get. The very fact you chose to create and build books says something about a spiritual optimism. Thanks for all you do for writers every day. It helps to ensure our independence.

I’m not a “see the best in others” sort of person, and it’s a philosophy I disagree with because I think it devalues the people who really merit my seeing the best in them–by elevating everyone who doesn’t merit that perspective. Instead, I try to start from neutral and let people reveal who they are, and then I decide what I think of them.

But you say tomato, I say acidic fruit that most people think of as a vegetable and which I prefer cooked to raw. So be it. It takes all kinds to make a world go round.

Anyhow, I gather this post is inspired by the noticeably negative, nasty, unhumorusly ribald reaction in some quarters to your recent letter/petition? I was thinking about that myself this weekend, as it happens. (This was after reading some Twitter meltdowns that mostly made me wonder if the persons in question were displacing their stress over personal problems by attacking Hugh Howey, who’s a safe target for their anger.)

As you know, because we discussed it via email, I didn’t sign the letter/petition because I decline to take sides in a business dispute between two large corporations, neither of whom are thinking about the writers or trying to do what’s best for writers. Neither of them is on MY side in this matter, so I’m not taking either of their sides. If Amazon wins, any additional money it earns from Hachette books will not be sent to Hachette authors. If Hachette wins, it’s not going to raise digital royalty rates or print royalty rates, or implement a fair reversion clause, and I am frankly skeptical that its writers will see any improvement in their earnings. There is no scenario in which writers emerge better off from this negotiation. There are only scenarios in which they maintain a status quo I consider inadequate, or emerge worse. So as far as I am concerned, a plague on this negotiation.

That said, I despise logic-deficient arguments and fabrications passed off as “fact,” so I found the Preston letter annoyingly idiotic, and I thought your letter made made rational points in refuting it. These are points we all need to make and reiterate, and I have done so online and in my Nink column–though not in a letter/petition I won’t sign since, while presenting some information I agree with, it conveys an attitude I don’t agree with (see above: I have no friends in the Amazon-Hachette negotiation). Since I didn’t sign it, it may seem strange that I’m pleased to see you’ve got over 4,000 signatures in just a couple of days; but, in fact, I am VERY pleased. I think it demonstrates just how biased toward the welfare of media-conglomerate-stockholders the coverage of this negotiation has been, and how much it has ignored the well-being of working writers. Four thousand signatures highlights that thousands of writers do not agree with the way that corporate-publishing has framed of this situation, which is the frame the media have lazily latched onto as “fact” and keep bleating as filler. And I don’t have to be in completely lockstep with something to think it’s important and worth saying (though I do have to be in lockstep with it to put my name on it–no matter how often pro-publisher -and- pro-indie people criticize me for not taking sides).

But what I was actually thinking about this weekend was that I used to believe that people who dismiss Joe Konrath “because he’s an asshole” might listen to his information, a lot of which is worth considering (then again, I don’t have to be in lockstep with Joe, either, to take what I need and leave the rest), if only his tone weren’t so abrasive.

But then Hugh Howey comes along, conveying a lot of similar ideas and information and criticism, including putting his money where his mouth is with Author Earnings (the first attempt to replace opinion and speculation with numbers and data in an area relevant to everyone who writes novels), and Hugh is so courteous, civil, cordial, kind, and nice in his all his commentaries… And he gets exactly the same reaction that Konrath does.

I don’t just mean the dismissal. The dismissal was a given. A friend of mine keeps reminding me that when people are presented with evidence/facts that contradict something they believe, rather than investigating the new information or changing their beliefs in accordance with new information, most people react by getting angry and double-down on their existing beliefs. We see a lot of this in publishing and among various writers, and I don’t expect that to change. (And some of the angriest people I’ve seen are dabblers who aren’t pursuing writing seriously, anyhow, so I’m puzzled when they’re among the angriest people commenting on these matters. For you and me, it’s our mortgage, groceries, and health insurance. For them, though, it’s just blog fodder and convention-bar chat. So their rage bemuses me.)

What really surprises me, though, is how NASTY so many of these people are about Hugh, who is so nice at all times that picking on Hugh seems like kicking kittens. He’s an adult and can certainly handle emphatic disagreement–but the personal nastiness of a lot of comments I’ve seen strikes me as…

Well, as confirming to me that Konrath might as well be every bit as abrasive as he feels on his most abrasively abrasioning day, because we certainly have sufficient evidence before us by now to prove that a number of people are going to turn a deaf ear and be nasty, snide, rude, vulgar, sour, obnoxious, and/or personally snarky no matter how NICE the messenger is.

All of which makes it good to be ME today–a person who doesn’t look for the best in others.

This comment is so much better than anything I blog, that it’s a bit embarrassing. I’ve told you in private, and now I’ll tell you again: Yours is the soundest mind I’ve encountered on the interwebs. I love the way you think, and I love the way you write. I don’t like the way you praise me, though. It’s undeserved and overmuch. You sound like a paid shill.

Have you posted these thoughts elsewhere so they can get their fair attention? You should. It’s brilliant stuff. Leave out the crap about me, though.

And you’re right about Konrath and how people see him. Maybe that comes from saying the same things calmly and rationally for many years, being proven right more often than not, and having people hate his guts no matter how he phrases things. How do you not get to the point where you say “fuck it” and just blast people with the truth.

I’ll tell you something interesting. I didn’t put up this piece because of attacks against me. I put it up because of a long walk I went on with my mother and our dogs, and she’s going through some stuff right now. I told her about the advice I heard Michael J. Fox give a year ago, and how much it helped me. I’m trying to help her see the positive, because I want her to be happy. During the walk, the thought in the above blog post came to me, word-for-word, and I hurried home to hammer it out.

Here’s the interesting bit: The only person to email me and ask if everything was okay? Joe Konrath. Of course, more people got in touch by other means and emailed me later, and Joe would kick me in the balls for telling anyone this, but his online persona is not who he is. And he’s done a shitload lot of good for writers, things nobody knows about to even appreciate. He’s got that reputation to protect, you know? Or maybe he is an asshole. Maybe I just see the good in everyone. And I don’t think that devalues those who are worth it, because it leaves a lot of room for gushing over those who are great. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Laura.

I write a monthly column for Nink, and since they pay me, I tend to save my occasional bursts of making sense for them–including culling posts I write that might be the start of a good idea. But I already wrote about the Amazon-Hachette dispute (and why I’m not taking side) in the July issue, which was distributed last week.

I am amused to recall that when writing it, I was afraid it would be out-of-date and old-news by the time members read it. Now I suspect it could drag on for months. And I don’t even think Hachette is the show, though a lot of people say it’s getting all this attention because the deal will be precedent-setting.

I think the SHOW will be when Random Penguin sits down at the table. Because this negotiation was exactly what they were preparing for when they merged to become the largest publisher on the planet. Whereas, as far as I can tell, Hachette’s only preparation was to complain a lot to the media and to organize some of its writers to complain, too–none of which seems to concern Amazon in terms of business negotiations, go FIGURE. But Random Penguin decided to become a supplier so big that i t (in theory, anyhow) gives them negotiating leverage with Amazon. So that’s the negotiation I think will be the main event, despite all the attention this one is getting.

Experience with people and situations can make us very good at predicting some behavior, and determining the probability of some events. The choice is how we act in response to that intuition.

I live in possibly the most dangerous large city in the US, Chicago. My profession is teaching proper Strength and Conditioning to novice advanced athletes. I have constantly adhered to starting with the negative-expecting the worst and admiring when individuals meet me halfway. We trust and we hope, but in the back of our minds we only register the reality.

Seeing the best in people is the brave thing to do. When people’s behavior is so odd it surpasses my understanding, I switch into writer mode and start thinking about how i would describe them or the cadence of their speech.

We are lucky as writers to have the Internet where we can glimpse into other people’s worlds, their history and struggles, what they stand for, what makes them mad or happy, how they react. Not just a dry article in an encyclopedia, but their thoughts and feelings.

The human condition is endlessly fascinating.

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