On being predictable

It’s treated as an insult, being predictable. And its opposite is often treated as if it’s inherently fun. Yet the synonym reliable is totally different. Calling someone unreliable is a direct attack on their character. And weirdly you can have a reputation for being unpredictable – and reputation is just a prediction of your behaviour. So if people predict you’ll be unpredictable that’s a cool reputation but if they predict you’ll be unreliable – which technically means the same thing – that’s a bad reputation.

So… why?

Because as fearful as people are of change in the short term they’re more fearful of its permanent absence. People don’t resist change overall, they just resist it right now. They fully intend to change – for the better – at some point, for sure. But again, not right now.

And as much as people rail against predictability we all have an unfortunate tendency to be the person we’re thought to be. Tell someone you think they’re funny and they’ll start acting funnier, tell someone they fly off the handle all the time and they’ll let it happen more and more.

Actually, comedy is a great example because you have to be predictable but new all the time. You have to be predictable in your persona (we need Stanhope to be Stanhope, we want Stanhope’s take on things) to the point where we know in general what you’re going to say, (Stanhopesgoing to be a drunk who pisses on religion) but you need to say it better than we thought you would or it’s not funny.

If comedy was truly about being unpredictable Doug could come out and do a hilarious Chris Rock routine and it should slay. But it wouldn’t. I promise you.

Andy Kaufman was truly unpredictable and people hated him until he was dead and they were safely away from him.

Aside from that tangent… The only reason someone would fear being predictable though is if they didn’t like their own persona, and of course persona is built on behaviour. You are just what you do.

I’ve heard so many people say if everyone thinks I’m an asshole then I should just start acting that way. And, of course, everyone screams you already are.

And to apply the principal of charity I’ll say I know where they’re coming from. We are all going to spend most of our lives thinking we used to suck but we’re better now. And that people don’t see it. Because life is some unfair. We’re being blamed for something that doesn’t represent the real us as we are now.

And then truly shitty people imply that they’re threatening to punish people by reverting back to their old ways and they were holding back, they could be way shittier so watch out friends and family.

Truth is when you change (even if you change on a dime and stick to it rather than fits and starts or the much more normal gradually) it’ll take a year for everyone to stop talking to, and about, the old you.And if you push back against that you’ll seem like a dick.

Because at that time they’ll have all the evidence and you’ll just seem self deluded.

So eat it. Accept how other people see you but don’t play into, don’t paint yourself into their corner for you. Say, truthfully, I’m working on it. Acknowledge when you slip on that work.

Then, when you have a year under your belt, they’ll see it all at once and think you did it all overnight. You’re a 45 degree on the graph and they see a hockey stick curve, it’s like a magic trick.

I know this because as much as I’ve changed a dozen times in the last 8 years and surprised people, I’ve never really been unpredictable.

Never a lose cannon, just a cannon that changed directions.

I was predictable when I was extremely negative and now I’m just as predictable for working out and being Mr calm silver lining guy. When I was freaking out about things I always freaked out about them, when I started working out my answer to everything was always to start working out.

I think it’s easy to see why I become a voice in people’s head so consistently. I’m predictable like a comedian, you know my vibe and it’s just my phrasing that makes me me.

And you you. If I didn’t reliably know what you were going to be like, if I couldn’t predict it most of the time, we wouldn’t friends. We couldn’t. Friendships fade when you want to hang out with someone because you’re in a good mood but oops we got their shitty side today, bummer. Or the inverse, to be fair. Sometimes you just need to bitch and be shitty and you want to talk to someone you think is going to empathize and they’re just like how dare you, be better… like me. When it’s the first non-shitty attitude they’ve had in years.

It’s easy to think it violates your core self if you give people the persona they want to talk to rather than who you feel you are but core self is an illusion and contextual persona is all their is. It’s okay to keep ones you like and shed ones you don’t without holding people to see you the way you’d prefer to be seen today.



Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pragmatism
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