It’s that time of year — the in-laws have left, the fridge is full of leftovers, and you have a laundry list of things you want to start doing differently so you can live your best life this year.
But change inherently means conflict. When you start to reinvent your life to serve you on your terms, you’ll inevitably run into something called the social problem.
In today’s episode, Dylan talks about change. What makes it so difficult? Why do we struggle to change? And how do we face it head-on?
- [03:31] On humans’ tribal nature
- [08:24] Examples of major cultural hallmarks that create a tribal identity
- [13:19] The personal part of the social problem
- [16:12] The political part of the social problem
- [18:55] The three things that will happen when you make a change in your life
[00:00:00] Intro: Forget the civilized path. It’s time to break the chains of debt and dependency, take control of our financial lives, and live free. This is the Fiscally Savage Podcast.
[00:00:15] Dylan Bain: Hello and welcome to Fiscally Savage. I’m your host, Dylan Bain. And today, I want to relate to you a time where I was gathering with my family. And in this space, I’ve decided that I’m not going to drink. I’ve decided that I’m doing this sobriety thing — not that I’ve ever had a problem. It’s just I’m beginning to question whether or not alcohol is serving me. And the moment of truth as I’m walking into my grandmother’s place is when I know the question’s going to be asked, “Hey, what are you having to drink?” now, ladies and gentlemen, I feel obligated to explain to you that I’m from Wisconsin. And for those of you who live overseas and are not familiar with my beautiful home state, there’s a phrase called “Drink Wisconsinbly” and a joke that our state motto is “It’s too cold to be sober.” There are more bars than grocery stores in the great state of Wisconsin. There are more bars than churches in the great state of Wisconsin. In fact, of the 50 drunkest counties in the entire United States, 45 of them are in Wisconsin. So, the decision on my part to decide to forgo the cocktail hour was no small thing. And I had decided that I’m not gonna have a drink. And there my aunt walks out to me, asks me the question, and now suddenly I am in the depths of a decision. Do I stick to my guns or do I not?
[00:01:45] The cocktail culture in Wisconsin is huge. The brandy old fashioned, when it suddenly came around back in the 2010s, you know, everyone from the state just suddenly was shocked that that had ever gone anywhere. In fact, I learned how to make a Manhattan and an old fashioned before I was 12 years old. And I’m looking at my aunt in the eyes, really worried of what she’s gonna think when I say, “I’m not drinking right now.” Am I gonna be judged? Will I be rejected? I don’t know. But I remind myself that this is okay; that I’m doing this for me; to serve me, to serve my goals — my strength goals, my physical goals, my focus and concentration — by removing the numbing agent of alcohol from my life. I’m endeavoring to become the best version of myself. And the actual thing is to have a beverage in my hand so that I fit in with the entire crowd. And so, I tell my aunt that I’m just gonna have some club soda and lime. She pours it to me. And it was never mentioned. It was a really good night with my family.
[00:02:50] Now, ladies and gentlemen, I tell that story because the holidays are just over, and so I’m hoping most of you have recovered nicely from New Year’s Eve and all the libations therein. And my story at the top of the show is not about pitching sobriety. I really believe that alcohol has a place in human civilization. It was just in that moment, I was deciding not to drink. And for the most part, I spent 2022, my year of growth, not drinking. And in 2023, I will continue that. That’s my own choice for my own reasons, and maybe sometime I’ll talk about it. But today, I’m talking about the hard part.
[00:03:31] Now, if you had taken my advice, you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution. You instead made a theme. And if you made a theme for your year, whether it’s the year of health or the year of reading or the year of joy or whatever it is — in my case, for 2023, it’s the year of emancipation — you’re going to get pushback as you continue to move forward in your life. I mean, ’cause let’s face it: humanity is tribal, and it always has been and humans will always be tribal. That is, in fact, what makes communities. This is why humans when put in a group, will peck, peck, peck into their small groups. Like this is why middle school is such a traumatic time for so many people when they go through it. In the United States, it’s this period of time when you’re like 11 to 13. It’s young people going from adolescents to young adults into their teenage years. And suddenly, they’re looking around and going, “Where’s my tribe?” “Who am I?” “What do I value?” And they don’t have answers to it because maybe their parents don’t, too. But then they start creating communities. They get really into goth makeup and emo or, heaven forbid, country music or whatever it is.
[00:04:44] This is why if you’ve ever been overseas, you adopt language and speech patterns really, really quickly. I have a friend who I speak to probably once a month who lives in New Zealand. He lives with the Kiwis, but he’s originally from St. Louis and he has an accent. My wife is from St. Louis. They sound nothing alike. Why? Because my friend moved to New Zealand and has adopted into their speech patterns. When I lived in Taiwan, my speech changed. I lost my Midwestern accent and instead picked up the accent of the other people I spent time with. We do this because we’re tribal. This is why brand loyalty is a thing. It’s commercialization hijacking — as it so frequently does — hijacking something very deep to the human experience and finding a way to monetize it through brand loyalty. This is why you can get people who are really about Chevy or really about Ford or really about Dodge Ram, and they’ll fight about it, right? It makes no sense. And yet here we are.
[00:05:48] On a primal level, ladies and gentlemen, we’re terrified of being outside of a tribe because that isolation, that exile, is a death sentence. And so, we adapt to our surroundings very, very quickly. No matter where you are, no matter who you are, you will do this. This is why you can say to somebody, “Well, you know, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Well, of course, because humans are tribal. And if you spend time with a bunch of high achievers, you too will start achieving more highly because you’re adapting to your tribe. And ladies and gentlemen, the reverse is true. If you spend a lot of time with low achievers, you will start to self-sabotage to fit in with your tribe. And this is one of the reasons why change is so hard because change when you change your life, it inherently means conflict. In a social context, change leads to conflict, and that’s going to be tough because it’s gonna touch these very young, very tribal, very primitive pieces of our psyche that are gonna scare the living bejesus out of us. Because we don’t want to have conflict with our tribe and we sure don’t want to have conflict with our tribal identity, whatever that might be.
[00:07:04] This is why when we have people say, “Well, I’m gonna lose weight,” and they start really like doing a good job and losing weight, then the other people around them become jealous. If they didn’t change their social circle, they will become jealous. And why does that happen? Is it because those other people don’t care for you, don’t care for your health and your achievement? No, they do. And your health and achievement inherently means you are now the “other.” You are the “them” to their “us.” And that’s really hard for us to make that transitionary period. This is why people will go to the gym; once they start going and once they make friends at the gym, they keep going just to see the other people at the gym. And I hired a strength coach, so I’m, you know, currently reading from The Swoly Bible as well. But it’s interesting to me because now Instagram, of course, has figured out that I, you know, lift weights, and I’m getting these memes. And one of the memes is like these guys and they think like how I thought it would be when I got jacked and it’s them and a bunch of women and it’s like now how it is actually when I got jacked and it’s him with a bunch of dudes. And I’ve gotta tell you that that’s not too far off. Why? Because the act of engaging in like really working hard to get jacked is this tribal marker of tribal identity that all of these men have started to coalesce around.
[00:08:24] You can look at any major cultural hallmark and it’s pretty easy to see. Food — huge one, absolutely huge. My family has tons of food traditions — most of them maladaptive, but they still have them. And when I decide, no, I’m not gonna do that, well, now, I’m the “them” to their “us.” Drinking — and that’s where I came with the story at the beginning of the program — I’m from Wisconsin. Like drinking is not even thought of. Like when I left the state, I had to explain to other people like, no, I’m not an alcoholic. I’m just from Wisconsin. That’s a big part of the culture. Music is another thing like. And you can see this in high schools. When I taught high school, it was really funny. Like people got really passionate about One Direction, which was a band. I don’t know if my audience actually knows that One Direction was a band, but we’re just gonna roll with it. They created this like tribal identity around this band. Why? Because music is this intensely human thing. Like seriously, go find a toddler and play some drums and they will dance. And they will dance very similar to how people dance in the club. One of my cousins has a young son and I see him on, you know, Instagram. And it’s always funny to me on how he dances when there’s music. My daughters do this. They always have. Clothing is another great example of this. For Christmas, one of my daughters, she really wanted a leather jacket, so my wife went and bought her a leather jacket and the leather jacket is a biker’s jacket. My wife had no idea, but I did. And immediately, I had like this visceral reaction of like, “My 10-year-old is not old enough to be on a motorcycle.” And that’s because that clothing has this like tribal identity attached to it. This is also true with hair. And I always laugh at this because, you know, if you’ve seen a picture of me, I shave my head. And I shave my head because when I first shaved my head, I was working in security. And I had had an incident where somebody grabbed my hair and I didn’t want that to happen again so I shaved my head. And then when I stopped working in security, my hair didn’t grow back the way I wanted it to, so I just kind of accepted reality and have been shaving my head since. But when I did that, my grandfathers who were both still alive at the time and my dad sat me down to give me the conversation about how I shouldn’t be a skinhead. And this is because the hair was — in their world — this cultural tribal identifying marker that I was somehow playing into. Now, I’m, you know, I shave my head bald and I have a beard and there’s a whole other like tribe that I’m part of because of this. It’s the bald bearded club.
[00:10:57] But the point that I’m getting to is that like all these things — food, drinking, music, clothing, hair — they are major cultural hallmarks that create a tribal identity and that you can use to identify people of other tribes. And we make an assumption based upon that identifier. That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. That’s just what it is to be human. Because if you stop and think about it from a tribal context, from a primitive context, that’s a life or death distinction. But in our modern world, it creates a problem. And this problem is what I call the social problem. The social problem, ladies and gentlemen, is what you run into as you are trying to improve your life. And so, on this show, we talk a lot about finances. When you start improving your finances, you’re inherently gonna start making different choices in your life. Those choices might affect some of those tribal markers.
[00:11:54] For example, I had a client who came in and he wanted to get his finances in order, so we went through, we did the entire process of looking at the spend analyzer and where he is spending his money and, you know, creating a budget. That was his statement of values. And what I found really quickly was this dude was driving a mortgage payment and living with his parents. And I said to him, I was like, “Dude, what’s going on here? What kind of vehicle do you drive?” And he sent me a picture of this beautiful like 1950s pickup truck that was really lifted, so like the floorboards were like five feet off the ground. And he had these nice big chrome truck nuts attached to it. And I looked at him and I said like, “First off: that’s crazy. Take those truck nuts off. Secondly, like you’re driving a house is essentially what you’re doing.” And he looked me right in the eye and said, “Well, no one will respect me if I don’t have this truck.” So, he’s buying into this tribal marker, this tribal identity. That’s part of the social problem. Because socially, he needs the truck in order to maintain his status in the group. So, when you’re dealing with trying to change your life, whether it’s with money, whether it’s with food, whether it’s with your relationship with your wife, you’re going to run into the social problem because it’s gonna change how you interact in your own tribal area.
[00:13:19] So, the social problem comes in two flavors: personal and political. And we’re gonna deal with personal first. So, a personal part of the social problem is essentially, I am afraid that they will reject me or conversely, you run into part of what you’ve created for yourself as your identity. Now, I’m gonna make a statement that might be a little bit controversial, but the vast majority of non-fact-based identities are pathological. Let me give you an example. Fact: I was born biologically male and therefore, I have to work on myself to become a man. Okay, cool. That’s a fact-based identity because I was biologically male. My bones are denser. I’m physically stronger. There are things that go with that. Now, if I sit there and say, “But I’m a bad man,” well, okay, now, we’re no longer in a fact-based identity because “bad” is a judgment. And that is not part of a fact-based identity. And when I say, “I am a bad man” and then I start to behave in certain ways to be able to create that self-fulfilling prophecy to fulfill the obligations of that identity as a bad man, that’s what I’m talking about as pathological. And a great example to see about this with money is when people say, “Oh, I’m bad with money. I’ve always been bad with money.” Well, that’s part of your identity that has started to become pathological because you are playing out scenarios of self-sabotage in order to maintain that identity. And as we talked about on the show before, nine times out of 10, people aren’t bad with money. They’re just addicted to scarcity. And so, when you’re dealing with the social problem and you run into these personal parts of the social problem, it’s important to understand that what you’re really worried about is how others are going to perceive you and what it says about you to yourself.
[00:15:03] And ladies and gentlemen, I’m just gonna be real with you here for a second. A lot of very young wounds live in this space. And I’m talking about things that happened to us when we were children. I myself have had to work through a lot of these and this is not the episode for me to really delve into those because I do try to keep them time-limited and we’ll come back around to them. But I want you to understand that the personal half of the social problem, nine times out of 10, have to do with a lot of earlyhood child wounds — early childhood identities that were either selected by you to help you survive or handed to you to help somebody else’s life. The way out and of dealing with the personal side of the social problem is you need to start showing up for yourself; reminding yourself that you are okay because you, as an adult, will protect that younger part of yourself. You, as an adult, get to write whatever story you wish to write about yourself. The pen’s in your hand, even if it wasn’t when you were much younger.
[00:16:12] So, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the personal half of the social problem. Let’s talk about the other half, which is the political part of the social problem. And no, I’m not talking about US partisan politics. If I was ever to do that, that episode would be called the “Dumpster Fire.” I’m talking about the political within family politics because the fundamental question of the personal social problem is I’m afraid that they will reject me and what this says about me as a person. This part of the political problem is how will others react to me and how will they try to manipulate me to fulfill their own stories? And one thing to note is that, ladies, gentlemen, the people that you interact with, particularly with family, and we’re all coming off the holidays, so I know y’all have had to deal with a lot of unfinished business in your family because we all do, they’re all tangled in their own web of bullshit. Like they’re all playing out maladaptive stories for themselves for their own reasons to get their own needs met or not in some way. And they’re trying to suck you into that to play that game. They need you to do something so that they feel okay. And it’s important to note here that familiar hells are preferable to strange heavens and that plays out here because when I say that they need you to do something so that they’re okay, sometimes that’s for you to behave like you’re still 12. Sometimes that’s for you to behave in a way that is completely within their expectations, and their expectations were set when you were 12 years old. And so, whether it’s your mother, your brother, your sister, whoever, they’re going to continue to play that in that way so that they can feel safe, even though it’s shitty, even though it doesn’t help, even though it undermines having a good Christmas. These people want that familiar hell over the strange heaven of meeting you as an adult. Stop and think about it. I guarantee you saw it over Christmas because it’s there every Christmas.
[00:18:11] When people will sit there and pull you into that, what they’re doing is they’re asking you to be confluent with them, that is to say that you, you know, they are going down the river in one direction. They want you to come along with them side by side. They’re pulling you into their own bullshit. And I know so many of us have seen this with family, but this happens with our friends, too. This also happens in our marriages. People need you to behave in a certain way so that they feel okay. You have to fulfill their expectations because if nothing else, then they at least know that they were right and therefore, they’re safe, even if those expectations are hurtful, even if those expectations do not serve them, at least then the unknown is in fact a known because you behaved in that predictable way.
[00:18:55] So, when you change and when you start to break out of and reinvent your life to serve you on your terms, there are three things that are going to happen, and they’re going to happen in a predictable order, and they’re going to happen in a predictable way. So, number one is they’re gonna resist. So, they’re gonna either pretend that no, nope, he’s not drinking. He’s got a cocktail on his hand, even though it’s club soda and lime and, you know, he’s still drinking. Or, you know, they’ll keep asking, “Do you want anything to drink?” “Can I get you anything to drink?” “Hey, would you like another drink?” Like we all know how this is going. They’re just pretending that the change hasn’t occurred and just kind of going with it, hoping that you’ll just go along with them because they can wear you down. That’s number one — they’re gonna resist you.
[00:19:42] Number two, they’re gonna demand you change back. And then let me tell you one way that this happens. “Dude, you used to be fun. You’ve changed.” Well, for starters, I’m still fun. I’m still a joy to every man, woman, and child who interacts with me. And as far as me changing, well, like, wasn’t I supposed to? But this person, when they sit there and tell me, “You’re not fun anymore,” they’re demanding that I change back because they want to have fun — at least that’s their excuse. They’re demanding that you change back, and they’re demanding that you change back for them, not for you, not because it’s gonna help you, not because it serves you, because it serves them, because familiar hells are preferable to strange heavens.
[00:20:25] And so, number one, they’re gonna resist you. Number two, they’re gonna demand you change back. And then number three, they’re gonna demand you change back or else. Let me tell you how this goes. “You used to be fun. I don’t think I want to hang out with you anymore.” What’s going on there? They’re threatening you with social isolation. They’re tapping into that primal fear that we have of being cast out into the cold by the tribe, which for the primal man would be a death sentence. It’s coercive and extractive. And we don’t live in that tribal society where they throw you outside the firelight and the wolves will come get you. We live in an interconnected, modern society where your people are out there and you can go find them. And so, your job in changing your life and improving is to hold fast through all three of these steps because at the end of it, the inevitable conclusion is really only one of two things: either A), they realize they failed in demanding that you change back or else and therefore, well, they don’t wanna be alone anymore than you do, so they’ll just go along with you. “Well, Dylan doesn’t drink anymore. Cool.” And now there’s nothing more said about it, which of course is exactly what happened with my family. Once I got past that, everybody was like, well, we don’t wanna be alone anymore than Dylan does, so here we go. A built-in DD. And in fact over the last three years, no one’s really ever said anything to me about it. Of course, there’s the other side of that, too. “He really just needs to be outside of the tribe.” And that’s the end of your relationship with that person. And that really hurts and that’s really hard. And you’re better for it. It’s not easy; it’s just worth it.
[00:22:08] Ladies and gentlemen, when you go and start to get your financial house in order, it’s going to change the rest of your life and you’re gonna run into both sides of the social problem. You’re going to run into the personal fear that people will reject you and the political demands that you play a role for everyone else’s comfort. Ladies and gentlemen, in the year of emancipation, we’re here to create systems and ways of being that serve us; that support us; that further our goals. Evolution involves finding new tribes. It involves carving out places in the world where your light can shine and other people wish to be around it. And ladies and gentlemen, even though it’s hard, there’s a lot of hope and a lot of good can come from it.
[00:22:57] And I know how it feels. I remember there was one late night when I was at the client site. All the lights, the entire office were off, except those in the cafeteria where I was eating a very late meal at one o’clock in the morning. I had crossed 40 hours that week, which started on midnight on Monday, but I had crossed 40 hours about three hours ago before I was sitting there eating that meal. And it was Wednesday. Everyone was encouraging me to stick with it. I had landed my job at the Big Four. It was the job that everyone told me I couldn’t get. It was the job that came with prestige. I was in the room where it happened, where decisions were made. I had the inside scoop on where corporate people were making decisions that would move the markets, that would have global political implications. And I was not happy. I hated all the hours I was working. And everyone around me was telling me that I just needed to stick it out and get to partner. And so, I reached out to my men’s group. I put out something on our chat function; told everybody how I was feeling. And the next morning as I got up to go into work, I got a call from one of the men in my group, and he said to me, “Dylan, what about your family? This job is taking you away from your family. You’re so concerned about what you owe to your team and what you owe to your company, but what do you owe to your family? Is this job serving you, Dylan, or is it extracting from you? And who do you serve and are you serving them the way that they deserve to be served?” And that hit me like a ton of bricks. Because in that moment I realized that I had gotten everything I needed out of that job at the Big Four and I needed nothing more and every moment I spent there was a moment that they extracted pieces of my soul that I would never get back. And so, a week later, I quit. I quit and went to a new job with a 20% raise, a 10% signing bonus, making even more money at a fraction of the time. And ladies and gentlemen, that was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
[00:25:10] It’s hard to make change in your life. It’s hard to face the social problem. And I’m not gonna tell you that it’s going to be easy. I’m just gonna promise you that it’s going to be worth it.
[00:25:27] Outro: Thanks for listening. If you like what we do here, please hit that subscribe button. Leave us a rating and review. And share the content with somebody who would benefit from the message. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, all @fiscallysavage. And head over to fiscallysavage.com to get our free tools, suggested reading, and everything else you need to take control of your financial life and live free.