Tuesday, September 3, 2019

On Trying

"Try trying" is a phrase you may have heard.

There is a small but nevertheless determined group of people who can only be described with the action of rolling one's eyes that has decided this phrase is a circlejerk, and that the best way to defeat something you see as a circlejerk is to become a circlejerk yourself. Sure.

There is a refrain that comes from these people, which they seem to believe is the Yugioh card that instantly wins and makes them right and then everybody bangs them or whatever. Can you guess what it is?


That's right, constant reader. The anti-try-tryers are righteous and you are not, because they are on the side of the most noble of causes - helping. Should you tell some poor, defenseless novice to "try trying", you will be blown away when they dispel your illusions and reveal to you that you are not being helpful and are therefore the Bad Guy. The Villain. Hitler himself, risen from his tomb.

But come close and listen closer, O Ye Pure, O Ye Crusaders of Helping. There is a secret, long hidden, which I have found buried on a tablet of ancient gold, that I must reveal to you. Are you ready?

That's the fucking point.

The purpose of saying "try trying" is not to be helpful. It is to be dismissive. One may as well criticize water for being wet. And in most cases I've seen, that purpose is righteous, because the only thing that the person on the receiving end has actually been trying is "everybody else's patience".

Simply asking for help does not mean that a person should be helped, or should be given the specific kind of help that they've asked for. Contrary to what you may believe, achieving your goals is not a basic human right. Contrary to what a teacher probably once told you in grade school, when it could still be true, in the adult world there are stupid questions. It is rarely enough to want and wonder. You have to try.

To understand this better, it is necessary to consider context. The important facets of this context are these:

  1. A person asking a stranger that they have no prior relationship or social contract with to spend their free time giving them help which is derived from their own invested time, experience, and sometimes money.
  2. An industry that is worth tens of billions of dollars revolves around the exchange of information, advice, and experience in the arena of fitness and fitness goals, and it is possible for a person's entire career (as well as, less likely, wealth) to be built on providing help, advice, and information to others in achieving their fitness goals.
  3. On internet forums, there is not only no offer of compensation to those that provide advice and help, but often a taking of offense at the concept of compensating anyone for advice and help, and sometimes not even an expression of gratitude.

First consider those three things as the foundation of our context. The next layer to build on top of that foundation is a simple, natural observation.

  • When #3 is the venue, a person in #1 is asking others to perform the same service that thousands of professionals get paid to perform, except without paying them anything.
This, friends, is rudeness and entitlement at its finest - setting the expectation of others to provide a service, equivalent in quality and personal attention to that of a normally paid professional, which is completely free of cost. There is at this moment a push at revolution in the world of creative works against "spec work" for very similar reasons - it is rude to ask everything and give nothing. Civil, polite social interaction is not all take and no give.

But, one Champion of Auto-fellatio might protest, if you don't like it, just ignore those people instead of being a dick.

No.

Here's why you should take that reply and shovel it - The person from #1 can pay those who help them, easily, in another form of currency which is immune to inflation and is infinitely replenishable - a respect for their time. That is all that's really being asked of them, and all that it takes not to be a slimy, stinky leech. This costs them nothing, and the rudeness of not doing so should be answered in kind.

And no, inspiring feelings of altruism and the satisfaction of helping another human in need are not adequate replacement.

Let me draw a contrasting picture. Some of those who, doing battle against "try trying", in fancying themselves to have an "S" on their chest would say - "If your friend / family member asked you for advice, would you treat them so poorly?" And the answer is no, of course not, you fucking putz. They're my friends and family. It's not the same and you goddamn well know it.

I have had numerous friends and family members, seeing my success in various fitness goals, ask me for advice, and I have gladly offered all the advice I have to give. Not once have I ever had to say to any of them "try trying". Because they understand the value of what they are asking of me and meet me in the middle - they treat me and the time I give them with respect - and they never give me cause to tell them "try trying". When I say "These are good articles to read / videos to watch about your question", they make a good faith effort to consume that content, give it their full attention, attempt to parse it, and only ask questions that they've thought about a bit and tried to answer with what I've put in front of them. When they fail to achieve their goals, they put the effort into recognizing when it's because they didn't put honest effort into the advice I gave them, and don't waste my time saying that what I told them didn't work.

But the people to whom "try trying" is directed don't do that, because the faceless usernames on the internet are not friends, or family, or even people to them - they are a personal question and answer box. They want to receive everything and give nothing. "Try trying" is a rebuke for a person who, in the age of nearly unlimited and immediate access to information thanks to sites like Google or Wikipedia, demands that others be a human Google search results page. It is for a person who communicates by their low effort question, "I know articles about this exist, but I don't want to spend the time to read them. Read them for me and give me the bullet points." It is for a person who tries nothing, and flails that they are all out of ideas. It is for a person who, upon encountering the smallest amount of difficulty, always and only looks for ways to make it easier instead of trying harder. It is for a person who "wants to have a human conversation" about mundane, banal bullshit like what vegetables, mobile apps, and bicep exercises there are, broad questions that can be summed up as "How do I fitness", or topics that have been discussed a thousand times before and do not need to be discussed again. It is for a person who cannot get into working out unless they have an app to tell them everything. It is for a person who wants all of the benefits of having a super best friend who trains, but makes no effort to be somebody worth treating as a super best friend.

I believe that that is a reasonable expectation to set - When you are asking someone to spend their free time on you but not paying them, treat that time with respect and don't waste it. It's not hard or too much to ask. And that is the core of what I feel the phrase "try trying" is about. It is short-hand for a longer chastisement about the rudeness of asking for infinite hand-holding for free:
You are trying to force me to spend more effort on solving your problems than you are willing to spend on solving them yourself, and giving me nothing in return to make that worth my time. You are wasting my time, and that is rude. Fuck you, try harder.
Or about a complete lack of effort in execution:
The results you want are wildly out of proportion to how hard you're actually trying to achieve them. You are wasting everybody's time asking for advice when you aren't even working at what you already know you need to do. Quit fucking around and try harder.
 And it is short-hand on purpose, because the purpose of saying the above would not be to help someone, but to be dismissive, and shortening it improves on the dismissal.

Yes, it is rude and unhelpful. But the argument of rude = wrong as a universal truth is silly and naive. If someone says "Fuck you", it is appropriate and acceptable to say "No, fuck you" in return. The rudeness of telling somebody "try trying" is, in almost all cases I've witnessed, reciprocal. The only difference is the nature of the initiating "Fuck you", because it is not overt. But it is nonetheless fundamentally rude to ask others to engage with you at the level of a normally paid professional, except for free and without any respect for their time.

This is what many fail to understand - Rudeness does not need to be direct and overt to be rudeness. If you were to say directly to someone, "My time is more important to me than your time, and I want you to spend your own time so that I do not have to spend mine, and I will also give you nothing in return. I may not even thank you.", there would be no confusion that you are being a shithead. Make no mistake - In asking a low effort question or fucking around, a person may not be saying it, but that is still what they are communicating. And "try trying" is the reply that they have earned.

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