1.3. How the Rat Race Mentality Thwarts Progress

We artificially create, in our socioeconomic system, the same adrenaline-pumping state of being chased by a bear.

Competition is what our socioeconomic system is all about.

We compete with each other for money, time, attention, power, status, respect, and all kinds of scarce resources.

But it’s kind of strange, when you think about it.

Nature is competitive. Surviving and thriving in nature is stressful.

That’s why we humans created societies in the first place: to protect ourselves from all that vicious, cutthroat competition.

But we’ve taken that very thing our ancestors were trying to get away from, and made it the centerpiece of our civilization.


When we’re in a competitive situation, we don’t hold back. Our bodies unleash everything we’ve got, to achieve our goal.

So it’s not surprising that a society that deliberately puts people in that state would get more out of its people. But just because it confers some benefits at times doesn’t mean it’s an inherently good thing.

In the end, it’s a trick. We artificially create, in our socioeconomic system, the same adrenaline-pumping state of being chased by a bear, so that your employer can benefit from all of your energy, instead of just some of it.

We sort ourselves into winners and losers. The winners, far from resting on their laurels, have to keep working tirelessly to hang onto what they have. The losers, in many places, flat-out starve.

It affects our frame of mind. We can’t even truly think of anything as good or bad, because we’re so preoccupied with trying to figure out whether it’s good or bad for us. We’re so preoccupied with assessing it through the lens of winners and losers.

The people we admire most were able to step out of this rat-race mentality. The leaders who created real, lasting change understood that all these divisions and self-interested thinking and competitive behavior isn’t “natural.” It’s built into our society. It’s deliberately induced by our socioeconomic system.

It does have some benefits. It does encourage innovation and hard work, for example. But it also causes tremendous harm too.

It’s precisely those harmful effects that people who are passionate about social justice want to address. But we can’t, if we step right back into a competitive mindset in how we look at it.

We have to embrace a different frame of mind that acknowledges that we live in a competitive society, and acknowledges some benefits to it—but also understands how artificial and harmful it is.

We have to be able to truly think about the common good—instead of just saying we’re thinking about the common good, when we’re really only concerned about ourselves.


This is the 15th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *