Imagine a pie chart.
But not the kind with only a few slices like you might see in classroom presentations or this image above.
Think about a pie chart that is attempting to illustrate every imaginable hobby or personal interest known to man.
Mixed martial arts.
It would be the largest, most impossible-to-read pie chart in history, but please try to imagine it anyway.
So, because we only live for about 80-ish years on average, and because most of us tend to grow up surrounded by “people like us” in our cities, towns, schools, sports teams, churches, etc., the vast majority of us only ever see a ridiculously tiny slice of this Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart in our lifetime. Add up all of our hobbies and interests over the course of our lives, and maybe none of us ever even come close to sniffing 0.01% of all of the possible things out there that people do and care about.
Kids growing up in rural Manitoba, Canada or Oklahoma are statistically likely to have different hobbies and interests than kids who grow up in the heart of Los Angeles or central Prague.
There are all kinds of wonderful applications for this thought exercise.
Dwell on this long enough, and the obviousness of how insane and bullshitty it is to dislike or mistreat other people based on their particular religion or skin color or political affiliations or personal preferences for who they love simply because they’re different than yours becomes really evident.
People have a nasty habit of classifying anything different than what they believe or prefer as ‘bad’ or ‘worse’ or even ‘wrong.’
I know it’s uncomfortable to think about the possibility that everything you were taught might be bullshit like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but the sooner you come to terms with the fact that literally no human beings know, or have ever known, with 100% certainty the answers to life’s greatest mysteries (we can’t even get a manned mission to Mars—the nearest planet to Earth), the sooner we can all stop being gigantic dicks to one another just because some of us were taught different stories when we were little than other kids who were taught different things in faraway places.
But healthy self-awareness and mature social consciousness aside (which as a cool bonus will make you much less of an asshole for the rest of your life), the reason we’re thinking about this massive Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart is because I don’t want you to accidentally hurt the person you’re dating or married to every day for the rest of your life until you inevitably break up or get divorced and end up a lonely sad sack with no friends.
You’re worth so much more than that.
And THIS super-simple idea can help your relationship with your future romantic partner or spouse thrive, or at the very least, help you NOT accidentally sabotage it because you didn’t know this secret.
Relationship Secret: Care About Things Because the Person You Love Cares About Them
You are NOT a bad person for liking pro wrestling and video games, and hating classical music and knitting classes.
That’s not what makes a person bad. DIFFERENT does not mean the same thing as BAD.
If you’re anything like me, you have a natural tendency to prefer some things over other things, and your brain mistakes your preferences and interests as having greater value than everything that ISN’T in your tiny sliver of the Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart.
Your stuff is “worth more.” Your stuff “matters more.”
So, maybe you love steak and you’re out with friends, and one of them orders some abomination like a well-done strip steak, and then dips it in ketchup when they eat it.
It is NOT bad that in your mind and heart, you’re secretly like holy shit, do they know how to ruin a steak dinner.
It IS bad if you say out loud: “Holy shit. What are you—stupid or something?” It will likely lead to having fewer friends and the people you spend time with not liking you very much.
And if the person demonstrating different preferences than you is someone you hope to have a long-term romantic relationship with, acting this way WILL end your relationship one way or another.
Don’t just think about food or musical tastes or what you like to do with your free time.
Everything someone thinks, does, and feels is a result of all of their individual experiences from the moment they were born through right now.
Everyone’s 0.01% of the pie chart is going to be a different blend then everyone else’s, and inevitably lacking 99.9% of the life experiences necessary to objectively measure how much they like or dislike other slices of the pie chart they’ve never even heard of or experienced before.
Imagine a large black piece of construction paper.
One that I punch a tiny hole into with a needle.
And then I block your view with that piece of paper and ask you to accurately describe what’s on the other side only having that tiny pinhole to work with.
That’s what all of us are doing every second of our lives.
None of us have unlimited knowledge, time, nor the education and life experiences necessary to evaluate the big, uncharted alien world around us.
Everyone who tries ends up looking and sounding like an asshole, and they make their spouses or romantic partners feel shitty. They make their spouses or romantic partners fantasize about being with someone who wouldn’t communicate—verbally or otherwise: “Everything you like and care about is stupid and worthless. I don’t love or respect you enough to try to understand why it matters to you because it’s a complete waste of my time.”
Again: The Reason to Care is Because You Care About Them; Not Because You’re Naturally Interested in the Same Stuff
I can’t emphasize strongly enough how much this matters.
You have to learn how to silence your inner monologue that communicates how ugly that painting they love is, or how terrible that food they love tastes, or how crappy that song they love sounds.
It’s totally okay that you feel that way. It’s a math equation that made you feel that way. It would be impossible for you to NOT feel that way. You can’t control that.
But you CAN control what you do with that feeling.
I used to believe it was okay to just be honest and say out loud what I was thinking. I used to believe it was okay to openly mock or chide my friends or wife for everything they liked or believed that was different than my likes and beliefs.
But then my wife moved out after nine years of marriage and I lost a bunch of my friends and now every day is shittier and more difficult than necessary.
It seemed fine, totally fine, to like what I liked and pay no attention to the rest of it.
And if you want to live a single life with a bunch of surface-level relationships with other people (no judgments here—that’s totally an option if you don’t crave the things long-term relationships and marriage provide), it IS totally fine to live that way.
There’s no law against asshole-ism. Choose it if you want.
If deep down, you’re embarrassed by the idea that you might be causing people you care about to feel awful and not even realize it, and if you’re really interested in a long-term romantic relationship or marriage that doesn’t end all shitty and horrible with a bunch of tears and lawyer fees, then try this one simple life trick.
That person you care about is super-interested in something that doesn’t interest you at all.
I’m not asking you to change your internal chemistry through sorcery to make yourself like stuff you don’t naturally like. That’s impossible.
But it IS possible to mindfully invest your time and energy to understand what it is about a particular hobby or interest that captivates this person you love.
It IS possible to learn more about it, and through that discovery, gain a greater appreciatiation for your loved one’s personal passions.
In addition to not constantly shitting all over the things that make your spouse or partner or friend feel joy, the simple act of you investing in what they care about will build a new bridge between you. A new bond. An extra tether, binding you together.
You know what happens when you add additional tethers to two objects, right?
Become more secure.
They don’t drift apart.
They stay connected.
And if I may be so bold, I think every day of the rest of your life, and the lives of everyone you interact with will be better for it.
You don’t change the world one grand dramatic act at a time. You do it by making the slightest little course adjustments millions of times, causing other people to do the same. Like ripples in a pond.
Leaving everything just a little bit better than you found it.
Maybe they won’t write books or sing songs about it. But that’s what makes you legend.
That’s how you change the world.
And I can’t wait to see it.