Build Your Own Empire

I understand when someone talks about their struggles in trying to escape.

In trying to escape both the physical poverty they were born in to…

And the paralysing self-doubt and debilitating mental poverty that continues to stifle their growth and self-development way into their 20’s and beyond.

In a banned MTV interview with Tupac Shakur, 2Pac shares a powerful message:

When you’re born, usually you’re born into a dynasty or an empire (…) following in your father’s, grandfather’s footsteps. You’re always told “oh your father, your grandfather did this” so we got this, the family heirlooms…

There’s none of that in the outer city. I call it the outer city ’cause we left out. There’s no nothin’.

We didn’t get any family heirlooms, the family crest…all of that stuff that you would think was so important was meaningless. I mean come on – our family crest was cotton (…)

The only thing we could leave behind is culture, is music, dignity, and determination. That’s all we had.

I feel as though I’m cheated because instead of me fulfilling my prophecy, I have to start one. Instead of doing a good job and carrying on an empire, I have to build one. 

And that’s a helluva’ job for a twenty-one year old. That’s a helluva’ job for any youngster, male or female, to have to build an empire for your family.

Especially when the odds are that you know that somebody else who lives in the inner city – the real inner city, suburbia – who, when he’s born at 16 he gets a car, [it’s] automatic. There’s money in the bank for college, for Christmas you go for vacation somewhere…”

Skip to 3:17-4:43 to watch the bit of the interview relevant to this post, but I urge you to watch the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

Build an empire

It’s easy to get bitter about not getting the springboard to an awesome life that you deserve or to whine and complain about how easy others have it while for you it’s always been an uphill battle.

You can wallow in self-pity, be bitter or angry about the fact that others get things handed to them with no resistance while you’re constantly struggling – but that’s life.

The gazelle can complain about the lion until it goes blue in the face.

Ain’t nothing gonna change.

Accept it.

Own who you are and where you come from.

Adjust your beliefs to enable you to function in the objective world – not in the idealised, fantasy world of how you wish the world to be.

Because you are not entitled to anything and the world owes you nothing.

If you want something – you have to go to get it.

Though you may have escaped or are still yet to escape the physical poverty you might be living in, you also have the job of having to de-programme yourself from the mental poverty that you were conditioned into from a very young age.

Because you can’t build an empire on shaky foundations.

Develop an inner directness whereby you yourself decide how to live and develop the necessary metal support structures to help you along your way like a strong self-confidence, self-assuredness, and high self-esteem.

Those things don’t come from reading only.

You need action; what you do will change how you think.

And you need to win small victories to climb the mountain.

But it’s definitely possible – you can still build an empire.

You’ll just have to work harder for it.

But the best thing about is that it’ll be your very own.

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Know Thyself: A Psychological Tendency Worth Knowing About


Cognitive dissonance is the tension caused by holding two conflicting ideas.

Here’s Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, who perfectly summarises the idea with the aid of an age-old fable:

“In a classic Aesop’s fable, a hungry fox encounters grapes hanging from a vine. The fox desperately wants the grapes.

Yet as hard as he tries, he cannot reach them. Frustrated, the fox decides the grapes must be sour and that therefore he would not want them anyway.

The fox comforts himself by changing his perception of the grapes because it is too uncomfortable to reconcile the thought that the grapes are sweet and ready for the taking, and yet he cannot have them.

To reconcile these two conflicting ideas, the fox changes his perception of the grapes and in the process relieves the pain of what psychologists term cognitive dissonance.”

When you’re experiencing cognitive dissonance, it can affect you in different ways. I’ll talk about two of the major ways it can influence you in your daily life.

The Experiment

Cognitive dissonance was presented in an experiment by Leon Festinger and his colleague.

Students entered a lab and were asked to do a boring task.

They were bored out of their minds.

After the experiment, the experimenter asked if the student would lie to another participant who was waiting outside to participate. The student was asked to say that the study was in fact lots of fun and not boring at all.

One group of students was paid $20 to lie to another participant.

The other group was paid $1.

What happened?

The students that were paid $20 were fine with lying to the other unsuspecting participants.

They went on and on about how whimsical and enticing the actually boring experiment was.

They felt comfortable for lying just for the money. In other words, being paid that much was sufficient justification to lie.

And when these students were asked later on if they enjoyed the task, they bluntly replied that it was boring.

The students that were paid $1 were different.

Getting paid just $1 to lie to other participants wasn’t enough of a justification to lie.

They did so anyway but the important part about this is that they ended up convincing themselves that the experiment was fun.

After the entire experiment, when they were asked if the experiment was fun, they said that it was.


The students that were paid $1 had two discrepant thoughts:

“This task is boring” and “I’m being paid just $1 to lie.”

These conflicting, discrepant thoughts caused tension (i.e. dissonance).

To reduce this tension, they fundamentally changed their opinion about the dullness of the task.

They had to because thinking about how only $1 was enough to bribe them to lie was too uncomfortable a thought to have.

Here’s the full experiment in more detail:

Here’s a thought…

The danger about people working in low-paying jobs is that cognitive dissonance may arise in the same manner as it is showed in the following Dilbert cartoon strip:

“Dilbert” by Scott Adams

One final, even more realistic hypothetical scenario:

Imagine you hate your job.

But you’re still going through the motions in that job.


Well, you might start persuading yourself that it’s comfortable, familiar, pays okay, that going to find another job would be too much hassle, and that it’s actually not that bad really.

It’s actually not that bad, really…

Know Thyself

If you’re not satisfied with something in your life, don’t rationalise the problem away.

Now that you know about cognitive dissonance, you are now conscious of the mental gymnastics we are wired to go through and the tricks your mind can play on you if you let it.

Re-wire, de-programme.

Don’t fall for this trick.

Because if you do, ultimately – the joke’s on you.

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