From Minimalism To Tech

The Poverty of Witch Hunts

Posted in Money on October 24th, 2017

In the past decade, we’ve witnessed the rise of witch hunts against a wide variety of people. We expect these to continue and we expect it will take more discipline to avoid them. Some of this rise is due to social media and the view that we have a right to judge others (we don’t). Some of this is also due to the propagandist Ryan Holiday who used the technique of “outrage marketing” – highlighting outrageous errors by others so that it spreads across social media platforms quickly. Some witch hunts are popular because the person is an “enemy” of a group and trashing the person serves that purpose. Finally, all witch hunts lack reflection that we are all guilty of making mistakes. In all of these witch hunts, we waste our time, energy, and encourage ourselves to engage in strong self delusion. In other words, we lose significant amounts of potential due to these – not just money, but a loss of character.

We All Make Mistakes

Discipline is the ultimate form of wealth.

Every person reading this and the person writing this has made mistakes. No one is exceptional here. No one. If we all make mistakes, why do we judge others? If we all make mistakes, why are we outraged by other peoples’ mistakes? If we all make mistakes, why do we think we have a right to judge others’ mistakes?

In the biographical financial series (see below this), we highlight famous people in history for what they’ve done well. We avoid passing judgment on these people because we’ve made more mistakes than any of the people we’ve highlighted. And the same holds true today: we are no better than any of the people featured in witch hunts the past few years and in the future. We know how much time and energy it takes to perfect ourselves and even with all that time and energy, we’re still not close to perfection. If we feel frustration, we should feel frustration at our own shortcomings, not other peoples’ shortocmings.

We have nothing against imperfect people. We are imperfect. And people’s errors are not our business anyway – our focus should be on perfecting ourselves.

Example: Former Witch Hunter

Let’s credit Jamie Kilstein for seeing his own flaws and admitting that his former criticisms of other people, compared to his own mistakes, were absurd. Let’s also recognize that we do the same thing when we engage in witch hunts of other people – while making huge errors of our own, we condemn others who do.

None of us are better than Jamie Kilstein: all of us are just as likely to become witch hunters.

What Is the Disciplined Action We Can Take?

As long time readers know, we state that discipline is the greatest form of wealth because it cannot be controlled by anyone and can be used in every situation. The one ring of power is discipline. In the case of witch hunts, what is the most disciplined action we can take? Avoid them. This takes work, especially in a world that encourages us to mind other people’s business, even though we should not.

Discipline takes work: “mind your own business” requires discipline. Judging other people demonstrates a lack of discipline. Not only are we guilty of making mistakes, our focus on other’s problems means we’re not focusing on perfecting ourselves. This won’t lead to anywhere successful. We only have so much energy everyday to spend for mental attention – how much are we wasting on witch hunts? As the most powerful form of wealth, discipline means we avoid the witch hunt, which saves us energy that we can direct on becoming better versions of ourselves.

We won’t succeed financially, or in any area of life, if we’re constantly focusing our attention on witch hunts. In doing this, we lose sight of our own flaws and we lose energy that we could devote to perfecting ourselves. If our goal is to become losers, fail miserably, and waste time, we should focus our attention on others and engage in witch hunts. But if we want to improve ourselves, we must learn to focus our attention on our own flaws and work on ourselves. Other people are not nearly as flawed as we are and when we look in the mirror, we should see a huge list of mistakes in ourselves that we don’t see in others.

The only definition of failure is not living up to our full potential and we can only achieve our full potential with discipline. We should never worry about other peoples’ potential – it’s not our business.

Poverty In the Numbers

Suppose that we lose three hours a week in a witch hunt. That’s a loss of three hours we could be building a skill or doing something productive, like connecting with people in a positive way. We could also use those three hours to reflect over our flaws and ask how we can improve. It doesn’t stop at three hours though: as we know with behavior, as we build a pattern of behavior (judging), we increase the activity. We’ve all seen people who started small in witch hunts, but soon it began to consume their life. Looking at it from a compound perspective, in time, we began to consume more of our time engaging in witch hunts. That three hours becomes ten hours eventually and none of these hours improve our lives.

If you look at median income for the individual, most witch hunts waste several thousand dollars a year for the individual. Is a loss of $3000 a year worth feeling superior to someone else, even when we’re all just as flawed? As we continue our behavioral pattern, is $6000 worth it? $12000? We’re not just losing time, we’re losing potential that we could have devoted elsewhere.

Specific Techniques To Avoid Witch Hunts

To avoid these witch hunts, here are five techniques to use that will help all of us:

  1. Get off social media. Witch hunts have grown in popularity due to social media. Without social media, witch hunts don’t spread as quickly. While I understand business social media, personal social media can be a waste. Stop using it, except for specific purposes. As we reduce using it, businesses may not need it either.
  2. Every time we hear a flaw of another person from any source – media, friends, etc – let’s immediately identify at least 3 of our own flaws. Rather than focus our energy on another person’s flaw, let’s spend energy on how we can improve. This creates a mind shift where we learn to hear other people’s flaws as cues to our own flaws so that our focus is spent on self-improvement, not self-righteousness in judging others. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that it takes all our energy on self-perfection, leaving us no energy to focus on others’ flaws. And even then, we’re still not perfect!
  3. Let’s obey Solomon’s Proverbs 13:20 – “He who walks with the wise, grows wise. But a companion of fools suffers harm.” People who judge others imply they are perfect. No one is. As this post proves, it takes an enormous amount of energy to improve oneself – that’s where our energy should be spent; not on judging others. We can reduce our time with people who engage in witch hunts. It’s not our place. In time, we’ll identify people who spend their energy on self-improvement and who will challenge us to grow as people.
  4. Let’s stop reading news, especially news that engages in witch hunts, gossip, self-righteousness, etc. All of us want discipline, as we know discipline is the greatest form of wealth. Not reading the “latest information on a person” requires discipline. We all feel like we have a right to know about everyone else, yet we should still avoid this temptation. No news means that we’ll save time for other productive purposes, along with using and becoming better disciples of discipline.
  5. Raise our own awareness when we “virtue signal” – a form of self-righteousness. Since all of us stumble and make mistakes, condemning others or trying to hype ourselves is disingenuous. It takes courage to admit that we’re as fallen as the people we criticize. Let’s raise our own awareness when we’re virtue signalling and avoid it.

Biographical Financial Series

Let’s ignore a person’s mistakes and errors – as we’ll commit greater errors – and let’s focus our energy on learning skills that we can use to become better people. Anyone can find a flaw with the characters we cover, but how many people can learn pragmatic skills and see the virtue in each person? This takes work. We’re naturally negative people who don’t want to learn – we are naturally undisciplined. Yet perfect or not, the below people show us some positive lessons we can apply in our life.

  1. The Poverty of Witch Hunts: Growing Character Through Biographies
  2. 4 Financial Lessons From Alexander Suvorov
  3. 4 Financial Lessons From Genghis Khan
  4. 4 Financial Lessons From John D. Rockefeller
  5. 4 Financial Lessons From Yuri Bezmenov
  6. 4 Financial Lessons From Deng Xiaoping
  7. 4 Financial Lessons From Sir Isaac Newton
  8. 4 Financial Lessons From Erich Hartmann
  9. The Full Series


All witch hunts start with one of the most powerful vices: pride. Humility says that we should be focused on our errors, our mistakes, our flaws, which we all hate to do. It takes significant discipline to be humble, but without humility we won’t improve. Let’s devote our attention to improving ourselves and stay out of witch hunts. Witch hunts come and go and many people will someday regret all the time they spent judging others when they realize that they are guilty of similar – or worse – mistakes. We are not better than other people and we never will be better than other people.

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