A few thoughts on squandering human potential

Todd Kashdan
2 min readJun 16, 2020

Be careful of bracket creep when throwing around the words racist sexist and evil. Eventually the words will mean nothing other than someone expressed an opinion you disagreed with. The consequence: you won’t be able to discern who does and doesn’t have bad intentions. More people will be blindsided when applying for jobs, loans, and homes.

There is a lost art to precision. Be clear with your terms. Don’t overreach. Search for perfection and everyone will be socially persecuted in due course, even you.

Captured by Everlast in their one hit wonder:

I’ve seen a rich man beg I’ve seen a good man sin

I’ve seen a tough man cry

I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin

I heard an honest man lie

I’ve seen the good side of bad and the downside of up

And everything between

And so have you.

Be courageous enough to resist walking down the path of simple falsehoods and instead stroll on the path of complex truths.

I’ve met few men and woman that I could simplify down to a single pronouncement of good or evil. I have met many inspirational and admirable people who would never pass the strict moral standards of the modern world where you are irrevocably judged by your least socially desirable moment irrespective of how much you learned and redeemed yourself.

The mentor who taught me the most about how to be a therapist had a dark past filled with dark stories. He understood suffering and helped relieve patients like no other. I fear a society that would obstruct him by his past as opposed to guiding him into the beautiful wounded healer that left a lasting mark of profundity. I fear a society that decides a teenager’s life trajectory by a few words they wrote online. I fear a society that forgets to test whether the stories they are being fed are the best fit to the available data. I fear a society that spends their time confirming pre-existing beliefs while ignoring inconvenient, inconsistent information. A plea for slow, systematic, information processing where biases are recognized and attempts are made to minimize them. Let’s make tough decisions. But before making the decisions, let’s use all of our mental faculties to ensure information being used have been carefully and fairly scrutinized beforehand.

Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a Professor of Psychology who leads The Well-Being Laboratory at George Mason University. Dr. Kashdan is the author of several books including Curious? and The Upside of Your Dark Side.



Todd Kashdan

Professor, psychologist, well-being researcher. For my latest writings read my Provoked column at: toddkashdan.com and my new book THE ART OF INSUBORDINATION