Hairy Legs and Increasing your Income

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I read with interest a piece by Natalie Schriefer entitled “I didn’t shave my legs for a month. I learned a surprising (and sad) lesson.” It is interesting since it demonstrates a misconception that many people have when it comes to working and earning an income: That jobs are all about the employees and that all employees should have their needs met by the company. The issue is that in order for your needs to be fully met as an employee, someone needs to pay to meet those needs. That person isn’t your boss, but the customer, and the customer is (and should) only be paying something equal to the value of whatever good or service you’re providing. The secret to doing well in the workforce or the dating world is to realize that it’s not about pleasing yourself, but pleasing other people. Those who learn this lesson prosper in both areas. Those who simply do the minimum and wait for their needs to be met are just left waiting.

In her piece, Ms. Schriefer talks about one period in her life where she decided that she wouldn’t shave her legs. She thought that it would be interesting to see just how long her leg hairs could grow and, more importantly, how exciting and interesting others would find her experiment to be. Notice that while she may have believed that she was doing this for herself in a moment of self-care, what others thought and how they reacted was at least as important to her as what she received from the experience. This wasn’t really about science of anatomy, but about getting attention and affirmation.

“Playing the role of an amateur scientist, I even came up with hypotheses: I predicted that people would laugh when I told them what I was doing. That’s what they’d done for my previous experiments, which had ranged from How long can I go without upgrading to a smartphone to what’s the best gas mileage I can get with a 20-year-old car? Then, once they’d had their chuckle, I figured everyone would ask, ‘So … how long did it grow?’ “

— Natalie Schriefer, NBC News

She was therefore disheartened when the most common reaction wasn’t to ask her why she was not shaving her legs or how long her leg hairs got, but instead to ask what her boyfriend thought of her not shaving her legs.

“What I didn’t expect was the question I actually received: ‘What does your boyfriend think?’ “

— Natalie Schriefer, NBC News

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When people didn’t act the way she expected, asking about her, her feelings, her fuzzy legs, and how long the hairs were, she was deeply offended. Rather than affirming and supporting her decision, people around her chastised her. She felt like she was being oppressed by friends and family, not being allowed to make decisions about her body. That her boyfriend, a member of an apparent patriarchy running the country (and who had actually not even been around to weigh in on the issue), was dictating what she did with her body:

 “The pushback made me feel like I’d done something wrong. It implied that I wasn’t allowed to make decisions about my body on my own, that I needed my boyfriend’s approval even to experiment.”

— Natalie Schriefer, NBC News

Her article demonstrates two things. The first that she has a strong need for affirmation and for people to focus on her. She didn’t just need to not shave her legs, but needed people to be interested and cheer her on. “You go, fuzzy girl!” When that didn’t happen, she decided that it was because men as a group were dictating how women should groom. The second was her misunderstanding of freedom and the fundamental principle that everyone gets a voice and a vote.

She was perfectly free to shave or not shave. Others were free to think it was neat or gross and react as they wished, or even to really not to care enough to have an opinion. We really don’t know how her boyfriend reacted. Maybe he thought it was great and sexy. Maybe he thought it was disgusting and wouldn’t touch her until she shaved. Maybe he broke up with her over it. His reaction with approval, disapproval, or apathy, however, had no effect on her freedom to act as she chose. In fact, to require her boyfriend and others to approve of her decisions would be to take away their freedom. In her proposed society she can do whatever she wishes and everyone else needs to have the reaction she desires. Total freedom for her, enslavement to her desires for others. Not the way freedom works.

It’s true that there are cultural norms in appearance where each society decides what is considered attractive. These norms can change over time, where big, muscular men may be considered sexy in one generation and slender, clean-cut men considered attractive in the next. In the distant past plus-sized women were considered sexy, then fit but curvy women in the 1980s, then slender and athletic women today. Through the 1960s and 1970s ample body hair in the chest for men and in the nether regions for both sexes was considered perfectly normal and the clean-shaven individuals of today would have been considered freaks. People generally choose to act a certain way, dress a certain way, or groom themselves in such a way to attract a mate, which means the focus is on what others desire and not what we like. Yes, we often act, dress, and groom to please other people based upon what they find attractive, but we do it for what we get from them when they are attracted.

And actually, while she blames “men” for her requirement to shave her legs:

“My experiment was small and somewhat silly, but its implications are far-reaching. Even in the 21st century, the cultural expectation was that my body hair choices should be dictated by the men in my life.” 

— Natalie Schriefer, NBC News

many, probably most of the criticism she received on her decision to not shave her legs came from other women. What men will find attractive will vary by the man (because we each have our own minds, experiences, and preferences) and often have nothing to do with the expectations set by beauty magazines and what becomes fashionable among women friend groups. My experience is that the women who seem most worried about their appearance focus on things that I couldn’t care less about but for which they receive great notice by their friends and other fashion-minded women. Take for example that few men I know notice the shoes women wear, but I’ve seen many women spend enormous amounts to have vast shoe collections with very expensive shoes in them because other women will notice and comment on them.

Going back to Ms. Schriefer, what if the shoe were on the other foot? Would she just go along with whatever grooming decisions her boyfriend makes and behaviors he chooses to do? Should she support her boyfriend and want to snuggle with him if he decided to smear dog poop across his chest each night? What if he decided to emit a constant screeching sound? What if he decided to join a pro-life group and spend time picketing abortion clinics, given that she is clearly pro-abortion rights from her article? What if he were to make constant racist jokes? If she were to find these actions repulsive, would it be constraining his freedoms if she didn’t want to be around him? If women in general found his actions repulsive and he had trouble finding a girlfriend, would this be matriarchal control of his life? No, he can decide what he wants to do, then Ms. Schriefer can decide what she wants to do in reaction to his actions. Likewise, she can groom or not groom as she desires, but he gets to decide if he wants to remain her boyfriend. And his physical attraction is likely beyond his control.

We can all choose what we want to do, but others will have reactions and their reactions are up to them. If you wish to attract and keep others as a mate, you’ll attract more partners if you think about what they want instead of doing whatever you want. You certainly can do whatever you want, but your success in attracting potential mates will be less and your choices in a mate will be more limited. Because attractiveness is also a component of success in any interaction involving others (note that very successful bloggers and social media influencers tend to be attractive women) and a certain level of attractiveness is needed to make most people be willing to interact with you at all, foregoing basic standards of grooming and dress will close doors for you even outside of the dating world.

Giving and Business Success

Note that success in securing and keeping mate requires one think about the desires and needs of the mate. In other words, thinking of others instead of one’s self. One is free to dress, groom, and act as desired, but potential mates have choices, too. If you choose to not shave your legs or wear deodorant because you like to spread your natural musk, you might find it difficult to find a partner unless they have a fetish for your unusual habits or they are masochistic or noble enough to deny their desires to accommodate yours.

Succeeding in business or a career similarly requires that you think about the needs and desires of other people. You could open a gas station in a remote canyon because you want to live in a remote canyon but don’t want to drive far to get to work, but if only a few cars travel through each day, you will not be successful. You need to consider where people need gas stations and put stations there. As a result, like magic, you can usually travel in unfamiliar places without worry, knowing there will likely be a gas station where you need it. Others are thinking about where gas stations are needed and placing them there. They don’t do this because they wish for you to have gasoline, but because they feel those are the locations that will be most successful. Once the best locations are taken and covered by a few stations, secondary locations are filled and so on until every location that can sustain a station is basically covered.

But success extends beyond business owners. As an employee, realize that your salary and benefits are paid for by customers. It isn’t just in your boss’ interest to please customers, it’s in yours as well. Plus, if you’re doing things to please customers and make your employer more successful, you become more valuable to your employer (and other employers) and will be more successful in your career.

Employees who sit around waiting to be given direction, do the bare minimum, see customers as annoyances to be dealt with, and wait for their company to make their life better are rarely happy and successful. It is employees who are thinking about how they can improve products and services, trying to give customers just what they need and at a fair price, and looking for things to do and ways they can make an impact that do better. If they interface directly with customers, they are professional, respectful, kind, cheerful, honest, and listening to their customers’ needs and working to provide for them. If they do things more for the business rather than customers directly, they are thinking about their company’s needs and how those feed the customer needs) and trying to figure out how to provide the best service there and be an invaluable employee.

This philosophy is described in the book, the Go-Giver. In this book, a young man wants to learn how to be successful in business. He meets various successful people and finds that the way they became successful was by being honest and giving with their customers. They strove to give more than what they received and in doing so, received more in return.

Free-enterprise is about giving

As a final note, while some see capitalism and free-enterprise as greed-based, really they are giving based. Realize that people in general will do what is in their best interest. With socialism, the focus of the individual is on himself or herself. He or she demands things and expects them to be delivered. When resources are scarce (as they always are under socialism since productivity drops), people are left to fight for the scraps that are left. With socialism, producing more does not get you more since everything is taken and divided up after whomever is in charge of distributing the goods gets a cut. The people who “win” under socialism are those who give less then they receive in return. The ones who win the most are those who take charge of the system since then they can both take all they want and decide who gets which goods, allowing them to give preferential treatment in exchange for favors.

With capitalism, you get more by pleasing other people, making them want to work and produce things for you. Usually this is indirect, where they produce things for other people, then receive cash from those people that they then give to you, but the effect is the same in that people are encouraged to produce things themselves so that they can trade for what you have to provide. People have an incentive to produce things because that results in more for them.

And it isn’t just producing random things. People need to consider what things others need that are not already being produced in ample supplies and figure out how to get those things to market. The ones who “win” are those who help out the most people with the things that they need most since that results in them receiving the most in return. Everyone is thinking about other people and spending their time working to provide for them. This results in more production overall and more for everyone. It also allows for more charity for those who really need it since there is more to go around.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

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