How Not to Experience a Personal Collapse

I have just read Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. It’s a very interesting book. In his previous book – Guns, Germs, and Steel – Diamond talks about how certain societies can be more successful than others. Now in Collapse, he talks about how certain societies fails while others don’t. So it’s the negative counterpart of Guns, Germs and Steel.

streamingWhat makes me interested is seeing what have caused collapse in so many past societies. As evident from the book, those societies had certain bad habits that unconsciously brought themselves down to collapse. One main cause is they unconsciously ruin their own environment in such a way that the environment lose its ability to support them. So it’s unconscious suicide ! They often overexploited their environment faster than the ability of the environment to recover. Hence, without they knew it, they actually committed undeliberate suicide to themselves.

I think there are lessons we can get from this to be applied to personal life. Here are some I can think of:

  1. Watch yourself for bad habits
    Be careful. Whether you are aware of it or not, some of the habits you have may actually be “self-destructive”. Watch yourself carefully and identify those habits before it’s too late.
  2. Have self-consciousness
    After you have identified the bad habits, now it’s time to eliminate them. Of course it’s not easy to do so, but the good news is it’s always possible. What you must do is developing self-consciousness so that whenever you start doing that habit, you can quickly be aware of it and stop it !
  3. Don’t overexploit yourself
    This is a common pitfall in this competitive world. People want to achieve more and more until they unconsciously overexploit themselves. They may achieve more, but only at the expense of their production capability. Don’t do it this way. You should maintain the balance between your production and production capability. If you do so, you will be much more productive in the long run.
  4. Learn from others
    One advantage we have today is we can learn from both those past societies and other present societies. Those past societies didn’t have this luxury, and that’s way it’s much more difficult for them not to repeat the same mistakes again and again. This advantage also applies to personal level. The globalization and Internet era we live in allows us to learn from each other in much better way than in any other time in history. Use this advantage to your maximum benefit. Read books, blogs and articles so that you can learn from others, what makes them successful and fail. You do not need to repeat their mistakes.


  1. Monique Avakian
    Monique Avakian

    Donald, I know this is an older post, but I wonder if you can examine over-expoiting yourself, or if you have done something on that elsewhere.

    I am a highly motivated person, but I over-do like crazy. I really struggle in this area….life is so short! I want to do it all, and do it yesterday and better than others. I know I over-do and it ends up badly.


  2. Monique,
    I also wanted to do many things but then realized that I couldn’t. In my opinion, the 80-20 rule is a good solution for this. Since we can’t do everything we want, we need to choose only those few things that have the most impact.

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