Confronting my blueprints – and fixing them


I received a number of blueprints from my parents: specific primary language but also awareness of the value of a particular secondary language, specific culture, specific moral values, specific religion, and specific ideas and expectations about money and the process of making money as an adult.

I have confronted the language (Afrikaans), and accepted it as good enough for my needs. I also accepted that the secondary language (English) had considerable value – as confirmed and modelled by my parents, and also mastered this language.

I have confronted the specific culture (Afrikaans/South African culture) and accepted it as good enough for my needs – everyone needs “culture” as part of their identity and as part of the way they fit into the broad community.

The particular moral values I confronted, and accepted most of them as fair and noble.

Finally, I also confronted the particular religion, and to a large extent found that it lacked credibility. With time, the “energy” that the specific religious worldview and frame of reference had had in my brain got exhausted (since it wasn’t being regularly refreshed and fortified), and I replaced it with an alternative worldview and an alternative frame of reference.

The specific relationship with money, ideas about how adult life works, and what my expectations should be when my turn arrived to start earning money as an adult to sustain myself and possibly other people … were more difficult to confront. These things didn’t have a name like a nationality with accompanying symbolism. Poverty and wealth were universal. Good people struggled all over the world to keep their heads above water. Ideas about money and how adult life works and what my expectations should be were not specific in the same way that the religion with which I grew up was specific and visibly different from what people believed and did in, for example, India, or Saudi Arabia. It was also easier to interpret failures as the result of my particular personality, even my specific ambitions – for example, I preferred spending time on my own projects to selling my time to someone else, who I feared would oblige me to do boring, simplistic tasks.

I rebelled against the ideas I grew up with. “Money isn’t everything,” I said. “I’ll show them,” I said. “They will not get the best of me.” [12/10/18: I thought I had rebelled against the ideas I grew up with, but I only rebelled against certain aspects. The expectation of failure had been fully internalised.]

I had visions of becoming a hermit, and of breaking away from the conventional way of doing things.

Unfortunately, I had to eat, pay rent, and buy clothes. And seeing that I was earning a living in Northeast Asia in an attempt to get away from the bad world where things didn’t work out for my parents, and where I fully expected things to not work out for me (meaning, the suburban middle class in South Africa), I also had to buy a plane ticket every year or two to visit my family.

Eventually I met a woman whom I liked very much and who I wanted as my life partner. I was deeply aware of the difference that more money would have made in our lives. But how? More knowledge was surely the answer, I believed. Learn how to make money. Be bold. Imagine you can be a good salesman. Learn how to trade on the financial markets. If I could only learn the right lessons about making money, I reckoned, get good advice on what to do when, and have money to spend on knowledge and opportunities and resources, it was just a matter of time.

It’s been more than twenty years since I graduated from university. I’ve become clever about many topics related to making money. I know how to publish and market books; how to develop and sell websites; how to write reviews about products, publish them on the web, and make money when people buy the product; and how to earn money trading foreign currencies. But how do I make most of my income? By selling my time to local language centres and helping people improve their English. Seeing that most of my students are adults and that most of the classes have a social value that is not unpleasant, I can say that it’s not a bad way to make money.

There are, however, a few rhetorical questions I can’t ignore: Is this method of earning an income sustainable? Do I save enough money with this job to last me into old age? If I lose my ability to do this job in an accident, will I receive compensation?

Has my current financial position something to do with the ideas I received when I was younger? Does it have anything to do with the expectations I developed of how adult life works, especially when it comes to earning a living?


It sounds like I blame my parents for me not doing better financially, and I don’t like it. But it would be dishonest to claim that I’m not laying some blame at their doorstep – they did program me after all with a faulty operating system, or with programming that only worked for some people in the decades when my parents had to make a living as young adults.

It is, however, and has been, my responsibility to confront any faulty programming I had received as a young “robot”. And I cannot, and do not, blame my parents for my failure to realise, a long time ago, what the problem was, nor do I blame them for my failure to remedy the situation in a more timely manner.