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Andy Warhol: Don’t Make a Problem of your Problems, How a Person Gets Disciplined, and The Value of Time on Values

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In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), Warhol advises us not to make a problem of our problems.

Everybody has problems, but the thing is to not make a problem about your Problem. For example, if you have no money and you worry about it all the time, you’ll get an ulcer and have a real problem and you still won’t have any money because people sense when you’re desperate and nobody wants anything to do with a desperate person. But if you don’t care about having no money, then people will give you money because you don’t care and they’ll think it’s nothing and give it away—make you take it. But if you have a problem about having no money and taking money and think you can’t take it and get guilty and want to be “independent,” then it’s a problem. Whereas if you just take the money and act spoiled and spend it like it’s nothing, then it’s not a problem and people keep wanting to give you more.

How does a person get disciplined? More importantly Warhol comments on why it takes a while sometimes to see that we have the wrong values.

The telephone rang.

B answered it. “Pronto.”

It was my art dealer in Torino, calling to invite us to lunch. I tried to motion to B that I wanted to go someplace where they’d have cherries.

When B got off the phone he said that we were meeting our dealer for lunch, and then he asked me, “How do you get disciplined?”

“How does a person get disciplined?”

Right. I want to know how you’re supposed to pick up good habits. It’s very easy to pick up bad ones. You always want to go after the bad habits. Say you eat ravioli one day and you like it so you eat it the next day and the next day and before you know it you have a ravioli habit or a pasta habit or a drug habit or a sex habit or a smoking habit or a cocaine habit . . .”

Was he trying to make me feel guilty about the cherries? “You’re asking me how you get out of the bad habits?” I asked him. No, he said he didn’t want to know how you get out of the bad ones—just how you get into the good ones.

Everybody has their good habits,” he said, “that they do automatically that maybe they learned when they were little—brushing your teeth, not talking with your mouth full, saying excuse me—but other good habits—like writing a chapter a day or jogging every morning—are harder to get into. That’s what I mean by ‘discipline’—how do you get new, good habits? I’m asking you because you’re so disciplined.”

“No, I’m not disciplined, really,” I said. “It just looks that way because I do what people tell me to do and I don’t complain about it while it’s happening.” That’s a three-part rule of mine: (1) never complain about a situation while the situation is still going on; (2) if you can’t believe it’s happening, pretend it’s a movie; and (3) after it’s over, find somebody to pin the blame on and never let them forget it. If the person you pin the blame on is smart they’ll turn it into a running joke so whenever you bring it up you can both laugh about it, and that way the horrible situation can turn out to be fun in retrospect. (But it all depends on how mercilessly you hound the person you’re blaming, because they’ll only make a joke out of it when they’re desperate, and the more desperate you make them by hounding them, the better the joke they’ll make out of it.)

“It’s not discipline, B,” I repeated. “It’s knowing what you really want.” Anything a person really wants is okay with me.

“All right. But let’s take champagne. All my life I wanted as much champagne as I could drink, but now that I’m getting all the champagne I ever wanted and more, look what I’m getting—a double chin!”

“You’re also finding out that champagne isn’t what you really want, since you don’t want a double chin. You’re finding out that champagne isn’t what you want, it’s beer you want.”

“Then I’d get a beer belly.” B laughed at the idea of a champagne chin and a beer belly.

“Then beer isn’t what you want, either.”

“But that’s not hard to figure out—nobody wants beer.”

“Yes they do,” I told him. “You’re the one who told the joke about an Irish seven-course dinner being a boiled potato and a six-pack.”

“Yes, I suppose … But it’s not the thing I want so much as the idea of the thing.”

“Then that’s just advertising,” I reminded him.

“Right, but it works because the reason I want champagne, the reason most people want champagne, is they’re impressed with the idea—Champagne!—like they’re impressed with the idea of caviar. Champagne and caviar is status.”

That was not completely true. In some society shit is status. “Look,” I told him, “you realized when you ended up with a double chin that your values were misplaced. Right? It takes time to find out, but you’re finding out. Even today you put your nose up in the air if you don’t have dinner with the Afghanellis, the Cuchinellis, the Pickinellis, the Mount- bottoms, the Van Tissens—”