Erudite Primitivism

Life lessons from Sterling Archer

Archer is my favorite show, with the first 7 seasons being home to the smartest comedy on television. Although much of the humor in the show comes from Archer being a selfish asshole, I also think he has some genuinely profound insights into life that we would all do well to recognize. These 3 quotes are my favorite Archer 'Life Lessons', with a little commentary on each.

S5E8 - The Rules of Extraction

"Why clog your brain with a bunch of hypothetical maybe what-if bullshit?"

Archer, Ray, and Cyril are stuck in Colombia, trying to figure out how to get home. They find a plane and come up with a plan to steal it, but Cyril asks how they plan to fly it home, since they don't have a pilot. Angry, Archer asks why he would worry about that before he has to, finishing with the above quote.

I like this comment because it speaks to an issue that myself and many others deal with - anxiously considering all the way things could go wrong and problems that we might face. I'm reminded of the Seneca quote - "We suffer more in imagination than in reality". Instead of filling your head with hypothetical scenarios and anxiously ruminating on them, just focus on the six inches in front of your face. There's a here and now, and that's the only thing you can control. If an issue arises, deal with it - but sitting there in an anxiety filled state will only hamper your ability to face the present.

S6E6 - Sitting

"That was a teachable moment, about a little thing called confidence. And contrary to what you may have heard, you can never have too much of it."

Archer is left to babysit baby AJ as Lana leaves for the weekend. Lana expects that Archer will call for help before the weekend is up, but Archer asserts that he'll be able to totally handle it. As Lana leaves, Archer says the above to AJ.

Confidence is the greatest cheat code to life. The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both usually right. When you decide to start having an absurd level of confidence that is by no means warranted, you'll start to notice serious changes in your life. Projects at work are finished quicker, workouts are easier, and people like being around you more. Too often, though, we tell ourselves stories as to why we shouldn't be confident. Maybe I'm not attractive enough to be confident, or good enough at my job, or able to handle people well enough. These thoughts make us not confident, which in turn makes all the above things true. But if you start from a level of total confidence, even if you have no evidence for why you should be that confident, you'll be surprised at what opens up for you in life.

S7E8 - Liquid Lunch

"What am I gonna do, Lana, stand out in the hall the rest of my life?"

Archer, Slater, and Lana are hunting down a target. The target fires two shotgun blasts through a door, at which point Archer bursts in and apprehends the target. Lana asks how Archer knew the shotgun was a double-barrel, and didn't have more rounds. Archer responds that he didn't know that, and Lana asks why he would just barge in without knowing. Archer responds with the above.

This is a simple comment about action. Risk is an unavoidable fact of life, and whenever we act, we expose ourselves to some risk. But if we fail to take decisive action, we'll never really experience anything in life. In my opinion, that would be the greatest risk of all - to die without truly having lived. So, act. Make decisions. Expose yourself to risk, volatility, and uncertainty. Because the opposite course, standing out in the hall your whole life, is far, far worse.

Despite Archer's numerous flaws, I do think these quotes are worth remembering. In short: Be confident, take decisive action, and focus on the present moment.

- 3 toasts