Examining Motivation and Reflecting on Why We Do The Things We Do

I once heard someone say that, “Most people don’t even know why they do the things they do.”

This concept struck a chord with me, and I incorporated the idea into an entry I wrote early last year on motivation, titled: A More Fluid Look at Life and Going Beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy, saying: 

The truth is, most people don’t even know why they believe the things they do, and even fewer know why they do the things they do.

Today I feel as if this was almost a prescient notion, given that, in hindsight, I don’t really feel I knew myself well enough back then to know the undercurrents of my beliefs and actions – nor did I know how interrelated the two were; in fact, looking back, I have to practically examine the contents of my unconscious in order to understand my thoughts and actions, as I see now that I had falsely attributed many of my behaviors to others – as victims of their circumstance, and thus themselves, are wont to do.

In short, I had my reasons but they were more rationalization than justification or cause. However, this makes sense to me given what I have since learned about myself and human nature in general – insofar as I am capable of understanding my own ideas and applying other’s models to my behavior.

Because, as I have learned, behavior is the only true marker of a person’s motivations. And as anyone who has dated the wrong person can tell you, what people say and what people do can be as different as night and day, but if we are honest, we must admit that this applies to ourselves as well; although, we prefer to think otherwise – just as guiltier parties are apt to do [1].

We all unconsciously maintain internal consistency regardless of the consequence, and as neuroscience research has shown, cognitive dissonance reduction happens almost instantly, as we immediately alter our internal preferences to rationalize our choices and actions. Meaning, we think we know why we do the things we do, but in actuality we confuse rationalization for motivation. Of course, we are not impartial audiences to ourselves, so while our behavior may confound others, we always end up making sense of the things we do – even if this means placing the blame on factors that have no causative correlation to our choices.

An example of this kind of automatic cognitive dissonance reduction is found in the Aesop’s Fable of The Fox and The Grapes, in which the fox, unable to reach the grapes he desired, declares: “I didn’t want those grapes, they were sour anyway.”

Unfortunately for humans, it’s much more complex than sour grapes but nonetheless, we frequently justify our actions in ways that absolve us of personal responsibility, thus removing the burden of logic from our actions, making cognitive dissonance reduction very simple.

Yes, it’s your partners fault you were unfaithful (shakes head).

Yup, it was Obama’s fault.

So, essentially, given that actions are the only reliable markers of motivation, we must look beyond excuses or rationalizations and examine our current and past actions in themselves to understand ourselves; for anything else is an attempt to reason through analogy rather than first principles, which lead to the true reasons we do the things we do: our beliefs.

Or rather, I should say, our underlying beliefs, because, again, most people don’t even know why they believe the things they do.

I know because I was one of these people. And it wasn’t that I only let others down, no – I let myself down just as much, if not more (As, at a certain point others adopt more realistic expectations of you than you yourself have). I couldn’t tell you how many times I have told myself I was going to do something, and despite it being the right thing and even the optimal thing for my happiness, I simply did otherwise. It wasn’t that I was lying to myself, no – I believed I was going to do the thing – it was that I was fooling myself; I was attempting to live according to a set of beliefs that didn’t align with who I was, which my underlying beliefs were the determining factor of.

Here I am reminded of one of my absolute favorite quotes – again, something that has grown profoundly deeper in meaning to me since it first struck me:

“We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them – to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”

– James Baldwin, Another Country

Story of my life. And the story for all of us who have been our own worst enemies in life. The story for all of us.

And this is partly why I am writing: so I can understand why I have done what I have done, without lying about it – without fooling myself any longer.

The other reason I am writing this tonight is because this year I looked back on the past few years of my life and I felt very confused as to why I had not been more successful. I had, without a doubt, all the tools at my disposal to achieve the things I wanted. I even worked myself ragged to do so; however, I never did the things I knew I needed to do in order to succeed. I simply kept them just out of arm’s length from myself, piling on a never-ending list of tasks and projects that would prevent me from putting the rubber to the road.

In hindsight, my first inclination was that I simply lacked the confidence in myself to succeed. But this was not true; although, my lack of success had no doubt brought that fear to life somewhat, as failure does nothing to foster one’s confidence. On this note, I see that it was more a lack of trust in myself than it was confidence – but still, that alone did not explain my failure to succeed, as I trusted in myself enough to bet on myself. Still, there was something missing.

Then, about three weeks ago, I watched a video a friend sent me, from e-entrepreneur Peter Voogd:

There’s a lot of good stuff in this video, but what struck me was:

“Motivation is not a discipline thing, it’s really understanding how bad you want something. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to be motivated. If you are not motivated, you don’t want it bad enough.”

This made something click for me.

I had had previously created a moderately significant level of business success in my early and mid twenties, so I knew what that felt like – not just the success, which was it’s own reward, but the drive, which was almost like a drug. I knew what it felt like to be so excited to wake up in the morning and to work until I absolutely had to force myself to stop and use the restroom. There was no question back when I was twenty-three, of whether I was motivated or not. I was fucking on. I had an almost sexual, impulsive, unstoppable drive to work and to succeed.

Of course, at the time, I was largely motivated to show an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t gotten over that she was a fucking idiot for X, Y, and Z. Long story short: I got her back once I succeeded, and – poof – my motivation was gone.

A year and some change later, and she was too.

I’m not here to write my biography, but this is my story. So, onward I go.

Two years later, I would fall in love again.

In short, this love and I shared different values on material things and ambition and she did a lot to bring me down to earth, which helped shape me into the man I am today; unfortunately, however, I see now that I had adopted and shaped my outward beliefs in a manner that really was not authentic to me, but, rather, were designed to conform to her wants and my want to make her happy.

Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way.

Today, a year and some change out of that relationship, which would span three of the more difficult years of my life (Due to my own bullshit), I once again am looking to get back in touch with the kind of motivating forces that lead me to work so hard that I nearly burst my bladder. That is how bad I want to succeed again today. But I know, the desire has to be authentic.

From 27 to 30, I tried telling myself I just wanted self-actualization.

I tried fitting my beliefs into Maslow’s model, as if I were an altruistic saint in waiting, ready to become the perfect version of myself.

But what happens when what you think you want isn’t what you want?

What happens when you are fucking lying to yourself about who you are?

As it says in Matthew 6:25: No man can be faithful to two masters.

“Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

But I tried.

Although, however hard we may try, the soul cannot betray itself.

Period.

The next big thing in my personal growth happened last summer as I was going through the breakup with Bunny, when I ended up with a severe cause of MRSA, which brought me to a place where I was pretty sure I would die [2]. Thank G-d I did not [3].

In the wake of my recovery, I had what you may call an identity crisis, or a kind of re-evaluating of my life, as often happens to those who brush up against their mortality.

It was following this when, I took a large sheet of paper, and on the top half, wrote: What Am I, and on the bottom: What Do I Pretend to Be?

The result looked like this:

What Am I?

  • a writer
  • a hippie
  • a dreamer
  • an introvert
  • a lover
  • bookish

 What Do I Pretend to Be?

  • a success
  • an extrovert
  • a startup guy
  • happy / social / cool

Following this, I rejected all of the things I listed under the bottom half – not realizing at the time they were a healthy part of my ego and persona. This, however, was in a sense good because I got to spend a lot of time cultivating and nourishing the introverted-bookish-writer-hippie-lover-dreamer aspects of my soul, which I had repressed in an effort to feed my ego / persona.

I spent a considerable amount of time being alone, writing, snorkeling, journaling on the beach at sunset, and kind of just withdrawing into myself in the wake of such a tumultuous period (End of a three year relationship coupled with blood-poisoning).

In the months that would follow I would slowly and progressively get to know myself again, and in many ways for the first time. And what I came to realize is that I wasn’t just the introverted-bookish-writer-hippie-lover-dreamer – I was, in fact, also the extroverted-successful-happy-social-cool-startup guy. And as I came to see life in and through altered perceptions, my perspective allowed me to see that I could be both, and much more.

Leading me to today where I view my brain as a kind of computer, my consciousness as the software, and my soul as the programmer.

The ego is no longer in charge, although, it’s there. In a word, I am happy. In another, I am whole.

And under this computerized model of cognition, I want everything, because I know anything is possible.

It was a major shock to realize I had created all the bullshit I faced. But it was freeing.

Now that I can see through my own perception, I want to program myself for optimum happiness. And not under some limited model – sorry Maslow [4].

Hence, I have been doing a lot of research on motivation.

I want to program myself to fulfill my potential; however, I know that in order to do that I need to get in touch with my deepest, most burning desires. I also know that what worked in the past is not an option today, for reasons known entirely to me. So I set out to discover what would make my gears turn with the efficiency of a well-serviced timepiece.

And it was in my research that I came across something I thought might help me uncover my underlying beliefs and keys to my motivation, leading me to write tonight.

Previously, in examining human motivation, I’ve looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy, Alderfer’s ERG theory of human motivation, and Manfried Max-Neef’s model; however, while each provided me with insights into myself, none unlocked any major doors for me beyond helping in facilitating my understanding that I can be who I want to be. 

But this was the question I had to answer [who I want to be], which I feel I have; for, I know today what I want to become. And it’s big. It’s the life of my wildest dreams.

Yet, still, I know I need to be completely clear about all the underlying forces that will compel me to achieve the things I want to accomplish in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Admitting to yourself what you want is important; however, I believe that the real key is in knowing why.

There are a lot of people who seriously want to become multi-millionaires or even billionaires; however, I believe the biggest difference between those who actually become wealthy and those who simply let their goals remain unfulfilled is not in potential, but in strength of will; those people who succeed are driven by strong feelings. And I believe that the power to change your life requires a big why.

Returning to my research as it might help me honestly uncover my why, I came across Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

But before I get into that, I want to talk briefly about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. This has been a big topic in the business world and the academic study of motivation; however, I think it is flawed, and let me explain why.

Essentially, the idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is the idea that the most powerful motivators are internally oriented, whereas weaker motivators are external. This idea was outlined in the mainstream in Daniel H. Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

In the book, the author writes what many reviewers describe as an almost academically dry summary of why money and other external rewards are not effective in motivating employees (Hmm… hedonic treadmill), but rather, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the keys to motivating people.

The argument for these so called intrinsic motivators, is that they are stronger driving forces for most people, which is probably true; however, the problem I run up against is that motivation and desire are complex, and thus what may be an extrinsic motivator for one person could be an intrinsic motivator for another. So, the problem with intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is not so much in the concepts per se, but in how they are understood via example. For instance: money is often listed as the chief extrinsic motivator, while autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the main intrinsic motivators; the problem here is that money may enable a person to achieve the latter, and thus the model fits generalizations and statistical averages more than individuals. I think if you are designing a corporate culture, the ideas of extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards are valuable tools, but if you are designing a life, they are matters of mere semantics.

A better model for me would simply be to categorize motivators as external or internal, i.e., do these come from someone else, or are they my reasons for wanting success. I’ve made the mistake of adopting another’s intrinsic motivators, and it was highly noneffective, as I have told.

What I have begun to ask myself, what I have begin to do, is to admit my innermost, greatest, most authentic desires to myself – something society does not cultivate you to do [5].

But still, it’s not very in-depth; although, the idea of qualifying desire via a an internal vs. external litmus test to determine whether it is an authentic product of yourself or someone else, i.e., a lover, society, your parents, etc., seems to me one of great value [6].

So, what tool do we have less to define, classify, examine, and understand our desires?

Enter: Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

From Wiki:

Starting from studies involving more than 6,000 people, Professor Steven Reiss has proposed a theory that found 16 basic desires that guide nearly all human behavior.

The 16 Basic Desires [7].

  • Acceptance, the need for approval
  • Curiosity, the need to learn
  • Eating, the need for food
  • Family, the need to raise children
  • Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group
  • Idealism, the need for social justice
  • Independence, the need for individuality
  • Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
  • Physical activity, the need for exercise
  • Power, the need for influence of will
  • Romance, the need for sex and for beauty
  • Saving, the need to collect
  • Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
  • Social status, the need for social standing/importance
  • Tranquility, the need to be safe
  • Vengeance, the need to strike back and to compete

And from Reiss’ website:

What are basic desires?

Basic desires are fundamental psychological impulses that define an adult’s personality. Professor Reiss identified 16 fundamental aspects of motivation which capture what any one individual is striving for and what is really important to him or her….

An example: the desire for Status

‘Status’ shows how much respect an individual pays to people with a social status they consider to be desirable. Those motivated by status aim to identify themselves with a high social standing, and express this in the clothes they wear, the way they behave, the titles they adopt etc.
People with a weak basic desire for status, on the other hand, have an urge for social equality. They respect other people regardless of background, title or other status symbols.

The importance of the basic desires in practice

There are three essential points to bear in mind regarding the practical application of the theory of the 16 basic desires:

  1. Each basic desire can be a performance driver.
  2. Basic desires which are either particularly strong or weak in an individual are equally strong performance drivers.
  3. A basic desire never exists in isolation; the combination of basic desires is important.

The following graphic is also available as a download.

reiss profile

In looking at these, we get a broad scope of containers in which we can understand and classify our desires.

From here, I am going to be using the Reiss model, and making a spreadsheet, listing my own desires under each of the 16 Basic Desires.

What I hope to accomplish in doing this, is a true understanding of my soul’s greatest and most powerful desires.

It’s important to note rule no. 1 from the essential points taken from Reiss’ website, listed above:

  1. Basic desires which are either particularly strong or weak in an individual are equally strong performance drivers.

Revisiting the Reiss example for Status we learn more about how a “weak desire” might function:

People with a weak basic desire for status, on the other hand, have an urge for social equality. They respect other people regardless of background, title or other status symbols.

Again, I am learning here, thinking aloud. This blog might in a sense be seen as my personal cloud computer where I hack my software, which is exactly what I am trying to do.

I’m eager to begin spread-sheeting my desires, as boring as that might sound, but for me it’s a kind of auditing tool, with which I can discover the things that make me tick.

With that said, I am off to open Excel.

If you’ve read this far, here’s a cookie:

7Saturdays

Oh wait, does that not motivate you?

How the fuck am I supposed to know, I don’t even know what motivates me [8].


To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.

– C.G. Jung


Footnotes

  1. I have no doubt I too have been someone’s wrong person, as I certainly know I’ve been the guiltier party.
  2. “Just so you know, there is a God.” – One of my attending nurses.
  3. Well, G-d and the three different courses of antibiotics I took.
  4. “I’d rather be whole than good.” – Carl Jung
  5. After all, look at how disparagingly people have come to judge those in recent years who possess great wealth. Note: this is a topic unto itself, but one I have no desire to write on, as I only write about things I am seeking a deeper understanding of.
  6. Perhaps other people know themselves, and the goals and desires they live are 100% authentic, but I somehow doubt it.
  7. Can someone please make a list of The 16 Basic Bitch Desires… (Maslow’s pyramid as starting point… ; )
  8. This is said only partly in jest, but it really is a fascinating thing to me to put together all of this. Because it’s really exciting. I mean, ultimately, it’s about living your dreams while you are alive. At least, that’s what I’m doing. That’s my cookie.
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Acknowledging the Gorge: Accepting and Embracing MY Reality

I don’t typically write in the mornings; however, today is anything but typical, for my life is no longer typical; I have evolved, and I am growing, I am changing, and life has become something other than I thought it was, so I am writing this to declare something:

I am accepting that I live in a world where other people don’t see things like I do.

And I understand this today because I used to think like everyone else [1]; I used to think all this was real: the fear, the anxiety, the lack of control – the doubt, the insecurity.

But I have grown to see things differently, and all that doubting myself is gone.

Today I am embracing that the road to my dreams is not in the ways of man; for society’s ways are no longer my own.

My ways are in my truths alone, and these truths exist independently from the world I live in; for I believe things others do not.

I believe know that if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

This is not, to borrow a phrase from the late David Foster Wallace, a banal platitude.

This is truth. Not for the world but for me.

The world’s reality is simply no longer mine.

And I’m more than good with that, but the gorge between my reality and the collective consciousness of the world I live in must be recognized, it cannot be ignored; the gorge must be acknowledged, accepted, embraced, and lived.


Footnotes

1: Re: “I used to think like everyone else”:

Not only did I pretty much think like everyone else, I also falsely believed that everyone else pretty much thought like me, which kind of made me feel batshit crazy, because I couldn’t understand why people would do the things they would do.

However, I recently came across a comment from someone on the subject of infidelity, which shed some light on the matter for me:

Folks cheat because they are selfish, insecure, jerks who will take any reason to get what they want, and could care less if their self destructive actions hurt anyone else. Then they lie and manipulate so well that they seem like victims. Folks who choose not to cheat do it for one simple reason: they promised themselves and others, and their word actually means something. The thing is, a person with honor will never understand the person who lies and cheats. It’s not in their nature.

Having realized how subjective reality is and how many things go into a person’s character (ex: perspective, beliefs, experiences, biases, etc), I now see that I will never really understand most people, because their ways are contrary to my nature, just as most people will never really understand me.

On Consciously Becoming

Goals, but as a means to what end?

Happiness.

For I know no other that lasts; all other ends that we may pursue: sex, pride, gratification, self-satisfaction, approval, status, image, respect – these are mere vanities.

Vanities chiefly fed by insecurity, which leads to that slow, creeping death of the soul we call conformity.

No man was born to live another man’s life.

Yet still, we do.

We covet other men’s things, we envy other men’s lives; appraising ourselves without ever taking our own lot into account.

Envy, insecurities, vanities – these things all breed jealousy: that poisonous seed of loathing, which causes us to privately repudiate ourselves to no end – never knowing that we have sown the seeds of our own discontent.

Thus our happiness never has a chance of living up to our standards, which, in reality, do not belong to us but have been handed down to us by society: a mirror no man finds himself likable in; for there will always be that unfortunate mass of persons projecting their own perceived insecurities back upon us.

In this way, society is like a two-way mirror in which each man measures himself in others, and others in himself.

Silly as it is, it is so, human foibles being the invisible cages they are.

If we only realized all the faults in our thinking that limit our perceptions and diminish our hopes!

It’s the quiet desperation, which most men resign themselves to, as Thoreau wrote:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. – Walden

We have it all wrong yet it serves society and those who benefit from exerting their wills upon our own, weaker images of self.

Writing this and outlining my beliefs, I feel a stranger to my past, my memories distant feelings I no longer wish to recapture – as I have previously sought so desperately (And sadly) to.

As a wise person once said: Comparison is the great thief of joy.

Nonetheless we compare, constantly looking in vain into that two-way mirror.

And who do we look to as a society, whom do we most admire?

Originals.

Those who had the confidence to look not to society, asking who am I, but to themselves, asking: who might I be?

And being intrepid travelers, venturing into their own minds and seeing themselves clearly, they consciously choose to become, while the rest of us unconsciously became.

Willow and Jaden Smith, Fuck Motivation, and a Healthy Self-Confidence

I’ve previously featured their father, Will, as one of my real life inspirations; so it’s no surprise to begin this entry tonight by writing about his two terrifically well-adjusted children, Willow and Jaden, whom I think are awesome.

In a word, they are that rare thing among people – individuals – those fine persons capable of thinking and acting for themselves, on their own behalf.

I had previously heard Jaden’s music before and thought it was good. I also greatly enjoyed reading the Willow and Jaden interview published by the New York Times, in which they talked about everything from the theory of relativity, to quantum mechanics, Prana energy, and nonduality – not particularly mainstream topics for musicians – leading Billboard to describe the interview as “totally bonkers” – an opinion that others were quick to follow.

I realize, however, that when people call something crazy, often they are describing something they do not understand – unfortunately, crazy gets taken at face value all too frequently and, as a result, people fail to question something that deserves a second look.

Thankfully, we who are seekers and thinkers have no problem giving crazy it’s fair due.

Excerpt from aforementioned NYT interview:

I’m curious about your experience of time. Do you feel like life is moving really quickly? Is your music one way to sort of turn it over and reflect on it?

WILLOW: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.

JADEN: It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.

Read the entire Times piece, here.

Pretty abstract thinking for two teenagers (I think 14 and 16 at the time of the article).

Tonight, Willow caught my attention here, in a filmed interview/discussion with Chance The Rapper, as part of the Uncapped series by Vitamin Water and Fader Magazine. In the clip, I came across an interesting soundbite from Willow, containing a very Jungian sounding description of feminine and masculine dynamics (from 45 secs to 1:08):

“Having a brother is such an amazing experience, especially when you’re a girl – you’re just like yin and yang – like when you can really look at the masculine in him and the feminine, and then you can look at yourself and be like, ‘the feminine in you and the masculine’, you guys become one, and you can just like go back and forth – but that’s how it’s supposed to be with men and women.”

It’s great to hear someone in the mainstream spotlight who is still so young talk about the intersexuality of the soul, as described by Carl Jung in his writings on the anima / animus – an idea I didn’t discover until I was 27.

This prompted me to continue listening, and I enjoyed coming across the following soundbites as much as I did the first:

My mom’s favorite thing to tell me when I’m being really indecisive is, “Do you boo-boo, and nobody else can do you like you”, and that’s the best part about being unique and being on this earth. The universe is the unknown, “the uni-verse”, the “you-niverse” that’s within you, is unknown. Like how can you even know anything about the deepest parts of yourself.

And on the topic of hustle:

Hustle means to me that you have a goal, and you’re going to do whatever it takes to get to that goal. It’s not tunnel vision because you can see what’s going on around you, but, you know that like, you’re focused, you’re like I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life. 

One of the reason’s I enjoy Willow’s perspective so much here is that it reflects my own newly evolved views on reality, success, and motivation. Namely that, motivation isn’t a thing. Let me expound upon this briefly:

Fuck Motivation.

For a long time I thought I simply lacked motivation, and that motivation was the key to me believing in myself, which would be the key to my success – if I could just get motivated enough. But I was missing a key piece of the puzzle, which, in light of, I see now why I failed to succeed.

What I ended up grasping, which led me to a new understanding of how reality operates, is just that we can do anything. Anything we are capable of doing we can do. And our personal potential is the only limit to our capabilities, our reality. It’s hard to describe now how I felt before, but I just spent so many mornings listening to motivational stuff, just believing that if I could believe in myself enough, I could succeed.

But I didn’t.

No matter how much motivational stuff I listened to, deep down I just couldn’t shake my perspective, I couldn’t fool myself into believing I could have the things I wanted.

I, of course, realize now, and I can admit to myself now, that my goals were completely impotent, because I lacked the confidence in myself to be successful (As well as true, burning desire).

In hindsight, I think the motivational videos were keeping me stuck. They were perpetuating the idea that motivation is something we need from others, and they were perpetuating the idea that motivation is about believing in yourself – as if we should need a professional to teach us how, as if we shouldn’t naturally; as if motivation were an intermittent thing we needed to dose ourselves with, like caffeine.

No. Motivation is bullshit. Confidence is bullshit.

Not as ideas in themselves, but as we have come to understand them – as we have been sold on them – they are pure crap. Bullshit.

Motivation as something we can get from outside of ourselves is bullshit.

Confidence as something based on what others think of you, also bullshit.

Fuck your motivational speech. Fuck your opinion of me.

I do not need to wake up and tell myself “I can do it.”

I know I can do it.

I know that if it’s not impossible then it’s possible – and if it is possible, then I can do it.

This isn’t motivation, this is just fact.

Do not rely on motivation to believe in yourself. You don’t need it. You should believe in yourself because you are a rational being – you don’t need any other permission to believe in yourself. You exist. Your potential is a thing. Nothing else is needed…

Well almost. You need desire.

Motivation as inspiration is not a thing. Desire is.

My efforts to find motivation in a million and one different motivational speakers did very little for me beyond make me feel like I needed to keep listening…

It was only when I started to explore my why, that I became motivated in the true sense, in that I had a significant enough reason to take action.

Does a lion need motivation to hunt? No; she hunts because her hunger is strong enough to motivate her to hunt; her desire for food is stronger than her fear or her laziness.

Humans are the only creatures who are gullible and insecure enough to think that we need a reason for our reasons. Of course, don’t tell this to the motivational business. Lord knows how big the self-improvement business is. And it is a business. It serves a need. A perceived need.

Note: I mean how fucking egotistical do these motivational people need to be to think they are the one to deliver someone from their lack of belief in themselves by telling them how important it is to believe in themselves. I mean, I’m sure you guys mean well, but give me a fucking break – come on… fuckoouttahere with that snakeoil.

Do you think Warren Buffet is looking in the mirror in the morning going, You can do this Warren. Fuck no. He would see that as silly. He’s looking in the mirror and thinking of the best way to do what he’s going to do; he already knows he can do it, he already gets how life works on an action / reaction basis. He is beyond the idea of having to believe in himself, and, like so many other wildly successful people, he is not trapped by the false belief that he could succeed, if only he believed in himself enough. A man like Warren Buffet, or anyone pursuing their desires in a pragmatic and bold enough manner, knows that success is the result of action, not belief. Of course, I’m not saying belief isn’t required, but all that is needed is a healthy belief in one’s-self – something few people posses.

A healthy belief in yourself is simply an understanding that limiting your life because of a lack of belief in yourself is irrational. Period.

This, I assert, is the biggest difference between the way rich people think, and the way poor people think. And before you stop me and tell me money isn’t everything, let me just remind you of another difference between rich people and poor people: for them, in their game of life, money is just a way of keeping score. Now, I’m not saying that Avicci [Worth $60 Million
] is the best DJ in the world, but he doesn’t suck (listen to the whole song, not just the long monotonous intro, and tell me from 1:09 to 2:09 you didn’t get the feels), and to get to where he is today, he [Avicci] most surely possessed a healthy belief in himself.

And I’m not saying it [a healthy belief in oneself] is something someone necessarily gets from birth (Although, I do think wealth consciousness is a thing, often passed generationally, in the same way poverty consciousness is.) I think we all, and often the most successful people, have to find it ourselves. This is what the in the wilderness part of the heroes journey is about. It is, to paraphrase the immortal words of Joseph Campbell, entering the cave we fear, to find the treasure we seek. 

The cave is of course, our own darkness. But once we emerge from it (As wonderfully written and acted in this Awesome music video), no one can take our treasure from us. Once you have a healthy, rational belief in yourself, grounded in a pragmatic and logical understanding of reality – no one can take it from you. No one can tell you you don’t deserve something or that you can’t do something, because you see; you come to understand, that is just their opinion – their reality.

As I’ve come to see this year, life is a game of potentials – but it is won by wills. The human will, this is something innate and powerful. Only a poverty-consciousness stricken person would stifle their will because of a lack of a healthy belief in themselves.

If I could write a not to my younger self, I would say, forget believing in yourself, instead, seek to understand how reality works. 

There are no limits in reality (beyond the laws of physics).

The only possible limiting factor of your success is you. Period.

I look back on all those early morning walks on the beach, listening to Les Brown tell me “I am going to make it!“, and I realize I was caught up in a false paradigm.

Now that I understand how life works, how human potential is an innate measure of capability, I see that I didn’t need motivation. I needed desire.

Desire, dreams, the things you want deep down in the bottom of your soul, these are the only thing that can ever motivate you. Everything else is just noise. Somebody selling you on the belief that you need something you don’t posses.

And your confidence, how you feel about yourself, this is your right. The idea that what people think of you should influence your opinion of yourself, this is horseshit. The only excuse reason you ever need to be confident is your own desire to be happy. Period.

You’re like, I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

Reading the excerpt from Willow’s quote above, I get that she understands life like I do.

Because I’m getting this, and nothing is going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

And seriously, if you didn’t click the “Awesome music video” link, watch it now:

I’ve really come to understand that no external motivation can work for me. My motivation is my desire. And desire begins in the mind.

Bonus: Here is some food for thought desire for me:

p.s. Consider anything I’ve previously written on the topic of motivation usurped.

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Earl Nightengale quote

 

Finding and Focusing on The Intermediate Destinations Revisted

Came across this reading my old stuff tonight. The message here is highly relevant for me in the wake of my last entry, Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment.

Now that I have my goals and plans laid for the next few years, I know just how important it is for me to keep this in mind – to focus on the intermediate destinations, which I have now found.

7 Saturdays

I remember learning to drive when I got my license after coming home from the Navy.

A close friend of mine gave me the most important driving advice I had received to date: he taught me to look down the road, instead of directly ahead of the car.

This helped me to track in a straight line along the road.

Now over 10 years later, that friend is in prison, and I’m still driving.

But, I’ve felt that in life, as of late – I just can’t seem to see far enough down the road to track in a straight line.

As a result, I’ve been stagnant in some aspects – and you can’t steer a parked car.

So, what does one do in life when you can’t see down the road, when you can’t picture the path to your destination, or even the destination itself?

You need to…

View original post 450 more words

Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment

Introduction and Preface

On the heels of my previous entry my father emailed me a link to a piece from Wait But Why, titled, The Cook and The Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce. Today I  am writing this in order to understand, interpret, and apply the ideas presented there to my own life and desires. The source material is a long form piece, containing over 21,000 words, easily a three hour read for some. That said, for anyone looking to truly understand it – read the original source. The key word here for me is interpret – I am interpreting something in a manner I feel will best allow me to apply the ideas the author presents to my own life.

Also, this is essentially just for me, but given that I am trying to look ahead 1 through 10 years into the future, coupled with the idea that this blog will likely eventually experience significant readership, I want to be as transparent as possible; after all, everything I write here, beyond being fitted for my own benefit and purpose, is also for the potential benefit of posterity and progeny [1].

Again, please keep in mind, I decided to publish this publicly in the hopes it might benefit others, particularly those who end up here on their own search for answers. That said, I am not editing this or even revising it. So please do not judge my writing on something I started at 4am, for me personally. I wrote this to interpret and understand something I knew would be an asset to me, and I hope it is to you as well.  


Prefaces aside, I want to dive into this model, which the author refers to as Elon’s Software [2].

The Want Box

Elon’s Software begins with what the author calls the Want box, which is just what it sounds like: a box list of things we want but do not currently posses.

Software - Want Box
Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

As a fairly arbitrary yet logical example of things that might go in a person’s want box, the author provides the following graphic:

Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk's Secret Sauce
Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

This is, of course, a clear example – but these wants must also respect things such as the laws of physics and other constraints, which fit into the next box: the Reality box.

The Reality Box

Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk's Secret Sauce
Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

The Reality box contains, as the image says, Things That Are Possible.

To quote the source, “pretty straightforward” – only, there is one caveat that may not be obvious to some, and it’s the idea that, while we all live in the same underlying reality (If you remove perception from the equation [3]), no two Reality boxes will be the same; for what is possible for me, is different from what is possible for you, and while the author expounds on this later on, I think this is an important concept to digest at this point – at least in my own putting this into practice.

The author then posits that between our Elon’s Want box and Reality box, exists a Goal Pool.

The Goal Pool

“The overlap of the Want and Reality boxes is the Goal Pool, where your goal options live.”

Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk's Secret Sauce
Image from Wait But Why, The Cook and The Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

Looking at the Goal Pool image above, we see these symbols, which if we view the source document at this point, we’ll see a small annotation in which the author explains as follows:

Those goals ended up looking a whole lot like the male symbol, which is annoying of them. The goals are circles and I put the arrow on each of them because each goal points your powers in a certain direction—i.e. choosing a goal is choosing which direction to point your powers.

This is a key concept because, as the author explains at Wait But Why, ‘we change something by directing our power towards it‘, and power, as he writes:

“…can come in various forms: your time, your energy (mental and physical), your resources, your persuasive ability, your connection to others, etc.

The concept of employment is just Person A using their resources power (a paycheck) to direct Person B’s time and/or energy power toward Person A’s goal. When Oprah publicly recommends a book, that’s combining her abundant power of connection (she has a huge reach) and her abundant power of persuasion (people trust her) and directing them towards the goal of getting the book into the hands of thousands of people who would have otherwise never known about it.”

As the aforementioned annotation explains, “…choosing a goal is choosing which direction to point your powers.” 

Powers Our Potential

I want to make a distinction here, and – for myself – an alteration; instead of simply calling these ambiguous things powers, I think it is prudent to view and understand them as things that lie within our potential; for we must understand our fully in order to have a clear understanding of our Reality box, i.e., ‘the things that are possible’ [3, 3.1].

Our Potential and Goal Selection

And here too, on the topic of our Goal box and making the alteration from “powers” to our potential, I want to note that I found myself wanting for more clarification on goal selection. Later in the document, the author writes about how Elon uses “first principles thinking” and a feedback loop, which I will get to, to alter the things in the Goal Pool, but where we are presented with the goal pool, we are merely instructed to “pick a goal from the pool—the thing you’re going to try to move from Point A to Point B”; however, I think that by defining our potential within the Reality box, we can use this as a tool for goal selection; for if we have an understanding of our potential, we can direct our most potent potential towards the things from our Want box, which are in our current Goal Pool.

As the author says of Elon, he focused his early goals not around achieving his Wants, but expanding the Reality box and its list of “things that are possible.”

For Elon (Although he had birthed the desire to effect change in aerospace and transport as early as college) this meant dropping out and founding online advertising and publishing startup Zip2 in 1995 (During the dotcom boom), which would net him $22M when it sold in 1999. From there he founded X.com in 1999, which would go onto become paypal, and when Paypal sold to Ebay in 2002, Musk owned $165M in stock – the rest as they say, is history. Of course, for Elon, given that he had used his software to expand his reality box and had selected goals intended to do so, this meant that he had the capacity to found SpaceX, directly following Ebay’s acquisition of Paypal.

I think we are looking at a man who connected the dots looking forward via some very strong hypothesis, which we begin to formulate in the next section, Strategy; however before I get there, I want to return to the concept of goal selection and our potential.

As the author transitions from Goal Pool to Strategy, he says:

Once a goal has been selected, you know the direction in which to point your power. Now it’s time to figure out the most effective way to use that power to generate the outcome you want—that’s your strategy.

The key thing here is, “Once a goal has been selected, you know the direction in which to point your power.” Worded as I have interpreted and revised this open source cognitive model for goal attainment, we get: “Once a goal has been selected, you know the direction in which to point your potential.” And returning to the above anecdote on Elon ‘focusing his early goals not around achieving his Wants, but expanding his Reality box and its list of “things that are possible”‘, we might be smart to select goals that leverage our own potential so that we expand our reality box, rather than select our early goals around our biggest wants. Seen in this way, we might find it prudent to create a hierarchy of wants in our Want box, along with a matrix of potentials in our Reality box, so that we can meet the two in the middle in our Goal Pool.

Of course we should note that when Elon choose to ‘focus his early goals not around achieving his Wants, but expanding his Reality box and its list of things that are possible’, he was not ignoring things in his goal pool, but merely focusing his early goals around the things in his goal pool; for the larger wants (SpaceX and Tesla) did not exist within his early Reality box, and thus did not make it into his goal pool [4].

Returning to the idea of matching our powers current potential with our Want box as a tool for goal selection, the diagram becomes – actually, scratch that, a diagram will no longer do. We need a spreadsheet.

After about 15 minutes, I came up with the following:

Example Elon’s Software Matrix from 1995

If you look at the sheet I created, it’s pretty straightforward; however, you will see I made a few changes, which I will address.

In the Want box, I added Tesla and Space X. Then, in the Reality box, I addressed the fact that Elon lacked the capital, so I cycled that want into the want box, which became Zip2 and then Paypal…

Again, this is just my interpretation of Elon’s Software as I might apply it to my own goals. Keep in mind, the source document said nothing about a spreadsheet, so this is just pure conjecture, which I am adding into this section as a means of interpreting this model, with a focus on goal selection and prioritization.

After the Goal Pool, the author goes on to address strategy.

Strategy

From here on through the rest of the source material, I find it pretty straightforward. As far as strategy, there is not a lot but what is there is substantial. Basically it’s the idea that strategy should be founded on first principles rather than analogies, which the article expounds upon using Elon’s on words, also providing a wonderful (cook vs. chef) analogy for it [first principles] as well.

First principles in Elon’s words:

I think generally people’s thinking process is too bound by convention or analogy to prior experiences. It’s rare that people try to think of something on a first principles basis. They’ll say, “We’ll do that because it’s always been done that way.” Or they’ll not do it because “Well, nobody’s ever done that, so it must not be good.” But that’s just a ridiculous way to think. You have to build up the reasoning from the ground up—“from the first principles” is the phrase that’s used in physics. You look at the fundamentals and construct your reasoning from that, and then you see if you have a conclusion that works or doesn’t work, and it may or may not be different from what people have done in the past.

The diagrams that follow the strategy section go into detail on a pretty iterative model, which I find to be intuitive given my business experience / knowledge / understanding.

As my preface said, this is primarily for my benefit, so I’m not going to include all of that content here, but it is available on WBW.

I’m fairly excited to have discovered this (Thanks Dad), and I have already begun using this as a decisioning matrix for prioritizing my own wants.

Originally, I was going to title this entry Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Attainment; although, I have opted instead to change it so that it reflects the value of this model as a tool for prioritization as will, given the path Elon has taken, as well as my own intended path, as it is very logical that some goals necessitate the attainment of others prior.

For some this may all seem moot, but for me I needed this to direct my energy into a laser-like focus – also the Reality box has already allowed me not only to see what is possible but what is lacking, which I then cycle into my want box.

Of course, in the end, it all comes down to strategy, which through using first principles I hope to formulate strong hypothesis via, and – as I always say: time will tell.

For anyone reading this, I hope that in your own path this model serves to better help you define, prioritize, and attain your goals.

Godspeed.

P.S. The source material contains SO MUCH MORE. Do give it a read – the PDF is available for $3.00 from Wait But Why as well.

Footnotes

1. I originally intended to privately publish this; however, as someone who grew up reading and has grown as much through the intellectual gifts of others as I have through experience, I feel it is my duty (And privilege) to carry the lessons I have learned forward, interpreting them and translating them as I see fit, just as my deceased benefactors have. In short: a lot of formerly living people dedicated their time, and even their life’s work to creating information, which has greatly benefited me – a stranger – and I, as a future dead person, feel compelled and inspired to do the same – small as my gifts may be [1.1].

1.1 The true impact of my work remains to be seen, and it is for this reason I am up at 4:14 am on a Saturday morning writing this: so that I may move toward a future in which my life has been one of greater creation than consumption [1.2].

1.2 I do not pretend to be inherently selfless and most certainly posses desires aimed at serving my own ego, but I do have what may be seen as altruistic aims; although, many of my role models exist simply insofar in that they serve to remind me that fulfilling one’s goals is possible – no matter what the goals may be. In a word: leading by example does not necessarily mean setting one for others.

2. Elon’s Software is a hypothesized model for thinking based on the mind of Elon Musk, and I find this model very intriguing, given that it is a hypothesis derived from someone (Tim at Wait But Why) who has researched, spent time with, and written extensively on Musk – a man whom I have little in common with other than the fact that his cognitive philosophies agree with my own, namely in that humans are akin to computers and that we may upgrade our software by downloading information, chiefly in the form of reading books (One of my great passions). Also, keep in mind that in 1995 Musk was sleeping on a couch in his office and showering at the Y [2.1], which demonstrates another thing I admire, and like to think I share in common: an indomitable will. In short, Elon is a man who I feel has connected his dots looking forward – something I am attempting to do in my own life – and I believe this model can help me. It simply follows logic.

2.1 Also, keep in mind that Elon has accomplished things that, when compared to my own desires, seem gargantuan; hence, why he is one of my most prominent current role models – of course, also consider that his Reality box is defined by both his perception and the sum of his ever expanding actions, which, it may be said, leads me to the conclusion that one’s reality box and perception are essentially the same – provided that one has a realistic perception [3].

3. A realistic perception, as I see it, is simply no more than a grounded understanding of what we can realistically expect from ourselves, given a true understanding of our potential, which ought be ever expanding, in a kind of chicken and the egg scenario where one facilitates the rise of the other, providing a symbiosis of causality wherein as our understanding of our potential expands, so too does our reality, provided we have a realistic perception of both [3.1].

3.1 Potential is our reality = our reality is our potential.  The concepts are founded upon one another, but for most people their reality defines their potential, whereas for the more objective, more scientifically minded party, their potential defines their reality; however, if you have a limited understanding of reality, whether by dogma, bias, ignorance, or personal insecurity, you will never be able to maximize your understanding of your potential, and consequently your potential, and reality, will never reach their upper limits, which, really, physics and morals should be the only limiting factors of.

4. It is important to note that both SpaceX and Tesla had to be personally funded by Elon in the beginning, and at one point he was all in.

Finding Excalibur: My Journey to Knowing Confidence in Myself and My Path

I have been following the muse in my sense of destiny and in my path of learning and self-discovery, awareness.

Yes, I have clear goals – clearer than ever – and yet, as of late, I have chosen instead to follow the muse rather than my goals; for my intuition is strong – stronger than it’s ever been. This I understand to be something of an act of faith, which has it’s place (Something I will touch on again); yet the more I follow my intuition – a kind of hybrid between faith and reason – the more I am led toward something more concrete, something that looks like an intelligent plan [1].

And this plan, as it comes together, feels almost like a reward, a relief – an end to one journey and the start of another.

It’s taken me a long time to rebuild trust in myself – trust I lost, and rightly so, simply via ignorance; for truth has a way of outgrowing itself, and life sometimes – in its process of upgrading you – necessitates a reformatting of your software, and in humans, this basically is the awareness realization (Often after failure) that we don’t know shit – or, rather, that our old paradigms are simply no longer valid. There just comes a time when the things we thought were true fail us – whether by our actions or those beyond our control; there just comes a time when our lives outgrow our understanding of life.

And so, if we are brave, we trust in the universe to deliver us through a kind of alchemical process of entropy in which we go through a chrysalis of sorts, returning to the ashes before we rise as the phoenix. To borrow the grandest metaphor of all, from Joseph Campbell, There is no resurrection without crucifixion. This is what I refer to as quantum change, a term I heard John Mayer use in a radio interview, in which he said something to the effect of, ‘I believe that we are capable of true quantum change, maybe once or twice in a lifetime.’ And I most certainly, no doubt, am undergoing – have been undergoing – such a thing. Go through my writing over the past sixteen months, and you can literally see it in the paradigms I’ve birthed and put to death. To me it’s nothing short of remarkable, because, really, you’re coming out of the other end a different person, but more you – and perhaps even the real you – for the first time in your life.

All that said, I know the end to my quantum change is near, and perhaps even here, for I know what the beginning looks like. It’s my goals – goals I possessed the desire but not the will or the understanding for. And this I know is a fundamental necessity in order to do them, to live them [2]. So it has been that I have let my goals marinate in the marrow of my bones down to the depths of my soul, where I ventured in hopes that I might find the will and the way.

This path was, I admit, largely one of faith; for what else does a man with nothing left have but that sense within him, that therein lies the pearl of great price. This is the treasure we seek, which, as Joseph Campbell tells us, lies in the cave we fear to enter. Thankfully for me, I had nothing to lose. And I don’t mean this with any measure of self-pity, which I know all too well, but, rather, in gratitude. This, I concede, comes in hindsight, but regardless, I am grateful. I smile on what seemed so dark.

But it was this darkness that led me to faith, and faith that led me to something more. Again the dots connected, as they only do in hindsight, but now I feel the dots are beginning to connect looking forward. Where then I only had a sense of my own destiny, now I have an understanding of it.

Ironically, I originally meant to write this to decry faith as something inferior to knowledge [3], but as I write think-aloud, I realize it was faith that got me here, which, of course, destroys my entire thesis, giving way to a better different one, which I suppose is more a conclusion; hence: the reason purpose for which I write.

Writing, in this way, is a kind of math, in that I arrive at – not forgone – but predestined conclusions. Facts, if you will, about life. For this is what all this journeying down my rabbit holes is about: solving problems. Chiefly, how to live my life as only I can live it.

Thus it is for my answers I write tonight, to reach that light at the end of my tunnel – the will and the understanding by which I can achieve my desires and live my goals.

That something more, which faith led me to, contains the truths I will use to attain the fulfillment of my desires. And these truths are all that I lacked, all my unconscious mind led my intuition to appercieve through experience, assimilating my perceptions into a consciousness capable of completing the tasks my soul has bestowed upon me; in a word, I lacked the requisite cognitive abilities to fulfill my mission.

Note: I understand these are concepts most people don’t live by, but in the vein of my heroes – as my spiritual grandfathers have – one ought to pursue nothing else [4].

My intuition, as I understand now, knew that in order to complete my mission, I needed some things I lacked, namely confidence and understanding, which I would come to find were directly related. It was, as I described above, through faith that I was able to trust in the process of quantum change to carry me here, to the following realization, which prompted me to write this:

The root of all confidence is in recognizing (Understanding), acknowledging (Internalizing), and developing (Pursuing) your potential.

This may seem simplistic and even recursive, and perhaps it is to a degree – as the above statement seems to say no more than the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, that the obstacle is the way. But it goes deeper than that, because if confidence is rooted in recognizing, acknowledging, and developing your potential, then the question that remains, is whether you posses the will required to do so.

And will, like the other factors in this equation of words, is something I have touched on recently – in fact, it is something I’ve only come to learn the value of this year, when I realized that life is a a game of potentials but it is won by wills.

‘Will’ – Synonyms: determination, willpower, strength of character, resolution, resolve, resoluteness, single-mindedness, purposefulness, drive, commitment, dedication, doggedness, tenacity, tenaciousness, staying power, “the will to succeed”

All this [will], merely comes down to our ability to believe in ourselves – to believe that we have the power to decide on our options, and furthermore, the capacity to act on them.

And this is where I began thinking of the distinction between belief, faith, and knowledge, when I set out to write this entry, because I realized that I had gained more than belief or faith in my ability to decide on my options – I had gained the power to decide on them, based on my understanding of my potential – a concept I only truly awoke to this year.

For once you have an understanding of your potential (Something that comes from altering your perception of it [5]), you can begin to shed the dogma that has trapped you for so long in what you believed to be reality, and once you do that, life takes on a new meaning.

And it is within this new meaning of life that you see the true limits of reality, by which you gain the understanding necessary to act on your options. In short, you really realize that the only limits of reality are your potential, and the only limits of your potential are your reality.

This is neither faith nor belief, but knowledge. And it is more than self-knowledge but self-knowledge gained by knowing the world around you is a human construct, and – in the words of Steve Jobs – ‘created by people no smarter than you‘.

And this palpable knowledge, based in your understanding of reality and your own potential, is such a palpable shift from belief, that no faith is required. You have, in fact, at this point, exited the tunnel and made the shift from self-belief as some esoteric faith based thing to something very malleable, which allows you to understand both your options and your capacity to fulfill them. And this is, in essence, self-belief confidence in it’s truest and most powerful form. It is the confidence that comes from knowledge.

So, it is not that faith or belief is inferior to knowledge, it’s that knowledge is true, whereas faith is the belief that leads you to it [6].

I used to think I had confidence in myself – and I am not referring to confidence as a personality trait or a social marker, but confidence as a precursor to ability – but what I really has was self-belief (Rooted in faith). I believed in myself. I believed that I could understand the things I needed to understand in order to pursue my desires confidently [7]. But now, looking back, I see that I really viewed confidence as some esoteric elite thing that we either had or we did not, and much as I tried to fake it, it never worked. Bunny would tell you, I tried to fake it, but there was a failure to launch. And in light of my newly realized confidence, which is, as I said above, rooted in a true understanding of one’s potential, I see that fake it till you make it does not work, for me at least; however, what does work is self-belief rooted in faith as a means to confidence [8].

The root of all confidence is in recognizing (Understanding), acknowledging (Internalizing), and developing (Pursuing) your potential.

Where self-belief comes from faith, confidence comes from knowing, from a true understanding of your options and your capacity to fulfill them.

At this point, the conclusions may have been forgone, but they needed to be written, as this is my path. I needed to mark this moment; for this moment is far more precious than any before it, given that I have my Excalibur [9] now.

This confidence, as I posses and understand it today is the sword by which I will claim my throne. This is the linchpin of my success that I have been missing. Lord knows I have the will [10].

From here my intuition is very clear on the remaining steps [11] before going full limitless [12] mode with my desires.

What’s next, wait and see; it’s only a matter of time.


Footnotes:

1. Whether it’s an intelligent plan or an intelligent design, or  – as I would be apt to suspect – a combination of both, I know not; however, I suspect my life will be, and is – for me at least – the answer to this. To me this is an esoteric question, one I likely do not posses the intelligence to answer; although, perhaps the wisdom and intuition to do so, which, as it is, I am attempting to by living what I feel to be a spiritual or inspired life. /irrelevantfootnote.

2. One’s goals aren’t to be done – they’re to be lived.

3. The original title of this entry was Confidence vs. Belief, which the following I had begun as a facebook post:

I think we place way too much faith in belief, in faith itself as capable of creating our reality. I think – spirituality and religion aside – scientifically and pragmatically understanding life as we are capable of living it, is much more powerful. Not that belief doesn’t have a place – but knowledge, knowing, is far more powerful. In a word, it comes down to confidence; I must have faith in belief, but I may have absolute confidence in knowledge.

4. Thomas Moore’s Care of The Soul is a fantastic book anyone looking for a deeper connection to themselves should consider reading. In it, Moore outlines what he believes to be the biggest problem vexing modern man: our lack of a connection to our inner world – and consequently ourselves.

5. I awoke to my potential via a shift in my perception, a worthy topic indeed, and something I may write on in the future – provided it is necessary for me [5.1].

5.1 More likely I will bake this paradigm shifting inducer into one of my novels, as these kind of intangible concepts do not translate well into non-fiction, or, rather, the narrative of reality in which we live is not big enough to present a new myth within [5.2]

5.2 This will all make sense one day.

6. The truth will set you free has new meaning for me.

7. Exhibit A, courtesy of Mr. Walden Pond himself:

HDT

8. My path is my path, but it is my hope for you, my dear reader, that the paradigms I present provide shortcuts through the wilderness you may find yourself in, standing on the banks of your own shores.

9. Great name for a yacht…

10. There were times in 2014, when I would work literally days on end. If I told you the hours on end I would pull, you would not believe me. But without the confidence, as I have outlaid above, my will was impotent [10.1].

10.1 That said, will is the foundation of the strength you will need on your journey:

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

11. Tomorrow I will revisit (read) my previous entry and in particular the link contained within the edit, in order to diagram my own reality and wants (desires / potential) with the models laid out by the author for ‘Elon’s Software’. And I will also revisit the notes and lessons from Napoleon Hill’s Outwitting The Devil, a book I feel contains some very complimentary insights into the attainment of my pursuits.

Edit 11/14/15: Just published an entry titled, Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, which contains a follow up to the link I referenced above on ‘Elon’s Software’.

12. Back in 2011, in my quest to pursue my own path to actualization, I wrote a series of entries titled, Real Life Limitless; however, at a certain point I feel I owe my readers a redo of this in light of all that I have discovered, only this time I will wait until the proof is in the pudding.

Note: Featured Image from Wikipedia Commons, Excalibur

School is Out: Quit Drinking the Kool-Aid and Live Your Truth, Your Story

I wrote something once, about how at a certain point in life, you have to put aside your identity as a student of life, so that you can lead your own [1].

And this, like many of the truths the muse has whispered to me, I have forgotten time and time again. Thankfully I wrote them down [2].

Still, I nonetheless, as is my nature, have been an eternal student of life. I don’t know how many books I own, but 2,000 wouldn’t surprise me [3].

And it was in reading one of these books [4] (Pauses to dig it up) that I came across a lesson I needed to hear at this juncture of my life. The lesson was a story about how one of the author’s friends invited him to a seminar once, and what transpired.

I’ve transcribed the story below for you, starting with his friend’s “pitch” of the seminar:

“See, man, we’re all conditioned to respond to things in a particular way—from our parents, school, government. It’s the whole capitalistic programming of mind control that makes us chase after these material things. I’m talking about self-determination, about ending slavery to the almighty dollar, man.”

“That’s what the lecture’s about?” I asked, reminding him that my work schedule was pretty tight.

“That’s the problem,” he went on. “Wanting material things, wanting to be middle-class, aspiring to be bourgeois. You think that your work is who you are, right? No, man, who you are is who you are, not what you do.”

Sounded interesting enough to get me there. Even then, at what turned out to be a seminar called EST, run by a guy named Werner Erhard, nobody would explain what IT was all about. In fact, you had to get IT. And if you couldn’t get IT, you had to be trained to get IT. And you had to pay a lot of money to be trained to get IT.

Sitting on the floor, cross- legged, in a room full of nearly a hundred people, my three friends and I kept exchanging frustrated expressions as Werner Erhard and his lieutenants took turns yelling at us, just like in the military, and telling us how our lives weren’t working and how we had all this baggage that we wouldn’t take responsibility for. How could we do that? We had to get IT. But nobody could tell us what IT was! What was more, they didn’t want us to basically leave until we got IT. No eating or going to the bathroom. With my three friends, Bill included, I soon began to roll my eyes in frustration.What I wanted to say was, Look, just tell us what IT is, because maybe we could get IT if we knew what IT was.

Maybe we got IT already.

It occurred to me, that not even the seminar leaders seemed to knew what IT was. When that became apparent, after about an hour of all this berating, I stood up and finally said,“Yeah, I got IT.”

Just before the EST army could move in, I added, “Fuck IT. Fuck IT, and fuck you, and fuck that.”

The four of us became very vocal. “Yeah, fuck IT!” repeated one of the guys.“IT ain’t shit!” shouted another. Bill yelled,“I don’t want IT!” I finished up by saying,“Keep IT.”

As the only brothers in the room, we started to sense there was going to be a racial issue, but pretty soon most of the white people in the room began to give us looks like, Ah, they do have IT. All hell just about broke loose when one white guy stood up and joined us, saying,“Yeah, that’s right! Fuck IT!” This was enough for us to be escorted quickly out because we had definitely messed up the game. That little experiment proved to me that I didn’t need other doctrines to enlighten me. But Bill kept on searching.

The author goes on to tell how he heard of Bill again in 1978, when he [Bill] and 900 other people who followed a charismatic leader to Jonestown, Guyana, would drink cyanide laced kool-aid in a mass suicide. This, gave rise to the expression drinking the kool-aid, which I first heard when I was 21 and in an office where people were drinking the figurative kool-aid [5].

Not long after I worked in that office, I was invited to a seminar (Some MLM Amazonian “miracle” beverage), which would be my first and last seminar, and while I didn’t have the courage to stand up and yell “Fuck IT”, my girlfriend at the time (3.1) and I actually quietly left – before peeling out of the parking lot of the strip-mall loudly enough to let everyone inside know how we felt about their kool-aid [6].

Now it has been a long time since I thought of the expression or connected the dots between the people in the office and the people in that miserable little strip-mall seminar, but I think when you really are drinking the kool-aid, you don’t know it.

At least, the last time someone invited me to a seminar (Which coincidentally was an offshoot of EST, known as Landmark), she didn’t know it [7].

But this isn’t about seminars. That’s the obvious kind of kool-aid – but that’s not the only kool-aid. I think there are lot more people trying to get you to drink their kool-aid than you know, which is to say, there are a lot of people who benefit in you thinking they know better than you do.

I will admit: I may have dodged a few kool-aid laced doctrines in my life, as far as footnotes tell, but I have drank the kool-aid – from relationships to just about every facet of life, I drank the kool-aid. Whenever I subscribed to the belief that other people knew better than I did, I was drinking the kool-aid, which, at thirty, is a hell of a lot more often than I’d like to admit.

But it’s true. You see, unlike Chris Gardner, I didn’t extract the same lesson he did from dodging the kool-aid; where he said, That little experiment proved to me that I didn’t need other doctrines to enlighten me, I simply said, don’t buy what people are selling to you if it sounds too good to be true.

Maybe this was a difference in our years, but now, having read his anecdote about the seminar, I see the larger message – the one he extracted:

I don’t need other doctrines to enlighten me.

But, until now, I didn’t think of overtly manipulative beliefs as doctrines, I simply thought of them as some bullshit I wasn’t stupid enough to buy; however, now, I’m starting to examine all the bullshit I was stupid enough to buy – and the list is huge.

Basically anything I blindly accepted, and in particular things I accepted from those whom it was in their interest for me to accept things from, is on the list; every time I didn’t question why I was being told something, I was drinking the fucking kool-aid.

This may sound extreme, but I think we all drink the kool-aid in our lives. Society serves us up it’s kool-aid starting in our formative years, and this is particularly true for those of us who grew up under “I pledge allegiance” Bush era nationalism. I can’t even imagine how strong the kool-aid was for my father’s generation, where the Indians were the bad guys in every movie.

Today, however, the kool-aid we are served is much more palatable – approved even, by the PC police.

It is the Kardashian kool-aid, which supports a multi-billion dollar advertising machine for cosmetics; it is, in essence, anything, which unquestioned, you let rule your values and choices.

According to Wikipedia, “Drinking the Kool-Aid” is a figure of speech commonly used in North America that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination.

That’s a broad stroke.

How many unquestioned beliefs, arguments, or philosophies do we hold without critical examination?

I’d dare say most of our beliefs, arguments, and philosophies are held without critical examination.

School teaches us to learn, but rarely to think. Philosophy, after all, isn’t about finding the right answers, but about asking the right questions.

Because the right answers, the truth, it has to be your truth.

hesse

For your truth is not my truth. My truth is like the truth known to all men who have awakened to their individuality; my truth is as unique as I am; however, unlike Herman Hesse, I still question stars and books, for, while I hear them, I have not quite begun to follow the teachings my blood whispers to me.

But I feel it is time. It is time for me to realize that no kool-aid, no external belief, argument, or philosophy is going to be a substitute for living my life, particularly when the beliefs, arguments, and philosophies I hold already remain so unquestioned, unchallenged by my truth.

It is time for me to live by my truths, to remember that, at a certain point in life, you have to put aside your identity as a student of life, so that you can lead your own.

Here are 10 of my truths, to serve as reminders:

  1. I am entirely capable of fulfilling my specific desires, which I have for a reason
  2. I do not need anyone to complete me
  3. I know who I am, and I am not lost
  4. I have permission to be fully confident and sure of myself
  5. I deserve the things I want
  6. I do not need any more “answers” other than those necessary to solve the problems I set out to work on
  7. My intuition knows best
  8. I know better than anyone else does for me
  9. I am fully capable of leading myself
  10. It is better to learn and reason from experience and first principles than through analogy

Edit: The day I published this, my father emailed me a link to a brilliant Wait But Why long form article on Elon Musk, titled: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

In the piece, the author ironically starts out using the “drinking the kool-aid” analogy to describe his allegiance to the Elon Musk cognitive model, which he breaks down, before addressing the problem of dogma and providing a solution for us to trust our own software rather than the programs society runs on.

“Eventually, you must hit a tipping point and trusting your own software becomes your way of life—and as Jobs says, you’ll never be the same again.”

If what I wrote resonated with you at all, I highly implore you to read the Wait But Why piece: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce.

It is the absolute perfect pairing for this, and it definitely feels like synchronicity is at play, given the path I am on.

Edit 11/14/15: Just published an entry titled, Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, which addresses the aforementioned Wait Buy Why piece.

Footnotes

1: Notes and Lessons from Napoleon Hill’s 1928 Masterpiece: Outwitting The Devilbrilliant stuff.

2. Start a journal, start a free blog on wordpress.com, just write. Your future self will thank you. So will your children.

3. Keep in mind, my book collection, with the exception of a few keepsakes [3.1], has only really began this year… The Black Family Library is happening.

3.1 If you’re reading this, yes, I still have those books we got in Seattle. Also, it’s great never thinking of you; with the exception of a few of our things I held onto, you are now a mere footnote in my life.

4. The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner. Fantastic book. Also, if you want to read another amazing autobiography, check out The Measure of a Man, Sidney Poitier. I’ve read both at 30, and I think the timing could not have been better. Also, if you have any autobiographies or biographies worth noting, please comment – I’d love to read them.

5. At aged 21, during the height of the refi boom in the 2000’s, I steered clear of drinking the kool-aid, so to speak, and last I heard, the two men I worked for went to prison for mortgage fraud.

6. 3.1 (I think I’ll make that her new moniker), she may be a footnote but I’ll be damned if I didn’t love her. Man, we laughed so hard after we peeled out of that lot. Sigh.

7. Boy meets girl at gym in LA, boy asks for girls number. Girl invites boy out, he arrives – she is with another boy. Boy leaves. Two months later girl calls boy to apologize because she was “totally brainwashed” and just wanted him to go to the seminar, which she was “pressured to invite people to”. Boy forgets girl’s last name. Footnoted.

A Minor Breakup Poem, Magical Optimism, and The Toxicity of Self-Pity

Thought she was my priestess,
But she was a chimera

Her head in my lap,
Eyes on fire,
Masking the truth behind black mascara and desire

Looking up to me always,
Only to let me down again
And in our tempests, I tried my best to swim

But joy perished,
And I returned to the depths within,
Where I discovered our island was an iceberg

And she didn’t have the depth to see,
How her selfishness was slowly sinking me
But now I found bravery to sail back out to sea

And so I go on, once again happy and alone
To pick up the pieces and build a home she’ll never know

And that’s okay with me

I only wish I could have seen it was a dream

But I woke up and remembered,
How no soul can exercise the ghosts within me

So I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me


Onward

This is something I learned through writer Elizabeth Gilbert: the power of onward – of moving ahead – past my own bullshit and beyond my own ignorance via the difficult and highly valuable lessons life has blessed me with. This, of course, is much easier for me to do at thirty, having aligned my perception more closely with the truths of reality, or, rather, having spent my twenties suffering enough at the hands of my own indiscriminate idealism, until I finally started to learn that not everyone deserves to share in what I can only describe as my gift for magical optimism.

And this is something I am still learning. Because I have wasted a lot of my magical optimism on others.

This is, I admit, a difficult concept to describe – as I am only coming to see this in full now – but I am discovering, in hindsight, that I have invested a lot of this magical optimism into relationships, where I put my brightest energies only to have them burn up into a vapor, a misty fog of memories. These are not regrets I am airing out, only lessons. Because moving onward, I have dreams, I have desires in my heart, things I want to build and become. And like all human beings, I have recreated my fate time and time again in different relationships, different people, holding onto the same fallacy laden hopes, destined to repeat the errors of my ways until I have seen them.

But now I am seeing. And it is in this light that I genuinely am not regretful about the trials fate has engendered through me. Of course, as I get older there are tinges of sorrow in moments, things like realizing young love is a memory, but I am wise enough at this age to choose my perspective and remain grateful I’m still relatively young.

I also remind myself that I am a better man now than I was then. And, having finally seen the foolishness of letting my stock rise and fall with relationships, I know today that I am okay, and, with that fickle security blanket called modern love once again gone, I am returning to my magical optimism, never to forget it again.

This is important because the hard truth of reality is that modern love can and often does come and go; however, you should never lose the best parts of yourself with it – even if briefly.

I will personally admit that it is easy to fall back into my own depths in the tail end and wake of a relationship. But a person must, as I am, move onward. Hence the power of the written word: to draw maps on the uncharted territory called the future. And this is what I am doing: I am designing my life, I am writing my Wikipedia page, one aware, intention filled moment at a time. Because I believe I deserve better now than I did then.

Because then – looking back across the sea of time to the shores of my twenties – I see now how I spent long spells of time completely unaware, entirely blind to all that I was or could be. In a word: I wasted a lot of my life in self-pity.

And nothing kills dreams and robs life of it’s magic more than that which we call self-pity. Nothing. Failure is a mere thorn compared to the piercing arrows we sling at ourselves in self-pity.

Self-pity will eat away at your soul, and no amount of soaking in the acid of your own sorrow can heal your wounds. They will only demand greater, more destructive palliatives to ease the pain of feeling bad. And like Ed Ricketts said, For a very long time I didn’t like myself.

My own self-loathing was almost entirely the result of the self-pity I held onto (Coupled with a lack of self-compassion [Footnote 1] and a lack of understanding that what others do is not about you – something I will touch on again).

And as is the case with all time spent in negative feeling, self-pity is a total waste of life.

Self-pity is the default answer for those whose low self-image and lack of confidence compel them to make a martyr of themselves so that they may feel that they are the hero of their own suffering. But I’m such a good person, why me!! – or whatever version of the “I didn’t do anything to deserve this” story they choose to tell themselves.

I may sound callous in making such a statement, but I can only do so because I’ve been there: no, I absolutely did not deserve my first love fucking my best friend and mentor, nor did I deserve people in my first business conducting themselves without integrity at my expense. But this is life. Some people, when it comes to the things they feel they are owed, are savages. It’s just a fact that in the course of a human life you will be the collateral damage of selfish people. Now, whether you let this stop you from going onward is up to you. I will sheepishly but unashamedly admit, I let these things stop me from a successful second love, and a successful second business. Failure was one of the costs of my self-pity.

The problem was, I simply loved people. And I took things very personally. This made me a hell of a fantastic means to other people’s ends. Thankfully, I have begun to learn that not all people are worthy of my unconditional love and my magic optimism. I’ve also started to see that it is not about me. Some people are simply selfish. And they never think they are, because they lack the compassion for others to understand how self-centered and hurtful their actions are.

This is part of the spectrum of human nature, something we think we are experts on, but in fact requires decades to learn – just as it requires decades to understand yourself.

This is why I am writing, because I am learning.

And tonight I have been reflecting on the absolute toxic nature of self-pity, of denying yourself the compassion you deserve. It’s just another fact of life that some of us can give oceans of genuine compassion and empathy to others, yet treat ourselves with nothing but crippling self-pity. This is a grave injustice to ourselves. But nonetheless, few of us ever wake the fuck up and pick ourselves up and move onward. Thankfully for me, my age is a ticking clock. I don’t want to be forty and not have spent my thirties living my dreams. In my twenties, I lived some of mine, but those dreams are mostly vapor today.

Looking onward, I want to honor the crucibles I have passed through by applying the hard-won lessons they have brought me. I don’t want to waste my magic optimism on another over-entitled partner, and nor do I want my past self-pity to again push away a good one. But more than that, I don’t want my life to be about relationships, dreams that can vaporize. I have a legacy to build. And it’s not for me or the children I don’t have, it’s for the world. My mission is bigger than getting laid. My dreams are greater than the unfortunate things I had to face to get here.

And so, once again, I look to the horizon, past the storms that made me.

Onward.


You do not need to be loved,
not at the cost of yourself.
The single relationship truly central and
crucial to life is the relationship
to the self.
It is rewarding to
find someone whom you like,
but it is essential to like yourself.
It is quickening to recognize that
someone is a good and decent
human being,
but it is indispensable to
view yourself as acceptable.
It is a delight to discover people who are
worthy of respect and admiration
and love,
but it is vital to believe
yourself worthy of these things.
For you cannot live in someone else.
You cannot find yourself in
someone else.
You cannot be given a life by
someone else.
Of all the people you
will know in a lifetime, you are the
only one you will never leave or lose.
To the question of your life,
you are the only answer.
To the problems of your life,
you are the only solution.

Jo Coudert
Advice from a Failure

Footnote 1: Self-pity is not self-compassion.

edit / addition, 11/13/15: Wisdom on Self-Pity from Charlie Munger

“Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thoughts. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. … Self-pity will not improve the situation.” – C.M.

“Another thing, of course, is that life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.” – C.M.

Laying Out Some of My Philosophy: A Solution to The Human Condition

Preface: What follows is a stream of consciousness, outlaying some of my philosophy as a writer and as a human being. Part art, part manifesto, and pure generosity of spirit, this is my life; my writing is the thing that allows the hours to pass like minutes. And now, at nearly 4am PST, I lay me down to sleep, laptop before me to read what I have written for the first time since pressing publish. One step closer to dreams, and for me this is the stuff dreams are made of.

P.S. If you are short on time, scroll to footnote 16 (Yes, I really did venture down the rabbit hole tonight) to read my poem, ‘The Shaman’.


I think unfortunate things do happen as part of objective, material reality: people die in fires, people die from lack of access to food and water, and reality sometimes falls short of meeting our hopes and dreams. And however great the apparent senselessness of the causes for our sufferings may be, I do not think them meaningless. Unfortunate acts and outcomes are only meaningless if we choose not to bestow meaning to them. This meaning, our interpretations, the stories we tell ourselves about what happens to us – this is our reality, which is a subjective experience, inseparable from material reality, for we cannot detach ourselves from our consciousness (Footnote 1).

Our ability to interpret our lives – from ice-cream on a perfect summer’s day, and first loves, to deadly fires, and abuse – this is the determinate factor behind our reality; it is not what happens to us but how we understand it that determines our reality. Perception is not reality. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Perception is merely our understanding – our “truth” about reality. For an emotionally deranged person, the world is a hell, for a healthy, happy child: a heaven.

Perception is merely a lens, the filter through which we see; however, the problem with our perceptions is that they are shaped from the day we are born by forces outside of ourselves. The rarest thing in the world is a man who can see beyond his own perception. It has taken me thirty years to begin to.

Having peeked behind the curtain of “reality”, beyond the doors of perception, I have come to realize the single greatest power in my possession: my ability to decide the truth.

Now I am a mystical being, and by mystical, I am saying that I believe there are unseen forces at work – now, whether I influence these forces or whether something greater than myself is lining up pieces on the board – matters not (Intuitively, I feel religion strips us of our belief in the former – but that is another dialogue altogether). My point being, I subscribe to the belief in the power of my consciousness. And the power of my consciousness is simply my ability to find patterns and meaning – possibilities – where others do not. And to exercise the power of my consciousness, I live a life that has a spiritual dimension to it.

This spiritual dimension, is simply another filter in my toolkit – something that allows me to connect to my inner intuition. And my inner intuition is my connection to the unseen, the felt forces.

These felt forces show themselves in dreams, and in my desires. Desires, as I refer to them here, are more than hopes. Desires are the things we fear admitting to ourselves, whereas our hopes are desire as society would have us believe is possible.

And this is where I am first leading: to the concept of what is possible.

I spent my first three decades on earth limited by my hopes – my desires buried beneath the things I thought were possible.

And, of course, this makes for someone who is a victim, rather than the hero, of her own life.

But this is not about heroism. I already wrote that. I am writing this because I dance around these concepts, but then “reality”, aka perception, smacks me in the face with a brick, and I forget about everything beyond it. I forget my free will entirely. I forget the gift of creation, which is my ability to decide the truth. My ability to live beyond the influence of perception, which is shaped by everything that exists within society: the ingredients of collective consciousness.

Again, here I must say something that I have said before, which is that there is no conspiracy: it’s just greed. And greed, as far as humans have wielded it, is evil; for greed is power, and power is control, and control is the basis for survival – from factory farms to societies.

Keep in mind here, I am exploring my mind, feeling out my philosophies as an individual and as a writer. Because my paramount message, as my intuition currently leads me to feel, is that we have the ability to be free.

Because nothing can stop us from being who we want to be – other than our own perception. And life is, as I currently understand it, a game of potentials won by wills. And it’s stronger wills than ours, whether these be the wills of society or our lovers – all the things that manipulate our egos – which control our perceptions.

It is a shift in experience, from experiential to existential, that can help us align our perceptions more closely with reality. Not reality as the forces capable of controlling wills have us believe, but material reality – objective reality.

I understand the human condition, because I have experienced it as only one can whose will has been broken by forces capable of destroying a human will. For me this force is alcoholism – the crack of the bourgeois.

Today, I am focused on strengthening my perception, aligning it more closely with both the physical and the metaphysical forces that make up material reality. Returning to my aforementioned kryptonite, I will say that it [alcohol] completely destroys my ability to hear my inner voice – the part of me capable of experiencing reality without the filter of my ego. And for me to experience life as my potential is capable of actualizing it, I have to remain vigilant against these forces, these addictions.

As Carl Jung wrote: “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”

And alcohol is not my only addiction. Idealism, lust, ego, thinking, all the things that appeal to my values – all the things capable of controlling them – these are all dangers to my ability to actualize my potential. Because if you can control a person’s values, you can control a person. And I am tired, my soul has suffered too much as a result of my ego exerting pains far beyond necessity upon me. And of course, the ego suffers as a result of our values being defined or manipulated by external forces.  Thankfully humans have free will. Free will is the thing that allows us to separate the utility of thought from the feeling of thought.

Only, most of us are like lab rats – our wills are broken. Broken by the things capable of operating on our brain’s pain and reward centers. These things are not merely chemicals (Footnote 2), these are also experiences capable of producing the sensation of pleasure in our brains. And nothing is capable of producing a pleasure as potent as the kind of pleasure that the ego is capable of inducing. This is why we are all addicted to social media. It’s pleasurable. And pleasure is marketable. People will pay money to feel good – even if the people paying the money aren’t us, but the advertisers who are selling us more shit to “feel good.”

So, if pleasure is so readily available – and it is true, whether we realize it or not, that we are all experiencing pleasure on a daily basis – if pleasure is so readily accessible, why are we all so miserable? Why are we all so lonely. Why has love died?

Because what we are missing from our lives is fulfillment. But the problem with fulfillment is that you cannot sell it. You cannot put a price on it.

As I often joke: The best things in life are free, the second best are VERY expensive.

Now, whether the cost of these second best things in life is a quarter million for a Lambo – or our souls, I am not sure, but I’m inclined to believe the latter, in most cases.

I’m not anti material things, I like supercars and yachts – and I will get back to this (The part about not being anti material-things), but first let’s return to the discussion about the lack of fulfillment in our lives and the resultant misery we collectively face. (To put this feeling into words, I would describe it as “a soul in pain.”). I am not someone who uses reductive logic to say thought is all, therefore, all suffering is a choice. Don’t get me wrong, it is to some degree (I am a practicing Stoic) – but not all suffering is choice. The suffering I am first addressing is the kind my friends and I, fortunate people, face.

It’s not starvation or true suffering, instead it is simply a deeper part of life, of ourselves, that the human condition has removed from us. And this is our human nature (Footnote 3).

This is the cost of living today, the cost of the human condition: it is the loss of our nature.

In our formative years, we begin to lose it, and by the time we are adults, our perceptions have been entirely programmed (Footnote 4) so that we have forgotten what fulfillment feels like. Our brains have been short circuited, and pleasure has become the default reward we are wired to seek, rather than fulfillment (Footnote 5), which our nature leads us to, naturally.

So, the typical solution for those who intuitively understand the dynamic I am outlaying (And I think we ALL intuitively understand it), but the typical solution for those who have managed to free themselves from their egos enough to unplug from the matrix, is typically the same solution, which I think the system is perfectly happy with, and this solution is typically something like: Okay, well, this kind of life (society) is crushing my soul, killing my inner child, so, let’s slave away enough to travel the world or to build a place and grow vegetables and raise our kids to have fulfilling lives.

And there’s nothing wrong with this solution, I think it’s a wonderful solution. My own solution borrows much of the beauty of this solution – but I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And throwing the baby out with the bathwater is denying that we can find fulfillment in material things.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying money alone buys happiness, but nor am I someone who denies that there are wealthy people living fulfilled lives, financial success can be a significant part of a person’s fulfillment (Depending on their values). Their soul – and yes, they do have one – their soul is happy behind the wheel of their Porsche. As would mine would too be (993 C2S, please).

So, there is no one-sized fits all, society renouncing solution to the human condition, which is really just this addiction to pleasure at the nearly complete obliteration of fulfillment. And maybe the system (Footnote 6) does have a problem (Or rather it’s own Darwinian solution, Footnote 7) for the Screw this capitalist bullshit, let’s just make love and grow vegetables solution –  I don’t know. But what I do know is that there is another solution that practically no one is considering (Footnote 8), and no one is considering this extant solution because it is an idea most people would not understand. And it’s an idea most people would not understand because it’s an idea most people have never experienced – myself included (Footnote 9). And most people have never experienced it, because it’s not part of the human condition – at least not yet (Footnote 10).

The solution is, like any true change inducing solution, a paradigm shift big enough to change the game.

Because the game, as it stands and has stood since the dawn of modern – what may for many intents and purposes be called collectivist society – has been a kind of Darwinian capitalism, where shit runs downhill (Footnote 11).

And what I mean by this is that in the modern villages we call cities and nations, there are a lot of people who simply lack the resources to live – not even fulfilled lives but lives free from suffering.

And suffering is not a lack of access to the newest phone – as any fortunate enough teenager would lament – but lack of access to medicine for a sick child, shelter for an abused woman, and treatment for an addicted man (Please pardon my gender stereotyping). It is a lack of access to the basic things that compromise human dignity and perpetuate suffering – very often via fear and violence (Footnote 12).

It’s one thing to think about how we, the relatively privileged, can escape the “rat race” and grow our vegetables and have sex in the back of our Teslas (Footnote 13), but the real greater problems we need to think about solving are those beyond our backyards – and as I discovered growing up, in mine (See footnote 9).

But here’s the thing, the solution (Footnote 14) is not Socialism or anything radical or even an Alinskian organizational master-plan for solving the plight of the underserved, but, rather, the solution is designed to benefit people at all levels.

Please do not think me anti-climactic, but the solution is an idea whose time has come:

It is abundance.

And by abundance I do not merely mean a large quantity of something, as in: for the people in Baltimore to have more, the people in the valley need to have less; by abundance I mean that there is enough for everyone. And to institute (Footnote 15) this idea, we merely all need to understand it. Change the way you look at things and the things you look at begin to change.

By abundance, I mean that there is enough compassion and sensitivity for all of us to become more attuned to our own human nature, as loving, compassionate beings – as biologically similar to our enemies as to our friends. By abundance, I mean that there is enough for us all to address our innate desire to lead fulfilling, highly individual lives.

Right about now, you might be thinking I’m just another white guy with more idealism than practicality, but I believe it is more than idealism.

If I have learned one thing in my life of value, it is that on the opposite side of judgement lies understanding. Just as there is no conspiracy and it’s just greed, there are no worthless human beings – it’s just ignorance – and sometimes mental illness, and sometimes even tragically combined or even collectively associated.

What I am talking about is perhaps a bit seemingly abstract, but the only way for us to make the world better for our children is to change the collective consciousness of the world we live in. And to do that, we all need to change the way we see things. And to do that we need to change the way we understand reality.

Because I look at the younger generation – not saying I know a damn better – but I see a lot of value placed on status over character. I’m not saying status is a bad thing, it’s just not everything.

Like I said, I am not anti material-things; I love material comforts and all, but I just have a bit more depth than to think that I need to rob from Peter to pay Paul, a belief our modern breed of Darwinian capitalism has instituted. A wise man once said, I’d rather have the man without the money than the money without the man. Well, I’m saying that we can have both. You can be the man or woman and have the money, but what makes you is how much class you have. And how much class you have has nothing to do with how well-heeled you are. Class is how you treat people and how you respond to how they treat you. And no, this is not dignity. Dignity is something inherent to all beings. Dignity is something you and everyone else in the world deserves. Dignity is valuing people and valuing yourself too. I’m not pushing some highly subjective concept like “people over profits”. I’m talking about people and profit.

I’ll admit, I’ve faced the crisis of not knowing whether I needed to move to India or Silicon Valley – but I need not be Steve or Siddartha. I can be Lawrence Black. And, in truth, I am both hippie and supercar loving capitalist. My desires, the things buried beneath my hopes, are leading me to a life as individual as I am.

Yes, I do have a business that I could be pulling down six figure months on if I paid it attention, but where my passion really lies is in fostering discussions. This is why I write. To examine myself, to examine reality and know that words have the power to change it all (Footnote 17).

There’s a quote I really need to dig through my library for a proper source on, but in essence, what she says is:

“It’s no coincidence that repressive governments and regimes silence their artists and writers first. Running a society is, after all, complex business, and one poet or writer is, theoretically at least, enough to bring the whole thing down.”

And I love that, because it shows the power of an idea whose time has come.

Only, I’m not trying to bring anything down. I’m just trying to illuminate the human condition – and – really show people what reality can be. We don’t need less billionaires, we need more.

And this is the essence of abundance.

We live in a country where any (US Born) boy or girl can become President; and we all have a right to pursue our desires. But we need to think about the world at large too. Because while there are only so many heads of state (And no, we do not need more) there are billions of people on this planet, and billions of people who should have the right to dream, to pursue their desires.

My dream is to write books. And yes, I want to be famous as a writer, I think it would be cool. I have an ego, and I recognize that when properly nurtured, this is a healthy thing. But it is really about something greater than me, and this is, in essence, the key to fulfillment – to being happy.

And happiness, for everyone, is the essence of my idea of a solution to the human condition. Because there really is an abundance of it on this planet. We’ve just been led to believe that there isn’t enough (Footnote 16).

And that’s an idea whose time has passed – for me at least.

And I hope after reading this, it does for you as well.

Footnotes:

1: This is not entirely true. We can detach ourselves from our consciousness -our egos – through the aid of religious experience, love, or entheogens, which all seem, to me at least, to share something special in common between them, which is that they dissolve our egos, which is the part of us that filters reality through the things we wish to be – or not to be – true.

2: Destructive, habit producing drugs – and this includes alcohol – are the most destructive forces against the human will, forces that thankfully education provides an excellent defense against.

3: It is within our nature to experience fulfillment. Fulfillment is an inherent part of sentience. And to put fulfillment into words, I will say that it is the feeling of having happiness in your soul (I smile just reading the words).

4: Whether it is by design or not, I care not to answer that question. As I said, there is no conspiracy, it’s just greed. I am more focused on the solution than the problem, which other, more intelligent people, do attempt to outline.

5: Fulfillment, unlike pleasure, is not addicting (Hence, fulfillment is not profitable – just look at the world’s most fulfilling careers, and not the shit “studies” tell you, I’m talking poet, teacher, farmer).

6: Like I said, no conspiracy, just greed, but if there is a “system” (And there is) this system is merely it’s own collective consciousness – an uber consciousness or a power consciousness – think of the elite – these are the people who use the knowledge I possess in ways that are destructive to other human souls.

7: Ironic how the organic lifestyle that many seek as a solution requires so much capital to afford – i.e., the system then becomes a necessary evil for those who want to eat all organic… hmm (7.1).

7.1: Keep in mind, this is all pretty much me just thinking aloud. Like I said, I am thirty and exploring my intelligence and what I might apply it to (7.2)

7.2: I am a writer and will always be a writer – even if life finds me a conscious capitalist billionaire, I will still write and sell books for the benefit of other human souls. This is the cloth life has sewn into me, the oak tree in the acorn.

8: Aside from perhaps some of the world’s most practiced thinkers, as I have my idealistic suspicions that thinkers Brin, Page, Musk, and perhaps (Although he’s always struck me as more of a Gates than a Jobs mind 8.1) Zuck, do plan to become a part of this solution, which paradigm led technology will lead the way for. Of course, I could be wrong, but I am tempted to reach out to them anyway – (8.2).

8.1: I will happily overturn mine, and many other’s suspicions, to the contrary opinion.

8.2: Surely one of them (wants to angel invest in my Book 8.2.1).

8.2.1: Elevator pitch: A 21st century Les Miserables (8.3, 8.4) – not a retelling, but a modern, paradigm shifting tale of the human condition.

8.3: ‘Great Novel of The People

8.4: ‘The Strange Power of Les Mis, the book‘ (8.4.1)

8.4.1: Here’s to you, Chris Hughes...(See 8.1, 8.2.)

9: Growing up, food scarcity and shelter was sometimes a problem for my family (9.1).

9.1: A problem that my parents will forever be my heroes for managing to solve. I love you both to the farthest stars and back.

10: Enter this.

11: And this is where I hit the breaks slightly, because I am not a political nor economic genius, but there are brilliant, well-educated minds who do analyze and solve these problems, or at least theorize solutions.

12: I am not a sociologist nor an anthropologist, but I understand that these are not cultural problems, but human problems.

13: Can you actually have sex in the back of a Tesla? (13.1)

13.1: Consumer reports really needs to be doing a more practical heuristic analysis.

14: This word was contextually ruined for me as a writer by a man with a bad mustache and bad brains. Listen history: no one person has the “solution”. We all do (See footnote 16). Because we are all part of the problem.

15: I don’t much care for this word either, something about it just screams ‘dystopian underpinnings’. I picture a government like North Korea’s having a lot of ministries, responsible for instituting things, “for the people”. Eek!

16:

The Shaman

Teller of stories
Soldier of good fortune

For the children,
For the feminine,
For the masculine,
For the divinity in consciousness

Keeper of the light
Brave for the scared

For there is nothing to fear,
But fear itself

And fear itself is merely the shadow on the wall of the cave,
Yet, we think it real

And so we are afraid,
To turn our backs on darkness
And face the light within us

For it was never a distant thing,
The truth, has always existed in man

Not one man or woman,

But all humankind

We are food for stars,

The keeper of the light

For the children,
For the feminine,
For the masculine,
For the divinity in consciousness

Soldier of good fortune,
Teller of stories,
Remind the people of what you have gone off and remembered in the darkness

That we are all shaman,
That the medicine we need is the divinity in consciousness

For the masculine
For the feminine
For the children

We are the light,
The watchers,

The forgotten who have remembered
Hearts that broke open to heal the whole wide world

We are One
We are all family

But we stare in darkness,
Watching shadows,
Afraid of the light

For there is nothing to fear,
Not even fear itself

Be the light,
Join us in brightening the shadows,
And together, let’s watch the whole illusion disappear.

One by one
Two by two
Few by few
Tribe by tribe

Nations dissolved
Our shared guilt absolved

These are problems we must work together to solve

There is no conspiracy

Only fear

Wielded by the most afraid
By those whom we deny our love to most

These monsters we have made,
They are only a projection of our our darkest parts,
And those cast in the fire,
Suffer demons for us all

It’s a great misunderstanding.

Based around the idea,
That there isn’t enough.

Together,
We must see through the illusion we created
Or live in fear forever.

The choice starts with every one
Keeper of the light,
Or cast in the fire,

Thus religions were born
But the shadows only grew

For nobody believed,
We the few

They called the shaman a heretic
And sometimes, powers came to be
Wielded by the most afraid

In their high towers,
So far

From the people who could love them

If they only trusted,
That there was enough to go around

But instead,
They become drunk on the worship
Of their power and the fear they weild

Power = Fear

Surrender = Love

If everybody could only trust

That there is enough.

But nobody believed the shaman

Until he became a King.

He did not die for our sins

He died because of them.

And the greatest sin of all,
Is ignorance.

Keeper of the light,
Become a King
And the people will listen

But run around telling kings,
And they will kill you for it.

And only when kings become men,
And men become kings,
Shall the meek inherit the earth

Take back your power.

Wipe away your tears,
You have the light of truth now.

And they can never take it away from you.

Help men see.
But don’t run around telling kings

For they will be the last to know.

Enough.

Enough of the meek being the first to go.

Return to this poem,
And remember
Your own truth

Remember.

Remember.

It is hidden from those who know it not.

It is Love.

Now,

A long time ago,
Men remembered these things
But they were afraid to say it was them
And so they gave the credit to imaginary kings

But now,
It is time

That the meek shall rise
And know themselves as divine

For the children,
For the feminine,
For the masculine,

For the king and peasant, the hero and villain, and the god and martyr, in us all

You see,
The thing is:
We are human too

But we needn’t give up desire and dreams
For those are beautiful things

And there is enough for us all
For love is the divine substance

And to create more
We need only give it away

(16.1)

16.1

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Footnote 17: Words do have power. And really, any art does. We just happen to live in the age of analytics, where art for entertainment’s sake rules, but the real task of the artist is much more meaningful. If you, whoever you are, have artistic desires, I implore you: follow them. For while you may not save the soul of mankind, in trying, you will save your own. And really, this is what we must all do. For art is as simple as using your own humanity to create change in others. And to me, this is more fulfilling than any interface I could optimize or any check I could cash. But seriously, Zuckerberg, holla at me. Someone will. And if not, I’ll just optimize a few interfaces while Rome burns, and my writing will come slower. But it will come. Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Not even me.

Note: I do not own any copyright on the image at the top of this essay, which is from the motion picture, Les Miserables, which I suggest everyone read the book ; )

Happiness, and Two Kinds of Selfishness: Having The Courage to Be Happy

If we could take our days, from today out, and write a fairy tale of our lives, what course might we chart? What destiny might we find to occupy our time before our days run out?

My heart beats in me, ticking, reminding me that one day, it will give up the ghost. My shortness of breath, a symptom of what seems to be walking pneumonia, too reminds me that I am but mortal.

And so, at thirty, I am conducting myself like one who knows he will die.

This, of course, means that I today am regarding myself and my time with an appropriate degree of reverence – particularly when it comes to others who do not.

There are, in fact – and unfortunately so – few who possess the shining disposition, joie de vivre, and omnipotent idealism I have so fiercely fought to cultivate within myself. Qualities that lead me towards happy solitude rather than resigned contentment; for happiness is everything.

Happiness is everything.

Happiness is the key to success, the cornerstone of love, and the linchpin of inner peace. Only, we chase our tails, placing the cart before the horse, pushing an impossible stone up a hill with no summit in sight; in short: we make life a very hard battle in our fight to be happy – in our belief that success, love, and inner peace will bring us happiness.

What we forget, what people who are old and dying remember, is that happiness is a choice.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that while happiness is a choice, it can very often be a hard choice. And, as I have long said, the easy thing and the right thing are seldom the same. Our happiness is no different; we must choose between making the hard choice or facing the toughest of consequences. When viewed in this light, some of the hardest choices you will ever have to make become very easy.

Yes, happiness sometimes means leaving that person who says they love you (But won’t stop communicating with other people behind your back and lying to you about it). Happiness also sometimes means going against what other people think you ought do and become. Happiness can also sometimes mean not listening to others, who often have their very own selfish motives for trying to chart your life course to suit their aims. But all of these choices have one commonality, and that’s the thread that each is a decision between what others want and what you want; for happiness always means listening to your own heart and intuition, which, in borrowing the words of Steve Jobs, somehow already know what you want to become.

courageHappiness requires courage.

Happiness requires that you be the hero of your story – not the victim. Happiness requires you to exercise the latent traits that exist in each of us: courage, faith in ourselves, a belief in our desires, and the ability to face our fears. We can all do these things. Only, most of us are too afraid to let others down. We are too afraid to exercise the healthy selfishness that happiness demands of us.

I spent my entire life living this way. And not only did my happiness suffer as I made myself a martyr of other’s happiness, but I also made myself incredibly easy to manipulate. In essence: I was walked on like a doormat time and time again, because some people are savages. Some people take advantage of others. Some people lack the things that most make us human, things like empathy and compassion.

There are two kinds of selfishness: the first is wielded by those who let others down and never take responsibility for it, instead, often blaming the very people they hurt. Whereas the latter, is a kind of selfishness exercised only as a means to preserve happiness, rather than selfishness that serves as a tool for happiness at the expense of others, as the former does.

The first results from lacking empathy and compassion for others, which is, in effect, a kind of ignorant malice. The second kind of selfishness, that which preserves happiness, is simply when you put your own happiness and inner peace before those who would do repeated harm to it.

Unfortunately, the very people who would exercise their own ignorant selfishness at your expense will have you believe that you are doing the same to them, when you are simply saying, I’m sorry, but the sanctity of my self-respect, the security of my inner-child, and the inner peace of my being – the very things my happiness requires – are more important to me than any relationship.

Because if you spend your life afraid to speak up for your inner voice, too scared to stand up for your values, and too concerned with pleasing those who do not have the depth of empathy and compassion to care for you in the manner you do them, then you will suffer. And the acid of your suffering will eat away at your soul, often until you find a greater pain with which to bury it. Addictions, self-harm, destructive behavior – these things are often all manifestations of a soul in pain. And what a soul in pain needs, what your inner child needs, is a hero. Someone to stand up for you, someone who will speak up for the sanctity of your self-respect and the security of your inner peace. And the only person who can do this is You.

You are either the hero of your story or the victim. Any victim can be miserable. But it takes a hero to be happy.

And yes, you will have to let others down. But there are always two people to let down: yourself or others. And you have to choose whom, in a given situation, you will let down. You have to ask yourself, which choice will let you sleep better at night. Because betraying yourself is the worst kind of betrayal there is. And it will eat away at your soul. It will eat at your soul until you are a shell of the person you once were. And then, after you have tried to fill that shell with whatever hurts more than the pain or your own self-betrayal, and that pain becomes too much for you, then and only then will you learn. And maybe this time, you will let down those who deserve it, by virtue of – or lack of it in – their own actions.

So, from here, where do I go? Well, I begin to reward myself; for the hard choices I must make, I decide that I will make a fairy tale of my life. And no one will stop me.