All, Journal, MyFavoritez, Philosophy, Psychology, Self-Actualizing

The Tao of Anxiety: Changing my Relationship to Life with Rollo May

I don’t write for artistic purposes, nor do I write for pleasure, or even to be a writer: I write to live.

It’s not that I’d go insane without writing – my life would just fall apart

I must write to understand myself, my life. The two of which I find more and more entangled as I grow older.

As I’m fond of saying lately, “Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.” 

Life is, indeed, one-hundred-percent psychological. 

In a sense, I am here to re-program myself. My brain is the hardware and the software, and – amazingly – the one rewrites the other (In the form of new neural synapses or connections [synaptogenesis and synaptoplasticity]). 

Neuroplasticity – the ability for our brains to physically change – presents, to me, the strongest argument for free-will; I am only as hard wired as I choose to remain. 

The overreaching goal of my life is the actualization or fullfiment of my potential. My younger, more naive goals of happiness and inner peace simply cannot exist without my own growth, fulfillment, and development. 

Happiness and inner peace are products: reaching my potential is the process by which those objectives are achieved; however, happiness and inner peace are not goals in themselves, but are, instead, the feelings you experience when you achieve your authentic goals – aka, becoming yourself. 

In the words of existential psychologist and humanist Rollo May:

“Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.”

That said, irrespective of motive, goals are not as simple as plan, do, profit. There are a myriad of factors at play from self-esteem and health (physical and mental), to self-handicapping and motivational theories (Not to mention environmental and social factors, i.e., opportunity) – all of which can make our break our potentials. 

As any adult short of the current first family knows – nothing comes easy. But, still, we want what we want and we aren’t going to give up, so we have to discover a way

What excites me right now, as far as my own way, are the discoveries I am making in relation to my own mind. In short, I’m coming to discover that my anxieties are an integral part of my journey, my path. These [anxieties] are what push me to want better for myself; although, I have not always held this viewpoint. 

For most all my life, anxiety has been the same crippling, uncomfortable, destructive, and unpleasant force it can be for anyone. 

My perspective began to shift, however, when a friend said this to me: 

“I don’t believe we would do well if we weren’t hard on ourselves. We need those selfish insecurities to feel like there’s more we could accomplish.”

This clicked for me (Anxiety can be healthy too!) and sent me further down the rabbit hole, arriving at these words from Rollo May: 

“Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.” 

Rollo May’s work deals largely with anxiety, May himself stating that, “The constructive way of dealing with anxiety in this sense consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a ‘teacher,’ to borrow Kirkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.”

Further, from May, “..conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.”

And:

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure. In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as a human being.”

In a sense, May presents anxiety as an invaluable ally rather than the inescapable foe it is for many, if not most. 

Pause and read that again. 

The paradigm of anxiety as teacher is nothing short of a game changer. That’s why I’m writing this. 

I’m all about flipping the script in my head. But it’s not enough to merely understand – as with any valuable paradigm – it must be lived (e.g., optimism); i,e., in order to view anxiety as a teacher, I need to be able to let it guide me. 

To do this, I have come up with an intuitive concept for integrating anxiety into my directing consciousness, which is the true purpose of my writing tonight. Allow me to arrive there. 

Heretofore, my relationship with anxiety has been a largely unconscious one. 

I suspect that, like most people, anxiety has pressed down upon me like a weight, or, rather, it has risen up from my unconscious mind, my conscious mind treating it like an unwelcome guest, an interloper to my happiness, much in the same way I might view fatigue or irritability – an annoyance at best and crippling at worst. 

I’ve spent days in bed, countless nights up – entire seasons of my life hiding from myself – the world – all in the name of running from anxiety. Let’s not forget the self-destruction that naturally arises from turning away from life so neurotically. 

As Rollo May writes on the consequences of a life without growth, in Man’s Search For Himself (1953):

“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”

Of course, in order to grow toward something – in order to turn away from the destructive despair of stagnation – we must turn towards the obstacles and face the anxiety naturally present in such growth. 

This is the exact awareness I am coming to: the fact that my anxiety is exactly what I need to feel – and that I’ll find the courage to grow in facing it, directly, head on. 

My previous theory on anxiety was essentially that the amygdala – the fear center of the brain – was largely responsible for it, and that part of the brain [the amygdala] being so primitive, so archaic, so reptilian, meant that the anxiety was merely an unfortunate feeling I, as a human, was destined to endure; although, I decided that I could – through sheer power of will – avoid the destructive activities, and – I could – with enough healthy sex and top shelf cannabis – counter the anxiety. 

Not an entirely unhappy or unlivable life – nor likely a unique strategy among my generation – but by no means an entirely secure, calm, grounded, and growth-oriented way to live, which is precisely what I want at thirty-two. 

I want to fall asleep with the softest of pillows, which is a clean conscience – and I want to awake with the same peace, renewed from the past day’s toil and excited about the day ahead, and in order to do that, I need to be free from what has prevented that: anxiety: fear. These are antithetical to the freedom I seek. 

Freedom, as May suggests in the following passage, from an essay of the same title, requires objective consciousness of oneself:

Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. Freedom is the other side of consciousness of self; if we were not able to be aware of ourselves, we would be pushed along by instinct or the automatic march of history, like bees or mastodons. But by our power to be conscious of ourselves, we can call to mind how we acted yesterday or last month, and by learning from these actions we can influence, even if ever so little, how we act today. And we can picture in imagination some situation tomorrow – say a dinner date, or an appointment for a job, or a Board of Directors meeting – and by turning over in fantasy different alternatives for acting, we can pick the one which will do best for us.

Consciousness of self gives us the power to stand outside the rigid chain of stimulus and response, to pause, and by this pause to throw some weight on either side, to cast some decision about what the response will be.

That consciousness of self and freedom go together is shown in the fact that the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is unfree. That is to say, the more he is controlled by inhibitions, repressions, childhood conditionings which he has consciously “forgotten” but which still drive him unconsciously, the more he is pushed by forces over which he has no control. When persons first come for psychotherapeutic help, for example, they generally complain that they are “driven” in any number of ways; they have sudden anxieties or fears or are blocked in studying or working without any appropriate reason, They are unfree – that is, bound and pushed by unconscious patterns.

As the person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choices and his freedom proportionately increase. Freedom is cumulative; one choice made with an element of freedom makes greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circumference of the circle of one’s self.

Further, in the same essay:

Freedom does not come automatically; it is achieved. And it is not gained at a single bound; it must be achieved each day. As Goethe forcefully expresses the ultimate lesson learned by Faust:

“Yes! to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
The last result of wisdom stamps it true:
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.”

And it is this daily conquering my freedom and existence that requires me to face my anxieties with courage rather than avoidance.

On courage and freedom, May writes:

“Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.”

“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

Of course, I already know what it is to conform – at least, to as great of an extent as I ever will; what I am concerned with today is being my own man, my own person. 

In the words of Rollo May:

“One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we are forced to become aware of ourselves.”

To become aware of myself – to become myself – I have to meet my anxiety rather than run from it. Acting upon rather than against it; welcoming it rather than dreading it. 

I have to bring my anxieties directly to my prefrontal cortex, from the unconscious to the conscious acting part of myself, where I make decisions and where I can choose who I am and what my values are [footnote 1].

To do this, I’m making a list tomorrow of all my anxieties. From this list I’ll be creating goals designed to specially address them. 

This is the third revolution of my model for goal planning and prioritiztion. The first was attempting to set goals based on my values, which I began doing at twenty-four. The second model for my goal planning and prioritization was interesting and valuable, but perhaps not entirely well-suited for an artist, who probably experiences more anxiety than anyone (save the neurotic), on acccount of their being so poor suited for any life but their own. 

I’ve come to learn recently that anxiety is perhaps the most valuable aspect of our intuitive voice, telling us exactly what we are uncomfortable with and where we need to act. The problem with anxiety is when we let it control us. I’m reminded of the sage quote, the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Perhaps so too is anxiety. The challenge is for us to distinguish the rational anxiety from the irrational. Be rational and logical in your anxiety. Healthy anxiety is rational. But anxiety is a part of life. What I’m attempting to do is to work with mine to my advantage. Heaven knows its crushed me for long enough. 

Because in the end, anxiety drives us all regardless – it’s just a matter of whether that force [anxiety] is constructive or destructive: the choice is ours, only, most of us never learn that, but – if we did – if we knew the true value in learning from and facing anxiety, I think many of us would live differently. 

The obstacle is the way – I finally understand it: I have to turn toward my anxieties – my fears. And they won’t go away until – and unless – I slay them: these are my dragons. 

And Joseph Campbell’s words have never rang truer:

The treasure you seek lies in the cave you fear to enter. 

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p.s. Having written this – having read this – I am so happy because I know I am going to face life, face fear, in a whole new way. And I’m ready for it. I made it here for this.

p.p.s I finally understand a John Mayer lyric from The Heart of Life, which I have always loved:

“Fear is a friend whose misunderstood.”

p.p.p.s Another thing I really appreciate about Rollo May (Aside from his insights into anxiety and his contributions to existential psychology.) are his humanist views. 

From a 1978 interview with Paychology Today, originally published on cassette:

One final question Dr May. Lets prognosticate if we may about the future. As we approach the end of the 20th century, what do you see happening. Will anxiety continue to escalate, will there be greater and greater numbers of people who face anxiety daily or will we learn to deal with our anxiety and manage it more constructively?

Well I think the latter. Certainly I think we’re in for hard times for a while yet, but then I think we must have some kind of new renaissance, some kind of new birth of a society that will have equality for women and a society that will have equality for races of whatever colour. Now the new renaissance will not be based upon the myths and symbols of the renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries but rather it will be based upon new symbols, the symbol of one world, the symbol of planetism, the symbol of interrelationship of the various countries in the world. This has to be understood politically. And I think we are being pushed towards this by the historical developments that are a great problem to us like Oil. We’re all going to be short of energy products in the next 15 or 20 years and we’ll just have to reorganise our world as a greater community a more constructive community that we have in the past. Now I look forward to that, and I look forward to the anxiety being used constructively as it will need to be if we’re to be reborn or even if it was to survive. Otherwise I think I think we are in for an even greater new and general holocaust.

Footnote 1:

“A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.” – Rollo May

This is directly from the Rollo May wiki, which I suggest you read. 

And two more from there, because, fuck it – they’re great:

“The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have.”

“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”

Note: many of these quotes do not have sources. That’s because this is my personal blog and I’m a straight up intellectual gangster. For a source, try google… I’m sure you’ve searched for worse things in your life. 

If you enjoyed this, Subscribe to my new entries here. You may also follow me on Facebook or insta @lawrencevblack. 

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All, humanity, Journal, MyFavoritez, Prose, Self-Actualizing

One Belief to Change Everything, or Not

I have not published anything here in near a month, but a lot can happen in a month – a lot can happen in a day; your days can have significance. This is true (Along with everything else you believe). 

I believe I’m fortunate beyond measure. Where there is love there is life – I have love: abundant, sweet, free, generous love. And it’s the love I have for myself that counts most and makes the rest possible. My heart is a magic kitchen; I am an alchemist; I turn shit into gold. I don’t even want to die anymore

Thirty-two is a very good year: there are no limosines but the perfumed hair comes undone and my heart beats for it. I am a man. No Christian. I am a man. A human, and I think humanness is something we must aspire to. 

But, in order to be human, we have to be whole – imperfect – and I am not talking about accepting flaws, but, rather, acknowledging our status as complex biological and psychological entities. This means listening to our bodies as much as our hearts, and – if we are brave enough – serving both without betraying one. 

That’s the thing about life: it isn’t so much important to be true to ourselves as it is to not betray ourselves. Sometimes, we make mistakes, and that’s a part of life, but I don’t want to live in the shade of the freeway, forever a pretender, trying to buy my own happiness till I die. That would be a betrayal of who I am, as would be a cookie cutter anything – or anything that resembled a normal life at all. I didn’t make it through what I’ve made it through to be bored and unhappy. Ha. 

Hell nah. To quote it for the billionth time, I would rather be whole than good (Jung). I would rather live a life  according to the dictates of my own soul than follow arbitrary mores. My own values are what count. There are many a moralist whom I would not dare break bread with. But this is life, and they fucking love Donald Trump. That’s just the world we live in. Sorry kids, but life is a macrocosm of high school. Most people still playing a game called “who’s coolest” – of course, in the adult world, we call these people boring, unimaginative, and unoriginal, which is precisely what most people are. I really do wish there were more humans I wanted to hug, but like the homie James Comey, I don’t play that. Me no conversate with the fakes

Water, however, finds its own level – as do persons. I refer here not to class, status, race or religion, but values. Unfortunately, however, xenophobia is very real in America. So is Fox News.  

But I promise you, the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps not in number – or even power – but, as far as the stuff that makes life worth living goes [love], there is plenty of it. And when you have those good people in your life, stick to them like glue – and when you meet other good people, stick to them too. 

If you are not the social type, I understand. My late twenties did a lot to incline me toward introversion, but still, sociometer theory is well and true, and being likable goes a long way toward being happy.  Being happy, of course, making you likable. 

Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. I love Lawrence Black. I love my life. 

This same life, I made a hell of at times. That’s the thing about being an alchemist – that’s the thing about perspective – you can turn shit to gold but you can also turn gold to shit. Humans are lenses. Paradise and hell, and all between – you can experience it. This we call thought. Feeling. Being. 

But few of us question it. Only, when we do – and we do discover that – gah! – we don’t fully like ourselves – this is precisely when we outgrow it. Most ideas the unconscious mind holds, which hold us in turn, are absurdly illogical. How many times have you learned something about yourself that you let go of upon discovering? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to see the error of my ways – and just the coming to truth with myself about it was enough to resolve the matter – even if it had personally gripped me for years. Realizations, therapy, mistakes, life: it takes a long time to learn about yourself. But the more you do, oh how life gets better. 

I’d keep going, but I’d like to return a few messages before bed. And I think I’ll come back here soon. I’ve got more to say. That’s for fucksure. 

My unassailable, unimpeachable confidence is almost diametrically opposed to the fact that life is delicate and I will die, but why not be strong? Far better to trust life, to trust yourself. As I wrote long ago, society is a mirror no person finds themselves likable in. Be secure. That’s my advice. And the only way to be secure is to look within. Because that’s the only way you’ll ever change. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing you’re not happy. 

Lastly, is like to say something about optimism. I brought a book from Urban Outfitters late last year called You Can Be an Optimist, and while the book taught me a lot (Specifically on optimism and locus of control) – what really hit me was a thought I had while driving the other day: optimism is nothing more than the genuine belief that things will work out – and that one belief changes everything. 

After all, whose side are you on? 

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Spelunking

I’ve come to see that a big part of maturity – if not the core of it – comes down to our ability to perceive reality without bias, without denial, and without escape. 

To be well-adjusted to life is to be at peace with it, for better or for worse, because, fact is, you will always experience unpleasant feelings: they are a part of life. 

I have quite recently come to see that there’s just never going to be that day when I become Buddha; although, I have definitely tried (Psycadellics, meditation, Stoicism, CBT).

The point is, life is life: we have to accept it. 

In the words of Albert Camus:

“At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.”

And having acquired something akin to this, I can attest that acceptance is an integral part of wellbeing and inner-peace; however, acceptance is not everything. 

Many of us, myself included, have long had an unhealthy relationship with negative feelings – so much so that we often seek caustic escapes in an attempt to avert ourselves from our unpleasant feelings, which often leads to a kind of vicious cycle wherein we create more problems for ourselves rather than simply facing our original adversities head-on. 

I can’t remember who said this, but I recall a quote to the effect of:

‘One thing about humans is that they love to feel good and they hate to feel bad.’ 

I think it was Steinbeck. Anyhow, this is true: we don’t like to feel bad; in-fact, I would say that many of us are addicted to our feelings, always seeking to feel great, at the expense of good. 

All this said, today I wholly believe in welcoming negative feelings. 

Part of this comes from the idea of Positive Disintigration, and the other part of it just comes from my experience in learning to be courageous, in learning to face my feelings – to face life.

Facing negative feelings is the very mechanism by which I have grown. 

Any negative feelings I experience come from some part of me: be it my ego, my soul, my anima, or my intuition. None of these are invalid; they are ultimately all just different aspects of me, and, in my experience, it does not serve me to ignore them. 

I mean, aren’t we supposed to listen to our inner voices?

I think in theory we all relate to this idea as a valid practice; however, in real life, I think many of us are only wanting to actively listen to the happy, satisfied inner voice. 

So it is, we live in our own shadows, standing in the way of our light; after-all, listening to our negative feelings would require facing some unpleasant, and maybe even scary feelings. 

But this is the way; as Joseph Campbell said, “The treasure you seek is in the cave you fear to enter.”

After-all, isn’t our very reluctance to experience and examine our negative feelings born out of fear? 

It’s fear that causes us to turn away from life. And in doing so, we shun our own development.

As Marcus Aurelius taught me:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Without facing our negative feelings, we do not advance. 

But I think part of the problem, and the reason why people cower and flee from negative feelings is that they don’t fundamentally know how to address them. They don’t know how to face their feelings – regardless of how capable they feel in facing their problems. In short, we need our feelings in order to face our problems. We are often just too scared. Too afraid to accept that we are uncomfortable and upset. Also, once we accept the negative, we become responsible for it, and that can be equally frightening. 

In a sense, however, facing our negative feelings is not actually that mystifying or scary. 

Our thoughts really fall into two binary categories: rational and irrational.  

Unfortunately, few people examine whether their thoughts are rational at all. 

For me, the ability to cipher rationality from thoughts comes largely from the Stoic perspective of asking whether something is in my control or not. 

My reeling over the daily shit our government is taking on the people of America, for instance, is not rational; for I have no control over that. 

On the flip side, my negative feelings about not getting to bed earlier or hitting my work goals, are rational, for those things are under my control. 

But not all negative feelings are resolved or even realized as simply as that. 

For the most part I think we just tend to feel slightly nervous and unsettled in general, never quite diving in and inviting our inner-voice to be the bearer of bad news. 

Once we do that, once we listen to the negative inner thoughts behind our  feelings, we suddenly uncover the ugly truths that have long been staring us in the face.

And when we do that, when we acknowledge the elephants in the room squat before us, we actually have a couple options that we can use to effectively face them. 

But in order to face them, we have to break them down into what they are: 

ABCs. 

  • A= Activating Event / Adversity 
  • B = Belief (About the event)
  • C= Consequence 

Note: Learn more depth about the above ABCs, here

Most people only see the C, the consequence, i.e., we focus exclusively on the negative feeling. 

For instance, I feel like shit because I don’t have more financial security. 

That’s the C (Consequence). The A (Adversity) is not having the money to do more of what I want. The B is my belief: that I will be more comfortable with more money.

Essentially, in this case, there are two options within the ABC framework for me – since I can’t change the consequence directly. 

Either I change the A, i.e., earn more money, or, I change the B: my belief that I will be more comfortable with more money. 

For me, the belief that I will feel more at peace with greater financial security is fairly unchangeable; paraphrasing Drake here: I know money doesn’t buy happiness but I’m happiest when I can buy what I want to, get high when I want to.

In short, since I can’t change the belief (That I will be more content with more success), I can either suffer the consequences of that belief passively, or I can change the activating event, removing the burden from me entirely. 

That example was a tad of a rant, but the alternative to not facing it, of not understanding what I have to change in order to experience greater inner-peace, is simply to suffer. 

Are we really just supposed to live our lives taking pills for our feelings? Or are we meant to listen to them, to evolve and grow by facing them bravely, nobly. 

When it comes to our negative feelings, many of which may have haunted us for years, I believe we’ve all got some spelunking to do. 

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers to the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”

– Shakespeare, Macbeth

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Thirty-One and Change: Reflections on Experience 

This is my third and final attempt to write this entry. The previous two night’s efforts yielded a dozen or so paragraphs but nothing palpable, from the heart.

Unfortunately, I am tired and slightly stoned atm; however, this might actually work in my favor, given that it ensures I will be (Relatively) brief. And I recognize I am not generally so; although, this is largely because my prose is more the result of a process than a purpose – but I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

Twice I have worn myself out attempting to write this entry; and it would seem simple: I want to write about some of the things I have come to realize this year; however, it is not simple: it is complex.

To share my realizations – what amounts to my bedrock values and priorities at thirty-one – is to draw from what I have learned, often by living in a way that is entirely contradictory to what I am now prescribing for myself; however, this is growth – meaning: I am not losing any part of myself; in my heart, I am still the boy I was at eleven; only, now, I am a happy, peaceful, and constructive adult, which is nothing to scoff at – as any adult learns.

That said, here are the things that are sticking for me at thirty-one:

Proportion > Balance

Balance is frequently espoused as part of a happy, healthy life, which makes sense given that extremes and excesses are destructive forces for many, if not all who fail to practice moderation in their lifestyles. Unfortunately, however, my idea of balance never moderated my behavior; my idea of balance was: “Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.” Not exactly a wise prescription for living; although, most certainly a forgiving one. Only, I don’t want to stem the tide of cognitive dissonance with beliefs that directly negate my personal responsibility. As an adult, it is my responsibility to make sure that everything I do is authentically attuned to what may be called my “higher-self”, which is to say: the me that I aspire to be – the me I am committed to being. So, instead of trying to live a prescription for a balanced life, today I am more concerned with living proportionately to my needs, based on what works for me.

Balance may work for others; although, I do not pretend to know what it best for another; my principal concern is only what it best for me, based on the individualized needs of my soul. And I need proportion.

This [proportion] applies to many aspects of my life; I simply require the things that work for me in direct proportion to the degree in which they serve me. For some things, this means total abstinence, for others, it’s open season.

In short, attempting to practice balance is not a specific enough prescription for me, whereas viewing things from the perspective of proportion allows me to consciously choose only that which is suited for me. 

Cannibis, Entheogens > Alcohol

I used to think alcohol helped me, somehow made me better, more able to be myself. Talk about shit thinking; I couldn’t have been more wrong: alcohol is antithetical to who I am, to what I value – and most certainly is only a detriment to my higher-self and soul. Put simply, it doesn’t serve me one single iota. Cannibis however, and certain entheogens (Ritually used in a healthy, safe environment), have helped me. In-fact, I cleanse the doors of perception not infrequently; however, it should be said here, that this is something that works for me – again, proportion.

For those curious to learn more about psychadellics, I recommend following MAPS

Introversion > Misanthropy 

I once proudly proclaimed myself a misanthrope (Nine months ago, lol). Today, largely thanks to Sociometer Theory and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Both of which have helped me understand man’s function as a social animal.), I actually care what other people think (As, I never before did), and my self-esteem is a million miles better for it. In short, humans need human love, acceptance, and even approval.

Experience > Wisdom 

It might be said that wisdom without experience is only advice.

It is only when we have the requisite experience and learning that we can understand the depth of even the most banal cliches.

I can’t think of how many times the most oft-uttered (And heretofore seemingly meaningless) adages, have suddenly made perfect sense to me in light of personal experience. Things like, “Be careful what you wish for” now strike me as profound and invaluable, whereas before they meant little if anything.

In short, wisdom is cheap, experience is priceless. 

On the same note, it’s amazing reading something I have read for years, and being struck in the heart by passages that before went in one ear and out the other (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations comes to mind).

As the Tao says:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Mature Responsibilities > Base Animal Drives

I think what separates humans from animals isn’t the lack of base, animalistic drives, but, rather, our ability to transcend and rise above them.

For much of my life I have followed the dictates of my base impulses, and it has come at the expense of my resposibilities.

I am reminded of the saying, “The mind is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

Today, I am happy to be master of the castle, lord of the manor. I no longer feel conscripted by my animalistic desires to abandon my responsibilities. Instead, I am focusing on my higher animal desires, which, unlike the lower, do not rob me of my dignity and gravitas.

Dignity > Pride

I spent much of my twenties defending my pride and abandoning my dignity. It hurts just to think about. Thankfully, however, life has humbled me. Where I once defended my pride at all costs, today I defend my dignity, which is a much more honorable source of pride than my ego ever was.

In a word, dignity, like class, is how you treat people and how you respond to the way others treat you: it is saving the world from yourself; it is the very basis of social and personal morality. 

Habits > Impulse, Whim, Folly

As mentioned, I am no stranger to my base animal desires; however, what’s more, I also know what it is to live subject to every passing whim, impulse, and folly.

I used to think this was freedom: living according to my nature  – regardless what presented itself to me as pleasing – consequences be damned.

How foolish and young I was; this was not freedom, it was ignorance. To live according to impulse is to lay victim to habits, which require self-discipline and control – the very enemies of the puer.

Today, I love the ritual of habits. As I lay here writing this, Sarah reads beside me, the dogs lay about, a fire burns in the hearth, and “Awaken, My Love!” plays cooly, melodically, in the background – a typical evening for us.

In short, I am no longer plagued by restlessness and I love the peace and security my habits bring me – Friday wake and bake included. Whatever fun I had to get here was worth it (Mostly), but I thank my lucky stars my twenties are over, and with them the impulse, whim, and folly that for so long kept me from being able to live a calm, stable life, which is by no means to say an unexciting one. 

Security > Freedom 

When most first-world white people think of freedom, they tend to envision something like the 4-Hour Workweek or perhaps being able to travel or live remotely, as many Facebook ads promise. Only, that’s not freedom (Sounds more like retirement to me); my concept of freedom looks very much like the life I am now taking up: consulting from home and daily writing fiction. Fuck getting rich if I am not writing. That is not my dream of freedom; my freedom today comes from the security I maintain, which affords me the ability to do what I love: pursue my career as a major writer.

In short, I would have no freedom without the security afforded me by the very things I once thought diametrically opposed to freedom: hard work and discipline. 

Freedom is following your dreams. Without security, this is not possible. 

For my writers out there:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”

– E.B White

Actions > Dreams 

Following the spirit of the above, I am today interested in actions over dreams.

In a word, action is what brings dreams to life; without action dreams are only fantasies. And life is too short to spend fantasizing. Besides, real life beats masturbating any day. 

Temporality > Mortality 

I have long felt myself a Stoic – fuck, I had to be, lol *laughs at life’s major tragedies. 

Part of what has allowed me to laugh at my misfortunes (And a big part of my philosophy) was the concept of my mortality – memento mori.

Unfortunately, however, while focusing and meditating on death put things in perspective for me, it also gave me a devil may care attitude, as if saying to myself: “Don’t worry, you’re totally GOING TO DIE,” hence, why stress over this or that. In a sense it gave me the peace of a nihilist. And we all know nihilists DGAF.

Only, I want to give a fuck. After all, I can use any number of philosophies and maxims to strip myself of personal responsibility, but the fact remains: I am responsible for myself while I am here – temporarily. So, while I am here, let me live well (In accordance with reason and nature), and let me follow my dreams.

For not only will I one day die, but I will also one day be old and the ships will have sailed. 

Let me remember that I am here temporarily; let me make hay while the sun shines. 

Health > Pleasure 

Health isn’t everything, it is the only thing. Without health we have nothing; in-fact, health is my top priority in life – as it should be.

Honesty > Fear

I’m closing with this becuase without honesty – personal honesty – I would have arrived at none of these understandings.

Whatever fears, whatever vanities and insecurities might prevent me from examining my life, all are mere trivialities when compared to the benefits of living life honestly, with both feet planted on the ground.

Without personal honesty we are forever condemned to our prejudices and illusions.

In order to grow, we have to confront our fears, which simply requires being honest with ourselves. That is true bravery.

Postscript

I pride myself on living with a light-heart, and this entry was by no means heavy-hearted; however, I have definitely written many things here that were much more fun, joyous even; although, this was certainly not one of them. 

This was a serious, mature declaration of truths, many of which I had failed to consider or realize up until this point. That said, in my effort to attain proportion in my endeavors, I most certainly seek lightness, laughter, but those things require that I adhere to the above principles – for without them, I would be rudderless. 

– LB

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Get Thee Up

“I wake up every morning and check if I am in a state of grace,” a 31 year-old Leonard Cohen told an interviewer in 1965.

Every morning of your life, you choose whether your soul is in a state of grace or not. Now, whether or not this is a conscious choice is up to you.

For me, the grace of my soul requires no more than that I choose to live consciously: choosing to be happy – choosing to be excited about MY life – choosing to affirm the gratitude I have for the opportunities that are mine to seize TODAY.

In the words of a young Leonard Cohen: “There are dreams of glory whispering through the wires of my spine.”

I want this everyday. 

This is called “a can’t lose attitude”. 

Put simply: your wellbeing is your choice; you can have it everyday.

Happiness isn’t the result of a good life but the cause of one.

And while we live in a world of thermometers – people who reflect their environment – YOU CAN be a thermostat – controlling your own; for we are either kings or pawns in this life (Alexander Dumas).

As the ancient proverb reminds us: “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”

Remember this; wrap your mind around it; marinate on it.

As I have reinterpreted it: happiness isn’t the result of a good life but the cause of one.

And whether I know all this stuff already or not – and no matter how much I have written it – I will never stop reminding myself of the core tenets that comprise the bedrock of my life and my wellbeing.

Choice.

Choice.

Choice.

If you don’t choose your beliefs about yourself – if you aren’t consciously choosing your beliefs about your relationship to today – they will exist independently of your own power.

And trust me, if you are relying on anything outside of yourself for your wellbeing, you are playing a risky game.

Last time I checked, this world was not exactly in a state of grace. And while that’s unfortunate, it is not in my power nor in my duty to control (Footnote 1/1). 

What I know is that I can choose to live in a state of grace REGARDLESS of what happens or has happened in my life; for I rely on that impenetrable thing Emerson referred to as “self-reliance”.

And while it requires a bit more courage, life is far better lived from the saddle than in the carriage.

So giddyup and exercise your will, for that is what you are here to do.

Giddyup Etymology:

From get up or get ye/thee up.


Footnote 1: There is absolutley nothing wrong with knowing in your heart of hearts that you are a bit better than this savage world you were born into: for it’s a Trump America and the inmates are officially running the asylum.

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Bucking The Lazy Cowboy, or How The Little Prince Usurped Peter Pan

Life would seem so easy, as if we could just say: “I want to wake up early and write everyday”, and it would happen. 

Only, there’s a fly in the ointment: we don’t always do the things we want to do; sure, we wish them to happen but things don’t happen according to wishes – things happen according to actions. That’s how life works. Call it the difference between intention and action, wish and fulfillment. 

This is why I am writing tonight: because of that difference; because there is a difference; because I am not going to wake up tomorrow and write fiction – as I wish to. 

Why? You tell me. 

Why don’t you work out? Why don’t you eat right!? You know what to do. You want to look and feel better but you eat pizza and chicken sandwiches for dinner. 

I am speaking to myself but I think it’s a fair analogy: I do what I feel rather than what I should. 

Only, I am tired of not having what I want. Tired of not feeling better. Tired of not being happier. Tired of not being Lawrence Black: builder of self, mover of mountains. 

I admit, I brood. I get into modes of self-pity. These things happen; however, I am trying to be more than my moods; I am trying to transcend them so that I may bring my dreams to life, and I need to overcome my nature in order to do that. Because me, left to my own innate nature, I am kind of a lazy cowboy; contented with the basic essentials: whiskey, women, food, fire, sleep.

Fun for a weekend, but it’s not a life to just get by / it’s not a life without progression. Because there is one kind of life I know to be amazing: and that is the life you are excited to wake up and live; the life you are thinking about when you go to bed at night because you can’t wait to wake up in the morning and live it. 

I know this feeling: I have felt it before. 


Part 2: The Little Prince Usurps Peter Pan

And this is where I fell asleep. We were watching The Little Prince on Netflix and I was tired, and the muse had run out of gas on this topic. Fortunately, however, I awoke five minutes ago – after a few hours of deep slumber – with an idea clear as day; I realized that it was no longer serving me to live without care for my responsibilities. Allow me to elaborate. 

For a long time, Peter Pan was my spirit animal. Well, in a more archetypal manner but nonetheless Peter Pan was a strong muse for this Puer. Ask my exes if this sounds familiar. 

And I love Peter Pan but I can no longer afford to let him take the wheel. I have responsibilities, and as Wretch 32 sings:

The weight of responsability’s grown on me. 

And it really has. 

I lost my Dad to cancer not many weeks ago. Now I am the man of the family. And this isn’t just some abstract idea or feeling; I am thinking about my mom’s future. Furthermore, Sarah relies on me as a provider and as a romantic lover: she believes in my dreams and she wants to live them with me. This is why we moved to the mountains: so I could write and so we could rejoice in one another’s solitude and companionship. But I can’t afford to rest on my laurels simply because I know I am destined for greatness. That is classic Peter Pan syndrome. 

Peter Pan never grows up. He refuses to. In fact, the world is introduced to Peter Pan through the work of J.M. Barrie, who titles his play: Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. 

Here is Wikipedia on Peter Pan’s personality:

Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He claims greatness, even when such claims are questionable (such as congratulating himself when Wendy re-attaches his shadow). In the play and book, Peter symbolises the selfishness of childhood, and is portrayed as being forgetful and self-centred.

Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooners’ Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder. With this blithe attitude, he says, “To die will be an awfully big adventure”. In the play, the unseen and unnamed narrator ponders what might have been if Peter had stayed with Wendy, so that his cry might have become, “To live would be an awfully big adventure!”, “but he can never quite get the hang of it”.

I am painfully aware of the relevance here for my life; however, I didn’t realize how much of a shadow archetype Peter Pan has been for me, meaning how unhealthy this “spirit” has been in my life. 

Contrast Peter Pan’s laissez-faire, self-serving existence in Neverland with that of The Little Prince, who lives on the tiny asteroid planet B-612, which he maintains and cares for (Weeding the volcanos and trimming the ever growing trees), before eventually falling in love with a rose, with whom he has to deal with her vanity. Although she apologizes for her vanity and they reconcile, the petit Prince nonetheless vows to go explore the universe. 

Whereas Peter Pan never wants to leave Neverland except to recruit children from the Darling household. In fact, even when Wendy falls for him and wants a kiss, Peter simply sees her as a surrogate mom. And when, in the end of the story, Peter has a chance to be with Wendy, he declines – opting instead to stay with his Lost Boys in Neverland. In short, Peter Pan is a self-absorbed boy who refuses to grow up. 

Meanwhile, our Little Prince leaves his love (The rose) and his planet, B-612, to go learn about the universe. He is just a boy but he is intrepid and brave. And despite being a boy he sees the foolishness of the adults on each of the asteroids he visits. From Wikipedia:

The prince has since visited six other asteroids, each of which was inhabited by a single, irrational, narrow-minded adult, each meant to critique an element of society. They include: a king with no subjects; a vain man, who believes himself the most admirable person on his otherwise uninhabited planet; a drunkard who drinks to forget the shame of being a drunkard; a businessman who is blind to the beauty of the stars and instead endlessly counts them in order to “own” them all (critiquing materialism); a lamplighter who wastes his life blindly follows orders and extinguishing and relighting a lamp once a minute; and an elderly geographer. Like the others, the geographer is closed-minded, providing a caricurature of specialization in the modern world.

Our Little Prince is learning about the world. And unlike Peter Pan, he forms real, meaningful relationships with the people he encounters: loving the rose, taming the fox, and teaching the narrator about life. 

While Peter Pan teaches us to remain adolescents and hold onto our childhood, The Little Prince teaches us about growing up and letting go. And this is what life requires: maturity. 

The truth is, it is not serving me or my dreams any longer to be Peter Pan. There was a time when the Peter Pan spirit kept me going, when it made me daring and brave, enabling me to walk away from my own Wendys so that I might follow that inner voice telling me that I wasn’t home yet. But now I am, and this lazy cowboy is ready to become a little prince. No more living in Neverland. I’ve got a universe to explore. 

So what’s the meaning of all this inner alchemy? What is the outcome of these paradigm shifts?

Well, I’ve got responsibilities to tend to. Work, writing, health, love. 

And I can no longer afford to ignore them, I can no longer remain a boy. 

And so it is, I will invoke the bravery of The Little Prince, and I will face life with faith in myself and trust in my journey, much like Peter Pan gave me faith in myself as a boy; only, I need different heroes as a man: heroes capable of inspiring me to take action rather than simply dream. 

Note: here are a couple good follow ups for anyone interested in the Puer (the eternal boy) and The Little Prince:

Two Psychoanalytical Readings of The Little Prince:

https://icu.repo.nii.ac.jp/index.php?action=repository_action_common_download&item_id=4032&item_no=1&attribute_id=22&file_no=1&page_id=13&block_id=17

The Problem of The Puer Aeternus, Marie Loius Von Franz:

https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/micmac108/puer-aeternus

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Blind Spots

Biases, weaknesses, complexes, assumptions – things that cloud our objectivity – we all have our shortsightedness. 

Unfortunately, we typically do not recognize blind spots until they become clear: in hindsight, where we can see them – often for the first time. 

The cause of our blind spots are as varied as human folly, and as vast as the fallacies we are capable of engendering. 

In short, blind spots are a part of life, they will fuck your shit up, and you will be blind-sided time and again by things you do not see, things you fail to understand: relationships, businesses, friendships. In life, the plane will crash into the mountain. 

But we have to keep trying. The day we give up, our shadow has won and we have placed our dreams on ice. 

There will be blind spots. This, I recognize. What I want to do, however, is succeed in spite of them. Is this not how life is lived: via hypothesis – our beliefs and theories – the working models we apply to avoid blind spots. 

It’s nothing less than a great irony, that the successful working model is often the very product of the numerous pitfalls and blind spots a person had to ultimately encounter in order to succeed. 

In the words of Steve Jobs: you can only connect the dots looking backward

To close, I’m trusting life. That it will carry me further and care for me, as it has. But I am also hoping to hit the moon. And I’m trusting that my blind spots have prepared me. 

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The Suck: Choice is Yours

Melancholy days. I still have them; usually they happen when life doesn’t live up to my expectations. 

There is, of course, the adage that, happiness is reality minus expectations. It follows then, that we are, for the most part, responsible for our own happiness or sadness; however, I find value in all emotional states: the sour is a valuable part of life. 

Some days pain is going to visit you, and you will look in the mirror and know that you are better than this. Now, whatever this is, it’s what your life happens to be at the present moment.

Does that mean there is no changing it? No. You can change it, but you’re going to need to be honest with yourself about what needs to be changed and what is going to be required of you. 

What do you want? Remind yourself. Never forget; even if those expectations cast a thunderstorm above life as it stands today. You musn’t scale down your expectations because they aren’t met. That’s resignation. 

I think the path to mediocrity is an easy one: it’s the path most are on. They resign themselves to life as it is. I, on the other hand, would rather have days like this, knowing that they are reminders of what I want, what I deserve, and what I am capable of creating. 

As John Mayer sings on The Heart of Life, “Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood”. So too is sadness, melancholy, and pain. These things are the feedback system within us, designed to let us know that shit sucks. 

Because sometimes – contrary to what your Facebook feed might lead you to believe – life can suck – and that’s okay, not just normal, but healthy. For without days like this, how are we ever to grow, to evolve. We need days like this. In fact, I would argue that without days like this, we aren’t living full and honest lives. 

Sure, I have a lot to be grateful for. I am neither disputing nor forgetting that. Fact is, anyone who has been through what I have gone through does not forget to count their blessings. I am a fortunate fellow. I’ve got youth, health, passion, intellect, and a wellspring of potential, which I am fully aware of. It’s just X, Y, and Z – the flies in the ointment – that really upset me. 

So I have two choices: I can let the suck cripple me, essentially relegating me to my bed as the suck tends to do – or, I can make a plan to change the suck.

Life is a game of potentials but it is won by wills. You cannot allow the suck to break your will or to weaken your resolve. It has to fuel it, it has to embolden your cause, serving to act as nature’s reminder that life can be more than this. So put pen to paper as I am today. Make a plan to change X, Y, and Z. It’s either that or you accept it. The choice is all yours but the suck is here regardless. It’s what you do with it, what meaning you allow it, and how it changes you. So use it. Let it push you forward. Let it spur you to change what you can, which is either the cause of the suck, your beliefs about the suck, or how the suck makes you feel. Chances are, however, that the latter element is futile: it sucks. There is no changing that. That’s what the suck is. But it’s not all it is. The suck presents an invaluable opportunity to change your circumstances, to refuse to accept what is, and to grow and evolve. 

As Henry Ford said, “Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. 

That’s kind of what the suck is like. But, if we can look past it and we can see things honestly for what they are, we might just be looking at the chance we have been waiting for, which we ought to be grateful fortune has bestowed upon us. 

So no, I won’t embrace the suck – but I will welcome it as an opportunity, seeing pain as a messenger, and I will turn adversity to my advantage. This is how the hero plays the game. As I always say, you are either the hero of your story or the victim. Choice is yours. 

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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.

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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

 

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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.

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