Voice Memos: Your New Best Friend

The word ‘habit’ typically isn’t something I go gaga for, but when you integrate the right habits – from Latin habere, to have – into your life, you get the benefits of them. And sometimes in life we discover habits whose rewards are so enriching that it changes the game, leveling us up. Just as the wrong habits level us down.

I’ve recently begun a new habit that is so potent, so enriching, so rewarding and fulfilling, that I have to share it. Every single person I’ve mentioned it to seems to get it, and you’d think more people did this. And I think in the future more people will.

Frankly, we didn’t have the technology for it until rather recently. You carry the technology in your pocket or perhaps on your wrist, if you wear an iWatch. But if you’re like me, you never used your phone for this purpose before. Now that I have, it’s my favorite habit. Close to yoga. Invaluable.

If you’d like to try it, you only need the Voice Memos app, which comes bundled with your iPhone. If you’re an Android user, the Play store carries many free Voice Memo apps.

To try it yourself, open Voice Memos, press the red record button, and begin speaking – to yourself.

It might seem anticlimactic or appear mundane on the surface, to suggest you begin talking to yourself and recording it, but it’s far from purposeless. It is for me, the most purposeful thing I do. I’m over the moon for it.

It is, in short, Self Talk.

If you’re a regular or longtime reader of mine, you’ll recognize this term [self-talk] from my writings on the Navy Seals and self-talk, here, and here. Self-talk is no small thing. It’s the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, and the quality of our consciousness, our life, our happiness and wellbeing, depend on it – entirely. And the crazy thing is, most people live in their heads in a very passive, reactive relationship to themselves and their thoughts. You want to change your life? You want to get on track? You want growth? Start talking to yourself.

Now, before I did this, I would journal. But the problem with journaling is similar to the problem of typing: it’s very slow. We think faster than we can write. But we can typically speak at pace with our thoughts. Eventually, via something like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, we’ll be bionic cyborgs who don’t even need the phone. We’ll be able to google at the speed of thought and we’ll truly be connected to the internet. We will even be able to selectively communicate telepathically. But until then, we’re using two thumbs or a pen and it’s very slow. Voice Memos don’t have this problem. They allow us to think data and to dump it – and it becomes a conversation with our Self. And the more I do it, the more natural it becomes. It’s enjoyable. I get in the car and record hands-free voice memos while I’m driving alone. Basically it’s like having your best friend with you all the time. And they can always listen and they even speak back.

Now I understand some people might feel like it’s not normal to talk to yourself. And they’re right. It’s not normal. It’s extraordinary. Normal people are stuck in their heads. I know. I used to be one. My thoughts rising like a tide, me listening to them without ever really responding. Then getting so tired of my amygdala barking all day that I’d dump alcohol into myself to shut ‘er down. Yeah, that didn’t work for me.

In retrospect, I also notice that before I began this habit of self-talk via voice memos, I felt like I was missing that someone to listen to me (Dearest apologies to my ex-girlfriends and therapists and the blurred line between them). But now, I don’t feel that void. I don’t feel alone anymore. And both the quality of my consciousness and the capabilities of it have grown from using it actively in this fashion.

What do I talk about? Well, everything. Whatever I feel like. I just open voice memos and press record. It’s usually brief but sometimes it’s 20 mins or an hour. And I usually don’t listen to them, but sometimes I do – particularly if they were “inspired”. On that note, for anyone who uses plant medicines or entheogens, I can say that non-normal states of consciousness lend themselves to speech in this manner much more than journaling. The first time I ever did this was in-fact in a non-normal state of waking. And I knew after the first time that I had discovered something.

It’s a Yoga to me, a way, a path. And I’ll do it as long as I LIVE. I’m sorry, but it beats conventional thinking in the echo chamber of your head. Particularly for emotions, feelings, relationships, stresses, goals, anything of personal concern to you. It’s every single outer space movie ever where the person is alone and dialoging into a recording device…. “Day 735..”.

The night before I began this habit, I watched an old Twilight Zone episode about an astronaut stranded on a planet alone. He spoke aloud to himself almost the entire episode, usually into a recorder.

So perhaps that was the seed for the idea, but despite my living alone in the mountains, I had never done it before. As I said, I journaled. Now my main notebook is my daily to-do list, but my journaling has become entirely self-narrated into Voice Memos. But this wasn’t just a change in medium – it was a change in consciousness. From passive to active thinking. From being alone to having myself to face everything with – consciously.

Because that’s the big shift. From the unconscious – the sub-conscious – to the conscious. From thinking to doing: speaking. And by doing this, by speaking, by bringing our thoughts into being, we’re making the unconscious conscious.

As Jung says, “Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

In the words of Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD:

“The subconscious mind is learned habits. The conscious mind is creative programming. When you are conscious you can rewrite the instincts, and when you become conscious, you can rewrite the experience of your life. So that it is important to recognize that what we are not using enough of is consciousness.”

And having this practice of self-dialogue, of self-talk available to me and having found so much fulfillment in it, I have experienced the benefits of a boost in consciousness quite rapidly. It calms me down. It turns off my sympathetic nervous system and it turns on the parasympathetic nervous system. I can feel it. It grounds me in myself, and it allows me to tap into that part of me, the highest, the authentic self, where I have the resources available to me to handle any given situation.

As an added benefit, I’ve also experienced an improvement in two huge areas of my life. 1. My self-image and self-esteem – and 2. My relationship to myself.

When I speak aloud to myself, I become an active participant in my thinking. When I hear myself say something limiting or beneath my authentic self, I catch myself and I correct it. The quality of my thinking has gone way up. I’m no longer a prisoner of my thoughts. I’m the steward of them. The keeper of myself. And it’s helped me get to know myself better, and I’ve learned that I can count on myself, that I’m there for myself and will always be. As Nathaniel Branden writes, “Self-esteem is our reputation with ourselves.” By engaging in high-quality, conscious conversations with myself, my reputation with myself has improved drastically. It’s created accountability within myself. As I said (to myself) on one of my audios tonight, “I can’t get rid of my self-image: it’s who I am, and I have to live up to it.”

With that improved reputation with myself, my self-image has risen to the level of the Self, of authentic. It matches who I am. The inner and the outer of me have been joined into a unified whole. I’m no longer caught in the struggle of inner-self versus outer-self. Of unconscious versus conscious. It’s very liberating.

Whenever we bring the unconscious into consciousness, it frees us from the grip of the shadow, the repressed self. This weakens the psychic energy by removing repression from my being. The outer me is very interested in how the inner me feels, and I’m no longer bottling up my feelings inside myself.

How many of us long for a therapist? How many of us don’t have the access to that we would like? Having some experience with therapy and being on this side of 34, I can say that the therapist has no magic. It’s the talking – the talking cure.

I’m writing to tell you it works. And you may feel eccentric doing it, but you are worth your conscious attention. This is like being able to re-parent your inner child. And you can certainly talk to the other parts of yourself. You could, theoretically engage in dialogue specifically with say, the ego, the inner-child, the shadow, the anima – any archetype within you.

Consciousness has long been described as being like a computer. The word computer comes from the Latin “putare”, which means both to think and to prune. This is what I do in my audio logs. I think and I prune – cutting away what is not beneficial for me by way of choosing better thoughts and improving the conversation in my head – down to the subconscious. This is the brain folks. It’s your computer. Your duty to yourself is to program your computer to optimize your health, wellbeing, and success. By listening to your own voice. By making the inner voice the outer voice.

As the Gnostic text The Gospel of Thomas tells us:

“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner as the outer, and the upper as the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male shall not be male, and the female shall not be female: . . . then you will enter [the kingdom].”

It might sound cryptic but it’s the ancient philosopher’s stone of “As above so below, as within so without.”

These are metaphors for integration, to achieve wholeness. To reclaim who we are. Children talk to themselves. Adults stop. And I find it sad. Especially knowing the value of it now. I wish I had started this ten years ago.

Not only has it given me a better relationship to myself and a healthier psyche, I also have much more access to myself; I can query myself like a database, asking myself important questions. I’m no longer living in the vacuum of mind.

It is interpersonal communication. Animals do it. Watch a gorilla documentary. They are vocal animals. Silence in nature means danger. The wikipedia for interpersonal communication gives an interesting theory for this:

Joseph Jordania suggested that talking to oneself can be used to avoid silence. According to him, the ancestors of humans, like many other social animals, used contact calls to maintain constant contact with the members of the group,and a signal of danger was communicated through becoming silent and freezing. Because of the human evolutionary history, prolonged silence is perceived as a sign of danger and triggers a feeling of uneasiness and fear. According to Jordania, talking to oneself is only one of the ways to fill in prolonged gaps of silence in humans. Other ways of filling in prolonged silence are humming, whistling, finger drumming, or having TV, radio or music on all the time.

And how many people do you know who always have the TV on? Or music? I have found silence to be much more profound now that I’ve broken the taboo on talking to myself. I no longer need the energy from external sources. I have riches and love within me. Here for me. From me.

Negative self-talk, negative thinking will ruin your life. The science backs it up:

Negative self-talk has been implicated in contributing to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety, and bulimia nervosa.

The truth is, you need yourself. That’s what this has given me. Full access to myself.

Read about the benefits of private speech. I find it telling that our communication with ourselves in the form of private speech “goes underground” when we begin school.

It’s sad that society holds a stereotype that people who talk to themselves are “crazy”. I think this adult notion prevents many people from doing what all children do.

It’s not crazy. It’s very sane, from Latin sanus, meaning healthy.

Don’t live your life like a closed book, an enigma, a mystery to yourself. You deserve your own company and your own conversation. It’s been life changing for me. Liberating. Empowering. Beautiful.

I hope this compels others who read this to start recording their own private voice memos, to start engaging in their own private discussions. I think it’s something we can all benefit from. And I didn’t know until I began to do it myself just how lacking my life was without it.

So make voice memos your new best friend and make you your new best friend.

Introduction to LEVELS

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

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The above came to me yesterday, near the end of a two hour float-tank session, where I began to recite the above over and over, until I had it memorized.

In short, it was a deepening of my life philosophy – LEVELS – which I am come here to write further on.

The idea of LEVELS came to me a few years ago, and I subsequently got a tattoo of the word LEVELS on the inner side of my right wrist.

The idea originally being simply that there are LEVELS to life. Perhaps this was unconsciously seeded by Meek Mill’s song, LEVELS. And it may also have been influenced by the Avicii song, LEVELS.

The way the collective unconscious works, it seems to me that LEVELS has come out of the time in which I live.

So I am here, to contribute to that, as a writer and thinker, with an introduction to LEVELS, the game of life.

Life as a Game, Exploring Philosophical Implications

In Shakespeare’s age, all the world was a stage. In the age of Elon Musk, life is a game.

Which, if life is a game or we choose to view life as a game – a simulation of sorts – then what are the implications? What does it change?

Well, that’s up to us.

We can simply (As I have before) accept the Simulation Hypothesis as likely or true, which may give us a bit of hope that we exist outside of reality and will perhaps continue existing afterwards. This is a particularly novel and useful idea for those non-religious thinkers, who do not believe in a heaven or hell, but nonetheless, by way of human nature, would like to think death is not the end.

Whatever you believe, I implore you to focus on this life, rather than some imagined, uncertain existence after the death of your present living consciousness; for this life is, to our knowledge, all we have. But also, if it were a simulation, it might be a test – will you get to the next LEVEL, or will you be reincarnated back into this one, for further training.

One thing about reincarnation that I appreciate is that the idea is ancient, meaning that very enlightened thinkers from multiple cultures, who pondered existence for lifetimes, have come to the belief in both reincarnation and life as a kind of maya or illusion.

My goal with LEVELS is not to provide a philosophy in place of or a substitute for religion, but a framework to actualize myself (in this life); however, my philosophy for life, of course, exists within my larger framework for existence, which, naturally, ought be laid out here.

Personally, I believe there are three existential possibilities for reality.

  1. Possibility 1: Base Reality: We are living in base-reality and just so happen to exist on the cusp of the singularity, superhuman AI, immortality, and interplanetary colonization – what a time to be alive.
  2. Possibility 2: The Great Filter: The singularity has already been reached, and to protect the living Universe, the AI has put us inside a simulated reality as a kind of Great Filter, so that people don’t use AI in the real universe to create deathstars and destroy planets, etc. In this possibility, life is a kind of character test, to determine if it is safe to graduate our souls into the world of “gods”, where we have access to technology that is completely omnipotent. This possibility explains the Fermi Paradox.
  3. Possibility 3: Soul Evolution: We exist outside of this reality and are suspended in spaceships, being sent to distant planets, and life is a training program, in which, while we travel lightyears across the galaxy, we “evolve” our consciousness through numberless incarnations until we are spiritually mature enough to understand life in a manner where we are capable of building and taking care of our own worlds – after all, God might have created us because she was lonely, and we too might want to create life, but if just anyone did, there would be myriad levels of heaven and hell, and it simply wouldn’t be ethical to subject millions of future consciousnesses to the whims of shitty gods.

Two and three are similar but different, and naturally, these three possibilities can be expanded into other possibilities, but for me, these are the three options that make the most sense to the core of my being.

Some people might believe life is a video game, but as I have long said: if life is a game, the rich are the players – after all, it would be a very shitty game for some and a very pleasant game for others. If your child got sick and had no healthcare and so died, what kind of game is that? A very fucked up one, in which “The paradise of the rich is made out of the hell of the poor” – to borrow from Victor Hugo. In a pure, entertainment-based video game philosophy of reality, we are reduced to programs on a prison planet – necessary cattle to serve the needs of an uber-sentient elite.

Personally, I simply cannot believe in such dystopian possibilities; in the words of Elon Musk, “I’d rather be an optimist and be wrong than a pessimist and be right.”

That said, none of my three possibilities for the nature of existence include “We are living in the future, playing a video game” – so why do I choose to use the term “game”?

Well, you have to understand Levels to know the answer. Also, the objective of a game is to win.

So, revisiting my three options, allow me to explain each as a kind of “game” we are playing.

The Game Possibility 1: Base Reality

If we are living in base-reality, something Elon Musk believes to be a “billions-to-one” possibility (Based on the probable mathematical size of time), then what would be the objective? Well, survival is a likely one. I think we can all agree the most foundational goal of life is not happiness but “not to die”. Now, happiness is a fine goal but happiness certainly includes some measure of health or what we might term “wellbeing”. If you are in excruciating pain and discomfort (physical or mental), your wellbeing is limited and thus your chances of experiencing happiness are greatly diminished. Being that in this “base reality” we are living on the cusp of a technological singularity, in which superhuman AI will arise, we also have the chance at immortality. While this may not be the goal for the average person, it certainly is for more and more who understand the implications of the future (Kurzweil, Silicon Valley billionaires). It’s a safe bet that people like Larry Page, Sergei Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg are investing in technologies to postpone or avoid death altogether, whether it be via brain-mapping to upload their consciousness into the cloud or via intelligent nanotechnology to constantly rebuild their organs, brain included – because the brain does decay. As-is, we can pretty much depend on the inevitable cognitive diminishment that comes with age – and many of us have or will watch our parents die, and if they live long enough we are likely to witness them experience some form of neurodegenerative disease, such as alzheimer’s or dementia. So, in this life, if we are to look at it as a game, then either we develop the rules of the game to maximize happiness and wellbeing and or we try and live long-enough to reach the point where technology allows us to stave off death. Both valid, natural objectives. And there are, of course, countless other potential ways to view the game based on our own values – some want fame, some want money, some want simpler things – but we’ll return to these potential objectives.

The Game Possibility 2: The Great Filter 

In option 2, which I call The Great Filter, AI is protecting the universe from us by placing us in this simulated world and only allowing certain souls or consciousnesses into the real world, where omnipotent technology is accessible to everyone. In this possibility, we have a true heaven available us – potentially – after all, if the singularity has already occurred, which I believe is mathematically likely, then death is not a thing, and we can instantly arrange intelligent particles into whatever form we want (Total control over physical reality). As someone once said: ‘Our grandparents would look at us with our smartphones like we are wizards – we will look upon our grandchildren and their technology like they are gods’. In this scenario, we are being observed by the AI in this world to determine if it is safe to allow us into the next. One thing Elon Musk said once, is that “It’s likely we are being observed by extraterrestrials, but are too dumb to realize it.” Now, were I those ET or AI, I’d too want to protect the living universe by being very particular on who I let in. Otherwise, we would have deathstars and darth-vader wannabes ruining it for everyone else. In this version of the game, it would seem there were an ethical rather than moral objective – to prove your character. Karma is a very ancient idea, after all. So you would want to clear your karma so to speak. In short, you would want to be at your core, a good person. A pure soul. A Jesus or a Buddha or some other enlightened, awakened, divine person. From the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said, “Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.” In this potential, living forever is not the goal of the game (Because even living forever in this world wouldn’t help you ascend to the next if you were not worthy).

The Game Possibility 3: Soul Evolution

In possibility 3, we are suspended in spaceships traveling across the galaxies, undergoing training reincarnations until we are ready to go to a destination planet and be woken-up. This is similar to the above possibility, but we are traveling through hyperspace on the way to our destinations, while we evolve. Of course, the universe being infinite, we could just keep traveling as long as we need. In this possible version of the game, the incarnations are designed to educate and evolve our souls. Perhaps this explains why some people are seen as “old-souls”. Looking at it from a game perspective, the objective would be to assimilate the soul-lessons we have been incarnated to learn. They are likely ethical but also spiritual lessons. In short, we have to figure out what those lessons are and we have to evolve mentally and spiritually to progress. Wealth and living forever might be missing the point on the soul-level – and each of our incarnation objectives is likely to be personalized for us based on our progression in past “lives”. Superintelligent AI that is billions of times smarter than us could of course generate these with absolute perfection.

Now, you might be philosophically inclined to one of the three above possibilities over the others – or you might think they are all hogwash and that the god of the bible is the only truth and that as such, he has the right to send gays and non-believers to his “hell.” That’s your choice, you are free to play that game too – it’s been played for millennia – but I think that, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “We need new myths.”

The above are three options that resonate with me as actual possibilities, having contemplated the manner in my own way and developed myths or stories around what I see as possibilities that explain the nature of life and death – and the suffering we all undergo.

For me, I am playing the game of life as if all three are true – and I don’t see it as hedging my bets so much as being pragmatic, based upon my beliefs about the potential purposes of life.

But for the most part, I am playing the game based on the first possibility – because it makes the most sense to me to try and stay alive – call it my innate instincts: even a fly or a spider is evolved to avoid being killed. Healthy living things prefer to live. And as a human, we prefer to be happy; we prefer to actualize: to achieve our goals and fulfill our Wills.

So let’s return to the model of LEVELS as a way of doing this:

Life is a game called Levels.

The game has to be fun

The game has to be exciting

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

The game is a game of strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

Let’s break it down.

Life is a game called Levels.

Reality is entirely subjective for each of us. As Joseph Campbell wrote, “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.”

Choice has a lot of power. Perspective is a lens, and it’s one we can choose to shape by way of our beliefs.

Whether any of the three possibilities I laid out is true or not, I choose to view life as a game, and I believe there are levels to the game.

The game has to be fun

Since, as I posit, You design the game, I want to have fun while I am playing it. Joseph Campbell called this “Following your bliss”; for I am not speaking of a hedonistic or even an epicurean type of fun; I do not mean pleasure: I mean bliss, delight; fun. As my dad used to say, “If you can’t have fun, what can you have” – and while I’ve never before posed this as a question, it begs an answer: without fun, life is drudgery. It should be said that my definition of fun has evolved from pleasure toward fulfillment. I no longer think drinking is fun or even worthwhile. I want to take my family places. I want to write my books. I want to succeed at achieving my goals. Also, there do exist very fun things in the world at every level. Reading can be fun. So can driving a Porsche GT3 or sailing on a Wally yacht. I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “If you want to know a man, see how he spends his free time”; although, when I say the game has to be fun, I do not speak purely of diversions or leisure. I speak of a level of consciousness, an awareness. A delighting in the act of being alive. There’s nothing and no one to stop you from living on that level in whatever you do. You can have fun at the DMV with the right mindset.

The game has to be exciting

I’ve lived my life both dreading the days – and looking forward to them: the difference was excitement. And I do not mean anticipation, as in a pure looking forward to tasks and events – when I speak of the game having to be exciting, I mean that we each have to choose to make it exciting – to be excited. Two different people can live the same life and one can resent it and one can be excited about it. Like life being fun, whether life is exciting depends on the consciousness you bring to what you do – how you do it – but it’s also what you choose to do. If you loathe the work you do, I’m not telling you to get excited about it, I’m telling you to find a way to get excited about getting past it. At the end of the day, since I am in charge of my life, I want to be excited about the life I am living. This simple decision has massive implications – it means I must make life exciting and I must design exciting possibilities into my future. In the words of Elon Musk, “Life needs to be more than just solving every day problems. You need to wake up and be excited about the future.”

You have to be (stay) excited to play the game everyday

This is kind of a continuation on the above but it’s also a reminder – an emphasis. In the words of the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: “Motivation is like bathing. You’ve got to do it every single day.” The quality of your life depends on the quality of your consciousness, of your focus. You can’t just set moonshot goals and get excited for a night. You need to live the journey. You have to stay focused, keeping your eye on the prize. You have to stay (be) excited to play the game everyday. Without this replenishment of self-motivation, you’ll fizz out and you’ll return to a baseline of a previous level. All great motivational people talk about visualization – about believing you already have it. This is an attitude. And people with shit attitudes don’t do things. They don’t have the gas in the tank. They aren’t self-charging. Since, as I put it, You design the game (The Levels), this means you have to design the game of your life to be exciting. You need exciting goals. Return to your twelve-year old self, do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Have what you want to have. And stay focused to do the work to play the LEVELS you’ve designed. That’s exciting – continually.

You have to know the levels and you have to have a strategy (To maximize probability of desired outcomes) for each level.

Without knowing the LEVELS, without designing them, personally for you, based on where you are and where you want to be, what game are you even playing in life? Likely a very non-game called survival – and that’s not exciting at all. It’s soul-crushing. So you have to know the LEVELS. You have to develop them – and you have to have a strategy for each level: one that maximizes the probability of desired outcomes. This is how you play LEVELS. Levels is based on desire. If you have no desire, you’re already maxed out on your levels. You’re already where you want to be. But most all of us have desire. Will is a human thing. As Schopenhauer wrote, “Man can want what he wills but he cannot will as he wants”. So we have to get in touch with the innate desires that belong to us and we have to map them out, like a game. I wrote about how Elon Musk did this here: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment. This was his LEVELS. His strategies were designed to get him to the next LEVEL. Because if you don’t have the resources or powers for what you want on this LEVEL, that just means you have to build the attainment of those resources and powers into the LEVELS of the game. The more clearly you define the LEVELS, the better you get to know the game, the more actively you play it, and the better you get it at. For the heart of LEVELS is that it’s a game of strategy.

The game is a game of strategy.

As my brother in law said, “it’s [LEVELS is] goals”- yes, but it’s a playable framework for goals wherein the bottom line is that, in life, you have to know what game you’re playing – or else you’ll just be playing a very non-game called ‘survival’, which is not LEVELS. Survival has no strategy for Leveling-Up. Levels places you on a starting point called ‘now’ but it defines now as a LEVEL with its own objectives that define the LEVEL – just like a game where each level has particular obstacles, objectives, player skills, and abilities (powers), which have to be strategically used to get to the next level. Only, unlike a typical game where all the players play the same game, in LEVELS, we are all playing different games. If you oversimplify it by saying that we are actually all playing the same game and it’s called “life” than you don’t understand LEVELS. Life is just the XBOX LEVELS is played on, which we can call ‘reality’ or ‘existence’; however, within reality we are each playing a different game, though many play similar LEVELS that are really not much more than survival – the non-game version of LEVELS. But Kendrick Lamar and Warren Buffet are playing their own LEVELS – which correspond to their Will or desire. And since their talents support their Wills, they have maximized probability of likely outcomes – and so have played LEVELS very well. But if you reduce LEVELS to wealth or fame – you’re not seeing the forest through the trees. As a former mentor of mine who was wealthy once said, “Money is just a way of keeping score.” So, if you want money, what game are you going to play? The least effective game is called the lottery and it is widely played by people in poverty who have no other strategy to maximize the outcome of probability for what they see as winning the game. But if money is a way of keeping score (According to those whose LEVELS are designed and measured thusly), then those winning their LEVELS are those who have effective strategies for attaining money. Now if you have no strategy, you are very unlikely to achieve probability. As Elon Musk once said, “The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.” Without it being possible, there is no probability. With it being possible, probability exists. Knowing your potential and playing the right game, whether it’s finance, writing, or tennis, helps you maximize probability. In the words of Jordan Peterson, “If you commit to something that means that you don’t do a bunch of other things. So that’s the sacrifice of all those other things if you commit to it. You set your sights on it if you really commit to it, and you get the sacrifice right, so to speak, then the probability that that thing will be successful vastly increases.” He is saying that our probability of success depends on us choosing the right game to sacrifice our time to. LEVELS is a game of strategy. Innate talent goes only so far but ability to maximize talent (potential) goes further; however, only when talent is actualized through hard work. I have long said, life is a game of potentials but it is won by wills. This is reflected is the quote that “There are people with less talent than you succeeding at the thing you want to do.” This is because the universe only gives a shit about physics. If you never pick up the phone, you won’t sell a damn thing. So maybe you’re a great salesperson, but Joe Schmoe makes 40 calls a day and drives a new BMW. Which is not to say that it’s a numbers game – it’s not strictly – it’s a probability game. Meaning, if it was a numbers game I could ask out enough supermodels and get dates – but since I lack the other factors of probability, which result in dating supermodels (Confidence, high-level-success, reknown/fame, lifestyle), probability remains unlikely regardless of numbers. So as far as our strategies go for each LEVEL, we have to establish all the factors of probability and actualize those. As a writer, you can be great, but if you don’t write books, you will never be a novelist. So it is, some people write lots of books and become novelists while those with more potential who do not write do not become novelists. So it’s neither a numbers game nor strictly a game or skill, but a game of probability – the likelihood of something occurring, which is a combination of numbers (action) and skill – and of course, skill increasing with action. Actions speak louder than words because actions increase likelihood and result in success. No actions, no success. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and the early bird gets the worm – and every other true saying is as true in LEVELS as it is in life but LEVELS is a framework for applying those truths to your strategy.

You design the game (The Levels).

LEVELS are built around reality and desires, and the gap between the two. It’s up to you to design the game so that you succeed in actualizing your desires into reality. You have to make your life a game based on what you want. You have to design the levels based on where you are. And you have to play the game you have designed. Believe it or not, you’re already playing the game you designed – you just designed it unconsciously, circumstantially, passively, and without imagination. Imagination is the key to designing the game of your life. As David Geffen said, “We are each a figment of our own imaginations. Some of us just have better imaginations than others.” Or in the words of Einstein, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere.” Also from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”, and “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” So, when you design the game, when you start at the level you are on now and define the level you want to reach before you die or the highest level, and all the levels in-between, you are relying 100% on your imagination. If you have no imagination, life must suck for you. Return to your inner child and cast off the weathered pessimist. It’s time to redesign the game, to play the LEVELS.

I’ll return to LEVELS with more in time. Subscribe here to stay updated on my writings.

Go With The Flow: Trust It

Growing up, my dad often told me to, “Go with the flow.”

As with other things he said to me growing up, this only came to have meaning to me after he was gone (…the people we love have a way of gilding us like that, even after they are gone from our lives…).

My father’s advice of ‘Go with the flow’ is majorly resonating me at this dawn of this new year; you could say it’s dawning on me now. Exactly when it is supposed to; for this is the flow. Things happen for us in their proper course and time.

While this notion of going with the flow may strike some as new-agey, it really is an ancient idea that goes back at least to the Tao Te Ching, or ‘The Way’, wherein we are taught that:

The most submissive thing in the world can ride roughshod over the hardest thing in the world – that which is without substance entering that which has no crevices.

This is why I know the benefit of resorting to no action. The teaching that uses no words, the benefit of resorting to no action, these are beyond the understanding of all but a very few in the world.

Lao Tzu

This non-action is known as the principle of wu-wei, or non-doing.

From the wu-wei Wikipedia we read:

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu explains that beings (or phenomena) that are wholly in harmony with the Tao behave in a completely natural, uncontrived way. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Tzu, the attainment of this purely natural way of behaving, as when the planets revolve around the sun. The planets effortlessly do this revolving without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve themselves, thus engaging in effortless and spontaneous movement.

The Stoic philosophers, who were pantheistic and believed that the “divine spark” was in everything, held a similar view, in that nature ruled the world and that whatever happened was natural.

The Stoic Roman Emperor-General Marcus Aurelius, wrote in his Meditations:

Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has been made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the things which are held together by nature there is within and there abides in them the power which made them; wherefore, the more it is fit to reverence this power, and to think, that, if thou dost live and act according to its will, everything in thee is in conformity to intelligence. And thus also in the universe the things which belong to it are in conformity to intelligence.

In short, he’s telling us that there is an intelligence guiding things that we should revere, acting accordingly to its will.

Go with the flow.

And to the Stoic, anything else would be madness.

This is why they are stoic; nothing is disturbing their soul, which was seen as an “inner-citadel”.

Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”

— Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics were wise, in knowing what they could and could not control (Stoicism became the basis for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), but they were neither fools nor new-age pollyannas. As Marcus Aurelius writes to himself:

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

Go with the flow.

These words, of course, possess their own meaning for you.

For me, at the core of my personal mythology and center to my very being, there exists this deep and abiding “sense of destiny“. As if it is all going, and has always been going, according to some plan.

This plan does not mean I live in some ivory tower, free from pain. It means that the pain is part of the plan. As a programmer and sci-fi-minded person, I would say that my experiences have “programmed me” – perfectly.

The other option would be to believe that my experiences have been at random and that I wasn’t destined to write this, to be who I am at this moment in order to.

As Einstein said:

There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

Or, as Jung put it:

Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.

Going with the flow is my eyes.

I lose my cellphone in my house before writing this: I’m not supposed to have it then. I walk around, stumble on an old journal in a box, and open it to a passage my soul needed to read tonight.

Whatever happens is supposed to happen. Maybe this is predetermined, my karma, I don’t know. I just know there is a flow to life – a plot if you will.

When you look back on your life, it looks as though it were a plot, but when you are into it, it’s a mess: just one surprise after another. Then, later, you see it was perfect.

— Schopenhauer

And the river of plot runs both ways: forwards and backwards.

As Jung writes in Memories, Dreams, Reflections:

When I was working on the stone tablets, I became aware of the fateful links between me and my ancestors. I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.

So there is no resenting past, future, or present – this is not to say abandon yourself completely to wu-wei, but if you do, you are meant to.

Just as if you suffer some inner or outer situation willfully, and continue to, you are choosing to.

However, our pain usually ends up making sense – giving us meaning. It’s nonetheless difficult to endure, but I say aleap into trusting all of it. The pain too.

Leap into the wholeness of the flow. Release your assumptions about how things are supposed to be (Ego is the part of us that wants things to be or not to be a certain way).

Synchronistically, I’m listening to Van Morrison on shuffle via Alexa as I write this – he has a huge catalogue btw – and the song on now, he is singing:

On thing I’ve learned after all these years, you’re gong to save yourself a lot of tears….

You’ve got to roll with the punches. Man you’ve got to try and go with the flow.

We must. We really have no other choice when we think about it.

And I’m far from advocating passivity. I’m advocating receptivity.

This is a feminine principle. The Tao is feminine. Our western religions and ideas are very masculine. Our history is. But as we enter a new age, our thinking and our feeling can shift to a different state. One of allowing rather than controlling.

Jung writes in The Archetypes of The Collective Unconscious:

Emptiness is a great feminine secret. It is something absolutely alien to man; the chasm, the unplumbed depths, the yin.

The chasm; this is what Joe Campbell was telling us, same message:

A bit of advice
Given to a young Native American
At the time of his initiation:
As you go the way of life,
You will see a great chasm. Jump.
It is not as wide as you think.

We have to jump into the flow. You see, the chasm is not bottomless, waiting to spit us out: it’s waiting for us. We need only follow our bliss to find it.

Campbell again:

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

And where there is bliss, there is flow. Where your flow is, there is your bliss. To borrow ‘flow’ from ‘go with the flow’ and apply it to the ‘flow-state’, we have a double meaning with a whole new level of depth.

My flow is in writing, reading, nature, exercising, dancing, singing, self-care, these are all flow spaces for me.

And while I wish I could exclusively apply myself to flow-activities, I’m not there yet. I still have obligations, spaces where I am having to push myself. But that’s flow too. It’s the yang to the yin. And we have to also direct the flow (of ENERGY).

We can’t just float lazily down the river of life. We are the authors of our stories. We have to swim against the tides too.

From Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

We must oppose our troubles. Life takes will. Life takes work. But often we are suffering from troubles that are really our own children, in that we have borne them in our minds – yet, were we to go with the flow and focus our energies on the true causes and effects of our lives, we might find a lot more power available to us.

Flow is focus. It’s focusing on the things that matter and accepting the things that don’t.

While none of us are Gods yet in a truly omnipotent sense, our Wills are nonetheless capable of directing flow now.

In the 1903 Self-help classic, As A Man Thinketh, James Allen tells us:

You will be what you will to be;
Let failure find its false content
In that poor word, ‘environment,’
But spirit scorns it and is free.

It masters time, it conquers space;
It cows that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown and fill a servant’s place.

The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew a way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervens.

Be not inpatient in delay,
But wait as one who understands,
When spirit rises and commands,
The gods are ready to obey.

So, I implore you to “wait as one who understands” flow.

And when your spirit is ready to rise and command, things will begin to happen.

I think the problem is that we often want certainty. This is masculine thinking.

We need a balance of certainty AND trust in the uncertain. What we are talking about when we talk of leaping into the chasm or going with the flow, is entering the LIMINAL space. This is the threshold, the gap between what is and what WILL be.

In every rite of passage and throughout magic, witchcraft, alchemy, and shamanism, the liminal space is an important aspect of the transformation. Vital because it requires a trust in the unknown. I think of the liminal space as the necessary unknown. If you have taken a entheogen, you have been in the liminal space. You’ve leapt.

But a mushroom trip won’t make our dreams come true. We need a deeper, longer dive into the unknown.

This is a new year. It is the unknown. We are at the dawn of our desires, goals, and hopes for the year.

To reach them, we must go into the unknown, we must go with the flow.

It will carry us there.

If we can only trust It. This is the leap.

All we need do is trust ourselves, the universe, life.

Isn’t that what 2019 should be about? Flowing.

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the heartbeat of the universe.

— Joseph Campbell

TBD

A person asks who they are,
Who might they become…
And years are lost this way,
Spent in abstact thought rather than concrete action

To declare ourselves
As hero and author of our story,
In deed rather than word,
Is to know we are not who we think we are
But what we are, as we have made ourselves.

Life As a Failed Hypothesis: Try Again.

I’ve hit a wall today. I feel like throwing up. Fact is, I’m here, where I am in life, as a result of my choices.  In a word, I made the wrong hypothesis. It’s all very complex, you see; allow me to rewind so that I may tell the story in full.

In 2010 I built a successful lead generation business that brought in monthly what many take home in a year (I tell the story here). At this same time, when I was suddenly making gobs of money, I got back together with the girl I had dated for 5 years after an approximate 24 months broken up. The conditions of the breakup where what you would call nightmarish, but I was foolish, and I suppose I sought closure.

Having gotten back together with this first love of mine, we moved to Seattle.

After 6 months, she left.

I was left alone in a condo we had spent thousands furnishing. I didn’t give a fuck about any of it. Maybe I had started the business and made the money to “win” her back. After all, my initial plan was to “randomly” pull up where she happened to be in a Lamborghini (I was 24); however, Before that ever happened, we reconnected.

Once she was gone, however, the two years of heartache, the business, all of it came crashing down. It was a house of cards. A game I had set up for someone else.

I convinced myself I hated the business and, frankly, I was in that very toxic male mode of “not giving a fuck”. Unattended to, the income dried up.

I took a 10 day trip to Hawaii, and I was every bit as lost as I had been before. Upon my return, I was facing eviction from the condo I was renting, and, suffice to say, the pain of it all was a lot. Dark days.

At about the three month mark after said ex departed, I left Seattle for Milwaukee, at the invite of a good friend whose work was taking him there.

I had no dream, no plan, no nothing. And although I had almost no money, I somehow managed to live a fairly carefree life there for a year; however, by the time I left, I was living in a motel by the airport, and only 1 friend visited me (Garry, I’ll never forget that).

When I left Milwaukee, I came to LA, where I crashed with a friend whom I had met in Santa Barbara, where we had both worked at the same bar.

LA was, in my mind, my favorite city. I felt different there.

I was also poor as a rat. I would walk to the store for a single serving of yogurt and a banana. But I was happy taking long walks through Mid-Wilshire, exploring Koreatown around sunset, headphones on. It was a calm time.

Nonetheless, I needed to feed myself, so I started building websites using the skills I had developed in my lead gen business. I hated it. You get a small deposit, you work your ass off, you get paid the balance, and then you try to find more clients (I suspect many web developers hate their work).

Around this time, while visiting my sister in San Diego, I met someone who would end up being my second love, whom I would date for three years. This is, of course, a novel in it’s own right; however, for today, I’m mainly focusing on work / career.

That said, while we dated, I at first continued building websites; however, I soon thought about entering the lead gen game again, which I did – for all of three days.

On the third day I had been running paid traffic to my landing page, I got a call from a past client (A lead reseller). I was offered a job in LA, where I would be responsible for running their marketing. And although I had already been at an approximate $300 profit for the day, I did something stupid: I took the job.

Then my girlfriend, who had been very convincing in me taking the job, backed out of moving to LA with me. What’s worse, I wasn’t even in LA, I was in Hermosa Beach, which was just a more expensive, more bro-ish version of where I grew up (Pacific Beach). I would have rather been back in Koreatown. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling empowered enough in my new job, and my efforts to communicate this – even accompanied by an offer to forgo my salary till I felt I was paying for myself – all these were met with little response.

I left the job, miserable in a city where I was so alone, and I retuned to San Diego, where I ended up moving into a little apartment in La Jolla Shores, about three blocks from the beach. Around this same time, I was offered a job consulting for another lead gen firm, located in Ohio. It was on a trip there, where I contracted blood poisoning, the result of a faulty ass piece of shit pair of tennis shoes (A story I tell here). The blood poisoning was serious, and it came to be a kind of soft turning point for me.

I was twenty-seven and working very hard to please a girl who wouldn’t even stay at my new place the first night I moved in – on my birthday!

That said, the relationship crashed and burned. We had different values.

As casual as I sound about this now, it was by no means a cakewalk; I was a fucking mess. Another multi-year relationship had ended with me being persona non-grata. These are breakups where you say and do the worst things to each other, which, of course, no matter what end of it you are on, you end up totally deflated, devoid of self-worth. Not exactly a recipe for success.

Now, at this time, I had been writing on my blog for 3 or 4 years (Since Seattle). It was also around this time that stories began to take shape in my head, novels. I knew it – I had known it all along – I was supposed to be a writer. This in mind, I began living what I imagined to be a sort of young writer’s life. I was in no way shape or form concerned one iota about the getting of money. It was like, what had all that been worth? All this chasing of money, only to end up investing in the wrong dreams, which had left me depressed and heartbroken.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the Sheriff came and let me know it was time to move out. I had simply stopped functioning. No bills had been paid. My cell phone was cut off. I simply didn’t care.

Of course, I knew all along that I wouldn’t be homeless. When I called my mom and asked if I could stay with her – something I had done before – it was an automatic yes. A friend of her’s even let me use her guest house – the main house which was occupied by various young middle-easterners, all of whom loved to smoke spliffs in the gazebo, where they had moved a TV to watch early morning soccer matches.

Again, I was doing a lot of nothing. Eventually, when a tenant came to rent the guest house, I moved back to my mom’s. I was thirty.

During this time, I had no real future plans or trajectory, other than knowing I was to be a writer. In following this, I spent my days volunteering at the library, and my nights reading everything I could get my hands on. I started to build a decent library; however, I was in my mom’s house, so the books were stacked at first along a wall, then, after, on a door, made like a desk atop two wooden folding chairs.

Not long after, I would cook down a few feet of San Pedro and have my first Mescaline experience – something that would have a profound effect on me, allowing me to see things about the world and myself I had hitherto been unawares of. There’s a reason Huxley called his book, The Doors of Perception.

I had multiple cactus tea experiences, all by myself, on a blanket near the water. Just me and my candles – two non-working cell phones for music (In case one died).

I guess I just wanted to “be”. To experience stillness and possibility.

Soon possibility would be upon me. I would fall in love again.

I remembered laying in Sarah’s bed, sleeping in one morning while she was at brunch, and saying aloud to myself, “Is this the girl you’re going to marry?”

Maybe I’ve been lucky in love. I’ve always thought so – despite things not working out in my twenties.

Sarah and I spent hours talking about what we wanted, and our values were a definite match – she even had psilocybin mushrooms in her freezer.

I soon had moved in with her, and we set up a desk we had found for me. I felt once again compelled to strike out on my own and do something.

I spent countless hours trying to build a User Experience consulting business. It failed. I tried to pivot my model to focus on the financial industry, where I felt I could make the most impact. I didn’t get a single client.

Around this same time, we were tired of apartment living in a beach town. We soon decided to move to LA; however, it would be reading Stephen King’s, On Writing, which would compel us to change our minds.

The image of Stephen King typing away in a shed for hours, living in a trailer, working in a hospital laundry, seemed almost romantic to me.

Fuck, I thought, I need to go all in on my writing. 

Besides, neither Sarah nor I was overtly materialistic, so we had no problem with a simple life – particularly one dedicated to the pursuit of my writing.

So, a plan was formed. We would move somewhere cheaper than LA. We opened the laptop and got on google maps and craigslist, zooming out from where we were.

It seemed we might be destined to move to Nor Cal, when we found a reasonably priced three bedroom on the edge of the woods, outside Big Bear, CA. Sarah left her job, working from home for a govt contractor, and I decided I would support us doing websites (It seemed fair, Sarah supported us the first six months), writing in the evenings.

Only, it wasn’t that simple. We moved to the mountains and I spent all most all of my time working, barely scraping by – despite long, often grueling hours to finish projects.

The truth is I was in a very saturated market. There are a billion front-end web people, and the price of the work you do naturally reflects this. But what drove me fucking crazy is that I had hardly written. Life up here in the mountains had become about keeping the lights on, paying the gas.

I had imagined that somehow, I could support us with my web work and write.  I had imagined that going after the money didn’t matter.

After all, I felt my writing was the only thing worth investing myself in; I didn’t want to chase money, I wanted to live simply, I wanted to write, to pursue my career as a serious novelist and screenwriter.

This was a great romanticization on my part.

I’ve come to realize plain as day that this was a failed hypothesis. In short, my writing hasn’t progressed as I’ve wanted, and I’ve struggled for months to scratch out a living doing work I loathe.

Not a recipe for happiness. In fact, it was a recipe for disaster.

Early this year, I would up having a full-blown nervous breakdown. The kind where they take you in for three days to observe you. How’s that for bragging rights? Not much.

By the time I was in the hospital, I was relieved to be there. I had had a terrible flu and hadn’t slept for a week. I was a skeleton. The first night I was there, I got up, walked down the hall, and asked the nurse for something to finally get to sleep. I was offered an injection of some sort in the buttocks, which I happily received.

My nervous breakdown over, I came home and started therapy immediately, consoled by the words of Joseph Campbell:

“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off center. He has aligned himself with a programmatic life and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.” 

I began to want to listen to myself more deeply. To avow myself not to do the thing I hate. I also realized that there was no sense in trying to live the starving artist’s life. Being a pauper is simply not for me.

So, where to from here?

Well, I’m certainly not going to continue down the same road with a failed hypothesis. I did that and surely, it’s part of what led me to have a nervous breakdown in the first place. You can’t do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.

It’s become clear to me that I cannot support my writing with freelance web-work.

This is, however, still my current bread and butter, which I have no immediate way of replacing. I can, however, change my expectations.

It’s reasonable to assume I cannot expect to flourish as a writer under these circumstances. So, firstly, I need to drop my expectations of writing until I have a reasonable means of supporting myself, Sarah, the dogs lol.

In conclusion, I’ve been looking into returning to where I started: generating leads. At one time, I was earning $2k a day without much work needed to maintain it. Today, as a freelance web developer, I have to do an immense amount of work to earn the same, and it just hasn’t been practical to write, as I’ve told above.

My new hypothesis is based around the idea of security first. I’ve built a bad life for myself as a starving artist: and maybe, the days of the starving artist are done – they certainly are for me.

I feel today, that it’s my right, my duty to create a new set of circumstances for myself, one in which I am prosperous and able to write. Maybe I just lacked the imagination or the confidence to go after that in the first place. My younger self certainly would have dreamed a better dream, but after my twenties, I had such a bad taste in my mouth about the pursuit of money, I just thought it would be crazy to take that route – particularly after the defeat of two failed consulting business models. But I was never a good consultant. I was never a good employee – even when I was a successful employee I loathed the Sisyphean nature of trading time for money, day in day out.

I said something to Sarah recently, about how there are other people, who, with my knowledge and experience in the lead gen industry would have undoubtedly gone back again and gotten after it. I simply wasn’t hungry before. Now I am.

Thirty-two and starting to build a new life again. I mean, isn’t that what it takes sometimes: getting the shit kicked out of you and getting up again. And maybe there are other people who would not get back up, but I have to.

I just don’t see any other way. And really there’s not. So I have to do what I have to do.

The idea is that I’ll create a comfortable life for myself, and that I’ll once again own my time, which I will invest into my writing. It reminds me of a paradigm I wrote about a while back: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, in which I talked about how Elon Musk’s “Software” works. Essentially, we have our wants and we have reality, in between are our goals. By focusing on the right goal prioritization, we expand our reality, allowing us to attain the things we want. Elon long ago wanted to build rockets and cars. He started Zip2 / Paypal to do it. It just wasn’t possible without the capital. The same seems to be true for my writing. I need the capital to be able to commit my bandwidth to fiction, rather than web development.

And it breaks my heart to write all this today, but it’s simply the reality I now find myself in. I wanted to come here to the mountains and have a comfortable life, where I could write. I didn’t create that. I created a life of stress and struggle, and, frankly, I’ve had enough. Thankfully, I’m still young and willing to take risks, I just can’t risk continuing to live like this. It’s been hell. I had a bad hypothesis. Time to try again now.

 

 Casting Spells

Thinking about the future; using goals as gamification (reward): asking myself exactly what it is I want out of life. 

My artistic goals are set in stone; however, I am a renaissance man: thus the breadth of my interests and desires begs more than artistic success. 

And regardless of my writing goals, it would be senseless of me to disregard the years of experience I have as a ux-designer, marketer, and front-end dev. I am humbly proud to say, I am fucking good at what I do. Besides, I am already working on three businesses that leverage those skills and it would be foolish not to see them to fruition – after all, monetary success is a beautiful thing: it both sanitizes and renews. 

But I do ask myself, how much is enough?

Ironically, I watched Scorcese’s Aviator tonight – that is, up until Howard Hughes’ character became a shell of a man and my interest waned; however, the movie was nonetheless a great muse for tonight’s writing – and for myself, as a man of ambition and potential. 

In the film, we watch as Hughes devolves from a powerful visionary – a man of youth and passion – into a hollow, paranoid agoraphobic. 

Clearly, the man had some mental health struggles, and, in later years, physical issues as well, both contributing in no small-part to his eventual deterioration; however, fortunate as I am at 31, I don’t expect a similar fate for myself; although, I have absolutely no moral conundrums amassing a fortune.

There’s certainly no rule in life that says, ‘You cannot be a wealthy businessman and a famous author‘.  

I used to think that art came first – that it was spiritually paramount to make art – as if somehow business endeavors were a barrier to that.

But believe me, I’ve tried the starving artist thing, and even with a room of ones own, poverty is not conducive to writing in this day and age. 

For me, the life of the entrepreneur-writer-philosopher seems to fit best.

Lawrence Black is an American entrepreneur, writer, and philosopher. He is the author of ——– and ——– , and maintains ownership interests in several tech companies he has founded.

These are words I recite in front of the mirror, a kind of Stoic / Cognitive exercise I perform that allows me to zoom out on my story and see things from a grander, more elegant perspective. 

It is modeled on the idea of my future Wikipedia entry, serving as sort of cliff’s notes on who I am, and its purpose is to remind me of my destiny, my potential. 

I find it a fantastic method for bolstering my confidence and strengthening my identity; for I am most-certainly someone who believes in my own sense of destiny. This is why I write. 

And sure, there are novels unfinished – but this is my story. 

And I write it because it’s part of the magic, the alchemy I do – casting spells – spelling out my future – weaving the tapestry of my life with intention and purpose. 

And in doing so, I become more definite, more sure; becuase, if I didn’t meant it, I wouldn’t write it

And I, of all people, know the story can always be re-written. 

So follow your folly. Trust life. Cast spells. And don’t be afraid to think out-loud; for your desires are not false hopes, and life is but a game won by definiteness of purpose backed by definiteness of plans. 

With that, I bid you goodnight.

Sow well my friends. 

Facing Life Honestly in The Winter of My Discontent

I don’t wish to make this long (As I would like to return to bed); however, some things must be said or, rather, in my case, written; for without writing I’m just thinking, and I need more than thoughts right now. I need patience. I need time. I need change.

Thankfully – unlike the latter part of my twenties – it isn’t me that I need to change – it’s merely my surroundings. Once, when I was younger, I was told the adage of ‘wherever you go there you are’. Only, this is not wholly true. Yes, you will run into yourself for as long as you need to suffer – but it is never a moment longer. And, sometimes, seasons and places accompany one another.

The season for being here and doing this is simply up. It’s that simple. We all pass the zenith of particular times and places, and sometimes new places offer promises in the whisper of secrets not yet told. And it is only in the soul of the individual, where it is most felt, where one finally says, “I must go.”

True, I could stay here forever – as many will. Only, that’s not how my story goes.

And for this, I owe no one – nor myself – a single apology.

Life is about letting go. And sometimes one must let go of the idea that one is happy in favor of the truth, which, when ignored, will eat you alive.

As the great Swiss doctor of the soul C.G. Jung wrote, “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate.”

In the same vein, Jung wrote, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate.”

Hence, why so many people are consumed by misery. They must be. For nothing else could prove to them how truly unhappy they are.

And this is the point of my writing tonight: to admit that it’s okay – normal even – to be unhappy.

I feel like my generation grew up in a kind of primary color emotional spectrum where our parents lived largely in contentment or misery, with only shades of anger, depression, and stress between.

But life, the richness of inner life, is not that simple; the human emotional system is simply not quantifiable in extreme absolutes, no matter how people seem to swing between them. I think – and again this is why I am writing tonight – I think that there is some terribly destructive stigma attached to anything outside of happy. We have been conditioned, from children, to believe that if we are not happy something is wrong.

How far this is from the truth. Sometimes unhappiness is merely the state one experiences when life does not conform to one’s values. And to think we are incapable of shaping our lives – for better or worse – is a travesty. I am, like you, the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. And I will not pretend this soul is contented. Not a single day longer. I can’t do it; it’s madness to live so dishonestly.

Only, what do we do? We fight with our spouses, or get frustrated with our children, each one of us too damn proud and wounded in self-pity to stand up and own our lives for what we can make them. So obsessed with being the hero of our stories, we become martyrs to our pity rather than be wounded by our pride. Why is this? I feel like it has something to do with pride always being foolish and never wise. Something to do with the maladaptive way we maintain our ego’s assertion that we are the better than other people – even if we have to make them our enemies to prove it.

After all, who actually wants to admit, or even feels it socially permissible to admit, that they are totally and completely unhappy due to no ones fault than their own. Such an admission would be rather wise, wouldn’t it. And rather uncommon; for, the problem is, most fear looking stupid. Again, pride’s folly. People desire to believe they are good at life too much to admit to themselves their own room for improvement in this game. I’d love to see a comedy skit in which people are honest on social media. If there were, we would see instagram pictures of laundry in crappy bedrooms, and facebook posts about how much people loathe returning to their lives each Monday. Instead, we have snapshots of “happiness”, which pass for a life.

Let me be the first to tell you, I am fucking miserable. Sure, I am happier than I’ve been in a decade – but thirty year old me is NOT A SINGLE BIT CONTENTED. I’m pissed. I’m considering this a low point. Lawrence Black has a lot of fucking shit to accomplish. In the words of Liz Gilbert: onward.

Of course, we can always just resign ourselves to our station in life. Thanking Jesus for our lot or pretending we love everything – in spite of our internal sufferings. Let me tell you, nothing makes me want to puke more than the kind of new age positivity that causes people to stick their heads in the sand. Sure, some people may feel they need that – and good for them. I’m just more in touch with my mortality than to rely on myths other than my own. I’m too conscious of my own potential – too fortunate to need to be thankful; too upwardly ambitious to pretend this is my peak or that the best is behind me. I’m thirty years old. I’m just getting started. However, this is hardly a solace. But, if anything, it forces me to let go. It forces me to face myself and my past honestly. This is, obviously, a good thing, but it doesn’t make it any less painful; although, it is far preferable to be in the winter of one’s discontent than to die in an endless summer of despair.

And with that, I shall caper nimbly back to my chamber.

 

Weighing My Conscience

It is nice to be writing tonight; lately, I’ve been writing more out of compulsion and less out of habit, thus it’s felt more the product of requirement rather than inspirement, which to me is a constant.

I am always the writer.

This is who I am.

I am first and foremost Lawrence Black the writer – all else is a distant second: son, brother, lover, friend – everything else is secondary to the verb I enjoy most. This thing, it’s me. And I loathe myself for not making it my one love. I loathe myself for valuing love and success and accomplishment and satisfaction to the thing I was born to do.

I am the Peter Pan of the pen game, a lost boy, full of pixie dust; however, unlike Peter Pan, I do grow up – and I am.

Thirty. Fuck me. I am not looking to be that thirty five year old working on his “novel”. Fuck me.

So, this thing calls; the muse pulls and commands me to abide, which I happily do tonight. Only, this is not enough.

I remember reading Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and The River last year, which is essentially a quasi-autobiography in which Wolfe details his – or rather Eugene Gant’s – journey from boy to writer. Something akin to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, in which Joyce, as Stephen Dedalus, finally wanders off in exile, declaring: “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

For what is the soul but a smithy, a forge, in which I, in my twenties, founded the basis upon which I now write: loves and dreams and holding on and letting go.

For it is me: I live this life essentially alone; yes, I have Sarah – the woman whom I love and I am making this life with – but nothing is promised.

I find it simply mind blowing that humans, the singular species capable of altruism, can be so survivalist in their relationships; however, I suppose the question answers itself in my existence.

We had to get here somehow. So we broke a few hearts on the way to this omelette, just a few eggs; the strongest surely survive. I have.

I just can’t shake the weight of fate from my shoulders, the sense of who I am. My pesonal sense of destiny. The singular force stronger than my own will.

It’s the one thing that has kept me going: the idea that I, Lawrence dot Black, am a person who must become himself. In the too-apt, almost cliche, words of Abraham Maslow: “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”

So I am here, “Shakespearing” – as I like to refer to it, and as I did prior to leaving Sarah in our bed to come out on the balcony and write tonight.

It drives me fucking crazy to be thirty. I’m like an atomic bomb waiting to go off. I am nothing but unborn potential, and it’s maddening. You can’t imagine being me, knowing your ego is misunderstood and but a foreshadow of what is to come. Maddening.

But this sense of destiny calms me: the certainty that this will all make sense one day, it is a fantastic balm. But it doesn’t make it any more comfortable.

It’s no less maddening to know you will one day be great than to hope; for neither is a tangible feeling, just the lust. The lust for the life you were born for. I felt it at thirty; a fire in my belly began to smolder, burning deep and hot as hunger. Only, I knew; I learned that there was no way my life could have been any different. I wouldn’t have the depth I do, nor the curiosity “to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

I think art – good art – is as required as good sex. At least, in the human psyche, the alternatives are absolutely damnable – causing us to focus on the things that don’t matter, rather than that which does. And I wonder about this thing, the analogousness of the two: art and sex. For both surely exist for the sake of one another, as the painter must paint, seeking the deepest artistic purpose for which he was born, so too must he find his deepest biological purpose in his art. And he finds the cause for each in each other. In art, he finds love, and in love, art.

It’s an intense thing to know yourself. But when you know what makes you tick, so too must you wind the watch and tune each gear to its proper movement.

And tonight, I feel the proper coordinates aligning within me; I feel the pulsings of my blood in my keystrokes; I can feel my feet striking their proper path in the sands of time, bearing down on a due course to oblivion, leading me toward the desire to feel more and more alive each day before I die.

Is this not what we want, to feel more alive.

I do.

There are persons and places and things to which, when I am connected most to, I feel most alive. Sex, writing, solitude – yes, the soul needs its intercourse too. And perhaps this is what writing gives me: the ability to get fucked good and hard by my passions.

I’m sure the preceding only makes sense to artists, but it is solely for myself to whom I write. This is all one giant letter to my soul, begging Peter Pan to come out and play.

He must.

If I am to be at peace with myself, I must.

But it’s not feeling less alive, that we seek in solitude and together, it is feeling less lonely, which we truly desire.

I have always connected deeply to the following words of David Wallace:

“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties — all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion — these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated.”

I relate so deeply to this.

I have always been rather lonely. These words strike my heart as a smith does a hammer to the forge. Ding, ding, ding. Hot sparks. Truth, ringing loud and clear in the soul – as it always does.

If I am ever to be known, if I am ever to be less lonely, if my lover and my family and friends are ever to know me, I must write.

Period.

Dramatics aside, this is my truth.

No one, not even my exes, will ever know me without my work.

Without my giving a body to my soul, I will forever be a lost boy.

But this is not sad. This fact is a relief. This fact is balm, for it is part of my sense of destiny.

I am Lawrence Black, the writer. But I do not write as writers do. Yes, I do have a body to my work: TBD, 12FEB, HH, ATS, all these stories have been born and live within me. But it is so lonely to alone know them. It is so lonely to alone know myself.

Thirty years old, and I and my stories so unknown; although, I know it truly, that I could not have been any quicker to bloom. As a novelist in my twenties, I would have been an arrogant, talentless snot.

Osmosis. Absorption. The reading has been, and is, as important as the writing.

I refrain from naming names, only I will: Aurelius, Hugo, Steinbeck, Emerson, Shakespeare, Dickens, these men are brothers to me. I do not care of their existence for vanities, how they looked or how great their beards or homes were, these are mere facades, which I care no more for then the bearded God of my youth. I care only for their works. All else is secondary.

But age, the time and pressure and form giving way to me, remains a weight.

Thirty. Please, please let me become.

Do not give way to vanities, to comforts. To the things that do not matter.

My stories, the shaping of unborn consciences, are of paramount importance to my own.

And it kills me not to gestate them daily; for I am fairly formed and they wait.

And I, for what?

Deadlines. Well, eventually there will be no more. But some must be set. Internally.

So, I wrote this tonight: to kindle the fire beneath my own ass. For no one else will. It is me. I must write, I must become, I must level up in this game of life, giving no weight to consciences not aligned with my own. Those who may make a stranger of me as freely as one would a friend, must be weighed duly. And I suppose it is my own conscience that I weigh tonight, for it is heavy.

Heavy with the weight of my stories, but also heavy with the weight of sapphire stone, and houses, and cars, and boats, and things for which only my ego cares. But I must have both; for I refuse to believe my path must follow another, that I am unable to have my brioche and eat it too.

So I reconcile. I write and I remind myself that I am Lawrence Black, and that in due time, all will be.

For I know. In my heart of hearts, I know. They do not, but I do.

Moving up The Layer Cake, Climbing Mountains, and Starting a Junto

Emerson once wrote:

“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.”

What he meant was that, life is a layer cake son.

There’s levels to this shit

As one of my mentors taught me, a man is the average of his five closest friends. 

No offense to some of the friends I grew up with but you are who you hang with, and I’m not interested in selling or doing drugs.

At thirty, I am excited about life, I’ve awoken to my potential, and I understand what Ayn Rand meant about being motivated by the desire to achieve:

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”

And it is this desire to achieve that has prompted me to seek a chorus of friends with whom I can do it.

Some men are islands, but I want to be a mountain.

And it has only been by standing on the shoulders of giants that I have come this far. Now I want to take my place in the river of time, and trust in myself and in the universe; myself via my own potential, and the universe via the infallible law of cause and effect.

Emerson Cause and Effect

Or, as Vince Lombardi put it: “The man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.”

And – unlike the men standing on actual mountains in hip stock photos – when I look to the men on the proverbial mountains they stand on, I see men who have followed the law of averages; however – unlike other men – they choose their own average.

I can admit today that I have sometimes made the wrong kind of friends  – those interested in pleasure rather than fulfillment; however, I’ve also been the wrong kind of friend – short-sighted, selfish, and immature in my own ways.

That’s not who I am today.

I’ve grown and I need the kinds of friends whom I can continue to grow with.

In pragmatic terms, I cannot get to where I am going alone, and nor do I desire to be there by myself, so I am making a big push to invest in the right friendships. And tonight as I had dinner at a girlfriend’s, I talked to her about how I am going to do this.

In short, to borrow the words of Ben Franklin, I want to bring “…most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement.”

Ben Franklin called his club the The Junto, and they met on Fridays to discuss the things that were important to them; for after all, what is friendship built on but shared values. And the things I value are the things the guys I want to surround myself with value: happiness, growth, success, wealth – all the stuff that dreams are made of.

Today, some of the most successful and powerful men in the world are members of private clubs – from old-guard private gentleman’s clubs, to the Bohemian Club – they have been welcomed to the layer cake.

And I’m not looking to end up at a Bilderberg group conference in 15 years, but I am looking to live my wildest fucking dreams. And to do this, I know I cannot be an island.

I need friends as hungry and excited about life as I am. As serious as I am about gettin it.

So if I’ve sent this to you then chances are we had coffee recently  – or I invited you to grab coffee soon – and I already told you about this, but I wrote this because I wanted to explain the impetus for this group a bit more candidly.

At thirty, I tend to find myself working, hanging out with pretty women, and sleeping (In pretty much that exact order); however, every time I talk to a cool guy, I remember that I am missing out on what Cicero described in his essay, On Friendship:

“Friendships improves our happiness and abates our misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”

You see, I believe you can eat your layer cake and have it too. And in Twenty Sixteen, I’ll only be in San Diego once or twice a month, but when I am there visiting friends and family, I want to meet with this group, and I want it to be fucking awesome.

I believe in my intuition, and my intuition told me this is the next step – and to invite you.

To be clear, I’m not just looking to form some fucking lame ass mastermind group or something you have to pay some coach in order to “get motivated”. This group is for people who already are motivated. And it’s not something you will ever get a Facebook invite for.

I’m talking about a private group of the coolest, most driven, hungry, smartest motherfuckers I know.

A group of men who want to climb their own mountains.

Because, as Kerouac wrote in Dharma Bums, “In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”

Note: All further club business, including club mission, charter, guidelines, and monthly meeting notes – plus the requisite pictures of naked girls (jk) will be confidential, maintained on a club website (Live 12/15), behind a private encrypted login.


Just for fun, I created a poll of potential names for the Junto.

Anyone reading this is welcome to vote:

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.

On Consciously Becoming

Goals, but as a means to what end?

Happiness.

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

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

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

Yet still, we do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from aforementioned NYT interview:

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

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

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

Read the entire Times piece, here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on the topic of hustle:

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

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

Fuck Motivation.

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

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

But I didn’t.

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

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

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

No. Motivation is bullshit. Confidence is bullshit.

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

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

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

Fuck your motivational speech. Fuck your opinion of me.

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

I know I can do it.

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

This isn’t motivation, this is just fact.

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

Well almost. You need desire.

Motivation as inspiration is not a thing. Desire is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl Nightengale quote