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.

The Keys to The Kingdom: My Two Most Valuable Pieces of Life Advice

The older you get, the more you find yourself doubling down on what works.

And hopefully, if you’ve taken the difficult paths in life, you’ve discovered some truths of great value.

There’s a parable in the Thomas Gospel that I read this morning –

Sidenote: Before I continue, allow me to say that I love the Gospel of Thomas. As a decidedly anti-religious thinker who is opposed to all dogma and most institutional traditions, I don’t hold the bible up as much more than a great source of inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. That said, the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the bible; being a non-canonical text it would have been considered heresy: just the kind of thing I love, and, if you read it, you’ll see why. 

So this specific saying, attributed to Jesus, that awakened Buddha, is as follows:

And He said, "The Kingdom is like a wise fisherman who cast
his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish.
Among them the wise fisherman found a fine large fish. He threw
all the small fish back into the sea and chose the large fish
without difficulty. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."

In my own interpretation, the large fish represents what was called in Cloud Atlas, “The true-true”. The big truth. These two pieces of knowledge I am writing to share are my big truths – the large fish. And, having found them, I live by them, they sustain me, allowing me to throw back all the little truths. You could say these truths are my keys to the kingdom. They go beyond intelligence and open invisible doors, by virtue of their practical wisdom.

Terry Crews, in Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors, makes a poignant remark as to wisdom:

“There is a big difference between intelligence and wisdom. Many are fooled into thinking they are the same thing, but they are not. I’ve seen intelligent serial killers, but I’ve never seen a wise one. Intelligent humans beings have been given this trumped-up position in society where, just because they are intelligent, they are listened to, and I have found this extremely dangerous.”

That said, these two pieces of knowledge are wisdom – my big fish. The true-true.

1. The Navy Seals’ Big Four of Mental Toughness

At some point, the Navy Seal’s – arguably the world’s most elite special forces – had a problem. Only about 25% of trainees were passing BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School).

So the powers that be brought in the country’s best minds – top university researchers – to figure out how to improve the pass-rate.

After a lot of time and money – presumably millions of dollars – the researchers came up with four techniques, which when used in conjunction, made a statistically significant difference in the pass rate.

These four techniques would come to be known as “The Big Four of Mental Toughness”.

I first wrote about them five years ago, but truth be told, I didn’t put them into serious conscious practice until this year.

In short, they are as follows:

1. Arousal Control (Breath)

Arousal Control is centered around a specific diaphragmatic breathing technique: 4-4-4. Four seconds inhale, four seconds hold, four seconds exhale.

The research backs it up. It makes a large physiological and psychological difference. In my own learning, I discovered that most people breath shallowly, letting their upper-chest rise and fall – however, until about age six, children naturally breath properly – their stomachs expanding on the inhale.

The problem with incorrect breathing is that it puts your body in a fight or flight mode. This, of course, is not good for your health or wellbeing.

YouTube offers a lot of great videos on proper breathing, and once you learn – and begin to practice – it not only becomes natural again, but it becomes one of the best tools in your toolkit. Suddenly, you are aware of when you’re not in a centered, calm place, and you consciously go beyond diaphragmatic breath, into the 4-4-4 technique. It’s the same feeling, the same benefits as yoga and meditation – on demand.

2. Self-Talk

There is no separating consciousness from reality, short of some of the classic psychedelics (LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline) – but even then, those are not sustainable modes of consciousness. Life is something each of us has to experience in our own heads. Now, we may not be aware of it but we tend to have fairly disempowering inner-voices. Perhaps it is due to the saying that, “The way you talk to your children becomes their inner voice,” and we are each a product of generations of largely unconscious programming. Frankly, it’s not fun. Thankfully, we have self-talk available to us. Self-talk is the power to take your life back from the automatic, default mode of consciousness that so many of us have often destructively sought to escape. Self-talk is the power to move from the unconscious into the conscious. It’s the power to control your experience. I’d argue that’s the sum total of The Big Four [controlling your reality], but self-talk is a major part of it. In short, you want to empower yourself, you want to talk to yourself the same way you would a child. You want to emotionally support and optimistically encourage yourself. The conversation you have in your head is THE most important one in your life. What self-fulfilling prophecies are you creating with your self-talk? What reality are you choosing?

3. Mental Rehearsal 

This is one of my favorites among The Big Four, but I love them all. I just happen to have a fetish for the imagination. As Einstein said, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” It’s true. Visualization is the top thing among human performance experts for a reason. It’s what all high performers, all olympians, all champions, all winners practice. Mental rehearsal is the act of imagining your tasks along with their desired outcomes, in as great of detail and depth as possible. For the Seals, this means no mission-critical task is completed without first envisioning it. The brain knows no difference. Unfortunately, most of our imaginations are either out of practice or neurotic – in that we use them to worry. And what a foolish, maladaptive thing. We have, each of us, at our disposal, the most incredible form of magic available to us. Again, like self-talk, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The watered down new-age version of mental rehearsal is “The Secret” or “The Law of Attraction”, and how many times have you heard these wonderfully compelling stories – Jim Carrey writing himself a 10 million dollar check when he was broke. This was mental-rehearsal. And when we can can believe it truly, magic happens; for all true magic deals with manipulation and control of the Will. If you look back on your own life, at your greatest successes, you believed in them – you mentally rehearsed them. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the successes and the failures in life. As 50 Cent once said, “I believe you can almost will things to happen.” Believe it when you see it and see it when you believe it, but you have to see it first. No one’s success comes as a true surprise to them. If you think it does, buy another lottery ticket.

4. Goal Setting

This one almost seems anticlimactic compared to the others, but it’s not at all.

When most of us think of goal-setting, we think of getting motivated about life for a night, writing down our dreams, then watching them flatline over the next six months to a year. When the Navy Seals think of goal-setting, they think of surviving their training till lunch time and the exact steps required to do so. Like the other three items in The Big Four, Goal Setting goes along with each item – and is only truly effective when practiced along with the others. I’ve found in my own goal setting practice that by focusing on what’s in front of me, I am able to progress toward what’s ahead. Every day, I have a list. I cross items off and I review it at night and write the next day’s list, and in the morning, I go over it almost first thing. Without goal-setting my mental rehearsal would be impotent and my self-talk would be purposeless. Further, my breathwork wouldn’t be nearly as peacefilled and centered without knowing exactly where I am and where I am going.

Go deeper into The Big Four of Mental Toughness, here.

2. Dopamine Restriction

This one might be even more valuable to me than The Big Four.

Without practicing what I term “Dopamine Restriction”, my life would be completely out of my own control – as was the case for too many years.

In short, dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation AND reward.

Everything pleasurable releases dopamine. Some things are quite powerful dopamine agonists… Nicotine. Alcohol. Cannabis.

The problem isn’t so much pleasure as its consequences.

It causes us to seek more pleasure, and in turn to feel less.

In one study, researchers gave heavy, longterm cannabis users methylphenidate (Ritalin) in order to measure their dopamine response. The control group, consisting of non-users of cannabis, was also given the same Ritalin dose.

The heavy cannabis users had such blunted dopamine receptors that the Ritalin – basically methamphetamine – hardly even registered a response in their brains. The researchers were so surprised that their first instinct was to check if the Ritalin they had administered was expired – it was not.

What this and other research has shown, is that the ability to illicit natural dopamine responses is greatly diminished in heavy cannabis users. It’s no different for any source of dopamine. The more we behave like lab-rats, pushing the levers in our brains to feel pleasure, the less pleasure we are able to feel – and the more we crave it.

But it goes deeper, is more tragic. Dopamine isn’t just pleasure (reward) but motivation.

So, if you’re like me, and smoked a half-ounce of potent cannabis a week, forget about even feeling alive. At that point, your brain is starved for dopamine, which, in my experience, leads to all sorts of additional pleasure seeking behaviors. For me this meant cigarettes (“But I smoke organic cigarettes,” I told myself), alcohol, masturbation – just to feel okay, not even good.

You may be thinking, that’s all good and well but I don’t smoke anything and I hardly drink. 

Okay, well, do you check the news? Reddit? Instagram? These things are no different.

One day, we’ll look back on our cell-phones like cigarettes. Not because they give us cancer, but because we are addicted to them – and in turn receive our dopamine from them.

In my philosophy of dopamine restriction, based on my own life experience, it’s not a moral issue. It’s a matter of sapping the life out of ourselves – the very pleasure and motivation that makes life worth living. With such potent readily available sources of dopamine at our fingertips, we are hitting the lever like rats in an experiment all day long. The true consequence of which isn’t so much the dampening of pleasure or the weakening of motivation, but the loss of drive – of natural drive for the HEALTHY things that we are supposed to get our dopamine from. We’re lobotomizing our human technology for fulfillment – we’re hacking our natural hardwiring in a way that’s absolutely maladaptive.

My evidence for this is the difference between then and now, between when I was desperate to feel “normal” and constantly pressing those levers with nicotine, THC, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, porn, news, reddit… I was fucking myself royally.

I’ve since quit every single thing on that list. And guess what, now that I’m not addicted to “pleasure” I’m pursing fulfillment again. My sleep is deep, dream-filled and divine. I wake rested. I feel balanced. I walk. I eat healthy. I drink water. I work out. And possibly the biggest benefit is that I have ninja-like focus. I engage in Deep Work for hours every single day. I write fiction every single morning. I write poetry every single evening. I read again. No more spending hours on YouTube. I’m simply no longer distracted. I am focused and productive. Also, I don’t have any more depression. It’s a lifestyle that’s completely pragmatic and healthy – well-adapted, you might say.

In short, my philosophy for dopamine restriction is based on avoiding all “false sources” of pleasure. This means I avoid anything that isn’t fulfilling, healthy, and empowering – despite how pleasurable it is.

The ascetics have known this wisdom for millennia. You could say it’s raised my consciousness to a much higher level. It’s the single best piece of understanding I’ve ever integrated into my life. Knowing the above, I simply can never return to the old un-jedi-like ways. I’d be fucking myself – sabotaging every bit of happiness and wellbeing I have. And, to drive the point home – I feel better than I have in years, probably better than I’ve ever felt.

3. Bonus: The Gut Brain Axis

Google ‘gut brain axis’ and you’ll come across a wealth of information.

In short, scientists are calling the gut brain axis the missing link in depression. This might be because 90% of the body’s serotonin and 50% of the body’s dopamine are produced in the gut.

It travels straight through the central nervous system to your brain.

Now, there’s a miracle here. It’s called probiotics.

Gut health is mental health – is wellbeing.

If you’re not actively investing in your gut microbiome, today is the day you’re going to start. You simply have too much to lose by failing to and too much to gain by starting.

I encourage you to do your own research – and then some – but based on mine, I recommend the following:

Avoid alcohol. This kills all the good bacteria in your gut and it takes weeks to recover (provided you go weeks without drinking). Also, avoid big corporate mouthwashes, which will inevitably make their way in trace amounts into your gut, killing all the good bacteria there.

Eat probiotics. Every single kind. I take probiotic pills. I take prebiotic pills. I eat yogurt. I drink Kevita probiotic drinks (I avoid traditional kombucha due to trace amounts of alcohol). I eat a handful of different yogurts – with multiple probiotic strains. I take a greens powder with a half-dozen probiotic strains. I eat expensive, all natural pickles and sauerkraut (Bubbies brand). I eat high-quality kimchi. I drink Kefir.

Eat a diverse range of foods. There are foods known as prebiotics. They help probiotics. Eat a wide range of natural foods. You want a diverse gut microbiome. And you want to eat natural, organic foods. Shitty pickles and processed foods and fast food, and all that garbage is going to negatively impact your gut microbiome.

In short, my diet is centered around my gut health. I also take various supplements and enjoy things that help me look better, such as organic chicken bone broth and grass-fed collagen protein. Also, buy grassfed milk and grassfed butter. It’s much easier on the cows stomachs than grains – they live better lives: just like you when you eat the right foods.

That said, that’s my true-true. The keys to my kingdom at thirty-three. My most valuable pieces of life-advice, and I feel blessed to know them and to finally live my truths – god knows it took a long time to find them.

Recap

To recap everything: study and practice The Big Four (Breath control, self-talk, mental-rehearsal, goal setting). Restrict and eliminate all unhealthy, unfulfilling, purposeless, disempowering sources of dopamine. Curate a healthy gut microbiome. Integrate these into your life and I think your likelihood of success, happiness, fulfillment, and wellbeing all go way up. They certainly have for me.

Passages: Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Time and time again I read what I need to read, when I need to read it. I had read Man’s Search For Meaning before; although, as I get older, I find that my own increased experience adds additional dimension to things. Such was the case here. The words of Viktor Frankl, published in 1946, are profoundly significant. I think you will find them of value as well.

As part of my Passages series, I have transcribed my favorite passages below.

Note: Man’s Search For Meaning chronicles Victor Frankl’s time in multiple Nazi concentration camps – as well as the premise of his school of therapy, known as Logotherapy – and while the book clocks in at just over 150 pages, many of the passages I have selected are related more to the psychological value of the book than its historical content. Nonetheless, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the book for yourself. It’s easily one of my favorite books, as evidenced by its inclusion in my Passages series. 


“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and the conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

– p. 44

“‘Listen, Otto, if I don’t get back home to my wife, and if you should see her again, tell her that I talked of her daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, I have loved her more than anyone. Thirdly, the short time I have been married to her outweighs everything, even all we have gone through here.'”

– p. 55

“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person a prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him, mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.”

– p. 66

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

– p. 67

“This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through the window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here – I am here – I am life, eternal life.'””

– p. 69

“The Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see the end of his ‘provisional existence’ was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in a normal life. Therefore, the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life. The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal.”

– p. 70

“A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself preoccupied with retrospective thoughts. In a different connection, we have already spoken of the tendency there was to look into the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist. Regarding our ‘provisional existence’ as unreal was in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.”

– pp. 71-72

“Any attempt at fighting the camp’s psychopathological influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or psychohygeinic methods had to aim at giving him inner strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could look forward. Instinctively some of the prisoners attempted to find one on their own. It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future – sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to the task.”

– pp. 72-73

“I remember a personal experience. Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes), I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to the work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life. What should there be to eat tonight? If a piece of sausage came as a ration, should I exchange it for a piece of bread? Should I trade my last cigarette, which was left from a bonus I received a fortnight ago, for a bowl of soup? How could I get a piece of wire to replace a fragment which served as one of my shoelaces?

….

I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think only of such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them if they were already in the past. Both I and my troubles became the subject of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself. What does Spinoza say in his Ethics? – “Affectus, qui passio est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam.” Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”

– pp. 73-74

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.”

– p. 74

“As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygeinic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why- an aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”

– p. 76

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment, Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny.”

– p. 77

“The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’.

– p. 80

“Let me explain why I have employed the term “logotherapy”” as the name for my theory. Logos is a Greek word which denotes ‘meaning’. Logotherapy.. focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. This is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle.”

– pp. 98-99

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which can satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors who contend that meanings and values are “nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.” But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!”

– p. 99

“Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being. We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging a man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency. I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i,e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the struggling and striving for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

– pp. 104-105

“One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his opportunity to implement it.

As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he  can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by becoming responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.

– pp. 108-109

“The emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the categorical imperative of logotherapy, which is: “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now!” It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man’s sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a precept confronts him with life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both life and himself.

Logotherapy tries to makes the patient fully aware of his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave to him the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible.”

– pp. 109-110

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become filly aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

– pp. 111-112

“It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering – provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be is psychological, biological or political. To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

– p. 113

“Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after having first jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities the young person has in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think.

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

– pp. 121-122

p.s. The exclusive use of the male pronoun is not so much a defect of the book as a sign of the times in which it was written; however, for being a 73 year old book, its wisdom holds up incredibly well. A treasure, no doubt, for any human’s search for meaning.

Reprogramming Your Own Consciousness: Magic is Real

Magic is real. Today was amazing. Not a drop of fear, worry, nor stress: whatever tension I encountered, I transcended simply. My focus is steadfast. My peace deep.

It worked.

And I believed it, I knew it, with total faith. Thus, boom. Magic. Simple.

I actually came to share this after I came across an really great documentary tonight about magic and the science and psychology behind it: if you don’t believe in magic, watch 30 minutes of this: you will (It’s pretty potent stuff on consciousness, magic… individual empowerment).

This is all about your personal power.

Trust me, humans are programmable. Look at religion, schools, media, societies. Books.

But we have very few means to brainwash ourselves, to take our locus of control back from the matrix… magic is such an avenue for the open-minded explorer. And your powers – of focus, belief, self-worth, Will, intuition, and self-discipline are your only limits. Strength of mind. Calmness of will. Inner security. Blow the fucking doors off. Have a beginner’s mind. Let the past and old patterns of thoughts fall away. Doubt and fear and insecurity need have no place in you. You’re bigger than them, braver. And you can do anything you believe you can – but more importantly, you can feel any way you want to. And that’s where the magic is, in finding how to do that. How to reprogram yourself… A new perspective is a new reality. Don’t look to your circumstances to change, look to yourself. As within so without. As above so below. Enter the mystery. Self.

Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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Get Thee Up

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

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

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

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

I want this everyday. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choice.

Choice.

Choice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giddyup Etymology:

From get up or get ye/thee up.


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

The Young Actuals

12924416_1156070307750254_1734732197348032226_nThis is me; having realized that no matter how much of a writer, hippie, or bohemian I am, I am also a guy who enjoys success in business.

After all, you wouldn’t want someone else to judge you through a single lens or label, so why do it to yourself.

You are not this or that. You are whole. And to recognize the parts of you that exist seemingly in direct opposition to one another is the essence of wholeness.

The trick to happiness and inner peace, for me at least, is living in a way that holds the opposing parts together – not neglecting one or the other, but living in a way that honors both the billionaire and the Buddhist in me.

The Young Actuals of this world are those who understand that freedom is not meant to be wasted living a mass produced life in which we are at best imitatable – and at worst: miserable imitations.

For the Young Actual, to fear what others think is suicide; to envy others: insanity; for we believe in our own originality, and in the quiet intuitive knowledge that God was always only ever an archetype for man.

And, tired of living with the results of backwards myths, we have no Gods but our highest selves.

Our religion: the private experience of living a personal myth.

Our existence: a creative rebellion in which art is once again made loyal to man’s interior truths, through which the invidvidual once again hears her own inner voice.

For we are not products of the collective, but the producers, and the stewards of consciousness itself.


Young Actuals ethos inspired by Ayn Rand, Albert Camus, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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:

Mindsight: Going Back to The Start

The imagination is the greatest ability we have – for what may be born of dreams extends far beyond the reaches of the eye, which is limited by our reality – yet the bounds of reality extend far beyond the morrow, all the way into the clouds and past the horizon. Mindsight – our ability to see past today, past practicality, beyond the abyss of fear and the cove of doubt – this is the key that unlocks doors where others see walls. It is through this magic of evolution that we may dream while we are awake, seeing what others do not.

If you think this is the stuff of mere daydreaming, fancies and whatnot, then you, my friend, are seriously shortchanging yourself.

Things do not happen by mere chance: that couple that is going to make love tomorrow on the yacht of their dreams, you think that is mere fortune? No. That, my friends, is the product of a dream, a plan, a goal, and, of course, hard work.

The problem is, most people confine their dreams to their resources rather than letting their dreams detemine them. If your dreams do not guide your reality, as a needle does a thread, your reality will guide your dreams. Unfortunately, most people lose their ability to dream – both through lack of use and the normal setbacks of life. We’ve all given up at some level.

That last sentence is heartwrenching, isn’t it.

You see – dreams need to be curated, protected, and evolved, but the difficulty is that we live in a society that applies immense pressure on us; our values, our goals, and our desires are constantly being dictated to us by our peers, our parents, and ultimately our fraglie and insecure egos.

I hit a point last year when I realized my dreams weren’t even mine.

They belonged to an ex or someone I felt I needed to best, or my wish to gain approval from someone who doesn’t matter. Ayn Rand was right; selfishness is a virtue. Luckilly, I can still afford to be selfish: no wife. No kids. No limits. It sounds absurd but it’s true; if you’re out there and you’re feeling sorry for yourself about being single, you are seeing it all wrong. No, you can write your own ticket.

But most of us, single or taken, struggle with this – with determining what is we really, truly want.

The irony, and the key to unlocking the mystery within us, lies in the past; before society replaced our dreams with things: flat TV’s, great shoes, nice cars, a great place, this is adult shit. Children, on the other hand, know better. We all know better. We’ve just forgotten.

Go back in time. Remember when you were a child. Remember that thing you did that made the hours pass like minutes. The thing that dissolved reality into a mere sidenote. That; the call you stopped answering a long, long time ago still lives within you, and if you pick it back up, it will ring as true today as it did on afterschool afternoons twenty years ago. It’s 1995, and you are on the floor in your room looking at a book, feeling like you just set foot on the moon. Fast forward ten years and you were working in a call center not even realizing what happened to you. Five years later and you just wanted what others had. It’s a sad story, but it’s the story of an adult life. Wrought down by the weight of living, we forgot what we loved. We traded in our dreams for flat screen TVs, twenty inch rims on our leased SUVs.

It is time to reach back in time and take back the light that once kindled your soul.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

Awaken. Please.

I am begging you, as the pain I brought on my soul has long begged of me.

I write this because today I am taking full responsibility for my childhood dreams: I own them once again, and I am no longer owned by the pressure of society, a pressure no child really knows.

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than books and boats. I read every book in my school library on sailing, even Kon-Tiki. Dove, Spray, Adrift – you name it. I remember one day, while reading a story of sailors eating hard-tack at sea, just wishing I had some old, stale bread in my kitchen. I just wanted to taste it, I wanted to live it. And for a time, I did.

But then life happened. That drug of love, and the desire to be cool, to be admired, the desire to admire myself for the things society upholds as measures of happiness and success took over.

I’ll save you my autobiography, but at thirty I am once again as bitten by those same bugs as I was at eleven.

It’s an incredibly beautiful and healing thing. This, my friends, is as true to myself as I can be.

Books and boats.

P.s. We may know the dreams most suited to us by the ease and comfort in which we can clearly imagine ourselves in them. So, try them on, until, just like Goldilocks, you find the one that feels just right. So chill out; you had it all figured out as a child. You need only remember. Now go get lost in it. Once more. For your own sake. Don’t let yourself down another day more. You read this, and I wrote this, for a reason.

Wake Up With Your Dreams

N.G.U
Never Give Up
It warrants a seriousness – you see
You musn’t ever, ever give up on your dreams

For if you do dear child,
You will awake without them
And a day without,
Is spent in doubt
But a day with,
Is-a life well-lived
So to the wise,
These words I give:

Before each night’s sleep,
Stow dreams to keep
In your heart of hearts,
For a blessed start


Background

When I was seventeen years old I got my first tattoo: n.g.u (On my right inner-forearm). It’s an acronym for never give up; an oath of sorts, a vow of commitment to my hopes and dreams. Dreams I have at times forgotten, which is to say, dreams I have at times given up – for to forget, to go to sleep not relishing the dream in your heart, is to have given up.

Never give up; never forget; never let go of your dreams.

I hope you sleep with your dreams snug in your heart of hearts, and I hope you awake filled to the brim with excitement, eager to continue progressing ever forward on your journey.

Do not ever let yourself forget what makes you tick. For if you do, you won’t know why you’re getting up in the morning. And that’s a sad life – one I vow never to return to.

Second Birth of The Soul

At a certain point every idealist comes to a crossroads, a place where he realizes he must choose between two burdens; he can either suffer the opinions of the masses, or he can suffer the world’s resistance to his own. He must now decide if his suffering – and his life – is going to be worth something. This is when he begins to delineate what he stands for, and in doing so – he finds that he has not only given his life meaning, but he has given himself his purpose.

For he now knows that to rise above the mire of the world, he needs only to give life to his passions – passions that until this day had lay in rumination, stirring beneath the ancient, unbroken soil of his soul. In this way, every heartbreak had opened him up, and every experience had given him the kindling he would now use to fuel his dreams. Dreams that no longer would rest in precarious wait, on the brink of an eternal sleep; dreams that would awaken to give light to the dark – showing all of the world it’s soul through his.

Lawrence Black, Nov 25, 2014

Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran
Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran

Post Publish Edit: Upon publishing this, I came to realize it was my 222nd entry.

Serendipity lives here my dear reader.