This document represents my personal belief system. It’s a little out of date: last meaningfully updated in 2013.
Table of Contents
Actuality 2 - Draft 5
This too shall pass
It's all a matter of perspective
Tell your personal truth
God is you
Energy of life
Money is just a form of energy
Extremism is the enemy of civilization
Love is an enabler
Fractals all the way down
Everything in your life - good and bad - will pass. Everything everywhere will pass.
Having a run of great luck? It will pass. Something bad will happen. So be sure to appreciate every single moment of it. Be nostalgic about it as it's happening. Love it, love the opportunity to experience it, love the ability to experience it, love that you are conscious and present enough to do all that loving.
Having a run of bad luck, a bad experience or a personal tragedy? It too shall pass. You must hold on. You must survive it. You mustn't let it overwhelm you and most of all, when it's over, you must let it go. You must not let it define you. Learn what you need to learn and let the rest go.
Many of the things in our lives can be radically reinterpreted just by changing our perspective or context.
A big collection of emergency vehicles driving down the road sirens blaring can either be fun or concerning depending on the context. Are they in a parade? Or are they rushing to an accident?
Explosions in the sky can be fun or terrorizing. Are they fireworks, or bombs?
The context changes everything.
In your own life, your perspective, assumptions and context profoundly affects the way you see everything, how you feel about something and how you make decisions.
Are you sad because you don't have that big screen TV, or are you happy because you have your health and a roof over your head. Are you sad because your friends don't respect you, or are you happy because they have helped you learn about the kind of friend you want to be, and have the freedom to choose new people as your friends. Are they terrorists that act with no rhyme or reason, or are they desperate people doing desperate things trying to affect change in their desperate world?
Changing your perspective might be the quickest way to transform sadness or depression into contentment and happiness. Or happiness into empathy and generosity.
Unhappiness is the the gap between your intention and your experience. Creating more happiness is a matter of closing that gap.
This necessarily implies that before you can be happy, you must first be clear about your intentions - your goals. This is the truly hard part. Defining one's own goals in tangible ways is sometimes near impossible. It is, however, necessary before you can get anywhere.
Once identified, it’s a matter of working backwards to create a plan of action to get there.
As the gap between your experience and your intention shrinks, so too will your level of unhappiness.
Luck is preparation meets opportunity + execution.
Preparation means you need to act as if you have already won. Build something others care about and your audience, your partners and your ‘big break’ will find you.
Noticing opportunity is hard, however, without paying attention. Too often we are head down working hard and we miss opportunities that come our way. In fact, I find that most people completely fail to understand opportunity cost - either when it comes to personal relationships or professional partnerships.
Finding creative ways to continually connect your hard work and preparation to the opportunities that present themselves every day will increase your ‘luck’ in immeasurable ways.
Once the opportunity finds you, however, execution is all that counts. Opportunity can often first appear as hard work.
People often wonder if they should say something. To a friend, a lover, at work, on their blog or on Twitter. Is it OK to really say that? Will it hurt their feelings? Will it hurt my chances for that job? Will it affect my personal brand?
If something is true for you; and it affects you enough to drive these kind of thoughts, it deserves to be said. It should be said proudly and without fear. It should be said to those who it affects. Those who begrudge your personal truth, judge it unworthy or would discount your contribution for having it - are they themselves fragile and probably destructive forces in your life.
If their reaction is anything but gratitude for your honesty, then you might need to re-think your relationship with them.
It's better to find out now than allow them to sap your energy and your intuition over time.
We are God expressing itself. Whether you believe God is a discrete being to be addressed by name and can intervene with your everyday life (I don’t), or it's merely another word for 'the universe' (my personal belief) we, and everything around us, is an expression of that original source.
The source of each and every religion is basically the same. Yes it is. They all express the same universal truths about love, personal power and appeasing the fear of the unknown (especially the ultimate unknown - death).
They are all man made constructs however. Metaphors designed to help us know the unknowable.
As man made constructs they tend to come in books. Books that tend to be a mix of spiritual truths and strange colloquial health and safety ‘laws’ for their time - things like food choices, slave owning, marriage rules etc.
Unfortunately most people take these books of mixed metaphors and primitive rules all too literally with undesirable outcomes ranging from strange cultural eccentricities to all out war. More on this in the ‘Extremism’ section.
Try to understand, love and and embrace the truth, not the metaphor. Those that hold onto the metaphor as the most important thing are missing the point - and are ultimately dangerous.
Education is the most important thing we can do for our children and the future of our civilization. Giving people the tools to understand life long learning, creative inspiration and the ethical use of power, perspective, productizing their passions (and so many other lessons) is a profound gift and critical to the prosperity of us all.
Education should be accessible to all, inspiring and effective. Anyone fighting against that simple truth knows that the best way to control 'the masses' is to keep them afraid and uneducated.
Education - knowledge - is the only weapon against fear. Fear is the cause of conflict.
In both a literal and metaphysical sense, life is a series of energy transfers. Hot to cold. High pressure to low pressure. Negative to positive. You to me. Me to us.
It might even be true that there are invisible energies passing between each of us all the time. A room full of hostile, 'negative' energy between people has been shown to dramatically change the crystal formation of ice for example.
Be conscious of the energy you bring to people's lives. Be conscious of the energy they bring to yours. Do they inspire, invigorate and enable you? Do they sap you of energy, corrupt your actions and negate your dreams?
Money is not something you 'save' and is not to be feared. It is most certainly not the root of all evil. Money is basically just a explicit form of energy that we can transfer between each other.
Give it liberally - experience it's abundance and give it to those who assist you or deserve more energy in their lives.
Receive it in exchange for your energy. Understand the fair exchange of it for your personal contributions. Understand your contribution and the contribution of others in monetary terms.
One day there might be less crude ways for us to explicitly transfer energy between us, but for now money is what we’ve got.
Everyone, everywhere, has the same basic needs and desires. There’s little more I need to write here other than to refer you to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Understanding this basic shared common ground between us helps us to understand our own behavior and the behavior of others. Very few people in this world act out of a desire to be the villain of the piece. We all count ourselves the heroes of our own stories and have, justifiable motivations - at least in the moment and in our head.
The foundations of all our actions are based in Maslow’s observations. Some of us are merely more or less aware of these needs, motivations and their connection to our actions. Most of us slide up and down in ‘awareness’ or ‘awake-ness’ during our lives. Most hover in what one might call ‘sleep’ mode most of the time.
Islam, Christianity, Fascism, Democracy, Liberalism, Conservatism, even Terrorism - all the isms. None of these are the real problem today (although they certainly contribute to the willful suspension of disbelief and submission to irrational/destructive structures of authority). The real enemy of peace and civilization today is extremism.
The holding sacred of ones beliefs (or worst still, the beliefs of others based an ancient text - elevating metaphor to truth) in unshakable form is, by definition, to the exclusion of the thoughts and beliefs of others. The harder the line we draw between us and 'them' - the sharper our divides and the more catastrophic the eventual and inevitable conflict.
In reality, the lines are quite faint. We all have shared needs and wants (refer to the section above). All our religious metaphors are basically saying the same thing. It is only when BOTH sides do not understand the similarities in each other that we begin to tear each other apart.
Let us take an obvious example: Terrorism.
Terrorism is, of course a terrible tactic, but it is not the root cause of the problems in our world. In fact, over-reacting (extreme reactions) to terrorism has caused more harm than the terrorism itself.
Terrorism is just an (extreme) tactic used by some to achieve a political goal. It is a symptom of extreme views and/or extreme desperation. The feeling that nothing else - no standard politics or activism - has worked to further the goals of a group of people so they have had to resort to desperate, extreme acts.
For our world to truly proposer, it is not enough for us to tolerate others; we must embrace their differences. Their perspectives, contexts, personal value and divinity must be loved and even explored with the same passion some of us have for climbing mountains, caring for animals or watching sports.
From a blog post
I’m certain there are countless books espousing countless metaphors for thinking about the issue. For me it comes down to some common themes.
Perspective is perhaps one of the most important human traits. Along with tool building and self-awareness, it’s one of the core things that separate us from the animals. It allows us to switch angles, points of view, lenses, frames of reference or ways of thinking in order to evaluate an idea or circumstance in multiple ways.
Often times when you’re feeling down, confused or looking for a better option, simply try changing your perspective and your attitude or feeling can change almost instantly.
Our priorities can affect our actions in fundamental ways. In fact just re-ordering a few subconscious priorities can dramatically change our behavior, loyalties and outcomes.
When you hear someone say “they’ve changed” it’s likely that the person in question has changed their priorities or their perspective because the rest of the items on this list are pretty hard to change without a lot of conscious thought and self-evaluation.
Patterns are about what a person has seen in his or her past and is either repeating or trying to break away from. You might also learn patterns from your peers or they might even imprint them on you directly with advice. In the worst cases this is peer pressure.
Perhaps it’s their parents. Perhaps it’s a previous business failure. Whatever the case, human beings are pattern recognition (and repeating) machines. We are doing it all the time. It’s very, very easy to fall into them and almost impossible to change some of them – particularly the fundamental ones.
Patterns are not just about behaviors. They are also about subconscious ways of thinking and the way we might emotionally identify with situations. In many cases our behaviors change, but the underlying emotional pattern is the same.
Some patterns are probably fairly immutable without a LOT of pain and conscious thought.
There are certain temperaments and personality traits we’re born with. Some babies are irritable, some sleep through the whole night. This isn’t learned behavior, it’s genetic. Our chemical make ups have a profound impact on our patience, personality and actions.
Sure you can take pills to help with depression or anxiety - Ideally, though, you use exercise or other meditation techniques to adjust your brain chemistry but the core genetics are obviously locked in stone.
Pride is a powerful force. It can stop us from reaching out, reaching in or just fundamentally seeing the truth. Pride often times leads us to our worst fears and can block us from getting what we want. It’s like a poison that can fundamentally break our lives in ways we can’t understand and may never be able to repair. It’s based on fear (detailed next) but it’s so specific that I thought it deserved it’s own section.
Fear is an overriding motivating factor. Fight or flight can shut down all other factors listed here and drive us to do crazy things. When we think our person, personality or future is at risk, we can lash out, cut off and fly away from situations or people faster than you can say ‘hey relax, you’re no longer fighting for your life out in the prehistoric caves’.
Living in Love is the highest form of decision making. It’s the highest form of living in general really. Making decisions based on your highest hopes and grandest version of yourself is hard to do because everything in your brain and body tells you to run like hell. When your perspective is wrong, or your priorities are shifting or your patterns are locked in or your predisposition is messing up your clarity or your fear is shutting down your brain and forcing you to simply react, or your pride is getting in the way – finding your love, much less acting on it, is near impossible.
Find it you must, though.
Love also has another effect. When you truly love someone else, they become part of you. Part of your definition of self. The way you treat/behave towards yourself is vastly different than the way you would treat anyone else. This can dictate your behavior in ways that even supersede fear.
Purpose is, in many ways, the easiest way to manipulate your own behavior. In fact In many ways it’s the only way to practically (in material ways) determine success because by clearly defining your purpose (and ‘change the world’ or ‘be happy’ or ‘be important’ is not clear enough) you can carve a smooth trajectory for your life, make your actions more consistent and ultimately give you something to succeed at. After all, the definition of success is first stating a goal and then achieving it.
Having a grand purpose also helps inspire those around you to action as well. In many cases our purpose is defined by the other factors listed above and just as often those factors block us from achieving it.
From a blog post
Above all else, you must have a great relationship with yourself. Without that strong foundation, you can not have a strong relationship with another person or organization.
There’s no such thing as normal. We all have our biases and neurosis.
We obsess over ritual, process, dogma and fear. Did he do the right thing on date number 3? Did she file form number 5? Did they come through the right door?
Our egos, pride and fear get in the way of real connections and meaningful leaps of faith. We classify ‘ideal’ as unattainable ‘fantasy’ instead of a worthy goal. We semi-commit, leverage, tell half truths, white lies or outright betrayals. What if your business model matched your vision? What if your words matched your thoughts. What if your thoughts matched your highest ideals – ideals based on love and openness.
We play power games, instead of realizing partnership affords us the greatest power of all. Saying “I need you” or “I need help” is a critical kind of power.
We think we must choose between love, work or self. The three are interrelated.
We are all selfish. But we don’t realize that definition of love is broadening your definition of self to include another person. We don’t realize that success without love is like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear – it happens but it doesn’t matter. No one gives a shit.
We think we must choose between one person or another. The truth is we are all nodes on a network. We need different types of signals from different kinds of people.
We try to ‘find ourselves’ not realizing that our everyday actions define us. Did you say that kind word to that stranger? Then you are kind. Were you loyal to a friend? Then you are loyal. Did you avoid that confrontation? Then you are someone who avoids confrontation. Did you tell your complete personal truth? Then you are honest.
We look for the next best thing instead of recognizing that truly getting on the same page with someone is the best possibility of all. Achieving that kind of collaboration – even for a moment – should be cherished in the moment and for a lifetime. Sometimes it happens like a lightning strike. Most times it takes hard work, communication and trust.
We forget that the best relationships are about resonating with something or someone. About helping each other evolve by creating safe harbors, new opportunities and covering each other’s blind spots.
We grow complacent and content in our relationships. They require constant work. Each participant must grow, evolve and contribute to the whole.
There are so many stories of people breaking up because they were ‘too young’ and now, years later, they long for that lost connection. “We’re different now. They have a girlfriend now. They are happy without me.” Why did you give it up in the first place? Why not try again? Are grand gestures only for the movies?
There are so many stories of high-school sweethearts that wake up one day resenting each other. Do they resent each other, or do they resent missed opportunities. Being trapped. Missed freedoms. Did they communicate? Did they give each other freedom? Did they create opportunities for each other? Did they leave when the relationship finally no longer served their evolution?
Maybe most relationships are temporary – a day, a week, a year, a decade. We try to have ‘clean’ breakups. Contracts. Lawyers. Relationships are not clean. They are messy. Love is messy. Life is work. Work is life. A relationship is not defined by what you think it should be or what the contract says it will be – it’s defined by every day. Every hiccup. Every earnest effort to do the right thing for the other person.
Time is not running out. We overestimate what can be done in a day and underestimate what can be done in a decade. Breathe. Take your time. Pay attention. Keep perspective.
Is there always imbalance in a relationship? Does one always need the other more. Love the other more? Is that ok? How does one measure the delta. What is the threshold for when the delta becomes too great? When does the relationship no longer serve your evolution and the evolution of your partner? What happens when the other person does not or can not reciprocate these ideals or does not appreciate them when they are offered? Can anyone?
These are some of the open questions about a partnership that remain for me.
I know, though, you can’t hold on too tight or you will strangle each other.
These things are only cliches because they are true.
The problem with most of the advice your friends give you is that they put themselves in your shoes instead of the shoes of the person you're having some issues with. The advice often tends to be "yeah you're so right" instead of "well actually, from their POV you're making these 2 mistakes". People need to take responsibility for their part of the friction in a relationship or in their lives because being "right" doesn't help you, being *effective* at interpreting and interacting with the world does.
The only constant across every interaction you have is you. The only variable in a given situation you can change is yourself. If you're facing the same patterns over and over again then you need to change yourself.
Many people in relationships don't experience Love all that often.
We all instead typically experiencing a great deal of fear. Fear over commitment. Fear over the other's lack of commitment. Fear about how to communicate your needs. Fear that you are meeting the others needs. Fear that you might be wasting time with the wrong person. Fear that the other will leave you. Fear that the other might look at someone else.
Fear is the opposite of love. In fact it might be said that there are only two basic, sponsoring emotions - Love and Fear. They are opposite.
Fear closes, holds in, contains, limits. Love enables, opens, sets free.
Traditional expressions of love - possession, control, exclusivity and submission are as outdated as a carrier pigeon.
If you love someone then you should not only share your personal truth with them, but they should assist you in learning your personal truth and experiencing it. Love is about helping the other remember the other principles listed here and live them to the best of your combined abilities.
By extension fidelity is not being sexually exclusive. It is keeping the promise you make to someone. The default promise of most relationships is sexual and emotional exclusivity. That means becoming emotionally involved with someone else is cheating - even if there is never any physical interaction.
This also means that the default promise of a relationship can be changed. Some choose to maintain the default promise - and that’s perfectly OK. Some choose to tweak it in creative ways. But in all cases, keeping the agreed promise is the true definition of fidelity.
More on love from a blog post I wrote:
In my last few posts I’ve used the word ‘Love’ a lot. I thought I would try to describe what that word means to me.
From the bible (though I am not a big fan of that book)
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I would add…
Love is truth. Love it is openness. Love is loyalty. Love is nostalgia.
Love survives time, and space. Love survives moods.
Love is vulnerability. Love is drawing power from partnership.
Love is making yours mine. Love is making mine, yours. Love is making you, us. Love is making us, me.
Love is based on trust and friendship. A friendship that could never be abandoned. Love is not being alone.
Love is the thing that survives long after the lust has burned away, the words have evaporated and the disappointments have sunk in.
Love is scary as hell.
The feeling of love peaks and troughs. Love takes faith.
Love is not playing games. Not manipulating. Not having an agenda.
Love begins with loving yourself. It ends with loving everyone and everything.
Love is often confused with fear.
Love is often confused with lust.
Love is infrequent.
Love is evolution.
Love is God.
You can’t convince someone to feel it. You can’t convince yourself to stop.
Love is nearly impossible.
Most people can’t even imagine it.
Everything is fractals. Turtles all the way down.
For example, everything from the metaverse, through to galaxies, solar systems, civilizations, plants leaves, snail shells, atoms, sub-atomic particles and so on are all following the same mathematical principles and recursive patterns.
This kind of recursive pattern follows through at scales we are yet to see - both larger than the metaverse and smaller than sub-atomic particles. It goes on forever.
History, behavior, relationships, emotions - they too are recursive patterns that repeat over and over.
Our experience at this scale and in this moment in history are infinitesimal glimpses at the big picture. Where we see a particle, there is also a wave.
Here, I was going to write down the key books or materials that inspired me. But I now realize that while Conversations with God and some other texts might have been the heaviest contributors, everything in my life has influenced this set of beliefs - including things like TV shows and movies. So instead, I suggest you refer to my Influences list.
Some might wonder how silly things like movies could possibly influence such deeply held beliefs. Let me give two examples that might seem silly or non-obvious at first, but were important to me growing up:
Labyrinth (1986): While the movie is a fun cult classic, it’s actual lesson is ‘Ask the right questions’. If you watch carefully, you will realize that at each turn the character is challenged to ask for what she wants. If she asks for the right thing she is given it. If she asks for the wrong thing she is sent further into chaos.
Scream (1996): This movie taught me that you can take the conventions and “hang a lantern on them”. In other words, you can make something ABOUT the thing you're making. You can points out to the audience the cliches and, in the process, subvert them. This was one of many things that illustrated to me that you can color outside the lines.
Of course, there are plenty of other, more obvious items on the list that are self explanatory.