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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup, it was Obama’s fault.

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

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

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

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

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

– James Baldwin, Another Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made something click for me.

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

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

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

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

Two years later, I would fall in love again.

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

Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I tried.

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

Period.

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

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

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

The result looked like this:

What Am I?

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

 What Do I Pretend to Be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter: Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

From Wiki:

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

The 16 Basic Desires [7].

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

And from Reiss’ website:

What are basic desires?

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

An example: the desire for Status

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

The importance of the basic desires in practice

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

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

The following graphic is also available as a download.

reiss profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that said, I am off to open Excel.

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

7Saturdays

Oh wait, does that not motivate you?

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


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

– C.G. Jung


Footnotes

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

Acknowledging the Gorge: Accepting and Embracing MY Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world’s reality is simply no longer mine.

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


Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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

On Consciously Becoming

Goals, but as a means to what end?

Happiness.

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

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

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

Yet still, we do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from aforementioned NYT interview:

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

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

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

Read the entire Times piece, here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on the topic of hustle:

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

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

Fuck Motivation.

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

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

But I didn’t.

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

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

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

No. Motivation is bullshit. Confidence is bullshit.

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

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

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

Fuck your motivational speech. Fuck your opinion of me.

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

I know I can do it.

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

This isn’t motivation, this is just fact.

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

Well almost. You need desire.

Motivation as inspiration is not a thing. Desire is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl Nightengale quote

 

Finding and Focusing on The Intermediate Destinations Revisted

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

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

Sequoia Silverman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You need to…

View original post 450 more words

Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment

Update: 3-16-19

I’ve published a new entry: Introduction to LEVELS, which compliments this quite well for anyone looking to level-up in life.

Introduction and Preface

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

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

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


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

The Want Box

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

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

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

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

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

The Reality Box

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

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

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

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

The Goal Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powers Our Potential

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

Our Potential and Goal Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example Elon’s Software Matrix from 1995

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

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

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

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

Strategy

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

First principles in Elon’s words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Godspeed.

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

Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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