My Case for the Simulation Argument

Preface / Author note:

I wrote this three years ago; however, it was never properly published, until now. 

In 2015 my world view was becoming far less ethereal and far more grounded in the pragmatic realities of science and technology; however, this suited me. I was writing a lot of code at the time (nothing too l33t, just front end stack), and I was fascinated by the singularity and futurism. Soon my new gods Sagan and Degrasse Tyson, were joined by Kurzweil and others; however, it was Nick Bostrom’s The Simulation Argument that would change my spiritual life.

Put forth in plain-speak – as I have come to understand it – the Simulation Argument is the idea (hypothesis) that we are living in a computer simulation, that reality itself is akin to a computer program.

Wait, what?

If the idea is new to you, it’s likely to sound like we are living in The Matrix — which isn’t a terrible metaphor, but it isn’t a great one either.

Allow me to explain it [my conception of the Simulation Argument] as I have to friends:

Remember the first Atari?

Image from PC World, January 2013: “Atari files for bankruptcy, but it’s not ‘game over’”

We all know how basic games like Pong and Pacman were; now, think of the newest iteration of the gaming console, the Playstation Four:

Now, I want you to imagine the gaming console in twenty or thirty more years. Full neural immersion. Not just virtual reality, but reality indistinguishable from our own.

Scientists (Bostrom, Musk, et al.) believe that it’s going to be possible to simulate reality. Based on that hypothesis, it’s more likely than not that this is also a simulation, and that there are more simulated worlds than real worlds.

This is where you, the reader, may be thinking: put the bong down man. Only, this isn’t a half-baked concept. The Simulation Argument has gained major traction, both for and against; however, my purpose isn’t to dissect something that has been better explained by those smarter than myself. I merely want to explain what gave me a sense that yes, there might be a god, a great programmer in the sky.

For, if this is a simulation, then so many things would make sense for me, which otherwise do not in a purely natural world, but I must restate that I do not wish to try and explain things outside of my expertise, which math and science certainly are; however, I find solace in the knowing that some of the world’s smartest minds can arrive at answers I cannot, but nonetheless answers which solve very important questions, because philosophically humans have always sought to understand life — to understand their place in the universe. That’s really what this is a question of: what am I? Am I a mass of nerves, or am I something that might stretch beyond the physical universe? Is my soul in the cloud?

When I learned of the Simulation Argument and interpreted it as a personal paradigm for the nature of life and as an intelligent and compelling case for the existence of a god or godlike entity, I felt changed, I felt renewed; I felt that maybe the universe wasn’t so impartial and that maybe I could influence my fate more than I previously thought. Just maybe, life wasn’t fated for us to pass from the cradle to grave with a bit of luck and suffering in-between. Maybe magical things could happen. Maybe I could design my own user-experience in life. Maybe things like love, luck, The Law of Attraction, and other concepts fewer and fewer people seem to believe in today, are real. For me, it came down to the existence of free-will, a sense of profound possibility.

It’s this sense of profound possibility that comprises my present day definition of what it means for me to be religious. For, to believe in god as I conceive of the concept, is to believe in serendipity, in happy accidents, in the things my non-belief in (prior to learning of the Simulation Argument) had prevented me from experiencing. My atheism, my lack of faith in something beyond biological organisms, excluded the possibilities of me having a soul, of me having a rich inner world. When I was an atheist, my inner world was dead: it did not exist.

Nick Bostrom wasn’t the only individual who opened up the doors to my believing in a god. Around the same time I became interested in Bostrom’s work I began delving into the work of Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung, who believed that man needs religion, and the nature of the psyche is innately religious.

Jung had described my problem, prior to adopting a “religious outlook on life”:
…Among all my patients in the second half of life — that is to say, over thirty-five — there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook. This of course has nothing whatever to do with a particular creed or membership of a church.

It was the Simulation Argument, an argument for the possibility of intelligent design, which made it possible for me to adopt a religious outlook on life. Once I had done this, I could believe in what Jung coined “synchronicity”.

Jung’s concept of synchronicity is the idea of meaningful coincidences and the connection between psyche and matter (the inner and the outer world). Jung called it, “An acausal connecting principle.”

Without a religious outlook on life, such a thing would be mere superstition, rather than within the realm of reality, for a religious outlook gives one a grander sense of reality — a theosophy — a belief in mystical insight into our lives and our destinies; a belief in the power of our own intuition and our own intention.

Whatever we wish to call it, however we choose to describe it, it speaks of a coordinating agency of limitless scope and finite subtlety, whereby all the coincidences and connections of the world coalesce in a grand design, within which our dreams are possible (Provided humankind does not rob us of them ex: The Holocaust, wars, murder).

Seen this way, synchronicity, serendipity, kismet, chance, divine will, all present themselves within the people, messages, signs, and lessons we can find if we are looking for them; however, if we don’t believe in them: none are possible.

Postscript: 

Elon Musk gives impossible odds for us living in “base reality“.

The Importance of Mindfulness and The Connection Between Mindfulness and Meditation

If I would have tried to conjure up an impression of mindfulness in my head a couple years ago I would have imagined an affluent woman in her sixties, drinking tea and looking out over her oceanfront view, with a warm and contented look on her face.

Today, I’ve come to know better. Mindfulness isn’t some far off, esoteric destination only available to those who meditate and live on a higher plane. No, mindfulness is simply the practice of observing yourself and consciously focusing on your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

Wikipedia defines mindfulness as the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…

Now, the interesting thing about this [this definition] is that I personally came to understand and know mindfulness not as a result of study, but as a result of practicing meditation. And when I began meditating, I did not even know this was going to happen. I wanted inner peace. And meditation helped me connect to that – but more importantly, I became aware that there was something within me more still than my thoughts, and I became aware of what it felt like to transcend that [my thoughts and feelings].

As a result, I became more self-aware. I realized when my feelings were making me feel poorly. I began to automatically notice on walks when I wasn’t being attentive to myself – when I was out of touch with the present moment. And I would focus on my breath, and I would return to that stillness. And I would feel better. I felt better because I could stop identifying with whatever I was thinking or feeling, and I could check back in with myself, with the eternal part of my soul that’s always present and connected – whether my mind is or not.

Mind you (pardon the pun), I’ve never read a book on mindfulness. And I have a lot of work to do to improve on this practice – namely, I need to not only practice the awareness of my body, thoughts, and feelings – but I need to consciously choose to practice the intentional non-judgement, and acceptance of these sensations – because for me personally, I typically go straight into self-talk, and other cognitive behavioral practices so that I can “optimize” how I feel. And while I don’t think this is a terrible thing to do, I think the act of acceptance and non-judgmental awareness will help me let go of some of these [less positive] feelings with greater ease.

So, this morning I wanted to look into mindfulness and I watched handful of videos, the best of which I have included below for you, my dear reader.

Sam Harris: Mindfulness is Powerful

This is an important video to watch, because aside from Sam Harris describing the purpose and value of mindfulness, he asserts that mindfulness should not be viewed as a religious experience, but rather as a bridge we can use to close the gap that exists between science and spirituality. I think disconnecting meditation from Buddhism makes it more approachable and less seemingly unobtainable. The power to transcend ourselves is truly within us all.

…the sense of self that we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. And cutting through that illusion I think is actually more important than stress reduction or any of the other conventional benefits that are accurately ascribed to mindfulness.

The enemy of mindfulness and really of any meditation practice is being lost in thought, is to be thinking without knowing that you’re thinking. Now the problem is not thoughts themselves. We need to think. We need to think to do almost anything that makes us human – to reason, to plan, to have social relationships, to do science. Thinking is indispensable to us but most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. And this automaticity is a kind of scrim thrown over at the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves, we’re judging others, we’re worrying about the future, we’re regretting the past, we’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. And much of this self-talk is unpleasant and diminishing our happiness in every moment. And so meditation is a tool for cutting through that.


Dan Harris: Hack Your Brain’s Default Mode with Meditation

Dead on. Selected quotes and citations follow:

There was a study out of Harvard that showed that short, daily doses of meditation can literally grow the grey matter areas of your brain having to do with self-awareness. and compassion and shrink the grey matter associated with stress. 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/

There was also a study out of Yale that looked at what’s called the default mode network of the brain, it’s a connected series of brain regions that are active during most of our waking hours, when we’re doing that thing that human beings do all the time, which is obsessing about ourselves, thinking about the past, thinking about the future, doing anything but being focused on what’s happening right now. Meditators not only turn off the default mode network of their brain while they’re meditating but even when they’re not meditating. In other words, meditators are setting a new default mode. And what’s that default mode? They’re focused on what’s happening right now.

From an article on the study out of Yale:

“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said. “Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”

And finally, Dan Harris’ closing words on happiness as a controllable choice:

The common assumption that we have – and it may be subconscious – is that our happiness really depends on external factors: how was our childhood, have we won the lottery recently, did we marry well, did we marry at all – but in fact, meditation suggests that happiness is actually a skill, something you can train, just as you train your body in the gym – it’s a self-generated thing, and that’s a really radical notion. It doesn’t mean that external circumstances aren’t going to impact your happiness – it doesn’t mean that you are not going to be subject to the vagaries of an impermanent, entropic universe – it just means you are going to be able to navigate this with a little more ease.


Chade-Meng Tan, on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence: 5 Lessons

If you want to learn more in depth on mindfulness, I suggest watching this full talk, but Cade-Meng Tan, delivered to an audience at Google, but at least watch from 24:12 to 31:50

If you do not wish to watch those seven minutes, here are my five takeaways from that portion of Chade-Meng Tan’s talk.

The Ability to Turn Emotions Off

There are a couple of very useful things, and they’re so useful that the degree of self-awareness that you can gain can create profound changes in your life. The first example is that if you’re able to perceive an emotion the moment it is arising, that gives you the power to turn it off if you want to. It gives you choice. Therefore, you have a choice of, “Hmm, I feel anger rising. Should I be angry or should I be not?” You can choose. I mean, there are situations where I chose to be angry, and because I was getting ripped off [to be purposefully assertive]. I figured the best reaction is to put that out to other people. And the situations where you’re “Nah, I don’t want to be angry, especially since she’s my boss. Let’s turn it off.” So you have a choice. The first thing, already, this is life-changing. If you have to ability to turn off anger. Already, it changes your life.

How Self-Awareness and Emotional Awareness Translates into Self-Knowledge, and Opportunity

Another example is that if you have a lot of strong self-awareness, emotional awareness, the emotional awareness translates into self-assessment. You get to know yourself a bit better. You get to know your resources. This is what I’m good at, this is what I’m bad at. These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. This is what I really like to do, this is what makes me happy, and so on. And the effect of that is that once you are able to figure out, quote on quote your “deepest values and motivations”, then you know what opportunities to look out for. If you did not have the insight, the opportunity would just come and go. However, because you had the insight, you catch the opportunity when it’s there. Therefore, you’re always successful. And then people will think you’re very lucky. I mean, you’re lucky, but at the same time, you’re there to catch your opportunities and you’re able to catch opportunities because you have deep knowledge of self.

Making the Shift from Existential to Experiential

There’s a third one, which is even more profound, which is this: if you experience an emotion, we like to think that our emotions are existential experiences. What does that mean? We like to think the emotion itself, is us. And it reflects in the language that you use. For example, we say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am happy.” So the emotion becomes me. I become the emotion. However, as the power of your mind, the sharpness of mind, your resolution, your vividness becomes stronger over time. You discover something about a process of emotion and then you read an emotion in a very subtle way that has a profound change in your life. And that profound change is this: is going from existential to experiential, which means going from “I am angry” to “I’m experiencing anger. I’m experiencing happiness, or sadness, or whatever.” What does that change? Now it changes from “I am this, this is me” to “My mind is like a sky.” Then emotions are the clouds occupying the mind, but they’re not the mind. So that’s a powerful shift.

Separating Emotion into a Physiological Experience – Changing Your Perception

But wait, it gets better. The way it gets better, which is – there is another step you can go. As your attention becomes even more refined, you discover something else, beyond being experiential. You discover that the process of emotion, the experience of emotion is physiological. You experience emotions in the body. Every emotion has a bodily correlate. And then you discover something. You discover that painful emotions are not that different from painful feelings in the body. For example, I hurt my hand. Ow! And then I know this is pain, I know this is unpleasant, but the pain is not me. It is a sensation in my body. Having that perception changes everything. Because it’s not me, I can do things about it. I can take Tylenol. I can massage. I can put in ice. Or I can ignore it. Or I can experience it mindfully. Or I can just eat ice cream and forget all about it. And so on. There are things I can do because this experience is not me.

Using Mindfulness to Practice the Habit [intention] of Loving Kindness

The first habit that is very conducive to being socially skillful is the habit of kindness, or loving-kindness. That is a habit of looking at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before. Looking at any human being, my first thought is, “I want this person to be happy.” I want this person to be happy: that’s just it. Already, you can imagine if you have that mental habit coming effortlessly, it changes everything. You go into a meeting room; you look at everybody, you think, “I want all these people to be happy.” It reflects unconsciously in your body, your face, your language, your tone of voice, your facial expression. Because it reflects unconsciously, it’s picked up unconsciously by the other person. Their feeling, their perception is, “I like this person. I don’t know why. This Meng guy, I really like him. Maybe it’s his good looks. I don’t know.” [laughter] But it’s not just the good looks, it’s because I’m wishing for this person to be happy. I want Tara to be happy, and Tara can sense it unconsciously. In a situation like meetings and so on, if you have that mental habit all the time, people want to work with you. Then you find yourself becoming successful. You’re not clear why. But it’s this; it’s just simple things like that.

Note: You should read Chade-Meng Tan’s book Search Inside Yourself, I will be!


Start Your Own Mindfulness Practice

The following three videos will allow you to practice what mindfulness feels like. Start with the first and build up to the third. As you learn what this feels like, you’ll be able to do each without a video guide; although, I am still a big fan of practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

The Quick Mindful Check in

5 Min Mindfulness Check in

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice

Napoleon Hill: Outwitting The Devil

Update: Jan 2017 – just going to leave this here: 

https://www.google.com/amp/paleofuture.gizmodo.com/the-untold-story-of-napoleon-hill-the-greatest-self-he-1789385645/amp?client=safari

– Not to detract from the man’s work, but the above read was eye opening to say the least. Take what you will with a grain of salt, the entry below included.


tl;dr – I am incredibly excited about this discovery. I am buzzing with excitement. The 1938 manuscript Outwitting The Devil was released in 2011 and having come across it this evening, I cannot get enough. Scroll to the bottom for embedded audio.

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In my youth I first read Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich, and I think I can trace a lot of my success in the years since back to that crucial stone in my path.

This evening, I came across something pretty awesome while watching youtube videos. And when I say awesome, I mean really awesome. I’m excited about this. I’m excited for anything that sparks a light within me capable of extinguishing fear, doubt, and worry.

What I came across was an audio version of an obscure Napoleon Hill manuscript, titled: Outwitting The Devil.

As the audio tells, the book was written in 1938, but wasn’t released for more than seventy-two years. Mind you, Think and Grow Rich has sold over 70 million copies worldwide – so why was this manuscript locked away for the better part of a century?

Wikipedia explains:

Just after the release of Think and Grow Rich in 1937, Hill began writing Outwitting the Devil as an explanation of why some were still seeing failure after following all of the steps in Think and Grow Rich. His wife, Annie Lou, did not want the book published because of the role the Devil played in it. When Hill died in 1970, the manuscript went in the possession of Annie Lou, who died in 1984. After her death, the manuscript went into the hands of Dr. Charles Johnson, who was Annie Lou’s nephew and president of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. While Dr. Johnson believed the book’s message to be powerful, his wife, Frankie Johnson, shared Annie Lou’s feelings and told Dr. Johnson that she did not want the manuscript published while she was alive. After Frankie’s death, Dr. Johnson passed the manuscript to Don Green, CEO of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. Sharon Lechter was then asked to edit the manuscript, and after several years of annotations and reviews, it was released in June, 2011.

While I am only one hour into the six hour audio, I’ve already gathered that the manuscript has an almost Jungian mythological quality to it – and this too would have likely made Napoleon Hill seem a quack had it been released during his lifetime.

And let me state, I enjoyed Think and Grow Rich, but compared to this, it’s a snoozer. Outwitting The Devil exceeds every expectation I could have had for it. The author [Hill] tells a story of his inner psyche and is at times vulnerable and human in ways he was not in Think and Grow Rich. The audio contains numerous passages that strike me as profound, and listening to it feels almost like a meditation, and leaves me with the same feeling I got reading Steinbeck for the first time when I was 12. It’s captivating.

In Outwitting The Devil I find a narrative written in sometimes beautiful prose, which goes far deeper than the superficial pseudo science and monotony of most self-help books – classics included.

Here’s a sample passage:

During my quarter century of research into the causes of success and failure I have discovered many principles of truth, which have been helpful to me and to others, but nothing I have observed has impressed me more than the discovery that every great leader of the past whose record I have examined was beset by difficulties and met with temporary defeat before arriving… this would seem to justify the conclusion that infinite intelligence has a plan, or a law, by which it hurdles men over many obstacles before giving them the privilege of leadership or the opportunity to render useful service in a noteworthy fashion. 

Now, I would not wish to again be subjected to those experiences through which I passed during that fateful Christmas eve in 1923, and since on that eventful evening when I walked around the schoolhouse in West Virginia and fought that terrible battle with fear, but all the wealth in the world would not induce me to divest myself of the knowledge I have gained from those experiences. 

Faith has a new meaning to me.

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

I repeat that I do not know exactly what this other self is, but I do know enough about it to lean upon it in a spirit of absolute faith in times of difficulty when the ordinary reasoning faculty of my mind seems to be inadequate for my needs. 

As someone who is interested in both philosophy and psychology, I absolutely love this material. As one Amazon review says of the recently released manuscript “It isn’t new age to me, but old age, and science and thought is [sic] just catching up”.

But Outwitting the Devil is not just about a philosophy of living or the psychology of fear and success – it’s also about spirituality, and contrary to the title – it’s more about the devil within yourself than it is about the existence of an evil deity.

As an aside: Personally, I do not believe in a devil, or a hell (beyond the one we are capable of creating on earth for ourselves) – but I’m glad I did not let the seemingly religious title put me off. The devil is merely a metaphor, and this is not a work of religious zealotry.

Listening to this, I am nothing short of enthralled. Easily one of my new favorite works of non-fiction.

Note, pay little mind to the Sharon Lechter woman narrating on occasion, many Amazon reviewers loathed her contribution and feel it added her own neo-conservative beliefs to an otherwise flawless work. I’m more than half-inclined to agree. 

Without further ado – I present to you:

Edit: When you reach the section where Hill ‘interviews the devil’, be prepared for a thrill! It’s as dramatic and Shakespearean as anything I have ever heard. Damn, this is good!!! What I wouldn’t give to see this made into a play…

Edit 2: it’s 1:25 am, listening to in bed, not sure I’ll be able to sleep! It’s increasingly clear why Hill’s family did not want this released. In one passage the Devil character warns that this book ‘if published the book would be banned from public schools’ and that Hill himself ‘would be hated’. Hill goes directly after both public schools and organized religion as pillars that ‘strip people of their ability to think for themselves’. Pretty unreal stuff to listen too. Hill unplugged from the Matrix back in 1938.

Update: I’ve published a follow up entry to this with lessons and notes.

Denzel Washington: “You Already Have it, Claim it.”

For a time I didn’t believe in that spiritual spark, the one that fuels discoveries like this – and finding things like this, or rather – them finding me, was a rare occurrence; however, today I am back in the good graces of the universe, and my relationship with providence, with that spark which I call G-d, is once again a healthy one – a relationship of possibilities. As a result, that spark is continually presenting itself to me in the form of the right signs, messages, people, and lessons. I just can’t come across something like this at this time in my life and not feel a kind of humbling, awe inspiring gratitude. I wish the same for you my dear reader. Enjoy.

Note: There is a lot of good stuff in here. Certainly worth watching a few times, or saving to watch again in the future.

On Self-Control: Do Yourself a Favor and Watch This Video

Update: 10/17/14

I’ve posted a follow-up entry to this on self-mastery that covers both self-control and self-discipline. If you’re interested in self-control and self-mastery, I highly advise you read it.

Finding this video is almost a bit uncanny because the creator literally references the very same concepts I came to know through meditation. These include the idea of our inner and our outer world, and the model of higher vs. lower consciousness. In addition to these paradigms, the video is focused on one of the core pillars of stoicism – self-control. I just can’t help but feel the forces of serendipity at work here.

And I recognize the internet has made self-help videos a dime a dozen and most of us are inundated with ‘experts’ on a daily basis – but this video is on point.

To paraphrase – I watch lot of videos – and most aren’t worth sharing. This is. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

I’ll certainly be watching more videos from this gentleman and revisiting this very often.

Edit: Wow, look at what the video’s creator has released…unreal that this is available for free. I’m tempted to set aside time everyday to watch his videos and go through his Blueprint.

‘Self-Talk is the Conversation You Have in Your Head’ & Expectations vs. Beliefs

As I get more into CBT, Self-Talk, and Stoicism, the line between philosophy and psychology is becoming more and more blurred – and I like that, because I’m coming across some amazing stuff that really can’t fit into one single bucket.

This relatively obscure video is golden – I might watch it everyday. It’s so simple in it’s message, yet so powerful.

It’s a great reminder on the power of expectations, rather than just ‘beliefs’.

To further kick your mind into expectation mode, lie down and do the following guided meditation, which focuses on creating positive expectations within your psyche.

Nothing. Stardust. The Illusion of Thought and the Nature of Reality.

Last night – just before writing this, I went for late stroll at about 1:30 am to a secluded beach where I sometimes sit under the stars and listen to music. The reason I went there was because an arbitrary stressor had upset me and I needed to change the channel in my brain to something more calming.

I am not one to stew on things these days without taking conscious action to alleviate my stress (breathe, focus on how I want to feel in that moment, meditate, go for a walk, run, hike, gym, focus on gratitude, or listen to calming music). Particularly since my “awakening” – because it was then when I learned that inner peace was absolutely real and that I could find it in the midst of any situation because it was within me and MORE powerful than fear or any other opposing emotion or feeling. (Note: feelings are how we react to things, emotions are how we feel.)

This awakening has been wonderful in empowering me to actively alter my state when my inner peace has come under the siege of stress, worry, or fear. Effectively it’s enabled me to use better coping mechanisms because I know they are capable of delivering me from the lowest valleys of my most negative thoughts and feelings.

As was the case last night. After a short while sitting on the sand and doing some light breath meditation (approx 10 mins), the initial stressor had subsided completely. From there I walked over to a still burning fire and watched it burn, staring into the pulsing glow of the red hot embers. Then I climbed up to a place I like to sit, listened to this and started thinking. Blissful for a time.

But the blissful feeling of having alleviated my stress didn’t last long.

For, I soon found myself faced an actual truth: the truth that part of the change that characterizes life is the internal changes we are constantly being subjected to by virtue of being thinking and feeling human beings.

We’re on this ride, and happiness is never a permanent feeling. We’re at the mercy of circumstance and emotions, and really, life’s this roller coaster of feelings that bounce us around like a pinball at times. Part of the day you might have an argument with someone you love and be upset, later you might worry about something coming up and feel anxious, then later you might relax and laugh, which is a nice respite – but what you really desire is inner peace that lasts and sustained freedom from anxiety, worry, and depression.

And in thinking about the transient nature of happiness and inner peace, I felt frustrated that the temporary stressors in my life had the power to so easily rob me of my highest value / most important core desired feeling (inner peace).

Why is that? Why does life get in the way of this quest for lasting inner peace?

I suppose because I allow it – because there is this perpetual flowing of thoughts and the ebb and flow of feelings and emotions that come and go in waves – and I’ve decided to let these illusory things become rule my reality.

This concept of an illusory reality – a thought centered reality – is a central theme in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that while reality itself is real, how we perceive it and think about it is illusory. This ignorance, in living within the illusions of the thought world, is what leads to suffering.

Then if thought is illusory, what is this reality we cling so dearly to?

While on a sunset hike yesterday, I came across a beautiful spiderweb. In pausing to admire it, I was struck with a brief moment of zen awareness.

In the grand scheme of life, the impact of this spider’s existence on my city was akin to the impact of my own existence on the universe. His web and my life were both temporary yet here now. And perhaps, the web meant to the spider what my life meant to me; both of us clinging onto our respective existences out of the instinctual fear of their inevitable destruction.

Dust in the wind. Yet, we hold onto that dust because it’s solid, and we cry and scream and whimper and shout as if it all really is forever. But it’s just a spiderweb to the universe.

So, what does this mean? Are we just nothing – infinitesimal dust in the end?

Sure, perhaps. But we’re not just any regular old dust.

Allow famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain:

So, now that you know what you are made of, it’s time to put your existence within the context of the existence of the earth as a whole. For this, we’ll turn to another hero of mine – Carl Sagan. His narration of the legendary excerpt from his book Pale Blue Dot, which was spurred by the famous photograph of the same title, is an all time favorite of mine.

Enjoy some excellent animation as Sagan explains the earth in a way you may never forget:

So, where do we go from here. We’re as fleeting as a spiderweb, made from stardust, and on this pale blue dot. How do we reconcile with this reality of nothingness, with the fact that we’re meaningless to the universe?

Since, my heroes have been doing such a good job so far, let’s let philosopher Alan Watts discuss reconciling with this reality of nothingness. I’ll be damned if this isn’t the one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever heard. (If you’re not in a rush, watch this first – before the video below.)

Well, if you’ve watched each of these videos and come this far then I hope I’ve fucked with your entire concept of reality enough to put your life into a more rational and healthy context than you previously held.

It’s pretty special to me that my journey has led me to such parallel ideas on the fundamental nature of reality. Perhaps those individuals (my heroes) arrived at complimentary viewpoints because what they are talking about is completely true. I’m being a little bit aloof here because I want these truths to set in for you.

And before any of my heroes wrote or spoke their words, a writer (and Zen kind of guy) named Jack Kerouac immortalized a similar, but different viewpoint in a 1957 letter to his ex wife, (his first wife), which was used as the script for this epic hipster short by high-end Spanish/Italian bicycle company Dosnoventa:

In a way, the words of Kerouac are very much detailing a similar kind of zen realization as the spiderweb moment I had while on my hike.

The narratives of the Buddhists, deGrasse Tyson, Sagan, Watts, and Kerouac on the nature of our existence, the world, and reality are all essentially cohesive narratives of the spiderweb story.

Life is but stardust. A temporary glistening in the sun. All stress, worry, dilemma, fear – it’s just an illusory experience veiled in this thing called thought that we accept as absolute reality, but in the end it’s all false. Our lives will disappear eventually – just like the spiderweb melts in a single rainfall. Poof. Gone. And what are we so fucking stressed and worried for?

We’re okay.

Feeling down? That’s okay too.

Stressed out? That’s okay too. It’s all okay. It’s all ecstasy inside as Kerouac said.

We float on, no matter the day to day experiences and how they effect us. Whether pleasant or pushing the boundaries of our tolerances – the constant changes in our day to day feelings do nothing to alter the basic truth that we are alive regardless of whether we are happy 100% of the time or not. We float on and the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck either way.

It’s up to us.

p.s. I did just recently say that Eckhart Tolle was full of it, but this video from actor Jim Carey, makes me think it’s time for me to read The Power of Now again:


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

– Lao Tzu

Atomic Tom: Music Makes the Heart Grow Stronger

Music Makes the Heart Grow Stronger, from the Brooklyn based Atomic Tom. The integrity of the song speaks for itself. Enjoy it.

p.s. I have a feeling that the combination of Saturn Returning for my 29th year and the emergence of daily meditation into my life is ushering in a very prolific time for my writing, so I hope my subscribers enjoy the ride – if not, feel free to unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of my auto-generated emails.

Four Favorite Films

Having just had the sublime pleasure of watching Shawshank Redemption for the first time in my adult life, I immediately knew it would forever be one of my favorite films.

There are exactly three other movies which occupy an equally special place in my heart. So special that they feel as if they are an intangible part of my identity somehow; an intrinsic piece of the meaning and inspiration that drives me to create the story of my own life.

Some remind me to turn left, some remind me to turn right in life. They all remind me to just keep going.

Here is a piece of each.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Based on The Alexandre Dumas Novel written in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is the kind of movie that I want to go back in time just to watch again for the first time.

I would provide the trailer; however, the full film is available on Youtube and a trailer just wouldn’t do it justice. Enjoy.

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Vanilla Sky

This movie is like a piece of art to me. Based on the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos, Vanilla Sky is like watching a music video – it’s simply beautiful.

Here is a scene that just chills my spine.

(incls spoilers;)

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The Great Gatsby

What can I say, whether in book form or in either of the novel’s onscreen iterations, The Great Gatsby is a jazzy, yet raw piece that tells a story that we can all learn from in some way.

Here is a creative redux trailer for the original Gatsby film, starring Robert Redford.

And a tribute to Baz Luhrman’s Gatsby – featuring one of the soundtrack’s highlights.

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Shawshank Redemption

There’s nothing I can say about this movie. It’s perfect.

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Real Life Inspiration: Ralph Smart

ralphsmart

It’s funny that just yesterday I published one of my Real Life Inspirations on Steve Jobs, and today I am writing about someone who is bringing a much different impact to the world but doing it with a similar message of freeing ourselves from the pre-programmed lives that society dictates for us.

I’ve just recently discovered Ralph Smart; however, had I found him sooner I don’t think I would have been capable of internalizing the simple and profound depth of his messages.

He is a Psychologist, author, counselor, life coach, and relationship guide.

But he’s also an alchemist and what I would deem a brain hacker, because he is helping others to free themselves and awaken to the infinite possibilities that exist.

I recently wrote about self-actualization and based on the videos of his that I’ve watched I get the sense that here is an individual who has discovered his potential and is living from his authentic-self.

Fortunately for the world, he’s broken free from the mainstream and is helping to raise the consciousness of others through his teachings.

As my own journey of self-discovery progresses I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the messages, signs, and lessons that are providing me the connection to clarity that is so essential to the experience of self-realization.

And the more that I walk this path, the more that I am faced with the inescapable truth that once you wake up to the matrix, there is no lasting inner-peace without breaking free.

I just purchased Ralph’s book, Feel Alive, which is available in e-book and audio format.

I am looking forward to listening to the audio version of Feel Alive as I walk on the beach in the morning.

I’m also going to be scheduling a counseling session with him and I’m looking forward to watching more of his videos, which are released every week on his Youtube Channel.

Here’s an excellent video from Ralph Smart, on loving yourself.

Update: Did a one-on-one skype with Mr. Smart and it was well worth it! Highly recommend.

Waking Up to The Matrix

heath_ledger_key

Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.

Morpheus, The Matrix

I’m a thinker, it’s just my nature.

Call it intensity, call it passion – but as enriching as the experience of deep introspection can be, it’s often the burden of many an artist’s soul.

But it must be faced, for to attempt to escape from that splinter in your mind is a dangerous pursuit that will often manifest itself in some of the most unhealthy and destructive forms of prolonged self-abuse.

If you’re thinking, if your gears are going, it’s because your brain is trying to resolve something – and you can’t ignore it.

In my journey through the world, I am always looking for signs and I’m willing to blindly venture down the rabbit hole in order to find them.

This willingness, combined with my unbridled ADHD, makes for a life that’s full of signs.

Tonight I was listening to Phil Collins and one of the youtube commenters said something to the effect of ‘GARBAGE , PETER GABRIEL KICKS PHILS ASS, SCREW THIS POP SHIT.’

So, I decided to listen to some Peter Gabriel, and what a beautiful thing that I did.


I have an egocentric tendency to relate things to my personal life or current situation. This is probably a result of my desire to discover the signs and messages in life, but it provides me with a great power, which is the ability to use everyday things (like a Peter Gabriel song) as lenses through which I can view the world from a perspective other than my own.

That allows me to better understand myself, and life as a whole.

What struck me about this song was it’s message of transcending pain through awakening.

Love I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes Oh,
I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
The heat I see in your eyes

Love, I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

The lyrics perfectly mirrored the song in my heart and it spoke for me, which is what I think good music should accomplish.

The reason it spoke for me is because right now I am floating in a place where I am not living from my gut, from my instincts – and that’s a painful place to be.

This is a song about instincts returning and the grand facade burning.

It’s about reaching out from the inside and establishing a new and loving relationship with yourself, where you are complete and you’ve found the resolution of all the fruitless searches.

To me, it’s about awakening to the experience of being reconnected to your authentic-self.

Your authentic-self is the true you. The person connected to your passions, your purpose, your beliefs and your identity.

This is difficult, because the authentic-self is not the same you that has been so deeply conditioned and programmed.

Societal pressures that we’ve come to call ‘life’ trap us, and force us to compromise our heart and ignore our intuition. And once you awaken to that you will question everything you beleive in.

The questions I’ve started asking myself are:

What makes me tick? What are the driving forces in my life?

Why do I do what I do, and make the choices that I make?

What beliefs are dictating my being? and are they empowering or disempowering beliefs?

Those are questions that won’t leave me, it’s as if I have to live with them now.

I’ve started to try and answer them, and I’m beginning to discover so much more about my nature. But most importantly I’m realizing how conflicted it is with my reality.

I’m not trying to get too existential here, but when you realize that you’ve been making the wrong commitments and your priorities are completely paradoxical to your true-nature and your life is suffering as a result of your beliefs – then I think it’s a wise time to question what you believe in.

steve_33_years

During his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, Steve Jobs gave this sage anecdote:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Unfortunately that answer has been no for me for far too long. Probably as is the case for many of us who aren’t living our truth.

Instead of living our truth, we are caught in the trap of trying to please everybody.

Why? We’ve been programmed to. Just like our parents were programed to try and please the gatekeepers. Employers, teachers, the opposite sex, the government – the entire system relies on us being compelled to try and appease it.

And that’s just one example of thinking that has been so deeply ingrained into us that we don’t even realize it.

From birth, we are plugged into a world that programs our thinking and our beliefs.

Welcome to the matrix.

But if we had the courage to deprogram our thinking, and truly examine our beliefs then we would have the power to define our world, rather than be defined by it.

lessons

That, my friend, is called unplugging from the matrix.

Here’s a great explanation of ‘unplugging from the matrix’ from Awake in The Now.

Once the red pill is taken or the awakening process begins, there is no turning back, it cannot be undone.

When we reach the point where higher self comes to tap us on the shoulder we must respond. If we resist this wake up call we will suffer more and more intensely until we get the message and make the turn inward.

In the movie, Neo chooses the red pill and is unplugged so to speak from the matrix. The is an incredibly painful and disorienting process as he realizes that everything he took to be reality is not in fact real but just a projection of his mind and part of a simulated dream world within which he had been imprisoned…

The process of beginning to unplug from the matrix is very painful for most of us because essentially everything, every aspect of our lives begins to change and transform in profound and initially uncomfortable ways. We no longer get much comfort and pleasure from the things we used to and as we begin to see through the illusion we’re confronted with the vastness and limitlessness of the unknown which is terrifying to us because we’re used to living in a comfortably limited world.

The higher-self has definitely tapped me on the shoulder. I’ve takien the red pill and I’m starting to experience the discomfort of seeing through the illusion of my beliefs and the choices they are producing.

There is no turning back from this awakening.

Now I really have to answer those same questions of:

What makes me tick? What are the driving forces in my life?

Why do I do what I do, and make the choices that I make?

What beliefs are dictating my being? and are they empowering or disempowering beliefs?

and just as important,

What are the beliefs that are holding me back from doing what I’d truly like to be doing and what I’m truly capable of doing?

and what beliefs are limiting my concept of what I’m capable of and what my limits are?

Clearly, for most all of us, fear is a central theme in the answers.

Many of us have likely heard of the concept of people being driven by fear.

We’re scared of letting people down, we are scared of being uncomfortable, we are scared of taking that most painful first step.

Whatever we are afraid of, we need to uncover our fears and face them as what they are: beliefs. And as I asserted, we need to ask if they are empowering or disempowering fears.

In my previous post, I embedded a youtube video where Will Smith can be seen explaining to PBS’ Charlie Rose that he is driven by fear:

‘I’m motivated by fear. Fear of fear! I hate being scared to do something, and I think what developed in my early days was the habit of attacking things that I was scared of.’

Will Smith

What’s really interesting about what Will Smith said, is that although he admits to being motivated by fear, in his case, his fear is fear; being scared to do something.

So, in the case of Will Smith, his fear is an empowering belief, because it causes him to attack things to avoid being scared of them.

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Inaugural Address, March 4th 1933

That’s probably the only fear that’s going to empower us. The fear of being afraid to do anything.

If we are afraid of fear then we are afraid to be paralyzed by the ‘needed efforts to convert retreat into advance’.

And once we realize that’s the only fear worth fearing, then we stop being driven by limiting fears that are disempowering because they cause us to be afraid of taking action. Action shouldn’t be feared. Not taking action because we are afraid should be feared.

If we can re-frame our fears in this light, we will see that they are not protecting us, or keeping us safe. They are keeping us plugged into the matrix. And when we examine the root of the fears that have been guiding and defining us for so long, we will come to see that they are based in societal notions that have been imparted to us without any real critical thought.

We just accept that being successful is hard, and we are safer at a job, and all of the other ‘unjustified terrors’ that are keeping us in the uncomfortable place of having taken the red pill, but not walking through the door and becoming truly unplugged.

To truly unplug from the matrix, you need to establish a belief system that is completely rooted in the inner-voice of your heart, and the quiet yet unwavering intuition of your gut.

This sounds complex, to make the jump from the beliefs of the matrix to our own, but there’s actually a secret to it.

From the same video, in my previous post.

“Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, elusive, god-like feature that only the special among us will ever taste – you know it’s something that truly exists in all of us. It’s very simple: this is what I believe and I’m willing to die for it. Period. It’s that simple. I know who I am and I know what I believe, and that’s all I need to know, so from there you do what you need to do. I think what happens is we make this situation more complex – the normal among us, than it has to be (because we’re looking for complexity).”

If we want to find out what are beliefs are, we need only ask if we would be willing to die for them – and not necessarily in a literal sense, but absolutely in a figurative sense. Our true beliefs that are rooted in our authentic-self outside of the matrix have to be essential for our existence.

You either believe it or you don’t.

In this video, Will Smith talks about a lesson learned from Muhammad Ali on the critical nature of innate confidence as a belief that’s required for success.

If you don’t believe it – no one else will.

So if you can frame your beliefs on the idea that they will make or break you, then you can begin to establish beliefs that will unplug you from the matrix and connect you to the limitless nature of your true being.

You can unplug from the maxtrix wherever you are trapped by it.

You can go as deep as you want down the rabbit hole. It’s all dependent upon how much you wish to awaken to the programmed beliefs that keep us trapped in the matrix.

Maybe the matrix is your career, maybe it’s your dreams that lay stagnant because of your fear. Maybe it’s an entire life path, as defined by society. The matrix is nothing more than the software that our mind is running. Our physical being is the technology, and we don’t have to run the same software that everyone else is running. We can program our own beliefs to mirror those of the most self-actualized and successful members of our society. Those that are free from the rat-race, and are living a life that’s tailor made for them. Design your life and program yourself as required.

Start deprogramming yourself today. Find out exactly what your guiding systems are.

Your only fear should be fear of letting fear continue controlling you. Reach out from the inside and let your instincts return and the grand facade of the matrix will burn. Now that you are awakening to the matrix, it’s time to unplug. It’s your choice: you take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

I’m trying to free your mind, but I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

Real Life Inspiration: Will Smith

I’ve read four books this week.

I listen to audiobooks or inspirational videos while I work.

I eat, dream, shit, piss, and sleep my mission of living a life that’s tailor-made just for me.

90+% of my reading is personal development driven. Why? It works. I’m a better man for it; I love growth and discovery.

But it’s one thing to hear an inspirational author or speaker talk about success and self-actualization – but it’s an entire different beast to hear someone proselytize the same thing – for no other reason then the generosity of their spirit.

This is who he is and what he believes in. The passion is obvious.

The man is not going to the grave with the song still inside of him.

I’m posting this so that I can return to it and listen until I know it by memory.

Real Life Inspiration: Donald Glover, Renaissance Man

DGDonald Glover – AKA Childish Gambino is a true Renaissance man. He started writing for 30 Rock while still in College, where he wrote some of the show’s best lines.

He then left 30 Rock and moved from NY to CA, where he got an acting job on Community. An unlikely rapper, he started recording music and releases and performs under the moniker Childish Gambino. The man is currently writing a couple movies and has nothing but success laid out ahead of him. Definitely somebody worth admiring.

Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz, I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.

For another look at his music and the depth of his artistry, listen to Kids:

Real Life Limitless Part 1: Omnipotent Beliefs.

Update: 10/17/14

I’ve posted an entry on self-mastery that covers both self-control and self-discipline, and I’m posting a link to it here because I think that self-mastery was the missing piece of my Real Life Limitless Series. Read it here.

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Preface: I originally published this on April 4th, 2011. Then, as writers tend to do for whatever reason, I deleted it.

And, as writers tend to do – I regretted it. Greatly. I searched for it a couple times, and was aware I had deleted something special – but I did not find it.

Then, tonight – I logged on and noticed there was a “Trash” folder. Who would have thought ; ) I clicked and lo and behold, Real Life Limitless was staring at me.

I believe the universe has a sense of humor, but there’s something deeper than that. The right messages have a way of finding us when we need them. Tonight, I needed this. I will certainly add part II soon. Enjoy.

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How many of us know what it is to become the perfect version of ourselves?

The concept behind Limitless is brilliant simply because it’s so damned alluring.

We’d all like to take a pill that would make us become limitless. Virtually no one would turn down the ability to transform into their ideal self with such ease.

Unfortunately, the alluring quality of limitless is also what makes it dangerous because it reinforces the idea that we have to be brilliant freaks to be successful and that without a magic pill, we will be sloths our entire lives.

It reinforces the idea that in real life we are all limited – rather than limitless. Because in real life, our limits prevent us from becoming the ideal version of ourselves.

Becoming our ideal self isn’t outside the realm of reality, it’s just outside the limits of our present beliefs and actions – which shape our reality.

In my Real Life Limitless series, I’m going to explore my philosophy and approach to becoming limitless in our own lives.

Because while there is no magic pill, the world nonetheless produces major successes everyday without it.

It begins with believing.

To become the ideal version of ourselves, we have to shape the world to fit the reality we want to live in. In other words, We have to create what we want in life.

But first in order for this to be possible, we have to believe in what we want. If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to? We can’t. And without the support of others on some level, success is virtually impossible. It takes a certain level of chutzpah to put our beliefs out into the world, but there is no other way around it.

The salesmen who closes the sale is the one who believes, the actor who gets the part is the actor who believes, the guy who gets the girl is the guy who believes he can. They all believed they were capable and deserving and that it was just a matter of time.

When we believe these things in our heart of hearts, we behave in a congruent fashion and no one even bats an eye as we work our ‘magic’. Believing is the only magic that is real.

‘Acting as if’ won’t cut it.

We’ve all heard the advice, ‘act as if’. Or, ‘fake it until you make it’. That’s total bullshit. It’s bullshit because it’s acting and faking and those verbs are completely in-congruent with believing.

Your beliefs have to be omnipotent to be effective. Strong beliefs are omnipotent; omnipotent beliefs are limitless.

Let’s examine what constitutes a strong belief:

We have to be committed to it. People who are committed to their beliefs don’t hesitate to defend them and they don’t give up.

We have to have a confident attitude in our belief. Beliefs are living things that are subject to change. Confidence helps them to grow stronger.

The Key to Strengthening a Belief.

Focus and repetition are great ways to strengthen a belief but the most effective way to strengthen a belief is to get emotional about it. When we get emotional about beliefs we become passionate about them. And the things we are passionate about become part of who we are.

This emotional empowerment strengthens the synapses in your brain and you begin to become dependent upon the outcome of your beliefs for your emotional well being. <—That is when you really believe.

Your beliefs should be expectations with extremely rewarding results. This also means that failure for our beliefs to come true should have extremely negative connotations. These emotions of pleasure and pain have very powerful effects on our actions and this allows us to start a chain of events on an almost primal level.

What’s next?

These omnipotent beliefs are the foundation for my Real Life Limitless series. The next step is taking our beliefs and acting accordingly to bring them to life.

Check back for Real Life Limitless Part 2: Making Our Beliefs Come True…

Update: Part 2 has been published.

Because I deserve to be successful, and you do too.

There is a great scene in American Psycho where Patrick Bateman’s girlfriend asks him why he doesn’t just quit his job and he sharply retorts ‘Because I want to fit in.’

I do not relate to the need of wanting to fit in; that does not motivate me. What does motivate me; however, is the need to be successful.

And as I posted recently about the income differences between the 1% and the 99%, I am increasingly examining what I want at this point in my life moving forward.

I have experienced life at near both ends of the income spectrum. And I can attest, making lots of money does not suck. That’s not putting it very eloquently – but it’s the truth.

It reminds me of a lyric from rapper Drake, where he effectively says ‘people with no money act like money isn’t everything’.

And I am not saying money is everything – hardly. I’ve already learned that lesson. But like many others who grew up the way I did, I still carry that poverty consciousness with me. The one that makes you feel guilty for wanting to be successful. The one that lets you lose everything you have. Because if I was THAT attached to money, I would surely still have something to show for my previous success. I would probably have much more money. Surely.

I’m not trying to justify my situation through psychoanalysis, but as someone who is a BIG believer in personal responsibility, I want to ensure I hold myself accountable for where I am in life so I can make adjustments and remain in control.

I’ve spent a lot of time ‘studying’ successful people. It’s something that has been extremely beneficial to me.

I’ve learned that the 1% are not like everyone else. There are not a lot of rich people out there who somehow feel guilty for it or undeserving.

I remember a discussion with a former business associate who talked about possibly leasing a Lamborghini, and I remember saying to him ‘don’t you think that’s kind of disrespectful to people who don’t have anything.’ And I remember his answer because it was as instinctual to him as it was revealing to me about how he thought. He instantly replied, ‘Disrespectful! – Hell no, it’s motivating’.

I came across some great material from http://myfinancialawareness.com/Topics%20Personal/Overcoming%20Poverty.htm that sheds some light on the grip poverty consciousness can have on you. I have abridged a portion of it below to retain for future reading.

Overcoming Poverty Consciousness

Poverty is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the state of one who lacks an usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions”. By this definition, there will always be some poverty because unless everyone has an equal share, someone will have a less than the “usual” or “socially” acceptable amount. Note, a key word in the definition is “socially”. I point this out because poverty is becoming more of a social stigma which can not be cured by welfare programs alone. Poverty is a state of mind, one of not being as worthy as others. Poverty does not only affect those that are broke, it can also affect people who appear to be rich. For example, there are millionaires who still do not feel that they have enough or as much as they should have. This is poverty consciousness.

Broke is a financial term which means that you have no money. As a society, we can try to financially define poverty. However, poverty is just a financial term that should not define who you are. If poverty takes on the meaning of being less than others, than this starts an endless cycle of poverty consciousness that is passed on from generation to generation. If a person feels less than others then he will not feel deserving. If he does not feel deserving, his life is based on desperation and wanting, rather than from joy and abundance.

If one feels abundant, he will have abundance. If one feels desperate and wanting, he will expand the poverty in his life.

Know that you are the creator of your circumstances.

Energy is the source of creation. When you are the creator of your circumstances, you are putting energy into your life. If the world creates your circumstances, then you are living life on a runaway roller coaster with no energy of your own. Nothing is formed without energy, whether it is the energy of a storm that creates the rain or the energy you use that creates what you dream about.

Money is generated based on what we give the world whether it is via our labor (time), our creativity (intellect) or our investment (money). Money is a symbol of what we have sown on earth.

Money flows to those who use their energy to make things happen. Many millionaires got to where they are from a lot of hard work and creativity.

To switch your view from pessimistic (poverty) to optimistic (abundance) acknowledge daily what you are grateful for. In today’s world, one usually looks at what he does not have instead of what he actually has. Many prosperity speakers emphasize that what one focuses on will expands. Your mind is a creative force in the universe. If your focus is on what you do not want, then what you do not want is what is created.

I suspect that even when I was financially successful I was limiting myself with this poverty consciousness. I ended up hitting a certain number income-wise and once I hit that I never moved beyond it, and eventually I would up back at zero.

So here I am now trying to pave the way for sustainable success for myself and my family.

And I want to destroy this bullshit that is standing between me and my potential.

I do not somehow think I am incapable or unqualified to be very successful. I’ve already proven I can do that.

But now it’s high time that I begin to exercise my full potential. So, tonight I set out to write this post as a manifesto of sorts. A mission statement. A declaration of g-d-damnit I am tired of sub-mediocrity. I can and should be able to just be. To have the things I deserve and am capable of attaining.

It reminds me of a tale I read in a book (unfortunately I cannot recall the book at the moment). The author talks about the raccoon. Yup. A raccoon. And he says, do you think the raccoon denies himself his nature? His raccoonness. Do you think the raccoon is thinking he is not worthy of being a raccoon and having what he deserves and wants? Do you think the raccoon lets anyone else deny him of that? Hell no. He gets it.

But we all constantly deny ourselves what we think we deserve because we feel it is out of reach of our current worth. And now we are suddenly living in an era where being rich and successful is being stigmatized as greedy and corrupt by many of our fellow citizens. Making us feel even less deserving.

So, getting back to my mission statement, I wanted to document the reasons I want to be successful. Yes, this is a highly personal subject matter – ‘what motivates me’. But I enjoy possessing the generosity of spirit that allows me to share what it’s really like for me, because I know there are lots of other people out there in my position.

If I can be tagged in a photo on facebook drinking a shot from an ice-luge where all my friends, family and every degree of separation in between can see me acting like I am in college (yet, at 26), I can certainly write about why I deserve to be rich. Yes. I said the taboo. I think I deserve to be rich. (shameless)

I’m tired of this being some sort of secret. I’m tired of the stigma attached to it and I’m tired of not being rich.

So, here is why I have chosen a lifestyle that puts me on the path to being successful:

I want to provide for my Family

Yes. It seems like an obvious answer. And no, I am not putting charity first. I am putting my family first. I believe charity starts at home. Which is not to say I want to turn my family members into trust fund babies. But I want them to live comfortably and securely. As everyone should want for their family.

What defines comfort and security? It varies from person to person. Those who know me can guage what this means for me. But as it was once said, money is measured in dollars and wealth is measured in time. I’d like to provide my family with the comfort and security that comes with wealth.

When considering family, it’s also important to recognize the inherent benefits of wealth when it comes to health and happiness. Just think about your future wife, and how many relationships end or struggle because of financial problems.

Think about your families diet, medical care, and education as well and you can begin to imagine how much better theirs – and your quality of life will be.

Because being broke sucks and being rich is much better.

This sounds obvious. If it doesn’t strike you as obvious, you will never be rich. Just give up now. You can still have a good life – but imagine a scenario for a minute: It’s Friday night. You are getting ready for a dinner date.

You shower, get dressed and eat a quick bite beforehand. You get in your car and go out. Arriving at the restaurant, you order something unspectacular and proceed to finish your meal. Splitting the bill with your date, sheepishly.

That sounds like a familiar scenario for many people.

Now, let’s imagine the same scenario, but in this scenario you are ‘rich’ or ‘highly successful’.

Now taking a shower isn’t just as mundane. Now, you are in a much better mood. Why? Duh! You fucking crushed it at work and you are getting in the shower. That’s why.

So, you get in your shower in your dream bathroom. Surrounded in luxury you enjoy the aroma of your frufru body wash. You have the bomb tunes blasting on your bathrooms iPod dock.

You step out of the shower admiring your appearance and feeling great about yourself. Why? Because you are rich! Rich people look better, and seeing your reflection amidst your luxe surroundings doesn’t hurt either.

Now time to get dressed. Hmm, remember when you had to put on the same tired pair of jeans. You know your ‘Friday pair’. Thank G-d that’s a distant memory.

Now you glance past your closet door that is ajar and ponder which one of your jeans you are going to look sexiest in…hmmm.  Hell, try two pairs on. Pick out a shirt, wrap yourself in a high end sweater and slip on one of your favorite pairs of shoes.

Boy you are starving. Okay, grab your wallet, keys, and phone and as you lock the door behind you, you look back and admire the gorgeous home you have furnished full of beautiful things that will last a long time because you can afford to buy quality.

Out the door you walk up to your car.

Fuck yes. You dreamed about this a long time. And you deserve it because you worked for it. Plus your reflection looks good in it. haha

On the drive to pick up your date you think about work and are glad you have made it this far.

You pick up your date and head down the coast for dinner.

You get the picture.

Now, the above two scenarios may seem far fetched, but they aren’t really. Life is better with money. Of course, you are welcome to live however you wish… Think BIG though. It’s worth it!

Because I grew up poor.

I love the hip hop mentality. Coming from nothing and hungry for success. I relate to it. People who are close to me know how poor I grew up. As children who grew up poor often like to do, I can play the ‘we were so poor…’ game.

I had many a Christmas, where there were no presents, (yes I am being a baby here) – but I also had times when I had to deal with food and shelter issues. And this does something to you, it’s something you will never forget – for good or bad.

Overall it definitely made my childhood and my youth much tougher. (Made me much tougher too) But, as an adult, and like many very successful people who came from nothing, I think it’s my birthright to join the ranks of those who came from the dirt, the gutter, the streets, the whatever and to ‘make it’.

There is something about growing up in poverty that instills a desire within you to succeed. If you can just overcome that poverty consciousness…

Because I deserve to be successful.

What Ric Elias Learned as his Plane Was Going Down

Ric Elias had a front row seat onboard US Airways Flight 1549 on January 9, 2009. He tells his story publicly for the first time at TED this year; recounting what went through his mind as the engines fell silent and the pilot unemotionally uttered the words “Brace for impact” thousands of feet in the air above the Hudson River.

In the 5 minute talk, Ric shares the three things he learned about himself as he prepared to exit the physical world, leaving behind his wife and children, and the relationships in his life.

I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things that we want to do in life and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out and I didn’t; all the fences I wanted to mend. All the experiences I wanted to have and I didn’t.

I thought about wow; I really feel one real regret, I’ve lived a good life; In my own humanity and mistakes I’ve tried to get better at everything I’ve tried, but in my humanity I also allow my ego to get in; and I regretted the time I wasted in things that did not matter with people that mattered. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people and after as I reflected on that I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It’s not perfect, it’s a lot better. I have not had a fight with my wife in two years; it feels great. I no longer try to be right – I choose to be happy.

Imagine how each of us would be able to drastically alter our lives if we experienced what Ric did that day.

But life doesn’t grant us the chance to know the totality, emotion and utter perspective that an unexpected death presents. Very few people get the second chance that Ric did; even fewer are capable of turning it into the gift that Ric has.

I was given the gift of a miracle of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently.

The problem is that we all live disconnected from the temporary and fleeting nature of our lives. We live disconnected from the unknown nature of our fates. Yet we all deny ourselves that second chance because we don’t see the truth that our egos keep us separated from. We don’t see the truth that Ric saw in those moments, the truth that we can see too if we just imagine.

Let’s all imagine as Ric challenges the audience:

Imagine; how would you change. What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you will be here forever. How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them?

Imagine. { + click to play the video }

Life is Finite, So Live it Well. That’s your Birthright.

I came across a great blog post today at Johnny B. Truant today, titled The Universe Doesn’t give a Flying Fuck about You. Essentially, the author talks about the autonomous relationship between the universe, planets, and stars and our own existentialism. It’s a great piece that left me feeling like I had just jumped into the cold ocean and surfaced with a sense of calmness and heightened clarity.

Sometimes we all need a healthy dose of perspective. It’s good to put our egocentricity in check. We need to be reminded that our permanence is as real as that of the sun and the stars; here for a finite amount of time within an indifferent universe that is billions of years old and impartial to the triviality of our infinitesimal lives. Of course we are subjective observers to which our own time is relative, so it’s difficult for us to really feel and understand this but if we can just remind ourselves that the universe does not give a flying fuck about us, we can free ourselves from the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves every day.

But just because we are insignificant does not mean our lives do not matter. This healthy perspective is reason to seize the day. Here is a great (albeit long) abridged excerpt from the aforementioned post that addresses this.

“If you knew how small you are and how short a time you have to do what you can, you wouldn’t waste time watching five fucking hours of TV a day. You wouldn’t waste time doing a job you hate. You wouldn’t waste the little time you have dealing with assholes, feeling sorry for yourself, or being timid about the things you’d really like to do…

“…The universe doesn’t care if you live, die, suffer, or thrive.You don’t matter to the planets and the sun and the stars, but you matter to YOU. You matter to those around you. You matter to those you can reach, and touch, and who you live and die with.

Stop waiting for someone to give you what you want. The universe is too busy to care. It has worlds to create and galaxies to destroy. If you’re worried about death and about your own end, don’t. It’s coming whether you like it or not. You will either arrive at the end of your life in style or you will arrive broken and beaten, but whichever way you choose, have no doubt that you WILL ARRIVE.

There is only now. If you have power, it’s now. If you can change anything, you have to do it now. If you want to be or to have that next great thing, be it. Have it. Take it. Own it. Do it. Become it.”

You have to create the world as you see it fit to live in. You have to earn what you are owed in life. The universe will always pay up if you earn it according to the rules of the physical world. Remember that inertia is always proportionate to an object’s mass. Understand and practice that universal law and you will come to know power and control in your life. The universe may not be just, but it is fair. Make sure you give yourself those healthy doses of perspective to remind yourself that life is finite. So live it well. That’s your birthright.

Character Development; The Godfather and Three Events That Changed Me Forever.

As a writer I am a big fan of character development. Whenever a narrative or plot reveals to us that the character has grown or changed it’s amazing watching them evolve. Michael Corleone in The Godfather is a perfect example. But sometimes it’s a lot more subtle and sometimes it’s even the ending to a story, as is the case in George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four.

I’ve personally undergone some major character development in my own life. Here are three personal examples and their corresponding catalysts.

I became someone who was much more disciplined, and paid more attention to detail. More masculine. {Joined U.S. Navy at age 17.}

I became much more guarded and a hell of a lot less wet behind the ears in general when it came to trusting people. {Bad ending to a long relationship.}

I became much more humble, grounded and reserved. {A rise and a fall; I Made some tough mistakes, lost my business, and relocated out of CA to the Midwest.}

So, those are three really major things that drastically altered me.

I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in the world and I wouldn’t trade myself for anyone in the world. I am a firm believer in serendipity and I believe that I’m on my path and I’m right here for a reason. And I’m not just saying this above stuff, it’s shit that I actually mean. 

I also believe that the right interactions, people, messages, signs and lessons always have a way of finding you if you are looking for them – and my eyes are wide open.

Here is a great montage of Michael Corleone, following his character’s development.

And as an afterthought, sometimes character development is simply a product of habit or a result of cultivating yourself and working to become a certain way. Working to be that ‘perfect’ version of yourself; however, I’ve also seen character development go sour. People becoming shallow, arrogant, etc.,

P.S. I’m looking forward to watching the movie Limitless. I already read the script and there is definitely some MAJOR character development in that story.

Pure Capitalism in The World of Online Startups.

This is one of my favorites. Jason Calcanis of This Week in Startups interviews 37 Signals founder David Heinemeier Hansson on the topic of startups, M&A, profits and why profitless companies are continuing to fall victim to the ‘graveyard of acquisitions.’ {Business: I love this fucking game.}

The video starts midway, where I think the best content begins.