Notes Before 31

I begin my thirty-first trip around the sun in seven days.

Trip being the key word.

Life is indeed – if you open to it – it’s a great trip. Fantastic, magical.

Never thought I would grow into something different than I was at twenty-two. I was so naive back then. But that’s how naivete works. No one knows they’re naive.

Back then and ever since I thought I was all I would be.

I was a guy who thought my story was over.

How wrong I was.

I would go on, as I predicted hopefully in my poems, to fall in love again.

This girl would be, is, the one.

The one who lets me be exactly who I am, who gave me that divine feminine allowing space to continue discovering myself.

I’m quieter now.

The things I want, I want more.

Anything standing in the way, I want less.

I trust in the things I have learned, preferring psychedelics to analgesics.

Pleasure to pain.

Solitude to society.

I’m confident, supremely.

And frankly, I don’t have much to say.

Just the steadfast things I believe in:

Trust in yourself.

Forgive – but also condemn those who have fucked you over – those who took advantage of your kindness and naivate.

RESPECT YOURSELF.

Accept that you did not know any better and that the past could not have been any different.

Know and like yourself.

Spend time alone.

Let go of guilt.

Let old gods and myths die in favor of those you yourself build.

Design your own religion. Be faithful to something. Truth, beauty, goodness. Kindness.

Know that happiness is not the result of a good life – but the cause of one.

Just decide.

Just decide and make your life what you want.

Know thyself, trust thyself, respect thyself, honor thyself.

Be kind, be kind, be kind.

Love yourself.

Appreciate your aesthetic merit.

Keep learning.

Read.

Choose your own morals.

Have hot sex.

Take care of your body.

Know that the eyes are the window of the soul, and others will see you, will feel you in them – no matter how hard you try to mask your insecurities. They will see you. So get a firm hold on your own truths, and do not waver or doubt them. Know what is true for you in your heart of hearts. Decide your consciousness. Direct your thoughts.

Facing Life Honestly in The Winter of My Discontent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Sunk Cost: Letting Bygones be Bygones

Before I commence the purpose for which I have set to write upon tonight, I wish to offer a caveat; you see, I was recently told by a dear acquaintance that my writing was good,’…although I sometimes rambled.’ And while I call myself a writer, it is not under the banner of my blog that I do so. This blog is all a letter to myself, a journal, a message in a bottle to future self and progeny. And aside from occasional trysts with poetry, I do not pretend any of this is art – nor do I represent it as such; however, as someone who owns books containing the private letters of some of my favorite writers (Published postmortem), I know that a writer will be judged by his words as well as his works.

That said, I wish to be appraised as a writer upon my coming works of fiction, which, aside from my Love and my Family, my life is dedicated to.

So if I ramble, I make no apologies for it; for I think it the most natural thing in the world.


Vanities and insecurities aside, I am sitting down to write tonight to put the past where it belongs.

A few days ago, while laying in bed on a lazy Saturday day, I turned to Sarah, and asked her to look up the definition of “A sunk cost”. From whence this idea came, I knew not (At the time); however, in the particular state of consciousness I was in, I felt it pertinent to pay attention to what had arisen in my psyche from the depths within.

A sunk cost, we discovered, is a finance term denoting a cost, which, once incurred, is irrecoverable and therefore should not be considered when making future decisions.

I immediately connected the dots in my psyche to the past; for what is the past but something we cannot recover and therefore should not be considered when making future decisions.

For what is the past but something we cannot recover and therefore should not be considered when making future decisions.

A few days later, after coffee, conversation, and dessert, Sarah and I walked around the neighborhood where we had ventured to spend our evening, and I suddenly realized where I had come across the concept of a sunk cost.

In my favorite poem, Bygones, Marina Keegan wrote:

The middle of the universe is here, is tonight,
And everything behind is a sunk cost
Lost in our oceans and our oceans are deep.

We looked up the poem on the spot and the above verse confirmed the dots my unconscious mind had remembered – words, which until then had no conscious meaning to me.

Only before connecting these dots, I had no proper metaphor for letting bygones be bygones.

But once I did, I realized the past was all a sunk cost.

And, unlike Faulker wrote in Requiem For a Nun, of the past being “not even past”, I realized the past was dead, kept alive until then, until now, by the idea that it somehow could be recovered, ala Jay Gatz.

And now, I know that it is simply a sunk cost – and therefore should not be considered for future decision making.

How I wished I had learned this sooner. But, I did not.

So tomorrow I will awake knowing that today is a sunk cost.

Irrecoverable, but not lost. Forgotten perhaps, but not lost.

And there is nothing sad in this; for I am happy. Today and since quite long. But I know now that everything behind is a sunk cost.

So with that, I can let bygones be bygones.

Weighing My Conscience

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

I am always the writer.

This is who I am.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do.

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

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

He must.

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

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

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

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

I relate so deeply to this.

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

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

Period.

Dramatics aside, this is my truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thirty. Please, please let me become.

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

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

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

And I, for what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emerson once wrote:

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

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

There’s levels to this shit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emerson Cause and Effect

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

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

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

That’s not who I am today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Anyone reading this is welcome to vote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup, it was Obama’s fault.

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

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

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

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

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

– James Baldwin, Another Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made something click for me.

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

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

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

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

Two years later, I would fall in love again.

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

Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I tried.

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

Period.

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

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

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

The result looked like this:

What Am I?

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

 What Do I Pretend to Be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter: Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

From Wiki:

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

The 16 Basic Desires [7].

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

And from Reiss’ website:

What are basic desires?

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

An example: the desire for Status

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

The importance of the basic desires in practice

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

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

The following graphic is also available as a download.

reiss profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that said, I am off to open Excel.

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

7Saturdays

Oh wait, does that not motivate you?

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


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

– C.G. Jung


Footnotes

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