Choosing a Philosophical Life
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CHOOSING A PHILOSOPHICAL LIFE

Lately I’ve been trying to carefully observe myself and the world around me. I’ve been trying to see things for what they are, and not just for what they appear to be. And I say that I’m “trying” because one conclusion that I keep coming to is that no matter how hard I try, I will always simply be me, as I am, viewing this incredibly complex world through a lens that is limited in scope to say the least. It’s as if there’s an extravagant party happening in the mansion, and I’m trying to see what’s happening inside by looking through a keyhole on the kitchen door. I know there’s plenty of grand and exciting things happening, but for now all I can do is trust that with enough time I’ll be able to put a few pieces together. 

I tend to have quite an obsessive personality, and I have definitely jumped around a lot in my life. From a young age my parents could see that if I was going to try something then I really wanted to try it. If I was riding horses then I wanted to be the cowboy! If I was playing music then I wanted to be on the stage becoming the best entertainer I could be! When I went to church I wanted to look the part, and when I wasn’t going to church I wanted to have all of the perfectly good reasons why I wasn’t. I’d like to say that this kind of “all in or nothing” attitude came down to a desire to give 100% to everything I was doing, but honestly in hindsight I can say that I wasn’t trying to go all in on anything. Rather, I think I was trying to give the appearance that I knew what life was all about when in reality I had absolutely no idea, and in trying to appear to be something, I now see that I was simply hiding the fact that I knew nothing. To me, the appearance of having the answers was more important than actually having any answers, and so I jumped around from one thing to another, always tasting but never being nourished. 

Have you ever noticed that we all seem to think we have the answers? You only have to look as far back as your last family gathering to see that we all have a pretty unhealthy relationship with the words “I don’t know.” Just look around the world and see the division that is created simply because we can’t admit that we don’t have all the answers. Left vs right, religious vs atheist, woman vs man, black vs white. Every belief structure is the one true way, every ideology is the winner, every experience is the truth. But how could that be? How is it that there are so many ways, so many winners and so many truths? Well if you’ll let me, I’d like to invite you to look through the same keyhole that I’m looking through so that you might see what I see. Get comfortable, turn on your imagination, and meditate on the ideas to follow.

How do humans perceive time? Well, it seems clear that we have an extremely narrow vision of time. This narrow vision is probably shown most clearly in our tendency to think only within the confines of our own lifetimes. We’re driven by all kinds of biological and psychological phenomena that help us to survive day to day, week to week, and month to month until we inevitably die, but even after we have ceased to perceive the world, which is really all that death is, the world keeps on going as it always has, and the elements of the body will continue to repurpose themselves as they always have. So in order to fully understand the philosophies, religions, ideologies, and belief structures that we cling to so fervently we must first begin with the understanding that our ability to perceive them is far younger than they are, and therefore these ideas have been perceived and used for far longer than we have been able to perceive them. And let’s take it one step further and recognise that our own biological makeup has been forming itself since the beginning of time, so you aren’t simply you and your beliefs aren’t simply your beliefs, but rather you are a mix of the millions of people who came before you, and your beliefs are the result of thousands of years of those beliefs being conceptualised, formed, upgraded, updated and perfected. 

I bring us to these kinds of thoughts because if we’re going to think that we know anything then we had better start by knowing the things that are far older than our ability to know anything. And when you come to this place, doesn’t it seem that we don’t have ideas, but that ideas have us? Why else would it be so difficult to admit when you’re wrong? You’re being run by an idea that predates you, and you’re believing that idea while using circuitry and wiring that has been in the works since long before you were here. And not only can this bring a certain level of understanding about the way that you act, but try for a moment to see how humanity acts. View, for a moment, the movements, wars, mass migrations and state formations of the world and you, too, might see that these seem to be result of ideas and beliefs playing us like toys. 

Now that I look back on my own life so far I can see, as I’m sure you could if you look back on yours, that I’ve been played like a toy time and time again. I haven’t had many ideas. They’ve had me. Am I angry? No, I’m no more angry than an amateur chess student being bested by a grand master. I’ve got lessons to learn and I hope to learn them, but it wasn’t until recently that I truly began to understand the path that I needed to take in order to welcome the best ideas into my life. 

See, last November I made a choice to leave a full-time position as a gym manager so that I could spend more time coaching my clients, creating this podcast, and above all trying to learn more about what would make me a whole human being. This decision was difficult because it represented a massive shift in my life and a risk that would likely place a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. However, the funny thing is that it was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made because it was the result of a previous commitment I’d made to never choose expedience over principles when it came to my direction in life. I was ready to refine my direction and follow a path that would sustain me through every trial, every stumble, and every curve along the path.

So as soon as it made sense to me I decided that the best thing that I could do would be to pursue meaning - to pursue the things that would, at least in my view, justify my existence. But it was so much more than this. It was a decision to trust that if I pursued goals that were real then my satisfaction would also be real. It was a decision to be vulnerable, to go on an adventure, and to realise once and for all that what I knew about being an effective human being really only scratched the surface of what there was to know. 

This understanding, as far as I can see, is the necessary precursor to a life of philosophy. We need to come to that point where we realise that our knowledge and understanding is undeniably limited. And when you know this then all that’s left is to ask more questions. What do I want? What do I need? What does this mean? Why does it mean that? In other words, you see that all life is and all it will ever be is the simple art of asking better questions with a desire to know as much as you can know, despite your limitations. This is a life of philosophy, and I now see that it’s a life worth aiming at. 

The Stoics knew all this, and in fact I believe that they asked three of the most important questions anyone could ask: 

1 - What is all of this that I can see, and how do I fit into it? 

2 - Based on what I see, how should I act? 

3 - How do I know if I’m right? 

When I learned that these were the ultimate questions the Stoics were asking I decided to put down my books and to let go of my preconceived notions of discipline and effortful study. I did this so that I could experience philosophy from the other side - the human side. I didn’t want to simply fill my mind with other people’s rationalisations and ideas as I’ve done in the past, but rather I wanted to see what would happen if I simply listened, payed attention, and asked better questions. This was my true moment of conversion. This was the time when I realised that the life of philosophy, the examined life, was the ideal I needed to aim at. 

What I’ve found during my brief experimentation with this kind of aim is that joy is almost always achievable because there’s always something new to wonder about. See, if your aim is simply a life of philosophy, which is the constant pursuit of wisdom, then you’ll always be hitting your aim while simultaneously finding new aims, because there’s always a new question, there’s always a new curiosity, and there’s always something you don’t quite understand. And if you fall in love with the pursuit of wisdom and understand that there’s actually something quite beautiful in not knowing, then you see that the point is not to have complete understanding, but simply to ask. To wonder. 

Finally, if you’ll follow me for just one more idea then I’d like to suggest that the ultimate joy in a life of philosophy comes when you’ve examined and questioned even your own reasoning capabilities to such a degree that you come to one important question: how do I know that I’m right about any of this? This is one of those questions that the Stoics would have asked, and when you understand that really it’s quite impossible for you to have unadulterated reason and perfect understanding, then you’re left with only a few places to go: surrender, gratitude and an everlasting wonder that will sustain you forever as long as you never stop asking questions. The game of life is one that is ultimately impossible for any one individual to learn, but just because it cannot be learned doesn’t mean that it cannot be won. We win by, as I suggested earlier, remembering that there are some things that are bigger than we are. One of those things is the human species - a force that was here long before now and will likely be here long after you and I die. Maybe, just maybe, we win the game by helping humanity to win the game. Maybe if you were to dedicate yourself to asking the right questions and learning what it takes to live a good life, then you would inevitably send ripples out into the lives of millions, if not billions, of individuals now and in the future, and just by your dedication to the pursuit of wisdom you would be helping the entirety of humanity to win the game. And this is where I’ll leave you. To think, to wonder, to question and to sit with these ideas. 

Made You Think
Made You Think
Nat Eliason and Neil Soni
Seek Wealth, Not Money or Status. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson
“My old definition was "freedom to." Freedom to do anything I want. Freedom to do whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like. Now, the freedom I'm looking for is internal freedom. It's “freedom from." Freedom from reaction. Freedom from feeling angry. Freedom from being sad. Freedom from being forced to do things. I'm looking for "freedom from," internally and externally, whereas before I was looking for “freedom to." On this episode of Made You Think, Nat and Neil discuss The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson, Jack Butcher, and Tim Ferriss. This book contains insights to wealth and happiness according to investor and entrepreneur, Naval Ravikant. From Naval's podcasts and essays to tweets and interviews, his collection of wisdom is put into one piece of writing, sparking great conversations and discussions from Nat and Neil (and tangents of course!) We cover a wide range of topics including: * The relationship between wealth and happiness * How Naval frames the idea of mental peace * Why tools and technology are essential in leveraging the online space * Differences between being a contrarian and a conformist * Angel investors vs. early investors And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow Nat and Neil on Twitter to hear which book will be the topic of the next episode! Links from the episode Mentioned in the show * Angel List (1:50) * Product Hunt (5:27) * Social Capital in Silicon Valley (8:08) * Honeycomb Credit (10:14) * Aurochs Brewing (10:39) * Facebook Bitcoin Ads and Scams (12:44) * Happiness and Income(17:30) * Growth Machine (31:56) * The Systems Mindset (34:57) * Effortless Output in Roam (38:16) * Forte Labs (39:36) * Open Innovation Leads (42:41) Books mentioned * The Tower (20:00) (Book Episode) * In Praise of Idleness (1:11:10) (Nat’s Book Notes) (Book Episode) * Finite and Infinite Games (1:15:08) (Nat's Book Notes) (Book Episode) * Denial of Death (1:15:23) (Nat's Book Notes) (Book Episode) * Way of Zen (1:15:29) (Nat's Book Notes) (Neil's Book Notes) (Book Episode) * Letter From a Stoic (1:15:35)(Nat's Book Notes) (Book Episode) * Psychology of Human Misjudgments (1:15:47) (Book Episode) People mentioned * James Altucher (12:44) * Dave Chapelle (21:40) Show notes 0:34 - Today, Nat and Neil are discussing The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson, Jack Butcher, and Tim Ferriss. This book is based off of interviews, podcasts, tweets, and other content from Naval Ravikant, exploring his worldview and how he perceives different ideas such as wealth and happiness. Additionally, Naval is a well-known investor and former CEO of AngelList. 5:51 - Angel investors vs. early investors. The reasons why someone may choose to invest early in a growing company, with one of those reasons often being to increase your social capital. 10:15 - Small business crowdfunding. How a brewing company in Pennsylvania leverages their customers and local community. 12:20 - Naval was also into cryptocurrency, and co-founded a cryptocurrency hedge fund with his brother, Kamal. He's what they call a Twitter philosopher, and is able to provide timeless wisdom into small packages that resonates with a lot of people. 16:50 - “Let's get you rich first. I'm very practical about it because, you know, Buddha was a prince. He started off really rich, then he got to go off in the woods.” Is there a link between increased wealth and happiness? Wealth first, so you can have the freedom to say ‘no’ to things that don’t make you happy, and from there you can build a happier life. 22:01 - “To me, the real winners are the ones who step out of the game entirely, who don't even play the game, who rise above it. Those are the people who have such internal mental and self-control and self-awareness, they need nothing from anybody else.” Money and fame. It’s hard to say no to money, and at what point do you say no to something? Examples of public figures who have stepped out of the public eye. 24:59 - Earlier in Naval’s career, he was quick to temper, and it’s been a big goal to get that under control. It can be hard to balance business and mental peace, especially when you’re at the level that Naval is. 28:18 - The idea of “Freedom from” comes back into play here. Having more control of people who you work with and work for, and wealth gives you the power to say ‘no’ to things that make you unhappy or drain your energy. Clearing up mental space. 33:42 - It’s important to use automation and outsource repetitive work to save your resource of time, which ultimately allows you to scale your income. “Technology democratizes consumption but consolidates production.” 38:07 - Leveraging online tools. The nearly unlimited scalability of an e-product or online course. There’s real value in having an audience of supporters and an email list. 44:05 - “Learn to sell, learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.” The two go hand-in-hand when you can learn to build things that can sell itself effortlessly while you sleep. The broader definition of ‘sell’ includes marketing, too. “The year I generated the most wealth for myself was actually the year I worked the least hard and cared the least about the future. I was mostly doing things for the sheer fun of it. I was basically telling people, "I'm retired, I'm not working." Then, I had the time for whatever was my highest valued project in front of me. By doing things for their own sake, I did them at their best.” This ties back in with the idea stepping out of the game, it’s more difficult to do if you’re trading your time for money. 50:55 - Code and media are both extremely scaleable. A one-time creation of a video, podcast, course, etc. can be accessible and profitable for years to come with little to no additional effort on the part of the creator. 52:53 - Product revenue vs. ad revenue. 53:39 - Made You Think custom themed Yeti or merch? Tweet us @TheRealNeilS and @nateliason! 54:55 - The price of a paycheck and the reward that freedom brings. What’s more valuable to you: freedom, money, or can you ultimately have both? 58:29 - “One day, I realized with all these people I was jealous of, I couldn't just choose little aspects of their life. I couldn't say I want his body, I want her money, I want his personality. You have to be that person. Do you want to actually be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, their self-image? If you're not willing to do a wholesale, 24/7, 100 percent swap with who that person is, then there is no point in being jealous.” You don’t see the ‘behind the scenes’ of someone else’s life, especially when you only know what they put on social media. Jealousy and comparison. Think about what you would lose if you were to actually switch lives with somebody else. 1:00:35 - The difference between being a contrarian and a conformist. Beliefs you took in a ‘package’ should be reevaluated individually. Thinking for yourself rather than minimizing yourself to fit into a certain box or group of beliefs. 1:06:18 - Signaling. Deliberate signaling to filter who ends up around you, but signaling can also be inadvertent. Political signals. 1:10:50 - Rapid fire quotations from the book… and go! 1:17:24 - One last paradox - how is Naval so big on peace of mind yet so active on Twitter? 1:19:22 - Make sure to grab a copy of The Almanack of Naval Ravikant and tell Eric Jorgenson and Naval Ravikant how much you enjoyed this episode. Follow us on Twitter to find out what book we are reading next! And tweet us about some potential MYT swag ideas... If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! Find us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS and @natel…
1 hr 22 min
Curious Minds: Innovation in Life and Work
Curious Minds: Innovation in Life and Work
Gayle Allen
CM 172: Ashley Whillans On How to Reclaim Your Time
How can we escape the time traps that keep us from living our best lives? These are the traps that make us feel like there are never enough hours in the day. They leave us time poor, a term Ashley Whillans talks about in her book, Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life.  Ashley is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School and a leading scholar on time and happiness research. She explains the negative impact feeling time poor can have on our health, our productivity, and our relationships.  In contrast, when we prioritize how we spend our time, we gain many positive results, no matter where we reside in the world. Ashley says, "People who value time report greater happiness, less stress, less negative emotion. Doesn't matter where I study this, in India, in Kenya, in the U.S., in Canada, in Denmark, focusing on time is an important path to happiness." Ashley designed tools to help us rethink our relationship with time. These include self-assessments and checklists for making smarter decisions about how we use our time. She explains how incorporating them into our lives can prompt us to ask, "not only how much would that decision cost you, but how much time would it cost." Ashley Whillans is part of the Workplace and Well-Being Initiative at Harvard, and she advises organizations on workplace and well-being strategies. Her work has appeared in publications like, the New York Times, The Atlantic, and the Wall Street Journal. Curious Minds Team Learn more about creator and host, Gayle Allen, and producer and editor, Rob Mancabelli, here. Episode Links Daniel Gilbert Time poverty Autonomy paradox Time confetti and Brigid Schulte Yes-damn effect Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky Mere urgency effect Psychological safety  Time affluence Time is Tight: How Higher Economic Value of Time Increases Feelings of Time Pressure by Sanford Devoe and Jeffrey Pfeffer Ways to Support the Podcast If you're a fan of the show, there are three simple things you can do to support our work: Rate and review the podcast on iTunes or wherever you subscribe. In the next week, tell one person about the show. Subscribe so you never miss an episode. Where to Find Curious Minds Spotify iTunes Tunein Stitcher Google Podcasts Overcast
46 min
Knowledge = Power
Knowledge = Power
LH
Energy: A Human History
Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes  reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time—wood  to coal to oil to electricity and beyond. People have lived and  died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to  world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Ultimately, the  history of these challenges tells the story of humanity itself. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning  author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made  room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and  renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress,  through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I,  Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford. In Energy,  Rhodes highlights the successes and failures that led to each  breakthrough in energy production; from animal and waterpower to the  steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He  addresses how we learned from such challenges, mastered their  transitions, and capitalized on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks  at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is  competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He  also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling  towards ten billion by 2100. Human beings have confronted the  problem of how to draw life from raw material since the beginning of  time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further  challenges, and through such transformations, we arrived at where we are  today. In Rhodes’s singular style, Energy details how this knowledge of our history can inform our way tomorrow.
11 hr 48 min
Thinking Critically
Thinking Critically
Intelligent Speculation
#21: Outrage Culture
In this episode, the rest of the Intelligent Speculation team and I are discussing outrage culture. We discuss: •What exactly outrage culture is. •How humans are easily overcome by their emotions and that the media, politicians, etc. know this and use it as means to capture our attention. •How people have stopped listening to each other and, consequently, this has lead to a breakdown in civil discourse. •That having access to all of this information through our smart devices exacerbates outrage as you are constantly exposed to sensationalized headlines. •How the echo chambers of social media reinforce outrage culture and, in general, severely disrupts critical thinking as you can no longer evaluate the nuances of the issue. •That emotions aren't inherently bad, but you must learn to control them and understand how they are influencing you in the moment. •Why it's so hard for people to admit that they're wrong. •And other topics. You can find out more about us here: https://bit.ly/35sJaTW You can find Gaurav's articles here: https://bit.ly/3ay0Tto You can find Garrett's articles here: https://bit.ly/3bV31eC You can find Patrick's articles here: https://bit.ly/2YNis47 This podcast is supported and produced by Final Stretch Media. Final Stretch believes in creating something that disrupts attention spans and challenges the marketing status quo. They do this by creating high quality visual content that captivates your audience. You can find them on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fsmedia2020 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/finalstretch_media/ This show is also supported by QuikLee; the creators of Brain Racers. The world's first brain ever live racing competition for the brain. Download their app and play live this weekend on an iOS device against the world. I have raced and it is awesome. If you are in the top 10, you have a chance to win money. See you there! App download: https://apple.co/33n8aJs
1 hr
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