Does the world want to know?
This is an 8-minute read.
Does the world want to know how to live a better life?
I have asked myself this question for years, so naturally, I have a thought.
I don't think so.
This has always made me feel funny. Much of the population would love to be happy and successful, yet so few of us actually are. Why? The easiest answer is that we are in far less control of our minds than we think we are. I know, I know. You probably think this doesn't apply to you. I’ve been there. Today, I spent 20 minutes thinking about Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo before realizing I was in the middle of making breakfast, so I’m clearly still there.
But you are probably wrong. You probably haven’t done enough to build your mind. We have millions of other things at our fingertips to take our minds away from our targets, so who could blame us? Take this for instance, each day the average smartphone owner spends almost 3 hours looking at their phone screens. That's 10 times longer than 10 years ago. We spend close to 20% of our waking hours on our cell phones. Holy shit!
Surely we’re not using our time as well as we can be, so let’s start there. Let’s take the near 20% of our waking hours we spend on our phones. If we spent ¼ of that time working towards a long-term goal, we would use 30 Hours a month building towards our future.
Put that into perspective. Imagine how you would feel if you realized you willingly lit that much time on fire? If you can relate, I bet you feel sick to your stomach. I know the feeling! I read Twitter every day on the way to and from work. Sometimes I would stumble upon gold, but usually, I would just rile myself up over what some fool said. It took me 5 years until I swallowed my pride, deleted people and removed the app from my home screen. Thank goodness for reading books.
Thus, I don't think the world actually wants to know how to live a better life. Not yet. Too many barriers in our minds stop us from actually wanting to know how. We aren't yet ready to understand that you can find a way to educate yourself to do so.
I want to change that. Together.
On the surface, the question can seem absolutely ridiculous. Does the world want to know how to live a better life? Of course we do! If I were speaking to an audience, I can imagine hearing an angry shout from the crowd, "You're wasting our time!"
But the greatest advances in life come from challenging our most commonly held beliefs. So, before the pitchforks come out, let's take some examples of things you may have done in your own life.
Instead of exercising this morning, you slept in and grabbed Dunkin' Donuts on the way to work. Instead of reading a book recommended by your boss, you watch The Rock whoop ass and crack jokes for the 3,000th time. Instead of finishing a project, you hang on to every text of a group thread on the NBA all afternoon. I'll get to it tomorrow…
If you're not guilty of any of these high-level crimes against yourself, congratulations! For the rest of you, I understand, because we are all guilty on some level. No matter how many books I read, if The Rock is on the tube, my brain already shut off.
We do so because short-term gratification feels great. It really does! A basic understanding of neuroscience shows us how much our bodies love feeling a jolt of dopamine because of something they did. In the short-term, there's no substitute for that spike. It's not until we consider our future that we can identify what we need to sacrifice to achieve our dreams.
Our best bet at living a better life is through understanding reality in the world, so let's define it.
Reality represents the rules and constructs of our world as we have come to understand through science. Reality comes from the method of asking “Why?” when faced with something that challenges what we expect. Reality shows up in every moment of every day. The miles your car can go without running out of gas. The surprising negative feedback you received in your performance review. And everything in between.
How we go about interpreting reality is our perception. But often our perception is wrong, which means we don't grasp reality as it is. Our biases distort our reality. So how do we go about understanding reality?
Albert Einstein downplayed reality, saying, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Legendary leader and former General Electric CEO Jack Welch said, “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” Both men were incredibly successful! So who's right? What might it mean to me?
I would argue that unless you’re as brilliant as Einstein, you better listen to Welch. And I would feel quite strongly about that. So, we have to figure out what actually makes up our reality.
Every day, our world gives us vivid examples of people ignoring or misunderstanding reality. We strive to lose weight, yet scarf down sweets throughout the day, because it's only a few calories. We want a promotion, but we ignore fixing what everyone else at the company actually wants us to change. We vote for leaders who we imagine revolutionizing the world, but we sit back and expect them to do it alone.
We miss the lesson or misinterpret the moral of the story, because of our minds. People are rooted in their ways based on prior experiences and are often resistant to change. “I've been promoted twice in three years because I'm great at my job; so what if people think I’m a pain in the ass to work with? That’s my thing.” But what happens when we don't realize that those promotions came for a different reason? Our path to see clearly is obscured by what we have learned in the past and the situation we are in now. Hence, we have a battle on our hands!
To evolve in our lives, we must rework our mental models to include the reality of the world around us. We must give up what has worked for us in the past to explore new paths.
At the root of all progress is deep understanding, not surface-level understanding or, gulp, willful ignorance. To start, we have to know where we're aiming so we can align our mind and body to our vision. We have to ask ourselves where the reality in our head has failed to match with the reality of our world. We need to realize what we can learn to have a better understanding of the world. Only when we combine our knowledge and experiences can we paint a clearer picture of the world.
What I want to offer you is a way to do that. To understand the world you live in by understanding the principles humans have built on. To confidently challenge your own assumptions. To live a better life.
In this space, I will share my understanding by writing in three periods of time.
Ah, the past. I will share the mistakes I have made through my life because I think mistakes are a funny way to shed light on our lives. Mercy, there are some bad ones! We will examine why these are avoidable, yet so tasty, from a scientific and psychological perspective. I hope you can relate to the often hilariously dumb nature of human misjudgment. I would love if my mistakes help you understand how to change your life for the better.
We call this series On Mistakes.
Examples: Not going to the doctor for 10 years; Selling Bitcoin at $300; Only ever planning for the upcoming 24 hours.
Key Thought: We all do small things that quietly add up and make our lives so much more difficult than we realize.
The most important place we can be. We will show how deep understanding can help match the reality in our minds to the reality of the world. We will explore principles from the sciences, decision making, history, and philosophy to try and connect the dots in our minds. I hope this leads you to understand the world we live in, so you can maximize your time and energy and live your best life.
We call this series On Reality.
Examples: All humans make the same mental errors; Losing weight is not dependent on caloric intake; We are part of a whole. Act like it.
Key Thought: We can combine what we know and experience into a system that makes far better decisions for us.
I think we spend far more time speculating about the future than anything else we use our brains for. Actually, let’s find out. Close your eyes a few moments.
That’s great, right? Thinking about the future is only natural. As humans, we hate nothing more than uncertainty. When we are uncertain of something, we try to close the loop by finding the answer or inventing a new one. When we think about the future, we are trying to envision where we will be and how we can make peace with it. We are trying to visualize our futures.
So let’s visualize more effectively. We will look at the intersection of technology, business, and human behavior to understand what changes sit on the horizon. Here, trends are our friends. By combining our experiences with the world’s views on tech, we will try to identify if and when we’ll see flying cars.
We call this series On the Unknown.
Examples: What history can tell us about the future of health; Getting around in 5 years; Momentarily breaking down during Ex Machina; What happens to black markets when you can 3D print a kidney.
Key Thought: Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle prevents us from knowing exactly what will happen in the future. But we can take a better guess than 99% of the world if we study our past and present.
Across this work, we will explore together what you have experienced and how you think. Sometimes I will ask you questions about your life. Sometimes there will be activities you can do on your own. Sometimes you will be able to listen, watch or experience something different. Take the link to 30 Hours in the introduction. In some posts, you'll be able to listen to a song that fits the vibe and time to read. And if you're smart, you'll understand why I referenced The Life of Pablo up front.
My goal is to help give you a way to understand the reality we live in, so you can live your best life. That doesn't come free, though. You have to ask yourself tough questions about your flaws and past undoings. You have to learn new things like science, psychology and philosophy and connect them. Then the reality in your mind can change to more closely resemble the reality of the world. And that is the quickest way to live a life of success and happiness.
We can't live a better life without understanding. But we can all live a better life. So let's get started. And let’s have fun doing it together.