Yesterday I checked my WordPress administration page and was shocked to see that 42 people viewed my last blog post. This is the highest ever. Something about this number made me switch into a higher gear. So I built a Facebook page for myself as a writer; which I’ve linked to this blog in various ways.

I also made a Facebook page for my burgeoning meetup group: Melbourne Lifestyle Design. And also decided to link to my business and employ a tentative tagline.

As children, we’re taught to think of our career or identity in a singular fashion. In the public sphere rarely are people thought of as any more than one thing at a time. Yet if you check Wikipedia pages you’ll find that often people have a full raft of competencies. Doctors are also writers. Actors also directors. Nurses also philanthropists.

In Mastery, Robert Greene illustrated how Leonardo Da Vinci managed to create wholes that were greater than the sum of their parts by working between fields, drawing on multiple skill-sets and bodies of knowledge.

Aristotle invented the modern system of separate fields of inquiry. Its delineations are by no means indelible.

Some people are generalists, it’s as simple as that. Not all people though. And that is absolutely fine.

I have recognised this quality of generalism in myself and my vision for life. It’s become obvious enough that my way forward it to think very long term and develop a stack of wisely chosen skills. In this spirit of self-knowledge, I submit my new tagline “The SkillSet Way” in the hopes that others will recognise what it means and identify with its message.

Life is about a lot more than skills though (there’s also knowledge, but Tai Lopez has claimed that already) and frankly, it would be boring to write exclusively about them. Blogging is just one skill. Developing skill sets are what allow one to get paid, travel, develop new relationships, create, rise up.

I like this mentality because it brings the locus of control inwards. It’s premised on the truth that everything starts in the mind anyway. Thus just about every outward thing in life that you yearn for becomes achieved as a direct consequence of what’s happening in your brain: what you practise doing.

Life itself becomes like a game, so you can call your whole being into service. That’s the good thing about knowing what you want. Those with a proclivity to seek improvements in their knowledge, meta-skills and non-cognitive qualities have a distinct advantage over the long term.

To be perfectly honest I’m already getting sick of having a tagline, it feels constraining. I’ve already pretty well covered my point anyway. I would ask you this though: what single speciality in life can give you everything you wish for? Develop broadly applicable skills (like teaching, writing, foreign language), a speciality and think long term about what your life might hold.

Resistance and Plateaus

A mastery path has its own inherent value. To speak only of the literal; it is the most straightforward way to be a leader in a field or to create something of superior quality. It will maximise the total time spent in flow state throughout your life. To speak more intuitively, however, we all sense that it involves a subtle deepening of one’s character, a shift in one’s core identity.

In the human experience, mastering a skillset offers unique challenges and benefits. I tend to see it like a game that all humans (and perhaps other animals too) can play. It has a private but also a public component. It’s an important thread in the art of living.

Part of the reason that it’s so valuable is that it exercises various character strengths as well as the skillset itself. It presents an opportunity for “self-mastery”, presenting a unique opportunity to become something bigger and stronger inside. Something more actualised and simultaneously more wise and grounded. Certainly more confident and apt to be a leader.

mastery curveTo my great anguish, I’ve always been a jack of all trades yet a master of none. Often telling people that I’m more of a “generalist”. Don’t misunderstand me: there is value in being a generalist, especially for a writer. There are serious drawbacks to only ever being a generalist in life though.

I’d like to share a little story about the career path I’m currently on since it pertains to the mastery path and I feel that it will be instructive.

I’ve been working with Salesforce for almost exactly 1 year. It pays the bills and I’m even self-employed which is cool. I’m just starting to get to a point of adeptness. Recently though, for a few weeks, I had this feeling in my gut. I just wanted to change to something else. I wanted to be a programmer instead for various reasons.

Salesforce seemed boring and trivial, made-up, arbitrary. Not worthy of my intellectual energy. I felt useless at work and unmotivated. Not built for it. I very nearly gave up, and probably would have if I didn’t need to pay the bills.

What I have since realised though is that this was a plateau (the longest plateau I’ve ever seen mind you). In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield defines something called “resistance”. Resistance is a self-defeating, emotional hindrance to stop you doing what will lift you higher. My depressed phase turned out to be resistance: because I’ve come bursting out the other side, leaving it all behind. Importantly, I am once again excited about working with Salesforce and continuing to improve. I feel more competent than ever (which is what makes it a plateau).

If I had followed those instincts to change because I was getting bored with something I was good at, then I would have lost out on a crucial opportunity. I’ve found the single most rewarding thing has been a sense of deepening of character and self-efficacy. There’s a deep and abiding sense of satisfaction that wasn’t there before, and it’s as if nothing could ever take it away. All this by simply continuing to work and riding out that plateau.

There may come a time where you feel like giving up on your path, for whatever reason. I don’t deny that sometimes changing course is the best course of action. I’m a huge advocate of, in the long run, spending your time doing what you enjoy most. As well as maximising happiness, this is in large part because you’re more likely to stay with it and ultimately reap the benefits of reaching a high level of proficiency. I just want you to understand from my story that there is inherent value in riding out a plateau, regardless of the skillset.

The 4-Hour Work Week

As the title suggests, this is a book about cutting you51OWc0PhNqL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgr working hours down. A lot. But it’s also about earning enough income to finance your “dream-lines”. Location independently. Or in other words, living how you really want to. This is a book which isn’t for everyone. To accept its premises is to think outside of the box. Indeed, most people would read it and shake their heads in non-acceptance – it poses too much questioning of settled reality. Much of it is radical even by my standards. However, I don’t argue that it’s not possible. I merely think it’s not as straightforward as he seems to see everything. The secret to that straightforward, pragmatic thinking can perhaps be found through this book also, though.
This is one of the key texts of the location independent lifestyle. And there’s no lifestyle I would rather have than a location independent one, hence why I decided to read the book. Although Timothy Ferriss seems to emphasise intermittent “mini-retirements” and dream-lines rather than the “purist” digital nomad lifestyle of indefinite travel. Vagabonding. Both of these are deeply appealing, however.
I believe that Ferriss essentially gives two different methods of financially achieving the “new rich” lifestyle:
1) A remote work agreement or some other sort of location independent employment
2) A muse: start-up venture that exists solely to generate maximum income with minimum time investment
Of these two methods, the first is more within the common sphere of reality. However, it is also much more time intensive and not scalable by nature. Admittedly, the second seems pretty far out to me but I suppose it would be more graspable if a viable idea itself was more graspable. To his credit he does lay out a method, however, you really do need to be able to offer value to a niche market. This I struggled to imagine and the book lost me a little bit. He provides tons of resources one you get going, though; many B2B services which I had never heard of and hopefully will one day revisit.
The main body of the book is structured into four “steps”:
1) Definition. This mostly included the beginning thought process, defining dream-lines and doing the start-up
2) Elimination. Where you significantly reduce your time spent working through various means
3) Automation. Ferriss is very big on outsourcing personal tasks to overseas “Virtual Assistants” who work relatively cheaply, but automating through a computer is even better (cheaper)
4) Liberation. Once you’ve defined, eliminated and automated you are then able to liberate yourself in terms of location and do the travel that you wanted to
This book has a certain ethos which seems very original to me and not really fitting well with any other philosophy that I’ve seen. I suppose that’s because a fundamentally different lifestyle initiates new values and lines of thinking. For example, he seems to be big on minimalism in all things. He has a very regimented attitude about what’s allowed to disturb his attention or take up his time. Leanness of enterprise and ruthlessness with personal resources such as energy – “be pound wise and penny foolish”. He’s super pragmatic and analyses things deeply with an uncommon clarity of thought. Thinking and acting outside the box. Being uncaring of what people think is a priority. It fits the humanist zeitgeist of maximising quality of life, and even takes it a step further than anything else, to its logical extreme. When you work the standard 9 to 5 this ethos appears pointless (I’ve tried) because then you’d just end up reducing your work hours and income. You relearn to just show up, trundle along for 8 hours and go along with company culture. If you’re location independent or an entrepreneur then this ethos becomes very relevant, though, because no one is looking over your shoulder and true effectiveness becomes imperative.

A Meditation on Inner Strength

Sometimes I like to think about what certain qualities would be like if taken to the utmost extreme. Perfected. Epitomised. This morning I was wondering about how when “weaker” people are in control they seem to be less graceful about it. They feel less secure and that feeling manifests itself in their behaviours and is felt by those who are lower than them on the ladder. Yet sometimes someone who is relatively weak or even sickly seems to take great responsibility in their stride. Emotionally they are able to handle it and remain feeling larger than it, in control. Think of Angela Merkel who is basically a little old woman or Gandhi who is 5’4” and led millions of people whilst wearing a robe and hunger striking. By comparison, sometimes I struggle to get to work without a coffee or to deal with the emotional burden of leading one person. Imagine doing this being famished and wearing a robe. Sounds like being a backpacker actually.

I believe the quality we’re alluding to here is loosely understood as inner strength. A quick google search indicates that inner strength is roughly synonymous with resilience to difficult circumstances. In other words, the ability to deal with difficulties without breaking down or giving up. The ability to look life in the eye and smile, when other people become depressed. Surprisingly it also seems to be an actual term in the dictionary. Its definition: integrity of character; resoluteness of will; mental resistance to doubt or discouragement (wiktionary). This last part suggests that it’s intrinsically linked to the social.

This definition seems close to what I’m talking about but isn’t quite there. I’ll draw an analogy to demonstrate what I mean. Imagine you spent your whole life bearing the most difficult and demanding job in the universe. Physical pain and danger, lack of necessities, social pressures of all kinds, uncertainty, responsibility for trillions, countless temptations, profound demands on every type of intelligence. All of these factors were off the charts. And then you suddenly found yourself with the most demanding job on Earth, such as being the leader of a great power. How would you react to this new role that would probably break most people?

I would argue that you would smile like a Budha at the emotional burden. You’d remain centred. You’d think optimally. You’d respond emotionally appropriately to the situation. The risks, responsibilities, the disapproval, imperfections of self. You would find your flow or even get bored. The neediness, frailty and fearfulness of others. You’d be aware of them, you’d look them in the eye but yet not feel overwhelmed by them. With God-like strength would they even be a blip on your awareness? Your sense of self-potential would just seem to dwarf those demands. True strength would be able to deal with those without being apathetic to others since they wouldn’t necessarily escape their humanity entirely. People would feel that. Or maybe it would corrupt them absolutely. In any case I think this sort of emotional strength is an eminently appropriate quality for a leader to have. It inspires confidence. You’re not likely to ever find one in this degree but it doesn’t hurt to imagine what the epitome would be as a thought experiment.

There is a premise here. It’s that going through great challenges builds greater inner strength. I love the story of Franklin Roosevelt. How he had Polio and that personal struggle seemed to build in him a strength and gracefulness. Now he is rated USA’s greatest president by an aggregate of ratings. I wonder if this inner strength can exist innately in a person, such as through genetics? Sounds like Achilles or Gilgamesh, to me.

One is reminded of Marcus Aurelius with all this talk of high office and nobility. The most powerful man in the world at the time. It’s well known that power inspires confidence and when one has power in this degree the anxieties rightfully fall away. It’s interesting what someone does when their anxieties fall away. Where does one turn for guidance when the normal motivators of pleasure and pain become distant? Marcus turned to philosophy. Stoic philosophy. You have to live somehow and decided to make his life a temple with the pillars of reason and stoic virtue. One can’t help but see the similarity between stoicism and the image of inner strength. The main difference is that the perfect inner strength I illustrated seems to be able to take challenge in its stride whereas stoicism struggles with it more. So does human nature struggle for perfection, though.

If one wishes to have inner strength but they don’t have it innately, what is required? Well, it seems that a full spectrum of challenging circumstances is both what builds it and what is required to make it demonstrated (although a sense of being larger than a situation can be felt without demonstration). One may be thrust into this or embark willingly on such a journey. Perhaps they could try to live their current life with principled perfection. Go without things you think you need. Bear risks and uncertainty. Be cut down and challenged by people. Be vulnerable. Aim higher and take on more responsibility. Be more in the spotlight. When leading or dating, be bold. We can see that above all one must have an attitude of courage. 

Why would one want to have inner strength at all, though? To attract women? Because it’s better than anxiety? To achieve some desired outcome? To be higher on the pecking order of humans? To be a better leader? It does have survival, reproductive and transcendent value. It seems to me that it’s something of a second order end in itself, though. Self-improvement is an imperative and inescapable part of quality personhood, but quality personhood demands more than focusing on oneself. I don’t recommend pursuing it wholly for more than a week since you don’t want to have an obsession with inner strength written on your face – that would be unwise and unsexy. I would recommend broader philosophies of life and growth-oriented action, however best they may be applied for you.

Ironically to the existence of this article, simply having a girlfriend or a child will cultivate this quality in you. Perhaps because evolutionarily, family needs more for you to be strong than to be happy, so they instinctively challenge you emotionally. Inner strength can be sexy or deathly real, appreciated or unappreciated. It’s correlated with maturity but also with uniqueness. It’s not ultimate good but it may facilitate a more glorious or robust existence.

Disconnecting From Internet Content

It’s been two days since I “disconnected” from the internet. I still use it for work but I’ve deactivated Facebook and blocked my usual meme websites using the Chrome block site add-on. I want to keep it going for at least a week and document the experience.

Memes have been my great addiction over the past few years. I would spend hours a day on Facebook, 9gag, reddit.com/r/worldnews and more recently on youtube looking at alt-right stuff. Not just a big block of several hours in the evening: more like 30-40 quick, compulsive checks during the day followed by a few hours in the evening. I’m sure many people can relate to it somehow because I see people constantly on their phones just like I was last week. Last week I wouldn’t have noticed that because I would have been on my phone.

I’ve tried to go cold-turkey in the past and it’s quite an ascetic experience, punishing even. That dopamine doesn’t replace itself. That’s why I believe it’s important to replace internet content with something else; preferably something more positive or useful. I broke out the old ps3 and started playing Skyrim again. At first, it felt painfully slow and didn’t give me any pleasure; but after I while I started getting into it and it was better than life itself.

Video games are a step up from memes I believe. This is because they’re active rather than passive, and it’s a more life-like tempo. Gratification is delayed somewhat. Importantly, I feel that since it’s “just one thing” rather than a multitude of successive things, it is conditioning one’s mind to hone in on things for a good while rather than frittering momentarily from one to another like a butterfly. I believe that internet addiction cripples the mind’s ability to think deeply, and hence having it under control is imperative for a writer.

Meditation is another thing that I would recommend to anyone undergoing this process. Although I would recommend that to everyone anyway (imagine a world where everyone meditated: utopia). Meditation takes the edge off. You don’t take any of it so seriously because you’re just a few steps back from what you do either way. I think it makes a person come off as less wanky as well; wankiness being a perennial issue with giving up anything in common usage.

My experience on the commute to work this morning was rather interesting. Ironically I felt more anxious or vulnerable than usual. This is because usually when I feel this anxiety I immediately “escape” into my phone. I have two parallel realities to inhabit: the real world around me and the virtual world in my pocket. The real world is scarily out of my control and yet mysteriously necessary to me. The virtual world does exactly what I tell it to and there’s no anxiety whatsoever. My anxiety is eased when I notice that virtually everyone on the train is on their phones, however.

There is a certain power in being the least withdrawn, the most present to a situation. Being present puts you at the centre of things, in the momentary “in crowd”. The “scarily necessary but out of control” nature of the real world is diminished when you are more in it than others, after all, it is people who are the most out of control part of it. I believe that being present like this is a leadership quality. The opposite is the need to withdraw from what’s going on while other people shoulder more responsibility for being present: someone has to be present don’t they? Yes, this is what a typical train ride is like for me: highly philosophical.

After a day or two without internet, one feels more interested in the other things of life. The feeling of a hand rail. The person walking down the street. Even just the special impression of a moment can be oddly satisfying. Dopamine by looking out a window. That seems so right.

On the other hand, there is a certain neediness to being interested in people. If there are ten people in a room and nine of them are on the phone every fifteen minutes; the one person who isn’t on their phone is “all in”. At once more in control, more interested and more invested. The others have one foot in the present moment and one foot in the virtual so they can quite happily withdraw from the present whenever they wish. They get their dopamine virtually. The person without internet doesn’t have anywhere else to go. My point is that it can often seem that you are giving more of yourself than other people and it’s a bit like being rejected.

Part of masculinity means being active rather than passive. I believe being active in an interaction necessitates being present to it. Since the one who withdraws is “passing” on various levels. On the other hand, neediness isn’t very masculine. If it’s a situation you want to be in then it’s not needy, though. It’s much easier to be “active” and therefore manful when your mind is conditioned to be continuously at home at places and with people rather than the virtual.

Improve Your State 

I believe that a good thing to aspire to in life is a fantastic “state”. Hear me out.

Some people such as myself are rational souls. Life seems to be more of the frontal cortex: ideas, plans, doing what’s “smart”. I believe however that much of our day to day thinking is heavily based on emotions – we just don’t know it.
Eckhart Tolle taught that in order to understand our true present state, we must pay attention to our emotional body. Our thinking can rationalise and convince us about how we are so we must look deeper. He also confirmed that thinking is indeed influenced by the emotional body.

One of life’s great pleasures is being free from frustration and neediness. When our mood improves so do the quality of our thoughts, they become powerful and pure, of a high vibration. Address emotional needs then our thoughts will, in turn, be heightened.

On some level, we’re all avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure already. So what goes wrong? People fail to delay gratification. They try to appease their current little selves rather than change to be less needy. They don’t use courage as a means of transcending fear, rather they just try to avoid fear or pain.

Everyone can be happy. Everyone can find belonging. Most people can do work that they like and find meaningful. Some things are quite rarefied, though. Most can never be kings, even though deep down we might want that. Some things are potentially within reach but are reserved for winners; things like beauty, love, lifestyle, wealth, mastery or being a leader. These things that would often mean an end to frustration are what I mean by “state”.

Appease the self as I have mentioned, but ultimately the self ought to be transcended. This may be the best feeling of all.

maslow-pyramid

Energetic Awareness and Resilience of Spirit

using-the-human-emotional-vibration-chart-to-improve-the-quality-of-life-chart

Recently I moved house and found myself in an environment which I would describe as having an extremely low-vibrational energy. Painfully stuck and apathetic. Unable to see the good which just 2 days ago seemed manifestly obvious to me. At first I felt my usual mood was maintained but after spending a night there I began to feel panicked as I felt the good vibes leaving me despite my conscious intent, yet there seemed to be a reservoir of bad vibes in the house. My usual sense of high emotional state was being sapped away and I felt this shadowy, stagnant feeling of hopelessness and pointlessness seeping in. I knew exactly what was going on though. The place stinks of a special kind of depression, even when no one is there it resides figuratively in the “soul” of the place. It’s my job to let the place air out and continue to cultivate good energy through choices. Hopefully the other person will become less depressed and make better choices themselves such as by eating healthily and cleaning their room from time to time.

This stark contrast has gotten me thinking about the nature of high and low vibrational energy states. There seems to be a useful dichotomy here: two opposite attitudes about energetic states. Examining both in their extremes can help us to paint a conclusion about what a good middle-ground is.

On the one hand there’s the hyper-vigilant. They’ve learned that being in depressing environments is contagious. They’ve learned to let go of toxic relationships. They’re sensitive and can tell a mile away when someone is at a very low, depressed state. They are almost paranoid about it. After all, it’s “better” to be at a higher state and only we are responsible for our own states. How dare people bring unwelcome infectious energy into our reality, don’t they know anything? Taken to its extreme one could completely avoid people or environments even at great personal cost. They begin to seem neurotic, like someone obsessed with germs.

On the other hand there are those who are tone deaf or don’t believe in energy states at all. Probably the type that is suspicious of any kind of nuance or idea that isn’t on TV. They don’t notice energy dynamics or its manifestations and thus don’t make conscious attempts to improve their state in life. It’s luck of the draw: they might stay in a toxic relationship or never think to lift themselves out of a self-destructive pattern. Because it’s all the same to them they’re able to mix with anyone without worrying about their life getting better or worse (when to the keen observer it clearly does).

There’s positives and negatives about both. I do believe that our lives are influenced by the energetic. I believe that some lives are better than others, some states are better than others. Some people are more hopeless or depressing than others. Not wanting to improve your life just seems akin to laziness and irresponsibility to me. Given that who we closely associate with can have a profound impact on our thinking, our mood, our choices et cetera it seems insane to me to be completely liberal about who, where and with what we choose to associate.

Yet clearly we can’t have complete control over the presences that enter and leave our lives. Although something like that is ideal. I believe it’s important to cultivate a resilient spirit. We need to be able to stay grounded and maintain our sense of self whether surrounded by people with unconscious black holes in their soul or people that are loving life personified. To be able to function in the full spectrum we must expose ourselves to the full spectrum? We need to be able to mix with everyone and yet make positive, self-responsible choices to move our lives forward.

Cultivate a resilient spirit by decoupling energetic states from your sense of self. Yet make hard judgements and choices about it to make your life better in the long run. This is of day-to-day practical choices though: when it comes to your awareness don’t divide the world into good and bad, keep the non-duality of it.