To summarize the previous page, being successful at life is about two ideas, make things better and feel really frickin’ good. While the former is clear, there’s a bit more to the latter. Feeling good is a subset of a deeper concept, one that is often difficult for Western minds to wrap around at first—realizing that everything is already perfect. There isn’t a much better feeling than the feeling that everything is perfect right now in this moment. The way most people feel like this is during sex, specifically orgasm, or other intense flow states. While they may feel that everything is perfect in that moment, that moment won’t last forever.
The point is not to get into an argument over whether you think this is true or not. In the subjective world, you can’t prove anything. The only point of looking at the world through different subjective lenses is to see how helpful it is. The purpose behind everything is perfect, is that it’s one of the most fundamental brain exercises for enjoying life more. The mind is a problem solving machine. Give it this problem to solve: despite all of the suffering in the world,1 how could it be possible that everything is already perfect just as it is right now? Or, in other words, how can I find the perfection in the imperfection?
When you take this exercise to heart, a couple things start to happen: you start to appreciate life more and the unpleasant experiences don’t seem so bad. Through the lens of everything is perfect, everything is either a celebration or a test. Just because the tests are unpleasant, doesn’t mean they are bad. When pleasant things happen, you savor them. When unpleasant things happen, you try and learn as much as you can from them so they don’t happen again, or at least not so intensely.
We’re not just here in this human experience to have fun, there is way too much suffering. We’re also here to learn. And, unfortunately, pain is the greatest teacher. If you want to lead a more joyful life, you must learn to stop resisting pain and therefore turning it into suffering. The difference between pain and suffering is that pain happens in the body, suffering happens in the mind. And while you can’t do much about physical pain besides taking drugs, mental suffering can be dissolved.
Suffering happens in the mind when we resist what is. We resist what is when what is is not what we want it to be. Therefore, the simplified solution to this problem is to always want exactly what is happening right now, regardless of how it feels. In other words, realize that everything is perfect.
Of course, this is way easier said than done. But one thing this practice does is it helps us realize a Socratic principle: I know nothing. Most people are fairly certain they know what they want, or they at least are certain they know what they don’t want. For example, most people want to feel good but don’t want to feel bad. But what if in order to feel really good, you have to feel bad first?
What if the key to feeling good is to embrace feeling bad? What if the reason you don’t feel as good as you like is because you resist the bad? What if the “bad” is actually much worse because you think it’s bad or wrong?
While I am by no means advocating masochism, the idea is that unwanted things are going to happen no matter what. The question is, do you want to feel unpleasant now by stepping into the suffering so that you can dissolve it, or do you want to feel bad by trying to ignore or run away from it for the rest of your life?
The reason why everything is perfect is the foundation of enjoying life is that it’s difficult to have a good time if you’re constantly obsessed with solving problems and trying to make things better. It’s important to a certain extent to set things up, but then we need to get out of the way and enjoy the fruits of our labor. For example, instead of always trying to make things better, sometimes you just need to sit down, shut up and enjoy the sunset. One of the pathologies of the make things better mindset is that if you get too focused on it the mind tends to create problems where there are none, just so that it has something to try and solve.
This is the essence of “The Spoiled Housewives of Rich Place,” or privileged snowflakes that have nothing better to do than see who can get the most offended. It’s a symptom of both the lack of ability to feel like everything is perfect as well as a lack of applying the make things better mindset on the real problems of the world. If you get offended by what adults choose to do with their own bodies in private, it’s because you are either ignorant or apply cognitive dissonance to the real things to get offended by, like how corruption is legal in The United States, or how powerful people turn poor people into economic slaves, or how almost everyone pays people to torture animals for their whole lives because they want cheap meat.
According to Abraham Maslow’s Theory on Human Motivation, humans are not motivated to solve these larger problems until they solve more pressing needs. These needs start with the physiological, then go to safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and then finally self-actualization. Unless any of the systemic problems are threatening our lower needs, we generally are too overwhelmed to deal with them. The solution, therefore, is not to yell at people to focus on these greater systemic problems, but rather to help them solve their more pressing needs while quietly hinting at the greater problems.
The solution to fixing the world starts with helping people get enough food, water and shelter. Then helping people think straight, be in touch with their emotions, be financially responsible, feel safe and secure, eat healthy and exercise. This creates a fertile soil for us to love and care for ourselves, allowing us to love and care for others. This leads to having authentic relationships, both platonic and romantic. Next, we start to work on mastery and self-esteem. Once people are competently meeting all of these needs, to a greater or lesser extent, we naturally gravitate towards going out of our way to help other people meet their needs, what Maslow calls Self-Actualization.
Unless people are sociopaths or narcissists, or display those tendencies, the above is the natural progression of problem solving. The more we have the fulfillment of our own needs on autopilot, the more we will go out of our way to help other people solve their problems.
The goal is not to work on these needs in isolation, but to figure out how to most effectively meet all of the needs simultaneously. While Self-Actualization is at the top, it doesn’t mean we want to forget about it until we get everything else sorted out. It’s just that the more we struggle to meet the other needs, the fuzzier the Self-Actualization is.
However, if we can clarify to a certain extent what “our purpose” is, i.e, starting with the end in mind, we tap into this incredibly powerful inspirational force. We can only be so motivated to solve our own problems, but when we dedicate ourselves to a cause greater than ourselves, we start to see that solving our own problems is actually helping to solve everyone’s problems. After all, the more I take care of myself, the more I can take care of other people. Just trying to make money for our own benefit is not as motivating as trying to make money to also help other people. When we align the solving of our own problems with solving the problems of the world, we have more exponentially more motivated to be successful.
In the Western world we tend to think that to solve problems we need to force ourselves to change, to use willpower to bend the world to our will. But we only have a small amount of willpower that is easily depleted and, once depleted, it takes us a bit to recover from this burn out. It’s important to be strategic with our willpower in a way that allows us to harness effortless effort. Effortless effort is when we do something not because we think we should or that we’re in so much pain that we can’t take it anymore, but rather when we’re so inspired do something we actually need willpower to stop us.
If you want to be as effective as possible, the question to ask is not, “How can I force myself to do the things I know are good for me?” but, “How can I be more inspired to do the things I know are good for me?” Do you want to get better at forcing yourself not to eat crappy food or do you want to get better at being inspired to eat healthy?
If you want to feel inspired, there are a whole bunch of inspirational speakers to listen to like Zig Ziglar who says, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” While the “Hoo rah! You can do it! Believe in yourself!” inspirational talk is all good and fine, if the benefits soon fade it’s likely because it didn’t penetrate much further than the surface.
Better questions to ask than simply how can we be more inspired are, what are the most effective changes we can make that will lead to long lasting inspiration? How do we change the way we think and act so that it becomes easier to implement the habits of success?
Unfortunately, answering that question in full is not easy and it’s different for everyone. There may be a few quick changes in behavior or thinking that can lead to near-instantaneous results, but providing a thorough answer to that question takes a hell of a lot of work. But even though it’s a lot of work, it’s the most important work you can do.
Most people want an easy fix, they want to get rich quick, they want someone else to solve their problems, they think that the best life is a life of luxury and no work. If that’s what you want, you will not find it here.
If you want to most effectively get better at anything, you need help. That’s what I’m here for. While I’m currently writing a book about this, it’s not going to be ready for some time, probably not for another 6-12 months. In the meantime, I’ve created a system that is designed to help you most effectively maximize success.
This system does not profess to solve all of your problems for you, which is impossible anyway. However, it is designed to most effectively use your time and energy to bring about long-lasting, exponential change. But you have to do the work. And while the work is rather simple, it’s not easy.
1. And of course this does not excuse any of the corrupt power dynamics in the world, which is a whole other discussion entirely. [return to text]