Philosophy made relatable. Great points about taking feelings seriously, pain as the speed of light, humanity as an ends not means, and democracy acknowledging human nature. Sections on Nietzsche and Kant are fascinating, not academic. The second half grabbed me the most.
If life were as simple as learning to control one’s emotions and make decisions based on reason, then a lobotomized person should be an unstoppable badass, tirelessly industrious, and a ruthless decision maker. Lobotomies would be all the rage.
Our emotions are instrumental in our decision making and our actions.
We are moved to action only by emotion. Action is emotion.
Anger pushes your body to move.
Anxiety pulls it into retreat.
Joy lights up the facial muscles.
Sadness attempts to shade your existence from view.
Emotion inspires action, and action inspires emotion. The two are inseparable.
Why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t feel like it.
Every problem of self-control is a problem of emotion.
Emotional problems can only have emotional solutions.
The Thinking Brain develops a tendency to draw maps explaining or justifying where the Feeling Brain has already decided it wants to go.
The self-serving bias simply makes you prejudiced and a little bit self-centered. You assume that what feels right is right.
It’s hard to pull someone out of the Clown Car once they’re in it. In the Clown Car, the Thinking Brain has been bullied and abused by the Feeling Brain for so long that it develops a sort of Stockholm syndrome - it can’t imagine a life beyond pleasing and justifying the Feeling Brain. It can’t fathom contradicting the Feeling Brain or challenging it on where it’s going, and it resents you for suggesting that it should.
Cultish leaders always start by encouraging people to shut off their Thinking Brains as much as possible.
Initially, this feels profound to people because the Thinking Brain is often correcting the Feeling Brain, showing it where it took a wrong turn. So, silencing the Thinking Brain will feel extremely good for a short period.
People mistake what feels good for what is good.
The person who denies his Feeling Brain numbs himself to the world.
The person who denies his Thinking Brain becomes impulsive and selfish.
Ever wonder why a page-turner is a page-turner?
It’s your Feeling Brain turning those pages.
Good writing is writing that is able to speak to and stimulate both brains at the same time.
Let feelings out into the open where they can breathe, because the more they breathe, the weaker their grip is on the steering wheel.
Appeal to your Feeling Brain in a way it understands: picture the benefits of some desired new behavior.
Do not fight the Feeling Brain.
You may not have self-control, but you get to control the meaning of your impulses and feelings.
It’s the meaning that we ascribe to our feelings that can often alter how the Feeling Brain reacts to them.
This is how you produce hope.
Engage the Feeling Brain on its own terms.
Create an environment that can bring about the Feeling Brain’s best impulses and intuition, rather than its worst.
Accept and work with, rather than against, whatever the Feeling Brain spews at you.
The Thinking Brain will have a better understanding of how to help the Feeling Brain navigate the road of life.
This is emotional regulation.
The drive to equalize (revenge / return to mean) is present in every experience and emotion itself.
It is the operating system of the Feeling Brain.
Thinking Brain makes lateral connections between events (sameness, contrasts, cause/effect)
Feeling Brain makes hierarchical connections (better/worse, more desirable/less desirable, morally superior/morally inferior).
Your value hierarchies change.
An experience can completely rearranged your value hierarchy.
One could predict your behavior solely from your value hierarchy.
“Fun” is the product of a value hierarchy.
When you stop valuing something, it ceases to be fun or interesting.
When we lose our values, we grieve the death of those defining narratives because we have lost a part of ourselves.
It is impossible to become someone new without first grieving the loss of who you used to be.
To change your values, begin writing the narratives of your future self, to envision what life would be like if you had certain values or possessed a certain identity.
By visualizing the future we want for ourselves, we allow our Feeling Brain to try on those values for size, to see what they feel like before we make the final purchase.
Eventually, once we’ve done this enough, the Feeling Brain becomes accustomed to the new values and starts to believe them.
We all mostly want the same things out of life. But those slight differences generate emotion, and emotion generates a sense of importance.
Therefore, we come to perceive our differences as disproportionately more important than our similarities.
The point of these false us-versus-them dichotomies is to cut off at the knees any reasoning or discussion before your followers start questioning their beliefs.
Common enemies create unity within.
Nietzsche: Amor fati = closing the separation between one’s desires and reality not by striving for more desires, but by simply desiring reality.
It basically meant: hope for nothing. Hope for what already is.
Don’t hope to eliminate your flaws.
Let the Feeling Brain feel, but deny it the stories of meaning and value that it so desperately craves.
The adolescent does the same stumbling around the young child does in learning what is pleasurable and what is painful.
The adolescent stumbles around by trying on different social rules and roles. If I wear this, will it make me cool? If I talk like that, will it make people like me?
Adulting: Preparing for job interviews, managing your finances, are rjle- and transaction-based. They are a means to some superficial end.
The most important things in life cannot be gained through bargaining.
Parents likely bargain with their kids for affection, love, or respect. They think this is normal, so the kid grows up thinking it’s normal.
The only thing that distinguishes us from the rest of the matter in the universe is our ability to take the world around us and, through reasoning and will, improve upon it.
We can actually direct existence.
We are the only shot the universe has at intelligent self-organization.
The most fundamental moral duty is the preservation and growth of consciousness.
The Formula of Humanity: Act that you use humanity. Treat humanity never merely as a means, but always as an end itself.
Lying is wrong because you are misleading another person’s conscious behavior in order to achieve your own goal. You are treating that person as a means to your own end.
Honesty is good in and of itself because it’s the only form of communication that doesn’t treat people merely as a means.
Courage is good in and of itself because to fail to act is to treat either yourself or others as a means to the end of quelling your fear.
Humility is good in and of itself because to fall into blind certainty is to treat others as a means to your own ends.
A single rule to describe all desirable human behavior: Treat humanity never merely as a means, but always as an end itself.
No one is better or worse or more righteous than anyone else. All that matters is that conscious will is respected and protected.
The only logical way to improve the world is through improving ourselves
… by growing up and becoming more virtuous
… by making the simple decision, in each moment, to treat ourselves and others as ends, and never merely as means.
Don’t distract or harm yourself.
Don’t shirk responsibility or succumb to fear.
Love openly and fearlessly.
Don’t hope for a better life. Simply be a better life.
There is a fundamental link between our respect for ourselves and our respect for the world.
The values that define our identity are the templates that we apply to our interactions with others.
Little progress can be made with others until we’ve made progress within ourselves.
When we pursue a life full of pleasure and simple satisfaction, we are treating ourselves as a means to our pleasurable ends.
Therefore, self-improvement is not the cultivation of greater happiness but, rather, a cultivation of greater self-respect.
Telling ourselves that we are worthless and shitty is just as wrong as telling others that they are worthless and shitty.
Lying to ourselves is just as unethical as lying to others.
Harming ourselves is just as repugnant as harming others.
Democracy assumes that the average person is selfish and delusional
… that the only way to protect us from ourselves is to create systems so interdependent that no one person or group can completely hose the rest of the population.
Democracy is the best system of government thus far because it’s the only system that openly admits that power attracts corrupt and childish people.
Therefore, the only way to manage that is by enshrining adult virtues into the design of the system itself.
The more we look for threats, the more we will see them, regardless of how safe or comfortable our environment actually is.
The better things get, the more we perceive threats where there are none, and the more upset we become.
This is the paradox of progress.
Our minds amplify (or minimize) our problems to fit the degree of stress we expect to experience.
A young person who has been sheltered from dealing with any challenges or injustices growing up will come to find the slightest inconveniences of adult life intolerable.
By removing healthy adversity and challenge, people struggle even more. They become more selfish and more childish. They fail to develop and mature out of adolescence. They remain further removed from any virtue.
Nobody is fully happy all the time, but nobody is fully unhappy all the time, either.
Regardless of our external circumstances, we live in a constant state of mild-but-not-fully-satisfying happiness.
Things are pretty much always fine, but they could also always be better.
Our brain tells us, “You know, if I could just have a little bit more, I’d finally get to ten and stay there.”
Most of us live much of our lives this way, constantly chasing our imagined ten.
Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering, rather than alleviating your suffering.
The mind can be fragile or antifragile depending on how you use it.
When struck by chaos and disorder, our minds set to work making sense of it all, deducing principles and constructing mental models, predicting future events and evaluating the past. This is called “learning,” and it makes us better; it allows us to gain from failure and disorder.
But when we avoid pain, when we avoid stress and chaos and tragedy and disorder, we become fragile. Our tolerance for day-to-day setbacks diminishes, and our life must shrink accordingly for us to engage only in the little bit of the world we can handle at one time.
Will you engage your pain or avoid your pain?
Everything is a reflection of this choice:
your results at work
your emotional stability
your engagement with your community
the breadth of your life experiences
the depth of your self-confidence and courage
your ability to respect and trust and forgive and appreciate and listen and learn and have compassion.
If any of these things is fragile in your life, it is because you have chosen to avoid the pain.
You have chosen childish values of chasing simple pleasures, desire, and self-satisfaction.
Death is psychologically necessary because it creates stakes in life. There is something to lose.
You don’t know what something is worth until you experience the potential to lose it.
The quality of our character is determined by our relationship to our pain.
Pain is the source of all value.
The only freedom is self-limitation.
Choosing what you will give up.
Self-denial is paradoxically the only thing that expands real freedom.
The pain of regular physical exercise ultimately enhances your physical freedom - your strength.
The most meaningful freedom comes from your commitments, the things in life for which you have chosen to sacrifice.
There is emotional freedom in my relationship with my wife.
There is freedom in having lived in one place for fifty years - an intimacy and familiarity with the community and culture - that you cannot replicate no matter how much of the world you’ve seen.
Life hacking: trying to reap the rewards of commitment without actually making a commitment.
Empty calories for the soul.
We are a self-hating, self-destructive species.
Adapt our technology for our flawed psychology rather than to exploit it.
Create tools that promote greater character and maturity.
Enshrine the virtues of autonomy, liberty, privacy, and dignity in our business models and our social lives.
Create tools to help our Thinking Brain better communicate and manage the Feeling Brain, and to bring them into alignment.
Technology can counterbalance our psychological fragility.
Idea: independent, third-party algorithms that rate the veracity of headlines, websites, and news stories in real time, allowing users to more quickly sift through the propaganda-laden garbage and get closer to evidence-based truth.