The Answer Is Not Within

In the modern world there is this misconception that all you have to do is to go inward. Go inward, search yourself and you will find the answers. It’s a myth and I call BS on that. Even Confucius tried it and it seemed to not work (so there has to be at least something right about it, right?). He said he fasted, he took time off looking for the answers, he meditated. It was all worthless. He would have been better off to study (“I once did not eat all day and did not sleep all night in order to think, but there was no benefit. It would have been better to study”). What he means by that is to study other people. The answer is not inward. It is outward. Read the obvious signs: Who accomplishes more? Who changes civilizations more? Who benefits the world more? Who makes more money?

No matter how you personally measure great success, the signs are obvious. Look at famous people in all different areas of life. Mahatma Gandhi, Pablo Picasso, Bill Gates. I don’t care how you measure. You will get there through study. Picasso was a studied artist. And not just conventual education like university. He was a student of life. Sam Walton (Walmart, Sam’s Club) made 150 billion for himself and his family. He studied more than ever. He always liked to check out the competition. “He got ideas everywhere he might have been”. Mozart studied. Tiger woods studied. When he was 4 years old he probably played more golf than most other people in their lifetime. Study other people to show yourself proof on how bad you want something. Stop going inside, there is little to get from there. Look for help on the outside instead, this is where the real treasure is hidden. Just as when you are drowning in the water, you cannot pull yourself out of it. You need somebody from a different position, who is on firm ground, to get you out. Michael Jordan had the best coaches. He was self-confident in his skills, but he was also teachable. He took in advice and showed humility. Go out. Find mentors. Buy books.

Well, there is some truth about meditation, to be honest. I talked about this topic a lot already and I still love the whole concept. But meditation in itself is a tool you can use. There are times when this tool becomes handy and there are times where it does not support you in any way or form. Just like a hammer has no purpose and use for you when you are actually looking for a screwdriver. It’s a tool. Use it at the proper time. We have evolved with some strong instincts and we can trust these instincts in certain times. But for the most part these things get developed over time and by study. Find somebody who is 20 years ahead of you, he will be able to give you all the answers you need. There is always somebody who is older and wiser in this specific area. Quit going inward.

It’s funny because I remember when there was a time when I tried to find every answer all by myself. Now looking back, it’s so much easier to get the most interesting, most amazing, most intelligent, most accomplished people in the world to give me the answers. It saves time and energy. And saving energy in itself is some very deep-seated human urge in general. Just as Warren Buffet said: “We all learn by mistakes but it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes”. Stop going inward to find solutions. It’s a lie that the truth would be found within. Otherwise all the people in the world would be happy because they can “cure” themselves. They can educate themselves on how to live a happy, successful (in whatever form you measure success), wealthy (yes, we need money), and meaningful life.

Just look at your life: do you have everything you want?

You know what is inside of us? We have these powerful instincts we think we can trust in (and to some degree this is true), but these instincts have adapted over time and most of them are no longer useful in the modern world. We have evolved. The reason we become addicted to McDonald’s and all this crappy fast food, sugar, salt and fat stuff is because this behaviour was useful in our earlier times. In the past there was not much fat, sugar and salt around. And when we finally stumbled about some sweet stuff like honey (which was literally found in honeycombs and most likely once every month or even every year), of course we eat all of it. We had to because back then we didn’t know when we will be able to get enough to eat again. It was a scare resource. Our bodies needed the extra calories. In the modern world now you find yourself in an adapted mismatch. What is inside you is no longer of use for you. You can eat fat, sugar and salt in unlimited amounts now. Just like in “Super Size Me” this guy, Morgan Spurlock, eat at McDonald’s three times each day and nearly died. So, these instincts we have inside of us are in a way smart, but they are not always smart in the modern world. Going inward fails. What is better is to study and go outward for solutions.

And by study I mean to find a mentor. You can find them in books. Today. For five bucks. You want to know the BIGGEST problem with books and why people don’t like them? It’s because they are cheap. People don’t value stuff which costs little to nothing. Sad but true. You can make Bill Gates, Warren Buffet or even the Dalai Lama your mentor. You can do it today. You can just go and pick a book. There are a 125 million books published each year. Most of them are good. And even if only 10% of them are worth reading, that is still over 1 million books you can read and absorb knowledge from.

Study. Don’t go inward. Your body is maladapted to the modern world, especially when it comes to health. We evolved to have kids early, we are not meant to live long. That is why everybody loves the YOLO lifestyle so much. It’s in our instincts. Eating healthy is going against your evolved instincts, because you would not have lived long enough anyways. The same goes with savings. Why would you save money in the first place if you are not coming close to getting use of the compound interest benefits? Why would you save money when your instincts tell you that you will die young anyways? Going inward is going to make you die young. So if you are going to live long, it’s going against these impulses. Cigarettes, alcohol, fast food, sugar, salt: these are all short-term highs with little (or actually no) long-term value. Going inward for reassurance supports this short-term thinking behaviour. That is why these things work in the first place. You have to study to get out of your bad habits. You wanna be wealthy? The average person saves only 5 dollars for every 100 dollar they earn. You will die poor and you will be unhappy for your whole life. Of course money is not the cause of happiness, but the constant feeling of not being able to afford whatever you like to do is not cool either. You wanna have love and friendship? Well, in the modern world , we are surrounded by millions of people and going inward won’t teach you what to do to connect with them. Listening to your inward voice will tell you that we evolved to just cope with about 100-150 people around us. We are literally unable to handle these millions of people.

The answer is in study. If you want happiness, you sure won’t find it inward. There is a myth in finding happiness from within. We know what makes people happy. Take Mother Theresa for example: she accomplished more than probably anybody else in doing good. She said: “The reason that most people are not happy is because they are looking to create happiness for themselves. Happiness is external, you go out and you do things for other people and that is what makes you happy”. So meditate for healthiness, and a calm mind. There are apps out there. Meditate for 20 minutes a day and do some deep breathing. That’s all fine. But forget to take one month off “to find yourself”. Get rid of the “escape work” holiday lifestyle. Just like Confucius once said: “And remember, no matter where you go, there you are”. What you will find is very likely to delude and confuse yourself. The human mind is attracted to what is called the confirmation bias (confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs). So if you go off and you go into your own world for some months, what you really doing is you create a spiral, where you create some crazy thoughts. And if you go down the wrong track, you will go down even further. People look for evidence that they are right. It’s like we see what we want to see.

So, you wanna be more effective, healthier, happier, wealthy? It all comes from study. Amazing books. Amazing people. But, it takes humility. It’s hard for me, because I naturally have evolved with a strong form of ego. My pride gets into the way oftentimes. But there is a huge reward for admitting that I don’t know the answer. Take Alcohol Anonymous for example. The first question everybody there has to answer is: “What am I powerless to help myself?” That’s the mentality we have to adopt. When you take that, you get into the right mindset.

(Photo: Flickr)

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  • Danette

    Nice article, I like it!

  • Thomas Mondel

    Thank you!:)