Regardless of our physical location, we primarily live in our heads. Our feelings, ideas, and dreams, anything we hope to communicate – anything that makes you you – comes down to the unique settings of your one human brain.
But who chooses those settings? We might go through our entire lives without thinking about it.
Most often, it’s nobody. The defaults are set in the Stork Factory and shipped out at birth. We remain stuck on these factory settings for life: self-centeredness, ego, and frustration.
Evolutionarily, the factory settings have much to recommend them. Without self-centeredness and ego, we might recklessly expose ourselves to danger that could keep us from surviving long enough to reproduce. Without frustration, we might never change our lives for the better.
Those evolutionary considerations are still in play – our genes exist to perpetuate themselves, which ends up being a core driver of human behavior.
But for most of the people reading this page, survival is no longer the primary objective. The question isn’t whether you’ll live, but where and how and with whom.
For many of us who have achieved some measure of success (i.e., are actively alive and can read), there’s a certain emptiness to life on the factory settings.
We reach for the challenging, high-powered job and realize that it doesn’t fulfill us, so we bust our asses to get promoted to an even more prestigious position. We throw good money after bad. We listen to others above ourselves.
All the while, we’re wondering why the hell these things aren’t making us happy. They’re junk food, providing a burst of good feeling before we crash again minutes later. There’s no sustenance there, but the experience is, sadly, all too common.
We might hope to strike out in a better direction, but meaningful change often feels daunting and highly unlikely. Identifying and making a significant change can feel like bumbling around in a dark, unfamiliar room, running into walls and randomly stubbing our toes while wishing for just one goddamn intuitively placed light switch that could end this Chaplin-esque experience.
We’re dealing with a lot of shit here. So what, exactly, is someone supposed to do?
When you get a new phone or computer, the first thing you do is play around with it. You’d sign in to your accounts, download the apps you’ll need, and toy with the device settings. As you use it more and find annoying quirks, you’d tweak the settings again, repeating the process until you were satisfied. The hours you sink into optimizing something you use each day would pay you back tenfold down the line.
Most of us don’t know that we can (and should) be doing the same thing with our minds. The default settings are fine, but we’re capable of more: wisdom, perspective, and fulfillment.
I won’t accept my brain as a given in the equation of life. I want to evaluate the default settings and change the ones that don’t work for me.
To that end, I’ll scour the earth for the best, most interesting insights about how to upgrade our factory settings and sprinkle them with my own ideas from a decade of trial and error. This will be a communal location – a place to share what I’ve found and somewhere we can all strategize, experiment, and discuss.
Customizing our minds is the project of a lifetime. I don’t claim to have Figured It All Out. Instead, I’ll be your companion for the search – as Seneca suggested, not the doctor in the ward but the patient lying in the bed next to you.
To accomplish our objective, we’re going to visit lots of different places: psychology, finance, strategy, philosophy, and economics, to name a few.
All ideas are welcome here. It might take a while, but you and I can become the rulers of our skull-sized kingdoms.
Let’s build an uncommon brain together.
You’re still here! If you’ve made it this far, I think you’d like some of the latest posts. You can check out the full list of posts below.
- Turning 32: Insert Witty Subtitle HereI turn 32 today. You know how sometimes you reach another birthday and wonder where the time went? I don’t have that sense this year. That’s probably because a lot has changed since my last birthday. One thing hasn’t: I still hold myself accountable for producing a list of things I’ve (re-)learned during my recent … Read more
- How to Enjoy a Period of ChangeWe’ve all felt it. You become fascinated by a new idea and spend hours obsessively reading everything you can about it. You meet someone new and are blown away by them. You find a new job opportunity and refresh your email every fifteen seconds, hoping for an offer. Suddenly, the ground you walk on is … Read more
- Turning 31: Lessons From a Year of LockdownI’m turning 31 this year. Of course, nobody has big, audacious plans for their 31st birthday. But any birthday is a good time to pause and take stock of my life.
- Fear Setting: How to Do Great Big ThingsMy alarm beeped. I jolted awake as the early morning San Francisco sunlight cut through the fog and poured through the open blinds. I groggily pulled my bath towel snug around my shoulders in a futile attempt to guard against the cold of my heatless room.
- Why Your Imagination Will Ruin Your Future (and How to Stop It)Adolph Fischer was not a happy man. Fischer was a labor leader in the late 1800s and spent his short life in poverty. His primary claim to fame was being accused, based on perjured testimony, of inciting the Haymarket riots. He was nowhere near them.
- Playing Grand Theft LifeLet’s say I offer you a chance to peer into a tiny box. In the box, there’s a card. On the card, there’s a number. The number is how many hours you have left to live.
- How Likely Are You to Find a Life Partner?Common sense and anecdotal evidence suggest finding a life partner is a crapshoot. Like craps, it’s a game that few people win – a third of people never get married, and about 40% of married couples end up running for the exit at some point.
- Pruning the Possibility Tree: The Simplest Way to Make Better DecisionsI was an economics major in college, which means I heard the terms “rational consumer” and “opportunity cost” a lot.
- Minimize Your Urge to MaximizeA few months back, I listened to Pete Holmes interview Ryan Holiday on the You Made It Weird podcast. Holiday described his parents’ visit to see him in Texas, during which they planned a day trip to a town called Clovis.
- Mental Mentors“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application—not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech—and learn them so well that words become works.” Seneca
You can also check out my book notes for insights and takeaways from my ever-growing collection of reading material.