Know Thyself instead of chasing somebody else’s dream (car)

Know thyself

If I could give you just one piece of advice, that would be it. Get to know yourself.

-And be more mindful when reading (non-fiction) books.

That is the key to success, happiness and all things good in life.  If you don’t know who you are, there is no way you’d reach your goals – simply because you don’t really need what they are and instead go after somebody else’s objectives.

know thyself SpreZZaturian McLaren P1

If you know who you are and steer your life accordingly you won’t suddenly wake up afflicted by some random strain of age anxiety.

So, how do you know who you are and what you want (as well as what to do about it)?

By running ‘experiments’ and paying attention; in short by being mindful of your own reactions to various stimuli (and your environment).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Iron Man

Experimenting means trying many different things in real life, but it also means reading, watching, listening, discussing and thinking. It means finding role models; mentors even.

Most of all you need to ignore the siren calls of the herd, the temptation to climb the closest hill and the marketing noise of modern society.

E.g., you neither want nor need a ridiculously large mansion, Iron Man’s cliffhanger villa (above), Rafael Nadal’s watch (below), or the baddest and raddest super car by McLaren (the P1 pictured above). That’s the “Jones” in you talking, that Beta character yearning to be Alpha.

know thyself SpreZZaturian

 

Do you have a megadream?

I can’t say I was never just as programmed regarding what success is supposed to be. Thankfully, I stopped short of buying this church in central Stockholm (picture below), making it into a one bedroom studio with a 30×30 ft bed in the middle.

It used to be my “mega dream” though, inspired by Scrooge McDuck who started his sleeping career in a drawer and eventually upgraded to the world’s largest bed – as the world’s loneliest duck.

know thyself SpreZZaturian Gustaf Vasa church

Before learning my lesson, I bought an expensive Swiss watch (Hublot Big Bang Rose Gold), a few cars (BMW, Porsche, Ferrari 360 Spider, Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder) and a downtown penthouse that is borderline too big for me and my girlfriend (2350 sq ft). Luckily, she vacuums.

I even test drove a 55 ft Itama yacht (pic.) before getting the message. Right there and then with my hand on the throttle and steering wheel, it was painfully obvious that the yacht was way more boring than my 7ft water scooter (Seadoo RXP).

know thyself SpreZZaturian Itama 55

-not so fun

 

Know Thyself SpreZZaturian Seadoo RXP waterscooter

-fun! (yep, that’s me… breaking the law, breaking the law)

So, it took me some ten years of luxury and conspicuous consumption, before I realized it wasn’t things I wanted. In fact, those things stole more energy than they gave me – in particular the cars (and actually the scooter too). I eventually realized that I was brainwashed into impressing others, even if it felt as if I really wanted those things.

 

Real remorse

I think Buyer’s Remorse isn’t that much about the anticipation being better than the actual purchase. I think it’s simply a case of paying for the wrong things, i.e., the remorse is a real and true signal of a poor decision. Now, that is something to take with you the next time you’re visiting a car retailer.

You definitely don’t want to bathe in money (ew!), and yet you can easily find money bathing pics on Instagram.

know thyself SpreZZaturian happy times money bathing

-happy guy?

Oh, and I’m too so guilty of throwing cash around in pictures – and as embarrassed as I am about it (on my Instagram account), it’s still even more important to stress what a ludicrously second hand behavior it is. Living for others is a surefire way of making the least out of life.

There is nothing wrong in being or becoming rich, or in optimizing whatever it is you do. What’s wrong is if money, fame and status are your primary objectives, without a thought to why you want it or how you’re going to use it as a means to fulfilling your true desires.

 

When am I happy?

When reading a particularly good book. When listening to music. When understanding science. When playing with my dog or my friends. Gym-related happiness: (breaking plateaus, in the sauna, showering, eating and resting afterward), when expressing free will, when writing down a worthwhile thought, when experiencing moderate danger, when falling, when laughing, when completing projects: taking out trash, hanging a painting, writing a book, installing a router.

I enjoy heights, views, beauty, the sky, the vastness of space, exerting myself…

In short I’m happy when I use my brain for discerning patterns, and when I’m using my body to its fullest. Simple as that.

I don’t expect you to appreciate the same things as I do, and I fully understand if you want to at least try the money game of wealth, things, fame and status before focusing on satisfying yourself. However, I hope you take my experiences into account, and keep seriously questioning whether you are doing things for you or for somebody else. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself faster than I did.

 

Summary

  • Study yourself in as diverse situations as possible
  • Pay attention to your primary reactions
  • Avoid vicariousness; pleasing others can be a means to an end but not a goal in itself
  • As a practical example: When coveting something, try to imagine what it would be like actually having the item in your possession. Pinpoint what joy or use it is supposed to give you.
  • And as a bonus, since I recommended reading as a way of analyzing yourself: To get the most out of reading, ask yourself during reading “What am I learning? Am I making progress toward my goals? How does this fit into or alter my body of knowledge”

I never said it was easy:

 know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 1know thyself SpreZZaturian Hulk 2

By the way, the above strip was my first encounter with the “know thyself” meme, in the early 1980’s. It flew right over my head though.

admin

22 Comments

  1. But do you think you would ever have this realization if you had not become rich?

    I’m not Rich (yet) and I know that if I do not try my hardest to become rich, I will have a feeling of regret for the rest of my life, even if I pursued all my passions as a middle class citizen. (a nagging feeling that I could have done more).

    First I want to realize my full potential and (hitting 35-38) hopefully i’ll have enough money to only do what I love for the rest of my life.

    • Impossible to say. I just might have drooled over sports cars my whole life and become bitter…

      On the other hand, I never thought about riches, status or stuff before becoming an analyst. Now that I’ve retired I’ve kind of just returned to my old ways of working out and reading about technology and sci-fi. That made me happy when I was young and it still does.

      Still, we need food, shelter and play – and being dirt poor doesn’t help. However, having millions is unnecessary for doing stuff that is really cool and fun. I think all can learn to realize that quite quickly – if primed for that ‘truth’. It took me 10 years and three sports cars. perhaps you can do it in 5 years and only one sports car?

      I encourage you to try. It’s good in itself to try things. I don’t think it will be money driving you in the end, but perhaps a drive to compete to be the best at something (very human, very Darwin and Dawking). Trying to be the best you can be is a very healthy drive. Do follow that drive, but keep an open mind as to WHAT it is you want to do your utmost in. Is it really money in the bank or the cover of Forbes…

      • Thank you for your reply.
        Now if you had not become an analyst and only worked out, read about technology and sci-fi your entire life, you might never have realized how happy you were doing those things. But because you became an analyst you gained perspective and realized that what you used to enjoy is what makes you the happiest.
        I think it’s necessary to take that journey to become a man and then you can return back home when you realize that what you had all along is enough.
        My point is that you’re mentioning a lot of “small” activities which makes you happy, but I still think that the greatest happiness comes from having a purpose and trying your best to accomplish that (which you did by mastering hedge funds and better your person to james bond-like proportions :D).
        Would you have done it differently knowing what you know now? I mean instead of becoming an analyst and making bank, do you wish you studied programming or robotics etc. and maybe earned less?

        ———–
        I think you hit my desire spot on. I’m not in the game for the money in itself and definitely not fame (I’m introverted). I do however have a very strong urge to master something. It’s not the failure of not getting rich that pains me but the failure of not trying, and not giving my all. If I give it my all and fail, I’ll probably be just as happy as if I did get rich because I know that I did all that I could.
        But as you’re saying one should constantly keep an open mind to what goals you truly want and will “kill” yourself to try and accomplish. (Thank you for that).

        ————
        An example of a superficial desire:
        I love cars and dream of owning an AMG Mercedes. I have asked myself why I need this car?
        1. I love driving fast
        2. The feeling of overtaking slow annoying people in traffic is an adrenaline rush to me. And in a way I guess I feel better than other people when doing that.
        It sounds ridiculous but I still want it, badly! Is that wrong?
        Yes it’s a superficial desire but I’m 99% sure that every time I take a drive in that AMG Mercedes my happiness level will increase. (While studying I used to drive a Mercedes taxi as a part time job and never tired of doing it).

        On a side note, I really enjoy reading your blog. Thank you for taking the time to “give back” to others.

        • True, I might not have, but I’m sure I would have “reached” in some other way. I loved chemistry and explosions, as well as teaching. Before deciding on Finance I was very close to studying chemistry instead. I might have become the real Walter White (Breaking Bad) – except the mustache and the cancer. Or, I would have continued programming, either making games or more productive apps. Considering what happened between 1990-2000 and my head start I’m sure I would have had opportunities to stretch my ambitions in that field as well.

          But, sure, I agree that the very act of reaching before coming home again is important. My point is just that you be mindful of what you are reaching for and be ready to change goals.

          I’d like to think I would have liked working with programming – coding probably would have suited me best and given me opportunities to create freely whatever I wanted in virtual space. I think I would have been happy no matter if I made money or not that way. Had I become a chemistry teacher, though, I definitely would have had to become Walter White or something similar (at least creating cool stuff for myself or coming up with groundbreaking innovations) to not get age anxiety at 40.

          Cars: I know the feeling. I’ve driven recklessly with a cheap BMW in winter and just as recklessly with my Porsche and Ferrari both on public streets and on tracks. Once I got to the Lamborghini however, tracks got boring, and tighter traffic police work made public street racing all but impossible. Besides, I didn’t get the same rush anymore. I realized that rollercoasters and bungy jumping was way more fun, as well as killing it on my waterscooter (0-60mph in 4 seconds in just bathing shorts – and drunk at that), but even that got boring after a while.

          However, if you really like it, if it makes you feel good, if it’s your desire; go ahead. But pay attention and heed the signals, as soon as your interest wanes (if it does)

          • Yeah I heard about all the speed traps in Sweden. Soon they’ll implement something similar in Denmark – where I’m from :(

            Thank you for the insight. It definitely gave me something to think about. Unfortunately I also think I’m going to grow tired of a fast car after a while, the way you describe it. Yet I still want it, but now I attach less importance to attaining it and lower my expectations for the happiness a quick car will provide. (And I’m definitely going to try out a water scooter that sounds awesome).

            I’m a newly graduated engineer and for a while I have been oscillating between doing everything to get rich (start own company as soon as possible) or specialize in the field of electrical engineering or alternative energy.

            After reading your insights I’m definitely leaning more towards specialization. Maybe I’m lucky enough to be able to merge both directions.

          • If I were you, I’d get a fast car if I yearned for it. At the same time I wouldn’t marry myself to it, but be open to growing tired of it.

            A water scooter was amazingly fun for quite some time. But when the sobriety police started getting aggressive some of the joy went out the window. I also grew a bit tired of the very act of driving it. That said, the first few years were unbeatable in terms of the fun you can have with speed, acceleration, g-forces and water. It accelerated just as fast as my Lamborghini but you still only fractured a rib or so falling off in your underwear. Amazing.

            It’s a balance between riches and fun. I’d say a good balance is fun 80-90% and ambition 10-20%. You shouldn’t go to long just trying to get rich and missing out on life. On the other hand, as a trained engineer you have the capacity for having fun, doing good, AND becoming financially well off.

  2. Yesterday I flew my personal helicopter to my private yacht.

    My ‘personal helicopter’ is a 9″ remote control helicopter I was flying with my kids.
    My ‘private yacht’ is a 20′ sailboat on a trailer in the backyard, waiting patiently for some wind…

    Both activities encourage mindfulness which I am still trying to cultivate.

    -philip

    • I so like this comment.

      I promise you, it’s more fun at that scale than with a 9m helicopter and 20m sailboat. Can be dangerous too.

      Play, focus, then 5 minutes later head in for dinner, with almost zero carbon footprint or time delay.

  3. Do you have a megadream?

    The simple question which could solve most of the world’s problems!!!!!

    I think you hit the nail on the head here, Mr Mikael Musk.

    The problem for most people is they simply don’t consider what their “megadream” is.

    Furthermore, if they actually do sit down and think about “who they are” (IE the selfish dream every single person has inside), they are unable to let their mind wander to the depths required to really bring it out.

    Your “megadream” is the answer to EVERYTHING.

    Only when you’re able to cultivate a reason for you to do things will you ever be able to not give a fuck long enough to actually accomplish something new (the crux of all achievement).

    And how do you “get” a megadream, you ask?

    It’s simple.

    Imagine if your life were a movie.
    — Who would you be?

    Would you be the meek, mild-mannered accountant?
    Would you be the ambitious lawyer?
    Would you be the rampaging demagogue?
    Would you be the playboy? The wealthy business magnate who co-founded Paypal?
    Would you be the military genius?

    Everyone has an immortal inside waiting to leap free.
    The difference is the best people create the conditions for that inner beast to come forth.

    … and be under no illusion.
    Your megadream will be the most selfish thing ever.

    You want to fuck models? Have a huge house? Have people WORSHIP you?

    That’s where the “dream” starts. The “selfish singularity”.

    Ironically, once you discover this part of your character, the way to realize it is through doing “good” with it. Kind of like a black hole binding a galaxy together.

    Once you understand what it is you really want, you’ll understand why you do things in certain ways. Don’t be afraid of it. Be selfish & use it for good.

    • That’s where the “dream” starts. The “selfish singularity”

      -Beautiful, Rich.

      Musk didn’t stop at ‘mega’ he built a gigafactory :)

      Musk is a really good example of somebody pursuing his dreams, doing good, and not caring about the money. I mean, he was a hair width from losing all his PayPal money, due to pursuing his dream of studying rocket technology and wanting to fly people to Mars and beyond… (I’m not a complete Musk fan though, but there are facets of his story that are made for mimicking.

        • From my interpretation, it’s the all in‘s.

          Many enterprising folks have a “hit” and then sink away into consultancy, “board member” or VC roles.

          The best remain in the gauntlet. Musk risked everything again and again. That’s the most admirable aspect of his outward story, whatever his underlying intentions.

          • The ALL IN is one thing, a very good thing. When you are all in, you have flow, you are one with the task, with life.

            Another is wanting to study and understand challenging topics in order to further his goals. It’s hard to say whether he found direct pleasure in reading rocket science or not. However, he still did it, not being content with realizing on others (which is a third thing: taking direct responsibility for his success).

        • He seems more driven by DOING than by intermediary goals or by-products (such as money, fame, status).

          Not only that, what he has chosen (or likes) to do are things that benefit other people (even the human species as such).

          Today I tweeted that “The definition of Rich is being able to DO WHAT YOU LIKE”, meaning you can take the roundabout over money and then try to buy happiness. But you can also try a more direct route, simply doing that which gives you meaning and pleasure – manifesting riches hard to achieve any other way.

  4. I don’t think you’re taking Socrates seriously enough. Know thyself does not mean, “Investigate what you kind of like,” though I completely agree with you, that’s a worthwhile endeavour to avoid getting caught in a certain kind of trap.

    What Socrates was really saying was, “Investigate this “I” experience all the way down to the bones until you know what it is.” Not stopping halfway to say, “OK, I’ve nailed it down!” It’s a self-destructive command really. “Know thyself.”

    Not the character you, who likes to eat duck breast salads with risotto and ride jetskis, but the real you, your experience of existence moment to moment. What do you know for certain about yourself that isn’t a fantasy story? Understand that, and everything’s gravy.

    • Hi Cody and thank you for contributing.

      That was very eloquently and succinctly put, and I couldn’t agree with you more.

      I really don’t propose to stop at simply buying cheaper toys and be happy at that, and it’s unfortunate if that his how I come across. Rather, exactly as you expressed, I consider substituting one means of acceleration and joy with another just the first step of but one facet on the long journey toward dissecting your being. I just hope to open at least one mind to seeing that money, fame and status is not necessarily a worthwhile dream, but a mirage. Once questioning the premise behind the media and consumer society more steps toward understanding the self could be considered.

      I too, will express that distinction more explicitly going forward.

      Anyway, I sincerely appreciate that you took the time to point this out and I’m sure others who read your comment will benefit from it.

  5. Socrates was a very cool dude, err, I meant, a sage.
    I’m writing a series of books about pursuing success and I started from self-analysis. My train of thought in one of the first chapters: Socrates=Kindle device in your hand, that’s how cool knowing thyself is.

    Mikael, you not only have a great posts,you also attract the right people. Like on Ludvig’s SGM the discussion in comments is as valuable as the post itself.
    That’s impressive.

    • I’m often awed by how some people could be so cool and creative hundreds or thousands of years ago. Some of them must really have taken to heart the idea of actually using your time to think instead of complaining about boredom

  6. Finding myself in a place where thing aren´t important anymore. Goal have been met, games have been played. Reinventing yourself is essential, and truly knowing yourself is the grounds. Thanks for sharing your insights ” Mindfulness”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.