282 – Timeless Principles For Handling a Changing World

Far too often we’re focused on the things that change in this world and in our lives. But what are the things that don’t change? Today I want to talk about things we can build on that can help us through the ever flowing tide of changes that happen in our lives.

"Everything is in a state of flux, and nothing remains the same. So be prepared for change, and embrace it as a natural part of life."

— Marcus Aurelius

What Doesn’t Change?

The other day I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast and he was interviewing Morgan Housel, a personal finance expert who just finished up his book called Same as Ever: A Guide to What Never Changes. In the interview, Morgan tells a story about how a CEO was chatting with Warren Buffet, arguably the greatest investor of all time. The CEO was asking him back in 2009 if America would be able to recover from the financial crisis.

Warren turned to the CEO and asked him, “Do you know what the best selling candy bar was in 1962?”

The CEO responded, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers. Do you know what the best selling candy bar is right now?”

The CEO responded again, “No.”

Warren said, “Snickers.”

Now, this story is emblematic of Warren Buffet’s investing philosophy: find the things that don’t change and invest in those. Far too often investors are betting on what they think will change in the future. Because there are so many factors in our lives and the world that impact how things will turn out, humans are not great at predicting the future.

The reason this story struck me is because this is very much how I view stoicism. Stoicism for me is about focusing on the things that don’t change, so that you can handle the things that do. Stoicism is not a set of rigid prescriptions that you need to follow. It is not dependent on a charismatic leader handing down dictates of how you should live. It is based on tested and timeless principles and ideas that have lasted through the ages and can be applied to every aspect of your life.

So today, I want to go over some of the principles that I find useful in my own life, and hope that you can find them as useful as I do.

Understanding What is Within Our Control

"The only thing we can control is our own actions."

— Epictetus

In our daily lives, we encounter situations that are beyond our control, like traffic jams, bad weather, or the actions of other people. Because they are outside of our control, the more we try to control them, the more we stress out and create unnecessary anxiety. Instead of fretting over these, Stoicism teaches us to focus on our reactions to the things that are outside of our control.

For instance, we can use the time in a traffic jam to listen to a podcast or audiobook, turning a frustrating situation into a productive one. We can enjoy and appreciate the storms or heat waves that nature brings our way. We can improve our communication skills and our patience when others make choices that impact our lives in a negative way.

Accepting Change as Inevitable

“Change is the only constant in life."

— Heraclitus

Change, whether it's in a job, relationship, or environment, is inevitable. The more we try to resist change, the harder we make things on ourselves. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not and we have the choice to embrace it or resist it. If we look at change as the thing that makes life interesting and worth living, then we stop fearing it, and embrace it.

Seeking Growth Over Comfort

“What stands in the way becomes the way."

— Marcus Aurelius

Challenges are not roadblocks, but pathways to personal growth. If there were no challenges in your life, you would never grow. The way to get better at something is working through it. Avoiding challenges doesn’t teach you how to get better at something. If you are constantly avoiding anything that is challenging or uncomfortable, then you are passing up opportunities to grow. This is why courage is one of the foundational stoic virtues because it take courage to forsake comfort and seek growth.

Practicing Gratitude

"It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

— Seneca

Much of our unhappiness comes from our feelings of what we think is lacking in our lives. We think that by changing our circumstances we’ll be happier. We often think about how much happier we’ll be when we get the house or the car or the new gadget that we want. Our whole consumer culture and the marketing behind it is based on making you believe that your life will be so much better if you go out and acquire all these new and shiny things.

But the thing is, our our circumstances and possessions don’t change who we are as a person. Sure, some circumstances are more comfortable than others, but we can’t always change our circumstance, and our possessions are mere objects and in the longer arch of our lives we are simply borrowing them since we can’t take them with us when die. When we learn to be grateful with whatever we have and whatever our life situation is, then we are able to feel content with our lives at any moment.

As an example, I recently got rid of most of my possessions and sold my house. I gave away most of my possessions to friends and others and I’m currently traveling and living out of two suitcases and a backpack. My level of happiness is very much the same as it was when I owned a house and had lots of stuff. I do feel a greater sense of freedom not having all those possessions, but I still worry about many of the same things in my life that I did before. Having more or less possessions hasn’t changed me as a person.

Embracing the Present Moment

"The present is all we have; live it fully."

— Marcus Aurelius

When we worry to much about the future or the past then we are missing living in the present moment. The past is already gone and cannot be changed. The future is unknowable and will more likely be nothing like what we thought it would be. When we worry too much about the future, we create anxiety over things that may not even happen. If we dwell too much on the past, we live in regret about things that we can’t do anything about.

This has been especially important for me to practice over the last few weeks. Like I said, I sold my house and I’m traveling and trying to figure out what to do next in my life. Other than plans to head over to Europe and see what kinds of opportunities I can make for myself, I don’t have a clear idea of what my future will be. It’s very exciting, but when I dwell too much on trying to figure out what my ultimate direction and goals should be, I get anxious and a bit stressed about it. When I focus on relaxing and enjoying where I am and what I’m doing in the present moment, I keep myself in a better mindset knowing that I don’t have to have it all planned out. I know that I can handle whatever comes up, when it comes up.

Cultivating Inner Resilience

"You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

— Marcus Aurelius

Life will invariably present challenges, but our inner response to these challenges is key. Cultivating a resilient mindset helps us bounce back from setbacks. Having this kind of inner resilience helps you to take in challenging and frustrating setbacks with calmness and a clear mind. You’re able to step up and take action rather than fretting or losing you cool. When things go wrong, you’re able to roll with the punches and make the best of any situation.

For instance, if you fail to achieve a goal, instead of being harsh on yourself, analyze what went wrong, learn from it, and prepare to try again with a stronger, more informed approach.

Practicing Compassion and Understanding

"Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself."

— Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism teaches the importance of empathy and understanding towards others. When dealing with difficult people, try to understand their perspectives and circumstances. Far too often we’re quick to rush to judgements or make assumptions about others intentions. And even if others have bad intentions towards you, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat them poorly.

Part of living a principled life is to live your principles not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. This could mean being patient with a friend who is struggling, offering help instead of criticism, or simply listening without judgment. Practicing compassion not only aids in personal peace but also fosters a positive environment around you.


The world is constantly changing and it often feels like the pace of change is increasing. It’s easy to feel anxious about the overwhelming flow of information and bad news. This is why it’s important to anchor yourself to principles that stay the same over time. Since it’s very challenging to accurately predict what impact changes will bring, the more we are grounded in the things that don’t change, the better we’ll be able to handle the things that do.

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
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Thanks again for listening.


281 – Self Discipline is Self Care

What do you think of when you hear the term “self-care”? Do you think of indulgences like triple chocolate ice cream or a bottle of wine? When you think of self-discipline, do you think of depriving yourself of the things you enjoy? Today I want dig a little deeper and think about what self-care really means and why it’s important for us to take time out and pay some attention to ourselves.

“The mind must be given relaxation. It will rise improved and sharper after a good break. Just as rich fields must not be forced to produce a crop year after year, so constant work on the anvil will fracture the force of the mind.”

— Seneca

The Stress of Life

Life can be very stressful. There are so many things that we need to take care of. Between work, family, school, social life, hobbies and other activities there are a lot of things vying for our time and attention. Add to that the complexity of modern life, societal stress and political divisiveness, life can often feel overwhelming. We often feel burned out and feel like we don’t have the energy to work on anything else outside of work, or family.

When we get into this kind of rut, life can often feel like we’re just stuck in the same loop day after day. We never feel like we really have time to work on some of the goals outside of work that we might want to accomplish. This is often why so many people get home from work and all they want to do is just chill out and watch Netflix then head to bed. Others end up distracting themselves with video games, social media, as well alcohol or other substances to help distract them in hopes of reducing their stress.

Over the past few years though it’s become part of the zeitgeist to recognize burnout and to work on self-care. As people find that they aren’t handling the stresses of modern life very well, they’re finding ways to be deliberate about carving out downtime and activities that help them relax and rejuvenate.


Often people use self-care as an excuse to overindulge or to do things that aren’t necessarily good for them, and might even have the opposite effect. It’s even become popular on social media for people to post about how they’re indulging in something and calling it “self-care”. Drinking too much, eating unhealthy foods, binge eating, or buying things you don’t need are all habits that people justify with the term “self-care”. The problem with these habits is that they only bring short term pleasure. They don’t provide the rest and rejuvenation that is truly need. They also don’t address underlying issues and often cause long term problems.

Self-Care is Self-Discipline

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."

— Eleanor Brownn

So, I want to propose the idea that self-care is more than just indulging ourselves in things that make us feel better in the moment, but rather that self-care is when we do what is good for us in the long term. It’s about taking care of ourselves so that we are better equipped to handle the other more demanding parts of our lives. It’s about knowing when and how to rest and recover so that we can push hard when we need to while avoiding burnout.

A prime example of understanding why rest is so important is when you’re building muscle. When you lift weights you’re actually breaking down your muscles, and your body then rebuilds the muscles. Your body needs a certain amount of stress in order to get stronger, but it’s in the rest periods between workouts that your body rebuilds the muscles. Life is very much the same way. We need stressors and challenges to grow, but we also need to rest so that can face those challenges at our best.

Know Thyself

Self-awareness is the start of any change in your life. It takes time and effort not only to be self-aware but also to actually do something about the things that you learn about yourself through that awareness. You need to understand why you do the things you do. Are you drinking too much to avoid some emotional pain? Are you playing hours of video games each night to stave off loneliness? If you’re unaware of your own thoughts, motivations, habits, and behaviors, you are unable to change. You cannot change from a place of ignorance.

The reason self-awareness is a core part of self-care is that in order to choose things that help you to take care of yourself, you need to know yourself. It’s not just about knowing what to avoid, but about understanding the things that you should pursue. You need to know what is actually helpful for you so you can live your life in a way that helps you thrive. Self-awareness is the first step to developing self-discipline.


Developing self-discipline is a form of self-care because it helps you prioritize your own needs, values, and goals. Self-discipline is not about denying yourself pleasure or forcing yourself to do things you don't want to do. It's about making choices that are aligned with your long-term well-being and goals. It’s about making choices that you know are in your best interest.

When you exercise self-discipline, you're showing yourself that you care about yourself and your future. Self-discipline is built on several of the core stoic virtues. You need wisdom to know what things you should do that will help you in the long run. It takes courage to be willing to do those things. Lastly, it take moderation to know when to push yourself and when to pull back.

For example, when you overeat or eat unhealthy food for extended periods of time your body will not work at its best. When your digestive system is not working well, it causes low energy levels, gastrointestinal distress, as well as diminishing your cognitive abilities. While the exact mechanisms behind this link to cognitive functioning are still being investigated, researchers believe that the gut microbiome plays a role in cognitive function through its impact on the immune system, neurotransmitter production, and overall inflammation in the body. Because your body is the vehicle through which you experience the world, the better your body functions the more you are able to enjoy your life.

Think Long

How many times have you done something impulsive in the moment only to later regret it? I know that I have made plenty of bad decisions when I was tired, stressed out, or not feeling well. Practicing self-discipline and doing the things that help your physical and mental health in the long run leads to a more balanced and fulfilling life. The better you feel overall, the more likely it is that you’ll make clearheaded decisions that benefit you in the long-term and help you avoid impulsive or short-sighted decisions that can cause regret or distress later on.

Make Proactive Choices

“You must learn to be gentle with yourself and to take time to renew your strength, both physically and mentally.”

—Marcus Aurelius

So what can we do to help improve our self-discipline and take better care of ourselves? How can we truly practice self-care?

Self-care means that we actively take a role in improving our mental and physical health, not just avoiding things that don’t serve us. For example, this year I have worked really hard to improve my health. While I’ve cut down on drinking alcohol and avoid things with high amounts of sugar, I’ve also changed my diet to include a lot more fruits and vegetables. I’ve worked with my doctor on some outstanding health issues, and have been working with my chiropractor on some old injuries. I workout several times a week and walk or hike on the other days. I also make sure that I get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Now understand that doing pleasurable things like taking a bubble bath or enjoying a glass of wine can be self-care. Resting and enjoying things that we like is rejuvenating. It really comes down to making choices that will benefit us in the long term. Sometimes that means choosing what is good for us rather than what brings us immediate pleasure. For example, making sure you get to bed at a reasonable hour rather than staying up late playing video games.

Say No

“If you are tired, rest. It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have been working hard and need to recharge.”

— Epictetus

"Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won't accept."

— Anna Taylor

Often we get overwhelmed because we try to fulfill all kinds of expectations that others have for us. Often that is due to our culture or family. Expectations of how we’re supposed to behave, think, and live our lives. Whether that’s demands at work that are unreasonable, expectations from our families or friends, or even pressures from society as whole, learning to say no and setting boundaries is one of the most important things that we can do to take care of ourselves.

This can be really challenging at times because we often feel selfish when we don’t uphold the expectations of others, but doing so helps you to show up in the world as your best self. We have limited amounts of time and energy so learning to be protective of them is important to maintain your mental and physical health.

Big Decisions

This can also mean that we question the choices that we’re making in our lives overall. If our job is constantly leaving us drained and stressed out, maybe we need to reconsider our career choice or look for a position that is better suited for us and improves the quality of our lives. By understanding our motivations behind our career choice, and knowing what we truly want, we can make choices that suit us better and help us live happier lives. Getting your mental and physical health in order can help you make better life decisions. When you don’t feel like you’re in survival mode, you’re more likely to make good long term choices.


Some times we think of self-discipline as something that is not pleasant and at times means that we miss out on the good things in life. But really it’s about choosing to do what is good for you rather than what is just pleasurable. It’s about choosing to prioritize your physical and mental health so that you can live your best life. It doesn’t mean forgoing pleasure, but just being intentional with your choices. Practicing self-discipline can help you maintain healthy habits, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep, which are all important aspects of self-care. Practicing self-discipline is the best way to truly practice self-care.

Hello friends! Thanks for listening.
Want to take these principles to the next level? Join the Stoic Coffee House Community

Stop by the website at where you can sign up for our newsletter, and buy some great looking shirts and hoodies at the Stoic Coffee Shop.

Like the theme song? You can find it here from my alter ego. 🙂

Find me on instagram or twitter.

Lastly if you know of someone that would benefit from or appreciate this podcast, please share it. Word of mouth is the best way to help this podcast grow.
Thanks again for listening.


280 – Interview with Author Ryan Bush

This weeks episode is an interview with Ryan Bush. Ryan is the Author of several books including Designing The Mind and Become Who You Are. He takes a design approach to structuring your thinking to help you approach your life in a more logical and rational way. I really enjoyed our conversation and hope you will as well. The following is a transcript of our conversation.

Interview with Ryan Bush

Erick: Hello friends, my name is Eric Cloward and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take an aspect of Stoicism and break it down to its most important points. I talk about my experiences, both my successes and my failures, and hope that you can learn something from it all within the space of a coffee break.

Now this week's episode is a little bit different. This is an interview episode. So I spoke this week with Ryan A. Bush. Ryan A. Bush is the author of the book, Designing the Mind, and also of the upcoming book, Become Who You Are. I had a very interesting conversation with Ryan. We talked about all kinds of things, like how the mind works, how to change how you think about things, and also how self esteem and lower self esteem can be actually a good thing to help you recognize when you are.

in a space where you need to re evaluate who you are. I also talked about depression and what that means and what depression can teach us. So I hope that you enjoyed this conversation. I really enjoyed my time with Ryan and here we go. Welcome Ryan. Welcome to the podcast. So, um, I received a, I guess an email from your partner a couple of weeks ago about doing actually a couple of months ago when I was able to get this organized and thank you for allowing me to push it off from last time.

That was the day they were doing the inspection on the house. And so, it's, it's one of those things where they, they don't, you don't schedule an inspection, they schedule you for an inspection, and you go, yes, sir. Okay. Um, so, I pretty much didn't, I didn't have much of a choice on it, so thanks for being flexible about that.

I really appreciate it.

Ryan: Yeah, no problem. And, and thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk with you.

Erick: So, I'll do the intro. Uh, for this and, uh, kind of talk about your books and stuff like that. Um, but the one book that we have, that we've been discussing, or at least I've been reading and was sent to me by you, was Become Who You Are.

Um, so we're going to discuss, obviously that's, I think will be the main point of discussion today. Um, but before we get started, uh, go ahead and tell us a bit about yourself. Yeah,

Ryan: so I'm the founder of Designing the Mind. My first book is a book of the same name, Designing the Mind, The Principles of Psychitecture.

And so I kind of write books and programs and products all centered around psychological growth, self mastery, wisdom, drawing from a lot of ancient philosophy like Stoicism and also modern psychology. Um, and then, uh, you know, my formal background, I guess, is in product design. So I've worked with a number of startups designing physical products and, and, uh, software and that kind of thing.

Um, but I've kind of brought a lot of that design thinking and mindset to, uh, psychological design or what I call psychitecture. So that's kind of how things started out. And then, uh, this new book, Become Who You Are sort of started coming into view a few years ago, uh, based on. Both a lot of years of research and some of my own experiences that kind of, um, you know, put some new things into perspective, clicks, clicked a few puzzle pieces in place about why happiness works the way it does and, uh, connected in with a lot of, a lot of these philosophical and psychological perspectives.

So I'm excited to get it out there and share it.

Erick: Very nice. So one of the things I did notice about it is that, um, there's definitely, definitely kind of an architectural feel to this. Um, I think you're a bit like me in that you have a very strong analytical side, but also a highly creative side at the same time, which makes an interesting balance.

And that's, that's why software development for me, when I fell into it actually worked surprisingly well because I was always good at math. And, but I was also big into music and so I found that throughout my career, if I found somebody who was good at math and a good musician, they were more than likely going to be a good programmer.

It was kind of those things because you need that analytical side of being able to organize things you need to understand variables, you need to understand logic, but then you need to be able to understand abstract thinking in a way that if you're too literal, software development can be incredibly challenging.

Ryan: Yeah, you know, that's, that's one of the reasons I kind of have taken the path that I have, because I thought about, you know, going into academia based on my interest in philosophy and psychology. And I ended up deciding now that that gets the analytical part, but it doesn't really get the creative part.

Uh, and I really need both to thrive. And so that led me into product design, but it's also sort of led me beyond there. Uh, to a way I could integrate those kind of philosophical, intellectual interests with the design thinking. And so my work is very visual, typically I use, uh, visual metaphors to explain ideas and create a lot of illustrations for it.

And in this one, I'll go ahead and say that the core visual, uh, centerpiece of the book is this, uh, sort of dimensional framework that I use to talk about our. Wellbeing. And so you can imagine, uh, there's like a chessboard sitting in front of you. And it's, you know, basically a two dimensional thing where you've got this, the, the X axis, which is, uh, pleasure and pain, where you're trying to navigate your life, maximizing pleasure in the moment, minimizing pain.

And then you've got the y axis, which sort of refers to loss and gain. Um, and so, basically what I argue is this is the map that we naturally use to navigate our lives. We try to maximize pleasure, but sometimes we'll sacrifice pleasure and go through some pain in order to experience more long term gain.

And that, um, sometimes serves us well, and other times we end up getting what we wanted and saying, oh, this doesn't really make me any happier. right? People win the lottery and they say, Oh, this didn't really change anything for me. Uh, or even something terrible. Seemingly they lose their legs and they end up adapting very quickly and saying they're just as happy as they were before.

Um, so, so why is it that we're following this map that seems to be good, uh, for navigating our lives? And it keeps kind of, uh, surprising us at important times. I kind of go back to. the Stoics in, in talking about this because the Stoics made this very important distinction, I think is often neglected in a lot of modern Stoic work.

Uh, we talk about how, you know, you, you don't have to worry about the things you can't control and that's very therapeutic. But we don't talk as much about this virtue concept that was really at the heart of the, the Stoic work. Um, I mean, really, they argued that all of these external circumstances in our lives are indifferent.

They don't actually improve our lives, and we mistakenly believe that they do. Um, and so they create this distinction, and they say virtue is what actually matters. And, and while my virtue theory differs in some smaller ways from that of the Stoics. Ultimately, it's that same core distinction between virtue and what is indifferent to us that's really at the center point of my philosophy.

And so if you imagine taking that two dimensional chessboard and extruding mountains and valleys out of it, so that now it's like a three dimensional topographical chessboard. Essentially, what I argue is that virtue or even, you know, admirability, since virtue kind of has this outdated, preachy connotation today, if you think about the kind of actions that make you proud of who you are, that you would admire in someone else, this is essentially what I argue is the third dimension.

This is what moves you higher up in the mountains of virtue or lower in the valleys of virtue. And this is what's actually pulling the strings of our happiness. When we think that it's, you know, the pleasure and gain that, that sort of describes our lives on paper, uh, or our lives on paper, uh, it's actually not even Closely related to that.

It's all about how well we're able to bring out our unique personal virtues and embody the person that we would most admire through our actions that we actually get happier or less happy. And I actually extend this all the way down to clinical depression, uh, and sort of a sliding mood scale and up to eudaimonia or that peak mental state that the Stoics and other Greek thinkers wrote about.

Yeah, there was one thing I did

Erick: notice in there and I kind of circling back on something you said that oftentimes in modern stoicism, they do focus just on, you know, avoiding, it's a lot of avoidance as opposed to what you're talking about is we're not just supposed to avoid these things and, you know, avoid trying to worry about the things, you know, that we don't have control over.

We try to avoid all, you know, Yeah. Rather than just doing that, it's like, how do you, how do you step forward and actually be, be proactive in those regards? Um, so the Ariete, you know, also is that same idea that don't just avoid vice, practice virtue. And, you know, yeah, and I think that that's been very interesting.

And that's one of the things that, um, I know from my podcast, you know, I, I. I try to imbue that a lot as well and talk with people about, you know, Hey, you actually have to be proactive in your thing. You know, you can't just be like, Hey, okay, I don't, I don't feel pain. So I'm happy. Well, it's like, yes, you don't feel pain.

So that, that makes you feel happy. You might have some pleasures that does make you feel a little bit happy, but when you get asked, when you get out there and you actually do something and you're productive in your life, um, there was one guy, I I'm blanking on his name, but there was an essay that I read and it said, The purpose of life is not to be successful.

The purpose of life is to be useful. And it talked about how people, some of the most oppressive things that happen to people are the things they have the hardest time with, they're like when they lose a job because they don't feel like they are useful in the world anymore. And that, that almost more than divorce, almost more than almost anything else can, can drive people to actually commit suicide, you know, at higher rates.

And I thought that was really, really fascinating. It was like, I had never really thought of that, but he just talked about like, everybody wants to feel useful. And yeah. And I know that. That for me, when I do something, uh, and when I do something well, when I, you know, I finally get up and go, okay, I don't really feel like working out, but then I do the workout.

I always feel great afterwards. And it's like, ah, you know, you feel all the muscles strained and, and they're sore afterwards. There's such a, a stronger sense of accomplishment from doing that than like, oh, you know, I slept well. And, and. And not doing something or at least avoiding pain. Um, Yeah, but yeah, so go ahead, go ahead.

Ryan: Well, just, just kind of going off of that, I think the useful, uh, successful distinction is really valuable. I think, you know, if you think about certain activities, like, uh, you know, sitting around a pool, playing video games, uh, you know, getting high, a lot of these things are pleasurable, but I kind of argue that, um, they don't really require any of your personal.

virtues to do. You can, you can, you know, stream a show without having any personal strengths. And this is why when we get through a day of doing this kind of thing, we don't actually feel good about ourselves, even though it felt good at the time. And if we spend a whole year doing, you know, nothing that that's useful and that requires any, any kind of personal strength to do.

Uh, then that we don't end up reflecting back on that as a good year. And I think the same can go for our lives. We don't want to live a whole life that we look back on and say, I don't really admire anything that I did, even though, you know, it maybe felt good at the time. I think, uh, part of what you're talking about with the.

you know, the Stoics and avoiding things that are painful. I actually, um, this is a little more speculative, but I talk about, uh, eudaimonia and equanimity, which are both these sort of mental states that the Stoics talk about. And I have speculated that Eudaimonia corresponds to serotonin in our brains, and equanimity corresponds to a lack of cortisol.

Or in other words, you know, when we use a lot of these stoic principles to reduce these negative emotions, we're lowering our cortisol and creating a stable state of low cortisol. And similarly, when we do things that we are actually proud of, that demonstrate our virtues and sort of exercise our greatest strengths, we're elevating and stabilizing serotonin levels.

Uh, I know how complex neuroscience is, but this is sort of the, the way I've come to map this out in my mind. And so there are two different states that I think are both important for achieving, you know, the optimal mental, um, state. But I think it is, uh, a mistake to just focus on eliminating negative emotion and not creating this really positive state of mental health.

Yeah, I really like

Erick: that. For me, the image when you were talking about that is kind of like, uh, the, uh, the lack of cortisol would be, you know, building a good foundation or having a net underneath you. Like that's your, that's your thing that keeps you from sliding down too far. But then the, uh, I guess the serotonin, you know, is kind of the thing that boosts you up, which helps you move out and actually continue forward in your life.

So yeah, I really like that. I like that idea on that. Um, so one of the ideas, so I did write down a few things when I was working on that, um, would you say that, uh, this was an interesting idea and I want you to speak more on this was that the idea that when you hit a depressive state or some low self esteem, that it's a regulator for social behavior.

I thought that was a really fascinating idea. And I, I never, never thought of it phrased that way, but it reminded me of. And as I thought through that, I thought, you know, when I was in high school or middle school, especially because I think those are some of the roughest times where your self esteem, you know, is careening all over the place.

Like, yeah, John, who's the most popular guy in school said, Hey dude, what's up? And oh my God. He actually noticed that I exist. Oh my gosh. Or, you know, or Jill, you know, the cute girl that she had a crush on says, you know, hi to you as you're walking to class and, you know, you're through the, through the moon.

And then, you know, somebody gives you a dirty look at lunch and you're like, Oh my gosh, I'm like the worst person in the world. And that bouncing around. But, um, but I'd never thought anyone, I always thought of, I never really understood why that was the case. And when you talked about it as a regulator for social behavior, I was like, Hmm, I got to think about that for a bit.

So is that something that I, I made some notes in the book, so I'll have to go back and look at that. And was that something that they've done testing on or is that just kind of more your theory of how you came up with that? I mean, I find it fascinating. So yeah, so a

Ryan: few things the other day I was, um, I was watching a show that.

Uh, you know, I had a character who overheard some other people saying some really good things about her and she got this huge smile and like was clearly very excited about this. And it sort of caused me to reflect once again, like this is such a foundational part of human psychology that we don't even take note of it most of the time that we pay attention to and care very much about our personal esteem and worth.

It's like just such a given that we rarely examine it and say, why is that actually true? We could imagine a human race that didn't actually care what anyone thought about them or what they thought about themselves and just focused on, you know, what they were doing in their external environment. But humans care very deeply about ourselves and our worth and anything that indicates that worth in terms of, you know, the people around us and our tribe.

And so, yeah, that question of why. So, so there's a thinker. Uh, named Mark Leary, who is a evolutionary psychologist, and he proposed a theory called sociometer theory, which says that, uh, basically self esteem is not something in our brain that is malfunctioning when it's low. It's, it's designed, if you will, by evolution to correspond to something, to be either low or high, based on whether it will produce, uh, adaptive behaviors or not.

Um, and so, essentially the, Self esteem is sort of like a simulator for social esteem in our brains. That's what it's built to be. It's like the fuel gauge Whereas self social esteem is the fuel tank It's meant to indicate to us how we're doing in this arena that matters a lot in terms of our reproductive success and survival and so essentially your Self esteem goes up when your brain gets evidence that you are a person who is Likely to be approved of and it goes down when your brain is not seeing that evidence or it sees contrary evidence to that and This I think can take into account You know what people say to our face or what they indicate through their body language But a big part of it is simply our brain observing our own actions, right?

And so it's looking and saying do I admire the things that I am bringing out through my behaviors if I'm Going to the gym and working out if I'm doing, you know, really creative work Right, whatever it is, if I'm really funny, that's sending a signal to my own brain that I do have these traits that humans tend to value, and so I'm likely to be approved of, and what your brain does, I think, is it regulates your mood according to, uh, what it finds, and this is the part where I'm sort of building on these existing theories and combining it with others.

Uh, I think this whole self esteem system is a mood regulator meant to induce behaviors that would be adaptive, uh, or at least would have been adaptive for our ancestors in a very different world. And so, you know, when we are in a really good mood, that makes us want to take behaviors that put us out there.

It makes us, you know, really energized. It makes us want to, uh, be really socially active and put ourselves on display. Play and take advantage of social opportunities, uh, to sort of show off these strengths when we're in a really bad mood, particularly when we're like clinically depressed, it makes us want to withdraw, stay away from other people.

It makes us really socially risk averse when we are in social situations. Basically avoid doing anything that might offend someone or, you know, interpret everyone's. Reactions towards you in a very defensive way so that you don't damage your social standing Based on the place that you're at mentally and the the virtues you're able to bring out and so I'm essentially combining these different theories and ideas about welling well being to suggest that there is this Mood state in our mind that goes all the way down to depression and all the way up to something very close to eudaimonia Based on what this self esteem mechanism, I call it the self appraisal system, is finding about us and our behaviors.

Erick: Yeah, and I, I find that it's, it's, for me, it's fascinating because it's, the whole thing is such a, an interesting balance, because it's, it's a combination of what we think other people think of us, is our self esteem, not truly what other people think of us. And so, which definitely fits in that stoic idea of, it's not, you know, it's not what happens that upsets you, it's how you perceive what happens upsets you.

And it's that same idea, so I think it fits perfectly in with that. Um, but I think it's interesting that So it's interesting because it definitely fits with that and I think as you get older usually, not always, because I've seen plenty of people who are, you know, I'm 51, I see plenty of people my age who are still very insecure about a lot of things, but I find as you get older, you can, you Through experience, you get a bit more wisdom to be able to judge those things a bit better and not to care what other people think.

And yeah, so it's that it's that really fine balance. It's like you, you're judging yourself based upon what you would think other people would think of you and that's where your self esteem comes from, but you shouldn't care what other people think of you. And so it's a, it's a fascinating balance. Um, but I think part of it, at least for me, what's happened is as I've gotten older, I've been able to be wiser about those things.

And so I can say. You know what? This is a value that I think is important. This is a virtue that I think is important. I'm going to live this and this is the way I'm going to live it. And if people don't like it, you know, screw them. It doesn't matter because this is something that I know through my all my years of experience, I know this is a good virtue.

And I know that this is something that is worth holding on to and if people are going to complain about it, oh well, it, it doesn't, you know, it just rolls right off of me because I see that as being an admirable virtue, even if other people around me don't see it as an admirable virtue. So when I read that, it definitely clicked for me.

I'm like, oh yeah, this makes sense. And it was, It was very much what I thought to begin with, but this was just a kind of like clarifying it a little bit more, a little more fine grained thing, rather than just saying, Oh yeah, this is generally where it is. It's like, let's pull that apart and let's look at each little pieces.

And I was like, that, that's, that's a really fascinating idea. So I really appreciate that.

Ryan: Yeah, no, and you get a big, you know, important point. Yes, it is what you think other people would think about you, but it's also with preference toward your particular values and the values of those whose value you value most.

I mean, it gets kind of complicated, but when you remember the person you're most trying to appeal to is yourself. It's someone identical to you with your own unique. Uh, set of values. And so really that's the ultimate metric. I find the same thing that, that as you get older, you get, uh, you know, more secure in these things.

And I think a big part of that is you learn some people are just, uh, different. Some people are not going to like you because they have different values from you. It's really only when you aren't living according to your own values, uh, that you've got a problem. And this, this was kind of the problem I struggled with back in 2020 is that.

Um, you know, these, I, I was facing kind of some social ostracism from people. I was cut off from a lot of social domains for obvious reasons during the pandemic. Uh, so all the signal my brain was getting is that I really wasn't living up to, you know, my own values. And in some ways I really wasn't. I, you know, at my work, I had sort of shifted out of the roles that I normally, um, you know, thrive in.

And so I was in a place where I was, I was doing things every day that I wasn't particularly good at. I was questioning my interpersonal virtues and, uh, had reason to, you know, so I was, I was wrestling with a lot of these things. And I think other people who have experienced periods of depression will say the same thing.

It's like, it's, it's a, it's an identity. grappling issue. A lot of people think it's just a like serotonin deficiency, uh, chemical imbalance. I think it, it really only makes sense to look at depression in terms of our identity and our beliefs about ourselves. And this is what we find in cognitive behavioral therapy as well, which is, you know, deeply influenced by stoicism.

Erick: Yeah, very much so. I like that idea of, uh, I guess you could say in a way depression is almost an identity crisis. Interesting. And yeah, that's that kind of pulled it out for me. One of the other things I also appreciated was that, you know, you, you talk and actually, now that I'm looking at some of the notes that I wrote in here, I was talking about being useful.

You're like, you know, you say our status isn't determined by dominance is determined by contribution. And I found that to be really, really helpful because, um, I think one of the things that people forget is like, you know, you shouldn't care what other people think of you, but that doesn't mean you don't care about other people.

And there's oftentimes there's that disconnect. And I've, um, I was on a stoic Facebook group, um, of pretty popular one. I won't say what it was because I haven't done much on it lately because I was really, it was really surprising to me to watch some people take stoicism and use it as a way to justify really shitty behavior.

Uh, this one guy was with a couple of people actually piled on and we're using it to justify racism, saying that the reason why black people weren't as successful as white people were because they just were. You know, too lazy and didn't take responsibility for themselves and it was all their fault. And I was just like, okay, so slavery and subjugation of people based on their color of skin has absolutely nothing to do with why they are, you know, they struggle in society in ways that you don't have to, you know, it's like, so I tried reasoning with him and it was just like, nope, he would have none of it.

And it floored me how somebody could use stoicism to do those types of things. Oh

Ryan: yeah, people will use these, uh, these pure philosophies as a way to do all kinds of, I was just talking to someone about like the, the Mick mindfulness and like the Mick stoicism, the sort of modern corporatization of these, uh, philosophies, you know, they're, you know, well known thinkers who are basically treating stoicism as a tool to achieve more external success.

For example, um, When really that's exactly what the Stoics said doesn't actually matter to your happiness. So, um, no, that, that's horrible that people are making that kind of argument. That's not even worth, uh, really paying attention to, I think. Yeah.

Erick: And I think it really came down to because it was like, It came with this idea of if you are unsuccessful in your life, it's your fault and that's it rather than going that's not what stoicism about stoicism is about recognizing what you do have control over and taking control of that.

And if you don't have control over these things, there's nothing you can do to change that. But it's it's being able to recognize what you actually have control over and taking those steps to do that. And if somebody has opportunities or somebody has things that they can do and they refuse to do them or.

And or they just go, well, I, I'll never, you know, I can't be successful because of X, Y, and Z. And it's like, well, but you still have opportunities, A, B and C, why aren't you doing those? And they're just like, they're so focused on the things they can't do. And it's like, well, you know, when you don't take action on the things that you can do, you make yourself a victim.

Now, if they said something like that, like, Hey, this person had this opportunity. Um, but they decided that they would rather do something else and they didn't take that opportunity and then they complained they weren't successful. That's you know, then I think you might have a coach and argument, but it was just fascinating to me the way that people can twist things around.

Ryan: Um, yeah, it's worth noting that there have been a lot of. People who have managed to thrive in very difficult, uh, situations with the help of stoicism. I mean, Epictetus was a slave, uh, and then, you know, you got people like Viktor Frankl, who I recently re read, who employs a lot of the same, you know, mental techniques and mindsets, and who comes out of it saying, you know, life really isn't about the absence of pain or, uh, you know, pleasure or gain or whatever, you can find meaning or happiness even in really difficult struggles.

And I think that's an important thing to keep in mind, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you can control everything and find a way to be successful in your circumstances no matter what. It's that you can find ways to exercise your virtues in spite of, you know, all the things you can't control.

Erick: Exactly. I definitely agree with that. Um, so one of the things that you said in here that I, I underline this because I thought this was really interesting. Um, and I think this is, this spoke incredibly well for me because I was, I'm a recovering people pleaser. So I grew up in. Mormon Church, and you know, my dad was pretty violent growing up at random times, and so there was always this need to be on the lookout to do and say the right thing so that I didn't get in trouble, whatever that was.

And the right thing wasn't the truthful thing, it was the what is going to make sure that I don't get in trouble in this situation thing. Um. Right. And I really like this. I want you to speak a little bit more to this. And you say, other people will affect your self esteem to the extent that you agree with them.

Mm hmm. That to me, I just was like, oh, hmm. Because again, like you were saying earlier, that it's, what we're doing is we're trying to judge, we're self judging ourselves on what we think other people think of us. And so it's that interesting balance. But I, I found that. I think the tricky part for me, and this is what this kind of why this checked a box for me, was that oftentimes when I would be in an argument with somebody, um, especially in, like, in, you know, personal relationship, um, because I'd been such a people pleaser, there was often when somebody was upset with me.

I felt like I was in the wrong simply because the other person was mad at me rather than going, they can be mad at me and I can still be right. It was as soon as they were mad at me, like, oh crap, I did something wrong. I need to fix this thing. I'm the one who's always in the wrong. So I always assumed that I was the one who was doing something wrong in the situation, no matter what.

And so I guess, how do you find that you balance that? Or is, is that not an issue for you? No. So,

Ryan: so here's what I sort of argue to that point. Um, I say kind of imagine that you overheard a group of people talking about you. Um, and it's a group of people who, you know, aren't necessarily good at things that you care about, um, or, you know, pretend to be good at.

So for me, if a group of like professional basketball players, https: otter. ai That I am a basketball, right? Uh, I would I would have a chuckle at that, but it wouldn't hurt my self esteem because that's not something I pretend to be To be good at it's not these are not people that I admire most and um, you know They're not criticizing something.

I really pride myself on uh, but you can imagine people, you know who you do really admire, um, and where you take pride in the thing that you do. Uh, if they're talking shit about you and they're saying you're no good at this thing, that guy's a joke, right? That is going to really hurt. I mean, that could affect your self esteem long term hearing something like that.

And so it just shows how much it is about your own self approval at the end of the day. And other people's approval sort of is just an indicator of that for you. Um, but I do think it's important to note, and you hinted at this earlier, Um, you know, it's not about, uh, status in the sense that we're sort of used to talking about.

When someone says social status, you think about like a ranked hierarchy, um, like a linear thing, like who's higher status, me or this other person. And it amazes me to that, that people still sort of compare human, Uh, social arrangements to this because we're so much more complex in this way. Uh, we don't just have linear rankings.

We can approve of people in one way, but not in another way. We have these, uh, you know, multitudinal evaluations of one another. They're far more complex and, and very often it does relate to Um, how we contribute to the lives of others, you know, we admire people who are generous because, uh, they're contributing that to help someone else who needs it.

We admire people who are creative because they're creating work that goes out and impacts, uh, other people. And so I think it is right to think about social status or social esteem or whatever, as the ways that you contribute to your tribe or, you know, to humanity or whatever. And, um, and asking yourself, how do I.

How do I contribute to this? And what would I most admire in terms of another person's contribution? Making your decisions around that instead of asking just what does this one person want me to do? I think, um, that focus on your own admiration, your own values. And I think there are good exercises for really mapping this out.

Uh, I think that can counter some of the people pleasing. tendencies. If you've already mapped out, these are the things that I care about. These are the things I don't care so much about. I think, I think you can weaken that desire to please everyone. And you can say, well, I've already mapped out right here.

The P the person I will most want to please. And that's me. And so, um, yeah, trying, trying to just live according to those values, I think is the key. Yeah.

Erick: And for me, my, my biggest struggle, like I said, was often that whoever, whether it was next partner or whatever, um, Oftentimes, they would, like I said, they would be mad at me.

And so I would assume I did something wrong. So I couldn't look at it objectively because I was like, oh crap, I'm in the wrong no matter what. And so I couldn't look at it and go, wait, no, no, I w I was handling myself. Well, I'm okay with this. And so for me, learning to, to get that sense of judgment has been challenging.

And kind of like I've had to. Had to be better about setting some boundaries on situations and go, you know what? I'm not, or even just say, I'm not sure here. I'm just going to walk away from this because I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing. I'm not sure if I'm acting the way that I want to, or if I, if I have the right to be upset, you know, oftentimes I didn't feel like I did because growing up, I was on the receiving end of most of that.

I didn't have the right to get upset and stand up to the things that I thought were unfair because if I did, right. And I pushed back then oftentimes I got beat up. So it was like, yeah,

Ryan: go ahead. Yeah. I, I, uh, luckily didn't have that challenge growing up, but I did have a lot of, um, you know, social difficulties, particularly starting in middle school that, um, I think, you know, I don't know if it made me a people pleaser, but it definitely made me.

insecure in, um, my social presentation and gave me a lot of anxiety around that stuff. And so I think, uh, one of the keys comes down to like CBT and the cognitive restructuring processes there, because a lot of us do have some really distorted. beliefs. I think the modern world in particular is conducive to a lot of these distorted beliefs.

And so going in and finding that distortion, like, Oh, someone's mad at me. I must have done something wrong, writing that out and, and actually examining it and saying, is this actually a balanced view? Or can I improve it or, you know, assuming that everyone around you thinks you're weird and, and, you know, doesn't, doesn't respect you is one that I, you know, once struggled with going in and mapping that out and saying, Oh, that's mind reading.

That's a well known fallacy that creates this type of emotion. Can I make a correction and improvement to that belief? Um, and this is one of the. Those really, really important exercises I think everyone should be starting doing in kindergarten, you know? Agreed.

Erick: Um, so curious kind of your take on this. I know that, um, I would say that most of us, at least, at least people like me, and I would assume you just, you know, we're very much in the question ourselves, question reality, question things going on around us, um, making sure and looking for those ways to improve and to become, uh, I guess, uh, just better people overall and to work through those things.

Um, but it feels in our, at least our political climate here in the States is that there's this massive, you know, divide between the two political sides. And it seems like, but it's really hard because, uh, There's, there's almost a false equivalency of like, well, each side is just as bad as the other, you know, and, but it seems like there's nobody trying to, trying to articulate this in a way that, it's like I had the thought, the thought and the idea of it trying to actually articulate it seems a bit challenging, um, I guess my question is, How do we, is there a way to help those who, who in, I guess, in my purview are kind of blind to these things and they don't, you know, they're so sure of their point of view that they don't take that time to question and they don't have that ability.

I mean, I guess. I guess it does fall a little bit into Dunning Kruger effect, a lot of confirmation bias and things like that going on. Um, do you see a way that you could somehow inspire people or help bring them along in those ways and find ways to reach out and communicate? Because it often feels like, um, And this is something I've noticed because my politics are, I'm center left, you know, compared to, compared to where I was, you know, you know, 20 years ago, because I grew up Mormon and you're pretty much conservative from birth, you're Mormon, um, but I would consider myself to be center left, but it feels, but to a lot of people on the right, they would think that I'm basically almost a communist at this point because it feels like they've moved so far to the right that I'm You know, I've saved, my politics have stayed pretty much where they are.

And so I find it very challenging to talk with people like that because there's this sense of, of an unwillingness of this is the truth and this is my truth and fuck you for not believing what I believe in. And so, so I guess in your travels, in your experience of working on books and talking with people about these things, are there ways that you've found that you've been able to kind of bridge some of those gaps?

Ryan: Yeah, this is a real challenge. I will say first that I've got, um, I've got this online community or currently, currently online, hoping to get it offline as well before long, um, but it's called Mindform and, uh, we've created a culture that's very much centered around not, you know, taking these polarizing political stances, uh, really, you know, if we talk about politics, we're sort of talking about metapolitical perspectives and we're looking at how to Uh, improve our mental systems for examining these issues and it's, it's been a really successful experiment in creating an environment where you're not incentivized to, you know, pick this really heated, strong, often oversimplified stance and just turn everyone else into the enemy.

So I do think this is something that can be done culturally, but I will say. Uh, the internet's very much not conducive to it overall, and it's very hard to maintain that mindset. Um, I think we've had kind of a similar arc in that I grew up, I went to a Christian school initially, um, so I had kind of conservative Christian views.

I went to college. I was, you know, getting exposed to more like libertarian perspectives. Then I started having more libertarian leanings. Then I went to another school in a very creative program that was very much left leaning. And I started having more left leaning perspectives. And then I started to notice a pattern.

Oh, look, my, my political views somehow adapt to my social environment and find a way to do that. And I started. examining what's really going on in my head when I find myself attaching to political views. I remember at one point I was on the Wikipedia page for like libertarian socialism, which apparently is a thing and not an oxymoron, but um, I, I was looking at it and I was kind of paying attention at the same time to what was going through my own head.

And I'd already latched onto this term and the way it would sort of fit onto my identity. before I even started reading the article. Like, I didn't know what it was, and I was already thinking about myself, you know, telling people at dinner parties, I'm a libertarian socialist, or something. Like, uh, so much of the way we choose our political views is this very tribal, social, emotional thing.

We really don't reason our way into them. We use reason later to build up arguments that we can use to defend them. But ultimately, it very often is, uh, this emotional thing. And so, I I'm always trying to remind myself of this fact that other people arrive at their views through different social emotional pathways.

They seem just as, you know, real and true to them as my views do to me. And I try to, try to take a step back and there, there are a number of sort of exercises I tell people to do. I encourage people to, you know, write down your political beliefs and your levels of certainty of all of them, and then map out your motivations to hold those beliefs.

Because very often, our biases are motivational in nature. We want to believe certain things, and that's why we continue to selectively interpret the evidence and all this stuff. So if you actually map out how badly do I want to believe in this view, if you can get yourself to cultivate like an equal and opposite desire, uh, not to believe it to the point where you have no preference one way or the other, then you're actually in a position to evaluate.

evidence, uh, you know, accordingly. I will just add to that, that, uh, political views are particularly complicated and that they typically require prediction of unprecedented complex systems. Uh, I think when it comes to what is true of the world now, uh, we're in a much better position and we have much better Uh, systems like science and, and expert consensus to decide, but when it comes to prediction, none of us really know what's going to happen.

So we should always lower our certainty in these matters. Um, in general, I think lowering your certainty and actually mapping out this is what percent sure I am instead of just saying I'm on this team, right? I think, I think all of these are good exercises. I really recommend the book, the scout mindset, which talks about.

Adopting this healthier relationship to our views, trying to actually figure out what's true and what's most accurate instead of just picking a team and trying to defend it later.

Erick: Yeah, and I think that's, that's kind of how my, uh, politics or political view on a lot of things, uh, evolved. So like I said, grew up Mormon, very conservative, you know, just because, and it was in the eighties with Reagan, you know, we're all like, yeah, we're all for Reagan.

I had no idea what that meant. It was just, my parents voted for Reagan. So of course I, you know, um, but I served a mission in Austria, which is very socialist democratic society. And really saw a very different side of life. I saw lots of people who had much less than I had. Uh, most people didn't live in homes.

They lived in apartments, condos, whatever. Um, but on the whole, we're much happier than most of the Americans that I knew. And here I am trying to come over here and teach them this way of life, you know, you, you accept this version of Jesus Christ gospel, then you will be happy and it felt very hypocritical because they seemed much happier than I was at the time.

So here I'm trying to tell them this, um, but I found that I found that I appreciated their time. Their way of living much more than I than I did my own and it was, you know, you didn't see anybody. You saw people who were poor, but you never saw homeless because everybody was given a place to stay and everybody had enough money for food.

So you didn't have beggars out there because everybody had enough. They were just taken care of. It was just part of society. It was the social contract they had with everybody. And I found that to be much more appealing than the homelessness that we see here in the United States. And, you know, for them, it, it also, by doing that, it helped reduce their crime rates, it helped reduce, uh, death rates, it reduced their hospital bills of having to take homeless people in, and so on.

And so, just the, The betterment of society was much more important to them than holding on to their money, which I find we find here in the States, you know, the first thing people do when you talk about homeless programs is they complain about, I don't want to spend my money on these people. They don't deserve it.

It's like, well, they deserve it because they're human beings. And that was the appreciation that the thing that I appreciate over in Austria was they just said, well, they're humans. We take care of them. It doesn't matter if they deserve it or not. They deserve it because they are human beings living in our society.

So that's why they deserve it. And I appreciate that approach much more. It was a much more expansive view of what, what humanity was. It wasn't just my, like you said, it wasn't tribal at all. It was like, well, everybody's part of my tribe. So let's make sure that we can take care of everybody.

Ryan: Yeah, the couple challenges, um, one is that getting people to, uh, understand that idea that someone doesn't have to earn their right to, um, you know, you don't have to earn a certain amount of points in order to just be able to survive in this world and meet your basic needs.

Uh, that requires a certain level of wisdom and empathy that not everyone's going to have. And so how do you get that idea across to, um, those who just can't wrap their heads around that? Another is simply that we. We have economic systems and really their global economic systems that are centered entirely around maximizing capital and profit and, you know, maximizing human well being is really secondary in terms of the system, right?

And so, uh, what do we do when we've, we've built a machine that's, You know, bigger and more powerful than any of us that is really not designed around human well being and really that's a distant second concern to it. Um, I, I don't know the answer. I, I have, I follow a lot of thinkers who are. Working on that, but it's, it's probably the hardest, most important question that humans can be asking right now.

Uh, and it's just, it's such complexity that we're dealing with that, um, yeah, it's hard to even envision the solution to it. What's most amazing to me is that you do have these, uh, other countries that seem to be doing it. What is it about their culture that has enabled them in some ways to resist the incentives of the economic systems, go against that to a certain degree?

Um, and how do you shape culture in that direction? Yeah, yeah,

Erick: that's a very, it's a very difficult problem. Um, like I said, for me, it was helpful because I lived in a society that was built around those principles. And so I saw firsthand how helpful it was. And how much more useful that was. And then, you know, then coming back to the states and then seeing the exact opposite of that.

And so for me it was, uh, it was direct exposure, which made it much easier. Um, and so in a way I, you know, that was kind of a shortcut for me. And what was interesting is because of that, because I went on a mission Austria because I was exposed to this very different way of, of living, um, that was kind of the beginning of the end.

of me being in the Mormon church and being a conservative. And I just found that over time, um, because of that, that I was much more about evidence based approaches, what is going to work best, not ideological approaches. Um, so I was, you know, even when I was in college going to Salt Lake Community College, you know, I was listening, it was during the, uh, the Bush Gore election and everything that I kept hearing from Gore just aligned Well, with my, my way of thinking, evidence based approaches, talking about climate change, other things like that.

And it was very scientific based and yes, he was kind of a policy wonk. And that's what I appreciated about him is he was a very smart guy and he thought long and hard about a lot of these hard problems. And was really working hard to have evidence based solutions of things. And so I guess that's just kind of how I've always approached it.

And I, so for me, once I found stoicism, it was kind of like that, it just, that idea of philosophy was like, you know, question everything, question yourself, make sure that you try to think rationally. Um. You know, understand what's in your control and what's not. I mean, just all of these things, just like, oh my gosh, this is an amazing, uh, an amazing, uh, framework for me to view the world from where it just made sense.

Um, I kind of describe it also, there are times when I almost feel like Neo in the matrix. It's like when something happens, I can take a step back and I can look at it and go, oh, okay, this is what I thought was happening. But just having that moment and going. this is more what really happened behind the scenes.

This is why this person probably said this thing. I didn't have to sit and guess and go, why is this person upset at me? I'm like, oh, they're upset because they probably think this. And then I can approach it in a very rational sort of way. You know, it's like, I see why the bullets are flying. I can see the code of the agents and that kind of thing.

And I can actually do something much more effective about that. And yeah. And it was really, really fascinating and it, it felt like it opened up a lot of the world to me and took away a bunch of blind spots that I had because of the culture that I grew up in, which was, you know, which ascribed why, uh, which ascribed motives to people that I didn't think were fair.

Um, you know, people do these things because they're evil. Or people do these things because they're bad people, you know, very simplistic motives of why, why people do things and people are much more complicated than that. And for me, stoicism was a way to, to filter that and understand more of that complexity in their behaviors.

Even though they are simple tools, they're very There's a lot of nuance and semantics that go along with that, even though some people are like, well, these are very rigid tools and it's like, no, they're not, they're, they're clear principles, but they, but because they are principle based, that leaves a lot of room for you to be able to work off the principles.

It's not a, here's the answer is here's the principle, and I think a lot of people, a lot of people get, get those two mixed up, you know, because they're used to being given answers. They're used to being spoon fed, which is why a lot of people like religion.

Ryan: Right. Yeah. No, I, um, I definitely think you should read my first book, Designing the Mind, because it's very much that, uh, that kind of Neo and the Matrix kind of mindset of stepping back and looking at the code that your own mind is running and examining and saying, how can I reprogram it?

How can I change this emotional algorithm or this, you know, belief, this bias? Um, that's kind of the whole theme of it is this changing the software of your mind and Um, and I've personally used that same comparison to the matrix and talking about these tools mindfulness these different ways of actually examining your own mind, and, and in some ways how it takes you out of what evolutions have kind of built your brain to do, which was just to accept all of your thoughts as reality and not actually question any of them.

Um, yeah, in terms of the, uh, the societal stuff, I think that, you know, the other, of course, another challenge you have is that, um, everybody would say they're You know, adopting evidence based approaches to their beliefs, uh, a lot of people are getting fed, you know, deliberate misinformation, uh, and they don't have the critical thinking faculties to really know the difference.

And so we're, we're still dealing with this big system that, um, yeah, the, the problem remains when we talk about the evidence and, and stuff. Cause, um, yeah, it's, it's just not a priority of our, school systems or our culture to teach people how to think better. Uh, scientific literacy is, is extremely low, not just in knowing, uh, you know, what science says, but also just knowing the systems of how science operates and the reasons why we should generally trust scientific consensus instead of, uh, trusting some random guy who said all the scientists are wrong.

Right. I mean, uh, so I think it is. It is an educational thing, but it's, it's even bigger than that. And that, um, you know, our, our education systems aren't really oriented toward building the best humans, the best thinkers, the best citizens, uh, either. And so, uh, you know, I'm trying to, in, in, uh, in the biggest way I can, but ultimately.

I think a, a relatively small way to, uh, teach people how to improve their minds and make that a core focus, trying to create a new institution that actually is centered around creating people who are better at thinking, regulating their emotions, behaviors. Uh, that, that's, uh, the future I hope to achieve with MindForm.

So, um, yeah, it's very much a mission

Erick: of mine. So what would you say is, has been your most, uh, most influential thing that you've You've come across that helped kind of guide you towards this. Is there any particular book any particular thinker?

Ryan: Yeah, there's a ton. I would say I got a few over here that have been very influential in their own ways.

I've got meditations, of course The Tao Te Ching. I got Nietzsche. I also have Maslow. I love Maslow's work and feel like he's underrated as the you know, the pyramid of human motivations when he really was just this brilliant visionary of kind of the future of human health. And so, uh, I love his work.

I've got, um, got a reading list on Goodreads under designing the mind that has about 400, maybe 500 books now that have been really influential for me. And, and, uh, Ranging from, you know, ancient philosophy to evolutionary psychology to, you know, neuroscience, right? But, um, yeah, there've been, there've been a lot of really influential thinkers and I'm, I'm citing a good chunk of them in the 400 or so references in this new book.

Erick: Excellent. Excellent. Uh, one I would definitely recommend if it's not on your list is the Finite and Infinite Games by James Carr. It's,

Ryan: yeah, I actually quoted in the new book. I don't know if you've gotten that far yet, but, uh, it is a really good one.

Erick: Yeah. That one for me was, um, so I ran into it because I was at, uh, the World Domination Summit, which was a conference that was put on up here for a number of years by Chris Gillibeau.

Uh, author, world traveler. Yeah, I know him. And, uh, I was in line at one time for something we were going into, and I was standing next to a guy named Chris Adam, um, and we just got on the topic of books and I asked him, I'm like, so what is, what is the Most influential book. What is the book that you would recommend to somebody that would, is just like, this is a book everybody should read.

And that was the book he recommended. He's just like, this book changed my life. It changed the way that I viewed the world, changed the way that I just viewed everything. And you know, he was so passionate about it. I'm like, okay, I just pulled out my phone, ordered it on Amazon right then. And I'm like, okay, it's ordered.

And I got it. And it's just like, yeah, it's one of those things. You read a chapter, which is maybe only two or three pages and you get done, you're just Yeah, think about that for a while. My brain hurts just from that, those few pages. So that was definitely one for me. Um, and so I recommend that onto other people, but yeah, it's definitely a heavy meta book, even though it's, I think it's maybe a hundred pages long.

It's, it's amazing how just dense that thing is.

Ryan: Yeah. I love it. And I feel like it relates, um, to what I'm writing about in this book too. I mean, this idea that. The things that we sort of set our hearts on, the particular goals or outcomes or accomplishments or possessions that we want, um, really don't deliver.

Those are like finite games where I want to get to this thing and then I'll be happy. Anytime you're saying that, you're wrong. You're never going to be happy when you get that thing, right? But you can create games for your life that are ongoing processes that actually will make you happy. So it's not ever the thing that you get to that delivers.

It's the process of getting to engage and do the thing. Um, so, so for me, this process of Uh, you know, building out, designing the mind and writing my, my books, I remind myself regularly. It's not, uh, it's not hitting the New York times or giving a Ted talk or that finite thing that my brain wants to tell me will actually make me happy.

It's what I'm already doing right now on a daily basis. And I'll never be happier by, you know, accomplishing that future thing than I am right now. So I need to enjoy the process in itself and make sure I'm building it into my life. Right.

Erick: Yeah. Yeah. That's something that has taken me a bit, uh, to kind of adapt that same approach to things and recognize that, that, yeah, it's not the, it's not the end game.

That's the important thing. It's not the getting or the winning or whatever it is. It's how you're playing it because if you're not having fun playing it, if you're miserable doing it, you know, you really need to rethink why you're doing it. Yes. There may be something that you need to get and so you're, you have to slog through it because it, you know, it's going to be that thing that will propel you on.

If you're looking at that as, as going to be your source of happiness, you know, and they've shown that the hedonic treadmill, so, you know, yeah, I, I got a 50, 000 raise at work. Yay. I'm so happy. Then, you know, a few months later, you're, you're back where you were before. I mean, yeah, you might be able to buy more stuff, but your happiness level definitely has not really increased or stated at an appreciative level.

Yeah. Yeah. So I find that to be very, very true.

Ryan: Well, and what people get wrong about the hedonic treadmill, they often say things like you can't actually make yourself happy Because anything you do that makes you happier, right? You still stay on that treadmill, right? Well, that's not true at all. And that's what I try to get across with this dimensional model It's that there's a certain nature of things that are not going to bring you happiness that are going to keep you on that treadmill.

But there are other things that very much can make you happier. Uh, they can take you all the way from severe depression to being deeply fulfilled and satisfied in your life. Uh, but, but looking past those decoys of, of your external gains and saying, uh, you know, how can I exercise more of my personal virtues on a regular basis?

That's what gets you off the treadmill and onto the escalator, if you will.

Erick: Yeah, very much so. But, and I, I really liked your, at first when I was reading in there, kind of back when we were talking earlier about the admirability kind of index, if you want to call it that. At first I was like, well, I don't know, because that, that, that seems like you, you're looking at ways to be admired from things.

And then the more that I thought about it, I was like, well, no, it's actually, it's got a good point there. Because if you. If you emulate somebody that you admire, so if you look at somebody and you're like, oh my gosh, this person is great and you emulate that person and you start becoming kind of like that, not like, not in a creepy sort of, you know, single white female sort of way, but in the, the, uh, in the way that this is a role model, this is somebody that I want to be like, and the more you become like that person, the more you like yourself.

Because of that because you're you are becoming somebody that you admire and I really like the way that you said that I'm like, yeah, I think that's very true because I know for me oftentimes when I was younger when I would get called out on bad behavior on things, you know, I get angry that somebody was calling me out on that, you know, and as I got older, I recognized that the reason I was angry about that was because they were holding a mirror up to my, up to me and showing me that I was somebody that I didn't like.

Yeah. And I was like, Oh, okay. So I'm not really mad at them. I'm mad at me, but I'm mad at them for showing me who I really,

yeah, but as you get older, you get wiser about that and you're able to approach that in a way where you're actually able to step up and go, okay, I'm not acting in a way that I'm proud of. Um, that was one thing my last partner taught me a lot. We talked a lot about that. It's like that idea of integrity that you walk the walk and you talk the talk, you don't just say, yeah, this is who I am and then do something completely different.

And so that if you say this is who I am and you acting that exact way and somebody doesn't like it, somebody gets mad at you, somebody hates you, whatever. That's okay. As long as you are living your principles, it doesn't matter. Yeah. It can be as mad or as furious as they want, as long as you're okay with who you are.

And that, that's a hard thing for some people. It's like, well, what if you're a sociopath or what if you're a complete asshole to people? Well, if you're okay with being an asshole to people, then, you know, I, you're not going to have a lot of friends. But if that's who you want to be, then be that person.

That's okay. Yeah. You know, as long as you're not harming others, that's, that's really the only thing to, to kind of look at, at least, you know, from that perspective. And it's, it's a hard thing to accept because some people will be okay with being assholes. But the thing is, is usually those people aren't very happy.

And they, you know, because they aren't maximizing those virtues and you know, the people that I knew who were often the most abrasive and the most rude over time, you know, they come back years, you know, you run into them later on when they've kind of changed some things in their life and they're like, yeah, it was because I was, I acted this way because this is who I was at the time.

These are the things that were going on in my life. I didn't like that. Even though I acted like I was fine and that was totally okay with me, over time they recognized, yeah, the reason why I was so angry at this was, you know, like in my case, sometimes I'd be an asshole to people because, like I said, they were reflecting a mirror of my bad behavior and I didn't like that.

Ryan: Yeah. And this, um, you know, this topic of integrity, it's one of the most, Like one of my favorite parts of this system, because I think humans have always recognized on some level that there is some kind of natural punishment reward system, uh, for our actions. And so you have, you know, Christianity saying, Oh, it's that there's a God who's going to judge you and determine your afterlife.

You've got Buddhism saying there's a karmic cycle of rebirth and you have to pay attention to karma in order to, you know, do this. And so they invented these external. systems that make it so integrity matters to us. Well, I suspect there is an internal system that makes it so it already does matter. We don't need an external judge or a karmic cycle.

The system's already built into our heads. And if we do something Uh, to try to get away with it because we think no one's going to watch if we take the, the wallet instead of returning it when we find it. Um, someone is watching, someone is finding out, it's the most important person who can find out and it's you.

And so there, there is a real selfish reason to live with integrity and to do the quote right thing even if no one's watching because the most important person is always watching. Yeah.

Erick: Yeah. Um, this reminds me, uh, back in the, I think it was the late nineties. Uh, no, it was, yeah, late nineties, early 2000 when the whole Enron thing was going on.

And I remember, um, I was driving along in my car and I was listening to NPR and they were talking about that and they talked about how. Uh, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling had, even though they already had tens of millions of dollars at this time, you know, they basically from being, from running the company and, and all kinds of bonuses and all kinds of things they had done, they ended up stealing from the pensions of their employees.

I mean, they were, it's like, they've already got tens of millions of dollars. And so they go and plunder this to pull even more money out. And, and, you know, I was thinking about that. I'm like, how could you be such an awful person that you already have so much and yet it's not enough. I'm like, what kind of a hole do you have inside of you that you could do that?

And not even that it just, you know, no conscience about that at all. You could just be that way. I'm like, I'm like, I feel sorry for them. I really did at that moment. It was a. Wow, if you are so empty that you have to behave this way, what kind of a person are you? What, what, what does that say about, and you, you are the person you have to live with.

And so I'm like, wow, that must be miserable being that person. Yeah,

Ryan: well, and unfortunately, I, I think this is kind of how we're wired to be in some ways, uh, you know, our brain wants us to just do the thing that will get us more now. And so we got these chemicals that, that reward us for just doing that in the short term.

Um, and I think in some ways, wisdom is about learning to. Resist the urges of your own biology and, and, and resist doing the thing that you want now, because you, you learn more about how it affects you in the long term. It, it doesn't help either that, um, again, getting back to what we're saying about society, that we've got Systems that reward being as selfish as you can, I mean, there are CEOs who truly can't choose to do the right thing, even if they want to, they can't choose to benefit their actual customers well being as much as they could, because it would be, it would be putting it secondary to.

Profitability and their board of directors would say you're not serving the shareholders get out. We'll hire a new CEO. So, you know, this is not only built into our biology, but it's built into our society. And so there's a lot working against us and actually living the way that will make us the happiest and, you know, help serve others as much as possible in the process.

But I do think there's a bigger reward than you could possibly get from these gains to be had from going against the grain and doing what is actually. the virtuous thing to do.

Erick: Yeah, I think it was, it was the Marcus Raelish that said, as long as it doesn't harm your character, it can never harm you or something along those same lines.

Yeah. And yeah, and, and that's very true. And as you get older, you recognize that. And, uh, at least I, at least I have, I can't say that everybody has, cause I've met plenty of people who are older who I'm like, Yeah, how have you gotten to this age and yet you are, my teenage, you know, my, my kids, one is still a teenager, but, my, my kids are more mature, more thoughtful than you are, how, I,

Ryan: Yeah, it is amazing and it's one of the things I'm trying to do is I feel like people don't have a map for this And so they'll they'll read a quote like that Marcus Aurelius one and they'll say oh, yeah, that's good I should try to remember that more and they instantly forget it or they'll you know Have a moment of wisdom or enlightenment and then they continue on with their lives and five minutes later.

It's gone And so I'm trying to actually replace the map that most people are navigating their lives with and giving them a visual representation and saying, look, this is how it actually works. Burn this into your brain and don't forget it. Right.

Erick: Yeah. And I think for me, that's part of why the podcast, you know, it seems the podcast has been so good for me is because it has been that thing that has allowed me to really dig into a lot of these ideas in a way that I never did before.

Um, so, which is part of why, like when AI came along, everybody's like, Oh, you can use it to write your podcast episodes and all this stuff. I'm like, no. They're like, well, why not? Then you can get them done faster. You could do more episodes. I'm like, that's not the point. Right. Right. Right. The point of the episodes is it's an exercise for me to sit down and really consider these topics and I have to work for it.

I mean, I, in a way I kind of stress out a little bit for every episode because I know I'm going to have to sit down and write for at least a day. You know, anywhere from six to 10 hours of just writing and thinking and putting these ideas together. But that's that exercise that my brain needs to be able to really process these ideas.

And that's why I've been able to make a lot of progress in my own life is because every week I sit down and write something on this, on a topic. I would say probably about 70 percent of the episodes are based on something that I was struggling with at the time. And I was just like, okay, I'm really struggling with this.

Let me sit down and write about this so that I can understand this, so that I can actually make some good decisions and work through some of these things. Um, others have just been fascinating ideas or things that I heard in another podcast or I read in a book or, or whatever. And then I was like, Oh, that's a really good idea.

That's something that again, I want to explore. So I dig deeper into that. I explored a bit more and then try to broaden that out and, and bring some real meat to that and hand it off to my listeners and be like, Hey, here's an idea. Here's something that you can do. Um, and so I, I do some of that heavy lifting for my listeners, which I don't have a problem with, you know, but it was interesting for me, like I said, when AI came along and everybody's like, Oh, you should use it to do this.

I'm like, you're missing the whole point. This is me building my brain. Yeah,

Ryan: no, AI is yet another layer that's going to complicate this for us because it's getting to a point where it can, uh, eliminate the need for a lot of these human virtues. Um, and that is going to, I, I predict hurt the well being of a lot of people if, if they don't actually feel the need to demonstrate these strengths themselves and they can just outsource it all.

Well, you're not doing the thing that, your own brain needs to see you doing essentially. Um, and so that's one complexity of, you know, the emerging like exponential tech we're facing. Uh, but I also would say that a big part of that too makes me think about what's lost through, um, you know, the decline of, of like traditional religion and that kind of thing.

Having a place where you go every week, in this case, Church that reminds you of your values and the things that you care about most. Most of us don't have a secular equivalent to that. And so, you know, we have to deliberately design something into our lives that will remind us of our own values and what's most important to us or else we'll gradually have society rub off on us and turn us and our goals into whatever, you know, we're, we're socially rewarded for whatever society tells us we're supposed to care about.

Um, so we, we really need something like that and most of us don't

Erick: have it. Yeah, that's interesting. It reminds me of, uh, Rainn Wilson. Uh, he was, he played Dwight in the office. Yeah, yeah. Uh, just wrote a book a while back called Soul Boom and he talked about that. And basically his, it's about, uh, In a way, it's almost like if I were to create a secular ish religion for a renewal of community in America or in the world, this is what I would do.

And it's a book along those lines. And he grew up Baha'i, which is a very interesting faith, which is, I don't know if you know much about it, but basically what they do is they take They take the religious texts from most of the major religions and they pull the pieces out that they feel are good and important.

So it's, it's almost a cherry pick, hodgepodge kind of religion, but it was just like, based on what are the wisest things that we can find in all of these religions? You know, they, they have bits from the Quran, they have, you know, from the Bible and other things like that. So it's not just a purely Christianity based religion, which is what we tend to find in the U.

S. Um, so I thought that was a really interesting approach and But I really appreciate kind of his his spin on that of like, hey, we need we need kind of a spiritual thing We need something where we're consistently looking at building community where we're where like you said We're reminding ourselves of our virtues and our values on a weekly or daily basis because if we don't take that time Then we just start falling into the default, which is, you know, mainstream society and that's not always the best way and, and, and now with having so many influences, there's not even really a single one.

I mean, back when I was a little kid, we had, you know, four or five TV channels. That was it, you know, it was like we had ABC, NBC, CBS, and then I think Fox came around and we had PBS and that was it for a long time. And so because of that, there was a mainstream culture that most people could agree upon. So even if you weren't religious or even religious in your community.

You still, you know, your neighbors probably watched at least one of the same TV shows that you did. So you guys could talk about that. So you had something in common. There was kind of an agreed upon reality that we have. And now with so much choice, we almost, it's almost gone the opposite. There's, it's really hard for people to kind of agree on reality at this point.

And I found that, I found that really interesting that. With, well, I think it's great because we have so much diversity. We have so much choice. We have so much interest, but in a way that has fractured us as well. And so there's, there's not a lot we can agree upon, even just in our entertainment and being able to sit down with the neighbor.

Hey, Joe, did you see, you know, the show last week? Yeah, that was really funny when so and so did that. And you could actually have a conversation with somebody, you know, he might be a Democrat, you might be a Republican, but you found somewhere that you had a common ground and we don't really even have that anymore.

So, yeah.

Ryan: Yeah, no, um, I've, I've been thinking a lot about this because we're doing like mythology month in, uh, in Mindform right now. So we're reading some Joseph Campbell and we're looking at, uh, religions, how religions actually evolved in the first place or, you know, what their origin is. And specifically the function of religion, which is an interesting idea for a lot of people who think they're just kind of fictional belief systems that they would have a function.

But I think there's a very important. Psychological function that they address and it's kind of unfortunate that all the options we have right now are are kind of, you know, clearly outdated, you know, not really scientifically accurate versions of this technology. It's like kind of like the fact that most of the automobile functions we are options we have today are all gas powered and so they're putting out harmful fossil fuels.

We need an electric vehicle version of religion in some ways, and that's a big part of what I'm. trying to do is, is, uh, you know, through all my work, it's not, uh, complete by any means, but I want to create a comprehensive system that can serve as a religion or a, you know, modern practical philosophy, similar to Stoicism and Buddhism.

But, um, you know, really, thought out on the level it needs to be in order to guide not only individuals to a good life, but a society that's facing, you know, unprecedented, exponential times, um, to help us navigate to a good, healthy society. And so, uh, That, that's, uh, one of the more ambitious ways of framing what I'm trying to do in my work in the longterm.

Erick: Yeah, that's definitely an ambitious goal. I'm not sure if I yet know what my, my vision on that is. I, I started the podcast as just a way to, to kind of work through these ideas on my own and to share them with other people. So I, you know, I, my first, I think 50 episodes were just done on my iPhone.

Because even though I had all this audio equipment, because it was too intimidating to sit down and actually record my voice and do all the editing and everything. So Anchor was an app that was on the iPhone. Then they got bought by Spotify and then shut down, uh, or kind of folded into Spotify, but. I could just record it on my phone, do a light edit and then put it out there.

And it was just because I'm like, I'm reading these ideas. I'm trying to understand these ideas. I want to create a podcast just as a, as a test in a way of like, you know, a practice. I mean, the podcast was really just me practicing making a podcast. I had no idea it was actually going to take off. And then suddenly next thing I know, I have like 10, 000 downloads.

And I was like, Wait, people are actually interested in what I have to say, you know, right. Okay. So, yeah. And then I found, you know, but it originally was just a practice for me to, to kind of work through these ideas and to understand them, um, in a, in a deeper way of rather than just, well, I read about that.

That's kind of cool. Okay. But when you read about it and you have to teach it to somebody, you definitely learn a lot more. And so I found that was, that was really helpful for me.

Ryan: Yeah. Well, and, and I think it's similar with me in many ways, my work is something I'm, I'm doing for me. I mean, you know, ever since I left my like traditional religion, I've felt like I need to build a new one for myself because I think there are important functions that it serves in our minds.

And I, you know, I felt that when I left that being able to you know, go through something difficult and tell yourself like, Oh, it's a part of God's plan. Like this is, um, you know, everything happens for a reason. That's very comforting. There are a lot of these emotions, um, that, that religions provide tools for.

Um, and, and one of the biggest ones is just a general compass for navigating your life. Like you said, there's so many. Influences competing for our attention and telling us to live our lives in different ways, it can be impossible to navigate if you don't have some central compass that tells you which way is up.

And so I have gradually constructed my own version of that, but then I'm, I'm, to use the car analogy, I'm like the DIY car enthusiast who built my own car. You know, most people aren't going to do that. And so as we build our own. People like you and me, I think, need to find a way to mass manufacture them so other people have better options too.

Erick: Yeah, that's an interesting metaphor. Yeah, I definitely like that. So do you find that you miss the spiritual side of things, the mystical side of religion, or is that something that never really worked

Ryan: for you? No, I don't think, um, I don't think you actually need beliefs in, um, you know, the supernatural in order for these things to work.

I think you just need to go through and address all the things that, you know, maybe religion was once addressing. Right. I mean, I'm very comfortable with my own mortality now, for example, um, but I think. I think work has to be done to get to that place. And so it, you know, believing that, that you're not really going to die and there's an afterlife that you're going to get to enjoy for eternity.

That's one solution to the, uh, problem of mortality. Another one is to confront it, you know, philosophically and, and understand it to the point where you're no longer afraid of it. So I think there are lots of secular solutions that don't require these kind of, um, you know, really out there beliefs. I think we can.

Believe in the very awe inspiring world that we really do live in and that science tells us You know we can understand in a lot of ways But I think we need to integrate these beliefs with the philosophical ideas that can you know create the right? Psychological functions for us. I do think there's certainly something to be said for like spiritual experiences and I think Uh, you know, things like psychedelics and mindfulness can give you some of these peak experiences that get you out of your normal way of thinking.

And some would argue this is how religions originated, is through like psychedelic rituals and stuff. So, uh, I think this is an important part of it. I think that that kind of spiritual experiences, uh, can be a really, uh, powerful thing, but I don't think it needs to be done in the context of these specific, like monotheistic beliefs or, or anything like that.

Erick: Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. I, I've thought long and hard about the kind of the place of religion in there. And I think that it's been interesting this, the different things that I read for me, kind of the, the one idea that I kind of glommed onto is that oftentimes religion, at least in its early days, was kind of in the place of science.

It was just trying to explain the world as best it can. And so, you know, that's, you know, thunder is this amazing thing. How does that happen? Well, there's gotta be some type of being up there that's creating thunder and lightning. And this is what's going on, you know, rather than understanding that it's just, you know, you have a cold front and a hot front coming together.

And as these molecules smash into each other, they create friction. And therefore we get to thunder and lightning coming from that. So, yeah. Yeah.

Ryan: And you really can't fall to them for that long ago, grasping for answers to these questions. And so it's not, it's not a problem that they built religions around these.

outdated ideas. The problem is that we haven't innovated since we have a better understanding. Religious innovation sounds like an oxymoron to a lot of people, but I don't think it, uh, I don't think it has to

Erick: be. Well, it's, it's kind of learning to update the map. You know, we had a map before that was okay, and it was, you know, simple line drawings from getting us from point A to point B, but now we have a much more Complex map.

And we have, you know, different layers of topography that we can, are able to see. And if we don't update that map, then we're doing ourselves a disservice. You know, we still might be able to navigate at least okay, but we can do so much better and we can know where we're going and have a much richer way of viewing it.

If we have a much more integrated map, at least that's kind of the way that I, I look at it. So it's been an interesting evolution for me too. Leaving the church was a, was a big thing. Was there, so in my case, it was, it was definitely a big thing. It took quite some time to get there. I didn't leave until I was in my early 30s.

What was it for you that, that was kind of the kicker? The big thing,

Ryan: um, it was, it was pretty shortly after I left my, you know, Christian school and went to college for me. Um, I think it, it really gets to that, what I was saying about politics, being like socially emotional in origin. If everyone around you has a certain.

Um, you know, belief system, not only are you more likely to sort of inherit it from them, but you also end up having, uh, you know, hidden motivations that, that reward you for sticking with it. I mean, uh, if all your friends have a certain worldview and if you changing worldviews would alienate them, um, particularly if, if more in your life has been designed around it, if, if your life partner has that worldview, if you're, if a part of your career and your work is to.

Uh, in some ways serve that worldview, right? You've got a lot of motivation Not to question that worldview and not to switch to something else And so in many ways I had fewer motivations now that I was off at a different school making different friends To stick with that old view and now I had more motivations as I was coming to pride myself Uh in being a critical thinker And I got to a point where my identity as a critical thinker kind of outweighed my identity as a Christian.

And, and then I was no longer so motivated to maintain my old beliefs. And then I could sort of examine the evidence and say, Oh, well, of course this doesn't make the most sense. I think that's the conclusion you come to when you don't have those motivations. So it speaks to the importance of really taking an inventory of your, Motivated beliefs and saying what, you know, would it be so bad if I believe something different and then, uh, really examining the evidence without any preference one way or the other.

Erick: Yeah, I think that and that's, that's a hard thing to do. I know for me, um, what it really came down to was just. I learned a bunch of stuff about Joseph Smith and the history of the church that I recognized as no, that's just wrong. That's just what they were doing there is wrong. There's no, and was, uh, was fake, you know, like he said he could read Egyptian.

Well, he couldn't, you know, and he translated this whole scroll. And then they found the scroll, you know, in the sixties and were like, Hey, we found the scroll that shows one of the scrolls that Joseph Smith translated and now that we can actually read Egyptian because we have the Rosetta Stone, let's, let's send it off and get it translated.

And it came back and they went, well, this isn't what it says. And we're like, yeah, that's exactly what it said. You know, we've done this, this is very similar to thousands of other scrolls that we've found. And the church was like, Oh, well, nevermind. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see here. And I found out about it.

you know, around 2004, 2005. And it was just suddenly like, wait a second. So if it was just like a house of cards, it's like, well, if, if he lied about that and that was like one of the foundational things in the church, that foundation thing, just that comes apart. So everything else falls apart. And so I just, so for me, it was just like this whole giant transformation in a very short amount of time, because it was suddenly like, I was able to see truth that had been hidden from me for, you know, decades.

And yeah. So, for me, it was, it was a very different approach in that it wasn't that I had a different identity. It was just simply that I recognized that this was fake, that I had been, you know, it was just a fraud. And so I couldn't, because of my own moral compass, I couldn't believe in something that was fake.

And so I couldn't believe in this anymore. Mm hmm, and there was just no it didn't didn't have much to do with God or Jesus or any of that It was simply that I had been lied to for decades and so if I've been lied to then that means this whole thing was fake and I've been told this was the Unvarnished absolute truth for my whole life.

And so then I recognized well if this isn't if I could be fooled like that What else could I be fooled by? So that's me, I looked at other religions, went, well, it's just the same thing, that you're just as fooled because there's so many holes in all of these things. And so I just, I pretty much walked away from it at that point.

Ryan: Well, I would just say there are a lot of people who make similar realizations, uh, about the evidence and about the rationality of it. And they end up going in a different direction and saying, oh, well, it's not supposed to be rational. It's about faith. Faith isn't rational. Um, you know, your, your love for.

Uh, God or whatever needs to surpass your like rational questioning or whatever and so that's why I say it goes back to motivations and identity because the fact that you were able to listen to that evidence you were finding speaks to the fact that you weren't so deeply motivated to continue believing it that you found some reasoning to, to push away what you were finding.

Um, I mean, I know of people who, you know, recently have like converted to these. worldviews for what to me seems obviously because there is something about their, their former worldview that wasn't serving them emotionally in the way it needed to. Uh, but to them, they've got all these like really out there, like philosophical arguments that able to trick their own brain into thinking it makes sense.

I mean, you see this in a lot of thinkers who are arguing, um, for these views today, um, that they just have to come up with something smart enough to trick their own brain and then they can believe it. And so you can always find a way to believe what you want to believe. Um, but if you have You know enough confidence that you'll be okay without those beliefs and you'll still be happy and you know You won't be without friends and without all these other things then you can really look at it a little more carefully and say oh this was You know, this was a lie.

This really isn't true. There's not evidence for this I know for me one of those was just thinking about the fact that or having it pointed out to me that like yeah It makes sense that I was a Christian because I was born in You know Southeast United States If I was born in, you know, the Middle East, for example, I'd be a Muslim and I would be just as confident in it as I am in this.

And so, uh, taking a step back and looking at it sociologically, uh, I think for me it was, was one of the things that helped it click. But I think it, it was important that my identity wasn't too attached to that former belief system. Yeah.

Erick: No, I can, I can definitely see that. And yeah, and I, I've thought about that as well as like, you know, when people are like, no, this is, you know, I'm a good fearing Christian and that's the only true religion.

And it's like, well, if you were born in the Middle East or you were born in India, you wouldn't be a Christian. You'd be something completely different. So if you're where you were born and who you were born to has more to do with your religious preference than almost anything. You know, most people don't, most people don't get to a certain age and go, okay, now I'm going to choose a religion.

Most people just inherit the religions they were given by their, their culture or their parents. And, you know, getting people to see that sometimes is really, really challenging. Because people would be like, no, no, but this was, I was born, but then they rationalize it by saying, well, I was born into this family because I was chosen by God.

And so he put me in a family that. that had this religion because he wanted me to have the truth because I'm one of his chosen people. And it's interesting that the logical or illogical loops that people have of, or hoops that they jump through to, to justify certain things like that.

Ryan: And the same goes for politics too.

I mean, people, everybody talks about the importance of like becoming informed and they, they talk about this process, like it's some kind of reliable. Uh, thing that you need to go through, but the truth is like whether you become informed and lean right at the end of it or become informed and lean left at the end of it is pretty much determined by your, you know, location and your social ties.

Like, you know, there's no reliable result of this thing called becoming informed. When you decide to do it, it just means you're going to take whatever beliefs you already. Have some attachment to or want to believe in and you're going to build up your confidence and your kind of emotional outrage And some of your like talking points and arguments around those things and so it's um You know I have to question the idea that we all have this duty to become informed and then you know vote according to it because you Might as well say we have a duty to flip a coin And then vote according to that if it's not a really reliable process, then we haven't really developed a system for leading people to more accurate political views.

And we need to be thinking, how can we build something more like science that really will lead you to a more accurate worldview instead of this, uh, politics that I think is still in the dark ages in terms of how we form these, uh, beliefs and, and latch onto them.

Erick: Yeah. Something you said back there really struck with me as well, because I was reading a while back this, they were doing a study where people, I can't remember what kind of like bias, whatever they call it, but people believe that if people on the other side are exposed to the right information, then they will make the same choice as them, you know, and, and, but then, then they're flabbergasted when, um, Yeah.

Somebody, you know, well, yeah, I read the evidence and I'm still on, I'm on this side and they're like, but I read the same evidence. I'm on that side and it, it does have to do a lot with our biases. Like you said, in our, our social standing of things and, and our social groups and stuff like that. So I found that very, very interesting and I'm sure that there's plenty of beliefs and ideas that I hold on to because of where I live.

I'm up in Portland, Oregon and stuff like that. You know, it's a very liberal place, very open, um, and so most of my friend group is very much along with that. But I, I find it interesting how everybody has this belief of like, well, if they're just exposed to the truth and they'll believe the same as me. Um, I had a buddy of mine years ago who, who, you know, pinged me on telegram and went down this dark thing of all of these wild conspiracy theories of things.

And he's like, I worked in Washington DC. I know all of these things. And I was just like, Okay, well, give me your sources and he'd be like, do the research you'll and you'll, you know, inform yourself. And I'm like, well, what are your sources? And he'd be like, go do the research. I'm like, okay, I want to know what your sources are so that we can be on the same page.

And he couldn't offer me any reliable resources. I mean, they were these really fringe wacko websites. And I was just like, dude, give me something that's legit, that has some science behind it, that, that shows me what's really going on. And he just getting, kept getting more and more frustrated that I just didn't take his word for it.

I didn't go down the same rabbit holes that he did. And I was just like, I'm willing to entertain anything, but you got to give me something reliable. And we finally reached the point where he just basically rage quit and then blocked me. So I was like, okay, sorry. I was just asking questions. You know, I, I'm not saying you're wrong.

I'm just saying. I'm not going to take your word for it. I need real, solid evidence and solid proof from legitimate sources that can be verified. And he couldn't give me any of that, and so he just got mad.

Ryan: Yeah, and not only will, will uh, exposing people to the evidence for your view not change their mind, it'll actually cement them further into their existing beliefs, the backfire effect.

So if you try to prove someone wrong, you'll just make them more convinced that they're right. Um, and so that's really, uh, tricky, but something, um, something you said too, I want to kind of circle it back a little bit because, um, talking about the way our beliefs, our political views relate to our identity, um, Sam Harris, like the author, podcaster, he did a study, uh, with a number of other, um, contributors like, uh, long time ago, you know, shortly after I think he got his PhD that found that the default mode network in our brain Is active when we think about our political beliefs.

Um, now for some background on that, the default mode network is the part of the brain that is, or the network in the brain that is active pretty much anytime we're not engaged in another activity. Um, so it's always sort of running unless we start doing something else. And what we found. Is that it's also active when you have people do, uh, self referential mental activities.

If you ask them to think about themselves, or their social standing, their value, their moral values, Um, or, you know, fantasize about something involving themselves, they, um, That part of the brain will be active too. And so, um, we also find that when people have been meditating for a long time, their default mode network is less active.

They have less self referential thoughts. Uh, if you do psychedelics, it disrupts connectivity in this network. And so, all this leads me to conclude that this system in the brain that I've Talked about that's sort of behind our self esteem. That's regulating our mood is approximately located in this default mode network.

And so the political thing kind of demonstrates that a big part of why we have the views we have, whether political or religious, is fundamentally not about truth. It's not about seeing more clearly. It's about reinforcing our identity. And that's why we get defensive and latch on even more when we get attacked, because it's an attack of us as far as our brains are concerned.

Um, but this is, you know, it's also further evidence for this claim I make about self esteem that that we do have this default mode network that is constantly running in our head. It's the central component and I think it is taking in these virtues that we demonstrate and it's regulating our serotonin and other chemicals accordingly and basically determining our mood and whether that's going to take us down into depression eudaimonia.


Erick: very well said. Yeah. Like I said, uh, that, that idea of that low self esteem as a regulator for social behavior and stuff like that was, yeah, that idea really like popped for me. I'm just like, Oh, that makes a lot of sense. Okay. So rather than looking at it as this bad thing, look at it as a moment of reflection and a way to be able to go your, like I said, you said it was kind of a protective mechanism.

Like don't get out and be social because you might do something that will make things worse. So take some time, figure out, and can you, yeah. Right. The ship a little bit, or can you steer towards something that, that will make you admirable in your own eyes. So therefore you start to build up your self esteem.

Um, and I thought that was, that for me, I think was the biggest thing that I got out of the book so far that just really like cemented that, that thought. And then that helps you as well, to be able to look at, at what aspects of your identity you hold on to too tightly or that you identify with too tightly like politics and stuff like that, that when somebody, you know, disagrees with you, that you get defensive about that.

And so then you're able to start looking at that and go, does this really matter? And is it really that important or do I really care that much about it? Does it really mean what I think it means about me? Um, and I think, I think understanding that system can be incredibly helpful for people to be able to evaluate things more clearly and make conscious choices and reach that point where I was talking about it earlier of that integrity of being able to know, know what it is you truly believe and being able to say that and being able to actually follow that and not giving a crap what anybody else thinks about it, because.

You've, uh, you've thought through these things, you've expressed what's truly there, and you're comfortable with being exactly who you are and you, and because it is somebody that you admire. And I think that that's been something that. That, that fits really, for me, that kind of makes that picture just a little bit sharper of that idea that I had before.

Sorry, I really appreciate you writing about that and putting those things in there. Um, is it, I know we're coming up on almost two hours here, so, uh, is there anything that kind of last thing that you want to discuss, you want to get out there that, that you want people to know that, that I guess. Yeah, kind of a last 10 minutes.

What's, what is something that you think we should bring up that has been brought up?

Ryan: Good question. We've covered a lot of ground here. Um, I would just say on, on that last. point you made. Um, it would be nice if this, uh, if this theory does turn out to be true, if only for the fact that it would validate a lot of these ideas that, uh, thinkers were saying a very long time ago that the Stoics have argued.

Um, it's very easy to Look at someone who is writing thousands of years ago who was saying, you know, virtue is really what matters to your happiness and say, like, that's a nice idea, you know, that's very quaint. It's a good little fairy tale to keep in mind, but if there really is a mechanism in our brain that works this way, it'd be very cool to be able to say the Stoics were really right about our psychology and there is a You know, a very good reason to live according to these basic principles, um, and it's not just to be, you know, to do the right thing according to some old guys, it's, it's because, uh, your happiness really does work this way, and so, that's, uh, that's the theory at least, so, um, you know, we'll have to wait a few decades of research to see if it holds up, but, uh, I'm excited to get it out there and be having more discussions like this.

Um, as far as kind of closing, I'm Things go I do want to offer your listeners a couple of free books if you go to You can join the email list you can get the psychotics toolkit and the book of self mastery, which is kind of a quote compilation and commentary And, uh, the new book should be available for pre order very, very soon and, uh, should come out late February for the official release.

So be sure to look, uh, look out for that. All right.

Erick: Yeah, I appreciate it. So like I said, I'm about halfway through this book. I'm going to finish it, uh, because they, like I said, there are enough of those like light bulb moments that I keep having going, Oh, okay. And for me, I guess what's helpful is that like I was saying earlier, there's a lot of ideas that aren't new to me, but it helps clarify them.

It, it, you know, it's, it's kind of like a microscope on, on, okay, this was an idea or, uh, that I already had. And this kind of zooms in on it and, and breaks it apart and digs a little bit deeper into it. So it's, for me, it's kind of like a deep dive into a lot of ideas. And, but also, like I said, some, some newer ways of looking at things are like, Oh, okay.

And to kind of to your point of, uh, of, you know, trying to back these up and, you know, maybe this is the way that our brains really work and so on. Um, it reminds me of something that Derek Seavers talked about with Tim Ferriss a while back. And I mentioned this in my last week's podcast was there are plenty of times where things can be not true, but are useful.

And so, for me, I look at this and go, even if this is not true, it's incredibly useful and it's effective. And so, I think more than anything, that's what Stoicism has been for me, and that's what some of the even Buddhist ideas have been for me, is even if they're not true, they're very useful and they're very effective.

So, I will believe and hold on to them because when they, when I do follow them, they make my life a lot better understanding what I can and can't control has made my life so much better because I stopped trying to control all these things that I'm just going to waste time on doing so, even if it's not true, even if there are them.

You know, there is nothing that I really do control, and that we are really just kind of automatons, which is a theory that a lot of people have, that the way our bodies and brains are programmed, we have no real free will, we just do what we do based upon all these things. Even if that's true, the illusion of free will is still worth it to me, so I'm going to believe that I have free will so that I can continue to try to do things right.

I'm not just going to go, oh, well, this is just how I am, and not do anything with it. So You've,

Ryan: uh You've opened a couple of very big philosophical cans of worms at the close of two hours. So I will propose, uh, that we, uh, you know, once you finish the book, I would, uh, be happy to have another one of these.

We can, uh, dig into some of that if you want, but, uh, sure. No, I, yeah. Yeah. Cause I really enjoyed it. So. Great, uh, good stuff and great conversation.

Erick: Well, thank you. I'm, I'm still learning the kind of the ropes of, of interviewing. I know that oftentimes I don't ask as many questions as I should. I, I, and I interject kind of my own story.

So I'm trying to get better about that. So for me, that's great. That's a good thing. Well, for me, this is helpful because I'm trying to be better about asking questions of people because I know that I, I have plenty of ideas and I share them all the time. And my podcast is me, it's a one way conversation.

So two way conversations are something that I'm working on trying to be better about. So I appreciate you coming on my podcast. Uh, this is a good practice for me, not just practice, but it's a good thing for me because I really want to expose people to. Um, ideas that aren't just my own. And that's why I try to try to bring these on here.

I know some people don't like it when I have the interviews and I'm like, eh, you need more than just my voice. There's plenty of great information out there. So I'm trying to help surface that information for the people that I listen to. So I really appreciate, appreciate you guys contacting me and getting on my podcast and yeah, uh, let's, let's look at probably doing something in a few months after the book comes out.

I'd really enjoy that.

Ryan: Sounds great. And I appreciate you having me. It was great. All

Erick: right. All right. So that was our conversation with Ryan Bush. Um, I really appreciate you guys listening to it and make sure you go to his website. Uh, go ahead and throw the, uh, website out there one more time,


Erick: All right. And I will make sure that I put that in the show notes, uh, so that you can reach that. And the name of the book that will be coming out soon is becoming who you are, or I'm sorry, become who you are. Can they pre order that on Amazon yet?

Ryan: Or. Probably by the time this airs, they will be able to so go find it.

Amazon Barnes and Noble. All

Erick: Right. Sounds good All right. Thanks again, Ryan, and it was great chatting with you and we'll talk with you later.

Thanks, Erick

And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. I hope that you enjoyed this conversation that I had with Ryan I really enjoyed talking through a lot of these ideas with him And I hope that the some of the ideas we talked about can be useful and helpful for you again in the show I will make sure to put the information about his book and his website in the show notes And as always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening.

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