A symbol (and a tool) to guide your journey
Sidney Mazzi – 8 min read
If you are reading this article, you probably have read Chasing Greatness I – The Return of the Forgotten Virtue. And you might think the idea of dreaming to be ‘wise’ could be good for you.
My journey has been more difficult than it should have been, so this article focuses on helping you avoid my mistakes. After all, I am far from a super-wise person, but I’ve been on this journey for more than a decade, so I have one or two tips to share.
You see, the first five to seven years into my journey weren’t that good.What can I say? I didn’t even know where to start, what to read, how difficult it would be, where to focus, etc.
Anyway, I made lots of mistakes that I could have avoided.
So, unfortunately, this article will not be as inspirational as the first. Instead, it is more about setting expectations and planning (which can be seen as less glamorous, but is super necessary).
It’s a complex journey, so you need 4 things:
- An outsider’s perspective
- The right dream
Number 1: Knowledge
This is tricky, and it focusses on all of the other following qualities. Here you will learn how humans behave and understand different cultures, etc. But the key is to understand the human mind, which is the main thing I intend to help you with.
Even if you have a PhD in engineering, if you haven’t studied topics such as psychology or the history of a certain country, you are pretty much starting from zero.
I often call it being ‘well-trained’ vs being ‘well-educated.’ Very different things. You see, there is a HUGE difference between being
- a well-trained person (like a doctor, an engineer or an investor) who has trained to perform certain tasks.
- a well-educated person (which is closer to being a wise person) who knows about psychology, history, philosophy and the economy, etc. A well-educated person is a complete citizen who understands the world.
Using this definition, most people you know are likely to be well-trained, not well-educated.
Anyway, quality number 1 takes lots of explaining. Let’s look at the others:
Number 2: An Outsider’s Perspective
This will help you with Knowledge. I mentioned it briefly in my previous article, but it is worth exploring more:
The human mind is one of the most complex puzzles to solve and, in my view, if you don’t get extra help from an outsider’s perspective, the chances of fully understanding the size of the problem you are about to deal with are low. You’ve been a human for so long that it is almost impossible to detach yourself from a human perspective, and this will hinder your development.
It might sound crazy, but you will soon understand the importance of extreme self-distancing when it comes to self-reflection.
A couple of examples:
(1) Imagine a person who has never left his country. He would find it nearly impossible to question his culture, rituals (weddings, funerals, human greetings, etc.), expected social behaviours, social structures and religious beliefs.
For this person, given that he has known no other life, everything seems natural and as it should be. How could he possibly feel otherwise? Meanwhile, a foreigner would have a very different point of view and be able to evaluate these things from an outsider’s perspective.
(2) Here’s another way of putting it: A lion, doesn’t understand or question its instincts; it just follows them naturally. A scientist, however, is able to observe the lion from an outsider’s point of view, knowing the animal’s behaviours.
So, humans can only question their instincts, beliefs, emotions and assumptions if they study themselves from the sceptical perspective of an outsider, like a creature from another planet.
To better understand the world and make better decisions, the importance of perspective is crucial. Even if you are highly capable of understanding others from their points of view, you will need to take things to a whole new level to truly understand the human mind.
So, the second bullet point is the ability to observe yourself and the world from the pragmatic and sceptical point of view of a third person — to have a completely different perspective on life, ideally like that of a non-human entity.
Number 3: The Right Goal
The right goal is important because, for example, if someone does not intend to be an ethical investor, well, he can have all the knowledge and the time to prepare, but without the right goal, we know the outcome will not be good. Do you see? It starts with the person’s intentions. So, in this case, in my view, the investor would have the wrong goal from the beginning.
Are you going to learn to improve yourself or to work against other people — to manipulate them? It is all about having the right goal.
Given that you are reading my Chasing Greatness series of articles, you probably already have the right goal of trying to be wise. So, I don’t think we need to spend any more time here.
Number 4: Time to practice
You can’t rush things too much (like I did). Just like it takes time to build your muscles at the gym, it will take time to understand the human mind. And understanding is just the beginning. Being able to apply it when you are nervous or under pressure is another. After all, you will unlikely have the luxury of applying your knowledge of the human mind while meditating on top of a mountain. Wouldn’t that be nice? In reality, you will be working, taking care of your family, etc. Daily worries and pressures won’t suddenly stop for you to pursue your journey.
We are going to fix the aeroplane while it is flying.
So, the first important thing you need to learn for number 4 is that this famous quote is NOT true for you:
“Absence of occupation is not rest; a mind quite vacant is a mind distressed” — William Cowper.
In Brazil, where I come from, this quote is often said as “The empty mind is the devil’s workshop” (I am not sure if it is as popular in English).
Anyway, what matters for you is that the idea that you must be busy all the time is completely wrong. You will need lots of time dedicated to introspection and self-reflection. No matter how busy you are. It is about priorities. You must find time during your daily/weekly routines to have an idle mind in order to pay attention to your emotions, to look inwards, to reflect on your actions and so on. It won’t be easy; after all, we live in a world where people can’t sit down on the toilet for a few minutes without their phones. So, taking time to “do nothing” and observe yourself might even spark anxiety attacks.
Yes, it is true that at the beginning, looking inwards can be quite unsettling — even disturbing — but doing so will pay off, and it’s the only way anyway. Looking inwards is far better than never listening to your inner longings.
So, slowly you will realise that the following quote is more accurate:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” — Blaise Pascal.
The journey will take a long time. You must embrace a no-shortcut mentality. As times passes by and you get better, you will learn to enjoy exploring your mind and challenging your assumptions and become increasingly proud of your decision to strive to be wise. But just like the first days at the gym will make your muscles ache, looking inwards will be a strain if you’ve never done it before.
Enjoy your journey…
So, those are the only four things to keep in mind, and the diamond diagram above summarises them. No, this is not rocket science, but they are, indeed, useful.
The good news is that numbers 3 and 4 only depend on you. And there is a pretty good chance that you have number 3 (The Right Dream) sorted, which is the most important step anyway.
The bad news is that you can’t stop practicing. You see, if you stop going to the gym, we all know that your hard-earned muscles will shrink. Well, the same principle applies to your ability to work with your mind and become wise if you stop putting in the work. Yes, as far as I am aware, the road to wisdom is a never-ending journey. But at least it’s fun.
Lastly, don’t forget that becoming wise is like turning your inner self into a beautiful diamond — a precious stone that isn’t formed overnight, no matter how much pressure you apply.
Before you leave…
For the next articles, I will use excerpts from my book. I am well aware that, with a confronting title (like my book’s), they will not be for everyone. So, you might want to sign off here.
You see, by PRETENDING to write a guide for hunting humans, I explain the mind in a unique way (tackling Knowledge and The Outsiders Perspective together). In case you are curious, here are the reasons for my controversial approach (5-min read). But I am not here to convince you that you must read my book — there are thousands of books in the world that explain how the mind works.
My message is that the world needs more people to learn about how the human mind works. If I am able to convince you, I have succeeded. The need for wise people in the world is immense. My dream is that one day, a key element of the world’s Ideal Self will be wisdom. This, of course, won’t happen just by everybody reading my book. Read whatever you want, as long as it’s valuable.
In case you’ve chosen not to read my following articles (check out my book recommendations), I wish you the best with all my heart. Take one diamond, and good luck in your journey The world needs you to be wise. Your family needs you to be wise. You need you to be wise.
Finally, during your journey, when real life hit you in the face, and you’re feeling under pressure, remember that pressure and time makes diamonds.