“Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way.”

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We can think about this quote in grand, philosophic ways about the nature of the universe and human behavior. We can also think about it in terms of our own identity and actions and experiences.

In The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, Alan Watts argues with equal parts conviction and compassion that “the prevalent sensation of oneself as a separate ego enclosed in a bag of skin is a hallucination which accords neither with Western science nor with the experimental philosophy-religions of the East.”

He explores the cause and cure of that illusion. The profound unease emerges as we confront our cultural conditioning, but it leads to a deep sense of lightness. We must surrender to the comforting mystery and interconnectedness of the universe. …


And why you still need to make your own luck.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Enlightenment. More access to published material led, over a few brief centuries, to a revolution of social and cultural forces. All of which contributed to the vocation myth: You should know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life early in life.

When it comes to individual freedom this is great news. For the first time in human history, you could follow “who you truly are” and pursue fulfillment. Who wants to be a baker or a cobbler or a farmer just because it’s what your ancestors have done for a few generations? …


Details about one-off and ongoing costs, and how to get going like a pro

Headphones, a microphone and a clipboard placed on a red surface.
Headphones, a microphone and a clipboard placed on a red surface.

I started podcasting for a logistics and tech startup in March of 2017 with a show called What the Truck?!? We grew to a Top Ten podcast in the Business category on iTunes, won an Azbee Award, and really nailed our niche. I did nearly 200 episodes over two years before I left to build my own company with my wife at Big Self School.

I started the weekly Big Self Podcast a year ago and launched the daily Who Do You Think You Are? in September. Each show has been its own experience and learning curve.

From beginning as little more than a co-host (and leaving the technical things to others) to learning the ropes of marketing and sponsorships, as well as the technical aspects of how to edit and develop content with regularity, I’ve learned more than I ever could have imagined. …


What is happiness, and how can we all get some?

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There’s good and bad news when it comes to happiness. Photographer and author Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk, has devoted his life to the question of how we can train our minds. His answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness.

He doesn’t ask that you just take his word for it, either. He participated in a 12-year brain study on meditation and compassion led by a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson. …


How I returned to the process and reaped major rewards

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Anxiety at the Breakthrough to Success

The first show was aired from the SiriusXM Studios on the 35th floor of the Rockefeller Center building. I was well-prepared, but some things you can’t prepare for. “Five minutes to air,” the production manager’s voice in my headphones said.

My anxiety shot from trending high to redlining. I got panicky. My heart started racing, my palms sweating. I became terrified that I would sound nervous right out of the gate, and the more I thought about how nervous I would sound, the more nervous I got.

“Sixty seconds.”

It felt like you were about to be called on in school, and you knew the answer and you were so excited about giving the answer, but at the same time that all eyes would suddenly turn to you while you were giving the answer that you got nervous and didn’t even want to give the answer after all. …


What it means to cheer for your team, and how it translates from father to son

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I came into being in Marin County, California. I came into football fandom watching the Oakland Raiders with my dad. It was a major way I could connect with him. When the Raiders won the Super Bowl as the first Wild Card team to make it the whole way, I was in. I felt like the good guys had won. I felt like I had won.

I bought a poster with all the NFL team’s helmets lined up in rows. Some kids count sheep. I would memorize the football divisions in the AFC and NFC. I read and re-read Strange but True Football stories, learned about the guy with half a foot who kicked a 63-yard field goal. …


And for that matter what is the true self?

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The Questions

“To thine own self be true,” says Shakespeare’s Polonius. Given that Polonius was a windbag full of empty platitudes, the statement has a negative association that the average reader who sees the quote floating past on an inspirational Tweet might perceive.

But what is the true self to which we should be true? Does it exist? And how do you know if and when you’re being “true” to your “self” as opposed to being untrue, fake, or inauthentic?

Walt Whitman wrote that he “contains multitudes,” and the same could be said for the self — for any self. The self is a body and mind. We are full of desires, wants and needs, as well as the thoughts that are considered conscious and those that are considered unconscious, or automatic, or reflexive. …


“The biggest enemies of willpower: temptation, self-criticism, and stress. These three skills — self-awareness, self-care, and remembering what matter most — are the foundation for self-control.”

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This quote is helpful in laying bare the foundations of what you need to ground yourself. We clearly live with the first three enemies more than we do with the latter three. Often, part of transformation isn’t about taking big, bold leaps, it’s about being able to assess what we want less of and controlling the parts of ourselves that want to override the system and function on autopilot. The three skills for self-control, however, are all about processes.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal shows us how willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. …


Only about 15% of people actually are self-aware.

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If you’ve only just begun the self-knowledge journey, you may be surprised to learn that it is incredibly difficult to know yourself. Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, who lived in the 6th century BCE, wrote: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” Similarly, Carl Jung said: “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

The sum total of philosophic inquiry is said to have been summarized by Socrates who said, “Know thyself.” Plato similarly phrased it, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Why would these revolutionary thinkers give so much status to achieving something that most of us believe we’ve already achieved? Numerous rigorous studies of thousands of people in the workplace show that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. …


“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

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I love this quote because it captures so much in such an aphoristic statement. To move a mountain may be a miracle, but it’s a miracle that comes through incredibly hard and persistent labor and (self) belief. It’s a lesson on habits. It’s a lesson in persistence.

What I also find so inspiring about this book is that it gives you hope that you can and will succeed in finding your path to happiness if you still with it. You have to try and you have to keep trying. It will happen. You can live a virtuous and contented life.

The Analects by Confucius may be the most influential book of all time. …

About

Chad Prevost

Big Self Podcast host. Creative Writing Ph.D. I write on Self-Improvement, Mental Health, and Psychology. Join us at bigselfschool.com. @bigselfschool

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