When I read a new book, I know if I want to continue reading it based on one thing:
I can feel certain areas of my brain lighting up. The words on the page dig into my soul and give me the answer I’ve been looking for. My curiosity pulls me deeper and deeper. Rampant thoughts flood my mind, keeping me up past my bedtime (which has been around 9pm nowadays). I have to keep reading. I have to keep going down the rabbit hole. I have to learn anything and everything about this topic. I have to acquire all perspectives so I can artfully navigate future conversations.
If a book doesn’t do that for me, I put it on the bookshelf for later. Why would I waste my time reading something that doesn’t interest me? We have that reward mechanism in our head for a reason, right? To help us move in a positive life direction? To give us feedback on signal from noise? The one that so many use to drown themselves in dopamine? Video games, memes, masturbation, and any other fabricated replacement for pursuing your curiosity.
The real question; does this have utility? Can pursuing my interests carry real world value? Will my curiosity exploration have a purpose? Aside from making my brain feel good and expanding my depth of knowledge?
You Are A Copy Cat (By Design)
From the beginning of time (as soon as time started for you, birth) you have been imitating — or copying — those around you. How else could you survive?
As a child, you imitated your parents. You learned to speak, walk, eat, and (hopefully) use the bathroom correctly. As you aged, culture came into play. The school system gave everyone the same curriculum. Your friends projected their opinions on you (that they imitated from their parents). As you progressed through the school system, the wonder chemical — dopamine — worked to separate signal from noise. You would imitate the things that lit up part of your brain.
This is not a problem. The problem reveals itself when attachment joins the party. These traits, biases, beliefs, values, and perspectives that we unconsciously adopted form our identity.
The mind hates disorder. It needs a hierarchy of goals to gain clarity and thrive. Your mind will construct a hierarchy of goals, whether or not you are conscious of it. Culture and corporate lifestyles all have goals, big and small, that direct the actions of the people. Go to school (goal 1), get a job (goal 2), retire (goal 3) — but at what cost?
The mind needs a story to latch onto and make sense of. The mind makes sense of the world by knowing what came before, and after. We have to know what happened in the psychological past in order to have a sense of certainty about the future. Without certainty — anxiety, stress, and the children of entropy take their reign.
To overcome the anxieties and depressions of contemporary life, individuals must become independent of the social environment to the degree that they no longer respond exclusively in terms of its rewards and punishments. To achieve such autonomy, a person has to learn to provide rewards to herself. She has to develop the ability to find enjoyment and purpose regardless of external circumstances. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
If someone is not aware of this imitation process, they attach to their identity — the layer of stories that helps their mind make sense of what they are. When their identity sees a threat, their survival radar goes off. Their worldview is threatened. The mind equates this threat of identity to potential death. Humans are the only people that do this. If there isn’t a human to call it a phone, is it a phone? If there isn’t a human to call me Dan, am I Dan? If there isn’t a belief to make sense of this all — do I even exist?
This is yet another reason I recommend writing out and refining your vision. Having a hierarchy of goals that you create in alignment with a life that you want to live is important. A clear vision brings clarity to your daily actions. It brings order to your mind. It removes all stress and anxiety from your life — if that hierarchy of goals is intrinsically motivating (see: curiosity, passion, purpose, values, etc). You won’t get this right at first. It is a lifelong process of experimenting, testing, and iterating. Write it down. Even if you think it will not work the first time around.
This is how you make the unconscious conscious.
The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Success is a game of intelligent imitation. Imitation can be harmful to our future — but imitation itself cannot be escaped. We are imitating everything around us. We process information we get exposed to and it is stored somewhere in our brain.
To make the most of this survival mechanism, we need to be conscious of what, and who we are imitating. If we are exposing ourself to a person, what is their message? Are they promoting negativity and limiting beliefs that you will adopt? Or are they promoting growth, education, and showing you how to move in a positive life direction? What is their hierarchy of goals and does it align with ours?
Once again, this is where curiosity comes into play. Pursuing your curiosities is how you imitate intelligently. How? The first step towards curiosity is “listening” — or feeling — the dopamine levels in your head. This is near impossible when you are distracted. Drowning in dopamine from cheap stimuli. Following the path that others assigned to you. Etc.
You Are A Perspective Vessel
Everything is perspective. Reality is perspective. Think of perspective as a camera and perception as the lens. Both combine to create your worldview. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to defend their perspective based on their worldview. You see it in the comment section, in the news, in arguments with your significant other, everywhere. This is a necessary practice; being able to zoom your camera out, see the big picture, and move your camera around the world. This is how you stop reacting to things that don’t matter. You change your perspective in order to set yourself up for an advantageous perception. Finding a vantage point for advantageous perception (interpretation of the situation) is how you make positive decisions in your life.
A side lesson on making better choices:
Terrence was scrolling on social media. He saw a post that made him angry. A reaction that was caused by years of imitation, conditioning, and programming from the beliefs and opinions that were projected from other people’s perspective.
Terrance left a mean comment, felt the squirt of dopamine, and enjoyed the instant gratification that would come back to bite him. The comment sat there, made more people angry, and created a chain reaction of dopamine junkies enforcing their poor perspective in their heads.
Now, imagine the power of a simple pause and reframe. If Terrence had shifted to a perspective that opened up room for curiosity, he could have pulled a positive lesson from what originally made him angry. Rather than assuming the full story, he accepted that the other person has a different perspective. A perspective composed of their own vision, goals, experiences, values, and everything else that would be impossible to assume.
With a simple pause, Terrence could have opened his mind to an opportunity that would shoot him in an entirely new life direction.
Back to humans being perspective vessels (and how it relates to increasing your value):
Attention is the new currency. Novelty is what grabs attention. Novel perspectives are what will make people listen to you over someone else. We talk a lot about entrepreneurship in The Koe Letter, but this stems far beyond that. Novel, positive perspectives are what make people remember you. Helping people make sense — connect the dots in their head — will mark your words in their brain.
Novel perspectives make people hire you over the next person. They are the foundation of authenticity — giving your unique, intrinsic, and unfiltered perspective on the situation. Novel, well-thought-out perspectives are the key to seeing things for what they are — so you can use them to your advantage.
If you master the art of perspective, you master the game of mind.
The Intelligent Imitation Process
This is not only for entrepreneurship. Pursuing your curiosity, posting online, and building digital leverage is something everyone can do. Employers are actively hiring people that have a polished digital resume. A personal brand is a project that you can apply and test everything you learn on (making you learn faster). And as we talked about last week, the world is shifting back towards trust, simplicity, and individuality.
You build trust by being authentic. You express simplicity by distilling the information in a way that makes sense. You practice individuality by taking full responsibility for the outcome of your life.
You do all of the above by pursuing your curiosity, distilling what you learn, and posting about online through your unique perspective. (This is what I am doing right now).
If you want to start building a loyal audience, digital leverage, and start having opportunities come to you, here is my Intelligent Imitation Process for condensing & understanding knowledge.
Step 1) Choose 3-5 “mentors” that you aspire to be like.
You become what you consume, so consume in accordance with who you want to become.
Make this process easy by writing down the 3-5 names of the people that have changed your perspective.
What is your favorite book that you recommend to everyone? Write down the authors name.
Who is the YouTuber, podcaster, or blogger that you can’t stop watching? The one that “blows your mind” every time they post?
What social media accounts do you follow that make you think, “How did they say that so perfectly?”
Because that’s the thing… not everyone thinks that. Only you. The combination and connection of these “mentors” is how you create your own niche, perspective, and content that separates you from the crowd.
Re-read the first chapter of your favorite books again — I guarantee your brain will light up.
Step 2) Don’t consume. Research.
Consuming content implies that you aren’t doing anything with it. You aren’t using it (see: the universal Law of Use).
When you adopt the perspective of a researcher, you see everything as an experiment. Everything you research gains utility. You test ideas, formulate theories by connecting the ideas, determine how that gets results in the real world, then turn them into replicable processes that gets results for others (this is what people sell under a personal brand, it is also how I came up with this process ;))
Step 3) Get in touch with yourself and write it down.
You can’t be drowning in modern distractions if you want this to work. You must give room for dopamine to accurately distinguish signal from noise.
As you are researching in alignment with your curiosities, don’t take notes. Wait for the novel perspective that catches your attention. Feel the excitement. Feel your focus narrow in and listen (or read) more carefully.
This is what you write down in your notes.
Step 4) Dissect and distill.
This is the key to developing a unique perspective. In an experiment, you dissect something in order to learn about its parts. If you don’t do this, all you will have is a shallow understanding of the topic (most people on social media do this). Shallow understanding prevents you from making deeper connections that separate you from the crowd.
Here is what you will do based on what you wrote in your notes:
- The topic it relates to
- A brief summary of how you understand it.
- The common problems associated with that topic.
- The common benefits to overcoming those problems.
- Objections or limiting beliefs people have to solving those problems.
- Personal experiences and stories you have with that topic
- A step-by-step process for overcoming that problem
Now, after these are written down, you will summarize all of those into a one-sentence big idea. This will show you that you can create profound, quote-like sayings from your unique perspective.
“Okay, Dan, but what can I do with all of this information?”
In essence, you have just created an outline for an article, video, thread, multiple tweets, a product, and landing page from a novel, persuasive perspective. Yes. I really did distill that all into one process.
If you have a basic education of marketing, sales, or content psychology — I know you can see the power in this.
When you do this for few months, you build a web of genius ideas that have real world utility. Ideas that attract others. Ideas that can be monetized. Ideas that open up room for new ideas — accelerating human evolution. Yes, ideas are the exact thing that move human evolution forward. They stack on top of eachother. Remember… stories. One thing has to become before the other — a brilliant idea can literally change the direction of mankind… or just the direction of your life.
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