One of the best compliments you can get is “I like the way your mind works.”
And when I was young, I always envied those more intelligent than me.
How did they do it?
How did they articulate their thoughts so well?
How did they say what I’ve been thinking for years but couldn’t string into words?
How did they hold high-level conversations with a sense of understanding that leaves you feeling awestruck, but like you are so far below them on the level of knowledge?
I’ve tried to emulate the voice of the stoics, ancients, and modern masters. Soon I realized that language evolved for a reason. We have a more diverse toolset to pierce through the noise and acquire truth.
The poeticism of Watts.
The pithy advice of Seneca.
The crypticism of Nietsche.
The elegance of Peterson.
There was a gravity to their words that stuck in the back of my head.
In reflection, it led me to where I am today.
I always wanted to do something creative.
I knew that I didn’t want to earn a living from my body, or my time for that matter. I had to earn with my mind.
This led me down a brutal path of life and business failures that led to the discovery and cultivation of high-value skills.
Design, marketing, sales, technology, programming, writing, film, and more that trained my mind for creative problem-solving.
Today, I am grateful to say that I can earn a living and sustain a high quality of life by moving two levers: the inputs and outputs of my mind.
In this letter, I want to discuss 4 big ideas:
- Your mental body and how it rules your life.
- How mental bodybuilding is your path to intelligence.
- Why mental real estate is the most valuable resource.
- How to monetize your mind to create your own source of income.
Mental aesthetics is your master key to the doors of the good life.
I – The Mental Body
In the book Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Waltz, there’s a phenomenon that surgery patients radically change their lives after changing their physical appearance.
Many patients went on to achieve their wildest dreams.
The dreams they didn’t think were possible before, even if the “blemish” that held them back was as simple as a bump on their nose (that was unnoticeable to the average eye).
But it wasn’t the physical appearance that made the difference.
It was the change in self-image.
A change in the body they held as a mental construct, one that often didn’t reflect their physical appearance.
This brings up the principle of expectations vs reality.
Humans tend to latch onto thoughts, ideas, and beliefs to make sense of the world and aid their survival.
We hold an idea of the past or future in our mind, and if present reality doesn’t match, tension is the result.
Tension narrows the mind and creates stress.
It prevents you from seeing the world as it is, because it isn’t supposed to be anything other than what it’s being.
When we hold an image of who we think we are in our mind, even when we’ve never directly seen our own face outside of external reflections, anything that challenges that image is seen as a threat.
Even fitness models voted to have the most aesthetic physique in the eyes of the masses have body dysmorphia.
Hell, even I have body dysmorphia after being in the gym for 10 years.
The image of who they are does not match their appearance.
This influences how we perceive and interpret the world around us.
Something as simple as the idea of an unhealthy meal can send a fitness model into an emotional spiral of rage, self-hatred due to a past binge, and the urge to preach that all people should abide by the diet ideology that they subscribe to.
The same holds true for everything we think we are.
From religious beliefs to budgeting techniques to the business models and jobs that allow us to survive, our identity turns sour when we create permanence in our minds that does not match the impermanence of life.
I.i – Conceptual Survival
As above, so below.
Humans survive on both the physical and mental planes of existence.
Yes, if there is a bear charging towards you, your life flashes before your eyes.
But even then, I would argue that humans only survive on the mental plane of existence.
When a bear charges toward you, you aren’t really worried about your physical body. You’re worried about the idea of it.
You’re also worried about the friends, family, career, and whatever other idea you will lose that flood your mind in time before your life ends.
Your “self” is what you are trying to survive.
And if it’s threatened, you feel it.
If you are attached to a sports team and someone says that team sucks, how do you feel?
If you are subscribed to a specific religion and someone tells you theirs is better, how do you feel? Do you want to replicate what’s in your mind into theirs through communication so your mental offspring can survive in hopes that you convert them?
If you identify as a coffee drinker and run out of coffee, is your day ruined?
In reality, all is well.
You aren’t in true danger, and your physical body changes on a cellular level every second. You are not your body, because your body is 100% different than it was 7 years ago. You are consciousness.
When you attempt to make anything permanent you increase the chances of suffering.
To play the game of life you must choose what is worth suffering for and dedicate your life to that.
Successful people use their emotions. Unsuccessful people are used by them.
I.ii – The Lesson: Releasing Concepts
Self-development is cognitive development.
To develop, expand, and grow yourself – not to be confused with inflating your ego – you must release the ideas that prevent you from rising up like sandbags tied to a hot air balloon.
When you feel tension, stress, or negative emotions arise you must train yourself to pause.
This is a lifelong pursuit of mindfulness.
It is a habit that must be adopted to achieve the good life.
It is not optional.
When you pause, identify both the expectation in your mind and the reality of the situation.
We don’t want to be at war with life, we want to be at one with it.
We don’t want to fight with it, but flow with it.
Let go of the irrational beliefs that hold you back and act regardless of how you feel, because you can.
II – Mental Bodybuilding
When most people have a sense of self that is the product of the external world, you have the chance to peel back the layers. You can build a self that is a conscious, personal creation that works less, earns more, and enjoys life. – The Art Of Focus
The highest-paid individuals are the strategists, visionaries, and true creatives of the world.
The most fulfilled individuals are the ones who have control over their minds.
The people who get what they want have developed a self that makes their ideal future inevitable.
Your “self” is an idea.
A set of beliefs that are conditioned into your mind through learning. And when we are young, we absorb external information like a sponge.
This information is often passed down by your parents who were influenced by society, the government, and culture – especially if they don’t question those beliefs.
This is exactly how you live a mediocre life.
By doing what everyone else tells you to do.
By letting your attention be stolen from you.
By waking up one day after doing exactly what you were told would lead to happiness, but only having unhappiness to show for it.
Mental bodybuilding is the act of chiseling your psychic body to the point of ideal outcomes in health, wealth, relationships, and happiness.
To craft your ideal mental physique, accept that the path will be painful.
Right now “you” are a blob of limitations that were projected on you.
Your job is to become aware of these limitations, release them, and increase your complexity of self.
“Complexity of self” is the knowledge, skill, and beliefs you have that determines the amount of clarity you can generate as you navigate life.
A clear mind is an asset in an unclear world.
Clarity, or making sense, or ordered consciousness is the prime ingredient for life enjoyment.
The problem is that most people are anxious, overwhelmed, and uncertain when it comes to doing what they want.
II.i – Information Metabolism
Life is experience and experience is information.
Your mind dictates your quality of life because your development dictates how you process information, or how you process life.
When you are overwhelmed with information, you feel anxious.
When you are underwhelmed with information, you feel bored.
To maximize the flow of information, think of your mind as the digestive system of reality.
If you eat too much or don’t move enough, you won’t metabolize that experience.
If you eat too little or move too much, you get hungry and agitated.
When you eat just enough, you create an environment that is conducive to mental muscle growth. You trek through reality toward your goals. You enter a season of pure progress, and the feeling is incredible.
II.ii – Bulking & Cutting
In fitness, you build muscle by creating an environment conducive to muscle growth.
You need ample food, sleep, intensity of training, and consistency.
You will gain a bit of fat along the way. This is inevitable if you want to see noticeable results.
At some point, you start feeling off.
You feel groggy and slow, and you don’t like how soft you look in the mirror.
To reveal the newly built muscle, you change your environment to reflect your new goal.
You decrease the amount of food you eat – or increase the amount of training you do – in a way that maintains the muscle you’ve built in your bulking phase.
A key point:
You need a conscious goal for each chapter of life.
A goal provides both vision and a narrative that orders your mind.
The two main themes of a chapter will be consistency or intensity.
A goal, vision, and narrative for your life provides you with a perceptual filter to digest the right information. We can think of these as the mechanisms for nutrient partitioning.
When you utilize the right parts of the information you consume, you build muscle faster than you would otherwise.
To build your mental physique, you must push the boundaries of the unknown.
Try new things, fly across the country, start the business, and flood yourself with information so you can filter the insight that allows you to do those things well.
When you hit a wall, peel back.
Rest, recover, and shed your mind of the fat you’ve acquired along the way through awareness and understanding.
It’s okay to take a break after a chapter of progress.
II.iii – Training The Mind
Short-form content is the current language of the internet.
The average individual has trained their mind to think small, remain narrow, and have difficulty seeing into a positive future.
Training your mind is training your the idea of your self.
Your self, or identity, is limited by your worldview.
To expand who we are to the point of vast knowledge, experience, and expertise we must expand our minds beyond superficial pleasures and problems.
Read longer books. Listen to longer podcasts. Have deeper conversations with those close to you.
Break out of the mindless cycle of circulating the ideas of sex, money, and indulgence without a philosophical backbone of mastery.
Remember, you need a goal for your life.
Something to move towards and align your decision-making with.
This will be useful for your mental output.
Consumption can only go so far without creation.
It’s like over-eating without lifting. Most of it will be stored as fat. You don’t utilize the nutrients to their maximum effect.
Reading, listening, and consuming must be balanced with writing, speaking, and building a product that contributes to humanity. That is how you find connection and fulfillment.
We will tie all of this together into practical steps at the end of this letter. Stay with me.
II.iv – Meaningful Events
When the flow of information is maximized in your life through the balance of consumption and creation, you will encounter meaningful events.
You will feel a deep sense of excitement for the future, fulfillment in the present, and gratitude for the past.
These feelings should be seen as an opportunity to document the important parts of your life that you can share with others.
When you read a good book and stumble across a lesson that sparks excitement, write it down.
When you feel fulfilled in the present because of the progress you are making, write it down.
When you feel grateful that your past has led you to this moment, despite your mistakes, write it down.
As your notes of signal grow, you have data from which you can replicate those experiences.
You can condition your mind to occupy these states of consciousness as a baseline.
Your quality of life increases to a point of high stability.
II.v – The Lesson: Explore The Unknown
You aren’t where you want to be because you’ve been where you are for a bit too long.
The way you expand your mind (and potential) is by solving the problems that stand in the way of your goals.
Your goals lie in the unknown.
The thought of the unknown creates tension and fear.
What is it costing you to put off solving the problems in your life?
Person 1 decides to solve the problem in a day.
Person 2 decides to put up with the pain of stagnation and either solve it in a month, or not at all.
Person 1 will achieve 30 goals by the time person 2 achieves 1.
You hate your job, but its pain is not stronger than your fear of the unknown, so you don’t pursue the goal of doing your own thing.
You hate where you live, but not enough to do what’s required to move out.
You hate your partner, but not enough to develop a bit of self-respect.
Snap out of your narrow way of living.
Fall in love with the lessons you learn from relentlessly pursuing your goals.
III – Mental Real Estate
Whether they be positive or negative, the ideas that occupy the collective mental real estate will influence the progress we make as a species. The future belongs to those that can capture and hold attention with valuable information for the most amount of time possible. – The Art Of Focus
Who wrote the code in your head?
That is to say, who fed you the information, ideas, beliefs, perspectives, and worldviews that create your sense of self?
Let’s consider your “self” as an intellectual construct.
A psychic body.
A house that can be occupied, nurtured, or destroyed by the tenants you allow to live there rent-free.
In comes the internet.
In comes social media.
Just like that, we have thousands upon thousands of ideas shaping who we are, how we act, and what we care about on a daily basis.
Most people don’t even know why they are doing what they are doing.
That alone is a great way to audit your life.
If you don’t know why you are going to that class, going to that job, marrying that person, or doing anything that you do, you did not create yourself.
Sustained long-term focus is a lost art in a distracted world, and it’s wreaking havoc on our ability to achieve anything meaningful.
III.i – Flipping The Social Switch
Social media is the devil if you perceive it that way.
Social media is the vessel for your potential if you perceive it that way.
How you perceive opportunities depends on your self-development.
You won’t see a viral social media post as inspiration if you don’t identify as a writer.
You won’t see a business owner’s complaint as a potential lead if you don’t identify as a consultant or service business owner.
Most people see cliche advice as “cringe” because they identify as mediocre thanks to an abundance of self-deprecating memes occupying their worldview.
Entrepreneurship is the only logical option for long-term thinkers.
A personal brand is an extension of your character, the self you continue to develop.
Your goals are what attract like-minded players.
Your problems, when solved, are how you help others in the form of a product or service.
Your ideas are the posts that occupy the mental real estate of your followers and shape their sense of self.
Writing and speaking your beautiful mind to the masses through social media is how you check the boxes of a fulfilling life.
III.ii – Reproduction Through Spirit
When you have children, you create a “self.”
Yes, their physical body has your “blood,” but who they are is a result of the ideas you inject into their mind.
With that knowledge, we are reproducing on a spiritual level every day.
Each conversation you have, idea you spread, or belief you defend is for the sake of conceptual survival.
Your sense of self becomes immortal because your ideas live in the minds of others. They shape the selves of the world.
This is why writing, speaking, and building a business is so rewarding. You feel that sense of connection and fulfillment that comes from impacting lives at scale.
III.iii – We Are In A Spiritual War
Those who occupy the most mental real estate hold the most power in the modern world.
Think of James Clear.
Most people are aware of his book Atomic Habits.
If James posted the word “habits,” he would get thousands of likes and reposts.
If anyone else posted that word, even with the same amount of followers, they would get much less engagement.
This brings up a few lessons:
- The longer you hold attention, the more power your ideas hold. Books will always reign supreme. Podcasts and long videos come second. Short content comes last. But all have their use cases.
- Your ideas must spark positive behavior change. If you change someone’s life, they will credit you over and over for your success. Meaning, your ideas spread without people consuming your work.
- When your ideas change lives, you hold attention longer. If someone is forming new habits, James Clear’s ideas will occupy their mind throughout the day, which shapes their identity. They become a half-child of Clear.
Short-form writing is for initial attention capture and audience growth. Long-form writing is for nurturing the mind and self of the reader.
Both are necessary, but short writing without long writing will trap you in a feast or famine cycle. Your ideas will not live in people’s heads for long.
People try to talk about whatever they want online and fail because they don’t understand this realization.
If I write a book (this is why I did) I can expand my language online and stop relying on “proven” or “high-performing” topics to grow.
But beginners can’t skip this step.
Unless you are a best-selling offer, your content needs to follow an attention progression. You must emulate validated ideas (like viral tweets or videos) while slowly building authority with long-form media.
When it comes to business, your life’s work, or just writing online it is a spiritual war of ideas.
Engagement tactics and growth hacks are helpful to spread your ideas, but will those ideas live on through eternity by the selves they create?
III.iv – The Spirituality Of Entrepreneurship
Self-development is a gateway drug into entrepreneurship because you realize that improving others is the next level of improving yourself.
Attention is the root of your being.
It is both reality and your connection to it.
Improving yourself is improving where you focus your attention.
Most people are focused on the next pleasurable experience. Wise people are focused on the problems that the pleasure seekers are hiding from.
Find a problem.
Learn how to solve it.
Document how you solved it.
Distill into a replicable process.
Give it to others that want to be helped.
Do it offline and it’s called growth.
Do it online and it’s called business.
Spirituality is feeling like you are a part of something greater than yourself. It is reuniting with the one thing that has always been: the unity and connection of all things.
Business is spirituality in that you are attempting to raise the collective consciousness or development through the exchange of goods.
III.v – Action Steps
Study that which generates attention.
Psychology, media, design, writing, marketing, sales, persuasion, influence, and the mind.
Your thoughts, emotions, actions, and follow them to their root. What goals, problems, and beliefs have others projected on you that led to those thoughts, emotions, and actions?
This may sound like a lot, but you have an entire lifetime to make this work, no?
What’s the only other option? Distracting yourself with mind-numbing pleasures that entrench you in the same boring life?
The only pain greater than seeing what you are capable of is not seeing what you are capable of.
Your education should, and must, reflect that.
IV – Mental Monetization
You have the resources to revamp your education, enhance your skill set, and change the source of your income in less time than it would take to get a college degree.
But there’s a trap that many fall into.
They attempt to monetize the vane, superficial, or rapid.
They post half-naked pictures just to lose their income source when they can’t sustain their unhealthy eating patterns.
They study the algorithm rather than human nature just to lose their income when technology changes.
They study the “best business models of 2023” rather than marketing, sales, persuasion, and distribution just to lose income when the economy shifts.
It is better to realize early that intelligence is a more sustainable monetization lever.
Creativity, wisdom, development, and character can be the source of your income if you protect your mind.
IV.i – What To Study
Let’s take a big-picture approach to the skills that will bring you success going into the future.
The 3 applications we want to master are social media, offer creation, and driving traffic. These are how your skills will be channeled and your learning will be filtered.
You must build a brand, offer, and practice driving traffic between the two. That’s how you make money.
When you learn the skills below, learn them from the lens of what you are building. Filter the information through the lens of a social media brand, driving traffic, and creating a great product.
IV.i.i – Evergreen Skills
Writing, speaking, marketing, and sales are how you structure and distribute the value you provide to the world.
Social media posts, newsletters, video scripts, and all other media is written or spoken.
They are then enhanced with marketing and sales knowledge because they are based on psychological principles of attention capture and value perception.
These are not optional.
Avoid learning any other skills first.
True learning stems from struggle, not memorization.
You must start building, NOT learning, and when you encounter a problem, study writing, speaking, marketing, and sales courses and content.
IV.i.ii – Results Oriented Skills
When you have a solid grasp on the evergreen skills, you can choose to enhance them with other results-oriented skills.
These include but are not limited to any other skill that will make your social media, traffic generation, or offer better:
- Graphic design
- Web design and development
- Search engine optimization
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing agencies
- Any other business or skill people tell you to learn or start.
All of these will be made effective by the evergreen skills.
Learning them by themselves will prime you for replacement.
Since you are building a personal brand as your character in the new virtual reality, you are building a skill set that transfers over into any other business.
When you have a knowledge of 100, you can create a product or service of 1.
The more skills and experience you have with your own brand, the more opportunities become available to you.
People will tell you to build a business before starting on social media. I believe that is a quick way to a life of unnecessary pain because you don’t understand social media.
IV.ii – Dissecting Your Mind For Topics
If a mind is composed of ideas that form thoughts, beliefs, and actions – it makes sense to break them into their individual parts, study them, enhance them, and reprogram the way you think.
What are your goals?
Write about the benefits of achieving them.
What are the problems standing in the way?
Write about the emotions involved in overcoming them.
What skills do you have to acquire to reach your goals?
Write about how you are applying those skills and what you’ve learned.
What are 10-20 things you are genuinely curious to learn?
Study them and share the big ideas that you feel compelled to share with someone else but in your own words.
What are the topics and interests you already consume?
I love watching, reading, and listening to content on psychology, spirituality, metaphysics, business, mindset, mental models, and more.
Create a topic tree with 3 broad interests, break it down into topics, and then break it down further into writing ideas.
Then, use those as a starting point for distilling lessons as you learn the evergreen skills.
Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced?
99% of the market are beginners.
This is often a struggle point for people of all levels.
Think about what you consume and how you consume it.
On social media, I love reading beginner-level advice. It reminds me of the fundamentals I need to focus on.
If I want to learn something more advanced, I don’t try to find it on social media. I have a much higher search intent. I am going to search for it directly and/or purchase a book or course.
With this knowledge, even if you are advanced, write for beginners.
And if you are a beginner, rest assured that people will benefit from learning from your journey.
Social media is a collective mind.
Your job is to display your character as your brand and document your mind with your writing.
Observe your thoughts and attempt to turn your experiences into lessons.
I help you with all of this in 2 Hour Writer.
Your clarity of thought will shoot through the roof.
IV.iii – Iterating On Your Big Ideas
For every 100 pieces you write only a handful will be good.
This is the nature of everything in life, trial and error.
You have to be okay with failure because success wouldn’t exist without it.
Pay close attention to your best ideas.
The ones you like the most or perform the best.
Every month, review your writing and save the best ones.
Then, rewrite them from a place of higher experience.
You can be sure that your posts will start to perform better and better when you do this.
Eventually, your mind thinks in terms of your best ideas. This is how authors, speakers, podcasters, and the rest sound so articulate.
They’ve trained their mind to operate on big ideas.
IV.iv – Creating A Data-Driven Product
Your mental monetization journey will provide you with a lot of feedback (that you won’t receive if you don’t start).
Pay attention to:
- How your best ideas perform. If the idea performs well, it probably means a product or service will also do well based on that idea.
- How others’ products and ideas perform. You have to become an observer over a consumer. View social media content, landing pages, funnels, products, services, and promotions as inspirational firepower for your own. Sell what’s already selling, but under your own name and worldview.
- What people tell you they want. As you grow your readers will become vocal about what they want from you and what was helpful. Double down on this.
- The questions people ask. You will notice patterns in the problems people have. The more questions you get, the bigger the problem, and the more likely people are to pay you for help.
You can monetize anything you want nowadays.
I’ve talked about this many times before in the one-person business playlist on YouTube.
But the best route you can take is to solve your own problems and sell the solution.
Everyone has the same goals and problems.
They just view them through different perspectives and worldviews.
You want financial freedom, health, vitality, love, and every benefit of improving your health, wealth, and relationships.
One person will try budgeting, the other will build a side hustle.
What you do to achieve your goals is completely different from how someone else will.
Your job is to attract people like you by talking about your journey.
Then, package up your path to achieving the goal and sell it.
This is how you build a beautiful mind.
- Understand your mental body.
- Train that body like you would in the gym.
- Know that modern power comes from attention or mental real estate.
- Use writing and business as a vessel for self-understanding and monetization.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
– Dan Koe