Early last year, I came across an American philosopher that was touted to be “the most conscious man alive.”
His name is Ken Wilber.
I bought a few of his books, like “A Brief History Of Everything,” and was instantly hooked.
His teachings on holism, consciousness, and integration helped me understand the world from a high level. A cosmic lens. Wilber answered my burning questions that other philosophers couldn’t.
As I researched, I found one interesting thing:
David Deida and Mark Manson (the authors of The Way Of The Superior Man and The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck) were former students of his.
Deida went on to use the integral model to help explain sexuality and masculinity in his books.
My writing had a significant uptick after reading Ken’s work as well. This philosophy stuff is a lot more practical when you are building your own thing (as you’ll find out).
But Mark Manson… he had an interesting encounter.
Manson saw the rise and fall of Ken Wilber. He was an adamant student. He loved Wilber’s insights.
But one day, out of nowhere, Ken “turned” on his audience and disappeared.
Mark’s summary of Wilber’s momentary downfall was this:
No matter how conscious the human being, they are still human.
Ken is now back in action after some time off and is making appearances on some more niche podcasts.
While Ken did disappear out of nowhere and made some questionable remarks, there is still a lot we can learn from him. Especially when we don’t jump to conclusions. His disappearance is rather refreshing, as the modern spirituality industry is just as bad as the modern fitness industry.
Hidden flaws that don’t give the full picture.
Similar to how Alan Watts is a library of anxiety-soothing knowledge, he was a victim of alcoholism. Which does not contradict his philosophy. In fact, it shines light on the deceptive nature of the spirituality industry.
Watts is one of the few that was true to himself.
I recommend reading Ken’s work to get the full picture, but I want to introduce you to what he calls a “holon.”
A holon is the unit of everything.
A holon is both a part and a whole.
Like how an atom is a whole in itself, but also a part of a molecule, and so on up until you reach the whole of the cosmos.
Holons span in infinite directions, like how wood is a part of a chair, but also a part of a tree, house, and table.
Holons are the building blocks of creative problem-solving.
Alan Watts has called these “units of thought.”
Leo Gura has called these “figments of consciousness.”
A snapshot of infinity. A limit that our mind creates. One of the infinite distinctions that enable our mind to assign meaning to the world around us.
The hidden material that joins holons together is relationship.
As Watts said, “existence is relationship, and you are smack in the middle of it.”
They are not just physical, they are everything.
This is a powerful realization.
Thoughts, ideas, and emotions are holons.
Struggle is a whole in itself, but also a part of fulfillment.
Holons are best understood through philosophical contemplation. Pick something random, like an object in front of you, and follow it down a rabbit hole of discovery through questioning.
Seriously, pick an object and ask a series of what, how, why, where, and when questions.
Do not limit yourself to the physical world here, or even direct connections.
If I were to choose “honey” as my holon to dissect, my mind can follow it to:
- The process of making honey
- The bees associated with pollination
- The beekeepers and if they are making a living wage
- Whether any harm is being done to the bees
- The manufacturing and distribution process of honey
- How the honey impacts human health when consumed
- And onward to infinity
Even the words in that sentence are parts in the whole of the sentence. The sentence a part of the whole of this letter. The letter the part of the whole of my content. And so on.
You are a whole that includes your interests. Interests are parts in the whole of a niche. Niches are a part in the whole of a market. Markets are a part in the whole of social media.
If you struggle in any domain of life, it’s because your perspective doesn’t include the aspects that would make it whole. This is why multi-perspectival understanding via open-mindedness and questioning is important.
Modern Enslavement – Society As A Pyramid Scheme
Notice how holons are hierarchical.
They transcend and include one another.
Like how humans transcend and include – or integrate – animals. With that transcendence, spirit emerged. The connection of minds through the intangible.
Everything is structured as a hierarchy, and there are two types.
The first are dominator hierarchies, which is what gives the word “hierarchy” a bad reputation. These consist of a pyramid scheme-esque structure.
The second are natural hierarchies or “actualization hierarchies,” which is “an order of increasing wholeness, such as: particles to atoms to cells to organisms, or letters to words to sentences to paragraphs. The whole on one level becomes a part of the whole of the next.”
You can see the wisdom in how humans replicate this structure in society. But from a big picture, society would fall under the definition of a dominator hierarchy.
Societal entities like public schools, government, corporate jobs, and even religious institutions are structured in this way.
Less people with more power at the top.
More people with less power at the bottom.
In a true pyramid scheme, there are investors at the bottom that enable the unfair power distribution.
You “climb” the ladder through hard work, but rarely will you reach the top. If there are 1000 people at the bottom and 10 at the top, there is only room for so many people to get to the top, obviously.
But, money isn’t the biggest problem here.
The people at the bottom of societal pyramid schemes are not investing money, they’re investing attention.
Since humans survive on a conceptual level, and if someone enslaves your attention, you will identify with that hierarchy.
Like how people identify with their job title. When people challenge it, they get offended, and willingly rivet their attention to stay enslaved.
Power in our modern world comes from attention.
Those that hold power at the top of any pyramid require more collective psychic energy to maintain their power.
As we’ve discussed before, the human mind craves order.
When we can focus all of our attention on the tasks we enjoy pursuing, life becomes enjoyable.
And with increasing anxiety, uncertainty, and overwhelm due to the downfall of traditional values – people flock to the “safe and secure” path toward becoming a cog in the societal machine (or scheme, if you will).
We’ve replaced religious values with capitalistic values to maintain our sanity, which I am indifferent about. I am not pushing ideology here, nor do I believe “returning to tradition” is the answer. We are supposed to transcend and include, or evolve, not regress.
This is the definition of modern enslavement.
It’s not physical, it’s mental.
And, it’s the default state of most people unless they are made aware of it, which is what I’m trying to do here.
Political campaigns, corporate work, and religious ideology are upheld with mass attention to survive the ideas that form a collective ego.
Social conditioning from the day you are born narrows your mind to see the world the same as everyone else.
By the time you exit the school system, you are just as mechanical as an animal. Acting out of survival. The difference is that you are trying to uphold what other people told you is important.
It becomes automatic to invest our attention in an extrinsic hierarchy of goals. A dominator hierarchy that forms a collective ego – through attachment of individual identity – that works to conceptually survive.
The collective societal vision for your future is to get good grades, maybe get a high paying job, watch TV to “ease your mind,” and maybe retire happily at 65. Both with the unconscious seeking of status, survival, and approval.
With the habit of investing attention in external status games, this process goes on to encourage us to waste our money on fancy cars, mansions, and other material items without consulting our own values, wants, and needs – because our self is not a product of our own conscious creation.
You escape this enslavement by creating your own actualization hierarchy to invest your attention in. One that orders your mind so you can enjoy life, create a conscious identity, and impact the world through your passionate work. Reproduction through spirit.
You can opt for doing nothing, but you won’t escape your need to survive. Doing nothing about your life is exactly how you become a modern slave.
The Focus Formula – How To Take Control Of Your Life
If you don’t know what you want, you will be told what you want, and you will believe it.
Unless you have dissolved your ego and plan to live as a monk in the eternal present moment, you need a purpose.
It is not feasible for someone with worldly responsibilities to “live in the present” for the entirety of their lives. The present is a tool. A gift. A haven that you can resort to when you don’t need to take immediate action.
Anything that is not the present moment is a mental construction for understanding reality.
Since “success” is determined by a hierarchy of goals that orders your mind and directs behavior, you must create your own.
Let’s create the structure to focus our lives:
Purpose – Your North Star
At the peak of your actualization hierarchy is your purpose.
For the sake of simplicity, your purpose will be synonymous with your vision, life’s work, and any other big goal in your life.
This is crucial. It is the most important step in taking control of your life because it is the whole that contains all parts. Without it, everything else we will talk about will fall apart.
But, when it comes to purpose, there are a few traps to be aware of:
You don’t have one purpose for your life.
They come in stages, from shallow to deep.
Like how your purpose as a teen might be to get back at your ex by becoming obsessed with the gym.
But, you eventually transcend that purpose and adopt one around health, longevity, and enjoyment.
There are no wrong actions.
(Don’t object that statement. Question it. “Wrong” is determined by your narrow worldview and lack of perspective.)
Follow your desires, self-reflect, raise your consciousness and make better decisions next time.
Don’t let the picture of perfection (that even spiritual teachers lie about) make you think you can’t take one “wrong” step.
My “worst” actions led to the best points in my life, but only because I was conscious of their ramifications and changed my behavior accordingly.
It won’t be crystal clear the first time around.
Treat this as a Minimum Viable Purpose that you will refine with experience (you need experience to make you aware of opportunities).
If you need help with this, try creating an anti-vision.
Observe the masses, realize what kind of life you don’t want to live, and move in the opposite direction.
Your purpose will fade.
Life unfolds in chapters, like a book. Each chapter has a purpose that the words lead to.
You will feel lost heading into new chapters of your life, this is normal.
Did anyone say that you aren’t supposed to feel lost? Or did you tell yourself that? “Lost” is something that exists. It’s silly to think that the infinite nature of life shouldn’t apply to you.
This is where self-reflection becomes crucial.
As you go about life, you will miss almost everything unless you reflect on your actions. That is, what went right and what went wrong, from your perspective.
When you understand both, they are hints at your next purpose.
Like puzzle pieces. When they connect, you feel the pull to go all in. This will not happen if you are constantly distracting yourself.
How do we create a meaningful purpose?
If you don’t know what you want, it’s because you haven’t asked the right questions.
Quality questions dictate your quality of life, because the quality of your understanding is dependent on the quality of answers you receive.
You will not receive the answers to these questions immediately.
You ask yourself a question > move forward in life > and reflect on your experience for answers.
Use these questions as attention anchors. With these questions made known, your mind will gravitate toward noticing answers as time goes on:
- What do I really want out of life?
- What is important to me?
- What is the highest version of myself?
- What does my ideal day look like?
- What do I have to accomplish in order to get there?
- Does that solve a problem in the world, and what product or service aligns with both?
- What is the next phase of my purpose?
Write. These. Down.
Process – The Pursuit Of Mastery
What is the process that will allow you to achieve that goal?
Every goal that you have – by nature – is accompanied by a subsequent hierarchy of goals descending down to a small, behavior-related goal, like writing the first word of an article.
Your process, system, or strategy for achieving your purpose is how you prevent your mind from declining into chaos.
Systems, when understood, help maintain order in your mind. This alone will 10x the enjoyment in your life.
The problem is that people think they will be fine just by “winging it.”
If you don’t hold this hierarchy of goals at the top of your mind, you will give too much mental energy – transferred through attention – to things that distract you from your process.
Make these goals conscious by writing down 10 year, 1 year, monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
Again, get as specific as you can.
Since these are written down, you will refine them with experience. This alone is a process within itself that will order your mind.
The process of mastery comes in stages.
Beginner, intermediate, and advanced relating to the skills you must acquire to actualize your vision.
You must understand which stage you are in, and what you need to do to advance to the next stage.
Every stage will have its own set of lever-moving actions to polish off your process.
As a business beginner, your levers may be learning the fundamentals of marketing and sales, writing content, and making online connections.
As an intermediate, your levers may be building out a product so that you can monetize your audience. You can start to ween off of learning via external sources.
As an expert, your levers may be doing what you enjoy, repurposing your best work, and diversifying your reach.
Again, write all of this down.
Yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals paired with the lever moving actions that will move you toward achievement.
Priority – Making Better Decisions
First, this encapsulates your lever moving actions that we just discussed.
These are best framed as performance goals (as opposed to vanity goals).
Instead of aiming for an uncontrollable goal of “50 followers a day,” aim to write 3 posts that may lead to 50 followers a day.
Instead of aiming for a “well written article,” aim for writing 1000 words (that you can come back and edit).
The specificity helps reduce the friction around action, because you are in direct control of the outcome.
You, at this point in your life, are a manifestation of all of your past choices. These choices are not just physical… but mental, financial, and spiritual.
It’s safe to say that your life, 10 years from now, will be a manifestation of your choices today, tomorrow, and the next.
Making better decisions is easier when you have a purpose and process to bounce your focus between, but it’s not enough.
Here’s how you make better decisions:
Bring your purpose to the top of your mind.
This will help you filter signal from noise. If it isn’t conducive to your vision, it isn’t important (unless you’ve been convinced it is important by someone else).
All of this takes time.
Your signal (importance) to noise (distraction) ratio will improve as you do.
Gain multi-perspectival understanding.
Don’t lock your mind into one perspective. Try to see the situation from multiple angles.
Your perspective is based on your identity.
With time, we want to work towards adopting a cosmic perspective. If you identify as the universe, human problems become minor, and you can begin working towards creative solutions to advance humanity.
But, that takes time.
As humans, we work to survive our identity. You can’t escape survival, we still have an animalistic nature in us. But, we can work to survive a more “enlightened” identity, like the cosmos, humanity, or the actualized version of yourself.
If your perspective is a part of the whole that is your identity, you evolve by transcending and including different perspectives until you’ve become the whole of the cosmos.
Start by identifying with your future self, how would they approach situations?
If you can do this, decision making will become automatic, as you are trying to survive the idea of your higher self.
Perspective goes so deep. I’m planning another letter for it, but the main question is this:
How can you view the situation that allows you to perceive it in a way that is conducive to action?
Perceive the situation in a way that allows you to act in alignment with your purpose.
Problems are only problems if you interpret them as such.
If you don’t feel like getting out of bed, step back and think about your measly problem.
There are people that don’t have legs. They can’t get out of bed without help.
There are people that don’t have a bed or food to cook in the morning.
Adopt their perspective and interpret your problem from their lens, do you think they give a f*ck if you don’t “feel” like getting out of bed?
You have a purpose to actualize.
State of consciousness is everything.
Through social conditioning – so we can operate within society – most people have a narrow worldview.
This worldview contains their beliefs which influence thoughts which influence emotions which influence attention.
Attention influences behavior.
If you are only aware of the path that society has laid out for you, your attention will be riveted to that path, and enslaved in exchange for your survival.
A steady paycheck. A spouse that, intrinsically, you have nothing in common with. And, of course, too much responsibility… that way you can’t invest attention in your own thing.
Society is well aware of humans’ mechanical nature.
By pursuing your own thing, it will become easier with time.
This isn’t supposed to be an easy process.
Some would even argue that raising your consciousness is the meaning of life.
You raise your consciousness by questioning everything, gaining awareness of a potential future, and learning to deal with those highs and lows… for life.
You raise your consciousness even more by creating a holistic identity, like humanity or the cosmos, and expanding your mind to embody that perspective.
Your behavior will follow, and true problems will reveal themselves that you can solve through creativity.
Challenge – The Source Of Wisdom And Evolution
Your personal actualization hierarchy – purpose, process, and priority – should be challenging.
Many conventional goals are challenging at the start, but that challenge soon fades. And, those challenges aren’t something you actually want to take on.
Challenge narrows attention further. This helps eliminate distractions from taking you off the path.
Every subsequent goal that your process presents to actualize your vision will demand you to grow.
That is, you will have to invest in your education to acquire the skill set required to meet that goal’s challenge.
The source of learning is struggle, not memorization.
This isn’t a corporate gig where you stop evolving at a certain rung in the ladder. Avoid mindless repetition without progression.
Clarity – Self-Correcting With Time
If creating your purpose, process, and priorities does not come easy to you, don’t fall into the quick fix mindset.
None of this is easy.
None of this is immediate.
None of this will be crystal clear at the start.
You can predict the future, but it’s impossible to have a perfect prediction.
This is LIFE we are talking about, not DAY.
It’s going to take time, and if you haven’t already, go back and write all of this down to the best of your ability.
Self-reflection will be your best friend on this journey.
Every month, go back to what you wrote down.
Reflect on what went right and what went wrong.
But understand, in the moment, there are not right or wrong choices. There is no way you can know with 100% certainty where your actions are going to lead. Get comfortable with the uncertain nature of life.
Experience is how you refine your purpose with time. That is how you create your own certainty (in your ability).
You don’t know what to improve if you don’t make mistakes.
Awareness begets awareness.
Alignment – Extrinsic Potential With Intrinsic Progression
The top pyramid – purpose, process, priority – creates a potential reality for you to create through your daily choices.
These are responsible for extrapersonal neurotransmitters like dopamine.
The bottom pyramid – consciousness, challenge, and clarity – create an ever increasing order in your mind.
These are responsible for peripersonal neurotransmitters like endorphins.
When these align, you create a neurochemical cocktail that continues circulating in your brain. It becomes much easier to live in some degree of a flow state, with your focus on the future and little to sway you from the path.
You align these pyramids through attention.
Meaning, you have to create time to work toward your dreams, reflect on your progress, and refine your strategy.
Swap out the mindless consumption for future building.
Live in the mental reality that you’ve created for yourself.
This Is Your Reality – A Note About The Focus Formula
This does not only apply to your life.
It applies to anything you do.
If you are building a side business, you need a purpose, process, priorities, and the rest.
If you are writing an article, you need the same. Even the structure of said article is the same. You communicate with the external world through persuasive actualization hierarchies.
This is a meta formula for operating at your highest potential on the macro and micro scale of life.
Lastly, this is your reality.
The Focus Formula you have created is what you bring your attention back to when distractions happen.
Keep your head down in your little world, aiming for your purpose, and others opinions will stop holding weight.
Put on your headphones, throw up your hood, let people criticize, and focus on creating a better future for yourself and the world.
– Dan Koe