Rejecting Expectations, Labels, and Trauma (on Iced Coffee Hour) Ep 529

Summary Notes


In a thought-provoking discussion, Alex from delves into the philosophy of meaning and happiness in life and business. He challenges conventional beliefs about desire, suggesting that articulating wants can create a self-imposed contract for unhappiness. Alex also questions the necessity of ascribing meaning to life, proposing that acceptance without judgment leads to freedom from societal "shoulds." He shares insights from conversations with his philosopher friend, Dr. Gashi, highlighting the importance of language in shaping our reality. Furthermore, Alex touches on the concept of nihilism, the impermanence of wealth and achievements, and the relativity of trauma across cultures. The conversation explores the liberation that comes from rejecting societal expectations and the empowerment in controlling one's perception of meaning.

Summary Notes

The Casino of Life and the Illusion of Control

  • Alex compares life to a casino game with fake rules and an inevitable end.
  • He suggests that the pursuit of success and material gain is ultimately inconsequential.
  • The metaphor implies the transient nature of life and the futility of attaching too much importance to worldly success.

"I feel like in the casino of life, you get tapped on the shoulder by the grim reaper, and he says, your time's up. And then all your chips get pushed right back to the middle of the table, and then you leave the casino empty handed because it was a fake game with fake rules that didn't matter."

The quote emphasizes the idea that life is temporary and that the constructs we live by are ultimately meaningless in the face of mortality.

Building Businesses and Documenting the Journey

  • Alex is working on building a billion-dollar business with
  • He expresses a desire for prominent figures like Bezos, Musk, and Buffett to have documented their journeys.
  • Alex aims to document his own journey as a guide for others.

"I'm trying to build a billion dollar thing with I always wish bezos, musk, and Buffett had documented their journey. So I'm doing it for the rest of us."

Alex highlights his entrepreneurial goals and the importance he places on sharing his experiences for the benefit of others.

The Nature of Desire and Unhappiness

  • Alex discusses the concept that expressing desires is a commitment to unhappiness until those desires are fulfilled.
  • He shares a personal anecdote about seeking meaning in life and a conversation with a wealthy individual who questioned the necessity of meaning.
  • The conversation leads to a discussion on the acceptance of life "as is" without imposing expectations.

"Desire is a contract we make with ourselves to be unhappy until we get what we want."

This quote encapsulates Alex's perspective on desire, suggesting that it inherently leads to dissatisfaction until the desired outcome is achieved.

Expectations, Beliefs, and Acceptance

  • Alex challenges the notion of "shoulds" in life, such as the belief that one should work, have balance, or that marriage is a compromise.
  • He advocates for a perspective that accepts things as they are without judgment or the imposition of societal expectations.
  • The discussion includes the idea that seeking dopamine or happiness is not necessary for a fulfilling life.

"I believe marriage is marriage, and I believe my marriage is my marriage, and I believe your marriage is your marriage. And I believe that I can work 24 hours a day if I want to, and that is all, period."

The quote illustrates Alex's belief in individualism and the rejection of societal norms in favor of personal acceptance.

The Pursuit of Happiness and the Process-Driven Life

  • The speakers discuss whether the pursuit of happiness is essential or whether it should be a byproduct of living life without specific expectations.
  • Alex argues that focusing on the process without attaching it to goals or outcomes is the key to a genuine process-driven life.
  • The conversation touches on the idea that attaching meaning or goals to actions can create a dependency on outcomes for satisfaction.

"Not because it's like when people say, hey, work set these goals and the rest will take care of itself, it still makes the rest taking care of itself. The reason that you're doing it, which means that it's actually not getting around it when people are like, you got to be process driven."

This quote questions the common advice of being process-driven and suggests that even this can be a subtle way of focusing on outcomes rather than the process itself.

Personal Growth and Philosophical Influence

  • Alex shares insights from his personal growth journey and how it has been influenced by his philosopher friend.
  • He emphasizes the importance of language and how it shapes our thoughts and perceptions of success.
  • The discussion includes the role of self-imposed definitions and limitations on personal and professional success.

"My closest friend is a philosopher, and I use that in terms of the actual meaning of the word philosopher. So, like, filet to love. And then sophos is wisdom or knowledge. So he's a lover of knowledge. Lover of wisdom. And we talk every week."

Alex attributes his philosophical insights and personal growth to his discussions with a close friend who embodies the love of wisdom.

The Importance of Language in Shaping Reality

  • Alex concludes by stressing the significance of the language we use in framing our experiences and success.
  • He observes that people often talk themselves into failure by defining success in limiting ways.
  • The conversation suggests that the words we choose can act as self-imposed barriers to achievement.

"The language that we use matters a lot, because how we say things is how we think things."

This quote highlights the connection between language and thought, suggesting that the way we articulate our experiences influences our mindset and outcomes.

Self-Perception and Identity

  • Self-judgment can lead to unhappiness and a difficult life.
  • Ceasing self-judgment and not thinking about one's own negative labels can lead to a more peaceful state of mind.
  • The Alcoholics Anonymous practice of daily affirmations is criticized for reinforcing a negative self-identity.
  • Living a meaningful life is about being rather than constantly self-affirming.

"And then I stopped judging myself for being unhappy, and then I stopped thinking about it altogether." "I really don't like the alcoholics anomalous concept of every morning waking up and saying, I am an alcoholic, high, whatever."

These quotes emphasize the negative impact of self-judgment and the potential harm in daily affirmations that reinforce a negative identity. They suggest that not focusing on one's perceived shortcomings can lead to a more fulfilling life.

Positive Affirmations vs. Exiting the Equation

  • There's a debate on whether positive affirmations or complete detachment from self-judgment is more beneficial.
  • Positive affirmations might be a step towards self-improvement for some, but others advocate for disregarding the concept of worthiness altogether.
  • The speaker suggests that caring less about judgment from others can lead to personal freedom and happiness.

"I think it's exiting the equation altogether. So it's saying I am worthless, instead of saying, like, I want to be worthy or I am worthy, just saying worthiness doesn't matter."

This quote introduces the concept of "exiting the equation," which means completely disregarding the idea of self-worth rather than trying to affirm it or fight against a negative self-image.

Nihilism and Personal Freedom

  • The speaker identifies as a nihilist, believing that life is ultimately meaningless.
  • There are different interpretations of nihilism, with some using it as a basis for self-serving behavior and others for liberation from societal expectations.
  • Rejecting the need for approval from others can lead to taking risks and pursuing personal goals without fear of judgment.
  • Despite the speaker's nihilistic views, they acknowledge the presence of emotions and the challenge of maintaining such a perspective.

"So I'm 100% nihilist. I believe that we die. Nothing happens. And it is what it is." "It creates some levels of freedom that allow for clarity of thought and also for the ability to take risks that most people can't take."

These quotes explain the speaker's nihilistic belief system and how it can provide freedom from societal pressures, leading to clear thinking and the ability to take risks.

The Role of Emotions and Cultural Context in Trauma

  • The speaker questions the necessity of processing emotions and traumatic events.
  • The definition of trauma is discussed as being subjective and culturally dependent.
  • The speaker suggests that what is considered traumatic in one culture may not be in another, indicating that the perception of trauma can be chosen.

"Why should we process a traumatic event? What does that mean?" "If the circumstance is the same, why was it traumatic?"

These quotes challenge the idea that emotional processing is necessary and propose that the definition of trauma is not universal but rather influenced by cultural context.

Encouragement to Support the Podcast

  • The speaker asks for support in spreading the word about the podcast to help more entrepreneurs.
  • No advertisements or sales pitches are made; the sole request is for listeners to leave a review and share the podcast.

"The only ask that I can ever have of you guys is that you help me spread the word so we can help more entrepreneurs make more money, feed their families, make better products, and have better experiences for their employees and customers."

This quote is a direct appeal to the audience to support the podcast by leaving reviews and sharing it with others, emphasizing the altruistic goal of helping entrepreneurs.

Cultural Narrative and Trauma

  • Trauma can be perceived differently based on cultural narratives.
  • The same event can be traumatic or not depending on the meaning ascribed to it.
  • The significance of events is subjective and based on personal and societal beliefs.

"So if it's traumatic in one instance and not traumatic in another, then it means that we can basically change the cultural narrative that we're ascribing to our context and make it not traumatic."

This quote highlights the idea that trauma is not inherent to an event but is rather a product of the cultural narrative surrounding the event.

The Meaningfulness of Mourning

  • Mourning is culturally constructed and does not necessarily correlate with care.
  • Beliefs about mourning are inherited from society.
  • Questioning deeply held beliefs can reveal arbitrary connections between actions and emotions.

"If we think we feel like we have a narrative that says, if I don't mourn, it means I didn't care about them. Right? That's a statement of belief."

This quote illustrates the belief that mourning is expected as a sign of caring, yet this connection is a societal construct rather than an objective truth.

The Creation and Destruction of Meaning

  • Human brains are constantly assigning meaning to experiences.
  • By controlling what is deemed meaningful, one can influence their reactions to life events.
  • The interpretation of stimuli can be managed to affect one's response.

"And so at the end of the day, end to end, bottom, bottom, root, all our brains do is just create and destroy meaning."

This quote emphasizes the fundamental human process of interpreting and reinterpreting the world around us, which shapes our experiences and reactions.

The Role of Basic Needs in Shaping Perception

  • Historical context and the fulfilment of basic needs influence how events are perceived.
  • The lack of basic needs in the past may have led to a different interpretation of traumatic events.

"500 years ago, you see, like, a parent killed in front of you? Isn't that because all you have in your mind is like, food, shelter, water?"

The quote suggests that in the past, the focus on survival may have overshadowed the emotional impact of traumatic events, which could be perceived differently today.

The Power of Definitions and Language

  • Language shapes thought, and the definitions of words are crucial for communication.
  • Academics define terms clearly to ensure understanding.
  • Shared definitions are necessary for meaningful discussion.

"We have to agree on the definition before we can talk about it."

This quote stresses the importance of agreeing on the meanings of words before engaging in a discussion to ensure clear and effective communication.

Personal Journey and Belief Systems

  • Personal experiences can lead to the questioning and changing of beliefs.
  • Apologetics is the practice of defending a faith through reasoned arguments.
  • Belief systems can be challenged by examining their logical foundations.

"I ended up not believing in it. And I can give a variety of reasons, but I'll give you the simplest one."

This quote introduces the speaker's personal journey of faith and subsequent departure from it based on logical evaluation.

Critique of Binary Belief Systems

  • Binary belief systems, such as good versus bad or belief versus non-belief, oversimplify complex realities.
  • The speaker challenges the binary of belief inherent in Christian apologetics.

"You actually create another false binary, which is believe or not believe, when in reality is to what extent you believe, it's how hard you believe."

The quote criticizes the oversimplified binary of belief versus non-belief in religious contexts, suggesting that belief is not a simple on/off switch but rather a spectrum.

Attitude Towards Happiness and Personal Freedom

  • Alex has a personal slogan: "fuck happiness," which signifies a shift in his attitude towards life.
  • This slogan allowed him to stop judging himself for not being happy and to focus on doing things he finds cool or enjoys.
  • Alex's change in perspective led to happiness becoming irrelevant to him, and he no longer bases decisions on whether something will make him happy.

"I was like, fuck happiness. I was like, I'm just going to do stuff that I think is cool."

The quote reflects Alex's rejection of the pursuit of happiness as a primary goal, instead choosing to engage in activities that he personally values or finds interesting, regardless of their impact on his happiness.

Long-Term Perspective and Goals

  • Alex maintains a long-term perspective despite his indifference toward happiness.
  • He has ambitions to write books, build courses, and pursue projects that he enjoys.
  • His approach to life is not solely driven by short-term pleasure or desires but also by a genuine passion for the things he wants to achieve.

"I still have a long term perspective of, like, this is what I want to build. I want to write these books. I want to build these courses. I want to do this stuff. But it's like, those are things that I enjoy, so that's what I do. I love it."

This quote highlights Alex's long-term vision and the joy he derives from working towards his goals, illustrating that his actions are not impulsive but rather aligned with his personal interests and aspirations.

The Nature of Public Discourse and Individuality

  • Alex believes that to be part of the 1%, one must diverge from the actions of the majority and engage in what may be uncomfortable conversations.
  • He emphasizes the importance of sticking to personal beliefs, even if they are met with opposition or misunderstanding from others.
  • Alex suggests that people often feel attacked when someone else articulates their beliefs well, but he maintains a stance of indifference towards others' reactions.

"I know it's crazy stuff, but I think that you can't do what 99% of people are doing if you want to be in the 1%, fundamentally. And so you have to have what I would consider maybe uncomfortable conversations."

The quote encapsulates Alex's philosophy that achieving exceptional success often requires taking a path less traveled and having the courage to engage in dialogues that may be outside the comfort zone of the majority.

Valuing Time Over Inconsequential Matters

  • Alex considers the wasting of his time to be the only thing that bothers him, as it is a resource he has in limited supply.
  • He is not perturbed by minor inconveniences, such as a steak being cooked to the wrong preference, as he does not see the value in spending time on such matters.
  • Alex's focus is on fixing significant issues efficiently rather than dwelling on them, as he acknowledges the impermanence of life and material possessions.

"It's the only thing I don't have a lot of."

This quote succinctly expresses Alex's view on time as a finite and precious resource, which shapes his attitude towards what deserves his attention and what does not.

The Casino Analogy for Life and Materialism

  • Alex uses a casino analogy to describe life, where everyone is playing a game with the cards they are dealt, amassing chips (wealth) based on skill.
  • He contrasts the ability to cash out in a real casino with life, where at death, all chips are returned to the table, signifying the transitory nature of material possessions.
  • This perspective influences Alex's views on estate planning and the futility of accumulating wealth that will ultimately be redistributed or diluted over generations.
  • Alex acknowledges the potential harm in bequeathing unearned wealth, as it can be destructive to those who do not know how to manage it.

"But I feel like in the casino of life, you get tapped on the shoulder by the grim reaper, and he says, your time's up, and then all your chips get pushed right back to the middle of the table, and then you leave the casino empty handed because it was a fake game with fake rules that didn't matter."

The quote is a metaphorical reflection on the nature of life and death, emphasizing the temporary nature of wealth and the ultimate equality imposed by mortality, which renders material accumulation meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Final Thoughts and Reflections on the Discussion

  • Speaker B finds Alex's analogy thought-provoking and expresses a desire to revisit the conversation to fully digest its implications.
  • The podcast concludes with Alex briefly mentioning various financial topics without elaboration.

"But it's a great analogy. A lot to think about this one. Yeah, I'm going to have to rewatch."

This quote indicates Speaker B's appreciation for the depth of Alex's analogy and signifies that the conversation had a significant impact, meriting further contemplation.

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