Most people see themselves through accomplishments. In doing so, they end up caring more about how they appear than who they really are. You lead both yourself and others to measure your worth by status rather than by character.
School credentials eclipse what I’ve actually learned. Career highlights shroud the failures that really made me. Followers outshine the friends that stood by me along the way. Net worth obscures how rich my life is. Defining yourself in terms of external social labels and metrics rejects your own uniqueness. It sets you on a path to become just like everyone else: average.
A better way to get to know a person, I believe, is through values. What animates you? What makes you ache? What do you prioritise? What do you live by?
In that spirit, I’ll share the values that guide me inside-out. These lead how, where and with whom I spend my time. I'll talk about three things: freedom, compassion and play. These aren't intellectualisations but rather things I intuitively feel. Neither stands on its own either; I see them as a network.
I think it’s true that, at the end of the day, we’re all self-interested. Resources are limited and so our daily lives are full of zero-sum interactions where one gets the prize at the expense of the other. No matter how uncomfortable a truth, there’s no denying that humans have always lived in pecking orders. Those highest up the ladder have been more likely to survive, thrive and reproduce. And so, even in contemporary times of abundance, we’re evolutionary wired to strive for standing.
I hope to be self-aware enough to check out of status games and divert my self-interest in creativity instead. To not compete with others for shiny objects, but only with myself. I subscribe to Carl Jung’s notion of individuation. We all have our own struggles. You can try to escape in self-perpetuating addiction or you can take feed back from reality, learn and evolve. Every time we do that, we create a new version of ourselves, becoming ever-more differentiated and resilient (or anti-fragile).
Freedom, to me, is about becoming so uniquely different that it would feel insulting to compare myself to others. The world is a canvas onto which I express my particular truth, who I am as a network of all my unique perspectives and experiences — whether it's through problem-solving, writing or just vibing with others. I believe that if I can check my unconscious drives and get in touch with my intuition, I can do that in a way that adds genuine value.
I believe meaning is made from how we relate to other people. In this sense, I subscribe to the Buddha’s lesson that life is suffering. Suffering isn’t bad. Rather, it means we all have different joys and struggles in life, as they converge from an infinite dance of unique perspectives and experiences; whether rich or poor, looking this or that way, coming from here or there, praying to this God, that God or no God at all.
The most genuine thing I can think of doing is to try and truly recognise and understand the other person — before I make judgements and act. This focus is the core unit of compassion; to see someone’s chain of suffering — not from your stance but from theirs. It’s a way to live morally. When we remind ourselves that life is hard on all of us, we treat them with kindness. It may not be perfect, but we can learn from mistakes and be held accountable when acting poorly. At least, recognition can make someone’s suffering meaningful. We're all in this together.
I don’t have big answers of why and how to live, but my gut suggests life is best lived playfully chasing curiosity. Kids instinctively know this, but, just like the rest of us, become rigid with age.
We get so busy making plans to deal with uncertainty that we forget how to lose ourselves in everyday moments without purpose. Paradoxically, you become more fragile in the face of unexpected changes bound to happen. Herein lies the problem of seriousness: a state devoid of all passion mistaken for maturity. Life becomes a task, and the world is forced into a box. Slowly but surely, you lose touch with the intuitive curiosity to seek things out for their own sake. I’d rather learn how to dance with the winds of uncertainty and co-evolve with my environment.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” — Sir Isaac Newton
With playfulness, I want to cultivate the lightness and wonder it takes to live in flow. Deliberate intentions have a way of corrupting things. When you forgo status games, tit-for-that and short-term returns, moments and interactions gain spontaneity and diversity. When you engage with things as they come, they account for more of reality and, over time, organically engender more effective strategies and more genuine relationships. Life becomes richer as a result. Playfulness is non-linear and thus creative: inputs and outputs are asymmetrical, but in the long run the latter far outweigh the former. Play is the long-game.
This is the most intimate way I know to say hello. Values don’t mean anything if you don’t live by them. Making mistakes is fine if you use them to become better along the way. If you find me failing my own code, I invite you to hold me accountable. It's the kind thing to do.
I'll leave it at that. If you vibe with this, join me in making sense of this beautifully mysterious world. The journey is better together.
"The author must keep his mouth shut when his work starts to speak.” — Friedrich Nietzsche