A Life Worth Living

Last week a podcast host asked me about the books that have impacted my life the most.  As usual, I mentioned Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, because it crystalized my revelation that in order to become happy, you must live by a congruent philosophy.

It’s way too easy to fall into a non-philosophical, slapdash approach to life, simply reacting to the various stimuli around you.  You know you’re supposed to grow up, get a job, move out of the house, find a mate, produce offspring, pay your taxes, and pick up the dry cleaning. Each action you take along the way (having kids, going to college, etc.) produces another set of additional expected actions you should follow.   

So many people are unhappy because they simply fell into maintaining conformity and the habitual thinking it requires. They never took time for the introspection which would have revealed what their own philosophy of a life well lived would mean to them. 

We’re now at the seventh and final part of our series on the key philosophies that determine your worldview and what that means for you.  In case you’re just jumping in, here’s the formula I’m positing:

Every day you believe you’re making decisions that affect your prosperity.  But if you’re like most people, you’re not making most of these decisions mindfully.   Because what you decide on these situational decisions has already been predetermined by the philosophies you developed earlier in these seven areas. They are:

  1. Health (Part 1)
  2. Relationships (Part 2)
  3. Environment (Part 3)
  4. Leverage (Part 4)
  5. Spirituality (Part 5) 
  6. Financial (Part 6)
  7. Purpose

Until you mindfully think about what a life well lived looks like, you’ll forever be at the mercy of outside stimuli: The latest incendiary tweet, a snub in the Oscar nominations, who unfriended you on Facebook, or the availability of pumpkin spice latte. 

It’s really not that important to define your philosophy in a catchy mission or vision statement.  Your philosophy is best expressed and demonstrated by your day-to-day actions – how you live your life.

It all begins with your fundamental core values.  The things that are the most important to you, as this drives the actions you take every day.  And these spring forth from your central purpose in life. 

I spent the first 30 years of my life sick, poor, and ignorant.  I ultimately prevailed in rising above that and believe everyone can.  To do that, however, may take having a dramatic shift in your mindset, beliefs and philosophy on life...

It may mean developing a life purpose for the first time or replacing the one you have right now.  And that could mean you have to dramatically alter the view you have of yourself, and your role in the world.  People who spend their existence worrying solely about the needs of others and not themselves are not noble, benevolent, and spiritual.  They are crazy.  And because they don’t look after their own needs first, they really can’t help others in a healthy way.  They can console them, participate in their drama, or enable their co-dependence, but they can’t offer them real, meaningful help.   Or to repeat an oft-quoted line from a character in The Fountainhead, “To say ‘I love you,’ one must first know how to say the word ‘I.’” 

Your highest moral purpose must be your own happiness.

If that statement threatens you, please take a deeper look into that feeling.  Because this is the only healthy, sane way to live.  And the only way that ensures the survival of the species, and the wellbeing of the most people.  In fact, it is the only honorable way to conduct any relationship. 

You must not sacrifice your happiness for others because that is depravity, moral corruption, and a sure sign of mental illness.  Likewise, for the opposite situation.  You shouldn’t ask others to sacrifice for you, as corrupting the morals of others is no less evil than corrupting your own. 

In the book Atlas Shrugged, one of Ayn Rand’s main characters is asked, “What is the most depraved kind of human being?”  His answer would likely surprise most people, since he doesn’t suggest a murderer, or rapist, or other sex offender.  His answer is, “The man without a purpose.” 

When asked about why she suggested this as opposed to the other possibilities, Ayn replied, “Because that aspect of their character lies at the root of and causes all the evils which you mentioned in your question.  Sadism, dictatorship, or any form of evil, is the consequence of a man’s evasion of reality.  A consequence of his failure to think.  The man without a purpose is a man who drifts at the mercy of random feelings or unidentified urges and is capable of any evil, because he is totally out of control of his own life.  In order to have control of your life, you have to have a purpose – a productive purpose.” 

When you have your own happiness as your highest moral purpose, you have a productive – and moral – reason to exist.  And here’s the shocking thing for many people...

When they realize that if everyone did this, the world would be a much better place.  Instead of dysfunction, decadence, and codependence, we would have healthy, functional, value-for-value relationships.  No one would be asking others to sacrifice yourself for him or her, and you would behave the same way.  That is how healthy relationships are done. 

A sane person accepts him or herself and is comfortable in their own skin and will take care to ensure their own needs are met.  They understand that if they were to sacrifice themselves for others, they would diminish and degrade themselves, and ultimately be of use to no one.  This leads us to the next question that arises for many.  Namely, what about love and relationships? 

Love is an expression of your self-esteem and your deepest values.  You fall in love with someone who shares these values.  And if you truly do love someone, it means that they bring happiness to your life.  Or in other words, you love them for purely selfish and personal reasons. Because if you weren’t in love for this reason, it wouldn’t make sense.  If you were in love for selfless reason, it would mean that you would get no joy or personal pleasure and are there simply for self-sacrificial pity for that person.  That would not be love but dysfunction. Falling in love with them is the highest compliment and honor you can ever pay another human being – that you love them for the selfish reason of the happiness and joy they bring you. 

This should not be confused with Hedonism... 

The philosophy of hedonism holds that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.   The psychology of hedonism holds that all behavior is motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain.  This would seem to suggest that pleasure is a standard for morality.  Which is most certainly not the case...

You would be basing your morality on whims, urges, or whatever desires possessed you at the moment.  This is definitely immoral.  Good must be defined by a rational standard of value.  Pleasure is not a “first cause,” but rather a consequence.  The consequence of actions you take because you have made a rational value judgment. 

Let’s continue with this logical exploration of this philosophy to live life by.  At this stage you may be wondering about serving others, and giving to charity. 

There is a common belief that you have a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than you.  Nothing could be further than the truth.  If you live your life by the philosophy we're discussing, you very well may help others and contribute to charity.  Personally, the number one expense on my tax return for many years has been charity and it will remain so forever. I support the opera, symphony, wildlife funds, youth sports, disease prevention, homeless shelters, runaway shelters, and scholarships.  I have bought business items and computers for aspiring speakers, outfits for upcoming singers, paid for martial arts training for foster kids, funded academic scholarships, and other situations like these that aren't considered charitable tax exemptions. That doesn't matter to me. The formula I use to decide where to give is:

  1. The person or organization is worthy of the support.
  2. I have the means.
  3. It brings me happiness. 

That alone is what determines how and where I circulate my prosperity. I feel no obligation to do so and give only for the selfish joy it provides me. Take the concept even farther... 

You could even step in the way of a bullet that was headed for someone you love if their value to you were so great, you would not care to live without them. This wouldn’t be self-sacrifice but a case of you protecting something you value dearly.  

And that is where this all leads to.  You know exactly what brings value to you, and furthers your purpose, which is a life of happiness.  It means accepting that you are supposed to be happy and working towards that end, rejecting the guilt rackets that are practiced on you. 

As you look around the world today, it is easy to view man as a helpless, subservient, robot.  Most people are just worker drones in the collective, living their sick, broke and ignorant lives.  We are surrounded by mediocrity, depravity, and fear.  But if you look a little deeper, you see something else...

You can see Elon Musk planning missions to Mars, Operation Warp Speed, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  You can experience a Puccini opera, read a Hemingway book, or enjoy a Cirque du Soleil performance.  You can marvel at the Great Pyramids, the tenacity of Greta Thunberg, or the courage of a single mother homeschooling her kids during a pandemic. 

You start to see the enormity of the human spirit, and the greatness we are capable of.  You realize that humankind is not inherently weak and helpless; we just become that way when we live without a purpose.  And you recognize that you yourself can do great things and do them for the right reasons.  You can be bold, daring, and imaginative, and leave this world a better place because you lived a life of purpose – a life worth living.

Peace,

- RG

Confessions of a Mad Scientist Philosopher…

Not sure anyone actually carries business cards any longer.  I haven’t used one for 20 years, but if I did, pretty sure it would list my occupation as Scientist Philosopher.  That label might rankle highly educated readers, since I’ve earned the same number of college degrees as your cousins Pookie, Scooter, and Ray-Ray.  But kidding aside, the synergy of science and philosophy in the process of manifesting prosperity is an intriguing proposition to explore.  Let’s continue the discussion we began with this post about self-examination and continued with this post on how philosophy helps us do that.  In those two essays I make the case that we study philosophy to know how to best study ourselves.  And more importantly, that a life without self-examination is a life never fully developed. 

Some people wanted to argue with me about some of the points shared in those posts.  But the purpose of those essays wasn’t to generate agreement but provoke thought and debate – as both philosophy and self-examination are designed to do.  You shouldn’t study philosophy for the sake of discovering conclusive answers, because the great philosophical questions don’t have conclusive answers. Instead of seeking answers, seek better questions.  Questions which nurture your curiosity, enlarge the window through which you see the world, and expand the possibilities you envision through that window. 

Think about the great books that shock society and created controversy at their birth and remain influential today.  For me, Atlas Shrugged was the single most impactful book I’ve ever read. The reason it impacted me so strongly was it opened my mind to the possibility of living by a congruent personal philosophy. 

I believe people who argue about the validity of the philosophy of Objectivism, or the human failings of Ayn Rand are completely missing the point.  (These are the same people who get an invitation to an orgy and complain about the guacamole dip.)  You don’t have to agree with Rand’s philosophy or live your life the way she chose to live hers.  But if you read the book and do any critical thinking about what your own philosophy is, and how you live your life – Rand has achieved a noble goal, and you have benefited greatly because she did. 

The intriguing element in all this is that “Atlas” is a fictional novel... 

Imagine my delight when I was listening to this conversation between Yuval Harari and Tim Ferriss and they suggest that 1984, Brave New World and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – all works of fiction – are essentially textbooks of philosophy.  Their assessment is true because the greatest works of philosophy are not asking the central question of the meaning of life, but instead, are probing the daily dilemmas of how we find our way in life. 

The most impactful book I’ve read recently was On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, another fictional novel, the first by poet Ocean Vuong.  It took me weeks to finish it because the emotional overloads I was experiencing would frequently force me to set it aside and process my thoughts for a while.  (Full disclosure: This book is a love letter from a gay son to the single mother who raised him, with an undercurrent of addiction, one of my personal demons. That likely made the book more emotional for me; your mileage may vary.)  By the time I reached the last 30 pages, I had to tease them out, the way you save that last spoonful of crème brûlée, stretching out the taste sensation as long as it can possibly linger. In the end, the book did what any great philosophy textbook should: caused me to contemplate on how I live my life. 

He’ll probably spit out his coffee when he reads this, but I view author Steven Pressfield as one of the great philosophers of our time.  His epic sagas on the brutality of war, soul of combat, and journey of the artist, are indeed MRIs and CT scans: revealing the thought processes of some fascinating humans – real and imagined – as they try to find their way in the world.  (Order his upcoming book now or you’re going to want to stick your head in the oven later.)  And what is Coelho’s mystical story of Santiago the Andalusian shepherd boy, if not a philosophical exploration?

With their mad genius, these great storytellers do the same work as the academic philosophers, albeit using different methods.  Instead of leading us through thought experiments, they write books which are thought experiments in and of themselves.  And like all great philosophers, they don’t seek to teach us the answers, but hypnotize us into asking better questions.

How do we live and grow, love and learn, suffer and prevail?  Why does it matter? How can we rescue each other without losing sight of who we are individually?  

I believe philosophy is sometimes called the "science of sciences" because essentially, it’s the self-examination of all sciences. Think of philosophy as the mother source or First Principle, the foundation from which all other sciences draw their methodological principles.  This is demonstrated by the amalgamation of philosophy and physics in the classic works of Galileo, Newton, and Einstein.  You’ll discover the same dynamic in the deep thinkers of today.  According to Wikipedia, Nassim Taleb is a scholar, essayist, and mathematical statistician.  But for my money, he’s a sage (if a little ornery), philosopher-scientist.  Two of today’s most successful and intriguing entrepreneurs, Elon Musk and Naval Ravikant, at their very essence, are philosopher-scientists.  (As are a great deal of the other tech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.)  Who but a philosopher-scientist would have the cerebral wherewithal to theorize we must become a multi-planetary species?  And if there’s ever a monastery built for tech billionaires – bet the rent that Prema Baba Naval will be leading the satsang. 

Here’s why I believe it is the pairing of science with philosophy that creates such magnificent results in producing prosperity…

The basis of science is experimenting and questioning premises.  In fact, the whole point of science is to question science. What is the point of philosophy if not to question ourselves? The path to enlightenment is traveled by implementing both science and philosophy into the way we live.  Science can teach us that eating chips and drinking diet soda makes us feel lazy and lethargic, while fruits and vegetables help manufacture energy.  Just as philosophy can teach us that a life dedicated to receiving more hearts on Instagram is not probable to result in a meaningful existence. 

Much as scientists question every hypothesis, humans must question our foundational core beliefs about the areas in our lives that most impact our health and happiness.  I divide them in the following six categories. 

How much self-examination have you really done on your beliefs in these six areas?  (Read how bad beliefs in these areas sabotage your prosperity here.) This is the work that matters.  The work that comes while gazing in the mirror, in the process of mindfulness, or the contemplation of meditation.  We live in the greatest time in human history.  In this exact instant, we are on the precipice of explorations to Mars, genetic engineering, vacations on the moon, ocean-floor real estate development, cloning, asteroid mining, virtual reality, machine learning, and the blockchain. 

Imagine turning off all your devices and mindfully pondering how all those things impact you and how you can impact them.  Now don’t just imagine it, do it.   

This much is certain.  If you’re living a small, unexamined life, it’s not the life you were destined to live.  True prosperity is attained only by the examination and eventual mastery of self. 

The things you get from introspection and evolution are great.  But the best reward is who you become.

Peace,

- RG

P.S. Speaking of philosophy, watch for Monday’s episode of the Power Prosperity Podcast.  The topic is The 7 Big Prosperity Decisions.  Then I will probably do a deeper dive on the subject here in some future posts.

10 Books that Transformed My Life…

Many of you frequently ask what I’m reading and what books were the most important in my personal growth and self-development.  So I thought it was time to update the list of the top ten most influential books in my life.  (So far…)

This isn’t meant to be the greatest books of all time, because I think that will be different for everyone, and that’s not the criteria here.  These books are the ones that have shaped my life the most.  (more…)

How to Live Rich

As most of you know, I’m currently on a sabbatical, wandering the world, following the sun and my creative muse, devoted to an intense period of self-development and personal growth.  The creative energy is electric, and the sequel to Risky Is the New Safe is coming together in ways that are amazing and unexpected.  (And if you’re serious about prosperity, I hope you have already read “Risky” at least twice.)  (more…)

Wanting More

The last post on the many myths about money and wealth totally blew up!  Shows what a fascinating subject it is.  Dani asked if people don’t sometimes create limiting beliefs to protect their egos.  Not ten minutes later I got a comment on my Prosperity TV channel proving exactly that… (more…)

Poverty is Evil

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.” (more…)

Why Doing Good is Selfish

What a wild and groovy discussion going on the last post and the original post that started it all.  I promised that we’d pick up on the topic of how doing good was selfish… (more…)

Acting on Principle

We’ve talked about compromising, the bigger issue, living by a congruent philosophy, and acting on principle.  Which almost no one in the herd does today. (more…)