Hey friends, welcome to Sunday! New week, new opportunities to explore blueprints for Self-Mastery. Welcome to Volume II of S.M.S. Top Tips. Over the next couple of weeks we will explore 3 traits seen across all exceptional humans. I don’t believe there are any secrets to succeeding on The Path - only those brave enough to keep moving forward.
Before we continue, I have to ask something. And if I don’t ask, well, shame on me. If you’ve read a couple issues of S.M.S. and found any amount of meaning in my work, it would be so helpful if you clicked the ❤️ button & perhaps left a comment. If you think others would benefit, give it a share. It helps tremendously in getting more eyes on the publication. And it’s no secret, I’m determined to grow this thing! Thank you, friends, let’s get stuck in ✊
Preamble: I am defining a “Successful Person” as someone who lives a fulfilled life. One who accomplishes honest work, exhibits antifragility in the face of life’s inevitable suffering and is able to bring people together with their words & actions. I do not define success solely based on the accumulation of wealth or an elevated social status, although that certainly could be a byproduct of a life well lived. I also refer to “The Path” at times during the essay. This just refers to the journey all of us embark on in the pursuit of truth, growth and self-mastery. Those not on The Path are stagnant or going the opposite direction - the Road to Hell 🔥.
Trait 1: Successful People Know Themselves
Do you know who you are? It’s such a strange question to ask yourself. But we know it’s one of life’s most difficult questions for anyone stepping onto The Path. In fact, it could be life’s single most difficult question.
Among the 3 Maxims carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Know Thyself remains the illusive and prized pursuit among all those who seek an enlightened existence. Therefore, the heading should actually read: “Successful people spend their entire life on a pursuit trying to uncover their own truth.” Though, that one doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.
The Process of Individuation: Carl Jung
Here I have included a video by Academy of Ideas, one of my favorite YouTube channels. The video covers Carl Jung’s interpretation of the process of Individuation. Jung posits the foundation of a fulfilled life begins and ends in the journey of self-discovery. The unaccepted self is one prone to all manner of psychological despair, fragility and pain. The individual who embarks on The Path of self-discovery, accepts that the road is paved with many perils, but they are stronger once they are able to wholly accept themselves for who they really are.
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” - Carl Jung
As we explore Jung & Nietzsche a common theme emerges when we read their philosophy - it is a necessary, yet dangerous act to look inward. Why? Well, we are all monsters in our own right. If you don’t believe yourself capable of monstrous deeds, you are not an honest person. We can all kill, destroy or hurt other sentient beings. We can all fall victim to vice, deception, seductive pleasure and psychological manipulation. We all have something buried… a memory or a feeling. That’s why looking inside yourself for answers, and to truly seek the heart of who you are is such a frightening proposition for so many people. You will eventually confront someone or something that deeply disrupts any idealized notions you may have previously had. Many choose not to seek out this person, so they exist as drones on autopilot.
The Journey of Self-Discovery: Friedrich Nietzsche
The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche mused:
“We don't know ourselves, we knowledgeable people—we are personally ignorant about ourselves. And there's good reason for that. We've never tried to find out who we are. How could it ever happen that one day we'd discover our own selves?” - Genealogy of Morals
Nietzsche maintained that Self-Discovery was the critical act to truly separate oneself from the masses and rise towards a level of self-mastery… but it requires tremendous self-sacrifice. One could argue Nietzsche sacrificed his own sanity in this endeavor. But that’s for another article, as is the profound depth of his philosophy on Self-Discovery. For now, we will cover lightly on his perspective with another quote:
“How can man know himself? It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal. - Schopenhauer as Educator
Citing Nietzsche in this essay serves a singular purpose: to reinforce how difficult the journey of self-discovery is. He warned of driving oneself into madness by venturing too deep into the dark depths of themselves. If this all seems a bit… inaccessible, fear not, we will get to some pragmatic approaches to this idea of Self-Knowing shortly. So no need to fret if you don’t know where to start.
How often do you sit and just… be? We might all benefit a bit more if we just put the fucking phone down, shut the door and spent 5 minutes just being. If you can do this, you are on The Path of self-discovery. For those that cannot, it is rooted in a deep fear of being alone with your own thoughts. This is why Nietzsche stressed its difficulty so much. He knew the limitations most people had, and he knew that it wasn’t as much laziness as it was fear that stopped people from seeking answers from within.
Tim Ferriss, in his book Tools of Titans, interviewed around 200 exceptional human beings to try and uncover how their thoughts, routines, daily habits and philosophies led to their success. He then curated and categorized them. These were highly accomplished scientists, athletes, writers, illustrators, musicians, statesmen, etc.
The majority of these individuals all directly practiced or cited a process related to self-discovery as a key to their success. Whether this was through a daily or weekly mindfulness practice, writing, physical exercise, yoga, meditation, or a sensory deprivation routine (isolation tank) - it was common for all these successful people to spend time alone and look inward.
Successful individuals are unafraid to confront themselves - their fears, inhibitions, desires, weaknesses, petty jealousies, unearthed neuroses and so on. If we cannot spend at least some time having honest conversations with ourselves, then how can we expect to have any sense of where we need to improve, what we need to do, who we need to talk to and so on? The successful individual is far down The Path to self-discovery, therefore they have developed a keen sense of self-awareness. And to be self-aware means you know the shit you need to do, and more importantly: the shit you need to stop doing. No amount of meaningful self-awareness or individuation can occur without first taking part in honest self-discovery. Without it, we are as Nietzsche described: sheep.
Behavioral Tools & Online Resources for Self-Discovery
Any pursuit that allows you to think autonomously and without distraction about yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your body, etc. will guide you towards self-discovery. I’ve listed the following activities to start:
Active meditation, deep breathing
Yoga and/or bodyweight/stretching activities involving core activation
Doing something physically or mentally strenuous
Dedicating yourself to a new skill or hobby
Finding yourself a local float tank (isolation chamber)
… the list goes on. There isn’t one silver bullet or a top 5 list of things to get you to greater levels of self-knowing. And that’s a good thing. It’s up to you to find out what works for you.
There are some free to use tools that can get you started on uncovering some baseline data about yourself.
I am a fan of personality & values inventories. These are called psychometric assessments and they tell you something about your unique personality & value makeup relative to others. We all fall on a spectrum of human behavior. You are not a ‘type’ of personality. Please do not take the MBTI. It is extremely outdated science. The cool thing is, in just a few minutes, you can learn a lot more about yourself using these tools:
Once you have taken these and understood the data, you can begin to craft a holistic view of yourself and start designing your life’s goals around the behaviors and values that are most important to you. Many people don’t understand the core tenants of their personality and might flounder when asked what values underpin their behavior. The above tools help tremendously to fix those gaps in knowledge.
All life’s success & fulfillment begins and ends with you, the individual. The individual controls how they wish to perceive themselves and the lengths they will go to uncover who they truly are. I posit that the deeper someone delves into themselves (safely), the more fulfilled they will be as individuals. The majority of us won’t be famous authors, scientists, influencers, athletes, etc. However, nobody can take away your autonomy or your ability to look inward to discover yourself— and that’s where true wealth is cultivated. Wealth of knowledge, spirit and capability. Nobody can take away your own unique path towards self-discovery. You could be locked in a concentration camp like Victor Frankl, and still find meaning in your life. You could be working in a Gulag like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but still find time to explore the inner workings of yourself.
Only once we embark on this journey can we start to move towards mastery. Only then can we create magic.
Until next Sunday, stay on The Path my friends!
Thank you for an excellent article. I liked your intro video about Carl Jung’s self-individuation. I realized how much Jung influenced my work and writing. My favorite self-discovery work comes from dream journaling. A dream I journaled this am released me from a block in completing a current article I’m writing. Thanks again, Ron