Wanting Luke Burgis
The real reason we want what we want.
The Capacity To Imitate
There’s something strange about our relationship to imitation. Humans possess advanced imitation capabilities that allow us to create new things. Our ability to imitate in complex ways is why we have language, recipes, and music. Rivalry is a function of proximity. When people are separated from us by enough time, space, money, or status, there is no way to compete seriously with them for the same opportunities.
If someone’s primary objective is innovation for the sake of innovation, they usually end up in a mimetic rivalry with everyone in their field to compete primarily on the basis of originality.
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Being different for the sake of being different is the ethos behind shock-value art and academics whose salient feature is making outlandish claims to stand out from the pack.
The Path Of Desire
Desire is a path-dependent process. The choices we make today affect the things we’ll want tomorrow. That’s why it’s important to map out, the best we can, the consequences of our actions on our future desires.
Start by thinking seriously about what a positive cycle of desire might look like for you. Start with a core desire. It might be spending more time with your kids, having more leisure time, or writing a book. Then map out a system of desire that makes it easier to bring that core desire to fulfilment.
We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. From the standpoint of desire, our goals are the product of our systems. We can’t want something that is outside the system of desire we occupy.
The obsession with goal setting is misguided, even counterproductive. People set goals and make plans to arrive at a future point called “progress.” But will it be progress? How can we be so sure? Some goals—even good ones—overstay their welcome.
But it’s worth asking where goals come from in the first place. Every goal is embedded within a system.
Test Your Desires: Imagine Your Deathbed
The ultimate way to test desires—especially major life choices such as whether to marry someone or whether to quit your job and start a company—is to practice this same exercise but to do it while imagining yourself on your deathbed. Which choice leaves you more consoled? Which choice causes you more agitation?
Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life’s agent of change. It clears out the old to make way for the new. The deathbed is where unfulfilling desires are exposed. Transport yourself there now rather than waiting until later, when it might be too late.
Discernment is an essential skill because it’s a process for making decisions that includes but also transcends rational analysis. It’s critical for deciding which desires to pursue and which ones to leave behind.
Discernment exists in the liminal space between what’s now and what’s next. Transcendent leaders create that space in their own lives, and in the lives of the people around them.
The Art Of Sitting Quietly In A Room
Silence is where we learn to be at peace with ourselves, where we learn the truth about who we are and what we want. If you’re not sure what you want, there’s no faster way to find out than to enter into complete silence for an extended period of time—not hours, but days.
All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
Two Opposite Thoughts In One Mind
It’s a sign of maturity to be able to hold on to two conflicting desires or two opposing ideas at the same time without immediately rejecting one or the other before there has been time for careful discernment. To live with desire is to live with tension.
Wise people have said that it’s best to compare yourself only to who you were yesterday, not to who other people are today. That’s a good start for escaping the trap of comparison and measurement.
Desire is a contract that you make with yourself to be unhappy until you get what you want
Live As If You Have a Responsibility For What Other People Want
Like a giant flywheel, we are gently nudging other people’s desires in one or another direction.
The transformation of desire happens when we become less concerned about the fulfilment of our own desires and more concerned about the fulfilment of others. We find, paradoxically, that it is the very pathway to fulfilling our own.