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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has helped hundreds of thousands of people from over 87 countries find happiness, success, and fulfillment in their social, professional, and love lives. His presentations – whether keynotes, seminars, or workshops – leave clients with insights into their behavior, psychology, and keys to their empowerment. His training methodologies are the result of over a decade of coaching and education of thousands of students around the world. Join him on the “DTPHD Podcast” as he explores deep questions of meaning, success, truth, love, and the good life. Subscribe now.
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HENRY CHONG is our special guest speaker on this episode. Henry is Director of Fusang Capital, a fund management company that manages the assets of multi-family offices. He is also a Director at the Portcullis Group, Asia’s biggest independent group of trust companies, providing comprehensive wealth administration to high-net-worth individuals, providing a one-stop shop for corporate, trustee, and fund administration services to individuals, family offices, philanthropies, private banks, and investment managers. Henry is a graduate of Oxford University with a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy Politics & Economics and is a founder of the Oxford Economics Society. He also holds a M.Sc. in Behavioral Science from the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSC). He will be sharing with us from his deep insights in behavioral economics, finance, health, and psychology.
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DTPHD Podcast Episode 6 Show Notes:
01:42 Why we should talk about principles
04:00 What’s that one characteristic that will sabotage your success in life
09:56 Why you should understand the principles of learning
13:09 The number one thing you need to appreciate in order to succeed in life
14:40 That one thing you must focus on if you want to transform your life
15:15 The difference between effectiveness and efficiency
16:30 How the product-market fit principle can heal your relationships
22:00 How character formation is the best way to experience joy in life
23:25 How the paradoxical notion of “trying not to try” is the only guaranteed way to find lasting happiness
25:02 How this one little habit helps you gain control of your thoughts
31:20 Why getting rid of your mask is the way to your true self
Principles vs. How-to Tactics
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong explore how core principles are related to how we will achieve our goals.
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong examine what we need to to transform in order to succeed in life.
In this podcast episode, David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong compares the Product/market fit principle to dealing with our relationships.
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
Welcome to the DTPHD Podcast. I’m your host, David Tian Ph.D. and we’re in the home of our guest, Henry Chong here at Christmas. You might be able to see some of the Christmas decorations if you’re watching this on the video, and I guess I got to do my spiel. For the past — well, almost 12 years now, I’ve been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness, and fulfillment in life and love. I’m joined by my guest, Henry Chong. I’ll let you introduce yourself.
Henry Chong: Yes. Well, I’m the CEO of Fusang — The Asian Family Office. We help look after the assets and affairs of families of substantive wealth, hoping to give them peace of mind in their affairs. In addition to looking after investments, I’m also very interested in thinking about life more generally, both as part of investments and also just part of being a good human being and living. I have degrees and academic backgrounds in philosophy, politics, and behavioral science. I’ve always enjoyed our conversations in life, love, and the universe.
David Tian: Likewise. Alright. I’m excited to get into it. We last — I think we started the podcast with an episode where I was in North America and we were in Hong Kong, and then we did one in Cambodia, in Siem Reap, and finally we’re back, we’re in Singapore.
Henry Chong: First time sharing just one mic.
David Tian: Sharing one mic on one camera, and you might hear some cooking in the background because there is preparations for dinner going on. That’s why that is happening, but let’s get into it. So, we wanted to talk about principles. I’m going to let Henry choose that.
Henry Chong: That’s something I’ve been very interested in for some time now, thinking a lot about. With anything in life, any topic, any endeavor, there are always core principles. Pareto talks about the 80-20 rule: how 80% of the results come from 20% of effort. This is true, broadly speaking, for most things in life. Again, in any endeavor, there are always core fundamental principles that if you obey them, things will work, you’ll be successful in whatever that thing is. And if you don’t, you won’t.
Tony Robbins talks a lot about strategies, how, if you are running west looking for a sunset, no matter how committed or motivated you are, it ain’t going to work. And I think that in anything in life, there are these core strategies. What I’ve been very interested in is about how these four strategies, A) are things that usually have persisted over time. There are things that have been — these things are just received through wisdom that’s been around, in some cases, for hundreds of years. And also, in many cases, they are very similar across different endeavors or different fields of life. You see the same principles resonating through lots of different things.
I think that when you come across the intersection of those two things, something that’s been around for a very long time, and something that you see resonating through many different fields, you know it is true in that sense. You don’t even need to think too much about it. When we were last talking in Cambodia, a lot of the things that you were talking about I knew almost instinctively that they were, in that sense, ‘true’, just because they were, in many cases, timeless, and because I can see the same principles resonate across what’s different fields.
David Tian: Yeah. When you wanted to talk about principles — I’ve been mentioning principles before in some of the solo podcasts because one of the things that really bothers me… To finish the first sentence, I got really excited. So, one of the things that really bothers me is people who ask me for tips just before they go out on a date or tips just before they go to a job interview. They think the tip would make any difference.
And one of the characteristics of people who aren’t successful in life — or generally, compared to other people aren’t really that successful, is that they don’t look at problems from a principles perspective. That is, they are not looking for the abstract reasons that they can extract out of the specific situation, a lesson that they can then apply in the future across different cases. Instead, they’re looking at each case individually at separate problems. So, every problem in their life is a separate new problem.
Henry Chong: Exactly. And if it’s always a new problem, you never learn. You [INAUDIBLE 00:04:27] on the experience.
David Tian: Exactly. I used to get really angry about it. It used to really bother me, and then I realized that is the global problem. One of the best ways you can teach people to achieve the goals that they’re looking for is, instead of just giving them ‘here’s the how-to on how to get this.’ Actually, a lot of people are used to getting how-tos. If you want to set up your website, or if you have some tech problem, you’ll just Google it and you’ll find a step-by-step thing to do, ‘click on this’ then open this and do this. And you think that’s how life works. But almost everything in life that you want to get that you’re not getting is probably difficult for the very reason that there are principles that you’re not applying to that situation. And if you look at it piecemeal, then you’re messed up.
Henry Chong: Everyone’s looking for tactics. Tactics are great, but in many cases, if anything, they’re what the pros use just for that last 20%’. But most of it, the full 80%, are the strategies. They are these core elements that you just need, whether it’s playing basketball — again, there are simple principles that you must obey. In basketball, most amateurs are really focused on learning to make three-point shots when they should be focused on learning to make layups. If you can’t make a layup, you don’t have an offensive game. And every coach would tell you.
David Tian: One of the greatest principles of success is the fundamentals and foundations that the 80-20 is going to be — the 20% of the time that you spend on the fundamentals will account for 80% or more of the result. And a lot of people don’t want to do those because they’re boring and they’re not sexy.
Henry Chong: Exactly. And pros are good fundamentals. My high school basketball coach always told me that in the fourth quarter of the game, the game is on the line. That’s when you need to go back to fundamentals and focus on making layups, defense, offensive rebounding; not on making the crazy three-point shots. When the game is on the line, that’s when it is especially important to focus on fundamentals.
David Tian: In fighting, it’s a case where you’d have to do the same. You see these kung fu movies, like Karate Kid is one that everyone’s seen, but it’s the same trope that you see in a lot — like the Shaolin Monk movies — and it’s always that ‘beware of the man’… It’s practiced…
Henry Chong: I think it’s practice 10,000 times.
David Tian: One technique 10,000 times rather than learning 10,000 techniques.
Henry Chong: Exactly.
David Tian: And in fighting, when you’re in the third or fourth round, I assume — basically, you’re amygdala is fired up and you can’t think consciously very well, then you go back on your training. It’s basically, you default to the level of your preparation. And the preparation is going to be the thing that you did 10,000 times, not that frosting on the cake.
Henry Chong: Exactly. That’s what they say in the military, where very few people rise through the occasion you sink to the level of your training. Whatever it is that you have done 10,000 times in a stress situation, that’s what will come out.
David Tian: And I wonder if it’s just laziness. Here’s a principle. If you’re a teacher, it might be that there’s — the principle is people are inherently lazy. Because even in the Karate Kid movie I just realized, in every Karate Kid movie, he learns some special move and they’re ridiculously stupid moves. As a kid, you’d suspend disbelief so that you can enjoy the movie, but if you know anything about martial arts, these moves are just ridiculously stupid.
There’s one where he’s in Japan and he’s very orientalist. He’s got some kind of drum thing and he’s swinging his arms around, and then just out of the blue he takes his toy out and Miyagi starts swinging — tell him to swing his arms, and he swings his arm and the guy can’t get through that, and he gets beaten up. Daniel’s son wins because he’s spun his arms a certain way. It’s just ridiculous, but you train the fundamentals, and in the end you think that there’s some kind of secret special move like in a video game where you have a code, a cheat code, and you press back button five times and then spacebar and then you get an energy ball or something.
Henry Chong: [INAUDIBLE 00:08:10] talks about this: how everyone is always looking for the one secret. And the secret is usually that there are fundamentals, and you have to learn them, and you have to practice them. And usually, the fundamentals are not big secrets. Everyone knows what they are. You want to lose weight? I mean, you know, sure, there are different tactics to do it, but at its core, most people kind of know how to get it done. It’s not like this big mystery that only the 1% know that’s locked away somewhere.
David Tian: I learned the principles of principles first when I was in school. And in high school, I was a good student. I wasn’t an amazing student, I was just a good student. So I did the homework, I worked hard, I studied and everything. I got the grade, but it wasn’t like — I was a good student. And then I went to university. The first year of university is a totally different thing — in Canada anyway — big universities. 700 kids are in the lecture hall for the first class, and the professor does not care about you as a person at all.
In fact, they want to lead you out. Whereas in high school, you have 25 kids in the room and the teacher knows all of your names. There’s an emotional connection. Anyway, I floundered very badly in that first semester. I used to think to myself — I thought of myself as a smart kid, a scholarship kid. And I hung out with other smart kids. Half the kids lost their scholarships in the first term. I was getting a B-, and basically my identity was shattered as a good student.
And I had to go back to the drawing board on that. It wasn’t until the second year, I stumbled upon a book in the bookstore just browsing called ‘What Smart Students Know’ by Adam Robinson. Adam Robinson is a really interesting polymath. He started Princeton Review. He was also a ranked boxer and a ranked chess player. He did this interesting podcast with Tim Ferris. Suddenly, for 20 years I hadn’t heard anything from him, and then he showed up on this podcast. It was quite interesting.
Anyways, he showed me that school was a game, but it was a game that was run — that you could master if you understood 12 principles. And throughout this book called What Smart Students Know he would show you some tactics. But at the end of every chapter, there was an attitude check to bring you back to the principles. He repeated and emphasized that it didn’t matter if you implemented these tactics. These will help — but even if you implemented them, if you had the wrong attitude, it wouldn’t succeed. It was attitude, attitude, attitude. And the attitudes were very easy to convey. In one chapter, he told you the 12 principles.
And then you’d think, okay, but the rest — the bulk of the book was on ‘Here’s how to read a book 12 steps’ and stuff like that, how to take notes in a lecture, these steps. But it always came back to your attitude. And I mastered the game of school by applying principles. When I first started teaching dating to men, this was nine years ago now I devised this year-long program.
The third session they had with me was on how to learn. I basically took out of Robinson’s book the 12 principles and applied them to how to learn socializing. That was one of the best courses that turned out for the students over the years, and I didn’t predict that. I thought — I kind of did it grudgingly because it wasn’t sexy to teach how to learn. They wanted to learn how to talk to women and all of that. I’m like, “You’re not listening to a thing I’m fucking saying, and you’re not able to apply any of it. Why? Oh, because you don’t know the principles of learning.” So we covered that.
But then there’s a catch-22, which was: If you don’t know how to learn, you’re not going to learn how to learn — if you don’t know the principles of how to learn, then how are you going to learn the principles of how to learn? It can be hard. What we can do is just hammer home the importance of principles. And then there’s a great book that’s out now. I originally got it from you. You were circulating a PDF in our little email group of Ray Dalio’s principles. This was back in 2011 or something like that, 2012, when he first put it out there for free, that early version of the PDF.
I didn’t like the book because it was boring. It was literally just principles listed out. But then when I had more time, I really dove into it. I understood what he had done. He had done what I did with school but with a billion-dollar hedge fund. And one of the things he mentioned to start was history. And one of the things I’ve noticed is, the people who succeed in life have an appreciation for history. Those who are looking for piecemeal advice like: “Give me some tips. I got a date” don’t appreciate history.
Henry Chong: Exactly. In completely different fields of endeavor, you’ll see the same core principles popping up, whether it’s basketball or running a hedge fund. I was reading yesterday about Vipassana meditation, and just reading about it I go, “Huh, I know that there is something there just because it has lasted a long time.” So if a book that is on a best-seller list and was released this year — there is a 50-50 chance it will be still in the best-seller list next year. Who knows?
But if a book was around for 100 years and people are still reading it, the chances are people will still be reading it in 100 years. So just the fact that something has lasted already means that there is, at some level, some element of truth. And for most things, it’s never 100%. There are some core that is true, and just reading about the Vipassana, I was really interested. Because in many of the things that it says is exactly the same as what a lot of the stoics said for example.
Completely different groups of people who come to very similar conclusions. That’s how just reading I go, “Huh.” Again, it’s something that’s been around a very long time, and they say very similar things to the stoics, who are in a completely different side of the world. There must be something here. Jeff Bezos says, “You should focus on the things that don’t change.” Especially in a world that’s changing so rapidly, there are core principles of how human beings interact that doesn’t change.
If you want to sell something to a person, there are principles that never change no matter what it is. For example, you want to run a startup, one of the most important things to remember is product market fit. In short, I need to sell something that people want to buy. If I don’t have that meeting of product and market, I can have the best run team, and we’re all very happy, and our company will fail. That’s something that people forget. There’s a difference between effectiveness and efficiency.
A lot of people are given a task and they just focus on doing the task really well. They don’t stop to ask whether or not they should be doing it in the first place. You see this in a lot of big companies, where, “Well, this is what I’ve been assigned, so I’ll just try and do it as best as I can” while saying “Hmm, maybe this isn’t even the right thing to do in the first place.”
If you get a few essential things correct, you can fail at almost everything else on a given area and still do really well. Again, in basketball, if you can make layups consistently, you will already have an offensive game. In terms of companies, for example Uber is a classic example, they are, in many ways, a horribly mismanaged company: horrible culture, horrible in almost every dimension, except for the simple fact that they have figured out a need. They have a product that the market needs. Because of that one thing, they are a massive company. They found the right product at the right time. Even though the company itself has managed to make almost every other mistake it can make, it’s still very successful.
David Tian: Let’s just take one thing and run with it for a little while. Product market fit. That can be a principle, or we can extract a principle out of the product market fit example. Let’s just call it product market fit principle. When it comes to a lot of guys who have discovered me through dating, in that avenue — I used to be a dating coach. Let me put that out there. And in my former dating coach life, I used to teach guys how to be attractive to women. Product market fit, obviously, is one of the best principles you could use to make yourself more attractive to the opposite sex.
You can have a situation where the product is too early for the market but it’s an amazing product. If Uber was around in the 90’s, it would’ve been too early, but that doesn’t that Uber was a bad idea, but it’s just too early. And you could be an amazing product, you could be a really great human being, but the market you’re aiming for doesn’t appreciate it. Maybe that’s saying something about the market, not the product. But either way, you fail because of the product market mismatch.
I tell a lot of guys, I get guys who are upstanding citizens. They are quite innocent and naive about sex. And then they see these girls who are flaunting their sexuality and they want to be with that, in a night club or something, and they don’t know how to navigate that. One way to do it is to make you, which you are the product, fit that market. That would be an arduous process for some of these guys.
Or it could be to see that your product just doesn’t match that market, but it doesn’t mean that your product is bad. But a lot of guys, they already think that they’re bad unconsciously. They have the self-worth issue. It’s an easy sell for them to tell them you suck and you got to change. But actually, in the long run, after over 10 years in this area, it was a mistake to tell people to actually change who they are at their core. Because the problem wasn’t that they had to change the product, it was that they’re presenting the product in the wrong way. Maybe that market wasn’t the right market that they were aiming for.
Product market fit, right there. That principle explains why you have success in dating or you don’t have success in dating. Product market fit also goes to school. You can write the best paper ever, and if you have the wrong TA, which was the case for me — I was dissuaded from Western philosophy early on as an undergrad because the TA sucked. I didn’t know that. I thought I just didn’t get it, but it just turned out the TA sucked. I met them later and they totally sucked.
But you don’t usually get professors marking your paper until you’re an upperclassman. When I got to grad school as an Asian Studies person and then I went back into Philosophy, and then I had direct access to the professors and I was like, “Wow, I love this field.” And there’s an example of — the paper could be great. The product, which is the paper in this case, could be great but the market is one person: either your professor or the TA, whoever is marking it. It may not say anything about the product itself, it just says something about the market.
But if you want to get an A, or in business you want to make money, you’re going to have to make that product fit that market. That’s one of the principles for succeeding in life. You have to know who the gatekeepers are, or the graders, or the markers are, and tailor your presentation, or your product, or your paper, or your book, or whatever to that audience.
Henry Chong: It reminds of this story I’ve always liked about how — imagine you’re walking on the street one day and your mother gets shot. She’s lying in the street and she’s bleeding out, and this guy runs over and says, “I can help.” You go, okay, great, thank you. You’re a doctor and obviously you’re here to save my mother. And he goes, “I’m not a doctor.” And you go, okay, well — no, but you know, you must be a — you’re a registered nurse. And he says, “No, I’m not a registered nurse.” And you say, yeah, but you’ve got some kind of first aid training or something, right? And he says, “No, I have no medical experience whatsoever.”
“What are you doing here?” “I’m a good guy. I’m an upstanding citizen. I pay my taxes. I take out the trash. Why don’t you want me to help?” But in that moment, you need a doctor, and what you need is someone who can operate. You don’t need any other stuff. You just need someone who can operate, and the only question is, in that moment, can you operate? And if you can, that’s it. I have a need, can you fill it? And again, in that sense, product market fit.
And most people run around saying, “Yeah, but I’m a good guy. How come they don’t want me to help?”
David Tian: Yeah, product market fit also explains why nice guys get stuck in the friend zone or why fake nice guys get stuck in the friend zone. Well, one thing I want to mention as well — that was an example of how you could take one principle, apply it to — I know a lot of the old audience is interested in the dating stuff, so applying it to dating. Here’s one that will blow your mind. I was talking about history. We started talking about history. The best pick up manual is actually the Bible.
The second best pick up manual is the Analects. Well, actually it’s a tie between the Analects of [INAUDIBLE]. I would say the number three, only because it’s more difficult to understand, is Wang Yangming’s Unity of Knowledge and Action from the 1400’s. Here’s one key principle or lesson I take from all of those that can apply to every area of life, including making yourself more attractive in the dating realm, which is character formation. It’s not cool now. I don’t think anyone actually thinks about that.
In the Bible, if you’re a Christian, the idea isn’t to follow a bunch of random rules and then to be judged when you die, you’re sent to heaven or hell. That’s a child’s way of looking at it. What it’s actually about is reforming your character. What the Bible generally is concerned about — the New Testament especially, its concerned about giving you the thought patterns of a godly person knowing that you don’t naturally have those thought patterns.
The Bible is supposed to — the whole Christian journey is to have you develop a certain character so that you can effortlessly do the right thing, the good thing. And that was the debate in all of Chinese philosophy. That was a central debate.
Henry Chong: Which is exactly what Confucius says, right?
David Tian: Yes, right. Well, yes, that’s why there’s the issue of rites, Li or acting in accordance with ritual was such a big deal. It wasn’t just because you’re supposed to bow because — just because it’s in your decorum or something. It’s actually forming a character. And if you don’t get to form that character, it’ll be really hard for you to be a good person down the road because you’ll have to keep trying.
There’s a great book on this theme, Trying Not to Try by Edward Slingerland. I’ve sat on panels with him. He’s a really nice guy. Hopefully, he’ll turn out not to be a social justice warrior like so many of those spineless professors are, but that was a great book. It was based on his dissertation on the idea of wu-wei and linking that to flow. All of that is exactly what you need to do if you’re trying to change your personality to be more attractive to a certain market that you weren’t attractive to before.
So like, club girls for instance is a particularly — that’s a niche market that a lot of guys want to get into. If you don’t change your character so that you naturally have fun in night clubs, naturally love the music, or unself-conscious with your body language, and you can have fun there — If you can’t have fun there, it’s going to be really hard for you. And maybe through by dint of persistence and willpower, you can pull it off, but that’s like —
Henry Chong: Exactly, and why? Because you’ll never truly achieve product market fit.
David Tian: Yes, right. That’s right. Because you’re just dressing up a product and trying to pass it off.
Henry Chong: It’s very interesting that you say all that because I was talking about Vipassana earlier, and I was reading this great book on the plane over here to Singapore called Mindfulness In Plain English. It said the three tenets of Buddhism of dharma is morality, meditation, and compassion. Why is meditation a third of the tenet of Buddhism? Because without meditation, you will not gain the control over your thoughts and the awareness of your thoughts. And if you can’t control or be aware of your thoughts, how can you ever be a moral person?
There’s no point trying to learn about morality if you can’t even control your thoughts, if you don’t have self-discipline. Why bother teaching someone about morality because you won’t be able to ever follow through? Again, very interesting when they say there’s no point in you just learning a bunch of precepts. You should be able to sit, and think, and be aware of your own thought in a situation so that you naturally can come to the moral and compassionate outcome. Again, all of them say very similar things.
Stoicism, when you get right down to it, they say very similar things. And that’s why when you look across all of these different topics of disciplines, you go, “That’s very interesting because I see the same thing pop up everywhere.” Whether it’s business, investing, whatever it is — when you see the same principle pop up and you see it pop up over time. People throughout centuries seem to come up the same thing. That’s when you go, “Huh, I should pay attention.”
That’s not just a situational principle in an area, but it’s a very core foundational principle. Product market fit is something that is foundational. We use it today to talk about start-ups, but in many ways, it is very foundationally true of life. There’s lots of principles like that that I think are core principles. And if you don’t understand them, you will always be [INAUDIBLE 00:25:59].
David Tian: We need to wrap up, but let me wrap up with this thought. At least, this is my thought that I’ll wrap up. I’ll let you conclude. So, product market fit, now it’s really hit me that it’s a great way to encapsulate a very deep lesson. I kept pushing this principle that you might have the lack of product market fit, and then you get no profits or whatever. You get no women or whatever the result is that you’re trying to get. And sometimes you think, “Okay, I got to change the product.”
Because in business, it’s hard to change the market. But sometimes, you need to change the market. Maybe you have the wrong market for the product. A lot of guys choose — the market is what drives them. They want the girl, or in school you want the grade, or you want the money. That’s a given. And then they try to figure out the product to match that. What’ll happen psychologically, is if a man changes himself and he sees it as the new product that I become is me, that’s it. There’s only one product, and I’m the product, and I’m going to change that product to fit this market, hot girls in the club or something.
And I’m talking about this in other lectures. He ends up taking on a new false self in order to do that. But that can actually work in — it can actually be psychologically healthy to go through this process if you look at it in this way. If you see it as, “I’m adjusting the product to fit the market”, then we’re A-OK. If you see it instead as, “The market is the end-all be-all and there’s only one market worth getting. The current product is no good. It’s not good enough. This product sucks or it’s not worthy of being bought, or loved, or whatever. I’m going to change the product. I’m going to improve the product.”
If they see it as an improvement of a product rather than changing it, then we have a deep level of — we’re adding on false selves to a narcissistic core and that can be very dangerous. It’s deeper than where we were going to, but that actually creates neurosis at a deeper level.
That’s what I’ve been warning guys against in their pick up journey. If they even do succeed, and very few people do, this long process of changing yourself, to be naturally and effortlessly attractive to that chosen market, the danger is that you think that that’s an improvement, versus thinking that it’s just a changing product.
There are people who can change the way they are given the market. If you are going to go on stage in front of thousands of people, you’re going to speak differently than you would in a one-on-one chat with your baby daughter. Totally different, and that’s normal. That’s not a new false self that’s bad. It’s not like you’re trying to be the same true self in every case. It’s just that it’s okay to have a persona if you know it’s a persona and you’re using it for a specific purpose.
In fact, we all have personas. We all are different in different cases. If we’re successful in those instances, we have either a new product or a different way of using that product. That’s totally fine.
Henry Chong: And it’s quite healthy if you think about it that way. I think neurosis come because you attach those ideas to the ego. I use ‘ego’ in the same way that psychologists use it, as an identity, the self. Once you say that ‘I need to change the ego, change the self’, that’s when you get these false selves manifesting. Versus if you just say it’s just a way of behaving. It’s come full circle talking about all of these principles, and talking about Vipassana and meditation — not Vipassana, but a different kind of meditation where you’re supposed to sit, and think, and meditate upon some deity, some holy figure.
The true purpose, which not a lot of people realize always, is not to sit and contemplate this deity. It is to think about the ego of a deity, its identity. And they tell you you want to then take on the identity of their deity, not so that you now believe that you’re god, but that so you realize that that deity’s ego is just a mask like any other. Once you realize that, you realize that your own ego is likewise just a mask. If you can switch, then actually you thought that this deity, this holy figure, was actually just a construct, a series of identities that you attach to the me.
Once you set that aside, you go, “Well, actually, it’s just ways of behaving.” Ways of responding to the world, ways of behaving as opposed to it being the neurosis attached to me.
David Tian: There’s a book that I just recently finished called Masks of Masculinity. The book was largely telling guys to get rid of the mask, which is a great thing. I think he lists out 9 or 10 different masks. That’s very popular nowadays to discover your true self and all of this. Most guys have no clue what their true selves are anyway, but there’s something intuitively appealing about that.
What I think the most evolved — the more mature, evolved view of it is that you should keep those masks in your back pocket. They’re often very useful to get free upgrades at hotels and flights, when you’re addressing your employees sometimes, when you have to lead. Sometimes, when you’re counselling, you have a different mask. When you’re playing with your nephews, you have a different mask. As long as you know that they’re masks.
Product market fit, drawing it back to that principle — as long as you can have that removed and say, “I’m going to adjust this product because of that market, to get the product market fit, not because it’s inherently superior.” Now, we’re talking about you as the product and it’s very easy to get that confused.
Henry Chong: Exactly. Companies face the same problem where a company gets an identity or ego in that sense, and then they can’t change because it’s their identity. Whereas a good company, especially in today’s world can be flexible. You can rapid adaptation. And for that to happen, you need to not have an ego as a company and say, “We’ve got a product but we’re happy to rapidly iterate. We’re happy to change it. We’re happy to find new markets and makes sure that it fits over time.” As opposed to a lot of companies disappear, again, especially in today’s disruptive world because they say, “This is what we do. This is our identity and that’s it.” They never change.
David Tian: It’s like in 1999. Netflix was trying to sell to Blockbuster. Blockbuster said, “No, we’re not going to buy you, Netflix, because we think people actually enjoy going into stores.” That didn’t work out. Laughing at the downfall of others.
So yeah, on that note, we’re going to wrap it up and we’re going to get some dinner later and shoot another one. Okay, so thanks so much. We have two things that you should do. Join the private Facebook group for the DTPHD Podcast. It’s a pretty intimate group right now. It’s the easiest way to get a hold of us and interact with us.
The second is you can get the shownotes at davidtianphd.com/dtphdpodcast/. Also, how do they get in touch with you, Henry?
Henry Chong: Well, I am sadly not very much in social media. I have a website at henrychong.com. I’m sure you got my name. I also write a letter every Sunday, and you can sign up for that at Fusang.co/newsletter.
David Tian: Very good newsletter. You write one for Christmas?
Henry Chong: Yes.
David Tian: Ooh, alright. I always look forward to those newsletters. Alright, so we’re ending that and I’ll see you in the next podcast.
Henry Chong: See you soon.
Hey, it’s David again. Before you go, a couple last things. First, all the show notes and links to resources can be found at DavidTianPHD.com/dtphdpodcast. Or you can just go to DavidTianPHD.com and find it through the top navigation menu.
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