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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Adam Robinson, What Smart Students Know
Episode 4 Show Notes
1:35 The long-term psychological effects of being hard on yourself to get results
4:21 What actually happens when you force yourself to do what you don’t feel like doing
5:17 The two main types of motivation. If you rely on the wrong kind of motivation, you’ll suffer the consequences in your mind and body
7:01 The correct way to approach the “grind and hustle” philosophy
10:33 How are we treating ourselves like whipped slaves
11:17 What’s the best motivator of all?
12:07 When grit is never enough
13:27 Why we all have parts within ourselves that are at war
14:31 What are the best uses of pain for your mental health and well-being?
16:19 The key difference between pain and suffering
20:01 What’s the one requirement for happiness and fulfillment?
32:47 How a neurotic personality is created and why so many people are neurotic
Motivation, Discipline, Drive, Success – What’s the Truth?
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong delve into the common concern of achievers, and that’s being hard on themselves.
David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong discuss the difference between pain and suffering and what do people endure to reach their goal.
In this podcast episode, David Tian Ph.D. and Henry Chong share how happiness and achievement can be fulfilled.
Truth, love, and the good. Here we go.
David Tian: Welcome to the DTPHD Podcast. I am David Tian, your host, together with our co-host, Henry Chong.
Henry Chong: Yes, hello again.
David Tian: We are here at Siem Reap at the end of a mastermind summit. We’ve been looking at some deep things, some emotionally turmoilic, is that even a word? I’ve just made it one, issues. One of the issues that comes up a lot in groups of achievers is being hard on yourself. That’s what I call it. We’ll talk about that.
This is a very historic place, Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, and these amazing temples that come from the 12th century. You can think about being hard on yourself as a theme in Asian culture. That is true, but also, there is a device called the Pavlok that I’ve seen a friend of mine wear. He gave it to me to try it on. Basically, it’s an electric shock device. It’s a wristband that you set to shock yourself electrically.
I tried it. It was very painful at the maximum setting. It’s like a nice little joke for my friend, like, “Hey, try it on.” And you’re like, “Fuck that!” I just saw the red bar going. And I just watched Shark Tank. Now, that episode that the founder of Pavlok was on is now three or four years old, but I just saw it. It was very interesting and got me thinking about the effects of being really hard on yourself psychologically, the long-term effects.
Many of us treat ourselves like animals. This originally comes from aversive conditioning. How do you get a dog to stop barking at the wrong times? You put a shock collar on it. Every time it barks or growls or does something like that, you can just shock it. It’s supposed to learn to stop doing that. This is called aversive conditioning. You give it aversity and conditions not to do that thing. People are basically treating themselves this way in order to get more results.
I hate that word these days. I keep hearing it. “Will it get me results?” It depends what you mean by results, but most of the world just wants results in terms of three or four things: money, women, power, and they all boil down to esteem of some kind. Aversive conditioning is being hard on yourself as a way to get those things, those goals. One thing that we covered in today’s session, we went into Gestalt psychology, we looked at how your relationships repeat the cycle of your childhood. It’s pretty deep, so I’m not going to try to summarize it in a few minutes, but we did a whole day and a half on that. That video will be released at some point on our other channel, or maybe on this channel.
It’s directly related to this, because what happens is, when you aren’t allowed to feel something. Especially as a child, that self-control that you think is a good thing gets sublimated in a way: it gets suppressed, and repressed. Repression then takes hold over the body. You can actually see the effects of that repression of the aversive conditioning on the physical body.
I have no idea what the founder is like now. I don’t know him personally. I have friends of friends of his, but his appearance on Shark Tank is fascinating. He had that kind of constricted physiology that set of Mark Cuban real bad. He really didn’t like this guy, and a couple of the other people knew they couldn’t trust him. It was a little shady. But at the end of the day, at the end of the session, the only guy who gave him an offer was Kevin O’Leary, the Mr. Wonderful, kind of like the bad guy in the panel, and the end.
Throughout that, he had this shifting face that was hardened. It was hardened because you don’t get to do what you really want to do. You’ve got to buzz yourself, you just zap yourself so that you will force yourself to do this other thing, to be this other way, and you end up repressing quite a lot. And even at one point said, because the judges, or the panel was talking amongst themselves, “You guys are giving me ADD.” And they’re like, “We’re giving you ADD?”
It’s this thing. I don’t want to talk too much about the device because it will encourage you to actually buy it. But what I’ve discovered with all the research I’ve done in psychology, is if you punish yourself to make yourself be a certain way, the effects will be repression. The more you punish yourself, the more effects of repression you’ll have in your physical body, in your psychology. Very few people are actually aware of that.
Henry Chong: Not only that. I think at the end of the day, all kinds of motivation can be separated into push and pull motivation. Are you being pulled along the path by the desire for some end point, or are you being pushed by some factor? Obviously direct pain, pleasure, reward is one way using a shock collar in a dog. But certainly, when it comes to humans, I think pull motivation is much stronger than push motivation, if nothing else because the push motivation only lasts as long as you have that push.
If you’re using a Pavlok wristband, the hope is that you use it enough that you form a habit that will continue when you’re not only using the wristband, otherwise you are just being shocked forever. But you know, maybe, maybe that’ll work, but I think a lot of evidence, at least anecdotal evidence, shows that it doesn’t last. It’s a great idea for you to get together with your friends, and you say, “We’ve got this weight loss challenge. We’ll put some money in” so there’s some kind of punishment reward, or the classic, “You’ve got to post pictures of yourself through Facebook every week.” These are push incentives. “I don’t want something to happen, so therefore I’ll go to the gym.”
But you’re only going to the gym because of that push force. It’s very different if you say, “You know what? I wanted to go to the gym because I want that outcome.” No matter what it is that you do, going to the gym is one example, it’s never pleasant in-between. That’s why you’re not already doing it. If it were so easy, you’d be doing it anyway. The truth is, there are a lot of things that make you not want to do it. In order to overcome these on a long-term basis, you must have some motivating factor even bigger that will get you over that hump.
I think people can only grind it out so long. That’s something that you’ll talk about a lot: Just keep pushing and keep grinding. It doesn’t last. Sooner or later, you’ll wear yourself out.
David Tian: A great proponent of the grind philosophy is Gary Vaynerchuk, a guy I admire quite a bit. For him, it’s not actually grind. He says it’s grind and that’s a word that resonates with people, because they don’t like it. To them, it feels like grind, but he loves the grind. In which case, you’ve changed the meaning of grinding.
Henry Chong: And not only that, but he has motivating forces pulling him. He has a clear objective and he says, “I know exactly what I want. This is what I need to do it, and so each and every day I’m going to show up and I’m going to grind. I’m going to grind because I want that thing.”
David Tian: You’re actually saying it won’t even work. I’m granting that maybe it will work. They could quit smoking or –
Henry Chong: Maybe it will for short-term, but certainly in terms of the magnitude of effect, it’s really good. I think in terms of duration, it’s also weaker.
David Tian: It’s a lot more taxing.
Henry Chong: Especially if they’re trying to not do something simple. Maybe if it’s “I need to floss every morning” and there’s this app called Coach. Simple things like floss every morning, probably. But if you’re trying to achieve something huge like build a company, you’re trying to buy big jets, whatever it is…
David Tian: I think zapping yourself to floss is really stupid.
Henry Chong: Yeah. But whatever it is, if the goal is big enough, those small push motivations I don’t think are enough. Because if the goal is big enough, the task is also very, very hard. If you’re trying to push at the very edge of what is possible, the only thing that will ever get you there is some massive pull motivation.
David Tian: Yeah. It could be – how bad do you want it? If you want it enough, you shouldn’t have to beat yourself to get there. Here’s the reason why I think they don’t want it enough. If you need to get a Pavlok bracelet – if you’re at that point. I have friends who have it, and I think somebody in this room has ordered it. We’re talking to some of the other guys in the room here at our summit, so I’m aware of some of the issues.
One of them is getting up on time: diet and waking up are the most common uses of it. It’s like an alarm clock of some kind. What you should be asking yourself instead to get out of this situation is – let me come at it at a different way. If you’re using pain to force yourself to get that result, it’s actually going to distract you from the underlying real issues.
Let’s say you’re at a job you hate, and that’s why you don’t like to get up in the morning. But you buy a device that zaps you to get there. So you’ll get to your job, but now you’ve stopped asking yourself the deeper questions of: Why am I sleeping in? Is it because I don’t like my job? That’s a simple example, but it could be another one like – you’re not going to the gym, or you’re pigging out.
Every time you eat some ice cream, you zap yourself. The hope is you’re going to start associating pain to ice cream, which is a horrible thing. Ice cream is a wonderful thing. But instead of asking yourself, “Why am I seeking solace in the ice cream?” Because there’s some underlying issue. Could it be that your relationship is falling apart and you’re stressed out and doing that? Could it be that you’re underperforming at work so you seek comfort there?
Could it be that your father died, you haven’t confronted the grief, and so you bury yourself in the ice cream? There’s so many reasons that eating could become a comfort device for not facing your issues or not resolving them. And instead of actually attending to those underlying issues, you distract yourself by actually traumatically removing the need to do so. You traumatize yourself enough that you start shifting your behavior in a different direction.
Henry Chong: Not only that, but let me reframe it. If you need to literally zap yourself to wake up in the morning, you’re like a slave who gets whipped when they don’t do what they’re told, except you’re doing it to yourself.
David Tian: You’re your slave. You’re making yourself your bitch. That sounds really badass, right? And if you ask a Navy SEAL – it’s very popular now to bring a military guy in and say “Teach me how to be disciplined!” because they know a lot about discipline. But you never ask yourself, “Well, can they help me be more fulfilled in life?” They get the results if the result is more money, if the result is more girls. For the military guy, the result is we win this battle. Yes, they can deliver the result, but at what cost?
Henry Chong: Not only that, but I think if you talk to a lot of Navy SEALs going through hell week as the classic example, they always say that they need some why. They need some reason why they are there, because no one is harder than the training. No one is harder than life no matter how hard you are. The biggest, toughest, strongest guys, when you’re there in the mud at 4:00 AM or whatever it is, they are the ones who always quit. Because no matter how fit you are, you are not fit enough. It’s the ones who have some reason to just keep on going, those are the ones who make it.
Not so much in terms of why, but going back to talking about push versus pull and which one is stronger – to give you a personal example, I have a personal trainer now. A while ago, I was in one session. All the sessions are very hard. They are great because I refuse to quit in front of someone else, and if I was by myself, I’d have quit within the first 20 minutes of that intensity of training. But there comes a point at which I can’t just grit it out anymore. I can’t just [INAUDIBLE] push anymore. At some point, I just surrender, in a sense, because it’s so tough and I just sort of – instead of gritting through it, I just let go.
It doesn’t become easier, but I can complete it, and I can go a lot further than I think I can. It made me realize that no matter how hard you are, trying to grit through it is never enough. But if you can surrender to the process, and if you can reframe it, you say – “You know what? It hurts a lot, but I’m here for a reason. I’m paying this guy a lot of money, and I’m showing up here for a reason. Why? If I don’t want to be there, I don’t have to be there. I can stop. I can go home. I can cancel everything else. I’m there for a reason. I want to go through this because of the outcome. And even if I don’t enjoy it, I should, at least, in some degree, love the process.”
But if you’re just gritting it out rep by rep and screaming – we talked about this in a previous podcast. You have to enjoy the process. Not even enjoy – enjoy is the wrong word. A lot of the times, the process is hard, but you need to say “I’m doing this for a reason, and I love the process.”
David Tian: Yeah, and one of the reasons why somebody would need to use physical pain to motivate themselves to move forward on a regular basis is because they have a war in their selves. There are warring selves in them. There’s a self that wants to be fit, and then there’s a self that wants to relax. They are at war. In psychology, you can see people who look in the mirror a lot, they are activating their shadow selves. They are looking at a part of them that they could be that is not currently, or they’re admiring – or the part of them that is not the way they look is looking at the way they look and thinking, “Woah.”
Unless you reconcile the conflict between those two selves, you’re just going to be traumatizing one of the weaker selves to get that result. Like you’re saying, I think there’s quite a lot of research too that shows that it’s not good in the long term. It’s not stable. There is a use for pain. Before we go too far, I wanted to address this since this is the big paradox. There’s a part of us that intuitively understands why pain is useful.
There’s a very useful way to use pain as a leverage on one part of yourself to get things done. In fact, if you’ve been to Tony Robbin’s Unleash The Power Within and you’ve gone through his intense experience – if you’ve been through my Invincible course, modules 5 and 7, I take you through a scrooge process. In fact, starting in module 1 of Invincible, I take you through a modified scrooge. It’s the process of giving you something amazing and taking it away. That’s module 1 of Invincible. The other one is having you imagine your future life continuing with this debilitating habit that you want to get rid of, and doing it that way, and seeing, confronting how horrible your life would be if you kept at it for 20 years or something.
What do you think is the difference between that use of pain and the one that we’re attacking? Do you think it’s effective?
Henry Chong: I think pain can be very useful, but I guess the distinction is – again, it’s not about being in pain. If I’m using a Pavlok bracelet, I’m using the pain directly as a stimulus, conditioning to try to push me towards something. I think you need to realize that in most journeys, goals, whatever you want, pain is an inevitable part of the process almost by definition. Because again, if it were easy, you’d never even done it. The reason why you haven’t is because it’s hard.
People who can achieve it, can also go through hell week and brace the pain as part of the process. You can reframe it and you say, “I learned to some degree to love the pain, because I know that it’s moving me towards my goal.” Let me take that one step further.
David Tian: Pain versus suffering.
Henry Chong: Exactly. Pain is not suffering as Tony Robbins would say. Suffering is a judgment you place on the pain. You can say pain is great because if I go to the gym by definition, I’m there for the pain. I’m there to tear my muscles apart so they grow stronger. If you go to the gym and you don’t feel anything, what’s the point if you don’t feel tired after going to the gym? If your muscles don’t hurt the next day, why were you there? You were there for that exact reason. You were there for the pain. Once you realize that, then you can embrace that as part of the process.
Again, to take that one step further, the struggle in any hard thing you want to do in life. A lot of times, as you say, people want to avoid struggle. You want to do what’s easy. Struggle doesn’t feel nice, and I think there’s a homeostatic force in our body that says “Avoid anything that’s a bit too hard, anything that’s tiring, anything that requires the struggle.” By definition, anything – not only do goals require struggle, but I would argue that the struggle is the point.
Bruce Lee says you must constantly surpass your level, not to get anywhere, but because that’s the whole point. If you’re an athlete, the whole point is to get better, not necessarily win competitions. That’s quite an interesting thought, and you realize that is the point.
David Tian: The point is the struggle. One important distinction in the exercise I was mentioning too about getting leverage… There’s another one I’m putting into a new course called Lifestyle Mastery, which is where you’re attacking – an even stronger way than scrooge, a debilitating habit. It ends with “I.. declarations”. Basically, what’s happening is – and again, you see this in the scrooge where you think ahead 15 years ahead, or 20 years ahead, or 30 years ahead. If you stayed with this, would you like that?
This is to get you aligned with your whys, your reasons whys, aligned with your rational mind. Your mind says, “No, I don’t want to see this going forward.” And then the pain is simply to say, “I am not this way. That is not me. The real me is powerful. The real me is strong. The real me would do this. Real me loves. Real me is full of joy. Real me does not engage in these despicable habits.” It’s really not about the denial of selves in you, but coming out with “Who are you really?” And it’s calling out in your unconscious who you are.
When you know who you are, and you’re comfortable with that, and you’re fully in that, that frees you up from using these other devices that force you along the right lines. For instance, overeating, indulging in comfort food, spending hours on 9Gag or something like that – these are all relatively new types of comfort techniques. Instead of indulging in those, you know who you really are, so then you’re motivated to stay in that true self. That’s I see it as a major difference between just one part of you beating the other into submission, versus declaring who you are, wanting that, and going for that as a pull motivation towards that goal of that self.
Henry Chong: I think it’d be quite interesting to talk a bit more about that, the struggle. That’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. When we talk about the yin and the yang of life, the balance in all things, and a lot of people now will talk about how you want to be present. You want to love in the moment, appreciate the moment, and – what’s the point? One line I’ve always liked is about how life is – everyone wants the happy life, but the happy life is made up of a string of happy moments. Most people are so focused on the happy life, they forgot to have the happy moments, which I think is absolutely true.
I want to talk today about the flip-side, the yang side of things. Again, just as you need the love, what’s on the other side? I think that is maybe ignored today a lot: the struggle. Again, the intrinsic desire to be more – to grow independent of getting anywhere: grow or die. That’s the usual maxim. And we see this with animals. Animals aren’t allowed to grow; they die. You can’t just stay static. You must be moving or not. I think that’s true of people as well.
A lot of people are so focused on now the – how do I get happy? How do I find fulfillment? What about the other side? I mean, we know that dopamine as a neurochemical comes from achieving things, but most specifically are achieving things after the struggle. When you’ve tried something really hard and you’ve overcome something, you get dopamine. Testosterone, likewise, comes from challenge; very directly correlated.
People take cocaine so that they can have more dopamine. That’s how highly sought after that experience is, and then experience can come from you going to the gym, trying to lift something really heavy, something that you’re not quite sure you’ll be able to do. It’s right on the edge of your ability and you do it. That feeling after you do it, that’s raw dopamine coursing through your brain. That’s a very different feeling qualitatively than the serotonin-induced happy glow that you get after sex and orgasm.
I think they are both the two halves that make up life, the yin and the yang. That’s something that I think a lot of people have forgotten. You can’t just have the yin in your life. You need the yang or it’s not a balanced fulfillment.
David Tian: A way to look at that grind life is to see it as a kind of yang-dominated life. The thing is, one of the issues is that the way that we live our lives is embracing the challenge or seeking out challenges; embracing the struggles. Ryan Holiday’s excellent book The Obstacle Is The Way – and on that day-to-day getting up, going out and doing it, it’s hard work but it’s enjoyable hard work. If you see a greater purpose in it, it’s meaningful to you, you’re growing and learning as you do it. That’s often why achievers actually –
There are two types of achievers I’ve seen in life. There’s the one type that I used to be, and that was the one that was really concerned about grades. I was that achiever all the way through until sophomore year of my undergrad when I found a book called ‘What Smart Students Know by Adam Robinson’ which freed me up in terms of my attitude and my mindset around learning.
But up until that point, I was really focused on the grades, on the result. I didn’t understand that in order to get the top score, not just a really good score, but a top score, you’d need to actually – in a competitive field – lose yourself in the process of learning. So then it’s not about what’s going to be on the exam, or what’s the essay requirement. Although those are important parts of the game you need to play, but instead you’re focusing on what you’re learning, what you’re going to take away in your memory after the exam is done.
I was a university professor for so long, I knew that most of the students after the exam a month later, if I asked them anything on the exam, they’d have a hard time answering it. Pretty much the only ones who would continue with it are the ones who have another course with me. They know they got to remember something, but even then I’m shocked, like we just covered this last semester, you don’t remember? Because they were studying for that end goal, once that end goal was achieved – they let go. They didn’t need to use it any further.
I understand that, but that’s why they are not top students. I didn’t know how rare of a student I and my friends were until I became a professor. It was so rare to actually get a student – The standard I held for all of us I thought was pretty high but not super high. But one of the things I realized is the reason our standards – we met those standards so easily doing – For instance, one thing we would do is, you want to stay always a week or two ahead, and then you want to read around all the other readings.
Whatever your professor assigns, look for three times more than that and read around that. So obviously, read the assigned work plus at least three other sources. Come to your professor with questions that are related to the external reading. You could ask about a debate in a related field, and that’s not even part of the course. And your exams, when you write in a closed-book exam, cite your sources. Put a freaking footnote there, and then put the author, title, bracket, Cambridge University Press, comma, the date of publication, unbracket. And if you can remember the page number, that’s even better.
This was just sort of like, if you can do this, it’d be great. Let’s try. But I knew most students never even thought of it. They’d be happy to just get to the end of the exam. The reason I was able to do that and my friends and I, is because we stopped seeing studying as a thing we had to do. We learned to lose ourselves in the process of it.
When it came to learning how to attract women, it was the same situation. There were these guys who looked for the goal: “How do I get a kiss?” Whatever the goals were, they were closes of some kind: kiss close, full close, number close. I don’t know, like multiple relationship close, and they’re always looking for that end goal. If they do get it, it’s always fleeting. It’s not consistent. They can’t keep it up.
But you know, the ones who lose themselves in the process of that life, they become it and then they don’t have to strive to get the result anymore. They are that, and it comes effortlessly. That became the secret for me. Working out was another thing too. At the beginning, if you see it as something that you need to force yourself to do to get the result – and I get it, it’s easy to do this on Instagram or some place. You can always do counter-intuitive marketing.
So it’s easy to say, “I know everyone says you’re supposed to love the workout. But if you’re going to wait until that time, you’re never going to start working out.” That’s why Pavlok and that sort of thing is so intuitive for these people. It’s supposed to suck. You got to do it anyway, and all these people love that message because that matches the neurotic voice in their head from childhood. “Yeah, this is supposed to suck. School sucks. You got to do it anyway.”
They’re so used to it they’re like, “Oh, this is familiar. Uh-huh. This is something that resonates with me.” And it’s really a false debilitating fact or belief. It will actually make it harder in the long run to sustain that kind of growth and progress. So, when it comes to working out, if you see it as “I have to force myself to grow into it”, then you’re not going to actually keep it up.
You see this over and over. It was for me, it wasn’t until I embraced – no matter if I got the result. I got to measure the result, I might gain this muscle, losing the fat, but I would realize that if I didn’t look at the end result for a while, and I just lost myself in working out, instead of checking my fucking weight every day or every week, I’ll check it two months from now or three months from now. I’ll forget about the goal and just lose myself in the process of it, then it becomes an enjoyable thing.
But if I keep looking, checking my weight every day, it’s going to become this neurotically obsessive thing.
Henry Chong: And to all those people, I’d also ask, why? If you find it so hard to motivate your feet to go the gym, why? Why is it that all of those other things, the resistance, is so much bigger than your desire? I mean, are you sure you really want to go to the gym? Obviously not, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have thought of that.
David Tian: Yeah, these are the warring selves.
Henry Chong: Where is the conflict within that is preventing you? Maybe you shouldn’t think about –
David Tian: Self-awareness, man. You’re arriving at the self-awareness, and it’s so hard. It’s hard for me – I don’t know why I say it’s so hard for me as if I’m some special person, but I devote my life at the moment to learning my own psychology and other people’s psychology. But it’s even hard for me. I devote to it full-time, because it’s hard to see yourself.
That’s why it really helps to have a good therapist or coach who can help you think through and reflect back, and ask you the tough questions. And also to trigger you, because it’s easy to theoretically say, “Yeah, I’m fine. Yeah, I’ll work out. Yeah.” But when push comes to shove, what are you really? And until you get that push, or the shove, you don’t know who you are. That’s part of what they’re doing. They need to get you there emotionally.
Henry Chong: You talked earlier about all those people who say, “I don’t like school, but you just have to do it”. I’d ask, “Why? Why do you have to do it?”
David Tian: Exactly.
Henry Chong: Maybe we can open this up a bit. The thing is, if all you want to do is lead a ‘comfortable’ life where you must know your needs are fulfilled – in today’s world, it’s really not that hard. Nevermind just the basics of food and shelter, but you can get unlimited entertainment by just turning on Netflix for $10.99 a month. You can just sit there forever in some level of comfort.
David Tian: Or on YouTube for free.
Henry Chong: And we’re even talking in some countries about like universal basic income: Just give everyone enough so that they can live. That level of life is pretty easy. So, why? Why do you want more? There must be some reason why you say that – everyone intuitively accepts that you need more. You need some kind of struggle in your life. You have to go to school, why? But people don’t seem to think that through.
David Tian: I think we’re not evolved to naturally be in the now, be present, because we’re evolved to really give a shit about our survival and our reproduction. If you think about – let’s enjoy the sound of the rain on the trees and the leaves right now, and the wind on my face. You’d probably get eaten. Actually, that’s an exaggeration, but you wouldn’t go and do what you need to do to build the cave or whatever.
So, getting your purpose and figuring out the meaning behind it – I always think is your true purpose isn’t some job. It’s not a career. It’s not the work you do. It can be part of your purpose, it can be related to it, but it’s got to be something in the now because that would be the only thing that truly fulfills. When you ask yourself – when did I think, “Yeah, this is it. This is what life is about. If you think about that, it’s always something in the now. But you never go like, “Yeah, this is what life’s about, dreaming about five years in the future.” Now it’s like something, some experience you had in the now. .
What we all forget is in our constant striving to beat ourselves up, is that there is already a potentially fully fulfilled self already in you. And then if you can get to that, then these other things that are nice to have – let’s say you want to lose some weight or maybe gain some muscle, or make some extra bucks, or maybe make a lot more extra bucks. Whatever those things are that you think your happiness depends on, if you don’t get those, you’re not going to be happy.
But like you were saying, if you take a step back and realize you actually have all of the resources. And the things that truly bring happiness aren’t going to be those external goods. They are always going to be something that you can experience in the now and that you’ve already experienced. In the Lifestyle Mastery course I’m releasing soon, there’s a whole module on the meaning and purpose of your life.
I don’t tell anybody what their purpose in life is, but I lead them through guided meditation that’s incredibly powerful, that asks them questions like, “What was a time in your life when you thought to yourself this is what life is about?” Whenever that prompt comes up, the inevitable answer is something in the now, an experience in the present.
One thing I wanted to mention before we leave the Pavlok discussion – if you think about how neuroticism is created… Imagine this, every time you did something wrong, you did this. Like, “Johnny, don’t touch the water!” “Oh, shit.” Imagine somebody doing that to themselves, like drinking and then slapping themselves, “I shouldn’t have drunk it!” Slap. “Oh, hey.” Like it’s no big deal. Hey, how is your beer? [SLAP] There’s this hypnotist who hypotizes this guy, and he’s with his girlfriend, so that every time he thinks a sexual thought about a woman, he’s going to slap himself.
She thought this would be really fun, but he slapped himself left right the whole time he’s in this cafe in a courtyard in Europe. He kept slapping himself, but he’s hypnotized to do it so he doesn’t notice. He’s like, “Oh, yeah. I’ll have the chicken salad” and he just keeps slapping himself. Every time a girl walks by, he’s just like that, and she’s just like, “Oh my god.” It’s just so many times that she couldn’t get mad it was just funny.
But imagine you did that normally. That’s Pavlok. Like, you look at somebody, like, who walks around slapping themselves for no reason and thinking this is a great way to train yourself not to do stuff. Like, they’re at the Krispy Kreme about to eat, [SLAP], and you see somebody do this. You think this guy’s got problems. He needs to be going to the insane asylum. He’s got issues. He needs to see a therapist.
You wouldn’t do that normally, but you’d wear a fucking wristband that slaps you in the fucking face. It’s even more painful than that, and it’s like it’s normal. “Okay, I’m going to zap myself right now.” Just fucking slap yourself then and be more transparent about it. In fact, it would be better if you dropped down and did 100 push ups every time you needed to wake up or avoid pigging out. Just drop down and do a hundred push ups then, at least you gain some fucking muscle instead of doing this to yourself.
This is how neuroticism is created. Now, there’s a whole generation of life hackers who lose sight of the goal: quantified self. They’re a big player, but it’s an even bigger movement – they are the ones who are trying to elongate life. Is it biohacking? There’s a whole subculture that is really fascinating, and they are experimenting with all different types of alternative means. It seems like there’s no discussion around, “Why should I live longer? What will I do with this extra time?” There’s this fetish about living longer as if it, in itself, was an intrinsically good thing.
We discussed this when we talked about the denial of death. That will also be in Lifestyle Mastery.
Henry Chong: Seneca is this great liner and he says, “Life is long enough if you know how to live it.”
David Tian: Yes. You have these great quotes. I’m going to write down Henry quotes.
Henry Chong: There’s that other one in Troy, when Achilles is with Briseis in the tent. He’s talking about gods, and that the gods envy us because we’re mortal. It only has meaning because we are mortal. You will be here now in this moment and you will never be here again, and that’s why it has meaning. If you had infinite life, what’s the point?
David Tian: Yeah. We discussed the issue of the Lord of the Rings elves and what their life was like, what it must’ve been like, and the choice of when to die, and why they would wantonly, it seems, enter battle. The downside for an elf was immortal. To die from an arrow, it just seems really stupid. Whereas if you’re a dwarf who lives 50 years, hey, go for it. You can die soon anyway. Go out in a blaze of glory.
But if you’re an immortal, you really want to think about it. What’s that quote again, Seneca said, “Life is long enough if you know how to live it.” I think that’s a great quote to end it on. I’m going to put that into an Instagram quote card. Follow me on Instagram. We’re just starting that up, revving that thing up. @DavidTianPHD. Also, we are going to have a Facebook group for this podcast. We have all that info somewhere on this page if you’re watching this thing or listening to this. Henry, how do they get a hold of you? How do they find you?
Henry Chong: You can find me on my personal website at HenryChong.com or my company website. I have a newsletter every Sunday that I write, and you can sign up for that at Fusang.co/newsletter.
David Tian: Excellent, Fusang.co/newsletter. An awesome newsletter. I always look forward to reading your musings. Alright, guys. Thanks so much – or people, thanks so much for listening, and we’ll be back next time.
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