Jordan Peterson’s ‘Pinocchio’ speech: The finite mind can make contact with the infinite if you actively seek Truth

Jordan Peterson
There’s a “thing” that sometimes happens to me when I discuss philosophical or religious issues with my wife, which she finds incredibly humorous — I shed tears and get temporarily choked up. I told her for years that my theory on the phenomenon is something like this:

  • Deep in your heart is a conduit to the transcendent. There are times when your mind comes into direct contact with Truth with a capital ‘T’, but the finite parts of your being are obviously not equipped to handle the infinite. To grab hold of the transcendent, even for a brief moment, is like grabbing hold of a live wire. The difference is that the pain you feel is something beautiful, the charring and burning of spiritual impurities like rust on the soul. So you happily search for that place again and again because you wish that you could share it with everyone.

I was recently watching a video with Jordan Peterson, the famous professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He was talking with Dave Rubin about Pinocchio, and when I saw where he was going with it I could almost predict the point at which he would tear up.

Mr. Peterson said:

“Most of your viewers will have watched Pinocchio. There’s a scene in Pinocchio where Geppetto wishes upon a star. What it means is he lifts up his eyes beyond the horizon to something transcendent — to something ultimate — because that’s what a star is, it’s part of the eternity of the night sky.

And so he lifts his eyes up above his daily concerns and he says, ‘What I want — what I want more than anything else — is that my creation will become a genuine individual.’ Right? It’s a heroic gesture because it’s so unlikely. And that catalyzes the puppet’s transformation into a real being. And we start as puppets. And so the trick is to get rid of your god**** strings.

And you remember in Pinocchio, he faces a lot of temptations. One is to be a liar; the other is to be a neurotic victim. That’s how he ends up in Pleasure Island where he just about gets sold into the salt mines and turns into a braying jackass … because it’s run by authoritarians.

Well, okay, so what you do is lift up your eyes and you say, ‘Look, I would like being to progress in the best possible manner. And that’s best for me, best for my family, best for society — maybe best for the world. Simultaneously, I would like to attain that, whatever that is. That’s what I want. You commit to that.

Then you tell the truth. And you can tell if you’re telling the truth. You can tell it physiologically. And so this is something to learn. […] That’s really the core idea in Western civilization, to build yourself into a forthright individual who’s capable of telling the truth and capable of bearing the responsibilities of citizenry.” — Jordan Peterson.

Bingo.

Here’s another way to explain it. Imagine your mind’s eye witnesses the transcendent, and it’s like an ocean. A whole ocean can fit inside your head and you can see it clearly, but the person sitting across from you has no clue what you’re “looking” at. The only way you can make this ocean known is by embarrassingly running it through the tiny sink that is your mouth and the filter of language. Your task is to convince someone of the beauty of the transcendent ocean — or God, or Truth, or Love — when all you can give them is a bucket filled with water.

So you cry.

You cry because in some sense the metaphysical ocean has burst forth into the physical world.

You cry because you’ve seen what lies beyond and you know that if others saw it too then they would change their lives in profound ways.

You cry because you are unworthy of something so magnificent, and you cry because of all the souls who will never have a similar experience through the misbegotten application of their own free will.

If you have never watched Jordan Peter’s videos, I highly suggest you begin sooner rather than later. He knows what he is talking about. He speaks the Truth. If you listen to what he says and actively carry out his advice, then your life will be exponentially better for it.

 

Proactive healing: Recovery requires hard work and a humble mind

Sciatic nerves NIH

Regular readers of this blog know that while I am a writer, I also enjoy physical exercise. What they do not know is that for the past year I have dealt with chronic back pain, which left me inactive for the first time in my life. Now that I have almost completely alleviated the pain, I think sharing the lessons I learned from the experience may be applicable to anyone in need of healing — physical, mental, or spiritual.

Roughly one year ago my back seized up and I found myself on a hardwood floor after 10,000 volts of electricity seemingly ran through my body. It took about 45 minutes to crawl towards my bedroom about 15 feet away. I was covered with sweat after pulling myself into bed (where I spent the next four days). Afterward, the pain lingered throughout my lower back and butt, but I had no idea where it came from.

“Is my old back injury from the Army acting up? Did pushing my wife’s car out of the snow damage something? Did I somehow hurt my back dead-lifting with improper form?” I thought.

Then, I went to work trying to figure out the best way to heal.

  • I stopped lifting weights and opted to exclusively run and swim — no success.
  • I exercised muscles around the affected area, hoping they would compensate for the weak point and give it time to heal — no success.
  • I tried only doing upper-body work — no success.
  • I tried anti-inflammatory pills — no success (unless I wanted to live on anti-inflammatories for the rest of my life and destroy my kidneys).
  • I tried osteopathic manipulative treatment — no success (my hips and back were out of whack within 24 hours after each treatment).
  • I tried a complete secession of physical activity — no success.

For a man who has spent his entire life being physically active, this sort of repeated failure was, in many ways, demoralizing.

“What if I have been completely wrong about the underlying cause of my pain this entire time?” I thought.What if the problem is something I would have never expected? If so, what could that be?”

I finally concluded my pain could be caused by the hours upon hours I sit in a chair each day, even though I have always made time for exercise when I am not working.

The possible solution turned out to be something I have avoided for years: Yoga.

Sciatica yoga

I looked up many videos on yoga for sciatic nerve pain and began stretching religiously twice a day.

At first, no success. I had almost zero flexibility and the stretches were somewhat painful. I kept at it.

Then, pain that was once dispersed throughout my lower body localized around my sacrum.

Then, I could get out of bed in the morning without pain, even if my back “wasn’t quite right.” My flexibility had dramatically increased.

Then, one day, I felt good enough to do a little dance in front of my wife — and my back said, “Nope! Not ready for dancing.”

This week, for the first time in one year, I exercised every single day and managed to work in dead-lifts with no problem.

The moral of the story is this: Healing often requires hard work. It also may require you to admit that all of your preconceived ideas of where your pain is coming from are wrong. On top of everything else, the healing process itself may demand you willingly endure more pain.

Time does not heal all wounds. Pills do not always work, and smart people often cause themselves a lot of pain by refusing to admit that they do not have all the answers.

The last thing I wanted to do over the past month is to admit that regular yoga was what I needed to heal my back pain and counter the many hours I sit in a chair for work. Luckily, I put my ego aside and listened to yoga instructors like Jen Hilman.

I was wrong. If you are in some kind of pain, then I implore you to be open to the idea that you too may be wrong about a lot of things. The decision may put you on the road to recovery faster than you think.

‘Man’s Search For Meaning’: Viktor E. Frankl’s incredibly profound, must-read memoir

Viktor E Frankl

Imagine an old man walked up to you on the street and said he had insights on life that could help infuse your own with meaning and purpose — if you gave him $10. Would you do it? Probably not.

Imagine that old man rolled up his sleeve and it was immediately evident by the tattoo roster on his skin that he was a Holocaust survivor. Then would you do it? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Luckily, Viktor E. Frankl’s memoir, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” is well-known. There are plenty of others who feel the same way I do: It is one of the most profound books ever written.

Mr. Frankl was a psychiatrist who had all sorts of theories about the will to survive, how man goes about giving life meaning, and the ways we respond to suffering. Those theories were then put to the test when he found himself a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

He writes:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate.

Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of the inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us than a mere expression of certain physical and sociological conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him — mentally and spiritually. (Victor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, 2006. 77)

A man who has given a specific meaning to his life can withstand almost any set of circumstances with dignity — even a Holocaust. A man who does not know why he must live can feel as though he is trapped inside a nightmarish prison  — even as a free citizen.

Frankl writes:

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life — daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct.” (77)

If the implications of Mr. Frankl’s insight are not clear, consider the effect of his wife on his mind’s eye as he trudged through snow during forced labor:

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in a positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.

For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in a perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.'” (38)

If I was thrown into a concentration camp tomorrow, then one of the things that would keep me alive would be the desire to write about my experience — perhaps on this very blog. My wife is my beloved, but so too is writing because I believe God made me a writer.

Everyone’s life has a meaning. Finding it is often painful and difficult. I firmly believe, however, that reading Mr. Frankl’s memoir can help make the task, as monumental as it is, much easier. I highly recommend “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Editor’s Note: I will mail a copy of this book to the first regular reader who asks for a copy. I don’t mean to penalize readers who stay behind the scenes (I appreciate all of you), but for the purposes of this give-away I need to have seen you in the comments section on occasion. Just let me know if you’re interested and I will contact you at the email address you have provided WordPress.

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer dies at 75; speaker truly lived ‘the wisdom of the Tao’

Dr Wayne W DyerDr. Wayne W. Dyer passed away over the weekend. He was 75 years old. The speaker and author was often referred to as a “self-help guru,” but in some sense that distinction does not do him justice. The term “self-help guru” can conjure up images of men who find ways of helping themselves — to other people’s money. Dr. Dyer was no con man. He was a student of the spiritual world who became a master. One does not need to agree with everything a man like Dr. Dyer says in order to admit that he was an excellent teacher.

In memory of Dr. Dyer, here now are a few excerpts from his book ‘Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao’:

Living from the Void:

Consider the paradoxical term nonbeing as you ponder your own beingness. You’re comprised of bones, organs, and rivers of fluids that are encapsulated by a huge sheet of skin molded to hold you together. There’s definitely a distinctive quality of beingness that is “you” in this arrangement of bodily parts — yet if it were possible to disassemble you and lay all of your still-functioning physical components on a blanket, there would be no you. Although all of the parts would be there, their usefulness depends on nonbeingness, or in Lao-tzu’s words, ‘what is not.’

Imagine lining up the walls of the room you’re presently in, with all of the elements present: Without the space of the center, it’s no longer a room, even though everything else is the same. A clay pot is not a pot without the emptiness that the clay encapsulates. A house is not a house if there is no inner space for the exterior to enclose.

A composer once told me that the silence from which each note emerges is more important than the note itself. He said that it’s the empty space between the notes that literally allows the music to be music — if there is no void, there’s only continuous sound. …

Ask yourself what makes a tree, a tree. The bark? The branches? The roots? The leaves? All of these things are what is. And all of them do not constitute a tree. What’s needed to have a tree is what is not—an imperceptible, invisible life force that eludes your five senses. You can cut and carve and search the cells of a tree endlessly and never capture it. — (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life. Hay House, Inc., 2007. 53-54)

Living by Emulating the Sea:

“Be humble. Never put yourself above others or see yourself as superior to anyone. The highest power is a yielding valley. Become a servant, not a dominator. When even the tiniest waterways are left alone, they uniquely carve out a path that leads them to the sea. And the great ocean never lords its greatness and power over the rivers and streams: It doesn’t rise above them and demand devotion, nor does it threaten them with punishment or extinction if they refuse to cooperate. The sea knows instinctively that the streams and rivers will naturally gravitate toward that which stays low.” — (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Life. Hay House, Inc., 2007. 313)

Although the loss of Dr. Dyer will be felt by many, it is comforting to know that those closest to him realize the end is also the beginning:

“Wayne has left his body, passing away through the night. He always said he couldn’t wait for this next adventure to begin and had no fear of dying. Our hearts are broken, but we smile to think of how much our scurvy elephant will enjoy the other side.”

Rest in peace, Dr. Dyer. You will be missed.

‘The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

CS LewisFor years I only knew C.S. Lewis as the guy who was good for some really witty quotes and the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I knew he was a Christian, and I knew he was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien. When I started writing a book roughly a year ago I told myself that I should really read his work to augment my knowledge of the Christian faith, yet I still procrastinated. Finally, after his name came up in the comments section of this blog, I vowed to get up to speed on C.S. Lewis — and I’m glad I did. “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” may be $34.99, but it’s worth every penny.

Here is what readers get for their money: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed and The Abolition of Man. Another way of putting it: 730 pages of philosophical and creative works written by an intellectual giant. Even those who disagree with the man, if they are honest, will concede that he was powerhouse.

C.S. Lewis writes in “Miracles”:

“Let us suppose a race of people whose peculiar mental limitation compels them to regard a painting as something made up of little colored dots which have been put together like a mosaic. Studying the brushwork of a great painting, through their magnifying glasses, they discover more and more complicated relations between the dots, and sort these relations out, with great toil, into certain regularities. Their labor will not be in vain. These regularities will in fact ‘work’; they will cover most of the facts.

But if they go on to conclude that any departure from them would be unworthy of the painter, and an arbitrary breaking of his own rules, they will be far astray. For the regularities they have observed never were the rule the painter was following. What they painfully reconstruct from a million dots, arranged in an agonizing complexity, he really produced with a single lightening-quick turn of the wrist, his eye meanwhile taking in the canvas as a whole and his mind obeying laws of composition which the observers, counting their dots, have not yet come within sight of, and perhaps never will,” (Miracles, 387).

The beauty of Lewis’ work is that it’s smart, but it’s personable. A man without a high school education and a Rhodes Scholar can both appreciate the product. Lewis’ insights are sharp, but he never talks down to his audience. Just as the U.S. Declaration of Independence artfully articulates the rights given to all men by their Creator — in ways anyone can understand — Lewis makes the case for God in ways that individuals of varying degrees of mental acuity can comprehend.

“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls — of their of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You can not put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all the chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, unavoidable?” (Mere Christianity, 170).

One of the most interesting aspects of Lewis’ life is the fact that for many years he was an atheist. In many ways, his early atheism actually benefited Christianity because it is obvious that he thought long and hard about the existence of God. Those doubts are revisited in his journal entries pertaining to the death of his wife; the result is thought-provoking and hauntingly beautiful. Lewis says of dealing with his wife’s passing due to cancer: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” He is correct. His faith comes out in tact, but the journal entries from “A Grief Observed” leaves readers shaken because the truth can be jarring.

I highly recommend “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” for agnostics, atheists, Christians and non-Christians everywhere.

Earl Nightingale had it right on success: ‘We become what we think about’

For years I always thought I was weird because when I explained my worldview to people I’d get strange looks. I’d tell them “x” was going to happen because I refused to accept any other outcome. When “x” happened, I was told I was “lucky.” When it happened again I was told that I always find a way to “worm” my way into advantageous situations. When it happened again I was told things “always have a way of working out” for me.

Recently I was talking to a friend a mine about some things that will happen a year or two from now and she said, “Doug, you’re talking about your book as if it’s already published. You’re still writing it!” and I replied, “It is done. It’s published. It’s already happened. We’re just not there yet.” You can guess what kind of look I got…

It is because of these experiences that I was overjoyed when I ran across an audio recording by Earl Nightingale. I had never heard of the man before, but as he was talking I felt as if I knew exactly what he was going to say before he said it. I started mouthing the words as he was talking and it felt as if he was speaking through me. I had never heard the recording in my life, but it was as if I heard it 1,000 times.

“Finally!” I thought. “Someone who gets it!” I still don’t know much about him, but a quick internet search reveals he was born in Los Angeles, a radio host, motivational speaker, and Marine. I’m a USC Trojan, I’ve been on the the radio, I love motivational speakers, and I’m former-Army. I’ll cut Earl some slack for throwing off that last one…

Long story short, when he talks about what it takes to achieve success he couldn’t be more correct. I have included an excerpt from the video below, although if you get a chance I suggest listening to the whole thing.

Why do we become what we think about? We’ll I’ll tell you how it works as far as we know. Now to do this I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.

Suppose a farmer has some land and it’s good fertile land. Now the land gives the farmer a choice: he may plant in that land whatever he chooses — the land doesn’t care. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. Now remember, we’re comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn’t care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant.

Now let’s say he has two seeds in his hand. One is a seed of corn. The other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds — one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land, and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what’s planted. As it’s written in the Bible: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Now remember, the land doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it does corn. So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison.

Now, the human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land but it works the same way. It doesn’t care what we plant. Success. Failure. A concrete worthwhile goal, or confusion. Misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant it must return to us. You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.

Now you might say, ‘Well, if that’s true, why don’t more people use their minds more?’ …

Our mind comes with standard equipment at birth. It’s free, and things that have been given to us for nothing we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we value. The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that is really worthwhile in life came to us free.

Our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country — all these priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if our home burns down, we can rebuild it. But the things we got for nothing we can never replace.

The human mind isn’t used because we take it for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt. It can do any kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking we use it for little jobs instead of big important ones. …

So decide now: What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind. It’s the most important decision you will ever make in your entire life.

Bravo. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like for me to hear this for the first time. It was like all of the things I had privately thought for years and largely kept to myself were shared with this man.

I’m not a very touchy-feely sort of guy, but I think that if I ever met Mr. Nightingale during his lifetime I would have shaken his hand and given him a great big bear hug.

If you get a chance, I highly suggest listening to the whole thing.

Captain America exists — and his real name is William Kyle Carpenter

Marine.Medal.of.Honor

Remember the scene in the first Captain America — the one where Cap throws himself on what he thinks is a real grenade to protect his fellow soldiers?

It's incredibly honorable to sacrifce oneself for the protection of others. There are few better ways to die. The fact that Marvel's Captain America depicts such a scene is a good sign for American moviegoers.

Yeah. Well, that guy really exists.

Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, who was severely wounded during a 2010 grenade attack, is set to become the third Medal of Honor recipient from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The medically retired Marine Corps veteran will be commended for shielding Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio from a live grenade in Afghanistan on Nov. 21, 2010, the Army Times reported.

“We knew the area we were moving into was one of the rougher areas. … The grenade hit … and our Marines do what they do best — they took care of us and they kept us alive,” he told the Army Times.

Cpl. Carpenter, 24, suffered the loss of his right eye, a blown-out eardrum, a “pretty much blown off” lower jaw and various other broken bones. Damage to the soldier’s frontal lobe also left him unable to speak until just recently. …

“I’m still here and kicking and I have all my limbs, so you’ll never hear me complain,” he said.

If you get a chance, read up on his full story. It’s amazing.

“I just wanted to give a little shout out to all the people that not necessarily doubted, but who didn’t think 15 months ago that I’d be running 10K marathons and doing more pull-ups than I at one point thought I could do. I guess this is a message and a constant reminder for me and everybody out there that thinks they have obstacles to accomplish and overcome.”

The guy was in many respects blown to bits, he couldn’t talk for an extended amount of time because of injuries sustained to his brain, and yet he finds the drive and determination to get back into the kind of shape it takes to run marathons and knock out pull-ups.

Imagine what the world would look like if everyone had William Kyle Carpenter’s attitude. I feel confident saying that it would be a much better place.

At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

Sam Sonny Bryant Jr

Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is 70 years old and he looks better than men half his age. That’s because he realizes the importance the mind plays in every aspect of life. Whether you succeed or fail, age gracefully or become “old” at 50, how you think about the things you think about plays a crucial role. It sounds like common sense, but most people never realize the sheer power their thoughts possess. Our thoughts, very much like wind or rain or the natural elements acting on a rock face, can bend reality with applied pressure and time.

Here is what Mr. Bryant Jr. told the Augusta Chronicle:

People ask me when I’m going to retire. I say “never.” I say “most people die retired than they do on the job working.” I love to work. I love to work out. …

I’m 70 years old if that means anything. I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I started out when I was 44. I was in a bad marriage. And so to relieve  stress I went to the gym. …

I didn’t know anything about working out, nothing about lifting weights — nothing. But I went there and stayed and stayed. Eleven months later a guy told me “Sonny, you ought to go to a contest and complete.” I said “you think so?” He said, “Yeah. You look like you’re ready.” So I went to Columbus, Ga. It was my first contest. … I won third in the novice and forth in the masters, and I was just like a crack addict. I was hooked. I had two trophies — never won anything before — and I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym and start body building. I was just working out before. …

People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realized that it’s a state of mind that makes you old. Age is just a number. In a year most people — the majority of people — give a reason not to do anything, you know? I hear a lot of people telling me to wait until I get their age, and then I tell them how old I am and then it’s kind of embarrassing. I tell them to make a point — that the inactivity and the thought process is what makes them old. … Your subconscious mind reads your conscious mind. If  you start thinking you’re old, subconsciously your conscious mind is going to grab hold of that.  Then you’re body is going feel that it’s old. Then you’re going to start acting old, feeling old — and you’re old. …

Honestly, I never feel like I aged since I started body building at 44. I don’t feel no different. I just want people to recognize me for what I am and what I’m doing and realize that it can be done. They could do it. I just want to be some kind of model for them, for people to see … I’ve seen a lot of young guys “older” than me because their lifestyle — that’s what they chose to do. Go home, sit around watching TV all weekend…sit around doing nothing. I can’t do that. I can not sit in the house that long.

Sam Bryant Jr. demonstrates quite nicely that “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” but it’s his understanding of how our thoughts can directly impact our reality that is truly impressive. The saying goes that whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. It’s true.

Sonny Bryant weightlifter

Mr. Bryant’s philosophy has implications that extend far beyond the world of weightlifting. He essentially says that we make a conscious decision about how we view age, and then the reality in our mind manifests itself into the physical world. Another wise man touched on this debate, and his name was Ben Franklin. You may have heard of him.

“There are two sorts of people in the world, who with equal degrees of health and wealth and the other comforts of life, become the one happy, the other unhappy. Those who are to be happy fix their attention on the pleasant parts of the conversation, and enjoy all with cheerfulness. Those who are to be unhappy think and speak only of the contraries. Hence they are continually discontented themselves, and by their remarks sour the pleasures of society, offend personally many people, and make themselves disagreeable. If these people will not change this bad habit, and condescend to be pleased with what is pleasing, it is good for others to avoid an acquaintance with them, which is always disagreeable, and sometimes very inconvenient, particularly when one finds one’s self entangled in their quarrels.” — Benjamin Franklin

Every day you can consciously decide to look at the bright side of things, or to focus on faults. Every day gives you the opportunity to choose to be a positive or negative person. Every day you can either be the light or the darkness in the world around you. What do you choose? I choose to cast my lot with Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

What octopus camouflage tells us about the nature of reality and successful people

Octopus study

Biologist Roger Hanlon took a trip to the Caribbean a decade ago and ran into an octopus on the ocean floor. The thing is, the little eight-legged guy was able to make himself look exactly like the rocks and vegetation he clung to in order to hide from predators and nosy humans. Hanlon’s findings on cephalopod camouflage may make marine biologists giddy, but anyone interested in the nature of reality should take note as well. The lesson is simple: We are in the dark. Octopus ink dark. And 99% of the people out there who tell you otherwise are simply deluding themselves.

Here’s what Mr. Hanlon and Ms. Lichtman have to say about our cephalopod friends, those “masters of optical illusion.”

Roger Hanlon: “The are the animals best known to go anywhere and camouflage. No animal even comes close to the speed and diversity of appearances of this animal.”

Flora Lichtman: “And they have a few tricks at their disposal. Octopus and cuddlefish can change their skin texture.”

Roger Hanlon: “This is the only animal group that we know of that has fine control of its skin to create bumpiness.”

Flora Lichtman: “And they match their skin dimensionality on sight, not touch, which is…”

Roger Hanlon: “…a vexing visual perception question.”

Flora Lichtman: “And of course, they change color.” …

Roger Hanlon: “So the amazing thing is that these animals are colorblind, yet they are capable of creating color-match patterns, but we don’t know how.”

Flora Lichtman: “But of course Hanlon would like to. And one way he’s studying this is by looking closely at squid skin. …

Roger Hanlon: “[Super up-close] images of live, unanesthetized a squid [reveal interesting dots].”

Flora Lichtman: “And those dots of pigment are called chromatophores. They come in three colors.”

Roger Hanlon: “Yellow, red and brown. But there are reflectors under the pigments and the reflectors produce the short wavelengths. The blues and the greens.”

Flora Lichtman: “And as you can see the chromatophores can change shape to change the predominant skin color.”

Roger Hanlon: “Each one of those little spots can expand up to 15X its diameter.”

Flora Lichtman: “And these chromatophores seem to be twitching all the time.”

Roger Hanlon: “The camouflage all night long. They don’t sleep as far as we know.”

Squid skin close up

Flora Lichtman: “That’s because cephalopods with their squishy bodies, rely on camouflage as their main protection from predators. But of course camouflage is not just color; it’s also pattern. This is one on Hanlon’s major hypothesis.”

Roger Hanlon: “We found only three or four basic patters templates that they use to achieve all this camouflage.”

  • Uniform: Little or no contrast in the pattern.
  • Mottle: Small scale light and dark blotches.
  • Disruptive: To interfere with recognition of what the animal is.

Octopus skin texture

Flora Lichtman: “Based on lab studies, Hanlon says that the animals flash particular patterns based on a few visual cues they encounter in the environment. Hanlon wouldn’t call it a reflex because so much visual recognition is involved…”

Roger Hanlon: “But it is very fast.”

Octopus camo

Flora Lichtman: “The palate and pattern changes in less than a second. But just why these patters work is still kind of a mystery. Let’s take the octopus video again. Hanlon analyzed this video frame by frame, but he can’t tell you why you can’t see the animal.”

Roger Hanlon: “We can’t find any true statistical matches whether it’s brightness or color between the animal and the background, so camouflage is not looking exactly like the background.”

Flora Lichtman: “Camoflauge just means fooling whatever is looking at you, which suggests …

Roger Hanlon: We’re behind the eight ball as it were, if we think the world looks like how we see it. There’s much more information there, and other animals see it very differently.”

Octopus

The level of hubris it takes to believe that through the human body’s five senses we could ever fully understand the universe would be hilarious if the consequences weren’t so destructive to the soul. As I said in June, your mind can not be trusted because you are not your mind.

‘The Incredible Shrinking Hand’ experiment seemed to highlight that nicely:

Last month, researchers at Oxford University announced the discovery of a powerful new painkiller: inverted binoculars. The scientists found that subjects who looked at a wounded hand through the wrong end of binoculars, making the hand appear smaller, felt significantly less pain and even experienced decreased swelling. According to the researchers, this demonstrates that even basic bodily sensations such as pain are modulated by what we see. So next time you stub your toe or cut your finger, do yourself a favor: look away.

What does all of this mean? It means that you should have an open mind. It means that you should reject anyone who tries to put you into a psychological prison cell as it pertains to what you can accomplish while you roam the earth. It means that you need to take off your mind-forged manacles and get to work doing what you know in your heart will make you truly happy.

The octopus can not see color, and yet it becomes that which it puts its eyes on. You can not see your future self, but you will become that which you focus on — so focus on success. Do so, and you will confound your critics just as the octopus confounds (while impressing) biologists.

What if you attacked your problems like Diana Nyad attacked her historic swim?

Sharks? Jellyfish? Storms? That’s no big deal for 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who just swam 110 miles from Florida to Cuba. Imagine what the world would look like if individuals attacked their problems like she attacked her fifth attempt at the historic swim.

The Associated Press reports:

KEY WEST, Fla. — Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad waded ashore Monday and became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.

The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.

“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” she said on the beach.

Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, is escorted by kayakers as she swims towards the completion of her approximately 110-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

The New York Times provides an important addition to the commentary:

Ms. Nyad’s success was built on her failures — the first in 1978, when she was 28, and the most recent last year at age 62. After each attempt, she improvised, learning what to adjust, whom to consult and which new protective protocol to consider.

“Diana did her homework,” said Bonnie Stoll, Ms. Nyad’s friend and chief handler, shortly after Ms. Nyad completed her swim.

1. Never give up. 2. You’re never too old to accomplish amazing things. 3. You are never alone. 4. Success is often like a phoenix, rising from the ashes of failure.

When I was a kid, there was a time where I prided myself on not falling on my skis during winter vacation. My uncle told me that I shouldn’t be afraid of falling because a.) I would push myself harder and b.) I would learn from my mistakes. Whether you are long-distance swimming, skiing or just trying to map out your life, it’s sage advice to follow.

What if, instead of blaming others for our failures, we just looked at them as just a temporary delay to a future reality already determined? What if we didn’t spend so much time assigning blame for the obstacles in our path and instead spent more time figuring out how to turn them into stepping stones to our next big accomplishment?

Diana Nyad failed multiple times — at the peak of her physical ability. It would have been easy to throw in the towel, but she didn’t. Her victory over the seemingly insurmountable swimming distance between Florida to Cuba speaks volumes about what the human spirit is capable of.

Jellyfish sting because that’s what they do. Jerks are jerks because that’s who they’ve decided to be. Whether you’re trying to accomplish a task in the middle of the ocean or trying to navigate your way through professional life, the “Why me?” approach is simply a waste of time. “Why did I have to run into those stupid jellyfish and why did they have to sting me? … Why does my coworker not like me now matter how nice I am to him? … Why did that guy appear to give me a dirty look?” Answer: Who cares?

You have complete control over your will to succeed, and it can not be broken if you make it so. An indestructible will is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and once you realize that you are well on your way to securing the vast majority of your hopes and dreams. Diana Nyad deserves a round of applause for reminding us of this truth in her own special way.