For episode 3 of the podcast, I sat down with Zahra Liberte Aldunia. She has an absolutely fascinating story, and throughout the 100 minutes of our discussion we talk about her journey as a human rights activist, serial adventurer, traveler, model, entrepreneur and all around awesome person.
This was an especially fun interview for me, because Zahra’s got some hilarious stories, including how she got to meet Richard Branson (Parts 5-8) in person on his private island! The main lesson I got from listening to her was about having the courage to step into uncertainty for the sake of following your dream and fulfilling one’s personal mission. I found her message very inspiring, and I hope you guys do too!
I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do a podcast interview with Paul Elias today. Paul is gifted with an absolutely brilliant mind, and I always enjoy talking with him, and I hope you enjoy listening as well.
We discuss Marxism, the function of philosophy, long-term relationships, teaching and humility, with other topics sprinkled in here and there as well. The video is broken into 4 sections and embedded below. Please feel free to offer any feedback you may have or you may share this podcast if you enjoyed it and think others may find value in it as well. Thanks!
After 2 hours of fiddling with the technology, my good friend Chris Nikolopoulos and I were able to record a podcast this evening, a personal first. The topics we cover here range from smoking cigarettes and addiction as a whole, the role money plays in our lives, being happily jobless, marijuana and the psychedelic experience, and prayer. Quite a lot of diversity!
The podcast is broken into 5 separate sections and posted below. I thoroughly enjoyed recording this, and I hope you are able to find value in it as well. I’m certainly an amateur podcaster, and I have LOTS to learn when it comes to the technical side of recording these.
I have already put out a couple more invitations for future guests to do these podcasts, and it is my full intention to make more with the goal of finding new and creative ways to bring value to others. I hope you enjoy and thanks for watching!
Do you consistently alter your behaviour with different people to make yourself seem more attractive? Or do you ever find yourself sacrificing your individuality in an effort to seem more agreeable? Are you so caught up in the opinion of others that you lose sight of whether or not you still respect yourself in the process?
While the title of this article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, it points to a greater truth for which romantic relationships are just a metaphor. And that is that seeking the approval of others, although exceptionally common, is one of the biggest mistakes you can make on the path of not only having meaningful relationships, but a meaningful and happy life as well.
Honesty and Attraction
It’s undeniable that as people we have certain biological imperatives, foremost to procreate. So it’s quite natural that we want to be considered attractive to other people as a means of achieving that imperative. But what lengths are we willing to go to satisfy that impulse? Is trying to appear attractive even a good strategy for actually being attractive?
We also have an impulse to morality within us, the extent of which obviously differs greatly from person to person. You could even say that this is an evolutionary impulse, that having a moral code is what enables human beings to live cooperatively and ensure our collective survival. It hurts us to be unkind to another. It hurts us to lie. And likewise, when we try to be attractive and are untrue to ourselves in the process, the inevitable result is that it hurts.
Is there a conflict?
Do you ever find your integrity and honesty at odds with your desire to be attractive? To be considered sexy? Are there thoughts and feelings you actually want to express but don’t because you think they might make you seem strange, different, too outside the box to be attractive? Do you take certain actions because you want to or so that someone else will approve of you?
This is a lesson I’m internalizing in my own life currently. Sometimes I catch myself doing things that I don’t really want to do just so I can be considered sexy, or so I can “get lucky.” I’ve had to experience time and time again what a complete fool’s errand this is,
I recently had an experience that further ingrained this principle into my psyche. I was out with a woman at a bar and later watching movies in a living room setting. I then made something of a move which was rejected. Now, instead of accepting that and moving on, I decided I would stick around and see if something would happen, if I could make something happen. What I wanted to do was to go to bed at 2 a.m. Instead I stayed up past 5 a.m trying to “get lucky.” I violated what I knew I should do, what I actually wanted to do, so that I could have a chance of someone approving of me enough, finding me attractive enough, to merit their affection, even after she had expressed that she wasn’t interested.
The problem with this approach is that I don’t like myself when I behave this way. By all means, I think going after someone you like is admirable. Having the courage to ask someone out and being honest about your feelings are both important factors when it comes to building good relationships. However, once you catch yourself altering your personality so that the object of your affection will like you, you’ve fallen into complete delusion. In this situation, I altered myself. I stayed up way later than I wanted to. I behaved a certain way not because it was who I really am, but as a means to an end. I sacrificed my integrity so I could be validated by another through romantic affection.
Do you ever catch yourself doing this? Are you a different person with different people, or different with people then when you’re alone? Do you love pop music but pretend to love metal because your crush does? Do you pretend to like sushi even though you hate it so you can join a the right clique? Do you spend more money than you have on someone, buying them expensive gifts so that they’ll like you enough to give you what you want, whatever that may be? Many people live their lives this way.
And these are relatively mild examples. In its extreme form, we are capable of doing some really crazy things to get others to like us. I remember one time, about 10 years ago when I worked at a summer camp I willingly drank a disgusting concoction of juice, spit, and all other sorts of gross stuff just because the older guys thought it was funny. I wanted them to like me so bad that I was willing to ingest something I found repulsive. Did it work? Well, sure, I may have made them laugh. But of course, and what I didn’t realize at the time, was they were laughing at me. I wasn’t some great comedian. I was just sacrificing my decency to get some attention, some form of affection and validation. When we desperately need others’ approval, we’ll do desperate things that run so completely contrary to our own well-bring and sense of what’s right.
Being inauthentic is never an intelligent strategy for building a good relationship anyway. What happens when your partner finds out who you really are? What if they don’t like that person? What if you find out who they really are you don’t like them? Did you fall in love with a mirage? If you’re misrepresenting yourself to your partner, isn’t there a good chance that they’re doing the same to you? Some people go for years with a thick undercurrent of dishonesty in their relationships. Perhaps they think that not being alone is more important than having a completely authentic relationship. Or maybe they believe that if they were truly themselves no one would want to be around them. They’re insecure.
What we eventually come to see though, is that, as with so many things, just the opposite of what we believe is the actual truth. Have you ever met someone who is so unabashedly themselves? Who is so forthright about who they are, what they like and dislike, with no regard for how it will cause them to perceived by others? There’s a word for that quality of character. It’s called confidence. And as we all know, confidence is one of the sexiest traits a person can possess.
But many of us misconstrue what the source of confidence is. We think it comes from having a big bank account, a sexy body, or some other material trophy to display. And while those things can temporarily bolster one’s sense of self, they are not and can never be the source of true confidence.
True confidence actually requires very little and yet it remains elusive to many people. All it requires is that you are willing to be fully yourself without wanting or needing to sacrifice any parts of your personality in order to earn the approval of others.
What if you aren’t confident currently? How can you express yourself if you’re not confident in who you are? You don’t need to be confident to start expressing yourself fully, but rather you will become confident as you learn to be fully yourself and accept the consequences of living so authentically, whatever they may be.
An interesting thing to note is that some people will feel threatened when they see someone so unashamed and comfortable in their individuality. They may feel a need to put you down, to make you feel shame, to encourage you to become a tepid watered down soul and blend in. Pay these people no mind. Catering to those who feel threatened by your uniqueness will never make you happy. Only creatively expressing your true self, flaws and all, can offer any kind of lasting contentment.
What if everyone was insane?
An interesting thought experiment is to contemplate if everyone in the world had totally skewed values, how would you interact with them? Literally, not one person prized integrity, kindness, love, or generosity. In fact, these traits were considered ugly and unattractive. How would you behave then? Would you cater to the whims of the world, or would you see these values as totally insane and go on being as kind and as loving towards others as you possibly could, because those were your values? This is interesting to contemplate because there’s a grain of truth in it. In many ways, our world worships insane, anti-social, unkind behaviours. And we get to choose if we will succumb to the pressure to follow suit, or if we will choose a different path.
Of course, we always feel a need to belong, to be loved and accepted by other people. But what I’m suggesting is that such a priority MUST take a backseat to a higher ideal. We must subjugate our desire to bond with our people to the nobility of living in alignment with our values, and let other people decide whether or not that’s something they approve of on their own. When objectively viewing ourselves, we must choose the values that feel right to us. Not because that author said we should, or that holy book says that it’s important, or because society says you must to be normal. But because it aligns with our own sense of what’s right. You have to do it for you. When we seek the approval of others, and that approval is our top priority, then the things that are of much greater importance fall by the wayside. If I need you to like me, then I become your slave, and I become willing to compromise my values in a vain effort to earn that approval.
I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me to my face that they flat out disagree with me, my respect for them actually increases. I realize I’m dealing with an authentic individual. Someone who won’t just nod their head like some drone so that I’ll approve of them. Someone who will risk me getting upset or offended in order to speak their truth. When a woman interacts with me this way, I become more attracted to her, not less. I think some people hear this principle and they just start being rude to everyone, going out of their way to prove they don’t need others to like them, and are therefore confident. I certainly behaved this way at one point in my life. But that’s also totally backwards. You don’t demonstrate the fact that you don’t need another’s approval by acting like you’re better than them, but by relating to them as your equal. Even acting like you’re better than someone is a form of approval seeking, because you badly want them to buy into your mythology that you’re better than them. You want their attention and their adoration. You are still a slave to their opinion of you.
When you are not seeking the approval of another, you are comfortable to disagree with them where you see things differently, but you never take the disagreement so far as to dehumanize the other and treat them as “less than.”
We need to be kind and disagree politely, always being considerate of the other and trying to see things from their perspective, having empathy for them, while remaining true to who we are. Only from that foundation can we truly connect with another human being. And even if we completely disagree, we can relate on the level of honesty and authenticity, knowing that we are both being completely ourselves.
I could more easily be friends with someone who I disagreed with but was honest about their ideas than someone who never really expressed their opinions at all and just blindly agreed with everything I said. It’s impossible to connect with someone who isn’t willing to be themselves and is always trying to hide under the radar.
Not only is it vital to express ourselves honestly when it comes to close personal relationships, we also have a social obligation to speak up and voice our opinions. A system with only one person making the decisions and with everyone else afraid to voice their opinions becomes a dictatorship. Having a leader is fine, and quite natural. However, having a leader with an array of blind followers is deeply problematic.
In my previous job as a furniture store manager, there were countless times where I bit my tongue. Now, some restraint is a good thing, taking the time to be thoughtful and express yourself wisely. But that’s not what I did. I silently watched things happen that I completely disagreed with because I was afraid that if I voiced a contrary position I would jeopardize my job. Although I didn’t have final authority over decisions, I always had the opportunity to speak up when I felt something wrong was happening. This was an opportunity I rarely took. When I did, I would sometimes get discouraged from doing the same thing again, which would reinforce my desire to stay silent and just do as I was told. People have lots of strategies for manipulating others into submission, but the basic goal is the same; to maintain control by frightening people into doing what you want them to do.
But the important thing to observe about this is I certainly cannot make anyone else responsible for my silence on issues that I felt were wrong. Nor can I blame others when immoral things happened but I just sat and watched, which is equivalent to giving my silent permission. 100% of the time, it was my responsibility to speak up and give voice to the values I felt were under-represented. It’s interesting to look back on this time in retrospect. Because I believe in a higher order to reality, it’s easy for me to see the good that was latent in that situation. Other people behaving immorally gives you the opportunity to develop your courage and be the voice of what you believe to be right. Seeing so much insanity around you gives you the opportunity to clarify your own values. Seeing the bad helps you understand the good.
The reason why we don’t speak up is because we’re afraid. I really do believe it’s that simple. If we didn’t fear the consequences of expressing our values, it would be easy. And as it turns out, the very fact that it’s not easy ends up being a great gift. In the difficulty lies the growth.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that NOT expressing our individuality – our abnormalities, values, unique desires – is ultimately much more painful than not being true to who we are regardless of the consequences we may face for living so authentically. Any consequence we may suffer for being ourselves – losing our job, friends, approval of others – pales in comparison to the pain of living our lives as a shadow of our true selves. I’m sure everyone can attest to this from personal experience. While doing our best to blend in may offer comfort and security, it will never satisfy us. And while stepping out to be our authentic self may be scary, it is the only place where we can find true freedom.
What about you?
Where are you being less than fully yourself? What systems or social groups do you belong to that no longer resonate with you but you remain in because of your need for approval? Maybe it’s a religious group that doesn’t align with your truth. Or a job that opposes your values. Maybe it’s a secret you’re keeping from the world. Maybe you haven’t told your parents you’re gay. Or you aren’t being honest with your partner about the kind of relationship you’d really like to have. There are a myriad of ways you can be inauthentic with the world. But there is only one way you can stop such an insane behaviour. And that is as simple as making the decision to no longer settle for being less than who you really are.
It is my desire for you to have an exceptionally fulfilling and deeply satisfying life. And I know from my own personal experience that the only way to start that journey is to have the foundation of authenticity. Falsity and happiness can never go hand in hand. Happiness can only follow an individual who is true to themselves. So if you want to be happy, and to live a deeply meaningful existence, you’ve got to let your freak flag fly!
This article has been all about not sacrificing your individuality for the sake of another’s approval. That’s a terrible trade, and one in which you’ll come out on the losing end every time. Relationships, and particularly romantic relationships bring out and expose our commitment to authenticity most accurately. You may be able to be authentic with your close friends, but start showboating and telling white lies as soon as a hot girl walks in the room. This is undoubtedly an ongoing process, and requires consistent effort and experiencing for oneself the absolute futility in seeking others’ approval. But it’s an effort that’s completely worthwhile. For on the other side of seeking validation from others lies something vastly superior; validation of and from oneself. When you no longer look to others to tell you who you are, how good you are, what to do and how to do it, then you’ve made it. You’ve found your freedom as an individual, and I couldn’t approve of you more
Swimming in the shallow end
You have to stay crouched to stay warm
Only children can submerge themselves
The water level shrinking by half a foot leaves you freezing
And water rising makes you happy
The tide matters so much
It’s muscles too weak to swim,
A child stays with its mother in the shallow end
And needs water wings
It is dependent
Death and freedom are represented by the same symbol
The deep end
We yearn to swim where we may drown
So we may stay with our feet firmly planted on the ground
our bodies becoming frail from inactivity
in the crowded pool of water
of course we do not want to die
Or we may take a step toward the deep end
Not splashing water at others along the way to propel ourselves forward
Don’t make the pool more shallow for all
Help others paddle along the way
Let your feet rise up
And your shoulders sink
And find the life beyond death
And yell it back to the shallow end
Whether the water rises or falls
You remain fully in the water
Happy with whatever comes
I’ve been a cigarette smoker for about the past 5 years. During that period, I’ve had times where I didn’t smoke for 3-4 months, after which I’d pick the habit right back up again.
Now, any particular vice is not really an addiction in itself, but rather a symptom of addiction. Addiction expresses itself within a vice, like smoking or drinking alcohol. That’s why people who struggle with addiction are often addicted to multiple substances simultaneously. Usually this happens gradually over time, because addiction is a pathological disease. All vices demand that the user steadily increase their addiction in order to receive the same kind of relief that a lower dose gave them previously. From this perspective, it’s easy to see why users of an addictive substance eventually seek newer, stronger, and more novel forms to express the addictive behaviour that lives within them.
Addiction is a paradox in many ways. Addictive substances offer pleasure, relief, and temporary freedom when the pain of life becomes overwhelming. But they also create pain and a great deal of disruption in our lives and the lives of people who know addictive personalities. Not only are addictions financially costly, but we incur a great cost to our health and well-being as well.
So the very thing we look to escape pain ends up compounding our pain. Is there an intelligent way to transcend this insane cycle? To deal with our pain directly rather than using an addiction to avoid feeling our pain in the present, and thereby creating a bigger problem for us to deal with down the road? These are questions I’m currently exploring, and it is my intention to share the lessons I learn along the way.
One of the strange aspects of the mission to dissuade people from toxic substances is we have seen so clearly what isn’t effective. Load up those cigarette packs with as many skulls and daggers as you please, it hasn’t once convinced me to keep from lighting up. The addiction is so much more powerful than any warning of danger at some undisclosed point in the future. So then what are some truly effective means to discourage people from engaging these harmful substances? This is an area I’m highly interested in and currently exploring as well.
Smoking is Anti-Social
When I say smoking is anti-social, I mean that in a somewhat nontraditional sense. I’m not saying that smokers don’t have friends. Obviously that isn’t true, and part of the appeal of smoking is that it can appear to facilitate social connections; a bad habit in service of a bonding experience. What I mean is that disrespecting your own body and failing to take care of your own health actually increases the burden you place on society, on other people. This is particularly true in a country like Canada, where healthcare is paid for by tax revenue, i.e the labour of others. When you consider the fact that a prolonged cigarette or alcohol addiction will almost guarantee you an extended stay in the hospital, then it becomes fairly obvious that doing something you KNOW is injurious to your health amounts to public theft.
This is not the kind of person I want to be. I want to be a positive member of my community, not someone who drains the system of value.
So it’s here that I state my intention to stop smoking. I plan to do this my slowly tapering off my usage and eventually not smoke at all. And of course, I plan on sharing the lessons I learn along the way in the hope that it may be valuable to others also struggling with addiction. If I can offer any help to such people, then that alone will have made the effort very worthwhile.