The image of a seeker of ideas, an intellectual if you will, is a feeble figure filing through the pages of books who moans like an overgrown teenager on the ways in which to make the world a better place. My suspicion is that many intellectuals have embraced this image because this is exactly what they are.
After all: an academic is simply someone who has never left school.
Of course they don’t want everyone to know about this, they want everyone to think that they are doing something important, something highly sophisticated. So they use lots of complicated words to mask their conversations from the untrained eye or ear, and they feel safe, hidden behind their wonderful wall of jargon.
When you learn their words you then can see what is truly going on, you can then see the game these intellectuals are playing, and its funny, but what you see doesn’t make you hate them.
It makes you pity them.
You see a huge collection of people digging through volumes of books in search of ideas, and you see these people propose reasons why the idea they just found is better than the commonly accepted idea, and you see them thinking a lot about what ideas our world needs right now, and you see them asking all the question in the world except for one:
Are their ideas any use?
These intellectuals, they all are operating on an assumption that there are certain ideas in the world that greatly enhance your life, and so their career is a dedication to finding these, but what they fail to see is that “big ideas” are worth nothing unless they are activated.
What do I mean by activated?
What is Activating Ideas?
The internet is turning us all into idea junkies, and I can be sure that most of us come across more new ideas in a day than the average archaic farmer did in a lifetime. This huge volume of ideas has washed over us so suddenly in the past decade that we have become stunned by them.
We are discovering ideas, but not using them.
The greatest intellectuals and thinkers have failed to change the world as much as they hoped because they did not make their ideas actionable. The most successful intellectual of all time may be Plato, who built his own academy where he thought young people how to use his ideas to progress Greek culture.
The modern intellectuals ideas are barely known by the person who works down the hall from them. When I say we need to activate ideas I mean just what Plato was doing back in Athens all those years ago: we need to build ideas.
You see ideas have a presence.
When you lack the presence of good ideas your life will feel empty, and your hungry intellect will pour over internet articles to fill the void of boredom, and your mind will have you scouring through academic textbooks to try understand the universe, and the planning sector of your brain will make you write out life plans.
You will go seeking ideas in search of a solution to your problem: emptiness.
That tragedy of this quest is that there are no ideas that you will find that will fill this hole. There is no discovery you have not already made.
You see, all of us humans are dealt the same hand. We all have two arms, two legs, and two eyes. Our brains are far more similar than they are different. What you need is not more information, or more complexity, you need to simplify your concepts and start building them as presences in your mind. You have to activate your ideas by living them.
This is easier said than done.
How Do You Live an Idea?
Say you are suffering from feelings of being a failure, you obviously want success.
The problem you are facing may not be that you are a failure, it may be the mindset you have developed about failure. Your mindset is making failure real, but failure doesn’t exist, it is merely an absence of success. The feeling of failure you are having is a feeling of emptiness. You feel empty of success.
The remedy to this is to build the presence of success in your life by pursuing the feeling of success. All ideas enter our lives as feelings before they become thoughts, and on the crux of this crucial point we are moved to pursue feelings to activate ideas.
This is something great teachers have always known, and something academics always miss. I’ll give you a few examples:
- After the Buddha became enlightened he traveled around India teaching people that human suffering was an absence of one simple idea: compassion. He taught people to take action and meditate on the feeling of compassion instead of explaining to them elaborate philosophies, because he knew that this simple action would build the presence of compassion in the practitioner. He knew that the bigger the presence of compassion in the world the less suffering.
- Tyler Durden from the novel Fight Club felt that men in America had become slaves to a hollow and meaningless consumer culture. He felt that these men didn’t take action to change their lives and achieve what they really wanted, and so he developed a method to combat this: initiating men into taking action through the ritual of fighting. As the men went through the experience of fighting week after week the idea of taking action would become a strong presence within their hearts. He figured out a way to have men feel his philosophy of self destruction will set your free. The effectiveness of this method ended up in Tyler needing to set up a series of Fight Clubs to accommodate for the interest.
The philosophies that Tyler and The Buddha spoke are subject to intense scrutiny by intellectuals because they all want to understand such great ideas, but the tragedy is that of all the intellectuals who understand their ideas, how many of them live them?
We must feel an idea before we it has can really change our lives, because the feeling of an idea is its presence.
You may be basking in ideas, but have no presence of them in your life. You may understand success, but still not feel it. Ask yourself exactly what you are looking for and what you hope to achieve and if you find that what you want is to change your life, to be successful, to get better with people, then why are you learning off a library of academic words?
To get a good job? To get qualified? To feel like you have permission? Are these the things you need before you are allowed to become successful?
Andrew Carnegie was barely educated, and had to work hard as a youth. Through these hard years he built the presence of determination within himself. When a wealthy man gave him access to his small personal library, his strong presence of determination found enough ideas in the collection of 400 books to make himself a millionaire.
Most of us struggle to pass exams with the entire ocean of human knowledge at our fingertips.
To me this is the seed of the most soul crushing thought for anyone who pursues knowledge: the ideas you need to live well are astoundingly simple, and with some observation and introspection anybody can figure them out. In fact there is nothing you need to discover, you only need to act upon the ideas you already have.
The question is; how can we develop a method in which to activate ideas? Well it begins with your mindset.
How to Discover Your Core Values
An idea is not a possession, it is an opportunity, it is a suggestion. The attitude of needing to accumulate ideas is a dead end. It is the symptom of an addiction to information. The real challenge is in the connection of the idea world with the real world.
If you are living in a passive state you are probably addicted to ideas, and addicted to its sources: facebook, youtube, reddit, or television. Your search for ideas is reinforced by your habits, yet your life is not changing, and you are not really changing any other peoples lives: you are in the habit of consuming.
Luckily, this is a great opportunity: You have access to the most ideas possible to an individual in history. If you can teach yourself to develop a mindset of activating the ideas you come across, then you will definitely evolve as a person.
Here is actionable advice on how to build this activating mindset within yourself.
- First restrict yourself from consuming for a period of time, perhaps a week, maybe longer if you are feeling brave. Purchase a notepad and pen, pull the plug out of your television, and get a google chrome extenstion that blocks your most visited websites like youtube and facebook.
- Spend that period of time bringing what ideas you already have out of yourself. Think of it as a brainstorming session. Grab that pen and paper and just write, striving to simplify your thoughts until you begin to see themes and ideas that your words seem to float around. As you distill these ideas you will discover a few core ideals which you can call your principles or your core values. This will show you that you already have enough ideas to work with.
- When you core values begin to appear consider them as tools which you have not implemented in your life yet, begin to systematically build these presences in your life. Say if you find that a core value of yours is family: then spend some fucking time with them. Don’t set yourself life goals, but simply focus on developing the presence of your values as your goals.
- Once you have developed this mindset of testing, building, and connecting your ideas to your reality, you can begin consuming ideas again, because now your consumption will have a new meaning: to challenge your ideals. Your consumption will not be passive, it will be an active quest to shape your ideas, and all new information will carry with it much more risk and excitement because you will know that you will have to test new ideas.
The final piece of the puzzle is the explanation of how to test and activate ideas using the power of ritual.
The Power of Ritual
When you come in contact with an idea, either a new one or the memory of an old one, you are really being presented with a doorway. A possibility. In the modern world we are shelled daily with these possibilities, but the future belongs to those of us who can act upon opportunities, and begin to connect our ideas with our lives.
This proposition itself is not an innovation, it is actually a very old idea, because the art of connecting big ideas with the real world has been mastered by many cultures throughout history, and they all use the same technique: ritual.
When you distill your ideals you will need to analyse them and try to figure out rituals with which to activate them. As I said, Buddha found that meditation worked, where as Tyler Durden felt that fighting was a good vessel for his ideas. This is where true innovation comes, and this is where ideas truly reveal their power, creating a ritual that installs the feeling of an idea in the participant.
Intellectuals have been shunned for ignoring the real world in favor of useless ideas by many of the adult demographic of society, and they are right, but intellectuals battle back with the claim that the adult demographic act on idiotic ideals.
The call now is to unify these camps!
Let’s have our social actors use their intellect with more severity and skill, and let’s teach our intellectuals to act on their profound ideals! Those who manage this feat of union will be the ones who achieve empowerment. It starts with one thing: stop consuming and start exploring the contents of your own ideals. That is your doorway. Do it!