If you’re like most people, you think that some statements are true and that other statements are not. That’s something that is inevitable.
It’s harmless to have this or that mental model of reality and to use it to determine whether things people say to you are true or false.
I believe that the earth is round and if you believe that our planet has another shape, I think you’re wrong.
The second thing that is unavoidable is that this worldview is somewhat robust. If you change your mind every time someone tells you something that contradicts your current opinions, you’re not going to get very far.
And there’s the danger.
I used to have very robust takes on matters and every time someone disagreed with me I felt an urge to start an argument and I could never resist it.
My life sucked because of it.
But then I´ve found a book of Shunryu Suzuki, a Japanese Zen Master. This guys mind is sharp as the blades of Japanese weapons.
Two modes of being
As I have come to see it, one can go through life in one of two mindsets.
On the one hand, you can be in the ‘Finders Mode’. In this state of mind, you’re constantly looking to enforce your worldview on others. You aren’t aiming to improve the accuracy of your mental model; instead, you do your best to force the world into your conception of it. Everything is either proof that you were right, or plainly false. Other people are potential opponents in a fierce argument. Discussions are about winning.
I used to be like this. It’s not a lot of fun.
Conversations — especially when there was alcohol involved — unavoidably turned into rather unfriendly discussions. Because I was confusing how I felt things should be with how things actually are, I reacted defensively all the time.
In the Finders Mode, your urge to correct other people doesn’t arise from your full-time job as self-proclaimed ‘defender of truth’, but from your fear of being wrong. It’s a classic defense mechanism. You don’t want to lose face or admit that you might be mistaken, so everyone who disagrees with you must be proven wrong.
Your ego is running your life.
“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
The other state of mind is the ‘Seekers Mode’.
In this mode, you are not looking to confirm your worldview, but to improve it. You’re not attached to any specific opinion. Other people are not people to beat in an argument, but potential partners to go on an adventure with to discover what’s true. You love questions and don’t care that much for answers because having an answer means that the search is over and the search is what you love. Instead of answers, what you look for is understanding, which is getting why a particular answer is in fact the right answer to a question, not that it is.
How you feel things ‘should’ be is no longer a relevant variable in why you embrace or discard opinions. Thinking of being mistaken as losing face strikes you as ridiculous.
Why you should become a seeker
“Closed mindedness is terribly costly. It causes you to lose out on all kinds of wonderful possibilities and dangerous threats that other people might be showing you.” — Ray Dalio
Today, so many people think that they have figured out the truth, see other people as opponents and their opinions as things to eliminate rather than to understand.
This is dangerous, because if you’re too proud of what you know, you will learn less, make inferior decisions and fall short of your potential. You will fail to benefit from other people’s thinking. Therefore, it’s invaluable to know what you don’t know.
Moreover, in cases of disagreement, life is so much more interesting when you attempt to understand rather than to persuade. You’ll have more fun and you’ll have better relationships.
And, perhaps most importantly, as a Seeker, you are free to admit that you don’t know something, which is essential for making progress. That’s why it’s so hazardous that so many people refuse to admit that they might be wrong — by definition, that stops them from advancing.
As the famous Nobel Prize-winner Richard Feynman says:
“With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries — certainly a grand adventure!”
As a seeker, you’re no longer looking to protect your views and to convert others, but you’re willing to be changed.
Choose wisely, my friend
“Stay hungy. Stay foolish.” — Steve Jobs
If we get attached to our opinions, we no longer move forward.
Steve Jobs understood this.
Remaining foolish means not letting your need to right overshadow your need to find out what’s true.
It saves you a lot of wasted energy in defending your worldview and fighting with others over it.
Really, arguing is stupid.
Remaining hungry means choosing improvement over confirmation and uncertainty over defensiveness — replacing attachment to always being right with the joy of learning what’s true.
This stops you from confusing knowing with understanding.
Realize that the game of life is about playing it— not about winning it.
Then, one day, perhaps you’ll be as good at it as Jobs and Feynman were.