When it comes to influence, people think of how to be influential. We even have a whole career path these days called Influencer.
I'm thinking the inverse.
How do I become less influenced? How do I become less easy to mold?
These questions sent me down an inner rabbit hole as I went about solving my own problem.
Annndd, ta-daa, I'm going to share it with you. 👇
There's this story I heard from Alan Watts once about a king and his men who had stopped by a pond for lunch and a nap as a break from their travels.
Before they headed off on the trail again, they rode their horses into the pond so that they could quench their thirst with water.
But somehow, the king accidentally dropped his prized golden ring in the water. Out of impulse, he demanded his men find the ring immediately. So they spun their horses around every which way until the water was completely brown and muddy.
They didn't stand a chance at seeing the ring now.
The more they looked, the worse it got, until finally the king realized what was needed: let the pond clear.
Once all the mud had settled back down into its resting at the bottom of the pond, the water was clear and.....bingo, there was the ring!
It's been several years since I first heard this story (and I certainly mistold it here), but it has resonated ever since.
But it wasn't until just the other day that the realization hit me that I'm in search of this 'golden ring' (my deepest desire), yet I'm constantly muddying the water of my mind so much so that it's nearly impossible to know where the ring could be.
So I devised a plan...Clear Pond Clarity.
Part protocol. Part challenge. Part tool in your toolkit from now on.
It includes directions to stick to because what you've currently been trying hasn't worked all that well.
It's not going to be easy because it's shake up of our normal motions.
And it's something that once you learn it and witness its impact, you can modify and use again and again any time your pond feels muddy.
To start, I'll let Terence McKenna rip us a new one on consuming culture:
“We have to create culture, don't watch TV, don't read magazines, don't even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you're worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you're giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told 'no', we're unimportant, we're peripheral. 'Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.' And then you're a player, you don't want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that's being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
You've got to incorporate some different behavior if you hope to have a different experience.
My typical consumption pattern looks something like this:
All in all, around 2-3+ hours each day taking in other people's ideas, opinions, & perspectives.
And I LOVE IT.
Well, the part of me that runs on dopamine loves it.
This all comes at a great cost though.
What lies underneath all this consumption?
What do I really think?
What do I really want?
*of course, if you absolutely have to do something for work or whatnot, do it. The more honest you are with yourself, the more you'll get out this.
I'll go ahead and warn you now, it's going to feel really weird.
You're going to catch yourself reaching for information out of habit and just like meditating, you'll have to remind yourself to come back to center. Remember the point of this protocol.
Luckily, there are a few things to do instead.
When in doubt, get it out. Especially, writing.
Pen, paper, and a mind that needs emptying - that's all you need.
In the AM: Brain Dump 🧠
Start with the dreams from the night before.
Sift through the memory of dreamworld for any symbols that might mean something to you. From there, literally write out every single thing that comes to mind.
The point isn't to write down really cool poems or amazing stories for your biography. The point is to write out everything in your head that you possibly can so that you run out of things floating through your mind.
Of course, it depends on how much time you've got, but I'd aim for at least 20 minutes of this.
The number one benefit here, from my experience, is the mental weight that comes off you in the process.
See, when we're holding onto all of these ideas, opinions, perspectives, to-dos, etc. it can be overwhelming and can feel like they carry a bit of weight to them. When you wipe the slate clean, you free yourself up from those cumulative burdens.
You hit the day on a new page.
In the PM: Track Your Insights 📝
Write at least one sentence that comes to mind if nothing else.
Surely there will be a tiny piece of wisdom that surfaces at some point in the day.
Reflect back and imagine the Day was teaching you something - what would that lesson be?
If not, don't stress it, you're still settling in & that's great.
Whenever's Clever: Settle 🧘♂️
There are a few ways to get the grandest squeeze for your time.
The number one external influence we're drastically reducing is media consumption, but there's other forms of external influence we're consuming that we can also nip down on too.
Skip breakfast -
Food and the digestion process in general can get in the way and be a distraction. This isn't something you have to do, many benefits will come just from lack of media influence.
Instrumental Music Only -
You might think music doesn't influence you, but the beauty of music is that it connects to a certain mood & emotion. If you're listening to someone sing, you're connecting with their story and how it relates to yours. Not that this is bad (I love it), but if you're trying to learn more about yourself, it's going to be easier without the filter of someone else's story.
Don't share plans, dreams, or goals with other people -
It's just for a week, you'll be fine.
The issue that can happen here is that a grand idea hits you upside the head, you run and tell everyone, and then as you settle into something else more True, you feel either the weight of obligation to see the first thing through or the cognitive dissonance of having said one thing and now no longer pursuing it.
(Honestly, this is the one that causes me a lot of personal suffering. I probably sound crazy to those in my life with all the ideas I spit out there - constantly changing my mind. HENCE, the whole point of CPC.)
Why do this?
What's the point?
It goes back to those original questions at the top:
How do I become less influenced? How do I become less easy to mold?
Which, to me, is the same question as how do I gain clarity on what I really want?
The goal is to find the Golden Ring of Clarity.
There's no guarantee you'll find it. After all, taking 1 week off of consumption while spending the other 51 weeks consuming other people's ideas is a lot to counteract.
BUT, I can guarantee glimmers. I can guarantee a higher resolution.
You WILL discover more about yourself.
You WILL have the next right step of your path illuminated.
And then, if we're not convinced of our own true desires, we can go back to being those regurgitating monkeys devouring our feed for more hits of dopamine.
A clarity reset snaps you out of it for a bit.
It's the inevitable result of clearing the water.
Turns out there can be a lot of overlap between building design and building a life. John Ruskin (unknowingly perhaps) tells us how to live life better.
It's never too late to stumble upon an underlying principle of reality. (Especially one that can be put to use immediately)