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Mirrored Reciprocation: Peter Kaufman’s Profoundly Simple Insight That Helps You Achieve An Enjoyable Life

Mitchell Wilson


Mitchell Wilson


Dec 3, 2023

Mirrored Reciprocation: Peter Kaufman’s Profoundly Simple Insight That Helps You Achieve An Enjoyable Life

“To understand is to know what to do.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein

Once again, I have found a mind-igniting speech.

This is by Peter Kaufman - a multidisciplinary thinker who boils things down to their simple, universal principles. He brilliantly pulls this golden insight out of what he calls ‘3 different buckets’. First, the 13.7 billion-year-old inorganic universe. Second, the 3.5 billion-year-old algorithm of evolution. And third, the 20,000 years of recorded human history.

If you want to test the use case of a principle, see how long it’s held up.

Now, let’s understand mirrored reciprocation.

Non-Living Universe

The inorganic universe is the largest sample size we could use to derive wisdom.

It includes all those pesky unbreakable laws, the laws of physics. Peter points out Newton’s Third Law Of Motion which states, “For every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Everything in the world has a counterweight, an opposing force that levels things out.

If you do a pushup, the ground is pushing on you just as much as you are pushing on it.

The forces are mirroring each other.

Peter takes us into bucket 2.

Biological Universe

The next sample size we can test this against is the world we’re apart of: biological.

This includes all the patterns and principles specific to Being itself. Peter gives us the example of a cat. You pull its tail, it scratches you. You pet its head, it purrs and licks you. Every action either reinforces a behavior or discourages it. Water the flower, happy flower. 

This is a different sort of mirroring, but mirroring nonetheless.

Onto bucket 3.

Your Entire Life

Finally, we round the corner with the realm of humanity itself (and how to conduct yourself within your lifetime more specifically).

This is the most relevant level for grasping the fundamental principle of mirrored reciprocation, the level of human culture, behavior, and societal dynamics. Your days are full of human interactions, whether it’s with your family, your co-workers, your friends, or strangers. Positive responses follow agreeable actions, while conflicts tend to follow disagreeable actions.

Peter doesn’t go into this in his speech, but I can’t help but think of Jesus’s core teachings that relate to the principle of mirrored reciprocation:

  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  • Forgive those who trespass against you
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy
  • Turn the other cheek

However, Peter does call out that we need to be the ones who “go positive and go first”.

Just because the other person didn’t act with kindness to begin with doesn’t mean we can’t attempt to break the cycle. The same goes for forgiveness and compassion.

Overall, I found that Peter’s clear lesson on mirrored reciprocation highlights the interconnectedness of our actions and the potential for positive change through conscious, mirrored responses.

Intentional responding and behaving can dramatically work in our favor.

If you liked this and want to see Peter’s entire talk, here’s the speech in full.

He actually dives into much more in his speech, but it’s so gem-filled, that I’ll have to write up separate pieces on it. (A great problem to have)

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