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The Epitaph Exercise

This is a powerful exercise to gain clarity on your life purpose.

What do you want to have written on your tombstone?

Express it as identities.

Example (my epitaph):

Here lies Dani, the Ever-Playful.
(The name of my Superhero identity, me at my absolute best)

Life-Artist
(How I choose to see and engage with life)

Master Learner/Teacher
(What I want to playfully master over a lifetime)

Use your epitaph as a guiding star throughout your life and as a mantra to recover balance.

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My Central Focus

To teach any subject is to participate in part in teaching the art of being human. A great teacher whether it is of chemistry, English, Parkour or martial arts is a teacher who calls forth a more profound understanding of that central art. (Rafe Kelley)


I’m a polymath. I have so many interests. The problem is, I’m pulled in too many directions. I’ve been journaling a lot to gain clarity on what the best central focus is.

Finally, it struck me: language.

I’m fascinated by the magical technology we call ‘language’. We’re immersed in it. It’s for us like water to the fish, invisible, yet it shapes our thoughts and feelings and traces the boundaries of our (inter)subjective reality.

I’m currently studying to become an English teacher. It allows me to practice teaching and delve more deeply into the mechanics of language. At the same time, I’ll be exploring ways of learning (and teaching) all language-related skills – and playing with ways of learning multiple at the same time.

The ultimate goal is to create practical handbooks for all the skills I’m interested in and to integrate them into a single master practice which I call The Beautiful Practice.

Project Transformational Vocabulary

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Another project?

This is an organic evolution of my linguistics project [<link; shot read].

What’s it about?

I know the concept of transformational vocabulary from Tony Robbins.

The words we attach to our experience become our experience. Words have a biochemical effect on the body. (Tony Robbins)

You can change your emotional state through the language you use to describe your experience. Tony calls this type of language, transformational vocabulary.

Language is a tool. However, Tony’s idea is but one application of it. Jason Silva shares a mind-blowing perspective:

The words you use to map reality affect your experience of reality. Words do not just describe; words are generative.

Language is a metaphysical tool. […] We create and perceive our world through language. We think reality into existence through linguistic construction in real-time.

I’m fascinated by the magical technology we call ‘language’. I see language and meaning as the ultimate playground. I’m especially interested in practical ways of using language for personal transformation and for shaping your subjective reality – I call this process, reality painting.

I see concepts as the (modular) building blocks of meaning. In playing with concepts, we’re playing with meaning in the same way a child is playing with Legos. 

We all have an internal concept library we unconsciously use to construct meaning in real-time. The library was unconsciously (and haphazardly) ‘compiled’ over the course of our life. I want to make this process conscious and deliberate.

I’ve started compiling a dictionary of the most powerful concepts that make up my personal universe of meaning, and of the most powerful concepts humanity has created that are transferrable across domains and disciplines. I call this project, Transformational Vocabulary – in homage to and as an extension of Tony’s idea. 

I’m interested not just in the concepts, but also in the interconnections between them. I use Obsidian for this project because it allows me to see them as a graph – as a beautiful (and useful) constellation of meaning. 

It looks like this so far

I’m also deconstructing and organizing the concepts, identifying various kinds of linguistic and semantic structures.

Project Linguistics

The creation of language was the first singularity for humans. It changed everything. Life after language was unimaginable to those on the far side before it. (Kevin Kelly)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I’ve spent most of my life taking language for granted. As for most of us, it was invisible.

What changed that?

The catalyst was Viktor Frankl’s beautiful book Man’s Search for Meaning. That book had a profound impact on my life. It led to me to ask one of the big questions of my life:

What is meaning?

On a winding path, the question led me to language. In a moment of insight, I realized that we use language to shape our subjective reality. Jason Silva puts it beautifully:

The words you use to map reality affect your experience of reality. Words do not just describe; words are generative.

Language is for us like water to the fish, and just like water to the fish, invisible. At that moment, for the first time in my life, I saw the water.

Language and meaning are tools. We can metaphorically think of them as an instrument. Much like a cellist uses the cello to create music, people play the instrument of language to create worlds and experiences. 

People play the instrument of language. I also play with the instrument itself. I play a meta-game [<link; short read].

I’ve been playing the meta-game on my own for several years now. But recently, while reading the Wikipedia article about affixes, I discovered… linguistics.

There’s a whole field of study about language!

It wasn’t on my mental map until then. Well, I did know what linguistics was, but I hadn’t connected it with my interests. 

I started reading an introduction to linguistics and… I fell in love. Learning about the nuances and intricacies of language made me appreciate this beautiful instrument of ours more and more. Linguistics has also given me a new set of conceptual tools to play with and, more importantly, a new lens through which to look at language. Once you learn about morphemes, the structural components of words (the object of study for the branch of linguistics called morphology), the world of words will never be the same.

In the linguistics book I’m reading, there’s a fun example about the morphemes that make up the longest word in English:

antidisestablishmentarianism

– establish
dis-establish – to reverse the action of establishing
– disestablish-ment – result of disestablishing
– disestablishment-arian – supporter of disestablishment
– disestablishmentarian-ism – practice of disestablishmentarians
anti-disestablishmentarianism – opposition to disestablishmentarianism
– antidisestablishmentarianism-ist – someone who opposes disestablishmentarianism

What’s next?

Linguistics marks the next stage of my exploration of meaning, and the next level of my meta-game. I call it Project Linguistics.”

Life of Meaning 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the meaning of life for you?”

“I like to express it as a mind-map. I call such mind-maps maps of meaning.

My highest-order map looks like this:

Click to enlarge

Each item on the map is itself a deep mind-map.”

Life-Games

Two things in life make you feel alive: Growing and Giving. (Tony Robbins)


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are life-games?”

“I think of my life as a game. I call it The Beautiful Game [<link; short read]. It’s a modular game made up of a myriad interlocking pieces – each piece a game. 

I call the Beautiful Game and the games that make it up, life-games.”

“What are the most important life-games?”

Growing and Giving.

The Beautiful Game is made up of two big games: The Inner Game and The Outer Game. The Inner Game is the Game of Growing; The Outer Game is the Game of Giving.

The Game of Growing is the game of becoming the best you can possibly be. It is made up of two games: The Game of Wisdom and The Game of Mastery.

The Game of Giving is the game of using your Gifts in greatest service to the world, of being an exceptional value provider – the highest expression of Love. Another name for it is The Game of Contribution.

All these are daily games. In their compounded effect, they shape the well-lived life.”


Epitaph Mantra

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How do you want to be remembered?

If you were to write your epitaph, what would it look like?”

Dani the Ever-Playful

Loved to play with ideas.

Playfully sought to master Thinking and understand Understanding,
to make life a Work of Art and inspire others to do the same.

“What if you thought of it as a mantra – an epitaph mantra?”

“A mantra that’s also a Memento Mori reminder. Powerful.”

Life of Meaning

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you want?”

I want to play.

I want to create.
I want to learn.
I want to move.

I want to create value for other people.

I want to do it every single day… forever.

Identity-Affirming Habits

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What habits do you track?”

“In Superhuman by Habit, Tynan makes a distinction between new habits and old habits

All habits start as new habits. Starting a habit is the most energy-intensive part of the process. Through daily consistency, new habits progressively take less and less energy to maintain, until, eventually, they reach a point where the maintenance energy reaches zero.

An old habit is a habit that has become effortless. An old habit has become identity.

A new habit is something you do.
An old habit is something you are.

I see identity as a modular structure. I call the elements that make up your identity, identity-blocks. Identity-blocks, big and small, compound in making you who you are.

I track most habits temporarily. That is, I track new habits until they become old habits.

A select few habits, however, I want to track forever: the highest-leverage habits, and those corresponding to the most powerful identity-blocks. These are my non-negociables. I call them identity-afirming habits.”

“So they’re also reminders.”

“Indeed.”

“Which are your current identity-affirming habits?”

Meditation

Writing (Playing with ideas)

Movement (Daily walk(s), Parkour, Perpetual Motion Machine [<link; very short read])

Non-Zero Progress [<link; very short read] – No day without progress towards my most important goals. 

Cold Shower

“Which of them has the longest streak?”

“Writing and cold shower: they’re both 651 days old.”

“Which is the oldest, and which is the youngest?”

“The oldest is meditation. Currently, it’s 395 days old, because I missed a day and I started back from zero.

The newest is non-zero progress. Currently, it’s 28 days young.”

On Writing and Editing

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I recently started studying editing and proofreading. Currently, this is my main area of focus.”

“Besides writing you mean?”

“I got started with editing because I want to get into freelancing. But I discovered that writing and editing go beautifully together, they’re complementary skills.

Editing helps me become a better writer.

“How?”

“Editing involves delving into the principles and mechanics of good writing. 

In acquiring the skill of editing, you’re developing what I call the editing eye. This is essentially pattern-recognition. You’re internalizing perceptual lenses [<link; short read] that allow you to see any piece of writing with new eyes.”

“Can you give an example?”

“One such lens is wordiness – using more words than necessary or unnecessarily complex or abstract words. 

Internalizing the lens means actually seeing the instances of wordiness in a text, in all its forms: 

Filler Words / Stretchers: Words that add quantity not quality.

eg
William persuades by means of logic.
William persuades by logic.

Redundancies: Words that say the same thing more than once.

eg
We share in common a love for reading.
We share a love for reading.

Phony Intensifiers: Words that attempt to exaggerate what you’re saying. Such words strain to appear confident but actually signal the opposite.

eg
I am absolutely confident in my abilities.
I am confident in my abilities.

Thickeners: Words that few people use in everyday speech.

eg
Sarah found the means whereby she could cheat on tomorrow’s test.
Sarah found a way to cheat on tomorrow’s test.

etc.”