Tag Archive | Identity

Systems Thinker 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What’s one of your favorite mental models?”


I think in systems. Once you do, you start to see them everywhere. They become a ‘reality filter‘.

Think of the beautiful symphony of systems that is your body. Every single cell is a micro-system. Connected, they form more complex systems, which connect to form yet more complex systems, all the way to the macro level. Systems within systems within systems. Countless of them, most of them invisible to the eye. It is the beautiful coordinated inner dance of those countless systems that performs all the wonderful functions of the human body, which we tend to take for granted.

In the same way, much of my work is invisible. To appreciate my Life-Art, you have to understand the intricate symphony of systems that makes it up.”

“What do you like about this mental model?”

“I like it because it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful tool for managing complexity, with extraordinary practical application.

Also because it’s a unifying model. Everything can be thought of as a system, which allows you to see the hidden interconnections between things.”

Life-Artist 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“You’ve undoubtedly heard the words ‘The Art of Living’ many times.”

“I have.”

“For a long time I read the words without grasping the meaning [<link; medium length].

To really grasp the meaning is to LIVE it.

I call this ‘lived-understanding‘.

To really grasp the meaning is to BECOME the Artist you were always meant to be.

When you do, your WHOLE LIFE becomes your canvas, a fundamental means of self-expression.

It’s hard to convey how profound that is.

There isn’t ANYTHING that isn’t your Art.

From the Inner Realm to the Outer, from the personal to the interpersonal. Body, Mind, Spirit, EVERYTHING is your Art.

And your Art is SACRED.

You shape it moment by precious moment, with every breath, with every micro-choice you make.

To use a metaphor, think of a picture on your computer. When you zoom all the way in, what do you see?”


“That’s what your life looks like at the micro-level.

As the Artist, you must have the Vision to SEE the Macro in the Micro [<link; medium], to see the zoomed-out picture in the pixel of the moment.”

On becoming a Writer

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How did you become a writer?”

“In terms of identity, this is a very recent development.”

“How recent?”

“Since I came to London, three years ago.

Interestingly I’d never imagined I would become a writer. There was no planning, no structured build-up, nothing.

I have been writing for many years, mostly on gaming forums, mostly about games. Without realizing it, I was honing my writing skills.

That was my long apprenticeship.”

“How did it become identity?”

“The process was part organic, part creative.

Organic in the sense that, by engaging in the activity of writing, besides developing the skills, I was gradually breaking through fear barriers. By exposing my ideas to the world, I was slowly building confidence. And confidence not just in my writing, but in my own thinking. This is yet another instance of compounding in action.

Creative in the sense that, at some point, the process became intentional.

One day, about two years ago, I wrote in my notes:

I am a Writer.

It was an idea I’d never entertained until then. A faint glimmer of possibility.

It seemed far fetched, but I added it to my identity list anyway. Whenever I read the list (which was daily), I would read it as well.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the first stage.

Time passed. I kept writing. And then, one day, I felt it: 

I am a Writer.

The identity-seed had taken root. I’d discovered my own creative voice.

That’s when writing became identity. This was the second stage.

More time passed. I kept writing. And then, quite recently, I made a commitment:

I am a Writer.

I vowed to myself to write every single day, and created a structure for it in the (design) blueprint of my ‘masterpiece day’, a daily ritual.

Writing has become a craft. This is the third stage.”

On Identity and Metaphor

The strongest force in the human personality is the need to remain consistent with how we define ourselves.

Your sense of identity is the strongest psychological force in your entire life.

(Tony Robbins)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I love metaphor.

Not just a stylistic device, but as practical tool.”

“What do you mean?”

“One use of the metaphor-tool is creating mental representations.

The metaphor IDENTITY-AS-FORCE which Tony uses isn’t mere style, it forms a powerful mental representation.

Another use of the metaphor-tool is what I call metaphoric-transfer.

Metaphor, in essence, is an implicit comparison: you identify a property of one thing with a property of another.

Identification here creates identity, because our mind cannot tell the difference. To our mind, the property of the first thing IS the property of the other.

This is metaphoric-transfer.

Often, what we call ‘understanding’ is precisely this identification. I call this process metaphoric-understanding.”

“How can the mind make such a connection?”

“Think of dreams, where the mind connects different experiences and makes them blend together seamlessly. It’s the same Process. I call it Reality-creation.

I call using this Process creatively, Reality-painting.

We think in metaphors, without realizing it. I’d go so far as to say metaphors are the building blocks of thought.

This is a very deep topic. What I’m interested in now is its practical application for Identity.”

“I’m all ears.”

If you want to change your life, the best strategy is to start with your Identity.

Think who you want to be, and WHY.

In this way, you set the FORCE in motion.

I’ll use my own identity as an example.

I am an Optimizer/Actualizer.

I am a Creator.
I am a Life-artist.
I am a Writer.
I am a Designer.
I am an Innovator.

I am a Mover.
I am a Traceur (Parkour Athlete/Artist).

I am a Thinker.
I am a Philosopher. (Lover of Wisdom)
I am a Philomath. (Lover of Learning)

I am a Stoic.
I am a Essentialist/Minimalist.
I am a Digital Minimalist.

This is an identity I’ve CREATED, it’s part of my Life-art.

They all started as ideas, but now I’m LIVING them.

The process wasn’t instantaneous. It took time. It was an inner and outer exploration, a journey. I cultivated them one identity-tree at a time.”

“How long did the process take?”

“Over three years now, since I came to London.”

“What’s the next step in your evolution?”

“The next step is:

~ I am a Teacher.
~ I am a Parkour Coach.

I’m currently channeling all my efforts in this direction. As for the next stage in my evolution, it is:

~ I am a World-class Thinker.
~ I am a World-class Athlete/Mover.
~ I am a World-class Teacher/Coach.
~ I am a World-class Communicator.”

“Thinking big.”

“It was about time. Thinking small for FORTY YEARS was enough.

Back to Identity, another application is expressing your Values as Identity. You thus apply the IDENTITY-FORCE to your ‘Pantheon of Values’, as I like to call it.

I am Love.
I am Play.

I am Courage.
I am Confidence.

I am Discipline.

You can also apply the FORCE to how you want to FEEL.

I am Joy.
I am Enthusiasm. (‘Enthusiasm’ comes from the Greek ‘Entheos‘, GOD WITHIN)
I am Imperturbable Tranquility/Inner Peace.

And, finally, you can apply various metaphoric models to strengthen your Identity, and make it more vivid:

I am an Endlessly Evolving Process.
I am Relentless Forward Motion.

I am a Warrior of the Mind. [<link; short length]

I am Fire.
I am Water.

I am Movement.
I am Stillness.

I am a Perpetual Motion Machine. [<link; short]

I am the Cat. [<link; short]

What’s missing from this image is the INTERCONNECTIONS between all these Identity-blocks.

That’s also part of my Life-art.”


I am a mover, I am a thinker, I am a teacher. (Ido Portal)

The (only) reason why I chose to work in a bar is to develop my social skills. So it’s part of my adventure to actualize my potential.

I did, to a certain extent, but as a dear friend astutely observed, I became exceedingly effective at avoiding people while being in their midst.

However there’s an opportunity in every failure. In this case, it was a beautiful instance of serendipity.

Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for

I did gain something extremely valuable out of it: it (re)kindled my love of movement, and made me fully embrace my identity of “mover”. 

I am a mover, I am a thinker… and I’d love to be able to say about myself some day: “I am a teacher”.

I haven’t received this much attention in my entire life, working as a nightly bar aid at Belushi’s Hammersmith.

For someone who is not very social (yet), this is quite overwhelming. People seem to like what I’m doing. And what I am doing is move. A lot (and maybe in an aesthetically pleasing way). I move very fast and dance around the tables (and people) while collecting glasses. I’ve been jokingly thinking of inventing a new branch of Parkour:

Crowd Parkour: navigating a crowd of people at high speed

People have been asking me if I’m a dancer. No, but I’d love to be. I want to express myself through movement, and dance is a beautiful direction to explore, next to Parkour.

Interestingly, I didn’t know I can move like this, and (to my mind) I didn’t know how to dance before I started working at Belushi’s. When I started working here I had no idea what to expect. Basically I ended up here by chance, it was the only thing I could find, given my lack of previous bar experience.

Who’d have thought it would end up being such a transformative experience, and one of the most important experiences of my life.

Systems Thinker

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How would you deal with the habit of compulsively buying books?”

Create a beautiful system, and beautifully integrate it with other life-systems.

For instance:

Make it a practice to notice the impulse when it arises. (Observation system)
Make it a practice to ask yourself why did the impulse arise. (Introspection system)
Make it a practice to delay the buying decision. (Discipline system)

Make it a rule to not exceed a certain budget for books every month.
Make it a rule to not exceed a certain number of books every month.
Make it a rule that, once you buy a book, you must read it the same month.

“Do I notice a system for creating systems?”

“It’s a work in progress.”


Me and my little brother

I’ve fully embraced my identity of Designer.

It took me a while, because I didn’t really know what it meant. I used to equate design mostly with aesthetics. A profound shift occurred with a realization:

Design actually means solving problems.

Aesthetics is simply a component of it.

Within the context of Self-Actualization, I now like to think of myself as the Designer of my Life. This is a profoundly creative and essentially practical endeavor.

Here’s an example.

I like to distinguish between outer and inner priming. Outer priming relies on external cues (eg reading something, an image, a song, etc); inner priming relies on thoughts alone.

As concerns outer priming, one excellent design space is the desktop of your computer, because you interact with it so often. More specifically, the background image. The system is simplicity embodied (for me, a hallmark of great design): the background image changes randomly, from a careful selection of images.

– Select the most powerful images you have, 80/20 style (and start collecting such images). Quality over quantity.
– Put all of them in a folder.
– Set the background image of your computer to take images from that folder, and make the background change at the interval of your choosing (mine is set to 10 minutes).

The most powerful images can instantly change your state, and help you regain balance.

The image of me and my little brother is one of the most powerful I have. It’s so powerful that it brings tears to my eyes, and it instantly connects me with my Inner Child. That’s the kind of images you want.


Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I’ve given up Spellweaver.

Really? How come? I thought you loved the game.

I do. I still think it’s a beautiful (collectible) card game. It engaged me both mentally and creatively. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve decided to focus exclusively on what’s essential.

Can’t you juggle both?

Afraid not, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it’s the opportunity cost: the time spent playing Spellweaver means time not spent doing something else. I’ve spent a few hundred hours playing it. Add to that the hours spent with it while not playing (evaluating cards, making strategies, conceiving decks, writing on the game’s forum, watching the games of better players to learn from them) and you get a humongous amount of time.

Secondly, it frees up mental space. This is not one of those games you think about only while playing them. I was constantly engaged with it, even while not playing. This kind of engagement is wonderful, but I’d rather save it for what’s truly important.

Thirdly, it’s a commitment to changing my life.

Was it hard to let go?

Not as hard as I imagined it would be, though it still lingered in my mind for a while. I managed to let go completely the moment I realized it will always be a part of me. It’s a comforting thought.

And maybe a strategy you can use elsewhere.

P.S. This is a dialogue from two years ago, which marked a very important step on my Journey.

Essentialist 2

The quality of the output is dependent on the quality of the input.

Discipline is Freedom. (Jocko Willink)

SEE the Macro in the Micro.

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“My mind cannot stand still.
I pick a flower of my thought and gently lay it down on paper,
and three more grow to take its place.
Creating has become for me like breathing.”

“You weren’t always like this. What’s your secret?”


I’ve structured my life around my Art, and eliminated EVERYTHING extraneous. I’ve turned my life into my Art.

There are many little things that compounded to this outcome, but I’d say, above all, was Discipline.

Discipline gives you wings, and you grow your wings moment by precious moment, one micro-decision at a time.”

Why do you desire what you desire?

Freedom is attained not by satisfying desires but by removing them. (Seneca)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Why do you desire x?

“I don’t know. I just do. It’s part of who I am, I guess.”

Can you recall a time when this desire was not part of who you are?

“Yes, I can.”

“So the desire was acquired at some point along the way. It very likely started with a singular experience.

Who you are, your identity is a construct. And, as you very well know, by looking back at who you were at different stages of your life, identity is ever changing.

Identity is yet another instance of compounding.

One day you do something different. A new experience, an experiment. At that point, it feels insignificant. You get some benefit out of it, however small, so you repeat the experience. And then you do it again, and again, and again, and again… At every point, it feels just as insignificant, but, in time, their cumulative effect brings about a significant change:

I am the one who does y.

That initial action, apparently insignificant, was the SEED for a thousand subsequent actions.

If you think of their combined effect in terms of energy expenditure, time and money spent, physical and mental impact on your future-self, the result is dramatic, for better or for worse.

Given the significance of that first action, was it a wise choice?

“If am to be honest with myself, no, it wasn’t. I did it unthinkingly.”

“I think most of us have a tendency to go through life unthinkingly.

One important facet of Wisdom is taking full ownership of the Process. ‘Living Intentionally’, as Cal Newport put it. Or, as someone else put it, ‘Living by Design, not by default’.

This means, among other things, scrutinizing ALL the things we take for granted, and ELIMINATING those that do not serve us, or serve us too little.

I view it in aesthetic terms. I call it Life Artistry.”

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)