Part 1 – Accept that you’ve been brainwashed
That’s right! You’ve been brainwashed. And it gets worse, you’re still being brainwashed. Every day, more brainwashing.
And it’s coming from everywhere. It starts with marketing. The evil, vicious world of marketing. They brainwashed you into “needing” a GI Joe action set when you were a kid. They brainwashed you into paying $100,000 for a college degree in sociology where, if you use your degree, will spend decades trying to pay back (and if you don’t use your degree, then what was the point?). They brainwash you into believing and celebrating (and buying things) for holidays like Valentine’s Day, and into buying an engagement ring worth 2 months salary (well done, De Beers!).
Marketing firms hire psychoanalysts to study human minds and learn to cater to a group’s irrational thought. In the first half of the 20th century, marketing firms convince men that a personal car was an expression of male sexuality. Now these companies could sell to the common man and not just the rich.. Later, cigarette companies realized there was an untapped market because in America it was taboo for women to smoke. So they put together a strategy to convince women that smoking cigarettes was a bold statement for women’s suffrage and equality (they called them “torches of liberty”). This is brainwashing. And it works, until you start to question it.
For an eye-opener, check this out.
But it’s not just profit-seeking corporations, it’s also your school teachers. They brainwashed you into thinking that your grades mattered as much as the content itself, and that college is a requirement (and sure path) to a happy and successful life.
Your bosses have brainwashed you into working hard for the company, even at the expense of your mental health and family life. There are real techniques for this. I took the classes when I temporarily got into management!
The corporate owned media has brainwashed us into believing that there is this real cultural divide between liberals and conservatives. Then they cater to our emotions and identity by hiring political pundits to yell at each other on TV. They do this because it’s easier to draw an emotional audience than it is to sell a real discussion on policy.
All of this, of course, is hogwash.
And you could get mad at all of them for brainwashing you – except that you shouldn’t, because they were all brainwashed too. There’s no one at fault, it’s the nature of civilization. We’re all just doing what we have done since the day we were born – trying to control things. What matters is that you recognize it, and reject it. And this leads to part 2 – Question Everything.
Part 2 – Question Everything
My daughter is about to turn two, and she recently started asking “Why?” Every time she does, my eyes light up with excitement! I love seeing her starting to question my authority and questioning how things work.
She’ll ask me why she shouldn’t touch my coffee (because it’s hot) and why that’s bad (because it will burn her and hurt) and she’s learning so much, so fast. In my coffee example, she just learned two important lessons.
Unfortunately, if you’re an adult, you’ve probably already stopped asking these questions. As a child, your parents might have answered your question of “why?” with “because I said so,” or “I don’t know, that’s just how it works.” At school, your teachers may have told you to save your questions for the end of the lecture, never to return to the question. At your job when you ask “why?”, you’re probably told “because that’s how things work around here,” or “that’s just how we’ve always done it, ” or once again, “because I said so.” So eventually, and slowly, you stopped asking.
Asking “why” is the key to leading a deliberate life, because it answers how or why things are the way they are. Once you know this, you can make your own educated decision on how you want to proceed. The courage to keep asking “why?” is critical to a continued education, to being open to change, and to making smart decisions.
The sad truth is that if you don’t get good at questioning everything, you won’t be mentally prepared for an early retirement. With no ability to continue your education and to explore, you’ll simply grow bored and return to work because it’s better than nothing. Or you might develop some unhealthy vice, which most likely is even worse.
So question everything and don’t stop there. Encourage your kids, your family, your friends, your employees and your employers to do the same. Some people will hate you for it, others will love you. But I assure you that it will make you a happier, wiser, and more interesting person.
Question why you should or shouldn’t do something. Question why you believe something to be true. Question whether you are spending your time wisely reading this site, or other sites.
An Empty Cup
“My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.” – Bruce Lee
Your mind is a cup of water, and it’s filled with preconceived ideas. Unfortunately, too many of these ideas are not your own. And you can’t fill the glass with new ideas until you empty it of the old.
But once you accept that you have been brainwashed and conditioned from outside entities, and once you commit to questioning everything – you will have an empty cup, a blank slate. And then it will be ready to be filled with the things truly important to you. You’ll then be ready for the remaining 7 principles.
Below is a visualization of the blank slate. In the next 7 principles we’ll begin filling it out, and updating this visual to show how each principle complements and supports the others.