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September 12th, 2021
I have been procrastinating on writing this, which feels kind of embarrassing. It feels kind of embarrassing because on the surface procrastination seems antithetical to the thing I want to write about.
So, what is this thing that invokes a first-order procrastination, and a second-order embarrassment?
I want to write a journal entry that also serves as marketing copy for the upcoming offering being launched at The Stoa: Beyond Self-Discipline.
It seems ironic, me advertising an offering on discipline that starts with writing about me procrastinating. However, I cannot move without being truthful these days, and this feels like the most truthful spot to start moving from. There may be another reason for my procrastination, one that has to do with the mythical nature of self-discipline.
I was chatting with our friend Pamela J. Hobart about this a few months ago. Pamela is a philosophical life coach who helped my thinking here. I was telling Pamela that when I was a part of a “mastermind group” I was the most productive I have ever been in my life, in contrast to me being productive alone, which is usually a more discordant affair.
Mastermind groups is a term that comes from Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which he defined as: A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose. This term has become quite popular in self-help circles, coming to mean an accountability group that helps its members set, pursue, and achieve their goals.
I can get shit done by myself of course, but I feel like I level up when I get shit done with others. I was telling Pamela that I carry a sense of shame with this reality, as there is this widespread belief in our culture that one must be a self-discipline machine. Pamela offered a thought that flipped the societal myth by suggesting that it might be an abnormal thing to be disciplined all by oneself and, given that we are social creatures, the healthiest approach is to be disciplined with others.
This seems right to me. The “social creatures” argument is a good one, especially for the accountability aspect of mastermind groups. Keeping one motivated towards their goal pursuit is one thing, but helping to set, strategize, and adjust one’s goals is another thing. To lean on our friend Dave Snowden’s “Cynefin framework,” we are living in a complex world, not merely a complicated world, and we can no longer comfortably outsource our sensemaking and choicemaking to an expert class.
A complex world is full of “unknown unknowns” with no certain answers. It is a world that requires us to experiment wildly, and it is a world that is increasingly incompatible with the idea of a lone genius telling you how to live your life. Things are just too fucking complex for that now. Whether we are temperamentally inclined towards being with others or not, many of us are called to find the others, so we can figure out how to live our lives with them.
I found one of my others in a unique way. Daniel Kazandjian has been my philosophical partner in crime for years now and, before we met, we were both clients of Jordan B. Peterson (before he became culture war famous). Peterson was the guy who introduced us, as I was running a private mastermind group at the time, and the Professor intuited that it would be good for us to meet.
That was six years ago. Daniel and I have been experimenting with mastermind groups since, and we are ready to introduce something new to the world. This is not going to be your average self-help mastermind group, unexaminedly aimed towards success and only success. Yes, the idea of this offering is to help us all get our shit together, with an emphasis on the foundational aspects of life—such as sleep, fitness, diet, and finances. We are going to have cutting-edge accountability tech for that, but we are also going to include tech from all the bubbling sensemaking communities out there.
Dialogos, a dialectical conversation that happens in a mutual flow state, will be one of the facets of this offering. Imagine finding the others and not only getting shit done with them, but having the time and space to figure out what shit needs to get done—and more importantly, why. The not-so-secret aim of Beyond Self-Discipline is for it to front as a self-help mastermind group, while being a trojan horse to something more: what Aristotle refers to as friendships of virtue.
Aristotle writes about three classes of friends: friendships of utility, friendships of pleasure, and friendships of virtue. Friends of utility are friends that use each other towards some aim, while friends of pleasure are friendly with one another to experience pleasurable things. These are two immature classes of friendships, compared to what Aristotle views as the highest class of friendship: friendships of virtue.
In a friendship of virtue, the friendship is dedicated to the good in one another. It is a loving commitment to see what is best in another, so both can give their gift to the world in their fullness. As far as I can see, there are no organizations or institutions that are in service towards cultivating these friendships; most mastermind groups out there currently are friendships of utility, instrumentalizing one another towards some atomistic notion of success.
There is a selfish component for me in making this being the first in-depth offering being launched at The Stoa. I have not been in a committed group like this since COVID came online, and I am deeply longing for the intensity that these kinds of groups can bring. There is a lot that I am called to do now, and I sense that you have a similar disposition as me: we are not called to do important things alone.
I am also called to find the others, get shit done with them, and discover a new world together. This is the only way a new world can be discovered.
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