Tom & CJ

Tom: To step outside your story—to negate your defensive identity—is the greatest intellectual, creative and moral leap you can make.

CJ: Just saw this. Could you please elaborate (or share a link to any content you have that clarifies this very interesting statement)?

Tom: Some elucidations here:  My book goes deep: … But you've motivated me to write an article. TY!

CJ: Thank you. I've heard you mention your book on the podcast and the reviews are very positive. Will definitely give it a read.

Tom: Let me know your thoughts.

Tom: Here you go. Thanks for the nudge:

CJ: Loved this and agree with much of what you are saying, though I still selfishly hold on to my role as the protagonist in my story.

Tom: It's extremely difficult, but mentally freeing and a boon to creativity. Look at yourself as an experiment in pure potential. Improv!

Tom: And instead of being the protagonist in your story, be the passionate creative force behind your ideas!

CJ: I agree, but feel there is a more fluid definition of the protagonist concept that incorporates also being that passionate creative force.

Tom: When you write "protagonist" you make the journey about you, your identity, your goals.  From the Greek: "first in importance, actor."

CJ: How do you balance sharing this knowledge of shedding one's identity with positioning yourself as an authority (rightly so) on the subject?

Tom: What makes someone an authority on anything? Original ideas, experience, ability to inspire and influence, authorship.

CJ: Valid point; but doesn't the act of framing one's own perspective in that way, speak to the retention of identity as something of value?

Tom: Two components to one's ego: essence and identity. Essence is the curious, compassionate and creative "perspective." It's about the ideas.

Tom: Identity is about the constructed social self, who desires certainty, control and comfort. Ideas are simply a means to build that identity.

Tom: Essence creates and then wants to share those creations to bring value to others lives. Identity is motivated to create for personal gain.

CJ: I appreciate you taking the time to explain. As for your ego, what percentage is currently identity vs essence? How does one find balance?

Tom: It's a constant struggle. The goal is to become aware of your feelings, resist the pull of identity, and let your essence lead your life.

CJ: Amen to that. How much of the challenge that most people have with this identity vs essence dichotomy comes from how we are socialized?

Tom: Almost all of it. There's a strong genetic component (survival, tribal instincts, etc.), but socialization brings it to life.

CJ: Of those 2 options, which do you think will easier to address for large scale uptake of your philosophy? Both present significant challenges.

Tom: Think of it like genetic disease. You can't really change your genes, but you can subject them to the right environmental stimuli (choices).

CJ: Fascinating perspective. Now that you've introduced this concept what does successful societal uptake look like? What's the target end state?

Tom: What specifically do you mean by "societal uptake?"

CJ: I mean society adopting the mindset that you are putting forward, paying more attention to essence instead of identity, on a large scale.

Tom: This I know: the chaotic nature of life today is not conducive to narrative thinking (identity). It's causing anxiety, depression, anger.

CJ: You're right. That being said, my interpretation of my protagonist identity is grateful, generally happy, and focused on helping others.

Tom: Great! But... do you want to be right?

CJ: I wasn't looking at it that way. I feel our journeys are too subjective for an absolute right or wrong. I'm just trying to understand more.

Tom: Good. Me too!

CJ: How does one work towards self-improvement, while shedding the protagonist identity that frames the desire to be better?

Tom: Great question! Remember, there are 2 selves: essence and identity. Identity is the protagonist, interested in comparison, control, comfort.

Tom: Essence is the curious improviser, interested in creativity and compassion. Ask yourself which self you spend most of your day focused on.

CJ: I've sat with this response for some time and it really resonates. My focus alternates between identity and essence, depending on the day.

Tom: It's great that you can witness it already. Now, can you resist being moved by your identity? Calmly evaluate your feelings and thoughts.

CJ: I doubt any of us can resist being moved by our identity. If essence is water and identity is the container, it's hard not to move both.

Tom: Water needs a container, but the dynamic water should determine the design of the container, and not vice versa. Life's value is in water.

CJ: True. I just feel that in this context, the container can be fluid and adapt to the water's purpose. They can positively affect each other.

Tom: Agreed, but the fearful mind is designed and conditioned to make the water conform and adapt to the container.

CJ: Great response. My perspective is that the container, if used properly, can enhance the water's properties symbiotically.

Tom: Exactly! Use the container. Don't let it use you!

CJ: Great food for thought. Do you have goals specific to your identity and essence? Are the goals between the 2 elements shared or divergent?

Tom: Their goals are quite divergent. My goal is consciously bolster my creative essence and keep my comfort and status-seeking identity at bay.

CJ: Furthermore, I don't disagree with anything you've said. I just feel that there are cultural elements that impact how one defines "identity."

Tom: Culture is what creates identity... if you let it.

CJ: You are right in that culture can heavily influence identity, but there are other components that differ in amount based on the individual.

Tom: Like? There's no "identity" without "others" bringing it to life.

CJ: Yes, the concept of self is initially formed by the other; but we develop our identity in accordance with our own circumstances and goals.

Tom: Indeed. And where do you think those "goals" came from, and what keeps you in your "circumstances?"

CJ: My goals related to being the best version of myself, helping others, being a source of positivity etc, are mine but influenced by mentors.

Tom: Ah! Ways of being in the present, and not goals to achieve for some imaginary future. Perfect!

CJ: Thank you, though I must admit that I do also have mundane and selfish goals that are linked to an idealized future state. Do you have any?

Tom: Not really, no. I've finally learned what a powerful illusion... and waste... the future really is.

CJ: Man, that is powerful stuff. I attach significance to the future because that's how I frame my long and short term goals for positive impact.

Tom: Because if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist?

CJ: No. The time frames attached to the goals just help me plan and prioritize the action items that accompany each goal, and measure success.

CJ: How do you measure your progress towards your goals without target setting? And how to you establish targets without considering the future?

Tom: Have goals within your process that measure direction and growth of your idea. Improvement of the process is the goal! There's no arriving.

CJ: True, though I wonder if you ever have difficulty balancing this perspective with building your brand as a thought leader? It can't be easy.

Tom: I've never tried to build a brand. I'm trying to change the world... one person at a time. :)