What Is Your Orientation?

What is your orientation?

The first thought that probably came to your mind is of a sexual nature. This thought is not what I am trying to highlight. What I am asking is, what is the orientation of your life’s compass? Are you trying to navigate toward a future of material plenty? I am asking you to consider first what are the most critical aspects of your life, and secondly, do your behaviors reflect those values? 

I was raised in the same mindset as many of you who are reading this. I was brought up in New England. I consider it to be a very traditional American place to live. It is my theory that the mania from New York City seeps out and plagues most of the eastern seaboard. Along with this mania comes the focus on consumerism. I don’t believe that this mindset is local to that area, I think that it is something that has been spread nationally and to any country that has had western influence through marketing and advertising channels. 

Being brought up in such an environment, I was taught all of the traditional aspects of the “American Dream.” We must orient toward gaining money because after all, that is where happiness is derived. This money will buy us large houses, fast cars and food fit for a king. The money we are told is an accurate measure of wealth, prosperity and well being. This notion I will call being product or goal oriented, as I have written about before. We become so finely tuned on gaining material wealth that we tend to start forgetting about, what in my opinion, really matters. 

I was listening to a YouTube video the other day that featured Will Smith [1]. During this video, he mentioned something profound. He had a shift in mindset from products to people. That is to say, that he went from wanting to always win something, to have higher quality interactions with other people. He mentions that this profoundly changed his acting career for the better. It opened doors that he did not even see. 

The key takeaway from this realization is that things are not accomplished alone, or in isolation. So many motivational videos and inspirational speakers talk about “grinding”. They say “it’s good to be alone, and to keep your head down because you are working hard toward your dreams.” They are missing two huge aspects here. 

The first is that no matter how hard you work if you are running in the wrong direction, you will never get to your goals. The way humans understand and know which way to orient, is through the constant and never-ending social feedback of others. 

The next portion they miss is that greatness is never achieved alone. Even someone like Nikola Tesla who is known to be a loaner read many hundreds or thousands of books. This practice allowed him to gain his foundational knowledge from others. We are very dependent on others whether it be face to face or through various sources of media. 

It should be noted that any source of media is a supplement. If we are trying to solve some problem, it will be in the context of modern society. Therefore, it is paramount to go out into the world, interact with others and to get that first and critical real-time feedback. 

If we do not gain this real-world social feedback, we risk becoming an astronaut without a lifeline. We will slowly drift out into space, and once we become the lone wolf, it is tough to break back into the pack. 

Additionally, we cannot be experts at everything. It is much wiser to higher an expert than to try to become a master of all pieces of a puzzle necessary to develop a useful idea, product or service.

A final note about pursuing goals and dreams. While it is essential to, as Jordan Peterson mentions, find a sufficient and worthwhile load and to bear it’s burden, in my opinion, it is also essential to be able to enjoy the process. There is only one thing that exists. That is the present moment. If we are suffering tremendously in every moment, then over time this could become problematic. 

There is something to be said for delaying gratification to accomplish some goal that we in the western world often struggle with, but it is a dance. We cannot be so harsh on ourselves as to become the driver and the slave. A struggle is important, but as mentioned above, it should be a sufficient and meaningful load that we bear. Taking on an amount that breaks us is, insufficient, or not proper. 

So, what are we to do?

First and foremost, I am no expert. I am but a man who has been on a profound and powerful journey that has led me to explore some more esoteric concepts to attempt to cope with this thing that we call life. As I have traveled along this journey, I have discovered some things that we are told and sold as common knowledge and facts, that are not so true. 

This notion of shifting from a product to person-centric model of happiness and fulfillment is a fundamental shift in mindset that I believe we must have nationally and worldwide. 

There is a simple experiment that can shed some light on the difference in mindset from the east to the west. Consider a photograph that contains a group of children all of whom are frowning except for one smiling right in the middle. 

If you show that photo to children from the western world, they will say that one child is happy. If you show the same picture to children from the east, they will say that child is sad. This thought experiment illustrates the notion that eastern mentality is focused on the fact that individual happiness is derived from the group. This notion is a significant difference in mindset between these two cultures. 

I am not suggesting that we should all be socialists. What I am saying is if we work more to ensure that others are happy, we will become more comfortable and more prosperous. Once we realize that we are in fact not isolated beings who make our own lives ultimately, it becomes easier to focus on connections with others. Benevolence is the highest form of selfishness. It makes both people feel good in the human interaction. Why don’t we aim for more mutually beneficial human situations? Perhaps we do not see each other for what we indeed are. 

What we should realize is that products are temporary and empty highs that keep us on the wheel of wanting. The more that we do, want and gain, the more we have to do, want and gain to maintain that consistent feeling of novelty that gives us a fleeting sense of comfort. The meaning that we bring to our lives is through our choices. We have to figure out what is worthwhile, and we need to bear that load. This endpoint can only be made through trial and error. This path can solely be walked with the help and guidance of others. 


[1] https://youtu.be/5EPLOj7N1A4