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Why thinking for yourself is essential for a fulfilled life

This article was published in the first issue of Tribe, our digital magazine. It’s a better reading experience in the app. You can read Tribe now on Android or iPhone.

We were doomed to failure from the start of Ideapod.

Almost seven years ago, we launched Ideapod as a social network for ideas. It was a place that made it easier for people to get ideas out of their heads and onto a platform where they could find like-minded people to collaborate with.

Ideapod was a beautiful idea. But we didn’t have the maturity to understand the way people’s minds and bodies can be colonized by external forces.

We didn’t understand how difficult it is to think for yourself when your mind is under constant attack.

To think for yourself, you have to navigate a world full of subtle forces taking away your agency. These forces come in the form of cultural practices, moral codes, rules of life, and “the way things are done around here.”

Taking into account what we’ve learned, Ideapod has transformed into a personal empowerment platform. But we’re offering a different approach than anything I’ve come across in new age teachings. We are bringing the spirit of anarchism to personal development.

We’re aiming to build a tribe of people who are thinking for themselves and living with purpose and courage. In the current age of polarization, I can’t think of a better mission for Ideapod.

To go a little deeper into our renewed mission and what it means to be a part of our Tribe community, we first need to understand how our minds have become a battleground of ideas.

We first have to understand the codes of society and how our minds are programmed in the first place.

The codes of society

“Our current society, with all it’s codes and rules, is the result of thousands of years of religious and ideological constructions. Since the first humans started coming together to develop the first tribes, moral codes, social rules and common myths started being implanted. Since then, we’ve been constructing layer upon layer of this intricate system.”

In the video above, the Rudá Iandê shares exactly what I wish I had understood when I first started Ideapod.

Our thoughts and ideas don’t always come from an authentic place. Much of what we think and express is deeply shaped by the codes of society.

What are the codes of society? The codes are the modern-day values and conventions that we take for granted. They are the collective beliefs that we grow up believing are natural.

The problem is that the codes of society colonize our minds, making it very difficult for us to build a deep and authentic connection with our real self.

This happens in many contradictory ways. When you study the codes, you find deep hypocrisies in how we’re encouraged to act.

“The system says you must value your ‘freedom’ and independence,” says Rudá. “You must explore, travel the world and chase your most voracious capitalist dreams, but it also wants you to marry, and to raise a family sticking to very conservative values.”

What about the sanctity of life in our system of society? We are told that our society values human life and wants people to live. Yet in some so-called civilized countries, we exercise the death penalty. Our governments torture people who are classified as “enemies of the state”.

If you accept the rules or myths of society as natural, you can’t help but live a splintered life. You will be forced to accept deeper contradictions as natural.

The only alternative is to see the codes of society for what they are — very powerful collective beliefs that were created by people that came before you living under conditions that may not be appropriate to the best possible life you can live today.

The antidote to being shaped by the codes of society is to think for yourself.

Source: Art by Adelaide

Anarchism and thinking for yourself

Before I met Rudá Iandê in New York City in 2014 and embraced the Out of the Box teachings, the greatest intellectual influence on how I lived my life was Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky is well-known for his contribution to the cognitive science revolution in the mid-twentieth century and for his activist work. He is one of the most-cited living sources in the world today.

In my life before Ideapod, I was doing a Ph.D. in international politics. I had always appreciated Chomsky’s piercing critiques of American foreign policy. Upon looking further into Chomsky’s politics and philosophy, I was surprised to learn that Chomsky was an anarchist.

Initially, this didn’t make sense to me. Wasn’t anarchism about violence and chaos?

It turns out that anarchism is completely different than how it’s characterized in popular culture. Anarchist societies can be highly organized, peaceful places. But they do share one key characteristic.

Chomksy describes it well in a 2013 interview:

“Primarily, [anarchism] is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy. It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified. Their authority is not self-justifying. They have to give a reason for it, a justification. And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just. And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency. It takes different forms at different times.”

Anarchism isn’t a method or a system. As Chomsky says, it’s a “tendency”. It’s a disposition that I believe is natural in the face of structures of hierarchy and domination.

Anarchists are usually seen to focus on government or corporate structures of power. These are the institutions of power that can be clearly identified.

But you can also be an anarchist in the face of other structures of power. You can dismantle the collective beliefs — or the codes of society — whose “authority is not self-justifying.”

You can replace these codes with alternative beliefs and practices which are “more free and just.”

You can’t be an anarchist — you can only think for yourself

When you first come across the philosophy of anarchism, it’s tempting to identify as an anarchist.

But you’ll soon come across another hypocrisy in the codes of society. You’ll find groups of people also identifying as anarchists, and this will create more rules to follow.

Instead of identifying as an anarchist, it’s enough to continually emphasize the importance of thinking for yourself.

According to Noam Chomsky, the best approach to thinking for yourself is to stop learning methods and instead learn by doing. In his words:

“You learn by doing, and you figure out how to do things by watching other people do them. That’s the way you learn to be a good carpenter, for example, and the way you learn to be a good physicist. Nobody can train you on how to do physics. You don’t teach methodology courses in the natural sciences.”

Chomsky extends this insight more widely than the scientific field: “In any field that has significant intellectual content, you don’t teach methodology. You just watch people doing it and participate in them doing it.”

When you’ve managed to overcome some of the codes of society that have been holding you back, it’s tempting to assume that what you’ve learned is relevant to others. You may want to proselytize what you’ve learned and convince others that your way is right.

But it’s not so much about the content of what you’ve figured out about the codes of society, but rather encouraging others to join you on the path of self-knowledge and self-inquiry.

As Chomsky says, “The right way to do things is not to try to persuade people you’re right but to challenge them to think it through themselves.”

An anarchist approach to personal development

The global self-help industry is becoming a lucrative industry. In 2019 it was valued at USD 38.28 billion and was projected to grow at 5.1% per annum between 2020 and 2027. Given that many self-help programs are delivered digitally, it may grow faster with more people staying at home.

With the self-help industry growing, we will increasingly see many new methods being offered to people seeking some kind of solution to their life’s challenges.

The problem is that these methods are creating new “rules of life” or “codes of society.” People are being liberated from one kind of structure of thinking and being inculcated into a new kind of structure of domination.

Often the guru started sharing their teaches from a place of enlightenment, but in the process started to believe they had arrived at a superior place to their followers.

For example, I encourage you to read this very entertaining and well-research critique of Jordan Peterson. And you can’t go past the video below of Mooji — a profound thinker who shares much wisdom — allowing his followers to subordinate themselves by kissing his feet. As you watch the video below, ask yourself: are Mooji’s followers experiencing the flourishing of their spirit and creativity? Or are they being turned into manipulated sheep, losing their capability to think for themselves?

Inspired by anarchism, Ideapod is creating a platform for people to come together in realizing their creative potential. Our online workshops have different focuses but always have the spirit of anarchism running through them.

We don’t want to tell you what to think. But we do want to actively inspire you to think for yourself and choose your own path in life.

Being independent-minded means choosing for yourself

When you first watch the video above and learn about the ways our minds can be colonized with “rules” and “codes”, it may make you angry. You may want to become an anarchist in the way it’s conventionally defined, rejecting the rules of society to go your own way in life.

When I first became aware of how deeply our minds can be colonized by external forces, I wanted to reject society. I even devised a plan of living on a secluded island and bringing only like-minded people with me.

While this idea is still attractive on some level, my participation in the Out of the Box workshop has resulted in me adopting an anarchist disposition in a different way.

I no longer want to reject all of the rules of society. Rather, an anarchist disposition is about seeing the codes of society for what they are. I’ve learned to treat society as a game to play. Some of the codes resonate deeply with me. At other times, they don’t make sense.

I’ve learned that there will never be a final state of understanding for me to arrive at. Rather, life is about having a dynamic relationship with the codes of society.

For example, today the code of polyamory may make sense, but by tomorrow circumstances may change and monogamy may bring me more fulfillment and satisfaction in life.

Ultimately, thinking for yourself isn’t about the content of your thoughts but is about continually having a dynamic relationship with the codes of society.

It requires a commitment to have sovereignty over your mind and body.

Living a fulfilled and sovereign life

“When you start understanding and respecting your nature, you stop fighting against yourself. Instead of trying to be what the world expects from you, it’s much easier, much more natural, to just be yourself. Your chances for success, happiness and fulfilment are much higher when, instead of following patterns created by others, you’re playing your own game and doing your own thing.”

The current pandemic is tragic for many people. Many of us are going into our shells, hibernating from each other and withdrawing from society.

While it may not be immediately apparent, we are also withdrawing from many of the social structures that shape how we think, how we act and who we are.

The movement within is an opportunity to remind each of us that we are sovereign. What does this mean? When you’re sovereign, you’re the supreme ruler of your being. There is no greater authority than yourself.

The coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to remind all of us that we are sovereign beings.

When you withdraw from society and go into isolation, what do you find inside yourself? What is the connection you feel deep within? What is left when everything around you goes away?

We began Ideapod originally as a platform for the free exchange of ideas. Over time, I learned that so many of our ideas are replicas of someone else’s minds. We are easily manipulated by powerful actors in society and exist to serve the agendas of others.

Now is our moment to take our power back. We can claim sovereignty of our existence on this planet. It begins by going deep into our caves and lighting a fire inside ourselves.

You can’t find a manual for how to claim ownership of your sovereignty. You can only do this by living it.

Out of the Box is the workshop most closely aligned with the spirit of anarchism. It contains powerful challenges, self-exploration quests and video/written lessons that are designed to inspire you to reflect on the codes of society that shape your life. It inspires you to adopt the anarchist disposition of thinking for yourself and actively choosing your own path in life.

As a shaman and instructor, Rudá Iandê has no interest in being a guru. Out of the Box isn’t about showing you how Rudá lives his life so that by following his method you’ll one day be accredited with shamanic credentials.

The idea of providing a method for how you live your life is laughable. The only person who can figure this out is you.

As Rudá says, “You’re unique. You have your own way to feel and perceive life. You have your own purpose and place in the chain of life. You have your gift to bring to life.”

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Written by Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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