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You Can’t Be Productive Without Knowledge of Self: 3 Tips for a PROFOUND Sense of Direction & Purpose

12 July 2013 2 Comments

Young asian woman in library

“All of man’s ills stem from his inability to sit in a room, alone.”
~ Blaise Pascal (French mathematician and inventor)

You can’t be productive without a strong degree of self-knowledge…without a strong sense as to not only your particular tastes and personality style, but also your unique talents and strengths, highest values, personal code and purpose in life.

While you can, of course, always “raise your productivity” in respect towards a goal in the mechanical sense, if that goal doesn’t reflect what you’re truly about – if it doesn’t bring you closer towards a life that means something significant to youwhat’s the point???

It doesn’t take a hyper-analytical breakdown of our consumerism-based society to know that you can’t find happiness in material objects; remember that there’s a lot of people who achieve material success yet still feel empty and worthless inside.

So productivity without knowledge of self – goal setting and achievement without a unique sense of individuality and self-worth to accompany it – is productivity without LIFE (technical referred to as the absence of “durable fulfillment”) and it’s a lame-ass deal if you ask me.

With that in mind, here’s a few things I do to keep my own values, principles and life purpose at the forefront of my awareness…a few habits that’ll ensure your productivity is guided by your identity, rather than societal norms or subconscious compulsion.

[Note: To go more in-depth, check out the video-tutorial I put together earlier this week).

3 Ways to Find & Maintain Your Individuality

two african american children reading in nature 1. | READ: Cliche, I know, but focus your life around the most profound and novel ideas you can garner. By that I don’t just mean interesting magazine articles, well-trafficked blog posts or fancifully-edited YouTube documentaries; I mean take the time to read full books too (and don’t make any excuses about time…I personally read on the train).

I recently touched base with an old friend of mine – one of those extremely intelligent cats who smokes too much and acts too little – who casually mentioned that he doesn’t read anything except Alex Jones articles and other digitally-based, conspiratorial propaganda.

A few days later, I then made friends with a new client, who admitted that he has trouble reading due to a poor attention-span…I told him my book should be the first to get him back on track because I write in a way that doesn’t waste anybody’s time.

So don’t be like my weed-head friend, and model after my new client, because reading encourages critical thinking, and critical thinking naturally leads one to independent realizations. Chris Hedge’s talks about this in his book Empire of Illusion, which he actually subtitled “The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (as in, commercial imagery).

In essence, reading a good writer’s thought process is a lot like tracing over a good illustrator’s sketch work: do it enough times and the “pencil” of your own intellect will eventually come design some pretty impressive patterns on its own accord.

A woman kicking up water 2.| ENJOY SOLITUDE, because as Blaise Pascal, the French mathematical genius, once said, “All of man’s ills stem from his inability to sit in a room, alone.”

I’ve been hanging out with a real cool girl from Williamsburg for the last couple weeks, and I all but finished her sentence when she said, “Yo, I be chilling by myself…and enjoying THE HELL out of it.”

Likewise, almost ALL of the most effective, mature and riveting people I know spend (what our society would consider to be) an inordinate amount of time by themselves. So follow suit: never feel compelled to find somebody to do something with (or, even worse, be in a relationship with); bring yourself to a point where you know, without doubt, that you can have a good time by simply enjoying your own thought process. Personally, I…

>> go to lectures and all types of free courses

>> take Yoga and Tai Chi classes

>> write my black-ass off (obviously)

>> go for walks in various parts of the city

…and all other sorts of fun things, “dolo.” Interestingly, I think we mistakenly view time by one’s self as something that occurs at default when other’s don’t respond to us; that solitude is somehow the consequence of not being a likable person which we thus need to avoid at all costs. It’s part of our hyperactive, extrovert-oriented social conditioning Susan McCain talks about in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

So do the inverse: enjoy solitude and remember, “All of man’s ills stem from his inability to sit in a room, alone.”

A male student in a library, Sweden3. | JOURNAL: Write at least two to three full paragraphs each and every morning. Get your thoughts out of your brain and onto tangible paper (or a word document) and you’ll be surprised at the amount of insights and solutions you’ll come across…concepts you’d otherwise never get the chance to articulate.

You’ll also find that a lot of your problems don’t stem so much from making bad decisions as they do from not even being in a place to make good decisions to begin with. This may sound like trivial semantics, but my point is that you can sort a lot of issues out for yourself, preemptively, once you set up an appropriate venue to explore them.

Too many creative, extremely intelligent and brilliant people suffer for want of self-expression, and journaling – even a quick session in the morning – is a surprisingly effective way to fulfill that subliminal need.

Although I’m advising only two paragraphs, I’m suggesting that in the confidence that once you start, it’ll naturally amplify into much more than that (especially if you can type) because you’ll nourish yourself with journaling in a way no other source can.

I’m at the point now where I do at least 400 words in the morning (about 6 or 7 paragraphs) and another 700+ at night (sometimes more than 10). I’m a certified ADDICT, and I’m addicted because it helps me feel on point, focused, consistent, mature, insightful and self-directed.

You know how Koreans are with Kimchi? THAT’S how I am with journaling, and I advise you to do the same. Get to it.

korean women preparing vegetables for kimchi

Concluding Thoughts

I once wrote a blog post called “Intelligence is Dying…and Self-Confidence is Becoming Extinct” about how individual thinking seems to be coming to an end in our culture and, similarly, how the factors that would help an individual thinker to develop confidence in his ideas seem to be on the decline.

In Chapter 4 of my book I say, “Long-term, external motivation rests upon a certain level of deep-rooted, internal strength: it can’t exist without a certain level of mental poise, emotional stability and self-definition…rare character traits which seem to be on the verge of extinction.”

Peter Finch’s character in the movie Network says, “We’re witnessing the death of the individual…America isn’t the only place this is happening, we’re simply the most advanced nation so we’re getting there first.”

He meant that we live in a society where the average person’s life is governed by consumerism, hyper-digitization and the propagation of fear, consequently leading the average person’s character to center around the themes of cowardice, passivity and victimization.

So it’s important you learn to shield yourself from these cultural trends (no matter how difficult it may be), because the future of your creativity, self-respect and sense of personal fulfillment all hinge upon the preservation of these two traits (intelligence and self-confidence).

But remember, being productive without first being who you are as an individual is like building a house on the edge of muddy swamp two weeks before hurricane season/u>…it just doesn’t make sense.



  • Camilla said:

    Ummm….I just stumbled upon your blog a week ago. It is a god sent. I thoroughly agree with everything said here. Truly, I have always valued my silent, quiet , alone for excessively long periods of time (including on my birthday is my favorite- not for others though) and I enjoy it. What you’re helping me with here is to use that time productively, i.e getting to the journaling without fear. I can write a treatise here on the importance of these words to me at this time in my life but the library is closing now so I got to bounce. I am definitely getting your book (congratulations by the way)and most definitely gift-wrapping this Christmas. Many of my very confused, kreative,conscious,intellectual friends are just in need of these words. It really carries great importance at a time like this in our history and I feel that coming from you (our generation) is tantamount to where we all need to be heading. Truly today’s transcendence. Thanks!

  • Bryan Ogilvie (author) said:

    THANK YOU Camilla…trust me when I say this means a lot. Glad to hear from you, love the feedback and hope to speak more soon. Look forward to more great videos, blogs, etc. and keep up the great internal-work you’re doing.

    I spend my birthdays doing the same, by the way.

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