Can Philosophy Make Us Unique Again?
In our day, there’s too much focus on how. And not enough focus on why.
Especially amongst us young professionals; we’re constantly wondering how we can get to where we want to go; looking for others that have done it before, trying to get their tips and advice to make our own journey easier…
“How do I build an amazing career?”
“How can I be happier?”
“How did Tim Ferriss work 4 hours per week while travelling the world?”
This obsession with ‘how” is reflected in the media we’re surrounding ourselves with; our bookshelves are littered with “How I did” and “How To…” pieces:
Now, don’t get me wrong, most of these books (like the above) are useful, and really very good. It’s just that right now we’re all focussing too much on how, without paying enough conscious attention to “why” we want to learn how. And that’s something that should concern you, because without asking “why”you want to do something before trying to figure out “how”, you’ll end up doing things that everyone else is doing. Now more than ever, we’re all in “echo chambers” of our own making… yes, even you my fellow reader and the person sitting next to you — just as much as those Trump voters out there.
Now, a lot of these values and interests appeal to me, and I’d like to think I’d hold them even without the influence of my little echo chamber.
But here’s the thing.
By creating these echo chambers without realising it, we’re getting spoon-fed our values and world views, by the places and people we spend most time around. We start feeling more and more justified with the values our group provides us, and the material we surround ourselves with slowly becomes more and more agreeable with those values; reinforcing the values that our echo chambers have fed us. And that’s bad, because it’s leading to each of us losing our individuality. It’s leading to lots of “the same person”.
And while you may argue that it feels good to “belong” to a group of people who share a set of values, I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re not spending enough time really asking ourselves “why” when we’re by ourselves; that we’re not forming our own personal set of values outside of our echo chambers.
“The only way to do that is to spend time alone, away from our usual routines, places and websites; to take some time to reflect deeply on what we love, where we want to go, and what a “successful” life means to us, and us alone”
This is key to living a remarkable life.
The only way to live a remarkable life, to be unique, is by definition, to not conform to the typical “reality” and perspectives of the many. So if we want to stand-out in life, we need to start questioning why we want what we want. Why we’re reading that “how to” blog, why we’re interested in so many things that 90% of other Medium readers are interested in.
In fact, knowing “why” we’re doing something, through creating a personal philosophy, is even more important than understanding “how” we do it: because while all those “how to” books may have worked for the writers of those books and blogs, it might not be the best way for you to learn that skill, or achieve that goal, even to find that “fulfilment”.
“Understanding ‘why’ you’re doing something gives you a bedrock of strength that can only come from someone who knows their actions are truly in sync with their values and beliefs”
Once you’ve got that, you can explore different “how to” methods freely or even create your own; you’ll have the perseverance and room to explore what works best for you in attaining whatever it is you’re aiming for.
WHY starts with Philosophy.
If we ask “why” away from other’s views, we’ll begin creating something truly remarkable; our own personal philosophy.
Philosophy forces us to ask deep and difficult questions; the ones we distract ourselves from with sounds and flavours and social media; the ones that seep into our minds in those quiet moments before we sleep. And we need to create our own; to better understand ourselves, and to ensure we’re consciously choosing our values and not simply taking those of the people around us by osmosis.
However, before consciously taking ourselves out of our echo chamber to create a personal philosophy, we should probably try to widen the pool of perspectives we can use while creating it. Otherwise we’ll be making our beliefs and values based upon the very echo-chamber views we’ve just unplugged from! There’s also a risk of falling into an echo-chamber if we only read a certain branch of philosophy while trying to form our own. Instead, we need to expose ourselves to an array of new philosophies and perspectives — to dive into world views we don’t agree with while holding an open mind.
“Only then can we truly begin forming our a philosophy that’s personal to us; values and interests that we know are our own and define us as someone remarkable; as a person beyond a mere cohort-member”
So, without further ado, here’s some philosophy books for you to delve into, from a few different areas:
Now, start reading some new philosophies, get your head away from your echo chamber, and start asking yourself “why”!