Crippled CEO Blog #088:
One of my favorite podcasters is MIT professor, AI researcher, jiu jitsu black belt, and incredible psychopath Lex Fridman.
Recently, Lex and his guest were discussing mimetic desire.
Mimetic desire is a bourgeoisie term for the observation that we learn to want the things we see other people wanting.
Mimetic, like mime or mimic, plus desire, as in want, equals mimetic desire.
Apparently, memetic desire is hardwired into our lizard brains.
We all kind of know this, right? There is a reason that people spend a lot of money on Supreme stuff, and it has nothing to do with the quality of their shovels.
Now, at first glance, this idea is a bit depressing, and even a bit insulting. The insinuation is that we are incapable of our own original desires. We just want the things, the moments, the relationships, the careers, and so on that other people have deemed desirable.
And if you think about it a bit further, you then realize that if we want what other people want, conflict is inevitable. This phenomenon means we are often competing for the same things.
So, armed with this information, what do we do about it?
Well, the wrong thing to do is try and fight it. This thing is baked in deep. Attempting to battle behavior forged over millions of years of evolution is a fight you are going to lose. You are better off accepting it and making peace with it: you are going to want the things you observe other people wanting.
The good news is that once you have accepted this, you have a very powerful opportunity.
You get to use this to decide the person you want to be.
Because at the end of the day, we are the sum of our desires. The job we want, the partner we want, the house we want, the lifestyle we want, the body we want, the abilities we want — the first step to becoming is WANTING. You can’t learn Mandarin until you decide you are a person who wants to learn Mandarin. Lifting heavy weights every day to become a bodybuilder is either a great idea or really dumb, and it depends entirely on what you want.
The secret, then, is to find the kinds of people who want what you want to want. If you think you want to be a person who travels, go join some travel groups on Facebook. Follow some professional travelers on YouTube. Make friends with people who aspire to travel. I guarantee you that seeing and hearing other people talk about the places they want to travel to will focus your desires, and if you stay in these groups long enough, it’s just a matter of time before you are boarding an airplane yourself.
If you join a group of long distance runners, chances are, you are going to start wanting to eat healthier, because they want to eat healthier.
You can use this tick that is programmed into your psyche to hack your motivation and help you shape your life for the better.
And you should, because this is happening whether you do it consciously or not. If your friends are all people whose main desire is to cheat the government, then soon that will be your goal as well.
And if you’re not sure what you want, when you see people living an awesome life, try to get to know them. And the friends you have who aren’t living awesome lives, try to stop knowing them, too.
Become the pilot of your wants and motivations. They don’t have to be arbitrary. You get to choose. Why not choose things that are amazing?
(You know whose desires I like to mimic? Your mom. She also desires to get a text from me every Sunday. You should copy her in this. Just send a text message to the number 484848 with the word CRIP as the body of the message and I’ll send you a link to the latest blog every week.)