Terence McKenna

Quit Relying on Reaction

We need to stop wishing the cute barista at the coffee shop is going to come up and talk to us. Or the hot girl at the ice cream shop. Or the hot guy playing fetch with his dog at the park. Sure, you might make some good eye contact and even catch a smile. But what if you were doomed to live a Groundhog's Day existence where no one would ever approach you again? My guess is you'd learn pretty quickly that the way to get what you want is not by wishing you could just react. You need to be proactive. You need to stand up. You need to open your mouth. 

Too often we're caught talking out the side of our mouths explaining how much we hate to be told what to do. No one wants to have orders barked at them. We want to be in control. We want to do what we want to do. And then we wake up to jolting alarm clocks. We roll over and surrender our beautiful morning thoughts to checking the emails, texts, and tweets we didn't see when we put our heads to the pillow the night before. We spend our primetime hours at work delivering on tasks for our managers and relinquish our nights and minds to all kinds of entertainment on screens. The day is lost in responding too often to the outside world.

And it makes sense. There is comfort in our routines and there is fear when it comes to certain decisions. It's much easier to react to the alarm clocks of our days then pick with assurance from the infinite amount of pathways available. If you've ever cracked open Netflix with your friends for a movie night you can follow. 

We want what we want and we don't want to choose. But, in the end, the choice is yours and it's being made one way or another.

Josh Waitzkin, author of The Art of Learning and the chess champion inspiration for the book/movie Searching for Bobby Fischer, calls this the multitasking virus when it comes to the learning process. In an article titled The Multitasking Virus and The End of Learning? on Tim Ferriss' blog Waitzkin wrote this:

"We obviously live in a world that bombards us with information, and we feel the need to respond to stimulus as it comes in. The problem with this is that we get stretched along the superficial outer layers of many things. I believe in depth over breadth in the learning process."

Yes, we are social creatures, so the "need to respond" is real. You're not going to simply ignore everyone that doesn't fit your mold; you're not a sociopath. The trouble, psychedelic explorer and author Terence McKenna would say, is that we are programmed by culture. McKenna takes it to a spiritual extreme although the essence was there when he lectured that culture "invites people to diminish themselves and dehumanize themselves by behaving like machines.

We're spending all of our time putting out fires ignited by other people that we barely take the time to really dive into what's inside us, what we want from life when all the chores and notifications fade away.

Questioning yourself is uncomfortable, no doubt. You need to consider the very real and very short time you have on this planet to understand what you really want to do with it. Your dreams have to be thrown around your mind and set in front of the mirror, examined from all sides. You have to go deep.

But when all of that is said and done, you have one added benefit: There is strength in knowing what you want and going for it. Deciding for yourself gives you the determination and confidence to attack. Waitzkin explains it like this, "One of many problems with multi-tasking is that the frenetic skipping leaves little room for relaxation, and thus our reservoir for energetic presence is constantly depleted." There is no true hack for the to-do list. Sometimes you just need to throw it away. Wake up and take action.

Because there is no kill switch. And if you're honest with yourself, you wouldn't pull it anyway. Life will more than likely blindside you with a couple of curveballs here and there, but it's only half the fun and challenge in reacting to them, don't make it everything.