#24 why beliefs are pretty darn silly

A belief is an idea acquired through inheritance, experience, or impersonation. Beliefs are internally synonymous with truth and limit the holder’s choices to a defined set of actions whose compliance is required to maintain and reinforce identity.

Refine it: Good point. That was a mouthful. How about this?

A belief is an idea which justifies unapologetic action.

Your beliefs determine everything about you. What clothes you wear, what job you work, who you date and become friends with. Your beliefs will make you a success or a failure. Your beliefs will determine whether you jump out of bed with a smile on your face or curl into a ball and wish the world away. 

Your beliefs deserve credit for everything good in your life, and they are the root cause of everything bad. 

And now for three fun facts:

  1. Nearly everything you believe is absolutely wrong
  2. You don’t even know what you believe
  3. And you don’t know why you believe it

That’s a heavy burden to hold. Let’s make it less so.

Question #1:
Do you believe you are meant for more?

If you answered “yes”, keep going!
If “no”, answer this
A) Are you not meant for more because you’re so capable and accomplished there is nothing left?
B) Or are you not meant for more because don’t think you’re capable?

If you answered A, you’ve either loony or lying. Keep reading, we’d like you to stay where you are while we pinpoint your location.

If you answered B, keep going!

You are meant for more, and you can feel it. So how can you get there?

You have to go through something – change.

You are here because this is the result of a series of choices you made. There is always a choice, which means there is always a path not taken.

“There are no solutions, only trade-offs” 

-Thomas Sowell 

Don’t skip that quote. Go back and read it again.

Now sit with it a bit and realize what it means. There are no solutions, only trade-offs. You’re wearing those shoes, which means you aren’t wearing the others. You went to bed at 1 am, not 9 pm. You ate a hot dog, but could have had a salad. You called your mom and skipped the gym. You read that book instead of going on a walk, learned to paint instead of playing chess. 

Everytime you say “yes” to something, you’re saying “no” to everything else. You only have room in your life to say “YES” to a few things, but “no” is everywhere.

“Yes” is rare, and rare is valuable. What are you spending your valuable, scared supply of “yes” on?

Or do you feel beat down? Overwhelmed? Are there things which previously brought you joy that you have simply given up on?

Whatever you believe, you’ll act to make it real. 

”The strongest force in the human personality is the need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves”.

  • Tony Robbins

Our beliefs become us in that they guide are actions, and our actions define our identity. 

And therein lies the danger of a belief. Why? Because no one likes to be embarrassed. No one wants to be wrong. Even worse than being wrong, to most people, is to be an outsider. To stand out in the cold while everyone else is warm inside. And that’s how it feels to believe something others do not if you aren’t secure enough in the belief.

Do you remember believing in Santa? I do, vaguely. It was fantastical at best, and to be honest I don’t think I ever truly bought into the the idea…but the feeling was still there. It was warm, safe, comforting.

What I remember more was the disappearance of it. At school – it took one kid to say it out loud, and suddenly we were all grown-up. From then on it was a different feeling – we played along for the younger kids, at school and in our families, and felt more mature. At home I looked differently at my parents. For the first time I didn’t trust them, even though we both carried the same truth.

it didn’t feel like we had been granted access to a secret club. In fact, it felt more like we had each moved further apart from one another, and were now somehow on the outside looking in. 

The loss of innocence seems to coincide with a loss of ignorance. And with them both go bliss.

“These virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.”


Beliefs are like fences built along the paths we walk to become the people we are. 

The stronger the belief, the stronger the fence and more impervious to influence from outside conditions. If I believe strongly in only putting healthy things into my body, you won’t find me wolfing down funnel cakes and cotton candy. 

I find it helpful to view things in terms of their usefulness. If a belief is useful to me in moving closer to an honorable outcome, it’s a tool.

If it moves me further from my honorable outcome, it’s a crutch.

Think about alcohol. Is it a crutch or a tool?

Drinking meets a number of needs. It’s socially-encouraged. It gives instant acceptance to groups – a great way to meet people. It lower inhibitions and makes you feel more “loose” and confident in conversation, on the dance floor, and in the mirror.

So it is a tool. But what does this tool accomplish?

For me, I used it to dull social anxiety, to look cool, and to appear to be like people whom I wanted to like me. 

But it took a long time to realize some important things.

I’m not anxious in all situations. In fact, I can be utterly engrossed in an interesting conversation with an interesting person in any situation.

“Looking cool” was only of interest to me because I thought it would give me better standing with the people with whom I was drinking. Slam a shot, chug a beer, sip a whisky and you look like someone unafraid, somehow conquering something. That’s why we crush the cans – look how big I am!

But that was all tied back to one emotion – being accepted, which is a proxy for being loved. Seeking an emotion. And this is where the belief becomes dangerous, where we can’t see outside of what we want to be true. 

“I’ve never seen alcohol make anyone bettter at anything that matters.”

-Dr. Andrew Huberman

Yet still, we do it. I’ve been to one dry wedding in my life, and I’ve never seen a more boring crowd. Every company party I’ve ever been to was judged on how much free booze was present. 

I see fewer young people drinking these days. There is a silver lining to the “you have to accept me for me” movement of individualism. In theory, if I have to affirm your outlandish, unhealthy choices, you must affirm my healthy ones. So many feelings, so little substance.

Emotions are often said to cloud judgment. They make it so we can’t see the forest for the trees, the light in the tunnel. To live in emotion is to wander in a fog. 

But when we become emotional with our beliefs – when we dig in – they no longer protect us. The thing intended to keep something out is, in fact, keeping us prisoner.

What happens when you become trapped by your beliefs? You can only go in the direction they take you.

And what if that direction is to ruin?

“Strong beliefs, loosely held” is a common phrase. It’s meant to describe an optimal relationship with truth: that you should give your all to your beliefs so long as they serve you but also be ready to abandon them in the face of new evidence to the contrary. 

How quickly can you change when the circumstances dictate it?

Your ability to leave behind beliefs that do not serve you has become more important than ever.

It’s hard to let go of an emotional belief. It feels foreign and unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unsettling. You may go from the person at the bar with a drink to the person at the gym under a bar. You made go from die-hard liberal to cautious conservative. Luddite to technophile. Vegan to meat-eater.

And there is no path to ridding yourself of an emotional belief – what Tony Robbins calls a
“Self-limiting belief” – other than through honesty.

What are you unhappy about? Start there. What don’t you like about yourself? Too fat, poor, lazy? Not mentally strong, not attractive, not secure with money?

Something isn’t adding up, and you’ve got to be honest with yourself about what that is. 

You must in order to grow. You must find that belief that allows you to stand confidently alone. 

It will make all the difference.

Your outlook will change.

This will happen when three things align:

Your beliefs are in harmony with your values, and both are reflected in your actions. 

It has nothing to do with your likes, followers, or subscribers. Not the awards you won, the heads on your wall, the notches in your belt. 

Tom Bilyeau, founder of Quest Nutrition and Impact Theory, talks about it as “the only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself when you’re by yourself.” 

David Goggins talks about performance without purpose. He says you need to get a point in your life where you understand your only purpose in life is to get better. The purpose we are all searching for – it’s always there. It’s you. 

Alex Hormozi says bluntly “state the facts and be honest, because you’ll know.” You’ll know when you didn’t follow through and blamed your shoes, your skin, the weather, the coach. 

Dr. Jordan Peterson, speaking of his experience as a clinical psychologist, is even more clear. He says “I have never seen anyone get away with anything, ever.”

Chris Williamson of the Modern Wisdom podcast recently shared a bit of advice from a friend: “There are no failures, only quitters.”

This litany of quotes is all saying the same thing. 

No one ever won, got it right, from the jump, every time. Michael Phelps talks about success being the product of volume of laps swum, Michael Jordan talks about all the shots he missed. Shots on goal, shots on goal…keep on shooting.  

There is a story I read about a bar where astronauts trained for NASA. Astronauts. We always see them in their oversized space suits, awkwardly hopping to and fro the moon’s surface, cruising in the lunar golf cart , or fart-rocketing through zero gravity. 

It’s easy to forget – these are test pilots. The best of the best. The most courageous, cool, and calm we have to offer. They are thinkers, writers, poets. They make Maverick and Ice-Man look like the junior varsity. 

Anyway – what’s the story? The story is they wrote what they felt was the most important thing in life on the wall of the bar. Love, respect, honor, etcetera. And then they voted to decide. The winner was “self-worth”. 


What are you worth?

Is it more than you currently are?

I don’t write this to beat you over the head with trite sayings or cliches. I’ve done nothing you would find inspirational enough to get you off the couch, much less move you in a different direction.

For myself, I’ve had the experience of being so inspired I couldn’t wait for tomorrow, and so depressed I couldn’t bear another minute.

In the first instance, I remember thinking, over and over “there is no drug like purpose”. I wanted to get it tattoed. I wanted this reminder that nothing I’d ever done felt as good as moving in a positive direction, getting postive feedback, feeling like I was directly influencing my outcome. The wins were everywhere, and coudln’t wait for the next day to begin.

But I’ve also had those sad times. It seemed one mistake followed another. The hits just kept coming, and all I wanted to do lay in bed and hope it all went away.

There are no winners among us, only losers who tried again. 

That’s what I call integrity – being honest with myself. Integrity = Beliefs x Values x Action.
This isn’t for you. It’s for me. To remind me to try again, and again.

And maybe its for you, too.

The only thing you need to believe is that you can affect change in your life.

That’s it. Everything else is just a bumper sticker.


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