Mind Spectrum

We live in a Zombie’s world.

There are systems and structures in place, engineered to keep us in a state of distraction, addiction, and reactivity (sensationalistic headlines, social media feeds, marketing and political campaigns, food additives, porn sites…).

The economy depends on people needing to:

  • stay busy,
  • feel better,
  • and stay distracted (so their inner voice can’t be heard)

No one is immune.

Remember the Cultural Trance?

I know doctors, motorcycle mechanics, bankers, techies, and factory workers that have gone “all in” on the Zombie way of life. It’s all they know.

It begins in boyhood.

We’re downloaded with bad ideas that shut down our connection with a vital dimension of our masculine depth. Conditioned to feel a sense of lack—an emptiness—we’re told can be filled with all manner of things outside of ourselves.

A second-order effect emerges—a kind of deficiency of the spirit is created, and our inner-world becomes a place of shadows and ghosts. A place most men are not familiar with nor comfortable navigating.

This leaves them untethered, like a tree with no roots.

As a Seeker, you’re much better off than the mindless masses. You’ve managed to gain some perspective and are better at thinking for yourself. You’re not a sheeple (most of the time…).

But these forces are ubiquitous and have shaped your perceptions from the time you were born. So don’t be too hard on yourself for occasionally falling into the current that most of the world is being swept along by.

As you internalize this new alternative paradigm, it will provide a lens to view your attitudes and behaviors through, one that should make it easier to identify when you’re straying too far into Zombie territory and for too long (and help you extricate yourself back to the land of the living).

Zombies and Seekers exist along a spectrum, and the farther you can shift away from the realm of the undead (the shallow end of life), the better off you’ll be.

So, then, what does it mean to be the Seeker?

What does the Seeker seek?

Zombies seek comfort, safety, acceptance, distraction, escape, and relief.

And even though Seekers sometime chase those things (it’s only human), what drives them is different.

The Seeker’s quest is for growth and expansion.

That’s why you’re always gathering more knowledge, frameworks, mental models, systems, apps, practices, and tools to increase your productivity and performance.

You want to know more, do more, and become more.

This way of life has served you well, helping you get where you are today.

Do you remember when you first stepped onto this path?

I vividly remember when I started to wake up. It was 1998 (I was 19), and a series of “fortuitous” events jarred me from my stupor.

The proverbial Giant Hand came down from the sky and slapped me hard (and repeatedly). I lost my job, was in a (bad) car accident, went through a rough breakup, and developed some health challenges (good times).

My social circle evaporated too (probably for the best).

While in the hospital from the car accident, I discovered I was born with one kidney.

Shit.

I reigned in my reckless ways, making a 180-degree turn.

Isn’t it cool how when we’re ready, teachers, helpers, and other resources appear like magic to aid us on our quest?

My grandmother had these creaky old bookshelves full of dusty books in the back room of her art studio (our family lived in the apartment upstairs). Hungry for change, I devoured texts on meditation, yoga, Chinese Medicine, nutrition, art, philosophy, history, tigers, and tea.

Grandma Bettie was an old school, first-wave, new-age polymath.

Man, what I would give to have tea with her one more time… 

James-Grandma-Bettie
me and Grandma Bettie in 2006

I’m sure you’ve had some great mentors, too. We could reminisce all day about the people who’ve shaped our lives…

But, as rewarding and amazing as it is, the Seeker’s path has its limits.

When you first started out, the possibilities seemed endless. Always something new to learn. A new system, lifehack, or philosophy to follow.

That hasn’t changed. There will always be more (exponentially more).

But it’s different now.

Your feeling around it has changed.

In the beginning your gains were bigger, more dramatic. But growth has leveled off, become more incremental. Sometimes it feels like you’re not changing much at all.

Now, when you open your inbox and see all those newsletters and offers and updates, there’s a mix of overwhelm, FOMO, and a sense of obligation to keep up.

Information overload is real.

“What if I miss something really cool—some game-changer idea?”

“What is Tim Ferriss up to? Farnam Street? Mark Manson? Seth Godin? Ari Whitten? Peter Attia?”

Skim, clip, bookmark, flag, folder…

The crazy part is, the more you consume, the more you feel like you need to consume.

It can generate some intense feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and lack. Like a hunger that can’t be satisfied (a quality shared with the Zombies), accompanied by a vague sense of guilt.

Why guilt?

Because you know you’re capable of more. And you also know that it’s no one’s responsibility but your own to make that happen.

In a world of exponentially increasing opportunities, choices, and voices, where does one focus the precious little time, energy, and attention available each day?

It’s like sitting at a banquet table a thousand miles long, and that table is a conveyor belt with the best, most delicious foods racing by. There’s always something new coming, but with each mouthful you chew, ten more dishes zip past.

As that conveyor belt speeds up, your anxiety grows. You try to reach out and grab bites of food faster, but now you’re not really chewing your food. In fact, half the time you’re just throwing food at your face and not even getting it in your mouth.

So you try to become more efficient. You reaffirm your dedication and focus.

“I can do this!” You tell yourself.

You become an even better Seeker by reading more and faster. You employ systems to organize all those amazing quotes and notes and studies you find. Learn memorization tricks. Leverage productivity hacks. Manage your time. Do 12-week years and GTD and pomodoro apps. Work on your sleep, diet, and exercise.

Maybe you use fancy-pants monthly planners (like this one) to keep your high-performance game strong.

Anything to give you an edge.

Don’t you wish it were like The Matrix, and we could quickly download massive programs directly into our brains?

(I’ve always loved Keanu, even in Bill & Ted—maybe because I was a nineties teen)

Well, I’m not saying you should stop learning new things. That’s not where I’m going with this. Hell, I’ll always be crazy about learning. They’ll have to pry a book from my cold, dead hands.

Learning new information and systems is great.

But…

The reason you’re finding it hard to level-up (even though we both know you’re capable of so much more), is that you’ve been operating within a limited bandwidth of your mind’s full capabilities.

This brings us to our third archetype, the Surfer.