TMBA 155 (TTR24) – “If You Cannot Exercise This Kind of Control in Adult Life, You’ll Be Totally Hosed”

TMBA 155 (TTR24) – “If You Cannot Exercise This Kind of Control in Adult Life, You’ll Be Totally Hosed” post image

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It’s time for another Tropical Talk Radio podcast, which gets published every Friday afternoon (Hong Kong time). Here’s the link to subscribe in Itunes if you haven’t already done so. In this week’s episode Dan hands off the mic to a recording of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech given in 2005 to Kenyon College in Ohio. It’s inspiring and thought-provoking. Give it a listen.

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Episode length: 26:08

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Published on 12.07.12
  • Ward Plunet

    If you enjoyed David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech then I highly encourage you to give his novel “Infinite Jest”. Most find it a challenge, but I would add it is one worth trying.

  • Amazing stuff.

    I totally relate to what he calls our “default” mode of complete self-centeredness and how much of a practice it is to open up to the world after spending a life time in default. Step 3 in this Zen Habits link is what has really helped me in my daily life.
    I think the link closely relates to what he is saying.

    Paying attention to what we pay attention to and listening and acknowledging to the constant conversation we have from within our head. That conversation can and does run a person’s whole life without ever realizing it was there.

    I’m 30 years old and only became aware of that voice as a constant conversation inside running my life 2 years ago during my first day in The Landmark Forum. Since then I’ve become a daily meditator and it’s interesting to pay attention to the thoughts as they come and go and how they influence our perception of the world.

  • I think David’s speech is a wordy description of “focus” or “presence”. I think it’s a skill. You develop the skill of focus, just like you develop the skill of writing a book or writing a bike. At first, you suck. Over time, you get better. Eventually, it becomes automatic. The main thing it takes is time. Time and applied thought. Focus and presence might seem like different things, but I think they’re the same thing (or very close). The more present you are, the more aware of your thoughts you become, and the more conscious choice you automatically have over what to think about and what not to think about.

    I’m super passionate about this. In my experience, my level of success has directly correlated to my ability to be present. If someone asked me for the #1 tip I had related to kicking ass at life, I’d tell them to learn how to become present and consciously direct their focus. When I’m present, I experience more energy, more drive, more testosterone, more positive aggression, more creativity and clearer thinking.

    If anyone’s interested in going down the rabbit hole, start with the following three resources, then go from there.

    The Power of Now – I read this book on my way to Nepal. It changed everything. The title sums it up. The key is doing the exercises in the book. An intellectual understanding of “presence” or “focus” is an incomplete understanding. It has to be experiential. This book made it click for me.

    The Zen Experience – Zen Buddhism seems to scare a lot of people off with it’s non-sensical arguments and/or emphasis on sitting meditation. I was one of those people. This book opened my mind to it. Now, I think Zen can be summed up with “presence” or “be here now”. It takes the reader from the beginnings of Zen in China and India, through to what Zen became in Japan. A fascinating read, even if you’re not interested in becoming a Zen monk. Again, it goes deeper into this issue of presence.

    Tony Robbins, Why We Do What We Do – Couldn’t forget the big TR! This guy is a legend. Some people go gaga over him. I think he’s a cool guy with some extremely helpful things to say. In this video at TED, he goes over the same issue as the other stuff here: focus. Recommended.

  • I agree with your first two examples. Well I haven’t read The Power of Now but was truly inspired by A New Earth.
    I’m not disagreeing with Tony Robbins or his programs, I just have no experience with him. I do have experience though in Landmark Education, as I mentioned earlier. Those programs have transformed my life and allowed me to create the life I want and love. I can assume TR programs facilitate those experiences too for its participants.
    Zen, or just sitting and watching, is quite the practice. I have slowly learned there is no goal in meditating. Just show up and sit:)
    Last night I attended a lecture and q&A with Tim Ferriss in SF where Ferriss recommended reading Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen teacher. I have read many of his books and whole heartedly agree. I think a man like him is the epitome of presence And compassion for the world.

  • Thanks for the reco’! Added a couple of Thich’s books to the wishlist.

    Tony Robbins’ stuff is probably similar to LF. It’s mostly NLP, just presented in a very compelling way. Never been to LF, but I read “The Book of est” recently, which is a fictional account of the precursor to LF. Many zen concepts, albeit presented differently.

    I like to think of this stuff as brain software. The world has changed so fast and our brain hasn’t had time to catch up. Our brain software is out of date and desperately needs a patch. Books like this serve to upgrade it so it can deal with the new reality.

  • That was moving – thanks for sharing. To think, when you said you were handing the podcast over to some dead guy for a while, I almost switched it off. Glad I stuck with it.

  • Dan

    Wow! Great stuff John, appreciate you taking the time list this stuff out. Will add it to the TMBA mailing list. Time to go Zen I suppose!

  • Dan

    +1 for philosophical frameworks as mind-OS’s

  • Dan

    haha, next time I’ll do a better job of introducing this stuff. glad you stuck around and enjoyed it!!!!

  • Dan

    Cheers Jeremy, gonna check out the link now.

  • Dan

    Cheers Ward!

  • I love this speech by DFW, it was a tragedy to lose such a precise thinker and articulate writer at such a young age. Infinite Jest is one of those books that not only changes the way you read and judge other books, but also changes the way you think about and perceive the world and the nature of existence.

    One of the most perplexing (and frightening) mysteries I’ve encountered is that such a sensitive, thoughtful individual could be plagued by such terrible demons that he considered the only way out to be suicide. It’s also incredibly sad to consider what incredible artwork he could’ve shared with us, given another few decades on this planet.

    This interview on Youtube (broken into 9 parts) provides some more examples of David’s thoughts life, writing and literature in our era:

    … and on a more upbeat note I love this short interview with him:

    It shows a very different DFW – one that easily presents as charming, funny and capable of taking himself, others and life in general less seriously.

  • Dan

    Hey Corey thank you so much for the links! Defo going to check them out. Totally agreed regarding the tragedy here..

  • Really enjoyed this one Dan. I’ve become very passionate about this topic lately. Had to listen to it twice to make sure my brain soaks it all up.

    I’ve been [trying] to incorporate 1 hour of meditation into my daily routine for the last couple of months, and I have to say, it’s slowly changing me. I am much more aware of my thoughts and my emotions, my focus is improved, the ability to control where my attention is placed much more easily. I am much more ‘in the moment’ and out of my head. Still have a long ways to go, but so far I notice small, definite improvements.

    I also notice that if I miss a few meditation sessions in a row that I start to lose the mindfulness a bit, seems like it needs to be practiced and practiced and practiced until it sticks a bit more.

    I wish I would have discovered this years ago. Anybody else think we should be taught how to be mindful/meditate in grade school when we are young? Think of the impact this would have on our lives….

  • Gonna go snag the “Power Of Now” ;)

  • Dan

    DId. Dugit!

  • Glad to hear about your new found practice. I’ve been an almost-daily meditator for a couple years now with support at my local Zen practice center. The results are incredible to sit and listen and watch.

    I do about 20-30 mins a day. Much longer and my feet go so numb its distracting. Over time I’ve stretched and manipulated my legs in to half lotus which in the beginning I thought was highly impossible.

    Here in the Bay Area at local public schools and privates iike Montesorri schools I’m aware that children are being introduced to silent meditative periods of mindfulness and insight meditation. I think it’s incredible and hope one day my children will experience the same. I could go on about this but I do agree the impact would be amazing!

  • I was truly moved and entertained by the commencement speech. I love the fact that he actually used the term hosed. ;) I was walking the backyard helping my daughter fall asleep in her stroller, and had to constrain myself form laughing out hard at times. ;)
    Enjoyed Power of Now immensely although I can not watch Tolle on video for more than a couple of minutes. Will look into the Zen book – have been looking for a cool introduction.
    Have a great weekend. ;)

  • Dan

    Cheers Anders thanks for taking a listen!!!

  • Hey Dan. I have a separate mail account for all my blogs, and I can’t figure out how to subscribe via email to your blog here. Any ideas? Can you drop me a link?

    /Anders. ;)

    PS: Have “worked” my way through the entire back catalogue of LBP these past 4 months, and now the TMBA podcast as well. ;)

  • Dan

    Hey Anders I don’t send out most of the posts via email so there isn’t technically an email subscription option right now. :(

  • No problem. I’ll get my reminder to go to your site from you every Friday via iTunes. ;)

  • Bettina

    That’s a great and very entertaining talk! The idea of controlling your own thoughts reminds me of “The Work” or “Non-violent Communication”. It’s very important, especially for parents. What will make you a happier parent – the thought that your child is a little naughty brat or the thought that your child has a mind of his own/is tired/is hungry/is overwhelmed etc.?

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