One Hundred Insights

It is impossible to encapsulate a year’s worth of discovery into a single, neat list. Regardless, here are 100 insights that emerged from an intense period of exploration, discourse and distillation. It is my coda to an incredibly illuminating year.

  1. In a year, the world can change, within and without. Just look at the one we went through. As Gandhi said, “Live as though you will die tomorrow; learn as though you will live forever.”
  2. We don’t run out of things to say, provided we listen closely enough to our inner dialogue, then spend enough time with these thoughts to put them to words.
  3. We don’t run out of things to learn, either, provided we internalize our experiences, to understand what they are here to teach us.
  4. Writing is a mental meditation. It helps us process things we may intuit, but better understand once we have given them life, outside of ourselves.
  5. All the writing I’ve done — 700,000 words, so far — has been penned as much for myself as for anyone else. Likely more. Much more. Everything, in the end, is an exercise in self-clarification, with the right mindset.
  6. At the same time, I learned I care deeply about our collective wellbeing, and hope some of the things I’ve put to words help someone else recognize themselves in them, to crystallize something that they, too, may have intuited, but can now articulate.
  7. Each of us is inconceivably complex, thus unlike anyone else in the world. This is a miracle to be celebrated.
  8. We navigate life by holding up mirrors to one another, in our acts and reactions. What we see in the reflection holds the root of the lesson to be learned.
  9. No person or act exists in a vacuum. We are part of a connective web that is as old as the universe and will endure as long as there is one. Find humility in this.
  10. Every act impacts every act that follows, for better or for worse. There is both power and responsibility in our choices.
  11. We can only find meaning in the context of others. This is what is meant by ‘social creatures’.
  12. As my brother wisely said, “We are here to give and receive love. Everything else is a dance around that central theme.” Thank you, Jordan.
  13. The reason we ‘sow what we reap’ is that to give ourselves to another being is to find purpose and intimacy; while to take away from another being is to die a little, inside. Energy boomerangs.
  14. Every act of destruction is a veiled cry for help, and should be met with help, not judgment or reciprocal cruelty.
  15. The bigger the crime is, the greater the pain is that is driving it.
  16. Every creative act heals us. Even the tortured ones. Just look at Poe; Roth; Hemingway; Munch; Plath; Schiele. Gogol. They spoke for all of us.
  17. One of the greatest crimes of all is to fail to act on our own intuition, with respect to the big choices we face. I would dare to call this “a wasted life”.
  18. To say “I know” when we don’t is to cheat ourselves out of a lesson.
  19. Curiosity, indulged, is the only path to discovery, wherever we choose to aim it.
  20. Difficult experiences hold deeper lessons than fun ones.
  21. To label something is to stop seeing it. Labels are lazy conveniences—and contrivances—not truths.
  22. Nature is the de facto source of our healing. To destroy it is to destroy ourselves. How is this not self-evident?
  23. Run your hands through the grass. Listen to the leaves rustle in the wind. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Smell the dampness of the ground. Taste the richness of something that was alive, just seconds ago. We are hard-wired for these things. And yet we ignore our own senses, constantly.
  24. The more unfamiliar, the better. That way, we pay attention. Why do you think we travel? We can do this at home, too. Pico Iyer conjured Marcel Proust when he said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”
  25. Seasons are there to remind us of time, and our emotional connection to it.
  26. Children make the best teachers. They haven’t yet forgotten themselves.
  27. If it wasn’t difficult, we didn’t put in enough effort.
  28. Seconds can mean everything, or nothing. It depends how we use them.
  29. There is only love, or its absence. Everything else is a departure from, or a return to, this foundational state.
  30. To dwell deeply in our feelings—pretty or ugly—is the greatest gift of all. To deny them is to deny the very nature of our humanity.
  31. If we keep our eye fixed on the horizon, we will eventually reach it. If we focus instead on the waves beneath us, we will drown. The world is full of waves. They won’t stop. Neither should we.
  32. Once we see something it is difficult to unsee it. The trick is to learn whether or not it represents truth, or fiction.
  33. Everything man-made is pure fiction. Enjoy it for what it is, but don’t confuse it for truth. Only nature is truth.
  34. Our own truths are no more than guideposts on the path to clarity. As soon as we reach one safely, it becomes an anchor. We must then let go of it, or be sucked back into darkness. As the Zen proverb goes, “Let go or be dragged.”
  35. If the lesson wasn’t learned, there was a breakdown in communication somewhere, on both sides.
  36. A fight can’t exist without a willing partner; and anger is no more than a tool we employ in the service of winning.
  37. Everything is connected. Nature is showing us that now, LOUDLY.
  38. Every act that aligns with our true nature is an act of constructive self-love. Every act that denies it is an act of destructive self-hate.
  39. There is no cause for fear when our acts align authentically with our values. Panic reveals a disconnect between personal truth and self-deceit.
  40. Diversity is the default in every dimension of life. To fear it is to lack not only a fundamental understanding of the world, but also self-confidence.
  41. Purity — of anything — is a ruse.
  42. We are a collection of interpretive narratives derived from the experiences we have had — nothing more. We are the star in our own dramatic soliloquy, with an audience of one.
  43. Choose narratives that open doors, rather than close them. You alone can empower or disempower yourself.
  44. The most modest person has more to teach than the most successful. And yet our attention and energies run opposite to this. How bizarre.
  45. An infinite relationship is one we invest in, without stipulation, for a lifetime. Most of us cultivate finite, transactional ones. Our children are the common exception.
  46. As briefly as we may dwell in one another’s presence, the experiences we share will stay with us forever. In this way, we are part of one another’s future. I’m comforted by this.
  47. Quality over quantity, each and every time. Why do we keep forgetting this?
  48. Human ingenuity is truly limitless. What we have done with it is a reflection of our inner conflict, and complexity.
  49. The most consequential symbol ever created is the yin and yang. It manages to encapsulate human nature in a single image.
  50. There is something exquisite about mid-life. So much wisdom already behind us, yet still so much time to learn and grow, ahead.
  51. At mid-life, I finally stopped being afraid of myself. I wish it hadn’t taken so long but I am grateful to all the teachers along the way who helped release me from my mind’s prison.
  52. Frankl. Maltz. Carse. Aurelius. Pollan. Dweck. Mom. All teachers without equal.
  53. We should choose our reading lists carefully. They are the fuel that empowers or disempowers us, and those in our lives.
  54. The same goes for friends. As Jim Rohn said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” This points to how central the social dimension of meaning-making really is.
  55. We use different languages to express truth, as we see it: dance, music, poetry, prose, painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, the spoken word, craft… In each one, a universe. In each one, universal truths.
  56. Every human alive shares these three underlying desires: to know love, to belong and to find purpose. Guess what: none of these is a solitary act.
  57. Individualism is our most unnatural and destructive construct. It denies the fundamental truth of our existence, which is to be here with, and for, others.
  58. Every teacher a student. Every student a teacher.
  59. Some lessons take minutes. Others a lifetime. It depends on how well we listen, and how ready we are to hear.
  60. Insight is instant. Everything that precedes it is lesson prep.
  61. Eventually, everything will work out. We all move at different speeds, and some of us lose our way, temporarily. But the trajectory of humanity is as consistent as it is undeniable, because everything we need is already inside of us. The point is to tap into this force before all is revealed in our final breath, so that we can enjoy it all for longer.
  62. I choose to interpret “Lean In” as, “Do exactly what frightens us most.” As in, “Lean into our own fears.” At least, that’s what psychedelics taught me. I’m not done learning.
  63. Our mindset determines whether the key we are using will open doors.
  64. To have witnessed true love is to have stepped outside of oneself, into selflessness — a form of ego death. This out of body experience is the rarest of all, and yet, most parents have felt it. Thank you, Mia, for teaching me how it feels, and reminding me daily.
  65. Everyone has things to teach. Everyone has things to learn. This is the language of relationships.
  66. Better a tempestuous ocean than a stagnant pond. Only one of these is brimming with life.
  67. We cannot see through doors. We can only open them and walk through, to see what’s on the other side. Absent that, our words are nothing but empty theory.
  68. If we want an answer that’s different from the one we keep finding, we need to ask a different question. Einstein was right.
  69. Luck favors the prepared mind. If we feed ours well, luck will find us.
  70. Polymathy is multi-dimensional learning. An investment in becoming a polymath is an investment in one’s own anti-fragility and insight, whose payoff is a new set of eyes with which to see the world. Proust knew this.
  71. Dress as though you care. Choose your words the same way, spoken or written. The effort we put into things is a reflection of our inner life.
  72. Choose the hard path. Always the hard path. The payoff is bigger.
  73. If we do three things each and every day — one for our body, one for our mind and a third for our soul — we will be satiated. Thanks, mom.
  74. I became brave enough to consistently ask the “dumb question” in the room. I knew others wanted to, but were too afraid. Now I can daylight the answer for all of us.
  75. By acting from a place of authenticity, stress cannot flourish.
  76. If we aren’t present in our own lives, we can’t expect others to be.
  77. Said another way, by being present, every moment becomes pregnant with life.
  78. Acceptance doesn’t come with an asterisk. Either we do, or we don’t. If we don’t, something’s wrong, inside. Find out what it is, and explore it.
  79. Some lessons take years to synthesize. It shows that some part of us is always working on them, in the background. This is great news.
  80. It’s dead simple. Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Thank you, Michael.
  81. Some things are better indulged in sparingly. That way, they retain their magic.
  82. Do one hard thing. Focus on it. Own it. And rejoice in your accomplishments.
  83. Trust is a hard one. It’s an advance on something without guarantee of reciprocity, or payback. But what are we losing, really, if it doesn’t balance out? Trust is decidedly not a finite resource.
  84. Elevating everyday acts to the level of ritual serves to heighten our awareness of them, hence their significance. The Japanese are masters at this.
  85. Meditation is about filtering out the noise and static that drown out our underlying inner peace.
  86. Grace is underrated. It’s easier to externalize our inner monologue than to pause, take stock of our own emotions and those of the people in front of us, both before and after our next act. Taking the time to quiet the turmoil will save everyone from the brunt of the storm. This is my own Everest.
  87. As life speeds up, we need to intentionally seek and cultivate slowness. Our nervous systems need this; and doing so helps us be present in our own lives. Meditation is one path. Gardening is another. Long walks in nature, perhaps the best of all. Thoreau knew this. And look what came of that.
  88. Being an outsider, beyond groupthink, is not the same as being a recluse, a contrarian or a pariah. Outsiders have made the principal investment in self-awareness and authenticity. They have a lot to teach us, by example.
  89. Be patient with your thoughts. Treat them with the love and acceptance they deserve. They are the raw materials of your journey, doing their very best to make sense of the world. The last thing they need is to be thwarted from within.
  90. Follow-through on commitments is a form of self-respect. If we don’t do what we said we would, how can we expect others to? How can we trust ourselves? If we don’t want to do it, we shouldn’t offer.
  91. Frankl taught me that the one thing no human or system can take away is the ability to choose our reaction to the things over which we have no control. This is the root of human power.
  92. Liminal states, uprooted from entrenched patterns, yet without clarity as to what comes next, are the wellspring of growth. They should be cherished, not feared.
  93. There is no destination. Stop looking for one. You’re already here. Now go live.
  94. The quality of the answers we receive is the direct outcome of the quality of the questions we ask. Don’t like the answers? Ask better questions.
  95. While words are just symbols, they have immense power. Most human suffering can be traced back to words, spoken. Use them carefully.
  96. Always lead with authenticity. Whether or not it leads to the place we hoped, it will get us where we are meant to be faster. Thanks, Geordie.
  97. If it doesn’t sit right, it isn’t. Somehow, we all know this. We simply need to be brave enough to heed our own advice, and still our thoughts enough to hear them.
  98. The people who need us most are often the hardest ones to help. If we can find it within us to do so, there is also no bigger reward. It taps into our very humanity.

99. There is no such thing as truth. There is no such thing as reality. There is nothing but perception. This is the cardinal truth of all life. The best we can do is compare notes. Together, we can build bigger concepts. Apart, all we have is warfare.

100. It is an exciting time to be alive.

Architect | Photographer | Writer | Polyglot | Windmill Jouster | Nomade Civilisée.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store