Most of us are brainwashed in at least one area of life.
Paradoxes are how we snap out of our programming and consider an alternative. This thinking leads to enormous opportunities later on, if done right. Many of the best truths in life are contradictory.
It’s only once you live these truths that they turn into wisdom that will make you extraordinary.
Logic is the key to scientific truths, but paradoxes are the key to psychological ones. When it comes to the human condition, the deepest truths are often counter-intuitive— David Perell
Here are the paradoxes to think deeply about.
1. The paradox of intelligence
High intelligence is a disaster for many people. They blow up like snowflakes at every little thing.
Writer Dakota Robertson taught me “ The smarter you become, the more you say ‘I don’t know.’”
Real intelligence is knowing you’re not that smart. Because you’re a tiny speck of matter on a small planet in a big ass galaxy.
Your life span is a fart on the universe’s clock.
Once you see how tiny you are in comparison to everything else, the ego of intelligence falls away and you can start being a genius with your new catchphrase… “Yeah, I don’t know amigo. Maybe. Maybe not.”
2. The paradox of original ideas
Early in my writing career I mimicked another writer closely. They found out and wrote a hit piece on me.
They accused me of theft.
But I never copied and pasted their stuff. I just tried to write like them, although I could have done a better job at it. And there’s some merit to their disgust for what I did.
Years later, I don’t write like them at all.
By trying to be like others we discover who we are in the process. Author Austin Kleon wrote a whole book on it called “Steal Like An Artist.”
Imitate the creativity of others to develop your own style.
3. The Law of Reversed Effort
I went on Dan Koe’s podcast a few months ago. The guy is a modern-day spiritual badass with an arm full of tattoos to make your momma cry.
Here are the paradoxes of self-improvement he taught me:
- When you try to be productive, you become a lazy ass.
- When you try to use an object or purpose as a magical happiness pill from a rainbow unicorn, you’ll become deeply unhappy.
- When you painfully try to act confident, you’ll become an insecure, attention-seeking blob looking for validation.
- When you try too hard to sell someone on an idea, they don’t buy it and walk away forever.
All of these realities fall under the fancy phrase “The Law of Reversed Effort.”
Don’t be so serious. You’re on this rock for a short time. Enjoy it.
4. The Creator’s Paradox
Ever tried to create a piece of content and it does nothing?
I’m sure you have. Then have you ever sat down for 45 minutes and busted your nut writing something and had it become wildly successful?
In 2014, I seriously wrote these glorified startup press releases about tech bros leaving their daddy’s basement and becoming the next Zuckerburger.
Nobody read them and they took weeks to create. I had to interview the founders. Follow up with them. Edit the crap out of the final piece. Then publish it and promote it.
One night I stayed up late and published a piece about how I destroyed my mental illness forever. It took minutes to write and I didn’t promote it.
The piece went mega-viral. Still to this day people read it and transform. This is what’s known as the creator’s paradox.
The content you create that feels effortless and doesn’t have so many filters and voices in your head telling you limiting beliefs, often, is the most shareable.
Prashant on twitter puts my little stick figure drawings to shame.
Here’s how he visualizes this paradox:
Get out of your head or your creative dreams are dead. Just put stuff out there on the internet and iterate as you go.
Perfection is a mind virus.
5. The paradox of making hard decisions
It’s easy to masturbate over a decision.
The harder a decision is the more research and people we think we need to chat to. But when you make a decision and start executing, you figure out what you didn’t know as you go.
Choosing less than ideal decisions is how you get the wild success you’ve dreamt about your entire life.
Good decisions aren’t logical, there’s risk involved, and you’ll cop criticism.
That’s a decision that’ll probably change your life.
6. The paradox of watching the news
The news screams at us.
“Pay attention!” I turn it off if it ever comes on accidentally in my house. The news wants us to care about everything so they can monetize our greatest asset: attention.
By telling us to care about everything, we care about nothing and feel hopeless.
Your life becomes bloody awesome when you switch off the news. There are smarter ways to get informed. That’s why traditional news profits are going down the toilet. Nice.
Don’t be a CNN or Fox News dumbass.
7. The persuasion paradox
Most arguments on Twitter achieve nothing.
You’ve seen this plenty I’m sure. Argumentative people pile on top of some innocent internet user to tell them they’re stupid or missed key facts.
When evidence is presented that proves their arguments wrong, they either go quiet or keep arguing, with random comments like “Well, is the Earth really round?”
I’ve studied sales since I was a young pup. Here’s what I learned: The greatest salespeople don’t argue (especially with randoms they don’t know).
The masters of persuasion shut up and listen, observe, and ask killer questions to learn more.
Those who argue less persuade 10x better.
8. The Online Bio Paradox
The more someone says they do in their career in their LinkedIn bio, the less they actually do.
Humans tend to think the work they do is better than it really is. Buzzwords are a plague we get infected by thanks to modern business group think.
Be humble online. People freaking love it.
9. The paradox of abundance
We’re drowning in information, yet we’re more misinformed than ever. We’re more connected to each other through the internet than ever before, yet we feel lonelier than ever.
The more abundant something is, the less desire you have to get it.
Think deeply about what you take for granted. Then use these things to become more grateful for what you do have.
10. The paradox of fear
The more a thought scares the pants off you, the more you should absolutely do it. The opportunities that change your life are on the other side of fear.
I was scared of my mind, so I saw a psychologist until I wasn’t. I was scared of planes, so I flew all over the world until I wasn’t. I was scared to fall in love, so I went on hundreds of dates until I ended up married.
If you don’t have what you want out of life, write a list of everything you fear — there’s your action plan. You’re welcome 🙂
11. The paradox of traits you dislike in others
What you dislike in someone else is what you’re avoiding within yourself.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that other people are a mirror of ourselves. How we see others is how we see ourselves. So change yourself to stop seeing everyone as an enemy or a person in your way.
12. The paradox of online writing
Great writers look like they have some gift. They don’t. You love their writing because they’re easy to understand.
The ease of their words is the result of grueling hours spent editing the heck out of a piece until it’s an effortless read.
The best writing takes hours of unwriting.
13. The paradox of failure
Success looks easy. Success looks smart. Success looks sexy.
It couldn’t be further from the truth. Success is hard which is why you don’t know many successful people. Success is the result of dumb effort turned into a system of habits that are repeated year on year until it manufactures a result people stand up and take notice of.
Success is unsexy which is why most people don’t try it. You get criticized, punched in the face, and give away years of your life for it.
I started three online academies previously. They all failed. My fourth one is now a hit. The paradox of failure became my mantra.
Fall down three times. Get up four.
14. The grandma paradox
Grandmas love to tell us what to do.
“Eat your greens Timothy.”
“Work hard Timothy.”
“Do what you love Timothy.”
“Be kind Timothy.”
All this advice is easy to ignore. Then you get older and realize granny was right. Just do the small things well. Implement cliches.
Paradoxes can change your psychology. They act as a pattern interrupt.
The way you put paradoxes into action is to consider the opposite side of everything you believe. Then conduct experiments to gather data and see whether these paradoxes ring true for you.
No need to take big risks either. Turn these paradoxes into a portfolio of small bets and see what happens.
The answers you seek are hidden inside stupidly simple paradoxes.