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Who We Are, and How to Be Good Ones

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Nov 26, 2014 2:58 PM
Last updated
Sep 9, 2021 12:54 AM

Originally published @November 26, 2014

Lessons from a future self

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."


The journey into adulthood is perhaps one of the greater dualities of life. After an insofar passionless lifetime of redundant regurgitation, a childhood overflowing with school, we're expected to simultaneously turn inward to discover ourselves, and outward to discover the world around us. We graduate high school in hopes of conquering the world, being successful, making a name for ourselves...yet we lack the skills and competencies needed to actually make it! How are we to make the leap from sheltered teenager to responsible adult, from mostly dependent to entirely independent, when the educational system has (so far) taught us only basic skills relating to our existence as students, and provided no skills for competing in the Greater World1? How can we take the world, when we don't even know how?

Throughout my writing, I will refer to in-class events or student questions using a blocked quote italic format. I will also provide breakdowns of each section for the sake of clarity, simplicity, and efficacy.

This book—no, let's call it a journal, for it's neither a novel nor an essay—is a reflection of twenty-two years of convoluted life culminating in an eye-opening course given by Dr. William Heywood at Arizona State University. It's a summary of my four-year crisis2 into real adulthood, aided exponentially by Professor Heywood's course titled Finding Purpose. This journal will attempt to do it justice. We'll work to organize the unorganized, making sense of people along the way (with the help of Samuel Barondes's aptly titled book), in order paint a better picture of  the world we are growing up in and answer such questions as: How do we truly change things that desperately need changing?


Our discussion starts with a dive into the world of self-awareness. We don't learn much about ourselves during school--at least not directly. Today's curriculum, based on decades of relatively unwavering educational structure, results in high school graduates having the ability to regurgitate facts, dates, and names without truly understanding the underlying concepts that surround them.

In the first week of class, one of the questions asked was "How do I become more aware of things that interest me?"

The very fact that this question was asked proves that our society has become far too removed from reality--but fear not. Self-awareness is not something that can be taught much, only practiced. What makes you quiet, thoughtful, organized? Why is it you sometimes feel like you just know certain things?

One answer presents itself in the form of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychological classification system based on Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung's theory of analytical psychology. This "type" indication system is intended to give us a better understanding of our primary, secondary, tertiary, and auxiliary psychological processes--it helps us learn more about who we are, what motivates us, and why we react or think in certain ways. It's divided into two dichotomous pairs of cognitive function: rational (see: judging) functions (in the form of thinking and feeling functions) and irrational (see: perceiving) functions (in the form of sensation and intuition functions). Each function is believed to be expressed primarily in either an introverted or extroverted form.

The sixteen primary functions are imperative to our self-awareness. We cannot hope to make sense of the people around us without first understanding this basic classification theory. Of course, it’s important to remember that you are not a personality type. Each of us is a unique blend of personality traits which happen to fall into one of sixteen categories, however the personality types do not define us. They are merely guidelines to help us understand ourselves and each other.

Can you ever know enough about yourself?

When I read this question, my instinct was to reply in the negative—but then I considered the possibility that some people may not want to know too much about themselves.

1I refer here to the "real" world as the Greater World because school is still a very real part of the world--there's no point denying that. However, in its current form & structure, it is not reflective of the professional world, and is in dire need of some major changes to keep up with the growing pace of technology and society.

2In this case, we'll use the Greek definition of crisis, meaning to grow and to change (for the better, of course).

Table of Contents (working outline)


I. Self-Awareness

1. A little bit about yourself…

a. Physical vs nonphysical self (e.g. beauty)

b. Personality types

i. Rational vs irrational processes (left & right brain - dan pink)

ii. Introversion vs extroversion

iii. Primary vs auxiliary functions (development & growth)

iv. Psychological type interaction (functions within self)

c. Learning methods

i. Visual

  • ii. Auditory

iii. Kinesthetic

iv. Combinations

d. Motivation

i. Intrinsic vs extrinsic

e. Values

i. Cultural

ii. Personal

2. A Hero’s Journey

a. Joseph Campbell & the Monomyth

b. Forks in the Road

II. External Awareness (?)

1. Society & the world around us (III)

a. Culture (difference; beliefs; overlapping categories)

i. Beginnings

ii. Ways of life

b. Similarity

i. Personality types

ii. Values & desires

c. Sociological type interaction (intrapersonal)


2. Content

a. Creation

b. Curation

c. Collaboration

3. Collective consciousness

a. Patterns (of evolution & human thought)

i. Story (religion)

ii. Pyramids

iii. Generational vs. ancestral similarity

b. Evolution of a wiki (TED talk)

III. The Greater World (move to II-1?)

1. Universal truths and concepts

a. Duality (and lack thereof)

b. Infinity

c. Humanity

i. Time-Space (dimensionality)

ii. Murphy’s Law

iii. Golden Rule


2. The System (dogs will eat dogs)

a. Business as usual

i. Value (supply, demand, originality, )

  • Intrinsic
  • Artificial
  • Badge (cultural)

ii. Self-preservation

  • Intellectual property & copyright

iii. Wealth

  • Distribution (inequality)
  • Accumulation
  • Use

b. Politics as usual

c. The truth: not so usual (what they don’t want you to know)

i. Happiness comes from within

ii. Psychedelics

3. The Path

a. The search for truth (and our place)

b. A higher self

c. The roses (stop and smell; the beauty all around)


Notable authors, books, quotes, content & sources



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