The Buttons for the User Interface of Reality
Become an author of your reality by stacking your talents, affirming yourself, sparking curiosity, injecting novelty, painting contrast and keeping it simple simple simple.
Hello friend. Imagine having an Xbox controller you could point at the world. Push buttons and make things happen.
How fun? I want one. I'd use it to make girls like me, make dollars appear in my bank account.
I tried it with my 3-year-old neighbour once. Pointed my Xbox controller at him. He played along, moved up and down, it almost felt like it worked.
Turns out you don’t even need a controller.
All you need is to understand the brain is an information blocker more than an information receiver. Think about it. In any given moment there’s far too much going on for us to comprehend.
So what do we do?
We simplify. We makes things easy. We’ve developed thought patterns over generations to help our grey matter deal with reality.
And if you’re aware of these patterns, you’re one step closer to controlling your reality.
What you’re about to read is inspired by the work of Scott Adams, digested and regurgitated in my own words, a remix. He’s a trained hypnotist.
Frame as a filter
The most important button to start authoring your reality.
When you look at the world, an event, someone you love, someone you dislike, what are the first thoughts which come to your mind?
Whatever these first thoughts are, there’s a high chance their not exactly what’s happening. The actual events have passed through your filter. You’ve turned them into a story which fits your worldview.
Don’t worry, we all do this. I’m doing it now with Scott’s work. And you’re doing it now reading these lines.
So when you hear the idea of being able to control your reality, what you’re really controlling is your filter on reality.
But if I’m not changing reality, only my filter on reality, am I really controlling reality?
Ah, good question. Remember though, you cannot interpret reality exactly how it is, there’s too much going on. Better to author your filter, your frame of view.
Your frame of reality and reality itself are separate things. But if your entire understanding of reality is based on your frame, is it not a good idea to change it to better suit you?
Systems work better than goals
In 2012, a friend and I told ourselves we were going to learn to code, build a social media app called Appventure to show off all the adventures we were having and ride the tailwinds of society all the way to the front seat of the megayatchs we were going to buy.
Neither of us learned to code, never built an app, nor own a megayatch.
It wasn’t until 5-years later, I decided to give coding another go.
Instead of a goal, all I wrote down was 4-hours per day, 4-hours per day reading code, writing code. That’s it.
I followed it. Some days were hell, felt like I hadn’t learned a thing. But I kept going.
Nine months in, the laws of compound interest kicked in. I got offered a job at a tech company, said yes, worked there for a year, improved my coding skills, adhering to same system: 4-hours per day.
The app, the megayatch, both goals, things I can’t control. Four hours per day is a system, something I can control.
The same goes for health and fitness. You often hear goals of losing 15kg in 3-months. And then at the end of the third month, the person who’s lost 14kg is disappointed with their efforts. Better to develop the system of moving and eating well every day.
When it comes to authoring your reality, set the system up so you always win.
Face it. You’re probably not the best in the world at any one thing. And if you are, why are you reading this? Go and do your thing.
You can create your own personal monopoly by stacking your talents. Like an engineer who can write and talk in front of camera (hi).
When you combine the things you’re most curious about, you’ve got a much higher chance of being the best in the world at the crossover.
Some skills go with anything. Writing, speaking. History isn’t decided by the best ideas, more so whoever can tell the best story. If you’ve got a story worth telling, but can’t tell it, do you really have a story?
At the end of every journal entry, I write down a few things.
I love women.
I love beauty.
I, Daniel Bourke, am a writer.
I, Daniel Bourke, am a creator.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.
Sometimes they change. It depends on what I want to believe.
Women are beautiful and their aura gives me energy.
Beauty is truth, is it not?
There are enough voices out there telling you who you should be. Affirmations give you a chance to decide yourself.
Another one is when I wake up, I tell myself, I feel f*cking amazing. Even if I don’t.
Does it work? It feels like it does. And if it feels like it works, keep doing it.
Note: Let me be clear, affirmations & beliefs mean nothing if they don’t map to actions. Consider affirmations the catalyst for lining up your beliefs with your actions.
The mating instinct
On my morning walk I decided to go left instead of right. Why? Because I thought there’d be more girls.
Almost everything you do can be traced back to the mating instinct.
Oh, I don’t do that.
You think you can overcome millions of years of your DNA screaming at you to replicate itself?
Of course, this is higher or lower depending if you’re in a relationship or not. I, a single man, may put more effort into the searching of a mate than a man in a relationship.
However, a man in a relationship still acts with the mating instinct in mind. Providing a nice home, preparing a life for his future or current children.
Most would trade a lot for freedom. And generally, when they think of freedom, they think of freedom of choice, being able to decide what you want to do, when you want to do it.
But freedom of choice is often confused with freedom from choice.
Modern marketing has made this clear. People don’t want to make more decisions on what to buy, they want less options but better options.
When you walk into an Apple Store to buy a new phone, you’ve got two choices: big or small. And both of them are good.
Modernity has introduced the common practice of people filling their time, sustaining a busy lifestyle at all costs. They do this because it limits the amount of choices they have to make about what to do with their time.
Freedom of choice is paralysing. Too many options leads to no options. Freedom from choice is liberating, it takes the pressure off. Realising this leads to the paradox of freeing yourself through constraint.
A child will look under rocks for sea creatures until their hands start to bleed. Even then, they often don’t stop on their own. It’s not until a parent decides it’s time to go home (or they get bored and decide to fill their brothers pants with sand).
The best teachers barely teach any material, instead they spark in their students a curiosity of the world, a curiosity for life (perhaps the most important skill of all).
Socrates was known for not telling anyone anything. And would walk around asking them questions until they stumbled upon the answers themselves. A process which led to the foundations of Western thinking.
Effort is the canoe rider with a paddle, curiosity fills your sails with wind.
A trick for committing something to memory: make it novel.
Remember that Monday you cancelled your plans and went to the beach with a pretty girl?
Or the Monday you went about things how you’d usually go about things?
A little surprise seers itself into your brain far more than something you’ve done hundreds or thousands of times.
In quiet moments with family and friends, sitting around the dinner table, at cafes, I’ve noticed all we talk about are memories. Events where we were experiencing novelty. Telling stories beginning with “Remember when...”
So a question I’ve been asking myself of late is: “What path is going to give me the best memories?”
Of course, impossible to answer, who knows what surprise might reveal itself and when (nor do I want to know, that’s the fun part) but with novelty in mind, you can always increase their chances of happening.
The saying goes “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Its opposite is less common.
"Comparison is the giver of joy"
You can compare yourself to others or where you want to be and feel unfavourably about it and feel your joy stolen.
Or you can compare yourself to others or where you want to be and where you have been and feel an immense joy.
Contrast can be used to encourage someone to improve themselves.
When asked “don’t you wanna be a better version of yourself?”, how many would answer no? (this question also triggers aspiration, another powerful button)
And if you can use contrast to encourage someone to improve themselves, you can do the same with yourself.
Repetition & simplicity
Someone wiser than me told me wisdom is realising health and youth are finite. And I believed them. After I thought about it, I realised, it’s simple, those are the fundamentals.
Branch out if you like. But the smartest people I know master the fundamentals and rebuild the world from the ground up.
There’s beauty in simplicity. Chiseling something down to its essence. Simplicity takes the pressure off. It allows you to concentrate all of your efforts on one thing. And once you’ve got that one thing, repeat it until it reduces you to ashes.
The best writers say difficult things in simple ways, the best painters reveal their ideas with less brushstrokes. For movement and keeping the body loose, the one who moves regularly wins.
The fake because
Take any topic, even the ones we’ve discussed. And you’ll find smart people arguing for all sides. Nutrition, politics, physics, climate change.
Multiple smart people disagreeing on something shows the lack of need for a logical reason.
You don’t need a logical reason, try just saying “because”.
Can you make it to the meeting tomorrow?
When I worked at Apple, I used to love dealing with the impatient customers. The ones who walked in with a head full of steam, spewing fire on anyone who came near them.
Perhaps their feelings were valid, they may have just found out they’ve got cancer or a their dog requires a $12,000 surgery.
I didn’t. But I just assume at any given time, everyone has something deep going on.
I’d stroll over. Say hello. Ask them how they’re going. Even though their mood painted the space around them. All I’d do was hear them out. Listen. Present my ears and eyes on a platter.
And after doing this hundreds of times, I discovered the best way to slay a dragon is to kill it with kindness. To turn the conversation on themselves. Fire cannot burn itself.
My demeanour spoke to them, said “hey, c’mon we’re in this together, let’s figure it out” without saying it. And they’d notice and start to match my pace. Their head of steam began to cool.
To steer a situation in your favour, set the pace. And if it doesn’t work, leave.
When the new mayor got elected, her first move was to fix every broken window the city.
Have you ever driven through a town and noticed a bunch of broken windows?
It doesn’t give you a good vibe about the place.
Operation no broken windows set out to fix this. The mayor knew the association between broken windows and rough towns. Not in her city.
Be careful what you get associated with. You’ve seen the pictures of someone standing with someone they shouldn’t. You’ve experienced the bad taste of news websites littered with advertisements.
Association is the subconscious way of saying “people like us do things like this.”
When 22 Jump Street came out, my friends and I stole a cardboard cut out of Channing Tatum from the cinema (tacky I know, we should’ve got Jonah Hill). Cardboard Tatum lived in my robe for six months. Despite knowing this, I’d still walk in late at night and think someone was running towards me.
Pattern recognition is what makes you a racist, a sexist, an ageist. It’s efficient.
If you’ve met four people from Australia and they’ve all been drunken train wrecks, you’re going to start thinking people from Australia are drunken train wrecks (this happened to me in Japan).
Pattern recognition is what made me think Cardboard Tatum wanted to rob me of my boxer shorts.
Knowing about pattern recognition allows you to use patterns as tools. If you’re consistent with something, people will think of you like that (repetition & simplicity).
If you’re always late, your friends will assume you’ll be late and may start giving you times to meet with an hour redundancy built-in. Or just stop inviting you places at all.
If you want to be seen as an artist, create.
If you want to be seen as someone who takes care of their health, tell others you’re taking care of your health.
Humans are so talented they can imagine the future. However, it’s this same talent which cripples them with a perpetual anxiety about how they should live their lives.
Your ability to visualise brings together all of the other buttons. It’s your imagination running wild in the quiet moments before you go to sleep.
These visualisations influence you the most. So you better flavour them well...
Have you ever listened to sad music and felt sad?
Or spent time with an energy suck of a person and thought, oh gosh, I hope this doesn’t go on for long.
What you eat, the information you read, the people you hang around, the activities you participate in. All of them contribute to the movie running in your head.
Protect yourself by remembering it’s easier to be influenced than it is to influence. Consume junk, become junk. Junk information, junk food—these are the modern war: a battle against mediocrity.
Close your eyes, block your ears, cover your mouth. See no junk, hear no junk, eat no junk.
What you’ve just read will change you forever. And you might not notice it for a while but it has.
You’ll start to look at the world with different eyes. Events which take place will pass through your filters. The world hasn’t changed but the way you see it has.
Perhaps you set up a system to lose weight, learn a new skill through simplicity and repetition which subsequently gives you freedom because now you’ve got less choices to make. Or perhaps you teach someone something not by telling them but by sparking a curiosity in them.
History is being written down. Don’t sit back and wait to read it. Be an author. Press the buttons.
Much of this post was inspired by the writing and words of Scott Adams as well as the musical talents of Akira the Don:
- [Video] Scott Adams + Akira the Don — The User Interface for Reality
- [Video] Episode 924: Learn the User Interface for Reality by Scott Adams
- [Book] Loserthink by Scott Adams — a diverse look at the different kinds of thinking by people of different background (e.g. how an engineer thinks versus how an artist thinks)
This post was originally an issue of Eat, Move, Learn, Make (my newsletter). Sign up for updates like this delivered straight to your inbox.