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Hey, I’m Conor. I’m a data scientist and writer living and working in New York.


The Single-Player Mindset

Photo by  Andrew Neel  on  Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

It really isn’t, and neither will any other talks, books, or gurus out there. This is a tough pill to swallow. But the more I think about things, the more I’m learning to like it this way. Let me explain.

This post was originally inspired by a well-known quote from AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant on The Knowledge Project. In the podcast, he states that “life is a single-player game” and that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with external stuff when it comes to seeking happiness.

This is spot on, but I think there’s more to it. Let’s take this idea and expand on it with the help of our friend, Anthony de Mello and one of his many fantastic books, The Way to Love.

Where formulas go wrong

Most things in life can be taught. From riding a bike to launching a cherry red sports car into space. You can use formulas provided by teachers to effectively understand and perform these tasks. Sure there might be a lot of practice involved, but the point is that mastery of the topic can be transferred from them to you using some medium.

Where things go wrong, is when we try to apply these formulas to the stuff that really matters: love, life, purpose, happiness, meaning, relationships — I think you get the picture.

This seems obvious, but we make this mistake quite often. How many times have you sought out a self-help book, article, or talk in the hopes that it will have all the answers? How many times have you gone seeking advice on life or relationships from those that you trust?

We constantly do this, despite the fact that nobody can help you reallyunderstand these things. All they can do is provide you with formulas that worked for them. Sure, you can take these formulas and adapt them for yourself, but take caution here. As soon as you do, you’re accepting an unconscious agreement to see the world through their lens.

“All they can do is give you formulas. And as soon as you have a formula, you have reality filtered through the mind of someone else. If you take those formulas you will be imprisoned.” — Anthony de Mello

The single-player mindset

This isn’t to say that all advice is bad or that you shouldn’t seek out help in understanding the world. Teachers will be able to provide you with guidance on your journey. They can point you in the right direction and help you identify flaws in your mental model, but it stops there. At the end of the day, the hard stuff has to be self-taught. It’s a single-player journey.

“Even though you are surrounded by people, you are truly and utterly alone. What an awesome solitude!” — Anthony de Mello

As human beings, we are always alone to some extent. Nobody else is experiencing life in the exact same way that you are. Even the things that we know to be true have been shaped by a million different factors, some from nature, others nurture. We are all separate in this way.

Embracing this reality is uncomfortable, but it’s essential. Formulas won’t take you all the way there. Teachers won’t either. They won’t make you happy, help you find love, or give you purpose in life. It’s up to you to be your own student and teacher. It’s hard, I haven’t figured it out, but it’s also kind of beautiful.

“So put your books and formulas aside; dare to abandon your teacher whoever your teacher may be and see things for yourself.” — Anthony de Mello

And besides, how boring would life be if this wasn’t the case? If we were all so similar that deeper understanding could be passed around via formula? Sure, that would be easier. But I imagine we would take it for granted. I think I like this way better. The single-player way.

Conor Dewey