All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White
One of my favorite minds is that of Derek Sivers, of CD Baby, TED, Tim Ferriss, and philosopreneur fame.
He has a way of cutting to the heart center of things, making a point in the most concise manner imaginable.
If you’ve been following this blog, you may realize this is not my style. It might be nice if it were, but I wonder if the way we write is simply one of those things like handwriting—it’s changeable, but if it’s forced, is the changed thing really ours?
Derek’s style inspires me. I’ve never known someone with such a knack for both prolific creation and succinct distillation of their ideas and philosophy.
With that said, in my most recent post, I didn’t feel like I adequately expressed my intent, so I asked Derek to show me how he would have done it.His rework is amazing and enlightening. I’ll refrain from saying it’s “better,” because maybe there is no better or worse. But it does seem more connectable. And that’s what I’m trying to do here: connect with you. So would someone write a computer program for an automatic Derek-Distillation-izer?
It’s not just because of the way he thinks that he has a following, but because he is able to relate his thoughts so clearly. So, without further ado and with Derek’s permission, I am posting below his rework of my last post.
All Those Natural Colors Between Black and White
by Derek Sivers
We tend to think in black-or-white: putting all actions, things, or thoughts into a binary good-or-bad category.
It simplifies. It helps make quick decisions, though not good decisions. It over-simplifies.
It starts in school, when we’re praised for doing good or bad, passing or failing, praise or condemnation.
It continues in the working world, where the only time we hear feedback on our work is when we do extremely well or badly.
But what about all those times when we’re just chugging along, doing our work, doing okay?
And forget work, what about relationships? Are we often over-simplifying our friendships and romances into “it’s going great” or “it’s not going great, therefore it’s going bad”!
But life is a continuum. All of the wonderful colors of the world exist in that spectrum between black and white.
If you notice your natural thoughts, they’re all over the place, nuanced, conflicting and co-existing, without needing to be pushed into a good or bad box.
When we leave the school and corporate world and become self-directed, we need to deliberately stop the black-or-white tendency.
If our work is making progress, but not finished yet, we don’t need to kick ourselves. If our relationships are normal and healthy, we we don’t need to create drama that pushes it into good or bad.
We need to be okay with things being okay, and enjoy all those natural colors between black and white.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment!
And if you don’t know who Derek is, do yourself a favor and check out his book, Anything You Want, or his chapter in Tim Ferriss’ book, Tribe of Mentors.
This may seem a tad dry at first, but stay with me.
Black-and-white thinking, otherwise known and as all-or-nothing thinking, is a type of cognitive dissonance popularized by Dr. David Burns of Stanford, a cognitive therapist from back in the 80s. Burns was Dr. Aaron Beck’s protégé, a psychiatrist from Yale and founder of cognitive therapy, but Beck wasn’t really as good at selling books. If you watch their videos, it’s easy to tell why. Beck argued each of us garners certain core beliefs in our life that define us. True or not, it doesn’t matter, so long as we believe it, but there are so many variables, each person’s strategy to introspection is different.
Here Beck describes our cognitive constellations and how they differ person to person (see why now):
Here’s Burns on a TEDx (much more appealing). He has tons of books. He’s better at talking than the other guy too:
Here is a pdf of cognitive distortions and their remedies, black-and-white thinking being the first one. They are from one of Burns’ books:
This is a lot, but hopefully it will be enough for you to chew on for a bit. Personally, cognitive therapy has completely changed my life. It takes discipline to stop yourself during the middle of a crisis to try to jot down a list of possible cognitive dissonances, but it can completely flip your world and turn those stormy eyes blue again. No one can define you better than yourself since you have access to the most information, but unlocking what that information entails can be vague and possibly contrived (for better or worse).
Once you’re proficient enough, you may even wish to learn the dark ways and fool yourself into believing inconceivable falsehoods in order to unlock secret powers, but stepping stones. (You have to be good at partitioning for that, but actors generally are)
Thanks for the info! Fascinating. I’ve been doing what I and a lot of pagans call “shadow work”. Involves a lot of reframing after digging super deep and confronting all those things that keep us back/try to “protect” us. It’s a bit exhausting and scary at times but endlessly fascinating and liberating.
It’s scary stuff! I’ve been doing something that I think sounds very similar: Making a list of all my resentments (EVER!) and then writing 1. What happened 2. How I felt threatened 3. What part I played 4. What I could’ve done differently.
It’s enlightening to see patterns emerge and makes me feel simultaneously hopeful and afraid. I feel like I’m just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the powers of reframing.
You also reminded me of a book called “The Dark Side of the Light Chasers” that deals with reframing in a big way. Suuuch a good read. Thanks for the comment!