A First Principles Life


The two books that helped me better understand first principles and what that actually means in my life.

These words don't teach
They provoke

The learning and inspiration
Is up to you

- adii (in Motion)

Today I am a very different - and I believe, better - version of myself than I was three years ago. Some of that is down to growth and evolution. There is also a big component of the change which was due to an expansion of perspective and an exploration of first-principle thinking.

In my heart and mind, first principles are those discoveries that become cornerstone truths in one's life. The kind of idea, concept or truth that you can't unsee or ignore once it has revealed itself.

My exploration of these truths, principles and principles was neither academic nor scientific; it was more haphazard and serendipitous as I wandered through new realms of the universe with curiosity. The only part of the journey for which I would claim credit is the fact that I showed up, explored and considered new ideas even when they didn't necessarily gel with what I knew before. Most often though, I found the things that only accelerated my journey down various paths.

Reflecting about my journey as well as some of the more significant truths and principles I hold dearly today, there are two books that gave me a new vocabulary to talk about myself and the world within which I am being me:

The narrative in both books seems to interweave effortlessly in my experience and perspective of the world.

"For what is prayer but the expansion of your self into the living ether?"
- Kahlil Gibran (The Prophet)

On the surface The Prophet seems to represent a religious dogma of sorts. What I found instead is something that reads like religious prose, yet has no denomination and a certain openness, which communicate an universality. Not confined to a single modality, race, society or era. But something that was still true and valuable today. And a strong reminder that we are all - consciously or unconsciously - part of something bigger; something beyond ourselves (body and mind).

If I consider that universality and connectedness as a first principle, it interplayed beautifully with Siddartha's journey of discovering himself.

Immediately after finishing Siddartha, I wrote this as part of some stream of consciousness writing:

Every person has their journey. Often that journey involves many wrong turns, pursuits of desires and fleeting experiences of the indulgence of worldly pleasures. This is probably exactly how we “find” ourselves; once we have exhausted all obvious ways to find ourselves, we come to the truth which was always present: when we stop seeking, we will find.

I love the idea that we are connected and part of an universal truth by taking our own journeys and exploring ourselves. Doing so is why we also share journeys (where our individual journeys) and ourselves with those individuals that are most significant in our lives. When we do that, it likely amplifies our experience of the moment (good and bad, happiness and heartbreak) without isolating us from the greater universality that still exists in conjunction with that isolated moment and our individual experience. A healthy tension between self and other. Me and you.

I hope that I have communicated this philosophically and poetically until now, because both those constructs are things that serves the journey that I am on right now. 😊

Beyond making an intellectual argument for greater first principle thinking or an evocative plea for more philosophy in your life, I'd rather conclude by giving you an actual-world example of how this has manifested in my life.

I own my experience of life and every day, I have the opportunity to make decisions about what that experience will be. Things will happen around me and to me, but it doesn't have to penetrate my experience. Instead it should always a prompt a deeper journey into myself, asking why? more often than it merely accepts the easily accessible answer on offer.

When I make sense of myself in this world, I am calm and I am being the best version of me. Only when I am being the best, most truthful version of self, can I truly give credence to the people and things I value most in my life.

When I am my best self, I am a better partner and spouse, a better dad, a better team leader, a better friend and a better artist. I am also a source of more of a better energy in this world; a node that helps connects more dots on the spectrum and contributes to a greater good.

That journey is never in isolation. It always has two sides and a healthy tension in-between that keeps everything honest and truthful.

Self and other. Me and you.