In the first part of this two-part book summary series of Transcend by Scott Barry Kaufman, we dove into Kaufman's revised sailboat metaphor for Maslow's Hierarchy of needs to describe the process of transcendence.
We emphasized that in modern-day society, we are experiencing a meaning crisis.
If you didn't read the first part, read it here. In part 2, we are going to explore how we can integrate the deficiency and growth needs together to transcend the self and begin helping others self-actualize. We will do this by exploring the following:
- Chapter 4: Exploration
- Chapter 5: Love
- Chapter 6: Purpose
- Chapter 7: Peak Experiences
- Chapter 8 Theory Z: Toward the Farther Reaches of Human Nature
Remember, these growth needs encapsulate the sail in the sailboat metaphor proposed by Kaufman.
The foundation of a boat determines its strength amidst hard waves, which showcases how fulfilling deficiency needs helps prepare people for storms that will inevitably come in life. The growth needs on the sail symbolize how the more we work toward our growth needs, the more effectively we can sail through life. But it also represents the danger and vulnerability in opening our sails and working on growth needs, as doing so puts us at the will of unpredictable wind. Showcasing this as a sailboat rather than a pyramid shows how we can work on these needs simultaneously rather than in a linear video game-like fashion. It also emphasizes how our whole self must integrate to self-actualize and transcend because a sailboat must work together to sail well.
Let's start this second part by exploring the growth needs Kaufmann describes in his book!
"There seems to be no intrinsic reason why everyone shouldn't be this way [self-actualizing]. Apparently, every baby has possibilities for self-actualization, but most all of them get it knocked out of them. . . . I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away" (Kaufman, S.B. 2020, p. 87).
Humans have a fundamental need to grow. You can see this in the everyday language of our culture. Realize your potential, grow your skills, and build your connections. Stagnation is death.
Aristotle believed humans' greatest purpose was growing to their potential by fostering the greatest character possible and realizing their rational capabilities above that of animals.
This need for growth is encapsulated in the three aspects of growth we will now dive into: Exploration Love Purpose.
Chapter 4: Exploration
The growth need of exploration encompasses everything that has to do with exploring new environments, people, feelings, or ideas.
According to Kaufman, we have five sub-needs that comprise exploration:
- Social exploration
- Posttraumatic growth
- Openness to experience
All these forms of exploration are dangerous as they open you up to failure. But interestingly, it's often in our periods of greatest suffering where we grow the most.
As Viktor Frankl describes in his seminal book, Man's Search For Meaning, "suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning." Viktor Frankl had this insight while living in the Nazi concentration camps and noticed that those who kept their composure learned to create meaning out of the suffering they were experiencing. I experienced this insight myself when going through my anabolic dieting journey during the Covid-19 pandemic. I thought I needed to lose 30 pounds, so I forced myself to eat high protein, high, volume foods to artificially stuff myself so I wouldn't eat too much. This made me suffer because I couldn't eat all the delicious food I wanted to, I was still hungry, and my relationships were annoyed I could never eat anything they made.
But I created meaning out of the experience by making a new dieting plan that I could stick to for life and learning to be more flexible with my eating.
By creating meaning, I turned the suffering into a growth experience.
Another quote from the book really stuck out to me is "Creative self-actualizers are capable of transcending the ordinary dichotomy between the intelligence of the mind and the wisdom of the heart" (Kaufman, S.B. 2020, p. 117).
This reminds me of a central concept from The Social Animal by David Brooks, which is that emotion and reason are not mutually exclusive. Humans need a balance of emotions and objective reasoning to make decisions, as without emotions, we would become overwhelmed by the practically infinite amount of data to process in our environment. Healthy exploring involves the ability to be confident in one's beliefs while at the same time being willing to change them with sufficient evidence. Reason and emotion don't have to be mutually exclusive; they can interact with each other in profound ways.
In other words, a transcending of the ordinary dichotomy between the intelligence of the mind and the wisdom of the heart.
How To Foster Exploration
The single best thing you can do to foster exploration is to build intrinsic motivation for learning.
In college, you are encouraged to learn so you can get a good grade on the text; motivation is predominantly extrinsic. But if we want to become true explorers to the level of Lewis and Clark, we need to learn to love learning for learning's sake.
Chapter 5: Love
The growth need of love describes how humans need to feel loved and give love.
Love has become quite the buzzword in popular culture because people use it to describe way too many things. So for our purposes, Maslow differentiated between two different types of love, D-love (deficiency love) and B-love (love for the being of another person). D-love is primarily motivated by reciprocation; you show love but only if someone returns it. In B-love, however, you show love even if the other person doesn't. B-love is built on the idea that love is an action rather than a feeling. Even if you don't feel love for someone else, you show love because they are a fellow human being.
B-love grows over time and paradoxically fulfills what D-love is striving to do.
As Yalom points out, "Love is not a specific encounter but an attitude. A problem of not-being-loved is more often than not a problem of not loving." (Yalom, Existential psychotherapy, p. 377).
B-love is crucial for the politically polarized American climate we live in today.
As described in The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt, Democrats and Republicans are currently fueled more by a hatred for the other party than by a love for their own parties ideals. This makes it difficult to practice genuine productive discussion because neither side gives the other side room to voice their opinions. When you practice B-love, however, you not only open other sides up to speak their mind about things but also give them space to change. As the saying goes a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.
The only way to change someone's mind is to have them change it themselves.
Ultimately, B-love has the potential to fulfill the goal Christakis writes about it in his seminal book Blueprint: Spreading your in-group outward to all of humanity.
Ooh ooh ah ah! Eek eek! Sorry, I was just imitating a monkey because I thought it was funny. But the real reason was to exemplify that while we all have different beliefs, backgrounds, genetics, etc., we are all unified because we evolved from monkeys and can bond over our shared humanity. Humans have evolved from tribal times to separate themselves into groups and bias towards liking and agreeing with the groups they are a part of. Often this means not showing love for those outside the group until given a good reason to. This tendency, while often good, facilitates many horrific acts like those seen in Nazi Germany against the Jews.
B-love allows us to benefit from my side bias while avoiding the main negatives.
Firstly, we still have a slight bias towards our own group, whether friends, family, etc. But we also show love toward our outgroup as a baseline unless they don't deserve it for some reason. By showing love to those even outside of our in-group, we expand our in-group to all of humanity, making the world a much kinder place and opening up discussion between groups.
I won't lie.
Showing love to someone with beliefs you disagree with is hard. That's why Kaufman explains that B-lovers all have four tendencies that practice a quiet ego:
- Detached Awareness: Those with a quiet ego have engaged, nondefensive attention to the present moment, which is important for understanding and being comfortable with oneself.
- Inclusive Identity: People with a quiet ego have a balanced interpretation of the self and others, promoting integration. They don't tend to separate humans into rigid groups as readily but rather see humanity as one big group striving toward the same goals.
- Perspective-Taking: The quiet ego allows for reflection on other viewpoints, increasing empathy and compassion.
- Growth-Mindedness: The quiet ego is open to growth and personal development.
We can think of the ego as a shapeshifting chameleon, camouflaging itself amidst the intricate tapestry of our thoughts and actions, weaving illusions of separateness and self-importance, ever vigilant in its quest for self-preservation.
B-lovers learn to spot this chameleon and work towards taming it with the four things above. Give it some cherries, some nice plants, and maybe even a little house to sit on.
WHO'S A GOOD GIRL!
How Do You Get More Into The B-Realm?
- Sample things.
- Fight familiarization. Do novel things that step you out of your comfort zone.
- Cultivate a quiet ego through meditation, yoga, breathing, exercising, and journaling.
- Daydream. Have a time when you do nothing.
- Embrace your past.
- Ask yourself what this situation would look like to a child or to an old person without the same ambition as when you were younger.
- Engage in experimental philanthropy. If you can't be good for yourself, be good for someone else.
- Stop taking yourself so seriously. Be more playful.
- If you find yourself being arrogant or egotistical, think of mortality. Is this what you want to be known for on your death?
Chapter 6: Purpose
"Self-actualizing people are, without one single exception, involved in a cause outside their own skin, in something outside of themselves. They are devoted, working at something, something which is very precious to them—some calling or vocation in the old sense. They are working at something which fate has called them to somehow and which they work at and which they love, so that the work-joy dichotomy in them disappears."—Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971)
Purpose is the deeper reason or meaning behind why you do the things that you do.
Purpose goes above happiness, if by happiness you mean a feeling of contentment, positive emotion, and lack of pain. Often pursuing your purpose makes you happy, but many exceptions exist. However, nobody who commits to their purpose path ends up regretting it afterward.
Paradoxically it's often the most challenging moments that we reflect upon with the most meaning and joy.
Perhaps the definition of happiness should be changed to feeling real emotions over real problems and tasks.
Inside of purpose there is a differentiation made in both The Road To Character and Man's Search For Meaning between job, career, passion, and vocation:
- A job is something that you don't necessarily enjoy, but you do because you need it to survive.
- A career is a flow of jobs you follow because you have the hopes that a job later in the career path interests you.
- A passion is something you do out of the intrinsic joy of doing the thing in itself but doesn't necessarily combine with a greater purpose.
- A vocation is something you do with deep purpose, not necessarily because it helps you survive or even because you find joy in it, but because you feel called by life to do it.
Self-actualizing people are much more likely to describe their work as a vocation than anything else.
For example, in The Road To Character, when Dorothy Day, a deeply self-actualized person, was asked why she cared so much about helping the poor and downtrodden, she responded "I just do." But this isn't the way most people describe their work. Most people describe their work as something they must do; they don't feel it aligns with their purpose.
One plausible reason among many is over the last few decades, there has been a large increase in what Daniel H. Pink describes in his book, Drive, as heuristic work. Heuristic work doesn't have a clear process, system, or outcome for doing it. Think knowledge work, writers, AI researchers, and more.
Heuristic work is very different from the algorithmic work more common during the industrial revolution.
However, despite living in the digital age, modern society still largely functions on the old system of motivating workers, Motivation 2.0.
Motivation 2.0 sees workers like Donkey believing they are motivated mostly by rewards and punishments. This is especially prevalent in the school system of today. Most schools are still built on an industrial era model with grades being the primary motivator and metric of success. The problem is that grades primarily motivate people through extrinsic rather than intrinsic rewards. Why learn for the sake of learning if you just want the best grade on the test?
Motivation 3.0, however, promotes giving workers autonomy, mastery, and purpose, which is more apt to today's work environment. This is because this style of motivation develops in workers' intrinsic motivation, the motivation needed to do well with heuristic work.
Lack of purpose might come from living in a society dominated by heuristic work but with a motivation system not meant to promote it.
How Can We Uncover Our Motivations And Foster Purpose?
The classic Socrates quote goes, "Know Thyself."
This quote exemplifies the importance of understanding who you are as a person. Not just your beliefs or interests but your values, role models, and important relationships. Why do you do the things you do? Understanding who you are makes it easier to flesh out your purpose.
You don't have to find your true purpose from the start.
As Cal Newport emphasizes in So Good They Can't Ignore You, the popular advice to follow your passion is horrible. Passions are rarely inherent. Usually, they foster with continual time and effort. There is no way to skip the hard work of digging deep into yourself to find your purpose. It requires continual testing, pivoting, and testing again. Finding our purpose is more like peeling an onion.
It takes time and effort and a lot of struggle along the way.
But we get stronger while doing so--like Shrek up above.
I didn't know I would enjoy content creation as much as I do now. When I first started in March of 2021 during Covid-19, I was a Junior in High School and didn't much enjoy it for the first few months. It was only after I took the Part-Time YouTuber Academy by Ali Abdaal and got what I would hope to call decent at content creation that I began to enjoy it much more. As I got better and better at content creation, I became more passionate about it.
I peeled the onion.
During his research, Kaufman realized that there were times when people could glimpse what it was like to transcend.
They had what Maslow called a peak experience.
Kaufman realized that while peak experiences won't make us transcend, they can help us on the path to transcendence.
Here are some of the most common areas we can have a peak experience:
- During flow
- The feeling of awe
- Taking psychedelics
Here are some of the characteristics of peak experiences:
- Complete absorption
- Richer perception
- Disorientation in physical time and space
- Intrinsic reward of the experience
- Ego transcendence
- Dichotomy transcendence
- Momentary loss of fears, anxieties, and inhibitions
- Greater acceptance and forgiveness of oneself and others
- Heightened aestheticism, wonder, awe, and surrender
- Fusion of the person and the world
Peak experiences are fundamental to how we have come as far as we have today. According to John Vervaeke in his lecture series, Awakening From The Meaning Crisis, shamans were the tribal equivalent of the spiritual gurus of today. They broke our normal frames and patterning of the world by facilitating healthy psychedelic experiences. In other words, religion, scientific thought, and more could all be results spurred initially by the thinking brought about by psychedelic experiences.
In our contemporary culture, some people give psychedelics a bad rep because they treat them as synonymous with drugs like Cocaine and Heroin. But as is explained in Michael Pollans Your Mind On Plants, psychedelics have the potential to help us get glimpses of what it is like to transcend the ego. If used in the right way.
Psychedelics don't alter us by changing our beliefs.
They change us by altering how we perceive reality.
I'm not saying you pause this video and do some mushrooms. I'm pointing to the power psychedelics can have. However, if you do want to become Mario for a day, then you should always consider taking psychedelics in a community practice that has grown to help make meaning of the experiences.
Peak experiences ARE NOT the same as transcendence.
As Kaufman quotes Maslow, during peak experiences, "For the time they become self-actualizes," he wrote, "not only are these [they're] happiest and most thrilling moments, but they are also moments of greatest maturity, individuation, fulfillment—in a word, [they're] healthiest moments." What really distinguishes self-actualizing people, Maslow argued, is that peak experiences come much more frequently and intensely. "This makes self-actualization a matter of degree and of frequency rather than an all-or-none affair, and thereby makes it more amenable to available research procedures." In other words, self-actualization and eventually transcendence isn't a state that is reached and then relaxed inside.
It's a continual process of forgetting and remembering, veering back onto the path when the world pulls people back to their ego desires.
CHAPTER 8 Theory Z: Toward the Farther Reaches of Human Nature
According to Kaufman, "Healthy transcendence is an emergent phenomenon resulting from the harmonious integration of one's whole self in the service of cultivating the good society" (Kaufman, S.B. 2020, p. 217).
Like the Stoic Sage, healthy transcendence isn't an ideal we can reach and stay inside. It's a guiding light to look towards. We can realize it more and more by cultivating good habits, rituals, and routines that ensure we REMEMBER how to act towards our highest potential when we stumble off the path.
Transcendence is very similar to modern psychological research on wisdom.
As Kaufman describes, "Wisdom is often conceptualized in the psychological literature as involving an integration among cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions. This includes the ability to accept multiple perspectives, to respond nondefensively when challenged, to express a wide array of emotions to derive meaning, to evaluate human truths critically, and to become aware of the uncertain and paradoxical nature of human problems" (Kaufman, S.B. 2020, p. 225). This is why integrating Eastern, Western, and indigenous philosophical notions of self-actualization is possible and necessary for reaching the highest ceilings of human nature. You can learn more by checking out this article by me that explores how I have integrated both Eastern and Western philosophy.
Transcendence is above self-actualization because the person begins to look more toward helping others self-actualize rather than self-actualize themselves. Self-actualization and transcendence aren't at odds with each other but rather harmonious. Once someone has self-actualized, the natural next step is transcendence.
As Kaufman and I emphasize, humans have much more potential than we traditionally give them.
The negativity of the news and the state of the world right now can make it easy to think that humans are evil.
But I believe that humans, at their core, are inherently good. Things can go astray only when we don't adequately meet our deficiency needs. But as we have realized from this book, we don't need to fulfill our deficiency needs to work towards self-actualization.
All it takes is a little help along the way.
We started this two-part series by pointing out the meaning crisis we are experiencing in the modern day. The solution I proposed was to pursue transcendence discussed in Kaufman's book, Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization. You have learned the characteristics of self-actualization inside the deficiency needs of security, connection, and self-esteem and the growth needs of exploration, love, and purpose. You have also learned how you can start integrating these needs in yourself.
Now you can make your first step.
Spread the ideas from this video and the book Transcend.
You can set forth the thoughts that might lead someone to begin the path to transcendence themselves.
Kaufman and I imagine a world in which transcendence is an integrated aspect of culture. Where nuclear families talk regularly about it. Where schools aren't only a place to learn standardized academic material but are also places full of wonder, awe, and self-actualization—as well as hope for humanity. Where businesses aren't focused on consumerism but on helping you transcend.
It all starts with spreading the word.
Here's what I would like to share this week.
📸News From The Channel!
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In this podcast you will learn:
- How PKM is a practice in self awareness
- How to navigate PKM with ADHD
- How Dario uses Logseq to supercharge his life
✍️Latest On De Blog:
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📰Blog Post - Some Thoughts on Becoming Self-Actualized: For self-actualization to succeed over the long term you must create a self-sustaining feedback loop of some sort to keep you on track toward the person you want to become. That's because you won't always feel like taking the actions that will help you pursue self-actualization. But by instilling habits and routines, you can regularly remind yourself of who you want to become to keep you on path.
📺YouTube Video - What makes things funny Peter McGraw TEDxBoulder: Watched this with my brother who is getting into charisma and stand up comedy with me. This video provides the most encapsulating theory of humor I have ever heard. If you want to be more funny with friends, family, or on stage, this is a must watch.