Humans are social animals, and change is a social phenomenon. In this episode, Ryan and Terry explore the concept of ‘mimetic desire’ to understand the role it plays in the pursuit of what we want and how our wants change us.
What you'll learn:
Ryan: Hey. Hey. Welcome back to the Passive Income Project, Terry, another mighty couple of episodes. How you feeling after those few feeling enlightened.
Terry: Pretty good mate. It was great to be able to chat to some of those folks who have been models for me. They’ve been people that I’ve really admired and respected from afar and learn a lot from, so it was really cool.
Ryan: Nice. And what was your favorite?
Terry: That’s a good question. I think there’s a moment there with BJ Fogg where we talked about understanding how he’s come to his conclusions, uh, with regards to his own behavior and model and what he accepted from his past and also what he rejected and created for himself.
But it was cool to be able to tease that out with him and understand. How he’s been influenced by the culture that he grew up in and then how he’s actually created his own culture in a sense, and innovated and done things differently and brilliantly for himself. I think that was cool.
Ryan: Nice, nice. If I was to share mine, I would say that it would be John d Martini. What an absolute weapon for. I just love that he’s an absolute unit living on a boat with a bunch of billionaires, such rare scenes. But you know, kind of just listening to his story, I probably didn’t understand the context of his story in terms of, I guess the challenges that he faced with learning difficulty and, you know, there’s kind of struggles and stuff that he had early on and now, Yeah, I just gotta look at people that become almost like insane in the amount of output and productivity that they create.
Like his level of focus. He was coming off like a 14 hour day of facilitating a workshop and calls that day, right? And then did that episode and still had energy at that level at 68. Fuck. Imagine being able to do that at 68. I know a lot of 68 year olds that aren’t doing 15, 16 hour days of talking and, you know, sharing energy at that level.
And insight as well, like streams of consciousness in terms of sharing wisdom. So yeah, that was a highlight for me. Huge.
Terry: Do you know what’s even more crazy?
Ryan: No dummy.
Terry: He had two more interviews after mine.
Ryan: Oh God.
Ryan: And here we are doing one episode and then going, fuck. That was a big one.
Terry: We’re gonna build up the stamina mate.
Ryan: I sit down and go, all right, I need a coffee. Jesus. I need, uh, plenty of water. Prime yourself up
Terry: Everything’s gotta be correct.
Terry: He’s like, let’s bang it out, buddy. Here it is. Straight of the conscious. That’s boom.
Ryan: Oh, love it. Love it. Good stuff. And then today what we’re digging into, mate, we’re looking at social dimension of change. So give us a context, Ashley. So we talked about in that intro episode around the different layers that we’re digging into, around motivation and behavior change ultimately, and hacking our money habits.
Where does today’s episode fit in?
Terry: Yeah, so I think with those guys, John Z Martini is very much about, I guess, the catalyst for change and being able to make that decision and sort of say, yes, I’m gonna become a different version of myself. And be able to create that vision for yourself. Whereas Yu Kai Chow, who I had on the last episode, here’s more about how do you actually find, join the journey, and how do you stick to something in a way that you find engaging and compelling?
Whereas BJ Fogg was more about that personal ability side of things where you make things. And near install habits in a much more effective way. So they’re really just the personal dimensions of change. Whereas today we’re gonna be delving into the social dimension of change and really understanding that on a deep, deep level.
Ryan: Nice. Nice. Is an idea or a concept or a theory? I would say, that you and I, we probably feel like we’re relatively self-aware. We kind of spent a bit of time observing ourselves, thinking about what kind of makes us do what we do, and then for us to come across something that made us kind of sit back and go, fuck.
Hang on a second. We’ve missed a lot here in terms of, I guess, what’s dictated what we do and you know, what kind of motivates us to do certain things. So this episode, without a doubt, is kinda the exploration of something we’ve been talking about a lot as of late that has really made us question a lot of things for ourselves and the way we’ve done things in the past.
So I’m excited for this one.
Terry: Yeah, I think it’s a bit like, the Lord of the. You know that one ring , he’s got this ring that everybody wants to get ahold of and it’s an incredibly powerful thing, but it can be really dangerous at the same time you get taken by it. And the reality is a lot of us, if you’re not aware of it, are taken by it.
And we don’t know that it’s having this impact on us. And it does have the capacity to make our lives a lot more frustrating, a lot more confusing, just a little more difficult at the same time, where we’re spending a lot of effort on things and then we don’t actually get what we want from. So for me to.
Come across this. You’re right. It was like a real, like, wow, this is huge. You know, I’ve really tried to understand psychology on a deep level, but nothing really has explained it on this level. And when it comes to personal finance, there is nothing that is talking about how groups influence this. Our own psychology and what we want like this.
But the reality is like world class investors, titans of industry, they understand. Explicitly or implicitly. Right. So Peter Thiel, he was the first investor in Facebook. He’s a guy who ran PayPal. He’s now got a company called Palantir, a billionaire, many times over Charlie Munger. He’s Warren Buffett’s, co-founder of Berkshire Hathaway.
He points to it with this quote, he says, the world’s not driven by greed. It’s driven by envy. And you know, the first time I saw that quote I was like, what’s he talking about? And once we understood this concept and this theory, I was like, I know exactly what he’s talking about now. It’s actually so much depth in that quote that we’re going to unravel today, aren’t we?
Ryan: We are, yeah, we’re gonna round back to it. We probably explore it now, but I think we’re gonna refer back to it cuz once you give context, then you see the difference between greed and envy pretty quickly. Other big examples of this, you know, George Soros famously made a billion dollars in one day by being able to kind of impact people at a societal level and influence a whole market in a certain direction and profit from it more than anybody has in a single day.
Terry: Yeah, like at Moose Markets, it makes trends and on a personal level, it’s gonna be impacting your career choices. It’ll be impacting where you choose to live, how you spend, how you invest, and I just think it’s like, You know, you watch one of those thriller movies, right? And the twist comes at the end, and after you see the Twist, you look at everything that came before very differently.
I think there was that famous movie, the Sixth Sense, and it gets to the end of it and you realize, huh, what I thought was happening isn’t what was happening. And now you go back through the whole movie in your mind you’re like, huh. I look at that completely differently now. And that’s kind of the impact this has on your life, isn’t.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it, that’s for sure. Like you start to observe it, you start to see it within yourself. You start to see it within other people and in circles of people. It’s such a. Awful thing. And what I’ve really picked up on is people that are sleepwalking through life, they get pulled by it very strongly.
But as people become more conscious of this, then people start to decide and, and choose paths very differently. I think just becoming aware of it helps you sidestep the big pitfalls and, you know, use it to consciously create. Powerful personal change. You know, getting the slip stream. Put yourself in environments that help you get the best out of yourself.
You make more conscious decisions around spending and investing. You definitely reduce a lot of that intrapersonal conflicts that can arise around. What do I actually want? Those questions of why you’re kind of getting pulled in different directions and making sense for it for yourself as well.
Interpersonal conflict, like the conflict that you can see between the people that you’re around often, and it’s a classic thing with friendships, you know, especially school friendships where you look at people that you grew up with and conflict starts to arise around who’s achieving what and what that means and what that means for you and you know, where you’re at in terms of life and what you should be achieving and things like that.
Yeah, as I said, as you become more conscious of it, you know, you just end up choosing to. I guess live by inner scorecard more than an external scorecard, which just means you end up living a more meaningful life. Yeah, true it to yourself, truer to the things that genuinely satisfy you and make you fulfilled.
So it’s worth discussing.
Terry: Yeah, look, the big thing for me is you can’t get rid of this and it’s nothing that you can like stop doing, but it will help you understand how you can avoid working really hard. Climbing a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong wall. For me, it’s about how do you step out of the rat race and. How do you live life more on your own terms?
And I love this analogy of Steve Bradbury, right? He won the gold medal and he won the gold medal because everybody else tripped over themselves cuz he ran his own race. He knew what his best race was, he raced his own line and he won a gold medal because of it. So if you wanna be more like Steven Bradbury and less like the folks that fell over in front of him, keep listening.
Let’s reveal what we are talking about here, mate. This is called Mimetic Theory and if you watched that popular show, the White Lotus recently, which I think almost everybody.
Ryan: Yeah, I did.
Terry: You’ll notice that it was mentioned in an early episode and actually this is the thread that I started to pull on cuz I’d heard that thing mentioned several times and I sort of start to think of that as a, something that I need to pay attention to.
So he said, you’ve got a case of mimetic desire . Whoever I dated you wanted to sleep with. And when he said that, I thought Mimetic desire , that’s popped up for me like several times. I keep hearing it with Peter Thiel’s name. I keep hearing it now in Silicon Valley. People are talking about it a lot and understanding how they build products and build services around this idea.
What are they talking about? So I kind of started, delve into it, went down the rabbit hole like I do, and found, you know, some really valuable resource. Around that to be able to sort of guess, summarize this theory cuz there’s a deep, deep body of work that exists from a guy called Renee Gerard, which we’ll talk about later.
But essentially it’s just the insight behind how we’re all affected by the people around us. And it’s actually just the mechanics of group psychology, particularly when it comes to money and success and all those kind of things, isn’t.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. Memetic theory is to psychology. What gravity is to physics. It’s foundational. It’s these pulls that exist amongst people and through, I guess the social networks. That people live within. You know, everyone nods their head when people say you are the average of the five people you hang around.
And it’s kind of just digging into that. Yeah. As you said, the mechanics of group psychology, where are those gravitational pulls from at a social level? And so in this episode, what we’re gonna cover, we’re gonna dig into the medics theory, what it is and how it works. And we’re also gonna look at how it works against us, as well as how to make it work for us.
Because as you said before, it’s something that can be very, , but it can also be just as if not more negative. And so we just wanna make sure we’re beneficiaries of it more so than we are, you know, pulled in the wrong directions. And I can guarantee you by the end of this episode, you’ll never look at yourself, all your social circles the same again, and, uh, you’ll just start to begin to understand yourself on a much deeper level.
And because of that, you’ll make much more conscious choices in all areas.
Terry: Yeah, and quick warning, some of what you’re about to learn is unsettling. This is the red pill moment. It’s also some of the most useful information you might ever come across, particularly when it comes to personal finance that nobody’s talking about. So if you’re the kind of person that likes it all, fluffy , you might wanna stop and go back to another episode. It’s something else. but if you wanna figure out a little bit more about how things really work, keep listening.
Ryan: That’s a big warning. Love it. All right. What a good challenge. Okay, so let’s dive into this theory, mimesis. Let’s start with really specifically what is it?
Terry: Yeah, so it’s just our tendency to want to mimic others and learn what to want through. And it’s probably, that’s as simple as I can put it. And it was discovered by this guy I mentioned you before, Renee Gerard, and he was like a historian actually. And he ended up teaching in all these colleges and he had to kind of go back to all these classic texts.
And it was a, a pattern that he picked out in all this classic literature and understanding of philosophy in all this sort of stuff. And he was like, he brought all these fields together and he was like, here’s something that I’m noticing. And then he built a body of. that basically codified this and explained it in a very deep way.
And that’s really essentially where this whole idea has come from. And it’s continuing to draw more and more critics, more and more interested P parties into it because it is such a big idea and it has huge impacts on how we see things playing in lives and how things will play out. I mean, this guy actually predicted the conflict and the tension that’s arising between the US and China.
He predict, 12 years ago, and it was because of the insights of Mimesis that he understood and he said, this is why it’s gonna happen. So pretty damn interest.
Ryan: And just like you mentioned Peter till before early investor in Facebook, one of the biggest reasons he invested in Facebook, cuz he was like, I’m learning and understanding Mimetic theory. He’s got a guy, basically a philosopher that he kind of. Interacts with and talks around the theory and was kind of heightened for him at that point. He said, I think this is gonna be kind of leveraging that idea, that theory, which is huge. And so how does it work?
Terry: This is where it gets a little bit unsettling, right? Most of us think that we want something cuz we saw it and we want it. But with Mimetic theory, it’s actually different. They’re saying there’s actually a triangulation that happens. So what happens is we look at somebody who has something we think we want and is some way that we want to be.
We wanna be more like them, and then we look to what they put all their retirement attention. and then we say that’s desirable. So there’s this kind of thing we’re get, um, once get mediated by models. So the model is the person we’re looking to, and then that mediates what we want.
Ryan: And so it’s a bit of like, if we get what they have, we’ll be more like them.
Terry: Exactly right. Yep. So here’s an example. My twins, we’ve got toys, right? We’ve got Barbies, we’ve got all these different toys. Now, if one of the twins picks up one toy, as soon as that twin picks up that toy, the other twin now wants to play with it. That toy was invisible two minutes ago. Now they’ve got a toy they both wanna play with, and we’ve gotta. So at the most basic level, that is what happens, right? So what’s happening there? What is happening is one twin’s looking at the other twin, and there’s a part of that twin that feels connected, but also. You kind of wanna be more like that person, particularly if that other twin’s being looked at and paid attention to by the parents.
So I wanna be more like them and what are they doing? They’re playing with that toy, therefore I want the toy. Now that’s unsettling, right? Because we all want to think that our wants are our own. But this is actually saying, what if your wants don’t originate from within you? What if they originate from around you and you catch them like a virus from others?
Ryan: It is unsettling. Just kind of seeing that in a lot of ways. I’m still a toddler.
Terry: You still are, mate. You still are. But look, I think there’s a lot of insight underneath this because it’s not the thing that we want, it’s what the thing says about us. And so there’s two parts to desire. There’s the physical desire, what does the utility of that thing do for us? But then there’s the metaphysical desire.
What does it say about us? And that is, what drives most of our wants beyond the base level of things that we need. The food and water shelter. It’s interesting cuz it sort of flies in the face of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where it’s like you’ve got food, water, shelter and it kind of moves up. It’s basically like, hey, once the basics are covered, man, just look at your environment and all your wants are coming from other people around you.
There’s no kind of like neat hierarchy. It’s actually all over the freaking place. So I find that really interesting as well.
Ryan: and like you said, there’s things that are, there’s a good side and a bad side to it. I think about some classic examples that most people experience, especially here in Australia. A great one is the example of having your own home. Cuz you can get the physical desire, you can get the thing, you can rent it or you can own it. But what the ownership says about you is that you know, you’ve got your shit sort.
Terry: You’re an adult.
Ryan: figured it out. You can take care of yourself. You’re in control essentially. You know, there’s kind of, this exists within so many things. That can be a really good thing. It can kind of drive you to achieve a lot of important things that you do look back and go, well, internally, you my internal scorecard that was worthwhile and that was good. I’m proud of being able to do that. That satisfied me. The hot sides of that, that make you do shit, that you look back and go, I did that for the wrong reasons.
Terry: Well, like think about it like this. You put yourself under immense financial stress to be able to live up to this ideal. To be able to have that. You know, thing that you want to say about you, and you know, I talked about this on Chris Bates podcast, actually, the elephant in the room, they talked about people who are taking out huge amounts of debt and going to live in places that actually separate them from their families
Terry: called a homeowner. And they’re like, Dude, like, why are you doing this? You’re actually moving away from people who can support you or your networks. And they’re like, it’s just really important to me that I buy my first home. And that’s a really good example of how this can work against you. Now, that condition can be completely different in another context, right?
So it’s not whether the thing is good or bad. , it’s actually why you’re doing it. And if you don’t understand why you’re doing it, then it can cause you to choose things that actually don’t help you. Like they almost hurt you internally. Those people, they’ve got heaps of debt in those like outer suburbs.
They’re alienated from the people that they care about and they’re like, but it’s okay cuz I’m a homeowner. That’s a really good example I think of where it’s like, this is kind of running you. That’s the dark side of this isn.
Ryan: Yeah, in a lot of ways people will end up isolating themselves for things like that. Or another classy example is taking a job that’s somewhere that’s really far away from everything that they care about and everyone that they care about. But that role or that title says something about them. That’s huge.
And you know, I wanna dig into kind of, I guess the proximity of those models can have quite an impact on this, cuz you can. Models that are very close to you and become kind of internal mediators of desire as well as ones that are further away and become external mediators of desire. And how do you find that that proximity causes you to relate to the people around you, the models that you kind of observe?
Terry: Mm. Yeah. So the theory states that the people that are far away from you, and they’re in a different class, you still might see them as models, right? But you don’t have any rivalry with them. Okay? So, We’re gonna talk about Chris Hemsworth here in a second, but Chris Hemsworth’s on a whole nother level that you just go, well, you know, he’s not arrival for me.
I’m just, you know, it’s a different class. He’s just doing something different. He’s way over there. The point is like celebrities, people that are like well far removed from us, they live completely different lives. We don’t necessarily experience the envy and the comparison and the competition with them for the things that they have, right?
We still want the things that they have, but we don’t see them as rivals. Okay? Because we just think, you know, they’re in a different. . Now, the people that are in our proximity, so we just talked about people that are leveraging themselves up, going to live in the suburbs. They’re probably doing that because their brother, their sister, their friend even bought a property and they’re like, cool.
They’re becoming homeowners. That means they’re grown up and they’re doing this. They’re moving forward in their lives. We need to be making sure we’re keeping up. I wanna be like that as well. So, If it’s close proximity, then you see that person as somebody to keep up with and that’s where the envy comes in.
So this is where it gets really, really interesting and Gerard’s kind of talking about this saying when you have close proximity, and you have very common things that people want. Then they’re developed like this resentment there develops this mimetic rivalry that happens, and this is usually beneath the surface.
This is not something that’s stated. This is something that’s felt and it’s acted on, and you can see it playing out in your own life and you can see it playing out in other people’s lives. You probably see it better in other people’s lives first, but the longer you think about it, the more you’re like, yeah, actually this is playing out in my life too.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. I think, uh, Luke Burgess covered this, a really good example of this, which a lot of people experience in his book wanting, where he kinda laid up the scenario where you went to a bar and you caught up with a mate. And, and your friends, they share with you the promotion that they’ve got just recently at work and that they’re gonna be earning an extra $40,000 and it’s meant that they’ve been able to buy this house.
He kind of speaks to there’s that feeling that can exist beneath the service if that person is someone that you have seen yourself. Next to along the journey where you go, you start to question, oh, what are they doing that I’m not doing? Should I have achieved that for myself? And you start to look at your own situation and go, should this be better?
And you start to compare in that way. And it’s just this natural thing that arises and it’s kind of this, the feeling that can come and so, I think that’s something where you, a lot of people have experienced that where it’s that questioning of self as soon as someone you’re around shares a win that they’ve had or a progress that they’re making, and you go, it feels like there’s now a gap and what does that say about you and what does that say about me? And how do you kind of react and how do you kind of respond to that is pretty important.
Terry: And that’s probably where it’s interesting to talk about positive and negative Essis, right? Positive mesis is where. On and you compete with them, kind of head to head on the same game. And then negative Mimesis is where you go the complete opposite way and you reject that game and you say, I’m not playing that game.
I think that game’s stupid. This is my game. And they’re actually coming from the same place because they’re both about status. They’re both about where you sit in comparison to each other. I think for myself, like looking back, I just hated that idea of the, like getting hurted into this home ownership thing and I didn’t want any part of that game.
I was like, I’m better than that. I wanna be different. I’m not a part of that. And I think you can probably hear that in our earlier episodes where I’m like, I just think if people get channeled and tracked into this, but going the opposite way is still the same problem. It’s a rejection of that because I’m still, I’m actually trying to put myself in a different position.
So I find it really interesting looking backwards to go. Yeah, I can see how that was happening, you know, because in reality, I could have bought a house a long, long time ago. Could have been fine, could have been probably a lot better off in that sense. But there was a part of me that was like, I don’t like that game and I refuse to play it.
Ryan: Which is the same. There’s probably a status element to that for you to say, I’m better than that game.
Terry: exactly what I’m saying. Yeah.
Ryan: Yeah, and I can see that even with myself, mine was probably more tracked around the people that I was around at that time. And you know, Peter Thornhill is a great example. He was someone that I had close proximity with and his philosophy had a very big impact on the people that I was around in a work environment.
And that had a big impact on me, mem, medically on kind of tracking what my wants were, in that sense. And so that influenced me to kind of put things in a certain order of importa. In terms of investing and the a home ownership. And it’s really interesting to kind of look back and see the evolution of all of those things as it’s been unpacked.
And then us kind of exploring that together. Why we’ve thought, how we did, why we wanted what we wanted, and now finding this mimetic theory is kind of just giving us language to kind of speak to that with a lot more clarity. And you know, I think it’s such a powerful form of metacognition, like the ability to remove yourself from.
see it from like a elevated standpoint, from a, like a bird’s eye view and go, how have I been acting? How have I been doing and why have I been doing those things? And then, you know, obviously you step back into it, you step out of it, step back into it, you step back out of it. No doubt. Such a powerful impact on the things we’ve done and the choices we’ve made.
Terry: Yeah, probably wanna jump in here and say, you probably have this thought right now that like, this is a really negative thing and it, I just think it is like, it’s just part of our nature if indeed this is correct. And for me, like the longer I go on and the more I learn about it, the more I go, this is pretty spot on. If this kind of makes sense for you, I think it’s important not to judge it as good or bad. It’s more understanding. It’s like you’re either conscious of it or unconscious of it. And what we are just talking about is becoming conscious of it. It’s not wrong or bad that you’ve kind of made mistakes in that way.
And I guess that’s why we’re sort of discussing now, right? You look backwards, you learn all the way through this stuff. You learn what’s working for you, what matters for you, and it’s actually through this process of pursuing desires where you figure out what sticks and what’s sticky and what isn’t.
And so that whole process in and of itself, I think is very, I. It’s a way finding process. It’s not something where you solve the solution and that is life. That’s just how life works. I.
Ryan: And you only learn what is like an internal scorecard, what’s representative of things that you actually want versus what other people want through the experimentation of exploring what other people want, because you can’t really just go, I think that I’m going to enjoy golf.
Ryan: You go, oh, I can see that these other people are enjoying golf, so maybe I’ll enjoy it too.
Maybe I’ll go play around. And then you get there because of that mimetic pool. And then you enjoy the swing. and you start to develop this intrinsic desire. Motivation to want to do that thing and get better at that thing. And then eventually it becomes about you and your own handicap kind of, or you play competition, but you know what I mean.
It, it only comes from first singing others, then going, oh, I’m gonna experiment with that before it becomes something. That can be an internal scorecard. First has to be pulled to,
Terry: It’s a slightly different frame, isn’t it? It’s one where you’re like pulled in that direction compulsively, where you’re like, oh my God, I’ve gotta get good at golf. Because if I’m not good at golf, then the people at work aren’t gonna like me, and if I don’t like me, all right? That’s you being pulled gravitationally by something and being controlled by it.
Whereas the other one is like, okay, cool. I’m watching this happen as a trend. Let’s just play with this and see how it works out. Because here’s what might happen. Maybe you hate golf, but maybe what you love is the socializing that comes from that. And maybe that socializing leads you to opportunities where you go, actually, I’ve got a bit of a talent for bringing these people together, and how can I lean into that talent?
And so one of these desires might lead you to something else. I mean, classic With this podcast, we started this podcast, we are mediated by the Aussie fire.
Terry: You know, we listened to his episode and I rang you and I was like, we’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta do this now. So that’s us being mediated by him and he’s basically saying, yep, do this thing called a podcast.
And as we go through the process, there’s parts of this that you know you like, there’s parts of it that you don’t like, but. The thing that sticks for me is that we get to talk about all these big ideas, and now because we have an audience, I get to meet these people and you get to meet these people as well.
That, for me is a good example of how it’s like, you know, you might get pulled in that direction, but it’s not a bad thing. You just have to kind of figure out like, okay, does it stick? Because if I hated podcasting, but I, I saw myself now as a podcast, I feel like I had to do it, then that would be different, right?
Because I’d be like jumping on here going, oh my God, I gotta do another podcast again. That’s not how I.
Ryan: Yeah. And look, there’s no doubt, like there’s things that pop up that, you know, the dark side of it that comes into play. Like we think about that podcasting example. Like I know there was a period of time there, you kind of eventually called this out, but where you were checking the charts very often we kind of jumped in the charts.
I think we got to number two business podcast in Australia for a couple of weeks there. And it become this, I guess like a status symbol that you kept coming back to. And it was like we kept comparing against that. that’s kind of an influence of that.
Terry: Absolutely. And it’s a really good example I think because the active podcasting, the process, the synthesizing, all these idea. Bringing things together, turning it into something that hopefully adds value to you right now. Love that. But what happens is you can get sucked into systems of desire. So as we get mediated by the Aussie fire bug, we now become podcasters.
And podcasting is kind of a subset of what’s called content creation. And content creation is a system of desire and with systems of desire and any system of desire, there’s symbols of what they call prestige and a symbol of prestige when it comes to content creation is how you’re. So that ranking can actually become, then it pulls this sort of intrinsic motivation and takes it to an extrinsic form of motivation.
It starts to crowd that out, and now you start to dread the process. And so it’s really, really interesting because as soon as that happens, you’re now in this rat race that you’re in with other people, you’re trying to run this race with them, now you are comparing. Now you are competing.
You don’t see these people as comrades anymore that are on the journey with you. You start to see them as rivals, and this is. , all of your creative energy gets sucked from you and you lose your ability to create in the most authentic way, and I think this is very important to understand because we’re all in systems of desire.
Think about a sporting club. That’s a system of desire. All right? Think about the school you went to. That was a system of desire. All of these environments have symbols of prestige that you’re told to want, that you’re shown that are important. And if you’re not very careful, what can happen is you can lose that intrinsic motivation.
and you start having this compulsive like comparison competition, keeping up with the Jones’ type mentality. And we had this discussion before Christmas actually, cause I’d started to become aware of this and learning more about the Mesis. You know, we talked about that Bitcoin series that we did and I actually said to you, I think this is gonna hurt our downloads, but I think we should do it anyway because.
I’m worried that if we don’t keep talking about what’s important, we’ll only talk about what’s popular and we’re getting sucked into this mimetic game with all these other podcasters, which is very easy to game. Like we just produce more podcasts more often and talk about the things that only people wanna talk about when they wanna talk about it.
And you know, that series was kind of a little bit of a test for us because I was like, this is actually gonna hurt us. Like we’re probably gonna get sledged for this. And we did. We got sledged, but we made a commitment at the start of this to talk about what was important. Not what’s popular now. If what’s popular is also important, that’s great, but what’s important is the most important thing for us.
And so that for me was kind of interesting to go through cuz you were like, um, stepping outta that sort of, uh, system of desire and stepping away from that mimetic rivalry.
Ryan: Yeah, and there’s a challenge in, you know, the fact that all these algorithms kind of work you in a certain track. You know, Instagram is such a fantastic example of how it kind of influences the way. People use that platform in this way. You know, I remember when Instagram first came out, it was literally like, who could take the coolest photos?
Very rarely was there actually photos of people. And now over time it was people get more likes if they were in the photo or became all about likes and followers and things like that. And you can kind of see where you’ve got these influencers happening at a social level, but then there’s a technology.
Element, a social media element that kind of speeds a lot of these things up. But more you become conscious of it. You get to choose the game you are playing and some games are worth playing. They are worth playing. And you go, that’s gonna help me learn more about what is for me.
Terry: Yeah. Well, we’re still playing the game, right? But we’re just, I guess, a bit more conscious of the game and you can be of the world, but not in that sense. And I think that. Really does matter. And look, we’ve gotta bring this down to a personal finance example and to stick with the Aussie firebug sort of thing.
This whole theme of like how it all started for us in the podcast, in the charts, systems of desire, symbols of prestige. Something that I’ve noticed in the fire space is that the symbol of prestige that becomes more and more apparent is net worth. Net worth, net worth. Net worth. So you go into something like the Aussie Fire Discussion Group, and Matt is a fricking legend for starting that and getting that thing going.
But what I’ve noticed over time is that there is more and more memetic rivalry in those groups. It is reflected in the nature. And the sentiment in the comments and the way people interact with each other in that group. People are getting pulled out of their own internal games and their own intrinsic motivation for taking control of their financial independence.
And they’re actually getting sucked into this memetic rivalry where we’re just comparing and competing around this external number called Networth. And um, when you go into that group now, like I just can’t go back in there. It’s just too negative and it’s just too combative. And people are more interested in trying to one up each other wherever they.
Ryan: Yeah, I can definitely remember some pretty harsh like comments and kind of almost argument. People get in on very minor things. So you can see that kind of combative nature comes out. And as you said, like net worth is such a dangerous status symbol to kind of come up against because it is like who has more essentially?
And you know, and the extension of that is also, uh, it’s kind of reflected in who knows more. It’s kind of a knowledge element to where it’s like, who is right? Who knows more. That kind of comes into play as well.
Terry: Not comrades anymore. Competitors,
Ryan: We used that example before of Steven Bradbury. You know, there’s still plenty of Steven Bras all groups. It’s just that you’ve gotta be cautious of those three at the front that are fighting each other. You know, you’d rather be Steven Bradbury that has the eyes on his own prize and he’s running his own race and comes through with that big green ear to ear, two fingers in the.
Terry: We’ve never discussed net worth on the podcast very deliberately. For that reason, I think it’s a really dirty measure of financial wellbeing, and I think it does pull people into these mimetic rivalry games. I just probably couldn’t put language around it before. But it’s an external scorecard and it has very little correlation with your wellbeing.
So that’s why for us, and we’re still playing with this, but you know, we built our own ranking system in our community because on some level we kind of knew that like if you don’t create it, then it’s created for you and people just start to kind of, it sort of moves in that direction. And so, I mean, this is something we’re still kind of grappling with and, and working on, but the whole process for us was sort of saying, how do we get.
More interested in achieving their own levels of progress based on inputs, based on the process, based on the mechanics, so that we can get people actually just going, cool, I’m actually leveling up because I’m now at this level of sophistication, skill level, habit development, that kind of thing. So that’s kind of our attempt to circumvent the entropy that can happen in groups where people do converge around external sort of symbols of prestige that pull ’em into memetic riv.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, it’s also represented in the, uh, interviews that we do with our members on this podcast. You know, we’ve had very conscious decisions around, we don’t wanna talk about what they have. and the symbols that kind of represent status. It’s been around kind of celebrating growth and celebrating progress in terms of how well they’re working together and how well things are working for them.
A lot of that compass model has been around make sure that that is focused on growth and not about outcomes, as you mentioned, so that people are kind of celebrating moving forward and there’s kind of a focusing on in on their own race, and it’s not around. I’m a hall of fame and you’re a legend.
Terry: We don’t have any of that yet.
Yet. It may develop, but hopefully it doesn’t.
Ryan: Which we’re conscious of.
Terry: But it’s true. Like I think it, it’s really important to note and like the internal journey is the most important thing, right? Because from day one we’ve talked about this. It’s not about the money, it’s what the money’s for. It’s not about the passive income, but it’s about buying back that time.
and what does that time represent for you? What choices that give you, and that is what it’s always been about for us. So that’s kind of why we are sort of sort of saying like, that is the most important thing. What’s your journey? Doesn’t matter where you are at with regards to somebody else. What does it mean for you?
Because if you are kind of looking at those games, you’re like, well, I don’t wanna play that game. Or it just feels like people are too far ahead and I’m too far behind. It just makes the whole area a lot more intimidating, particularly when you’ve got people who are in there sledging you and.
Laugh: Shit, you know.
Terry: Not helping you and not acting as comrades.
So we wanna combat that as much as
Ryan: Yep. And this exists in any community, right? Models mediate. Our desires now once tend to converge in some way. So as soon as you are wrapped around with a group of people, unless you really wanna isolate yourself from the world kind of just going off into the wilderness, then there’s no doubt you can probably escape a lot of these.
Probably not a monk. A monk probably surrounds himself with monks. And then that’s the one what monks want, enlighten.
Terry: I’m more enlightened than you are. I’m more enlightened than you
Ryan: So it’s its own form of, you know, mimetic rivalry and you observe this in so many different systems of desires or communities. The well-documented example of Harvard where, you know, so many people would come in with different ideas around what they want in the future.
and you know, I guess they got broad ambitions, but then they all kind of end up tracking in the same direction and they come out the other side being an investment banker, a consultant, or you know, a lawyer. And so it’s that surrounding of yourselves with people. that can create the same desires and then decisions and actions can converge in that way.
And you know, this is true in a lot of systems, sporting clubs are a classic example in schools, in mothers groups, in neighborhoods, in corporate cultures, friendship groups, families even. We start to observe the people around us and what they want, you know, just like the title is.
Laugh: Just like your twins.
Ryan: You just wanna observe like what do they want and how’s that impacting what you want?
Terry: and I think, look, it’s probably pretty normal at this stage. You’re kind of like going, whoa, there’s some really happy ideas there, and I need to really sit with this. And this feels pretty dark, but like we said before, I think being conscious of this is actually the superpower, because if you can watch yourself, if you can have that meta level of awareness, you can be a little bit more conscious around how you use this as a gravitational force and actually pointed in the direction of what you want.
So let’s talk more about how to make the power of groups work for you.
Ryan: Yeah, if you choose the right models, they help you destroy doubt, build belief, and then normalize new behaviors. And I remember you actually wrote an email recently to the guys on our list around snake phobias, which is really good symbolic of this. Do you wanna talk through that?
Terry: Yeah, I think it’s a great example of you’re putting yourself in the right system of. And it changes things dramatically for you. And actually that email was about how do you build belief that you can achieve something if you’ve never achieved it?
Terry: what happened was these experiment was run where people who had debilitating phobia of snakes, I can’t remember what the actual condition was called now, but basically like crippling fear of snakes.
What happened was they had like a series of graded exposures to watching other people interact with. So let’s say for example, Ryan, you were shit scared. Actually, I nearly stepped on a snake the other day and I washed shit. Scared, went for a walk. And uh, so let’s say I had to fix myself of my phobia. Um, What would happen is you would actually go into this environment and you would sit in a room and you would be behind.
A glass window would be in front of you, and there’s a room that’s like next door. You’re gonna watch people walk into this room, and in this room is a glass case with a snake in it, okay? And people are just gonna simply walk into the room and walk past the glass case and you’re gonna watch lots and lots of people just walk past the glass.
And then the next level of exposure is you watch people walk into the room, walk across to the glass case stand and stare for a couple of minutes, okay? And then walk out. You watch more and more people do that. Then you watch people come into the room, put their hand on the glass case at the top. Then you watch people come in, put their hand in, but not touch the snake yet.
Then you watch them put their hand in and touch the snake. Then you watch them put their hands in, touch the snake and pick it up. Then you watch them take the snake. And hold it and walk around the room and then you watch them pick the snake up, take it out, put it down, and just let it move around the room and then pick it up and put it away again.
And you watch enough of those people do it. And what it starts to do is it starts to invalidate your ideas about how aggressive and dangerous snakes are, and it helps you start to build the belief that. Hang on. Lots and lots of people can handle snakes. Maybe they’re not as dangerous. Maybe I can do this because the people I’m watching do this look a lot like me.
And so then from there, they actually give these guys the opportunity to slowly move forward in the direction of every single part of those stages to the point where they are handling the snakes and they’re doing it within hours. So, A phobia that has debilitated for years and years and years, completely dealt with in hours because of this.
So I think it’s a great example of a system of desire, people showing you what’s possible. I want to now handle the snake. I’m handling the snake, and I’ve overcome something I didn’t think was possible before.
Ryan: Yeah, it. About, I guess a bit of a real life version of conversation I had with members only recently where they live in, uh, like a, a country town in Victoria and they had a couple move to town from, from, I think they were from Perth and moved to town. They basically just moved into their proximity. And the thing maybe be through a sporting group or something like that, and they became friends and it was the comments they made around, they’re like, since these guys moved to town, we’ve completely changed the way that we are living, the things that we are doing.
You know, beforehand, you know, the idea of having someone call in at three o’clock and stick around until 10:00 PM. Was like, how painful. But now we find ourselves wanting to do it all the time cuz these guys started doing it. We look out the drive and, and here they are. They’re coming up to say goodday and, and knocking on the door and just popping in.
And to the extent that I remember, he made a comment. Uh, one of the fellows said there was a small thing around, you know, I started to see that they’d always send to the kids to school with cut up. and I was like, geez, why don’t we do stuff like that? Why don’t we kind of take the time and effort to give the kids a healthy lunchbox?
Yeah. It was such a kind of a small thing, but it was like, now we’ve found ourselves starting to do more of that. We’re like, geez, these guys are really kind of showing us that we could be doing better, we could be more social. We enjoying life a little bit more, but we could also be doing healthier, kind of have these healthier habits at the same time, and just by virtue.
These people moving to their town and becoming friends, they start to shift in all these positive ways, make these subtle changes, which is a really cool thing to kind of hear about.
Terry: It is cool and. That is the positive side of it. But if you’re unconscious of the power of that mimesis, what can tend to happen is that proximity gets closer. You start to start comparing an unhealthy way. And so if you’re not aware of that, then that person who was a comrade of yours can flick into a competitor like that.
And now because they’ve bought a new car, I reckon we need to get a new car. That kind of thing can happen. So I think that’s the power of the awareness, but also like you can let the good stuff happen. So if you are very deliberate, Understanding what systems of desire and putting yourself in the right positions.
And actually, like we said before, playing the games, but not being in the games with other people. I think you can get all the benefits in. You can avoid some of the, some of the discomfort that comes cuz just have a think about that one thing, right? Because that starts the positive thing. But let’s say that it does develop into a bit of a medic rivalry and then all of a sudden they buy the new car.
But we can’t necessarily afford one, but we’ve got to have one. So we need to actually take a big loan out to make that happen. And if I take that loan out, then I’ve got a cashflow. That’s gonna come to us for the next five years, that’s gonna probably lock me into this line of work that I don’t necessarily like, and now I’m unhappy.
That to me is what’s interesting about it, where you are like, yeah, if you’re not aware, it’s, it’s really, really important to be like, okay, cool. How do I want to use this? How do I want to use this gravitational pull and when do I wanna step out of this?
Ryan: Well, let’s talk through some steps to make sure that we are using it in a positive way and we can kind of sidestep some of those pitfalls. I know we talked about kind of the few things that you can do to make sure that you are giving yourself the best chance of being conscious of it and using it in positive ways.
So let’s talk through our steps. What’s the first step?
Terry: Look, I think the first one is to audit your systems of desire. Actually make a list of the different systems. We made a few of ’em before, like, what’s your mother’s group? What about schools? What about school groups now, parent groups at school. What about kinder groups? What about the neighborhood that you live in, your friendship group?
And then once you’ve listed all those, then next to each one, I think, think about what are the symbols of prestige that people tend to converge. And are they healthy for you? And can you start to see mimetic rivalries developing, whether you know it or not, whether it’s between yourself or others. And others and others, but just start to map those and codify them so that you can see where you might get tracked and pulled.
Just to be able to visualize it, I think is pretty powerful.
Ryan: Yeah. And it’s always easier to do it. Thinking about other people’s groups as opposed to your own for a start is what I’ve found. Cause it’s easier to judge.
Laugh: Other people.
Ryan: You know, I’ve probably got some classic examples of my life where groups of guys that have kind of converged around, you know, certain things, and especially without kind of demonizing this in a way that, you know, you’ve kind of seen in, in a lot of traits.
Uh, a lot of young men in particular probably is quite pertinent around buying the car or buying the jet ski or, and you just kind of see the memetic warfare that kind of arises in those groups. Always easy to kind of look at an outside group. and then go, hang on a second. I’m in groups. So you observed in them and then go, okay, now I have to observe it in myself.
So there is a group that I’m a part of. Guess that was the evolution of my thinking with this.
Terry: Yeah, and then I think you just want to. Line around the implications of that track. So we talked before about podcasting and podcasters and content creation being a system of desire and now a symbol of prestige being podcast charts. Where is that going to pull us? It’s going to pull us in the direction of publishing every other day talking about stuff that doesn’t necessarily matter that might ne might be popular and creating content that for us is.
Not that important. And so what happens is over time that a lot of this content starts to sound the same and, and there’s nothing that kind of differentiates it. It’s all just sort of fluffy. And so for, for us, it’s kind of just being aware of that, saying, cool, yes, we’re in this game. There’s that system of prestige.
But actually what we would rather see is we would rather see our rankings change as a result of people that are really appreciating the difference in what we do and how we do it differently. We wanna be able to be, talk about these ideas that are very different, but important that haven’t been talked
Ryan: And the final point I’d make on that is like you can deliberately find groups of people like you doing the things you don’t think you can do, but you want to. And that’s a way of kind of building that belief, removing doubt, seeing that people can, and that you can, podcasts in general have been a huge thing for me because it’s kind of the ability to kind of step into.
Another conversation. You kind of surround yourself with different conversations. You know, people have commented on the fact that this podcast has made them think about their wants differently. We’re always cautious of our us having a matic influence on people as well as, you know, there’s people that we listen to, Alex, to Moses is a great example at the moment.
Uh, someone that we’re learning from and all these positive ways, kind of surrounding ourselves with his ideas and for the, a very positive reason to kind of absorb that.
Terry: Just to quickly summarize that, audit those systems, understand the symbols of prestige. Draw out the logical conclusions of where that ends, and then decide how you want to engage in those groups. Do you want to disengage or do you just want to detach yourself a little bit from IT health in a healthy sense?
And then like you’ve said, then find groups systems of desire that will pull you in the direction of actually more of what you want. That I think, is huge. Now the second step, I think, is profile the models within those. So understand who are the models, what are they mediating and what are they causing you to want?
So like we said, symbols are prestige, are a part of that. But then, you know, you wanna get really granular. So we just talked about the example of my next door neighbor now has bought a new car. Is that gonna make me wanna buy a new car? You just moved in next door to people, they’re sending their kids to private school.
Now you’re having conversations about whether your kids should go to private school. Was that something you were discussing before? Those are the kind of things that you wanna start to pay attention to.
Ryan: You know what’s funny? Pretty confident cuz your neighbors have become members of ours that they’re gonna put a pool in the backyard. So let’s see, let’s see how.
Terry: No, we’ve already said to him, we’ll use you.
Ryan: Classic and really look at, I guess, what they’re showing you what to want. Kind of just respect that you will find yourself leaning into that, and then you have to kind of lean back and go, is that really what I want? Is that authentic to me? Is that something that’s gonna become a part of my internal scorecard, or is that something that’s external, something?
I’ll look at them and look at others and compare against ultimately.
Terry: Yeah. Step three is, um, weed your wants. So now you understand the systems of desire you operate within. You know, the symbols are prestige and you start to look at the models and you start to see how they might be pulling you towards wanting different things within that. those systems of desire. Now you wanna weed the wants.
And I think those questions, like we just said, are healthy to get detachment. Is that something I wanted before? Is that something I’m just actually now wanting because I’m watching it. And the other one is, I mean we use this a lot, particularly in the early stages of our program. We use death as a clarifier.
And you know, the stokes were very good at this, are basically saying, listen, At the end of your life, are you really gonna care whether you have the new car or not? You’re probably not. Ah, yeah. Those questions are really useful to have and it’s also can show you what the wants that are authentic to you might look like.
So what do you really want to have achieved by the time you kick the bucket? What would you regret not ever pursuing if you didn’t do that? And. Probably another great question to ask yourself is what would you do or pursue if no one would ever find out and you would never get any recognition from it?
In reality, I come back to this podcast example, but if I could still do this and I could still get to meet these people and synthesize these ideas, there’s a part of me now that’s actually doing this for my kids. . I want my kids to have the education that I never had. And so I think about every episode now in certain ways, and I think, how do I wanna talk to Smith?
Or how do I wanna talk to India and how do I make this a record in posterity that they can always come back to, you know, they can learn from and if they’re interested in it, then they can dive right into this and really get involved and whatever age suits them. So that’s a part of it that’s stuck for me.
The podcast charts, the downloads, all that sort of stuff, it doesn’t hurt. I won’t. It’s great to be able to say those things, but it’s not gonna be what I hang onto at the end. I don’t.
Ryan: Yeah. Beautiful. And I think there’s so much grace that exists within that, like as you just said, but it’s also plays out in these other scenarios in terms of you think about the closest friends you have. When you start to detach yourself from that medic rivalry in these ways, you become much better friends.
You get closer to the people around you because you genuinely want what’s best for them and want them to get what they want, and it’s less about what that means for you. In terms of that competition. And so, you know, I know just through having these conversations, understanding this better, I’ve become a better supporter, better cheerleader for the people around me because I’m not looking at it and going, if you get that, that means that I’m back here.
It’s like, geez, that’s great for you and this is what I’m doing over here. And you get to kind of see the different paths independently and the different wants independently and spend less time thinking about how they sit aside one another, which is kind of the beauty in it as well.
Terry: That’s actually happened for me as well, just to really relate to other people’s progress and achievements differently. Particularly I’m, I was aware of this before I understood mimetic rivalry, but there’s a lot of mimetic rivalry in my family. It’s not stated, it’s not conscious, but it’s there. I would suggest it’s probably there in every family to some level, whether you wanna admit it or not.
So it’s been really handy from my perspective to to kind of step back outta that and actually watch myself at times and go, hang on, hang on. How am I relating to that information? Am I relating from this place of like competition or am I relating where that’s my brother, I want the best for him? I think that’s been really useful.
Ryan: And so, as you can see through this conversation, you know, it is such a powerful force, and if you’re unconscious, If you are kinda asleep walking through and not aware of it, then it can pull you in some pretty dark directions. But if you are conscious of it and you are able to use it in the right ways, it can add a lot of gratification.
It can add a lot of, improve the quality of your life dramatically and help you, I guess, spend more time on the things that genuinely add me for you. Meaning that yeah, you have a more meaningful life as well. Love this conversation. It’s something that we’re gonna explore further, aren’t we? We’re gonna go deeper on this at some point.
Terry: It is. Yeah. So I’ve actually just secured the services, of Jonathan B, who is probably the world’s preeminent expert on this right now. And I’m gonna put the resources to his body of work in the notes. And if you’re the kind of person that likes to delve into long form content on YouTube, it’s a pretty different style.
It’s a very academic style, and he’s a very expressive orator, I’d say. So it’s kind of different to what you’re probably used to from us. But I’ve watched it, re-watched it and really made a lot of notes around it because it, the whole depth of Gerard’s philosophy, it’s got bigger implications for society, bigger implications for even this generation and the decade we have ahead and where we’re at in terms of like how nations interact with and relate to each other as entities as well.
So I’m really interested in that part of it as well. So if you’d like to dive into this, I’m gonna leave two breadcrumbs for you in the show notes. One of ’em is the book, wanting from Luke Burgess.
That is a great introduction to this topic. Fantastic introduction. And then this is this YouTube series from Jonathan B. And um, he’ll be coming on the show and we’ll be talking through this concept in a little bit more detail in the very near future.
Ryan: Beautiful. Looking forward to it. Alright mate, see you then.