Welcome to the latest issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. The newsletter exploring what it means to be free in an increasingly not-so-free world.
Whether you're looking to locate your authentic self or investigate sovereignty, you're in the right place! Each week, with just a few minutes of reading, I aim to expand your awareness through a quote and a piece of content that made me go hmm...
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"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein
Like most, are you constantly playing whack-a-mole with health issues, recurring challenges, and internal conflict? Just as you fix one problem, another arises.
If you answered "yes," to the above, I want to share a way of thinking that has provided immense benefit to my life, and I am sure it can do the same for you. That is "first principles thinking."
Rather than treating our symptoms, and masking the underlying issues, we should strive to understand the root cause. Only then can we create lasting change.
Here is an excerpt from a recent post of mine:
"First-principles thinking entails dissecting a problem into its fundamental components and core truths, posing probing questions to delve into the core of the matter, separating facts from presumptions, and finally constructing a viewpoint from the ground up."
*For a more detailed explanation, refer to my previous post:
You're probably questioning how a change in mindset will impact any health issues, external stressors, or internal conflicts.
Let me explain...
What strikes me more each year is how the majority are so heavily geared toward short-term stimuli and quick fixes.
In the age of technology, where everything is at our fingertips, it is easy to fall prey to the pernicious belief that the solution to our problems is just a Google search away.
We may be able to quickly fulfil an online shopping desire at the click of a button, but that is not the case for most of life's stressors.
Why? Challenges do not exist in a vacuum.
What do I mean by this... Our health issues, mental well-being and external troubles don't just appear out of the ether. They are the by-product of our internal and external environment and emerge from a process.
Take western medicine, for example, an industry built on treating the symptom.
We have become accustomed to transferring personal responsibility to the doctor and patiently awaiting a suggested treatment, usually consisting of medication to treat any discomfort.
During this experience, there is minimal exploration into our environment, diet, and life stressors.
The only thing that seems to matter is minimizing symptoms.
You and I could walk into a hospital tomorrow, both of us complaining of high blood pressure. Chances are we will both receive a prescription for blood pressure medication.
At no point is there an inquiry into why we might be experiencing high blood pressure. Or what the external or internal experiences contributing to the issue could be.
I may have high blood pressure due to a poor diet, while you may be experiencing immense pressure at work.
Each of us requires a unique approach.
How can we expect to resolve the problem permanently if we do not understand the underlying issues?
Building on this idea...
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to listen to the wise words of Gabor Maté. During this talk, he said something that stuck with me.
Paraphrasing Gabor's words:
"Most diagnosed with cancer will say "I've got cancer." They treat it as though they've contracted this external thing, that cancer is an entity that has latched onto them."
By approaching cancer this way, it's easy to believe we can simply cut it out or try to kill it through treatments, when in reality, we've got a malfunctioning process in our body, causing an uncontrollable growth in malignant cells.
Without inquiring into the underlying processes causing the symptom, we are only masking and exacerbating the issue.
To change the outcome, we need to change the process.
Now, remove "cancer" from Gabor's words above and replace it with whatever you're facing (Depression, financial challenges, relationship woes...).
"I've got..... (insert challenge here)."
Does it sound familiar?
I have most definitely said those words before.
By using these words, we are unknowingly relinquishing responsibility. We approach life's challenges as though they are an entity in themselves, something to be treated independently and removed. As a result, we fail to inquire, fail to take responsibility, and fail to ask the one question that matters:
"What process is behind this outcome?"
Circling back to first principles thinking, let's explore how interrogating the issue can help us identify the root cause and fix the problem.
Insightful Content which made me go, hmm...
A little while back, I read this fascinating article that explored a method of questioning that, as youngsters, most of us had perfected. We were all constantly asking, "why?"
We were all unknowingly reasoning from first principles.
However, as we most likely used it repetitively, and for the annoyance of others, it was often frowned upon by our parents and relinquished from our vocabulary.
I, therefore, wanted to reintroduce the repetitive why, but this time with a little more structure and a little less annoyance.
In the article, they note that this type of questioning is called the "five whys technique" and was initially developed by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda.
Although the "five whys technique," on its own, is incredibly revealing, I like to add a step before and after to make the process more actionable.
Here is an expanded breakdown of the approach, with a personal example woven in:
First, frame the problem.
When a challenge arises, whether mental, physical or environmental, inquire to gather information. We can't determine the solution if we can't define the problem.
I used this approach recently on an issue that has been bugging me for years. I have been suffering from irritated skin on my face, and I've been masking the problem using cream.
With the problem defined, we can identify the root cause.
This is where the "five whys technique" comes in. We simply ask ourselves, "why?"... five times.
Each time probes a little deeper into the problem defined in the previous step. By the fifth "why?" we should have pinpointed the root of the issue and gained clarity around the resulting process.
As the article above puts it:
"Every problem has a cause behind it, but a superficial analysis will only depict symptoms. A persistent inquiry is required to find the real cause (the root cause) behind the issue so that lasting solutions can be taken and the problem doesn't resurface."
Here are the "five whys" in action for my irritated skin:
- Why is the skin on my face irritated? Because I have eczema.
- Why am I getting eczema in this area? In traditional Chinese medicine, this area of the face corresponds to the gut. The irritation I'm experiencing may be gut related.
- Why is my gut causing a reaction on my face? There is something called the gut-skin axis, whereby intestinal flora influences the microbes that live on the skin.
- Why are my gut microbes not happy? Foods high in active yeasts, histamines and salt can be hard on the intestinal flora resulting in inflammation.
- Why does my diet contain the items listed above? I eat a lot of cheese, bread and cured meats.
By interrogating the symptom, I could identify the cause and determine the process creating the irritation.
Once the root cause is understood, we can move on to the final step:
Change the process.
For this, we need to ask ourselves the question:
With the root cause known, what do I need to change to resolve the issue?
Through this line of questioning, we can now enact meaningful change.
*Side note: if the issue fails to resolve, this indicates we either didn't dig deep enough in the previous stage or that our questioning was misdirected. In this case, we need to go back and repeat the "five whys" with this new information.
As for my personal experience, this questioning made me realize I needed to reduce the amount of cheese, bread and salt consumed. In doing so, after years of frustration, my skin issues disappeared, and I no longer rely on face creams or deal with irritation.
To end, I'm sure I speak for most when I say, I want to be in control of my emotional, physical and mental well-being. I don't want to be a passenger to life's stressors or reliant on medication in an attempt to treat my symptoms. Instead, I want to actively process these challenges to be the best I can be.
Therefore, as self-sovereign individuals, I challenge you to inquire the next time an issue arises. Don't just apply a bandaid. Get to the root of the problem.
- Frame - Define the problem
- Identify - pinpoint the underlying cause
- Change - Alter the process to fix the problem
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue of The Qi of Self-Sovereignty. I hope you found it insightful.
I always welcome feedback and thoughts. So, do not hesitate to respond to the newsletter email, comment on the article or reach out via Twitter.
The future is bright!