The Thinker and The Prover: Part 6

A Twitter thread by Jim O’Shaughnessy

Aaron Morekin
6 min readDec 30, 2020

To read this thread as intended on Twitter, follow this link

“What we need is not the will to believe but the will to find out.” ~Bertrand Russell

If you’re still here and have tried some of the exercises I recommended about seeing the Prover working in other people and then tried the experiment on yourself by looking for things like green cars and perhaps surprised (as I was) by how many MORE of those things you saw, you’ve done more than most people in playing with Wilson’s concept. But you’re still on relatively safe ground in that you haven’t yet tried to turn these new skills on some of your more deeply held beliefs. It is now that we enter what Wilson calls ““Chapel Perilous — Every thing you fear is waiting with slavering jaws in Chapel Perilous” Change is scary for almost everyone.

To paraphrase an Anthony de Mello quip, People want a cure, but only if they can have it without pain, and they also favour progress, provided it comes without change.

Kind of a tall order and one that often stops people dead in their tracks, as always, me included.

As Jed McKenna often points out — we’re emotionally-based creatures and the dominate emotion is fear. Possibly more than any other emotion, fear has stopped more people from even *attempting* to look critically at their beliefs and then acting on changing those that don’t stand up to even the lightest scrutiny.

So I’ve found that cheating a little leads to dramatically better results — I’m not going to ask you to decide if you’re a negative-sum person or a positive-sum one. That and other such questions often get people to stop this exercise immediately and always with a perfectly rational sounding reason (that they invent after the fact) for why this is silly and stupid which has the unintended consequence of *strengthening* their prior beliefs rather than questioning them.

So, let’s do this instead — think about what you want your life to look like? Fire up your Thinker and think it through. Then write it, with a pen or pencil on a sheet of paper. When you’re done, read it over and put the sheet somewhere safe.

Then, on the next day, do it again but WITHOUT reading what you wrote on the first day. Do this exercise for 10 days in a row. After finishing on the tenth day, review everything you wrote and highlight the items that appear most frequently. Finally, write out a new sheet that contains everything that appeared most frequently in all 10 days.

Re-read this final version every day and see if there is something that makes you pause — that’s an indication that while you might think it would be cool, you emotionally don’t believe it. If this is the case, delete it.

This keeps your Thinker turned ON while simultaneously building your emotional belief that the things still on the list can be achieved. Like everything in life, you’ll get out of this what you put in.

The key here — and in much of life — is sincerity. If you wrote that you wanted to be a billionaire and live in Monte Carlo driving sports cars all day and there is no realistic path towards making that so, your Prover won’t turn on other than maybe subconsciously to actually lead you back to your original beliefs because all of this is pure bullshit. But if your final page describing what you want your life to be was created sincerely and doesn’t cause you to emotionally rebel against it, your Prover will turn on and silently, consistently and persistently take over and start proving it. When you first notice this happening, you will be astonished at all of the “new things” you are starting to see. Wilson often refers to this type of methodology as “meta-programing” yourself.

The reasoning being, our brains are designed for such programming and the creation of mental models that guide your choices and “bets” in life so why let other people and society do it when you can do it yourself?

Ludwig Wittgenstein said “to understand is to know what to do.” And Naval has remarked that the truth ought to be predictive. As you learn to unlearn things that occlude your perceptions and substitute those that sharpen it, you should notice something else happening — your outcomes in life start improving. Not all of them of course, but in aggregate. This, in turn, reinforces the ability of your Prover to find more and more ways to make your new beliefs true. It becomes considerably easier to get excited (again, tying your manifesto to your emotions) when you start to see things change in the direction you want them to go.

This engages another psychological observation of the self-fulfilling prophecy. It also makes it easier to start tackling some of the scarier beliefs that I mentioned in the beginning of this thread. Success breeds success and with it comes a willingness to take on slightly greater risk, like determining if you are — in fact — a zero sum person and weather that helps you get where you want to go. And, as this continues, Chapel Perilous seems less scary because you’re now in possession of actual results from your own life and that will probably make you more willing to start taking deeper dives on some of your other beliefs, especially the ones you cherish.

I started this way of doing things well before I ever read Wilson. In 1989, at age 29, I did my first version of this in sort of a beta 1.0 version — I listed 63 things I wanted to happen in my life, with some being seemingly crazy when I wrote them like “Chair a major arts organization” and “have a venture capital division” yet both came true and surfaced an interesting point.

The second goal about venture capital was something my son Patrick made a reality for our company, so don’t limit yourself to HOW or WHO made something come about, but rather focus on WHAT you want to come true in your life. Sound trippy, but of the 63 things I listed, more than 85% of them have happened already and it looks like a few more are about to go from desire to reality.

You’ll notice from the photo of my journal that I scratched some of them out as my continual thinking about if I really wanted them led me to decide that I didn’t. If that happens with your final statement, by all means, eliminate them, for it makes it easier for your Prover to work on the ones that you also have a strong emotional commitment to making a reality.

So, that’s it for now. There’s a lot more interesting stuff on how you can create a mental environment for even more rapid results from meta-programming yourself, but those can wait for another time. This is harder than it sounds and you should know that while I hope this works well for you, that part is not up to me, it’s up to you and you alone. You’re the only one who can change you and frankly, you might not want to — but if you do, this is a good start.

A Twitter thread by Jim O’Shaughnessy