I saw a hat today that said GOD IS A DESIGNER.
"Great hat," I thought, while imagining one reading GOD IS A DHARMA ARTIST.
Maybe one day.
I saw the hat because I was following a god nod from the night before.
Maybe I'll share the story on a podcast someday, but I experienced an incredible synchronicity that pointed me to the importance of exploring the Japanese concept of Ikigai. The hat was atop the head of the youtuber I had clicked on.
Most of you have probably seen this venn diagram:
Millions of people all over the world have used this diagram to find their purpose, their Ikigai.
Well, I found out today that this diagram has nothing to do with Ikigai.
The original diagram was created by an astrologer!
In 2014, a blogger created a meme where he put Ikigai in the middle. And thus a meme was born.
The blogger, Marc, after his viral meme swept the world, wrote:
“In 2014, I wrote a blog post on the subject of Ikigai. In that blog post, I merged two concepts to create something new. Essentially, I merged a venn diagram on ‘purpose’ with Dan Buettner’s Ikigai concept, in relation to living to be more than 100. The sum total of my effort was that I changed one word on a diagram and shared a ‘new’ meme with the world.”
This Ikigai lie is the bedrock of many multi-millionaire business coach's careers.
This Ikigai lie has generated tens of millions of views across places like Youtube & TED.com.
As we'll see later, this Ikigai lie is one of the most important exercises I ever did.
Theres a valuable lesson here; viral memes tell us something about the collective unconscious in the same way our dreams can give us a sense of our personal unconscious.
The virality of this meme shows us that our world is starving for purpose. To get just the slightest taste of our collective starvation, the WHO reports that over 350 million people are not just depressed, but many are so depressed they are unable to work. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world.
If you went on a walk for an hour and tried to just digest that fact, your heart would both shatter into 10,000 pieces, and a burning passion to help would roll through your veins. It does mine.
This Ikigai meme, although it's not what the Japanese mean by the word Ikigai, is a great compass to use if you want more direction and clarity.
If you took an hour today to create your own diagram, it would be one of the best spent hours of your week, maybe your next month. For some, it'll be the best spent hour of your year.
It looks like this:
Step 1: brainstorm everything you love to do. Things you'd do if you weren't afraid. Things you'd do if you had a weekend to yourself, where money wasn't a factor, and there was no email or text messages to send.
Step 2: brainstorm the things you're good at. What do friends come to you for advice on? What are things you've excelled at in school, got you recognition from peers or adults, or are skills you use at work?
Step 3: brainstorm the things you can do that people pay you for. Once you list the obvious things like internet marketing, website design, etc, get creative. Alex Hormozi said his backup plan if his business failed was he'd drive Uber and strip (at the gay clubs because they pay better). I like that story lol.
Step 4: brainstorm what the world needs. What aspects of our culture most annoy you, or break your heart?
An example for me is the WHO study I shared. I can bring myself to tears nearly at will when I think about the 16 year old girl being given her fifth antidepressant for her 'treatment resistant depression,' without once having an adult sit with her for a few hours to uncover the contours of her soul and what it desires.
And that this 16 year old, who has had her metabolic and libidinal health torn asunder by a decade of medication, is one soul in a sea of 350 million.
Shattered heart. Fire in veins.
Back to the venn diagram.
Once you've listed these all out, you have the building blocks to build what Marc meme'd as Ikigai.
I call it our dharma.
I did this almost 10 years ago. Here is what mine looks like.
(Confession: This is not my handwriting. My handwriting looks like a child imitating a doctor. I asked my friend to write this version you see here).
Take a moment to read this. I created this 10 years ago. My work experience was chipotle and a call center. I made less than $2k a month, and maybe 500 people in the world knew my name. When you do yours, be audacious. Dream.
But this isn't Ikigai
That diagram above isn't Ikigai.
What I can gather from native Japanese psychologists, is that Ikigai is a kind of perspective that can, at any moment, especially the subtle ones, notice and appreciate the 'just rightness of the desire meeting the behavior meeting the environment'.
The mother noticing her desire to pick up her child unfolds into her actually scooping up her child unfolds into an appreciation for the coherence, is ikigai.
Ikigai is the moment to moment appreciation of what the Greek's called Entelechy.
Modern scientific materialism loves to act like entelechy isn't real.
Webster defines entelechy:
a hypothetical agency not demonstrable by scientific methods that in some vitalist doctrines is considered an inherent regulating and directing force in the development and functioning of an organism
Jean Houston does a better job:
“It is the entelechy of an acorn to be an oak, it is the entelechy of a baby to be an adult, and of you to be the God only knows who or what. What happens in sacred psychology is the tapping into the entelechy of the self, the level most directly related to Divine Self.”
Write this down somewhere;
The amputation of entelechy from the human condition is why 350 million people are depressed.
It is a brutalism to be raised by a culture that negates the observable fact that acorns are willed into trees, that children are willed into adults, and that you have a whisper inside of you that wills you to become 'only God knows what.'
The reason Carl Jung is one of the most important thinkers in the last 500 years, why some regard him as a true mystic, is because he gave the western mind a map and a protocol to meet this whisper in all its terror and grandeur.
Start tracking and talking to your dreams and you'll meet this force.
Jung describes it this way:
“If it were possible to personify the unconscious, we might think of it as a collective human being combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and, from having at its command a human experience of one or two million years, practically immortal.
If such a being existed, it would be exalted above all temporal change; the present would mean neither more nor less to it than any year in the hundredth millennium before Christ; it would be a dreamer of age-old dreams and, owing to its limitless experience, an incomparable prognosticator.
It would have lived countless times over again; the life of the individual, the family, the tribe, and the nation, and it would possess a living sense of the rhythm of growth, flowering, and decay…
Unfortunately — or rather let us say, fortunately — this being dreams…”
In all of the reading I've done in my life, this quote brings me closest to the felt sense of the living god in us.
This being's dream for you is your unique entelechy.
To feel it move through us is our Ikigai.
And one of the most useful acts you will do in all of your life is figure out how to thread the needle of this Being's dream through the four spheres:
What do you love to do?
What are you good at?
What do you get paid for?
What does the world need?
When your entelechy has woven together these four spheres, you are what I call a Dharma Artist.
You have found your craft, you're good at it, you help the world with it, and people pay you for it.
The uncomfortable truth is, if you are reading this, you have the means, access, and intelligence to be a dharma artist.
For the sake of your soul, don't let resentment or bitterness or pseudo-compassion for less privileged people create lies you use to defend yourself from this uncomfortable truth.
If you are reading this article in the year 2024, you have everything it takes to be a dharma artist. I'd go so far as to say, if you're one of the few thousand people that will read this, you not only have what it takes to be one, your soul has long since started whispering to you to become one.
Our world needs your dharma.
If you aren't already on fire with it, do the Ikigai exercise. Draw it. Hang it somewhere.
Mine has hung over my desk in every home I've lived in for the last decade.
It was an hour well spent.
Project I'm Launching:
For the next two years, I'm teaching a class at Fit For Service called 'Mental Fitness.'
Because our culture is saturated in wounded stories around money, and I know this class will change your life if you take it, I owe it to you to show you why you should enroll (and that you can afford it).
By the end of this class, you will have:
- an understanding of your mind that dwarfs any psychology class or training you've taken
- a degree of clarity for your future that cuts through the apathetic fog of modern life
- a simple and artistically arousing system for behavior change
- learned the language of your dreams, and will be in a living dialogue with them
- a framework to actually do shadow work, with your dreams as your therapist
- mastery over technology that creates a peace of mind you can't believe in until you taste it
- a clear map for how to turn your artistic calling into a vocation
- a new operating system for your mind suited for the 21st century dharma artist.
By the end of this class, you will have a story, a plan, and a community to help build your life as a dharma artist.
And this isn't an online course. This is 13 weeks of online teachings, and then all six Fit For Service classes will meet in person in Montana for a 5 day summit. If you're familiar with transformational experiences, most organizations charge more for their in person experience than what this class + the summit is. And the frank truth is, I don't know anyone who does in-person experiences like we do.
Now I owe it to you to break your story about money.
This class is what college classes and certifications aspire to be. Most of us don't blink an eye as we spend 80 to 200k on a college education. Almost none of us are employed using the skills we were taught from that investment. There is almost no reputable and successful entrepreneur that recommends business schools. They recommend you get into the 'real world' and start learning by doing.
Think of this class as an investment in your continued education.
This class is the distillation of 13 years of research and experimentation. The teachings in this class took me from wrapping burritos at chipotle to practicing a vocation that helps people in a way that feeds my soul and pays my bills.
But it's not about money, this class will show you how to live like an artist passionately alive. It just so happens that passionately alive artists, with a little focus and intention, can craft a vocation with that passion.
If you have reached this sentence, I can say in full confidence, your whisper is telling you to leap.