Course talk: Building a better world

My DMP [Definite Major Purpose] from the 2017-18 Master Key Experience includes building a better world through making people happier, healthier, more productive, empathetic and cooperative.


Because I’m not on this planet alone, and I see a lot of anger, fear and want around me. And by want, I’m not talking greed — so many people don’t have clean water, good food and access to health care.

Some people at the top of the pyramid of life think they can only rise if they push other people down.

That’s simply not true. They can keep their relative position — or even raise it — and still let other people work their way up.

In other words, we can have elite outliers at the top, “negative” outliers at the bottom and a large cluster around a mean, but there’s a way to raise all of those positions higher than they are.

I’m not interested in taking from one group to give to another; I’m interested in making everyone better.

This is the premise the Tapas For Life course will start with.

It will grow from there.

What do you think?


Week 10: Abundance and our PPNs

In 10-1, Haanel opens with: “Abundance is a natural law of the Universe.”

Abundance has been, for me, a new word this year, but an important one. Much of this post is repurposed from my notes on Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, but it’s also reworked to be relevant here.

How we get from a scarcity mindset to an abundant one

Abundance is wrought of technology.

If I have an orange tree and I pick all the oranges on the lowest branches, I now have a scarcity of oranges. When someone invents the ladder, I now have an abundance of oranges, since I can reach all the fruit on the higher branches.

In the mid-19th century, aluminum was more valuable than gold. The top of the Washington Monument is capped in aluminum. It cost more per ounce than the average daily wage for someone working to build it. In the ensuing decades, researchers in America and France would figure out how to isolate the metal with an electrolytic process, and now it’s so easy to get aluminum we wrap our cold pizza in it.

Some 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, but 97.3 percent of that is salt water. Lots of people today die from lack of clean drinking water, but when we come up with a good desalination technology, the scarcity will go away.

The bottom of pyramid, the domino effect and reworking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Right now, hundreds of millions or billions of people live in poverty, food scarcity, water scarcity, lack of health care, etc. These people represent the the bottom of the pyramid — a swath of humanity large enough to boost up the rest of the world, except for the fact that they’re suffering.

If we can take care of these people, they can contribute to society, solving more (world) problems.

Think, also, of a mother who spends her day toting water for cleaning and drinking and cooking. Giver her clean running water in her home, and now she can go to work, raising both the wealth of her family and her nation’s GDP.

Give Bill Gates enough money to pay his bills, now he can go defeat malaria. Give a painkiller-addicted, depressed MMA fighter a new purpose, and he can go build wells in the Congo.

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who, in the mid-20th century, developed a fundamental hierarchy of needs. It starts with basic human needs (food, water, air and such) at the bottom, and once you can get that taken care of, you can move on to the next level, with the top being self-actualization, or the ability to be personally fulfilled.


Back to the Master Key Experience.

Our PPNs? They’re all top-of-the-pyramid needs.

If you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from, recognition for creative expression isn’t on your radar.

If you’re concerned about finding clean water so you can keep your organs functioning without pumping disease through your body, spiritual growth isn’t on your mind.

However, when you know where there’s clean water in a place there wasn’t previously, you can suddenly start thinking about helping others get it, too, and create a legacy of giving descendants that clean water long after you’re gone.

In their book, Diamandis and Kotler argue for reworking Maslow’s pyramid into a three-tier pyramid starting in about the same place, but basically replacing the middle three tiers with a single tier that includes education, energy (as in power, be it solar, battery, etc.) and communication. At the top, you find liberty, freedom (in MKE language, we call this autonomy) and other things that many of us take for granted, like health care.

Now that I think about my PPNs — legacy and helping others — I realize that I can only do that because I already have an abundant life. All the other stuff is taken care of. Now I can think about where to go from here.

Week 9: Ritual, routine and tradition

Some definitions, from

First, ritual:

1. an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.

2. a system or collection of religious or other rites. 

7. prescribed, established, or ceremonial acts or features collectively, as in religious services

Next, routine:

1. a customary or regular course of procedure.

2. commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity

Thirdly, tradition:

the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice

This week is full of all three for me.

Apart from the usual (our Sunday call, the daily routine of reading, the weekly routine of blogging, etc.), Monday was my birthday, Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and Friday evening into Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew.

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The one thing I do for myself every year on my birthday is go for a long run. Long is certainly relative; I generally mean it will be the longest in distance and/or duration than any other run in the previous few months. Today, that was shorter than the past couple of years by a long shot. 9.2 miles at a 12:12 pace; I’ve been over 15 miles the past two years. It gives me a chance to collect my thoughts, think about what I’ve done right and wrong over the past year and where I’d like to be a year from now. Some of my goals for the next year will remain among my inner circle, but I’ve signed up for my first full marathon next November; I have a talk scheduled in May; and I have outlines for a new podcast series to launch in the spring, either resuming under Josh: The Podcast or picking up under a new name; I haven’t decided which. Anyway, it’s time for me to put my head down and get into battering ram mode. Expect some ass-kicking this year. Happy 41st to me. … #running #writing #podcast #100to0 #birthday

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Over the past several years, I’ve developed a birthday ritual: going for a long run. This year it was a little over nine miles in a little under two hours.

Even if I spend the rest of the day, like I did this year, with my family, this is me time. Beyond my daily sit — which takes place in the morning — running is my me time. I’ll sometimes take a short quiet run, but typically I’ll run an entertaining long-form conversational podcast that I can tune into and out of without missing too much (for this particular run, it was Dan Carlin on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which you can watch at the end of this blog post if you want).

The run gives me time to reflect on the past year and think ahead to the next year. To figure out where I should keep on and where to correct course. And to remember that humans are meant to be outside and moving.

And it comes with other ritual, too — what to wear, what to carry and, importantly, the mental mindset to set out running for hours.

I grew up with a Thanksgiving tradition that involved hosting the entire family, which grew as we gained boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses and children. At one point we were hosting about 25 people at a table that spanned two rooms.

When my parents moved south, it became just a few of us — one or two of the kids and maybe a neighbor.

This year, all the kids are finally nearby, along with a couple spouses and a baby (my niece). It won’t be as full a house as we were used to growing up, but the immediate family has only been all together in its current form once in the baby’s almost two and a half years on the planet.

Since my sister moved to town with her husband and daughter several months ago, we’ve also started a new ritual that we hope will become tradition: Shabbat dinner. They come over to end the week with a relaxing dinner, usually followed by a viewing of “Trolls,” my niece’s current movie obsession. It’s often the only time during the week the television is on.

And so, to routine, add some ritual and tradition. It makes for a deeper, more interesting life.

Be what you will to be.

Oh, and as promised, here’s that podcast I listened to:

Week 8: Anchors (I get to do this)


I’ve felt a bit rudderless the past few days. I have a few days off of work (really just to burn some use-or-lose vacation days), and I’ve regained about 3 hours a day due to the end of a six-week daily obligation.

So, really, I have no schedule for a week.

The MKE work, though, has served as a good anchor throughout the time. Morning reading and sit, afternoon reading and evening reading.

“I have to do this,” some people would say.

“I get to do this,” I reply.

I got my DMP recorded. It has some personal information in it, but if you want to hear it and promise not to share it, email me (click the contact link at the top of the page). It was fun. I got to exercise, at least rudimentarily, that old music production muscle I’ve been allowing to atrophy for a long time.

It’s an anchor. A reminder to be creative.

I typically blog by Monday evening. But here it is Wednesday afternoon and I’m finally getting to it.

Another anchor.

I’ve been in the habit for years of blogging weekly. I gave my personal blog a rest to focus my attention here.

Things keep showing up in my life that remind me I’m in the right spot.

I came up with a book idea.

Then I was asked to speak.

Then I learned about Tapas for Life.

I get to do this.

Be what you will to be.

Week 7: The Great Architect and the best-laid plans


In The Master Key System, 7:5, Haanel writes:

The architect, when he plans a 30-story building, has every line and detail pictured in advance.

In 7:8, he follows with:

We all recognize that the Universe must have been thought into shape before it ever could have become a material fact. And if we are willing to follow along the lines of the Great Architect of the Universe, we shall find our thoughts taking form, just as the universe took concrete form.

“The Great Architect” is used in Freemasonry as a name for God, and Haanel, it turns out, was a member of Keystone Lodge No. 243 in St. Louis — the same lodge as Charles Lindbergh; it’s very likely the two were there contemporaneously. I couldn’t find the lodge record for Haanel, but Lindbergh was made a Master Mason in 1926; Haanel was 60 years old then and would live another 23 years.

Anyway, that’s a short digression…now on to the meat.

In the beginning, God creates everything. Everything. Surely there was a blueprint for everything, perfectly laid out?

Well, almost, it turns out.

Almost every faith we know about has some sort of flood myth. Enough that there probably was a giant flood that wiped out almost all life on Earth. Even if there was no Noah, as in the Judeo-Christian version, there’s a reasonable chance it happened.

masons-2022392_1280Now. One of the reasons Freemasonry uses its own name for God is that it accepts men of all monotheistic faiths; its practitioners don’t care what you call God, as long as your faith is there. But is “The Great Architect” problematic, given the necessity of such clear plans outlined in The Master Keys, 7:5?

As told in Genesis, the flood is meant to wipe out every person on Earth except Noah and his family.

The blueprint wasn’t complete. God got so frustrated with these creatures — humans — that, after evicting them from the Garden of Eden, He just decided to wipe almost all of them out.

But that’s not the end of it.

Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by fire. Humans are punished with multiple languages at the Tower of Babel.

By the time we get to Exodus, The Great Architect finds a surrogate. Moses gets so frustrated with people that he breaks the tablets the Ten Commandments are printed on.

It turns out that the best laid plans need some correction, and some things might be out of our control.

Should we destroy those things and hope they develop anew more to our liking? Should we let them continue out of control? Should we build new controls (like The Great Architect did at Babel)?

My first instinct, when things go awry, is to scrap it and start over, like with the flood. But I use some version of The 5-Second Rule to take a breath, reset, and save the best stuff and build in new controls for the stuff that needs controlling.

My PPNs changed. Again. I realized if I had more work to do on my Definite Major Purpose after this amount of time, there was something that wasn’t actually definite about it.

Of course, the moment I saw my new PPNs, I saw what needed to be clarified, and it all makes more sense to me now.

How do you react when things don’t quite go exactly as you planned?