Here is the full transcript of philosopher/entrepreneur Patrick Gentempo’s TEDx Talk: Unleashing The Power of Philosophy at TEDxMinot conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.
Patrick Gentempo – Philosopher/entrepreneur
Ladies and gentlemen, whether we realize it or not, every single one of us has a philosophy. And that philosophy is an irreducible force that drives our thinking and actions, that dictate our outcomes and our sense of life. And if we just spent a little bit of time considering and learning about our philosophy, I contend that we could change our lives, and if we took that to its furthest conclusion, we could change the world.
Now, the word “philosophy” is an interesting word. It conjures up interesting thoughts or images from people. When you hear the word “philosophy,” what comes up in your mind? Are you thinking about old guys in robes wandering the earth in antiquity? Pondering the greatest questions, like, “What is the meaning of life?” “What is the true nature of human consciousness?” “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Or maybe you start to think about groups of friends that get together on a Sunday afternoon over some cappuccino, wearing the jackets that have, like, the suede arms on the sleeves. And whatever they’re talking about on that Sunday has no relevance to life on Monday. I’d like to make a distinction.
There is academic philosophy; there is the theoretical philosophy. But there’s also a practical application of philosophy. I don’t consider myself an academic philosopher, but I work hard to be a practical philosopher. As a matter of fact, I contend that philosophy is the most practical thing a human being can hope to embrace.
I’m talking about putting-dollars-in-your-pocket practical, I’m talking about creating-a-better-relationship practical, I’m talking about being-a-better-parent practical. Why? Why would that be? How can philosophy be so practical, and yet most people don’t bother to consider it very often? I think the best answer is cited by Rand when she said that contradictions lead to destruction. And the amount of destruction is relative to the level of the contradiction. And it’s through our philosophical explorations that we can identify contradictions in our own life, in our own thinking and resolve them, and transcend current challenges and go to the next level.
Think about this: children, when they’re born – and I believe kind of the arc of human experience – it starts out that I think all children have this sort of sixth sense, this sense of wonder. They ask a lot of “Why?” questions, don’t they? “Why does the sun rise in the East?” “Why do the stars sparkle in the sky?” “Why do the leaves change color?” What’s implied in that? What’s implied is that, to them, the universe is a comprehensible place. And that if we can learn about it, we can then become masters of our own destiny, and we can have this extraordinary and exciting future in front of us.
But what happens? Well, Mom decides one day to tell little Timmy that there’s a lesson he needs to learn about life and about reality. And that lesson is this: “Timmy, you should never lie. You should always tell the truth. And good people who do good things in the world and have great lives are people who tell the truth, they don’t lie.” So Timmy’s all excited, he’s got another one in the arsenal now. He’s building it up for this great life that’s in front of him, very appreciative of the lesson he just learned.
Moments later, the phone rings; it’s Uncle Johnny. Uncle Johnny would like to talk to his mother. So Timmy answers the phone, he yells, “Mom! It’s Uncle Johnny on the phone for you.”
“Tell him I’m not here.”
Contradiction by contradiction by contradiction starts to eat away. And the sense of wonder, over time, becomes a sense of dread that the universe suddenly becomes an incomprehensible place, that there’s no use in trying, and that your only hope is maybe to try to survive it. We learn things like “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” “Don’t try to be something you’re not.” “Rich people are thieves.” “Life isn’t fair.” This translates into this whole issue of human motivation.
What motivates people to act in their lives? To move forward in their lives? To go out there and try to make something better happen? And really, kind of in a rough way, you could say there’s two kinds of people: There’s the people who basically have checked out, and all they’re trying to do is survive it; they’re not really going after everything.
Then there’s people who are committed seekers – people who are going after, trying to make better things happen in their life. They have a desire to want to improve their life in any of the important categories, or maybe in all of the important categories of their life. This is what I love about TED – Ideas Worth Spreading. Coming in, people absorbing these ideas – throughout the planet, that they can watch presentations, stimulate thinking and ideas. And by virtue of the fact that you’re watching this presentation tells me that you fall into that category of person.
So let me ask you a question: How many people here know something that they could be doing, right now, that they’re currently not doing, that would somehow make their life better? Raise your hand. Anybody who doesn’t raise your hand, you’re lying. Everybody knows something that they could be doing that they’re currently not doing that would improve their life.
So look at the absurdity of this. We already are basically in this category of life that says that we’re looking to try to improve things. And we already know things that we could be doing that we’re not doing that would make things better, yet we’re showing up at events and buying books and watching seminars and doing all these types of things to learn more about what we’re not going to do.
What prevents us from acting? So, I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the years. And, basically, here’s what I’ve understood. Here’s the conclusion that I’ve drawn that still unfolds as I think about it more. It all boils down to the driving forces in your life. What moves you? What drives you? And what would people say drives you? Well, your values.