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Home » Patrick Gentempo: Unleashing The Power of Philosophy at TEDxMinot (Transcript)

Patrick Gentempo: Unleashing The Power of Philosophy at TEDxMinot (Transcript)

Patrick Gentempo at TEDxMinot

Here is the full transcript of philosopher/entrepreneur Patrick Gentempo’s TEDx Talk: Unleashing The Power of Philosophy at TEDxMinot conference.

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.

Okay, but where do your values come from? Your values come from your philosophy. Now, if your philosophy isn’t mapped, if your mind is not mapped on this, if you don’t have a philosophy formula, so to speak, to look through and try to say, “Where might I have some of these contradictions that are limiting my life?” then you get to a point where you’re stuck.

Imagine that what’s driving you and your career is pulling you in this direction. And then what is driving you in your personal life is pulling you in this direction. And little by little, you’re getting pulled in these opposing directions, you’re driving in two directions at once, basically, till you get to a point where you’re at maximum tension. And at this point you’re stuck.

If anything tries to move you more this way, you can’t go because you’ve got tension equal to it on this side pulling you this way. You get to a point where you are stuck; there’s nowhere else to go. And if you don’t have a way to process that, then you have no way to solve that riddle, and you stay stuck. And it becomes a recurring or a redundant pattern in life.

But now imagine, with these contradictory driving forces – incidentally, you’re only looking at two dimensions here, but what about your relationship life, your financial life, your spiritual life? It gets kind of complicated. Suddenly we’re pulled in all these different ways, all around you, and you’re kind of stuck in the middle of all of it. But imagine that you’re able to formulate a way of aligning your values where instead of being like this at maximum tension, where there’s no more room for you to move, you start to go this way and align them in a common direction.

And now you put energy into that system, which is what doing something new is, putting new energy into a system, and boom! it takes off. That’s what’s referred to as a breakthrough. People talk about “Oh, there was breakthrough!” It could be a breakthrough in your business, in your relationship, in your personal life, in your financial life, a spiritual breakthrough that you’ve had. Where does it come from? It comes from finding the foundational elements, your philosophical premises, and lining them up in a way that instead of competing with each other, they synergize with each other. And then the magic unfolds.

When I look at philosophy and its branches – let’s look at the five branches of philosophy – I’ll probably talk about the first three, just for the purposes of this conversation – and talk about how they line up, you’ll see that these are difficult questions to ask yourself, this is a difficult exploration. This isn’t for the, you know, the academic intellectual in the ivy towers of the greatest universities of the world, this is the practical use of a tool of achievement called philosophy, what I believe to be the most practical tool for human achievement.

So the first branch of philosophy is metaphysics. Metaphysics is your view of the nature of reality. In essence, metaphysics asks the question: “Where am I?” “What is this place? Where am I?” The second branch is epistemology – kind of a big word – but epistemology is the theory of knowledge. If metaphysics asks the question, “Where am I?” epistemology is going to ask the question, “How do I know it?”

And emerging from your metaphysics, your view of reality, “Where am I?” and epistemology, your theory of knowledge, “how I know it,” becomes the third branch, which is ethics. Ethics provides a human being with a code of values and therefore will be a guide to your actions. In essence, ethics asks the question: “So now what do I do?”

So just as, maybe, a fundamental example: Supposing that you have a metaphysical view, a view of reality that says, “You know, I am – I don’t have the ability to X.” Fill in the blank. “I don’t have the ability to ” Fill in the blank. “I don’t have the ability to have a good relationship.” “I don’t have the ability to improve my standing in my career.” “I don’t have the ability to ” just fill in whatever that blank is. Okay, so that’s your view of reality.

So what’s the next branch? How do I know it? How do you know? Because I tried and failed. So now what should I do? Third branch: Stop trying. Contrast that with a different view that says: “I have an extraordinary ability to ” fill in the blank. “I have an extraordinary ability to have a great love relationship.” “I have an extraordinary ability to grow in my career.” “I have an extraordinary ability to express health.” Whatever it might be, just fill in the blank.

How do you know it? Because I have at times failed in trying to do it, but I stayed with it until I was able to figure it out and succeed. So let’s go to the third branch: “Then what should I do?” What I should do is stretch myself to do bigger and greater things. Your foundational philosophy, the premises that you hold, for most people, which are unconscious, are the limiting factors in their life that they don’t even know that they possess, which prevents them from doing more in their life and in the world.

In the end, ladies and gentlemen, it’s our philosophy that gives us our sense of life, and what emerges out of that third branch, the really important thing that emerges out of that third branch – “What should you do?” – is a thing called purpose.

Now, you’ve all seen, you know, and maybe read the books, and seen lectures on, which I am in complete alignment with, “being on purpose,” “being purpose driven,” “how purpose needs to be the fuel that drives your life,” but you have to ask the question: “Where does your purpose come from?” You don’t just get hit with the purpose stick one day and magically your purpose appears, your purpose emerges from something. What makes you different than every other form of animal on the planet is the fact that you can choose a purpose. A dog cannot choose a purpose for its life. If it could, it probably wouldn’t live with you.

A cow that chooses a purpose for its life, if it could choose a purpose for its life, there’d be no such thing as McDonald’s. So animals live strictly by pain-pleasure survival. And human beings who don’t have a purpose, do the same thing. There is no purpose except survival.

And when your purpose is survival, survival is all you’ll ever get. So, it is a triumphant thing to understand what purpose is, and where it comes from, and how to develop it, and it comes from your philosophy.

In the end, ladies and gentlemen, philosophy gives us our sense of life. And if you and I share a common sense of life, then we can do great things together. If you and I do not share a common sense of life, then on the personal level, we get divorced. On the geopolitical level, we go to war and people die. I think it was maybe best stated when we look at this whole concept of sense of life, and how philosophy plays a role, the role, in this incredible epic called human existence.

But the philosopher Rand, in her essay “Philosophy: Who needs it?” said this:

“As a human being you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought, and scrupulously logical deliberation, or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears drawn together by chance but integrated into your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight, self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.”

I believe, ladies and gentlemen, that there aren’t lazy people in the world, I believe that people become paralyzed. And they aren’t paralyzed because of inability or fear. They’re paralyzed because they have contradictions in a philosophy that they don’t even know that they own. Let’s see if we can go out and change that. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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