Break Down Walls, But Also Stop Building Them

For a while, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of pushing into fear and expanding out of your comfort zone. I train myself to do this with awareness and micro-advancements. I’m now pretty good at recognizing when I have resistance to something and using that recognition to press on — but what I never considered is that better than breaking is to stop building.

Every single person I meet thinks they are open-minded, and they are, but to highly variable degrees. I find it quite easy to test how open people are by paying attention. I notice when people resist or recoil without awareness of having done so, and how long it takes for one to reach this point is a good metric for openness.

Openness is inextricably tied with awareness. For with great awareness, you can catch and release these feelings of resistance before the world, or an observing eye, catches wind of them. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who has mastered this skill — I myself can only do it occasionally. But the more open of my friends are able to effectively go through this catch & release cycle, just over a longer timescale. However, this timescale is infinitely important as it represents the total cost of the transaction.

Because once the resistance takes hold, you begin building — stacking brick upon brick in a bulwark against the outside world. This happens when you are presented with an idea that conflicts with your current mental model of how the world works.

At some point in the process of building this wall, the open-minded individual will take a step back and begin to question the construction. Sometimes this happens a few blocks in, other times years after completion. The longer and taller the wall is standing, the more time and effort required to tear it down.

The non-solution is to have no preconceptions about the world. I wrestled with this idea in my mind for a few minutes, but could not come up with a practical way to actualize this principle. I will certainly return to this thought exercise later on when I have more experience.

But for now, I believe the answer is to stop building as soon as possible, ideally before the first brick is laid. I concede this will not be immediately attainable, but luckily the world is not very perceptive. I actually think that most people only see walls in others once they are fully constructed, and even then it’s not guaranteed. So, as long as you catch yourself building and stop before completion, I’d say you’re in the top 1%. But what about the fabled 1% of the 1% you ask? Well, they never start building…