Ryan Bush
Your Mind Design

Psychitecture enables us to design our minds for optimal functioning and well-being. Through metacognition and mindfulness, we can identify and reshape cognitive biases, emotional reactions, and behavioral patterns. This process involves examining our core values, cultivating personal virtues, and aligning our actions with our deepest strengths. We can navigate depression, enhance self-esteem, and ultimately create a more fulfilling and authentic life experience.

Ryan Bush
Listen Now
Show Notes

Ryan A Bush is a thinker, author, and designer dedicated to understanding and optimizing the human mind. From a young age in Memphis, Tennessee, he had a deep fascination with mental design. Bush’s academic path in product and industrial design, combined with his interests in psychology and philosophy, laid the foundation for his unique approach to mind design, which he calls “psychitecture.”

After working in various design roles, Bush took a significant leap to pursue his passion, writing his first book, “Designing the Mind,” published in 2021. This marked the beginning of his full-time commitment to exploring and teaching psychitecture principles.

As an author and thought leader, Bush challenges conventional ideas about purpose and self-improvement, arguing for a focus on cultivating personal virtues and strengths. His work offers practical strategies for rewiring psychological “algorithms” to enhance well-being and personal effectiveness. Through his writing, speaking, and community-building efforts, Ryan A Bush continues to push the boundaries of our understanding of the mind, offering innovative approaches to mental health and human potential.

“We’re able to design and program our own psychological operating system.” – Ryan Bush

Key Takeaways

  • Design Your Mind: The concept of “psychitecture” or designing one’s mind involves examining and consciously shaping mental habits, emotional reactions, and cognitive biases to improve psychological well-being and performance.
  • Metacognition vs. Mindfulness: Metacognition (thinking about thinking) and mindfulness (observing thoughts without judgment) are important for understanding and redesigning the mind.
  • The Evolutionary Perspective on Depression: Depression may be an evolutionary mechanism related to self-esteem and social standing, and how understanding this can help in addressing mental health issues.
  • Virtues Over Abstract Purpose: You become who you are by identifying your strengths and virtues, rather than pursuing a predetermined notion of success or happiness. Focusing on cultivating personal virtues and strengths may be more beneficial than searching for an abstract sense of purpose.

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Links for Ryan Bush







[00:00:00] Mark Divine: There is no independent, observable, identifiable, separate self in there. It’s just a bunch of ideas, but built upon flawed memories and flawed ideas. And most people don’t take the time to begin to understand their mind and to redesign it. 

[00:00:14] Ryan Bush: I think we all need to inquire into our own individual.

[00:00:18] Ryan Bush: Idiosyncratic ideals to really figure out what we value uniquely and and how we can learn to embody them 

[00:00:26] Mark Divine: If you met an alien who had a completely different perspective on reality and didn’t have an understanding about human values Which ones would you defend and how would you do that? That’s a great question So welcome to the mark divine show where the journey to greatness begins with this listen brian.


[00:00:44] Mark Divine: So great to have you here Yeah, i’m happy to be here mark. Thanks for having me. Thanks for making the trek from You 

[00:00:49] Ryan Bush: North Carolina 

[00:00:49] Mark Divine: you say? 

[00:00:49] Ryan Bush: Yeah, yeah a little mountain town outside of North Carolina. What’s the name of that town? It’s Brevard. Brevard? Brevard, yeah. 

[00:00:58] Mark Divine: Okay, population? Very small. I don’t know exactly but.

[00:01:02] Mark Divine: The reason I asked, I’m from a small town in upstate New York and I never thought about it until sarcastic friend of mine googled it. Mm hmm. And he started laughing out loud and he’s like, Oh my God, Barneville, New York, huh? Population 375 people. 

[00:01:18] Ryan Bush: Okay. We’ve got thousands for sure, but probably not more than 10, 000.

[00:01:22] Ryan Bush: Okay. It’s a little bit bigger. Yeah. You grew up there? No, actually, I grew up in the suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee. Oh, you did? Yeah. I’m not a stereotypical southerner, but that’s, that’s where I grew up. And then I ended up in Brevard about seven years ago for a design job and I’ve stayed there ever since.

[00:01:41] Ryan Bush: Excellent. Yeah. 

[00:01:42] Mark Divine: Well, tell me about those years in Memphis. What were those years? What were the, some of the formative things that shaped your reality back then? 

[00:01:51] Ryan Bush: Yeah. So, um, a big part of, of what has led me here is just a really deep, innate fascination with my own mind in particular, since I was a teenager, when I probably should have been paying attention to socializing or whatever else I was, uh, just kind of immersed in my own mind.

[00:02:09] Ryan Bush: I was fascinated by. introspection and by particularly the act of changing and designing my own mental reactions, cognitive biases, habits, emotional reactions in particular. 

[00:02:21] Mark Divine: Do you have any understanding as to why you were that way? 

[00:02:26] Ryan Bush: I’ve thought about that a lot. I think, you know, my, my parents, especially my mom are, are kind of inclined that way.

[00:02:32] Ryan Bush: My mom, has a psychology background. And I think she raised us in a very sort of thoughtful, curious kind of way. A lot of genetics too. My grandfather is, is like a, or was kind of a clone of me, essentially. So. Or you were a clone of him, you mean? Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Toward the end of his life, I had some conversations where I realized, oh, wow, we’re interested in the same things, even though we never.

[00:02:58] Ryan Bush: Talked about it until now. So really interesting how that 

[00:03:01] Mark Divine: works So what’s the earliest age where you kind of had this awareness that you’re really interested in the mind and its construct? 

[00:03:09] Ryan Bush: Probably a 13 to 15 Wow range. I started going on long walks and just reflecting on philosophical ideas and You know, I would be in school and we’d get some, you know Homework over the weekend or something and I started saying how can I?

[00:03:25] Ryan Bush: You Flip this around so that I have a positive emotional reaction to it instead of a negative one. I started just tinkering with my own mind and learning, Oh, wow, you can do some really cool things. You can change the way you experience the world. And I started taking notes before I even started reading books.

[00:03:42] Ryan Bush: At that age, I still thought learning was boring and books were boring, but eventually that led to reading a lot of books. Psychological research, a lot of ancient philosophy. As soon as I discovered all that, I got into Stoicism and Buddhism and stuff. There was kind of no looking back, but yeah. And then also around that age, I, um, you know, when I was in seventh grade, I went into real school, I’ve been homeschooled and had a Montessori school and, uh, A lot of self education stuff.

[00:04:13] Ryan Bush: So I went into real school for the first time and it was kind of a shock socially. I realized I wasn’t really proud of the person I was at that age. Most people I imagine aren’t in seventh grade, but I was scared of the world and I, I didn’t know how to really interact with people. And, and that led me ultimately to do something crazy for someone like me, who’s kind of a chess team type of kid and joined the football team at, you know, a hundred pound kid who didn’t.

[00:04:42] Ryan Bush: I think I did it because I knew I needed to get way out of my comfort zone in order to grow. That was a huge, huge leap out of my comfort zone, but I credit it for a lot of And a lot of really what led me to my ideas now. 

[00:04:56] Mark Divine: That’s amazing, by the way, to do that at that age. Most people never do that. 

[00:05:00] Ryan Bush: Yeah, I’m amazed at 13 that I had the forethought.

[00:05:04] Ryan Bush: I know I couldn’t have articulated really why I was doing it, but I just said, I need to do this. And then I, Stayed on the team that whole year and then four more years. And, uh, I wasn’t ever good at, you know, I use the term played loosely, but, uh, you know, it caused me to grow in so many ways in terms of my mindset and social skills, everything.

[00:05:24] Ryan Bush: So, 

[00:05:25] Mark Divine: so did you go on to college? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. 

[00:05:28] Ryan Bush: I went into, uh, product design, industrial design as the degree. I was looking into a lot of things, computer science, I was very interested in, uh, obviously psychology philosophy stuff, but ultimately I decided that’s too far on the analytical extreme and not enough creativity.

[00:05:45] Ryan Bush: I really thrive on a blend of creativity and analytical. And so I discovered product design and said, this is kind of perfect. And this is a lot of. creative problem solving. And I still think it really was perfect. I can’t imagine a better way to sort of start my, my venture into this stuff than studying design principles.

[00:06:06] Ryan Bush: Worked in that. You know, field for a little while, did everything from the nine to five job to consulting and co founding startups and stuff, then I decided it was sort of time to take the leap into this space. I had more notes than my note taking app could even handle without crashing. And I had more than a book’s worth of information that I was just kind of ready to get out there.

[00:06:31] Ryan Bush: So I, you know, took a 60 percent pay cut at the job I had at the time. To two days a week so that I could spend the other three writing this book, designing the mind, and that’s what kicked it off, published it in 2021. And, uh, I’ve been doing lots more of that ever since. And it’s become my full time thing, essentially.

[00:06:51] Mark Divine: So what did you learn from product design that you have applied to designing the mind? I mean, what, how did the two kind of mesh? 

[00:07:00] Ryan Bush: Well, it’s product design and also when I was looking into computer science, there’s a lot of that that has been blended in too. But essentially looking at the mind as this machine that, you know, has been initially designed and sort of shaped by natural selection and realizing that we’re kind of able to uniquely design and program our own psychological operating system.

[00:07:23] Ryan Bush: And so, the basic principles of creative problem solving and the design process of looking at, you know, the mind as a set of systems, trying to understand those systems and find the leverage points for Creating change, uh, looking at individual, I like to say psychological algorithms, how they work and how you can go in and rewire them so that you have a different mental, emotional experience.

[00:07:48] Ryan Bush: I think all of those things in my background kind of blended together. And then obviously there’s the component of just getting to design the physical products and the branding and everything has been really a ton of fun with designing the mind. So. Hi, Mark Devine here from SealFit. 

[00:08:04] Mark Divine: After two years of development, I’m super stoked to announce.

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[00:08:29] Mark Divine: And you can also use it as a pick me up booster during the day or after a workout. It dissolves immediately and believe it or not, it tastes great. I’ve had many testimonials already saying it’s the best tasting greens. They have ever tried. So Hoya seal fit supplements.com, or you can find it on Amazon by searching for seal fit electro greens Hoya, let’s do this divine out.

[00:09:01] Mark Divine: That is delicious. From your perspective, and I know you use the term, uh, psych architecture, which sounds like architecting the psychology. Yeah. Which makes sense. How is it different than therapy? Yeah. Or traditional psychology, which is basically deconstructing stories and a story is an algorithm. Yeah.

[00:09:18] Mark Divine: And reconstructing them, you know, to be. more favorable for life circumstances. 

[00:09:23] Ryan Bush: Sure. I, I like to compare psychotherapy to physical therapy in that that’s great that we have that for when you have an injury, an illness, uh, when you need to really work one on one with someone to make sure you go through the healing process.

[00:09:37] Ryan Bush: But with the physical space, we also have fitness, yoga, CrossFit. We have this thing that you do to get stronger. When you’re not necessarily injured or ill, that people kind of turn into a hobby, an obsession. There’s a community around it. It’s kind of a fun, exciting thing, and kind of a DIY thing in a way, rather than this very sterile, clinical thing.

[00:09:59] Ryan Bush: And so, I, I’ve kind of been asking for years now, where is that cool community space for designing the mind that we, we kind of have for designing our bodies and building strength? And so, that has led me to create a lot of this stuff and create my psychotecture community called Mindform, that in some ways is kind of like a fitness community for the mind, where people can gather and study, The ancient philosophical principles and the modern psychological research to get stronger psychologically to get better and healthier.

[00:10:32] Ryan Bush: And it’s kind of a fun, exciting thing rather than, yeah, this kind of sterile stuffy thing that we learn about in psychology and psychotherapy. 

[00:10:40] Mark Divine: Yeah, I like that. That makes sense. So, you know, in any kind of design process, you have to have an end state in mind. You know, kind of at least loosely, um, understood where you’re, where you’re heading.

[00:10:54] Mark Divine: How do you define that end state? What’s, what’s the ideal? Like, what’s the ideal mind look, act like? What, what should we be striving for? 

[00:11:02] Ryan Bush: Yeah, there are a few different angles I think that we can look at that from. One of them that I, I really like doing is looking at the ideals that have been presented throughout philosophical history.

[00:11:14] Ryan Bush: You know, as early as you know, the Buddha and the stoics and, you know, Socrates, we’ve had this ideal of the Sage or the Buddha, the Bodhi Sattva, and then we’ve got things like Nietzche Overman and, and Maslow’s self-actualizing individual. We’ve got a lot of. Ideals that have been presented that look eerily similar when you really study them.

[00:11:34] Ryan Bush: And so that suggests that there are these universal values that humans have and have had across eras and cultures. And then there’s also a lot of research that suggests that’s very much true. You know, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson have found what they’ve sort of broken up into 24 different virtues that are shared.

[00:11:55] Ryan Bush: consistent across cultures and eras. We observe it in, in even the most sort of indigenous tribes, like our, our ancestors live. Um, and so that tells us that there are these sort of universal human ideals that we can strive to study and learn to embody. I also think that in some ways, You know, our values are kind of like our genes or our fingerprints or something.

[00:12:18] Ryan Bush: They’re pretty much the same. There may be 99 percent the same. They all pretty much look like fingerprints and not like volcanoes or something, but, um, but they’re all slightly different. And so I think we all need to inquire into our own individual, you know, idiosyncratic ideals to really get close. I think those, those differences do matter on an individual level and we have to figure out what.

[00:12:42] Ryan Bush: We value uniquely and, and how we can learn too. I encourage people to study the people that they admire most in their lives, you know, in philosophical history and in fictional material, potentially anything that you can identify an impulse of admiration in your own mind. That gives you a huge opportunity.

[00:13:03] Ryan Bush: clue into who you need to become. And this is essentially the message of my new book, become who you are. It’s finding out who you are in the sense of what you most admire in other people and learning, you know, how can I gradually become more like this? How can I build these psychological habits? So I become the person I most admire.

[00:13:23] Mark Divine: I still want to take you from the general to the specific, and I’ll use one of your mindsight cards to get there. Of those human values that are universally accepted or admired across all cultures, how would you defend those if you met an alien who had a completely different perspective on reality and didn’t have an understanding or give a rat’s ass about human values?

[00:13:47] Mark Divine: So how would you defend, which ones would you defend and how would you do that? 

[00:13:50] Ryan Bush: That’s a great question! I’ll take it in a little bit different direction in that I really don’t think I would have any basis for defending human values. I don’t think they are objective in that sense. I don’t think they apply to someone who doesn’t have a human mind.

[00:14:04] Ryan Bush: And so there’s really not much to say to that person. And you can take that in, you know, disturbing directions too. There are people in this world who are sort of like aliens in that their, their minds are uniquely different. We have psychopaths who, at the very least, don’t have the same drives that, that the rest of us do.

[00:14:21] Ryan Bush: Uh, I’m not necessarily convinced they don’t have the same values, particularly when we study them, but it does lead to some difficult questions. But ultimately the reason why we need to act in alignment with our own values is not because they’re objectively good. It’s because they are subjectively good.

[00:14:38] Ryan Bush: It’s because we’re evaluating ourselves according to that. And even if we aren’t necessarily conscious of it, our mind is constantly observing our own. behavior and asking, well, do I approve of myself or not? Am I approvable or not? And I’ve argued there are deep sort of evolutionary reasons why our brain is constantly doing this, but I think it has huge implications for our wellbeing.

[00:15:03] Ryan Bush: I think being a person that you yourself don’t approve of has, you know, huge psychological implications. It’s the, it’s the worst prison you can be in essentially. So I think there are very real reasons why we should live. According to our own values, but I don’t think they apply to non humans in the same way.

[00:15:21] Mark Divine: You’re sitting here with me. Defend the values that you think are useful for humans. Again, let’s get to the end state. What do we want to look like? What do we want to act like? Who do we want to be as a species? 

[00:15:37] Ryan Bush: I think there’s a pretty wide range and it’s difficult to balance them all but certainly we value Pro social ideals, things like kindness and fairness toward other human beings.

[00:15:47] Ryan Bush: I think that’s one of the deepest, you know, most deeply embedded virtues that humans have. I think we also value things like ingenuity, creativity, and humor. These are often left out of accounts of what a virtue is, but I don’t think it should. It’s clear that we admire people who have these traits, who are charismatic or funny, creative.

[00:16:08] Ryan Bush: So, uh, that’s a big one. And that’s also a huge. One for me, I personally value ingenuity very highly. If I’m not exercising my ingenuity, I’m not really feeling like I’m in an optimal place in my life. You know, we also have things like discipline. You know, this is one of the reasons why I think exercise is such an effective sort of prescription for someone who’s depressed, is that, you know, exercise is something you can pretty much do no matter what life circumstances you have, and it gives you evidence of your own Discipline and, and traits like this.

[00:16:44] Ryan Bush: So I think, yeah, I think there’s a, just a really wide range of these virtues. And, you know, everyone has some that come more easily to them. I think, uh, you can tell in pretty early age that you have some strength that comes naturally to you. And I think a lot of us forget about those and think about more practical considerations as we get older and wonder why our.

[00:17:07] Ryan Bush: Life circumstances that we have achieved aren’t bringing us, you know, a deeper kind of satisfaction. I think that’s because we haven’t integrated those virtues that we thrive at and that we value into our lives. 

[00:17:19] Mark Divine: Yeah, I agree. You know, especially since COVID mental health has become a real crisis around the world.

[00:17:25] Mark Divine: There’s a lot of anxiety, right? A lot of depression, right? A lot of suicide. So what do you think causes depression? And how can we architect or design our mind away from that or out of that? 

[00:17:38] Ryan Bush: Yeah, this is a deep question that I’ve done a really deep dive into pretty recently. I went through a sort of bout of depression myself, and it was kind of unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

[00:17:50] Ryan Bush: Before that, I sort of bought into the sort of typical assumptions that it’s something that happens either when our lives just aren’t aren’t good, and we aren’t getting our emotional needs met, or it’s a chemical imbalance or something, which has been, you know, pretty widely. believed. And when I actually experienced it, I said, there’s something that doesn’t add up about this.

[00:18:10] Ryan Bush: Why would this be preserved throughout our evolution? Why would this crippling state that seems to make us bad at everything and not want to do things? How could it have made it through, you know, millions of years of natural selection? And that’s a good question. When you study it, you find, well, It doesn’t look like a normal pathology.

[00:18:30] Ryan Bush: You know, normally pathologies get more common as people get older and their organs start deteriorating. You know, we don’t see this in depression. Most people experience their first bout of depression in early adulthood. They experience it at all. And like 25 percent of us will experience it at some point in our lives.

[00:18:47] Ryan Bush: So that’s really curious. We also observe it throughout every culture. Same as those values, right? Tribes and parts of the world, very similar to our ancestors environment, experience depression too, and they describe it very similarly. I don’t think they experience it to the same degree that we do, and that goes to the fact that we live in a world that is pretty different in a lot of ways from the one in which we evolved.

[00:19:12] Ryan Bush: And so conditions are different, the inputs going into our minds are different, and there are a lot of things that really serve to get us hooked and pull us away from those values in the modern world. Ultimately here is my understanding of what really is the root cause of depression. I think that self esteem is essentially built into our brains to simulate social esteem and to keep us in positive standing with our tribe.

[00:19:38] Ryan Bush: This has been proposed by Mark Leary in the sociometer theory of self esteem, and that much is, is great. But, but I’ve connected this not only to our these, these virtues that I’ve talked about and how we’re, we’re essentially analyzing ourselves and evaluating ourselves according to these virtues so that we can know how approvable we are likely to be by our social tribe, right?

[00:20:02] Ryan Bush: But I’ve gone further to say this is not only Not only a simulator running to give us information, but it’s driving behavior and it’s driving our mood and emotions, meaning our wellbeing actually goes up or down based on how approvable or admirable we deem ourselves to be. I’ve done a good bit of, of researching into the.

[00:20:23] Ryan Bush: Sort of neuroscience behind this. And I’ve connected it to things like the default mode network in the brain and our, you know, neurochemical like serotonin systems. Uh, and I’ve argued that essentially we, we get depressed when our self esteem, which is sort of like a fuel gauge for social esteem hits bottom.

[00:20:40] Ryan Bush: And essentially depression is that light that comes on. It says the fuel is low, right? You can’t keep functioning as you have been and going on like nothing’s wrong. So when we aren’t living according to these. human values that we ourselves value. Our brain is observing our behaviors and saying, no, no, no, you need to stop.

[00:20:59] Ryan Bush: You need to quit putting yourself out there. You need to quit doing all these things. You’re, you’re going to get ostracized by your tribe, right? You’re going to alienate all of your potential allies and mates, right? You can’t keep doing this. And so it causes a set of moods and really a coordinated response.

[00:21:16] Ryan Bush: across mood and cognition and physiology that causes you to withdraw, to shut down in many ways, and to become socially risk averse, to be very sensitive to things like social rejection, and essentially to re strategize or give your brain the space to build a new identity strategy, essentially, because the path you’ve been pursuing hasn’t been working.

[00:21:38] Ryan Bush: Now, of course, this doesn’t necessarily always translate because we have sometimes distorted perceptions of ourselves. They aren’t always clear and we see this in a lot of depressed patients. They will believe that they are hopeless, unlovable, worthless, even if they’re not, even if evidence sort of goes to the contrary.

[00:21:57] Ryan Bush: So I think it is possible for this mechanism in our brain to become distorted and to develop these wrong ideas. And this is where cognitive therapy and cognitive restructuring becomes really useful, so that we can sort out these. But I also don’t think it’s always distorted. I think sometimes our view of ourself is correct.

[00:22:16] Ryan Bush: And what’s needed is a change in action and behavior and lifestyle. And that’s where practices like behavioral activation come in. But, uh, I’ve covered a lot of ground there. 

[00:22:28] Mark Divine: The simplest explanation is Buddha’s exclamation. He says Maya is Dukkha. So, the illusion that we are a separate entity, a separate body, is suffering.

[00:22:46] Mark Divine: So you can say that the entire human arrangement is suffering. So, it’s just a matter of, like, clawing your way through it. out of the suffering to find meaning and you’re suggesting that we architect that through alignment with these higher self, higher values. And that makes sense and I agree with that.

[00:23:05] Mark Divine: But I think ultimately the Buddha is right. It’s like the only pure way to alleviate anxiety, depression, and that time, you know, human suffering is to stop identifying with a body as a separate, independent entity. Existing self because we’re not and this is a hard thing for most people to wrap their designing minds around Because it’s so far up from their actual experience of life.

[00:23:29] Ryan Bush: This is really interesting and I’m curious about your take on this because I do Explore this concept pretty deeply in this new book. 

[00:23:37] Mark Divine: Yeah, I thought so with the title like that You would have to because you know know thyself or who am I is the ultimate, you know, Yanni yoga You You know, meditation practice and as you contemplate the who am I question, you get to that conclusion that there is no independent, observable, identifiable separate self in there.

[00:23:57] Mark Divine: It’s just a bunch of ideas. It’s just a bunch of concepts, but built upon flawed memories and flawed ideas. Like, so that’s that, you know, the training has been happening to you since birth. And most people don’t take the time to begin to understand their mind and to redesign it. You have this really, really flawed operating system.

[00:24:18] Mark Divine: Which is, you know, it’s like a jalopy held together with riggers tape and band aids, and you call that me, and it’s not working very well, and so, you know, it’s a mess. 

[00:24:29] Ryan Bush: Yeah, so, my view on this is that, first, you’re absolutely right, the Budo is absolutely right, Uh, the self is not a coherent construct, right?

[00:24:38] Ryan Bush: If you really examine it, that concept kind of falls apart. However, it’s, it’s useful, right? It exists so that we can get by in the world. I, so it’s a both end. Yeah. So, so my, my view is that, so if you imagine that depression is a negative one on a scale from negative one to one, so that you have a strong sense of self and it’s a very negative sense of self, right?

[00:25:00] Ryan Bush: You’re constantly ruminating about how worthless and unlovable you are. Right? That’s what we see in severe depressed patients, right? So my view is that you can sort of transcend your sense of self and eliminate that negativity. And that’s what the Buddha talks about. That’s what people like Eckhart Tolle have written about, essentially.

[00:25:19] Ryan Bush: They couldn’t live with themselves. They had this awakening experience and then they had no self and it was much better than having this awful sense of self. I’ve argued and it’s a bit of an unconventional take but it’s that This is essentially zero on the scale. We have no strong sense of self at all, not negative, not positive.

[00:25:38] Ryan Bush: And so we’ve, we’ve completely transcended all selfhood. Well, the self, if my arguments in this book are correct, the self is there for a reason, and it’s there to regulate, in many ways, our well being. Self esteem exists to determine how much, sort of, happy chemicals and corresponding happy behaviors to give us.

[00:25:57] Ryan Bush: And if that’s the case, then transcending the self is like taking the batteries out of the happiness unhappiness machine entirely. We stop ruminating over ourselves, but we also stop experiencing the positive feelings that come along with having a sense of self. The pride and the joy and what the Stoics and the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia.

[00:26:16] Ryan Bush: So my argument is that yes, if you are depressed, it may be beneficial to transcend your sense of self. That’ll be much better than having this very negative sense of self. But ultimately we can use our sense of self While simultaneously recognizing that it’s an illusion, it’s a game, it’s not ultimately real, to build a deeper sense of well being in eudaimonia, and actually preserve that sense of self, and You know, develop actual admiration for ourselves so that we, you know, justified admiration, right.

[00:26:47] Ryan Bush: For living according to our values. But that way, when we have self related thoughts, they’re mostly positive. They’re mostly self approving and, and that’s a really positive thing. I mean, I don’t know about you, but. For me, the best times in my life have been the times when I did have a strong, positive sense of self.

[00:27:04] Ryan Bush: I was living according to my ideals, and I was noticing it, and I was proud of, of that. It’s better than the times that I’ve been, kind of transcended my sense of self. I kind of didn’t have a sense of self, because I’ve, I’ve done a good bit of meditation at this point too, and, and, at some points, I’ve strived for that goal of, of de selfifying, uh, but, but ultimately I’ve decided it’s, it’s better for me at least to use meditation as a tool to sort of step back, get distance and go in and design a better mind and a better self.

[00:27:37] Ryan Bush: And then, you know, go back in and enjoy having that sense of self rather than just backing away further and further to the point of losing it entirely. 

[00:27:45] Mark Divine: It’s interesting. You, you talk about backing away as if, and this is a common mistake. With self awareness and meditation. It can lead to detachment.

[00:27:54] Mark Divine: That’s an error, right? A forced error, so to speak, caused to this, you know, the ego basically saying, I’m going to be detached. I’m not going to feel the sense of self. And so then you, you tend to withdraw from the world. So that’s a pathological practice of meditation. It’s not effective. This is why in the, in, you know, Okay.

[00:28:13] Mark Divine: In historical context, there was a teacher, a guru, who was important because they could prevent students from sliding into that, that problem trap. I like your little scale. So I would say that if negative one is, is self loathing and depression, then positive one is narcissism. It’s a super aggrandized sense of self where that is the center of everything.

[00:28:33] Mark Divine: So I believe it is actually extraordinarily valuable to transcend the self, but you don’t lose the self in that. That it becomes nested within a much bigger. Much more expansive concept of the who I am principle which becomes non personal But inclusive of the personal and in that you can like in the range Let’s say if you’re negative one to one is the range of the personality and that’s fine Everyone who maintains an ego is gonna have you know Some ones right some aspects of oneness right where they feel, you know strong in that ego sense But the range then through self awareness and like the Zen concept of taming the ego Which is that sense of self we’re talking about suddenly becomes much more expansive So it’s like from negative one to a thousand.

[00:29:24] Mark Divine: Right. And so you don’t lose the capacity to feel bliss, joy, happiness. It’s actually greatly expanded. Again, this is, this is what Buddha was talking about. Maya, the illusion that you are an independent, separate self, separate from everything else, is suffering. So how do you transcend that? You transcend Maya.

[00:29:43] Mark Divine: Which means you take the illusion, right? And you dissolve the illusion. How do you dissolve the illusion? You turn toward what’s real, which is the ineffable. So it’s, it’s not saying that you are wrong. It’s saying that actually. Your idea can be nested within the wisdom traditions idea of an, of awakening and still work because within that it still makes a lot of sense to architect the egoic structures for more effective living.

[00:30:15] Mark Divine: Yeah. Even as an enlightened, you know, even if you had a spontaneous awakening like Eckhart Tolle, it took him many years to redesign his mind to be able to, function Appropriately in the world and dr. David Hawkins talks about the same thing and upon his awakening experience. It took him years Most awakened beings go into seclusion or they never return And so, you know, I think this is actually a good conversation to have because there’s so much spiritual language around Awakening these days and everyone thinks awakening is just an experience and I had an awakening experience because I did some ayahuasca and it was awesome.

[00:30:50] Mark Divine: It’s beautiful, right? I’m at one with everything and it’s actually strengthening their ego, right? Yeah, because the awakening is not an experience is popping out of all experience whatsoever. Yeah. Anyways, I know I went down a little rabbit hole there but I’m also passionate about understanding the mind and from the perspective of Awakening you actually don’t have a mind Mind happens, right?

[00:31:15] Mark Divine: The body is an instrument for consciousness to flow through it and the flowing through that consciousness Meeting the brain activates the brain structures and it creates the mind that we think of as ours. 

[00:31:27] Ryan Bush: Yeah now I think you’re right. I think we’re ultimately saying the same thing because I do think it’s become very common to interpret These eastern teachings as you you should lose your sense of self entirely and like you say, that’s that’s not ultimately the end goal 

[00:31:43] Mark Divine: You’re just not impressed by it, right?

[00:31:45] Mark Divine: Right, you just don’t believe it all the stories. Yeah. Yeah, you know the analogy of a burnt rope something that Ramana Maharshi used He said that from the enlightened awakened perspective the ego or the mind is like a burnt rope like those big ropes You use you know for like CrossFit gym climbing or on a farm If it endures a fire and you go like poke around in the remnants of the fire You can see the rope coiled up and it looks like the rope survived the fire But you can pass your hand right through it and so the ego structures become like that some of the patterns remain the individual You will still act like you but you’re just not convinced by it You know, you know that it’s just a bunch of algorithms and patterns and whatnot And so you take it as it comes and that’s the idea of non attachment which is different than detachment Right?

[00:32:38] Mark Divine: So you become very curiously non attached to the workings of the mind and if you want, you know, if you decide you want to improve it for a better experience, you go improve it for a better experience and that becomes much easier with the awareness. 

[00:32:50] Ryan Bush: Yeah, and I like what you said too about Eckhart Tolle, you know, taking years to relearn how to function because I literally talk about him in this chapter and say You know, I think he lost his self and then he found it again in that he has a functioning sense of self.

[00:33:06] Ryan Bush: He probably experiences much of what, you know, I talk about as eudaimonia now. And so I guess what I’m doing in many ways in this is arguing against this misconception that you shouldn’t have a functional sense of self. So I think I think we agree on that much. 

[00:33:24] Mark Divine: I want to get to your new book, but let’s talk a bit about Like some of the core principles of designing the mind like, you know, someone’s just curious They’ve heard us kind of ramble on now for a while, but they’re and they’re asking them, you know Hey mark get into like how do we design the mind?

[00:33:41] Mark Divine: Like what what’s step one and two and three, 

[00:33:44] Ryan Bush: right? Well, first of all, it’s funny we’re talking about this stuff and step one because I I present a Metacognition and mindfulness as essentially a prerequisite step to all of this, you know You can’t you can’t repair your glasses without taking them off and examining them and so I do think we need to Develop the capacity to examine what’s going on in our own minds instead of just being caught up in the chaos of it Let’s 

[00:34:08] Mark Divine: define those terms.

[00:34:09] Mark Divine: Mm hmm. I have an idea of what they are. So I’d love to hear yours metacognition and 

[00:34:13] Ryan Bush: mindfulness yeah, metacognition is thinking about thinking essentially it’s Examining our own field of awareness and consciousness, uh, getting to where we can say, Oh, I’m, I’m having this thought. I’m having this emotion.

[00:34:26] Ryan Bush: Personally, I’ve actually argued that mindfulness is a conflation of several different ideas. And in some ways, uh, I find Metacognition to be a little bit more coherent and easier to conceptualize, you might say, but essentially I see them as very close. I think mindfulness is a practice of metacognition and meditation is a specific way to engage in that practice.

[00:34:51] Mark Divine: I would make a distinction. Metacognition is thinking about your thinking, right? So, like, journaling. Reflecting upon behaviors, reflecting upon thought processes, tracing thoughts to their roots and, you know, tracing triggers, reactionary behavior to its trigger, understanding the self. Metacognition is extremely valuable.

[00:35:13] Mark Divine: Mindfulness is watching the thinking. It’s not thinking about it. Yeah. So mindfulness is, uh, when done well, and it’s really not taught very well in the Western world. It hasn’t been like transported over here very effectively is, um, developing the witnessing capacity. Yeah. And witnessing is, is from awareness.

[00:35:35] Mark Divine: So awareness of the functioning of the mind is different than thinking and so you become aware that thinking is happening But you’re not the thought and so this is a the beginning It’s a watershed moment in your own development when you begin to identify With thoughts as opposed to as thoughts. 

[00:35:54] Ryan Bush: Yeah, 

[00:35:55] Mark Divine: and that’s witnessing.

[00:35:56] Mark Divine: So I think mindfulness is is very powerful practice for that 

[00:36:00] Ryan Bush: They certainly can be treated as one thing that they often are in like metacognitive therapy and mindfulness based Cognitive therapy, but I think it makes sense and I like the distinction of just witnessing versus actually thinking about the thinking and I think the thinking about the thinking part is Potentially a little under emphasized in a lot of mindfulness teachings, you know, I think 

[00:36:22] Mark Divine: Again, without the teacher, without some support, i.

[00:36:25] Mark Divine: e. your book, there, there are closed loops. Yeah. And so you end up chasing your tail, chasing your mental tail, and that’s the default mode network. You try thinking about your thinking, you end up back at the same place all the time. Yep. Yeah. 60, 000 thoughts a day, 80 percent the same as yesterday. So it’s a trap.

[00:36:43] Ryan Bush: Yeah. I’m with you there. But then, you know, this whole psychotecture thing emerges out of this. Metacognition. And I think after we develop that awareness, there’s, there’s more to do. You know, we don’t just develop more awareness. We can go in and actually, you know, precision change some of these bad habits of the mind.

[00:37:03] Ryan Bush: And so, 

[00:37:03] Mark Divine: so the first step after that, step two is to identify what needs to be changed, 

[00:37:08] Ryan Bush: right? Logging is a huge component of this. This is one of the practices of cognitive therapy that I think everyone should be doing. It should be taught first in school, essentially, uh, of writing down when you have a bad mood and, and what was the thought that you were having prior to that, right?

[00:37:25] Ryan Bush: What triggered that negative mood? And as you start logging this thing down, you, you might find within a week, you know, 80 percent of your negative, Moods are essentially caused by one particular type of thought or belief that keeps popping up in your mind. And that gives you a huge opportunity to go in and change that.

[00:37:43] Ryan Bush: I mean, just realizing that is like half the battle already. Just noticing this type of thought is putting me into a bad mood and a negative sort of spiral on a regular basis. That’s huge. But then you can go in and actually change that. And so I break up this process into three sort of realms, uh, that of course are all intertwined, but you’ve got the cognitive, the emotional, and the behavioral.

[00:38:07] Ryan Bush: And so I start the book in the cognitive realm, looking at cognitive biases, uh, and distortions, and saying, how do we actually change them once we notice them? Going through a lot of the most common biases and fallacies that we’ve observed and, uh, You know, why they’re mistaken and how you can sometimes go in and revise them.

[00:38:25] Ryan Bush: And then, you know, it really, to me, gets most interesting when we start looking at how those biases and distortions cause all these different moods and how we can go in and alter them using, you know, psycho technologies, essentially changing those negative algorithms into positive algorithms. 

[00:38:44] Mark Divine: That’s interesting.

[00:38:45] Mark Divine: And the process would be similar for emotions. Are there emotional biases just similar to cognitive biases? 

[00:38:51] Ryan Bush: That’s how I understand it. Essentially, we’ve got a whole collection of cognitive biases, and some have a very significant implications for our moods and emotions, particularly when they are fallacies that relate to ourselves.

[00:39:05] Ryan Bush: You know, in Feeling Good, a fantastic book for people who are struggling with depression, and self esteem. He breaks down 10 different, uh, distortions that he observes in depressed patients that have been observed a million times. Things like black and white thinking, things like, you know, you, you miss an appointment and you say, I always do this.

[00:39:23] Ryan Bush: I’m, I’m, I’m always missing appointments. I can’t do anything right. Well, there, there’s a whole gradient there. There’s a whole degree. How many of your appointments do you successfully make it to? Like, well, the majority, but I missed this one. So, and so going in and recognizing that whole range and saying, no, actually you should Say you’re like 95 percent good at making it to your appointments, and you’re not worthless and incompetent.

[00:39:45] Ryan Bush: So going through each of those, identifying which ones are affecting you, and sort of learning how to replace them with alternative balanced beliefs. Absolutely invaluable skill. Everyone should should be doing this. Once we identify 

[00:40:02] Mark Divine: the big rocks, The big cognitive, emotional biases and behaviors that need to be changed.

[00:40:07] Mark Divine: Now what? 

[00:40:08] Ryan Bush: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of opportunity for positive growth, you know. Some of this is sort of framed around, find the negative thing. And that’s a big part of what the new book is centered around. It’s going beyond examining negative sort of micro habits that are affecting you. And saying, how can you How can you become the best version of yourself and the self that you admire most?

[00:40:31] Ryan Bush: And so that, that is a big part of what I put forward and recommend for just growing and going beyond that. You know, there’s a practice known as behavioral activation that I mentioned. And, you know, this is a really. Like stupid simple practice that’s easy to overlook, but it performs better than any anti depressant and that is literally just building an activity schedule for yourself that is slightly more challenging, slightly more fulfilling, brings slightly more pleasure or mastery into your life than you were doing before, and Essentially, incrementally increasing that until you’re living more and more according to your values and you’re, you’ve climbed out of this vicious cycle that, that is depression.

[00:41:14] Ryan Bush: But I, I argue in that book too that behavioral activation and becoming who you are are essentially one thing. We call it behavioral activation when it’s on the very bottom, when you are You know, very depressed and you’re not taking any behaviors that make you proud of who you are. But at the highest level, it’s essentially the same thing.

[00:41:33] Ryan Bush: It’s just doing it in a way that promotes deep flourishing and going beyond just regular, you know, contentedness or happiness. At the base 

[00:41:41] Mark Divine: level we call it healing, at the higher level we call it peak performance. 

[00:41:44] Ryan Bush: Exactly. 

[00:41:44] Mark Divine: Activation. Exactly. Same principles, just applied at a different scale. 

[00:41:49] Ryan Bush: Completely.

[00:41:49] Ryan Bush: And, and I think as you go up that scale, it becomes more and more idiosyncratic. At the bottom of the scale, you can say like, just getting out of bed and taking a shower each day is going to give you, you know, some reason to approve of yourself, right? Going on a walk, exercising, reading, that takes you a little higher.

[00:42:06] Ryan Bush: And then as you get up towards the top, you have to start asking, what vessel can I design for Seven of my top unique strengths where I can bring them all together into one place and if you do that It’s not going to look like anything anyone else is really doing because that becomes the 

[00:42:21] Mark Divine: morning ritual which combines journaling meditation It’s the sauna and the cold plunge.

[00:42:26] Ryan Bush: Yeah. Yeah, and and across your workout Yeah for me, I see it as You know, designing the mind, I’ve essentially built this vessel for myself that brings everything I’m good at and interested in into one place. I’m bringing more of my personal virtues out through this than I’ve ever been able to do through anything else in my life.

[00:42:46] Ryan Bush: So, so it’s extremely fulfilling because it does give me this unique opportunity to, to do what I’m good at every day. 

[00:42:53] Mark Divine: That idea of who we are, it’s again, if it’s just left up to the ego and social construct, then we have a, often a false sense of who we are. 

[00:43:05] Ryan Bush: Yeah. 

[00:43:06] Mark Divine: So, how do we find out who we really are?

[00:43:11] Mark Divine: And what I mean by that, I don’t mean like the one with everything. I mean like, what is our purpose and how do we uncover our purpose on this planet? Our, our reason for being here, reason for existing. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:43:24] Ryan Bush: So become who you are is actually a phrase that Nietzsche originally said, and he’s always nice and cryptic.

[00:43:31] Ryan Bush: So it’s taken a lot of studying his work to be able to make some sense of that. But what I’ve sort of, uh, found the more I’ve studied him is that he’s essentially talking about discovering our deepest unique personal virtues. And, uh, essentially exactly what we’re talking about here, learning how to bring them into yourself, into your life, you know, he was really critical of people who treat pleasure and comfort like they’re the ultimate end goal in life.

[00:43:58] Ryan Bush: That’s the 

[00:43:59] Mark Divine: hedonistic approach. 

[00:44:00] Ryan Bush: Right. Yeah. And, and this is one of the, the few areas where Nietzsche and the Stoics and, and all these thinkers that, you know, and Nietzsche is very critical of pretty much everyone, but where they all converge and essentially say, No, you’re aiming for the wrong thing. It’s not about comfort and pleasure and hedonism.

[00:44:17] Ryan Bush: It’s about character and cultivating your personal strengths, even if it’s painful and uncomfortable and difficult. 

[00:44:23] Mark Divine: Don’t you think character and virtues, um, they’re different than purpose? They can point toward purpose. Or you can say another way, if a purpose is, let’s say, to be a warrior, then you’re going to, you know, Possess and share certain warrior virtues that other warriors would share and that’s what makes you know that that’s what makes the definition of a warrior come alive for you.

[00:44:48] Mark Divine: So back to the question like How do we figure out who we are in terms of our purpose, our calling? 

[00:44:54] Ryan Bush: Yeah, so this is another area where I have maybe a little bit of a different take. I argue in in the first chapter of this new book that meaning and purpose could be a bit of a red herring in terms of what the ultimate good is to be pursuing.

[00:45:09] Ryan Bush: I think this has become very common to say, oh, you know, it’s not about pleasure and comfort. It’s not about hedonism. It’s about, you know, And you sort of have this, I call it a philosophical mystery meat where it’s like, well, what is meaning? What is purpose? Do we know what meaning means? And I’ve done some thought experiments where I say, okay, well, when I was in college, I was really happy.

[00:45:30] Ryan Bush: That was a great time for me, but I didn’t have a clear sense of meaning or purpose. You know, I was figuring out my, my worldview. It was very much up in the air as I was sort of transitioning away from Christianity and, and. Toward my own sort of philosophical worldview. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the world yet, but that was a really good time.

[00:45:50] Ryan Bush: And similarly, I can imagine the opposite. I can imagine I’m, I’m doing something that’s very purposeful. It’s doing something good for the world, but it’s not something I’m particularly good at. Maybe I’m doing like accounting for a charity and I’m very much not a numbers guy. So, and I can imagine being pretty unhappy despite doing something very purposeful.

[00:46:09] Ryan Bush: And so what I argue is that virtue is a better. thing to pay attention to. They may overlap a good bit. They probably will. But if you’re looking for a North star, asking, what are my highest strengths? How can I bring them out in my life? And if you aim for that, you will end up designing a life must be fulfilling.

[00:46:29] Ryan Bush: If, if I’m right in my assumptions about how this mechanism works in our, For me, the fact that I’m doing something purposeful, the fact that I’m improving people’s lives, and then I get messages from people saying, wow, this, this book changed my life. That is. Really great. That’s awesome. In some ways, it’s like the cherry on top of the sundae, though, because just doing what I’m good at, just bringing my strengths of wisdom and ingenuity and all these other things together in one place, that is really the sundae.

[00:46:58] Ryan Bush: That’s most of what makes it enjoyable for me. 

[00:47:01] Mark Divine: That’s awesome. 

[00:47:02] Ryan Bush: So those values to me, the things that we most admire in others, to me, That’s the ultimate North star. Yeah. In some ways it, it is a little different from the conventional sort of purpose and meaning. 

[00:47:14] Mark Divine: Yeah, actually, I really like your, your explanation there.

[00:47:17] Mark Divine: And it kind of jives with my experience, um, work that I do with clients. We, you know, We do a process we call the three P’s, which is to identify or clarify your principles. So these virtues are talking about, uh, your passions and your purpose. And what I find is maybe just like 20 percent have clarity on their purpose or even find it quickly.

[00:47:44] Mark Divine: It’s very rare. So most have to go down the path of really identifying and aligning with their passions and their purpose. And through that process, the meaning is found. Often in the work that they’re doing, or they, they uncover this idea that, wow, I’m really, I really value these things and I’m really passionate about these things.

[00:48:07] Mark Divine: So, so I can point in that direction to have, you know, to find this purpose and then they’re able to articulate a purpose. So they kind of back into it that way, which is really kind of what you just said. So that’s insightful. 

[00:48:18] Ryan Bush: Yeah. And I, I built a. You know, program that sort of goes along with become who you are called the flourishing function.

[00:48:26] Ryan Bush: It’s, it’s sort of meant to take you from potentially anywhere from being depressed to, you know, the highest levels of flourishing, wherever you’re starting at. And, and once you get to the higher levels in the later modules, it does start looking at that, like, you know, icky guy notion of where, where you are.

[00:48:42] Ryan Bush: What you’re good at and what you love and what the world needs all sort of converge. That’s, that’s what it looks like when you build a sort of virtue domain for yourself, where you do have the ability to bring all these things together. So I think that is the goal and it is remarkably rare. I mean, I’m honestly pleased to hear the 20%, uh, have that clarity because, uh, I rarely meet people who.

[00:49:06] Ryan Bush: Have really found that sense of purpose where all those things come together. 

[00:49:09] Mark Divine: Well, I think listeners can be comforted to know that one of my teachers, a guy named Maharaj, he’s not longer alive. Of course it says the purpose of life is living. So live well and be who you are and being who you are is living well, right.

[00:49:26] Mark Divine: Or becoming who you are is living well. Yep. I very much agree with that. Yeah. Hey everyone. This is Mark Devine, founder of SealFit and Unbeatable Mind. And I’m super stoked to announce that my new book, Uncommon, is due out from St. Martin’s Press this summer, July 16th. And we’ve launched a pre order campaign.

[00:49:46] Mark Divine: You can learn more about that at readuncommon. com to try to get early awareness for the book, which I hope will help a lot of people, where I go and do a deep dive on the five mountains. Of personal mastery physical mental emotional intuitional and spiritual uncommon simple principles for an extraordinary life Check it out at read uncommon.

[00:50:07] Mark Divine: com And thank you for your support and being part of the change you want to see in this world. Hooyah Divine out. Ryan, it’s been a fascinating conversation. I really appreciate your time here today, so thank you again for making the trip in person. It meant a lot to us and going to help a lot of people, so thank you.

[00:50:24] Ryan Bush: Yeah, thanks for, thanks so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it. Awesome. 

[00:50:28] Peace.


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