Attaining the Deathless

Meditating your way to better decisions, the 48 laws of PowerPoint, and expiring vs. permanent skills

Hello, friendly human. Every week (or so!), this dispatch helps you make better creative and strategic decisions. Sometimes that means essays. Sometimes that means resources. Last time it was a deck on content strategy. This time it’s an essay on meditation and decisions. It’s good to see you. -Steve

This essay was originally published in the delightful and popular newsletter Why Is This Interesting

Surely I’m not alone in noticing that meditation—the act of it, the instagramming of it, the performance maximization mindset of it—is, these days, everywhere. 

Marc Benioff does it. Ray Dalio does it. Eileen Fisher. Steph Curry. The Seattle Seahawks. Bobby Axelrod meditates in Billions. The show’s three creators practice, too. Don Draper created the most famous Coke jingle in history while om-om’ing on a cliff. Some executives, when about to meditate, say they’re “gonna drop in”, as if visiting some inner conference room where the meeting’s already in progress. 

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, too and famously, took a ten-day Vipassana course in Myanmar, though it’s left to the reader to decide whether it’s appropriate for a man who launched a billion chatterbots to grant himself the peace of silence. 

In other words meditation, to judge by its corporate and power-performer reception, has lately become a lifehack. Nitrous oxide for the noggin. Game theory-optimal transcendence. And while the act of meditation hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 2,500 years—you still mostly sit cross-legged while quieting your mind—its more recent application in pursuit of material wealth is a far cry from its ascetic origins.

Somewhere near Nepal around the 5th century BCE, as the story goes, Siddhartha Gotama Buddha sat beneath a tree and taught his followers to train the mind to withdraw from automatic responses to sense-impressions—that is, to stop reacting to everything happening around them. This is the Buddhist root of meditation. 

The problem, the Buddha taught, was that humans crave things. We seek pleasure (sex, ice cream). We avoid pain (breakups, brain freeze). But the gratification of getting that pleasure or the gratification of avoiding that pain doesn’t last. So we want more pleasure. We want less pain. Biologically, this is a great system for creating offspring or avoiding sabertooth tigers. Capitalistically, it’s a great system for developing dating apps and oxycontin. Emotionally, however, it seems best suited for remaining in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction. The Buddha’s lesson was that you can sidestep this cycle of craving by regulating, through meditation, how you respond to your own desires. 

In other words, the original idea wasn’t to discipline your thinking so you could get more of what you want. The original idea was to discipline your thinking so you wouldn’t want more…

Continue reading this essay at Why Is This Interesting, where you’ll find, among other things, a delightful meditation chart featuring Chris Pratt.

Have a great week,


Gif by Uno Moralez

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Creating sales enablement tools for a healthcare technology brand and developing a content strategy for an insurance brand. 

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