“When free of anxiety, fear, and guilt, most people tend to not only move in the direction of the realization of their unique potential but also of goodness.” — Loosely quoted from p. 264, Principle 2 of the 7 Principles for Becoming a Whole Person, from Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman

* * *

Today was day 1 of a new course I’m taking (yes, in September alone, I’m taking classes in flow theory, astrology, leadership, empath boundaries, millionaire mindset, the psychology of the sale, sobriety, and Pilates. Yes. This is my brain. I LOVE LEARNING). This course is Transcend!, a Columbia University course based off the instructor’s book.

Part of our homework for day 1 was to write an essay about a time when we were at our best (strong character, virtues — not achievement-based performance), when we stood up for something, did something kind, sacrificed our happiness in the micro for the good of the macro.

Here’s me: 4am on the eve of the first class meeting, finishing up my essay in this hotel room by the beach in Santa Monica (another heat holiday, thanks to record-breaking [seriously, like ALL-TIME HIGHS. Thanks, Putin] heat and no A/C at home). I decide the headspin it’s sent me off into is something good to share.

And after I share it in class, I’m immediately asked to email it out. Share it more broadly. Put it somewhere beyond my journal. Okey doke! Here ’tis! Enjoy.

* * *

I’m Bonnie Gillespie and I’m showing up to the page fully aware I’m doing it wrong. Luckily, my enoughness is high enough that I will show up, do it wrong, share it with the class, and take notes during the teaching moment that it becomes. A previous version of me would’ve come up with an excuse for not getting the work done, feigned tech issues right at a crucial moment, or no-showed the class altogether. What previous me lacked in enoughness she more than made up for with cleverness.

In examining a moment in which I stood up for something, spoke out when it wasn’t popular to do so, marched for a cause, anonymously improved someone else’s situation, or otherwise put myself below the greater good, I could always come up with a way in which I directly benefited from that choice. Not sure our first homework assignment was meant to create an existential crisis but for what it’s worth, I’m not sure altruism exists. I find it hard to see a display of strong character or high virtue as anything other than directly beneficial for me personally, and while I strive for high self-esteem/low ego in the balance of self-concept, turns out this homework prompt has shown me I’m pretty much always looking out for number one, even as I take great care of others.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a laundry list of experiences that *could have been* the story on which I focused in this essay; it’s just that the telling of each feels self-serving. What’s the value of talking about that time I did that good thing for which I didn’t receive tons of goodies in return? The act of talking about that time NOW creates the opportunity to receive goodies for it. And doesn’t that undo ANY lack of ego that was in place at that time? Why would I want to spoil what may be the closest thing to altruism I’ve ever experienced by egoing it all up now?

Yeah, I don’t know. I’m either showing some willful blindness for the point of this work or I’m precisely illustrating the point and rather than judge any of that, we’re going to call this Schrödinger’s Homework and be proud that it’s done, even if it’s done in a way that’s unlike anyone else’s.

Since on the surface the point of this work was a positive introduction and opportunity for growth, I believe there’s no way I’m not fully introduced, even in the willingness to do it wrong, show up, share it, and commit to learning — always.

* * *

So, there you have it. I’m excited to share all I’ll learn these few months. Watch out, Expansive Capacity members. It. Is. ON!

Oh, and here’s SBK’s sailboat — a reimagining of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Fun fact: Maslow never once drew that pyramid he’s famous for. Nope. So why are we so sure it’s not a spiral or nested circles or a staircase or… a sailboat?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a Sailboat by Scott Barry Kaufman
Click to enbiggen.

Never be afraid to reimagine the models, y’all. Take shit apart. Put it back together differently. That’s learning. That’s living. That’s growth from a state of enoughness.

Woo HOO!

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet

Enoughness is an inside job… and sometimes you need a guide to find your way there. Let Bonnie Gillespie get you started.

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  1. Barry Clifton September 7, 2020 at 5:43 am

    Thankfully, a Libertarian friend introduced me to Ayn Rand decades ago. I tend to agree with you, that it may not exist, and with her, in thinking that, if it does exist, it’s immoral.
    “ There are two moral questions which altruism lumps together into one “package-deal”: (1) What are values? (2) Who should be the beneficiary of values? Altruism substitutes the second for the first; it evades the task of defining a code of moral values, thus leaving man, in fact, without moral guidance.

    Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value — and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes.”

    1. Bonnie Gillespie September 8, 2020 at 8:26 pm

      Ooh! I have only ever skimmed her stuff (and that would’ve been decades ago) so this is really cool to see, Barry. Thank you! Such a thinker!

  2. Judy Kerr September 7, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Bonnie I couldn’t agree more!!!! Yes the wonderful rush that comes from doing a good turn feels great and I know it’s my benefit. Just love your in-depth thoughts. ❤️

  3. Denise September 10, 2020 at 8:02 am

    I think you’re on to something. I thought of a couple of things I thought I did for altruistic reasons. Once I stuck up for someone in front of the whole class in high school. Over 30 years elapsed and I never even thought to look at how I benefited, because I never thought to look past the tangible. I was already committed to an identity of being a non conformist as a Rebel, and being “better” than my classmates . My choice satisfied my emotional need to reinforce and express my identity, and it gave me a chance to develop and test my skills as a leader and influencer (and everyone in the class followed my lead so I got a huge rush from my success and power).


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