28/30: Inner Game Books

“Work on my Inner Game” is a phrase that’s bandied around a lot. While it is undeniably important, it’s also an incredibly vague statement. What does “work” entail in this case? Is it a physical activity with a spiritual element? Is it deep introspection while picking out the intricacies of a blank wall? Is it really just self-acceptance of your shortcomings?

For me, Inner Game change has always come about because of reading. I’ve always been an avid reader and regularly go through a new book every couple of weeks. But the thing that has always fascinated me is how, as you read, you become the author for a short while. It proved very useful for me when I was learning Daygame and reading the various memoirs, but not as good for me when I was reading American Psycho.

I recently started to think: which books have been the best for my Inner Game? For one, they had to be big books so that the absorption process continued for a long time. That way, my mind had more opportunities to latch onto the new behaviours and incorporate them into my own. Either that, or they had to be a collection of books on a similar theme. I also wanted to stay away from talking about Daygame books, so I mentally categorised them as off limits for consideration, though they have helped me too.

I then thought about the order of reading them as well, and came up with a little sequence. This isn’t the order that I read them in personally, but the one which I think would do the most good for someone. The truth is that you won’t get everything you can from a book unless you’re ready to read it. If you feel as if you’re just running down the pages so that you can finish the book, then you’re not in the right place to read it right now. It’s an ego trap that you see everywhere: someone starts a book and gets past the initial, flowery beginning, to find that they don’t enjoy the meat of the book. But they tell themselves “I’ve started so I have to finish it.” Either they chomp through the rest of the pages and can’t wait to finish, or they leave it by their bedside and never finish it. Then they feel guilty just because they can’t admit that they didn’t want to continue, as if not liking the book was some kind of failure.

1. Orientation to the world: Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

It’s been recommended before, I know. At around 1000 pages long Atlas Shrugged gets a category of its own and it’s the first book I would give to someone for their Inner Game. It did wonders for me because for once, I was reading a book that wasn’t about peace, love, and sharing. It opened my eyes to how most people are dead-set in draining all value from you without offering anything in return. Since reading it I’ve seen how even the corporate environment is awash with people like the antagonists of the book. You start to understand what people really mean when they talk about “compassion.”

That doesn’t sound like a good thing, and in fact, when I read it, my vibe went down to the tube. It was as if Atlas Shrugged gave me a kind of red pill rage, because I started to see other people’s true intentions. I’ve never really had a kind of red pill rage for women, but Atlas Shrugged gave me one for men. In particular, how I was surrounded by feminine men.

Why start with this book then? Because it will absolutely crush you like a drill sergeant at bootcamp. It’s like taking the red pill for economics. But in its place you’ll have the seed of an idea: that you are entitled to the fruits of your labours.

2. Masculinity and Value: 1) Iron John: Men and Masculinity, Robert Bly; 2) King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, Robert Moore; 3) Jung: A Very Short Introduction, Anthony Stevens

Now that you have this entitlement, you have to have something to offer in order to make the trade, otherwise you’re just like the baddies from Atlas Shrugged who want something for nothing. The thing you have to offer is your masculinity and I think that the best way to explore that is through stories. I could sit here and list masculine traits but I don’t think it would do it justice. Instead, by reading the stories and understanding the metaphors beneath them, you get a taste for the hero’s journey, and can start to make parallels with your own life. It’s tempting to try and fit your own story onto the monomyth perfectly, but in reality your own story will move around in a different way. The monomyth is as it is because it’s the most compelling masculine story, but real life is messier. Iron John deals perfectly with this idea of going from a boy to a young man.

Then once you have this concept of yourself as the hero in your own story, you have to curb it, otherwise your grandiosity swells and you become a tyrant. But don’t we want to be dark triad tyrants? In the long run, I don’t think that is the optimal choice for your happiness. For me, it feels wrong.

One of the biggest revelations of Moore’s book for me was the concept of king energy: the idea that all life travels outwards from the king and it is his blessing that allows it to happen. In a physical sense, I think it manifests itself as comfort. People feel comfortable around you and trust you and your judgement. There’s nothing weaselly about you. Perhaps it’s an echo of the safety that exists in the family unit (cue comments) which so many people are missing. I think that there’s a lack of people with this kind of energy in the world. Having read Atlas Shrugged, that fact became readily apparent.

By accepting the responsibility of kingship you move from being a young man to a mature man. This is what Moore’s book is all about: infant vs mature personalities. Tying this back to the concept of “the trade”, what you’re offering is the real deal. It’s not swollen with pride and doesn’t leave a sour taste.

Lastly, I threw Stevens’ book on there for good measure, because it helps you to understand a lot of the concepts which are peppered throughout the previous two books.

3. Acceptance: 1) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig, 2) The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle

These two books I’ve found the hardest to categorise, but I knew that I had to include them because they have had a profound effect. They come last because they helped me to “let go”. All throughout the previous books I began to amass a huge ego and these books allow you to turn the light inwards.

I think that to complete the transition from boy to man you need to accept the realities of life and Zen provides the best opportunity for this. It’s very introspective and the story echoes a lot of the themes so far, especially that of dual-personality. In the process of becoming the author, you’ll start to think about things. A lot. You’ll think about how far you’ve come. You’ll gain perspective on why other people think differently to you. You’ll also start to see the beauty in design, which will allow you to enjoy the simpler things in life.

Then it’s Tolle’s book, which might have drew some exasperated sighs. In truth, when I first bought the book, I got through the first third then gave up. It seemed too weak to me, and spoke in too many platitudes. Then recently, I re-read Zen, and it put me in the state of mind required to actually gain value from the Power of Now. To gain anything from reading this book you actually have to be able to look inwards. It’s an interactive book which needs participation beyond just reading it.

*****

Taken all together, these books leave you with an appreciation of input vs output; that what you’re offering has a corresponding price. Then you realise exactly what you’re selling, and see the importance of this for the girl at the micro level, and society at the macro level. Finally, you let go of your shortcomings and accept your product for what it is.

Yours unfaithfully,

Thomas Crown

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