Ones and Tens

September 22nd, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

When you present yourself to the world, do you have a tendency to sanitize your public image? Do you show other people, especially strangers, your safest and most socially acceptable aspects first? Do you find it sensible to avoid the risk of judgment so as to make socialization easier?

When you get to know other people, do you engage with their sanitized public selves first as well? Do you stick with the most socially acceptable topics for discussion, so as to avoid any significant risk of causing offense?

When you explore a potential romantic connection for the first time, do you play it safe there as well? Do you stick with safe subjects like work, school, and past experiences? Do you attempt to create a light bond first before delving into anything potentially controversial?

Playing It Safe Socially

Playing it safe is an effective social strategy if your goal is to create loose bonds with a variety of people. When you stick with polite conversation, keep your most striking differences and oddities private, and do your best to avoid controversy, you’re likely to do well socially on a surface level.

This is essentially the mindset put forth in books like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The strategy is popular because it works. If you use this approach, you will get people labeling you as a friend and inviting you into their social circles. You can certainly achieve some popularity this way, as well as a degree of influence.

If this outcome is important to you, then feel free to use that general approach. Be polite. Be modest. Be non-judgmental. Keep your most striking differences to yourself.

I was rather shy as a kid, so this path of development was a good way to branch out socially and to make more friends. Eventually I found it easy to make and maintain plenty of friends.

This was fun at first, but after some years on this path, I grew bored with the types of connections that I was experiencing. They were light-hearted and friendly, but mostly superficial.

When I was 18 years old, I would often hang out in various student lounges in the dorms at UC Berkeley. This was a time when I was goofing off academically (and finally expelled in my third semester), but during the first two semesters, I spent a lot of time working on my social skills. I lived on the eighth floor of an eight-story dormitory, and many evenings I would hang out in one of the lounges on a different floor, so I could meet other students and make more friends.

The Berkeley students tended to be very bright, and I enjoyed discussing a variety of topics with them. But what impressed me most was when I met other students who seemed willing to take social risks during these conversations.

One evening I was having a casual conversation in a lounge with a fellow student who told me that she was an atheist. She began sharing her strongly held beliefs about how stupid religion was and how the world would be better off without it. I was also an atheist at the time, and I really resonated with what she shared. But mostly I was impressed that she shared it so early in our conversation, especially since there were other students around who could overhear us. Berkeley has an atmosphere that tends to encourage these kinds of exchanges, which I liked, but I was still impressed that she could be so open about her beliefs. She wasn’t playing it safe like so many others were.

As she talked I felt a special connection to her. She shared on the outside what she felt and believed on the inside. We only had a fairly short conversation that evening, but 25 years later, I still remember her.

That said, it’s fair to say that the main reason I felt such a connection to her was because she was sharing something that really resonated with me at the time. Most students talked about their classes, where they were from, and their favorite music. She took a risk and got a match with me, but she could have gotten a mismatch if I had been a different kind of guy.

Sevens vs. Ones and Tens

The Win Friends approach to socializing is an attempt to become a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 for everyone. Since you don’t take major social risks, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be anyone’s 9 or 10, but you can float comfortably in their 6-8 range.

By not taking major social risks and hiding your most striking differences, you can safely avoid offending most people, so almost everyone can feel comfortable with you. Many people will grow to like you on a surface level if you don’t give them a reason not to like you.

But if you never take social risks, you’ll also prevent yourself from attracting those deeply intimate 9s and 10s. These types of connections require some risk taking, such as by sharing the parts of yourself that aren’t popular and which aren’t as socially acceptable.

In order to get those 9s and 10s, you must risk creating some 1s and 2s. Many people fear the 1s and 2s more strongly than they desire the 9s and 10s, and so they settle for 7s at best.

If you settle for 7s for too long though, you’re bound to feel — eventually — that something is missing. You may find yourself in a room of friends and notice that you’re still lonely or empty inside. You may feel that you’d rather be alone than go out with friends because you know that the connections will only satisfy you on a surface level and that your deeper cravings will remain unfulfilled. You may oscillate between wanting to be around people and wanting to be alone, but feeling dissatisfied with either option.


That missing ingredient is real human intimacy. Part of you still desires the opportunity to share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with another person and to feel acknowledged, appreciated, and supported.

It’s not just the sharing that helps. It’s the ability to connect with those 9s and 10s who see you, understand you, and agree with you. These are the people that you’d say are “on the same wavelength” as you.

These people exist, but how are you going to find them? How will they find you?

If you do your best to avoid taking social risks, and if most other people in your life do the same, you’ll have a hard time finding people who match your less popular qualities. Your social life will become a series of partial matches, but the really deep connections will remain outside your grasp.

For example, I could hide or downplay the fact that I’m an ethical vegan and that I believe it’s wrong to cage, torture, and kill animals for entertainment, sport, or food. This could make it easier to foster shallow friendships with partial matches, but it would also make me less visible to my best matches.

If you want more surface friendships, it makes more sense to use the Win Friends approach. If, however, you’d like to experience deeper intimacy, then it’s more sensible to openly share your most different thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, so as to raise your visibility among your best matches.

If you go the intimacy route, then even if most people would rate you on the lower end of the scale, how many 9s and 10s do you need anyway? How much value would you place on finding and adding one good level 10 match to your life? Is it worth creating dozens or even hundreds of 1s and 2s who will quickly dismiss you if it also means having the opportunity to attract a 9 or 10 and attracting an amazing best friend or lover for years to come, perhaps even for the rest of your life?

The Challenge of Finding 9s and 10s

For some people it’s not so difficult to find 9s and 10s. If, however, you stray further from social norms than most people, finding such quality matches can be a real challenge.

Even with the high profile I have as a well-known blogger, author, and international speaker, finding someone who’s a 9 or 10 match for me is a rarity. I meet lots of 8s, but the 9s and 10s are few and far between.

For someone to be a 9 or 10 for me, that person would have to match on many of the core qualities that I value most. These include being vegan, being non-religious, being intensely curious about life, having a long-term commitment to personal growth, being open-minded about open relationships, having a love of exploration and experimentation, being very honest, and following one’s path with a heart.

At the recent Conscious Life Workshop last month, some attendees asked me if Rachelle and I have explored a Three-Person Relationship yet, since I had written about that idea in February 2013. Rachelle and I haven’t found a single good match for this type of exploration yet, so we haven’t experienced it. We’re willing to explore this with someone who’s a strong match for this type of exploration with us, but we’re not interested in doing it with a weak match just to do it. If we eventually encounter a good match, then wonderful — we can explore together. But if not, I think it’s best not to force it.

Partial Matches as Training

Sometimes when your 9s and 10s don’t show up right away, you can gain more clarity about what those 9s and 10s would look like. Having even one match like this in your life can be an intense experience, so you may also discover that you’ve been repelling the ideal match due to a lack of readiness. One of the ways you do this is by saying yes to partial matches along the way.

When I set a new intention, especially if it’s a social one, I often notice a string of partial matches coming my way first. I regard these as clarification questions. Each partial match asks me to refine my understanding of what I really desire.

When you encounter a partial match, you may recognize that it’s off in some way. But how is it off? What’s missing? What’s not quite right about it? Answer these questions carefully, and use your answers to clarify your desires. Release the partial match, and set your intention again.

When a partial match shows up, and you realize it’s a repeat of similar patterns from the past, feel free to decline to engage with it and let it go (unless you just want to relive another round of the same). Then you’ll either see different types of partial matches arriving with new lessons, or you’ll finally welcome the manifestation of your desires.

Quality human relationships are one of the great joys of life. One good relationship can completely transform you. To initiate this journey, set a bold intention from your heart, share your desires openly, explore with partial matches, and refine your desires over time. The turning point will come when you discover how to express your desire not as a static state but as a dynamic continuation of your path of growth.

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Changing Your Culture

September 21st, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

If you were to design your own human culture, what would you include? What would you leave out?

Here are some basic design questions to consider, based on the three core principles of personal growth.


How would your culture relate to truth? Would you create a very honest, truth-based culture? Would your culture encourage the discovery and sharing of new truths? To what extent would people own, hide, or manipulate the truth?

Would you create a culture based on shared stories and/or mythology, even if the stories are made up?

Would you favor politeness over honesty in communication?

Note that there are trade-offs for each path you might take. If you favor a discovery-based culture, then you’ll need a very flexible culture and flexible rituals since your understanding of reality will keep changing as you make new discoveries. That could potentially make your culture more fragile and less cohesive. If, on the other hand, you create a culture based on shared stories that seldom change, you might experience stronger group cohesion and greater stability through a shared identity, but your stories may begin to seem increasingly ludicrous as your culture matures and gains new knowledge.


Which desires will your culture praise? Which will it demonize?

How will the people within your culture connect with each other? Will people be in monogamous relationships only? Will homosexuality be allowed? What about open relationships? Is sexual promiscuity okay? How will children be raised?

Will your culture allow drinking, gambling, drugs, junk food, non-consensual sex, torture, firearms, suicide, etc? Will you have a rule of law, and if so, what will your critical laws be, and how will they be enforced?

What restrictions, if any, will you place upon people’s freedom to do what they might desire to do?

How will your culture relate to other cultures? Will it try to peacefully coexist? To dominate other cultures? To assimilate other cultures?


What relationship will your culture have with power?

Will your culture empower people as individuals to achieve their potential? What if an individual’s goals conflict with another individual’s goals… or with the general direction of your society? Is it more important to have empowered individuals or to build a powerful society?

What if another culture seeks to dominate or to eradicate your culture? How will your culture respond? Will you defend yourselves? Will you be passive and hope for the best? Will you ever take preemptive action against a likely aggressor? What kinds of weapons will you use, and how will you develop them?

Will you seek to elevate other cultures? To bring them down? To establish peaceful relations with them?

There are numerous possible answers to these questions, including the answers that earth’s cultures have already provided. Each answer has consequences, helping to determine how quickly a culture will evolve, how long it may survive, and how happy and healthy its members will be.

Understanding Your Culture

Why think about how you’d design your own culture? If you can get a clearer sense of the design decisions you’re inclined to make, you can compare your design decisions to the culture you now experience. This will give you a sense of where your culture may be out of alignment with your values.

You have the ability to define your relationship to the dominant pre-existing culture(s) in your life. Which parts will you accept? Which parts will you reject or modify? And why?

I really like some aspects of my surrounding culture. I like the sense of freedom that exists in Las Vegas, which is a very non-judgmental place to live. Some aspects of my lifestyle would attract punishment in other parts of the world, but in this city I have the freedom, and perhaps even the encouragement, to be myself and to continue exploring without substantial interference.

I also like the general sense of self-improvement that exists where I live. There’s a strong belief that through hard work and determination, we can change for the better.

Other aspects of my culture feel less aligned to me. I don’t feel inspired by many things that are popular within my culture, like working at a corporate job, going to church, following sports, obsessing over celebrities, or eating animal products.

The more I travel and the more I interact with people from other cultures, the more I see just how stressed out many Americans are. There is a lot of freedom here but also much tension with so many people having beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” “I need more,” and “I have to work harder.” People here put a lot of effort into things that don’t make them happy, and then they escape into addictions like watching tons of TV.

We have abundance but not enough appreciation. There’s an addictive quality to this more-More-MORE obsession. People here don’t realize that if they can’t appreciate a sip, they won’t appreciate a gulp either.

Influencing Your Culture

When you become an oddball within your culture, you can keep quiet and slink into the background, or you can speak up and share your observations and lessons. When you do the latter, you gain the ability to influence your culture to become more aligned with your path. Obviously not everyone will follow your lead, but some will find your ideas worthy of exploration and experimentation, and they’ll want to hear more and collaborate.

Surely there will be others within your culture who’ve gone down similar paths, and they’ll begin to influence cultural shifts as well as they speak up more and more. As these people begin to find each other and connect more deeply and more often, they may even contribute to a movement to help shift the larger culture. This can take many years to play out, but it’s exciting to behold.

If you feel that you’re all alone in your oddballness, that probably isn’t accurate. There are probably lots of others like you out there, but you haven’t found them yet. That’s likely because you’re invisible to them. If you’d like to connect with other like-minded oddballs, that becomes much more likely if you broadcast your desires and let the world know how you really think and feel. Sure, you’ll get some judgment for doing that, but so what? Own it anyway. Stand tall in being yourself. This will eventually attract the attention of others who think as you do.

The alternative is to hide. If you have to hide for safety reasons, that may be your best bet for now, but if there’s no physical danger in speaking your mind, then do so. You’ll be glad you did. In fact, you’ll wonder why you kept quiet for so long unnecessarily.

If your ideal culture seems far removed from your current culture, you could leave to find a culture that’s a closer match for you if you think one exists. Or you could stay put and strive to become a changemaker within your own culture, such as by gathering like-minded people together.

Question what your culture expects from you, and be willing to more powerfully inject your own values back into your culture, especially when you think your culture’s values are destructively misaligned.

Here’s a very simple example. I recently read that most people buy food for friends and family that’s less healthy than what they buy for themselves, especially during holidays. Most people also report that they feel obligated to eat unhealthy food when it’s offered to them by others. And yet, most people would prefer to be offered healthier options by their friends and family. So why are we encouraging each other to eat unhealthy food, and saying yes to it when offered, even though most of us would prefer not to do this? Staying quiet only goes against the outcome that most people would prefer to see.

By staying quiet in such situations, you put your social conditioning, politeness, and brainwashing ahead of your health and the health of your friends and family. Instead of blindly agreeing to follow cultural norms that have long-term negative consequences for everyone, you could always buy food for your friends and family that’s at least as healthy as what you buy for yourself, to decline unhealthy options offered by others, to encourage people to offer healthier options in the future and praise them when they do, and to publicly broadcast to your social networks that you prefer to offer and to be offered healthy options whenever food is provided.

By speaking up instead of hiding your preferences, you can help create ripples of positive change.

If you don’t fit in with your surrounding culture, perhaps the reason is that you’re there to help improve the culture. If you see some aspect of your culture that seems misguided to you, call it out as such, and suggest an alternative. You’ll often be surprised to discover that while you were keeping quiet, so were many other people in your life, and when you speak up, they feel free to elevate their standards as well.

Steve Recommends
Here are my recommendations for products and services I've reviewed that can improve your results. This is a short list since it only includes my top picks.

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Lefkoe Method - Permanently eliminate a limiting belief in 20 minutes
Getting Rich with Ebooks - Earn passive income from ebooks
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Paraliminals - Condition your mind for positive thinking and success
The Journal - Record your life lessons in a secure private journal
Sedona Method (FREE audios) - Release your blocks in a few minutes
Life on Purpose - A step-by-step process to discover your life purpose

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