- [Transcript of talk given by Daniel Suelo, as published at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUYXq_l3vRM>, starting at time 01:52 through to the end of the recording.]
- Thank you Paul, this is really a great honor for me. But I do have to tell you the reality of this: CU [i.e. Colorado University] has a really low budget, and... (audience laughter) ... they invited me to come here.
- I thought before I start I would read... I've been debating on whether I should read this or not before I begin the speech. But, in The Coloradoan, the alumni magazine, there was an article called "Moneyless in Moab" by Clay Evans. Clay might be here... I'm not sure... (puts on glasses) oh yeah, there is Clay, hi Clay.
- And he interviewed me and wrote this article. And in the spring issue there was one letter in response to his article. His article is "Moneyless in Moab". And the letter to the editor, it was the only one in response to this, is by Paul Stanton who is an economics major of 1984: "You have to be kidding. You ran a feature article on a bum from Moab. Great, he has a CU degree. This is the type of graduate that should be shameful. Let's feature productive people with good jobs, goals, ambition. A bum with CU degree - awful."
- And it is kind of funny, it's funny for me to be up here. To tell you the truth, when I first gave up money, I wanted to do away with all the things that I felt like I was putting my identity on, and find my true identity, and this is what this talk is about. It's called "You are Your Own Diploma, and You are Your Own Currency".
- I got to this point where I wanted to find my authentic self, and this isn't really, truly about living with [sic] money, primarily. It's about finding our authentic selves, and finding what is our currency. And I took a whole duffel bag of everything I'd written for years, like, I liked to philosophize a lot, and I also included my CU diploma in that duffel bag, and I made a big bonfire and it all went up in smoke.
- And, so I have no ID except this (points at his body), this is my ID, and no diploma. And when Paul asked me to do this, I thought, how ironic, would I ever have imagined when I was doing that, that I would be giving a commencement speech to CU students? And, by the way, congratulations. My time at CU is a, was a wonderful, eye-opening experience for me. I was raised in a very sheltered, religious household, and spent a lot of my junior high and high school in Grand Junction, which is a very conservative place. And when I said I was going to CU, a lot of family and friends were like, "we'll pray for you!"
- And it was really good for me socially and the professors I had were amazing. A few that I can just think up off my had were Dougie Perrasco, Brian Mahan, Professor Takahara, I can't remember her first name, Sam Gill and Dennis Van Gerben [note: all names transcribed as heard]. And I felt grateful for everything I learned in expanding my mind. So this wasn't really about burning up the education, that can't happen, but it was about, for me, burning up a symbol. Symbols that we identify with, and this is how I feel about money. Like, I don't believe that money is evil in itself, but it becomes evil when it becomes our goal, and when it becomes our identity. And this is about finding your true identity, which is truly your true motivation.
- And I'll read a quote by Chuang Tzu: "When an archer is shooting for nothing, he has all of his skill. If he shoots for a brass buckle, he is already nervous. If he shoots for a prize of gold, he goes blind, or sees two targets. He is out of his mind. His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him. He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting. And the need to win drains him of power."
- Chuang Tzu also said: "Reward and punishment is the lowest form of education." Chuang Tzu was, he followed Lao Tzu in history, he was a great Taoist master, and Lao Tzu said before that in the Tao Te Ching:
- "Creating without claiming, doing without taking credit, guiding without interfering, this is the primal virtue."
- And to me this is what life is about, and this is what nature functions on, it's the Tao. And this is a concept I found in all of the ancient religions, starting with the one I grew up in, Christianity, which I feel like these principles have been lost. And this has been a goal of mine, it's to go back to my roots and find the truth, take the good and leave the bad. And it's the idea of doing for the sake of doing, but the doing itself is the reward and is the diploma, and it's the grade. And if that's the case, everything you need will come as you need it. And all of the great spiritual teachers taught this. And it's not a monopoly of any one religion.
- So this is something that I wanted to explore. And when I was thinking about this speech, I was thinking... I grabbed a dictionary, sometimes I like to just look at the dictionary, it is almost like there's amazing spiritual truth that you can find just looking at the dictionary. And I decided to look up the word "incentive", and we're always talking about incentive in our culture. And what is incentive?
- [quote from Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/incentive]
- Middle English, from Late Latin "incentivum", from neuter of "incentivus": stimulating, from Latin: setting the tune, from "incentus", past participle of "incinere": to play (a tune), from "in-" + "canere": to sing.
- And I've been thinking a lot about what is language, what is money, what are diplomas, what are grades: They're all symbols. And they're symbols of something deeper. And language is a symbol of something else. When we talk, we're talking about something in the past or in the future. But what would happen if talked, and what we said meant exactly what it is.
- And I listen to birds singing, and they're speaking what is. They're not symbolizing anything else, they're speaking exactly what's in their heart. It comes completely from the present in the singing. And I feel like that is the purest, truest language. And this is our incentive, it has to be our incentive if we're to be true. Our incentive must be intrinsic, it must come from inside. But our culture runs on incentive that's always away, it's always in the future. Money, grades, diplomas, these things are okay if they symbolize what we've gained. But they become the end rather than just merely symbols. They're illusions.
- And I thought about... something that happens in religions all over the world, and we see it very clearly in... with what happened with Christianity: It's the very first words of Jesus recorded in the gospels and the bible are: The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You, or (corrects himself), The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand. And he also said: The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You. And this has become: Instead of something within, it's become an incentive in the future or way up in space. We think of heaven as some reward that's gonna come later. The means and the end have become separated, instead of, the means and the end are one. The reward is in the doing, heaven is within, and heaven is the doing. And this must be our incentive. When our incentive becomes something other, then it becomes ulterior motivation. And I looked up "ulterior", and this is really interesting, in the Webster's dictionary:
- Lying beyond or on the farther side. Later, subsequent, or future, further, more remote, especially beyond what is expressed, implied or evident, undisclosed. And it's from the Latin ulter which means beyond or farther.
- And this is what happens. Our rewards are always in the future, and they never come. We're always working for something in the future, and our reward is not in doing. We are sacrificing the present for the future. And the best investment for the future is to work completely in the present, and the reward must be in doing. The end and the means must be one. The end cannot justify the means. And this is how I feel, this is what's happened in our capitalist system. Naturally it's been the mentality of our civilization since it began thousands of years ago. We're sacrificing our health, we're sacrificing our environment, we're sacrifing each other, even our children, we're sacrificing them to meaningless words [?], for what? For some future profit. And this comes back to our religious mentality, where we're sacrificing our lives on earth, love for each other, for some reward in some fictitious heaven way up in space, and future in time.
- And our saviors are in the past, instead of in the present, within. And this was one of the reasons why I got rid of my money and my IDs and my diploma. Not that those things are bad, but those things become our identity, instead of our identity as ourself and our motivation as ourself.
- And think about the word motivation, too. Motivation means what moves you. And what moves you can be something from without, extrinsic, or from within, intrinsic.
- If you look at leaves blowing in the wind, they're moving, but are they alive? They're dead leaves and they're blowing, it's pretty and there is nothing wrong with that. But they're dead, they're not being moved from within, they're not being moved by a life force within. And you look at our culture, what is moving us? Is it outward goals, extrinsic goals outside of ourselves, or is it within? Is our goal, and our reward, and our identity outside of ourselves, or is it within? And this is something that... Life can be very discouraging after you graduate. It's very exciting right now you're going out into the great unknown. But just remember: If you want to find your power, find it within. And society is constantly going to try to blow wind on you and say "this is where your movement is, this what your motivation is. Your motivation is in greater status, greater money, possessions." And it'll take your focus off of what's within you, your true motivation. And that's life, life is motivated from within. Mechanics and death is motivated from without. And our society is running on mechanics and death. Just look around: We're destroying the very environment we're dependent upon. All these principles are one principle, if you really meditate on it.
- And these are things that our heart tells us. But I was excited to find that there are actually empirical studies that prove this, too. One of them, Dan Pink, he wrote a book called "Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." Dan Pink, he collected all of this data that several scientist through the decades have done, proving that we actually function better when we're motivated from within, rather than our incentives or from outside of ourselves. Remember, our culture is always talking about incentives, "we need more incentives to do this and that and that". But nobody ever talks about incentives from within, the singing from within.
- In 1949, Harry F. Harlow, he's a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, he proposed a third drive: Intrinsic motivation, the joy of the task itself. Calls it the third drive because the first two drives are... he calls them sticks and carrots: Either punishment with the stick, or the carrot in front of the nose. And as Chuang Tzu said, those are the lowest form of education. If that's what's driving us, we're dead, we're being blown like dead leaves from without.
- Harry Harlow did studies with primates and found that they actually did better, they solved puzzles more quickly and accurately without rewards. They liked to do puzzles for the sake of doing puzzles. We all know that, we all like to... How many of you put together jigsaw puzzles? Do you have some goal you're trying to accomplish? And I think about that with music. Do we play music in order to get something, or is the music its own reward? And what if everything we did was incentive within, the music within, and everything becomes harmonious.
- Yeah, Edward Deci replicated these findings with humans in 1969. But Dan Pink puts... he compiles all these studies, and basically, he concludes, that actually... his idea is that for rote memory and mechanical behaviors, like assembly line, you can function better with outward rewards. For mechanics you can: Something dead can actually be blown in the wind like a leaf. And that's okay. But the things that humans really like to do, he found that their productivity diminished with outward rewards. Diminished intrinsic motivation, lower performance, less creativity, a crowding-out of good behavior, unethical behavior, addictions, and short-term thinking.
- And I remember a friend in Moab, he was an artist, or he is an artist, and he'd just been doing art for years on his own, living fairly poorly, or poor, kind of in a little shack. And finally the Park Service asked him to be their resident artist and he was all excited and we had a big party to celebrate. He's like "I'm finally getting paid to do my art, isn't this great!" And after a couple of months he confided in me, he said, "You know, I don't enjoy doing art anymore. I feel like my creativity is diminished."
- And another professor, Dan Ariely, he wrote "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions". Dan Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. He did an interesting experiment with his students -- I believe it was his students. He had three groups of students with computer screens, and each group was unknown to the others. And what they had to do was drag little tabs into circles. And this is actually a mechanical behavior. I feel like this takes it even deeper. He wanted to measure how many circles they could drag into the larger circles in five minutes. The first group was paid 5 dollars per circle, the second group was paid 50 cents or 10 cents per circle, and the third group was paid nothing, they were told it was a social request, merely a favor asked. And the results were, of course: The ones who got 50 cents or 10 cents per circle did the worst. The ones who got paid 5 dollars per circle, they did much better. But the ones who got paid nothing did better than all of them. And they were just told it was a social... it was for the community.
- And I think all of us know this in our hearts, it's funny that we have to look at studies like this. You know, but we all know we were this way when we were children, we love to work, we love to learn, we just crave it, and it's actually driven out of us with out grade system. And our money system. I used to love to go pick gruit in the orchard, and then I had a job when I was in high school, picking fruit in an orchard, and I hated it. (audience laughter) And I got all this money.
- And I was thinking, it feels to me like, and I'm still grappling with this in my mind, it feels like the money system and the grade system and the diploma system is just part of our evolution, it is something we have to go through. And I'm not knocking it, but I feel like it has to go obsolete. When we're children we run on grades and we also, when we're children, much of our motivation becomes extrinsic. Originally, when we're infants it's all intrinsic, we do what we feel. And the infant is pure-minded, it's completely pure, and then we start learning from our adult co-humans. And they teach us extrinsic motivation: You're gonna get a whippin' if you... if you do this or don't do that. Or I'll give you gold stars, or I'll give you a piece of candy, or whatever, if you do this or that. If you pee in the pot, you'll get this. (audience laughter)
- And this becomes a part of our mentality. And then we're in this grade system. And there are those wise children who rise above that, and still think "I like doing, I like learning for the sake of learning." Instead of... and I did this in CU myself, I would put all my energy into acing a test, and then forget completely what I learned. All of us have done that, and it's cramming, cramming for exams. And I felt like this is poisoning our culture. And what if we just learned for the sake of learning. And what if grades became obsolete, and this is what the diploma represents, it represents your final grade. And then you go into adulthood. And you're no more... your grades become obsolete, and you're hopefully motivated from within. You're learning and doing because you want to.
- But we're in a society that doesn't grow up, we're in a society that cannot be motivated except by dollars and cents and status and possessions. And this is the wisdom of children that we've lost, and we think of it as naive, but this is our true selves. And this is what I challenge everyone to do, is not necessarily give up money, but this is all about finding your true self, like, keep looking within and you'll go down the right path, you will find success, it'll be great success. The world might not think it's success, but you'll know, and you'll be able to move forward in constance, no matter what anybody says, you'll be powerful. And to me this is another lost concept in the Judao-Christian tradition: People will ask you who's your authority, who motivates you, who sent you. This is the idea that Moses was asked, and the answer is the divine name: I am who I am. That is your identity: I am who I am. And if you say that, no matter what, just be yourself completely, then you'll be one with the divine, with the whole universe, and that is your power, there is no greater power than that.
- And this is the concept, it's in every religion. This is the Atman of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita speaks clearly of this, this is the whole theme of it: Don't do for the sake of future rewards, renounce the fruits of your actions, do for the sake of doing. This is the very principles of Jesus' message. And it's Buddhism in its purest form. And it's also, if you look carefully, it's the message of the Koran. But you don't really need any of those things to know this, they're all just expressing our deepest human heart.
- So follow your hearts. Thank you.