What is a person? What is the “self”?

Build your confidence and connections with my Powerful Honesty course on Udemy

We get so caught up in our identities and feel so sure about who we are that we very rarely stop to think about it. What is “the self”? What does it mean to be a person? Are you your body, your mind, your internal identity, your memories, or what?

In this video, we address the terrifying truth about what it means to be a person, and find a way through the darkness to a solution for the nihilistic fear that comes from recognising that you don’t really exist.

Dan’s Top Resources


Dan has 3 bestselling non-fiction books available in both written and audio form:

  • The Naked Truth, his latest release, shows you how radical honesty builds self-confidence and relationships
  • Nothing to Lose explores how to build confidence from the inside by correcting the programming in your brain
  • The Legendary Life is a very practical, action-focused guide on how to plan and execute a life plan that brings you your ideal lifestyle

Online courses

Dan continues to put out high quality online self-paced courses through the Udemy platform

Transcription (unedited)

What’s up everyone coming to you from my little holiday in Italy at the moment. And I just wanted to go on a kind of a freestyle rant, I have no idea how this is going to help people. I just know it helps me. And so maybe something will come of it for you. What I want to talk about is nothing new. These aren’t ideas of my own, really, the concept that we aren’t what we think we are

Tiger Woods, they like identity. Each of us has an identity, it’s probably labeled with your own name. Some of you it will be your job, when you see yourself as a CEO, or an artist or a parent. But most of us they have an idea of like this is me as a sort of static. Now there’s this old philosophical riddle, and I can’t remember the name of it doesn’t really matter where there’s this old ship, wooden ship. And over time, as parts get broken, and so on, they get replaced, to literally get to a point where every part has been replaced. Now the boat looks the same as it did. But every part is new. And the riddle of course is, is it the same boat? Now there’s something similar that happens to human beings, which is, some dudes are going around on bikes. We go through a change according to biological science, where our cells and our particles are replaced, they wear out they die, they dissipate, skin flakes off and through our body waste, articles leave, and new ones are grown in the third week. And over about a seven year cycle, everything in your body is replaced. So if you’re older than seven years old, you are completely new ship, every part of you has been replaced. And in case you didn’t already, kind of have some awareness of this, just look at the difference between you now and you as a kid. Right? Your fingernails are bigger, your face looks different, your hair is different mine certainly is. You’ve clearly been replaced physically, what you don’t see is that all of your organs, including your brain, every cell, every particle, every molecule has been replaced at some point. Some of them regenerate. Quite often, your skin, for example, is constantly flaking off and regenerating your skins only days or weeks old months maybe. Whereas I think the seven years applied to the liver, I can’t remember the details. But every part of you has been replaced every seven years. And women add some of them even more frequently, including your brain, we get the sense of continuity, like I’ve been the same person since I was born, we kind of tell ourselves, don’t we and you even your memories are really copy and paste. So you think when you say think of a memory from your childhood, right now, you think that you’re pulling this thing out of storage, and looking at it the original copy, like your birth certificate. But actually you’re looking at a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy on and on, the longer the memory, the more times it’s been copied. Basically, every time you recall it, you make a copy that replaces what you record, it will spit out some chips. So say if I think back to time and childhood where I stood on a thumbtack, I remember stood on tack and wind my heel was very, very painful. Even now, as I think about it, I remember the tech actually going into my phone and he I didn’t see that at the time, we’re going to clear visual memory of the tech going into my foot. So I’ve added that. I’ve imagined the tech going in from a like I had a foot cam going. And that’s been added to the memory. And right now as I tell you about the memory and I imagined it like where I was on the playground for some reason, there seems to be no other kids about. I don’t know if that’s true anymore. So on. I don’t even remember exactly what age I was at some point I knew what it was like the next day that I remembered it happening. I wouldn’t know exactly what age it was. But now I’ve lost that piece of information could be anywhere between the age of seven to about 12 Because of the school I was at at the time. As I’m talking to you now just replace that memory with this new one that I just created as I told you about it. The original has long since been replaced. It’s kinda like the Bible has been rewritten and translated and rewritten in the game and all copies destroyed every time this happens that the new version or we know for sure is that isn’t not the original, we’re not at the shore. So if you think your continuity of self of who you are, is at the very least based on memory, well, that’s faulty thinking as well. Your memory is a current, not old, you’re not digging something out of the past, there is no time travel happening here, you’re having a prison thought and imagination of the past, you’re not actually seeing the past itself. And you’ll notice that if you don’t recall memories, often, the attrition of your brain constantly changing, you lose those memories permanently.

There are times where you might see an old photograph of yourself and maybe a video these days, you just have no recollection of being there. So remember, that constantly went to and you’re like, now I don’t like I believe you. I don’t remember that all. And it’s not that you have a recollection problem, necessarily. It’s a you actually have deleted the memory, there are cells that contain that energy. Memories work, I don’t think even neuroscientists fully understand it. But that pathway, that neural pathway has dissolved and to some degree would misuse or this use no longer exists. You think of yourself, as has changed, you think of who you thought of yourself? Is it all the same memes, I get a seven year old as a 17 year old as 27 year old. It’s constantly different. At one point, you’re a virgin. And next point, you’re not, you know, at one point, you had lots of friends and explained already lonely. Which one of these guys are you? We go on and on on the screen. The point being is if you do enough kind of critical thinking about who am I? What am I? The answer starts to become very shaky. so as to be like, Well, I don’t actually know. The idea that something has been there my entire life, there’s no evidence for that. Anything that you think has been continuous, like I’ve always had at least this quality, my whole life can easily be challenged. I may be saying, well, you know, my parents told me that even as a kid, I was a really good reader, and I’m still a good reader. What about the times you’re not reading? What are you the? Is it just a kind of lightened skill? If you were to get some sort of brain damage that affected your ability to read? Does that mean you’re now a different person, where you’re the same person just with less skill? How much is the skill, part of the identity and so on? And with just a few mental experiments, you can dissolve any idea that there is a human that is continuous? Well, it’s not your body. Now, it’s not your mind, what else is left? The religious amongst you might say a soul. Again, I’d say Well, where’s the evidence for that? Even if there is such a thing as a soul? Was the evidence that that remains unchanged. You know, I’ve known people that were wonderful joy as people as children. And now our evil busy people, it seems that if they did have a soul, even that is morphed into something quite different to what the original was that the goodness is gone. And I’ve seen the opposite. I’ve worked to criminal offenders who have gone from evil to wonderful people. And it’s not an act that really had a big transformation, so big that their entire personality framework has been shifted. I myself have gone from introvert to extrovert in my life. But apparently you’re not supposed to be able to do that. But I’ve definitely done it. I’ve gone from agreeable to disagreeable. Apparently not supposed to be able to do that. I’ve definitely done it before, I’m not the only one. How does this help? Well, after you go through your first burst of nihilism, your whole My God, nothing matters because I don’t even exist. You start to realize this freedom and what I’m talking about that you can decide what’s going to be consistent. You can decide there that consistency can be about something other than your physical body or your mind. That decision I ended up coming to which the like, there is no scientific proof that this was the right decision to come to but the one that feels right and continues to feel right is integrity. Now, integrity itself, simply means consistency. Consistency, plus honesty is the basic dictionary different definition of integrity. And the thing is that that itself can be maintained consistently. Because having integrity really just means being real in the way that you behave that your behavior matches your current internal belief system about right and wrong about what you think is true. So you say what you think is true, and you do what you think is right It’s not what you think is easy. It’s not necessarily what you want to do or feel like doing. But what you currently believe is the right thing to do. And you say what you currently believe to be true. Now, what you say and do will change a lot over time. But consistency isn’t the only expression. You know me doing the right thing right now is making this video. But teen years doing the right thing was challenging one of my staff members to stop bullying another staff member completely different

behavior. But it was the right thing at the right time. The key was the values behind it, the principle behind it were the same. express what I believe is true try to help people. These are the things that stay consistent core values, even the definitions of them can change where you find is there certain values that you’ve always had, even if you haven’t lived by them. One things I’ve learned working with criminal offenders, I work with guys who have done much harm in their life to be very harmful people. And yet, deep down, I’ve always known it was wrong, the hater when it’s done too, that’s one of the ways they have always known that it’s wrong. So even as they beat someone up, they know that they don’t like someone beating them. And they certainly don’t like some picking on the underdog.

I think what people do is they get bogged down in that commitment or loyalty to an identity that they’ve decided I am this I am that I am this diagnosis, I am their vocation, this role. And they kind of die with the lie. So no matter what happens, no matter how much life begs them to adjust and update to new information, conserve. That’s where the word conservative comes from, it’s not actually a political stance. Conservative means to maintain the same. liberal means to change, be flexible. people as they get older, especially, they get more and more conservative. And that’s often reflected on their political beliefs, that they get more about staying the same. You’ll see someone you know, they’re gonna stay an accountant just because they’ve always been an accountant. They’ll keep doing what they’ve always done simply because they’ve always done it that tried that type of consistency. But that often leads us to breach our integrity, our values. You know, if someone’s always been dishonest, they just keep being dishonest. If someone’s always put on a performance and being manipulative, like I was for much my life, they keep doing it, because I’ve always done it, they’re gonna like, if I keep doing it forever, then it counts as being real. But as the saying goes by saying, there’s the lyrics from the Lamb of God song go and tell the same lie 1000 times, it doesn’t get any more true. You can lie to yourself about whether or not you’re being real you can or not for long is warning signs that you’re doing it. So what I came to realize is, even though my body always changes in my mind always changes because my mind is based on my brain. And that’s constantly changing. And every time I talk to someone, or perceive any information whatsoever, it gets into my brain changes who I am in some small way. And the combined weight of that means that over the years, I’ve become a completely different person. I don’t have to fight against this system. I don’t have to resist new information and conserve what I need to do as a kind of combination of conservative and liberal, which is I flexibly update how I act by consistent values. So I keep asking myself, what’s a better way to be honest, for example, what new thing can I do that will be courageous? You know, courage is a good example, people say, you know that they’re brave, they’ll think of themselves as brave because they’re doing something that they once found scary. But they don’t actually find it scary anymore. So they don’t realize it no longer counts as bravery. You’re not scared, you’re not being brave. Because you’re one skier doesn’t mean that you currently you know, somebody might think of themselves like I’ve got good endurance because I go for a 10k run every day. Well, if you can do 10 K’s every day, years and years, then it’s no longer a test of your endurance. Those k should be going up or you shouldn’t change the activity or try rock climbing now, we’ll try sitting still. You know, endurance should always feel difficult. It feels easy. It’s not endurance. You know, honesty is the same. You might say oh, I’ve always said that. Well then update it. You should be I’ll say something even more truthful. Every time you speak. Every time you share your ideas, they should be updated to be even more truthful if you’re trying to be honest, and so on. Like I said, I don’t know how this will help anyone, or even if a will but letting go of the idea that I am single thing that stays still as time goes on, was not only freeing, but of course, just accurate. I clearly am not the same thing. Not even second by second. Even right now as I make this video, it’s changing me. So, the Dan, who started this video ends as a different person, right? Am I given the same name, he might look basically the same. But that’s just an illusion. If you look closely, you’d see all the cells of change and see the neural pathways of people reversing something personal. So, do with that information once you will. I hope you guys get something out of it. Get in touch with me If you want any help, kind of applying this in your life in a way that says fine, and I’ll see you next time. Cheers.

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