Episode #010

Opting Out: Do You Have this Key Skill for Thriving in the Modern World?

*This latest episode is a spiritual successor to the previous one. If you wish to fully understand what we are talking about in our latest conversation, I suggest you go back and listen to episode 9.*

There are countless aspects of modern society that are simply bad for the individual.

Whether it's the food industry which churns out hyper-addictive and highly palatable stuff for us to feast on, or tech giant companies which carefully design habit-forming technology to harvest our attention, there's no shortage of things that would benefit our lives, if we completely avoided them.

And this is exactly what we are suggesting. If we want to live a good life, it isn't enough to simply be "all-in" on what society deems normal. Normal today is becoming increasingly miserable, anxious and unhealthy.

If you want to be the exception, don't be "all-in"

Instead, "opt-out."

But how do we know what to opt out of and how do we do that?

As always, we're here to provide you with real, practical solutions.

In this episode...

Some of the points covered in today's conversation:

  • The importance of "opting out" of the destructive aspects of modern society and exactly what this means.
  • Why managing your impulses is essential for living well.
  • The "easy mode" & the "hard mode" for managing your impulses.
  • Why the modern solution to our problems is almost always to buy or consume something, and why this is an absolute recipe for misery.
  • The worrying sophistication of persuasive & habit-forming technology.
  • How the negativity bias fuels modern content creators.
  • Specific things we can do to opt-out and reclaim our attention, inner freedom and focus.

Over to You

We hope you found this episode useful! What brought you the most value? Do you have questions or feedback? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

You can follow the ikario Podcast on YouTube and also subscribe to our clips channel.

Oliver Cowlishaw

About the author

Ollie is an avid pizza connoisseur, accomplished drinker of coffee and lover of soul music. Heavily influenced by Zen & eastern mysticism, his curiosity regarding the human experience is insatiable. Despite having a strong vocabulary, he swears a lot and uses slang phrases ("ollie-isms") that almost nobody understands, not even himself.

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  • ok so opting out and also opting in. i’m excited about the leaving the human zoo, and I’m board, but I have a question about getting what we want. in the start of this episode, yall talk about avoiding the cravings of things that you’re puppeted towards. but what about following the craving for things you actually genuinely want?
    for instance, I’m set on financial freedom. i crave, and trigger, and get dopamine hits with stock trades. but these are all good indictors towards a goal I want, and not a goal I’m being puppeted towards. (we can discuss how society pushes the narrative that we need to be rich, and how my desire for financial freedom may be unduly influenced, but i don’t think it is. i think modest financial freedom is good, long before avarice and over consumption and hoarding become bad)

    but the real question lies in the fork in the road. how can i know what I want and go after it, while separating out what I’m told to want?

    thanks. i love your work here. its taken me 2 years to find even some of the things you’re discussing, and i like that you’ve got all the major food groups of self awareness and improvement wrapped up well AND ALSO action steps. please keep going and thank you.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      I love your thinking on this, James! You’re going several levels deep with your questioning, which is really cool.

      Here’s my take on what you’ve described. It definitely makes sense to consider authentic desires vs. externally imposed ones. And I think that freedom, autonomy, safety make a lot of sense as true, authentic, intrinsic desires. Financial freedom is how we are taught to achieve freedom, safety and so on.

      I don’t think you can fully separate yourself from cultural values and things you are “told to want” as you put it. And money is a good example of that, because no matter what my attitude towards money is, I still live in a world in which money is really important.

      The way I think of it, it’s about making a choice. I want to make sure that the way I act in the world is a way I deliberately choose. Or rather: I want my actions to line up with what I would deliberately choose for myself (because realistically, most of my actions are going to be automatic and not deliberate). The example of phone use comes to mind: no one would deliberately choose to spend most of their waking hours scrolling through feeds on their little phone screen, but that’s what many of us end up doing. Whether this is because of authentic desires or externally imposed ones doesn’t really matter – the bottom line is that I don’t want to live my life hunched over a small screen.

      When it comes to money, my personal attitude is this: I want to continue making lots of money, but I don’t want to sacrifice my life quality for it. I’ve already gone through a period of working too much and making sacrifices to gain financial freedom. This was necessary to some degree, but it was important to me to draw a line and change my behavior at some point. I want to continue making lots of money, but I want to do it in ways that add value to the world and I want to do it in such a way that the activities that make money for me are things I want to spend my time doing, anyway. I want to make my money ethically and I want my money-making activities to make the world a better place, in however small a way.

      This, to me, is a matter of ethics and conscious choice. Is my sense of ethics a culuturally imposed, external thing? Yeah, probably. But that’s fine.

      See what I mean?

      • James Simmons says:


        Thanks so much. Let me start with this: Thanks for saying money is an ok goal to pursue because it runs our world. I’d rather give myself that permission and allowance, as opposed to needing to hear it externally, but it does feel good. It’s a reminder of an objective situation we are all in, and just hearing that thought validated and echoed lets me off the hook a bit from beating myself up over it. Beating myself up either because I’m not a multimillionaire yet, or bc I don’t have all the answers on how to get there, or because I’m not a happy monk living on 4 dollars per year. 
        So thank you. 

        Now, some back story on me. I seek financial and geographic stability and some other things because of childhood trauma around my parents divorce and all the fallout after. I’m angry with myself now because I am steering my life in such a way that it’s reactive to those events, not necessarily what I want or would choose. (More on life design below?) Over the last year or so I’ve discovered that yes, I can achieve these goals that grew out of trauma, and that later, along the way, once I have them or some portion of them, I’ll get a glimpse at goals I would want to choose and leave these reactive ones behind. It’s a breath of relief to know I’m not limited to just reacting to them but that I can choose my own goals as well. 
        Further, I’ve recently realized that this idea of sequencing is a limiting belief. I don’t need to wait for the first reactive goals to happen before starting out on my chosen ones. It might be scary to swim away from the shoreline so to speak, but that’s precisely where I am in my growth. 

        It sounds to me like I need to learn more about life design. Do yall have a video out on it, or a reference I can link to? 

        Bruce Lipton presents himself as a weirdo so I needed to really listen to hear his core message. It’s about consciously choosing what we want as opposed to letting the subconscious mind run us all over on autopilot. His recommendations on how aren’t really accessible, or at least not as accessible as your Get Your Shit Together.  Do you have a specific episode on this that I missed? 

        Thanks again.

        • Shane Melaugh says:

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, James!

          There are so many possible paths to take. Many of us take a reactive life path, as you describe. We’re running away from some childhood trauma. And yes, we can sometimes achieve those goals and then discover, deeper, more authentic goals. But that’s not the only way to go and it’s certainly not the only “right” way. I get the impression that you are already on the right path for yoursef, but you feel some resistance because you don’t fit the molds that you’ve been presented.

          Regarding life design: the How to Get Your Shit Together series is the most concise and wide ranging crash course on this topic that we’ve published so far. And Whole Food Island is a must read on this topic as well. We have more content on this topic in the works. Lots of practical experimentation and case studies that we’re working on.

          If you have any specific questions or specific problems you need help with, let us know. Really helps us make better content.

          • James Simmons says:

            I’ve read the whole food island, and it makes me want to live in California with an avocado tree in my yard… and a surfboard… and a tiki bar smoothie bar on the corner…

            Yea it’s a great primer to the environment design question. Thanks, and keep it comin.


          • James Simmons says:

            I am super interested in hearing what some of the other ‘right’ ways are. Whats another model besides the reactive-then-self prescribed goals model?

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