The Way of Adventure
An Unconventional Online Course for Young People


Here’s the problem with “figure out what you believe and then act accordingly”:

It’s backwards.

Beliefs are informed by actions.

We are not born with ingrained beliefs. We are not like laptops or smartphones that come pre-programmed with software. Yes, we have DNA, and that determines some things in our lives. But for the most part, we are products of how we are raised and the actions we take.

Let’s say you’re a devout Christian. You grew up going to church and reading the bible, supported by your parents. If you were born in Thailand instead, to a family that practices Buddhism, do you have any doubt that you would be a devout Buddhist today? Do you really think that you would have discovered Christianity and become the same believer that you are today? No one is born a Christian or Buddhist; the actions that our parents take make us so.

Or let’s say you believe you need good grades to be loved. No one ever handed you a slip of paper at age 6 that somehow transmitted that belief (an introject) to you.


Instead, you picked up that belief through observing the actions of your teachers, parents, and other people in your life. Maybe your sibling got lots of praise and gifts for his good grades. Maybe your friend’s parents shamed her for bad grades.

Actions inform beliefs. We pay more attention to what people do than what they say.

If your dad hits your mom — or your mom verbally abuses your dad — that’s what informs your beliefs about their relationship. It doesn’t matter if one says that they “really love” the other. We believe actions more than words.

Which leads us to the punchline:

You cannot just “figure out what you believe.” You must take action.

If your parents had you go sit under a tree from a very young age and do nothing but try to “figure out what you believe,” you would have grown up ignorant. (Or you would have believed that life is all about trees and grass and ants. It would actually be an interesting social science experiment, albeit a sick and twisted one.)

Of course, you can go sit under a tree today and try to “figure out what you believe” and have some success, to the extent that you’re reflecting upon the actions that you and other people have taken in your life.

But as anyone who’s sat idly under a tree can attest, it gets old quick. Even hardcore Buddhists who practice extended meditation don’t do that exclusively; their days are filled with reading and discussions and debates and chores and other actions.

To have authentic beliefs, you must do things.

Okay, so what?