Critical Thinking & Decision-Making

ML179: Luke Burgis on The Power of Mimetic Desire, Choosing the Right Role Models and How To Want What You Need

Discover how to turn blind wanting that leaves you unfulfilled to intentional wanting that supports your own values, how different role models affect your desires and behaviour and how conflict often comes from similarities, not differences and the tactics to break the cycle in your personal life.
By Nasos Papadopoulos

Luke Burgis is an entrepreneur and author of the book Wanting, The Power of Mimetic Desire and How to Want What You Need.

He has co-created and led four companies in wellness, consumer products, and technology and is the Managing Partner of Fourth Wall Ventures, an incubator that builds, trains, and invests in people and companies that contribute to a healthy human ecology.

What do you want? And why do you want what you want? Most people are fine with answering the first question but terrible at answering the second. Why?

Contrary to what most people think, humans don’t desire anything independently. We are social animals and imitate each other. We are mimetic and copy what other people want. This affects how we choose partners, friends, careers and even the clothes we wear and places we go on holiday.

Once you understand the idea of mimetic desire, you start to see how powerful it is and how it shapes so much of what you do. As a keen student of classical philosophy, and author of a book on the subject, Luke is the best person to talk about understanding the things you want, and to find more meaning in our work and lives.

In this episode, we cover:
- How to turn blind wanting that leaves you unfulfilled to intentional wanting that supports your own values
- The different kinds of role models from celebrities to bosses and siblings to friends, and how they affect your desires and behaviour
- How conflict often comes from similarities, not differences and the tactics to break the cycle in your personal life and as a society


This was a really great conversation and at the core of it is a very simple, but powerful idea that if you understand what you want and why you want it, you have the power to transform your life for the better.

Show Notes

  • Introducing Luke [00:54]
  • What was school like for Luke? What did he want to do and be when he was younger? [03:24]
  • How did Luke realise that he didn’t want the things that his peers and his environment were leading him to? [08:17]
  • What is mimesis? How does our mimetic desire influence the choices we make in our lives? [10:11]
  • What drove Luke to recognise and detach from the mimetic forces of Silicon Valley culture during his time as a startup founder? [12:24]
  • What were Luke’s motivations behind starting a company? How did mimetic desire throw them off track from their goals? [17:46]
  • Can we inoculate ourselves from celebristan, or external models, type of desire? How do we determine role models that we should be emulating? [21:53]
  • How can people or factors transitioning from celebristan to freshmanistan, or internal models, affect our desires and the decisions we make? [27:00]
  • Why does understanding our motivations help us understand our desires better? [28:20]
  • Contrary to popular belief, why does Luke believe that similarities, and not differences, cause problems among people? [31:34]
  • How do we, as a society and as individuals, break out from the habit of scapegoating? [37:15]
  • How does the story of crucifixion challenge the narrative of the scapegoat and myths? [42:55]
  • How do you teach people to want the right things? Is there a hierarchy of values when figuring out our desires? [47:35]
  • Who are Luke’s role models and what did they teach him about life decision-making? [52:05]
  • How important are in-person meetings to building and developing relationships? [54:51]
  • Closing remarks [56:54]

Resources

Follow Luke online

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