Action is the cake that goes rotten without its cherry on top

This short essay is an exploration of beliefs and actions: what they are, how they are metaphysically connected and how you cannot eat the cherry without the cake but when the cake is left without its cherry it becomes rotten.

The exploration was one I felt compelled to embark on. My motor-pulling brain’s cable car was propelled into action after Chris Williams, on the Modern Wisdom podcast asked his guest and NYT bestselling author Lewis Howes the question “Do you think belief or action comes first?”

They ultimately conclude, during their one-hour 21-minute discussion on self-doubt that:

  1. You can’t believe without acting, that’s delusional.
  2. You can act without believing, that’s attempting with a goal and some degree of hope.
  3. However, a large proportion of people that do indeed continuously act, do not achieve any belief in themselves. Acting despite not achieving this then becomes a toxic process. As acting becomes a method of aiming to gain your own approval and backing, despite you never being able to achieve it this way and something you don’t even need to accomplish. When it gets like this – why even act? You may as well just go and be lazy – you’d experience the same pain but reap the benefits of comfort.

Under the bonnet of my cognitive process

As a tangent and taking a few steps back, do you want the origins story of this exploration, from post-podcast Ronnie, to pre-podcast Ronnie’s curiosity process that occurred? Of course, you don’t – it’s not like you asked or anything, but I have written it anyway. Here’s the recap of events:

Step one:

Began listening to the podcast.

Step two:

Managed a grand total of 27 minutes before the flashlight which is my motivation and attention resources point solely on one question and response in the said podcast.

Step three:

My neurodiverse brain lights up, being that of a generally neurotic person who often doubts himself and is currently in the ‘messy middle’ (to quote Scott Belsky, author, entrepreneur, investor, Chief Strategy Officer of Adobe and formerly CEO and founder of Behance) of a new venture.

Step four:

Thinking it has the potential to be aware of and understand a solution or new piece of wisdom that can fix a current ‘bug’ in my internal coding, my brain rallies its entire workforce to focus all manpower in the curiosity department, causing my dopamine levels to go through the roof from the connection my brain has made with the same meaning and fashion as Roald Dahl’s (don’t worry, I am not rewriting any of his work) glass elevator in the chocolate factory. For anyone unfamiliar with Charlie Bucket and his chocolate-loving pal, Willy Wonka, the glass elevator in his chocolate factory they ultimately used to explore space (I know, I didn’t write it…) doesn’t just literally move Charlie but also figuratively transports him out of his humdrum existence and constant state of ennui into one of fascination and wonder.

Step five:

I begin exploring everything I have ever known, felt or experienced regarding this newfound interest in actions and beliefs.

Step six:

I experience an instant and tension-relieving paradigm shift due to my findings on this exploration and, to understand the newly created paradigm, my brain conjures up the image of a cherry (being: belief) and a cake (being: action) with the analogy attached to it – ‘Action is the cake that goes rotten without its cherry on top’.

Step seven:

I completely understand that without finding a way to believe in yourself, acting is ‘rotten’ and ultimately not even a helpful thing to do. As Howes says, ‘why are you even working hard then if everything you do proves nothing to yourself? You may as well just be lazy.’

Step eight:

Providing continual compassion and credit to yourself as you are acting, and bringing that with you along in life in a ‘belief backpack’ wherever you go, is the key.

You don’t become confident by shouting affirmations in the mirror, but by having a stack of undeniable proof that you are who you say you are.

– Alex Hormozi

Having confidence in your ability to do something without having competence is mere delusion. On the other side of the coin, having competence in something without any confidence is simply imposter adaptation, meaning: you know you’re an imposter in what you are doing, you have to be as it is new to you, but you aim to push your boulder up your hill in spite of this, as you’re aware that when you look back for the first time and see you actually achieved some distance with a god-damn boulder, you’ll actually be confident that you can do it, as you just saw that you did indeed do it.

The issue comes after your use of imposter adaptation.

After you have completed the below process:

  1. adapted
  2. pushed with spite
  3. absorbed the feedback loop displaying that you can do it again next time
  4. rested because, at the end of the day, it’s a god-damn boulder

The next day, when you go to find the boulder you left the day before, whether it’s at the bottom of the hill and you are actually Sisyphus (if you’re reading this Sisyphus, keep up the good work) or you managed to leave it in a safe space (no, not the 2023 meaning of safe space where your feelings are valid but safe space in the primal meaning whereby you know for absolute certain no one is going to steal your boulder) – and you begin to approach your boulder with the same anxious and unsure nature that you operated with before you knew it was possible – ask yourself this:

You’ve proven to yourself you can do it – what is your mind’s obsession with believing you still can’t?

– Me, but I wanted to highlight it

Why would our brain (or us, with our brains) do this?

We know that the strategies that got us ‘here’ work, as we got there.

Here: being our current moment, doing whatever we are doing and being whoever we are being

and strategies: being absolutely anything and everything we ever did that got you ‘here’ that you usually scrutinize in the internal tape recordings you store of yourself – that is usually inherently wrong in memory but that’s an exploration for another day

Yes, we know those strategies work as we got to ‘there’.

But, perhaps the issue lies with those of us who are inclined to be generally higher in neuroticism or tend to analyse and worry about anything as a baseline. Maybe we are simply doomed to perpetually and insurmountably doubt that those same strategies will get us to our next place.

Next place: Being whoever we want to ‘become’ (usually a flawed pursuit anyway) and doing so away from wherever we are not finding happiness (because you are always wanting to be somewhere else).

Although, I doubt you could go wrong if you, as a rule-of-thumb, strive to reject that defeatist hypothesis and instead believe that our self-doubt and belief problems are actually surmountable and are merely a plethora of poorly-written paradigms that can be re-written if you only knew there was a more enjoyable way to function.