Turtles All the Way Down



What’s up fuckers. I’m back with one of them full-length blogs. Awhhhh shit.

What were the last words you heard that instantly changed your life? You know exactly what I’m talking about too. That thing someone said offhand that made your ears perk up, or maybe they even said it directly to you. Or how about that line you heard in a movie four years ago that stuck with you to this day––(Vision – “I am not Ultron. I am not Jarvis. I am, I am.). Regardless, the moment you heard those words, you instantly knew that your perspective had just shifted forever. You may not have known it at that very second, but throughout the following weeks those words continued to echo through your head like the first time you heard Rebecca Black’s Friday––yikes.

Well, this was the case for me when I heard “turtles all the way down,” but let me back track a little bit so you actually know what I’m talking about.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself listening to Mark Manson on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. During the podcast, Aubrey brings up how Mark’s blog post about self-awareness was pretty much the tits, and this ended up consuming a good majority of the podcast.

Naturally, I had to go see what all the hoopla was about.

Spoiler alert, the blog was indeed the tits. I mean, I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t. The words literally changed my life. But I need to pump the brakes real quick. I should have prefaced this by having you guys first read that post for better context. Do you have to? No, but, 1) he nailed it and 2) it might make this reading go from an “what the fuck is he ranting about” to a “oh, he sort of makes sense.”

So yeah, click this and I’ll be waiting right here for when you return.

bob ross.gif

I guess a good question to ask after reading that is “do I still have to read your bullshit ass blog?” If you really wanted to, you could stop right now. But let’s not do that because I’m on to something here and that would just make you an asshole. More importantly, that something is going to be an ode to the young man and sage story from his post. You know, the post that you guys just read, so there’s no need to even recap the story, right? Wrong. Wrong because I know y’all didn’t read shit.

Here you go ya filthy animals:

“There’s an old apocryphal story from 16th-century India where a young man climbs a large mountain to speak to the sage at the top. Supposedly this sage knew, like, everything and stuff. And this young man was anxious to understand the secrets of the world.

Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, the sage greeted the young man and invited him to ask him anything (note: this was way before Reddit threads). The young man then asked him his question, “Great sage, we stand upon the world, but what does the world stand upon?”

The sage immediately replied, “The world rests upon the back of a number of great elephants.”

The young man thought for a moment, and then asked, “Yes, but what do the elephants stand upon?”

The sage replied again, without hesitation, “The elephants rest upon the back of a great turtle.”

The young man, still not satisfied, asked, “Yes, but what does the great turtle rest upon?”

The sage replied, “It rests upon an even greater turtle.”

The young man, growing frustrated, began to ask, “But what does–”

“No, no,” the sage interrupted, “stop there–it’s turtles all the way down.””


Did this story change your life like it did mine? Probably not. But allow me to explain…

 Over thinker

I think the reason this story slapped me across the face is because this is me to a T. Let me dissect scenarios A-Z trying to get to the bottom of something and then right when I think I can finally put it all behind me, a spontaneous thought arises and I think to myself, “maybe one more run through on things wouldn’t hurt.” No Justin, you fool! We all know this only opens the floodgates of hell––keeps us lost in thought, but do we ever really get anywhere?

We tell ourselves that if I can only know for certain or get to the bottom of things, then all my problems will be solved. I can finally relax.

I mean, maybe. But maybe not, and this “maybe not” is a tough fucking pill for us to swallow––I’m talking horse pill, no water. This only makes sense though. We want all the answers. Us humans are greedy Sons O’ Bitches. If we’re not careful, a year will have gone by, and we’ll be strung out still telling ourselves “I almost figured it out…but maybe just one more look at things wouldn’t hurt.”

Sound familiar? Of course it does! I am you, living a different life.

What the hell are you feeling

In Mark’s blog, he discuses how we move through three different levels of introspection and explains them perfectly. What we’re going to be working on here today is part of level 2––what the hell are you feeling?

According to Mark, a lot of us tend to get stuck on level 2 if we even make it there. This happens because for so long these emotions have been repressed. They were always too difficult to deal with. We’d rather feel nothing than have to feel pain. But once we stop denying what we are actually feeling and choose to lean into the discomfort, a light goes off in our heads. We now become addicted to feeling, which is good, but up to a certain point.

(Side note, feeling discomfort is better than not being able to feel at all, contrary to popular belief.)

After hearing this story, I realized that I had been stuck on level 2 for a long time. This is a realization that since it happened (about three months ago), I’ve noticed an undeniable change in how I’ve been interacting with the world. Subtle, but noticeable. We like to call this a “game changer” in one’s life.

Subtle, but noticeable

“See, there’s another subtle little trap with emotions. And that’s the fact that analyzing one emotion will generate another. So you can end up in this endless loop of self-inquiry, which, after a while, will turn you into a really self-obsessed person.” – Mark Manson

This was taken directly from his post, and it was at this moment, I knew, I fucked up.

Over the years, as I dove deeper into self-awareness, part of me was getting lost without realizing. I was turning into that self-obsessed person. Not in an ugly way (debatable), but in a way that I felt a need to get to the bottom of every emotion that I was feeling leaving little time for authentic interaction with reality.

Why do I feel anxiety right now? Why am I upset today? I feel tightness in my throat; I must not be looking at somethi––hey guy, how about we fucking stop. Maybe I feel anxious today just because, maybe there doesn’t have to be an underlying cause. Or if I have figured out the underlying cause as to why I am anxious, then let’s not continue to keep peeling back the layers. Ever fucking think of that hot shot?

As I started working on following through on this realization, I began to notice that this need to get to the bottom of everything has slowly been loosening its grip on me. Truth is man, we make mistakes. Sometimes we do get to the bottom of things and should end it right there; if only it was that easy. We’re silly though, and we suck. We feel this compulsion that drives us to think that there’s more to it when in reality, there isn’t.

This is how we deceive ourselves and indulge in our misery. It’s like we try to negotiate with ourselves that once we figure it out, we’ll stop thinking about it. But we’re lying to ourselves! There’s nothing to figure out! We’re just continuing to peel back the layers now. Here’s a great example that Mark used:

“When looking at layers of intention and motivation, it’s best to just go a few layers down until you start repeating yourself. You may be anxious about your relationship with your mother. Let’s say that anxiety stems from the fact that your mom is hyper-judgmental and you fall into this unconscious habit of desperately trying to prove to her that you’re not a piece of shit. This need to prove to her that you’re worthy is underpinned by your desire to be loved. This realization then makes you more anxious – an anxiety driven by the desire to please your mother, which is underpinned by your desire to be loved – we’re spiraling now. It’s time to just draw the line and say it’s turtles all the way down and move on. You want love from mom and that’s that.”

I’m not saying to not look at your shit by the way. Do you know who you’re talking to here? It’s me, ya boy, and you already know how I feel about this. But, once you have thoroughly digested an issue, leave it alone. Trust that you’re good for right now. None of this “I’ll come back to it week after week for brush-up courses and revisit why my life’s a mess.” It’s only going to be turtles all the way down and will spike your anxiety. Easier said than done though. I know. So where does that leave us? Banking on faith.


I was talking to one of my regular clients the other week, telling her about this story and where I was in my life, and she put something into perspective for me. I’m not sure I would have realized without her. As I told her how I always try to look at my shit but am now working on stopping when I feel like I’ve extracted enough information, she says “you’re able to do that because you have faith that things will work out and for a lot of people that scares them.”

This not knowing is fucking scary. We love certainty, and when that need can’t be met, it causes severe torment within us––exactly where I was. Experiencing the same thoughts day after day thinking that I had to be absolute in my knowing, but at a certain point, I started questioning how this was affecting my quality of life. How was consistently thinking about things––being in my head 24/7 instead of participating in real life––working for me? It wasn’t! It was making me fucking neurotic and depressed.

I can’t say that I knew I was choosing faith in this situation, but I did see that I was choosing to create a better quality of life for myself by trusting that I didn’t need to know everything. And if I did, the answers would come when the time was right.

 “A lot of people get caught in the trap of always looking one level deeper. Doing this feels important but the truth is that beyond a certain level, it’s just a navel-gazey spiral of doom. It’s turtles all the way down. And the act of looking deeper itself will sometimes generate more feelings of anxiety, despair, and self-judgment than it relieves.” – Mark Manson


Edited by: Patricia Hendriks

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1 thought on “Turtles All the Way Down

  1. I owe you a big hug 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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