52 Lessons Buckminster Fuller Has Taught Me About Life

Buckminster Fuller; probably one of the greatest thinkers since Leonardo da Vinci:

1. Don’t worry about making a living

“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

disregard ‘making a living’

2. Beautiful solution

“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty…….. but

when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is


3. Create your own reality

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

4. Dare to be naive

“Dare to be naïve.”

5. You were born as a genius as a child

“Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.”

6. Don’t complain; just give people the tools

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

Don’t try to ‘teach’ them — rather, give them tools to empower them to think for themselves.

7. Do what you really want to do in life

“The minute you choose to do what you really want to do, it’s a different kind of life.”

8. Humanity depends on you

“If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do… HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?”

Put the pressure on yourself — to become the best person of yourself, for the greater good of humanity.

9. Freedom for creativity

“Only the free-wheeling artist-explorer, non-academic, scientist-philosopher, mechanic, economist-poet who has never waited for patron-starting and accrediting of his co-ordinate capabilities holds the prime initiative today.”

avoid academia.

Combine science, and philosophy.

Use art to explore.

Economist x Poetry.

Never wait for a patron!

Start your own initiative.

10. Don’t become a slave to specialization

“Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting a slavery by making him feel that he in turn is a socially and culturally preferred — ergo, highly secure — lifelong position.”

Don’t be an ‘expert’ in one small domain. Master all domains.

11. God is revealed through action

“God, to me, it seems

is a verb,

not a noun,

proper or improper.”

12. Work for all of humanity

“There is no joy equal to that of being able to work for all humanity and doing what you’re doing well.”

Greatest happiness and joy: to work on something bigger than you — for all of humanity.

13. Experiment more in life

“Every time man makes a new experiment he always learns more. He cannot learn less.”

Think of your life as a series of small experiments. The more you experiment, the more you learn.

By doing experiments in life, you cannot learn less.

14. Free yourself of concepts

“We are powerfully imprisoned by the terms in which we have been conducted to think.”

Avoid terms, concepts, or ideas that imprison your mind.

15. What is life?

“Life is the spirit incarnate in time.”

16. Montessori system

Hopefully one day, we can train our children in school, like the ‘Montessori system’ — self-directed, auto-dictat style, learning.

Children (and adults) to learn at their own rate.

We can do this already with the internet, wikipedia, etc.

Idea: treat ourselves as an adults to shape our own education? Create your own Montessori school.

Idea 2: send my kid to a Montessori, or make my own?

17. Full realization of individual potential

How can we allow others to realize their fullest individual potential?


Full realization of all individuals.

Maslov hierarchy of needs: We need food, water, shelter, etc. But the top is ‘full-realization.’

To have others realize their inner-artist; genius, and tinkerer.

Realize I have enough money, food, clothes, and the internet to be creative!

18. Take initiative

Take the initiative. Go to work, and above all co-operate and don’t hold back on one another or try to gain at the expense of another.

19. Don’t rape the planet

The resources of the planet are getting raped, for companies to make profits (consider all the coal, consumption, consumerism, capitalism):

We must stop burning up the house to keep the family warm. We have all the technology needed to tap vast cosmic energies of the sun but greedy big business and money-drunk government won’t allow it because they haven’t found a way to place a meter (electricity meter) on the sun.

What is the point of having all this material wealth, if we cannot even breathe the air without choking?

20. Don’t be a slave to categories

People ask dumb questions like:

  • Where do you live?
  • What religion are you?
  • What race are you?
  • What nationality are you?

Doesn’t matter; we are humans.

Rather ask, ‘What are your passion in life, and what art do you create?’

21. Spaceship earth

Earth: 8,000 miles in diameter

To think of the earth as a self-contained space ship, floating in space.

What happens when we exhaust all the fuel on the planet?

We are fucked.

Funny note:

“Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that it is no instruction book came with it.”

22. Don’t get distracted by studying the wrong thing

There is nothing in the chemistry of a toenail that predicts the existence of a human being.

Don’t study how to be a better photographer by studying a photographer’s camera. Almost as silly as asking a writer what pencil they use to write.

23. True democracy

What would a ‘true’ democracy look like?

24. Truth through elimination of false premises

We learn more by removing false ideas from our brain.

25. Explore more

Free my time to have more ‘effective exploratory investment’ to explore my ideas — to increase wealth for myself.

26. Wealth-energy

The more energy we create, produce, move, the more wealth we have?

Sum-totally, we find that the physical constituent of wealth-energy cannot decrease, and that the metaphysical constituent can only increase. This is to say that overtime we use our wealth, it increases.

To increase our wealth, use our brains more.

To increase our wealth, share our wealth with others. Random idea: like how Jesus split the bread/fish, and unlimited abundance was created?

27. Synergy

How to collaborate with other humans to create ‘synergy’ of wealth?

Life not a competition; we work together to gain wealth for everyone!

28. What is wealth?

Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives.

In normal words:

Wealth isn’t money. Wealth is having the ability to survive in nature. To not die of the cold, and to build houses to protect us.

Wealth is ‘sustaining our healthy regeneration’ (feeding ourselves, healing ourselves of diseases). Also to decrease the limits we have to our creativity, by controlling the physical environment.

Wealth: to live better, to create more, and to have less friction in life.

29. We are stronger together

The strongest metal alloys, are combinations of different metals.

Idea: human beings are stronger, when we blend ourselves together in a ‘synergy’?

I will give you one very simple example of synergy. All our metallic alloys are synergetic. We will examine chrome-nickel steel. The outstanding characteristic of metallic strength is its ability to cohere in one piece. We test the metals tensile strength per square inch of cross section of the tested sample. The very high number of pounds-per-square-inch tensile strength of chrome-nickel steel has changed our whole economy because it retained its structural integrity at so high a temperature as to make possible the jet engine which has halved the time it takes to fly around the world. The prime constituents are chromium, nickel, and iron. We will take the highest ultimate tensile strength of those three. The iron’s ultimate tensile strength is about 60,000 pounds per square inch. Nickel’s ultimate is about 80,000 p.s.i. Chromium is about 70,000 p.s.i. Ultimate tensile strengths of the other minor constituents: carbon, manganese, et cetera, added together total about 40,000 psi. If we use the same tensile logic as that applied to a chain and say that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, then we would assume that chrome-nickel steel would part at between 40,000 and 60,000 p.s.i. But we find experimentally that is not the case. We find by test that chrome-nickel steel is 350,000 pounds a square inch which is 50 percent stronger than the sum of the strength of all its alloys. To prove so we add 60,000, 70,000 and 80,000 which comes to 210,000. To this we add the 40,000 of minor alloying constituents which brings the sum of the strengths of all its alloying to only 250,000 pounds a square inch. The explanation for this is Newton’s gravitational law which noted the experimentally proven fact that the relative mass attraction of one body for another is proportioned to the second power of the relative proximity of the two bodies as expressed in the relative diameters of the two bodies. If we have two spherical bodies of equal mass at a given distance from each other and insert a third spherical body of the same mass half way between the two we do not double the mass attraction between any two of the three. We increase the attraction by 2 to the second power which is 4. Halving the distance fourfolds the inter-mass attraction. When we bring a galaxy of iron atoms together with the chromium atoms and a galaxy of nickel atoms they all fit neatly between one another and bring about the multifolding of their intercoherency. But there is nothing in one body by itself that says that it will have mass attraction. This can only be discovered by experimenting with two and more bodies. And even then there is no explanation of why there must be mass attraction and why it should increase as the second power of the relative increase of proximity. That is synergy.

30. Everything is connected

Our school systems are all non-synergistic. We take the whole child to become preoccupied with elements or isolated facts only. We force them to choose some specialization, forcing them to forget the whole.

Avoid specializing:

The entire scheme of advanced education is devoted exclusively to even narrower specialization.

Why academia is evil: forces us to specialize.

Be anti-academic; less specialization — become more general!

Why did specialization happen in school? Probably for academics to justify their jobs, and consultants to justify their jobs.

31. Do what you think needs to be done

If you see a need — fill it.

For me, I saw a need for more information on practical and philosophical photography ideas. I filled the gap, by creating it. Same for street photography.

The things to do are: the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and no one else seems to see need to be done.

Look at what you think needs to be done // and do it.

Be the change which you wish to see in the world.

Be a ‘doer’ — not a thinker.

32. You are a verb

You are a human; you create yourself by doing things. You are a verb.

33. What is pollution?

Pollution is nothing but resources we’re not harvesting.

To solve pollution: take pollutants, and turn it into something useful? What does a catalytic converter do?

What if we can re-collect pollutants, and put them to productive use?

Turbocharger: takes waste energy, and re-integrates into system. Therefore, more effective system, faster car.

34. Race doesn’t exist

“Racism” is tribalism; people hating on other groups of people, trying to kill them, because of ignorance:

You speak of racism, for example, and I tell you that there’s no such thing as race. The point is that racism is the product of tribalism and ignorance and both are falling victim to communications and world-around literacy.

The more we educate people, less racist they will be.

35. Do more with less

How can we learn to be more effective in life — not more ‘efficient.’

Effective: how to do more with less?

To live a very comfortable high standard of life — to survive on less food, to consume fewer resources, but to live more?

  • Smaller home: less time to clean, less time to move around in the house. Easier to move from kitchen to dining room. Easier to get from bed, to make coffee.
  • Smaller car: easier to park, less gas, less maintenance, less money, less stress.

36. Information is our new reality

Information changes us, affects us.

Information: blinking lights on a smartphone. Or 1’s and 0’s in a computer.

We can touch, see, and hear information.

We are beyond reality (think virtual reality).

37. Avoid extinction

If we don’t fix our social behavior, we will all kill one another; mass human extinction (nuclear weapons, etc).

How to make a change to prevent human extinction? Elon Musk on going to mars?

38. Universal humanity

Imagine a world without:

  • Without race
  • Without borders
  • Without nationalities

Free flow of information, via internet?

39. Connect with another human

Unity is plural, and, at minimum, is two.

We need to live for at least 1 other person.

40. What can one little man do?

You can do a lot.

Think of a massive cruise ship. You can be one person, moving the rudder, or moving the steering wheel.

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trimtab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trimtab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trimtab.

Be the rudder that changes society.

41. Limit of the earth

The earth (unfortunately) doesn’t have enough life-support for all of humanity.

‘Inconvenient truth?’

42. Take care of everybody

We need to invent technology or solutions that can take care of everyone; to give everyone their basic needs. ‘That is what my whole life has been about.’

How to create universal abundance, for everyone? Where we have all our basic needs met; and can live out lives being artistically productive, and happy?

43. Integrity

It is the integrity of each individual human that is in final examination. On personal integrity hangs humanity’s fate. You can deceive others, you can deceive your brain-self, but you can’t deceive your mind-self — for mind deals only in the discovery of truth and the interrelationship of all truths. The cosmic laws with which mind deals are noncorruptible. Cosmic evolution is omniscient God comprehensively articulate.

Never deceive others; and certainly never deceive yourself.

44. Great ambition

I set about 55 years ago (1927) to see what a penniless, unknown human individual with a dependent wife and newborn child might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity…

You, without resources or money, can help humanity!

No good or bad humans; there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ foot.

45. Universal prosperity?

I do know that technologically humanity now has the opportunity, for the first time in its history, to operate our planet in such a manner as to support and accommodate all humanity at a substantially more advanced standard of living than any humans have ever experienced.

How to advance the standard of living for all humans?

46. Suffering

Imagine a stadium, full of rock-concert fans or football fans (that is what 100,000 people look like).

Year after year, millions of people die from disease, starvation, etc.

Why do we let this happen?

47. Higher standard of all of humanity

I have been a deliberate half-century-fused inciter of a cool-headed, natural, gestation-rate-paced revolution, armed with physically demonstrable livingry levers with which altogether to elevate all humanity to realization of an inherently sustainable, satisfactory-to-all, ever higher standard of living. Critical threshold-crossing of the inevitable revolution is already underway.

How can we elevate all of humanity, to realize a sustainable, satisfactory higher standard of living?

48. Contribute

We all have something to contribute to the rest of humanity. Contribute more,

49. Infinitely optimistic

Never lose enthusiasm in progress, new solutions, and to fix things!

I find the audiences very excited. But then they come and say to me, “Your optimism has brushed off on me. I didn’t know we had an option. I feel so much better.” They say, “Your optimism.” And I am not optimistic or pessimistic. I feel that optimism and pessimism are very unbalanced. I am a very hard engineer. I am a mechanic. I am a sailor. I am an air pilot. I don’t tell people I can get you across the ocean with my ship unless I know what I’m talking about.

Don’t just be optimistic; make real solutions. An ‘optimistic’ airplane pilot cannot safely fly you across the Atlantic ocean.

50. Never tell anybody what to do

I never try to tell anybody else what to do, number one. And number two, I think that’s what the individual is all about. Each one of us has something to contribute. This really depends on each one doing their own thinking, but not following any kind of rule that I can give out, any command. We’re all on the frontier, we’re all in a great mystery — incredibly mysterious. Each one possesses exactly what each one is working out, and what each one works out relates to their particular set of circumstances of any one day, or any one place around the world.

Be an individual; contribute what you are capable of.

51. We are living in the dark ages

How can we use our resources, platform, ideas, to empower others — universal love, self-support, and prosperity?

52. Become a modern-day Renaissance person

Be a modern-day Renaissance person. Think of ambitious things, learn everything. Be (more) than Leonardo da Vinci — who didn’t even have the internet!

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