Positive Disintegration
The Active Mind
The Creative Life
Intensity & Well-Being
Careers & Contributions
Relationships & Belonging
Memoir & Biography
Politics & Society
The Digital Life
Sorting Out Our Values

Our Mission

Third Factor is a magazine for and about uncommon people and their uncommon paths through life.  We publish both grassroots personal narratives and interviews with experts whose knowledge might help our readers chart their unique courses.

What do we mean by “uncommon?”  We’ve struggled to find a good word.  We grew out of an exploration of what “giftedness” looks like once so-called gifted kids grow up, but that word is nebulous at best.  We love the metaphor “orchids,” but that requires explanation.  Many of our readers are creative. Many are incorrigibly independent thinkers. Essentially, we are square pegs (sometimes even heptagonal ones) looking to carve holes that fit us better than the standard issue round ones.

Our essays, memoirs, and interviews explore the challenges such people face and the choices we make in the face of them. Here are some of our bedrock topics:

  • What it means to live with intensity—with active intellects, deep emotions, or vibrant imaginations
  • What it means to develop character—and the process of sorting out our personal values 
  • What it means to belong—and the tension between autonomy and community
  • How the Internet impacts an outlier’s sense of belonging and character—and how its algorithms interact with our sensitivities and intensities
  • How to have agency—to channel our energies toward building, developing, and Doing the Thing, which could be anything from artistic creation to social activism to entrepreneurship

Our Values

Though we’re all for autonomously embracing or rejecting values, we also want to build a community. And for a community to cohere, we’ve got to have some core values in common.  So I’ll make our hierarchy of values explicit here:

  1. Magnanimity, as we are all doing our best
  2. Critical thinking and freedom of inquiry, in support of the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Just
  3. Humility, especially of the intellectual sort (which is really embedded in the above, but is nevertheless worth making explicit)
  4. Courage, to support both of the above when it’s unpopular
  5. Autonomy, because groupthink gets in the way of the above
  6. Community, because loneliness is epidemic and if we could do this on our own, we wouldn’t need this site

We also have adopted into our creed the brilliant concept of star-manning, a term coined by writer Angel Eduardo at the Center for Inquiry. Even though it’s not our content, we’d love to direct you to his article explaining the term. If you think star-manning is a worthwhile practice, you’ll fit in well here.

Positive Disintegration

If you poke around through enough of our articles, it won’t be long before you come across a reference to the theory of positive disintegration (TPD)In fact, we named the magazine after a concept from the theory.  You can read about what the third factor is here, if you want to get a deeper sense of what we’re all about.  Suffice it for now to say that this third factor fuels our readers’ stubborn determination to sort out their values for themselves, especially when the world around them seems to be going nuts.  That, after all, is the process of “positive disintegration” in a nutshell.

But if you’ve never heard of TPD and you’re not all that jazzed about digging into psychological theory, don’t worry: we’re dedicated to bringing the ideas to life through our articles.  Because we figure it’s in the stories of our fellow humans that we can best see this process of positive disintegration unfold.

Join Our Community

Like what you read here? Want to talk to others walking this path? Here are two ways to do it: become an active member of our community. You can join our forum, or you can contribute an article.