Glowing scars

“Please ask questions. Most likely if you have a question, then someone else does too.”

I’ve heard this plenty of times in classrooms and seminars. And it’s never helped ease my fears and raise my hands. I don’t feel any more comfortable speaking my mind, especially in front of a group of people. The fear of asking a stupid question that makes everyone laugh and think “what a retard” still persists.

Great artists know that to touch the hearts of your audience, you must become a mirror for the rage and pain, triumphs and glory that you experience deep within. These strong emotions are broiling in the stomachs of every person, yet on the outside they have to act (literally) like nothing is wrong.

That help-wishful phrase about others having the same questions might not be helpful, but otherwise it’s a very powerful statement. It means that despite what you are feeling, a lot of other people feel the same way you do. And the deeper you go into yourself and pull all those disgusting bits out of you, the more people feel connected to you.

Anyone can become a mirror for someone else, a powerful mirror that changes and moves people. A mirror that shines brightly the flaws in character that frees others from the shame of their own scars. The people who have shone the brightest in history are those who have somehow embraced their flaws, learned from them, then masterfully transformed those flaws into their greatest triumphs. And then these people dedicate their lives to bringing the same transformation to others in their lives.

So if you have a question, a yearning question deep inside you that you haven’t asked anyone because you’re afraid, afraid that no one else will understand, no one else has asked. Then don’t worry about asking it to others in a classroom or a seminar. Ask it of yourself, and find the answer to it.

And then, if you want, you can become a shining mirror to others by sharing your question. You can be the one in front of the classroom or seminar trying to get people to participate and ask you questions. And you can lead them to find the answer for themselves and help transform their lives. You can become a powerful transformative figure that will etch your signature into the book of human history.

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Turning 30 means I get to give you advice

leslie

  1. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’ve finally figured “it” out.
  2. Everything is always easier said than done.
  3. Nothing beats a face-to-face chat.
  4. Anything can become an addiction. Spend some time learning how to deal with addictions, it’ll come in handy.
  5. Walking can be a pleasurable healthy exercise if you do it often and long enough, and in good company.
  6. Shame is a human waste product. When we use it as a tool to control people, we’re just piling shit on top of each other.
  7. The closer you are to someone, the more capacity you will have for joy.
  8. And also more opportunity to experience deep misery, sorrow, and suffering.
  9. Which goes to show, everything has a consequence.
  10. Spend some time alone with nothing but your thoughts, you might be surprised at how much you enjoy your company.. or not.
  11. Good posture will save you years of constant agony.
  12. As society becomes faster, it becomes counter-intuitively more imperative to increase focus and patience.
  13. Put weight on your heels more than the balls of your feet, you might still be able to squat without groaning by the time you reach my age.
  14. In this path of life we share with so many others, some are lucky to have paved roads while others rocky terrain. It’s just how reality is. Life isn’t easy, but it’s not trying to be extra difficult for just you.
  15. Don’t expect feelings to last, even though the circumstances are the same. But that doesn’t mean that certain feelings can’t be rekindled.
  16. In fact.. don’t expect anything to last.
  17. People usually pay more attention to what’s wrong than what’s right. It’s the easy thing to do.
  18. The more you wash your hands, the less likely you’ll get sick.
  19. Only action changes reality.
  20. Try not to eat till you’re full, you’ll be happier that way.
  21. If you really want something, be prepared to fail and fail till you get it.
  22. There will always be someone better than you, so get over your insecurity some other way than trying to beat everyone.
  23. MOST of the time quality is better than quantity.
  24. Question everything, especially the things no one else ever thinks to question.
  25. When you chase power, you are ruled by power. When you chase happiness, you’re ruled by happiness. Which would you rather serve?
  26. And whatever you chase will flee from you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t chase it, or else you will never catch it.
  27. There is a right and a wrong.
  28. Eating colorful natural foods feels better.
  29. You gotta work really hard before you can achieve a life of luxury where you don’t have to work at all.
  30. Just knowing any of this will make no difference. You have to live it.

Chalak

GodfatherIn Bangla, chalak denotes a person who’s able to pull the wool over someone. This person knows how to manipulate another person, or a group of people.

The term manipulation automatically makes me feel like it’s immoral. Manipulation is a bad thing to do. So I want to detect any tendencies I have to manipulate something and stamp them out.

But is this the right way to go about things? If you think about what separates us from animals, you’ll realize that the only fundamental difference is our ability at manipulation. We manipulate our minds into thinking of things that don’t exist, such as the past or the future.

Don’t be such an animal

Animals constantly live in the present, the past is just a tool to learn from to apply it to the present. A mouse that finds a safe haven once, remembers the safe haven when it needs it again. A man turns that safe haven into home. We create constructs, fabrications of reality that aren’t necessarily true, but they are true to us.

So it’s ok that we manipulate ourselves into creating useful fantasies. But it’s bad to do it for others, right? Especially for the benefit of your own gain with, possibly, loss to them. If you manipulate others to steal from them, of course that is obviously immoral.

But it’s also obviously stupid. Because if you were to manipulate everyone around you for their loss and your gain, then you’ll obviously have less to gain from them each time you go around manipulating them. That’s why something like “protection money” and bribes never work out in the long run.

The looters keep getting less and less because other’s keep having less to loot from.

Corporate CEOs

But if you were to manipulate people so that they gain and you gain, that is noble. But it’s not seen as noble, not in the mainstream. It doesn’t matter how much a person has contributed to millions of people’s lives, that CEO is still a greedy manipulative bastard.

But that’s only 2/3rd  of what they are. CEO’s are greedy manipulative bastards that:

  • Manipulate others so that they gain, and other’s lose. Or,
  • Manipulate others so that all gain, especially themselves.

So I’ll reform my judgement on manipulation. Manipulation itself isn’t immoral. It’s how you’re doing the manipulating, your ultimate goal for manipulation, that is what determines immorality.

Manipulation is ok if everyone gains something.

What’s so great about Steve Jobs?

Steve JobsIn Derek Sivers Ted talk about how to start a movement, he outlines the importance of the first follower. Before the first follower, a leader is just a nut. The leader is an outsider, a weirdo, a person to be held in contempt and ridicule. But as soon as the first follower comes into the picture, the leader is instantly transformed into the trendsetter. The visionary. The leader.

I don’t believe that Steve Jobs was a leader in that way. There’s nothing very special and unique about him. He didn’t have any great technical skills. He wasn’t a visionary in that he created something new that no one else has ever seen before.

What Steve Jobs was instead, was a genius at being the first follower. He was the best cheerleader that a weirdo can ever have. He believed, and he put his entire life on the line for something, and someone, that he believed in. It first started with Wozniak, then the animators at Lucas Inc, which he helped turn into Pixar, then NextTel, then offshoots from Xerox into Adobe. (not in any chronological order because I’m too lazy to do the actual research)

But he wasn’t someone who stupidly bet all his chips into some lame unique technology. He also wasn’t lazy or inept. He was a genius in recognizing the value of something and then he had the courage to lay his entire career on the line for it. Over and over again he bet it all for what he believed in.

He had courage. But also importantly, he had compassion and understanding. He had compassion to be able to be the only support for people who knew that they were doing something great.. but no one else believed in them. And he had understanding to realize the value of what those people were trying to do, what they believed in.

He might not have been the greatest leader.. but he was probably the greatest follower these two centuries have ever seen.

Problem solving

My high school physics teacher once gave us an analogy to describe how physicists figure out properties of things that they nor any instruments can see, such as atomic structures and Earth-similar planets in other galaxies.

SoccerImagine that you’re an alien species who can’t see the “colors” black or white. And the alien species are watching a game of soccer and wondering why the hell we humans are running around on a grassy field for no observable reason. After watching how and when we move, they conclude that there must be some thing that is being passed from one person to another and the point was to get that object past the enemy and into the net. They can even tell certain properties of this object by how the humans “kick” it and how they seem to “bounce” it off their body parts and how it “rolls” on the ground.

All problems that need solving are not problems in the ethical sense. There’s nothing morally wrong. But that’s how we approach ALL the problems in our lives. A “bug” in a computer isn’t a problem, it’s designed that way, maybe my mistake, maybe by lack of foresight. It’s not something that shouldn’t be there, it’s exists and it’s a problem because what we want isn’t what is occurring.

This distinction is key when problem solving because emotions are the first barrier to overcome. Once morality and ethics is out, all that is required is to collect facts and let your natural human instincts connect all the dots.

And before you know it, the soccer ball becomes clear. And the problem also disappears. You haven’t solved it yet, but because you now know why it’s doing what it’s doing, it’s not a “bug” anymore. But instantly you have a new problem.

The new problem is to figure out a solution that doesn’t cause more “problems” in the future, while behaving exactly the way you want it to behave. This problem is a lot bigger and more complex than identifying why the “bug” is occurring. Again you have to dive into the system and collect more facts. Facts that, at first, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original “bug.”

After figuring out why humans are running around on fields kicking some invisible ball, the aliens have the bigger problem of why we’re doing that. And to solve this problem, they need to leave the stadium and find out more about human beings and their behavior. They look at how humans are born and raised, what they want, how they cope with loss or gain, etc. Some alien executives might come by and look over the shoulders of their subordinates and wonder why their employees are goofing off watching these humans give birth and die while there is this incredible problem of this game with the invisible ball.

If you try to solve the problem locally, only focusing on the soccer stadium, chances are extremely high that you’re going to create several more problems outside of the stadium due to ignorance. You have to follow the connections out of the “stadium” and make sure that changing things isn’t going to end up causing something else from breaking.

Work Ethics

What’s better? Doing a good job because you like to do good work? Or doing a good job because you feel passionate about something?

It used to sound obvious to me that the first is superior. This would ensure that you always do a good job, despite the job, and this will maximize your chances for success in the world. Simple. Straight. Easy. Right?

But living my life that way hasn’t gotten me anywhere really important. In fact it’s become one of the biggest hurdles in my life to get over. I’m finding that, where others with similar chances in life and now are doing GREAT work, I’m still just doing.. a good job.

The difference between me and those people is that they waited to find something that they’re really passionate about before they committed to doing better than just a good job. A commitment is a powerful thing, and while I’ve been blindly whoring my good work onto every other field I’ve encountered, I’ve never really felt the power of full commitment.

And now commitment, passion, and great work is missing in my life. How sad.

So learn from me boys and girls, sometimes a job well done is not its own reward.

Quality

Isabel Allende quote on languageIsabel Allende, and the way she wrote about writing itself, inspires me to increase the quality of my writing.

But why?

There must be some deep yearning in all of us to recognize quality, without being able to precisely point out what about it makes something so rich, inviting, beautiful. I don’t know what it is exactly about that quote that attracts me. I’m sure professionals of literature could point out semantic tid-bits that causes it to be so well structured. I’m sure seasoned veterans of writing can explain certain nuances of how she writes that triggers happiness receptors in a readers mind.

But I know from experience that knowledge isn’t truly power. Experience and practice is required to reach wisdom, which is true power.

I read this book once, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where the author talks about going insane when delving into the depths of quality, what it is, why it is, etc. And how he had to rebuild his life after shock-therapy.
So I can appreciate that quality, what it means, what it actually is, is a very dangerous issue. But it is an issue that we must all be willing to pursue, maybe not through intellectual rigor, but definitely through practice.

One step at a time right? So for now, let me see if I can improve my writing. Once again, Isabel Allende gives a perfect reason why.

Isabel Alende on the importance of words