I say it over and over again. I repeat myself. My blog is an extension of my habit of writing down ideas.
A short pencil is longer than the longest memory.
“Writing is among the greatest inventions in human history, perhaps the greatest invention, since it made history possible. Yet it is a skill most of us take for granted.” Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing.
The book begins with the statement “Life is difficult”. It is my failure to understand this, believing that my life should be easy and problem-free that is the root of suffering.
Life is not meant to be easy, and is a series of problems which can either be handled or ignored.
Discipline is required to solve life’s problems rather than ignore them. Discipline is made up of 4 aspects of how we chose to live our lives.
The 4 Aspects of Discipline:
Delaying gratification: Sacrificing present comfort for future gains.
Acceptance of responsibility: Accepting responsibility for one’s own decisions.
Dedication to truth: Honesty, both in word and deed.
Balancing: Handling conflicting requirements. Scott Peck writes of an important skill to prioritize between different requirements – bracketing.
Carl Jung, said “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Neurotics make themselves miserable; those with character disorders make everyone else miserable. Everyone is neurotic or character-disordered at some time in their life, and the balance is to have a structure and relationships in your life than can help you see your lack of balance before you hurt yourself (or others).
Dedication to the truth represents the capacity of an individual to modify and update their worldview when exposed to new information discordant with the old view. Dedication to truth implies a life of genuine self-examination, a willingness to be personally challenged by others, and honesty to oneself and others.
Really coming to terms with oneself is very hard and painful work. Most people prefer to complain about their pain and continue their self-destructive patterns than to take up the challenging task of constructing a self and a life they could really live with.
This video is about Innovation and the 3 types of innovation as described by Ferran Adrià, the world’s best chef. He tells us that there are 3 levels of innovation… and that it is type 3 innovation that really moves humanity through a step change in progress.
This is a story about a lost tribe in Papua New Guinea.
They were brought to the city of Singapore and shown skyscrapers, airports, factories, supermarkets, homes and life. When they were on their way back to their mountain village, they were asked: “What is the most incredible thing you have seen during your days in Singapore?”.
I’m on a Sunday hike with Florian and his son Alvaro. We’re on our way toward the restaurant for lunch, when we find the river is overflowing and the foot bridge is under fast flowing water… What do we do?
Are you waiting for permission? For the important things in life, there is nobody who can give you the permission that you need.
There comes a moment when you must commit even though you lack clarity.
“If you knew how to achieve it and could guarantee success: it is a task, not a dream” Alden Mills
My friends live their lives in one of two contrasting ways:
Guided by a Long term Vision for their Lives
Take Opportunities as they come
In the short term, the opportunists made great early progress. I have one friend who changed job every 1-2 years in the investment banking industry. Each job change achieved an increase of 30-50% in salary. Problem: he is now stuck and has no serious chances of moving up to the really senior ranks.
Another friend in investment banking has stuck it out in the same bank for 14 years. He didn’t take each opportunistic head-hunter call looking to get him to switch jobs. His salary languished behind our opportunistic friend. Today he is moving into the senior ranks of the bank and has enormous political support to take job choices that improve his work-life balance.
It was a hard choice when I was young. I worked for Accenture for 9 years. Every year I watched peers leave to join competitors for 30-50% increases in salary. I had offers and I thought about leaving. In the end, I valued flexibility over salary and used my network in Accenture to live in London, Chicago and Sydney.
Kissinger’s Major Criticism of US Foreign Policy: 100% Opportunist
Kissinger’s criticisms of the Kennedy and LBJ presidencies was that they were pragmatic opportunists, but there was no overall vision of what they stood for. The Soviet Union (at the time) stood for fairness, and the US argument was that its economic policies would make citizens wealthier.
It was a lost argument.
People were not inspired to fight in order to improve their economic situation. This was not a psychologically motivating appeal.
Kissinger identified freedom as the value that the US most espoused. He felt that the foreign policy decisions should be taken in the framework of whether the individual decisions improved individual freedom – not on a case by case basis.
Opportunism leads to a Dead End
Those who know why they are fighting will win over those who don’t.
The Vietnam war was militarily un-winnable, and Ho Chi Minh was always a step ahead of what the US were interested in negotiating. He understood that the US would always be short term and opportunistic. He was fighting for a cause, the US had got themselves into Vietnam bit by bit by bit and then found themselves stuck fighting for a cause that didn’t exist.
I’m no history or politics expert, but I would suggest that the US role in the world from the end of the Vietnam war up until 2000 was largely positive. The recent decade has seen the US fall back into an Opportunistic foreign policy – George Bush’s photo opportunity driven foreign policy was the start of a collapse in Visionary and values driven US foreign policy. Trump is here because the political consensus had gradually become what is politically easy, not what is right. The increasing polarization of the US political system makes it hard to establish a long term vision.
Only a life led towards a vision based on your own set of values can lead to work you love in the second half of your career. A life led entirely on the basis of opportunism will inevitably take you towards a dead end (or Trump).
How do you Establish a Framework for your Life?
Kissinger began by identifying the most important value that he believed represented the US culture: Freedom.
What is your single most important value?
Is your life showing this? Is the majority of your time going to your most important value? Are you spending your money on your most important value? Are you building friendships and mentors that support your most important value?
You need a coach or a mentor to help you work out your vision, framework and how to take the tough decisions to orient your life around this vision. I have never seen someone do it alone.
I ran out of battery on my iphone this afternoon while sitting in starbucks. I was waiting for 2 people. I had to stay. It was good that I ran out of battery, because I ended up looking at Tibidabo mountain for 30 minutes and thinking about life.
Where did this fear of living an ordinary life come from?
I read intensely as a child. I would read anything, but by far my favourite type of novel were the fantasy or science fiction novels where a young unknown hero saves the universe.
From age 7, I watched Star Wars repeatedly. I would watch 10 to 15 minutes each morning during breakfast before going to school. The books are terrible, this was a movie world not a book world.
Starting from age 11, I read fantasy books. My favourite fantasy world of all was Dune. I found Dune aged 12. There are 8 books (I still have them here on my bookshelf) in the series. We follow the life of Paul Muad’ib from his life as an unknown son of a small time aristocrat to his becoming the Divine Emperor of the entire known galaxy, including mystical powers of telling the future and reading other people’s minds. I fancied myself as a version of Paul. I tried the mental skills that he was taught in the book. Never did work.
Didn’t stop me imagining. As a teenager, I read the Dune books twice; from start to finish. Each time, it was a 6 month journey. (I have only ever read 3 books twice: Dune, Lord of the Rings and Steinbeck’s East of Eden.)
I remember the first time I finished the Dune books, I searched everywhere to see if there might be a ninth book. There was no google, no amazon – only my local library and local bookshops. When I realised that it was over, that there was no more adventure to be had in the fantasy world of Dune (and that Frank Herbert had passed away… the final book was finished by someone else) I was devastated.
Real life never felt as intense or as alive as the experiences that I was living in these book-based worlds of fantasy.
In the real world, I went to school (boring), did my homework (boring), climbed trees (fun), ate breakfast, lunch and dinner (alway enough and healthy).
I think it is this immersion in these fantasy worlds for much of my childhood that shaped my fear of living a life that is ordinary.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
The Fantasy Worlds I Lived In
The Author’s & series that I loved during the ages of 10-15 (in order of preference):
It describes the anxiety arising from the Fear Of Missing Out, made famous as FOMO. I have a hard time sitting at home doing nothing productive. I have a sense that I am wasting my time. Classic FOMO. (I won’t mention the clues of social media addictions… I had to delete facebook from my iphone… it was becoming too consuming).
Summer amplifies this anxiety as I have too much time to think. I don’t teach too many classes and spend a lot of time reading, reflecting and thinking.
As I reflect, I think my fear is less FOMO – fear of missing out, and more FOOL – Fear of an Ordinary Life.
I am a F.O.O.L.
…it does cause anxiety late at night, through the morning, before lunch, after lunch… etc.
Fear of an Ordinary Life
It strikes me as supremely arrogant to believe that I deserve a greater than “ordinary life”, but there is definitely a striving inside myself pushing me to live a meaningful life. I have the feeling that I was given great gifts in this life: where I was born, when I was born, the brain I had, the health I had, the options that a good education has opened for me.
As a meditative exercise I sometimes reflect upon how tiny I am in this universe. It is 11 billion years old, and more enormous than I can imagine. I am miniscule. In 100 years I will be forgotten. In 1 million years… why does any achievement or lack of achievement matter?
This meditation takes away the rational questioning about whether I should care about doing meaningful things or not, but it doesn’t take away the underlying unease with myself.
The Buddhists say that this is an itch I should not try to scratch. I should learn to observe the itch without being driven, moved, affected by it.
I am a poor observer of the itch. FOOL is running like a clogged back-end server process on my brain’s CPU.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.