A few years ago, I choreographed a little ballet dance piece for myself, to the song “Rockefeller Street” by Getter Jani.
I had a lot of fun doing it, and I had a chance to perform it at a little talent show.
During the routine, I swiftly kicked my foot in the air (my signature move), lost my balance in mid-at, and fell directly on my tuchus.
Somehow all that dance and martial arts training took over: I fell perfectly, with minimal injury.
I got right back up, loudly proclaimed: “I meant to do that!” and kept on dancing.
It was a fun day, and I never thought about the fall once I had gotten back up.
I never entertained the thought of falling before or after the performance, even though I did fall.
It’s always worse to think about falling than it is to actually fall.
I can’t count how many times I have held myself back in business, relationships, health, and many other areas, because I was afraid of a potential setback or failure.
What if she rejects me?
What if no one visits my website?
What if I’m not as enthusiastic about the project in a couple of years?
What if, what if, what if.
Here’s the kicker: Whatever happens, you can definitely handle it.
How many times have you fallen in life, only to eventually get back up much stronger?
We have incredible mechanisms that come pre-loaded in the software of our minds. These mechanisms can handle so much adversity.
Unfortunately, one of the mechanisms is a little bit self-sabotaging. It makes you think that the aforementioned adversity mechanisms don’t exist.
If you’re thinking of doing something, and you’re in a state of fear, keep this in mind:
Your mind may be kicking your ass right now, but it always has your back if the horrible worries that stew around your mind were to actually happen.
How’s that for resilience
Have you ever been in a place where you knew you had to take on a new habit/routine/project?
But you kept putting it off, and putting it off, until something happened. An event happened in your life that made it impossible for you not to adapt this new habit.
I bet you have a few good habits that were created this way. You reached the point of no return, and you said to yourself, “I’ve had it! This won’t happen again!”
And that is how change happens.
Whenever bad things happen to you, don’t resist them. They’re always happening so that you can form a new habit that will make your life so much better in the long run.
I’m resisting right now. I had a tough February with my health, and I basically had to stop (almost) all of my routines and my work for several weeks. It was a pain, and I am still recovering. My primal brain really took advantage of the situation, and used it to start justifying laziness, fatigue, and spending days watching TV instead of doing meaningful work.
Don’t expect these times to ever go away. There will always be events in life that happen. You will be required to rebuild your life right afterwards. It will take time.
Here’s the good news I have for you:
You never have to rebuild from the ground up. If you’ve done the habit before, you can do the habit again. Your brain’s got your back!
Make sure you don’t take it too hard when your brain tries to punish you for not being the person you were before a crisis. When a personal crisis ends, the recovery and rebuilding phase is usually when the biggest challenge begins.
I failed my Udacity Physics Challenge. Miserably.
How did it happen? How am I going to move forward with it?
I did pretty well in the beginning. 2 Units in, feeling confident.
Then, I took a Sociology Intensive at School, and I put off Physics for 2 weeks.
I found myself stalling and stalling. No problem, I thought to myself. I will do speed-learning during the month of February. It’s gonna work out okay!
But then, February happened.
I may write a more detailed blog post about my month, but let’s just say: 2 hospital visits (9 days and 4 days, respectively), IV antibiotics, hectic sleep cycles, and I just didn’t have enough conscious will or physical energy to direct my mind to do Physics.
In the future, I may develop such mental will despite physical setbacks. But not now.
I have failed you. Most of all, I have failed myself. I don’t want to move on after this failure, since this is the first time I have ever not lived up to my public commitment.
But my only choice is to try again.
As mentioned in the video, I will never give up on this challenge.
All previous conditions apply, but my new deadline is June 27th. Then, I will do my best to have the course done, and I will post my Final Exam grade.
As June 27th is my birthday, if I don’t get this course done by then, I will have a miserable day. I don’t want to have a miserable birthday.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Wow. I’m on this healing path of Personal Development. I can’t imagine how amazing my life will be in 5 years, or even 10 years down the road. OH MY GOD IT’S GONNA BE AMAZING!!!”
As attractive as this thinking is to your mind, it’s exactly the kind of thinking that keeps you stuck in place. It allows the mind to see a broad horizon, with lots of time available. It removes any sense of urgency in the present moment.
The way your mind should work is, “What is the best way that I can contribute and be present and engaged on this day?”
If you can master this mindset without getting too attached to the fantasy of how much more evolved you will be in the future, an interesting thing happens:
You will evolve with much greater speed.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? The long-term benefits come about as a result of short-term actions and mindsets.
I’ll also let you in on a secret. No matter how big of a project you are working on, EVERY SINGLE ACTION that you take is short-term.
Everything in life is short-term, come to think of it. Things are only long-term when you look into the past, and/or project into the future.
So, for your own sake, please do your best to give it your all this very day, and you will build up quite an incredible life.
Our biggest fear is not change. It is being incompetent.
Think about that big project that you have planned. Building the business. Renovating the house. Changing your dating life. Going on a massive vacation. Volunteering.
Why haven’t you done it yet?
One typical answer would be, “fear of change.” Or, if you’re more complex, “fear of perceived pain associated with the change.”
You could analyze the psychology of change for a long time. But what if the fear isn’t a fear of change?
I could stop all of the good habits that I’ve worked on for years, start eating a poor diet, and start watching TV 5-6 hours a day. I could stop going to school, etc. However, none of these changes would scare me very much at the time.
Do you know why I’m not scared, at least initially? It’s because I’m competent at eating junk food. I’m competent at watching TV and being a couch potato. I’m competent at reclining in a lazy posture and falling asleep.
I’ve already mastered these art forms of living, and that is why my brain tends to go back to them. However, when I start thinking of doing some scary activity like Physics, my brain recoils in fear.
It’s not because of change; it’s because of the fear of the competency gap.
The competency gap is present all around you.
There are certain areas of life that you would like to improve in. Maybe you’d like to master a language, or learn a kinesthetic art like dancing or martial arts or crossfit. Maybe you want to become a better entrepreneur.
All of these skills require a painful competency gap that you must learn to cope with if you are to get the results you want in life.
Here’s the good news: once you’ve achieved competency in a certain area, the memory is etched into your brain.
Even if you stop the activity for a very long time, it will be slightly easier to get back to, because your brain knows that it can get back to competency quickly. Stress goes down.
The final question remains: How do we train our minds to be okay with the competency gap, in order to help us achieve the results that we want?
There are 2 major components: Faith and Practice.
Faith is very important, because you have to believe that you’re actually capable of achieving something before you take on the venture. And I’ll tell you a little secret that I read on a blog somewhere. It struck me as profound:
You cannot have a genuine desire spring up in your mind if you aren’t truly able to fulfill that desire.
Let’s take an example from my personal experience. When I was in the hospital, I only had a few desires: eat, sleep, and GET OUT OF PAIN! That’s about it. My mind told me: once you fulfill all of these desires, you will be alright.
Of course, it’s a lie. New desires spring up when I’m healthy. I want amazing sex. I want to have a successful business. I want to help people enjoy literature, etc.
All of these desires wouldn’t be in my consciousness if it were completely impossible to achieve them.
This is great news for you. All of those desires that you have are desires that can be achieved. As long as they’re your own, and not those set by society.
Have faith that your desires will lead you to a place of fulfilling them. And then, expect a new set of desires to pop up right after that.
Having faith in God and/or The Universe can’t hurt, either
Practice is pretty self-explanatory.
If you have faith in achieving your desires, but you’re not taking action towards them on a consistent basis, then you really don’t have faith in achieving your desires.
Action and Practice are the chains that link the Cycle of Competency together.
Remember that song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? It’s a lie.
Worrying is a natural part of our psychology. It’s always gonna be there, so we might as well learn how to use it for good.
Just as I want to upgrade the quality of my problems, I seek to upgrade the quality of the things that I’m worrying about. If I’m worrying about my time management, deadlines, smaller-scale things, etc., there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. It’s just the natural need to worry, and it will never go away. However, it does mean that my focus is slightly misplaced.
In order to improve the quality of our worry, we must constantly put ourselves in situations where there isn’t much light.
This way, we have something more productive to worry about. Some of the biggest challenges. Sex Trafficking, Preventable Disease, Poverty, Iliteracy, etc. When we get involved in these spheres, we stop thinking about day-by-day optimization.
We start thinking about entire life optimization. How can I optimize my life to dedicate all of my focus to solving this problem?
This is a very productive way to use worry.
And let’s be honest, here. Even worrying about the little things won’t go away. Let your mind worry all it wants. Just remind yourself about the bigger picture when you find yourself giving too much attention to the small details/trifles of your life.
Your mind has an incredible tendency to forget the big picture if you’re not constantly reminding yourself about what really matters. Do it daily. How?
-Watch videos on Youtube. Watch Documentaries about social issues.
-Reach out to new people on facebook. Get to know them. Get to know their biggest problems, and find ways to help them.
-Go outside to a place like Starbucks, and talk to a few people there. This always helps me remove my egocentric perspective. It reminds me that everyone is very similar to me, in that we all want to be loved.
Keep this connection with other people alive, and start worrying about the right things.
Plutarch – The Lives of The Noble Greeks and Romans – Alexander The Great
Book In Progress (as of February 2, 2013):
Plutarch – The Lives of The Noble Greeks and Romans – Julius Caesar
The first half of the month of January was spent reading and researching the VERY eventful life of Alexander the Great. Say what you want about the dude, tyrant, murderer, etc. He sure knew how to go after what he wanted.
Later in the month, I started reading about Julius Caesar. Somewhat similar to Alexander in his thirst for power. The biggest insight I’ve had while reading about Alexander and Caesar is as follows:
No one is completely good or bad. You look at a dude like Caesar, and think he’s a genocidal maniac. That may be true, but he also had deep feelings. Caesar was incredibly loyal to the Roman people. He even left them all of his personal fortune in his will, to split among all the citizens. This discrepancy made me a little bit bonkers, because I like it when things are just black and white. As you read about the history of humanity, you will realize that there are enough grey areas to make you very uncomfortable.
Minimum of 6 days a week? Yes.
Minimum of 2 videos posted? Yes.
Plutarch’s Lives – Alexander The Great
The Main Idea
Alexander The Great. Was he a brave warrior? Or was he a ruthless tyrant? I can’t answer that for you. I can only give you a very brief account of his life. The decision lies solely in your hands.
Alexander was born son of Philip, the ruler of Macedonia. By birth, Alexander would be highly influenced by the conquests of his father. Alexander’s character was unusual at a young age: he was all about reading and books, not sports and boxing.
He also wanted to live his life in chaos and disarray, so that he could have constant opportunities to display his courage. Courage isn’t worth much when everything is calm and settled.
When Alexander was young, he was able to mount a horse that no one else could mount. The horse would become Alexander’s companion in battle. Alexander named him Bucephalus.
His father was amazed at this, broke down in tears, and held his son’s head in his arms: “O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee.”
And find a Kingdom he did. Alexander went strong right from the get-go, subduing kingdoms that tried to rebel after his father died. Alexander was only 20 years old when he inherited the Kingdom of Macedonia.
Over the years, Alexander conquered new lands. Persia. India. Onward he went into battle, furiously, passionately, and with a burning fire inside.
It’s important to take note of Alexander’s character. He treated people that he ruled with great kindness. He exchanged gifts with enemies before battles.
A particular instance: In a battle against Persia, he won. King Darius, the ruler of Persia, fled. Rumors circulated that Darius died, and his wife and daughter started grieving. Instead of getting drunk and celebrating off of the victory, Alexander went out of his way to comfort the wife and daughter of his enemy, Darius. He let them know and repeatedly assured them that Darius was still alive.
Alexander did go through a dark phase in his life towards the end, where he lost his tenderness and kindness of heart. But it is very much worth noting that he possessed the kindness to begin with.
Watch the video for more details on the Life of Alexander!
My Son, thou art invincible. -Oracle of Delphi, to Alexander
For when his affairs called upon him, he would not be detained, as other generals often were, either by wine or sleep, nuptial solemnities, spectacles, or any other diversion whatsoever; a convincing argument of which is, that in the short time he lived, he accomplished so many and so great actions.
I will not steal a victory. -Alexander, in response to a suggestion to attack the Persians in the middle of the night.
The end and perfection of our victories is to avoid the vices and infirmities of those whom we subdue.
Alexander…thought nothing impossible to true intrepidity, and on the hand, nothing secure or strong for cowardice.
Shying away from “hard” work is an allergy.
It’s not an illness. It’s not unnatural. It’s just a by-product of evolutionary wiring.
Let’s say that the fear of hard work is a special kind of allergy. You’re allergic to what most benefits you. And when you feel the symptoms of the allergy, it’s the most incredible thing. It means that you have an opportunity to weaken the allergy’s effect on you.
Now, when you feel resistance to some task/project (such as the resistance I’m feeling right now as I write this post), you will see it as a simple immune response: nothing less, nothing more.
How do you deal with it, though?
How do you use this allergy to your advantage?
1. Replace your Language
In spiritual circles, “effortless” is word that is often thrown around. Especially in courses like “The Sedona Method” (which is my favorite emotional healing technique). How do you reconcile this “effortless” ideal of reality, with the nature of brutal hard work?
For one, you replace the word “hard.” Don’t use it in your vocabulary to describe the nature of work.
Instead, you replace it with the word, “diligent.” Every time you hear someone say, “hard work,” replace it with “diligent work” in your mind. I have a lot of positive associations in my mind linked to the word “diligent.” I have no such associations linked to “hard.”
2. See Self-Discipline as a Great Virtue
Discipline is the ability to do what you know is right in your mind and heart, despite internal resistance.
It can never be attained, similar to happiness. Discipline is a dance of sorts.
And if your mind starts reading books and looking at youtube videos of Indian Guru’s sitting in the shade, another thought may come up:
They’re just sitting there giving a public speech, and it looks pretty effortless.
In response to that: Effortless is not a lack of diligent work. It’s a lack of suffering while you’re doing the work. If you look at their life story and daily routine, you will truly see how disciplined those “gurus” sitting in the shade really are.
You will see how much work they put in every day in writing and refining their material.
It’s similar to the song, “Price Tag” by Jessie J. If you watch the music video, you will see her wearing expensive clothes/jewelry. It’s not about the “bling-bling,” but she’s wearing it while singing those lyrics.
The primary philosophy:
Do as I do, not as I say (or sing).
As I move on in this game of life, I’m constantly getting affirmative guidance in this direction:
Life isn’t particularly about WHAT you do, but HOW you do it, and the thoughts/physical posture you embody while in the process of work.
Effortless refers to the thoughts/physical posture; not about WHAT you’re doing.
I hope this clears up some associations you have in your mind with the terms “effortless work” and “hard work.” As always, ask any question in the comments and I will do my best to clarify.
You don’t have to use “diligent.” That’s my word. Choose yours. As long as you don’t emotionally suffer while you’re working, you’re on the right track. And even if you are suffering, for the time being, be okay with it. It’s better than no work at all.
Don’t use emotional resistance as an excuse not to do what you know you should do.
You are being tested right now.
Video Will Be Posted by the end of Sunday, January 20th. I apologize for the inconvenience. In truth, I had a horrible plunge into inertia on Saturday, caused by looking at “one youtube video.”
There is a fallacy in atheistic reasoning:
If we eliminate religion from the world, we will help people become more rational and peaceful.
This could not be further from the truth. We are all irrational, and our “peaceful” nature doesn’t necessarily come from religion.
Let’s look at the example of the suicide bomber. He is doing it to please the idea of God that he has manufactured in his mind. A God that happens to dislike the same people that he dislikes. How convenient.
If this idea of God did not exist in his head, it wouldn’t change his values. He still grew up in a violent culture, and his parent(s) still encouraged him to kill. If not for religion, maybe there would be some other reason. A different hair color. A different nationality. PC over Mac. Anything.
People who have a violent nature have a violent nature. Whether God exists in their minds or not is irrelevant. People generally warp religion to promote their values.
We project our own values and morality onto our conception of God.
I highly value the virtues of Love and Courage, so my conception of God encourages me to commit loving and courageous acts. “Love” and “Courage” as defined by me are probably different than your idea of love and courage. We can never match up 100%, because we’ve gone through different experiences.
If I valued war and discord, my idea of God would be more of a violent one.
Organized religion, for the most part, is a wonderful thing. I love it when people are stirred up to do good things for the world because of their religion.
The main point:
Barring strict orthodox adherence to religious principles (as in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, for example), we mold ideas to suit our own needs.
I’m a prime example. By a textbook, I guess you could call me a Reform JewBu. Jewish, with some Buddhist elements and a nice dollop of New-Age Spirituality.
What I can say with certainty is that there is a divine force. There is a supernatural element of reality that goes beyond ordinary perception. What this is, I cannot tell you. But I will continuously work on molding my beliefs, thoughts, and actions to align with that force.
Religion is great, insofar as it breeds Love and Compassion. MY values
To say that life is counter-intuitive would be the equivalent of saying that a hippopotamus landing on you would hurt. It’s an understatement.
This post is going to be brief. I’m going to list some of the biggest discoveries I’ve made in the past few years about how counter-intuitive life is:
It’s intuitive to think that it’s greedy and selfish and malevolent to get rich and make a lot of money and gain power and climb to higher levels of society, while there are SO MANY PEOPLE suffering as a result of our social system. On the contrary, the BEST way you can help people is to raise your energy, wealth, and personal power to a level where you can heavily influence societal systems with your money, time, knowledge, and charisma.
It’s intuitive to think that putting in a lot of effort and mental strain is the best way to get things done. On the contrary, letting go of mental strain is one of the best ways to be more productive and efficient in life.
It’s intuitive to want to punish yourself with guilt and shame for any of your perceived wrongdoings. On the contrary, guilt and shame are addictive qualities to your ego, and they make you want to do the activity that you’re feeling guilt/shame about AGAIN.
It’s intuitive to think that removing your daily meditation/exercise routine would free up 1-2 hours for more “productive” work. On the contrary, it causes time to contract, and your mental state doing the work won’t be as efficient.
It’s intuitive to think that working out in the gym 7 days a week with strength training will build up your muscles quickly. On the contrary, all you need is an 8-12 minute INTENSE weightlifting or body weight session once a week.
It’s intuitive to believe that watching the news and going out into the “land of suffering,” the real world, will turn you into a depressed, miserable person. On the contrary, if you properly manage your emotions, the emotional hardship you experience can take you to greater levels of health, energy, power, and achievement.
It’s intuitive to believe that working long hours can help you get a lot more done in the day. On the contrary, you want to mix catabolic states (high intense periods of exertion) with anabolic states (complete periods of rest) in your working life. Then, what used to take you two hours will only take you 45-60 minutes, or even less. Then, a 5-hour-workday will become what used to be a 10-hour-workday for you.
It’s intuitive to believe that all “chronic” illnesses are incurable. On the contrary, if you really dedicate yourself to health and a more holistic lifestyle, you may not completely “cure” the illness, but you can heal to an unbelievable extent.
What are some of your greatest counter-intuitive discoveries about life? Share them in the comments below.