Category Archives: Personal Development

What Makes a Fool

My Favorite Fool

Some people occur to us as intelligent and bright. Others, however, strike us as painfully dumb. If you asked folks, “What makes a smart person smart and a dumb person dumb?” many might quickly reply that it is the amount of knowledge one possesses that makes them smart or birdbrained.

For the average case, I would disagree. Lack of knowledge means they don’t know too much, but does that make them foolish? After all, don’t most of us know about a certain topic in which others are clueless (usually job-specific information)? Does this make us smart and them “dumb”? More specifically, is this really the quality that makes one seem intelligent or unintelligent–simply knowing something that others don’t? I don’t think so; that’s an incomplete picture.

I’ve noticed that what a person knows actually has little to do with whether they strike us as smart or a few fries short of a happy meal. What really makes a person sound unintelligent is not a lack of brain content, but rather an overestimation of it.

Think about it; you must know some graduate students, business people, doctors, lawyers, rocket scientists, engineers, etc. who shock you with their stupidity. “How did they get into [insert college with impressive name]?!” Humans can possess a ton of information but still really strike you as a few noodles short of a casserole. How? They lack one important piece of information: the limits of their information.

If you are over-confident about your knowledge, you are less likely to ask for help or go and look up something that you don’t know because you won’t admit to yourself that you don’t know it! When someone “does something stupid,” what really happened? They didn’t stop and think, “how should this be done?” And why didn’t they stop and think that? Because they were operating under the assumption that they already knew. This also applies to “saying something stupid.”

We want to fix this, never be a dingbat and become clear about what we don’t know, but knowledge is funny–we don’t know everything that is unknown to us. We know some of it (for example, I know I don’t know biochemistry), but the stuff that we don’t know that is unknown to us oddly doesn’t exist on our mental map. The only way we can go about dingbat prevention is building a habit of evaluating our knowledge and, when appropriate, saying “I don’t know.” We can help ourselves by developing an attitude of humility when it comes to our knowledge.

The difference between dumb and not-dumb is “I don’t know.” The difference between not-dumb and smart is “I don’t know, let me go and find out.”

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When Does a Runner Become a Runner?

Do you have a to-do list or a bucket list? Most of us do. Some of us have “make a bucket list” on our to-do list. Each list has things to check off and do, followed by the satisfaction of being able to say those are things we “did.” I went skydiving, I ran onto a football field naked, I got an STD in Thailand.

Those are things we did–but what about things we do? …and keep doing? What item is on the list that you want to do everyday, from here till as far as you can see?

If you ran a marathon, are you a runner?

Read this:

An inspiring quote, truly applicable to anyone

Any path to greatness is surely filled with practice and repetition. Something that happens once can certainly impact your life. But what can happen in just one day that actually defines your life? It’s what you work on day-in, day-out that will define you.

A runner runs. Whether he runs a marathon, never runs a marathon, or runs with one leg, he is on a quest to express the runner in him. He sees the kind of runner he would like to become but he doesn’t know the extent of how great a runner he could be. And he’s curious, he wants to find out. Nothing that can happen in one day will give him that answer–it is purely a matter of journey.

What’s worth doing every day?

Don’t Take Stuff Personally

Yeah, yeah.

People will say stuff to us that gets under our skin, or they might just do something that irritates us. And when we get irritated, a lot of crappy things happen.

When we get irritated, we’re more likely to do things we otherwise wouldn’t do. We might say things to hurt people, lose our ability to focus on the task at hand, or do something stupid. But more importantly, when we lose our cool, we are actually letting something else affect us. We are losing our power because something distracted us and swayed us in a direction we did not intend to head. Staying calm and handling things with a level head is not only good for our daily work but also prevents us from hurting our loved ones. Have you noticed the wiser the person, the less they lose their cool?

I’ve seen that the #1 reason someone loses their cool is that they take something personally. To take something personally, our ego must be at play. Think about it (and we all ‘love’ people with huge egos). Let’s look at some more specific reasons to not take things personally:

INSULTS

If somebody says something with the intention of hurting/affecting you, they are really projecting their own issues. It actually has nothing to do with you. A person who walks around calling people’s faults for enjoyment is suffering their own issue. A happy person doesn’t do that. So when someone tries to bring you down, a progressive approach might be to be concerned with why they feel the need to attack their fellow humans. To take their word seriously and get brought down prevents growth for both parties. It’s really an opportunity to help.

If somebody does or says something (/to you) unknowingly or unintentionally that could be offensive, they were acting in ignorance. And unless you’ve experienced nirvana, you suffer ignorance as well and it should be forgiven. A more appropriate action would be to fill that person in for their own benefit. To get angry because a child commented on your blubber really is a losing strategy. Let the child know they could hurt someone’s feelings.

All reasons I could give really derive from the concept that a statement or action cannot be separated from its source. When you take away the scissors from your 3-year-old and he says “I hate you mommy,” you may not like his choice of words but you know that he is unaware of his actions. You know better, and you certainly don’t get mad at him at tell him “go feed yourself you little brat!” and storm off into your room because of what he said to you. The source must be considered in every statement. Anytime someone says something that could be offensive, the source is either trying to hurt you or is ignorant–neither of which call for taking the comment personally.

The only way that you can be insulted by someone is if you believe the insult to be true. If someone tried to insult me by calling me “gay,” they would fail, because it’s clear to me that I’m heterosexual. If someone called a girl a “bitch,” and she had just been dumped by her boyfriend because he claimed she was a bitch, she might be insulted. “Maybe I really am a bitch! Ouch!” This is where being secure in yourself comes in. Insecurity is your ego feeling incomplete and just waiting to take anything and everything personally.

Compliments, too

There is also reason to not take compliments personally. This one is a bit more of a stretch for most people, but we can start with a simple example. Suppose someone says “you’re so good-looking!” If you take that comment personally, you will eventually get an inflated ego. You aren’t your looks; you didn’t create them or choose them. You could recognize that the person is in fact complimenting your genetics.

But what if they complimented my outfit? I put that together! Me me me me me!

You still can’t remove your physical body from the outfit. But who gave you your sense of style? Style is not created, it’s stolen piece by piece from things you have seen in the past. If someone compliments your intelligence,  patience, or even the way you handled a situation, can you take full credit? Pass the credit along to your teachers, mentors, experiences, and education and keep moving forward. I suppose if you’re feeling down about yourself you can tap into it to boost yourself up, but come on now. The result of this mentality is humility and un-messable-with status. Those are great things. Hubris always kills the main character. Think about it: someone can be so good-looking and amazing, but the second you hear them being conceited, all attraction is lost, no? Why is it that the people we respect the most are totally humble?

When you take something personally, it’s a lose-lose. Nothing is totally your fault or totally to your credit. Practicing removing yourself from the situation helps to both keep you on track and to not get too caught up in yourself.

The Expectations Box

box.

“You can’t be let down if you don’t have expectations.” The worst part about expectations, however, is not that they allow the possibility of let down, but rather that they tend to cause tunnel vision. Expectations cause us to look for what we think is there versus what could be there.

It’s probably an instinctual part of survival–if every time you see a bear you get attacked, you are likely to run the next time you even smell a bear. But with this good comes a bad. Our mind becomes conditioned and we enter the process of reaffirming our beliefs.

If every girlfriend you had cheated on you, it is possible that you begin to expect all girlfriends to cheat on you. If you’ve been robbed four times and every time it was a black male, it’s possible that you begin to keep your guard up around black males. If you get poor service at the post office and the DMV often, it’s possible that you expect that government workers to be lazy.

What happens when we allow this to take place? We keep the girl who truly loves us at a distance. We push her away. We close out relationships with an entire race of people. We bring down the postal worker as we approach them with a stink attitude. The next person in line finds a hurt postal worker.

We could have had love. We could have found a friend. We could have made someone’s day.

But expectations don’t just affect our relationship to others.

I grew up with several interests, and one of them was money. I was fascinated with it and I had grandiose dreams for my future. Throughout school I had small businesses on the side, my father and mentors were business men, I even went to school for business. Money was going to be a huge part of my life. I had that expectation. Well, right now, I’m letting go of that expectation and for the first time opening up to the idea that money is not what really drives me. I’m finding more fire in things such as reading and writing. Life begins to look a lot different, but I am very glad to be here. I wouldn’t change it for anything and it makes me happy with my path. My expectations of me were boxing me in.

Good: “What if you dropped expectations of others?” Better: What do you expect of yourself? And are these expectations allowing you to be open to a you that is entirely different from the one you know?

You think you know you, but you may very well have no idea. Expecting good behavior from yourself surely is helpful. But do you expect yourself to act up when your significant other talks to the opposite sex? Do you expect that you won’t finish things you start? Do you expect to miss your bedtime again tonight? Why is that you? Can you at least be open to the idea that that isn’t you? And the you that you envisioned, being secure and thorough, and sticking to plans…can you give that you a chance? Please?

Is it because you’ve missed your bedtime ten nights in a row? Is that why you expect you’ll miss it again tonight? Isn’t that expecting the girlfriend to cheat, the postal worker to be an ass, and the black guy to be a thief? Aren’t you imposing the same faulty judgment process on your own self?

Maybe you’re the person that you dream yourself to be, that secure person who does everything they say they will. Maybe you are totally different from who you think you are.

A Reason to Reconnect With Your Past

The roots are bigger than the tree.

For awhile, whenever I thought of alumni events, the following would pop into my mind:

People coming to an event, decked out in their finest regalia, bringing their latest business cards with thirteen word titles. I imagined the alumni events for people who have been out of school for longer than I, for which guys would doll up their wives just to have something nicer looking on their arm when they arrived. “So what are you doing with your life?” I imagined it to be a big show down of who has become whom, and what has been accomplished since. Either that or a boring event where just the “losers” showed up.

Well, I’ve been forced to face the fact that that visualization is, by far, totally a reflection of me and my own insecurities rather than an accurate assessment of alumni events in general. I am twenty-four years old, and I have no concrete answer to the question “What do you want to do with your life?” That question is currently the bane of my existence and man oh man is an alumni event the best place to get practice reciting your answer to that question.

That’s my little intro story. In this post I’m not going to address that question or the nature of the dilemma it creates for “undecided” people. Instead, I just want to point out a good reason to attend alumni events, family gathering, or any form of reconnecting with your “roots” or past.

It has nothing to do with other people, actually. Reconnecting with people with whom you used to share a bond provides a great opportunity to evaluate your personal growth. When you see this person, you are reminded of the way you used to talk, the jokes you used to make, and the things you used to dream about. What has changed within you? Do you still desire the same things? If you’ve given up on a dream, how do you reconcile it? Have your values changed? It’s a great way to superimpose a benchmark next to your thoughts: then and now.

I included “roots,” to include places your parents came from or perhaps places you grew up in and moved out of before you started forming memories. Even though you may not have memories or relationships from this setting, benchmarks can still be found which can be used for self-evaluation.

For example, I spent seven months in Trinidad recently. My mother is from there. I was born in the USA. Whether or not I have grown up with Trini traditions, or have even visited the country, going back there still would have provided the self-evaluation benefit. People who leave Trinidad to come to America tend to want security (the crime there is saddening), opportunity, and cheap electronics. In New York City, the dream is owning a hedge fund, a home in Connecticut, and not being able to sleep at night. Okay that’s even more of a joke, but what I’m saying is that most of us here in America are one or two generations away from people who left their nations of birth for simple but meaningful things (such as security, opportunity, and cheap electronics). If we lose sight of that, it’s easy to get lost in wanting excessive material luxuries, prestige, and other things over and above what our families originally came here for. Is wanting these things bad? No-I’m not saying that. I’m saying going back to see your roots is like a tool that allows you to see some assumptions you might be making, to question whether you need to go above and beyond what your lineage had originally moved for (this is the self-evaluation tool I was referring to). That decision is yours to make though! It’s just nice to be aware of your options.

Have you changed? Has your thinking changed? If so, how has it changed? The same way tracking your progress in the gym is essential to continual fitness improvement, considering these questions is very valuable for one who is interested in his or her personal development. Maybe you’ve gotten off track, or maybe you’ve will be happy with the choices you’ve made. Think about it. Let us make room for our own improvement and simultaneously kick out any reasons or insecurities we have that might interfere with us returning to our past. I invite you to attend your next alumni event, old friends get together, and especially to consider spending some time connecting with your roots if you haven’t already done so. I will!

You Will Die

Time's 'a Tickin'!

Focusing on our own mortality could be a very helpful technique used to breathe spirit into our daily lives. Boredom and laziness are not part of a healthy human being-ness; they represent a spirit so covered up with societal expectations, media garbage, and lack of questioning. Curiosity, wonder, and satisfaction from daily work are what every human soul craves. I think we slip away from these blessed states when we “forget” that we will soon enough die.

Human attempts to conquer nature are as old as humans, almost, and death has not escaped our cross-hair. Pills to make us live longer, research into DNA to see if we can reverse the aging process, and freezing ourselves are all attempts we have made to escape the seemingly inescapable. So far, no luck.

We don’t seem to want  to die, and we try to avoid it in more subconscious ways. Leaving a legacy is one of the most common thoughts of dying men and women: “What will I leave to my kids?” “How will I be remembered?” “Can I make a donation to get my name on a wall somewhere?” The curiosity, wonder, and helpful attitude endemic in human being-ness is often buried as we try to make ourselves feel whole and complete through things such as money and status. We will never be good-looking enough, rich enough, or popular enough to avoid the same death as everyone else.

Curiosity, wonder, and that helpful attitude in humans brings about joy and progress.  The best scientists, reformers, and performers of any kind have all stated that they were never motivated by money, but rather by passion to learn and discover how great they could be, how far their could go, or how real they could make their dreams. So what does death have to do with all of this?

First, let’s look at direction. The closer one comes to truly realizing that they will die, the more valuable their time on Earth becomes. You probably know when you meet someone who has had a near death experience, as they often change their entire life course, usually to go on and encourage others to follow their dreams. That should be a big enough give away right there, bucko. If you can really spend twenty minutes trying to visualize what your last hour on Earth might feel like, it very well may make your heartbeat increase as your head becomes flooded with lots of questions. The big things to pay attention to are “I should have,” “I would have,” and “I could have,” as one who faces death must truly wonder “what if I just did what I thought I should do?” “What if I was the spouse, sibling, child, me that I always envisioned, rather than giving into my excuses to not be that person?” Curiosity runs abound. Things that you “have” to do start to lose footing…you might see that what you have to do is actually what you really, deep down, want to do. From the second we are born, our time is ticking. We only can begin to live once we realize what we’re actually doing here is dying.

Next, consider the strength of living a life of principle. “If nothing is worth dying for, then nothing is worth living for.” If you believe that your race should be treated fairly, great. If they are legally treated as secondary citizens and you say “hey stop that!” and the government says “No, shut up or we’ll kill you,” and you respond “Oh, well…that’s that,” you’ve just decided that hanging onto life is more important than your principle of equal treatment. What would a life look like where nothing was worth giving up your life, though? You would essentially be clinging to life, trying to safeguard it, not giving your all for your principle in fear of losing it. This is a shame because you are going to lose it anyway.

Coming to terms with one’s own mortality leaves one powerful in the face of fear. This is useful because sticking up for principle can be quite scary. But consider that some of the most effective men and women in history were fearless.  “I know I am going to die, so why give up on my principle?” Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Socrates were all people who faced serious consequences to their well-being because of their curiosity and dedication, yet it never fazed them, even though it did end up in some of their deaths. Those people were full of life, and maybe realized that since they will certainly die one day, the only way to die is to die doing exactly what they believed they should do.

Finally, if you are going to die tomorrow, your neighbor taking your parking spot really isn’t going to cause you to spend fifteen minutes brewing over what an inconsiderate penie-head he is. Some might say that if we are all going to die tomorrow, “we might as well go commit crime, steal, rape, pillage, do drugs, etc.” Over and over, this is shown to not be the case. I just talked a guy who was in an area that suffered serious emergency flooding. He said he was astounded at the way people came together to help one another. My friend Jonny Boy told me a story about people in the Twin Towers, who stayed by strangers in wheel chairs, unwilling to abandon a fellow human being. Stories like this are a dime a dozen, pal. When death is imminent–which it is, if we choose to acknowledge it–there is less room to screw over your fellow human being. If I have two hours to live and so do you, I’ll probably ask you if there’s anything I can do to help, as we see ourselves as travel companions here on Earth making our last wishes.

Do you think Gandhi or MLK, Jr. ever said “I’m bored?”There is so much to do and learn here on Earth, and tomorrow isn’t promised. We will die soon, and we could die in our sleep tonight.

What do you want to see, know, have accomplished on your last day on Earth?

But You’re Not Me

Does anyone have the same birthday as you? The same time of birth?

Do they have the same parents as you? With all the same lessons and style of upbringing?

Do they have the same set of friends as you? Down to duplicate Facebook friends list, down to literally identical experiences with those friends from trials, tribulations, arguments, jokes, long talks?

Does anyone have the same set of mentors and schooling as you? Did they pay attention to exactly what you paid attention to, found the exact same stuff interesting, and worked the same amount of time as you?

Does anyone want exactly what you want for yourself? For the world?

Do they have the exact same work experience, with the same boss, coworkers, events, ups and down?

Do they agree with you 100% on what is right and wrong? Do they agree with you on whether Tupac is dead or alive?

And do they see the purpose of life the same way you see it? Have they determined what they are doing here on Earth to be exactly the same thing as what you’re doing here?

Have they suffered the same failures at the same times as you, and gotten the exact same identical lessons from those failures?

Have they gone through the same hardships as you? Experienced the same luxuries?

Do they have the same aspirations?

Do they have the exact same genetic make up (rhetorical), with the same tendencies and preferences for certain types of reactions, behavior, and likes/dislikes?

Do they have the same Nature+Nurture as you?

So how much sense does it make to ask advice? “If I were you, I would x y z x y z ….” But you’re not me. Did they answer yes to all the questions above? Each individual situation is so mind-blowingly, astronomically unique that advice truly makes no sense. It leads us to believe that there is some common place we are all trying to get to, and not to believe that the goal is the path itself–the decisions we make for ourselves and the learning and living process that comes along with it. Whether our decisions turn out “good” or “bad” is irrelevant when it comes to our personal growth.

Imagine if you never made a decision, and every single thing you did in life was directed by the advice of someone who you really admired. What would your last few moments of life feel like? I suspect you would have a lot of painful curiosity.

“People ask advice when they know what they need to do but just don’t want to do it.” Maybe every time we ask for advice, we really know the answer but we are fighting our internal compass. Why don’t we trust what we would do without advice? What is the value of trusting one’s self?

To give advice without being asked for it is to assume you know what lies both ahead and behind another person. It is to attempt to rob their life of making their own decisions. If they ask you for advice, perhaps you can offer it but we all owe it to our fellow humans to remind them that our decisions are not applicable to their lives.

The Best Ring Tone Profile for Focus

I. NEED. TO. CHECK. THIS.

Time for some self-honesty: Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry Messenger,What’sApp Messenger, text messages, e-mail, G-chat mobile, Skype mobile, and the mobile browser.  I suffer phone addiction. I could pass a two-hour bus ride quickly just using my phone. I couldn’t focus or spend quality time with people for long periods of time without checking my phone, and I ended up e-chatting way more than I needed to.

My friend Olgui made a suggestion. She is a designer and works with her hands, which means being “in the zone” is very important for her, as that’s when her creativity flows. She explained to me her ringtone profile:

  • All phone calls ring loudly.
  • No other notification makes a noise or even vibrates.

That’s it! The reason I love this is because anyone who needs to get in contact with you immediately can–they can always call. At the end of the day, if it’s a text message, it cannot be of utmost importance–why let it get in the way of your passion?

I’ve extended my attention span 10-30 minutes, I don’t miss out on things, I’m still accessible in case of emergencies, and I’m better at doing whatever I want to do. Also, I don’t get distracted by vibrations and notifications while I’m spending quality time with friends or family (whereas before I would go to the bathroom, or try to position myself in certain ways so I could sneak a peek at my phone…all taking my attention away from the person before me). The improvement in quality time with friends is more than worth it and I invite you to give it a try. It ultimately will help to make you more present in the current moment.

 

 

Can You Really Snap Out of a God Awful Mood?

This is me sometimes.

Sometimes you get into a bad mood, a funk. You can’t shake it, and what’s worse is that you are totally aware that you’re in it. You observe yourself being an ass to your significant other, your friend, your parent, etc. and for some reason you just keep doing it because you feel too crappy to make a change. It would require just too much effort to “pretend” like everything is cool.

At this point, it seems like we have two options:

1. “Snap out of it! Mind over matter!” or “Go do some physical activity to clear your mind, then all will be better.” Some positive, uplifting kind of method.

2. Wait it out. Accept that you’re feeling like a load of poo, and that even though you’re aware of it, you seemingly cannot do anything about it. It will just have to pass on its own.

Well, which one is the way to go? If you’re in a good state of mind, most likely that answer is the first method. Unfortunately, if you’re in that really crappy mood, the first method sounds like a load of garbage.

I so far conclude that while we should try our best to be pleasant to those around us, we’re left with just one option–the second. Might as well just accept that we’re in a God awful mood and that’s that…eventually we’ll come around. Ideally, someone who is in a horrible mood could read this, see if they disagree, and if they disagree, fill me in on how to snap out of a really, really awful mood (while you’re in it). Otherwise, this post is for anyone in a God awful mood. I can empathize with the hopeless feeling–no point in adding fuel to the fire by telling yourself you “shouldn’t” be in this mood.

I hope no one thought I actually had a solution to offer, what a let down that would be!

6 Reasons To Get Up And Go (To Another Country)

World Map“Traveling” can mean different things to different people. Let’s break it down:

A “vacation”, to me, is when you go somewhere for mental relaxation and physical enjoyment. Go to a beach, read a book, and pass out in the sun after too many exotic mixed drinks. “Touring” might be what you do when you want to go somewhere and to see the place or do a particular activity. You set up your hotels, transportation, and trips before you get there because you already know what you want to get out of your stay there. “Traveling” or “exploring” might be the name for a trip that has a set duration, but is done without planning out the details in advance–that part is left for exploration and open-mindedness. You’ll figure it out when you get there. The last option is what I would call “getting up and going.” I could probably find a better term for it, but this is buying a one-way ticket without a plan to return (it’s also what I did 7 months ago). Maybe you will come back (most likely), maybe you won’t. It’s an amazing privilege as it requires a unique set of life circumstances that involve financial freedom and lack of major responsibilities (namely children), and most of all, an open mind. These last two types of travel are not popular but are very different from the first two. They can change your life dramatically.

I’ve spent the past seven months abroad in a similar sort of travel journey. It took me about eight months to get myself into the mindset where I was ready to get up and leave without a plan to return. It took a lot, and probably not what you think–it was actually a new-found fascination with science that ended up making me question things enough to reach the point where I was ready to get up and leave. I have no regrets, and I’m going to share some of the best reasons I’ve found to get up and go.

So let’s go: Continue reading