In The Final Analysis, All We Really Have Is Each Other
Stressed About Little Things That Really Don’t Matter
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” — Lao Tzu
It is not the size of our bank account, nor our status or achievements that matter in the end. What truly matters are our relationships and the lives we touch along the way. Material possessions are vehicles to help us fulfil our life’s purpose, they should not become our life story, since we are likely to be disappointed if we lose them or cease to identify with them. When everything is stripped away, all that is left is our connections with each other. It is our relationships that define how well we have lived. How does this idea appeal to you? Do you value the relationships in your life or take them for granted? We ought to be grateful for them because to assume they will always be there is the greatest folly we can make.
When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations -- and that most of us don't converse very well. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."
The Only Thing You Should Give Up to Be Happy Again (The Story of a Fisherman and a Banker)
“An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.
Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
The Happiness Trap
“The future is still not here, and cannot become a part of experienced reality until it is present…..To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you chase it, the faster it runs ahead. This is why all the affairs of civilisation are rushed, why hardly anyone enjoys what he has, and is forever seeking more and more.” – Alan Watts
The first time I read through this parable, it didn’t really make sense to me.
At the time, my takeaway from this parable was that happiness and self-improvement were in direct conflict with each other.
The line stretched as far as my 10-year old eyes could see.
I had never seen a line that long for anything–let alone a movie.
It was 1991. My father and I were standing outside on a cold Istanbul afternoon waiting for tickets to see Terminator 2. He had promised to take me to see the hottest new Hollywood action flick, and he wasn’t going to let a two-hour wait get in his way.
Today, if you want to watch Terminator 2, you click a button on your computer.
If you want fresh groceries, Instacart can show up at your door within a few hours.
If you want a date, just swipe right.
If you want pretty much anything in the world, it can arrive at your doorstep in two days or less, courtesy of Amazon Prime.
There’s no doubt that we benefit greatly from the speed of delivery. Although I wistfully look back on that father-and-son moment from twenty-five years ago, freezing my butt off while waiting in line wasn’t as glamorous as I might now make it sound.
But instant gratification comes at a price.
The first is patience.
A quality that’s never been a virtue in my own life, the supply of patience is rapidly dwindling. I can observe it all around me. Having grown accustomed to instant access to TV shows, movies, and dates, we now expect the same immediacy from the rest of our lives.
We demand job satisfaction without paying our dues. “I’m not making an impact so I think I’m going to quit,” is a common refrain, following just a month of work.
We get upset or frustrated when someone doesn’t write back to our emails or texts with the same immediacy that we sent them. I’ve gotten follow-up emails from people within three hours of the initial email (“Did you receive my email from this morning?”). Others write “Sorry for the tardy response” because it took them a full day to get back to me. There’s nothing tardy about a 24-hour response time.
When I hold office hours for my students on the eve of their final exam, I routinely get asked to “quickly review” subjects that took several classes to cover. The assumption is that the professor can binge deliver the intricacies of the Dormant Commerce Clause as if they were episodes of the House of Cards.
We much prefer short blog posts to books. This blog post will be read by more people than the 90,000-word book that took me almost a year to write. Even in blog posts, we scan for bullet points and bolded sentences. “Don’t bother me with the facts,” we lament, “just get to the main point.”
The other cost of instant gratification is joy (there’s that bolded sentence you were looking for!).
Paradoxically, instant gratification can reduce the amount of gratification. The more instantaneous the gratification, the less we value it.
What made waiting in line to watch Terminator 2 so memorable wasn’t the special effects, the storyline, or the cheesy catchphrases Arnold delivered at every scene.
It was the anticipation, the joint experience, the moment of bonding between father and son–all made possible by that long wait.
Studies of vacationers show that anticipation of the vacation is often far more enjoyable than the vacation itself. You’ll get more joy out of putting a vacation on your calendar six months prior and relishing the possibilities as opposed to experiencing the actuality of delayed flights, crushed expectations, and food poisoning.
“Pleasure disappoints,” as Soren Kierkegaard put it, but “possibility never.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to give up the technologies that deliver stuff to me at lightning speed.
But I will be more conscious about artificially creating more opportunities for delayed gratification. Actions as simple as refusing to binge watch a show, checking your email less frequently, and putting events on your calendar so you can look forward to them can undo some of the damage that instant gratification does in our lives.
Without these artificial limitations, you can say “hasta la vista” to your patience and the joy you derive from everyday activities.
Trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one.
Wherever I go I seem to meet people who are either dealing with trauma or helping others dealing with trauma. In some places I meet veterans trying to recover from the psychic wounds they suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sometimes it is women struggling with the aftershocks of sexual assault. Sometimes it is teachers trying to help students overcome the traumas they’ve suffered from some adult’s abuse or abandonment.
Wherever Americans gather and try to help each other on any deep level, they confront levels of trauma that their training has often not prepared them for.
Our society has tried to medicalize trauma. We call it PTSD and regard it as an individual illness that can be treated with medications. But it’s increasingly clear that trauma is a moral and spiritual issue as much as a psychological or chemical one. Wherever there is trauma, there has been betrayal, an abuse of authority, a moral injury.
Medication can rebalance chemicals in the brain, but it can’t heal the inner self. People who have suffered a trauma — whether it’s a sexual assault at work or repeated beatings at home — find that their identity formation has been interrupted and fragmented. Time doesn’t flow from one day to the next but circles backward to the bad event.
6 secrets to success from the athlete who revolutionized the high jump
At the time, the straddle method was considered beyond improvement. It was the method used by the best high jumpers. There was no need to experiment or come up with something new.
But Fosbury was no ordinary athlete. He was a contrarian. He prided himself on disrupting conventional wisdom, taking risks, and exploring new possibilities.
At the Grants Pass track meet, as he faced a 5’6” bar–two inches higher than his personal best–he knew had to do something radically different to stand a chance.
He realized that the rules allowed the athlete to clear the bar any way they wanted as long as they jumped off of one foot. So, instead of jumping face down to the bar like everyone had done before him, he jumped backwards and cleared the 5’6” bar with ease.
Gaining confidence in his new technique, he tried again and cleared 5’8”. He set a new personal best that day in Grants Pass by clearing 5’10.”
In a sport where an increase of a fraction of an inch is sufficient to prompt celebratory pats on the back, Fosbury advanced his jump in a single day by a whopping six inches.
Fosbury continued to perfect his backwards jump, resulting in dramatic improvements in performance. By his senior year, he could clear 6’5½”.
Despite these dramatic improvements, his seemingly haphazard approach invited ridicule. A newspaper called him “The World’s Laziest High Jumper.” Many of the fans watching him often laughed at him as he cleared the bar like a fish flopping in a boat. To his coaches, the Fosbury flop–as it came to be known–was an outrageous and dangerous departure from well-established norms. They tried to convince Fosbury to drop the flop.
Ignoring the naysayers, he kept gradually improving his technique. He won the NCAA Championship and earned himself a spot on the 1968 Olympic team.
The laughs eventually turned into cheers as Fosbury proved his critics wrong and took home the gold medal at the Olympics—by doing the exact opposite of what everyone else was doing. The Fosbury flop is now the standard method used by high jumpers.
The transformation of Dick the mediocre teenage athlete to Dick Fosbury the high-jump revolutionary holds important lessons for us all.
When diagnosed with cancer, Munira Premji decided to rethink time management altogether.
Not enough hours in the day? Constantly chasing time? According to Munira Premji, time is finite, but a better way to changing lifestyle, is to think about managing your energy instead. Read more about how you can increase productivity, improve your mental health and overall wellness - by taking time to nourish your energy, along with your body.
Be More Productive.
Do More with Less.
Everywhere I look I find these messages bombarding us. And, everyday, I find exhausted people trying to cope with the daily grind of life.
I was one of these people, sucked in by these messages, barely managing to keep up with all the demands of life. Many days, I would end up in bed at night feeling like I had not accomplished anything. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to find a different way to cope with life. Chemo had robbed me of strength and memory. The treatments were taking a toll on me, and even the smallest bit of work felt like a weighty albatross.
I had a moment of realization: I discovered that what worked for me was to manage my energy, instead of chasing time.
Let me explain. Time is outside of our control - it is finite; the number of hours are fixed at 24. It is not possible to do more of everything as sooner or later we run out of time. Energy, on the other hand, is within us and so we have direct access to it. And when we learn how to balance and renew our energy, we can manage – and even thrive – in the frantic pace of our world today.
This concept is explained in The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. They have done extensive work with top athletes and have found that athletes who learn how to manage their energy can endure high performance and lead happy, healthy and balanced lives. Their premise is that it is not about the quantity of time you put into something, but rather, it is the quality of energy you bring to the table.
So, how does one manage one’s energy? According to the authors, it is about balancing and renewing four key sources of energy — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Some people are just genetically tougher. But you can train your brain to better handle stress.
As a psychiatrist, I’ve long wondered why some people get ill in the face of stress and adversity — either mentally or physically — while others rarely succumb.
We know, for example, that not everyone gets PTSD after exposure to extreme trauma, while some people get disabling depression with minimal or no stress. Likewise, we know that chronic stress can contribute to physical conditions like heart disease and stroke in some people, while others emerge unscathed. What makes people resilient, and is it something they are born with or can it be acquired later in life?
New research suggests that one possible answer can be found in the brain’s so-called central executive network, which helps regulate emotions, thinking and behavior. In a study published last month, Gregory Miller, a psychologist at Northwestern University, and colleagues there and elsewhere used M.R.I. to study the brains of a racially diverse group of 218 people, ages 12 to 14, living in violent neighborhoods in Chicago. They reported that the youths who had higher levels of functional connectivity in the central executive network had better cardiac and metabolic health than their peers with lower levels of connectivity.
What Dr. Miller and his colleagues discovered was that when neighborhood homicide rates went up, the young people’s cardiometabolic risk — as measured by obesity, blood-pressure and insulin levels, among other variables — also increased, but only in youths who showed lower activity in this brain network. This was true even when the researchers controlled for other factors, like psychological distress, economic status, race or ethnicity. No link was found between brain connectivity and cardiometabolic health for youths in neighborhoods with low levels of violence.
Benjamin Franklin knew he was smart — smarter than most of his peers — but he was also intelligent enough to understand that he couldn’t be right about everything. That’s why he said that whenever he was about to make an argument, he would open with something along the lines of, “I could be wrong, but…” Saying this put people at ease and helped them to take disagreements less personally. But it also helped him to psychologically prime himself to be open to new ideas.
History shows that we tend to choose political and business leaders who are stoic, predictable, and unflinching, but research indicates that the leadership we need is characterized by the opposite: creativity and flexibility. We need people who can be like Franklin — that is, smart and strong-willed enough to persuade people to do great things, but flexible enough to think differently, admit when they’re wrong, and adapt to dynamic conditions. Changing our methods and minds is hard, but it’s important in an era where threats of disruption are always on the horizon. In popular culture, we might call this kind of cognitive flexibility, “open-mindedness.” And with growing divisions in society, the survival of our businesses and communities may very well depend on our leaders having that flexibility — from Congress to the C-Suite.
Unfortunately, for decades academics have argued in circles about the definition of open-mindedness, and what might make a person become less or more open-minded, in part because there’s been no reliable way to measure these things. Recently, however, psychologists have given us a better way to think about open-mindedness — and quantify it.
The breakthrough happened when researchers started playing with a concept from religion called “intellectual humility.” Philosophers had been studying why some people stubbornly cling to spiritual beliefs even when presented with evidence that they should abandon them, and why others will instead quickly adopt new beliefs. Intellectual humility, the philosophers said, is the virtue that sits between those two excesses; it’s the willingness to change, plus the wisdom to know when you shouldn’t.
The episode last month at the Lincoln Memorial, involving the boys from Covington Catholic High School, and a Native American man, was like so many Internet-born controversies before it: It spawned vituperative reactions, reactions to the reactions, and sweeping meta-analyses of the reactions to the reactions. Altogether it was exactly the type of politically charged commotion that nobody could seem to resist weighing in on. Yet at the heart of it was a misinterpreted, arguably meaningless event driven by an emotion that social media is making more and more familiar to all of us: moral outrage.
Moral outrage is the powerful impulse we feel to condemn bad behavior, and it serves the important role of holding wrongdoers accountable and reinforcing social norms. Yet moral outrage, at least on Twitter and other similar platforms, appears no more effective at reinforcing social norms than it is at driving people to theatrically overreact to the behavior of strangers. After all, it’s hard to see how things like doxxing minors or throwing shaving blades down the toilet, in protest of an earnest Gillette ad on “toxic masculinity,” help uphold ethical standards.
One recent study offers insight into moral outrage that helps to clarify why so much online discourse has devolved into pointless noise and fury. Researchers asked 1,065 participants, across four experiments, to read about hypothetical moral transgressions and offer judgments, such as how angry they were about the transgressions and how much empathy they felt for the victims. What the researchers found is that participants’ expressions of moral outrage were mostly independent from their empathy for the victims of the transgressions. What triggered moral outrage in their study was whether a particular behavior seemed intrinsically wrong—that is, wrong even if it didn’t harm anyone.
This research implies that when we angrily condemn someone’s actions on Twitter, we do so with little regard for the consequences of the ostensibly immoral action we’re condemning. And this tendency makes us easy prey for outrage bait. For example, as professor of law, science, and technology at Columbia Law School, Tim Wu, pointed out in his book The Attention Merchants, social media companies have financial incentives to propagate content that appears to reveal a moral violation, no matter how substantial, because moral violations grab attention.
Of course, many seemingly immoral actions that pop up on the Internet do indeed have harmful consequences and merit attention. But if, as the research shows, our moral outrage is highly sensitive to actions but not consequences, we might want to treat feelings of moral outrage—whether others’ or our own—skeptically.
One reason is that an action’s “intrinsic wrongness” is often in the eye of the beholder. Two people can look at the exact same behavior and, depending on factors like what social groups they belong to or their personal relationships to the people involved, draw radically different moral conclusions. In one study, for example, researchers assigned each of their participants to one of two groups based on their performance on a computer task that was unrelated to the true goal of the study. They then asked each participant to observe another person—who was either part of the participant’s group or an outsider—as that person made a moral decision and acted on it. It turned out that on average, participants who observed an ingroup member rated that person’s behavior as fairer than those who observed an outgroup member, even though the behavior was the same for both groups.
The Covington Catholic story is an apt example of how subjective moral judgments can be: Some people praised the boys’ “exemplary and respectful behavior” while others likened the standoff between the boys and the Native American activists to the sit-ins of the civil rights movement.
Considering whether a given behavior has actually done harm may help us avoid fruitless online shouting matches, not only because the very act of weighing consequences can force us to slow down and think a bit more, but also because considerations of harm can be used as an objective measure of moral wrongness. The moral philosophy of utilitarianism is based on the idea of producing “the greatest good for the greatest number,” and many of its proponents use the scientific method to determine what kinds of behaviors will do just that. Arguments about right and wrong are often based on conflicts between subjective values, but embracing some measure of utilitarianism could serve to anchor moral debates in a shared reality.
Good and bad consequences can be difficult to quantify, of course, and people may disagree about which consequences deserve the most attention. But still, recognizing the biases of moral outrage and deliberately shifting some attention from actions themselves to their real-world effects, may, at the very least, keep us from blowing a fuse over behavior that hasn’t really caused anyone to suffer.
Scott Koenig is a doctoral student in neuroscience at CUNY, where he studies psychopathy, emotion, and morality. Follow him on Twitter @scotttkoenig.
Self-made billionaires like Warren Buffett and Elon Musk prove if you don’t make time for these 6 little things every day, you’ll never be successful
Success isn’t easy — and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but there are little things you can do every day to ensuring that you achieve your professional goals. The world’s most legendary leaders, from Elon Musk and Oprah Winfrey to CEOs at Google and Facebook, all view success as a work in progress.
They key is to stay patient and committed. Here are six things you need to do on a daily basis if you want to be successful in life:
1. Read a book that isn’t directly related to your career
2. Get sweaty
4. Give back
5. Take a moment to remember your competition
6. Get outside and think
Armstrong stayed humble, and human, in the era of relentless puffery and self-promotion.
But “Apollo 11” offers an additional insight, particularly when it comes to Armstrong. Asked by a reporter to describe his feelings “as far as responsibilities of representing mankind on this trip,” Armstrong brings the question down to size: “It’s a job that we collectively said was possible, that we could do, and of course the nation itself is backing us, so we just sincerely hope that we measure up to that.”
The answer is quintessential Armstrong: He’s the guy who prefers to turn poetry into prose. The one time he seems least himself is when he utters the line that’s supposed to immortalize him: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Dropping the “a” before “man” winds up being his sole extraterrestrial mistake.
It’s not that Armstrong is incapable of eloquence. It’s that his manner of eloquence is direct, gracious and above all modest when everyone else — Walter Cronkite and Richard Nixon in particular — strains for grandiloquence. To borrow a line from Barack Obama, he knows too well that he didn’t build that. His sense of his place in history is that he’s mainly an accident of it.
And there lies the greatest marvel of the Apollo program: Not so much the size of the endeavor, or the machines that were built to accomplish it, but rather the quality of self-effacement among the men most associated with its success. Armstrong, easily one of the most celebrated men of the last half-century, refused to become a celebrity. He kept his politics to himself. He made no oracular pronouncements. He did not amass fabulous wealth.
He stayed humble, and human, in the era of relentless puffery and self-promotion. This, too, feels as bygone as the Saturn V, the Right Stuff, and the “one small step”— and as missed.
For International Day of Happiness - Measure Your Own Happiness Index
We say money can’t buy happiness, but then we act like we can’t possibly be happy without money. The whole world seems to measure success in terms of money. As if a person's net worth is the true measure of human worth. Economists claim they can actually measure the value of each person's life in rupees.
We can reel of the names of the world’s richest people. We covet lives in the world’s wealthiest places. We create lists of the best and worst countries depending on who has the highest GDP (gross domestic product).
And yet, some people refuse to participate in this dog-eat-dog world.
One remote kingdom, with its towering mountains sprinkled with ancient stupas, decorated with prayer flags and blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and spiritualism, rejects the traditional measure of GDP. Barely a few centimeters on the map, but large in thought, Bhutan measures worth not as Gross National Product, but as Gross National Happiness, or GNH.
Inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, Bhutan has developed the GNH Index to measure the well-being and quality of life of their people...beyond wealth. An indicator of the state of a nation and the lives of its people which goes beyond economics, the GNH assesses spiritual, environmental and physical reality.
Breaking away from the herd of a hundred countries to go its own way, Bhutan is moving towards building a just and harmonious society.
Today, on the International Day of Happiness, how about we draw some inspiration from their admirable philosophy? Below I present a personal version of Bhutan’s GNH indicators – a way for us to measure our own Gross Personal Happiness (GPH).
Follow them to survey your personal wellbeing... to find where your true happiness lies... to discover where it's missing... and use it to make your life richer.
- Economic Wellness: Now, I know we said we would put money aside to gauge true happiness, but this measure is not about how much money you have. It is, instead, about your relationship with that money. It doesn’t matter how much you have, but it matters how you use it. Your comfort with your own financial situation, with the work you do, and with how much you earn, spend, and save. Are you debt-free? Can you fulfill your family’s basic needs as well as the occasional indulgence. If you feel like taking your family out for a good meal, and can do that without spending all your time looking at the prices, then you are likely in a good state of economic well-being. If you are always worried some emergency will come up and wipe you out or you could lose your job, then you need to work towards greater financial security. For a lasting sense of economic wellness, follow the incontrovertible rules of financial success: Spend less, and save more.
- Environmental Wellness: Look around you. Are you happy where you are? Do you have enough space for you and your children to be comfortable? Do you have a swing in your balcony where you can sit down at the end of a busy day and lose yourself? Is there a park in your neighbourhood where you can go for morning walks, or to catch some fresh air? Is there a Jamatkhana accessible to you in a way that is comfortable? If you can think about your environment with a pleasurable sigh, rather than a fretful frown, you're doing quite well.
Physical Wellness: An 80-year old real estate broker travels across India looking at properties, stands straight as a rod, and doesn't use a walking stick. So, we had to ask him his physical wellness secret: Every morning, come rain, shine or knee pain, he finds a pool wherever he is and goes for a swim. Your physical wellbeing is reflected in your happiness with your body. If you like the way you look, can engage in the activities you like to do, and are free of serious illnesses - you can enjoy life fully. Find your 'swimming secret', and you will find great physical wellness.
- Mental Wellness: Your mental health is the one directly reflecting your state of happiness. Do you feel happy? Can you sleep peacefully, or do you find yourself laying awake worrying about your future. Do you struggle through bouts of depression.
- Happiness is a state of mind. To be truly happy, your mind must be well. To enhance your mental well-being you can engage in wellness activities like yoga or meditation. Spending quality time with your loved ones will also give you mental happiness.
- Workplace Wellness: Job satisfaction is a significant part of wellness, after all, we spend about a third of our lives working. Do you wake up every morning dragging your feet at the thought of heading to work? Or are you happy and ready to go be productive, whether you work in an office or freelance? If your day passes without too many frustrated glances at the clock ], and you head home at the end of a day with a feeling of accomplishment, I would say your workplace wellness is in order.
- Social Wellness: While Indian drama-filled family soap operas will make you question whether anyone in India has socially sound relationships, the truth is, as a nation we are good at creating and maintaining strong social ties. Being the land of joint families, we are skilled at compromise, forgiveness, and accepting new additions to our families all the time. We need to hold on to these traditions of living in harmony, and use them to foster social wellness, not just in our families, but also in our neighbourhoods, our communities, our society at large...
- Political Wellness: Bhutan uses this indicator to measure the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts. Let's do the same here. Do you have personal security? Do you feel free to make the choices that are important to you, without undue pressure from others? Equally important, do you give that freedom to those around you. If your spouse and child feel personal security and freedom to pursue their heart's desires, then you score well on political wellness. If your elderly parents feel you will always be there for them without making them feel like burdens, then you are doing well. If not, your politics need a bit of adjustment.
So the value of your life can be measured, after all. Not, like economists believe, in rupees or dollars, but like Buddhists, in a holistic and meaningful manner.
Use the Gross Personal Happiness indicators to create a picture of your life, and you will see clearly what path you must follow to grow, and live your happiest life possible.
The two most recent times I saw my friend Makoto Fujimura, he put a Kintsugi bowl in my hands. These ceramic bowls were 300 to 400 years old. But what made them special was that somewhere along the way they had broken into shards and were glued back together with a 15th-century technique using Japanese lacquer and gold.
They look like they have golden veins running through them, making them more beautiful and more valuable than they were in their original condition.
There’s a dimension of depth to them. You sense the original life they had, the rupture and then the way they were so beautifully healed. And of course they stand as a metaphor for the people, families and societies we all know who have endured their own ruptures and come back beautiful, vulnerable and whole in their broken places.
I don’t know about you, but I feel a great hunger right now for timeless pieces like these. The internet has accelerated our experience of time, and Donald Trump has upped the pace of events to permanent frenetic.
There is a rapid, dirty river of information coursing through us all day. If you’re in the news business, or a consumer of the news business, your reaction to events has to be instant or it is outdated. If you’re on social media, there are these swarming mobs who rise out of nowhere, leave people broken and do not stick around to perform the patient Kintsugi act of gluing them back together.
Probably like you, I’ve felt a great need to take a break from this pace every once in a while and step into a slower dimension of time. Mako’s paintings are very good for these moments.
He was born in Boston to a Japanese family and studied art back in Japan. His paintings are gorgeous works of abstract expressionism, using a Japanese style called Nihonga. He grinds colored minerals like malachite and azurite into fine particles and then layers them on paper. Each layer takes time to dry, and Mako may use 60 layers in a single work.
Nihonga is slow to make and slow to see. Mako once advised me to stare at one of his paintings for 10 to 12 minutes. I thought it would be boring, but it was astonishing. As I stood still in front of it, my eyes adjusted to the work. What had seemed like a plain blue field now looked like a galaxy of color.
“A beautiful thing, though simple in its immediate presence,” the critic Frederick Turner once wrote, “always gives us a sense of depth below depth, almost an innocent wild vertigo as one falls through its levels.”
The Greeks had a concept of Kairos time, which is not quantitative like our normal conception of time but qualitative — rich or empty, the meaningful hour or the hurried moment. When you’re with beauty, in art or in nature, you tend to move at Kairos time — slowly, serenely but thickly.
The great philosopher of time is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In his great book “The Sabbath,” he points out that the first sacred thing in the Bible is not a thing, it is a time period, the seventh day. Judaism, he argues, is primarily a religion of time, not space.
“The seventh day,” he writes, “is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy and reticence. In its atmosphere, a discipline is a reminder of adjacency to eternity. Indeed, the splendor of the day is expressed in terms of abstentions.”
The Sabbath, he continues, is not a rest from the other six days. It is the peak experience the other six days point toward. On this day the Orthodox do less and in slowness can glimpse the seeds of eternity.
Sabbath, Heschel concludes, “is endowed with a felicity which enraptures the soul, which glides into our thoughts with a healing sympathy. It is a day on which hours do not oust one another. It is a day that can soothe all sadness away. No one, even the unlearned, crude man, can remain insensitive to its beauty.”
Mako has the sorts of thoughts one has when you live at a different pace. He is, he says, a border stalker.
He is Japanese but also American, a Christian and also a prominent figure in the art world. He is one of those people who live on the edges of groups and travel between groups, bringing news from outside.
There’s an ambiguity, complexity and sometimes a hiddenness to his writing and speech that can’t be expressed as a hot take.
He once wrote a book called “Culture Care.” It is an argument against the whole idea of a culture war. It advocates an environmental movement for the culture — replacing the harsh works that flow from fear with works that are generous, generative and generational.
That last word is a breath from another age. What would it mean to live generationally once in a while, in a world that now finds the daily newspaper too slow?
Our individualistic culture inflames the ego and numbs the spirit. Failure teaches us who we are.
Many of the people I admire lead lives that have a two-mountain shape. They got out of school, began their career, started a family and identified the mountain they thought they were meant to climb — I’m going to be an entrepreneur, a doctor, a cop. They did the things society encourages us to do, like make a mark, become successful, buy a home, raise a family, pursue happiness.
People on the first mountain spend a lot of time on reputation management. They ask: What do people think of me? Where do I rank? They’re trying to win the victories the ego enjoys.
These hustling years are also powerfully shaped by our individualistic and meritocratic culture. People operate under this assumption: I can make myself happy. If I achieve excellence, lose more weight, follow this self-improvement technique, fulfillment will follow.
But in the lives of the people I’m talking about — the ones I really admire — something happened that interrupted the linear existence they had imagined for themselves. Something happened that exposed the problem with living according to individualistic, meritocratic values.
Some of them achieved success and found it unsatisfying. They figured there must be more to life, some higher purpose. Others failed. They lost their job or endured some scandal. Suddenly they were falling, not climbing, and their whole identity was in peril. Yet another group of people got hit sideways by something that wasn’t part of the original plan. They had a cancer scare or suffered the loss of a child. These tragedies made the first-mountain victories seem, well, not so important.
Life had thrown them into the valley, as it throws most of us into the valley at one point or another. They were suffering and adrift.
Some people are broken by this kind of pain and grief. They seem to get smaller and more afraid, and never recover. They get angry, resentful and tribal.
But other people are broken open. The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that suffering upends the normal patterns of life and reminds you that you are not who you thought you were. The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realize that success won’t fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do. They realize how lucky they are. They are down in the valley, but their health is O.K.; they’re not financially destroyed; they’re about to be dragged on an adventure that will leave them transformed.
They realize that while our educational system generally prepares us for climbing this or that mountain, your life is actually defined by how you make use of your moment of greatest adversity.
Four years ago, in the midst of the Obama presidency, I published a book called “The Road to Character.” American culture seemed to be in decent shape and my focus was on how individuals can deepen their inner lives. This week, in the midst of the Trump presidency, I’ve got another book, “The Second Mountain.” It’s become clear in the interim that things are not in good shape, that our problems are societal. The whole country is going through some sort of spiritual and emotional crisis.
College mental health facilities are swamped, suicide rates are spiking, the president’s repulsive behavior is tolerated or even celebrated by tens of millions of Americans. At the root of it all is the following problem: We’ve created a culture based on lies.
Aleem Nasser explains his own personal equation for success, and why working harder doesn't always yield better results. Aleem Nasser M.B.A. is the president and founder of The Art of Being Smart, an innovative company that uses well researched and proven methodologies to rapidly improve human performance. Aleem has helped top corporations revolutionize they way they function and teaches the fundamentals of high performance to university students around the world. He is an author, university lecturer, management consultant, and international speaker. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Bertrand Russell was no fan of the Stoics. He thought they were cold, hated riches and passion. He thought Seneca and Marcus were hypocrites. But then again he himself was a rather big hypocrite—having had his share of affairs and embarrassing scandals.
Nevertheless, there is a passage from Russell that captures an important Stoic theme: the reduction of our own ego so that we might see where we fit in the larger whole of humanity:
Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river — small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.
It should not surprise us that the Stoics were fascinated by the wonders of the universe. Marcus Aurelius himself was particularly fond of using the same river analogy as Bertrand. One of Seneca’s lesser known, but equally passionate, works is titled Natural Questions and it is a multi-volume set on biology and natural phenomenon. As he writes, “I am not unaware, Lucilius, excellent man, of how great is the enterprise whose foundations I am laying in my old age, now that I have decided to traverse the world, to seek out its causes and secrets, and to present them for others to learn about.”
We can be sure that Seneca wasn’t writing this book for money or for fame. He was writing it for the same reason that Marcus was constantly looking out at nature and up to the stars—because it was humbling. Because it was a way to attain the philosophical view that is quite difficult when your nose is in other people’s business or too focused on the concerns of the day.
The idea of sympatheia—which we think is so important we actually made a medallion of it—is the idea that we are all part of a larger whole. It’s simultaneously a reminder of our greatness and our smallness, our insignificance and our essentialness. Everything about today’s culture is at odds with that understanding. Social media. Me-first self-help. Hero worship. The normalization of toxic ego.
You have to fight that. And you fight it by looking to nature, by zooming out your view so it is unable to focus on the tiny, trivial matters before you, by subsuming yourself into something larger, something greater.
The Stoics did it. Bertrand Russell would have been better if he did it more often. And so would all of us.
42 Inspiring Quotes That Demonstrate the Importance of Emotional Intelligence
EQ is often cited as the difference between winners and losers. Use these quotes to up your game.
As far as I know, my MBA program didn't teach any classes in emotional intelligence. While I got a solid education, I can't help but think that I might have been served better by taking a course or two in EQ. After all, study after study has shown that emotional intelligence is the different between a successful CEO and an also-ran.
Here are some of the best quotes to inspire you to become a more emotionally intelligent leader:
1.The only way to change someone's mind is to connect with them from the heart.
2.Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. -Jack Welch
3.In my 35 years in business, I have always trusted my emotions. I have always believed that by touching emotion you get the best people to work with you, the best clients to inspire you, the best partners and most devoted customers.
4.When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion. -Dale Carnegie
5.When our emotional health is in a bad state, so is our level of self-esteem. We have to slow down and deal with what is troubling us, so that we can enjoy the simple joy of being happy and at peace with ourselves. -Jess C. Scott
6.No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
7.Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business. -Norman Vincent Peale
8.When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. -Stephen R. Covey
9.Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution. -Kahlil Gibran
10. Remember that failure is an event, not a person. -Zig Ziglar
Unleash in the right time and place before you explode at the wrong time and place. -Oli Anderson
11.Emotional intelligent people use self-awareness to their advantage to assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, process, and hold back from reacting head on. At times, it means the decision to sit on your decision. By thinking over your situation rationally, without drama, you'll eventually arrive at other, more sane conclusions. -Marcel Schwantes
12.It takes something more than intelligence to act intelligently. -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
13.People with high EQs master their emotions because they understand them, and they use an extensive vocabulary of feelings to do so. -Travis Bradberry
14.The greatest ability in business is to get along with others and influence their actions. -John Hancock
15.Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. -Epictetus
Every time we allow someone to move us with anger, we teach them to be angry. -Barry Neil Kaufman
16.Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values. -Joshua L. Liebman
17.Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. -Leo Buscaglia
18.Emotions can get in the way or get you on the way. -Mavis Mazhura
Experience is not what happens to you--it's how you interpret what happens to you. -Aldous Huxley
19.Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. -Bill Gates
20.Don't let the baggage from your past--heavy with fear, guilt, and anger--slow you down. -Maddy Malhotra
21.Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. -Charles J. Sykes
22.It isn't stress that makes us fall--it's how we respond to stressful events.
23.Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame. -Benjamin Franklin
24.Pausing helps you refrain from making a permanent decision based on a temporary emotion. -Justin Bariso
25.No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can't ignore it. -Jack Welch
26.Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand ... prejudice, fear, and ignorance walk hand in hand. -Peart
27.Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. -Charlotte Brontë
28.The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions. -Donald Calne
29.Change happens in the boiler room of our emotions--so find out how to light their fires. -Jeff Dewar
30.If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. -Daniel Goleman
31.Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got. -Janis Joplin
32.Wisdom tends to grow in proportion to one's awareness of one's ignorance.
-Anthony de Mello
33.The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
-Carl R. Rogers
34.I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing. -Socrates
35.If we can't laugh at ourselves, do we have the right to laugh at others? -C.H. Hamel
36.We are at our most powerful the moment we no longer need to be powerful. -Eric Micha'el Leventhal
37.When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. -Ernest Hemingway
38.Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone ... just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had. -F. Scott Fitzgerald
39.Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. -C.G. Jung
40.What's your favorite quote about emotional intelligence that needs to be added to this list? What inspires you to develop your EQ further on an ongoing basis?
Eight Things I Learned from Peter Thiel’s Zero To One
Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded PayPal and Palantir. He also made the first outside investment in Facebook and was an early investor in companies like SpaceX and LinkedIn. And now he’s written a book, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, with the goal of helping us “see beyond the tracks laid down” to the “broader future that there is to create.”
Zero To One is an exercise in thinking — about questioning and rethinking received wisdom in order to create the future. And thinking about thinking is what we’re all about.
Here are eight lessons I took away from the book.
1. Each Moment Happens Once
2. There is no Formula
3. The Best Interview Question
4. A Company’s Most Important Strength
5. The Contrarian Question
6. Progress Comes From Monopoly, not Competition
7. Rivalry Causes us to Copy the Past
8. Last can be First
Teaching Uncertainty: Cultivating a Heterodox Classroom and Life
To quote someone a lot smarter than me, “I know that I know nothing.” This is the Socratic paradox which states that the only thing I’m certain of is my own uncertainty.
For many, the hubris of blind ideological conviction is hard to shake. I have family members rooted firmly to conservative values who know Trump is good for the country. And I have friends devoted to the progressive cause who know he’s a walking, tweeting hate crime.
They’re all so damned sure.
Too many people seem to be certain of their political opinions. Casual conversations with friends can escalate into overblown arguments. Family dinners must be sanitized of current affairs (unless everyone at the table is in complete agreement). Social media is an incendiary hellscape. Left and right are locked in endless battle, fueled by hate, fear and self-appointed virtue. Books like Amy Chua’s Political Tribes and The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt describe how disastrous tribalism can be—and how understanding the other side might be what saves us.
I wholeheartedly agree. As a junior high teacher in my eighth year on the job, I can see the benefits of open-minded discourse. A little intellectual humility goes a long way, and no group needs more of it than eleven to fourteen-year-olds. Their brains are big open basins, ready for the waters of the world to come rushing in. My mother, a veteran teacher herself, says that middle school is like “kindergarten for the rest of your life.” She’s right. It’s when kids start figuring out who they want to be. Things that once seemed foreign begin to make sense. The universe starts taking shape.
But wait, you might be thinking. You said before that you know nothing. Yet you’re a teacher?
Yes. Good educators promote curiosity and critical thinking—they don’t claim to know everything. There’s a common axiom among teachers: you don’t teach kids what to think, but how to think. Those of us teaching the middle years (approximately sixth through ninth grades) have a significant role to play in this. We build upon elementary school foundations and transform general competence into something else. Something more.
In my English class, broad-mindedness is as important as grammar or the Great American Novel. I praise students who listen to others and grapple with their views. Class discussion is indispensable—I always emphasize the importance of debate. Usually, after some initial stumbles, my students are able to handle unpopular opinions by either recognizing their merits or deconstructing them based on available evidence. This takes longer for some kids than for others, but, by the end of the year, my students are more open than before, able to use their intellectual compasses to steer them in better direction
Ray Dalio: Open-Mindedness And The Power of Not Knowing
Ray Dalio, founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates (and guest on The Knowledge Project), offers a prime example of what a learning organization looks like in the best book I’ve ever read on learning, Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization.
He comes to us again with this bit of unconventional wisdom.
First, the context …
To make money in the markets, you have to think independently and be humble. You have to be an independent thinker because you can’t make money agreeing with the consensus view, which is already embedded in the price. Yet whenever you’re betting against the consensus there’s a significant probability you’re going to be wrong, so you have to be humble.
Early in my career I learned this lesson the hard way — through some very painful bad bets. The biggest of these mistakes occurred in 1981–’82, when I became convinced that the U.S. economy was about to fall into a depression. My research had led me to believe that, with the Federal Reserve’s tight money policy and lots of debt outstanding, there would be a global wave of debt defaults, and if the Fed tried to handle it by printing money, inflation would accelerate. I was so certain that a depression was coming that I proclaimed it in newspaper columns, on TV, even in testimony to Congress. When Mexico defaulted on its debt in August 1982, I was sure I was right. Boy, was I wrong. What I’d considered improbable was exactly what happened: Fed chairman Paul Volcker’s move to lower interest rates and make money and credit available helped jump-start a bull market in stocks and the U.S. economy’s greatest ever noninflationary growth period
What’s important isn’t that he was wrong, it’s what the experience taught him and how he implemented those lessons at Bridgewater.
This episode taught me the importance of always fearing being wrong, no matter how confident I am that I’m right. As a result, I began seeking out the smartest people I could find who disagreed with me so that I could understand their reasoning. Only after I fully grasped their points of view could I decide to reject or accept them. By doing this again and again over the years, not only have I increased my chances of being right, but I have also learned a huge amount.
There’s an art to this process of seeking out thoughtful disagreement. People who are successful at it realize that there is always some probability they might be wrong and that it’s worth the effort to consider what others are saying — not simply the others’ conclusions, but the reasoning behind them — to be assured that they aren’t making a mistake themselves. They approach disagreement with curiosity, not antagonism, and are what I call “open-minded and assertive at the same time.” This means that they possess the ability to calmly take in what other people are thinking rather than block it out, and to clearly lay out the reasons why they haven’t reached the same conclusion. They are able to listen carefully and objectively to the reasoning behind differing opinions.
When most people hear me describe this approach, they typically say, “No problem, I’m open-minded!” But what they really mean is that they’re open to being wrong. True open-mindedness is an entirely different mind-set. It is a process of being intensely worried about being wrong and asking questions instead of defending a position. It demands that you get over your ego-driven desire to have whatever answer you happen to have in your head be right. Instead, you need to actively question all of your opinions and seek out the reasoning behind alternative points of view.
I’m sure you remember the story of the Little Red Hen. The hen asks her friends to help her plant and harvest wheat, and they decline. She asks them to grind the wheat into flour, and bake the flour into bread, and they refuse. Then, when the hot, delicious-smelling bread comes out of the oven, all the hen’s friends want a bite. None of them wanted to make the bread, but all of them want to eat it.
The old fable offered a reflection of certain human tendencies back when it was first told, and can tell us something about our culture today.
Everyone wants their children to have a great experience in youth sports, but nobody wants to coach a team.
Everyone wants to be invited to a party, but nobody wants to host one.
Everyone hopes their children learn good things at church, but nobody wants to teach Sunday school.
Everyone wants more civil, honest, and intelligent politics, but nobody wants to run for office.
Everyone wants to eat the “bread” of healthy communities, rich experiences, and a strong society, but nobody wants to make it.
Of course, I’m using “nobody” rhetorically — there are a few hearty souls who do take the initiative in creating the things that they, and others, enjoy consuming. But the number of would-be consumers vastly outweighs the number of creators. The 20% who volunteer, host, and organize cannot make enough bread to feed the 80% who say they’re hungry for it. There are too many people who wait for and expect someone else to step into the breach.
But we should be that “someone else.” In a world of endless takers, we need more committed bakers.
Chess helps answer the perennial human question, “What should I do next?”
You begin to wonder how chess has managed to persist as a silent witness to at least 1,500 years of human history. While there are some alternative histories, the conventional wisdom is that the precursor of the modern game flowered in northern India at some point between 531 and 579. The game evolved through Persian, Arabic and European influences, with subtle changes to the names of the pieces and how they moved until about 1640, when the castling rule was established and the modern version of chess settled into its final equilibrium. Since then, for almost 400 years, chess has spread throughout the world and become an integral part of civilization.
The combination of global heritage, beguiling depth, strategic resonance and aesthetic charm makes chess much more than a game. In fact, I believe chess simulates the conditions for a life of meaning. Whether through work or love or art, life becomes more meaningful whenever we take responsibility for something or someone. Responsibility is not always pleasurable or even positive, but it is purposeful. It adds significance and direction to life and helps answer the perennial human question, “What should I do?” And while our lives are characterized by many things, they are defined most profoundly by the open secret of our inevitable deaths. Chess simulates the meaning of life because it is a ritual encounter with death in disguise, where we experience the responsibility to stay alive one move at a time.
The game is sublimated warfare, and chess players are compelled to kill, but the martial conceit of chess allows us to experience aesthetic liberation. Every battle is a unique story where two protagonists seek to destroy each other, but the underlying logic feels beautiful and true. The more intense the battle, the more we experience power and freedom.
Is that happiness? Not by any conventional definition. One of the most lucid contemporary definitions of happiness, from Paul Dolan, a professor at the London School of Economics, describes it as “the experience of pleasure and purpose over time.” That captures much that is important in life, but humans are too complex, restless, dark, impish and transgressive ever to feel at ease with feel-good purposiveness alone. The essayist and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips puts it well when he says that happiness is fine as a side effect, but it’s a cruel demand. I now think of chess not so much as a path to happiness as a ritual where we free each other from the pressure to be happy.
It is a relief to realize that happiness is not the most important thing in life. But what then are we seeking? My best guess — and I can only guess — is that we are seeking joy.
Instant #1 New York Times Bestseller & Wall Street Journal Bestseller
In The Obstacle Is the Way and Ego Is the Enemy, bestselling author Ryan Holiday made ancient wisdom wildly popular with a new generation of leaders in sports, politics, and technology. In his new book, Stillness Is the Key, Holiday draws on timeless Stoic and Buddhist philosophy to show why slowing down is the secret weapon for those charging ahead.
All great leaders, thinkers, artists, athletes, and visionaries share one indelible quality. It enables them to conquer their tempers. To avoid distraction and discover great insights. To achieve happiness and do the right thing. Ryan Holiday calls it stillness--to be steady while the world spins around you.
In this book, he outlines a path for achieving this ancient, but urgently necessary way of living. Drawing on a wide range of history's greatest thinkers, from Confucius to Seneca, Marcus Aurelius to Thich Nhat Hanh, John Stuart Mill to Nietzsche, he argues that stillness is not mere inactivity, but the doorway to self-mastery, discipline, and focus.
Holiday also examines figures who exemplified the power of stillness: baseball player Sadaharu Oh, whose study of Zen made him the greatest home run hitter of all time; Winston Churchill, who in balancing his busy public life with time spent laying bricks and painting at his Chartwell estate managed to save the world from annihilation in the process; Fred Rogers, who taught generations of children to see what was invisible to the eye; Anne Frank, whose journaling and love of nature guided her through unimaginable adversity.
More than ever, people are overwhelmed. They face obstacles and egos and competition. Stillness Is the Key offers a simple but inspiring antidote to the stress of 24/7 news and social media. The stillness that we all seek is the path to meaning, contentment, and excellence in a world that needs more of it than ever.
This has been a golden age for brain research. We now have amazing brain scans that show which networks in the brain ramp up during different activities. But this emphasis on the brain has subtly fed the illusion that thinking happens only from the neck up. It’s fed the illusion that the advanced parts of our thinking are the “rational” parts up top that try to control the more “primitive” parts down below.
So it’s interesting how many scientists are now focusing on the thinking that happens not in your brain but in your gut. You have neurons spread through your innards, and there’s increasing attention on the vagus nerve, which emerges from the brain stem and wanders across the heart, lungs, kidney and gut.
The vagus nerve is one of the pathways through which the body and brain talk to each other in an unconscious conversation. Much of this conversation is about how we are relating to others. Human thinking is not primarily about individual calculation, but about social engagement and cooperation.
One of the leaders in this field is Stephen W. Porges of Indiana University. When you enter a new situation, Porges argues, your body reacts. Your heart rate may go up. Your blood pressure may change. Signals go up to the brain, which records the “autonomic state” you are in.
If you’re hearing others through the filter of your own concerns, you’re not really hearing them.
Ernest Hemingway put it bluntly: “Most people never listen.”
Given that meaningful relationships are crucial to human thriving, it is unfortunate that the ability to listen should be so underestimated, and so rare.
The importance of listening was apparently a concern in the earliest days of Western philosophy. Zeno of Citium (334-262 B.C.), the founder of Stoicism, proclaimed, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” A few centuries later, his philosophical descendant Epictetus taught, “Whoever is going to listen to the philosophers needs considerable practice in listening.”
But listening has gotten short shrift in philosophy over the years. While attempts to break down moral character into a list of virtues — like courage, honesty, self-control and so on — go back at least to Aristotle, the ability to listen never made the list. Philosophy is mostly silent on the moral importance of being a good listener.
Good listening is not a matter of technique but of having the willingness to enter into another person’s life. Many bad listeners can’t be there for someone else because they are too locked into themselves. For them, everything has to be filtered through their own experience and concerns.
Psychoanalysts train for years to master the art of listening carefully. Most importantly, they labor at learning to decipher their “countertransference,” that is, at detecting experiences and desires that might filter and so distort the revelations of their clients. For example, an analyst who understands that she harbors red-hot anger toward her father would need to be careful of unconsciously and mistakenly hearing resonances of her dad in words coming from the person on the couch.
“How do you listen?” the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti asked his audience in a 1953 talk. “Do you listen with your projections, through your projection, through your ambitions, desires, fears, anxieties, through hearing only what you want to hear, only what will be satisfactory, what will gratify, what will give comfort, what will for the moment alleviate your suffering? If you listen through the screen of your desires, then you obviously listen to your own voice; you are listening to your own desires.” Which is of course to say, you aren’t listening at all.
Marlon Brando on How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think
On March 27, 1973, the 45th Academy Awards was hosted to honour the best films of 1972. One of these films—The Godfather—was nominated for eleven awards, including the best actor award for Marlon Brando’s performance as the character ‘Vito Corleone.’
During the ceremony, the event hosts stepped unto the stage to announce the winner of the best actor award. After calling out the names of the nominees, the auditorium went silent as the hosts opened an envelope containing the name of the winner. “The winner is…
“….Marlon Brando, in The Godfather.”
A loud applause from the audience quickly followed the announcement. There was a unanimous appreciation of what is still considered today as one of the greatest films and actor performances in world cinema history.
This was a dream come true for a man like Brando, who had dedicated so much of his time and energy into his craft of acting. To be widely recognised, rewarded and appreciated for hard-work is a privilege that very few people achieve.
And yet, Brando didn’t care much about what other people thought about him. In fact, on this evening, Marlon Brando would figuratively “hold two fingers up” to the film industry and shock the world.
Shortly after the announcement, a petite young lady wearing an Apache dress with long black hair, stood up and climbed up on stage—evidently, this wasn’t Marlon Brando.
One of the hosts in a state of shock, extended the award statue to the apache lady, who waved it away and proceeded to give a speech from the podium. She said:
“Hello my name is Sacheen Littlefeather, I’m Apache…..I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you … that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry —” 
Shortly after this statement, disgruntled noises and shouts of “boos” came from the audience in disapproval of these comments.
But, Brando didn’t care about seeking approval from his peers in the film industry. As a matter of fact, he rejected the prestigious award and didn’t bother attending the ceremony as well.
Brando was willing to sacrifice his reputation and career to stand up for what he believed in.
How did this privileged man learn how to stop caring about what other people think? And, how can we learn to stop worrying about the opinions of others?
Let’s dive in.
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Stop caring what others think
How To Stop Caring About What Other People Think
“A truly strong person doesn’t need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.”
During an interview on the The Dick Cavett Show in 1973, Brando gave some insights into his reasons for walking away from the approval of his peers:
“I read a book called, “Indians of the Americas” and after reading the book I realized that I knew nothing about the American Indian, and everything that we are taught about the American Indian is wrong. It’s inaccurate, and our schoolbooks are hopelessly lacking, criminal lacking in revealing what our relationship was with the Indian.
When we hear, as we’ve heard throughout our lives no matter how old we are, that we are a country that stands for freedom, for rightness or justice for everyone, it simply doesn’t apply to those who are not white. It just simply doesn’t apply.
We were the most rapacious, aggressive, destructive, torturing, monstrous, people who swept from one coast to the other murdering and causing mayhem among the Indians. That isn’t revealed, because we don’t like that image of ourselves.
Indians have been tragically misrepresented in films, and in our history books, in our attitudes, in our reporting…
So we must set about to re-educate ourselves.” 
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At this point in his career, Brando consistently used his celebrity position to bring attention to Civil rights issues and injustices across the U.S.A.
Specifically, the plight and the injustices against the American Indians’ was a painful issue that Brando had desperately attempted to portray through movies for many years. But, instead of being addressed, Brando felt that his peers within the film industry showed little concern, dismissing his ideas as pointless.
The 1973 Academy Awards turned into Brando’s best opportunity to give those who couldn’t be heard a platform to reach millions of people with their message of pain and sorrow.
Brando’s frustration in dealing with friends and peers who didn’t care about his ideas, coincidentally led to his carefree attitude towards them as well.
The realisation that no one really cared about him was the first shift in his mindset. But, most importantly, Brando developed a belief in something that he cared about much more than the approval of others.
The belief that the injustices of the oppressed minorities should be accurately presented to and addressed by the citizens of U.S.A.
Believe in Something Bigger than Yourself
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of people pleasing. Sometimes, we change our behaviours and plans to fit into the agenda of someone else, who may also be a complete stranger.
We let the opinions of others control how we think and live our lives. To avoid criticism we deny others the privilege of learning about who we really are and what we believe in.
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Unfortunately, many people die without sharing their work with the world because they cared too much about what other people think.I could have been one of these statistics, but I was lucky to learn what Brando had discovered, early in my life.
The first step to stop caring about what other people think is to realise that…
1. No one really cares about you.
Nobody cares about your well-being more than you are capable of doing so yourself. People are too busy dealing with their own life problems and issues to worry about yours.
Plus, a major part of human interaction is mutual value exchange. In other words, most people who interact with you on a daily basis only do so because you are valuable to them.
Hence the saying…
“The poor are shunned even by their neighbours, but the rich have many friends.”
— Proverbs 14:20
Most people are capable of being generous, but we should also acknowledge that human beings are inherently self-centered.
Once you begin to embrace this philosophy, you will be better prepared to take on the next step. That is…
2. Believe in something bigger than yourself
Most conversations about not caring about what other people think, are primarily concerned about how you will feel.
What will people think about me? How do I stop worrying about what others think?
This line of thinking, entirely focused on yourself, doesn’t resolve the root cause of the problem. The problem is that you can’t get rid of caring about what others think because it’s just a part of being a social human being.
Ideally, you don’t want to stop caring about what people think. What you really want is to replace what and who you really care about.
What is important to you in life? What are your values? What do you stand for?
Your answers to similar questions like these will help you to stop caring about the people who don’t matter and start caring about those who do.
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It will reveal exactly why you should stop worrying about the critics and prepare you to deal with haters effectively.
When you believe in something bigger than yourself—a cause, mission, idea—the opinions of others no longer control your life because you care more about your beliefs than the approval of others.
So, let me ask you this:
Who are you and what do you stand for?
Take some time to think about this carefully. And remember,
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
How I (Finally) Overcame My Fear Of Public Speaking.
1.Video of Sacheen Littlefeather refusing to accept the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando for his performance in “The Godfather” – the 45th Annual Academy Awards in 1973.
2.Marlon Brando on Dick Cavett’s show addressing the treatment of Native Americans/Indians by Colonialists.
3. Image Credit, CC by NA SA 2.0
Finite and Infinite Games: Two Ways to Play the Game of Life
If life is a game, how do you play it? The answer will have a huge impact on your choices, your satisfaction, and how you achieve success.
James Carse, the Director of Religious Studies at New York University, wrote a book, Finite and Infinite Games, that explores the difference between approaching life as a game with an end, or a game that goes on forever. According to Carse, playing to win isn’t nearly as satisfying as playing to keep the game going.
For starters, what do you do after you win a finite game? You have to sign yourself up for another one, and you must find a way to showcase your past winnings. Finite players have to parade around their wealth and status. They need to display the markers of winning they have accumulated so that other players know whom they are dealing with. Carse argues that these players spend their time in the past, because that’s where their winning is.
Infinite players, in contrast, look to the future. Because their goal is to keep the game going, they focus less on what happened, and put more effort into figuring out what’s possible. By playing a single, non-repeatable game, they are unconcerned with the maintenance and display of past status. They are more concerned with positioning themselves to deal effectively with whatever challenges come up.
Thus, how you play the game of life will define the learning you pursue. Finite players need training. Infinite players need education. Why? According to Carse, “to be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.” If you play life as a finite game, you train for the rules. If life is instead an infinite game, you focus on being educated to adapt to unknowns.
“What will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision, and not what we are viewing, that is limited.”
Whether you choose the finite or infinite game will also determine how you define success, and what you need to achieve it. Finite players need power. Power gives them the best chance to win in each successive contest. Infinite players need endurance. They need attributes to keep them going. Carse explains, “let us say that where the finite player plays to be powerful, the infinite player plays with strength.”
Ultimately, approaching life as a finite game or infinite game impacts your daily attitude. Carse asserts that “the finite play for life is serious; the infinite play of life joyous.” Considering your life through this frame helps you determine if you are making the right choices to be successful at the kind of game you want to play.
Subject: *What is the Corona/ Covid-19 Virus Really Teaching us?*
I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad.
As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us:
1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should to. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals. If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.
4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.
5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.
6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.
7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do.
Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.
It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
9) It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colors.
10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.
11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.
13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.
14) Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a *great corrector*
It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.
These are hard times, but we have seen worse. Courage, staying calm and counting on one another can get us through.
My first memories are of an apartment in London on Kensington Park Road, with a tiny kitchen and two small rooms in the wartime 1940s. The building served as a temporary home for refugees from all corners of Nazi-occupied Europe. The British capital was under siege.
Our daily experience was shaped by food rations, curfews, blackout curtains, and shortages of almost everything. During air raids, residents gathered in close quarters in the low-ceilinged cellar, singing songs, sharing biscuits and tea.
One afternoon, my father ignored the wailing siren and insisted on staying upstairs to complete work on a radio script. Flying bombs shook our building so much that he hid under a table before rushing down the stairs to join us. On another occasion, a young woman from a neighboring apartment tempted fate by sneaking out to a pub for darts and drinks. The pub took a direct hit that night and she was nearly crushed. She lived, I learned later, until the age of 103.
Humans are a resilient species. Because of the calm and courage of my parents, I saw nothing abnormal about trying on a gas mask (with Mickey Mouse ears) or learning to jump rope beneath a potentially lethal sky. What would have been strange was real butter and fresh fruit.
My life in the decades since, both in and out of government, has been enriched by the survivors of other extraordinary times. During my time as secretary of state, I met a 6-year-old boy in Uganda whose mother had been killed in a massacre. He had pulled himself out from under her body and walked several miles, carrying his little sister on his back, to a camp run by a religious organization. In Sierra Leone, I held a 3-year-old girl who had lost her arm to a bullet; she was later adopted and lived on the same street I do in Washington.
In Bosnia, I grasped hands with women whose husbands and sons had been murdered and dumped in a mass grave near the village of Srebrenica. In Thailand, I met teenage girls who had been rescued from sex traffickers; they braided one another’s hair while telling me of their determination to live fearlessly despite scarred minds. At Georgetown University, back in Washington, I taught alongside a professor, Jan Karski, who had escaped from wartime Poland carrying to Britain and America some of the earliest eyewitness accounts of the transport of Jews to killing centers ordered by Hitler.
During my tenure in the State Department, I worked closely with Vaclav Havel, leader of my native Czech Republic, and with South Africa’s Nelson Mandela; both had spent years as political prisoners. I also visited American soldiers, aviators, diplomats, aid workers and Peace Corps volunteers deployed to regions where each day brought intense suffering and renewed conflict.
As president, Bill Clinton talked often about “the quiet miracle of a normal life.” But what we customarily think is “normal” is neither as common as supposed, nor as inevitable. A generally contented society is a rarity that humans must do our best to establish and sustain.
Flawed as we are, we have built great civilizations, learned to coexist and — with catastrophic exceptions — live in peace. However, such accomplishments do not happen without obstacles. To be human is to be tested over and over, and we usually need abundant help from others.
Of course, what we consider normal varies widely. A homeless man’s routine differs from that of a billionaire; a refugee may be less eager to resume “business as usual” than a successful lawyer; 5-year-olds don’t look at the world with the same eyes as someone approaching her 83rd birthday.
Whether we are driven by nostalgia or an itch for something new, whether we are revolutionaries or preservationists, it is in the abnormal times that we learn most about ourselves and others. The shock absorbers that ordinarily shield our emotions and lull our minds no longer work so well. Our schedules are disrupted and our priorities change. We shrink, we grow, we may even die; we do not remain the same. This is true of nations as well as people.
I do not claim to understand much about human psychology. But I do think that we are a lot tougher and more capable of moral courage than cynics suggest, and that we benefit from the survivors among us. According to ancient myth, the one divine gift vouchsafed to humans — after all its evil companions escaped from Pandora’s box — was Hope.
When asked my outlook on life and world affairs, I reply that I am an optimist … who worries a lot. These are not the best of times, but we have seen worse. It might do well for us to view these abnormal days as an opportunity to ask more of ourselves, to reflect on our relations with one another, and think critically about improving the social, economic and political structures that shape our lives.
We can draw inspiration from those who have surmounted high obstacles in the past, and vow to make the new normal that we aim to bring about better, more just and more secure than the old.
Madeleine Albright was the United States secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is the author, most recently, of the forthcoming book “Hell and Other Destinations.”
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Our obligations to one another won’t end when this crisis does.
Among our obligations during the coronavirus pandemic is a simple but difficult one: to stay home. The instruction to stay home when possible — and to avoid social contact when it is not — may come as an official order, a community or workplace recommendation, or as impassioned pleading from a friend or family member concerned about our health. But in each case, the reasoning behind it is the same: to avoid both catching the virus and transmitting it to others.
Of course, there are plenty of other helpful things we can do at this time — offer virtual or distanced contact to those who are alone, provide supplies to vulnerable people, patronize open restaurants and businesses in whatever limited way we can — but I want to focus on the act of staying home and the avoidance of close social contact because I believe it reveals something that is often obscured in our social relations: their ethical character.
The ethical character of staying at home has been contested in recent days, including at a large protest at the Wisconsin capitol on Friday, by those who argue that we need to return to a more normal life and economy. Yet this group is a minority; in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll published last week more that 70 percent of respondents across both political parties were more worried about lifting restrictions too soon than lifting them too slowly. Wherever one may stand on this question, the epidemiological rationale is clear: Staying home and maintaining social distance is the surest way to prevent the further spread of the virus.
If we agree, then, that we should avoid physical contact with our fellow humans at this moment because it would be unethical to risk transmission of the virus to others, then it follows that we are committed to three other ideas as well:
- Everyday actions often have effects on others.
- Those effects can be damaging.
- We have some responsibility to minimize the important harmful effects on others that can arise through our everyday actions.
We can call the complex constituted by these ideas an “ethical web.” I obviously don’t mean that the web is something physical, or even virtual, as in the digital web. It’s not even like a web that exists in the same way a network of social bonds exists.
An ethical web is normative. It says what should exist rather than what does exist. It points to what we ought to do rather than what are doing or what already exists among or between us.
This web is not a set of unchanging ethical obligations. Whatever obligations we have will depend on the particular context we find ourselves in. I am not ethically obliged to stay home under conditions that don’t involve a pandemic. What I am obliged to do depends on the effects of my actions on others, which in turn depends on the particular situation in which those actions take place.
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