This is going to be a short post. Meditations, from Marcus Aurelius (He touched me on the shoulder once), is one of those books I've read dozens of times and refer to with regularity. It's a treasure trove of profound and useful thoughts. Here is one of those thoughts:
The most important thing is this: do what you know you should do. Most of you who get this far will probably close the post thinking, "That's obvious, I know that already." Whether or not you finish this post is irrevant; it's mostly a reminder to myself anyway. All I know is that it's a fact, so I'm sharing.
In any area of my life where I struggle, it's invariably because I don't follow this rule. Money, health, relationships, whatever! If I'm not doing what I know I should do, things usually don't work out. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
When you feel your weight starting to increase after a string of bad food choices, you know that you need to start eating better foods. But do you? If you're like most people (including me) you don't and then once your weight is totally out of control you're forced to take drastic measures.
Is your business slumping? You and/or your company probably know what you need to turn things around. Are you doing it? Probably not.
Are you in a bad relationship that you know isn't a good situation? You get the point. It's time to act on what you've thought in your head a million times.
If this was easy, we'd all be rich, fit, and happy - but it is by far the most worthwhile thing to work on. If you got this far, look at your actions throughout the day and take note of how you do. If your actions aren't in line with what you know needs to happen, then start adjusting. I'll do the same.
There are a million quotes about revenge, but when it comes down to it, the best revenge...isn't revenge at all.
Marcus Aurelius said it best. In a time when hate and fear are near all-time highs in American politics, it's important to keep this idea in mind. How do you respond to people who are ignorant, angry, and fearful of people not like them? Try getting into an argument with one of these people and see how well that works.
At the recent Trump rally in Chicago which turned violent, protesters tried that exact method. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that those protesters, no matter how well-intentioned, didn't convert any die hard Trump supporters to their way of thinking. No, let's go back to good ol' Marcus Aurelius.
If the other person is ignorant, be informed. If the other person is angry, remain calm and optimistic. If the other person is fearful of outsiders, be tolerant and accepting. If the other person is spreading lies, speak the truth. Don't argue. Don't debate. Don't resort to violence. Simply do what you think is right. Don't "be like that."
How many times have you asked someone how their day is going and you get some sort of snarky, negative response? You hear it multiple times every day. You've probably responded that way to the same question. It becomes a routine. Day in and day out - same shit different day right?
The only problem with this situation is that it's fucking depressing! We all have various interests, passions, callings, whatever you want to call them. No one's passion is doing boring work every day, week, month, and year until they die one day. Of course, this is a choice, but many people go through their days seemingly unaware of this fact.
The introduction to Michael Michalko's great book Thinkertoys has been posted on this site, but today the focus is on the book's final chapter. Thinkertoys is one of those books that you read in pieces and come back to over time. Every time you go back, you find new thoughts and exercises that can be helpful. Go get the book.
The final chapter is titled You Are Not A Field of Grass and Michalko opens with:
He goes on to sketch out how our beliefs and theories about the world are formed and reinforced:
He goes on to say:
This happens everyday. We see the world through the lens of our choosing. Is something good or bad? It's for you to decide:
He ends with a great story:
Everyday we have a choice in how we are going to perceive and react to the events that unfold. How did you perceive the events in your life today? Last week? Last year? Did you have to see things that way or could you have reacted differently? Are you happy with where you are now as a result?
To grow we can't hide from these hard questions. It's not fun to realize that we might have made mistakes. It's uncomfortable and often painful but as Jay-Z said, "Time don't go back it goes forward, can't run from the pain, go towards it."
We are into this new year. Get uncomfortable. Question your status quo - you are not a field of grass.
Technology changes. Tools change. The social landscape changes. Human nature does not change.
- Felix Dennis
There are basic human traits that have not changed for tens of thousands of years. Our tools and methods have evolved but the roots of our actions remain the same. Every year students are graduating from universities with all sorts of knowledge, yet many of the people I meet and interview, don't have a clue about what really matters in the world.
What counts in the real world isn't your knowledge or a specific skill set - let's just get that out of the way. There is always someone who's as good or better than you at a given task. Yes, being good is important, but that's not enough to get you beyond mediocre. It never has been. The only way to ever make an impact in this world is to understand human nature and learn how to lead people.
If you can't learn how to move people, even in the simplest of situations, you don't have a chance of winning, whatever that means to you. It's that simple. Master the basics or learn to accept a life of mediocrity.